Daily Current Affairs : 18th and 19th October 2020

Daily Current Affairs for UPSC CSE

Topics Covered

  1. Justice Lokur Committee
  2. Affordability of nutritious diets in rural India
  3. Allegation of Misconduct Against Judges
  4. How global warming might affect food security
  5. UNHRC
  6. Assam-Mizoram, and the other boundary issues in the Northeast
  7. Skinks of India
  8. Facts for Prelims

1 . Justice Lokur Committee


Context : A Supreme Court Bench led by Chief Justice of India (CJI) Sharad A. Bobde on Friday appointed Justice Lokur as a one-man committee to monitor and prevent instances of stubble-burning by farmers in the three States.

About the Committee

  • Former Supreme Court judge, Justice Madan B. Lokur will be helped by student volunteer forces deployed from the National Cadet Corps, the National Service Scheme and the Bharat Scouts and Guides, will protect Delhi-NCR (National Capital Region) from pollution caused by stubble-burning in the neighbouring Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh this winter.
  • Student forces will patrol highways and fields in the three States and ensure that no fires are started in the fields.
  • The Chief Secretaries of the three States will provide facilities to the committee and provide the student volunteers with adequate transportation to aid their vigil.
  • Existing mobile teams and nodal officers of the States will report to the committee. The Supreme Court’s own Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA) would consult with the committee on issues related to stubble-burning.

2 . Affordability of nutritious diets in rural India


Context: According to a recently published paper, titled “Affordability of nutritious diets in rural India”, by an economist of the International Food Policy Research Institute, three out of four rural Indians cannot afford a nutritious diet, 

Background

  • Economic Survey’s Thalinomics provided a rosier picture of meal costs.
  • According to Thalinomics average worker in India’s organised manufacturing sector, the affordability of a plate of vegetarian food — comprising rice or roti, dal and sabzi — has improved 29% since 2006-07. For non-vegetarians, affordability has risen 18%.
  • The Survey found that a worker who would have spent 70% of their daily wage on two vegetarian thalis a day for a household of five in 2006-07 would only have to spend 50% of their income for the meals in 2019-20. This year, the most affordable meal was in Jharkhand, where two vegetarian thalis for a household of five required about 25% of a worker’s daily wage.

Current Study

  • Current study uses the wages of unskilled workers who make up a larger proportion of the population than industrial workers, and includes items such as dairy, fruit and dark green leafy vegetables that are essential as per India’s official dietary guidelines.
  • The study used the latest available food price and wage information from the National Sample Survey’s 2011 dataset.

Key Findings

  • The National Institute for Nutrition’s guidelines for a nutritionally adequate diet call for adult women to eat 330 gm of cereals and 75 gm of pulses a day, along with 300 gm of dairy, 100 gm of fruit, and 300 gm of vegetables, which should include at least 100 gm of dark green leafy vegetables. Selecting the cheapest options from actual Indian diets — wheat, rice, bajra, milk, curd, onions, radish, spinach, bananas — the study calculated that a day’s meals would cost ₹45 (or ₹51 for an adult man).
  • Three out of four rural Indians cannot afford a nutritious diet. Even if they spent their entire income on food, almost two out of three of them would not have the money to pay for the cheapest possible diet that meets the requirements set by the government’s premier nutrition body.
  • Even if they spent all their income on food, 63.3% of the rural population or more than 52 crore Indians would not be able to afford that nutritious meal.
  • If they set aside just a third of their income for non-food expenses, 76% of rural Indians would not be able to afford the recommended diet. This does not even account for the meals of non-earning members of a household, such as children or older adults.

Importance of the Findings

  • The findings are significant in the light of the fact that India performs abysmally on many nutrition indicators even while the country claims to have achieved food security. Global Hunger Index showed that India has the world’s highest prevalence of child wasting, reflecting acute undernutrition. On indicators that simply measure calorie intake, India performs relatively better, but they do not account for the nutrition value of those calories.
  • The observations made in the study go against the observations made in the recent Economic Survey. This year’s Economic Survey’s ‘Thalinomics’, had noted that the affordability of meals had increased in India.

3 . Allegation of Misconduct Against Judges


Context : Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister (CM) Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy has stirred a hornet’s nest by writing to the Chief Justice of India complaining about Supreme Court judge Justice N.V. Ramana for allegedly influencing posting of cases in the State High Court and alleging that some High Court judges are hostile to his government and are deliberately striking down his regime’s decisions and orders. 

How are allegations of misconduct against judges dealt with?

