Sarat Chandra IAS Academy

Current Affairs of 7th October -2020

 

1)Women Representation- Comparison of India and Kenya:

The Indian Constitution is among the world’s leading modern and postcolonial constitutions.

  • In its making, women members of the Constituent Assembly, though minuscule, made a significant contribution.
  • They had a substantial presence in the freedom movement and their numbers grew, with a significant voice, in Parliament and state legislatures.
  • Yet, atrocities against women continue to recur, as the Hathras horror underlines, which entails an almost complete amnesia of the Act penalising atrocities against Scheduled Castes and Tribes
  • It is doubtful whether enhanced women’s legislative participation will better the situation.
  • But one may hope that greater sense and sensibility will prevail, lessening the dominant caste-based political practices.

Has India taken steps in the past to work around two-third rule?

  • India has nothing like the two-thirds rule in Kenya’s new constitution; its Article 27(8) requires the state to take legislative and other measures to implement the principle that not more than two-thirds of the members of elective or appointive bodies shall be of the same gender.
  • Many promises have been made in seven decades of the working of the Indian Constitution regarding 33 per cent reservation in Parliament.
  • But the two bills, introduced in 1996 and 2010, have been allowed to lapse, even when hailed as a “historic step” that will ensure significant representation for the women of India.

What are the different viewpoints regarding women reservation and how it should be given?

  • Every political party endorses the idea but the battle within political classes has been over “quota within a quota”.
  • Some have argued that ways should be found to ensure that this reservation should contain 33 per cent reservation within for SC and ST women.
  • Some have championed a systemic practice of reservation at the stage of distributing party tickets.
  • Some continue to fight for underprivileged and rural women;
  • Some maintain that a constitutional convention mandating increased representation for women by parties will be more appropriate than a constitutional amendment.

How Kenya does better than India?

  • While both fall short in equitable representation, Kenya has secured 76 (or about 22 per cent) women in the present National Assembly, whereas India peaked to its highest number in the 2019 elections with 62 women (around 14.58 per cent), out of a total of 542 Lok Sabha seats.
  • In the Kenyan Senate women number only 21 (or 31 per cent) of the 67-member House are female
  • In the Indian Rajya Sabha women comprise 25 (10%) out of 243 elected members.

How the decade long demand to bring about a constitutional mandate has been fulfilled in pandemic time?

  • Indeed, the judicial orders (from 2012) giving various timeframes to enact legislation to implement gender parity have found Parliament unresponsive.
  • It was unmoved by high judicial directions, women and human rights movements, and the voices of suffering.
  • The stage was thus set for the exercise of constitutional power and function by the chief justice to advise the president to dissolve Parliament.
  • The task was simple for Chief Justice David K Maraga. In one sense, he had just to follow this provision. But the decision to advise dissolution was confronted by COVID-19 times
  • The learned attorney general argued that following the constitution now will trigger a constitutional crisis.
  • It required considerable judicial courage and craft to order a dissolution of Parliament
  • He ruled that the constitution must be obeyed even when “the dissolution of Parliament will cause inconvenience and even economic hardship” in “the midst of the coronavirus pandemic”.
  • He said further: “We… must never forget that more often than not, there is no gain without pain.”

What are the similarities between the two countries?

  • Moreover, in both societies, women’s representation has always been “pyramidical”, most women remain below the constitutional radar at the bottom, even when a few scale national heights.
  • In both societies, as concerns women and other sexual minorities, sacrificial politics continues to prevail, as violence against women and sexual minorities continues to be a sad social spectacle.
  • Asymmetric representation in both societies has generated a long and complex debate concerning women’s representation.
  • In Kenya, the 2010 constitutional norm of a “two-thirds gender rule”, buttressed by the requirement that the electoral system shall comply with this rule, have been more honoured in the breach rather than observance.
  • The learned chief justice memorably delineates the idea of constitutionally justified elite pain and social suffering entailed in putting constitutions to work:
  • “In the circumstances, let us endure pain, if we must, if only to remind ourselves, as a country, that choices, and particularly choices on constitutional obligations, have consequences.
  • Let us endure pain if only to remind the electorate to hold their parliamentary representatives accountable.
  • Let us endure pain if only to remind ourselves that, as a country, being a democracy that has chosen to be governed by the rule of law, we must say no to impunity and hold everyone accountable for their actions or omissions”.
  • And Indian sisterhood can yearn wistfully, but valiantly, for another Vishakha moment in the demosprudential leadership of the nation by the apex court.

