Polity & Governance
- Epidemic Diseases Act
Government Schemes & Policies
- LPG scheme PM Ujjwala Yojana closed
Issues related to Health & Education
- DST to establish tech hub in IIT Mandi
- Coal in India
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
- Permanent body to preserve Eastern and Western Ghats
- Global Coalition for Biodiversity
- Gaur population on rise in VTR
Bilateral & International Relations
- Sir Creek pact
Science & Technology
- ARI-516: Hybrid variety of Grapes
Key Facts for Prelims
- Divya Kala Shakti
- Mission Zero accident
- Leaf roller insect
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Polity & Governance
Epidemic Diseases Act
The cabinet secretary has recently announced that all states and Union Territories should invoke provisions of Section 2 of the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897 by means of which all advisories issued by the Union health ministry and state governments from time to time are enforceable.
COVID-19 in India:
- At present, at least 60 COVID-19 cases have been confirmed in India.
- Around the world, more than 119,100 people have been infected and nearly 4,300 have died, according to a Reuters tally of government announcements.
History of the 1897 Epidemic Diseases Act:
- The Epidemic Diseases Act is routinely enforced across the country for dealing with outbreaks of diseases such as swine flu, dengue, and cholera.
- The colonial government introduced the Act to tackle the epidemic of bubonic plague that had spread in the erstwhile Bombay Presidency in the 1890s.
- Using powers conferred by the Act, colonies authorities would search suspected plague cases in homes and among passengers, with forcible segregations, evacuations, and demolitions of infected places.
- Historians have criticized the Act for its potential for abuse.
- In 1897, the year the law was enforced, freedom fighter Bal Gangadhar Tilak was punished with 18 months’ rigorous imprisonment after his newspapers Kesari and Mahratta admonished imperial authorities for their handling of the plague epidemic.
Provisions of the 1897 Epidemic Diseases Act:
- The Act, which consists of four sections, aims to provide “for the better prevention of the spread of Dangerous Epidemic Diseases.”
- Section 2 empowers state governments/UTs to take special measures and formulate regulations for containing the outbreak.
- It reads: Power to take special measures and prescribe regulations as to dangerous epidemic disease—
(1) When at any time the State Government is satisfied that the State or any part thereof is visited by, or threatened with, an outbreak of any dangerous epidemic disease, the State Government, if it thinks that the ordinary provisions of the law for the time being in force are insufficient for the purpose, may take, or require or empower any person to take, such measures and, by public notice, prescribe such temporary regulations to be observed by the public or by any person or class of persons as it shall deem necessary to prevent the outbreak of such disease or the spread thereof, and may determine in what manner and by whom any expenses incurred (including compensation if any) shall be defrayed.
(2) In particular and without prejudice to the generality of the foregoing provisions, the State Government may take measures and prescribe regulations for the inspection of persons travelling by railway or otherwise, and the segregation, in hospital, temporary accommodation or otherwise, of persons suspected by the inspecting officer of being infected with any such disease.”
- Section 3 provides penalties for disobeying any regulation or order made under the Act.
- These are according to section 188 of the Indian Penal Code (Disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant).
- Section 4 gives legal protection to the implementing officers acting under the Act.
Examples of implementation:
- In 2018, the district collector of Gujarat’s Vadodara issued a notification under the Act declaring the Khedkarmsiya village in Waghodia taluka as cholera-affected after 31 persons complained of symptoms of the disease.
- In 2015, to deal with malaria and dengue in Chandigarh, the Act was implemented and controlling officers were instructed to ensure the issuance of notices and challans of Rs 500 to offenders.
- In 2009, to tackle the swine flu outbreak in Pune, Section 2 powers were used to open screening centres in civic hospitals across the city, and swine flu was declared a notifiable disease.
Government Schemes & Policies
LPG scheme PM Ujjwala Yojana closed
The report of the Parliamentary Committee on Petroleum, which has been tabled recently, points to the gap between the continuing use of kerosene and the claim of 97% LPG coverage nationwide.