  • The Constitution protects the independence of judges of the High Courts and the Supreme Court by making them removable only through a long process of impeachment.
  • However, not all forms of misconduct will warrant impeachment. There could be other kinds of impropriety too. There are times when serious complaints of this sort are received, and the Chief Justice of India (CJI) is called upon to examine them. Since 1997, judges have adopted an ‘in-house procedure’ for inquiring into such charges.

When was the procedure adopted?

  • After Justice J.S. Verma took over as Chief Justice of India (CJI) in 1997, he circulated among judges a document called ‘Restatement of Values of Judicial life’. This was a set of principles containing the essential elements of ideal behaviour for judges.
  • The Full Court passed a resolution that an ‘in-house procedure’ would be adopted for action against judges for acts of commission or omission that go against these values. A five-judge committee was constituted to come up with a procedure. Its report was adopted on December 15, 1999. It was made public in 2014.

How does the in-house procedure work?

  • When a complaint is received against a High Court judge, the CJI should decide if it is considered frivolous or if it is “directly related to the merits of a substantive decision in a judicial matter”, or it does not involve any serious misconduct or impropriety.
  • If it is serious, the CJI should get the judge’s response. He may close the matter if he is satisfied with the response.
  • If a deeper probe is considered necessary, both the complaint and the judge’s response, along with the Chief Justice’s comments, are recorded for further action.
  • The same procedure holds good if the CJI receives a complaint directly. After considering the High Court’s Chief Justice, the judge involved and the complaint, the CJI, if deemed necessary, forms a three-member committee.
  • The committee should have two Chief Justices from other High Courts and one High Court judge.
  • The inquiry it holds is of the nature of a fact-finding mission and is not a formal judicial inquiry involving examination of witnesses. The judge concerned is entitled to appear before it.
  • If the case is against a High Court’s Chief Justice, the same procedure is followed, but the probe committee comprises a Supreme Court judge and two Chief Justices.
  • If a Supreme Court judge faces such a charge, the in-house panel will comprise three Supreme Court judges. The in-house procedure does not give any separate provision to deal with complaints against the Chief Justice of India. But in practice, a panel of three other Supreme Court justices is formed.

What happens after the probe is done?

  • If the committee finds substance in the charges, it can give two kinds of recommendations :
    • One, that the misconduct is serious enough to require removal from office, or that it is not serious enough to warrant removal.
    • In the former case, the judge concerned will be urged to resign or seek voluntary retirement. If the judge is unwilling to quit, the Chief Justice of the High Court concerned would be asked to withdraw judicial work from him. The President and the Prime Minister will be informed of the situation. This is expected to clear the way for Parliament to begin the process of impeachment. If the misconduct does not warrant removal, the judge would be advised accordingly.

4 . How global warming might affect food security


Context : Between the year 1870 (the first industrial revolution) and today, the global temperature has risen by almost 2 degrees Celsius. This has come about due to more fossil burning (oil, natural gas, coal), which has also increased the carbon dioxide ( CO2) levels from 280 ppm to 400 ppm. This heating has caused glaciers to melt and the sea level to rise. Daniel Glick, in the October 2 issue of National Geographic Magazine warns that the glaciers in Garhwal, Uttarakhand may virtually disappear by 2035!

Effect of Rise in CO2 levels

  • Ocean Acidification : The rise in CO2 levels has also acidified the ocean, leading to weakening the shells and skeletons of animals living in the sea.
  • Green House Gas : On land, the rise in CO2 levels has both positive and negative effects. This being a ‘Green House Gas’, it traps the Sun’s heat from the atmosphere and warms the temperature, aids in the photosynthesis of plants, making them grow more, but at the same time restricts the plant’s ability to absorb nitrogen, thus restricting crop growth.

Effect on food security due to increase in the Level of CO2

  • Higher temperatures during the ‘growing season’ in the tropics and sub-tropic regions (India and our neighbours, Saharan and Sub-Saharan Africa and parts of South America) will greatly affect crop productivity, and that this would be the ‘norm

