Daily Current Affairs : 23rd and 24th January 2022

Daily Current Affairs for UPSC CSE

Topics Covered

  1. Indian Environmental Service
  2. Joint Parenting
  3. National Master Plan Portal
  4. DNA barcodes
  5. Restitution of Conjugal Rights
  6. Facts for Prelims

1 . Indian Environmental Service

Context : The Supreme Court has asked the Government if it will create an Indian Environmental Service (IES) as recommended by a committee headed by former Cabinet secretary T.S.R Subramanian in 2014.

What is the T.S.R Subramanian committee report on environment?

  • The Subramanian committee was set up in August 2014 to review the country’s green laws and the procedures followed by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC).
  • The report submitted had suggested amendments to almost all green laws, including those relating to environment, forest, wildlife and coastal zone clearances.
  • The committee had three months to submit its report. After it did, a Parliamentary Standing Committee rejected the report on the grounds that it ended up diluting key aspects of environmental legislation designed to protect the environment.
  • The committee suggested that another committee, with more expertise and time, be constituted to review the environmental laws.

What did the T.S.R report recommend?

  • The report proposed an ‘Environmental Laws (Management) Act’ (ELMA), that envisioned full-time expert bodies—National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA) and State Environmental Management Authority (SEMA)—to be constituted at the Central and State levels respectively to evaluate project clearance (using technology and expertise), in a time bound manner, providing for single-window clearance.
  • To accelerate the environmental decision-making process, they suggested a “fast track” procedure for “linear” projects (roads, railways and transmission lines), power and mining projects and for “projects of national importance.”
  • The Air Act and the Water Act is to be subsumed within the Environment Protection Act. The existing Central Pollution Control Board and the State Pollution Control Boards, which monitor and regulate the conditions imposed on the industries to safeguard environment, are proposed to be integrated into NEMA and SEMA once the new bodies come into existence.
  • It also suggested an appellate mechanism against the decisions of NEMA/SEMA or MoEF&CC, in respect of project clearance, prescribing a three-month deadline to dispose appeals.
  • The report also recommends that an “environmental reconstruction cost” should be assessed for each project on the basis of the damage caused by it to the environment and this should be added into the cost of the project. This cost has to be recovered as a cess or duty from the project proponent during the life of the project.
  • At the tail end, it proposed a National Environment Research institute “on the lines of the Indian Council of Forestry Research and Education” to bring in the application of high-end technology in environment governance and finally, an Indian Environment Service to recruit qualified and skilled human resource in the environment sector.

Has the report been accepted by the Government?

  • The Centre never formally accepted this report and neither constituted a new committee as recommended by the Parliamentary Standing Committee. However, many of these recommendations are implicitly making their way into the process of environmental regulation.
  • The Government has proposed rewrites to the Forest Conservation laws, set timelines to the pace at which expert committees that appraise the suitability of infrastructure projects must proceed, as well as sought to make existing laws consonant with court judgements.

How did the subject of the IES come to the fore?

  • The Supreme Court was responding to a petition filed by a lawyer Samar Vijay Singh, whose counsel pointed out that matters of environment required special expertise. Currently matters of environmental regulation rests on scientists of the Ministry of Environment and Forests as well as bureaucrats from the Indian Administrative Services.
  • The apex court expressed reluctance at getting into administrative matters of the Government but nevertheless asked the Centre if it expects to go about constituting such a mechanism.

2 . Shared Parenting

Context : Court justice is justice, according to the law. With access to courts in child custody matters getting tougher with the return on restrictions on court hearings during the pandemic, non-custodial parents and children are again at the receiving end. Seeking custody of a child in the event of a marriage breaking down is a messy affair. While the concept of shared parenting is a reality in countries such as the U.S., the U.K. and Australia, it is not an option in India.

What does the law say?

