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Current Affairs 18 May 2024

  1. WHO Releases Global Report on Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) 2024
  2. Landowner Rights Upheld by Supreme Court Verdict
  3. Collegium System
  4. PREFIRE Polar Mission
  5. Digital Arrest
  6. Invasion of Armoured Sailfin Catfish Threatens Eastern Ghats Ecosystem


Context:

In preparation for the 77th session of the World Health Assembly, the World Health Organization (WHO) has published its Global Report on Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) for the year 2024. This report offers an overview of the advancements achieved in 2023 concerning the execution of the Road map for neglected tropical diseases 2021-2030, providing insights into the ongoing efforts to combat these debilitating illnesses on a global scale.

Relevance:

GS II: Health

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Key Highlights of the WHO Report
  2. What are Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTD)?

Key Highlights of the WHO Report:

Global Status for 2023:

  • 50 countries have eliminated at least one neglected tropical disease (NTD) as of December 2023, marking halfway progress towards the 2030 target of 100 countries.
  • 5 countries were recognized for eliminating one NTD, and 1 country for eliminating two NTDs.
  • Iraq became the 50th country to eliminate at least one NTD in July 2023, signaling halfway achievement towards the 2030 goal.
  • Noma was added to the list of NTDs in 2023.
  • Bangladesh was validated by WHO in October 2023 for eliminating visceral leishmaniasis as a public health problem.

Global Status for 2022:

  • In 2022, 1.62 billion people needed interventions against NTDs, showing a 26% decrease from 2010, but further efforts are required to achieve the 90% reduction target by 2030.
  • Approximately 848 million people received treatment for at least one NTD through preventive chemotherapy interventions in 2022, 49 million fewer than in 2021 but 50 million more than in 2020.
  • Reported deaths from vector-borne NTDs increased by 22% compared to 2016 by the end of 2022.

India:

  • India was certified free of NTDs like dracunculiasis and yaws.
  • In 2022, India treated about 117 million fewer people for lymphatic filariasis and soil-transmitted helminthiasis compared to 2021.
  • 40.56% of India’s population needed interventions against NTDs in 2022.

Key Challenges:

  • Slow post-COVID-19 recovery, funding uncertainties, geopolitical disruptions, and climate change were highlighted as key challenges.
  • Gaps in knowledge and tools, along with insufficient data, remain significant hurdles in addressing NTDs.

What are Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTD)?

  • Neglected tropical diseases (NTDs)– a diverse group of communicable diseases that prevail in tropical and subtropical conditions in 149 countries – affect more than one billion people and cost developing economies billions of dollars every year.
  • Populations living in poverty, without adequate sanitation and in close contact with infectious vectors and domestic animals and livestock are those worst affected.
  • Seven of the most common NTDs can be found in a number of countries—primarily in low- and middle-income countries of Africa, Asia, and Latin America.
  • Controlling the vectors (e.g., mosquitoes, black flies) that transmit these diseases and improving basic water, sanitation, and hygiene are highly effective strategies against these NTDs.

The NTD Crisis

  • NTDs such as dengue, lymphatic filariasis and visceral leishmaniasis (Kala-Azar) afflict 1 billion people worldwide, and yet, are not prioritised in the public health narrative in many parts of the world.
  • India bears the largest burden of NTDs in the world, accounting for 40 per cent of the global lymphatic filariasis disease burden and almost a quarter of the world’s visceral leishmaniasis cases.

Government’s efforts regarding NTD

  • In recent years, the government has made concerted efforts to address the nation’s NTD burden, especially visceral leishmaniasis and lymphatic filariasis which were slated to be eliminated by 2020 and 2021 respectively.
  • India has already eliminated several other NTDs, including guinea worm, trachoma, and yaws.
  • Measures taken include Mass Drug Administration (MDA) for lymphatic filariasis prevention in endemic districts and Indoor Residual Spraying (IRS) to control the breeding of sandflies that transmit visceral leishmaniasis.
  • The Accelerated Plan for Elimination of Lymphatic Filariasis (APELF) was launched in 2018, as part of intensifying efforts towards the elimination of NTDs.
  • A WHO-supported regional alliance established by the governments of India, Bangladesh, and Nepal in 2005 to expedite early diagnosis and treatment of the most vulnerable populations and improve disease surveillance and control of sandfly populations (Kala-azar).

