Polity & Governance
- Supreme Court refuses to entertain plea challenging Centre’s circular against use of term ‘Dalit’
- Three important initiatives on women’s safety conceptualized by the WCD Ministry
- In a first, government prepares draft of social accountability bill
Government Schemes & Policies
- ‘International Vision Zero Conference’ to Promote Occupational Safety and Health Inaugurated
Issues related to Health & Education
- Every 3rd alcohol user in India needs help: Reports
Bilateral & International Relations
- Argentina becomes 72nd country to sign framework agreement of ISA
Defence & Security Issues
- Maiden ‘Regional Maritime-Safety Conference’ to focus on security, trade
Science & Technology
- Japan approves trial of stem cells to treat spinal cord injuries
Key Facts for Prelims
- Exercise VAYU SHAKTI-2019
- Fateh Submarine
- 79th meeting of the Central Wakf Council
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Polity & Governance
Supreme Court refuses to entertain plea challenging Centre’s circular against use of term ‘Dalit’
The Supreme Court refused to entertain a petition challenging Centre’s notification advising the media to not use the term “Dalit” to describe members of Scheduled Castes.
What is the issue?
- The Information and Broadcasting Ministry, in its August 7, 2018 circular, had advised that the media should refrain from using the word “Dalit” for members belonging to Scheduled Castes.
- It had also directed that ‘Scheduled Caste’ should alone be used for all official transaction, matters, dealings, certificates for denoting the persons belonging to the community.
- It was questioned in the Supreme Court.
- This advice had come in compliance with a direction from the Nagpur Bench of the Bombay High Court.
- The I&B Ministry’s advisory is confusing as it uses the words “for all official transactions, matters”, though the media’s references to the community are usually beyond official contexts.
- The plea said the word “Dalit” is a self-chosen name, used as a “positive self-identifier and as a political identity”.
- The petitioner said the name represented the people who have been affected by the caste system and the practice of untouchability.
Debate over the use of word- Dalit:
- The debate over the appropriateness of using the term ‘Dalit’ to refer to members of the Scheduled Castes is far from new.
- A decade ago, the National Commission for Scheduled Castes disfavoured the use of ‘Dalit’, which it felt was unconstitutional. This is because belonging to a ‘Scheduled Caste’ is a legal status conferred on members of castes named in a list notified by the President under Article 341 of the Constitution.
- Therefore, arguably, ‘Scheduled Caste’ is the appropriate way to refer to this class of people in official communications and documents.
All about Dalit:
- The word Dalit comes from the Hindi word dalan, meaning oppressed or broken.
- Dalit is basically a caste defined in Constitution under Article 341, listed as the Scheduled Castes.
- The term ‘Scheduled Castes’ was first used by British in the Government of India Act, 1935, which first categorised the lower castes under ‘Depressed Classes’.
- The term was first used in 1932 when the Poona Pact was signed which was an agreement between BR Ambedkar and MK Gandhi on the reservation of electoral seats for the depressed classes.
- Mahatma Gandhi chose to call Dalits as Harijans or children of god.
- Dalit thinkers and revolutionaries, including B.R. Ambedkar, have rejected the term Harijan to describe themselves on accounts of it being condescending.
- The National commission of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes was formed to protect Dalit interests and integrate them into society.
Dalit Panther Movement:
- After the death of Ambedkar who described Dalit as “depressed classes” and “broken men”, the first Dalit movement to create a stir was the Dalit Panthers Party founded in the 1970s in Maharashtra.
- The Panthers published the organisation’s manifesto in 1973 and given a new definition to the term ‘Dalit’: ” Dalits are members of the Scheduled Castes and Tribes, Neo-Buddhists, the working people, landless and poor peasants, women, and all those who are being exploited politically in the name of religion.”
- With an increasing awareness of a separate Dalit political identity in 1980s, groups and political parties such as the Bahujan Samaj Party emerged.
- The group was later disbanded as it disintegrated due to infighting and individual ambitions.
Three important initiatives on women’s safety conceptualized by the WCD Ministry
The Ministry of Women and Child Development has launched three important initiatives on women’s safety. They are:
1. Panic Button on Mobile Phones:
- The Ministry of Telecom after a series of deliberations with the Ministry of Telecom, mobile phone manufacturers and mobile telephony service providers mandated a physical panic button on all mobile phones in the country.
- Such a panic button must be backed by an emergency response mechanism through the local police when panic button message would alert the specified family members etc. of a woman in distress situation.
