Daily Current Affairs for UPSC CSE
- Deep Ocean Mission and NIOT
- India’s stand on same sex mariage
- Net Neutrality
- Background radiation
- Facts for Prelims
1 . Deep Ocean Mission and NIOT
Context: Scientists from NIOT aspire to capture some of the aura of the ocean depths when India’s indigenous submersible, MATSYA-6000, plunges into the bowels of the Indian Ocean, with a three-person crew onboard.
What is Deep Ocean Mission?
- With a view to explore deep ocean for resources and develop deep sea technologies for sustainable use of ocean resources, Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) approved the proposal of Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES) on “Deep Ocean Mission” at an estimated cost of Rs. 4077.0 crore for a period of 5 years to be implemented in a phase-wise manner. The estimated cost for the first phase for the 3 years (2021-2024) would be Rs.2823.4 crore.
- Deep Ocean Mission with be a mission mode project to support the Blue Economy Initiatives of the Government of India. Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES) will be the nodal Ministry implementing this multi-institutional ambitious mission.
What are the components of Deep Ocean Mission?
- Development of Technologies for Deep Sea Mining, and Manned Submersible: A manned submersible will be developed to carry 3 people to a depth of 6000 metres in the ocean with suite of scientific sensors and tools. Only a very few countries have acquired this capability. An Integrated Mining System will be also developed for mining Polymetallic Nodules from 6000 m depth in the central Indian Ocean. The exploration studies of minerals will pave way for the commercial exploitation in the near future, as and when commercial exploitation code is evolved by the International Seabed Authority, an UN organization. This component will help the Blue Economy priority area of exploring and harnessing of deep-sea minerals and energy.
- Development of Ocean Climate Change Advisory Services: A suite of observations and models will be developed to understand and provide future projections of important climate variables on seasonal to decadal time scales under this proof-of-concept component. This component will support the Blue Economy priority area of coastal tourism.
- Create awareness amongst the public, students, academicians and user communities about the various fields of Earth system science as well as on the achievements and services rendered by MoES.
- Technological innovations for exploration and conservation of deep-sea biodiversity: Bio- prospecting of deep-sea flora and fauna including microbes and studies on sustainable utilization of deep sea bio-resources will be the main focus. This component will support the Blue Economy priority area of Marine Fisheries and allied services.
- Deep Ocean Survey and Exploration: The primary objective of this component is to explore and identify potential sites of multi-metal hydrothermal sulphides mineralization along the Indian Ocean mid-oceanic ridges. This component will additionally support the Blue Economy priority area of deep-sea exploration of ocean resources.
- Energy and freshwater from the Ocean: Studies and detailed engineering design for offshore Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC) powered desalination plant are envisaged in this proof-of-concept proposal. This component will support the Blue Economy priority area of off-shore energy development.
- Advanced Marine Station for Ocean Biology: This component is aimed as development of human capacity and enterprise in ocean biology and engineering. This component will translate research into industrial application and product development through on-site business incubator facilities. This component will support the Blue Economy priority area of Marine Biology, Blue trade and Blue manufacturing.
What are the significance of Deep Ocean Mission?
- Oceans, which cover 70 per cent of the globe, remain a key part of our life. About 95 per cent of Deep Ocean remains unexplored. For India, with its three sides surrounded by the oceans and around 30 per cent of the country’s population living in coastal areas, ocean is a major economic factor supporting fisheries and aquaculture, tourism, livelihoods and blue trade.
- Oceans are also storehouse of food, energy, minerals, medicines, modulator of weather and climate and underpin life on Earth. Considering importance of the oceans on sustainability, the United Nations (UN) has declared the decade, 2021-2030 as the Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development. India has a unique maritime position. Its 7517 km long coastline is home to nine coastal states and 1382 islands.
- The Government of India’s Vision of New India by 2030 enunciated in February 2019 highlighted the Blue Economy as one of the ten core dimensions of growth.
- Samudrayaan mission is aimed at sending three personnel to 6000-metre depth in a vehicle called ‘MATSYA 6000’ for the exploration of deep sea resources like minerals
- Matsya 6000 is an Indian crewed deep-submergence vehicle intended to be utilised for deep-sea exploration of rare minerals under the Deep Ocean mission.
National Institute of Ocean Technology (NIOT)
- The National Institute of Ocean Technology (NIOT) was established in November 1993 as an autonomous society under the Ministry of Earth Sciences in India.
- NIOT is managed by a Governing Council and is headed by a director. The institute is based in Chennai. The major aim of starting NIOT was to develop reliable indigenous technologies to solve various engineering problems associated with harvesting of non-living and living resources in India’s exclusive economic zone, which is about two-thirds of the land area of India.
2 . India’s stand on same sex marriage
Context: A Bench led by Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud referred petitions to legally recognize same-sex marriages to a Constitution Bench of five judges of the Supreme Court. The Court has listed the case for final arguments on April 18.
What is the case?
