Insights Daily Current Affairs + PIB: 08 October 2019
Table of contents:
GS Paper 2:
- Sedition law.
- National e-Assessment Scheme (NeAC).
- Larger pictorial warnings.
GS Paper 3:
- All you wanted to know about Nobel Prizes.
- Stubble burning.
Facts for Prelims:
GS Paper 2:
Indian Constitution- historical underpinnings, evolution, features, amendments, significant provisions and basic structure.
What to study?
For Prelims: What is Sedition? IPC 124?
For Mains: Concerns over this law and it’s misuse, need for scrapping of this law.
Context: Recently, a Bihar court directed the filing of an FIR against 49 eminent persons who signed an open letter to the Prime Minister expressing concerns over mob lynching.
- However, many experts opined that this move is shocking, disappointing, and completely disregards the true meaning of the law.
Need of the hour:
Many would agree that the writers of the letter were doing precisely what every citizen ought to do in a democracy — raise questions, debate, disagree, and challenge the powers that be on issues that face the nation. Therefore, the court decision warrants an urgent and fresh debate on the need to repeal the sedition law, for it has no place in a vibrant democracy.
Charges of sedition- recent concerns:
- There have been many incidents in recent times where “misguided” people have been termed “anti-national”.
- Law enforcement agencies forget the fact that the sentiment could have been demonstrated through a slogan, a cheer, a statement, protest against a nuclear power project, or an innocuous post on social media. In all these cases, the state, across regimes, has filed charges of sedition.
- Authorities often forget the fact that sedition can’t be applied to instances of criticism of the government or a political functionary. More importantly, words alone are not enough for such a charge to be slapped. Incitement to violence is the most crucial ingredient of the offence of sedition.
- Going through the numbers that the National Crime Records Bureau puts out every year, it is clear that despite the rise in sedition cases, convictions happen in barely a few. Even if these people are not convicted, the slapping of these charges is a way the governments over the years have been sending a strong message to its own people—obey or be ready to face consequences.
What is Section 124-A of the Indian Penal Code?
Whoever 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 shall be punished with imprisonment for life or any shorter term, to which fine may be added, or with imprisonment which may extend to three years, to which fine may be added, or with fine.
Why should it be scrapped?
Draconian laws such as the Section 124-A only serve to give a legal veneer to the regime’s persecution of voices and movements against oppression by casting them as anti-national.
Short term measures to be put up in place:
- All speech-related offences should be made bailable offences; this would lessen the harmful impact of using arrest and custody as a way of harassing anyone exercising their rights under Article 19(1)(a).
- The offences should be made non-cognisable so that there is at least a judicial check on the police acting on the basis of politically motivated complaints.
- In the case of hate speech, it is important to raise the burden of proof on those who claim that their sentiments are hurt rather than accept them at face value. And finally, it is crucial that courts begin to take action against those who bring malicious complaints against speech acts.
Observations made by the Supreme Court:
- In 1962, the Supreme Court decided on the constitutionality of Section 124A in Kedar Nath Singh v State of Bihar. It upheld the constitutionality of sedition, but limited its application to “acts involving intention or tendency to create disorder, or disturbance of law and order, or incitement to violence”. It distinguished these from “very strong speech” or the use of “vigorous words” strongly critical of the government.
- In 1995, the Supreme Court, in Balwant Singh v State of Punjab, acquitted persons from charges of sedition for shouting slogans such as “Khalistan Zindabaad” and “Raj Karega Khalsa” outside a cinema after Indira Gandhi’s assassination. Instead of looking at the “tendency” of the words to cause public disorder, the Court held that mere sloganeering which evoked no public response did not amount to sedition, for which a more overt act was required; the accused did not intend to “incite people to create disorder” and no “law and order problem” actually occurred.
Sources: the Hindu.
- Issues related to health.
What to study?
For Prelims: Statutory backing to pictorial warnings.
For Mains: Need for larger pictorial warning, it’s impact and significance.
Context: A new study has shown that large health warnings on tobacco packets with plain packaging can be highly effective in conveying ill effects of tobacco to people.
- Such warnings would be more impactful through increased visibility of the warning thus help prevent initiation and motivate cessation.
- Packs with 85% graphical warnings were perceived to be more effective in increasing noticeability of the warnings and conveying the intended health message.
- These warnings are also effective in preventing non-users from initiating tobacco use, and motivating users to quit.
