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Current Affairs 07 February 2024

  1. Bills to modify SC/ST list in Odisha and AP
  2. Success of CAR-T cell therapy
  3. Fencing of Indo-Myanmar border
  4. RS passes Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Amendment Bill, 2024
  5. Policy to promote use of Green Hydrogen
  6. Trust Vote


Context:

Recently, the Rajya Sabha passed two bills, which seek to modify the list of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in the states of Odisha and Andhra Pradesh.

Relevance:

GS Paper – 2: Constitutional Bodies, Issues Related to SCs & STs

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Inclusion of PVT groups in ST list
  2. Scheduled Tribes in India
  3. The Scheduled Tribes list
  4. Tribe inclusion on the ST list
  5. Tribes to be added to ST category list

Inclusion of PVT groups in ST list:

  • The Rajya Sabha cleared the Constitution (Scheduled Tribes) Order (Amendment) Bill, 2024, and the Constitution (Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes) Order (Amendment) Bill, 2024, by voice vote.
  • The first Bill seeks to modify the SC/ST list in Andhra Pradesh, while the second seeks to modify the SC/ST list in Odisha.
  • In Andhra Pradesh: Three ethnic groups namely, Bondo Porja, Khond Porja, Parangiperja — are being added to the list of STs.
  • In Odisha: Four ethnic gropus, namely Pauri Bhuyan and Paudi Bhuyan as synonyms of the Bhuyan tribe; the Chuktia Bhunjia as a synonym of the Bhunjia tribe; the Bondo as a sub-tribe of the Bondo Poraja tribe; and the Mankidia as a synonym for the Mankirdia tribe are being added to the St list.
  • All these are Primitive Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs).

Scheduled Tribes in India

  • According to the 2011 Census, there are 104 million Scheduled Tribes in India, accounting for 8.6% of the country’s population.
    • No community has been designated as a Scheduled Tribe in the states of Haryana and Punjab, as well as the union territories of Chandigarh, Delhi, and Puducherry.
  • Following the dissolution of the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment in 1999, the Government of India established the Ministry of Tribal Affairs.
  • As with the Scheduled Castes, the Plan’s goal of empowering tribals is being met through a three-pronged strategy of: Economic empowerment, social justice, and social empowerment

The Scheduled Tribes list

  • Article 342 specifies tribal communities or parts of or groups within tribes or tribal communities that are deemed to be Scheduled Tribes in relation to that State or UT.
  • In accordance with these provisions, the list of Scheduled Tribes is notified for each State or Union Territory.
  • These lists are only valid within the jurisdiction of that State or UT.
    • A community designated as a Scheduled Tribe in one state does not have to be so in another.
  • The process of including a community as a Scheduled Tribe is ongoing.

Tribe inclusion on the ST list

  • Criteria for inclusion on the ST List o The current criteria for designating a community as a Scheduled Tribe are: indications of primitive traits; distinctive culture; geographical isolation; shyness of contact with the larger community; and backwardness.
  • These criteria, however, are not specified in the Constitution.
  • Inclusion procedure
    • Adding tribes to the ST list begins with a recommendation from the respective state governments.
    • These recommendations are then forwarded to the Tribal Affairs Ministry, who reviews them and forwards them to the Registrar General of India for approval.
    • The list is then approved by the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes before being sent to the Cabinet for a final decision.
  • The Union Cabinet, chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, approved the inclusion of tribes from five states in the Scheduled Tribes (ST) category.
  • States with tribes on the list include Chhattisgarh, Himachal Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, and Uttar Pradesh.

