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INSIGHTS DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS + PIB SUMMARY- 31 December 2020

InstaLinks help you think beyond the issue but relevant to the issue from UPSC prelims and Mains exam point of view. These linkages provided in this ‘hint’ format help you frame possible questions in your mind that might arise(or an examiner might imagine) from each current event. InstaLinks also connect every issue to their static or theoretical background. This helps you study a topic holistically and add new dimensions to every current event to help you think analytically.

current affairs, current events, current gk, insights ias current affairs, upsc ias current affairs

Table of Contents:

GS Paper 2:

1. Seventh Schedule.

2. Recusal of judges.

3. UK vaccine is a global game changer.

 

GS Paper 3:

1. Facial recognition technology.

2. Ethanol production.

3. Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA).

 

Facts for Prelims:

1. Dibru-Saikhowa National Park.

2. Govt. nod for missions in Estonia, Paraguay and Dominican Republic.

3. Akash missile.

 


GS Paper  : 2


 

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

Seventh Schedule:


Context:

The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) has sought the inclusion of tourism in the concurrent list to enable the Centre and States to effectively regulate the sector as well as frame policies for growth.

Seventh Schedule:

The seventh schedule under Article 246 of the constitution deals with the division of powers between the union and the states.

It contains three lists- Union List, State List and Concurrent List.

  • The union list details the subjects on which Parliament may make laws while the state list details those under the purview of state legislatures.
  • The concurrent list on the other hand has subjects in which both Parliament and state legislatures have jurisdiction. However the Constitution provides federal supremacy to Parliament on concurrent list items in case of a conflict.

constition

InstaLinks:

Prelims Link:

  1. What is 7th schedule?
  2. Subjects under seventh Schedule.
  3. Residuary powers.
  4. What happens when there is a conflict between a central law and state law.

Mains Link:

Discuss the need for review of 7th schedule of the Indian Constitution.

Sources: the Hindu.

 

Topics Covered: Separation of powers between various organs dispute redressal mechanisms and institutions.

Recusal of Judges:


Context:

Andhra High Court rejects plea for recusal of judge from hearing petitions filed against the proposed sale of government land in Guntur and Visakhapatnam districts under “Mission Build A.P.”

What is Judicial Disqualification or Recusal?

Judicial disqualification, referred to as recusal, is the act of abstaining from participation in an official action such as a legal proceeding due to a conflict of interest of the presiding court official or administrative officer.

Grounds for Recusal:

  1. The judge is biased in favour of one party, or against another, or that a reasonable objective observer would think he might be.
  2. Interest in the subject matter, or relationship with someone who is interested in it.
  3. Background or experience, such as the judge’s prior work as a lawyer.
  4. Personal knowledge about the parties or the facts of the case.
  5. Ex parte communications with lawyers or non-lawyers.
  6. Rulings, comments or conduct.

Are there any laws in this regard?

There are no definite rules on recusals by Judges.

  • However, In taking oath of office, judges, both of the Supreme Court and of the high courts, promise to perform their duties, to deliver justice, “without fear or favour, affection or ill-will”.

What has the Supreme Court said on this?

Justice J. Chelameswar in his opinion in Supreme Court Advocates-on-Record Association v. Union of India (2015) held that “Where a judge has a pecuniary interest, no further inquiry as to whether there was a ‘real danger’ or ‘reasonable suspicion’ of bias is required to be undertaken”.

InstaLinks:

Prelims Link:

  1. Grounds for Judicial Disqualification.
  2. Who administers oath to Supreme Court and High Court judges?
  3. Articles 127 and 128 of the Indian Constitution are related to?

Mains Link:

Recusal has become a selective call of morality for Supreme Court judges. Discuss.

Sources: the Hindu.

 

Topics Covered: Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.

UK vaccine is a global game changer:


Context:

The approval of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine in the UK this week will make a significant impact on the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus as it is the most accessible shot approved so far and is likely to remain that way.

  • This is significant for India, as the Pune-based Serum Institute of India (SII) has tied up with AstraZeneca to deploy the vaccine in the country.

awating_dose

How this vaccine works?

This new vaccine is a viral vector vaccine, which works in a different way than the mRNA vaccines that have already been approved.