- This system was then conceptualized in collaboration with the Ministry of Home Affairs and state governments were asked to put in place a dedicated Emergency Response Centre through which the entire system will be operated.
The emergency response system can be triggered in the following manners:
- On the smart phones, the power button (which is dedicated panic button) when pressed three times quickly.
- Dialing 112 from any phone.
- In case of feature phones, long press of the touch key 5 or 9.
- Using 112 India Mobile App which is available for free downloading.
How It will work?
- The emergency message coming out of the above modes, will trigger a response from the emergency response centre through a team of trained personnel who can handle emergency requests of various kinds and get the necessary relief services launched.
- For Women and children, 112 India App provides a special SHOUT feature which alerts registered volunteers in the vicinity of victim for immediate assistance.
2. SCIM portal under Safe City Project:
- In order to provide safety for women in public spaces, the Government has identified eight cities for implementation of Safe City project.
- The 8 major cities which have been chosen are Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, Chennai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Lucknow and Mumbai.
- Detailed projects for this have been prepared jointly by the municipal bodies and the local police authorities.
- The projects include creation on ground assets & resources and mindset safety of women.
- A total amount of Rs.321.69 crores has been provided for this initiative through the Nirbhaya fund.
Some of the key features of the safe city project include:
- Identification of sensitive hot spots in each city.
- Installation of CCTV surveillance covering the entire hot spot.
- Automated number plate reading machines to be deployed in extremely sensitive areas.
- Intensive patrolling in vulnerable areas beyond the identified hot spots.
- Improving street lighting and public toilet facilities for women.
- Others like setting up women help desks in police stations, augmentation of women support centres etc.
How It will work?
- All the measures would be coordinated through an Integrated Smart Control Room in the city.
- In order to facilitate States to monitor and manage the Safe City projects and avoid duplication on ground, an online Safe City Implementation Monitoring (SCIM) portal has been developed by MHA.
- SCIM will facilitate online tracking of deployment of assets and infrastructure created under the Safe City projects.
- SCIM facilitates an evidence based online monitoring system. SCIM also creates a digital repository of assets, infrastructure and social outreach programs, as well as best practices achieved in each City.
3. DNA Analysis Facilities in States:
- Dedicated DNA analysis facilities should be created in view of the complaints of delay in cases of sexual assault investigations in the forensic science laboratories on a mission mode.
- Timely testing of DNA samples from the crime scene is the quickest process of obtaining forensic evidence in cases of sexual assault on women.
- In the initial phase, dedicated DNA analysis facilities have been sanctioned for the forensic science laboratories located at Chennai, Madurai, Agra, Lucknow, Mumbai and Kolkata.
- Expert technicians are also being recruited and trained for the forensic analysis.
- A sum of Rs.78.86 crores has been sanctioned for this initiative through the Nirbhaya fund.
- One Stop Centre Scheme is being implemented by the WCD Ministry and 314 centres have started working across the country.
In a first, government prepares draft of social accountability bill
In a first for India, Rajasthan government has prepared the draft of Rajasthan Social Accountability Bill and has invited suggestions from the general public.
Objectives of the Bill:
- To seek the accountability of public functionaries and authorities for timely delivery of goods and services.
- To create democratic, decentralized and participative approach to enable wider public participation.
- To Initiate monitoring of programmes and policies through community score cards, citizens report card and social audits.
Key provisions of the bill:
- The purview of bill includes any entity or body, which is under the control of the government, governor and the high court of Rajasthan. Entity or the body set up by Central Government to function within the State of Rajasthan and partially or wholly providing public goods and services provided there is consent of the Central Government.
- It seeks to impose penalties and compensation and initiate departmental action against the Grievance Redressal Officer (GRO) of the service delivery department for non-compliance. For example: If the local police have failed to deliver it duties, the onus is on the GRO.
- The Bill will also set up a grievance redressal mechanism starting from village panchayats. The Bill included provisions for citizens’ charter, public hearing, social audit and information and facilitation centres.
Significance of this law:
- This law will compliment RTI which is becoming far more challenging. The citizen centric law will enable citizens to initiate enquiries rather than relying on the departmental enquires in the existing system.
Criticism to the Bill:
- The bill was considered an extension of the Right to Information Act.
- Imposition of penalties and compensation and initiation of departmental action against the Grievance Redressal Officer (GRO) of the service delivery department for non-compliance.
- The draft bill doesn’t have detailed information on several provisions such as Sources who were part of drafting the bill that if a citizen doesn’t receive an entitlement as per the stipulated time frame the recipient is entitle to receive compensation.