- As per the report, only three States and five Union Territories have become kerosene-free, though the government in September 2019, met the target of eight crore LPG connections under the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana.
- The allocation for the scheme has been cut down by 58% from ₹2,724 crores during 2019-20 to ₹1,118 crore during 2020-21.
- The Petroleum Ministry informed the committee that the government had met the target on September 7, 2019, and 96.9% coverage had been achieved nationwide, except in Jammu and Kashmir.
- The Ministry said the scheme was no longer running, and the present allocation was meant to meet the arrears in the reimbursement of expenditure.
- The 97% coverage has been calculated by dividing the number of households — it stands at 2850.5 lakh as on February 1 this year — and the domestic LPG consumers, at 2772.2 lakh.
Concerns over the closure of the scheme:
- There are poor households in the general category in urban and semi-urban localities that also need to be covered.
- The committee, recommends that the scheme be extended to poor households in urban and semi-urban slum areas, and achieve a higher LPG coverage of the population by providing connections to households that do not have LPG.
- Large segments of people in various states still depended on kerosene for cooking and household lighting.
- The Ministry has justified the low number of ‘kerosene-free’ States and Union Territories, saying their consent is critical.
- Only three States — Haryana, Punjab and Andhra Pradesh — and the Union Territories of Delhi, Chandigarh, Daman & Diu, Dadar & Nagar Haveli, Andaman & Nicobar Island and Puducherry have become kerosene-free.
PM Ujjwala Yojana:
- Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana was launched by Prime Minister of India in May 2016.
- Under this scheme, the target was to provide 8 crore LPG connections to the Below poverty line (BPL) families.
- Initially, the beneficiaries under PMUY were identified either from Socio-Economic Caste Census-2011 or from seven other identified categories. Subsequently, Government has extended the benefit to all left out poor families under PMUY subject to fulfilment of terms & conditions.
- Eligible households will receive a support of Rs. 1,600 and will be in the name of the female head of the entire household.
- Money that has been saved due to the ‘Give-it-up’ subsidy campaign will be used for this scheme.
- The scheme is being implemented by the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas.
Objectives of PMUY:
- Empowering women and protecting their health.
- Abate health issues that result from using fossil fuels
- Minimize fatalities which occur due to unclean fuels used for cooking
- Controlling respiratory issues that occur due to indoor pollution as a result of using fossil fuel
- Preventing the degradation of purity of environment compromised by usage of unclean cooking fuel.
Why LPG over other fuels?
- LPG is an energy-rich fuel source with a higher calorific value other commonly used fuels which means that an LPG flame burns hotter, an advantage that can translate into higher efficiency.
- A large section of Indians, especially women and girls, are exposed to severe household air pollution (HAP) from the use of solid fuels such as biomass, dung cakes and coal for cooking.
- A report from the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare places HAP as the second leading risk factor contributing to India’s disease burden.
- It is a fuel that is available in even the remotest of areas providing a further impetus to regional development.
- It is a clean burning fuel that is low carbon, emits virtually no black carbon and does not spills.
- LPG can be accessible to everyone everywhere without major infrastructure investment.
Issues related to Health & Education
DST to establish tech hub in IIT Mandi
The Department of Science and Technology has sanctioned Technology Innovation Hub (TIH) at IIT Mandi with a sum of Rs 7.25 crore.
- The focus of the technology hub will be on human-computer interaction (HCI) research, where projects will focus on design and development of computer technology (interfaces) and the study of interaction between humans (users) and computers.
- It will also focus on human resource and skill development, entrepreneurship and collaboration with other leading institutions.
Human-computer interaction research:
- HCI is focused on the ways in which humans interact with computers and design technologies that let humans interact with computers in novel ways.
- As a field of research, HCI is situated at the intersection of computer science, behavioural sciences, design, and media studies among others.
- Technology Deliverables: To develop technology interface for challenges concerning landslides, environment (including climate change), air pollution, agriculture, cybersecurity, defence forces, healthcare, and forensics.
- Human Resource and Skill Development Deliverables: To generate skilled manpower in HCI area at graduate, post-graduate, doctoral, post-doctoral and faculty level by organising workshops and seminars.