Experimental probes to check the effect on Plants

  • Experiment by J. Yu and his colleagues : They found that there was improved heat tolerance, and suppressed heat-induced damages. These are interesting results, but on a grass which is good for animals such as rabbits and cattle, and not for humans. While grasses are what botanists call C4 plants, food grains (our staple food) are C3 and the way photosynthesis is done is somewhat different. It would thus be useful if such experiments are done on beans and legumes such as chana, chickpeas and similar grains (called ‘plant meat’).
  • ICRISAT – Hyderabad (International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics) Research : ICRISAT decided to look at how two kinds of chickpea (the desi chana dal or the Bengal gram and the Kabuli chana (originally from Afghanistan) behave under different CO2 levels. The plants were sown under these conditions, and harvested during the vegetative and reproductive stages post germination.
    • Chickpea : They could identify as many as 138 metabolic pathways, mainly involved in sugar/starch metabolism, chlorophyll and secondary metabolite biosynthesis, and could get to decipher the pathways that lead to how high CO2 levels modify the growth of the chickpea plants. They found a noted increase in the root and shoot (plant height) lengths. Also the number of nodules in the roots (where nitrogen-fixing bacteria live) changed at high CO2 levels. A decrease in chlorophyll synthesis hastens leaves turning yellow and plant ageing (senescence).
    • Desi chana and kabuli chana : Desi chana and kabuli chana responded differently at high CO2 levels.

Conclusion

  • Now, given the details of the 138 metabolic pathways identified, one can look deeper into how we can use molecules or agents that can promote or inhibit specific pathways through which growth and yields can be increased, and also the type of legumes that will best suit local conditions.
  • Nobelists J. Doudna and E. Charpentier have shown us how to edit genes, perhaps the time has come to do this too on specific local legumes

5 . UNHRC


About UNHRC

  • UNHRC replaced the UN Human Rights Commission in 2006 after a vast majority of the UN members endorsed a proposal to create a new institution to promote and protect rights
  • The Geneva-based council has 47 members serving at any time with elections held to fill up seats every year, based on allocations to regions
  • It passes non-binding resolutions on human rights issues, besides overseeing expert investigation of violations in specific countries

Elections

  • The UNHRC has 47 members serving at any time with elections held to fill up seats every year, based on allocations to regions across the world to ensure geographical representation.
  • Countries are disallowed from occupying a seat for more than two consecutive terms.

Functions

  • The UNHRC, which was reconstituted from its predecessor organisation, the UN Commission on Human Rights, is a United Nations body whose mission is to promote and protect human rights across the world.
  • The council is seen as a central structure in the global human rights architecture, a political body with representatives drawn from the General Assembly.
  • Apart from the council, the UN has also set up a number of treaty-based organisations to monitor compliance with human rights standards and international human rights treaties such as the Human Rights Committee and the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
  • The UNHRC, headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, has two key functions — the council passes non-binding resolutions on human rights issues through a periodic review of all 193 UN member states called the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), besides overseeing expert investigation of violations in specific countries (Special Procedures).
  • Human rights breaches that are investigated by the UNHRC across UN member states relate to themes such as freedom of association and assembly, freedom of expression, freedom of belief and religion, women’s rights, LGBT rights and the rights of racial and ethnic minorities. However, what makes the Council’s composition problematic is that several of its members run afoul of its proclaimed aims (for example, the one-party systems of China and Cuba that have a controversial record on freedom of expression or the anti-gay policies of Russia).

Structure

  • At one level, the UNHRC’s structure — drawing a group of nations from the General Assembly through rotation and election via a “one state, one vote” principle — has allowed the organisation to be fairly representative of the General Assembly without special privileges for the more developed Western countries, as is the case with other multilateral institutions such as the IMF or the World Bank.
  • The UNHRC replaced the Human Rights Commission in 2006 after a vast majority of the UN member States endorsed the then UN Secretary General Kofi Annan’s proposal to create a new institution that would overcome the “credibility deficit” of the previous organisation. The General Assembly Resolution 60/251 helped establish the Council, whose detailed workings were negotiated subsequently.
  • The mechanism of Universal Periodic Review (UPR) was incorporated into the functioning to give teeth to the organisation. The UPR, which has a national report from the state under review plus a compilation of UN information prepared by the Office of the UN High Commission for Human Rights, also allows for a summary of information from civil society actors.

Challenges

  • The record of some other member-states such as China and Russia in the council has also not lived up to the aims and mission of the UNHRC, which has led to critics questioning its relevance.
  • Powerful countries such as the U.S. have refused to participate in the Council, with the Trump administration taking the country out of the Council in 2018, years after it was reinstated under President Barack Obama.

6 . Assam-Mizoram, and the other boundary issues in the Northeast


Context : Over the last one week, residents of Assam and Mizoram have clashed twice over territory, injuring at least eight people and torching a few huts and small shops. It spotlights the long-standing inter-state boundary issues in the Northeast, particularly between Assam and the states that were carved out of it.

