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Insights Daily Current Affairs + PIB: 27 June 2019


Insights Daily Current Affairs + PIB: 27 June 2019


Relevant articles from PIB:

 

Topics Covered:

  1. Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
  2. Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology and issues relating to intellectual property rights.

 

DNA technology Bill

 

What to study?

For Prelims: DNA Bill- highlights, difference between DNA and RNA.

For Mains: DNA profiling- uses, challenges and concerns.

 

Context: Cabinet has cleared the DNA Technology (Use and Application) Regulation Bill once again, paving the way for its reintroduction in Parliament. The Bill had been passed by Lok Sabha in January this year, but could not get the approval of Rajya Sabha. As a result, it lapsed once the tenure of the previous Lok Sabha expired last month.

 

Need for the legislation and its significance:

The utility of DNA based technologies for solving crimes, and to identify missing persons, is well recognized across the world. Therefore, the new bill aims to expand the application of DNA-based forensic technologies to support and strengthen the justice delivery system of the country.

 

Highlights of the Bill:

  1. As per the Bill, national and regional DNA data bankswill be set up for maintaining a national database for identification of victims, suspects in cases, undertrials, missing persons and unidentified human remains.
  2. Punishment: According to it, those leaking the DNA profile information to people or entities who are not entitled to have it, will be punished with a jail term of up to three years and a fine of up to Rs. 1 lakh. Similar, punishment has also been provided for those who seek the information on DNA profiles illegally.
  3. Usage: As per the bill, all DNA data, including DNA profiles, DNA samples and records, will only be used for identification of the person and not for “any other purpose”.
  4. The bill’s provisions will enable the cross-matching between persons who have been reported missing on the one hand and unidentified dead bodies found in various parts of the country on the other, and also for establishing the identity of victims in mass disasters.
  5. The Bill establishes a DNA Regulatory Boardto accredit the DNA laboratories that analyse DNA samples to establish the identity of an individual.

 

Benefits of the Bill:

  • By providing for the mandatory accreditation and regulation of DNA laboratories, the Bill seeks to ensure that with the proposed expanded use of this technology in the country.
  • There is also the assurance that the DNA test results are reliable and the data remain protected from misuse or abuse in terms of the privacy rights of our citizens.

 

DNA technology- significance:

  • DNA analysis is an extremely useful and accurate technology in ascertaining the identity of a person from his/her DNA sample, or establishing biological relationships between individuals.
  • A hair sample, or even bloodstains from clothes, from a scene of crime, for example, can be matched with that of a suspect, and it can, in most cases, be conclusively established whether the DNA in the sample belongs to the suspected individual. As a result, DNA technology is being increasingly relied upon in investigations of crime, identification of unidentified bodies, or in determining parentage.
  • It is expected that the expanded use of DNA technology would result not only in speedier justice delivery but also in increased conviction rates, which at present is only around 30% (NCRB Statistics for 2016).

 

Concerns:

Prone to misuse: Information from DNA samples can reveal not just how a person looks, or what their eye colour or skin colour is, but also more intrusive information like their allergies, or susceptibility to diseases. As a result, there is a greater risk of information from DNA analysis getting misused.

 

Mains Question:  The DNA Technology (Use and Application) Regulation Bill is right in intent but bereft of safeguards, can be misutilized. Critically analyze.


Paper 2:

Topics covered:

  1. Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

 

Space Activities Bill, 2017

 

What to study?

For Prelims and Mains: Key provisions and significance of the bill, the need for legislation on outer space.

 

Context: The government is likely to introduce the Space Activities Bill which will allow commercial use of space.