  • Two laws determine the custody of children in India.
  • The first is The Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act (HMGA) of 1956, which states that the natural guardian of a Hindu minor boy or unmarried girl shall be the father and mother, provided that custody of a minor who has not completed five years of age shall ordinarily be with the mother. But the HMGA does not contain any independent, legal or procedural mechanism for deciding custody rights or declaring court-appointed guardians. Therefore, we fall back on the second law, which is colonial in nature.
  • This is the Guardian and Wards Act of 1890 (GWA). This deals with the appointment of a person as a ‘guardian’ to a child, both with respect to the child and property. Child custody, guardianship and visitation issues between parents are determined under the GWA, if a natural parent wants to be declared as an exclusive guardian to his/her own child. Upon disputes between parents in a petition under the GWA, read with the HMGA, guardianship and custody can be vested with one parent with visitation rights to the other parent. In doing so, the welfare of the minor or “best interests of the child” shall be of paramount consideration.

What does “best interests of the child” mean?

  • India is a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). The definition of “best interests of the child” has been incorporated from the UNCRC in the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015.
  • The “best interests of the child” means “the basis for any decision taken regarding the child, to ensure fulfillment of his basic rights and needs, identity, social well-being and physical, emotional and intellectual development” and is paramount in any custody battle.
  • In 2019, the Supreme Court of India held in Lahari Sakhamuri v. Sobhan Kodali that the “best interests of the child” is wide in its connotation and “cannot remain the love and care of the primary care, i.e., the mother in case of an infant or the child who is only a few years old.” This is child-centric approach.
  • Again, in 2022, the Supreme Court in Vasudha Sethi v. Kiran V. Bhaskar held that a child’s welfare, not the individual or personal legal right of the parents, is of paramount concern in a custody battle. Welfare of the child must get precedence over the parents’ rights.

Have any recommendations been made for joint parenting?

  • The Law Commission of India Report in 2015, on Reforms in Guardianship and Custody Laws in India, recommended joint custody and shared parenting. It disagreed with the idea of singular child custody with one parent. It made exhaustive recommendations for amendments in the HMGA and GWA for joint custody and for guidelines for such custody, child support, and visitation arrangements.
  • Report 263 of the Law Commission of India, titled The Protection of Children (Inter-Country Removal and Attention) Bill, 2016, recommended a draft Bill for protecting the “best interests of the child” relating to custody as per the UNCRC.
  • The report of the Justice Bindal Committee, submitted to the Government in 2018, also said that “best interests of the child” are of paramount importance in matters relating to child custody in view of the UNCRC. A complete draft of The Protection of Children (Inter-Country Removal and Retention) Bill, defining wrongful removal and retention, with a complete mechanism for redress was given in a two-volume report to the Government of India.

What is the way forward?

  • Despite the idea of joint parenting growing in India, the laws remain unchanged. Courts are bound to the HMGA/GWA and have no other option. As a result, it is children who suffer in silence. During the pandemic, there have been many cases of custodial parents taking advantage of the laws and denying visitation rights to non-custodial parents. This affects the child in unimaginable ways. Family courts offer little aid in such cases.
  • Therefore, general guidelines or practice directions by the Supreme Court are the need of the hour. Shared or joint parenting with equal rights is a viable, practical, balanced solution for the child’s optimal growth.
  • Family courts are equipped under the Family Courts Act of 1984 to devise their own procedure, independent of the technicalities of law. They can formulate out-of-box methods and insist that children be shared by the father and mother. For a child to be caught in a conventional single parent custody trap is archaic and destructive to the child. It ruins the child’s life and also causes misery to the parent, especially to the one who does not have custody.

3 . National Master Plan Portal

Context : The Gati Shakti programme announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi last year envisages a digital platform for a national master plan of infrastructure projects in the country which will be ready by March 31, 2022, according to a senior government official.

What is the project?

