IAS UPSC Prelims and Mains Exam – 22nd April 2019
Serial blasts across Sri Lanka
Part of: GS Prelims and Mains II and III – International affairs; Security and Terrorism related issues; Indian Diaspora
- Over 200 people were killed and nearly 500 injured in a series of blasts that shook Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday.
- Churches and luxury hotels were targeted in the deadliest incidents since the civil war ended a decade ago.
- Blasts occurred in and around the capital Colombo and in the eastern city of
- No group has claimed responsibility for the blasts.
- Four Indians among blast victims.
China draws up tighter rules on human gene and embryo trials
- China to consider tougher rules on research involving human genes and embryos.
- It is the first such move since a Chinese scientist (He Jiankui) sparked controversy last year by announcing he had made the world’s first “gene-edited” babies.
Do you know?
- He Jiankui attracted condemnation from the global scientific community when he said he had used a technology known as CRISPR-Cas9 to alter the embryonic genes of twin girls born in November.
- CRISPR (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats) is a naturally occurring defence mechanism in bacteria.
- CRISPR-Cas9 was adapted from this naturally occurring genome editing system.
- The bacteria capture snippets of DNA from invading viruses and use them to create DNA segments known as CRISPR arrays.
- The CRISPR arrays allow the bacteria to “remember” the viruses (or closely related ones).
- If the viruses attack again, the bacteria produce RNA segments from the CRISPR arrays to target the viruses’ DNA. The bacteria then use Cas9 or a similar enzyme to cut the DNA apart, which disables the virus.
- The CRISPR-Cas9 system works similarly in the lab. Researchers create a small piece of RNA with a short “guide” sequence that attaches (binds) to a specific target sequence of DNA in a genome. The RNA also binds to the Cas9 enzyme. As in bacteria, the modified RNA is used to recognize the DNA sequence, and the Cas9 enzyme cuts the DNA at the targeted location.
- Once the DNA is cut, researchers use the cell’s own DNA repair machinery to add or delete pieces of genetic material, or to make changes to the DNA by replacing an existing segment with a customized DNA sequence.
Special kits to probe sexual assault cases
Part of: GS Mains II – Women safety issues; Government policies and schemes
- Over 3,100 special kits for collecting blood and semen samples, besides other evidence, to carry out immediate investigation into sexual assault cases have been distributed among the States and Union Territories by the Ministry of Home Affairs.
- Sexual Assault Evidence Collection Kits (SAECK) or ‘rape investigation kits’ are designed to carry out immediate medico-legal investigation and aid in furnishing evidence in sexual assault and rape cases.
- The kits are expected to help law enforcement agencies to ensure effective probe in a timely manner for better prosecution and conviction in sexual assault cases.
Animal in news: Horsfield’s Bronze Cuckoo, Zappey’s Flycatcher and Javan Pond Heron
Sighting of news species on the Andaman island chain increased
Horsfield’s Bronze Cuckoo
- Horsfield’s Bronze Cuckoo (Chalcites basalis) is a bird, native of Australia and New Guinea.
- It is known for its repeated, loud and piercing whistle.
- It was sighted in a tsunami ravaged coastal forest in the Great Nicobar Island of the Andaman and Nicobar island chain.
- The sighting was the first recorded instance of the bird in India.
- It is a song bird that breeds in China and spends the winters in the Malay peninsula, Sumatra and Java.
- It was spotted six times in different areas of Andaman and Nicobar Islands between December 2017 and March 2018 — at least thrice in pairs.
Javan Pond Heron
- It is usually found in Thailand and Cambodia.
- It is larger than Horsfield’s Bronze Cuckoo and Zappey’s Flycatcher
Do you know?
- Sighting of news species on the island chain has gone up since the 2004 Indonesian tsunami, say researchers of the ZSI.
- The three new records from India from the Andaman and Nicobar Island have been discussed in detail in a recent publication of journal Birding ASIA.
- Andaman and Nicobar Islands, with just about 0.25 % the country’s landmass, is home to about 350 species of exotic birds.
205 rail projects report cost overrun of ₹2.21 lakh crore
Part of: Prelims and Mains II – Governance issues
According to a latest flash report of the Statistics and Programme Implementation Ministry (MOSPI) –
- Indian Railways accounts for nearly three-fifths of 344 Central sector projects that are facing huge cost overruns due to delay in implementation for various reasons.
- Around 205 rail projects report cost overrun of ₹2.21 lakh crore.
- After the Railways, the power sector reported the second highest incidence of overall cost overrun.
Do you know?
- The MOSPI monitors Central sector projects involving an expenditure of ₹150 crore and above.
