(PRELIMS + MAINS FOCUS)
Part of: Prelims and GS II – International Relations
Context: India and Australia signed an Economic Co-operation and Trade Agreement (ECTA) recently.
- Both countries have aimed to double bilateral trade to $50 billion in five years and ease movement of people, goods and services across borders.
- This is also the first such pact signed by India with a developed country in a decade.
- The deal will facilitate work visas for two to four years for Indian students in Australia on a ‘reciprocal basis’.
- It will allow Indian chefs and yoga professionals to work there as well.
- The agreement will facilitate zero duty access on over 96% of Indian exports, including several labour-intensive industries.
- India will, in turn, offer preferential access to Australia on over 70% of its tariff lines on goods imports, including ‘lines of export interest to Australia which are primarily raw materials and intermediaries such as coal, mineral ores and wines, etc.
- The agreement with Australia is expected to create 10 lakh additional jobs in the country over the next five years.
- It will also increase the resilience of supply chains, and also contribute to the stability of the Indo-Pacific region.
News Source: TH
Part of: Prelims and GS II – Health
Context: The World Health Organization (WHO) has flagged the emergence of a new variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, the XE recombinant, in the United Kingdom, and with a possibly higher rate of transmission.
- A recombinant variant occurs when an individual becomes infected with two or more variants at the same time, leading to a mixing of genetic material in the human body.
- Several such recombinants have emerged in the past during the pandemic.
News Source: TH
Part of: Prelims
Context: Diamond Jubilee of Chetak helicopter was recently celebrated by Indian Air Force.
About the helicopter
- Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, Helicopter Division started manufacturing helicopters in 1962, by entering an agreement with France for production of Aloutte III helicopters (Chetak).
- The first Chetak in ‘Fly Away’ condition was delivered in 1965.
- The Chetak Helicopter is a two ton class helicopter.
- The seven seater Chetak helicopter is versatile, multi role, multipurpose, and spacious.
- The helicopter is suitable for commuting, cargo / material transport, casualty evacuation, Search & Rescue (SAR), Aerial Survey & Patrolling, Emergency Medical Services, Off-shore operations and Under slung operations.
- Till date, HAL has produced and sold more than 350 of these versatile Helicopters which are in service both in India and abroad
News Source: TH
Part of: Prelims and GS III – Defence and security
Context: The Indian Army which has long been looking for new man portable air defence systems (MANPADS), has inducted a small number of Igla-S systems recently procured from Russia under emergency procurement
What are MANPADS?
- MANPADS are short-range, lightweight and portable surface-to-air missiles.
- They can be fired by individuals or small groups to destroy aircraft or helicopters.
- They help shield troops from aerial attacks and are most effective in targeting low-flying aircrafts.
- MANPADS can be shoulder-fired, launched from atop a ground-vehicle, fired from a tripod or stand, and from a helicopter or boat.
- Weighing anywhere between 10 to 20 kilograms and not being longer than 1.8 metres, they are fairly lightweight as compared to other elaborate weapon systems, making them easy to operate by individual soldiers.
- Operating MANPADS requires substantially less training.
- Most MANPADS have passive or ‘fire and forget’ guidance systems, meaning the operator is not required to guide the missile to its target, enabling them to run and relocate immediately after firing
(News from PIB)
Part of: GS-Prelims and GS-II: Judiciary
Context: Appointment of Judges of the Supreme Court and High Courts is made under Articles 124, 217 and 224 of the Constitution of India, which do not provide reservation for any caste or class of persons.
- In the present system of appointment of Judges to the constitutional courts through the Collegium system, the onus to provide social diversity and representation to all sections of the society including SC/ST/OBC/Women/Minorities primarily falls on the Judiciary.
- Government cannot appoint any person as a High Court Judge who is not recommended by the High Court Collegium/Supreme Court Collegium.
- However, the Government remains committed to social diversity in the appointment of Judges in the Higher Judiciary and has been requesting the Chief Justices of High Courts that while sending proposals for appointment of Judges, due consideration be given to suitable candidates belonging to Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, Other Backward Classes, Minorities and Women to ensure social diversity in appointment of Judges in High Courts.
