Daily Current Affairs : 9th and 10th January

Daily Current Affairs for UPSC CSE

Topics Covered

  1. Blackbox
  2. 2019 7th warmest year in India since 1901
  3. Goldilock Zone
  4. Anti Venom
  5. Article 51 of [the] UN Charter
  6. Curative Petition
  7. Green Credit Scheme
  8. Annual Crime in India Report
  9. Facts for Prelims

1 . Blackbox


Context : Iran’s aviation authority said it would not hand over to Americans the recovered black boxes of a Boeing 737 that crashed on Wednesday, killing all 176 passengers and crew.

About Black box

  • A black box flight recorder is heavily protected recording device, similar to a hard disk or a memory card.
  • The “black box” is made up of two separate pieces of equipment: the flight data recorder (FDR) and a cockpit voice recorder (CVR).
  • They are compulsory on any commercial flight or corporate jet, and are usually kept in the tail of an aircraft, where they are more likely to survive a crash.
  • FDRs record things like airspeed, altitude, vertical acceleration and fuel flow. Early versions used wire string to encode the data; these days they use solid-state memory boards. Solid-state recorders in large aircraft can track more than 700 parameters.
  • Black boxes are fitted with an underwater locator beacon that starts emitting a pulse if its sensor touches water. They work to a depth of just over four kilometres, and can “ping” once a second for 30 days before the battery runs out

2 . 2019 7th warmest year in India since 1901


Context : The rise in average temperatures over India in 2019 was the lowest since 2016, according to a report from the India Meteorological Department (IMD). Nevertheless, the year that went by was the 7th warmest since record-keeping commenced in 1901.

About the News

  • During the year, the annual mean surface air temperature, averaged over the country, was +0.36°C above average. The average is defined as the mean temperature from 1980-2010.
  • The highest warming observed over India was during 2016 or 0.71°C above the mean. 2018, which was the 6th warmest in India, was 0.41°C, and 2017 was 0.55°C warmer, than the average.
  • According to the World Meteorological Organisation, the rise in global mean surface temperature during 2019 (January to October) was +1.10°C.

Main contributors

  • The main contributors to the warming this year were temperatures in the pre-monsoon (March-May) and monsoon seasons (June-September)
  • 2019 was also characterised by unusually high rainfall, which was 9% over what is normal for a year — this was due to monsoon rains (June-September) being 10% over its normal, and the northeast monsoon rains being 9% over its normal.

Cyclones

  • During 2019, eight cyclonic storms formed over the Indian seas, with the Arabian Sea contributing five out of these eight cyclones against the normal of one per year. This was a phenomenon not seen in India since 1902.
  • This may be due to a strong Indian Ocean Dipole, or an IOD, which cyclically heats the west Indian Ocean that stimulated cyclone formation over the Arabian Sea. An unusually strong IOD has contributed to the ongoing Australian drought.
  • In a warming scenario, we see frequent extreme conditions. Parts of Europe, last year, saw heatwaves, and we see extreme monsoon in India

Weather Related Casualities

  • Rain and floods killed 850 lives in different parts of the country last year
  • Heat waves over the northeastern and central parts the country, from March-June, claimed about 350 lives.
  • Lightning and thunderstorm claimed over 380 lives from central, northeastern, northwestern and peninsular parts of the country
  • Snowfall and avalanche-related incidents claimed 33 lives from Jammu & Kashmir, and 18 from Leh.
  • A cold wave claimed 28 lives from different parts of Uttar Pradesh during the last week of December, the Climate Summary noted.

3 . Golidlocks Zone


Context : NASA reported the discovery of an Earth-size planet, named TOI 700 d, orbiting its star in the “habitable zone”.

About Goldilocks Zone

  • A habitable zone, also called the “Goldilocks zone”, is the area around a star where it is not too hot and not too cold for liquid water to exist on the surface of surrounding planets.
  • Earth is in the Sun’s Goldilocks zone. If Earth were where the dwarf planet Pluto is, all its water would freeze; on the other hand, if Earth were where Mercury is, all its water would boil off.
  • The newest such planet was found by NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) mission, which it launched in 2018. Very few such Earth-size planets have been found so far, including some by NASA’s Kepler mission, and this one is the first such discovery by TESS. The find was confirmed by the Spitzer Space Telescope, which sharpened the measurements that TESS had made, such as orbital period and size.