 

Features of Space activities bill:

  • It is a proposed Bill to promote and regulate the space activities of India.
  • The new Bill encourages the participation of non-governmental/private sector agencies in space activities in India under the guidance and authorisation of the government through the Department of Space.
  • The provisions of this Act shall apply to every citizen of India and to all sectors engaged in any space activity in India or outside India.
  • non-transferable licenceshall be provided by the Central Government to any person carrying out commercial space activity.
  • The Central Government will formulate the appropriate mechanism for licensing, eligibility criteria, and fees for licence.
  • The government will maintain a register of all space objects(any object launched or intended to be launched around the earth) and develop more space activity plans for the country.
  • It will provide professional and technical support for commercial space activity and regulate the procedures for conduct and operation of space activity.
  • It will ensure safety requirements and supervise the conduct of every space activity of India and investigate any incident or accident in connection with the operation of a space activity.
  • It will share details about the pricing of products created by space activity and technology with any person or any agency in a prescribed manner.
  • If any person undertakes any commercial space activity without authorisation they shall be punished with imprisonment up to 3 years or fined more than ₹1 crore or both.

 

Need for a legislation on outer space:

There is a need for national space legislation for supporting the overall growth of the space activities in India. This would encourage enhanced participation of non-governmental/private sector agencies in space activities in India, in compliance with international treaty obligations, which is becoming very relevant today.

 


 

Relevant articles from various news sources:

 

Paper 3:

Topics covered:

  1. Awareness in space.

 

Methane On Mars

 

What to study?

For prelims and mains: Significance of recent findings, what does this indicate and key facts related to Methane and it’s production.

 

Context: NASA’s Curiosity rover recently discovered high amounts of methane in the air on Mars, leading to excitement whether this was an indication of life on the Red Planet, or beneath its surface. However, later it was confirmed that the methane had fallen back to usual levels.

 

What caused this variation?

High amounts of methane were a transient methane plume, which has been observed in the past.

Curiosity unfortunately doesn’t have the instruments to determine whether the source of methane is biological or geological. Further, scientists have yet to figure out a pattern for Martian’s transient plumes.

 

What is Methane?

  • On Earth, methane (CH4) is a naturally occurring gas. Most of the methane on Earth is produced in biological processes — some of it by microbes, and some occurring as underground natural gas that had been formed by earlier generations of microbial life.
  • Many of these methane-producing microbes live in the digestive systems of animals, especially cows.
  • However, methane can also be produced by abiotic processes (those that do not involve living organisms).
  • It has been found to occur in formations such as rocks, springs and aquifers, and studies have concluded that it was formed there by chemical reactions between carbon and hydrogen atoms at low temperature.
  • Once it is released into the atmospheres of either Earth or Mars, methane is relatively short-lived.
  • Methane concentrations on Earth is over 1,800 parts per million.

 

Significance of its discovery on Mars:

Since the time the gas was first detected on Mars, it has been considered a potential biomarker.

Scientists are hoping to detect the source of the gas, and in the process clues that might point to the existence of life on the Red Planet.

 

Way ahead:

To determine where the plumes are located on Mars, scientists would need a clearer understanding of these plumes, combined with coordinated measurements from other missions.

 

NASA’s Curiosity:

Curiosity is a car-sized robotic rover exploring Gale Crater on Mars as part of NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory mission (MSL).

The rover’s goals include: investigation of the Martian climate and geology; assessment of whether the selected field site inside Gale Crater has ever offered environmental conditions favorable for microbial life, including investigation of the role of water; and planetary habitability studies in preparation for future human exploration.

 

Sources: Indian Express.


Paper 2:

Topics covered:

  1. Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora.

 

Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)

 

What to study?

For prelims and Mains: Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)- objectives, why US has withdrawn from this, implications and what needs to be done?

 

Context: Amid escalating tensions with the United States, Iran has said that it would surpass the limit on the uranium supply permitted under the 2015 nuclear agreement, a potentially combustible new phase in the country’s confrontation with Washington.

 

Iran’s response:

Iranian leaders have sought to justify these steps as a response to the Trump administration’s abandonment of the nuclear accord last year and its reimposition of sanctions, which have weakened Iran’s economy and in particular choked its ability to sell oil, the country’s most important export.

Iran insists its nuclear work remains peaceful, as guaranteed under the accord. But Iran also insists that the country has the right to stop honoring some or all of provisions because the United States has reimposed sanctions in violation of the accord.