- The Court has been hearing multiple petitioners’ requests for legal recognition of same-sex marriages under a special law. Initially, it took up the case of two partners who said the non-recognition of same-sex marriage amounted to discrimination that strikes at the root of “dignity and self-fulfilment” of LGBTQIA+ couples. The petitioners cited the Special Marriage Act, 1954, which provides a civil marriage for couples who cannot marry under their personal law, and appealed to the Court to extend the right to the LGBTQIA+ community, by making the “marriage between any two persons” gender neutral.
Why does the community want this right?
- Even if LGBTQIA+ couples may live together, legally, they are on a slippery slope. They do not enjoy the rights married couples do. For example, LGBTQIA+ couples cannot adopt children or have a child by surrogacy; they do not have automatic rights to inheritance, maintenance and tax benefits; after a partner passes away, they cannot avail of benefits like pension or compensation. Most of all, since marriage is a social institution, “that is created by and highly regulated by law,” without this social sanction, same-sex couples struggle to make a life together.
Which way are the Courts leaning?
- The Courts, leaning on Article 21 that guarantees the right to life and liberty, have time and again ruled in favour of inter-faith and inter-caste marriages, directing the police and other rights organisations to give them protection when they were threatened by parents or society, pointing out that “all adults have the right to marry a person of their choice.”
- In Navtej Singh Johar (2018), when homosexuality was decriminalised, the Court said, “Members of the LGBT[QIA+] community are entitled to the benefit of an equal citizenship, without discrimination, and to the equal protection of law”.
What is the centre’s stand?
- In its affidavit filed in the Supreme Court, the government said that the “notion of marriage itself necessarily and inevitably presupposes a union between two persons of the opposite sex. This definition is socially, culturally and legally ingrained into the very idea and concept of marriage and ought not to be disturbed or diluted by judicial interpretation.” It submitted that despite the decriminalisation of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, the petitioners cannot seek same-sex marriage to be treated as a fundamental right and be recognised under the laws of the country.
- Parliament has designed and framed the marriage laws in the country, which are governed by the personal laws/codified laws relatable to customs of various religious communities, to recognise only the union of a man and a woman to be capable of legal sanction, and thereby claim legal and statutory rights and consequences” and that “any interference with the same would cause a complete havoc with the delicate balance of personal laws in the country and in accepted societal values.” The government said that even if such a right (allowing same-sex marriage) is claimed under Article 21, the “right can be curtailed by competent legislature on permissible constitutional grounds including legitimate state interest.”
Are the executive and the judiciary on opposing sides on this?
- With the government saying that the concept of marriage “ought not to be disturbed or diluted by judicial interpretation,” and the Court leaning towards granting equal rights, including marriage of same-sex couples, citing the Constitution and changing norms, it is clear that the two organs of the state are not in agreement on this. Even if the Court rules in its favour, the march towards equality for the LGBTQIA+ community will be hard. Enforcing something like same-sex marriage in a diverse country with well-entrenched traditions will not be easy. Rights activists are calling for awareness on sex, gender and constitutional rights from the school level to change things on the ground.
3 . Net Neutrality
Context: Since November 2022, the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), which represents Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea, and Reliance Jio, the three major telecom operators in India, has been demanding that platforms such as YouTube and WhatsApp pay a share of revenue to make up for the network costs. This has reignited the debate around net neutrality.
What is Net Neutrality?
- Net neutrality is the principle that an internet service provider (ISP) has to provide access to all sites, content and applications at the same speed, under the same conditions without blocking or giving preference to any content. They should not restrict access, slow down access speeds or block content for some users to serve their own interests.
- ISPs should also not make special arrangements with any companies to give them improved network speeds or access.
- Coined by Columbia University law professor Tim Wu, net neutrality is used as a broad label in internet public policy and regulatory discussions concerning online freedom of expression, competition of service, innovation, pricing, and internet traffic management.
Importance of Net Neutrality:
- It promotes a free and open internet, where users can access content without restriction, provided the content does not violate any laws.
What are the benefits of Net Neutrality?
- Net neutrality promotes free speech and idea sharing. Net neutrality laws will prevent ISPs from getting the power to regulate or prohibit what their customers see, access or read on the internet.
Business freedom and consumer choice.
- By threatening to block access to some sites and content, ISPs can force businesses to pay more money. Those that cannot afford preferential service agreements face a competitive disadvantage in customer service. Net neutrality seeks to level the playing field by keeping large, rich enterprises from gaining an unfair advantage when they pay ISPs more for unrestricted customer access to their products or services.
- Eliminating net neutrality would stifle innovation and add barriers to entry for smaller companies. If ISPs pick their favorites, new companies and technologies might never be able to grow.
Criticism of Net Neutrality
- Forcing ISPs to treat all traffic equally the government will ultimately discourage the investment in new infrastructure, and will also create a disincentive for ISPs to innovate.
- ISPs argue that tiered prices allow them to remain competitive and generate funds needed for further innovation and expansion of broadband networks, as well as to recoup the costs already invested in broadband.
Example of Net Neutrality
- Following the 2017 repeal of net neutrality rules, several violations were studied including:
- YouTube and Netflix were slowed by wireless carriers, using a fraction of the available speed.