In October 2014, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare had first proposed that 85% of a cigarette packet’s surface area on both the sides should carry health warnings, up from 40% on one side of the packet. It was opposed by the tobacco industry and put on hold after the parliamentary panel said it needed to analyse the impact on the industry.
Why stricter laws in this regard are necessary?
- Nearly one million tobacco-related deaths take place in India every year, and in 2011, the total health expenditure burden from all diseases due to tobacco use amounted to more than Rs.1,00,000 crore, which is 12% more than the combined State and Central government expenditure on health in 2011-12.
- The revenue earned through tobacco excise duty during the same period was a paltry 17% of the health burden of tobacco.
- Also, 12% of children in India in the 13-15 age group use tobacco. Similarly, in the case of adults in India, the percentage is 35%.
Why larger pictorial warnings are necessary?
Besides being unaware of all the risks associated with tobacco use, a vast majority of consumers in India of bidi and chewing tobacco are poor and less exposed to awareness campaigns.
Hence, larger images on both sides of the packet are the most effective and powerful way to communicate health risks to this population. They also provoke a greater emotional response, decrease tobacco consumption and increase motivation to quit.
Sources: the Hindu.
Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability, e-governance- applications, models, successes, limitations, and potential; citizens charters, transparency & accountability and institutional and other measures.
What to study?
For Prelims and mains: NeAC- key features, need for and significance.
Context: National e-Assessment Centre of IT Department inaugurated recently.
- NeAC will be an independent office that will look after the work of e-Assessment scheme which is recently notified for faceless e-assessment for income tax payers.
- There would be a NeAC in Delhi to be headed by Principal Chief Commissioner of Income Tax (Pr.CCIT).
- There are 8 Regional e-Assessment Centres (ReAC) set up at Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata Ahmedabad, Pune, Bengaluru and Hyderabad which would comprise Assessment unit, Review unit, Technical unit and Verification units.
- Each ReAC will be headed by Chief Commissioner of Income Tax (CCIT).
- Cases for the specified work shall be assigned by the NeAC to different units by way of automated allocation systems.
In view of the dynamic and all India jurisdiction of all officers of NeAC and ReAC, this kind of connective and collaborative effort of officers is likely to lead to better quality of assessments.
GS Paper 3:
Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life Achievements of Indians in science & technology; indigenization of technology and developing new technology.
Context: The 2019 Nobel Prize in Medicine has been awarded jointly to William G. Kaelin Jr, Sir Peter J. Ratcliffe and Gregg L. Semenza “for their discoveries of how cells sense and adapt to oxygen availability.”
Why does this matter?
- The oxygen-sensing ability of the body has a role in the immune system and the earliest stages of development inside the womb.
- If oxygen levels are low, it can trigger the production of red blood cells or the construction of blood vessels to remedy this.
- More red blood cells mean the body is able to carry more oxygen and is why athletes train at altitude.
- So, drugs that mimic it may be an effective treatment for anaemia.
- Tumours, meanwhile, can hijack this process to selfishly create new blood vessels and grow.
- So, drugs that reverse it may help halt cancer.
Nobel Prize- overview:
Alfred Nobel, a Swedish chemist, engineer, industrialist, and the inventor of dynamite, in his last will and testament in 1895, gave the largest share of his fortune to a series of prizes in Physics, Chemistry, Physiology/Medicine, Literature, and Peace, to be called the “Nobel Prizes”.
In 1968, the sixth award, the Prize in Economic Sciences was started.
The Nobel Prize consists of a Nobel Medal and Diploma, and a document confirming the prize amount.
Between 1901 and 2018, the Prizes have been awarded 590 times, the recipients during this period being 908 Laureates and 27 organisations.
How candidates are nominated?
- The Nobel Committees of four prize-awarding institutions every year invite thousands of members of academies, university professors, scientists, previous Nobel Laureates, and members of parliamentary assemblies among others to submit candidates for the Nobel Prizes for the coming year.
- The nominators are selected in such a way that as many countries and universities as possible are represented over time.
- One cannot nominate himself/herself for a Nobel Prize.