  • PM GatiShakti is a digital platform that connects 16 ministries — including Roads and Highways, Railways, Shipping, Petroleum and Gas, Power, Telecom, Shipping, and Aviation — with a view to ensuring holistic planning and execution of infrastructure projects.
  • The portal will offer 200 layers of geospatial data, including on existing infrastructure such as roads, highways, railways, and toll plazas, as well as geographic information about forests, rivers and district boundaries to aid in planning and obtaining clearances.
  • The portal will also allow various government departments to track, in real time and at one centralised place, the progress of various projects, especially those with multi-sectoral and multi-regional impact
  • The objective is to ensure that “each and every department now have visibility of each other’s activities providing critical data while planning and execution of projects in a comprehensive manner. Through this, different departments will be able to prioritise their projects through cross–sectoral interactions”.
  • The government expects the platform to enable various government departments to synchronise their efforts into a multi-modal network. It will also offer satellite imagery for monitoring of projects. It is also expected to help state governments give commitments to investors regarding timeframes for the creation of infrastructure.

How will the platform help bring down logistics costs?

  • Studies estimate that logistics costs in India are about 13-14% of GDP as against about 7-8% of GDP in developed economies. High logistics costs impact cost structures within the economy, and also make it more expensive for exporters to ship merchandise to buyers.
  • By incorporating infrastructure schemes under various ministries and state governments, including the Bharatmala and inland waterways schemes, and economic zones such as textile and pharmaceutical clusters and electronics parks, the GatiShakti platform aims to boosting last-mile connectivity and bringing down logistics costs with integrated planning and reducing implementation overlaps.
  • Currently, a number of economic zones and industrial parks are not able to reach their full productive potential due to inefficient multi-modal connectivity.

How will progress under the National Master Plan be monitored?

  • The National Master Plan has set targets for all infrastructure ministries. India is targeting an increase in the total cargo handled at Indian ports to 1,759 million tonnes per annum (MTPA) by 2024-25, up from 1,282 MTPA in 2020 — as well as increasing cargo movement on national waterways to 95 million tonnes from about 74 million tonnes in the same period.
  • The PM said the government was aiming at adding over 200 airports, helipads, and water aerodromes over the next 4-5 years beside nearly doubling the existing natural gas pipeline network, which is about 19,000 km.
  • A project monitoring group under the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT) will monitor the progress of key projects in real time, and report any inter-ministerial issues to an empowered group of ministers, who will then aim to resolve these.

How will this impact coordination between ministries for projects?

  • Currently, any inter-ministerial issues that arise relating to a project are addressed in regular meetings of infrastructure-related ministries. These issues are raised in advance, and then taken up.
  • GatiShakti portal would help reduce the human intervention required as ministries will be in constant touch, and projects will be reviewed by the project monitoring group in real time
  • The portal will also highlight all the clearances any new project would need, based on its location — and allow stakeholders to apply for these clearances from the relevant authority directly on the portal.

4 . DNA barcodes

Context : Researchers from Kerala have identified two new species of fungi from the genus Ganoderma that are associated with coconut stem rot. They have also genotyped the two fungi species, named Ganoderma keralense and G. pseudoapplanatum and identified genetic biomarkers. The DNA barcodes have been made publicly available in DNA sequence repositories so that future studies can use it for early detection of the pathogen.

About DNA Barcoding

  • DNA barcoding is a method of species identification using a short section of DNA from a specific gene or genes.
  • The premise of DNA barcoding is that, by comparison with a reference library of such DNA sections (also called “sequences”), an individual sequence can be used to uniquely identify an organism to species, in the same way that a supermarket scanner uses the familiar black stripes of the UPC barcode to identify an item in its stock against its reference database
  • These “barcodes” are sometimes used in an effort to identify unknown species, parts of an organism, or simply to catalog as many taxa as possible, or to compare with traditional taxonomy in an effort to determine species boundaries.
  • Different gene regions are used to identify the different organismal groups using barcoding. The most commonly used barcode region for animals and some protists is a portion of the cytochrome c oxidase I (COI or COX1) gene, found in mitochondrial DNA.
  • Other genes suitable for DNA barcoding are the internal transcribed spacer (ITS) rRNA often used for fungi and RuBisCO used for plants.
  • Microorganisms are detected using different gene regions. The 16S rRNA gene for example is widely used in identification of prokaryotes, whereas the 18S rRNA gene is mostly used for detecting microbial eukaryotes. These gene regions are chosen because they have less intraspecific (within species) variation than interspecific (between species) variation, which is known as the “Barcoding Gap”
  • Some applications of DNA barcoding include: identifying plant leaves even when flowers or fruits are not available; identifying pollen collected on the bodies of pollinating animals; identifying insect larvae which may have fewer diagnostic characters than adults; or investigating the diet of an animal based on its stomach content, saliva or feces.
  • When barcoding is used to identify organisms from a sample containing DNA from more than one organism, the term DNA metabarcoding is used, e.g. DNA metabarcoding of diatom communities in rivers and streams, which is used to assess water quality

