Polity & Governance
- 1st PIO-Parliamentarian Conference held
- No viable alternative to hanging, Centre tells court
- Conference on ethical use of animals in academics held
Issues related to Health & Education
- Haryana becomes first state to launch High Risk Pregnancy portal
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
- Plastic microbeads ban enters force in UK
Bilateral & International Relations
- Saudi Arabia okays India’s plan to ferry Haj pilgrims via sea route
Art & Culture
- Madhubani paintings become the graffiti for Bihar
Science & Technology
- Ancient Rock Art in India Is Oldest Depiction of Supernova
- Space travel: Here’s what happens to the human body
Key Facts for Prelims
- Coast Guard patrol vessel – ‘Charlie-435’
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Polity & Governance
1st PIO-Parliamentarian Conference held
The 1st PIO-Parliamentarian Conference was recently inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
About the PIO Parliamentary Conference:
- The PIO Parliamentary Conference was organised by Ministry of External Affairs to forge stronger ties with PIO.
- 124 Members of Parliament (MP) and 17 mayors from 23 countries participated in this conference.
Who can be a Persons of Indian Origin (PIO)?
- A person is deemed to be Indian origin if he/she is foreign citizen (other than of Pakistan or Bangladesh) and had held an Indian passport any time.
- He may be either person whose parents or grandparents were citizens of India by virtue of the Constitution of India or the Citizenship Act, 1955.
- He may be also person who is spouse of an Indian citizen or of PIO (other than of Pakistan or Bangladesh).
No viable alternative to hanging, Centre tells court
While responding to a query from the apex court on alternative modes of execution, the Centre told that there is no viable method presently other than hanging to execute condemned prisoners.
- The Centre added that even lethal injections are unworkable and often fail.
- The court is hearing a writ petition which has sought the court’s intervention to reduce the suffering of condemned prisoners at the time of death.
- The petitioner notes that a convict should not be compelled to suffer at the time of termination of his or her life. When a man is hanged to death, his dignity is destroyed, the petition says.
- The petitioner has also referred to Article 21 (Right to Life) of the Constitution and said it also included the right of a condemned prisoner to have a dignified mode of execution so that death becomes less painful.
Need for finding alternatives:
- The present procedure can be replaced with intravenous lethal injection, shooting, electrocution or gas chamber in which death is just a matter of minutes.
- While in hanging, the entire execution process takes over 40 minutes to declare prisoner to be dead, the shooting process involves not more than few minutes. In case of intravenous lethal injection, it is all over in 5 minutes.
- The court had previously said a condemned convict should die in peace and not in pain. A human being is entitled to dignity even in death.
- Issuing notice, the court had earlier asked the government to consider the “dynamic progress” made in modern science to adopt painless methods of causing death.
Constitutionality of death penalty:
- The Supreme court has already clarified that it is not questioning the constitutionality of the death penalty, which has been well settled by the court, including in Deena versus Union of India and earlier in the Bachan Singh case reported in 1980.
- Section 354 (5), which mandates death by hanging, of the Code of Criminal Procedure has already been upheld.
Observations made by the Law commission:
- The Law Commission in its 187th Report had noted that there was a significant increase in the number of countries where hanging has been abolished and substituted by electrocution, shooting or lethal injection as the method of execution.
- It had categorically opined that hanging is undoubtedly accompanied by intense physical torture and pain.
Conference on ethical use of animals in academics held
A one-day National Conference on Welfare of Laboratory Animals was recently organised by CPCSEA, Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change.
About the conference:
- The theme of the conference: “Implementation of 3Rs (Replacement, Reduction and Refinement) while using animals in academic research and regulatory testing in India.
- The conference laid emphasis on the issue of ethical use of animals in academics and regulatory testing in India.
- The discussions were focussed on evaluating the possibilities of exemption of animal experiments in academics and regulatory testing.
The Committee for the Purpose of Control and Supervision of Experiments on Animals (CPCSEA) is a statutory Committee.
