Current Affairs Analysis

22nd June 2020 Current Affairs Analysis – IASToppers

Section 309 of IPC; Secrecy of ballot; Ultra-Mega Renewable Energy Power Parks; Reverse zoonosis; Mink; India-China trade; World Camel Day; Kharai Camel; Sukapha: the founder of Ahom kingdom; Stars of varied ages can co-exist in open clusters; Aryabhatta Research Institute of Observational Sciences; Camouflaging of odours by plants; The Thing fossil; Kodumanal excavation site etc.
By IASToppers
June 23, 2020

Contents

Polity & Governance

  • Section 309 of IPC
  • Secrecy of ballot is the cornerstone of free and fair elections: SC

Government Schemes & Policies

  • MNRE Releases Details for the Development of UMREPPs

Issues related to Health & Education

  • Reverse zoonosis

Economy

  • What India can learn from China about becoming trading powerhouse?

Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management

  • World Camel Day

Indian History

  • Sukapha: founder of Ahom kingdom

Science & Technology

  • Stars of varied ages can co-exist in open clusters

Key Facts for Prelims

  • Camouflaging of odours by plants
  • The Thing fossil
  • Kodumanal excavation site

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Polity & Governance

Section 309 of IPC

Anyone who survives an attempted suicide can be booked under Section 309 IPC, which deals with Attempt to commit suicide.

About the Section:

  • Whoever attempts to commit suicide and does any act towards the commission of such offence, shall be punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year (or with fine, or with both).
  • The law was brought in by the British in the 19th century.

The Mental Healthcare Act (MHCA), 2017:

  • The Mental Healthcare Act (MHCA), 2017 aimed to remove stigma around mental health and decriminalized suicide.
  • But the Act, did not repeal Section 309 of Indian Penal Code.
  • The Act came into force in July 2018, has reduced the scope for the use of Section 309 IPC — and made the attempt to commit suicide punishable only as an exception.

Provisions in the Act:

  • Section 115(1) of MHCA: Notwithstanding anything contained in section 309 of the Indian Penal Code any person who attempts to commit suicide shall be presumed, unless proved otherwise, to have severe stress and shall not be tried and punished under the said Code.
  • Section 115(2): The appropriate Government shall have a duty to provide care, treatment and rehabilitation to a person, having severe stress and who attempted to commit suicide, to reduce the risk of recurrence of attempt to commit suicide.

Why does the section continue to be in the IPC?

  • There are occasions when people show up at government offices and threatened to kill themselves if their demands were not met.
  • It is in these cases, where we suspect that the person does not intend to commit suicide but is using the threat as a way to unfairly pressure or blackmail the system, and in that case this section is used.
  • If 309 is repealed, there will be no provision to take action against those who intend to create trouble of this type.
[Ref: Indian Express]

Secrecy of ballot is the cornerstone of free and fair elections: SC

The Supreme Court has held that secrecy of ballot is the cornerstone of free and fair elections, and the secret ballot system in a democracy ensures it.

Major Highlights:

  • Section 94 of the Representation of People Act, 1951 upholds the privilege of the voters to maintain confidentiality about their choice of vote.
  • Even a remote or distinct possibility that a voter can be forced to disclose for whom she has voted would act as a positive constraint and a check on the freedom to exercise of franchise.
  • However, a voter can also voluntarily waive the privilege of non-disclosure.
  • The privilege ends when the voters volunteer to disclose as to whom they had voted.

Free and fair elections:

  • The Part XV (Articles 324-329) in the constitution empowers Parliament to make laws to regulate the electoral process, in order to ensure that the elections are conducted in a free, fair and an impartial manner.
  • Article 324 provides for the establishment of Election Commission of India, the watchdog of free and fair elections in the country.
  • Hence, the Parliament has enacted the Representation of the People Act, 1950 and Representation of the People Act, 1951 for the mentioned purpose.
[Ref: The Hindu]

Government Schemes & Policies

MNRE Releases Details for the Development of UMREPPs

The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy has modified its guidelines for the development of solar parks and ultra-mega solar power projects.

Major Highlights:

  • The program was initiated in December 2014 to facilitate solar project developers to set up projects through a plug and play model.
  • The ministry has added a new model called Ultra-Mega Renewable Energy Power Parks (UMREPPs).
  • Any central public sector undertaking unit, state PSUs, state government organizations, or their subsidiaries, can be the solar power park developer under this model.
  • The state government will aid in the identification and acquisition of land for the UMREPPs and also with the required statutory clearances.
  • The land will be allotted to the developers with the condition that the project will be completed within two years.
  • The UMREPPs should not be taken as profit-making activities, and a maximum of 16% return on equity will be allowed, the MNRE notice added.
  • The projects inside the UMREPPs will be developed either through tariff-based competitive bidding or under EPC model, or a combination of both.
  • The timeline for the development of solar parks and ultra-mega solar projects totaling 40 GW had been extended from 2019-20 to 2021-22 without any additional financial implications.

