Daily Current Affairs : 9th and 10th November 2023

Topics Covered

  1. Genetically Modified Insects
  2. Loss and Damage
  3. Electoral Bonds and Electoral Trusts
  4. Expulsion of Members
  5. Facts for Prelims

1 . Genetically Modified Insects 


Context: In April 2023, the Department of Biotechnology (DBT) issued the ‘Guidelines for Genetically Engineered (GE) Insects’ 

About the news

  • The Department of Biotechnology (DBT) issued the ‘Guidelines for Genetically Engineered (GE) Insects’.  
  • They provide procedural roadmaps for those interested in creating GE insects. 
  • The guidelines provide standard operating procedures for genetically engineering mosquitoes, crop pests, and beneficial insects. 
  •  However, the lack of clarity on what qualifies as ‘beneficial’ raises concerns, potentially hindering funders and scientists from investing in this research. 

 About Genetically Modified Insects

  • Genetically modified insects involve the alteration of an insect’s genetic material to achieve specific traits or outcomes. 
  • This process is often used to control or modify insect populations for various purposes, such as reducing the spread of diseases, managing crop pests, or promoting beneficial traits. 

Significance

  • Disease Control: Genetically modified mosquitoes, for example, can be designed to resist or reduce the transmission of diseases like malaria or dengue fever, contributing to public health efforts. 
  • Crop Protection: Modified insects can be engineered to control crop pests more effectively, reducing the need for chemical pesticides and promoting sustainable agricultural practices. 
  • Vector Control: Targeting insects that act as vectors for diseases can help minimize their impact on human and animal health, offering a proactive approach to disease prevention. 
  • Environmental Conservation: By targeting specific insect populations, genetic modifications can contribute to ecosystem conservation and protect endangered species from harmful insect interactions. 
  • Improved Agriculture: Genetic modifications in beneficial insects can enhance their traits, leading to improved pollination, pest control, and overall agricultural productivity. 

Challenges

  • Ethical Concerns: There are ethical considerations surrounding the intentional alteration of living organisms, raising questions about the potential consequences and moral implications of releasing genetically modified insects into the environment. 
  • Unintended Consequences: Genetic modifications can have unforeseen impacts on ecosystems. Altered insects might interact with other species in unexpected ways, leading to ecological imbalances and unintended consequences. 
  • Safety Risks: The safety of genetically modified insects is a significant concern. The possibility of unintentional harm to non-target species or ecosystems poses a risk that needs careful assessment before widespread deployment. 

Guidelines on GM Insects

  • The guidelines offer step-by-step procedures for individuals involved in developing genetically engineered insects. 
  • These guidelines align with the recommendations provided by the World Health Organisation regarding genetically engineered mosquitoes. 

Issues with the Guidelines

  • Uncertainty of Purpose: The guidelines note that GE insects are becoming globally available and are intended to help Indian researchers navigate regulatory requirements. However, it doesn’t specify the purposes for which GE insects may be approved in India or how the DBT, as a promoter of biotechnology, envisions their use.   
  • Uncertainty for Researchers: The guidelines are applicable only to research and not to confined trials or deployment. That is, once the insects are ‘made’ and tested in the laboratory, researchers can conduct trials with them on the approval of theGenetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC), of the Union Environment Ministry. 
  • Uncertainty of ambit: The guidelines offer standard operating procedures for GE mosquitoes, crop pests, and beneficial insects – but what ‘beneficial’ means, in the context of GE insects, is not clear. The lack of clarity about the insects and the modifications to them that are deemed ‘beneficial’ will impede funders and scientists from investing in this research. In a country with low public as well as private funding, the absence of a precise stance to identify and promote research priorities hampers progress. 

2 . Loss and Damage


Context: As the climate crisis intensifies, two terms are in sharp focus — adaptation and ‘loss and damage’ (L&D). 

What is Loss and Damage

  • Loss and damage refers to the negative consequences that arise from the unavoidable risks of climate change, like rising sea levels, prolonged heatwaves, desertification, the acidification of the sea and extreme events, such as bushfires, species extinction and crop failures.
  • As the climate crisis unfolds, these events will happen more and more frequently, and the consequences will become more severe.