Tribes to be added to ST category list

  • Hattee community of the Trans-Giri region of Himachal Pradesh’s Sirmaur district o In the most recent Cabinet decision, the Hattee community of Himachal Pradesh’s Sirmaur district was granted the status of ST.
    • The Cabinet approval follows the Registrar General of India’s approval of the proposal to grant ST status to the Hattee community, which had previously been rejected in 1995, 2006, and 2017.
  • Tamil Nadu’s Narikoravan and Kurivikkaran communities
  • Chhattisgarh’s Binjhia
    • Binjhia were classified as ST in Jharkhand and Odisha but not Chhattisgarh.
  • The Gond community is spread across 13 districts in Uttar Pradesh.
    • The Cabinet approved a proposal to move the Gond community, which lives in 13 districts of Uttar Pradesh, from the Scheduled Caste list to the ST list. o This includes the five subcategories of the Gond community (Dhuria, Nayak, Ojha, Pathari, and Rajgond).
  • Synonyms for 11 Chhattisgarh tribes and one Karnataka tribe are included in the list, so that variations in spelling and pronunciation do not result in people being excluded from beneficiary schemes.
    • In Karnataka, the Cabinet approved ‘Betta-Kuruba’ as a synonym for the Kadu Kuruba tribe.
    • In Chhattisgarh, the Cabinet approved synonyms for tribes such as Bharia (Bhumia and Bhuyian were added), Gadhwa (Gadwa), Dhanwar (Dhanawar, Dhanuwar), Nagesia (Nagasia, Kisan), and Pondh (Pond), among others.

-Source: The Hind, The Indian express



Context:

The NexCAR 19, is an indigenously developed therapy was administered to 15 patients in India. Three of them have successfully achieved cancer remission. The commercial use of this therapy was approved by the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO) in October 2023.

Relevance:

GS III: Science and Technology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About Cancer
  2. Evolution of Systemic Therapy
  3. CAR T-cell Therapy

About Cancer

  • Cancer is a widely feared disease that leads to many deaths globally, including in India where more than a million people suffer from it annually.
  • The mechanisms behind the development, treatment and control of cancer have been extensively studied in the field of biology and medicine.
  • In healthy individuals, cell growth and differentiation are tightly controlled, but in cancer, these regulatory mechanisms break down.
  • Normal cells have a property called contact inhibition, which prevents them from growing uncontrollably when in contact with other cells.
  • However, cancer cells appear to lose this property, leading to the uncontrolled growth and division of cells, resulting in tumors.

Types of Tumors

  • Tumors are of two types:
    • Benign 
    • Malignant
  • Benign tumors normally remain confined to their original location and do not spread to other parts of the body and cause little damage.
  • The malignant tumors, on the other hand are a mass of proliferating cells called neoplastic or tumor cells. These cells grow very rapidly, invading and damaging the surrounding normal tissues.

Causes of Cancer

  • Cancer is caused by the transformation of normal cells into cancerous neoplastic cells. This transformation can be triggered by physical, chemical or biological agents called carcinogens.
  • These agents include ionizing radiations such as X-rays and gamma rays, non-ionizing radiations such as UV rays, and chemical carcinogens found in tobacco smoke.
  • Cancer-causing viruses, known as oncogenic viruses, also have genes called viral oncogenes that can contribute to the development of cancer.
  • Additionally, certain genes called cellular oncogenes or proto oncogenes in normal cells can be activated under certain conditions, resulting in the oncogenic transformation of cells.

Three major forms of treatment

  • The three major forms of treatment for any cancer are surgery (removing the cancer), radiotherapy (delivering ionising radiation to the tumour), and systemic therapy (administering medicines that act on the tumour).
  • Surgery and radiotherapy have been refined significantly over time whereas advances in systemic therapy have been unparalleled.

Evolution of Systemic Therapy

Early Stage: Chemotherapy

  • Chemotherapy was the earliest form of systemic therapy, acting preferentially on cancer cells due to their rapid growth and poor healing mechanisms.
  • The response rate was modest and side-effects significant as the drugs affected numerous cell types in the body.

Next Stage: Targeted Agents (Immunotherapy)

  • Targeted agents, also known as immunotherapy, involved drugs that bind to specific targets on cancer cells or immune cells that help the tumor grow or spread.
  • This method had fewer side-effects as the impact on non-tumor cells was limited, but was effective only against tumors that expressed these targets.

