Daily Current Affairs for UPSC CSE
- Temperature Anomalies
- Genome India Project
- Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana (PMJDY)
- Ambiguities in Nuclear Liability law
- Facts for Prelims
1 . Temperature Anomalies
Context: March 2023 was indeed the second warmest in the instrumental record. The warmest March occurred just a few years ago in 2016, when the biggest El Niño of the 21st century triggered a ‘mini’ global warming.
Why was March 2023 is the second warmest?
- Each year’s March can be warmer or cooler than the March of the year before. Natural climate variability, including events like El Niño, can temporarily spike temperatures. But a particular year’s March may be cooler due to some other climate factors, such as a La Niña.
- For Example, A year is an ‘El Niño year’ if warmer water spreads in a band from west to east over the equatorial Pacific Ocean. In a ‘La Niña year’, cooler water spreads east to west in the same region. Both phenomena have distinct and significant effects on the global climate.
- The distribution of temperature deviations for March 2023 from the baseline long-term average March temperature is visible in the global map of temperature anomalies. The global distribution of temperature anomalies is due to land-ocean-atmosphere processes that dynamically determine the weather and climate.
- Global warming does not mean each month, or each year will be warmer than the previous month or the previous year.
- Instead, a better place to begin would be by averaging the weather over a decade. Decade-to-decade warming clearly shows that humans are now ensuring each decade is warmer than the one before.
What is Temperature anomaly?
- The term temperature anomaly means a departure from a reference value or long-term average.
- A positive anomaly indicates that the observed temperature was warmer than the reference value, while a negative anomaly indicates that the observed temperature was cooler than the reference value.
Why use temperature anomalies and not the actual temperature measurements?
- Actual temperature measurements are often difficult to gather. Some areas in the world have few temperature measurement stations and temperatures must be estimated over large regions.
- Using anomalies, the departure from an “average,” allows more accurate descriptions over larger areas than actual temperatures and provides a frame of reference that allows easier analysis.
- For example- As with the temperature, precipitation anomalies for March 2023 show the impact of a warm March over Eurasia in the form of below-normal precipitation. And the reduced snowfall over the Eurasian landmass has historically tended to favour a stronger monsoon.
2 . Genome India Project
Context: The Department of Biotechnology (DBT) recently said that the exercise to sequence 10,000 Indian human genomes and create a database under the Centre-backed Genome India Project is about two-thirds complete. About 7,000 Indian genomes have already been sequenced of which, 3,000 are available for public access by researchers.
What is genome sequencing?
- The human genome is the entire set of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA)residing in the nucleus of every cell of each human body. It carries the complete genetic information responsible for the development and functioning of the organism.
- The DNA consists of a double-stranded molecule built up by four bases – adenine (A), cytosine (C), guanine (G) and thymine (T). Every base on one strand pairs with a complementary base on the other strand (A with T and C with G) In all, the genome is made up of approximately 3.05 billion such base pairs.
- While the sequence or order of base pairs is identical in all humans, compared to that of a mouse or another species, there are differences in the genome of every human being that makes them unique. The process of deciphering the order of base pairs, to decode the genetic fingerprint of a human is called genome sequencing.
What is Human Genome Project?
- Launched in October 1990 and completed in April 2003, the Human Genome Project’s signature accomplishment – generating the first sequence of the human genome – provided fundamental information about the human blueprint, which has since accelerated the study of human biology and improved the practice of medicine.
- The Human Genome Project released the latest version of the complete human genome in 2023, with a 0.3% error margin.
What are the applications of genome sequencing?
- Genome sequencing has been used to evaluate rare disorders, preconditions for disorders, even cancer from the viewpoint of genetics, rather than as diseases of certain organs. Nearly 10,000 diseases — including cystic fibrosis and thalassemia — are known to be the result of a single gene malfunctioning.
- It has also been used as a tool for prenatal screening, to investigate whether the foetus has genetic disorders or anomalies.
- The Nobel Prize-winning technology Crispr, which relies on sequencing, may potentially allow scientists to repair disease-causing mutations in human genomes. Liquid biopsies, where a small amount of blood is examined for DNA markers, could help diagnose cancer long before symptoms appear.
