Current Affairs Analysis

9th & 10th February 2020 Current Affairs Analysis – IASToppers

Nexus between Corona Virus outbreak and Pangolins; No mandatory reservation to SC/ST in government jobs; What the law says about reservation; Muktoshri--rice variety resistant to Arsenic; Arsenic Contamination of Groundwater; Youngest person to scale Mt. Aconcagua; Mt. Aconcagua; Roadmap for implementation of Disha Bill; Highlights of the Andhra Pradesh Disha Act 2019; Vigilance wing in the Health Department; Pangolin; Import of lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries quadrupled; Li-ion batteries; National Mission on Transformative Mobility and Battery Storage; NCB arrests Darknet narcotics; Narcotics Control Bureau; Van Vihar National Park
By IASToppers
February 12, 2020

Contents

Polity & Governance

  • No mandatory reservation to SC/ST in government jobs

Government Schemes & Policies

  • Roadmap for implementation of Disha Bill
  • Import of lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries quadrupled

Issues related to Health & Education

  • Vigilance wing in the Health Department
  • Nexus between Corona Virus outbreak and Pangolins

Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management

  • Muktoshri–rice variety resistant to Arsenic
  • Van Vihar National Park

Defence & Security Issues

  • NCB arrests Darknet narcotics

Art & Culture

  • Guru Ravidas Jayanti

Persons in News

  • Youngest person to scale Mt. Aconcagua

For IASToppers Current Affairs Analysis Archive, Click Here

Polity & Governance

No mandatory reservation to SC/ST in government jobs

The opposition parties have targeted the government over recent Supreme Court judgement which rules that states are not legally bound to provide reservation to Scheduled Castes and ScheduledTribes (SC/ST) in government jobs.

Background:

  • The Supreme Court decision came against pleas regarding Uttarakhand government’s September 5, 2012 decision to fill up all posts in public services in the state without providing reservations to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.
  • The government’s decision was challenged in the Uttarakhand High Court, which struck it down.
  • The recent SC judgement has quashed the Uttarakhand High Court’s order.

The recent SC judgement:

  • A Supreme Court bench of justices’ L Nageswara Rao and Hemant Gupta ruled that states are not bound to make reservations, nor is reservation in promotions a fundamental right.
  • No mandamus can be issued by the court directing the state government to provide reservations, as there is no fundamental right which inheres in an individual to claim reservation in promotions.
  • Hence, the top court cannot order state governments to provide reservations.
  • However, if they (state) wish to exercise their discretion, Article 16 (4) and 16 (4-A) empowers the state to make such provision, but the state has to collect quantifiable data showing inadequacy of their representation in the services of the state.

What the law says about reservation?

  • The Supreme Court referred to Article 16 and its clauses 4 and 4A while delivering its judgement in the matter.
  • Article 16 in the Constitution of India refers to equality of opportunity in government jobs.
  • Article 16(4) empowers the state to make any provision for the reservation of appointments or posts in favour of any backward class of citizens which, in the opinion of the state, is not adequately represented in the services under the state.
  • By way of the 77th Amendment Act, a new clause (4A) was introduced to Article 16, empowering the state to make provisions for reservation in matters of promotion to SC/ST employees if the state feels they are not adequately represented in services. The Supreme Court had upheld the amendment as constitutional.

Controversy:

  • The opposition is holding the Centre accountable for the Supreme Court order on reservation, but the union government has said that it was not a party in this legal battle.
  • Further, the Supreme Court order refers to a Uttarakhand government notification from 2012, when Congress was in power in the state.
[Ref: Business Today, Indian Express]

Government Schemes & Policies

Roadmap for implementation of Disha Act

Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy stated that the preparations are undergoing to equip itself the state with all facilities like forensic laboratories, special courts, and public prosecutors to effectively implement the Disha Act 2019 by June 2020.

