Daily Current Affairs : 18th June

Daily Current Affairs for UPSC CSE

Topics Covered

  1. Rajya Sabha Elections
  2. World Population Prospect
  3. International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
  4. Bt Cotton
  5. Vibrational Optical Coherence Tomography
  6. Facts for Prelims Presidential Retreat

1 . Rajya Sabha Elections

Context : The Gujarat Pradesh Congress Committee (GPCC) has filed a petition in the Supreme Court challenging the Election Commission notification to hold separate polls for the two Rajya Sabha seats that fell vacant with its incumbents — Amit Shah and Smriti Irani — getting elected to Lok Sabha.

Rajya Sabha election Procedure

  • The representatives of the States and of the Union Territories in the Rajya Sabha are elected by the method of indirect election. 
  • The representatives of each State and two Union territories are elected by the elected members of the Legislative Assembly of that State and by the members of the Electoral College for that Union Territory, as the case may be, in accordance with the system of proportional representation by means of the single transferable vote.
  • The Electoral College for the National Capital Territory of Delhi consists of the elected members of the Legislative Assembly of Delhi, and that for Puducherry consists of the elected members of the Puducherry Legislative Assembly.
  • Each lawmaker’s vote is counted only once. The lawmakers list their order of preference for each candidate. The candidate that is the first choice for more voters, wins.


  • Rajya Sabha is a permanent House and is not subject to dissolution.  However, one-third Members of Rajya Sabha retire after every second year.  A member who is elected for a full term serves for a period of six years. 
  • The election held to fill a vacancy arising otherwise than by retirement of a member on the expiration of his term of office is called ‘By-election’.
  • A member elected in a by-election remains member for the remainder of the term of the member who had resigned or died or disqualified to be member of the House under the Tenth Schedule.

How is the bypoll / byelection different from normal election

  • The Election Commission has pointed out that vacancies for by-election “will be considered as separate vacancies and separate notifications are issued and separate poll is taken for each of the vacancies although the programme schedule for the by-elections may be common”.
  • It is in conformity with provisions of Section 147 to 151 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 and has been a consistent practice of the Commission in such cases.
  • It also pointed out the Delhi High Court ruling in favour of separate elections in 1994 and 2009.
  • The major departure from the Rajya Sabha elections is that the MLAs need not mention the first and second preference of candidates when they vote.
  • A single transferable vote system, employed during Rajya Sabha polls, ensures that each MLA’s vote is counted just once.However, this single vote is transferable from one candidate to another. The ballot paper bears the names of the candidates, and the MLAs mark on it his/her preference for the candidates with figures 1,2,3,4 and so on against the names chosen by him/her.
  • In a separate ballot paper system, as is to be done this time, there is only one candidate from a party, so the issue of marking preference does not arise.

How will the separate ballot paper system work?

  • Elections to the two seats will be treated as two separate elections with separate ballot boxes and separate ballot papers.
  • All the MLAs will end up voting twice as against the preferential ballot system where the MLAs voted are counted only once.

2 . World Population Prospect

Context : In just eight years, India is projected to surpass China as the world’s most populous country. According to estimates in a new United Nations report released Monday, India is also expected to add 273 million people by 2050 and will remain the most populated until the end of the century.

About the Report

  • World Population Prospects 2019’ is published by the Population Division of the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs

Details of the Report

  • The report stated that in 2019, India has an estimated population of 1.37 billion and China 1.43 billion and by 2027, India’s population is projected to surpass China’s.
  • India is expected to remain the world’s most populous country with nearly 1.5 billion inhabitants, followed by China at 1.1 billion, Nigeria with 733 million, the United States with 434 million, and Pakistan with an estimated population of 403 million.
  • However, while India may have the highest absolute increase in numbers, its rate of growth is slowing.
  • India is still among the countries where the working-age population (25-64 years) is growing faster than other groups, creating an opportunity for accelerated economic growth. However, the “demographic dividend” will peak by 2047 in the region, meaning that countries such as India must rush to invest in education and health, especially for young people, the report says.
  • Overall report states, the world’s population is ageing, with the age group of 65 and above growing at such a fast rate that by 2050, one in six people in the world will be part of it as compared to one in 11 in 2019

3 . International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights

Context : Media activists accused Sri Lankan police of using a UN convention on hate speech to crack down on media freedom and the country’s Muslim minority.