CAR T-cell Therapy

Chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapies use a patient’s own cells that have been modified in a laboratory to attack tumors.

Process:

  • Blood is drawn from the patient to harvest T-cells.
  • The T-cells are modified in the laboratory to express chimeric antigen receptors (CAR) that have an affinity for proteins on the surface of tumor cells.
  • The modified cells are infused back into the patient’s bloodstream after being conditioned to multiply more effectively.
  • The CAR T-cells bind to the tumor and destroy it, with the patient’s immune system clearing the debris.

Advantages:

  • More clinically effective than chemotherapy or immunotherapy as it directly activates the patient’s immune system against cancer.
  • More specific than targeted agents as it uses the patient’s own cells.
  • Considered as “living drugs”.

Where is it used?

  • Currently approved for treating leukaemias and lymphomas
  • Used among patients with cancers that have returned after initial treatment or not responded to previous chemotherapy or immunotherapy
  • Efficacy varies, with response rate as high as 90% in certain kinds of leukaemias and lymphomas and significantly lower in other types of cancers

Challenges:

  • Complex preparation process
  • First clinical trial demonstrating effectiveness published almost a decade ago
  • Requires technical and human resources to administer, with treatments in the U.S. costing more than a million dollars
  • Significance potential side-effects such as cytokine release syndrome and neurological symptoms

What are ‘cell therapies’?

  • Cell therapies are a form of cancer treatment that involves using a patient’s own cells.
  • One form of cell therapy is CAR T-cell therapy, which modifies T-cells to attack cancer cells and has been approved for certain types of leukemia and lymphoma.
  • The treatment is complex and expensive, but has shown high response rates in certain cancers.
  • Cell therapies also have potential to help understand the complexities of cancer and offer new treatments, including personalised anti-cancer vaccines and tumour infiltrating lymphocyte therapies.
  • Despite the challenges, the field holds promise for developing more sophisticated cancer treatments with fewer side-effects.

-Source: The Hindu, the Indian Express



Context:

The Union Home Minister has recently decided to fence the 1643 kilometer-long Indo-Myanmar border. A patrol track along the border will also be paved to facilitate better surveillance.

Relevance:

GS II: International Relations

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Free Movement Regime (FMR) between India and Myanmar: A Shift in Policy
  2. Indo-Myanmar Border Dynamics: Security and Border Management

Free Movement Regime (FMR) between India and Myanmar: A Shift in Policy

Introduction to FMR:

  • The Free Movement Regime (FMR) is a bilateral agreement between India and Myanmar allowing border tribes to travel up to 16 km inside the other country without a visa.
  • Launched in 2018 as part of the Act East policy, it aimed to promote movement, trade, and cultural exchange among ethnically similar communities along the border.

Historical Context:

  • The boundary demarcated by the British in 1826 divided ethnically similar communities into two nations.
  • FMR intended to address this by enabling free movement without visas, fostering local trade and business.

Current Status:

  • FMR has been defunct since 2020, initially due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Post the military coup in Myanmar (2021), and escalating refugee crises, India suspended FMR in September 2022.
  • Concerns arose over unintended consequences, such as illegal immigration, drug trafficking, and gun-running.

New Development:

  • The Indian government has decided to conclude the Free Movement Regime with Myanmar.
  • Initiatives include initiating tenders for an advanced smart fencing system along the entire India-Myanmar border.

Rationale for the Shift:

  • Insurgent groups exploit FMR to conduct attacks on the Indian side and escape to Myanmar.
  • The move aims to curb illegal immigration, drug smuggling, and gold trafficking.
  • In September 2023, Manipur’s Chief Minister advocated winding up FMR to address concerns related to illegal immigration.

Challenges:

  • Potential opposition from states like Nagaland and Mizoram.
  • While acknowledging state concerns, border security and management fall under the Centre’s jurisdiction.

Indo-Myanmar Border Dynamics: Security and Border Management

Border Characteristics:

  • The Indo-Myanmar border spans 1,643 km, with states like Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur, and Mizoram sharing this boundary.
  • The demarcation of 1,472 km out of the total length has been completed, leaving two un-demarcated portions in Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur.

