Current Affairs Analysis

29th February 2020 Current Affairs Analysis – IASToppers

National School of Drama; Water samples from Delhi fail BIS quality norms; International Organization for Standardization; Bureau of Indian Standards; National Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK) Conference; Krishi Vigyan Kendra; Curative petition; ICGS Varad; MoUs inked between India and Myanmar; Location of Myanmar; Increase in the number of Sedition cases; Section 124A; Programme for Capacity Building of ST Representatives; 1000 Spring Initiatives; Seeking NIA probes for Delhi violence; National Investigation Agency; Biotechnology for Biofuels; Biofuels, Cyanobacteria, International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB).
By IASToppers
March 02, 2020

Contents

Polity & Governance

  • Curative petition
  • Increase in the number of Sedition cases
  • Seeking NIA probes for Delhi violence

Government Schemes & Policies

  • National Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK) Conference
  • Programme for Capacity Building of ST Representatives

Issues related to Health & Education

  • Water samples from Delhi fail BIS quality norms

Bilateral & International Relations

  • MoUs inked between India and Myanmar

Defence & Security Issues

  • ICGS Varad

Art & Culture

  • National School of Drama

Science & Technology

Biotechnology for Biofuels

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Polity & Governance

Curative petition

Curative petition is the last to last resort in the line of due justice being given and the last opportunity of the unheard being heard.

What is a curative petition?

  • A curative petition is the final and last option for the people to acquire justice as mentioned and promised by the Constitution of India.
  • The concept originated from the case of Rupa Ashok Hurra Vs. Ashok Hurra and others where the following question arose before the court of law- ‘whether an aggrieved person is entitled to any relief against the final judgment/order of the Supreme Court, after the dismissal of a review petition?’
  • The court used the Latin maxim “actus curiae neminem gravabit”, which means that an act of the court shall prejudice no one.
  • The maxim becomes applicable when the court is under an obligation to undo a wrong done to a party by the act of court itself.
  • This led to the creation of the concept of a curative petition by the Supreme Court and the reason given for such creation was preventing the abuse of the process of law and to cure the lapses in the existing system of justice.

How is curative petition different?

  • A curative petition is a way to ask the court to review and revise their own decision even after a review petition is dismissed or used.
  • But, the court has been very cautious in the use of such a petition. The court clearly stated that such kind of petitions must be rare instead of regular.
  • To ensure it, the court in its guidelines to file the petition stated that to file such a petition a gross violation of a principle of natural justice by the court needs to be proved by the contending party, unlike other petitions.
  • Also to prove such violations, a senior advocate needs to certify and point out substantial grounds for the petition to be entertained.
  • The same would be reviewed by the three senior-most judges of the court alongside the judges who passed the judgement, and if the majority feels that there was a violation, the curative petition would be heard by the same bench.
  • Adding to the speciality, a curative petition is not governed by the provisions of the Limitations Act but the court made it clear that it needs to be filed within a reasonable time.

What does this mean for the Nirbhaya convicts?

  • A curative petition is the last legal recourse available to the convicts.
  • Going by the procedure regarding pointing out substantial grounds, the lawyer of convict Vinay Sharma, has placed the argument that young age and the socio-economic background should be considered as mitigating factors.
  • Interestingly, the advocate challenged the reasoning given by the Supreme Court, pointing out reports and studies by law universities and National Crime Records Bureau which state that a death sentence won’t have any deterrent effect on the society, which is the reason on which the sentencing by SC was based.
  • With the existing media and political pressure on this case from the beginning, it’ll be interesting to see the fallout of the petition, which would, for sure, go down as one of the most landmark judgments in the history of this nation’s legal system.
[Ref: Deccan Herald]

Increase in the number of Sedition cases

The data by National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) suggests that the number of sedition cases in India has increased in recent years as police in certain states clamp down on protesters.

What is sedition?

  • The Indian Penal Code defines sedition (Section 124A) as an offence committed when “any person by words, either spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation, or otherwise, brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards the government established by law in India”.
  • It has been illegal in India since 1870.
  • Disaffection includes disloyalty and all feelings of enmity.
  • However, comments without exciting or attempting to excite hatred, contempt or disaffection, will not constitute an offence under this section.