About the Loss and Damage Fund

  • At the 19th Conference of the Parties (COP 19) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Warsaw, Poland, in 2013, representatives of member countries formally agreed to establish the L&D fund. It was being created to provide financial and technical assistance to economically developing nations that were incurring L&D due to climate change. 
  • At COP 25, the Santiago Network for L&D was set up, but countries failed to commit any fund. 
  • At COP 26, the Glasgow Dialogue on finance for L&D was established to continue discussions over the next three years on the fund. 
  • Finally, at COP 27 in 2022, after intense negotiations, representatives of the UNFCCC’s member states agreed to set up the L&D fund and a Transitional Committee (TC) to figure out how the new funding mechanisms under the fund would operate. The TC was also to prepare recommendations that countries would consider, deliberate on, and potentially adopt by COP 28. 

How will L&D funds ensure climate justice? 

  • Adaptation and L&D are not mutually exclusive concepts. They exist on a continuum of climate resilience, and both have a place in the collective efforts to combat climate change. 
  • A successful response to climate change requires balancing of the proactive measures of adaptation with the moral and financial responsibility of addressing the losses and damages that are an inescapable part of a climate-altered world. 
  • The L&D fund was conceived as a critical component of global climate action, recognising that some of the consequences of climate change are irreversible and beyond the capacity of vulnerable nations to handle. 
  • To achieve climate justice, rich countries must meet their obligations to reduce emissions and deliver finance in line with what is fair, and uphold the principles of equity, justice, and solidarity in the face of a changing climate. 
  • Otherwise, global climate action will get derailed, putting more pressure on the already beleaguered COP 28 talks. 

3 . Electoral Bonds and Electoral Trusts


Context: Before the controversial Electoral Bonds (EB) Scheme was introduced in 2018, there was something called an Electoral Trusts (ET) Scheme, which was introduced by the UPA government in 2013. 

Electoral Trusts

  • An Electoral Trust is a Trust set up by companies with the sole objective to distribute the contributions received
  • Under electoral trust scheme, any company registered under Section 25 of the Companies Act, 1956, can form an electoral trust. 
  • ‘The Electoral Trusts Scheme, 2013’, the Central government specified the eligibility and procedure for registration of Electoral Trusts
  • Under Section 17CA of the Income-tax Act, 1961, any citizen of India, a company registered in India, or a firm or Hindu Undivided Family or association of persons living in India, can donate to an electoral trust. 
  • The electoral trusts have to apply for renewal every three financial years. 
  • They must donate 95% of contributions received in a financial year to political parties registered under the Representation of the People Act, 1951. 
  •  The contributors’ PAN (in case of a resident) or passport number (in case of an NRI) is required at the time of making contributions. 
  • The number of registered trusts has ranged from three in 2013 to 17 in 2021-22, but only a few of them actually make donations every financial year. 

Difference between Electoral Bonds and Trusts

  • The electoral trusts route is transparent on contributors and beneficiaries. Where there is only one contributor and one beneficiary of a particular trust, the public can know for sure who the source of funding.  
  • Electoral bonds, on the other hand, are exempt from disclosure requirements. Parties inform the ECI of the aggregate donations received through EBs, but give no details of the donors, which they are required to do in case of donations in cash or by cheque or bank transactions over Rs.20,000 each. 

4 . Expulsion of MP


Context: The Lok Sabha Ethics Committee on Thursday adopted a report recommending the expulsion of Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra from the Lower House over a “cash-for-query” allegation. Six members, including suspended Congress MP Praneet Kaur, voted in favour of the report while four Opposition MPs voted against it. 

Rules on what happens next

  • The rules governing the procedures of the Ethics Committee — incorporated in Chapter XXA of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the Lok Sabha in August 2015 — state that the recommendations of the Committee shall be in the form of a report and it shall be presented to the Speaker who may direct that it be tabled in the House. The rules say that the report “may also state the procedure to be followed by the House in giving effect to the recommendations made by the Committee”.
  • Rule 316 E lays down the procedure to be adopted for consideration of the report by the House. “After the report has been presented, the Chairperson or any member of the Committee or any other member may move that the report be taken into consideration whereupon the Speaker may put the question to the House,” it reads.
  • Before putting the question to the House, the rules say the Speaker may permit a debate on the motion not exceeding half an hour. After the motion is agreed to, the chairperson or any member of the committee, or any other member, “may move that the House agrees or disagrees, or agrees with amendments, with the recommendations contained in the report”.
  • Rule 316 F says that “a motion that the report of the Committee be taken into consideration shall be put down in the list of business after disposal of questions”.
  • The member stands expelled the moment such a motion is adopted by the House.