-Source: The Hindu



Context:

In a significant decision aimed at safeguarding the rights of landowners, the Supreme Court of India has ruled that all government acquisitions must adhere to the provisions outlined in Article 300A. This landmark verdict was delivered in response to a case involving the Kolkata Municipal Corporation’s attempt to acquire private land for the construction of a public park, a move deemed unlawful by the court. The ruling underscores the importance of upholding constitutional protections against arbitrary land acquisitions by government entities.

Relevance

GS II: Polity and Governance

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Observations Made by the Supreme Court in the Recent Case
  2. The Evolution of the Right to Property in India

Observations Made by the Supreme Court in the Recent Case:

Protection of Right to Property:

  • The right to property is protected as a constitutional right and interpreted as a human right under the current constitutional scheme.
Seven Basic Rights Under Article 300A:
  • Article 300A confers seven basic procedural rights to landowners and corresponding duties upon the state for any valid acquisition:
    • Right to notice: Duty of the State to inform owners about its intention to acquire their property.
    • Right to be heard: Duty of the State to hear objections from landowners.
    • Right to a reasoned decision: Duty of the State to inform its decision on acquisition.
    • Acquisition only for public purpose: Duty of the State to demonstrate that acquisition serves a public cause.
    • Right to fair compensation: Duty of the State to provide restitution and rehabilitation, ensuring fair compensation.
    • Right to efficient conduct: Duty of the State to conduct the acquisition process efficiently and within prescribed timelines.
    • Right of conclusion: Landowners have the right to a final conclusion of the acquisition proceedings.
Significance of Procedural Justice:
  • Procedural safeguards mandated by Article 300A are crucial for protecting the right to property as they ensure fairness, transparency, natural justice, and prevent arbitrary exercise of power in the acquisition process.

The Evolution of the Right to Property in India:

Pre-44th Constitutional Amendment (Before 1978):

  • Article 19(1)(f) and Article 31 of Part III of the Indian Constitution guaranteed the right to purchase, possess, and dispose of property, and safeguarded against deprivation of property.
  • Article 31 provided an absolute right against deprivation of property, limiting the state’s ability to acquire movable property in the public interest due to its status as a fundamental right.

The 44th Constitutional Amendment:

  • Abolished Article 19(1)(f) and Article 31, replacing them with a modified version, Article 300-A.
  • This transformed the right to property from a fundamental right to a legal/constitutional right.

Provisions of Article 300-A:

  • Article 300-A states that “no person shall be deprived of his property except by authority of law,” granting the government authority to seize property for the general welfare.

Court Interpretations of Article 300-A:

  • The Madhya Pradesh High Court (2022) emphasized that property acquisition laws must be legitimate, and state acquisition must benefit the public.
  • In Vidya Devi v. the State of Himachal Pradesh (2022), the Supreme Court ruled that even government authorities in a welfare state cannot seize property without following legal procedures.
  • In Vimlaben Ajitbhai Patel vs. Vatslaben Ashokbhai Patel, the Supreme Court affirmed that while no longer a fundamental right, the right to property remains a human right.

-Source: Times of India



Context:

Recently, two senior-most district judges moved to the Supreme Court alleging that the Himachal Pradesh HC collegium overlooked their merit and seniority in the selection process of judges, and have taken their grievances to the Supreme Court.

Relevance:

GS-II: Polity and Governance (Constitutional Provisions, Indian Judiciary)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is the Collegium System?
  2. Working of the Collegium System and NJAC
  3. Appointment procedure of HC Judges
  4. Transfer procedure of HC Judges

What is the Collegium System?