- International Collaborations Deliverables: To develop and sustain existing and new collaboration with universities and organisations in India and abroad.
- Entrepreneurship and Startup Deliverables: To create a startup ecosystem by working with the technology-business incubator of IIT Mandi, Catalyst, with an approach of Knowledge Generation Technology Development Technology Translation Technology Commercialisation.
What is Cyber Physical System (CPS)?
- A Cyber Physical System (CPS) is a mechanism controlled or monitored by computer-based algorithms, tightly integrated with internet and its users.
- In general, Cyber means computation control while Physical means natural and human-made systems.
- CPS are physical and engineered systems whose operations are monitored and coordinated by a computing and communication core.
National Mission on Interdisciplinary Cyber-Physical Systems (NM-ICPS):
- It is an initiative of Department of Science & Technology.
- The Mission aims at establishment of 15 numbers of Technology Innovation Hubs (TIH), six numbers of Application Innovation Hubs (AIH) and four numbers of Technology Translation Research Parks (TTRP).
- The Hubs & TTRPs have four focused areas:
(i) Technology Development; (ii) HRD & Skill Development; (iii) Innovation, Entrepreneurship & Start-ups Ecosystem Development; (iv) International Collaborations.
- The Mission will feed the Central Ministries/ Departments and State governments and also the Industry to effectively use the CPS technologies in their projects and schemes for the benefit of the society.
Coal in India
India’s thermal coal imports rose 12.6% to nearly 200 million tonnes in 2019, government data reviewed by Reuters showed, reflecting the second straight year of growth in shipments of the fuel despite attempts by the government to cut imports.
- Coal is among the top five commodities imported by India, the world’s largest consumer, importer and producer of the fuel.
- Imports of thermal coal – mainly used for power generation – jumped 12.6% to 197.84 million tonnes in 2019.
- However, imports of coking coal – used mainly in the manufacturing of steel – fell marginally, following two straight years of increase, government data showed.
- India imported 51.33 million tonnes of coking coal in 2019, down from 51.63 million tonnes in 2018, the data showed.
- Indonesia accounted for nearly 60% of India’s thermal coal imports in the April-December period, government data showed, while South Africa accounted for 22 % and Russia and Australia accounting for over 5% each.
- Traders say coal imports grew largely due to lower production by Coal India Ltd, whose output fell for five consecutive months ending November due to the highest annual rainfall in 25 years and frequent outages including strikes by workers and locals.
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
Permanent body to preserve Eastern and Western Ghats
A public interest litigation petition has been filed in the Madras High Court seeking a direction to the Centre and the State government to constitute a permanent body for taking serious and practical steps to safeguard the flora, fauna and other natural resources in the Eastern and Western Ghats in Tamil Nadu.
- Western Ghats run around 1.6 lakh sq. km, from Kanyakumari to Gujarat and spread across six states.
- Western Ghats is a treasure trove of biodiversity and source of major rivers, including Godavari, Krishna and Cauvery.
- The rolling hills of this area run parallel to the western coast of the Indian peninsula and span Gujarat, Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu.
- The area is an important biological landscape. It hosts a variety of endemic species of flora and fauna.
- Alongside such biodiversity, the Ghats also support about 50 million people. Their activities, together with rainfall and features of the soil, have increased the incidence of landslides.
- The Eastern Ghats are a discontinuous range of mountains along India’s eastern coast.
- The Eastern Ghats run from the northern Odisha through Andhra Pradesh to Tamil Nadu in the south passing some parts of Karnataka.
- They are eroded and cut through by four major rivers of peninsular India, viz. Godavari, Mahanadi, Krishna, and Kaveri.
- The mountain ranges run parallel to the Bay of Bengal.
- The Deccan Plateau lies to the west of the range, between the Eastern Ghats and Western Ghats.
- The coastal plains, including the Coromandel Coast region, lie between the Eastern Ghats and the Bay of Bengal.
- The Eastern Ghats are not as high as the Western Ghats.
