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Current Affairs 17 August 2023

CONTENTS

  1. The SC Handbook: A Tool for Countering Stereotypes
  2. Metagenomics
  3. Preventive detentions
  4. Key Cabinet decisions
  5. Microplastics
  6. One District One Product wall
  7. Nehru Memorial Museum and Library
  8. Mudumalai Tiger Reserve

The SC Handbook: A Tool for Countering Stereotypes


Context:

The Supreme Court has launched a handbook that contains a glossary of gender unjust terms and suggests alternative words and phrases which may be used.

Relevance:

GS II: Government policies and Interventions

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About the News SC Handbook
  2. Significance of Precise Language for Judges:
  3. Global Analogous Initiatives

About the News SC Handbook

Purpose and Content:

  • The SC handbook is a concise 30-page booklet crafted with the intention of aiding judges and the legal community.
  • Its primary objective is to facilitate the recognition, comprehension, and eradication of gender-related stereotypes, particularly concerning women.

Identification of Stereotypical Language:

  • The handbook meticulously identifies recurring stereotypes in the form of words and phrases, frequently present in legal judgments.
  • For instance, it highlights instances where words like “ravished” are employed as synonyms for “raped” in court verdicts, illustrating how such language perpetuates stereotypes.

Quotations from Judgments:

  • The handbook draws on excerpts from past judgments to illustrate how judges inadvertently reinforce gender-based stereotypes through their choice of words.
  • These citations serve to underline the importance of identifying and rectifying such language patterns.

Promotion of Alternative Language:

  • The handbook not only flags instances of stereotypical language but also provides suggestions for alternative, unbiased expressions.
  • For instance, it recommends substituting derogatory terms like “seductress,” “whore,” or “woman of loose morals” with the neutral term “woman.”

Transformation of Terminology:

  • The handbook advocates for a transformation in legal discourse by discouraging the use of derogatory terms like “hooker” and “prostitute.”
  • Instead, it advocates employing the term “sex worker” to engender respect and fairness in language.

Language Evolution and Empowerment:

  • The handbook advocates for the replacement of terms such as “eve-teasing” with “street sexual harassment,” reflecting a shift towards acknowledging the seriousness of the offense.
  • Furthermore, it proposes substituting “housewife” with “homemaker,” emphasizing the significance of domestic contributions.
Addressing False Assumptions:
  • The handbook aims to dismantle and counteract erroneous assumptions that have become associated with women.
  • It tackles stereotypes rooted in notions of women possessing inherent characteristics, including excessive emotions, irrationality, and an inability to make decisions.
  • Contrary to these stereotypes, the handbook asserts that a person’s gender does not dictate their cognitive abilities or decision-making skills.
Challenging Stereotypes:
  • The handbook identifies a prevalent stereotype that ties a woman’s character to her external choices, like clothing and sexual history.
  • These assumptions can distort the way judicial assessments are made in cases of sexual violence, even undermining the concept of consent in such scenarios.

Significance of Precise Language for Judges:

  • The language a judge employs is a reflection not only of their interpretation of the law but also of their understanding of societal norms.
  • Stereotypical language, even if it doesn’t alter the case’s outcome, can inadvertently reinforce values that contradict the principles of the constitution.
  • Language acts as a crucial conduit for transmitting legal values and intentions to the nation.

Global Analogous Initiatives:

  • Similar initiatives have taken root in various countries, supported by both academics and legal practitioners.
  • An example is the Women’s Court of Canada, comprising female lawyers, activists, and academics who compose “shadow judgments” focusing on equality law.
  • These efforts serve as a mirror to the court system, reflecting upon its practices and encouraging a more just and unbiased legal approach.

-Source: The Hindu, Indian Express


Metagenomics


Context:

Recently, scientists from the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control conducted a study utilizing metagenomic sequencing for pathogen surveillance.

Relevance:

GS III: Science and Technology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Metagenomics
  2. Versatile Applications of Metagenomics in Diverse Fields
  3. About Genome

Metagenomics:

Definition and Scope:

  • Metagenomics is a scientific discipline focused on the study of microbes within their natural habitats and complex microbial communities.
  • This involves analyzing the collective genomic material of all microorganisms present in an environment.

