Daily Current Affairs : 27th and 28th February

Daily Current Affairs for UPSC CSE

Topics Covered

  1. Geneva Convention
  2. Prompt Corrective Action
  3. National Science Day
  4. Backward class commission
  5. New rules to supervise biotechnology research

1 . Geneva Convention

What are the Geneva Conventions?

  • The 1949 Geneva Conventions are a set of international treaties that ensure that warring parties conduct themselves in a humane way with non-combatants such as civilians and medical personnel, as well as with combatants no longer actively engaged in fighting, such as prisoners of war, and wounded or sick soldiers.
  • All countries are signatories to the Geneva Conventions. There are four conventions, with three protocols added on since 1949.

Does the captured pilot count as a prisoner of war?

  • The provisions of the conventions apply in peacetime situations, in declared wars, and in conflicts that are not recognised as war by one or more of the parties.
  • Even though India and Pakistan have been careful not to use the ‘w’ word for the operations each has conducted on the other’s territory over two successive days — India has said its airstrikes were a “non-military” intelligence-led operation — both sides are bound by the Geneva Conventions. This means the IAF officer is a prisoner of war, and his treatment has to be in accordance with the provisions for PoWs under the Geneva Conventions.

What are the provisions for PoWs?

  • The treatment of prisoners of war is dealt with by the Third Convention or treaty. Its 143 articles spread over five sections and annexures are exhaustive, and deal with every kind of situation that may arise for a captive and captor, including the place of internment, religious needs, recreation, financial resources, the kinds of work that captors can make PoWs do, the treatment of captured officers, and the repatriation of prisoners.
  • The Third Convention is unambiguous about how prisoners must be treated: “humanely”. And the responsibility for this lies with the detaining power, not just the individuals who captured the PoW.
  • “Any unlawful act or omission by the Detaining Power causing death or seriously endangering the health of a prisoner of war in its custody is prohibited, and will be regarded as a serious breach of the present Convention. In particular, no prisoner of war may be subjected to physical mutilation or to medical or scientific experiments of any kind which are not justified by the medical, dental or hospital treatment of the prisoner concerned and carried out in his interest. Likewise, prisoners of war must at all times be protected, particularly against acts of violence or intimidation and against insults and public curiosity. Measures of reprisal against prisoners of war are prohibited,” says Article 13 of the Convention.

What rights is a PoW entitled to?

  • Article 14 of the Convention lays down that PoWs are “entitled to in all circumstances to respect for their persons and their honour”. In captivity, a PoW must not be forced to provide information of any kind under “physical or mental torture, nor any other form of coercion”. Refusal to answer questions should not invite punishment. A PoW must be protected from exposure to fighting. Use of PoWs as hostages or human shields is prohibited, and a PoW has to be given the same access to safety and evacuation facilities as those affiliated to the detaining power.
  • Access to health facilities, prayer, recreation and exercise are also written into the Convention. The detaining power has to facilitate correspondence between the PoW and his family, and must ensure that this is done without delays. A PoW is also entitled to receive books or care packages from the outside world.

What do the provisions say about the release of prisoners?

  • Parties to the conflict “are bound to send back” or repatriate PoWs, regardless of rank, who are seriously wounded or sick, after having cared for them until they are fit to travel”. The conflicting parties are expected to write into any agreement they may reach to end hostilities the expeditious return of PoWs. Parties to the conflict can also arrive at special arrangements for the improvement of the conditions of internment of PoWs, or for their release and repatriation.
  • At the end of the 1971 war, India had more than 80,000 Pakistani troops who had surrendered to the Indian Army after the liberation of Dhaka. India agreed to release them under the Shimla Agreement of 1972. Pakistan can decide to send Wing Commander Abhinandan unilaterally, or negotiate his release with India.

In such situations, who monitors whether the Geneva Conventions are being followed?

  • The Geneva Conventions have a system of “Protecting Powers” who ensure that the provisions of the conventions are being followed by the parties in a conflict. In theory, each side must designate states that are not party to the conflict as their “Protecting Powers”. In practice, the International Committee of the Red Cross usually plays this role.

2 . Prompt Corrective Action

Context : Three more banks — Allahabad Bank and Corporation Bank, from the public sector, and Dhanlaxmi Bank from the private sector — are now out of the Reserve Bank of India’s (RBI) prompt and corrective action (PCA) framework. Earlier, such restrictions were taken off Bank of India, Oriental Bank of Commerce and Bank of Maharashtra.

What is Prompt Corrective Action

  • To ensure that banks don’t go bust, RBI has put in place some trigger points to assess, monitor, control and take corrective actions on banks which are weak and troubled. The process or mechanism under which such actions are taken is known as Prompt Corrective Action, or PCA.

What does the RBI stipulate

  • RBI has set trigger points on the basis of CRAR (a metric to measure balance sheet strength), NPA and ROA. Based on each trigger point, the banks have to follow a mandatory action plan. Apart from this, the RBI has discretionary action plans too.
  • The rationale for classifying the rule-based action points into “mandatory“ and “discretionary“ is that some of the actions are essential to restore the financial health of banks while other actions will be taken at the discretion of RBI depending upon the profile of each bank. 
  • Breaching net NPA ratio of 6% is one of the conditions that trigger restrictions.

.What will a bank do if PCA is triggered

  • Banks are not allowed to re new or access costly deposits or take steps to increase their fee-based income.
  • Banks will also have to launch a special drive to reduce the stock of NPAs and contain generation of fresh NPAs.
  • They will also not be allowed to enter into new lines of business. RBI will also impose restrictions on the bank on borrowings from interbank market. 