- It was established under Section 15(1) of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1960.
Objective of CPCSEA
- To ensure that animals are not subjected to unnecessary pains or suffering before, during or after performance of experiments on them.
- For this purpose, under the delegated powers, the Committee formulated the ‘Breeding of and Experiments on Animals (Control and Supervision) Rules, 1998’ which were amended in 2001 and then in 2006, to regulate the experimentation on animals.
- All establishments engaged in research and education involving animals, are required to comply with the various guidelines, norms and stipulations set out by CPCSEA.
The main functions of CPCSEA are:
- Registration of establishments conducting animal experimentation or breeding of animals for this purpose.
- Selection and appointment of nominees in the Institutional Animal Ethics Committees of registered establishments.
- Approval of Animal House Facilities on the basis of reports of inspections conducted by CPCSEA.
- Permission for conducting experiments involving use of animals.
- Recommendation for import of animals for use in experiments.
- Action against establishments in case of violation of any legal norm/stipulation.
- India is one of the pioneering countries to institute Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act in 1960 whereas such Act was instituted in France in 1963 and in USA in 1966. The detailed rules for experimentation on animals were first enacted by the Ministry of Agriculture in 1968 and were implemented by CPCSEA.
Issues related to Health & Education
Haryana becomes first state to launch High Risk Pregnancy portal
Haryana become first state in the country to launch High-Risk Pregnancy (HRP) portal.
- It has been launched as part of the High Risk Pregnancy Policy of state implemented since November 2017.
- The Union ministry of health and family welfare and NITI Aayog have acknowledged the portal as a good practice to be implemented.
About High-Risk Pregnancy (HRP) portal:
- The portal will help in early identification of high-risk pregnant cases up to grass-roots level and ensures their timely referral to civil hospitals for further management and delivery by specialists.
- It will help in increasing pace of decline in Maternal Mortality Rate (MMR), Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) and Still Birth Incidence as morbidity and mortality is quite high in high risk pregnant cases if not managed timely.
- It will track every high risk pregnant woman till 42 days after delivery, so that she receives adequate treatment during the ante-natal period for healthy outcome of pregnancy.
About High Risk Pregnancy Policy:
- The High Risk Pregnancy Policy has been implemented across the state since November, 2017.
- The policy aims at identifying 100% name-based high-risk pregnancy cases and ensuring their delivery by specialists at civil hospitals.
- This initiative is also aimed at increasing the pace of decline in Maternal Mortality Rate (MMR), Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) and Still Birth Incidence as morbidity and mortality is quite high in high risk pregnant cases.
Haryana’s birth companion strategy:
- Haryana had also implemented birth companion strategy under which one female attendant would be allowed during delivery in the labour room.
- The presence of a female birth companion during delivery is a step towards improving the quality of care in labour rooms for improving the maternal and neo-natal outcome and for respectful maternity care.
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
Plastic microbeads ban enters force in UK
A UK-wide ban on the manufacture of products containing microbeads has come into force on 9 January.
- With this, manufacturers can no longer add tiny pieces of plastic to wash-off cosmetic and personal care products (such as exfoliating scrubs, shower gels and toothpaste).
- However, this isn’t a complete ban – ‘leave-on’ products (such as sunscreen and makeup) will still be allowed to contain microbeads following the cosmetic industry’s resistance.
What are ‘Microplastics’ or Microbeads?
- Microplastics are plastic pieces or fibres measuring less than five milimetres. The microplastics or microbeads found in personal care products are always smaller than one milimetre.
- According to recent United Nations reports, these are dangerous for the aquatic life and environment.
What are microplastics or microbeads made of?
- Microplastics or microbeads used in personal care products are mainly made of polyethylene (PE), but can be also be made of polypropylene (PP), polyethylene terephthalate (PET), polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA) and nylon.
- They are widely used in cosmetics as exfoliating agents and in personal care products such as toothpaste, as well as in biomedical and health science research.
- In simple words, these microbeads are so small that a person can barely feel them.
