Daily Current Affairs for UPSC IAS | 7th January 2022

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1.  Increasing Marriageable Age for Girls- Rationale, Challenges and Way Forward

UPSC Syllabus: Mains: GS Paper 2: Polity & Governance / Social Issues
Sub Theme:  Increasing the Minimum Age of Marriage for Girls | UPSC

Increasing the age of marriage for Girls

Context: In the recent session of Parliament, the government introduced the Prohibition of Child Marriage (Amendment) Bill, 2021, to raise the age of marriage for women from 18 years to 21 years. After Opposition MPs demanded greater scrutiny of the Bill, it was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Education, Women, Children, Youth and Sports.

Rationale behind raising the minimum age of Marriage for women:

  • Right to Equality: The Constitution guarantees gender equality as part of the fundamental rights and also guarantees prohibition of discrimination on the grounds of sex. The existing law do not adequately secure the Constitutional mandate of gender equality in marriageable age among men and women.
  • Breaking the intergenerational cycle of Malnutrition: Incidence of early marriage and childbearing are amongst the important causes of undernutrition in India. Children born to teenage mothers are more likely to be undernourished than children of adult mothers. India is home to more stunted children than any other country and is one of the ten countries with the largest burden of teenage pregnancy.
  • Reducing MMR and IMR: It is important to bring down the incidence of teenage pregnancies, which are not only harmful for women’s overall health but also result in more miscarriages and stillbirths.
  • Increases Female labour force participation: Early marriage often reduces the women labour force participation and increasing the legal limit of minimum age will give more chance for women to work.
  • Early marriages reinforce patriarchy: Early marriages reduces the educational and employment opportunities for women and make them financially dependent on men, which eventually results in skewed division of labour in domestic sphere.
  • Population control: Age of marriage of females is a key factor that influences fertility. Demographic studies have revealed the apparent link between early marriage and increasing fertility rates.

World Bank estimated that developing countries like India can save billions of dollars if marriage before the age of 18 was eliminated due to reductions in fertility and consequent reductions in public health investments due to fewer births.

Arguments against:

  • Restriction on choice of marriage: It can be used by parents to punish their daughters who marry against their wishes or elope to evade forced marriages, domestic abuse and housework.
  • Legal limits are not successful: According to NFHS-5 (2019-2021), 23.3% of women aged 20-24 years married before the age of 18, which shows that the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act (PCMA), 2006, has not been successful in preventing child marriages.
  • Depriving legal protection: Increasing the legal age at marriage for girls will expand the number of persons deemed underage and render them without legal protection.
  • Declining fertility rates: India’s fertility rates have already been declining to well below replacement levels in many States, including those with higher levels of child marriage.
  • Poverty is the underlying reason: Poverty and lack of higher education are major underlying reasons for early marriages. According to an analysis of NFHS-4 (2015-2016) data, 56% girls were married below the age of 21 and this figure was as high as 75% among the poorest category of population.

Way forward:

Instead of focusing on age of marriage, following steps may eventually reduce the age of marriage

  • Conditional cash transfer schemes to improve the attendance of girls in schools and skill training.
  • Providing Increased access to contraceptives.
  • Ensuring a safe environment to women free from the constant threat of rape and sexual assault which is why girls are married off early.

 

2.  S-Gene Target Failure Strategy and Omisure

UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: Science & Technology
Sub Theme: S-Gene Target Failure Strategy | UPSC

Context:

Recently, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has approved a testing kit for detecting the Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2. The testing kit is manufactured by Tata Medical and Diagnostics and is named as Omisure. The testing kit relies on S-Gene Target failure strategy to detect the omicron variant.

 

UPSC Current Affairs: Increasing Tobacco Taxes- Need, Opposition and Way Forward | Page No. 06

UPSC Syllabus: Mains: GS Paper 2- Polity & Governance

Sub Theme:  Critical Analysis of Taxation Policy on Tobacco Products | UPSC

Context:

  • In India, 28.6% of adults above 15 years and 8.5% of students aged 13-15 years use tobacco in some form or the other. This makes the country the second largest consumer of tobacco in the world.
  • Tobacco use is known to be a major risk factor for several non-communicable diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and chronic lung diseases.
  • India also bears an annual economic burden of over ₹1,77,340 crore on account of tobacco use.
  • Yet, there has been no major increase in taxation of tobacco products to discourage the consumption of tobacco in the past four years since the introduction of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) in 2017 except for a small increase in the national calamity contingent duty (NCCD) in the 2020-21 Union Budget which only had the effect of increasing the average price of cigarettes by about 5%.