The institutions that choose winners:
The Nobel Committees of the prize-awarding institutions are responsible for the selection of the candidates, the institutions being:
- Nobel Prize in Physics, Nobel Prize in Chemistry: The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences
- Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine: The Karolinska Institutet
- Nobel Prize in Literature: The Swedish Academy
- Nobel Peace Prize: A five-member Committee elected by the Norwegian Parliament (Storting)
- Prize in Economic Sciences: The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences
The following Indians (or individuals of Indian origin) have been honoured with the Nobel: Rabindranath Tagore (Literature, 1913), C V Raman (Physics, 1930), Hargobind Khorana (Medicine, 1968), Mother Teresa (Peace, 1979), Subramanian Chandrashekhar (Physics, 1983), the Dalai Lama (Peace, 1989), Amartya Sen (Economics, 1998), Venkatraman Ramakrishnan (2009), and Kailash Satyarthi (Peace, 2014).
Sources: Indian Express.
- Conservation and pollution related issues.
What to study?
For Prelims and Mains: Crop burning- why, concerns, effects on environment and health, their regulation and the need for a comprehensive policy on this.
Context: The Union Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES) has launched an advanced Air Quality Early Warning System, which can predict places neighbouring Delhi that are likely to burn crop residue on a given day.
- The system has been developed by Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, Pune, under MoES.
- It uses data of stubble burning incidents from the past 15 years to predict the date and place of the next burning, and help authorities to act in advance.
- Using the data, the Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC), under the aegis of the Central Pollution Control Board, creates probability maps to alert government agencies about areas where the chances of stubble burning is going to be high.
- The system can also track pollution load from stubble burning in places neighbouring the national capital, using satellite data. It can predict the air pollution level for next 72 hours. It can also forecast the level of pollutants like particulate matter (PM) 2.5, PM10, and dust, coming from sources other than stubble burning.
- This will help authorities to take preventive steps to control pollution levels as well as mitigate pollution from existing sources.
Every year between October and November, air quality deteriorates in Delhi and its neighbouring states, as farmers burn the residue after harvesting paddy to clear the fields and make way for the sowing of wheat, despite there being a ban on burning agricultural residue. Smoke from Punjab and Haryana travels to Delhi leading to a spike in pollution levels.
What is stubble burning?
Stubble burning is a common practice followed by farmers to prepare fields for sowing of wheat in November as there is little time left between the harvesting of paddy and sowing of wheat.
Impact: Stubble burning results in emission of harmful gases such carbon diaoxide, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide along with particulate matter.
Why farmers opt for stubble burning?
- They do not have alternativesfor utilising them effectively.
- The farmers are ill-equipped to deal with waste because they cannot afford the new technology that is available to handle the waste material.
- With less income due to crop damage, farmers are likely to be inclined to light up their fields to cut costs and not spend on scientific ways of stubble management.
Advantages of stubble burning:
- It quickly clears the field and is the cheapest alternative.
- Kills weeds, including those resistant to herbicide.
- Kills slugs and other pests.
- Can reduce nitrogen tie-up.
Alternative solutions that can avoid Stubble Burning:
- Promote paddy straw-based power plants. It will also create employment opportunities.
- Incorporation of crop residues in the soil can improve soil moisture and help activate the growth of soil microorganisms for better plant growth.
- Convert the removed residues into enriched organic manure through composting.
- New opportunities for industrial use such as extraction of yeast protein can be explored through scientific research.
Need of the hour:
Unless Financial assistance is to be provided by the Centre for boosting farm mechanisation, it is difficult to completely stop stubble burning.
States needs to make alternative arrangements for consumption of paddy straw into the soil as per the directions of the NGT.
What needs to be done- Supreme Court’s observations?
Incentives could be provided to those who are not burning the stubble and disincentives for those who continue the practice.
The existing Minimum Support Price (MSP) Scheme must be so interpreted as to enable the States concerned to wholly or partly deny the benefit of MSP to those who continue to burn the crop residue.
The Central government should convene a meeting with the States.
Sources: the Hindu.
Facts for prelims:
It is the first ever national digital platform on oral health information and knowledge dissemination.
- Launched recently by the Health and Family Welfare Ministry in collaboration with AIIMS and other stakeholders.
- Aim: To sensitize the public about the significance of maintaining optimum oral health and equips them with the tools and knowledge to do so, including awareness on the nearest oral health service facility.
e-DantSeva contains information about the National Oral Health Program, detailed list of all the dental facility and colleges, Information, Education and Communication (IEC) material and a unique feature called the ‘Symptom Checker’.
The website also provides GPRS route/images/satellite images of the facility for easier access to the general population.