  • The Collegium System is a system under which appointments/elevation of judges/lawyers to Supreme Court and transfers of judges of High Courts and Apex Court are decided by a forum of the Chief Justice of India and the four senior-most judges of the Supreme Court.’ There is no mention of the Collegium either in the original Constitution of India or in successive amendments.
  • The recommendations of the Collegium are binding on the Central Government; if the Collegium sends the names of the judges/lawyers to the government for the second time.
Evolution of the Collegium system
  • In the First Judges case (1982), the Court held that consultation does not mean concurrence and it only implies an exchange of views.
  • In the Second Judges case (1993), the Court reversed its earlier ruling and changed the meaning of the word consultation to concurrence.
Third Judges Case, 1998:
  • In the Third Judges case (1998), the Court opined that the consultation process to be adopted by the Chief Justice of India requires “consultation of a plurality of judges”.
  • The sole opinion of the CJI does not constitute the consultation process. He should consult a collegium of four senior-most judges of the Supreme Court and even if two judges give an adverse opinion, he should not send the recommendation to the government.
  • The court held that the recommendation made by the Chief Justice of India (CJI) without complying with the norms and requirements of the consultation process is not binding on the government.
  • The Collegium system was born through the “Third Judges case” and it is in practice since 1998. It is used for appointments and transfers of judges in High courts and Supreme Courts.
  • There is no mention of the Collegium either in the original Constitution of India or in successive amendments.

Working of the Collegium System and NJAC

  • The collegium recommends the names of lawyers or judges to the Central Government. Similarly, the Central Government also sends some of its proposed names to the Collegium.
  • Collegium considers the names or suggestions made by the Central Government and resends the file to the government for final approval.
  • If the Collegium resends the same name again then the government has to give its assent to the names. But the time limit is not fixed to reply. This is the reason that appointment of judges takes a long time.
  • Through the 99th Constitutional Amendment Act, 2014 the National Judicial Commission Act (NJAC) was established to replace the collegium system for the appointment of judges.
  • However, the Supreme Court upheld the collegium system and struck down the NJAC as unconstitutional on the grounds that the involvement of Political Executive in judicial appointment was against the “Principles of Basic Structure”. i.e., the “Independence of Judiciary”.
Issues involved in appointment
  • Cumbersome Process: There are inordinate delays in the appointment of High Court judges and it leads to the pendency of cases.
  • Lack of Transparency: There is no objective criteria for selection and people come to know about judges only after selection. It also promotes nepotism in the judiciary. The consultations of the Collegium are also not discussed in any public platform.
  • Instances of Politicisation: In many cases, there is indication that due to the unfavorable judgments of certain judges the political executive hinders their appointments, elevation, or transfer. This reflects poorly on the concept of independence of the judiciary.
  • Improper Representation: Certain sections of societies have higher representation whereas many vulnerable sections have nil representation.

Appointment procedure of HC Judges

  • Article 217 of the Constitution: It states that the Judge of a High Court shall be appointed by the President in consultation with the Chief Justice of India (CJI), the Governor of the State.
  • In the case of appointment of a Judge other than the Chief Justice, the Chief Justice of the High Court is consulted.
  • Consultation Process: High Court judges are recommended by a Collegium comprising the CJI and two senior-most judges.
  • The proposal, however, is initiated by the Chief Justice of the High Court concerned in consultation with two senior-most colleagues.
  • The recommendation is sent to the Chief Minister, who advises the Governor to send the proposal to the Union Law Minister.

Transfer procedure of HC Judges

  • Article 222 of the Constitution makes provision for the transfer of a Judge (including Chief Justice) from one High Court to any other High Court. The initiation of the proposal for the transfer of a Judge should be made by the Chief Justice of India whose opinion in this regard is determinative.
  • Consent of a Judge for his first or subsequent transfer would not be required.
  • All transfers are to be made in public interest i.e., for promoting better administration of justice throughout the country.

-Source: The Hindu



Context:

A NASA PREFIRE polar mission is set to be launched from New Zealand on May 22.

Relevance:

GS III: Science and Technology

The PREFIRE Polar Mission Explained:

Overview:

  • The PREFIRE (Polar Radiant Energy in the Far-InfraRed Experiment) polar mission comprises twin satellites, each equipped with an instrument, tasked with measuring the poles approximately six hours apart.

Objective:

  • The primary goal of the mission is to unveil the complete spectrum of heat loss from Earth’s polar regions, thereby enhancing the accuracy of climate models.

Aim:

  • The PREFIRE mission aims to fill knowledge gaps and furnish data to refine predictions related to climate change and sea level rise.
  • It seeks to offer fresh insights into how Earth’s atmosphere and ice impact the radiation of heat from the Arctic and Antarctic into space.

