Polity & Governance
- Private Member’s Bill proposes jail term for torture
- NCLT gets 4,300 insolvency petitions in 18 months
Issues related to Health & Education
- All about Diphtheria
Bilateral & International Relations
- UN imposes new sanctions on North Korea
Science & Technology
- New system can help machines think like humans
- India to have its own gravitational wave detector in 2025
Key Facts for Prelims
- World’s largest amphibious aircraft makes maiden flight
- Odisha recognised as ‘Champion State’ for exports
- ‘Awakened Citizen Programme’
- Inauguration of Delhi Metro’s Magenta Line
- India’s first AC suburban train flagged off in Mumbai
- 350th Birth Anniversary of Guru Gobind Singh Ji
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Polity & Governance
Private Member’s Bill proposes jail term for torture
V Vijaysai Reddy of the YSR Congress has proposed the Prevention of Torture Bill, 2017 as a private member’s bill in Parliament.
Key features of the bill:
- The Bill proposes at least three years of imprisonment for a public servant who inflicts torture on anybody for a confession or even for information that may lead to the detection of an offence. The punishment could be extended to ten years.
- A public servant who intentionally does any act to cause grievous harm to somebody, even if in police custody, shall be punished.
Significance of the proposed bill:
- The proposed legislation fulfils India’s commitment, as confirmed to the United Nations, that “torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment” are prohibited and constitute serious violations of human rights.
- The 152nd report of the Law Commission on “Custodial Crimes” had also recommended changes to the law to make torture punishable.
What is Private member’s bill?
- Members of Parliament other than ministers are called private members and bills presented by them are known as Private member’s bills.
- Private members may belong to the party in power or the Opposition.
Procedure for introduction of Private member’s bill
- A member who wants to introduce a bill has to give prior notice of one month, with a copy of a Statement of Objects and Reasons, unless the speaker permits a shorter notice.
- If the bill accompanies the President’s recommendation, if necessary, the period of notice is calculated from the date of receipt of the recommendation in Lok Sabha Secretariat.
- Once the bill is drafted, it is circulated among members of the Lok Sabha two days before its introduction.
- When the bill is tabled in the house, by convention, the motion is not opposed. However, there have been exceptions.
- A member cannot introduce more than four bills during a session. And while a bill is pending, a similar bill cannot be admitted.
Important points about Private member’s bill:
- It is introduced by any member of Parliament other than a minister.
- It reflects the stand of opposition party on public matter.
- It has lesser chance to be approved by the Parliament.
- Its rejection by the House has no implication on the parliamentary confidence in the government or its resignation.
- Its introduction in the House requires one month’s notice.
- Its drafting is the responsibility of the member concerned.
Only 14 private members’ bills passed since Independence.
About United Nations Convention against Torture (UNCAT):
- The Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (commonly known as the United Nations Convention against Torture (UNCAT) is an international human rights treaty, under the review of the United Nations, that aims to prevent torture and other acts of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment around the world.
- The Convention requires states to take effective measures to prevent torture in any territory under their jurisdiction, and forbids states to transport people to any country where there is reason to believe they will be tortured.
India and UN Convention against torture:
- India has signed the UN Convention against torture way back in 1997. But, it has still not ratified it. The Convention defines torture as a criminal offence.
- India is one of only eight countries out of 170 signatories to the United Nations convention against torture and other inhuman treatment or punishment yet to ratify it.
- The centre contends some States were not in favour of such a law and the Indian Penal Code and the Criminal Procedure Code were more than sufficient.
NCLT gets 4,300 insolvency petitions in 18 months
Since the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) was set up 18 months ago, over 4,300 cases have been filed at its various benches for resolution process.
- Of these, more than 500 applications, seeking admission for insolvency proceedings, were rejected, dismissed or withdrawn.
- The insolvency and bankruptcy code came into existence with the enactment of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC) in May 2016, replacing the Company Law Board regime.
About the National Company Law Tribunal:
National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) is a quasi-judicial body that will govern the companies in India.
- It was established under the Companies Act, 2013 and is a successor body of the Company Law Board.