 

Why is this a cause for concern?

Iran is permitted to keep up to 300 kilograms, or about 660 pounds, of uranium enriched to 3.67% purity, a level that can be used for civilian purposes like nuclear power fuel.

Iran would need roughly triple the amount of 3.67%-enriched uranium it is permitted to possess under the accord in order to further enrich the material into weapons-grade strength sufficient to make one bomb.

Iran has said that it is quadrupling production of low-enriched uranium, raising the possibility they could start stockpiling far greater quantities again.

 

What is the iran nuclear deal?

Iran agreed to rein in its nuclear programme in a 2015 deal struck with the US, UK, Russia, China, France and Germany.

Under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPoA) Tehran agreed to significantly cut its stores of centrifuges, enriched uranium and heavy-water, all key components for nuclear weapons.

The JCPOA established the Joint Commission, with the negotiating parties all represented, to monitor implementation of the agreement.

 

Why did Iran agree to the deal?

It had been hit with devastating economic sanctions by the United Nations, United States and the European Union that are estimated to have cost it tens of billions of pounds a year in lost oil export revenues. Billions in overseas assets had also been frozen.

 

Why has US pulled out of the deal now?

Trump and opponents to the deal say it is flawed because it gives Iran access to billions of dollars but does not address Iran’s support for groups the U.S. considers terrorists, like Hamas and Hezbollah. They note it also doesn’t curb Iran’s development of ballistic missiles and that the deal phases out by 2030. They say Iran has lied about its nuclear program in the past.

 

Impact of escalated tension between Iran and the US:

  • Iran can make things difficult for the U.S. in Afghanistan as also in Iraq and Syria.
  • The U.S.’s ability to work with Russia in Syria or with China regarding North Korea will also be impacted.
  • And sooner or later, questions may be asked in Iran about why it should continue with other restrictions and inspections that it accepted under the JCPOA, which would have far-reaching implications for the global nuclear architecture.
  • Coming after the rejection of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the Paris climate change accord and the North American Free Trade Agreement, President’s decision further diminishes U.S. credibility.

 

What role does the U.N. Security Council play in this crisis?

The Security Council adopted a resolution in 2015 that endorsed the nuclear agreement and ended U.N. sanctions against Iran. The resolution, 2231, includes what is known as a “snapback” provision that could reinstate those sanctions if other parties to the agreement complained that Iran was cheating. Such a step would likely doom the agreement.

 

Sources: Indian Express.

Mains Question: Withdrawing from Iran nuclear deal by US is a serious mistake and has many possible ramifications for India. Analyse.


Paper 2:

Topics Covered:

  1. Important International institutions, agencies and fora, their structure, mandate.

 

UN Security Council

 

What to study?

For Prelims: About UNSC- composition, objectives and functions.

For Mains: Role and significance of UNSC, need for UNSC reforms, why India should be given permanent membership?

 

Context: India’s candidature for a non-permanent seat in the Security Council has been endorsed unanimously by the Asia Pacific group, which comprises 55 countries, including Pakistan.

The endorsement means that India has a “clean slate” candidature – that is there is no other contestant from the group – for the elections that will be held for five non-permanent members next year, for the 2021-22 term.

 

Background:

India has been a non-permanent member of the Security Council eight time previously: 1950-51, 1967-68, 1972-73, 1977-78, 1984-85, 1991-92 and 2011-12. For the 2011-12 term, India won 187 of 190 votes after Kazakhstan stood down from its candidacy.

 

How are non- permanent members elected?