- This law will compliment RTI which is becoming far more challenging.
- The citizen centric law will enable citizens to initiate enquiries rather than relying on the departmental enquires in the existing system.
- The accountability law is required to hold public servants and bureaucrats accountable for not performing or delivering their service.
- No other state in the country has ever introduced such a bill.
- Government of Rajasthan is planning to merge Rajasthan Guaranteed Delivery of Public Services act and Right to Hearing act into the accountability act.
What is social accountability?
- “Social accountability” refers to actions initiated by citizen groups to hold public officials, politicians and service providers to account for their conduct and performance in terms of delivering services, improving people’s welfare and protecting people’s rights.
- Both citizen groups and the government are important players of social accountability.
- Government has the duty to facilitate access to all information while citizens must assert their right to participate in governance.
Four pillars of social accountability:
- Organized and capable citizen groups
- An enabling environment, with government champions who are willing to engage
- Cultural appropriateness
- Access to information
Social accountability approach:
- Participatory public policy-making, participatory budgeting, public expenditure tracking, citizen monitoring and evaluation of public service delivery all are the actions which comes under the social accountability approach.
- They also include efforts to enhance citizen knowledge and use of conventional mechanisms of accountability or efforts to improve the effectiveness of “internal” accountability mechanisms.
Government Schemes & Policies
‘International Vision Zero Conference’ to Promote Occupational Safety and Health Inaugurated
Ministry of Labour and Employment inaugurated the three days Conference on the VISION ZERO and its relevance to Occupational Safety and Health in Mumbai.
- Vision Zero is a multi-national road traffic safety project that aims to achieve a highway system with no fatalities or serious injuries involving road traffic.
- The Conference has been organized by Directorate General Factory Advice and Labour Institutes (DGFASLI), Ministry of Labour and Employment, German Social Accident Insurance (DGUV), Germany in association with Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay and International Social Security Association – Manufacturing, Construction and Mining.
Concept of ‘Vision Zero’:
- The concept of ‘Vision Zero’ is expected to leverage the efforts of the Government of India to raise the occupational safety and health standards in the country so as to improve the occupational safety and health situation.
- The concept of Vision Zero is based on four fundamental principles viz.
- Life is non-negotiable
- Humans are fallible
- Tolerable limits are defined by human physical resistance
- people are entitled to safe transport and safe workplaces.
- It is based on principles of Controlling Risks, Ensuring Safety and Health in Machines, Equipment and Workplaces and Skill Upgradation of Workforce.
Issues related to Health & Education
Every 3rd alcohol user in India needs help: Reports
A survey was conducted by the Social Justice and Empowerment Ministry titled ‘Prevalence and Extent of Substance Use in India’.
- The National Drug Dependence Treatment Centre (NDDTC), All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi led the technical aspects of the survey methodology in collaboration with ten other medical institutes.
- This survey was conducted in all the 36 states and Union territories.
- The last national survey on the extent and trend of drug abuse was sponsored by Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment and was conducted by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime in the year 2000-2001 and was published in 2004.
Highlights of Survey:
- India is home to six crore alcohol addicts, more than the population of 172 world nations including Italy.
- Alcoholism is a condition that requires medical attention, but unfortunately only less than 3% of the people with drinking problem get any treatment.
- Around 16 crore Indians in the age group of 10-75 are consumers of alcohol with Chhattisgarh, Tripura, Punjab, Arunachal Pradesh and Goa having the highest prevalence of liquor use.
- Among dependent on alcohol, one in 38 reported some form of treatment, while one in 180 reported getting in-patient treatment.
- The survey found that 3.1 crore Indians between the age of 10 and 75 years used cannabis in the last twelve months to get high.
- In some states like Sikkim and Punjab, the prevalence of cannabis use disorders is more than thrice the national average.
- Alcohol consumption is 17 times higher among men than women.
- More than 5.7 crore people are estimated to be affected by “harmful alcohol use”.
- An estimated 35.6% people in Naxal-hit Chhattisgarh were found to be consuming alcohol, 34.7% in Tripura, 28.5% in Punjab, 28% in Arunachal Pradesh and 26.4% in Goa.
- In Karnataka, the percentage of alcohol users at 6.4%, is much lower than the national average of 14.6%.
- At the national level, the most common opioid used is Heroin with 1.14% people taking it, followed by Pharmaceutical opioids (0.96%) and Opium (0.52%).
- While 06% people were found to be using opioids in India, about 0.55% (60 lakh) of the users of the banned substances were in need of help for related problems.