About International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights Act

  • The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) is an international human rights treaty adopted by the United Nations (UN) in 1966.
  • The covenant commits its parties to respect the civil and political rights of individuals, including the right to life, freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, electoral rights and rights to due process and a fair trial
  • It is one of the two treaties that give legal force to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (the other being the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, ICESCR).
  • The ICCPR is monitored by the United Nations Human Rights Committee (a separate body to the United Nations Human Rights Council), which reviews regular reports of States parties on how the rights are being implemented.

4 . Bt Cotton

Context : A group of more than 1,000 farmers gathered in a village in Akola of Maharashtra to sow seeds of an unapproved, genetically modified variety of cotton, defying government regulations. The government is now investigating what was planted.

About Bt Cotton

  • Bt cotton is an insect-resistant transgenic crop designed to combat the bollworm. Bt cotton was created by genetically altering the cotton genome to express a microbial protein from the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis.
  • Strains of the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis produce over 200 different Bt toxins, each harmful to different insects. Most notably, Bt toxins are insecticidal to the larvae of moths and butterflies, beetles, cotton bollworms and ghtu flies but are harmless to other forms of life.
  • The gene coding for Bt toxin has been inserted into cotton as a transgene, causing it to produce this natural insecticide in its tissues. 

Bt Cotton in India

  • Bt cotton remains the only GM crop allowed to be cultivated in the country.
  • Developed by US giant Bayer-Monsanto, it involves insertion of two genes viz ‘Cry1Ab’ and ‘Cry2Bc’ from the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis into cotton seeds.
  • This modification codes the plant to produce protein toxic to Heliothis bollworm (pink bollworm) thus making it resistant to their attack. The commercial release of this hybrid was sanctioned by the government in 2002.
  • In India, it is the responsibility of the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) under the Environment Ministry to assess the safety of a genetically modified plant, and decide whether it is fit for cultivation. The GEAC comprises experts and government representatives, and a decision it takes has to be approved by the Environment Minister before any crop is allowed for cultivation.

About the Current issue

  • The farmers in Akola planted a herbicide-tolerant variety of Bt cotton.
  • This variety (HtBt) involves the addition of another gene, ‘Cp4-Epsps’ from another soil bacterium, Agrobacterium tumefaciens. It is not cleared by GEAC.
  • The farmers claim that the HtBt variety can withstand the spray of glyphosate, a herbicide that is used to remove weeds, and thus it substantially saves them de-weeding costs.
  • Along with the uncertainty in finding labour, de-weeding threatens economic viability of their crops


  • Genetic changes made in a plant can make it unsafe for consumption, have adverse impacts on human or animal health, or introduce problems in the soil or neighbouring crops. There is an elaborate process of tests and field trials to be followed.
  • Critics of GM technology argue that some traits of genes start expressing themselves only after several generations, and thus one can never be sure about their safety

Legal Provisions

  • Legally, sale, storage, transportation and usage of unapproved GM seeds is a punishable offence under the Rules of Environmental Protection Act 1989.
  • Sale of unapproved seeds can attract action under the Seed Act of 1966 and the Cotton Act of 1957.
  • The Environmental Protection Act provides for a jail term of five years and a fine of Rs 1 lakh for violation of its provisions, and cases can be filed under the other two Acts

5 . Vibrational Optical Coherence Tomography

Context : Scientists have developed a ‘virtual biopsy’ device that can quickly and non-invasively determine whether a skin tumour is cancerous and needs to be removed surgically.

About VOCT

  • Vibrational optical coherence tomography (VOCT), creates a 3D map of the legion’s width and depth under the skin with a tiny laser diode.
  • Using sound vibrations and pulses of near-infrared light, the device can determine a skin lesion’s depth and potential malignancy without using a scalpel
  • The ability to analyse a skin tumour non-invasively could make biopsies much less risky and distressing to patients.
  • Currently, physicians who perform surgical biopsies often do not know the extent of a lesion — and whether it will be necessary to refer the patient to a specialist for extensive tissue removal or plastic surgery — until surgery has already begun.

6 . Facts for Prelims

Presidential Retreat

  • The President has two places of stay other than the Rashtrapati Bhavan — the 1895 Retreat Building at Mashorba, Shimla, and the Rashtrapati Nilayam at Bolarum, Hyderabad
  • There is a long tradition that every year the President will take a “break” from work in Delhi and spend a few days in “The Retreat”. In summer, the President goes to Mashobra, while in winter the President of India goes to Hyderabad.

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