- Verizon’s throttling of services affected the Santa Clara County Fire Department’s ability to provide emergency services during the California wildfires.
- Comcast introduced new speed limits where videos will be throttled to 480p on all its mobile plans unless customers pay extra
4 . Background Radiation
Context: In parts of Kerala, background radiation levels, or that emitted from natural sources such as rocks, sand, or mountains, are nearly three times more than what’s been assumed, a pan-India study by scientists at the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) has found.
What is Background Radiation?
- Naturally-occurring background radiation is the main source of exposure for most people. Levels typically range from about 1.5 to 3.5 millisievert per year but can be more than 50 mSv/yr. The highest known level of background radiation affecting a substantial population is in Kerala and Madras States in India where some 140,000 people receive doses which average over 15 millisievert per year from gamma radiation in addition to a similar dose from radon. However, there is no evidence of increased cancers or other health problems arising from these high natural levels.
- Background radiation is a measure of the level of ionizing radiation present in the environment at a particular location which is not due to deliberate introduction of radiation sources.
Sources of Background Radiation
- Background radiation originates from a variety of sources, both natural and artificial. Natural background radiation sources are cosmic rays and terrestrial sources, natural radioactive material such as radon from ground, building walls and floors, and traces of naturally occurring radioactive material in food and drinks.
- Artificial or man-made origin includes radioactive fallout from nuclear weapons test and major nuclear accidents, medical diagnostic and therapeutic use of ionizing radiation, X-ray machines, particle accelerators, consumer products and transport of radioactive materials
- Worldwide average of effective dose from background natural radiation is about 2.4 mSv/year (2400 µSv/year). In Kerala coast this is about 12.5 mSv/year. In northern Iran, this value is about 260 mSv/year.
- 1 Gy = Deposition of 1 J/ kg of matter or tissue.
Protection From Radiation
- Limiting time: For people who are exposed to radiation (in addition to natural background radiation) through their work, the dose is reduced and the risk of illness essentially eliminated by limiting exposure time.
- Distance: In the same way that heat from a fire is less the further away you are, the intensity of radiation decreases with distance from its source.
- Shielding: Barriers of lead, concrete or water give good protection from penetrating radiation such as gamma rays. Highly radioactive materials are therefore often stored or handled under water, or by remote control in rooms constructed of thick concrete or lined with lead.
- Containment: Radioactive materials are confined and kept out of the environment. Radioactive isotopes for medical use, for example, are dispensed in closed handling facilities, while nuclear reactors operate within closed systems with multiple barriers which keep the radioactive materials contained. Rooms have a reduced air pressure so that any leaks occur into the room and not out from the room
5 . Facts for prelims
- Sucralose is a no-calorie sweetener that can be used to lower one’s intake of added sugars while still providing satisfaction from enjoying the taste of something sweet. While some types of sweeteners in this category are considered low-calorie (e.g., aspartame) and others are no-calorie (e.g., sucralose, monk fruit sweeteners and stevia sweeteners), collectively they are often referred to as sugar substitutes, high-intensity sweeteners, non-nutritive sweeteners or low-calorie sweeteners.
- Uses of sucralose
- Sucralose is used in many food and beverage products because it is a no-calorie sweetener, does not promote dental cavities is safe for consumption by diabetics and nondiabetics, and does not affect insulin levels, although the powdered form of sucralose-based sweetener product Splenda (as most other powdered sucralose products) contains 95% (by volume) bulking agents dextrose and maltodextrin that do affect insulin levels.
- Sucralose is used as a replacement for (or in combination with) other artificial or natural sweeteners such as aspartame, acesulfame potassium or high-fructose corn syrup. It is used in products such as candy, breakfast bars, coffee pods, and soft drinks. It is also used in canned fruits wherein water and sucralose take the place of much higher calorie corn syrup-based additives However, a recipe that uses sucralose in place of sugar may turn out slightly different because, in addition to sweetness, sugar plays several roles related to volume and texture in recipes but varies based on the type of recipe. Sucralose is also used in tabletop sweeteners. A recent study, published in the Nature, provides evidence that high doses of sucralose can limit immune responses in mice.
Eklavya Model Residential School
- Eklavya Model Residential School (EMRS) is a Government of India scheme for model residential school, specifically for Scheduled Tribes across India. It is one of the flagship interventions of the Ministry of Tribal Affairs, Government of India and was introduced in the year 1997-98 to ensure tribal students get access to quality education in the remote tribal areas. EMRSs are set up in States/UTs with grants under Article 275(1) of the Constitution of India. There are around 226 EMRSs functional across the country and 68 of them are affiliated to the CBSE
- Comprehensive physical, mental and socially relevant development of all students enrolled in each and every EMRS. Students will be empowered to be change agents, beginning in their school, in their homes, in their village and finally in a larger context.
- Focus differentially on the educational support to be made available to those in Standards XI and XII, and those in standards VI to X, so that their distinctive needs can be met.
- Support the annual running expenses in a manner that offers reasonable remuneration to the staff and upkeep of the facilities.
- Support the construction of infrastructure that provides education, physical, environmental and cultural needs of student life.