  • A viral vector vaccine uses another non-replicating virus to deliver SARS-CoV-2 genes, in the form of DNA, into human cells, where viral proteins are produced to induce protective immune responses.

vaccine

Types of vaccines:

  1. Inactivated: These are vaccines made by using particles of the Covid-19 virus that were killed, making them unable to infect or replicate. Injecting particular doses of these particles serves to build immunity by helping the body create antibodies against the dead virus.
  2. Non-replicating viral vector: It uses a weakened, genetically modified version of a different virus to carry the Covid-19 spike protein.
  3. Protein subunit: This vaccine uses a part of the virus to build an immune response in a targeted fashion. In this case, the part of the virus being targeted would be the spike protein.
  4. RNA: Such vaccines use the messenger RNA (mRNA) molecules that tell cells what proteins to build. The mRNA, in this case, is coded to tell the cells to recreate the spike protein. Once it is injected, the cells will use the mRNA’s instructions, creating copies of the spike protein, which in turn is expected to prompt the immune cells to create antibodies to fight it.
  5. DNA: These vaccines use genetically engineered DNA molecules that, again, are coded with the antigen against which the immune response is to be built.

InstaLinks:

Prelims Link:

  1. How SARS-CoV-2 spreads in the body?
  2. What are T- cells?
  3. Types of vaccines.
  4. How ChAdOx1 Covid-19 vaccine was made?
  5. How vaccines work?

Sources: the Hindu.

 


GS Paper  : 3


 

Topics Covered: Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology and issues relating to intellectual property rights.

Facial recognition technology:


Context:

While the facial recognition tracking (FRT) system has seen rapid deployment by multiple government departments in recent times, there are no specific laws or guidelines to regulate the use of this potentially invasive technology.

Background:

  • There are currently 16 different FRT systems in active utilisation by various Central and State governments across India for surveillance, security or authentication of identity.
  • Another 17 are in the process of being installed by different government departments.

What are the Concerns?

  1. Absence of specific laws or guidelines poses a huge threat to the fundamental rights to privacy and freedom of speech and expression because it does not satisfy the threshold the Supreme Court had set in its landmark privacy judgment in the ‘Justice K.S. Puttaswamy Vs Union of India’ case.
  2. Many institutions have not conducted “privacy impact assessment” prior to deployment of the facial recognition system (FRS).
  3. Function creep: A function creep happens when someone uses information for a purpose that is not the original specified purpose (Police got permission to use the FRS by an order of the Delhi High Court for tracking missing children. Now they are using it for wider security and surveillance and investigation purpose, which is a function creep).
  4. This might lead to an over-policing problem or problems where certain minorities are targeted without any legal backing or any oversight as to what is happening. Another problem that may arise is of mass surveillance, wherein the police are using the FRT system during protest.
  5. Mass surveillance: If someone goes to a protest against the government, and the police are able to identify the person, then there might be repercussions.
  6. The basis of the Automated Facial Recognition System (AFRS) is a Cabinet note of 2009. But the Cabinet note is not a legal substance, it’s a procedural note at best. So it does not form a valid legal system based on which the AFRS can be built.

What is facial recognition?

Facial recognition is a biometric technology that uses distinctive features on the face to identify and distinguish an individual.

  • AFRS works by maintaining a large database with photos and videos of peoples’ faces. Then, a new image of an unidentified person — often taken from CCTV footage — is compared to the existing database to find a match and identify the person.
  • The artificial intelligence technology used for pattern-finding and matching is called “neural networks”.

Benefits of facial recognition:

  1. Improves outcomes in the area of Criminal identification and verification.
  2. Easy identification amongst crowds.
  3. Boosts the police department’s crime investigation capabilities.
  4. Helps civilian verification when needed. No one will be able to get away with a fake ID.

Need of the hour:

The Supreme Court in the Puttaswamy judgment ruled that privacy is a fundamental right even in public spaces. And if these rights needs to be infringed, then the government has to show that such action is sanctioned by law, proportionate to the need for such interference, necessary and in pursuit of a legitimate aim.

InstaLinks:

Prelims Link:

  1. What is FRT?
  2. How it works?
  3. Puttaswamy judgement is related to?

Mains Link:

FRT- uses and concerns.

Sources: the Hindu.

 

Topics Covered: Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology and issues relating to intellectual property rights.

Ethanol production:


Context:

The Union Cabinet has approved a modified scheme for interest subvention for ethanol production, expanding the scheme to include grain-based distilleries and not just molasses-based ones.

Implications:

  • The decision would encourage ethanol production from grains like barley, maize, corn and rice.
  • The scheme would boost production and distillation capacity to 1,000 crore litres and help in meeting the goal of 20% ethanol blending with petrol by 2030.