- The setting up of NCLT as a specialized institution for corporate justice is based on the recommendations of the Justice Eradi Committee on Law Relating to Insolvency and Winding up of Companies.
- NCLT will have the same powers as assigned to the erstwhile Company Law Board (which are mostly related to dealing with oppression and mismanagement), Board for Industrial and Financial Reconstruction (BIFR) (revival of sick companies) and powers related to winding up of companies (which was available only with the High Courts).
Issues related to Health & Education
All about Diphtheria
What is Diphtheria?
- Diphtheria is a highly infectious disease, which usually shows up as a sore throat and difficulty in breathing.
- It spreads through contact or cough and sneeze droplets, and is caused by the bacterium Corynebacterium diphtheriae.
- In severe cases, the toxin secreted by this bacterium kills cells in the throat, and the debris forms a wing-shaped grey membrane, disrupting breathing and earning diphtheria the name “The Strangling Angel.”
- If the patient isn’t treated quickly with anti-diphtheria serum, the toxin can spread through the bloodstream hurting the heart and kidneys.
- Before the 1940s, when diphtheria vaccination grew widespread, millions of children died of the disease across the world. But as vaccination rates and sanitation improved, incidence dropped everywhere, including in India.
Cases of diphtheria in India:
- India continues to be a world leader in diphtheria today, with 3,380 cases and 177 deaths reported in 2016. This year has seen worrying outbreaks in Karnataka, Kerala and Telangana, among other States.
What are the concerns?
- India has had a diphtheria vaccination programme since the 1980s. Despite this, we continue to do poorly in controlling the disease because the vaccination does not reach everyone.
- Under the Universal Immunization Programme (UIP), all children below one year of age are supposed to get three doses of the Diphtheria-Tetanus-Pertussis (DTP) vaccine, followed by two booster doses between 1-2 years and 5-6 years. But coverage of the three primary doses is inadequate at 80% across the country.
- Diphtheria is increasingly infecting adolescents and adults in India, though it was historically an illness of children under five.
- The link between low vaccination rates and disease is clear in all recent epidemics. For example, Bihar, which has a poor record of primary immunisation, saw 41% of its cases in the under-five age group, while Kerala, which has high rates of immunisation, saw 74% of cases in the above-10 age group, according to a WHO report.
- It was also found low rates of vaccination among Muslim communities, one of the reasons driving outbreaks in States like Andhra Pradesh.
- This year, the Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh saw large outbreaks owing to low rates of vaccination and overcrowded and unclean camp conditions.
What needs to be done?
- A dose of tetanus-diphtheria vaccine be given to children at school entry, because over 80% of all Indian children attend primary schools.
- Also, vulnerable communities like Muslims in Andhra Pradesh must be targeted with awareness campaigns.
Bilateral & International Relations
UN imposes new sanctions on North Korea
The UN Security Council unanimously imposed new sanctions on North Korea for its recent intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) test.
Why these sanctions?
- The idea behind the sanctions is to squeeze North Korea as tightly as possible to reduce its income, reduce its revenues, and in that way hopefully drive it to the negotiating table and also for it to stop its missile development process.
Need for sanctions on North Korea:
- North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s government has conducted several missile tests this year, which have drawn condemnation from the international community.
- Recently, in November 2017, it had successfully conducted a new intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capable of reaching the US mainland. The missile is said to be the “most powerful ICBM” yet to be tested by the country. It was the third test of an ICBM by North Korea this year.
About the sanctions:
- The imposed sanctions seek to limit North Korea’s access to refined petroleum products and crude oil and its earnings from workers abroad.
- The UN resolution seeks to ban nearly 90% of refined petroleum exports to North Korea by capping them at 500,000 barrels a year.
- The resolution also orders North Koreans who work abroad to return to the country within 24 months.
- The new sanctions also ban the export of food products, machinery, electrical equipment, earth and stones, wood and vessels from North Korea. And it bans all countries from exporting industrial equipment, machinery, transportation vehicles and industrial metals to the country.
- The resolution also contains a commitment to the resumption of “six-party talks”, leaving the door open for possible diplomatic negotiations.