- The Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel, commonly called Gadgil Commission under noted ecologist Madhav Gadgil submitted a report on Western Ghats in 2011.
- The report had warned about the impending natural disasters threatening coastal states, unless critical steps were taken to conserve the ecologically fragile Western Ghats.
- It suggested shifting from large-scale cultivation of single commercial crops on steep slopes, of Western Ghats which was leading to soil erosion and increased run-off, and controlling massive encroachment and deforestation in the catchment areas of major rivers.
- Referring to the region, as the “Protector of the Indian Peninsula“, the report had raised alarm on the rapid erosion of natural capital for man-made capital in the Western Ghats, which has led to “excessive, unnecessary environmental damage’.
- One key proposal was to designate the entire Western Ghats as an Ecologically Sensitive Area (ESA), and then assign three levels of sensitivity to the regions.
- These were Ecologically Sensitive Zone 1 (ESZ1), Ecologically Sensitive Zone 2 (ESZ2) and Ecologically Sensitive Zone 3 (ESZ3) depending on the topography, climatic features, hazard vulnerabilities, ecological resilience and origin of rivers, among other factors.
- The panel recommended controls on mineral extraction and mining and stated that no new mining licenses be granted, until conditions improve.
- No newer hill stations, no change of land-use from forest to non-forest use, or public to private ownership and no more inter-basin diversions of rivers in the Western Ghats were some of the other recommendations.
- It even recommended issuing a moratorium on ongoing projects such as dams and mines that can impact water resources, until a Western Ghats Ecology Authority was set up for proper scrutiny and decide on whether to allow them to progress or not.
- Most of the rivers in the Western Ghats are either dammed or diverted. West-flowing rivers have been virtually made into east-flowing rivers by violating all natural laws.
- Many of the reservoirs, especially in the steep valleys, are silting up prematurely due to the massive encroachment and deforestation of catchments consequent to dam construction.
- It also raised concerns over large-scale shift to cultivation of soil-eroding monoculture plantations of tea, coffee, cardamom, rubber, banana, pineapple and timber on steep slopes, leading to increased surface run-off and low seepage deep into the soil.
- Decommissioning of dams and thermal projects that have crossed their viable life span (for dams, the threshold is 30-50 years) in a phased manner.
- The Kasturirangan committee was headed by Krishnaswamy Kasturirangan, former chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation.
- This committee’s report watered down the focus on preserving the environment and recommended that only 37% of the Western Ghats region be classified as an ESA.
- The report essentially split the Ghats into two landscapes – cultural and ecological, with the percentage of ecological landscape standing at 37%.
- The report removed the system of gradation recommended by the Gadgil commission.
- Instead, the former banked on an existing system of ‘red’, ‘orange’ and ‘green’ categorization of activities according to their polluting effects.
- Kasturirangan recommended that ‘red’ category industries (like mining and quarrying) be banned, ‘orange’ ones (like food processing, hotels and restaurants, automobile servicing) be regulated and ‘green’ (like processing of grains, apparel-making) be allowed to function as usual.
- With respect to activities like sand-mining and quarrying, which fall in the ‘red’ category, the Kasturirangan report provided some relief: existing operations would be allowed to continue until their lease expired but that the lease would not be renewed.
- However, conservationists had issues with the dilutions of the Gadgil report. Because only 37% of the Western Ghats were to be regarded as an ESA, the threat posed to the region by developmental activities like hydropower projects remained because they could be setup in the remaining 63%, and still fragment and degrade the landscape.
- The Kasturirangan report was submitted to the environment ministry in 2013 and was quickly met with resistance from politicians as well as members of local communities.
Global Coalition for Biodiversity
The European Commission launched the ‘United for Biodiversity’ coalition made up of zoos, aquariums, botanical gardens, national parks, and natural history and science museums from around the world, on World Wildlife Day 2020,
- The coalition offered the opportunity for all such institutions to join forces and boost public awareness about the nature crisis, ahead of the crucial COP-15 of the Convention on Biological Diversity in Kunming, China in October 2020.