Microbial Complexity:

  • Metagenomics delves into the genetic composition of entire organisms and the diverse microbial species coexisting within them.
  • In environments like soil, a gram can contain thousands of microbial species, while the human gut hosts around 500 bacterial types.
  • This approach provides insights into microbial diversity, abundance, and interactions within any given system.

Direct Sequencing and Paradigm Shift:

  • Metagenomics involves sequencing genetic material directly from patient samples, bypassing the need for prior knowledge of specific infectious agents.
  • Unlike traditional methods that require isolating individual species before genome sequencing, metagenomics captures a comprehensive picture of all present organisms.
  • The Covid-19 pandemic accelerated the advancement of techniques like metagenomics, revolutionizing pathogen identification and response strategies.

Versatile Applications of Metagenomics in Diverse Fields

Environmental Studies:
  • Longitudinal Studies: Metagenomics enables tracking changes in microbial communities over time, aiding understanding of responses to environmental changes or interventions.
  • Ecosystem Diversity: It unveils the rich microbial diversity in various ecosystems like oceans, soil, and extreme environments, providing insights into their roles and adaptations.
Human Health:
  • Microbiome Exploration: Metagenomics transforms our grasp of the human gut microbiome, uncovering its role in digestion, metabolism, immunity, and disease susceptibility.
  • Health Implications: It links microbial imbalances (dysbiosis) to conditions like obesity, inflammatory disorders, and even mental health issues.
  • Personalized Medicine: Studying individual microbiomes aids in tailoring medical interventions based on the patient’s unique microbial profile.
Environmental Solutions:
  • Pollutant Degradation: Metagenomics identifies microbial communities capable of breaking down pollutants and toxins, offering eco-friendly bioremediation strategies.
  • Bioremediation Potential: It paves the way for harnessing microorganisms to clean up contaminated sites, contributing to environmental conservation.
Biotechnological Discoveries:
  • Drug Discovery: Metagenomics unveils new genes and pathways that may encode bioactive compounds, suggesting potential sources for novel drugs and therapeutic agents.
  • Enzyme Identification: It aids in discovering enzymes with specialized functions, valuable in industries like agriculture, pharmaceuticals, and biofuels.
Agriculture and Food Security:
  • Soil Microbiome Insights: Metagenomics sheds light on the microbial communities in agricultural soils, aiding efficient nutrient cycling, disease management, and improved crop yields.
  • Food Safety: It aids in assessing foodborne microbial contamination, enhancing food safety regulations and practices.

About Genome:

  • It refers to the complete set of genetic instructions or information that an organism possesses.
  • It is made up of DNA, which carries the instructions for the development, functioning, growth, and reproduction of all living organisms.
  • The study of genomics involves the analysis of genomes and has led to many breakthroughs in various fields, including medicine and biotechnology.

Genome Sequencing

  • Genome sequencing is figuring out the order of DNA nucleotides, or bases, in a genome—the order of adenine (A), thymine (T), cytosine (C), and guanine (G), that make up an organism’s DNA.
Genome India Project
  • India’s population consists of over 4,600 diverse population groups, many of which are endogamous.
  • These groups have unique genetic variations and disease-causing mutations that cannot be compared to other populations.
  • The Genome India Project aims to create a database of Indian genomes to learn about these unique genetic variants and use the information to create personalized drugs and therapies.
  • The project was started in 2020 and is inspired by the successful decoding of the entire human genome in the Human Genome Project (HGP).
  • The project seeks to better understand the genetic variations and disease-causing mutations specific to the Indian population, which is one of the most genetically diverse in the world.
  • By sequencing and analyzing these genomes, researchers hope to gain insights into the underlying genetic causes of diseases and develop more effective personalized therapies.
  • The project involves the collaboration of 20 institutions across India and is being led by the Centre for Brain Research at the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore.
  • Other countries, such as the United Kingdom, China, and the United States, also have similar programs to sequence their genomes.