- Their roundness and particle size create a ball-bearing effects in creams and lotions, resulting in a silky texture and spread ability.
Why is it used for?
- Microbeads have been used to replace natural exfoliating materials.
- Their usage becoming more rampant because of their microspheres in different colours add visual appeal to cosmetic products.
What is the danger for them?
- Microbeads- largely non-biodegradable- flow through sewer systems and end up in seas and oceans, where they contribute to the huge chunk of plastic soup in the environment.
- Microbeads are also likely to be transported to wastewater treatment plants. Due to their small size, substantial portion passes through filtration system and enters aquatic environment.
Banned by various countries:
- The United States passed the Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015, which required companies to stop using microbeads in beauty and health products by July 2017, and Canada’s ban on manufacturing the pellets took effect at the beginning of this year.
- New Zealand’s ban on microbeads is to take effect in June.
- Several countries in the European Union have campaigned for a similar ban.
Need for ban:
- Due to the unregulated production and usage of plastics in microbeads in various cosmetic products available in the market and the excessive usage of such products by the end users is leading to water pollution across the globe.
- Besides, after being washed down the drain, microbeads flow through sewer systems around the world before making their way into rivers and canals and ultimately, straight into the seas and oceans, where they contribute to the huge chunk of plastic soup in the environment.
Bilateral & International Relations
Saudi Arabia okays India’s plan to ferry Haj pilgrims via sea route
Saudi Arabia has approved India’s plan to revive the option of ferrying Haj pilgrims via sea route to Jeddah.
- In this regard, both countries have signed bilateral annual Haj 2018 agreement.
Significance of the move:
- Sending pilgrims through ships would help cut down travel expenses significantly.
- The decision would be a “revolutionary, pro-poor, pilgrim-friendly decision.
- The practice of ferrying Haj pilgrims between Mumbai and Jeddah by waterways existed earlier too, but was stopped from 1995.
- According to the new Haj policy of India, women above 45 years of age, who wish to go to Haj without ‘Mehram’ (male companion), are allowed to travel for Haj in groups of four or more women.
Art & Culture
Madhubani paintings become the graffiti for Bihar
About 50 government buildings in the town of Madhubani, in the eastern Indian state of Bihar, are being painted in the hues and designs of Madhubani, a style of painting originating from and synonymous to the state.
- The idea behind painting the town in Madhubani is to give visitors a firsthand experience of how the paintings are blended with the region’s culture.
About Madhubani paintings:
Madhubani, which means ‘forest of honey’, is a style of folk painting old enough to find mention in some of the ancient Indian texts like the holy Ramayana.
- It is also known as Mithila, for its origin is said to be the Mithila region in Bihar.
Themes of Maithili Paintings
- Themes of the Maithili painting of Bihar revolve around Hindu deities like Krishna, Rama, Lakshmi, Shiva, Durga and Saraswati.
- The natural themes that are used include the Sun, the Moon and the religious plants like tulsi.
- Other subjects of Madhubani paintings include peacocks, fish and human connection with nature.
How it is made?
- Traditionally, the Madhubani paintings are created using fingers and twigs, and items like matchsticks have come to be used in their creation in recent times.
- Their various styles include Bharni, Katchni, Tantrik, Godna, and Kohbar, which would historically be painted only by women from the upper strata in the caste system, who would make them on mud walls on special occasions.
Madhubani in Modern days:
- The norms have now changed, and the paintings can be enjoyed by anyone and in various forms. Madhubani is now found on apparel, paper, canvas, and other products.
Science & Technology
Ancient Rock Art in India Is Oldest Depiction of Supernova
A team of Indian Scientists at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research have discovered rock art that appears to depict a supernova and the surrounding stars, buried inside the wall of an ancient dwelling place.
- Thought to date from 3,600 BC, the carving would be the oldest-known depiction of such a cosmic event.
- The carving has been discovered in Burzahama region in Kashmir, India.
- In archaeology, rock art is human-made markings placed on natural stone.