 

2) Pollution:

The Citizens For Clean Air — a group of citizens, environmentalists, waste management experts, scientists, medical practitioners and several RWA representatives — has written to the Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA), seeking a ban on the sale and use of firecrackers for five months starting mid-October.

  • They fear a rise in pollution levels, which could aggravate the situation arising out of the pandemic.
  • Winter months recorded high levels of pollution and these dangerous levels of pollution will be repeated this year too and the ongoing pandemic will only make the situation graver.

Treat as emergency

  • They demanded that EPCA treat this as an impending health emergency and intervene to ban and issue required advisories on the sale and use of firecrackers during the pandemic period from 15 October, 2020 to 15 March, 2021.
  • The letter pointed out that these five months were the time for festivals, marriages, sport and other public events and firecrackers were one of the main contributors to the pollution.
  • waste management activist Ruchika Sethi, also running — Why Waste Your Waste — campaign, also referred to media reports suggesting that a marginal increase in pollution levels could lead to an increase in COVID-19 deaths.

Study on COVID-19

  • A study published by Harvard University found that even a minor increase in PM 2.5 particles can lead to an increase in COVID-19 deaths
  • We have enough anecdotal evidence of children, adults with underlying respiratory diseases and senior citizens experiencing difficulty in breathing resulting in increased hospital visits.
  • Many residents were restricted to their homes. There are also enough newspaper reports and studies done on the dangers of firecracker emissions, increased visits to hospitals, due to respiratory emergencies arising out of toxic particles in our breathing zone, during COVID-19 times, were fraught with its own dangers.
  • Meanwhile, average PM 2.5 reading of 110 micrograms per cubic meter was recorded at the Continuous Ambient Air Quality Monitoring Station at Vikas Sadan

 

3) BIO- DECOMPOSER:

Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Tuesday said that the government will start spraying “bio-decomposer” in the fields to decompose straw and stubble left in the fields after harvesting.

  • The solution turns the straw and stubble into manure and is seen by the government as a solution to avoid burning them.
  • The Chief Minister made the announcement after visiting a facility in Kharkhari Nahar village, where the bio-decomposer capsule which was developed by Pusa Institute, is made into a solution through a week-long process.
  • Creating a model
  • People say there is not much stubble burning in Delhi, the government is using this bio decomposer in Delhi and creating a model, so that other States cannot make any excuses for burning stubble.
  • If Delhi can make a centralized system and do it, then other States can also do it. It depends on how serious they are.
  • Delhi will get benefit only when Punjab and Haryana will use this
  • Meanwhile, farmers of two villages The Hindu met are wary since they can only sow wheat or mustard about 20-25 days after the government sprays the solution and said they doubt whether the time gap may affect their next crop.

Pusa decomposer

  • The decomposers are in the form of capsules made by extracting fungi streams that help the paddy straw to decompose at a much faster rate than usual
  • The fungi helps to produce the essential enzymes for the degradation process

 

4) National Clinical Management Protocol:

The National Clinical Management Protocol based on Ayurveda and Yoga for the management of Covid-19 was released.

  • Ministry of AYUSH had setup an Interdisciplinary AYUSH Research and Development Task Force with a group of senior experts to formulate and develop strategies for this initiative.
  • He said that Ministry of AYUSH has undertaken many clinical, observational studies to understand the role of AYUSH intervention in mitigation and management of COVID 19.
  • The Minister informed that the Ministry has also setup an Interdisciplinary Committee for Integration of Ayurveda and Yoga Interventions in the ‘National Clinical Management Protocol:
  • The Protocol is a milestone in the evolving response and management of Covid- 19.