-Source: The Hindu


About Preventive Detention In India


Context:

The Kerala High Court has underscored that the power of preventive detention can only be invoked in cases where an individual’s activities pose a threat to public order or are detrimental to society.

Relevance:

GS-II: Polity and Governance (Constitutional Provisions, Fundamental Rights), GS-II: Governance (Government Policies and Interventions)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About Preventive Detention in India
  2. Criticisms of Preventive detention
  3. The argument in favour of Preventive detention
  4. Recent SC Judgement on Preventive Detention

About Preventive Detention in India

  • As the term suggests – Preventive detention helps to prevent a person from committing a crime.
  • Article 22 deals with 2 kinds of detentions:
    • Preventive
    • Punitive
  • Article 22 (3) (b) of the Constitution allows for preventive detention and restriction on personal liberty for reasons of state security and public order.
  • According to Article 22 (4)– in case of preventive detention as well, the person being detained should be informed of the grounds of arrest, however, in case the authorities consider that it is against the public interest to disclose certain facts, they need not reveal them.
  • The person cannot be detained under preventive detention for more than 3 months unless permission to do so has been granted by an advisory board consisting of 3 judges of the Supreme Court.
  • The other way by which the period of detention can be extended beyond 3 months is if the Parliament prescribes a law for it.
  • Acts by the Parliament which provide for extension of Preventive detention period beyond 3 months:
    • National Security Act (NSA) 1980;
    • Conservation of Foreign Exchange and Prevention of Smuggling Activities Act (COFEPOSA) 1974;
    • Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) 1967, etc.
  • Many State legislatures have enacted similar laws that authorize preventive detention.

Criticisms of Preventive detention

  • Preventive detention becomes a human rights concern as there have been various incidents of misuse of such laws in India.
  • Preventive detention represents the police power of the State.
  • No other democratic country mentions preventive detention in its constitution and such laws come into effect only under emergency conditions in democratic countries.

The argument in favour of Preventive detention

  • Arbitrary action the State is prevented in India as the areas in the context of which Preventive detention laws can be made are laid down in the 7th Schedule of the Constitution itself.
  • In the Union list – laws for Preventive detention can be enacted only for reasons connected with Defence, Foreign Affairs, or the Security of India.
  • In the Concurrent list – laws for Preventive detention can be enacted only for reasons connected with Security of a State, the Maintenance of Public Order, or the Maintenance of Essential Supplies and Services.

-Source: The Hindu


Key Cabinet Decisions


Context:

The Union Cabinet has approved a slew of schemes ranging from the PMe-Bus Sewa to seven multi-tracking projects of the Indian Railways worth Rs 32,500 crore.

Relevance:

GS II: Polity and Governance

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. PMe-Bus Sewa
  2. PM Vishwakarma Scheme
  3. Other decisions taken by Cabinet

PM e-Bus Sewa:

Green Mobility Enhancement: The Union Cabinet approved the PM e-Bus Sewa initiative to elevate urban bus operations while promoting environmentally-friendly transportation solutions.

Transition to Electric Buses:

An e-bus is a bus propelled and powered solely by a zero-emissions electricity source, including both the main propulsion and accessory systems.

Implementation in Two Segments:

Deployment in 169 Cities:

The scheme will roll out e-buses in 10,000 units across 169 cities through a public-private partnership (PPP) framework.

  • Depot Infrastructure: The initiative will include the establishment or upgrading of depot infrastructure to accommodate the new e-buses.
  • Power Infrastructure: Infrastructure such as substations will be developed behind-the-meter to support the power requirements of e-buses.

Infrastructure Upgrade in 181 Cities:

The second segment focuses on enhancing infrastructure in 181 cities as part of green urban mobility initiatives.

  • Focus Areas: Initiatives will center around bus priority, improved infrastructure, multimodal interchange facilities, automated fare collection systems, and charging infrastructure.
Coverage and Responsibility:
  • City Eligibility: The scheme extends to cities with a population of over three lakh, including Union Territory capitals and states from the northeastern and hill regions.
  • Operational Responsibility: States or cities will manage bus services and make payments to bus operators.
Central Government Support:
  • Subsidies: The Central government will offer subsidies as per the specified scheme, assisting in the operation of these bus services.