Punishment for the offence of sedition:

  • Sedition is a non-bailable offence. Punishment under the Section 124A ranges from imprisonment up to three years to a life term, to which fine may be added.
  • A person charged under this law is barred from a government job.
  • They have to live without their passport and must produce themselves in the court at all times as and when required.

Origin of sedition law in modern India:

  • The law was originally drafted in 1837 by Thomas Macaulay, the British historian-politician, but was inexplicably omitted when the IPC was enacted in 1860.
  • Section 124A was inserted in 1870 by an amendment introduced by Sir James Stephen when it felt the need for a specific section to deal with the offence.
  • It was one of the many draconian laws enacted to stifle any voices of dissent at that time.

Arguments in support of Section 124A:

  • Section 124A of the IPC has its utility in combating anti-national, secessionist and terrorist elements.
  • It protects the elected government from attempts to overthrow the government with violence and illegal means.
  • The continued existence of the government established by law is an essential condition of the stability of the State.
  • If contempt of court invites penal action, contempt of government should also attract punishment.
  • Many districts in different states face a Maoist insurgency and rebel groups virtually run a parallel administration. These groups openly advocate the overthrow of the state government by revolution.
  • Against this backdrop, the abolition of Section 124A would be ill-advised merely because it has been wrongly invoked in some highly publicized cases.

Arguments against Section 124A:

  • Section 124A is a relic of colonial legacy and unsuited in a democracy.
  • It is a constraint on the legitimate exercise of constitutionally guaranteed freedom of speech and expression.
  • Dissent and criticism of the government are essential ingredients of robust public debate in a vibrant democracy.
  • They should not be constructed as sedition. Right to question, criticize and change rulers is very fundamental to the idea of democracy.
  • The British, who introduced sedition to oppress Indians, have themselves abolished the law in their country. There is no reason, why should not India abolish this section.
  • The terms used under Section 124A like ‘disaffection‘ are vague and subject to different interpretation to the whims and fancies of the investigating officers.

Highlights of the report:

  • The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) has only been collecting separate data on sedition cases since 2014.
  • In 2014, there were 47 cases of sedition but that number increased to 70 in 2018 (the latest year with available data).
[Ref: Live Mint, India Today]

Seeking NIA probes for Delhi violence

The Delhi High Court Friday sought response of the Centre and the AAP government on a PIL seeking NIA probe under the unlawful activities law UAPA into the violence in northeast Delhi over the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA).

What is the issue?

  • A bench of Chief Justice D N Patel and Justice C Hari Shankar issued notices to the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), the Delhi government and the police seeking their stand on the plea.
  • The petition has urged the court to direct the Centre to order the National Investigation Agency (NIA) to find out the “anti-national forces” behind the agitations and to probe the role of People’s Front of India (PFI) which is allegedly “funding, motivating and supporting the protests”.
  • It has also sought the removal of protestors from all the roads which have been blocked in northeast Delhi by the use of “appropriate force”.

National Investigation Agency (NIA):

  • The National Investigation Agency is a state agency established by the Indian Government to combat terror in India.
  • It acts as the Central Counter Terrorism Law Enforcement Agency.
  • The Agency came into existence with the enactment of the National Investigation Agency Act 2008 by the Parliament of India on 31 December 2008.
  • The agency is empowered to deal with terror related crimes across states without special permission from the states.
  • It also builds a database on all terror-related information and shares it with the states and other law enforcement agencies.
  • Headquarter: New Delhi

Jurisdiction:

  • NIA has concurrent jurisdiction which empowers the Central Agency to probe terror attacks in any part of the country, covering offences, including challenge to the country’s sovereignty and integrity, bomb blasts, hijacking of aircraft and ships, attacks on nuclear installations.
  • The amendments to the NIA Act has brought the offences relating to the smuggling in High-Quality Counterfeit Indian Currency under the definition of a terrorist Act aimed at damaging the monetary stability of the country and therefore can be investigated by the NIA.
[Ref: Indian Express]

Government Schemes & Policies

National Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK) Conference

The 11th National Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK) Conference-2020 was inaugurated recently by the Union Minister for Agriculture & Farmers’ Welfare in Delhi.