Significance:

  • It ends the ambiguity around deploying Ayurveda and Yoga-based solutions for the clinical management of Covid- 19.
  • The present protocol provides clear guidance to Ayush practitioners of the said two disciplines regarding treatment of Covid 19 patients in different conditions of infection.
  • This brings in uniformity and consistency in the Ayush-based responses to the pandemic across the country.
  • It also helps State/UT governments to plan and incorporate these solutions into the Covid-19 management activities being deployed on the ground.
  • The protocol is expected to contribute to the mainstreaming of Ayush solutions for the management of Covid-19, and will be immensely beneficial
  • As the pandemic continues across the globe, attempts are being made in many countries to integrate traditional interventions along with standard of care.
  • In India, experience from Covid-19 response activities as reported from different parts of the country have shown that Ayurveda and Yoga can play a pivotal role to augment the standard preventive measures for Covid-19. (The standard preventive measures are those provided in the guidelines issued by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare).

 

5) Map reconstructing solar magnetic field:

What does the Sun, the primary source of energy that sustains life on earth, hold for our future?

  • Scientists may soon be able to study the future magnetic activity of the sun with the understanding of its behavior in the past.
  • A magnetic field map corresponding to the first half of the last century has been developed recently that can immensely improve that understanding.
  • Just like in case of climate studies, astronomers need information of the behaviour of the Sun in the past to predict how it will behave in the future.
  • A critical parameter of the behaviour is the magnetic field which keeps varying and governs the long-time changes in the Sun.
  • Technology today has enabled direct observations of magnetic field, but there are no direct observations of magnetic field recorded before 1960s.
  • Recently, Indian researchers have digitised the films and photographs of the sun taken at multiple wavelengths and corresponding to the past century as recorded from the Kodaikanal Solar Observatory (KoSO) of Indian Institute of Astrophysics (IIA), an autonomous institute of Department of Science and Technology (DST) (https://kso.iiap.res.in).
  • Scientists from the Aryabhatta Research Institute of Observational Sciences (ARIES) also an autonomous Institute of the Department of Science & Technology and IIA, used this digitised data which they called the proxy data to develop the first magnetic field map of the Sun for the period 1915-1965.
  • The map of this period corresponding to the solar cycles 15 -19 will help us understand the magnetic variability and predict changes in the Sun in the future.
  • Research was led by Director ARIES and his team including Dr.BidyaKarak from IIT (BHU), a Ramanujan Fellow of DST, and supported by DST and Russian Foundation for Basic Research project through an Indo-Russian Joint Research Program
  • The digital data from KoSO is unique because this is the only observatory in the globe which provides the long-term uniform observations of the Sun in terms of the location and strength of its magnetic field as well as polarity
  • The map will also help study with precision polar reversal, a unique feature of the Sun, which occurs every 11 years and shows distinct pattern that repeats over time.

 

6) Graphene Mask inactivates coronavirus:

Context: Researchers from City University of Hong Kong have produced a laser-induced form of graphene mask that in activate the coronavirus species

  • All carbon containing materials such as cellulose or paper can be converted into graphene
  • The researchers describe the production of laser induced graphene as a green technique

Benefits

  • It is reusable
  • Produced at low cost

Graphene:

  • It is a single layer of carbon atoms
  • It is the building block of graphite
  • It is the strongest known material

Properties of graphene

  • High thermal stability
  • High elasticity
  • High electrical conductivity
  • Has anti-bacterial Properties

Uses: used in miniaturized electronics to biomedical devices like computer, solar panel etc.

 

7) Sawantwadi toy:

Context: To mark the occasion of 151 years of postcards in India Maharashtra circle of India post has released picture postcards on Sawantwadi toys

Sawantwadi Toy:

  • It refers to handmade made works of art made of wood in Sawantwadi a town in Maharashtra
  • These toys are made from wood of the Indian Coral tree
  • Craftsman who make these toys belong to Chittari community

 

8) Sensor and Sensing for Precision Agriculture:

A session on “Sensors and Sensing for Precision Agriculture” was organized under “Precision Agriculture” by ICAR-Indian Agricultural Research Institute with total participation of 1019 including 38 panellists on 05th October 2020, as part of the Vaishwik Bhartiya Vaigyanik (VAIBHAV) Summit 2020.