Satellite Operation:

  • Cube satellites, akin to the size of a shoebox, will be launched aboard an Electron launch vehicle.
  • Equipped with Mars-tested technology, these satellites will measure an underexplored portion of Earth’s radiant energy.
  • Twin satellites housing a thermal infrared spectrometer will orbit near-polar asynchronously, covering overlapping areas near the poles every few hours.
  • Weighing less than 6 pounds (3 kilograms) each, the instruments will employ thermocouples, similar to those found in household thermostats, for data collection.

Mission Objectives:

  • Understand the disproportionate warming of the Arctic compared to the rest of the planet since the 1970s.
  • Gain insights into the efficiency of far-infrared heat emission by substances like snow and sea ice, and the influence of clouds on far-infrared radiation escaping to space.
  • Enable researchers to forecast changes in heat exchange between Earth and space, and their repercussions on phenomena such as ice sheet melting, atmospheric temperatures, and global weather patterns.

-Source: Indian Express



Context:

Following increasing reports of “digital arrests” by cybercriminals the central government has collaborated with Microsoft to block more than 1,000 Skype IDs used for online intimidation, blackmail, and extortion.

Relevance:

GS III: Security Challenges

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Understanding Digital Arrest
  2. Preventive Measures

Understanding Digital Arrest:

Overview:

  • Digital arrest is an emerging cybercrime tactic utilized by fraudsters to deceive unsuspecting individuals and extort money through digital means.
Modus Operandi:
  • Cybercriminals impersonate law enforcement officials, such as police, Enforcement Directorate, or CBI, tricking victims into believing they have committed a serious offense.
  • Victims are coerced into believing they are under “digital arrest” and must remain visible on platforms like Skype until demands are met.
  • Fraudsters threaten prosecution unless victims pay a significant sum of money.
  • Victims may be manipulated into self-arrest or self-quarantine, believing they cannot leave their homes without paying.

Preventive Measures:

  • Cyber Hygiene: Regularly update passwords and software, and enable two-factor authentication to thwart unauthorized access.
  • Avoid Phishing Attempts: Refrain from clicking on suspicious links or downloading attachments from unknown sources. Verify the legitimacy of emails and messages before sharing personal information.
  • Secure Devices: Install reputable antivirus and anti-malware solutions, and keep operating systems and applications updated with the latest security protocols.
  • Virtual Private Networks (VPNs): Utilize VPNs to encrypt internet connections for enhanced privacy and security. Be cautious of free VPN services and opt for trustworthy providers.
  • Secure Communication Channels: Employ encryption for sensitive information protection. Exercise caution when sharing passwords and other details, especially in public forums.
  • Awareness: Promote preventive measures and increase public awareness about digital arrest and other cyber threats.

-Source: Indian Express



Context:

Scientists from CSIR-Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) have revealed alarming findings regarding the proliferation of invasive armoured sailfin catfish in the Eastern Ghats. Their research indicates that these catfish now inhabit 60% of the region’s water bodies, posing significant threats to the local ecosystem. The presence of these invasive species has led to damage to fishing nets and disturbances in the delicate balance of the aquatic environment.

Relevance:

GS III: Species in News

Key Facts About Sailfin Catfish:

Overview:

  • The sailfin armoured catfish belongs to the genus Pterygoplichthys of the Loricariidae family and is native to South America. However, it has been introduced to freshwater environments worldwide, leading to serious ecological impacts.

Invasive Species:

  • Sailfin catfish is considered one of the most serious invasive species due to its wide distribution and negative effects on local ecosystems.

Introduction in India:

  • Originally introduced in India for its distinctive appearance and algae-eating capacity in tanks and aquariums, the sailfin catfish population has significantly increased over time.

Physical Characteristics:

  • Sailfin catfish feature worm-like dark markings on a dark-golden background, stout pectoral fins with rough surfaces, and a disc-like, protrusible mouth used for suction feeding on algae.
  • Female sailfin catfish are typically smaller, while males larger than 18 inches are common.

Habitat and Behavior:

  • Sailfin catfish inhabit various slow-moving water bodies, primarily near the shore and in shallow waters.
  • They are known to create spawning burrows along shorelines, which can undermine canal banks and lake shorelines.

Size:

  • Sailfin catfish can grow to lengths exceeding 20 inches and weigh up to 3.0 pounds.

-Source: The Hindu


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