Security Concerns:

  • Secessionist Movements:
    • Greater Nagaland movement destabilizes the border, aspiring to include areas from both India and Myanmar.
  • Support to Insurgents and Terrorism:
    • Insurgents in India’s North Eastern states maintain ties with groups in Myanmar, receiving political, economic, logistic, and military support.
    • The porous border facilitates insurgent safe havens.
  • Narcotics Smuggling:
    • India’s proximity to the Golden Triangle results in rampant drug trafficking, especially synthetic drugs to and from Myanmar.

Border Management Measures:

  • Security Forces:
    • The Assam Rifles, known as “Friends of the North East People,” is deployed along the Indo-Myanmar border.
  • Modern Surveillance and Security Tools:
    • Deployment of modern weapons and equipment like UAVs, BFSRs, and Laser Range Finders for effective border security.
  • Border Fencing:
    • Initiatives to fence the border to curb infiltration, smuggling, and illegal activities.
  • Comprehensive Border Infrastructure Project:
    • Undertaking a comprehensive project to enhance infrastructure along the India-Myanmar border.
  • Integrated Check Posts (ICPs):
    • Setting up ICPs at major entry points on land borders for streamlined cross-border movements.
  • Border Area Development Programme (BADP):
    • MHA’s developmental initiatives under BADP contribute to a holistic approach to border management.

-Source: The Hindu, All India Radio



Context:

Recently the Upper House has passed the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Amendment Bill, 2024.

Relevance:

GS III: Environment and Ecology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Key provisions of Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Amendment Bill, 2024
  2. About the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974
  3. Central Pollution Control Board
  4. State Pollution Control Board

Key provisions of Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Amendment Bill, 2024:

  • The bill seeks to amend the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974.
  • It will initially apply to Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, and the Union Territories.
  • Regulatory Bodies:
    • The Act establishes the central and state pollution control boards to prevent and control water pollution.
    • State Pollution Control Board:
      • As per the act, the chairman of a State Pollution Control Board is nominated by the state government.
      • According to the provision of the bill, the central government will prescribe the manner of nomination and the terms and conditions of service of the chairman.
      • The bill will streamline the appointment of key officials of the State Pollution Control Board.
      • It will provide certain mandatory qualifications, experience and procedure to ensure fair and transparent appointment of chairperson of the State Pollution Control Board.
  • Penalties:
    • The Bill decriminalizes several violations and imposes penalties.
    • The Bill imposes a penalty between ten thousand rupees to 15 lakh rupees for violation of provisions related to discharge of polluting matter in water bodies.

About the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974:

  • It was enacted in 1974 to provide for the prevention and control of water pollution, and for the maintaining or restoring of wholesomeness of water in the country.
  • The Act was amended in 1978 and 1988 to clarify certain ambiguities and to vest more powers in Pollution Control Board.
  • The Act was last amended in 2003.
  • Purpose of the Act:
    • Prevention and control of water pollution
    • Maintaining or restoring of wholesomeness of water
    • Establishment of Boards for the prevention and control of water pollution
    • Conferring on and assigning to such Boards powers and functions for matters connected therewith.

Central Pollution Control Board:

  • The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) of India is a Statutory Organisation under the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF).
  • It was established in 1970s under the Water (Prevention and Control of pollution) Act.
  • CPCB is the apex organisation in country in the field of pollution control.
  • It is also entrusted with the powers and functions under the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981.
  • It serves as a field formation and also provides technical services to the Ministry of Environment and Forests under the provisions of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.
  • It Co-ordinates the activities of the State Pollution Control Boards by providing technical assistance and guidance and also resolves disputes among them.