  1. Each year, the General Assembly elects five non-permanent members out of a total of 10, for a two-year term.
  2. Distribution of seats: These 10 seats are distributed among the regions thus: five for African and Asian countries; one for Eastern European countries; two for Latin American and Caribbean countries; two for Western European and other countries.
  3. Of the five seats for Africa and Asia, three are for Africa and two for Asia; there is an informal understanding between the two groups to reserve one for an Arab country. The Africa and Asia Pacific group takes turns every two years to put up an Arab candidate.
  4. Elections for terms beginning in even-numbered years select two African members, and one each within Eastern Europe, Asia-Pacific, and Latin America and the Caribbean. Terms beginning in odd-numbered years consist of two Western European and Other members, and one each from Asia-Pacific, Africa, and Latin America and the Caribbean.
  5. Votes: Irrespective of whether a country is a “clean slate” candidate and has been endorsed by its group, it needs to secure the votes of two-thirds of the members present and voting at the General Assembly session (a minimum of 129 votes if all 193 member states participate). When contested, the elections for non-permanent seats can be fraught and can go on for several rounds, In 1975, there was a contest between India and Pakistan, which went to eight rounds. Pakistan won the seat that year. In 1996, India lost a contest to Japan.

 

About UNSC:

What is it?

The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) is one of the organs of the United Nations and is charged with the maintenance of international peace and security.

Its powers include the establishment of peacekeeping operations, the establishment of international sanctions, and the authorization of military action through Security Council resolutions; it is the only UN body with the authority to issue binding resolutions to member states.

Members: The Security Council consists of fifteen members. Russia, the United Kingdom, France, China, and the United States—serve as the body’s five permanent members. These permanent members can veto any substantive Security Council resolution, including those on the admission of new member states or candidates for Secretary-General.

The Security Council also has 10 non-permanent members, elected on a regional basis to serve two-year terms. The body’s presidency rotates monthly among its members.

 

Proposed reforms:

Reform of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) encompasses five key issues: categories of membership, the question of the veto held by the five permanent members, regional representation, the size of an enlarged Council and its working methods, and the Security Council-General Assembly relationship. There is also a proposal to admit more permanent members.

 

India’s demands:

India has been calling for the reform of the UN Security Council along with Brazil, Germany and Japan for long, emphasising that it rightly deserves a place at the UN high table as a permanent member.

 

Why India should be given a permanent seat in the council?

  • India was among the founding members of United Nations.
  • It is the second largest and a one of the largest constant contributor of troops to United Nations Peacekeeping missions.
  • It has been a member of UNSC for 7 terms and a member of G-77 and G-4, so permanent membership is a logical extension.

 

Facts for prelims:

The G4 Bloc: Group of 4 countries , (Germany ,Japan , Brazil ,India) bidding for permanent seats in the UN Security Council.

The Coffee Club or Uniting for Consensus: Group of countries opposed to the G4. They favoured the expansion of the non-permanent category of seats with members to be elected on a regional basis

Italy, Spain, Argentina, Canada, Mexico, South Korea and Pakistan.

 

Sources: Indian Express.


Paper 3:

Topics covered:

  1. Awareness in space.

Falcon Heavy launch

 

What to study?

For prelims and mains: Payloads on Falcon Heavy, objectives and significance.

 

Context: Elon Musk’s SpaceX recently launched its Falcon Heavy spacecraft on its third mission, and the most complex one yet by the company. Among the various reasons which make the mission important, one is its huge payload — 24 satellites from various organisations, including government agencies.

 

Various payloads:

Deep Space Atomic Clock:

Sent by NASA and collaborators.

DSAC is expected to be stable to better than one microsecond per decade (one second per 10 million years), which would be about 50 times more accurate than atomic clocks already abroad GPS satellites.

The technology targets aims at helping spacecraft navigate by themselves, relying on the new atomic clock in space.

 

ASCENT green fuel:

It is a safer rocket fuel.

Unlike the traditional fuel used in satellites, which is hydrazine, which is extremely toxic to humans as well as the environment, the new alternative called ASCENT (Advanced Spacecraft Energetic Non-toxic Propellant), formerly called AF-M315E, is a hydroxyl ammonium nitrate fuel/oxidiser blend.

First developed by the US Air Force and now launched as part of a NASA-led collaboration, ASCENT is described as a fuel with significantly reduced toxicity levels compared to hydrazine, and potentially shorter launch processing times, resulting in lower costs.