PM Vishwakarma Scheme:

The Union Cabinet sanctioned the PM Vishwakarma scheme, a ₹13,000 crore initiative, with the goal of offering subsidized loans to traditional artisans and craftsmen.

Inclusion of Artisans and Craftsmen:

  • The scheme encompasses a diverse group of artisans and craftsmen, including weavers, goldsmiths, blacksmiths, laundry workers, and barbers.
Key Highlights of the Scheme:
  • Recognition and ID Card: Artisans and craftspeople will receive official recognition through a PM Vishwakarma certificate and an accompanying ID card.
  • Subsidized Loans: Craftsmen will be eligible for a subsidized loan of ₹1 lakh in the initial phase and ₹2 lakh in the subsequent phase. These loans will carry a concessional interest rate of 5%.
  • Skill Upgradation and Incentives: The scheme incorporates provisions for skill enhancement, incentives for toolkits, as well as support for digital transactions and marketing.
  • Skilling Programs: The program will cover both basic and advanced skill development types. Participants undergoing training will receive a stipend of ₹500 per day.
  • Modern Tools: Beneficiaries will be granted up to ₹15,000 to acquire modern tools, aiding in the improvement of their craft.
  • Quality Improvement and Global Integration: The scheme’s objectives encompass enhancing the quality and accessibility of products and services from artisans. Additionally, it seeks to integrate Vishwakarmas into domestic and global value chains.

Other decisions taken by Cabinet

Extension and Expansion of Digital India Programme:
  • The Union Cabinet granted approval for a five-year extension and enhancement of the Digital India initiative.
  • The expansion involves a growth of the Computer Emergency Response Team, India (CERT-in).
  • The programme, which originated in 2015, will receive a budget allocation of ₹14,903 crore.
  • The extended programme aims to re-skill and up-skill 6.25 lakh IT professionals while training an additional 2.65 lakh individuals in information security.
Bhashini:
  • Bhashini, an AI-powered multi-language translation tool, will be launched in 22 Schedule VIII languages.
  • National Supercomputing Mission Enhancement:
  • The National Supercomputing Mission, which has already deployed 18 supercomputers, is set to introduce nine more such machines.
  • These supercomputers will find applications in various sectors including weather forecasting, geology, agriculture, and Artificial Intelligence (AI) modelling.
DigiLocker for MSMEs:
  • The scope of DigiLocker, the government-operated online repository for official documents, will be expanded to cater to Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs).
  • This expansion will facilitate the streamlined retrieval of verified documents, aiding MSMEs in acquiring business loans and conducting operations more efficiently.

-Source: Indian Express


Microplastics


Context:

A team of scientists in China recently found microplastics in the human heart for the first time.

Relevance:

GS III- Environment and Ecology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What are microplastics?
  2. Health hazard of microplastics
  3. How did they reach Antarctica?
  4. Effect of microplastics on Environment:

What are Microplastics?

Microplastics are tiny plastic debris that are smaller than 5 mm in length, tinier than even a grain of rice.

There are two types of microplastics:

  • Primary microplastics are tiny particles that are purposely designed as such for commercial use, like in cosmetics, nurdles-plastic pellets used in industrial manufacturing and in fibres from synthetic textiles like nylon.
  • Secondary microplastics are formed through the degradation of larger plastic items like bottles, fishing nets and plastic bags. This occurs through exposure to the environment, like radiation from the sun, wind and ocean waves.

Health hazard of microplastics

  • It is not yet clear if these microplastics can cross over from the blood stream to deposit in organs and cause diseases.
  • The report point out that the human placenta has shown to be permeable to tiny particles of polystyrene ( 50, 80 and 24 nanometre beads).
  • Experiments on rats where its lungs were exposed to polystryrene spheres (20 nanometre) led to translocation of the nanoparticles to the placental and fetal tissue.
  • Oral administration of microplastics in rats led to accumulation of these in the liver, kidney and gut.
  • Further studies have to be carried out to really assess the impact of plastics on humans.