About TOI 700D

  • TOI 700 d measures 20% larger than Earth.
  • It orbits its star once every 37 days and receives an amount of energy that is equivalent to 86% of the energy that the Sun provides to Earth.
  • The star, TOI 700, is an “M dwarf” located just over 100 light-years away in the southern constellation Dorado, is roughly 40% of our Sun’s mass and size, and has about half its surface temperature.
  • Two other planets orbit the star — TOI 700 b, which is almost exactly Earth-size, probably rocky, and which completes an orbit every 10 days, and TOI 700 c, the middle planet, which is 2.6 times larger than Earth, is probably gas-dominated, and orbits every 16 days.
  • TOI 700 d is the outermost planet, and the only one in the star’s habitable zone.

4 . Anti – Venom


Context : An international team of researchers reported that they have sequenced the genome of the Indian cobra, in the process identifying the genes that define its venom. This, they hope, can provide a blueprint for developing more effective antivenom.

Are existing antivenoms not effective enough?

  • In India, the challenge has been producing antivenom for the species known collectively as the “big four” — the Indian cobra (Naja naja), common krait (Bungarus caeruleus), Russell’s viper (Daboia russelii), and saw-scaled viper (Echis carinatus).
  • A common antivenom is marketed for the treatment of bites from the “big four”, but its effectiveness came under question in a study published last month (not connected to the one that sequenced the cobra genome).
  • While the common antivenom worked as marketed against the saw-scaled viper and the common cobra, it fell short against some neglected species and also against one of the “big four” — the common krait.
  • Accidental contact with snakes lead to over 100,000 deaths across the world every year. India alone accounts for about 50,000 deaths annually, and these are primarily attributed to the “big four”.
Indian cobra genome decoded: how this knowledge can help fight snakebite

About the Recent Studies

  • There are two different studies
  • First one describes the cobra genome. It is a multinational study by 42 authors, including from India, and is published in Nature Genetics. It is led by Dr Sekar Seshagiri, president of the nonprofit SciGenom Research Foundation based in Bengaluru.
  • The second study, while unrelated, also deals with antivenom. Published in PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases last month, it is ed by Professor Kartik Sunagar of IISc Bengaluru; other authors include the herpetologist Romulus Whitaker.

Why has production of effective antivenom been challenging?

  • Venom is a complex mixture of an estimated 140-odd protein or peptides. Only some of these constituents are toxins that cause the physiological symptoms seen after snakebite. But antivenom available today does not target these toxins specifically.
  • Antivenom is currently produced by a century-old process — a small amount of venom is injected into a horse (or a sheep), which produces antibodies that are then collected and developed into antivenom.
  • This is expensive, cumbersome and comes with complications. Some of the antibodies raised from the horse may be completely irrelevant. The horse also has a lot of antibodies floating in its blood that have nothing to do with the venom toxins.
  • “One more problem with horse antibodies — our immune system recognises it as foreign and when antivenom is given our body mounts an antibody response… This leads to what is called serum sickness,”. It may also lead to severe allergic reaction.”

How does decoding the genome help?

  • In the Indian cobra genome, the authors identified 19 key toxin genes, the only ones that should matter in snakebite treatment. They stress the need to leverage this knowledge for creation of antivenom using synthetic human antibodies.
  • “Targeting these 19 specific toxins using synthetic human antibodies should lead to a safe and effective antivenom for treating Indian cobra bites
  • And the logical next step would be obtaining the genomes and the venom gland genes from the other three of the “big four” (as well as deadly African species), leading to a possible common antivenom against bites from all four.
  • Asked about the cobra genome sequence, Sunagar said it is of really high quality. “Sequence information of the genes that code for venom proteins is very important for the production of recombinant antivenoms. However, there is a very long way to go from genomes to effective anti-snake venoms.”

5 . Chapter VII of UN Charter regarding Action with respect to threats to the peace, Breaches of the peace, and acts of Aggression


Context : According to Iran, Iran took and concluded proportionate measures in self defence under Article 51 of [the] UN Charter targeting base from which armed attack against our citizens and senior officials were launched.”