Steps undertaken in this regard:

  • As many as 18 Disha police stations would come up by February-end.
  • Similarly, ₹26 crores were sanctioned for setting up 13 special Disha courts and the nod from the High Court for setting up the courts is awaited.
  • Forensic laboratories were being set up at a cost of ₹31 crores at Tirupati and Visakhapatnam for speedy investigation of the Disha cases.

Highlights of the Andhra Pradesh Disha Act 2019:

1. Introducing women and children offender’s registry:

  • Provides for establishment of public accessible electronic register to be called the ‘Women & Children Offenders Registry’.
  • The government of India has launched a National Registry of Sexual Offenders but the database is not digitized and inaccessible to the public.

2. Exclusive punishment of death penalty for rape crimes:

  • Present provision for punishing a rape offender is a fixed jail term leading to life imprisonment or death sentence.
  • The Disha Act 2019 has prescribed the death penalty for rape crimes where there is adequate conclusive evidence.

3. Reducing the judgment period to 21 days:

  • The existing judgment period as per the Nirbhaya Act, 2013 and Criminal Amendment Act, 2018 is 4 months (two months of investigation period and two months of trial period).
  • Disha Act reduced it to 21 working days from date of offence in cases of rape crimes with substantial conclusive evidence. (7 days for investigation and 14 for trial).

4. Reducing appeal to 3 months for disposal of rape cases 

  • At present, the period for disposal of appeal cases related to rape cases against women and children is six months, the act reduced it to three months.

5. Stringent punishment for sexual offences against children:

  • In cases of molestation/sexual assault on children under the POCSO Act, 2012, punishment ranges from 3 to 7 years of imprisonment.
  • The Act, apart from rape, prescribes life imprisonment for other sexual offences against children.

6. Punishment for harassment of women through social media:

  • In cases of harassment of women through social or digital media, the Act states two years’ imprisonment for the first conviction and four years for second and subsequent.

7. Establishment of exclusive special courts in every district of Andhra Pradesh:

  • Government will establish special courts to exclusively deal with cases of offences against women and children and will appoint a special public prosecutor for each exclusive special court.
  • Andhra Pradesh introduced the ‘Andhra Pradesh Special Courts for Specified Offences against Women & Children Act, 2019′.
  • The act provides for District Special Police Team for investigation of offences related to women and children. The government will also appoint a special public prosecutor for each exclusive special court.
[Ref: Indian Express, The Hindu]

Import of lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries quadrupled

According to the Union Science Ministry from 2016-18, India has quadrupled its imports of lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries and more than tripled its import bill on the product, vital for powering a range of devices from cell phones to electric vehicles.

Data presented by the ministry:

  • Responding to a query, the Ministry said 175 million such batteries were imported in 2016, 313 million in 2017, 712 million in 2018 and 450 million from January 1, 2019, till November 30, 2019.
  • The cost of these imports rose from $383 million (₹2,600 crores approx.) in 2016 to $727.24 million (₹5,000 crores approx.) in 2017, $1254.94 million (₹8,700 crore) in 2018 and $929 million (₹6,500 crore) in 2019.
  • Indian manufacturers source Li-ion batteries from China, Japan and South Korea and the country among the largest importers in the world.

Li-ion batteries:

  • A lithium-ion battery or Li-ion battery is a type of rechargeable battery.
  • Lithium-ion batteries are commonly used for portable electronics and electric vehicles and are growing in popularity for military and aerospace applications.
  • When the battery is charging up, the lithium-cobalt oxide, positive electrode gives up some of its lithium ions, which move through the electrolyte to the negative graphite electrode and remain there.
  • The battery takes in and stores energy during this process. When the battery is discharging, the lithium ions move back across the electrolyte to the positive electrode, producing the energy that powers the battery.
  • The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) manufactures such batteries but volumes are limited and they are restricted for use in space applications.