- The coalition adopted a common pledge, citing the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) Global Assessment finding that one million species were already at risk of extinction, and appeals to visitors to each of their institutions to “raise their voice for nature”.
- These developments are vital not only for cataloguing and preserving the natural world, but are indispensable and invaluable centres for education and mobilization — particularly for young leaders and decision-makers of the future.
World Wildlife Day:
- World Wildlife Day is an opportunity to celebrate the many beautiful and varied forms of wild fauna and flora and to raise awareness of the multitude of benefits that their conservation provides to people.
- At the same time, the Day reminds us of the urgent need to step up the fight against wildlife crime and human-induced reduction of species, which have wide-ranging economic, environmental and social impacts.
- Theme of World Wildlife Day 2020: Sustaining all life on Earth.
- The Sustainable Development Goal 15 focuses on halting biodiversity loss.
- The year 2020, known as “biodiversity super year,” will host several major global events that place biodiversity at the forefront.
- It provides a unique opportunity to deliver transformative progress for the conservation and sustainable use of the species of wild animals and plants.
Gaur population on rise in VTR
Gaur, the largest extant bovine in the world, have not only returned to Bihar’s Valmiki Tiger Reserve (VTR), but are also breeding there due to an increase in grassland cover.
- Gaur, native to south and southeast Asia, had shifted to Chitwan a few years back due to grassland destruction in VTR.
- The species is listed as ‘vulnerable’ on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species since 1986.
- They are heavily built, with body weight varying between 400 and 1,200 kilograms.
- It declined by more than 70% during the last three generations, and is extinct in Sri Lanka and probably also in Bangladesh.
Valmiki National Park:
- Valmiki National Park, Tiger Reserve and Wildlife Sanctuary is located at the India-Nepal border in the West Champaran district of Bihar, India on the bank of river Gandak.
- It is the only National park in Bihar.
- VTR was set up in the early 1990s.
- It is spread over 899 square kilometers in Bihar’s West Champaran district, bordering Nepal’s Chitwan National Park to its north and Uttar Pradesh to its west.
Bilateral & International Relations
Sir Creek pact
The 2020 Global Summit was recently organised by WION, India’s first International News Channel, in Dubai which saw participation of various World leaders. Among other things, Former Pakistan Minister Kasuri recalled plans for Sir Creek pact.
About Sir Creek:
- Sir Creek, originally Ban Ganga, is a 96 km tidal estuary in uninhabited marshlands of Indus river delta on the border of India and Pakistan.
- The creek opens up into the Arabian Sea and separates the Gujarat state of India from the Sindh province of Pakistan.
- The 24th parallel north passes through Sir Creek.
- The coastal area of Sir Creek is manned by the Indian Coast Guard and larger open sea beyond is patrolled by the Indian Navy.
- The long-standing India-Pakistan Sir Creek border dispute lies in the actual demarcation “from the mouth of Sir Creek to the top of Sir Creek, and from the top of Sir Creek eastward to a point on the line designated on the Western Terminus”.
- Sir Creek, is claimed by both India and Pakistan.
- The dispute lies in the interpretation of the maritime boundary line between Pakistan and India.
- Before independence, the area was part of British India (Bombay Presidency).
- After independence in 1947, Sindh became a part of Pakistan while Gujarat remained a part of India.
- Pakistan lays claim to the entire creek as per paragraphs 9 and 10 of the Sind Government Resolution of 1914 signed between the then Government of Sindh Division and Rao Maharaj of Kutch.
- Paragraph 9 of the verdict states that the border between Kutch and Sind lies to the east of Sir Creek.
- Paragraph 10 of the verdict further qualifies that since Sir Creek is navigable most of the year. According to international law and the Thalweg principle, a boundary can only be fixed in the middle of the navigable channel, which meant that it has be divided between Sindh and Kutch, and thereby India and Pakistan.
- In 1968 an international tribunal resolved the larger Great Rann of Kutch border claims of India and Pakistan which also covers the Sir Creek.
- In this resolution by the tribunal, India received 90% of its claim and Pakistan received 10%.