What is Supernova?
- A supernova is the explosion of a star. It is the largest explosion that takes place in space.
Where do Supernovas take place?
- Supernovas are often seen in other galaxies. But supernovas are difficult to see in our own Milky Way galaxy because dust blocks our view.
- Only three Milky Way naked-eye supernova events have been observed during the last thousand years, though many have been seen in other galaxies using telescopes. The most recent directly observed supernova in the Milky Way was Kepler’s Supernova in 1604.
What causes a Supernova?
A supernova happens where there is a change in the core, or center, of a star. A change can occur in two different ways, with both resulting in a supernova.
- The first type of supernova happens in binary star systems. Binary stars are two stars that orbit the same point. One of the stars, a carbon-oxygen white dwarf, steals matter from its companion star. Eventually, the white dwarf accumulates too much matter. Having too much matter causes the star to explode, resulting in a supernova.
- The second type of supernova occurs at the end of a single star’s lifetime. As the star runs out of nuclear fuel, some of its mass flows into its core. Eventually, the core is so heavy that it cannot withstand its own gravitational force. The core collapses, which results in the giant explosion of a supernova. The sun is a single star, but it does not have enough mass to become a supernova.
Why do scientists study Supernovas?
- A supernova burns for only a short period of time, but it can tell scientists a lot about the universe.
- One kind of supernova has shown scientists that we live in an expanding universe, one that is growing at an ever increasing rate.
- Scientists also have determined that supernovas play a key role in distributing elements throughout the universe. When the star explodes, it shoots elements and debris into space. Many of the elements we find here on Earth are made in the core of stars. These elements travel on to form new stars, planets and everything else in the universe.
Space travel: Here’s what happens to the human body
Space is a dangerous and unforgiving place, and spending time away from gravity takes its toll on the human body, as many astronauts have found out after returning to Earth.
Why in news?
- Recently, Japanese astronaut Norishige Kanai announced that he had stretched a staggering 9cm (3.5in) in just three weeks onboard the International Space Station (ISS).
- However, he later admitted he had miscalculated the figure and it was actually just 2cm (0.9in), but significant height changes are actually normal for astronauts spending time in space.
- Without the strong pull of Earth’s gravity, spinal vertebrae can expand or “unload” leading to a slight change of height. But research shows that once back on Earth, astronaut’s heights go back to normal.
Health issues for astronauts:
- The rapid change of gravity in space can cause a loss of bone density of up to 1% a month. This could lead to osteoporosis-related fractures and long-term health problems.
- Lack of gravity can also cause body fluids to shift upwards, which may cause swelling, high-blood pressure and vision and organ problems. Nutrition and exercise become very important, and special measures like medications and body cuffs aim to reduce the risk of long-term medical problems associated with muscle and bone wastage.
- Living in isolation and confinement can cause behavioural and psychological issues. Without a natural body clock, depression and sleep disorders can develop. The space station uses LED technology to imitate light on Earth to improve body rhythms.
- A closed environment also means microbes in the body can transfer more easily. The environment can weaken the immune system, so urine, saliva and blood samples are carefully monitored to make sure dormant viruses have not been reactivated.
- Radiation exposure is far higher in space than it is on Earth. Without the shielding of Earth, you could be more at risk of cancer and damage to the nervous system. Space radiation can also cause sickness and fatigue. The ISS sits just within the protective field on Earth to reduce risks, but missions further afield will need to overcome this.
[Ref: Economic Times, BBC]
Key Facts for Prelims
Coast Guard patrol vessel – ‘Charlie-435’
- A state-of-the-art patrol vessel of the Indian Coast Guard ‘Charlie-435’ has been commissioned at Karaikal in the Union Territory of Puducherry.
- It is equipped with modern navigation and communication systems.
- The vessel would strengthen coastal security between Chennai and Kanyakumari in the Eastern Coastal region.
- the patrol vessel would be of great help in rescuing fishermen who go adrift in the sea due to bad weather.