Articles in Chapter VII of UN Charter

  • Article 39 : The Security Council shall determine the existence of any threat to the peace, breach of the peace, or act of aggression and shall make recommendations, or decide what measures shall be taken in accordance with Articles 41 and 42, to maintain or restore international peace and security.
  • Article 40 : In order to prevent an aggravation of the situation, the Security Council may, before making the recommendations or deciding upon the measures provided for in Article 39, call upon the parties concerned to comply with such provisional measures as it deems necessary or desirable. Such provisional measures shall be without prejudice to the rights, claims, or position of the parties concerned. The Security Council shall duly take account of failure to comply with such provisional measures.
  • Article 41 : The Security Council may decide what measures not involving the use of armed force are to be employed to give effect to its decisions, and it may call upon the Members of the United Nations to apply such measures. These may include complete or partial interruption of economic relations and of rail, sea, air, postal, telegraphic, radio, and other means of communication, and the severance of diplomatic relations.
  • Article 42 : Should the Security Council consider that measures provided for in Article 41 would be inadequate or have proved to be inadequate, it may take such action by air, sea, or land forces as may be necessary to maintain or restore international peace and security. Such action may include demonstrations, blockade, and other operations by air, sea, or land forces of Members of the United Nations.

Article 43

  1. All Members of the United Nations, in order to contribute to the maintenance of international peace and security, undertake to make available to the Security Council, on its call and in accordance with a special agreement or agreements, armed forces, assistance, and facilities, including rights of passage, necessary for the purpose of maintaining international peace and security.
  2. Such agreement or agreements shall govern the numbers and types of forces, their degree of readiness and general location, and the nature of the facilities and assistance to be provided.
  3. The agreement or agreements shall be negotiated as soon as possible on the initiative of the Security Council. They shall be concluded between the Security Council and Members or between the Security Council and groups of Members and shall be subject to ratification by the signatory states in accordance with their respective constitutional processes.
  • Article 44 : When the Security Council has decided to use force it shall, before calling upon a Member not represented on it to provide armed forces in fulfilment of the obligations assumed under Article 43, invite that Member, if the Member so desires, to participate in the decisions of the Security Council concerning the employment of contingents of that Member’s armed forces.
  • Article 45 : In order to enable the United Nations to take urgent military measures, Members shall hold immediately available national air-force contingents for combined international enforcement action. The strength and degree of readiness of these contingents and plans for their combined action shall be determined within the limits laid down in the special agreement or agreements referred to in Article 43, by the Security Council with the assistance of the Military Staff Committee.
  • Article 46 : Plans for the application of armed force shall be made by the Security Council with the assistance of the Military Staff Committee.

Article 47

  1. There shall be established a Military Staff Committee to advise and assist the Security Council on all questions relating to the Security Council’s military requirements for the maintenance of international peace and security, the employment and command of forces placed at its disposal, the regulation of armaments, and possible disarmament.
  2. The Military Staff Committee shall consist of the Chiefs of Staff of the permanent members of the Security Council or their representatives. Any Member of the United Nations not permanently represented on the Committee shall be invited by the Committee to be associated with it when the efficient discharge of the Committee’s responsibilities requires the participation of that Member in its work.
  3. The Military Staff Committee shall be responsible under the Security Council for the strategic direction of any armed forces placed at the disposal of the Security Council. Questions relating to the command of such forces shall be worked out subsequently.
  4. The Military Staff Committee, with the authorization of the Security Council and after consultation with appropriate regional agencies, may establish regional sub-committees.

Article 48

  1. The action required to carry out the decisions of the Security Council for the maintenance of international peace and security shall be taken by all the Members of the United Nations or by some of them, as the Security Council may determine.
  2. Such decisions shall be carried out by the Members of the United Nations directly and through their action in the appropriate international agencies of which they are members.
  • Article 49 : The Members of the United Nations shall join in affording mutual assistance in carrying out the measures decided upon by the Security Council.
  • Article 50 : If preventive or enforcement measures against any state are taken by the Security Council, any other state, whether a Member of the United Nations or not, which finds itself confronted with special economic problems arising from the carrying out of those measures shall have the right to consult the Security Council with regard to a solution of those problems.
  • Article 51 : Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations, until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security. Measures taken by Members in the exercise of this right of self-defence shall be immediately reported to the Security Council and shall not in any way affect the authority and responsibility of the Security Council under the present Charter to take at any time such action as it deems necessary in order to maintain or restore international peace and security.