State Pollution Control Board:

  • It was established under Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 and constituted by the concerned State Government by notification in the Official Gazette.
  • They supplement the CPCB as they are a statutory organization entrusted to implement Environmental Laws and rules within the jurisdiction of a state.
  • A State Board shall consist of the following members, namely:
  • A Chairman:
    • He/she is nominated by the State Government.
    • He/she is either whole-time or part-time member as the State Government may think fit
  • Officials:
    • To be nominated by the State Government to represent that Government.
  • Non-Officials:
    • To be nominated by the State Government from amongst the members of the local authorities functioning within the State
  • Terms and conditions of service of members:
    • A member of a Board shall hold office for a term of three years from the date of his nomination.
    • A member continue to hold office until his successor enters upon his office
    • A member of a Board may at any time resign his office by submitting his/her resignation to the state government.

-Source: The Hind, All India Radio



Context:

The Union Minister for Power and New and Renewable Energy recently chaired a meeting regarding the use of Green Hydrogen in conjunction with other modes such as solar energy and wind energy, for round-the-clock renewable energy as envisaged in the National Green Hydrogen Mission.

Relevance:

GS III- Environment and Ecology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is green hydrogen?
  2. Why is India pursuing green hydrogen?
  3. How much green hydrogen is India producing?
  4. Advantages of hydrogen as a fuel
  5. Green Hydrogen Disadvantages

What is green hydrogen?

  • A colourless, odourless, tasteless, non-toxic and highly combustible gaseous substance, hydrogen is the lightest, simplest and most abundant member of the family of chemical elements in the universe.
  • But a colour — green — prefixed to it makes hydrogen the “fuel of the future”.
  • The ‘green’ depends on how the electricity is generated to obtain the hydrogen, which does not emit greenhouse gas when burned.
  • Green hydrogen is produced through electrolysis using renewable sources of energy such as solar, wind or hydel power.
  • Hydrogen can be ‘grey’ and ‘blue’ too.
    • Grey hydrogen is generated through fossil fuels such as coal and gas and currently accounts for 95% of the total production in South Asia.
    • Blue hydrogen, too, is produced using electricity generated by burning fossil fuels but with technologies to prevent the carbon released in the process from entering the atmosphere.

Green Hydrogen Importance

  • Hydrogen is being used across the United States, Russia, China, France and Germany. Countries like Japan desire to become a hydrogen economy in future.
  • Green hydrogen can in future be used for
    • Electricity and drinking water generation, energy storage, transportation etc. 
    • Green hydrogen can be used to provide water to the crew members in space stations.
    • Energy storage- Compressed hydrogen tanks can store the energy longer and are easier to handle than lithium-ion batteries as they are lighter.
    • Transport and mobility- Hydrogen can be used in heavy transport, aviation and maritime transport.

Why is India pursuing green hydrogen?

  • Under the Paris Agreement (a legally binding international treaty on climate change with the goal of limiting global warming to below 2°C compared to pre-industrial levels) of 2015, India is committed to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 33-35% from the 2005 levels.
  • At the 2021 Conference of Parties in Glasgow, India reiterated its commitment to move from a fossil and import-dependent economy to a net-zero economy by 2070.
  • India’s average annual energy import bill is more than $100 billion and the increased consumption of fossil fuel has made the country a high carbon dioxide (CO2) emitter, accounting for nearly 7% of the global CO2 burden.
  • In order to become energy independent by 2047, the government stressed the need to introduce green hydrogen as an alternative fuel that can make India the global hub and a major exporter of hydrogen.
  • The National Hydrogen Mission was launched on August 15, 2021, with a view to cutting down carbon emissions and increasing the use of renewable sources of energy.

How much green hydrogen is India producing?

India has just begun to generate green hydrogen with the objective of raising non-fossil energy capacity to 500 gigawatts by 2030.

India’s first 99.99% pure green hydrogen pilot plant:

  • Recently, the public sector OIL, which is headquartered in eastern Assam’s Duliajan, set up India’s first 99.99% pure green hydrogen pilot plant in keeping with the goal of “making the country ready for the pilot-scale production of hydrogen and its use in various applications” while “research and development efforts are ongoing for a reduction in the cost of production, storage and the transportation” of hydrogen.
  • The plant was set up at the petroleum exploration major’s Jorhat pump station, also in eastern Assam.
  • Powered by a 500 KW solar plant, the green hydrogen unit has an installed capacity to produce 10 kg of hydrogen per day and scale it up to 30 kg per day.
  • A specialised blender has also been installed for blending green hydrogen produced from the unit with the natural gas supplied by the Assam Gas Corporation Limited and supplying the blended gas to the Jorhat area for domestic and industrial use.

