Insights Daily Current Affairs, 03 February 2018

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Insights Daily Current Affairs, 03 February 2018


 

Paper 2:

Topic: Indian Constitution- historical underpinnings, evolution, features, amendments, significant provisions and basic structure.

 

Jallikattu

Context: The Supreme Court has referred to a Constitution Bench to decide whether the people of Tamil Nadu can preserve jallikattu as their cultural heritage under Article 29 (1) of the Constitution and demand its protection.

 

Background:

The decision came based on petitions filed by activists to strike down the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Tamil Nadu Amendment) Act of 2017 and the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Conduct of Jallikattu) Rules of 2017. Activists contended that the amended laws had opened the gates for the conduct of the popular bull-taming sport in the name of culture and tradition despite a 2014 ban by the Supreme Court.

Activists contend that the 2017 Jallikattu Act and Rules violate the five internationally recognised freedoms — the freedom from hunger, malnutrition and thirst; freedom from fear and distress; freedom from physical and thermal discomfort; freedom from pain, injury and disease; and freedom to express normal patterns of behaviour.

 

Significance of this decision:

It is for the first time the Supreme Court is considering the question of granting constitutional protection to jallikattu as a collective cultural right under Article 29 (1). Article 29(1) is a fundamental right guaranteed under Part III of the Constitution to protect the educational and cultural rights of citizens.

Though commonly used to protect the interests of minorities, Article 29(1) mandates that “any section of the citizens residing in the territory of India or any part thereof having a distinct language, script or culture of its own shall have the right to conserve the same”.

 

What is Jallikattu?

Also known as Eruthazhuvuthal or Manju virattu, Jallikattu is a traditional bull-taming sport organised in Tamil Nadu during Pongal. According to some historical accounts, the practice dates back to as far as 2000 years ago. The sport involves a natively reared stud that is set free inside an arena filled with young participants. The challenge lies in taming the bull with bare hands. Participants often try to grab the bull by its horns or tail and wrestle it into submission. A few also tend to latch on to the bull by clinging to the hump at the back of its neck. Calves are specially reared to become bulls fit for Jallikattu by feeding them a special diet.

 

Sources: the hindu.


Topic: Development processes and the development industry the role of NGOs, SHGs, various groups and associations, donors, charities, institutional and other stakeholders.

 

Dust mitigation plan must for firms

The Environment Ministry has made it mandatory for companies seeking environment clearance to ensure that they put in place a dust mitigation plan.

 

What are the requirements?

The requirements, specified in a gazette notification on January 25, say that roads leading to or at construction sites must be paved and black-topped. There could be no soil excavation without adequate dust mitigation measures in place. No loose soil, sand, construction waste could be left uncovered. A water sprinkling system was mandatory, and the measures taken should be prominently displayed at the construction site. Moreover, the grinding and cutting of building materials in open area were prohibited and no uncovered vehicles carrying construction material and waste would be permitted.

 

Background:

The standards were developed by the Central Pollution Control Board as part of the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS), and will now empower the organisation to fine companies and agencies for not complying with norms.

 

Need for dust mitigation:

A study by the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur and commissioned by the Delhi government reported, in 2015, that road dust, burning of biomass and municipal solid waste, constituted the lion’s share of the city’s air pollution.

Road dust contributed 56% of all PM10 pollution, while it was 38% for PM2.5. Another estimate by the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, Pune had different numbers but still ranked dust as the major contributor — 52% — to the city’s PM10 load.

 

Sources: the hindu.


Topic: Development processes and the development industry the role of NGOs, SHGs, various groups and associations, donors, charities, institutional and other stakeholders.

 

Kisan Urja Suraksha evam Utthaan Mahaabhiyan or KUSUM scheme

Context: As part of Union Budget 2018-19, the government has announced Kisan Urja Suraksha evam Utthaan Mahaabhiyan or KUSUM scheme.

 

About KUSUM scheme:

What is it? It is a ₹1.4 lakh-crore scheme for promoting decentralised solar power production of up to 28,250 MW to help farmers. It would provide extra income to farmers, by giving them an option to sell additional power to the grid through solar power projects set up on their barren lands. It would help in de-dieselising the sector as also the DISCOMS.

Components of the scheme: The components of the scheme include building 10,000 MW solar plants on barren lands and providing sops to DISCOMS to purchase the electricity produced, ‘solarising’ existing pumps of 7250 MW as well as government tube wells with a capacity of 8250 MW and distributing 17.5 lakh solar pumps. The 60% subsidy on the solar pumps provided to farmers will be shared between the Centre and the States while 30% would be provided through bank loans. The balance cost has to be borne by the farmers.