Highlights of the event:

  • The Union Minister has urged the agricultural scientists in the field to reach out to the marginalised, small and deprived farmers.
  • The achievements of the government like Research and Development (R&D) work done in Agriculture sector, superior crop varieties, 171 mobile apps developed for farmers and more than three lakh Common Service Centres (CSCs) opened were highlighted.
  • The eNAM portal has been created so that the farmer gets better price for his produce.
  • Already 585 Mandis have boarded the eNAM platform and another 415 Mandis will be added in due course.
  • More than Rs. 91,000 crores of eVyapar (e-trade) has been performed on the eNAM.

Concerns:

  • The share of Agriculture & allied sector to India’s GDP is itself low, but it is matter of concern that within this sector, the contribution of Agriculture alone is lower than that of Horticulture, Fisheries and even Animal Husbandry.

Significance:

  • The percolation of technology to marginalised farmers is crucial to fulfilling the target set by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi of doubling farmers’ income by 2022.
  • The Government aims to set up at least two Farmer Producer Organisations (FPOs) in each block.
  • There are three factors that have contributed to surplus food grains:

primarily the farmers’ labour, secondly the role of agricultural scientists, labs and universities and thirdly the central and state governments’ farmer welfare policies, schemes and incentives.

Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK):

  • A Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK) is an agricultural extension centre in India.
  • The centres serve as the ultimate link between the Indian Council of Agricultural Research and farmers, and aim to apply agricultural research in a practical, localized setting.
  • KVK, is an integral part of the National Agricultural Research System (NARS), aims at assessment of location specific technology modules in agriculture and allied enterprises, through technology assessment, refinement and demonstrations.
  • The first KVK was established during 1974 (Pondichery) and has grown as a largest network in the country.

Functions:

  • KVKs provide several farm support activities like providing technology dissemination to farmers, training, awareness etc.
  • Farm Advisory Service
  • Training programme for different categories of people.
  • Training programme for the extension functionaries.
  • Front Line Demonstration
  • On Farm Testing (OFT).
[Ref: PIB]

Programme for Capacity Building of ST Representatives

Union Tribal Affairs Minister Shri has launched the “Programme for Capacity Building of Scheduled Tribe Representatives in Local Self Governments” at a programme in Bhubaneswar, Odisha recently.

He has also launched “1000 Spring Initiatives” and an online portal on GIS-based Spring Atlas with hydrological and chemical properties of the Springs on the occasion.

1000 Spring Initiatives:

  • 1000 Springs Initiative aims at improving access to safe and adequate water for the tribal communities living in difficult and inaccessible part of rural areas in the country.
  • It is an integrated solution around natural springs.
  • It includes provision of infrastructure for piped water supply for drinking; provision of water for irrigation; community-led total sanitation initiatives; and provision for water for backyard nutrition gardens, generating sustainable livelihood opportunities for the tribal people.
  • An online portal on GIS-based Spring Atlas has been developed to make these data easily accessible from an online platform.

Capacity Building initiative:

  • A Capacity Building initiative is being launched for elected representatives to PRIs from among STs by the Ministry of Tribal Affairs.
  • The initiative is aimed at empowering tribal Panchayati Raj Initiative (PRI) representatives by enhancing their decision making capabilities at local government level.
  • Among other issues concerning tribal development, it also focusses on constitutional and legal provisions that protect and promote the rights and welfare of the tribal population.
  • The programme will ensure greater participation of Scheduled Tribe PRIs representatives in planning, execution and monitoring of government policies and programmes.
  • Their better participation in the development process would ensure better prioritization of the tribal development agenda.

Training Tribal youth:

  • Under this initiative, more than 70 young tribal youths from the rural belt of three districts of Odisha namely, Kalahandi, Khandamal and Gajapati have been trained as barefoot hydro geologists by combining traditional and scientific knowledge for identification and mapping of springs, and undertaking rejuvenation and protection measures in their habitations.
  • The module for capacity building programme has been developed in conjunction with United Nations Development Programme for the purpose.
  • The methodology of capacity building will include audio-visual aids, role play and a workshop approach and local language.