Background

  • The boundary dispute between the two states has been simmering since the formation of Mizoram as a separate state in the 1980s.
  • According to an agreement between governments of Assam and Mizoram some years ago, status quo should be maintained in no-man’s land in the border area. However, clashes have erupted from time to time over the issue.

What were the recent clashes about?

  • On Saturday, residents of Lailapur village in Assam’s Cachar district clashed with residents of localities near Vairengte in Mizoram’s Kolasib district. On October 9, a similar clash took place on the border of Karimganj (Assam) and Mamit (Mizoram) districts.
  • On October 9, a farm hut and a betel nut plantation belonging to two Mizoram residents were set on fire. On Saturday, some people from Lailapur started pelting stones at Mizoram police personnel and Mizoram residents. “In turn, Mizoram residents mobilised and went after them,” Kolasib Deputy Commissioner H Lalthangliana said.

What led to this?

  • According to an agreement between governments of Assam and Mizoram some years ago, status quo should be maintained in no man’s land in the border area. However, people from Lailapur broke the status quo and allegedly constructed some temporary huts. People from Mizoram side went and set fire on them,” Lalthangliana said. On the other hand, Keerthi Jalli, the DC of Cachar, told that the contested land belongs to Assam as per state’s records.
  • According to Mizoram officials, the land claimed by Assam is being cultivated for a long time by residents of Mizoram. The DC of Mamit, Lalrozama, has urged that status quo be maintained. The Karimganj DC, Anbamuthan MP, said that although the contested land was historically cultivated by Mizoram residents, on paper it fell within the Singla Forest Reserve that is under Karimganj’s jurisdiction. Anbamuthan told The Indian Express that the issue was being resolved.
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How complex is the boundary dispute?

  • In the Northeast’s complex boundary equations, showdowns between Assam and Mizoram residents are less frequent than they are between, say, Assam and Nagaland residents. Nevertheless, the boundary between present-day Assam and Mizoram, 165 km long today, dates back to the colonial era, when Mizoram was known as Lushai Hills, a district of Assam.
  • The dispute stems from a notification of 1875 that differentiated Lushai Hills from the plains of Cachar, and another of 1933 that demarcates a boundary between Lushai Hills and Manipur.
  • Mizoram believes the boundary should be demarcated on the basis of the 1875 notification, which is derived from the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation (BEFR) Act, 1873. Mizo leaders have argued in the past argued against the demarcation notified in 1933 because Mizo society was not consulted. Assam government follows the 1933 demarcation, and that seems to be the point of conflict.
  • The last time the boundary saw violence was in February 2018. The MZP had built a built a wooden rest house in a forest, its stated purpose being to serve as a resting for farmers. Assam police and forest department officials demolished it saying this was in Assam territory. MZP members clashed with Assam personnel, who also thrashed a group of Mizoram journalists who had gone to cover the incident.

What are the other boundary issues in the Northeast?

  • During British rule, Assam included present-day Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh and Meghalaya besides Mizoram, which became separate state one by one. Today, Assam has boundary problems with each of them.
  • Nagaland shares a 500-km boundary with Assam. According to a 2008 research paper from the Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, violent clashes and armed conflicts, marked by killings, have occurred on the Assam-Nagaland border since 1965. In two major incidents of violence in 1979 and 1985, at least 100 persons were killed, The Indian Express has reported earlier. The boundary dispute is now in the Supreme Court
  • On the Assam-Arunachal Pradesh boundary (over 800 km), clashes were first reported in 1992, according to the same research paper. Since then, there have been several accusations of illegal encroachment from both sides, and intermittent clashes. This boundary issue too is being heard by the Supreme Court.
  • The 884-km Assam-Meghalaya boundary, too, witnesses flare-ups frequently. As per Meghalaya government statements, today there are 12 areas of dispute between the two states. In February this year, the Chief Ministers of the two states spoke to each other about the need to maintain status quo and peace

7 . Skinks of India


Context : The publication, Skinks of India, was released earlier this month by Union Minister of State, Ministry of Environment Forest and Climate Change

About Skinks

  • With long bodies, relatively small or no legs, no pronounced neck and glossy scales, skinks are common reptiles around homes, garages, and open spaces such as sparks and school playgrounds, and around lakes.
  • Although they are common reptiles and have a prominent role in maintaining ecosystems, not much is known about their breeding habits, and ecology because identification of the species can be confusing.
  • Skinks are highly alert, agile and fast moving and actively forage for a variety of insects and small invertebrates. The reduced limbs of certain skink species or the complete lack of them make their slithering movements resemble those of snakes, leading people to have incorrect notion that they are venomous. This results in several of these harmless creatures being killed.