What are six-party talks?
- The six-party talks are a diplomatic effort, which aim to find a peaceful solution to security concerns in the Korean Peninsula.
- They involve North Korea, South Korea and the US, along with regional powers China, Japan and Russia.
- The last six-party talks were held in 2009.
- Last month, the US unveiled fresh sanctions against North Korea which it said were designed to limit the funding for its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes. The measures targeted North Korean shipping operations and Chinese companies that trade with Pyongyang.
- The UN also approved new sanctions following North Korea’s nuclear test on 3 September. These measures restricted oil imports and banned textile exports – an attempt to starve the North of fuel and income for its weapons programmes.
- North Korea fully rejects the UN sanctions and termed them as a violent breach of its republic’s sovereignty. It also blamed it as an act of war that destroys the peace and stability of the Korean peninsula and a wider region.
- South Korea welcomed the sanctions and called on North Korea to “immediately cease reckless provocations, and take the path of dialogue for denuclearisation”.
- Both Russia and China supported the new sanctions, despite previously raising concerns that not enough was being done to promote diplomatic resolutions to tensions on the Korean Peninsula.
Science & Technology
New system can help machines think like humans
Researchers from University of Michigan in the US have developed a new type of neural network chip that can dramatically improve the efficiency of teaching machines to think like humans.
- The network, called a reservoir computing system.
How was it developed?
- Scientists created their system using memristors, which require less space and can be integrated more easily into existing silicon-based electronics. Memristors are a special type of resistive device that can both perform logic and store data.
- The system used a special memristor that memorises events only in near history. This contrasts with typical computer systems, where processors perform logic separate from memory modules.
- The system has been inspired by brains, neural networks are composed of neurons, or nodes, and synapses, the connections between nodes.
- To train a neural network for a task, a neural network takes in a large set of questions and the answers to those questions. In this process of what’s called supervised learning, the connections between nodes are weighted more heavily or lightly to minimise the amount of error in achieving the correct answer.
- The reservoir computing system could predict words before they are said during conversation, and help predict future outcomes based on the present.
- Reservoir computing systems built with memristors can skip most of the expensive training process and still provide the network the capability to remember. This is because the most critical component of the system – the reservoir – does not require training.
- Using only 88 memristors, compared to a conventional network that would require thousands for the task, the reservoir achieved 91 per cent accuracy.
- The system was proved to be functional using test of handwriting recognition, a common benchmark among neural networks.
India to have its own gravitational wave detector in 2025
A new Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) gravitational wave detector to measure ripples in the fabric of space and time is set to be built in India by 2025, in collaboration with universities from across the globe.
- The new LIGO detector will add to the two already operational in the US.
- A third LIGO detector will help pinpoint the origin of the gravitational waves that are detected in future.
- The LIGO detectors discovered the first gravitational waves produced by two giant merging blackholes last year. The research won a Nobel Prize in Physics this year.
What are Gravitational Waves?
Gravitational waves are ‘ripples’ or disturbances in the fabric of space-time.
- They are produced when whole black holes collide and stars explode. These waves are sound track of cosmos.
- They transport energy as gravitational radiation and pass through matter without interacting with it.
- Gravitational waves were first predicted in 1916 by Albert Einstein on the basis of his Theory of General Relativity which are now confirmed and detected by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO)— specialised laboratories in Louisiana and Washington in the US.
- Discovery of gravitational waves would represent a scientific landmark, opening the door to an entirely new way to observe the cosmos and unlock secrets about the early universe and mysterious objects like black holes and neutron stars.
- Gravitational waves could also help physicists understand the fundamental laws of the universe.
- Gravitational waves are important in telling about the early universe.
LIGO is world’s largest gravitational wave observatory.
- The observatory, described as “the most precise measuring device ever built,” is actually two facilities in Livingston, Louisiana, and Hanford, Washington.
- They were built and operated with funding from the National Science Foundation, which has spent $1.1 billion on LIGO over the course of several decades.
- The project is led by scientists from the California Institute of Technology and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and is supported by an international consortium of scientists and institutions.