Significance:

  • Springs are natural sources of groundwater discharge and have been used extensively in the mountainous regions across the world, including India.
  • However, in the central and eastern Indian belt with more than 75% tribal population, it remains largely unrecognized and under-utilized.
  • The initiative will help in harnessing the potential of perennial springs’ water to address natural scarcity of water in tribal areas.
[Ref: PIB]

Issues related to Health & Education

Water samples from Delhi fail BIS quality norms

The water samples collected from the official residence of Union Food and Civil Supplies Minister and other areas have failed Bureau of Indian Standard (BIS) quality norms.

What is the issue?

  • The Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) informed the Supreme Court recently that none of the drinking water samples randomly collected from across Delhi conforms to the ISO standards of purity in one or more requirements.
  • It was found that all the drinking water samples drawn from Delhi were non-conforming in one or more requirements as per ISO specification for drinking water as they failed on the parameters of odour and aluminium and coliform contamination.
  • The court said one of the main reasons for contamination in Delhi was leaking pipes.

Concern:

  • Coliform contamination occurs when faecal matter gets mixed with treated water supplied to consumers.
  • Ultimately, consumers face dangerous gastrointestinal diseases, like dysentery, as a result of this contamination.

International Organization for Standardization:

  • The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) is an international standard-setting body composed of representatives from various national standards organizations.
  • Founded on 23 February 1947, the organization promotes worldwide proprietary, industrial, and commercial standards.
  • It is an independent, non-governmental organization, the members of which are the standards organizations of the 164 member countries.
  • It is the world’s largest developer of voluntary international standards and it facilitates world trade by providing common standards among nations.
  • More than twenty thousand standards have been set, covering everything from manufactured products and technology to food safety, agriculture, and healthcare.
  • Use of the standards aids in the creation of products and services that are safe, reliable, and of good quality.

Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS):

  • The BIS is the national Standards Body of India working under the aegis of Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution, Government of India.
  • It is established by the Bureau of Indian Standards Act, 1986 which came into effect on 23 December 1986.

The main Functions of BIS are:

  • Protecting the consumer from hazardous products, promoting consumer confidence, providing a safeguard to the public health and providing quality assurance.
[Ref: The Hindu]

Bilateral & International Relations

 MoUs inked between India and Myanmar

India and Myanmar have recently signed 10 agreements with a focus on the socio-economic development of the southeast Asian nation.

What are the agreements?

The agreements included:

  • MoU on Cooperation for Prevention of Trafficking in Persons; Rescue, Recovery, Repatriation and Re-Integration of Victims of Trafficking.
  • An agreement regarding Indian Grant Assistance for Implementation of Quick Impact Projects (QIP).
  • Three agreements for development projects in the conflict-torn Rakhine state.
  • India will offer medical radiation equipment Bhabhatron II for treatment of cancer patients, and strengthen cooperation in the health sector.
  • For ease of people-to-people movement across the border at Moreh Tamu, the two countries signed the Land Border Crossing Agreement in 2018, which allowed bona fide travellers with valid document to cross the border at two international points of entry/exit: Moreh-Tamu and Zokhawathar- Rih.
  • Other agreements include: medical radiation equipment for treatment of cancer patients, cooperation on petroleum, including in refinery, stockpiling, blending and retail.
  • India will help Myanmar with the project of e-ID cards, which is modelled after the Aadhaar project.

 Location of Myanmar:

  • Myanmar is a country in Southeast Asia bordered by Bangladesh and India to its northwest, China to its northeast, Laos and Thailand to its east and southeast, and the Andaman Sea and the Bay of Bengal to its south and southwest.
  • With a size of 676,578 square kilometres, Myanmar is the largest of the Mainland Southeast Asian states by area.
  • Capital: Naypyidaw.
  • Currency: Burmese kyat
  • Myanmar has been a member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) since 1997.
[Ref: Indian Express]

Defence & Security Issues

ICGS Varad

The Indian Coast Guard’s Offshore Patrol Vessel ICGS Varad has been commissioned recently.

Objective:

  • The ship will be deployed extensively for the surveillance of India’s Exclusive Economic Zone and to safeguard the maritime interests of the country.