  • Precision Agriculture horizontal aims to enhance farm productivity by monitoring and quantification of soil, plant and environment using advances in the field on sensors, remote sensing, deep learning, artificial intelligence and IoT
  • This is a Government of India initiative to bring together the thought process, practices, R&D culture Precision Agriculture horizontal aims to enhance farm productivity by monitoring and quantification of soil, plant and environment using advances in the field on sensors, remote sensing, deep learning, artificial intelligence and IoT of Overseas and Indian scientists/academicians through a series of structured deliberations and constructive dialogue, and develop a road map for translational research/academic culture for tangible output and strengthening the S&T base for providing the impetus to endeavor of Aatma Nirbhar Bharat.
  • A total of 18 verticals have been identified for deliberation of which Agro-economy and Food Security deals directly with agriculture with several horizontals.
  • The horizontal on Precision Agriculture aims at discussing recent advances in the field on sensors, remote sensing, deep learning, artificial intelligence and IoT for monitoring and quantification of soil, plant and environment to enhance farm productivity with increased input use efficiency and environmental sustainability.

Research gaps identified are

  • Development of indigenous low cost sensors with integrated platforms, robotics, IoTs and WSN for high throughput field phenotyping and soil and crop health monitoring and management
  • Big data analytics and modelling for sensor based early detection of stresses, discrimination and near real time detection and management
  • Standardized protocols for UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) based imaging using different sensors, inter sensor calibration and data analytics for near real time crop condition monitoring and management
  • Development of affordable scale neutral precision agricultural technologies suitable to ecosystem of Indian agriculture.
  • Keeping in view these gaps, a specific objective driven collaboration will be proposed with the universities of USA

 

9) Converting Educational Materials in to Indian Sign Language:

The historic Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between Indian Sign Language Research and Training Center-ISLRTC (a National Institute of DEPwD, Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment) and NCERT (a National Institute of Ministry of Education) to make education materials accessible for Deaf children in their preferred format of communication viz Indian Sign Language.

  • Signing of MoU between NCERT and ISLRTC for converting NCERT educational materials in to Indian sign language ensures educational standardization of Indian Sign Language as mandated in the New Education Policy (NEP), 2020.
  • Definitely this MoU will empower the hearing impaired children in our country.
  • He hoped that New Education Policy, 2020 is an inclusive one and will transform our country.
  • MoU between NCERT and ISRTC is not only a cooperation pact between the two institutions, but it is also a step towards better coordination between the two ministries, the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment.
  • Through this MoU, we are moving towards realizing the provisions mentioned in the Right to Education (RTE) 2009, and the Rights of Persons with Disability Act (RPWD) 2016 and the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020, such as the use of appropriate and alternative means of communication, in which Sign Language has an important place.
  • While speaking on releasing of online format of NISHTHA training, The Education Minister said that the system of Education in India is very vast with 85 lakhs teachers and 26 crores students.
  • Providing equitable and quality education to all is our mandate.
  • The COVID-19 has also forced all the schools/colleges to stop regular teaching-learning-assessment processes and also teacher training in face-to-face (FTF) mode.
  • The most ambitious NISHTHA integrated training for 42 lakhs teachers (planned through face-to-face mode) at elementary education level (Classes 1 to 8) has come to a standstill.
  • The learning continuum of teachers and students cannot be restricted due to the lack of readiness to face the lock down or due to the diversity and huge population.
  • Therefore, NCERT has planned to continue NISHTHA – integrated teacher training using DIKSHA platform and reach out to 42 Lakh elementary school teachers and its further extension to all as well.
  • As part of this MoU, educational print materials such as NCERT Textbooks, Teachers Handbook and other Supplementary materials and resources of Class I-XII of all subjects of both Hindi and English Medium will be converted into Indian Sign Language in Digital format.
  • It will not only enhance their vocabulary but also enhance their capabilities to understand concepts.
  • Signing of this MoU is based on the UNICEF’s initiative “Accessible Digital Textbooks for All” and it is a landmark decision.
  • Indian Sign Language Research and Training Centre (ISLRTC) is an autonomous national institute of DEPwD, MSJE which is dedicated to the task of developing man-power for popularizing the use of Indian Sign Language, teaching and conducting research in Indian Sign Language.
  • NCERT is an autonomous organization under MHRD which is responsible for ensuring qualitative improvement in school education by undertaking and promoting research in areas related to school education; prepare and publish model textbooks, supplementary material, newsletters, journals and develops educational kits, multimedia digital materials, etc. develop and disseminate innovative educational techniques and practices; and act as a nodal agency for achieving the goals of Universalization of Elementary Education.