- It comprises two enormous laser interferometers located thousands of kilometers apart.
- It helps to detect and understand the origins of gravitational waves.
- The Interferometers used in LIGO work by merging two or more sources of light to create interference pattern, which can be measured and analyzed.
Key Facts for Prelims
World’s largest amphibious aircraft makes maiden flight
- China has launched homegrown AG600, the world’s largest amphibious aircraft.
- The plane, codenamed Kunlong, will further strengthens China’s rapidly modernising military.
- Its successful maiden flight makes China among the world’s few countries capable of developing a large amphibious aircraft.
- The aircraft has military applications but will be also used for firefighting and marine rescue.
- The AG600 amphibious aircraft can land and take off from water. It has wingspan of 38.8 metres. It is powered by four turboprop engines.
Odisha recognised as ‘Champion State’ for exports
- The Centre has recognised Odisha as a ‘Champion State’ for recording the highest growth in exports during 2016-17.
- The exports from the state have increased from Rs 19,082 crore in 2015-16 to Rs 40,872 crore in 2016-17 with merchandise exports from Odisha registering the highest growth rate of 114% among all the states.
- The major sectors of exports are aluminum, products of aluminum, iron ore, processed
minerals, iron, steel, marine products, residual chemical and allied products, textiles and IT and ITES.
‘Awakened Citizen Programme’
- The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) has tied up with the Ramakrishna mission to impart value education to its students and make them “awakened” citizens with values of peace, harmony, humility and cooperation.
- ‘Awakened Citizen Programme’ is a 3-year graded value education program for students studying in middle school and high school. The program is designed to open the minds of children and enable them to discover values.
- It provides a framework for decision making in their life and bring about a transformation from within.
- However, the implementation of the programme by schools is voluntary.
- Ramakrishna Mission is a worldwide philanthropic organization founded by Swami Vivekananda in 1897 with the motto of “Atmano Moksartham Jagad Hitaya cha” i.e. “For one’s own liberation, and for the welfare of the world”.
Inauguration of Delhi Metro’s Magenta Line
- PM Modi flagged off Delhi Metro’s first section of Magenta line.
- This line will connect between Botanical Garden and Kalkaji, reducing the travel time between Noida and South Delhi by about half an hour.
Key features of Delhi Metro’s Magenta Line:
- The Majenta Line will have, for the first time in India, trains that will run unattended. However, there would be roving attendants.
- Similarly, the platform screen doors (PSDs) are also being used for the first time. PSDs are glass-made screens installed near the edge of platforms that open only when a train arrives and shut after it departs. They are installed to enhance commuter safety.
- There is also Communication Based Train Control (CBTC) signalling technology will be used that can facilitate movement of trains with a frequency of 90 to 100 seconds.
India’s first AC suburban train flagged off in Mumbai
- The country’s first air-conditioned (AC) suburban train commenced its services in Mumbai, 150 years after the first suburban local was hauled by a steam engine in 1867.
- It was manufactured by the Integral Coach Factory, Chennai.
- The fully air-conditioned air-suspension coaches have a capacity of carrying nearly 6,000 commuters per rake, automatic door opening-closing system, LED lights, Emergency Talk Back System between commuters and guard besides a public address system and advanced GPS-based passenger information systems.
350th Birth Anniversary of Guru Gobind Singh Ji
The 350th birth anniversary of Guru Gobind Singh which is also known as ‘Prakash Parv’ was celebrated across the country.
About Guru Gobind Singh:
- Guru Gobind Singh is the tenth Sikh Guru, a spiritual master, warrior, poet and philosopher.
- He was born in Bihar’s Patna on December 22, 1666 and his birth place has been converted into Takht Sri Patna Sahib Gurdwara.
- Among his notable contributions to Sikhism are founding the Sikh warrior community called Khalsa in 1699 and introducing the Five Ks, the five articles of faith that Khalsa Sikhs wear at all times.
- Guru Gobind Singh also continued the formalisation of the religion, wrote important Sikh texts, and enshrined the scripture the Guru Granth Sahib as Sikhism’s eternal Guru.