Advantages of hydrogen as a fuel

  • The intermittent nature of renewable energy, especially wind, leads to grid instability.
  • Green hydrogen can be stored for long periods of time.
  • The stored hydrogen can be used to produce electricity using fuel cells.
  • In a fuel cell, a device that converts the energy of a chemical into electricity, hydrogen gas reacts with oxygen to produce electricity and water vapour.
  • Hydrogen, thus, can act as an energy storage device and contribute to grid stability.
  • Renewable developers see green hydrogen as an emerging market and some have targeted the transport sector, although electric vehicles have begun to catch the imagination of consumers today.

Green Hydrogen Disadvantages

  • Renewable sources, which would be used to generate green hydrogen through electrolysis, are extremely expensive currently taking the cost of the whole production to sky heights. 
  • The production of green hydrogen requires more energy than other fuels.
  • Green hydrogen is an extremely volatile and flammable element.  It needs extensive safety measures to prevent leakage and explosions.

-Source: The Hindu, Indian Express, PIB



Context:

The Jharkhand Chief Minister Champai Soren wins the trust vote on the floor of the Jharkhand Assembly.  Forty-seven Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM)-led alliance legislators voted for the motion and 29 against the motion. He is set to take oath on 7 February, 2024.

  • He was appointed as the Chief Minister of Jharkhand following the resignation by former CM Hemant Soren, who was arrested by ED in connection with land scam case.

Relevance:

GS II: Polity and Governance

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Trust vote
  2. What is a Floor Test?
  3. Motion of No-Confidence
  4. Passing of No-Confidence Motion in Lok Sabha

Trust vote:

  • A confidence motion or a trust vote is a procedure for the government to prove its majority in the House.
  • Indicates continued mandate to govern.
  • It can be moved by the government or brought by the opposition.

What is a Floor Test?

  • A floor test can be explained as a motion initiated by the government in position seeking to know if it enjoys the confidence of the legislature.
  • As part of this procedure, the chief minister appointed by the governor will be asked to prove majority on the Legislative Assembly’s floor.
  • When a floor test is called for in the assembly of a state, the chief minister will move a vote of confidence and prove that he has the majority support.
  • If the floor test fails, the chief minister will have to resign.
  • The whole idea of a floor test is incorporated in the constitution of India to ensure transparency in the constitutional process.

Motion of No-Confidence

  • No-confidence Motion or Motion of No-confidence is one of different types of motions in Indian Parliament. The constitutional provision behind this motion is Article 75, which says that “Council of Ministers shall be collectively responsible to the Lok Sabha”.
  • Thus, a council of ministers stays in office as long as it enjoys the confidence of majority of the members of Lok Sabha. Lok Sabha can remove the ministry from office by passing motion of no-confidence by simple majority.
  • Process of no-confidence motion is mentioned under Rule 198 of the Rules of Procedure and conduct of Lok Sabha.
  • Motion of No-confidence can be moved  only in Lok Sabha (Or State Legislative Assembly).
  • Rajya Sabha (Or state Legislative Council) does not have power to entertain such motion since it decides the fate of a popularly elected government.

Passing of No-Confidence Motion in Lok Sabha

  • Such a motion can be moved by any member of the house.
  • The member moving such motion is generally a member of opposition.
  • The motion need support of at least 50 members to be admitted.
  • Once admitted, it has to be passed within 10 days in the house.
  • The motion has to be passed by simple majority.
  • If passed, the Union Council of Ministers has to resign and government at centre falls. There is no impact on health of the government if such motion is not passed.

-Source: The Hindu


 

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