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Current Affairs Analysis

15th January 2020 Current Affairs Analysis – IASToppers

Taal Volcano; National Policy for the treatment of Rare diseases 2020; What is a rare disease? What is Juice Jacking? What is ‘Blue Flag’ certification? Classical languages in India; NEON: Artificial Humans; CORE R3 technology; SPECTRA; What is Complex Volcano? Suit against CAA; Article 131 of the Constitution; Article 256 of the Constitution; Tuberculosis (TB); What is MDR/RR-TB? Gold hallmarking; Stardust; Presolar grain; Silicon Carbide (SiC); etc.
By IASToppers
January 25, 2020

Contents

Polity & Governance

  • Kerala files suit against CAA

Government Schemes & Policies

  • National Policy for the treatment of Rare diseases 2020

Issues related to Health & Education

  • WHO endorses indigenous molecular diagnostic tool for TB

Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management

  • Blue Flag certification of beaches

Defence & Security Issues

  • Juice jacking

Art & Culture

  • Demand for a classical language status for Marathi

Geophysical Phenomena

  • Eruption of a tiny ‘complex’ volcano: Taal volcano

Science & Technology

  • NEON: Artificial Humans
  • Oldest material on Earth found inside meteorite: Stardust 

Key Facts for Prelims

  • Hallmarking made must for gold jewellery

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Polity & Governance

Kerala files suit against CAA

Kerala became the first State to join citizens across the country to challenge in the Supreme Court the constitutionality of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA), which fast-tracks grant of citizenship on the basis of religion.

Kerala has become the first state to challenge the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) before the Supreme Court under Article 131 of the Constitution

About CAA:

  • The Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 made only Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians, except Muslims, from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan eligible for Indian citizenship as naturalisation, for their religious persecution.
  • It had fixed December 31, 2014 as the cut-off date for such immigrants.

Stand of Kerala Government:

  • The Kerala Legislative Assembly had passed a resolution against the amendment and the Govt of Kerala has been filed original suit under Article 131 of the Constitution. 
  • The Kerala Govt said that it would be compelled under Article 256 to comply with the CAA (Citizenship Amendment Act).

Article 131 of the Constitution:

  • Article 131 of the Constitution confers original jurisdiction on the Supreme Court to decide disputes between the Government of India and any one or more states and disputes between states.

Article 131 of the Constitution

  • The Supreme Court has exclusive original jurisdiction, which means that no other court in the country can decide such disputes.
  • Article 131 could be invoked with conditions on subjects which must be the act of the state and not any authority of the state.
  • Supreme Court to accept a suit under Article 131, when the state need not show that its legal right is violated, but only that the dispute involves a legal question.

Article 256 of the Constitution:

  • As per article 256, States are expected to comply with the laws of parliament and not impede the exercise of the executive powers of the union.
  • In this regard the union government can issue necessary directives to the states.

Can the Supreme Court declare legislation unconstitutional under Article 131?

  • State of Madhya Pradesh vs Union of India (2012) held that States cannot challenge a central law under Article 131.

Can the Supreme Court declare legislation unconstitutional under Article 131

  • State of Jharkhand Vs State of Bihar (2015) – took the opposite view and referred the question of law to a larger Bench of the Supreme Court for final determination.
  • State of Bihar vs Union of India was laid down that every dispute which may arise between a state and centre, in discharge of their respective executive powers, cannot be construed attracting Article 131.
  • Article 131 of the Constitution is attracted only in the context of the constitutional relationship and the legal rights.

Can the Centre too sue a state under Article 131?

  • The Centre can issue directions to a state to implement the laws made by Parliament.
  • If states do not comply with the directions, the Centre can move the court seeking a permanent injunction against the states to force them to comply with the law.

The Supreme Court has three kinds of jurisdictions:

  • Under its advisory jurisdiction, the President has the power to seek an opinion from the apex court under Article 143 of the Constitution.
  • Under its appellate jurisdiction, the Supreme Court hears appeals from lower courts.
  • In extraordinary original jurisdiction, the Supreme Court has exclusive power to adjudicate upon disputes involving elections of the President and the Vice President, those that involve states and the Centre, and cases involving the violation of fundamental rights.