National Mission on Transformative Mobility and Battery Storage:

  • To promote indigenous development of such batteries, the Union Cabinet in 2019 approved a programme, called a National Mission on Transformative Mobility and Battery Storage.
  • The objective is to promote clean, connected, shared, sustainable and holistic mobility initiatives; Phased Manufacturing Programme (PMP) valid for 5 years until 2024.

Composition:

  • The multi-disciplinary National Mission with an Inter-Ministerial Steering Committee will be chaired by CEO NITI Aayog.

Role:

  • The Mission will recommend and drive the strategies for transformative mobility and Phased Manufacturing Programmes for EVs, EV Components and Batteries.
  • A Phased Manufacturing Program (PMP) will be launched to localize production across the entire EV value chain. The mission will determine the contours of PMP, and will finalize the details of such a program.
  • The Mission will coordinate with key stakeholders in Ministries/ Departments and the states to integrate various initiatives to transform mobility in India.

Learn More:

  • Electric vehicles are expected to account for a significant share in the growth of the Li-ion battery demand in India though reports say this is unlikely at least until 2025, because electric cars are still significantly costlier than their combustion-engine counterparts.
  • The government has announced investments worth $1.4 billion to make India one of the largest manufacturing hubs for electric vehicles by 2040.
[Ref: The Hindu]

Issues related to Health & Education

Vigilance wing in the Health Department

The Kerala State government is reportedly floating a proposal to set up a Vigilance wing in the Health Department.

Role of the vigilance wing:

  • The Vigilance wing will detect private practice by medical education service doctors, crack down on quackery and unearth ethically dubious financial relationships, if any, between State doctors and diagnostic clinics, pharmacies and health care firms in the private sector.
  • It will also monitor health care advertising and flag false claims aired by health care companies to mass-market pharmaceutical and Ayurveda drugs without doctor’s prescription as off-the-shelf cures for a wide range of ailments.
  • The wing will prosecute self-styled healers who exploit their influence in the social media to fuel unhealthy skepticism about government’s vaccination programmes and use their online heft to drum up resistance against the State’s efforts to prevent the spread of global viral outbreaks such as the Corona pandemic.

Doctors’ response:

  • The proposal appears not to have gone down well with the medical community.
  • Many have objected to the government singling out doctors for intrusive vigilance inspections.
  • there are speculations that the government has raked up the old proposal to arm-twist doctors against striking for wage revision.
[Ref: The Hindu]

Nexus between Corona Virus outbreak and Pangolins

As per the scientists, pangolins could be responsible for the spread of the deadly coronavirus in China, after they found the genome sequence separated from the mammal was 99 % identical to that from infected people.

What links the two?

  • According to a study led by scientists at the South China Agricultural University, the genome sequence of the novel coronavirus strain separated from pangolins was 99 % identical to that from infected people, indicating pangolins may be an intermediate host of the virus.
  • The research team analyzed more than 1,000 metagenome samples of wild animals and found pangolins as the most likely intermediate host.
  • Molecular biological detection revealed that the positive rate of Betacoronavirus in pangolins was 70 %.

Aftermath:

  • After the coronavirus, China has temporarily banned trading exotic animals.
  • The study will support the prevention and control of the epidemic, as well as offer scientific reference for policies on wild animals.

Pangolin:

  • Pangolins or scaly anteaters are mammals.
  • They are the only mammals wholly-covered in scales (made of keratin) and they use those scales to protect themselves from predators in the wild.
  • They are believed to be one of the world’s most trafficked mammals.
  • Thousands of them are poached every year due to their medicinal value and human consumption in countries like China and Vietnam.
  • There are eight species of pangolin worldwide and two are found in India. They are Chinese pangolin (Manis pentadactyla), mostly found in northeast India and Indian pangolin (Manis crassicaudata).

Protection Status:

  • IUCN: Critically endangered (Chinese and Sunda pangolins) in IUCN Red List.
  • Indian pangolin has been listed as endangered in IUCN Red List.
  • It is placed in Schedule I under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.
  • Pangolins are listed in Appendix I of CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora).
[Ref: Live Mint]

Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management

Muktoshri–rice variety resistant to Arsenic

Researchers have developed and commercialised a rice variety that is resistant to Arsenic.