From 01.01.2021 to 30.03.2022, Supreme Court Collegium has recommended 39 women for appointment as High Court Judges, out of which 27 women were appointed and remaining 12 cases are under various stages of processing.
The Indian Supreme Court has delivered remarkable judgments on gender identity, sexual orientation, Sabarimala temple entry and adultery. But the actual progress of the Indian judiciary should be measured by the number of women in high positions. Since Independence, India has had a woman President, Prime Minister, chief ministers, governors but no woman Chief Justice.
- It took almost 40 years to have the first woman judge, Justice Fathima Beevi, and 68 years for the Supreme Court to have the first directly appointed woman judge, Justice Indu Malhotra, among six male judges.
- Despite three women judges currently sitting in the Supreme Court, there seems to be no likelihood that we will have the first woman Chief Justice in the near future.
Why does it matter?
- A gender diverse bench reflects a bias-free judiciary. Many empirical studies show that having even one woman on a three-judge panel has an effect on the entire panel’s decision-making in gender discrimination cases.
- Having women judges encourage more women to approach the system of law to report violence and crimes happening to them on a daily basis.
- The presence of women judges from diverse backgrounds will bring structural changes in the decision-making process. Studies prove that personal values, experiences and many other non-legal factors influence judicial decisions.
- If women in the judiciary hail from similar backgrounds as those of men, holding mainstream ideas and beliefs, the gender diversity has little to no payoff. Besides, the more socially diverse the judicial benches are, the stronger the judiciary is. This will improve public trust in the judiciary and increase access to justice.
Is there a way forward?
- There is a need of an effective affirmative action workplan to have an adequate number of prospective women candidates, with especial focus on the fact that they come from marginalised groups. In addition, the criterion for designation of senior counsels should also be focused upon.
- A special diversity programme is required to adopt to encourage and motivate women lawyers, the number of female students taking up law may increase but there won’t be women judges to inspire them to sustain in the profession.
- Collection of data should be initiated to determine the number of women judges in the lower judiciary and tribunals and also to determine year-wise number of senior designates by all High Courts.
- Certain law schools have the subject either as a specialisation or as an elective. Equally, the All India Bar Examination does not contain even a single question or section relating to gender sensitisation. The Bar Council of India may take necessary steps in this regard.
- Removing the minimum age for recruitment as district judge can help young female advocates from opting out of practice in favour of other services or corporate jobs. Governments should also rationalise salary and allowances of lower judiciary.
Babasaheb Bhim Rao Ambedkar had said, “I measure the progress of a community by the degree of progress which women have achieved”.
Note: United Nations General Assembly Resolution 75/274 designated 10th March the International Day of Women Judges in 2021.
News Source: PIB
India overshoots export target
- Achieves USD 417.8 billion exports in 2021-22
Operation Upalabdh: A pan India drive against activities of touts throughout the country by Railway Protection Force (RPF).
Innovations for Defence Excellence (iDEX) framework
- Launched by the Government with the aim to foster innovation and technology development in Defence and Aerospace Sector by engaging Industries including MSMEs, startups, individual innovators, R&D institutes and academia and promote self-reliance.
- The Government has approved a central sector scheme for iDEX with budgetary support of Rs. 498.78 crore for the next 5 years from 2021-22 to 2025-26.
- The objective of the scheme is to provide financial support to nearly 300 Startups/ MSMEs/individual innovators and about 20 Partner incubators through Defence Innovation Organisation (DIO).
The Government encourages the start-ups to contribute to the defence sector and develop aerospace setup in the country by providing substantial grants, easier and faster access to test facilities/infrastructure available with various Government agencies, co-creation and co-innovation using smooth operating procedures and minimal documentation, and facilitating procurement, thus making the entire regime conducive for them.
- GS-2: Federalism & its challenges
Context: The newly elected Punjab Legislative Assembly passed a resolution, moved by the Chief Minister himself, on April 1 in a special session seeking the transfer of Chandigarh to Punjab. With this, the ‘Chandigarh question’ has resurfaced, but this time it occupies the national spotlight.