Key fact:

  • The Chhattisgarh government also filed a suit in the Supreme Court under Article 131, challenging the National Investigation Agency (NIA) Act on the ground that it encroaches upon the state’s powers to maintain law and order.
[Ref: The Hindu, The Indian Express]

 

Government Schemes & Policies

National Policy for the treatment of Rare diseases 2020

The Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has published a national policy for the treatment of 450 ‘rare diseases’.

Rare diseases

Features of the Policy:

  • It intends to kick-start a registry of rare diseases, which will be maintained by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).

the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR

  • Such a policy was first prepared in 2017 and reviewed in 2018.
  • The government is working towards arriving at a definition for rare diseases that is suited to India, taking legal and other measures to control the prices of their drugs and developing standardised protocols for diagnosis and management of the treatment.
  • Under the policy, there are three categories of rare diseases — requiring one-time curative treatment, diseases that require long-term treatment but where the cost is low, and those needing long-term treatments with high cost.
  • Some of the diseases in the first category include osteopetrosis and immune deficiency disorders, among others.

Beneficiaries:

  • As per the policy, the assistance of Rs 15 lakh will be provided to patients suffering from rare diseases that require a one-time curative treatment under the Rashtriya Arogya Nidhi scheme.
  • However, the treatment will be limited to the beneficiaries of Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana.

Need for the policy:

  • Treatment is very costly due to rare line of treatment and exorbitant prices of the drugs.
  • Out of all rare diseases in the world, less than 5 % have therapies available to treat them.
  • Many cases of rare diseases are serious, chronic and life-threatening.

What is a rare disease?

  • A rare disease, also referred to as an orphan disease, is any disease that affects a small percentage of the population.

Rare diseases 1

  • Most rare diseases are genetic, and are present throughout a person’s entire life, even if symptoms do not immediately appear. In Europe a disease or disorder is defined as rare when it affects less than 1 in 2000 citizens.
  • Rare diseases are characterised by a wide diversity of symptoms and signs that vary not only from disease to disease but also from patient to patient suffering from the same disease. Relatively common symptoms can hide underlying rare diseases, leading to misdiagnosis.

 

Rare diseases in India:

  • The most common rare diseases recorded in India are Haemophilia, Thalassemia, sickle-cell anaemia and primary immuno deficiency in children, auto-immune diseases, Lysosomal storage disorders such as Pompe disease, Hirschsprung disease, Gaucher’s disease, Cystic Fibrosis, Hemangiomas and certain forms of muscular dystrophies.

The most common rare diseases recorded in India

India does not have an official definition of rare diseases.

Need for awareness about rare diseases:

  • Building awareness of rare diseases is so important because 1 in 20 people will live with a rare disease at some point in their life.
  • Despite this, there is no cure for the majority of rare diseases and many go undiagnosed.
  • Rare Disease Day improves knowledge amongst the general public of rare diseases while encouraging researchers and decision makers to address the needs of those living with rare diseases.
[Ref: Indian Express]

 

Issues related to Health & Education

WHO endorses indigenous molecular diagnostic tool for TB

The World Health Organisation has endorsed TrueNat, an indigenous molecular diagnostic tool for tuberculosis (TB) diagnosis. The disease remains a threat to public health and is the top infectious cause of death globally.

WHO endorses indigenous molecular diagnostic tool for TB

About Tuberculosis (TB):

  • Caused by bacteria (Mycobacterium tuberculosis) that most often affect the lungs.

Tuberculosis (TB) 1

  • It is curable and preventable.
  • Spread from person to person through the air. (TB cough, sneeze or spit, propel the TB germs into the air.)
  • Mostly affects adults in their most productive years.
  • Over 95% of cases and deaths are in developing countries.
  • TB was one of the top 10 causes of death worldwide in 2018.