- At the population level as well, genomics has several benefits. Advanced analytics and AI could be applied to essential datasets created by collecting genomic profiles across the population, allowing to develop greater understanding of causative factors and potential treatments of diseases. This would be especially relevant for rare genetic diseases, which require large datasets to find statistically important correlations.
What is Genome India project?
- Genome India Project (GIP) is a research initiative led by the Bangalore-based Indian Institute of Science’s Centre for Brain Research and involves over 20 universities across the country in an effort to gather samples, compile data, conduct research, and create a ‘Indian reference genome’ grid
- The initiative is funded by Department of Biotechnology (DBT) to sequence at least 10,000 Indian genomes
- In phase 1, the goal of the research is to develop predictive diagnostic indicators for several high-priority diseases and other uncommon and genetic disorders.
- In phase 2, the project would collect genetic samples from patients with three broad categories – cardiovascular diseases, mental illness, and cancer.
What is the significance of the Genome India project?
- India’s 1.3 billion-strong population consists of over 4,600 population groups, many of which are endogamous. Thus, the Indian population harbours distinct variations, with disease-causing mutations often amplified within some of these groups. Findings from population-based or disease-based human genetics research from other populations of the world cannot be extrapolated to Indians, says a note from the Indian Institute of Science (IISc). But despite being a large population with diverse ethnic groups, India lacks a comprehensive catalogue of genetic variations.
- Creating a database of Indian genomes allows researchers to learn about genetic variants unique to India’s population groups and use that to customise drugs and therapies.
- The Centre’s Department of Biotechnology notes that the project will help “unravel the genetic underpinnings of chronic diseases currently on the rise in India, (for) example, diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular diseases, neurodegenerative disorders, and cancer”.
3 . Pradhan Mantri Jhan Dhan Yojana
Context: In the last two financial years, only 329 claims for accident insurance cover provided to bank account holders under the Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana (PMJDY) have been settled out of the 647 claims that were filed.
What is Pradhan Mantri Jhan Dhan Yojana?
- PMJDY is a National Mission on Financial Inclusion encompassing an integrated approach to bring about comprehensive financial inclusion of all the households in the country.
- The plan envisages universal access to banking facilities with at least one basic banking account for every household, financial literacy, access to credit, insurance and pension facility.
- In addition, the beneficiaries would get RuPay Debit card having inbuilt accident insurance cover of र 1 lakh.
- The plan also envisages channelling all Government benefits (from Centre / State / Local Body) to the beneficiaries accounts and pushing the Direct Benefits Transfer (DBT) scheme of the Union Government.
Objectives of the scheme
- Objective of “Pradhan Mantri Jan-Dhan Yojana (PMJDY)” is ensuring access to various financial services like availability of basic savings bank account, access to need based credit, remittances facility, insurance and pension to the excluded sections i.e. weaker sections & low income groups. This deep penetration at affordable cost is possible only with effective use of technology.
- Under the scheme, a basic savings bank deposit (BSBD) account can be opened in any bank branch or Business Correspondent (Bank Mitra) outlet, by persons not having any other account.
Benefits under PMJDY
- One basic savings bank account is opened for unbanked person.
- There is no requirement to maintain any minimum balance in PMJDY accounts.
- Interest is earned on the deposit in PMJDY accounts.
- Rupay Debit card is provided to PMJDY account holder.
- Accident Insurance Cover of Rs.1 lakh (enhanced to Rs. 2 lakh to new PMJDY accounts opened after 28.8.2018) is available with RuPay card issued to the PMJDY account holders. (The key condition to avail the accident insurance is that the beneficiary must have performed at least one successful transaction (financial or non-financial) using the card in the 90 days prior to date of accident. This condition can make filing claims difficult.)
- An overdraft (OD) facility up to Rs. 10,000 to eligible account holders is available.
- PMJDY accounts are eligible for Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT), Pradhan Mantri Jeevan Jyoti Bima Yojana (PMJJBY), Pradhan Mantri Suraksha Bima Yojana (PMSBY), Atal Pension Yojana (APY), Micro Units Development & Refinance Agency Bank (MUDRA) scheme
4 . Ambiguities in Nuclear Liability law
Context: The issues regarding India’s nuclear liability law continue to hold up the more than a decade-old plan to build six nuclear power reactors in Maharashtra’s Jaitapur, the world’s biggest nuclear power generation site under consideration at present.