Significance of the scheme: Expected positive outcomes of the scheme include promotion of decentralised solar power production, reduction of transmission losses as well as providing support to the financial health of DISCOMs by reducing the subsidy burden to the agriculture sector. The scheme would also promote energy efficiency and water conservation and provide water security to farmers.

 

Sources: the hindu.


 

Paper 3:

Topic: Infrastructure waterways.

 

Jal Marg Vikas Project

Context: Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) has inked pact with the World Bank for Jal Marg Vikas Project to enhance navigation on National Waterway-1.

 

About Jal Marg Vikas Project:

What is it?

The Jal Marg Vikas Project seeks to facilitate plying of vessels with capacity of 1,500-2,000 tonnes in the Haldia- Varanasi stretch of the River Ganga. The major works being taken up under JMVP are development of fairway, Multi-Modal Terminals, strengthening of river navigation system, conservancy works, modern River Information System (RIS), Digital Global Positioning System (DGPS), night navigation facilities, modern methods of channel marking etc.

Implementation: The JMVP, which is expected to be completed by March, 2023, is being implemented with the financial and technical support of the World Bank. The project will enable commercial navigation of vessels with the capacity of 1500-2,000 tons on NW-I.

Benefits of this project: Alternative mode of transport that will be environment friendly and cost effective. The project will contribute in bringing down the logistics cost in the country. Mammoth Infrastructure development like multi-modal and inter-modal terminals, Roll on – Roll off (Ro-Ro) facilities, ferry services, navigation aids. Socio-economic impetus; huge employment generation.

 

Environmental challenges:

Though the project is ambitious in its intent, it does not account for the monetary value of the environmental costs that are imposed upon society. The river Ganga meanders across the landscape and spreads over its riverbed making pools and shallow areas. Fish and turtles lay eggs in these shallow areas. But thanks to dredging, which is already being done in the Ganga under the NW-1 project, the river is now channelised in one deep channel. The river no longer meanders and no longer has pools and shallow areas, destroying the habitat of fish and turtles. The stretch of the Ganga near Varanasi has been declared as a turtle sanctuary and studies in other countries indicate that large numbers get hit by fast-moving tourist boats because turtles move slowly.

The stretch of the Ganga near Bhagalpur has been declared a wildlife sanctuary for the conservation of the Ganges Dolphin. This animal does not have eyes. It navigates and catches its prey by the sound made by the movement of other aquatic creatures. The plying of large barges will create a high level of sound and make it difficult for them to survive. The paint on ships and barges will also pollute the water. The carbon dioxide released by the ships will be is absorbed more by the water because of its proximity and this too pollutes the river.

 

What can be done to minimize impacts in sensitive zones?

A ban on dredging in protected habitat areas. In other areas that are known to be the habitat of valued aquatic species, no dredging should be allowed in the breeding and spawning seasons.

The speed of barges travelling along the protected areas of the sanctuaries should be restricted to 5km per hour. All vessels plying on the Ganga should be fitted with noise control and animal exclusion devices so that aquatic life is not unduly disturbed. All vessels will also have to comply with `zero discharge’ standards to prevent solid or liquid waste from flowing into the river and affecting its biodiversity.

 

Way forward:

It is time to ensure that the small direct benefits from cheaper transportation shall not have large environmental costs.

 

 

Facts for Prelims:

NW 1: Ganga-Bhagirathi-Hooghly river system from Allahabad to Haldia was declared as National Waterway No.1. States covered under NW-1: States: Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal.

 

Sources: the hindu.


Topic: Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.

 

World Wetlands Day 2018

Context: World Wetlands Day is celebrated every year on 2 February. This day marks the date of the adoption of the Convention on Wetlands on 2 February 1971, in the Iranian city of Ramsar on the shores of the Caspian Sea.

Theme for 2018: “Wetlands for a Sustainable Urban Future”.

 

About Ramsar convention:

The Ramsar Convention is an international treaty for the conservation and wise use of wetlands. It is named after the Iranian city of Ramsar, on the Caspian Sea, where the treaty was signed on 2 February 1971. Known officially as ‘the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance especially as Waterfowl Habitat’ (or, more recently, just ‘the Convention on Wetlands’), it came into force in 1975.