6 . Curative Petition


Context : Curative petitions were filed in the Supreme Court by two convicts in the Nirbhaya case on Thursday. 

About Curative Petition

  • In the case, Rupa Ashok Hurra vs. Ashok Hurra and Anr (the year 2002), evaluation of Indian concept of Curative Petition took place by the Supreme Court of India. 
  • The question was raised that any relief should be given to the aggrieved person against the final order and judgment of the Supreme Court, after the dismissal of a petition of review.
  • In this case, Supreme Court of India held that to prevent the abuse of court process and to cure or remove the miscarriage of justice, the court may reconsider its final judgment and order in exercise of its inherent powers. The court for this purpose devised that what has been termed as ‘Curative Petition’.
  • The petitioner of the case has to allege as a fact to support his or her plea that the mentioned grounds has been taken in the earlier filed review petition and which is by the circulation it was dismissed. This thing has to be certified by a Senior Advocate.
  • Then Curative Petition is circulated to the three senior judges and also to the judges who have given their judgment if they are available. For filing the curative petition, no time limit is given.

Conditions laid down by the court to entertain the curative petition

  1. The petitioner has to provide the genuine reason by which violation of natural justice can be established and fear of biases of the judge and his or her judgment has affected him adversely.
  2. In the petition, there shall be specifically mentioned grounds that it had been taken for review petition and was dismissed in the process of circulation.
  3. The Curative Petition shall be certified by the senior lawyers or an advocate related to fulfilment of the requirements.
  4. The petition is sent to three senior judges and also to the judges who have given their judgment which affected the petition, if available.
  5. If the majority of the judges agrees that matter of the case needs the hearing, then as far as possible it is sent to the same bench.
  6. An Even court can impose “emergency costs” to the petitioner if his plea does not meet the following condition and requirement.

7 . Green Credit Scheme


Context : The Forest Advisory Committee, an apex body tasked with adjudicating requests by the industry to raze forest land for commercial ends, has approved a scheme that could allow “forests” to be traded as a commodity.

Background

  • In the current system, industry needs to make good the loss of forest by finding appropriate non-forest land — equal to that which would be razed.
  • It also must pay the State Forest Department the current economic equivalent — called Net Present Value — of the forest land. It’s then the Forest Department’s responsibility to grow appropriate vegetation that, over time, would grow into forests.
  • Industries have often complained that they find it hard to acquire appropriate non-forest land, which has to be contiguous to existing forest. Nearly ₹50,000 crore had been collected by the Centre over decades, but the funds were lying unspent because States were not spending the money on regrowing forests.
  • The Supreme Court intervened, a new law came about with rules for how this fund was to be administered. About ₹47,000 crore had been disbursed to States until August, but it has barely led to any rejuvenation of forests.

About the Scheme

  • The proposed ‘Green Credit Scheme allows agencies (they could be private companies, village forest communities) to identify land and begin growing plantations.
  • After three years, they would be eligible to be considered as compensatory forest land if they met the Forest Department’s criteria.
  • An industry needing forest land could then approach the agency and pay it for parcels of such forested land, and this would then be transferred to the Forest Department and be recorded as forest land.
  • “The participating agency will be free to trade its asset, that is plantation, in parcels, with project proponents who need forest land
  • In 2015, a ‘Green Credit Scheme’ for degraded forest land with public-private participation was recommended, but it was not approved by the Union Environment Minister, the final authority.

Benefits

  • Scheme will encourage plantation by individuals outside the traditional forest area and will help in meeting international commitments such as sustainable development goals and nationally determined contributions,” the minutes note.
  • If implemented, it allows the Forest Department to outsource one of its responsibilities of reforesting to non-government agencies.

Criticism

  • It creates problems of privatising multi-use forest areas as monoculture plantation plots. Forests are treated as a mere commodity without any social or ecological character.