Expulsion of Members

  • Article 101 of the Constitution refers to the automatic cessation of membership in Parliament on certain grounds, such as when a member is elected to the other House of Parliament or to a State Assembly and does not resign from either within the specified period, or when a member is continuously absent from the House for 60 days without permission.
  • Expulsion of a member, on the other hand, follows a finding of guilt by a committee set up by the House.
  • Articles 105 and 194 of the Constitution, which deal with the powers and privileges of the Houses of Parliament and the State legislatures, respectively, are also silent on expulsion.

Case Laws

Raja Ram Pal vs The Hon’ble Speaker

  • In Raja Ram Pal, a majority of four judges held that Parliament has the power to expel its members, and such power is justiciable. Raja Ram Pal was one of 10 Lok Sabha members who were accused of indulging in unethical and corrupt practices of taking monetary consideration in relation to their functions as MPs. However, there was disagreement over the interpretation of Article 101 of the Constitution, which deals with the vacation of seats in both Houses of Parliament. The petitioners argued that expulsion was beyond the power of Parliament because Article 101 is silent on the expulsion of members.
  • In 2010, another five-judge Constitution bench reviewed the law on expulsion of members in Amarinder Singh v Special Committee, Punjab Vidhan Sabha. In this case, Justices Balakrishnan and Raveendran, who had disagreed with each other in Raja Ram Pal, gave a unanimous verdict, declaring the expulsion of Amarinder Singh unconstitutional.

Amarinder Singh vs Special Committee, Punjab Vidhan Sabha

  • In 2010, another five-judge Constitution bench reviewed the law on expulsion of members in Amarinder Singh v Special Committee, Punjab Vidhan Sabha. In this case, Justices Balakrishnan and Raveendran, who had disagreed with each other in Raja Ram Pal, gave a unanimous verdict, declaring the expulsion of Amarinder Singh unconstitutional.
  • The bench held that if the legislature were permitted to exercise privileges for acting against members for their executive acts during previous terms, the courts would likely be flooded with cases involving political rivalries. The bench also held that such a scenario would frustrate some of the basic objectives of a parliamentary democracy.
  • Mahua Moitra’s imminent expulsion from the Lok Sabha shows how the device of expulsion can be used against political opponents or dissidents, even without a regime change. It can also be used against members for their legislative acts.

5 . Facts for Prelims


 Red Aurora Borealis

  • In a first, northern lights turn sky red in Bulgaria. 
  • Auroras are radiant occurrences observed in the vicinity of the North (Aurora Borealis) and South Poles (Aurora Australis). 
  • These luminous displays result from the interplay between charged particles emitted by the Sun and the Earth’s magnetic field and atmosphere. 
  • The colors observed in auroras depend on the type of gas and altitude of the collisions. 

Organic farming

  • Organic farming is a practice of the cultivation of crops and rearing of animals without the use of any synthetic farm inputs such as fertilizer and pesticides, but by the use of traditional inputs such as green manure, compost manure, crop rotation, and other cultural practices to eliminate pest and manage diseases. 
  • Certified organic agriculture accounts for 70 million hectares (170 million acres) globally, with over half of that total in Australia. 

 Psoriasis

  • Psoriasis is a chronic autoimmune condition that affects the skin. 
  •  It occurs when the immune system mistakenly speeds up the skin cell turnover process, leading to the rapid buildup of skin cells on the surface.  
  • This results in thick, red patches covered with silvery scales, often itchy and painful. 
  • While it’s not contagious, psoriasis can significantly impact a person’s quality of life, and there’s currently no cure. 
  •  Treatment aims to manage symptoms, reduce inflammation, and slow down skin cell growth. 

Difference between Core -Headline and CPI Inflation:  

  • Core inflation refers to all commodities, services, and goods in the economy excluding food and fuel. 
  • Headline inflation, on the other hand, includes these, too, and refers to all the changes in the values of things. 
  • As the prices of food and fuel are volatile and fluctuate a lot, core inflation is a more stable rate than headline inflation. 
  • CPI or Consumer Price Index is the measure of the monthly changes in the prices of the goods and services, paid by the consumer over a period of time. 
  •  CPI is calculated for a fixed basket of goods and services that may or may not be altered by the government from time to time. 
  • It is a macroeconomic indicator that measures inflation. 
  •  It is used as an essential economic tool by central and state governments, the Reserve Bank of India for maintaining money supply, price stability. 
  • The base year for CPI is 2012. 

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