- The Elements of dispute remain in the Sir Creek with conflicting claims from both sides.
- Since 1997 to 2012, there have been twelve rounds of talks between the two nations, without a breakthrough.
- The Thalweg legal principle states that if the border between two political entities is stated to be a waterway, without further description (e.g., a median line, right bank, eastern shore, low tide line, etc.), the boundary follows the Thalweg of that watercourse.
- That means in particular the boundary follows the center of the principal navigable channel of the waterway (which is presumably the deepest part), if there are multiple navigable channels in a river, the one principally used for downstream travel (likely having the strongest current) is used.
- When Thalweg principle is applied, the UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea) supports India’s position, which would result in the shifting of the land/sea terminus point several kilometers to the detriment of Pakistan, leading in turn to a loss of several thousand square kilometres of its Exclusive Economic Zone under the United Nations Convention on Law of the Sea.
- Though the creek has little military value, it holds immense economic gain.
- Much of the region is rich in oil and gas below the sea bed, and control over the creek would have a huge bearing on the energy potential of each nation.
- Also once the boundaries are defined, it would help in the determination of the maritime boundaries which are drawn as an extension of onshore reference points.
- Maritime boundaries also help in determining the limits of Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) and continental shelves.
- EEZs extend to 200 nautical miles (370 km) and can be subjected to commercial exploitation.
Science & Technology
ARI-516: Hybrid variety of Grapes
Scientists from Agharkar Research Institute (ARI), an autonomous institute of the Department of Science and Technology, have developed a hybrid variety of grapes which is resistant to fungal diseases, high yielding and has excellent juice quality.
- The hybrid variety ARI-516 has been developed by interbreeding of two species from the same genus — Catawba variety of Vitis labrusca and Beauty seedless variety of Vitis vinifera.
- It has superior quality fruits and higher yield per unit area.
- An early ripening hybrid, it matures in 110 – 120 days after pruning.
- It is tolerant to downy & powdery mildew diseases as well as resistant to anthracnose disease-a group of fungal diseases that affect a variety of plants in warm, humid areas.
- India ranks twelfth in the world in terms of grape production.
- About 78% of grape production in India is utilized for consumption, 17-20 % for raisin production, 1.5 % for wine and 0.5 % for juice.
- Maharashtra leads in the production of grapes in India with a share of 81.22 %.
- A majority of farmers in Maharashtra cultivate ‘Thompson seedless’ and its clones for table purpose or raisin making.
- These varieties are highly susceptible to fungal diseases which increase plant protection cost. Grapes suffer 8.23-16 % of post-harvest losses.
- Juice making is an excellent option to reduce post-harvest losses.
Key Facts for Prelims
Divya Kala Shakti
- Tamil Nadu will witness the first ever regional event Divya Kala Shakti: Witnessing the abilities in disabilities.
- This event is being organized by the National Institute for Empowerment of Persons with Multiple Disabilities (Divyangjan) (NIEPMD), Chennai in collaboration with Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (Divyangjan).
Mission Zero accident
In the Railway Budget 2016-17, Mission Zero Accident was one of the Missions announced, comprising the two sub-missions:
- Elimination of unmanned level crossings (UMLC) over broad gauge in the next 3-4 years.
- Train Collision Avoidance System (TCAS) to prevent collisions and signal passing at danger by the Loco Pilot.
Leaf roller insect
- Cocoon production in Karnataka, which had been hit by a mulberry disease, pick up just in time to meet the growing demand for indigenous silk.
- The leaf roller insect, which eats the shoots of mulberry plants, had affected the production in the State.
- Photosynthesis is a life-sustaining process by which plants store solar energy as sugar molecules.
- However, if sunlight is in excess, it can lead to leaves being dehydrated and damaged.
- To prevent such damage, plants dissipate extra light as heat.
- While this was known, there has been a debate over the past several decades over how plants actually do so.
- Now for the first time, a new research has been able to determine that excess energy is transferred from the pigment chlorophyll, which gives leaves their green colour, to other pigments called carotenoids.
- The carotenoids then release the energy as heat.