What is the law governing nuclear liability in India?
- Laws on civil nuclear liability ensure that compensation is available to the victims for nuclear damage caused by a nuclear incident or disaster and set out who will be liable for those damages.
- The international nuclear liability regime consists of multiple treaties and was strengthened after the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear accident.
- The umbrella Convention on Supplementary Compensation (CSC) was adopted in 1997 with the aim of establishing a minimum national compensation amount.
- The amount can further be increased through public funds, (to be made available by the contracting parties), should the national amount be insufficient to compensate the damage caused by a nuclear incident.
Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Act (CLNDA) 2010
- Even though India was a signatory to the CSC, Parliament ratified the convention only in 2016. To keep in line with the international convention, India enacted the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Act (CLNDA) in 2010, to put in place a speedy compensation mechanism for victims of a nuclear accident.
- The CLNDA provides for strict and no-fault liability on the operator of the nuclear plant, where it will be held liable for damage regardless of any fault on its part.
- It also specifies the amount the operator will have to shell out in case of damage caused by an accident at ₹1,500 crore and requires the operator to cover liability through insurance or other financial security.
- In case the damage claims exceed ₹1,500 crore, the CLNDA expects the government to step in and has limited the government liability amount to the rupee equivalent of 300 million Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) or about ₹2,100 to ₹2,300 crore. The Act also specifies the limitations on the amount and time when action for compensation can be brought against the operator.
- India currently has 22 nuclear reactors with over a dozen more projects planned. All the existing reactors are operated by the state-owned Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL).
What does the CLNDA say on supplier liability?
- The international legal framework on civil nuclear liability, including the annex of the CSC is based on the central principle of exclusive liability of the operator of a nuclear installation and no other person.
- However, India, going beyond these two conditions, for the first time introduced the concept of supplier liability over and above that of the operator’s in its civil nuclear liability law, the CLNDA.
- Apart from the contractual right of recourse or when “intent to cause damage” is established, the CLNDA has a Section 17(b) which states that the operator of the nuclear plant, after paying their share of compensation for damage in accordance with the Act, shall have the right of recourse where the “nuclear incident has resulted as a consequence of an act of supplier or his employee, which includes supply of equipment or material with patent or latent defects or sub-standard services”.
Why is the supplier liability clause an issue in nuclear deals?
- Foreign suppliers of nuclear equipment from countries as well as domestic suppliers have been wary of operationalising nuclear deals with India as it has the only law where suppliers can be asked to pay damages.
- Concerns about potentially getting exposed to unlimited liability under the CLNDA and ambiguity over how much insurance to set aside in case of damage claims have been sticking points for suppliers.
- Suppliers have taken issue with two specific provisions in the law, Section 17(b) and Section 46. The latter clause goes against the Act’s central purpose of serving as a special mechanism enforcing the channelling of liability to the operator to ensure prompt compensation for victims.
- Section 46 provides that nothing would prevent proceedings other than those which can be brought under the Act, to be brought against the operator. This is not uncommon, as it allows criminal liability to be pursued where applicable. However, in the absence of a comprehensive definition on the types of ‘nuclear damage’ being notified by the Central Government, Section 46 potentially allows civil liability claims to be brought against the operator and suppliers through other civil laws such as the law of tort. While liability for operators is capped by the CLNDA, this exposes suppliers to unlimited amounts of liability.
What is the government’s stand?
- The central government has maintained that the Indian law is in consonance with the CSC. About Section 17(b), it said that the provision “permits” but “does not require” an operator to include in the contract or exercise the right to recourse. However, legal experts have pointed out that a plain reading of Section 17 of the CLNDA suggests that Section 17(a), (b) and (c) are distinctive and separate, meaning even if the right to recourse against the supplier is not mentioned in the contract [as provided by Section 17 (a)], the other two clauses stand. This effectively means that the supplier can be sued if defective equipment provided or if it can be established that the damage resulted from an act of intent.