Key Features:

  • The ship Varad will be based at Paradip in Odisha, under the operational control of the Coast Guard North Eastern Region.
  • The 98-meter-long vessel has been designed and built by the L&T at its yard at Kattupalli near Chennai, as per the specifications of the Coast Guard.
  • The ship is fitted with modern navigation and communication equipment, sensors and machinery.
  • It is equipped with 30 mm and 12.7 mm guns.
  • It has special on board features like the Integrated Bridge System, Platform Management System, Automated Power Management System and High Power External Fire-Fighting system.
  • The vessel can be used for search and rescue, law enforcement and maritime patrol.
  • The ship is also capable of carrying pollution response equipment for oil spill response at sea.
[Ref: AIR]

Art & Culture

National School of Drama

National School of Drama (NSD) has issued a notice seeking clarification from a director for including an act of nudity in his play staged at one of the prestigious festivals in Puducherry recently.

About National School of Drama (NSD):

  • The National School of Drama is one of the foremost theatre training institutions in the world and the only one of its kind in India situated in Delhi.
  • It was set up by the Sangeet Natak Akademi as one of its constituent units in 1959.
  • In 1975, it became an independent entity and was registered as an autonomous organization under the Societies Registration Act XXI of 1860, fully financed by the Ministry of Culture, Government of India.
  • On 16 March 2005, the Government of India granted the NSD the status of deemed university.
  • However, in 2010 the NSD Society asked for the deemed university status to be revoked since it could undermine the professional training, autonomy, and flexibility required in the creative fields such as theatre and thus the status was revoked in October 2011 on request of NSD.

Training:

  • It offers 3-years training program in every aspect of theatre with a special focus on the practical implementation of theories.
  • Training provided here is highly intensive and is based on a thorough, comprehensive, carefully planned syllabus which covers every aspect of theatre and in which theory is related to practice.
  • As a part of their training, students are required to produce plays which are then performed before the public.
[Ref: NSD]

Science & Technology

Biotechnology for Biofuels

The researchers at the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB) are developing a method to improve the growth rate and sugar content of a marine microorganism called Synechococcus sp.

Mechanism:

  • Most biotechnological processes, including biofuel production, are dependent on the availability of low-cost and sustainable supply of sugars and a nitrogen source.
  • The sugars typically come from plants.
  • Plants utilize light energy through the process of photosynthesis to convert carbon dioxide in the atmosphere into biological components such as sugars, proteins and lipids.
  • However, some bacteria, such as the cyanobacteria (also known as blue-green algae), too can perform photosynthesis and produce sugar by fixing the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
  • The yield of sugars from cyanobacteria could potentially be much higher than that of land-based crops.
  • Further, unlike plant-based sugars, cyanobacterial biomass provides a nitrogen source in the form of proteins.
  • Cyanobacteria are found in both fresh and marine waters. Using marine cyanobacteria could be better as freshwater is increasingly getting scarce.
  • However, there is a need to significantly improve their growth rates and sugar content in order to improve the economic feasibility of marine cyanobacteria-based sugar production.]
  • A team of researchers have successfully engineered a marine cyanobacterium called Synechococcus sp. PCC 7002 which showed a higher growth rate and sugar (glycogen) content. When grown on air, the growth was doubled and the glycogen content of the cells increased by about 50%.
  • Department of Biotechnology sponsored the research. The scientists have published a report on their work in journal `Biotechnology for Biofuels’.

Biofuels:

  • Biofuels are a renewable energy source, made from organic matter or wastes, that can play a valuable role in reducing carbon dioxide emissions.
  • Biofuels are one of the largest sources of renewable energy in use today.
  • In the transport sector, they are blended with existing fuels such as gasoline and diesel.

International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB):

  • ICGEB was established as a project of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) in 1983.
  • It is an international, intergovernmental organisation conceived as a Centre of excellence for research, training and technology transfer to industry in the field of biotechnology to promote sustainable global development.

Cyanobacteria:

  • Cyanobacteria are a phylum consisting of free-living photosynthetic bacteria and the endosymbiotic plastids that are present in some eukaryotes.
  • They commonly obtain their energy through oxygenic photosynthesis.
  • By producing and releasing oxygen (as a by-product of photosynthesis), cyanobacteria are thought to have converted the early oxygen-poor, reducing atmosphere into an oxidizing one, causing the Great Oxygenation Event and the “rusting of the Earth” which dramatically changed the composition of the Earth’s life forms and led to the near-extinction of anaerobic organisms.
[Ref: PIB]
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