Ultra-Mega Renewable Energy Power Parks:

  • The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy has undertaken a scheme to develop Ultra Mega Renewable Energy Power Parks (UMREPPs) under the existing Solar Park Scheme.
  • The objective of the UMREPP is to provide land upfront to the project developer and facilitate transmission infrastructure for developing Renewable Energy (RE) based ultra-mega power projects with solar/wind/hybrid and also with storage system, if required.
[Ref: PIB, MERCOM]

Issues related to Health & Education

Reverse zoonosis

The novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 has begun infecting minks farms in the Netherlands.

Major Highlights:

  • The infection was a result of virus spillover from humans.
  • It is a zoonosis in reverse — called ‘reverse zoonosis’.

What is reverse zoonosis:

  • Zoonosis is an infectious disease caused by a pathogen that has jumped from an animal to a human.
  • When the pathogen is transmitted from human to animals, it is known as reverse zoonosis.
  • The animal infected through the process may in turn re-transmit the infection to humans under some circumstances.
  • The phenomenon of reverse zoonosis can also happen in case of other pathogens such as resistant bacteria.

Minks:

  • Minks are small semi-aquatic mammals raised for their fur.
  • Their fur has been highly prized for use in clothing, with hunting giving way to farming.
  • Their treatment on fur farms has been a focus of animal rights and animal welfare activism.
  • IUCN status:
    • American Mink: Least Concern
    • European Mink: Critically Endangered.
[Ref: Down to Earth]

Economy

What India can learn from China about becoming trading powerhouse?

China and India not only account for 2.7 billion people — roughly 40% of the 7.5 billion people on the planet — but are also two of the biggest economies in the world.

Per Capita GDP:

  • At a per capita GDP level, both countries are relatively poor when compared to some of the most developed economies.
  • China’s per capita GDP is roughly 4 times India’s; the US and Sweden’s are 26- and 27-times India’s.

India-China Trade:

  • India imports a lot of intermediate goods from China, and stopping that trade will affect our ability to produce finished goods.
  • The companies across import-dependent sectors such as automobile, pharmaceuticals, electronics, telecommunications, etc. are claiming that any move in the direction to completely boycott China could be counter-productive.
  • It will impact the overall competitiveness of the Indian manufacturing sector and undermine our competitiveness to export.
  • The path to overcoming our dependence on Chinese goods or imports of any other country requires Indian policymakers and businesses to put in real hard work and not resort to short-term solutions such as banning trade or raising tariff barriers.

Reasons:

1. Lack of Competitiveness:

  • India’s poor share in global trade, especially on goods, is a reflection of our acute lack of competitiveness.
  • This is the harsh truth but far too often policymakers have blamed India’s stagnant exports performance on weak global demand.
  • An analysis by HSBC in late 2016 showed that weak global demand explained only 33% of the slowdown in Indian exports.
  • The biggest culprit were domestic bottlenecks — explaining 50% of the slowdown.

2. Bottlenecks:

  • The impact of domestic bottlenecks (such as poor infrastructure, lack of reliable electricity, logistical delays, regulatory hurdles, problems in enforcing contracts etc.) was higher still — 60% — only the trade in goods (not combining services).

3. Rupee exchange rate.

  • On the exchange rate, some argue that a cheaper rupee would make our exports more competitive — and that seems fairly straightforward.
  • Others argue that a stronger rupee will help us import intermediary goods at a cheaper price thus helping our export competitiveness.
  • The overvalued rupee explained the remaining 17% of the slowdown.

Way Forward:

  • The textile exports can be increased by increasing productivity in cotton plantations (by better implementing available technology, for example BT Cotton).
  • Trade negotiations (bilateral, multilateral and plurilateral) to lower tariffs that India’s exports face abroad can boost India’s exports in textiles and engineering goods.
  • The current environment for international trade presents India an unprecedented opportunity to chart a China-like, labour-intensive, export trajectory and thereby create unparalleled job opportunities for the burgeoning youth.
  • China’s remarkable export performance is driven primarily by deliberate specialization at large scale in labour-intensive activities, especially ‘network products’, where production occurs across Global Value Chains (GVCs) operated by multi-national corporations.
  • By integrating Assemble in India for the world into Make in India, India can create 4 crore well-paid jobs by 2025 and 8 crores by 2030.
[Ref: Indian Express]

Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management

World Camel Day

The World Camel Day is observed annually on June 22 to recognise the animal that is important to the livelihoods of a large populations in several parts of the world.

Camel:

  • Camels have long been domesticated as livestock, they provide food (milk and meat) and textiles (fiber and felt from hair).
  • Camels are working animals especially suited to their desert habitat and are a vital means of transport for passengers and cargo.
  • The double-hump camel is a native of the Gobi Desert, and is found on a vast expanse of cold-desert areas across Mongolia, China, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Afghanistan and India (Nubra Valley, Ladakh).
  • The one-hump camel is found in hot deserts whereas the double-humps inhabit high-altitude, cold-desert regions.