About Ethanol Blended Petrol (EBP) Programme:

  • Launched in 2003 on pilot basis.
  • The aim is to promote the use of alternative and environmental friendly fuels.

eco_bost

Ethanol:

  • Ethanol can be produced from sugarcane, maize, wheat, etc which are having high starch content.
  • In India, ethanol is mainly produced from sugarcane molasses by fermentation process.
  • Ethanol can be mixed with gasoline to form different blends.
  • As the ethanol molecule contains oxygen, it allows the engine to more completely combust the fuel, resulting in fewer emissions and thereby reducing the occurrence of environmental pollution.
  • Since ethanol is produced from plants that harness the power of the sun, ethanol is also considered as renewable fuel.

InstaLinks:

Prelims Link:

  1. What is ethanol? How is it produced?
  2. Difference between ethanol and molasses?
  3. What is ethanol blending programme?
  4. Benefits of ethanol blending?

Mains Link:

Write a note on the 2013 EBP programme.

Sources: the Hindu.

 

Topics Covered: Challenges to internal security through communication networks, role of media and social networking sites in internal security challenges, basics of cyber security; money-laundering and its prevention.

Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA):


Context:

The Ministry of Home Affairs has declared the entire State of Nagaland as a “disturbed area” for six more months under the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA).

  • MHA said the area comprising the whole of Nagaland is in such a “disturbed and dangerous condition” that the use of armed forces in aid of the civil power is necessary.

What does the AFSPA mean?

In simple terms, AFSPA gives armed forces the power to maintain public order in “disturbed areas”.

Powers given to armed forces:

  1. They have the authority to prohibit a gathering of five or more persons in an area, can use force or even open fire after giving due warning if they feel a person is in contravention of the law.
  2. If reasonable suspicion exists, the army can also arrest a person without a warrant; enter or search premises without a warrant; and ban the possession of firearms.
  3. Any person arrested or taken into custody may be handed over to the officer in charge of the nearest police station along with a report detailing the circumstances that led to the arrest.

What is a “disturbed area” and who has the power to declare it?

A disturbed area is one which is declared by notification under Section 3 of the AFSPA. An area can be disturbed due to differences or disputes between members of different religious, racial, language or regional groups or castes or communities.

  • The Central Government, or the Governor of the State or administrator of the Union Territory can declare the whole or part of the State or Union Territory as a disturbed area.

Has there been any review of the Act?

On November 19, 2004, the Central government appointed a five-member committee headed by Justice B P Jeevan Reddy to review the provisions of the act in the north eastern states.

  • The committee submitted its report in 2005, which included the following recommendations: (a) AFSPA should be repealed and appropriate provisions should be inserted in the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967; (b) The Unlawful Activities Act should be modified to clearly specify the powers of the armed forces and paramilitary forces and (c) grievance cells should be set up in each district where the armed forces are deployed.

The 5th report of the Second Administrative Reforms Commission on public order has also recommended the repeal of the AFSPA.

Sources: the Hindu.

 


Facts for Prelims:


Dibru-Saikhowa National Park:

Context:

Assam CM sets Jan. 31 deadline to rehabilitate Dibru-Saikhowa National Park dwellers.

What’s the issue?

It has been hanging fire since 1999, when the Dibru-Saikhowa Wildlife Sanctuary was upgraded to a national park.

About the National Park:

  • It is situated in the south bank of the river Brahmaputra in Assam.
  • It is the largest swamp forest in north-eastern India.
  • It is an identified Important Bird Area (IBA), notified by the Birdlife International.
  • It is most famous for the rare white-winged wood ducks as well as feral horses.
  • The forest type comprises semi-evergreen forests, deciduous forests, littoral and swamp forests and patches of wet evergreen forests.
  • Maguri Motapung wetland is a part of the Reserve.

Govt. nod for missions in Estonia, Paraguay and Dominican Republic:

  • Government of India to open three missions in Estonia, Paraguay and the Dominican Republic in 2021.
  • This will help expand India’s diplomatic footprint, deepen political relations, enable growth of bilateral trade, investment and economic engagements.

(Note: Have a general idea about geographical locations of the above mentioned countries).

Akash missile:

Cabinet gives approval for Akash missile export.

  • Akash is an indigenously developed and manufactured short-range Surface to Air Missile (SAM) system.
  • Range:
  • Can take off at a speed of around 2.5 Mach and reach a high altitude of 18 kms and as low as 30 meters.

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