Effect of Microplastics on Environment:

  • While microplastics have been found across the world, from the world’s deepest ocean floors to the peak of Mount Everest, researchers say that this is the first time that they have been found in freshly fallen snow in Antarctica.
  • It shows that the spread of microplastics is so widespread, that even the remotest and least habitable places in the world are now infested by these particles.
  • The presence of these particles can pose a huge threat to Antarctica’s distinctive ecosystem.
  • Microplastics are not biodegradable and once they are found in the environment, they begin to accumulate.
  • They can be toxic for plants and animals.
  • The report claims that ingestion of microplastics by various life forms in the region, from microorganisms like zooplankton to larger predators like king penguins can disrupt their usual biological processes and negatively impact the entire Antarctic food chain.
  • The presence of microplastics in Antarctica can also worsen the impact of climate change.
  • Ice sheets and glaciers are already rapidly melting, and the report suggests that the microplastics deposited in ice and snow can accelerate the melting of the cryosphere — regions where water is in solid form, like the planet’s North and South Poles.
  • Dark-coloured microplastics, which constituted 55% of the samples collected in Aves’ study, are even more harmful than lighter colours, as they are better at absorbing sunlight and retain more heat.

-Source: Hindustan Times


One District One Product wall


Context:

The One District One Product (ODOP) initiative has collaborated with the Deendayal Antyodaya Yojna – National Rural Livelihoods Mission (DAY-NRLM) to unveil the captivating ‘ODOP Wall’ in a bid to showcase India’s diverse and exceptional craft heritage.

Relevance:

GS II: Government policies and Interventions

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. One District One Product (ODOP) Initiative
  2. About Deendayal Antyodaya Yojana-National Rural Livelihood Mission:

One District One Product (ODOP) Initiative:

  • Program under DPIIT: The One District One Product (ODOP) initiative operates within the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT) under the Ministry of Commerce & Industry.
  • Product Identification: This collaborative program identifies unique products from each district, encompassing handicrafts, handloom items, and agricultural goods that carry cultural significance and distinct qualities.
Aims and Objectives:
  • Economic and Sociocultural Growth: ODOP’s primary goals are to unlock the full potential of districts, facilitate economic and socio-cultural development, and create job opportunities, particularly in rural regions.
  • District Specialization: The initiative aspires to transform each district into an export center by promoting its specialized products.
  • Atmanirbhar Bharat Vision: ODOP aligns with the vision of ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ (Self-reliant India) by fostering manufacturing, boosting local businesses, identifying international markets, and more.
Implementation Strategy:
  • Product Promotion: The initiative promotes products rooted in the unique identity of their district, thus preserving local heritage.
  • Export Hub Transformation: ODOP intends to elevate every district to the status of an export hub by enhancing production, supporting local enterprises, and connecting with potential global consumers.

About Deendayal Antyodaya Yojana-National Rural Livelihood Mission:

  • It is a centrally sponsored programme, launched by the Ministry of Rural Development in June 2011.
  • To eliminate rural poverty through the promotion of multiple livelihoods and improved access to financial services for the rural poor households across the country.
  • To reach out to all rural poor households and impact their livelihoods.

The objective of the Mission is to promote sustainable livelihoods for the poor such that they come out of poverty. The institutions of the poor are intended to facilitate

  • access to formal credit;
  • support for diversification and strengthening of livelihoods;
  • and access to entitlements and public services.
Functioning:
  • It involves working with community institutions through community professionals in the spirit of self-help which is a unique proposition of DAY-NRLM.
  • It impacts the livelihoods through universal social mobilization by inter alia organising one-woman member from each rural poor household into Self Help Groups (SHGs), their training and capacity building, facilitating their micro-livelihoods plans, and enabling them to implement their livelihoods plans through accessing financial resources from their own institutions and the banks.
Implementation:
  • It is implemented in a Mission mode by special purpose vehicles (autonomous state societies) with dedicated implementation support units at the national, state, district and block levels, using professional human resources in order to provide continuous and long-term handholding support to each rural poor family.

-Source: The Hindu


Nehru Memorial Museum and Library


Context:

The Nehru Memorial Museum and Library (NMML) has officially been renamed the Prime Ministers’ Museum and Library Society recently.