 

10) Nobel in Physics Nobel for discoveries about black holes:

The 2020 Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded with one half to Roger Penrose and the other half jointly to Reinhard Genzel and Andrea Ghez

  • For advancing our understanding of black holes, the all-consuming monsters that lurk in the darkest parts of the universe.
  • Briton Roger Penrose received half of this year’s prize for the discovery that black hole formation is a robust prediction of the general theory of relativity
  • German Reinhard Genzel and American Andrea Ghez received the second half of the prize “for the discovery of a supermassive compact object at the center of our galaxy
  • The prize celebrates “one of the most exotic objects in the universe,” black holes, which have become a staple of science fact and science fiction

What is a black hole?

  • Black holes are the most mysterious and powerful objects in astronomy.
  • They are at the center of every galaxy, and smaller ones are dotted around the universe.
  • Nothing, not even light, can escape their incredible gravity.
  • They are the ultimate cosmic dead end.
  • “Black holes, because they are so hard to understand, is what makes them so appealing
  • Penrose proved with mathematics that the formation of black holes was possible, based heavily on Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity.
  • “Einstein did not himself believe that black holes really exist, these super-heavyweight monsters that capture everything that enters them
  • Martin Rees, the British astronomer royal, noted that Penrose triggered a “renaissance” in the study of relativity in the 1960s, and that, together with a young Stephen Hawking, he helped firm up evidence for the Big Bang and black holes.
  • “Penrose and Hawking are the two individuals who have done more than anyone else since Einstein to deepen our knowledge of gravity
  • It wasn’t until the 1990s that Reinhard Genzel and Andrea Ghez, each leading a group of astronomers, trained their sights on the dust-covered center of our Milky Way galaxy, a region called Sagittarius A (asterisk), where something strange was going on.
  • They both found that there was “an extremely heavy, invisible object that pulls on the jumble of stars, causing them to rush around at dizzying speeds.”
  • It was a black hole. Not just an ordinary black hole, but a supermassive black hole, 4 million times the mass of our sun.
  • Now scientists know that all galaxies have supermassive black holes.
  • In 2019, scientists got the first optical image of a black hole
  • These objects are critical to the building blocks of the universe
  • Ghez is the fourth woman to be awarded the Nobel Prize for physics, after Marie Curie in 1903, Maria Goeppert-Mayer in 1963, and Donna Strickland in 2018.
  • Black holes still pose many questions that beg for answers and motivate future research.

Last year’s prize went to Canadian-born cosmologist James Peebles for theoretical work about the early moments after the Big Bang, and Swiss astronomers Michel Mayor and Didier Queloz for discovering a planet outside our solar system.

 

11) Bharat Biotech inks deal with ViroVax for adjuvant to Covaxin:

  • Hyderabad-based vaccine firm Bharat Biotech has entered into an agreement with Kansas-based ViroVax LLC to licence an adjuvant for its Covid-19 vaccine candidate Covaxin
  • The adjuvant, Alhydroxiquim-II, is expected to boost the immune response and provide longer lasting immunity.
  • An adjuvant is an ingredient that is used to help make the vaccine work better.
  • There is critical need for development and availability of adjuvants that elucidate mechanisms of action inducing greater antibody responses to vaccine antigens, thus resulting in long-term protection against pathogens
  • Covaxin, an inactivated vaccine, is formulated with ViroVax’s adjuvant, according to Bharat Biotech.
  • This vaccine is currently in the second phase of human trials in India, and the company plans to conduct phase 3 trials on over 20,000 volunteers across countries.
  • The Hyderabad-based firm has also been exploring international tie ups to transfer the technology for this vaccine so that it can be produced in other countries to expand its capacity to a billion doses a year from around 200 million doses currently.

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