8 . Annual Crime in India Report


Context : The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) published the annual Crime in India Report 2018

Women Centric Crimes

  • According to the report, 3,78,277 cases of crime against women were reported in the country, up from 3,59,849 in 2017. Uttar Pradesh topped the list with 59,445 cases, followed by Maharashtra (35,497) and West Bengal (30,394). The conviction rate in rape-related cases stood at 27.2% even though the rate of filing chargesheets was 85.3% in such cases.
  • Cruelty by husband or his relatives (31.9%) followed by assault on women with intent to outrage her modesty (27.6%) constituted the major share of crimes against women, the report said.
  • A total of 50,74,634 cognisable crimes — 31,32,954 Indian Penal Code (IPC) crimes and 19,41,680 Special & Local Laws (SLL) crimes — were registered in 2018, showing an increase of 1.3% in registration of cases compared to 2017 (50,07,044 cases). The crime rate per lakh population, however, came down from 388.6 in 2017 to 383.5 in 2018.

Accidental Deaths and Suicides

  • The total number of people who committed suicide in 2018 was 1,34,516, an increase of 3.6% from 2017 when 1,29,887 cases were reported. The highest number of suicide victims were daily wagers — 26,589, comprising 22.4% of such deaths.
  • As per the report 10,349 people working in the farm sector ended their lives in 2018, accounting for 7.7 % of the total number of suicides in the country.
  • There were 5,763 farmers/cultivators and 4,586 agricultural labourers among those who ended their lives.
  • The majority of the suicides were reported in Maharashtra (17,972) followed by Tamil Nadu (13,896), West Bengal (13,255), Madhya Pradesh (11,775) and Karnataka (11,561)
  • Many States and Union Territories have reported nil data on suicides by farmers, cultivators and farm labourers. “West Bengal, Bihar, Odisha, Uttarakhand, Meghalaya, Goa, Chandigarh, Daman & Diu, Delhi, Lakshadweep and Puducherry reported zero suicides by farmers/cultivators as well as agricultural labourers

Other Observations

  • The incidents registered under the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes related Acts saw a decline from 6729 incidents reported in 2017 to 4816 in 2018.
  • A total of 29,017 cases of murder were registered in 2018, showing an increase of 1.3% over 2017
  • A total of 76,851 cases of offences against public tranquillity were registered in 2018, out of which rioting, 57,828 cases, accounted for 75.2% of total such cases
  • As many as 27,248 cases of cyber crimes were registered in 2018, up from 21796 cases in 2017.

9 . Facts for Prelims


GST Council voting rules

  • As per The Constitution (One Hundred and First Amendment) Act, 2016, in case of a voting, every decision of the GST Council has to be taken by a majority of not less than three-fourths of the weighted votes of the members present.
  • The vote of the central government has a weightage of one-third of the total votes cast, and the votes of all the state governments taken together have a weightage of two-thirds of the total votes cast in that meeting.
  • As of now, out of the total 30 states and Union Territories (excluding Jammu & Kashmir), 20 are ruled by the Bharatiya Janata Party or its allies (including parties who voted with the BJP on recent legislation in Parliament). This essentially means that a vote in the Council could largely be an academic exercise — unless a number of the BJP’s allies switch sides.
  • The first voting happened in the 38th meeting of the council, Kerala’s Finance Minister Thomas Isaac pushed for voting on the proposal for a uniform rate for lotteries.

European Council

  • The European Council defines the EU’s overall political direction and priorities. It is not one of the EU’s legislating institutions, so does not negotiate or adopt EU laws. Instead it sets the EU’s policy agenda, traditionally by adopting ‘conclusions’ during European Council meetings which identify issues of concern and actions to take.
  • The members of the European Council are the heads of state or government of the 28 EU member states, the European Council President and the President of the European Commission.
  • The European Council mostly takes its decisions by consensus. However, in certain specific cases outlined in the EU treaties, it decides by unanimity or by qualified majority. If a vote is taken, neither the European Council President nor the Commission President take part

Coronavirus

  • Coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV). A novel coronavirus is a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans.  
  • Coronaviruses are zoonotic, meaning they are transmitted between animals and people.  Detailed investigations found that SARS-CoV was transmitted from civet cats to humans and MERS-CoV from dromedary camels to humans. Several known coronaviruses are circulating in animals that have not yet infected humans.
  • Common signs of infection include respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death. 
  • Standard recommendations to prevent infection spread include regular hand washing, covering mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing, thoroughly cooking meat and eggs. Avoid close contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness such as coughing and sneezing.

Global Economic Prospect Report

  • The report is released by World Bank