Relevance:

GS I: Culture

Dimensions of the Aricle:

  1. Nehru Memorial Museum & Library (NMML)

Nehru Memorial Museum & Library (NMML):

  • The NMML was established as a memorial to Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India.
  • It is an autonomous institution under the Ministry of Culture, Government of India.
  • The NMML is located in Teen Murti House, Nehru’s former official residence.
  • It consists of four main components: a Memorial Museum, a library on modern India, a Centre for Contemporary Studies, and the Nehru Planetarium.
Features of NMML:

Museum:

  • The museum showcases exhibits related to Nehru’s life, including personal artifacts, photographs, letters, and documents.
  • It highlights his role in India’s freedom struggle and his contributions as a statesman.

Library:

  • The library at NMML houses a vast collection of books, journals, documents, and manuscripts on modern Indian history and politics.
  • It is open to researchers, scholars, and the general public.

Archives:

  • NMML has archival facilities that preserve historical records, including official documents, private papers, and photographs.
  • It holds significant materials related to the Indian independence movement and Nehru’s political career.

Research Center:

  • The NMML serves as a research center, promoting scholarly studies on Indian history and Nehruvian thought.
  • It provides fellowships, research grants, and organizes seminars, conferences, and lectures.

Nehru Planetarium:

  • Adjacent to the NMML, the Nehru Planetarium offers shows and exhibitions on astronomy and space science.
  • It provides educational experiences for astronomy enthusiasts.

Publications:

  • The NMML publishes books, journals, and research papers on Indian history, politics, and culture.
  • These publications contribute to academic discourse and knowledge dissemination.

-Source: Indian Express


Mudumalai Tiger Reserve


Context:

The Madras High Court recently directed the Central government to release funds to relocate all 495 residents of the Thengumarahada village in Tamil Nadu (TN), as the village falls within the protected area of the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve.

Relevance:

GS III: Environment and Ecology

Mudumalai Tiger Reserve

  • Situated in the Nilgiris District of Tamil Nadu, the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve spans 321 sq. km.
  • It occupies a unique location at the confluence of three states: Karnataka, Kerala, and Tamil Nadu.
  • Nestled on the Northeastern and Northwestern slopes of Nilgiri hills, it is a significant part of the Western Ghats.
  • It is an integral component of the Nilgiris Biosphere Reserve, the first of its kind in India.
  • Adjacent to Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary (Kerala) in the West, Bandipur Tiger Reserve (Karnataka) in the North, and sharing boundaries with Nilgiris North Division and Gudalur Forest Division in the South and South West.

Terrain:

  • The landscape features undulating terrain, with elevations varying from 960m to 1266m.

Habitat:

  • Mudumalai Tiger Reserve encompasses diverse habitats, including tropical evergreen forests, moist deciduous forests, moist teak forests, dry teak forests, secondary grasslands, and swamps.

Flora:

  • The reserve is characterized by the presence of tall grasses, commonly known as “Elephant Grass,” along with towering bamboo varieties and valuable timber species such as Teak and Rosewood.
  • Notably, the reserve is home to wild relatives of cultivated plants like wild rice, ginger, turmeric, and cinnamon.

Fauna:

  • The wildlife at Mudumalai Tiger Reserve is rich and varied, including majestic creatures like Tigers, Elephants, Indian Gaurs, Panthers, Sambar Deer, Spotted Deer, Barking Deer, Mouse Deer, Common Langurs, Malabar Giant Squirrels, and Mongooses, among others.
  • The reserve’s fauna diversity is a testament to the vitality of the ecosystem.
Film Connection:
  • The reserve gained global attention due to the Oscar-winning documentary “Elephant Whisperers,” which was filmed within its premises at the Theppakadu Elephant Camp.
  • This camp serves as a focal point for various conservation efforts and interactions with elephants.
  • Historical Significance:
  • The name “Mudumalai” translates to “the ancient hill range,” underscoring its geological antiquity dating back around 65 million years when the Western Ghats took shape.

-Source: The Hindu


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