About skinks of India

  • It is the first monograph on this group of lizards, which are found in all kinds of habitats in the country, from the Himalayas to the coasts and from dense forests to the deserts
  • A recent publication by the Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) reveals that India is home to 62 species of skinks and says about 57% of all the skinks found in India (33 species) are endemic.
  • The publication is a result of four years of work and study of over 4,000 specimens in all 16 regional centres of ZSI and also at the Bombay Natural History Society, Indian Institute of Science, Wildlife Institute of India, and the Salim Ali Centre for Ornithology & Natural History.
  • It also makes an attempt to ‘redescribe’ all the 62 species with their taxonomic identification keys, distributional maps, habits, habitat and breeding biology
  • The book also gives a phylogenetic and bio-geographical analysis of distribution of these species in all the 11 bio-geographic zones of India and a detailed account on the historical studies on this group of lizards from the British era to the present.

Distribution

  • The Western Ghats are home to 24 species of which 18 are endemic to the region. The Deccan Peninsular region is home to 19 species of which 13 are endemic. There are records of 14 skink species from the northeast of which two species are endemic.
  • Of the 1,602 species of skinks across the world, making it the largest family of lizards, their occurrence in India is less than 4 % of the global diversity.
  • Of the 16 genera of skinks found in India, four genera are endemic. Sepsophis (with one species)and Barkudia (with two species) are limbless skinks found in the hills and coastal plains of the eastern coast. Barkudia insularisis believed to be found only in the Barkud Island in Chilka lake in Odisha. Barkudia melanosticta is endemic to Visakhapatnam. Sepsophis punctatus is endemic to the northern part of Eastern Ghats. Five species of Kaestlea (blue-tailed ground skinks) are endemic to the Western Ghats and four species of Ristella (Cat skinks) also endemic to the southern part of Western Ghats.

8 . Facts for Prelims


Forms of immunity

  • Two forms of immunity defend the body from reinfection: antibody-mediated (through immunoglobulins, which recognise parts of the virus and neutralise it), and cell-mediated (through cells such as T-cells which can induce death of virus-infected cells)

Stay Proceedings

  • The Supreme Court has ordered that any stay on criminal and civil proceedings will not continue beyond six months and the trial court can proceed in the case without waiting for approval from higher courts if the stay is not extended.
  • A bench headed by Justice R F Nariman said the SC’s 2018 verdict in which it had ruled that a stay on proceedings must not exceed six months must be implemented in its true spirit.
  • This will ensure speedy justice and discourage delaying tactics adopted by the accused

Zero Rajadhani & Bogibeel

  • Bogibeel is India’s longest rail-and-road bridge across the Brahmaputra
  • Zero Rajdhani’ train via this 4.94 km bridge has now brought the people of the two banks closer to New Delhi by more than 100 km. The 02505/02506 between New Delhi and Dibrugarh on October 12 was technically not a Rajdhani, whose train number starts with 2 while those of mail, express trains start with 1. The zero makes it a special train, usually operated temporarily.

Contribution of Sir Syed Ahmed Khan

  • Sir Syed Ahmad Khan is best known for the Aligarh Movement — a systemic movement aimed at reforming the social, political and educational aspects of the Muslim community.
  • He founded the Scientific Society in 1863 to translate major works in the sciences and modern arts into Urdu. He released two journals to this end — The Aligarh Institute Gazette, which was an organ of the Scientific Society, and the Tehzibul Akhlaq, known as the Mohammedan Social Reformer in English.
  • Khan’s most notable contribution to the field of education is establishing the Madarsatul Uloom in Aligarh in 1875, now known as the Aligarh Muslim University, a premier educational institution of the country. He attempted to model the college on universities such as Oxford and Cambridge. His work on Muslim education was not limited to this alone — he wanted to create a network of educational institutions managed by Muslims and founded the All India Muslim Educational Conference.
  • In 1886, he set up the Mohammedan Anglo-Oriental Education Congress, later renamed the Mohammedan Anglo-Oriental Educational Conference, to bring together education and culture. He emphasised the need for an autonomous Muslim institution free of any government funding.
  • An avid historian, he was the first person to publish an archaeological study in an Indian language. As a result, he was also named as an honorary member of the Royal Asiatic Society. He also collected sculptures and rare artefacts, including those of Hindu deities

Sadhna Pass

  • Sadhna Pass, previously called as Nastachun pass, is a mountain pass in Jammu and Kashmir. It is located in the Himalayas and connects Karnah tehsil of Kupwara district with the rest of the Kashmir valley.
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