Medicine labels in regional language
- In order to counter fake, sub-standard and expired drugs, the Union Health Ministry plans to label medicines in Hindi and regional language.
- Drug names and expiry date will be in Hindi/regional language.
TOPIC: General studies 2
- Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
- Parliament and State Legislatures – structure, functioning, conduct of business, powers & privileges and issues arising out of these.
- Elections; Role of Election Commission and Governance issues.
Being fair and transparent
- Two phases of the 2019 general election have been completed.
- Since the Model Code of Conduct came into effect, in just the first two phases this time, the Election Commission (EC) has seized cash, drugs, alcohol, precious metals and other items worth Rs 2,600 crore.
- The amount seized has already surpassed the entire seizures made in the nine phases of the general election in 2014.
- Huge hauls of drugs were smuggled into Gujarat. Uttar Pradesh is awash with liquor. Tamil Nadu has seen the largest seizures of illicit cash —over ₹514 crore.
These vast sums intended to bribe or influence voters prove several things.
- These sums represent only a fraction of current illegal spending, as the amount seized is just the tip of the iceberg.
- Bulk of illegal tranches of money, liquor or freebies (which have not been detected by the EC’s machinery or by the vigilance of electoral officials) would have reached their destination.
- Political players have refined their methods to move their funds to their destinations even before the elections are announced. (They are steps ahead of the EC’s observers or vigilance teams)
- Rs 70 lakh is the legal upper limit of expenditure per candidate for Lok Sabha elections (prescribed under Rule 90 of the Conduct of Election Rules, 1961). However, simple arithmetic would show that the seized amount can fully finance up to six to seven candidates from each of the 543 constituencies.
Why there is a need to re-examine our rule book?
- From the above it is clear that, every rule in the book is being broken.
- There is no transparency on how political parties collect or spend their funds.
- Limits of candidate spending are exceeded in every single case.
- EC had deployed over 2,000 Central observers and thousands of vigilance squads were set up – huge cost to exchequer.
Major concern: Electoral Bonds
- Electoral bonds, far from enabling a legitimate and transparent means of political funding, have proved to be the reverse.
- The EC, in its own affidavit before the Supreme Court, has admitted as much.
- Electoral bonds are a pathetic admission of government’s failure to curb black money in political funding.
- Most political parties receive funds from corporates as well as rich individuals. The ruling parties usually get the lion’s share of these funds.
- The electoral bonds scheme has been designed in such a way as to keep the identity of the donor absolutely confidential.
- Far from reducing the large-scale corporate funding of elections, the introduction of electoral bonds does not even address this issue.
The way ahead:
- Any serious reform with regard to funding must come from the EC itself.
- The EC should convene a conference of all stakeholders, including of course all recognised political parties, both Central and State.
- The list of stakeholders must also include the best constitutional and legal minds in our country.
- EC has powers inherently enshrined in Article 324 of the Constitution — powers so great that there is arguably no other electoral management body with similar powers.
- The powers of the EC are so enormous and so all-encompassing that they exceed the powers of the executive in all election-related issues during the course of the election period.
- Therefore, these powers must be exercised judiciously, fairly and equitably.
Connecting the dots:
- What are various electoral and political funding reforms which need to be undertaken to bring in transparency and accountability in the Indian political environment. Describe.
- The need for transparency in electoral funding for a level playing field in elections is a fundamental requirement. Discuss. Also suggest measures needed to address the problem of unchecked money power visible during every election.
TOPIC: General studies 3
- Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment
Towards a lower GHG future
According to a World Bank report –
- Climate change could cost India 2.8 per cent of GDP, and depress living standards of nearly half of its population by 2050, as average annual temperatures are expected to rise by 1-2 per cent over three decades.
A number of factors are causing climate change and the efforts to address them have been manifold.
Among a number of factors causing climate change, large-scale use of environmentally damaging refrigerants (especially Hydrofluorocarbons) is one of the key areas identified, with a direct impact on the depletion of the ozone layer and subsequently on global warming.
- HFCs have many everyday applications. These include refrigerants to cool cars, appliances and buildings, foam-blowing agents that create cushioning and insulating foam, solvents used in manufacturing to clean and sanitise, and certain specialty propellants used in products like aerosols.
- When HFCs are released into the atmosphere, they trap GHGs with significant global-warming-potential (GWP) and take years, sometimes decades, to break down in the atmosphere—thus contributing to the overall warming of the planet.
- Replacing high GWP HFCs with low-GWP HFO alternatives could help avoid up to 0.5°C of warming by the end of this century.