5 . Restitution of Conjugal Rights

Context : A petition questioning a law that forces a woman to return to her husband and denies her sexual autonomy has been pending in the Supreme Court for months without a hearing.


  • Section 9 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, which deals with restitution of conjugal rights, reads: “When either the husband or the wife has, without reasonable excuse, withdrawn from the society of the other, the aggrieved party may apply, by petition to the district court, for restitution of conjugal rights and the court, on being satisfied of the truth of the statements made in such petition and that there is no legal ground why the application should not be granted, may decree restitution of conjugal rights accordingly.”

What are conjugal rights?

  • Conjugal rights are rights created by marriage, i.e. right of the husband or the wife to the society of the other spouse. The law recognises these rights— both in personal laws dealing with marriage, divorce etc, and in criminal law requiring payment of maintenance and alimony to a spouse.
  • Section 9 of the Hindu Marriage Act recognises one aspect of conjugal rights — the right to consortium and protects it by allowing a spouse to move court to enforce the right. The concept of restitution of conjugal rights is codified in Hindu personal law now, but has colonial origins and has genesis in ecclesiastical law. Similar provisions exist in Muslim personal law as well as the Divorce Act, 1869, which governs Christian family law.
    Incidentally, in 1970, the United Kingdom repealed the law on restitution of conjugal rights.

How can a case under Section 9 be filed?

  • If a spouse refuses cohabitation, the other spouse can move the family court seeking a decree for cohabitation. If the order of the court is not complied with, the court can attach property. However, the decision can be appealed before a High Court and the Supreme Court.
  • Normally, when a spouse files for divorce unilaterally, the other spouse files for restitution of conjugal rights if he or she is not in agreement with the divorce. The provision is seen to be an intervention through legislation to strike a conciliatory note between sparring spouses.

Why has the law being challenged?

  • The law is being challenged now on the main grounds that it violative of the fundamental right to privacy. The plea by two law students argues that a court-mandated restitution of conjugal rights amounted to a “coercive act” on the part of the state, which violates one’s sexual and decisional autonomy, and right to privacy and dignity. In 2019, a nine-judge Bench of the Supreme Court recognised the right to privacy as a fundamental right.
  • Although the provision of restitution of conjugal rights has been upheld by the Supreme Court earlier, legal experts have pointed out that the nine-judge Bench’s landmark verdict in the privacy case set the stage for potential challenges to several laws such as criminalisation of homosexuality, marital rape, restitution of conjugal rights, the two-finger test in rape investigations.
  • Although the law is ex-facie (‘on the face if it’) gender-neutral since it allows both wife and husband to seek restitution of conjugal rights, the provision disproportionately affects women. Women are often called back to marital homes under the provision, and given that marital rape is not a crime, leaves them susceptible to such coerced cohabitation.
  • It will also be argued whether the state can have such a compelling interest in protecting the institution of marriage that it allows a legislation to enforce cohabitation of spouses