The new rice variety:

  • The new rice variety, Muktoshri, also called IET 21845, was developed jointly by the Rice Research Station, Chinsurah, under West Bengal’s Agriculture Department and the National Botanical Research Institute, Lucknow, over several years.
  • The work on developing the variety started in 2006 and the scientists were successful by 2013.
  • A gazette notification for the commercial use of Muktoshri was made by West Bengal last year.
  • The variety uptakes very less amount of arsenic from soil and water in comparison to other varieties of rice.
  • The rice was long and thin, and aromatic & yields 5.5 metric tonnes per hectare in the Boro season and 4.5 to 5 metric tonnes per hectare in the Kharif season.

Trails by the state government:

  • The State government’s decision to make the seeds available for cultivation came after successful trials in both the wet season and dry season in different blocks of the State.
  • The trials were done in areas with arsenic contamination in groundwater, particularly in Nadia, North 24 Parganas, Bardhaman and Murshidabad.

Arsenic Contamination of Groundwater:

  • It is a form of groundwater pollution which is often due to naturally occurring high concentrations of arsenic in deeper levels of groundwater.
  • Arsenic contaminated water typically contains arsenous acid and arsenic acid or their derivatives. These species are not aggressive acids but the soluble forms of arsenic near neutral pH, extracted from the underlying rocks that surround the aquifer.
  • It is a high-profile problem due to the use of deep tube wells for water supply in the Ganges Delta, causing serious arsenic poisoning to large numbers of people.
  • Over 137 million people in more than 70 countries are probably affected by Arsenic poisoning of drinking water.
  • The problem became serious health concern after mass poisoning of water in Bangladesh.

Facts about Arsenic:

  • Arsenic is an element found in nature, and in man-made products, including some pesticides.
  • Low levels of Arsenic are found in soil, water and air. The element is taken up by plants as they grow — this means Arsenic makes its way into our food.
  • Long-term exposure to low doses of arsenic may change the way cells communicate, and reduce their ability to function and result in development of diabetes, cancer, heart disease and lung disease.
  • Arsenic does not build up in the body, it can leave the system in a day or two, once the consumption stops.
  • Arsenic may be found in grains, fruits and vegetables in smaller amount, but Rice takes up arsenic more readily from the environment.
[Ref: The Hindu, Live Science]

Van Vihar National Park

A pair of lions were brought to Madhya Pradesh’s Van Vihar National Park in Bhopal from Chhattisgarh’s Bilaspur.

About Van Vihar National Park:

  • Van Vihar National Park is a national park in Bhopal, the capital city of Madhya Pradesh in Central India.
  • Declared a National Park in 1979, it covers an area of about 4.45 sq. km.
  • It has the status of a national park, but is developed and managed as a modern zoological park, following the guidelines of the Central Zoo Authority.
  • Animals are kept in near natural habitats. Most animals are either orphaned and brought from various parts of the state or are exchanged from other zoos. No animal is deliberately captured from the forest.
  • Van Vihar is unique because visitors access it from a road through the park, and trenches, walls, and chain-link fencing protect the animals from poachers while providing natural habitat.
  • The land is strictly under protection so as to safeguard its flora and fauna.
[Ref: ANI]

Defence & Security Issues

NCB arrests Darknet narcotics

The Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) has recently arrested the country’s first ‘darknet’ narcotics operative, who allegedly shipped hundreds of psychotropic drug parcels abroad in the garb of sex stimulation medicines.

What is Darknet?

  • Darknet refers to the deep hidden internet platform that is used for narcotics sale, exchange of pornographic content and other illegal activities by using the secret alleys of the onion router (ToR) to stay away from the surveillance of law enforcement agencies.
  • Owing to its end-to-end encryption, darknet is considered very tough to crack when it comes to investigating criminal activities being rendered over it.
  • In the case, the latest darknet ring using payment gateways of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoins and Litecoin to conceal the transactions from regulatory agencies, was unearthed.