Key facts on TB:

  • In 2018, an estimated 10 million people developed TB and 1.5 million died of it while at least a million children become ill with it every year.
  • Also about 5,00,000 new cases of multidrug 2 and rifampicin-resistant tuberculosis (MDR/RR-TB) are estimated to emerge annually but only one in three cases was reported by countries to have been diagnosed and treated in 2018.

What is MDR/RR-TB?

  • Multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis (MDRTB) is a form of tuberculosis (TB) infection caused by bacteria that are resistant to treatment with at least two of the most powerful first-line anti-TB medications (drugs), isoniazid and rifampin.

Multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB)

  • RR means rifampicin resistant TB. People with RR TB are resistant to rifampicin. They may or may not have resistance to other drugs.

Xpert MTB/RIF:

  • The Xpert MTB/RIF assay is a new test that is revolutionizing tuberculosis (TB) control by contributing to the rapid diagnosis of TB disease and drug resistance.
[Ref: The Hindu]

 

Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management

Blue Flag certification for beaches

In July 2019, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) had identified 13 beaches across the country for the Blue Flag certification, and recently has announced a list of activities that would be permissible in their respective Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) zones.

Centre eases CRZ rules for ‘Blue Flag’ beaches

What is ‘Blue Flag’ certification?

The ‘Blue Flag’ beach is an ‘eco-tourism model’ and marks out beaches as providing tourists and beachgoers clean and hygienic bathing water, facilities/amenities, a safe and healthy environment, and sustainable development of the area.

Blue flag1

  • It is an eco-label that is awarded to beaches, marinas, or sustainable boating tourism operator that have qualified some set criterion.
  • The certification is awarded by the Denmark-based non-profit Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE) and has nearly 33 criteria in four major heads: Environmental education, Bathing water quality, Environment conservation, Safety and services in the beaches.
  • It is awarded annually to beaches and marinas in FEE member countries.

Key facts:

  • Japan and South Korea are the only countries in South and south-eastern Asia to have Blue Flag beaches.
  • Spain tops the list with 566 such beaches; Greece and France follow with 515 and 395, respectively.

Is there any Blue certified beach in India?

  • The Chandrabhaga beach on the Konark coast of Odisha is the first beach in Asia to get the Blue Flag certification, awarded in June 2019.

Centre eases CRZ rules for ‘Blue Flag’ beaches 1

Earmarked beaches:

Ghoghala beach (Diu), Shivrajpur beach (Gujarat), Bhogave beach (Maharashtra), Padubidri and Kasarkod beaches (Karnataka), Kappad beach (Kerala), Kovalam beach (Tamil Nadu), Eden beach (Puducherry), Rushikonda beach (Andhra Pradesh), Miramar beach (Goa), Golden beach (Odisha), Radhanagar beach (Andaman & Nicobar Islands) and Bangaram beach (Lakshadweep).

What does the new notification permit?

The following activities and facilities would be permitted in the CRZ of the beaches, including Islands, subject to maintaining a minimum distance of 10 meters from the High Tide Line (HTL):

  • Portable toilet blocks, change rooms and shower panels;
  • Grey water treatment plant;
  • Solid waste management plant;
  • Solar power plant;
  • Purified drinking water facility;
  • Beach access pathways;
  • Landscaping lighting;
  • Seating benches and sit-out umbrellas;
  • Outdoor play / fitness equipment;
  • CCTV surveillance and control room;
  • First aid station;
  • Cloak room facility;
  • Safety watch towers and beach safety equipment;
  • Beach layout, environment information boards and other signages;
  • Fencing, preferably vegetative;
  • Parking facilities;
  • Entry gate, tourist facilitation centre; and
  • Other associated facilities or infrastructure, as per requirements of Blue Flag Certification.

These activities and facilities are exempted from prior clearance under the provisions of CRZ Notification, Island Protection Zone Notification and Island Coastal Regulation Zone Notifications respectively.

[Ref: The Hindu, Indian Express]

 

Defence & Security Issues

Juice jacking

What is Juice Jacking?