3 . National Science Day

Context : National Science Day is celebrated across India on February 28. Famous Indian scientist Sir Chandrasekhara Venkata Raman or CV Raman discovered the Raman Effect on this day in 1928. For his discovery, Sir CV Raman was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1930. In honour of this discovery and as a mark of tribute to the scientist, National Science Day was marked for the first time on February 28, 1987. For the past 32 years, every 28 February has been celebrated as a remembrance of CV Raman’s contribution to science and the Indian scientific community.

Know About Raman Effect

  • Raman effect is the inelastic scattering of a photon by molecules which are excited to higher vibrational or rotational energy levels. It is also called Raman scattering.
  • The Raman effect forms the basis for Raman spectroscopy which is used by chemists and physicists to gain information about materials.

Importance Of National Science Day:

  • Science and technology should be applied in daily life – that’s the message that National Science Day spreads every year.
  • T
  • he day brings scientists and science lovers together as various programmes are organised to bring the scientific community closer. Educational institutes organise science fairs and researchers get a chance to showcase their latest discoveries.

Theme of National Science Day 2019

  • This year the theme for the National Science Day is: Science for people and people for science. Last year’s theme was “Science and Technology for a sustainable future.”

About CV Raman

  • CV Raman was born on November 7, 1888 He was a Tamil physicist who carried out ground-breaking work in the field of light scattering. Apart from getting Nobel Prize for Physics, India honoured him with its highest civilian award, the Bharat Ratna in 1954.
  • CV Raman was not just a scientist but a great thinker as well.

4 . 123rd Amendment Bill

Context : Two years after the term of National Commission for Other Backward Classes (NCBC) got over, the Central government has proposed to constitute a new commission.

Background

  • Under the Constitution the National Commission for Scheduled Caste has the power to look into complaints and welfare measures with regard to Scheduled Castes, backward classes and Anglo-Indians.  The Bill seeks to remove the power of the NCSC to examine matters related to backward classes.

Features of 123rd Amendment Bill

  • Constitutional status to National Commission for Backward Classes:  The NCBC is a body set up under the National Commission for Backward Classes Act, 1993.  It has the power to examine complaints regarding inclusion or exclusion of groups within the list of backward classes, and advise the central government in this regard.  The Bill seeks to establish the NCBC under the Constitution, and provide it the authority to examine complaints and welfare measures regarding socially and educationally backward classes.
  • Backward classes:  The Constitution Amendment Bill states that the President may specify the socially and educationally backward classes in the various states and union territories.  He may do this in consultation with the Governor of the concerned state.  However, a law of Parliament will be required if the list of backward classes is to be amended.
  • Composition and service conditions:  Under the Constitution Amendment Bill, the NCBC will comprise of five members appointed by the President.  Their tenure and conditions of service will also be decided by the President through rules.
  • Functions:  Under the Constitution Amendment Bill, the duties of the NCBC will include: (i) investigating and monitoring how safeguards provided to the backward classes under the Constitution and other laws are being implemented, (ii) inquiring into specific complaints regarding violation of rights, and (iii) advising and making recommendations on socio-economic development of such classes.  The central and state governments will be required to consult with the NCBC on all major policy matters affecting the socially and educationally backward classes.
  • The NCBC will be required to present annual reports to the President on working of the safeguards for backward classes.  These reports will be tabled in Parliament, and in the state legislative assemblies of the concerned states.
  • Powers of a civil court:  Under the Constitution Amendment Bill, the NCBC will have the powers of a civil court while investigating or inquiring into any complaints.  These powers include: (i) summoning people and examining them on oath, (ii) requiring production of any document or public record, and (iii) receiving evidence.

5 . New rules to supervise biotechnology Research

Context : China has drafted new rules to supervise biotechnology research, with fines and bans against rogue scientists after a Chinese researcher caused a global outcry by claiming that he gene-edited babies.

About the Draft Rules

  • It propose to classify technology used for extracting genetic materials, gene editing, gene transfer and stem cell research as “high risk”.
  • Health authorities under the central government would manage such research.
  • Scientists can be fined 10 to 20 times the amount of “illegal income” earned from unauthorised research and be banned from their field of work for six months to one year.
  • “If the circumstances are serious, their medical practice licence shall be revoked and the individual shall not engage in clinical research for life

6 . Price Control of Drugs

Context : The government on Wednesday said it had brought 42 non-scheduled anti-cancer drugs under price control, capping trade margin at 30%, which would reduce their retail prices by up to 85%. The National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) has invoked extraordinary powers in public interest, under Para 19 of the Drugs (Prices Control) Order, 2013 to bring 42 non-scheduled anti-cancer drugs under price control through trade margin rationalisation, an official release said.

How are prices regulated?

  • The DPCO controls the prices of all essential medicines by fixing ceiling prices, limiting the highest prices companies can charge.
  • The National List of Essential Medicines (NLEM) is drawn up to include essential medicines that satisfy the priority health needs of the population.
  • The list is made with considerations of safety, efficacy, disease prevalence and the comparative cost-effectiveness of medicines, and is updated periodically by an expert panel set up for this purpose under the aegis of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. This list forms the basis of price controls under the DPCO.

What is the mechanism for price capping?

  • The NLEM 2015 contains 376 medicines on the basis of which the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) has fixed prices of over 800 formulations using the provisions of the DPCO. However, these formulations cover less than 10% of the total pharmaceutical market.
  • The DPCO follows a market-based pricing mechanism. The ceiling price is worked out on the basis of the simple average price of all brands having at least 1% market share of the total market turnover of that medicine.

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