- Besides, it would not be sound public policy if the NPCIL, a government entity, entered into a contract with a supplier and waived its right to recourse in the contract, despite the fact that the law provides for such recourse.
5 . Facts for Prelims
Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH)
- The Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) is a non-profit charitable organisation registered under the Societies Registration Act, 1860.
- INTACH was founded in 1984 in New Delhi with the vision to create a membership organisation to stimulate and spearhead heritage awareness and conservation in India.
- Since 1984, INTACH has pioneered the conservation and protection of India’s natural and cultural heritage and is today the largest membership organisation in the country dedicated to conservation
- Mission – INTACH’s mission to conserve heritage is based on the belief that living in harmony with heritage enhances the quality of life, and it is the duty of every citizen of India as laid down in the Constitution of India
- In 2007, the United Nations awarded INTACH a special consultative status with United Nations Economic and Social Council
Its stated mission to date continues to be:
- Sensitise the public about the pluralistic cultural legacy of India
- Instill a sense of social responsibility towards preserving India’s common heritage
- Protect and preserve India’s living, built, and natural heritage by undertaking necessary actions and measures
- Document unprotected buildings of archaeological, architectural, historic and aesthetic significance, as well as the cultural resources, as this is the first step towards formulating conservation plans
- Develop heritage policies and regulations, and make legal interventions to protect India’s heritage when necessary
- Provide expertise in the field of conservation, restoration and preservation of specific works of art; and encourage capacity-building by developing skills through training programmes
- Undertake emergency response measures during natural or man-made disasters and support the local administration whenever heritage is threatened
- Foster collaborations, Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) and partnerships with government and other national and international agencies
- Generate sponsorships for conservation and educational projects
- Vilakku Maadam at Thirunelli Maha Vishnu Temple, an unfinished work, yet an architectural wonder. Vilakku Maadam is an outer wall to the temple. This granite pillars, part of the cloister is an unusual sight to Kerala temples.
- The vilakkumadam at Thirunelly temple, an exquisite granite structure, is a partial one and its incompleteness is a part of history. It is said that the work was initiated by the King of Coorg without the knowledge of the temple’s custodian, the Kottayam Raja. The Kottayam Raja later stopped the works and the structure remained untouched afterwards.
- The Thirunelly Maha Vishnu temple, an iconic temple in Wayanad, is undergoing a major renovation.
Zero Shadow Day
- Zero Shadow Day refers to a celestial phenomenon that occurs twice a year in regions close to the equator, where vertical objects do not cast any shadows on the ground.
- Zero Shadow Day occurs when the sun is directly overhead. Most of the areas that fall between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Tropic of Cancer can experience this phenomenon.
- Why it hapens?- Uttarayan (movement of the Sun from south to north from winter solstice to summer solstice) and Dakshinayan (back from north to south) happen because Earth’s rotation axis is tilted at an angle of roughly 23.5° to the axis of revolution around the Sun. Sun’s location moves from 23.5°N to 23.5°S of Earth’s equator and back. All places whose latitude equals the angle between the Sun’s location and the equator on that day experience zero shadow day, with the shadow beneath an object at local noon.
- Vertical objects do not cast any shadows on Zero Shadow Day because the sun is directly overhead, causing the objects to be aligned with the sunlight and not creating any shadows on the ground.
- Zero Shadow Day occurs twice a year, typically once in the northern hemisphere and once in the southern hemisphere, when the sun is directly overhead in regions near the equator.
- Operation Kaveri is a rescue mission launched by the government to evacuate stranded Indian citizens from Sudan where the Sudanese Army and paramilitary groups are fighting.
- The operation, which involves the Indian Air Force and the Indian Navy, is being coordinated by the Ministry of External Affairs.
- The warring factions in Sudan agreed to a 72-hour ceasefire after the US and Saudi Arabia mediated the truce while countries are engaged in evacuating their citizens from the country.
- Under its evacuation mission, India has set up a transit facility at Jeddah and all the Indians have been taken to the coastal Saudi Arabian city after their evacuation from Sudan.
- India has been coordinating efforts with other countries that have the most civilians and resources in Sudan, including the U.S., the U.K., the UAE and Saudi Arabia, on logistics, timing the evacuation operations, and even using Saudi and French planes.