Kharai camel:

  • Kharai camels or Swimming Camels are a breed of camel found exclusively in the state of Gujarat (Kutch), India.
  • It grazes on saline/mangrove trees and is tolerant to high saline water.
  • They are the only swimmer camels of the world and can swim upto three kilometres into the sea in search of mangroves, their primary food.
  • IUCN status: Endangered.
[Ref: DownToEarth]

Indian History

Sukapha: the founder of Ahom kingdom

The CM of Assam Chief Minister has ordered the arrest of a Kolkata-based political commentator who described Chaolung Sukapha as a Chinese invader.

Who was Chaolung Sukapha?

  • Sukapha was a 13th-century ruler who founded the Ahom kingdom that ruled Assam for six centuries. Contemporary scholars trace his roots to Burma.
  • Sukapha was a leader of the Ahoms. He reached Brahmaputra valley in Assam from upper Burma in the 13th century with around 9,000 followers.
  • In 1235 CE, Sukapha and his people settled in Charaideo in upper Assam where heestablished his first small principality, and expanded the Ahom kingdom.

Socio-religious practices:

  • The founders of the Ahom kingdom had their own language and followed their own religion. Over the centuries, they accepted the Hindu religion and the Assamese language.
  • They did not impose their tradition and culture on those living here.
  • Sukapha developed very amiable relationships with the tribal communities living here and Intermarriage also increased assimilation processes.

Why is Sukapha important?

  • Sukapha’s significance — especially in today’s Assam — lies in his successful efforts towards assimilation of different communities and tribes.
  • He is widely referred to as the architect of Bor Asom or greater Assam.
  • To commemorate Sukapha and his rule, Assam celebrates Asom Divas on December 2 every year.
[Ref: Indian Express]

Science & Technology

Stars of varied ages can co-exist in open clusters

Astronomers at the Aryabhatta Research Institute of Observational Sciences have found that stars of varied ages can co-exist in open clusters. This challenges earlier understanding that stars in an open cluster have the same age.

Major Highlights:

  • The scientists measured the light from three poorly studied open clusters NGC 381, NGC 2360, and Berkeley 68 observed using the 1.3-m telescope at Devasthal.
  • They found two different stellar evolutionary sequences in the cluster NGC 2360, which has been observed in very few open clusters in the Milky Way Galaxy until now.
  • Other than the stellar evolution, the researchers also studied the dynamical evolution of these clusters for the first time.
  • The mass distributions of stars belonging to the clusters have shown the preferential distribution of massive stars in the inner part of the clusters while low mass stars are found towards outer region of the clusters.

Star Clusters:

  • Stars in our Galaxy are formed from the molecular clouds present in the Galaxy.
  • It is believed that the majority of stars in our Galaxy are formed in the star clusters making them important clues to understand the star formation mechanism.
  • Open star clusters are a system of stars bound by gravity in which stars are born from the same molecular clouds.
  • All the stars in a cluster follow the evolutionary sequence as per their initial masses at the time of formation of these stars.
  • Open clusters are also important in probing formation and evolution of Milky Way Galaxy as they are distributed throughout the Galactic disk.

Aryabhatta Research Institute of Observational Sciences:

  • ARIES, is an autonomous science institute under the Department of Science and Technology (DST) Govt. of India, in Nainital, Uttarakhand which specializes in Astronomy, Astrophysics and Atmospheric Sciences.
[Ref: PIB]

Key Facts for Prelims

Camouflaging of odours by plants

  • Plants in dense tropical forests have evolved to emit similar odours to the nearby insects.
  • They can camouflage their chemical scents in order to avoid being detected and eaten by insects.
  • Scientists collected the odours of the plants in tubes and then used ‘information theory’ that is used to understand communication patterns in humans and existing understandings of evolutionary biology to reach their conclusion.

The Thing fossil

  • In 2011, researchers from Chile discovered a mysterious fossil in the shape of a deflated rugby ball in Antarctica.
  • The scientists were unable to determine its origin and hence scientists simply referred to it as “The Thing”.
  • However, researchers now discovered that it is a giant, soft-shell egg from about 66 million years ago.
  • It is the largest soft-shell egg to ever be discovered, and the first fossilized egg to be discovered in Antarctica.
  • The soft-shell egg did not come from dinosaurs, but rather a giant reptile.

Kodumanal excavation site

  • The Tamil Nadu State Department of Archaeology has recently identified 250 cairn-circles (linear arrangement of parallel megalithic standing stones) from the Kodumanal excavation site.
  • Kodumanal, in Erode district, Tamil Nadu is an urban settlement of Sangam Age (approximately 6th century BC – 3rd century CE).
  • It is for the first time that 10 pots and bowls were discovered from the site, instead of the usual three or four pots.
  • The excavation gives insights on the burial rituals and the concept of afterlife in megalithic culture.
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