6 . Facts for Prelims

Kerala Bird Atlas

  • Kerala Bird Atlas is an ambitious citizen science project, to map the distribution and abundance of birds of an entire Indian state for the first time. (Mysore city Bird Atlas is on from 2014). Envisaged as a five year activity during a workshop in July 2015 conducted at Thrissur where several bird-watchers from Kerala participated, the Bird Atlas is expected to give more insights to abundance of the common birds which is largely lacking now.
  • CKBA was prepared based on systematic surveys held twice over 60 days a year during the wet (July to September) and dry (January to March) seasons between 2015 and 2020.
  • It is arguably Asia’s largest bird atlas in terms of geographical extent, sampling effort and species coverage derived from the aggregation of 25,000 checklists.
  • By repeating the process over a period of 25 years or so, it will be possible to scientifically document changes in distribution and abundance of our birds over a period of time. This has huge implications on nature conservation as a whole as birds are perfect indicators of the changing ecological conditions.

Air ioniser

  • Air ioniser is a device that uses high voltage to ionise (electrically charge) air molecules. Negative ions, or anions, are particles with one or more extra electrons, conferring a net negative charge to the particle. 
  • Cations are positive ions missing one or more electrons, resulting in a net positive charge. Some commercial air purifiers are designed to generate negative ions.
  • Another type of air ioniser is the electrostatic discharge (ESD) ioniser (balanced ion generator) used to neutralise static charge.
  • Air ionisers are used in air purifiers to remove particles from air. Airborne particles become charged as they attract charged ions from the ioniser by electrostatic attraction.
  • The particles in turn are then attracted to any nearby earthed (grounded) conductors, either deliberate plates within an air cleaner, or simply the nearest walls and ceilings.
  • The frequency of nosocomial infections in British hospitals prompted the National Health Service (NHS) to research the effectiveness of anions for air purification, finding that repeated airborne acinetobacter infections in a ward were eliminated by the installation of a negative air ioniser—the infection rate fell to zero, an unexpected result. Positive and negative ions produced by air conditioning systems have also been found by a manufacturer to inactivate viruses including influenza

Beating Retreat & Abide by me

  • Beating Retreat is a centuries-old military tradition going back to the days when troops disengaged from battle at sunset. As soon as the buglers sounded the ‘retreat’, troops ceased fighting and withdrew from the battlefield.
  • Beating Retreat is performed every year on the evening of January 29 at Vijay Chowk in the national capital, and marks the end of the Republic Day celebrations.
  • The traditional Christian hymn Abide with me, believed to have been a favourite of Mahatma Gandhi, has been dropped from the list of tunes for this year’s Beating Retreat ceremony. The tune had been played at the annual ceremony every year since 1950.
  • Abide with me is played by the ‘Massed Bands’ at the end of the ceremony, and this year, there are three tunes without it instead of the four tunes played last year, including the hymn.
  • The three tunes to be played by massed bands this year are Kadam kadam badhaye ja, Drummers call, and Ae mere watan ke logon. In contrast, the four tunes last year were Bharat ke jawan (new composition), Kadam kadam badhaye ja, Drummers call, and Abide with me.
  • In 2020 too, the tune was initially dropped from the list but was subsequently restored in the final list after protests from a cross-section of the public on social media. In addition, the national song Vande Mataram was played for the first time in 2020.

Elephant corridors

  • Elephant corridors are narrow pathways between natural habitats of elephants that allow them to move freely from one location to another without coming in contact with humans.
  • This reduces the risk of man-elephant conflict that has caused quite the stir across the country in the recent past as well.


  • Biomagnification is the accumulation of a chemical by an organism from water and food exposure that results in a concentration that is greater than would have resulted from water exposure only and thus greater than expected from equilibrium.

Statue of equality

  • 216-ft tall statue of the 11th century reformer and Vaishnavite saint, Sri Ramanuja, in Muchintal on the outskirts of Hyderabad is being called as The ‘Statue of Equality
  • It is being installed to mark the 1,000th birth anniversary of Sri Ramanuja.
  • It was built of panchaloha, a combination of gold, silver, copper, brass and zinc, by the Aerospun Corporation in China and shipped to India.
  • It is the second largest in the world in sitting position of the saint.

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