  • It is a cyber-attack to steal private data or hack financial accounts, carried out by hackers through a USB charging cable.

juice jacking 3

  • When a user connects the charging cable in his mobile’s charging port to any of the rigged charging stations installed at public spaces such as airports, train stations, hotels, cafes etc. – it gives a back-door entry to hackers into the device.

Harms inflicted:

1. Data theft:

  • Data is stolen from the connected device; there are crawlers that can search phone for personally identifiable information (PII), account credentials, banking-related or credit card data.
  • These crawlers have the ability to copy all information to their own devices.
  • There are also many malicious apps that can clone phones’ data to another phone.

2. Malware installation:

  • Once the connection is established, malware is automatically installed in the connected device.
  • It remains on the device until it is detected and removed by the user.
  • There are many categories of malware that cybercriminals can install including adware, cryptominers, ransomware, spyware, or Trojans.

How to mitigate risks?

Juice Jacking1

  • Avoid using public charging stations as they are often kept unguarded and without any surveillance.
  • Always use your own AC charging adapter and cable for charging the device.
  • Do not connect with an unknown person’s laptop or PC for charging your devices.
  • Use a power bank.
  • Use a USB blocker which is a small device that blocks the data connection on the USB cable by blocking its data pins.
[Ref: Times of India]

 

Art & Culture

Demand for a classical language status for Marathi

At a recently concluded 93rd edition of the Akhil Bharatiya Marathi Sahitya Sammelan, a resolution was passed demanding the declaration of Marathi as a ‘Classical’ language.

the Akhil Bharatiya Marathi Sahitya Sammelan, a resolution was passed demanding the declaration of Marathi as a ‘Classical’ language.

Classical languages in India:

Currently, six languages enjoy the ‘Classical’ status: Tamil (declared in 2004), Sanskrit (2005), Kannada (2008), Telugu (2008), Malayalam (2013), and Odia (2014).

Classical language 1

Guidelines for declaring a language as Classical:

  1. High antiquity of its early texts/recorded history over a period of 1500-2000 years;
  2. A body of ancient literature/texts, which is considered a valuable heritage by generations of speakers;
  3. The literary tradition be original and not borrowed from another speech community;
  4. The classical language and literature being distinct from modern, there may also be a discontinuity between the classical language and its later forms or its offshoots.

Benefits after Classical language status:

  1. Two major annual international awards for scholars of eminence in classical Indian languages.
  2. A Centre of Excellence for studies in Classical Languages is set up.
  3. The University Grants Commission(UGC) is requested to create, to start with at least in the Central Universities, a certain number of Professional Chairs for the Classical Languages so declared.
  4. UGC also awards research projects for promoting these languages.

Akhil Bharatiya Marathi Sahitya Sammelan:

  • The Sammelan is an annual conference of Marathi writers, started in 1878, and over the years has been headed by leading Marathi intellectuals.
[Ref: The Hindu, Indian Express]

 

Geophysical Phenomena

Eruption of a tiny ‘complex’ volcano: Taal volcano 

In the Philippines (near Manila), a volcano called Taal on the island of Luzon erupted 50 km from Manila, spewing lava on the ground, and ash and smoke into the sky.

Taal volcano

About Taal Volcano:

  • Taal is classified as a “complex” volcano by the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS).

on the island of Luzon in Philippines

  • Taal has erupted more than 30 times in the last few centuries.
  • Taal volcano does not rise from the ground as a distinct, singular dome but consists of multiple stratovolcanoes (volcanoes susceptible to explosive eruptions), conical hills and craters of all shapes and sizes.
  • The volcano is currently at alert level 4, which means that a “hazardous eruption” could be imminent within a few hours to a few days.
  • Hazardous eruptions are characterised by intense unrest, continuing seismic swarms and low-frequency earthquakes.

What is Complex Volcano?

  • A complex volcano (also called a compound volcano) is defined as one that consists of a complex of two or more vents, or a volcano that has an associated volcanic dome, either in its crater or on its flanks.