 

Montreux Record:

Montreux Record under the Convention is a register of wetland sites on the List of Wetlands of International Importance where changes in ecological character have occurred, are occurring, or are likely to occur as a result of technological developments, pollution or other human interference.

It is maintained as part of the Ramsar List. The Montreux Record was established by Recommendation of the Conference of the Contracting Parties (1990). Sites may be added to and removed from the Record only with the approval of the Contracting Parties in which they lie.

 

Significance of urban wetlands:

In focusing on the theme “wetlands for a sustainable urban future”, this year’s World Wetlands Day sheds light on the importance of wetlands for cities. Today, 50% of the world’s population live in urban areas. Forecasts expect the urban population to rise to 6.3 billion by 2050 – a more than eightfold increase since 1950. While the urban proportion of the world’s population will more than double from 1950 to 2050, the number of the world’s wetlands has already more than halved over the past 100 years. However, wetlands play a vital role for cities and for the whole of humanity. For instance, they serve as a source of drinking water; they reduce flooding and the vegetation of wetlands filters domestic and industrial waste and improves water quality.

 

Way ahead:

Wetlands are at risk, from 1900 64% of wetlands around the world have disappeared with severe consequences for those who are living in close proximity with them, mostly Farmers. The International Community should make greater efforts to preserve these wetlands and put Farmers in the best conditions to take advantage of wetlands while respecting them.

 

Sources: the hindu.


Topic: Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology.

 

THREE-PARENT BABIES PERMITTED IN U.K

Context: Regulators in the United Kingdom have given doctors the green light to perform mitochondrial donation therapy on two British women. The controversial form of IVF results in “three-parent babies,” and the women will be the first in the U.K. to undergo the procedure.

 

Facts for Prelims:

The births will not be the first using this technique – that milestone was reached in New York, as revealed by scientists in 2016. Since then, other pregnancies and births have been reported in Ukraine. However, the UK is the only country so far to have officially approved the use of a mitochondrial replacement therapy (MRT) technique, and only to prevent children from inheriting severe mitochondrial disorders.

 

What are mitochondria?

Mitochondria are tiny rod-like structures in cells which act as power houses, generating the energy that allows our bodies to function. Unusually, they have their own DNA, distinct from the genetic material within the cell nucleus. Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) makes up about 0.1% of a cell’s total DNA and does not affect individual characteristics such as appearance and personality.

 

About MRT technique:

MRT techniques essentially swap a woman’s defective mitochondrial DNA with that of a donor. The resulting embryo’s DNA will mostly come from the two parents who supplied the egg and sperm, but a tiny proportion – a fraction of a percentage – will come from the donor.

 

Concerns:

Mitochondrial transfer passes on genetic changes from one generation to another. That raises ethical concerns because any unexpected problems caused by the procedure could affect people who are not yet born, and so cannot give their consent to have the treatment. Mitochondria are not completely understood, and the DNA they hold might affect people’s traits in unknown ways. For that reason, some scientists believe mitochondria should be better understood before the procedures are legalised.

Some people are opposed on religious or ethical grounds, particularly with pro-nuclear transfer technique which involves creating and then destroying a fertilised egg in order to treat another embryo. Others believe that there will be inevitable “carry over” of defective mitochondria from the affected mother’s fertilised egg to the donor egg. These mutant mitochondria could multiply during embryonic development to cause disease, perhaps in way we do not yet understand. This is why, they say, we need to do more research before allowing it to be used on people.

 

Way ahead:

There ought to be a better understanding of the implications and the completion of review of outstanding experiments on their safety before they are actually taken up.

 

Sources: the hindu.

 

 


 

Facts for Prelims:

 

Task force set up to study AI application in military:

The Department of Defence Production has constituted a task force headed by Tata Sons Chairman N Chandrasekaran to study use of artificial intelligence.

Significance of AI: Experts believe that future progress of artificial intelligence (AI) has potential to have transformative impact on national security. It is also seen that AI is essentially a dual use technology. While it can fuel technology driven economic growth, it also has potential to provide military superiority.

 

Cochin Shipyard signs MoU with Russian firm:

The State-owned Cochin Shipyard and the United Shipbuilding Corporation (USC) of Russia have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to collaborate and engage in design, development, and execution of contemporary, state-of-the-art vessels for inland and coastal waterways.

USC, a joint stock company, is the largest shipbuilding holding in Russia incorporating around 40 enterprises including shipyards with more than 300 years experience which have been key contributors to the growth of inland waterways in Russia.