- 18 crore people (1.08%) take sedatives and inhalants, flagging concerns over high prevalence of the use of inhalants among youngsters.
- High numbers of People who inject drugs (PWID) are estimated in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Delhi, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Haryana, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Manipur and Nagaland.
- Inhalants are the only category of substances for which the prevalence of current use among children and adolescents is higher (1.17%) than adults (0.58%).
- While about 8.5 lakh people inject drugs, 10.7 lakh people take cocaine.
- Cocaine (0.10%) Amphetamine Type Stimulants (0.18%) and Hallucinogens (0.12%) are the categories with lowest prevalence of current use in the country.
Efforts made by government to curb use of illegal substances:
- During 2017, various drug law enforcement agencies effected seizure of 1,991 kg Opium, 2189 kg Heroin, 1,96,792 kg Ganja, 2657 kg Hashish and 67 kg Cocaine.
- Various agencies also carried out destruction of illicit cultivation of cannabis and opium poppy all over the country.
- The government constituted Narco-Coordination Centre (NCORD) in November, 2016 and revived the scheme of “Financial Assistance to States for Narcotics Control”.
- In 2017, the government approved new Reward Guidelines with increased quantum of reward for seizure of different illicit drugs.
- India has signed 37 Bilateral Agreements/Memoranda of Understanding for effective coordination against illicit drugs with foreign countries.
- The government has scheduled 7 new substances into the list of Narcotic drugs in the year 2017.
- Narcotics Control Bureau is providing funds for developing a new software i.e. Seizure Information Management System (SIMS) which will create a complete online database of drug offences and offenders.
- Government has constituted a fund called “National Fund for Control of Drug Abuse” to meet the expenditure incurred in connection with combating illicit traffic in Narcotic Drug.
- India is vulnerable to narcotic drug trafficking as it is located between two largest Opium producing regions of the world i.e. Golden Crescent in the west and Golden Triangle in the east.
- Golden Crescent – This space overlaps three nations, Afghanistan, Iran, and Pakistan, whose mountainous peripheries define the crescent.
- Golden Triangle – Area where the borders of Thailand, Laos, and Myanmar meet at the confluence of the Ruak and Mekong Rivers.
Bilateral & International Relations
Argentina becomes 72nd country to sign framework agreement of ISA
Argentina became the 72nd country to sign the Framework Agreement of the International Solar Alliance (ISA) during the official three-day visit of Argentinian President Mauricio Macri to India.
About International Solar Alliance (ISA):
- ISA is initiative jointly launched by India and France in November 2015 at Paris on side lines of COP21 UN Climate Change Conference.
- Its Framework Agreement came into force in December 2017. It celebrated its founding day on 11th March, 2018.
- It is headquartered at campus of Natioanl Institute of Solar Energy (NISE), Gurugram, Harayana, making it first international intergovernmental treaty based organization to be headquartered in India.
Objectives of ISA:
- Undertake joint efforts required to reduce the cost of finance and the cost of technology
- Mobilize more than US $1000 billion of investments needed by 2030 for massive deployment of solar energy
- Pave way for future technologies adapted to needs of solar rich 121 countries lying fully or partially between Tropic of Cancer and Capricon.
Ongoing programs of ISA:
ISA presently has 5 ongoing programs:
- Scaling Solar Mini Grids
- Affordable Finance at Scale
- Scaling Solar Applications for Agricultural Use
- Scaling Solar Rooftop catering to the needs of solar energy in specific areas
- Scaling Solar E-Mobility & Storage
Funding from India:
- India will contribute US $ 27 million to the ISA for creating corpus, building infrastructure over 5-year duration from 2016-17 to 2020-21.
- In addition, public sector undertakings of the India namely Solar Energy Corporation of India (SECI) and Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency (IREDA) have made a contribution of US $ 1 million each for creating the ISA corpus fund.
Location of Argentina:
- Argentina is a country located mostly in the southern half of South America.
- Sharing the bulk of the Southern Cone with Chile to the west, the country is also bordered by Bolivia and Paraguay to the north, Brazil to the northeast, Uruguay and the South Atlantic Ocean to the east, and the Drake Passage to the south.
- It is the largest Spanish-speaking nation.
Defence & Security Issues
Maiden ‘Regional Maritime-Safety Conference’ to focus on security, trade
Maiden ‘Regional Maritime-Safety Conference’ is being held in Mumbai.
- The theme of the conference is: ‘Regional Maritime-Safety Conference’.