- The Kigali Amendment, an amendment to the 1987 Montreal Protocol, aims to phase out high-global-warming-potential hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), a family of potent greenhouse gases (GHG), by late 2040s.
- India was part of a historic global climate deal that was reached in Kigali, Rwanda, at the 28th Meeting of the Parties (MoP28) to the Montreal Protocol, on substances that deplete the ozone layer.
- Under this amendment, 197 countries, including India, agreed to a timeline to reduce the use of HFCs by 80-85% of their baselines over the next several decades.
The Kigali Amendment provides a significant opportunity to live up to the promise of better environment.
It highlights the need to develop new technologies and transition to the use of more environmentally preferable alternatives.
Important value additions:
A global climate deal was reached in Kigali, Rwanda at the Twenty-Eighth Meeting of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer (MOP28).
The Kigali Agreement amends the 1987 Montreal Protocol that aims to phase out Hydro fluorocarbons (HFCs), a family of potent greenhouse gases by the late 2040s.
- It is a legally binding agreement between the signatory parties with non-compliance measures.
- It will come into effect from 1st January 2019 provided it is ratified by at least 20-member parties by then.
- It has shown a considerable flexibility in approach while setting phase-down targets for different economies accommodating their developmental aspirations, different socio-economic compulsions, and scientific & technological capabilities.
It has divided the signatory parties into three groups-
- The first group consists of rich and developed economies like USA, UK and EU countries who will start to phase down HFCs by 2019 and reduce it to 15% of 2012 levels by 2036.
- The second group consists of emerging economies like China, Brazil as well as some African countries that will start phase down by 2024 and reduce it to 20% of 2021 levels by 2045.
- The third group consists of developing economies and some of the hottest climatic countries like India, Pakistan, Iran, and Saudi Arabia who will start phasing down HFCs by 2028 and reduce it to 15% of 2024-2026 levels till 2047.
It also has a provision for a multilateral fund for developing countries for adaptation and mitigation.
The Technology and Energy Assessment Panel (TEAP) will take a periodic review of the alternative technologies and products for their energy efficiency and safety standards.
- India is the world’s fourth-largest emitter of CO2.
- According to a report by the International Energy Agency (IEA), the share of space cooling in peak electricity load is projected to rise sharply in India, from 10% today to 45% in 2050.
- Government has recognised the importance of lowering the country’s GHG emissions as part of an international effort to limit global warming.
- Govt and NITI Aayog are working towards an India Cooling Action Plan, meant to meet the country’s growing cooling needs in a climate-friendly manner. One of the key focus areas in the Action Plan is in-room air conditioners (ACs).
Successful implementation of the Kigali amendment will require a high level of national cooperation from our government, along with industry, research institutes and regulators coming together in sustaining efforts.
A cleaner and healthier environment, along with improvements in quality of life, can all support a world of increasing action on climate change.
India has been a key partner in the quest for reducing emissions and should continue to take the lead in efforts to protect the planet from climate change.
Connecting the dots:
- Discuss how India can succinctly respond to address global warming and its impact on climate change?
- What is Kigali Amendment? Why is it a significant step against climate change? Examine.
(TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE)
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Q.1) Which of the following statements is/are incorrect regarding Kigali agreement?
- It aims to phase out Chloro fluorocarbons (CFC) by the late 2040s.
- It is non-binding agreement similar to Paris agreement.
- It has provisions for penalties for non- compliance.
- Under it developed countries will provide funding support globally.
Choose the appropriate code
- 1 and 2
- 3 and 4
- 1, 3 and 4
Q.2) Consider the following statements about ‘Kigali amendment to the Montreal Protocol’
- It is legally binding
- According to the amendment, India will start to phase down Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) by 2019 and reduce it to 15% of 2012 levels by 2036
Select the correct statements
- 1 Only
- 2 Only
- Both 1 and 2
- Neither 1 nor 2
Q.3) Consider the following statements with reference to the CRISPR
- It is a naturally occurring defence mechanism in bacteria.
- CRISPR-Cas9 technique can be used to cut DNA at specific location.
Which of the statements given above is/are correct?
- Only 1
- Only 2
- Both 1 and 2
- Neither 1 nor 2
Q.4) Consider the following statements about CRISPR-CAS9
- It is a genome editing technique that can edit DNA at precise locations.
- It does not modify genes permanently and they can revert back to their original state.
Which of the statements above is/are correct?
- Only 1
- Only 2
- 1 and 2
Workers and refugees are not criminals
Expropriation in the name of conservation
On the sexual harassment complaint against CJI
The danger of silver bullets
The gold standard for gold reserves
Strengthening India’s economic fundamental may be the best route to enhance its influence as a strong economy