Narcotics Control Bureau:

  • The Narcotics Control Bureau is the nodal drug law enforcement and intelligence agency of India responsible for fighting drug trafficking and the abuse of illegal substances.
  • It was created in March 1986 under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985, which envisages an authority for taking measures with respect to matters under the Act as may be specified by the Central Government.
  • The Director General of NCB is an officer of the Indian Police Service or the Indian Revenue Service.

Functions of NCB:

  • Coordination among various Central and State Agencies engaged in drug law enforcement;
  • Assisting States and enhancing their drug law enforcement effort;
  • Collection and dissemination of intelligence;
  • Analysis of seizure data, study of trends and modus operandi;
  • Preparation of National Drug Enforcement Statistics;
  • Liaison with International agencies such as UNDCP, INCB, INTERPOL, Customs Cooperation Council, RILO etc.;
  • National contact point for intelligence and investigations.

Note:

  • The NCB was part of a global ‘Operation Trance’, launched in December 2019, entailing a joint intelligence gathering action on international postal, express mail and courier shipments containing psychotropic drugs (which can only be purchased on a doctor’s prescription) that are abused as sedatives and painkillers.
[Ref: The Hindu]

Art & Culture

Guru Ravidas Jayanti

The President of India, Shri Ram Nath Kovind has greeted fellow-citizens on the eve of Guru Ravidas Jayanti.

About:

  • Guru Ravidas Jayanti is celebrated as the birth anniversary of Guru Ravidas, a North Indian mystic poet of the bhakti movement.
  • It is celebrated on Magh Purnima, which is the full moon day in the Hindu calendar month of Magha.
  • This year (2020) is said to be the 643rd birth anniversary of Guru Ravidas.

Who was Guru Ravidas?

  • He was the founder of the Ravidassia religion.
  • While the exact year of his birth is not known, it is believed that the saint was born in 1377 C.E.
  • The saint born in the village of Seer Goverdhanpur located near Varanasi.
  • His birthplace has now been named Shri Guru Ravidas Janam Asthan and has become a major place of pilgrimage for the followers of Guru Ravidas.
  • As he belonged to an untouchable caste and suffered a lot of atrocities, however, the saint chose to focus on spiritual pursuits and penned several devotional songs which made a huge impact in the Bhakti movement during the 14th to 16th century CE.

Guru Ravidas’s Teachings:

  • Guru Ravidas spoke against the caste divisions and spoke of removing them to promote unity.
  • The Adi Granth of Sikhs and Panchvani are the two of the oldest documented sources of the literary works of Guru Ravidas.
  • His teachings resonated with the people, leading to a religion being born called the Ravidassia religion, or Ravidassia Dharam based on his teachings.
  • He taught about the omnipresence of God.
  • He believed that a human soul is a particle of God and hence rejected the idea of caste.
  • He believed that the only way to meet God was to free the mind from the duality.
[Ref: Financial Express]

Persons in News

Youngest person to summit Mt. Aconcagua

A 12-year-old Mumbai student, Kaamya Karthikeyan has set a record of becoming the youngest in the world to summit Mt. Aconcagua, the highest peak of the Andes Mountains in Argentina, South America the youngest in the world to summit the peak.

Mt. Aconcagua:

  • Aconcagua is a mountain in the Andes mountain range, Argentina.
  • It is the highest mountain outside of Asia, although there are 189 mountains higher than it in the Asia alone.
  • It is the highest in both the Southern and Western Hemispheres with a summit elevation of 6,960.8 meters.
  • The mountain is one of the so-called Seven Summits of the seven continents.
  • The mountain was created by the subduction of the Nazca Plate beneath the South American Plate.
  • It is an extinct volcano that was active until a minimum of 9.5 million years ago.
[Ref: Times of India]
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