 

Solar-powered sail:

LightSail 2 is a crowd-funded solar sail project from the Planetary Society.

It seeks to become the first orbiting spacecraft to be propelled solely by sunlight.

In 2015, LightSail 1 spacecraft successfully completed a test flight.

 

Sources: Indian Express.


Facts for Prelims:

 

Various Ethnic communities across the world:

Source: https://indianexpress.com/article/explained/explained-where-are-the-worlds-stateless-people-5800506/.

  1. Myanmar/Bangladesh: Rohingya.
  2. Thailand: Yao, Hmong, Karen and Sea Gypsies.
  3. Syria: Kurds.
  4. Kuwait: Bedouin tribes.
  5. Iraq: Bidoon and Faili Kurds.

 

IBelong Campaign:

The UNHCR #IBelong Campaign was launched in November 2014. Together with States, civil society and other UN Agencies, it aims to end statelessness by 2024 by resolving existing statelessness, preventing new cases from emerging and better identifying and protecting stateless populations.

Concerns: At least 10 million people worldwide are currently stateless and a baby is born stateless every 10 minutes. Not allowed a nationality, they are often denied the rights and services that countries normally offer their citizens.

 

What is Parole?

Parole is a system of releasing a prisoner with suspension of the sentence. The release is conditional, usually subject to behaviour, and requires periodic reporting to the authorities for a set period of time.

Parole is considered a reformative process, and the provision (along with furlough) was introduced with a view to humanising the prison system.

How is it different from Furlough?

A broadly similar but subtly different concept is furlough, which is given in case of long-term imprisonment. While furlough is seen as a matter of right, to be granted periodically irrespective of any reason and merely to enable the prisoner to retain family and social ties, parole is not a matter of right and may be denied to a prisoner even when he makes out a sufficient case.

Granting authority:

In India, parole and furlough are covered under the Prison Act of 1894. Prisoners convicted of multiple murders or under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act are not eligible for parole.

Since prison is a subject of the state, the Prison Act of the particular state government defines the rules under which parole is granted. State governments have their own Prisoner Release on Parole Rules.

Parole is granted by the state executive — the jail authorities submit the report to state government — and competent authority takes a final decision on grant of parole on humanitarian considerations.

If parole is rejected, the convict can move the High Court challenging the order of the competent authority. Also, apart from regular parole, the superintendent of a jail can also grant parole up to a period of seven days in emergent cases.

 

goAML:

UAE Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) launched the new reporting platform, (goAML), developed by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), to facilitate the receipt, analysis and dissemination of suspicious transactions and activity reports.

All financial institutions in the country have to now report any suspicious transactions through “goAML”.

 

Proton Therapy:

Proton therapy, also called proton beam therapy, is a type of radiation therapy.

It uses protons rather than x-rays to treat cancer.

Like x-ray radiation, proton therapy is a type of external-beam radiation therapy. It painlessly delivers radiation through the skin from a machine outside the body.

A proton is a positively charged particle. At high energy, protons can destroy cancer cells. Doctors may use proton therapy alone.

 

Yamuna Water Taxi Project:

It has been conceived as an integrated development project combining several functions like terminal development and vessels operation.

The project covers a total length of 16 km and comprises five locations on the banks of River Yamuna in Delhi, including Fatepur Jat, Tronica City, Jagatpur, Sonia Vihar and Wazirabad.

 

Impressive tortoise from Arunachal Pradesh:

  • A tortoise considered beautiful enough to be named ‘impressed’ has been discovered in Arunachal Pradesh.
  • This is the first record of the tortoise in India, taking the count to five and the non-marine chelonian count to 29. Chelonian is an order of reptile that includes turtles, terrapins and tortoises.
  • India was known to be the home of only the Asian Forest Tortoise (Manouria emys) until the discovery of the Impressed Tortoise.
  • The Asian Forest Tortoise, the largest in mainland Asia, is found only in the northeast, as are 20 of the other 28 species of chelonians.