 

3.  Expenditure limit for LS, Assembly candidates hiked

UPSC Syllabus: Mains: GS Paper 2- Polity & Governance
Sub Theme:  Expenditure Limit in Elections | UPSC

Context: The Union ministry of law and justice has approved raising the election expenditure ceiling by a candidate as proposed by Election Commission.

Earlier Decisions on Enhancing Expenditure limit for individual Candidates

  • Considering the factor of COVID-19, the Ministry of Law & Justice on 19.10.2020 had earlier notified an amendment in Rule 90 of Conduct of Elections Rules, 1961 enhancing the existing expenditure limit by 10%.
ELECTORAL LAWS

è  Section 77 of Representation of People Act, 1951 mandates every candidate or his election agent to maintain an account of all expense incurred for the election authorized by him or by his election agent between the date on which he has been nominated and the date of declaration of the result thereof, both dates inclusive.

è  The total of the said expenditure shall not exceed such amount as may be prescribed under Rule 90 of Conduct of Election Rules.

è  Rule 90 – Conduct of Election Rules – provides for a maximum limit on election expense as mandated under Section 77 of RPA 1951. The maximum limit is different for Lok Sabha and Assembly constituencies.

Committee Constituted by EC in October, 2020

  • Election Commission had also constituted a committee comprising Sh. Harish Kumar, Ex. IRS and DG (Investigation), Sh. Umesh Sinha, Secretary General and DG (Expenditure) to examine the issues concerning expenditure limit for a candidate in view of increase in number of electors and rise in Cost Inflation Index and other factors.
  • The terms of Reference for the Committee were:
  • To assess the change in number of electors across the States/Union Territories and its bearing on expenditure.
  • To assess the change in Cost Inflation Index and its bearing on the pattern of expenditure incurred by the candidates in recent elections.
  • To seek views/inputs of the political parties and other stakeholders.
  • To examine other factors which may have bearings on expenditure

Recommendations of the Committee Accepted by the Election Commission

  • Grounds considered by the Committee
  • Increase in number of electors – from 2014 to 2021 from 834 million to 936 million – up by 12.23 %
  • Increase in Cost Inflation Index since 2014-15 to 2021-22 from 240 to 317 – up by 32.08%.
  • Changing modes of election campaign – which is gradually shifting to virtual campaign.
  • The Election Commission has accepted the recommendations of the Committee and has decided to enhance the existing election expenditure limit for candidates.
  • Accordingly, revised limits have now been notified by Ministry of Law, Justice and Legislative Department, which are as under: 
For Parliamentary Constituencies (PCs)
Earlier expenditure limit (2014) Enhanced expenditure limit now
Rs. 70 Lakhs Rs. 95 Lakhs
Rs. 54 Lakhs Rs. 75 Lakhs
For Assembly Constituencies (ACs)
Earlier expenditure limit (2014) Enhanced expenditure limit now
Rs. 28 Lakhs Rs. 40 Lakhs
Rs. 20 Lakhs Rs. 28 Lakhs
  • For the upcoming Assembly elections, the enhanced amount of Rs. 40 lakh would apply in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Punjab and Rs. 28 lakh in Goa and Manipur.

 

4.  Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO)

UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: International Relations
Sub Theme:  About CSTO | UPSC

What is happening in Kazakhstan?

  • A sharp and sudden spike in fuel prices triggered a national crisis in Kazakhstan.
  • The government has officially stepped down on Tuesday, following days of violent protests across the country.
  • But since the protests didn’t stop, Kazakh security forces resorted to violence which led to the demise of dozens of protestors.
  • Russia has sent in troops to assist security personnel in their efforts to restore order in the country, As Kazakshtan belongs to Russia-domina- ted Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO), which includes five other ex-Soviet states.

In this regard it is important for us to know about the locations of the countries:

CSTO

  • The Collective Security Treaty Organization is an intergovernmental military alliance in Eurasia that consists of select post-Soviet states.
  • In 1992, six post-Soviet states belonging to the Commonwealth of Independent States—Russia, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan—signed the Collective Security Treaty (also referred to as the Tashkent Pact or Tashkent Treaty).
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