Key fact:

  • Philippines is situated at the boundaries of two tectonic plates: i) the Philippines Sea Plate and ii) the Eurasian plate. It is particularly susceptible to earthquakes and volcanism.
[Ref: The Indian Express]

 

Science & Technology

NEON: Artificial Humans

NEON is the project of Samsung’s Star Labs, which are being called as the world’s first artificial humans.

‘Virtual human’ NEONs

What are NEONs?

  • NEONs are computationally created virtual humans — the word derives from NEO (new) + human.
  • They look and behave like real humans, and could one day develop memories and emotions- though from behind a 4K display screen.
  • For now, the virtual humans can show emotions when manually controlled by their creators.
  • But they are expected to become intelligent enough to be fully autonomous, showing emotions, learning skills, creating memories, and being intelligent on their own.

How do they work?

There are two core technologies behind the virtual humans:

  1. CORE R3 technology:

CORE R3 technology

  • It drives “reality, real time and responsiveness”.
  • It is unparalleled in the domains of Behavioural Neural Networks, Evolutionary Generative Intelligence and Computational Reality” and is “extensively trained” on how humans look, behave and interact.
  1. SPECTRA:
  • SPECTRA will complement CORE R3 with the spectrum of intelligence, learning, emotions and memory.

Where will NEONs be used?

How could NEONs be used

  • NEONs are the interface for technologies and services.
  • They can be “friends, collaborators, and companions” and will answer queries and provide services at banks, restaurants, news reporting etc.
[Ref: Indian Express]

 

Oldest material on Earth found inside meteorite: Stardust 

A meteorite that crashed into rural southeastern Australia in a fireball in 1969 contained the oldest material ever found on Earth called stardust that predated the formation of our solar system by billions of years.

Oldest material on Earth found inside meteorite stardust

Stardust:

  • The stardust represented time capsules dating to before the solar system.

Stardust

  • The age distribution of the dust provided clues about the rate of star formation in the Milky Way galaxy.
  • Stardust forms in the material ejected from stars and carried by stellar winds, getting blown into interstellar space.
  • During the solar system’s birth, this dust was incorporated into everything that formed including the planets and the sun but survived intact until now only in asteroids and comets.
  • The researchers said that it is dated from about 7 billion years ago, about 2.5 billion years before the sun, Earth and rest of our solar system formed.

Presolar grain:

  • Scientists previously had found a presolar grain (made up of silicon carbide) in the Murchison meteorite found in rock from Australia’s Jack Hills that formed 4.4 billion years ago, 100 million years after the planet formed.

Silicon Carbide (SiC):

  • SiC is a compound of silicon and carbon and also known as Carborundum.

SILICON CARBIDE (SIC)

  • SiC takes place in nature as the extremely rare mineral moissanite.
  • It is used as an abrasive and silicon carbide grains can form very hard ceramics that is used in applications requiring high endurance, such as car brakes, car clutches and ceramic plates in bulletproof vests.
[Ref: The Hindu] 

 

Key Facts for Prelims

Hallmarking made must for gold jewellery

No jeweller will be allowed to sell gold jewellery or artefacts without hallmark from the Bureau of Indian Standards from January 15, 2021, onwards, Consumer Affairs Minister announced.

Hallmarking made must for gold jewellery

  • The penalty may be worth five times the cost of the object and the imprisonment up to one year. 

Gold hallmarking:

  • Gold hallmarking is a purity certification of the precious metal and is voluntary in nature at present.

Gold hallmarking

  • The BIS is running a hallmarking scheme for gold jewellery since April 2000 and around 40% of gold jewellery is being hallmarked currently. 
  • Instead of 10 grades earlier, hallmarked gold jewellery will now be available in three grades of 14 carat, 18 carat and 22 carat.

Four marks on hallmarked gold jewellery:

  • BIS mark, purity in carat, assay centre’s name and jewellers’ identification mark.
  • Consumers have to watch out for these marks on hallmarked gold jewellery.
[Ref: The Hindu]
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