- The Conference is being organized by India for the first time.
- The objective of the conference is to deliberate on issues related to assuring maritime safety in the India-ASEAN sub region, safeguarding our shores and promoting trade along the sea routes.
- The conference will address a wide range of issues that affect regional maritime safety, including transport safety, maritime law, ship building, transportation of hazardous goods, marine oil spill, pollution and environmental safety.
- The inaugural edition is being organised by the National Maritime Foundation (NMF) in coordination with the Ministry of Shipping and the Ministry of External Affairs.
Science & Technology
Japan approves trial of stem cells to treat spinal cord injuries
Japanese scientists will test the use of human-induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS) to treat spinal cord injuries.
What are stem cells?
- A stem cell is a cell with the unique ability to develop into specialised cell types in the body.
- Stem cells provide new cells for the body as it grows, and replace specialised cells that are damaged or lost. They have two unique properties that enable them to do this:
- They can divide over and over again to produce new cells.
- As they divide, they can change into the other types of cell that make up the body.
- In the future stem cells may be used to replace cells and tissues that have been damaged or lost due to disease.
Stem cells are distinguished from other cell types by two important characteristics:
- First, they are unspecialized cells capable of renewing themselves through cell division, sometimes after long periods of inactivity.
- Second, under certain physiologic or experimental conditions, they can be induced to become tissue- or organ-specific cells with special functions. In some organs, such as the gut and bone marrow, stem cells regularly divide to repair and replace worn out or damaged tissues. In other organs, however, such as the pancreas and the heart, stem cells only divide under special conditions.
Similarities and differences between embryonic and adult stem cells:
- Embryonic stem cells supply new cells for an embryo as it grows and develops into a baby.
- These stem cells are said to be pluripotent, which means they can change into any cell in the body.
- Embryonic stem cells can be grown relatively easily in culture.
- Adult stem cells supply new cells as an organism grows and to replace cells that get damaged.
- Adult stem cells are said to be multipotent, which means they can only change into some cells in the body, not any cell.
- Blood (or ‘haematopoietic’) stem cells can only replace the various types of cells in the blood.
- Skin (or ‘epithelial’) stem cells provide the different types of cells that make up our skin and hair.
- Adult stem cells are rare in mature tissues, so isolating these cells from an adult tissue is challenging.
Induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs):
- iPS cells are adult cells that have been genetically reprogrammed to an embryonic stem cell by being forced to express genes and factors important for maintaining the defining properties of embryonic stem cells.
- iPS cells are stem cells that scientists make in the laboratory.
- ‘Induced’ means that they are made in the lab by taking normal adult cells, like skin or blood cells and reprogramming them to become stem cells.
- Just like embryonic stem cells, they are pluripotent so they can develop into any cell type.
- Although additional research is needed, iPSCs are already useful tools for drug development and modeling of diseases, and scientists hope to use them in transplantation medicine.
Key Facts for Prelims
Exercise VAYU SHAKTI-2019
- It is held by Indian Airforce.
- It was held recently in Rajasthan.
- It demonstrates the IAF’s ability to strike targets on the ground such as enemy convoys and tanks, radar stations, railway yards and military headquarters.
- It is Iranian submarine unveiled recently in Bandar Abbas.
- It is Iran’s first submarine in the semi-heavy category.
- It is a “state-of-the-art” domestically produced capable of firing cruise missiles.
- The submarine can operate more than 200 metres below sea level for up to 35 days.
- The underwater-vessel weighs nearly 600 tonnes and is equipped with torpedoes and naval mines in addition to cruise missiles.
- It has subsurface-to-surface missiles with a range of about 2,000 kilometres (1,250 miles), making it capable in reaching Israel and U.S. military bases in the region.
79th meeting of the Central Wakf Council
79th meeting of Central Wakf Council was recently held in New Delhi.
- The meeting was chaired by the Union Minister of State for Minority Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi.
About Central Wakf Council:
- Central Wakf Council is a statutory body established in 1964 by the Government of India under Wakf Act, 1954 (now a sub section the Wakf Act, 1995).
- It has been established for the purpose of advising Centre on matters pertaining to working of the State Wakf Boards and proper administration of the Wakfs in the country.
- It is a permanent dedication of movable or immovable properties for religious, pious or charitable purposes as recognized by Muslim Law, given by philanthropists.
Composition and appointments:
- The Council is headed by a Chairperson, who is the Union Minister in charge of Wakfs and there are maximum 20 other members, appointed by Government of India as stipulated in the Wakf Act.