How did Chandigarh come to its current status?
- Chandigarh, described as a ‘planned city’ emblematic of ‘Nehruvian modernity’, is a greenfield city, which was commissioned by the government in independent India to replace Lahore, which went to Pakistan after Partition, as the capital of of Punjab.
- Designed by Le Corbusier in association with Pierre Jeanneret, it is located on the foothills of the Shivalik Himalayas on village land acquired from what was then the Kharar tehsil of Ambala district.
- It was the capital of undivided Punjab from its inauguration in 1953 till 1966.
- Under the Punjab Reorganisation Act, 1966 following the Punjabi Suba movement, Haryana was carved out of the Hindi-speaking regions as a separate State while the hill regions of Punjab were merged with what was then the Union Territory (UT) of Himachal Pradesh.
- Chandigarh was made a UT and has remained the joint capital of Haryana and Punjab with State assets divided between Punjab and Haryana in the ratio of 60:40.
- Since 1966, the lack of full rights to its capital has remained a vexed issue in Punjab politics.
- All the governments and most political parties of Punjab have regularly raised the demand for Chandigarh
- It has featured in all major developments, whether it is the 1973 Anandpur Sahib resolution, Dharam Yudh Morcha (of Akali Dal with J.S. Bhindranwale) and the 1985 Rajiv-Longowal Accord.
- Since 1966, the Punjab Assembly has passed at least six such resolutions with the last being in 2014 under the Shiromani Akali Dal-Bharatiya Janata Party (SAD-BJP) government.
What is different this time?
The immediate provocation this time has been two recent decisions of the Central government, both taken in the aftermath of SAD breaking ties with the BJP over the now withdrawn farm laws.
- In February, the Centre amended the rules governing the functioning of the Bhakra Beas Management Board (BBMB), constituted under the 1966 Act, changing the eligibility criteria for the two full-time members of the Board.
- These board positions though technically open to all Indian officials, by convention gone to officials from Punjab and Haryana. Now, officers from the two States may not be able to meet the new eligibility criteria given the technical qualifications specified.
- Second, the Centre issued a notification bringing Chandigarh UT administration employees under the Central Services Rules with effect from April 1, 2022 replacing the Punjab Services Rules. This was considered as an affront to Punjab’s claim over Chandigarh.
What has been the position of the Union government on the city?
- At the time of the 1966 Act, the Union government with Indira Gandhi as Prime Minister indicated that the UT status to Chandigarh was temporary and that it would be transferred to Punjab.
- This decision was formalised in 1970 with Mrs Gandhi promising Haryana funds for building its own capital.
- According to the 1985 Rajiv-Longowal Accord (to deal with Punjab growing militancy problem) , Chandigarh was to be handed over to Punjab on January 26, 1986 but this never fructified after the assassination of Longowal and the long period of militancy till the mid-1990s.
- The recent developments could thus indicate a shift in the Central government’s position.
Is there a distinctive Chandigarh position?
- Employees and unions of the Chandigarh administration have mostly welcomed the change in service rules since the Central provisions carry more benefits, especially on retirement age and other allowances, though pay scale-wise Punjab rules are considered better.
- After decades of existence as a UT, Chandigarh has developed a distinctive cultural character.
- Given its geographical location at the intersection of three States, as well as the presence of many educational institutions, medical establishments and the Army and Air Force, Chandigarh has developed a unique cosmopolitanism and become a magnet for the youth across the north western region. City residents thus favour the status quo.
- The Chandigarh units of political parties, in contrast with their Punjab party units have time and again reiterated retention of the status quo.
What about Haryana?
- As in Punjab, all parties in Haryana present a common position asserting the latter’s claim to the city and have objected to any move which associates Chandigarh solely with Punjab.
- The International Airport which comprises territory from both the UT and Mohali city of Punjab was inaugurated in 2015 but remains nameless as Haryana has objected to the inclusion of Mohali in the name claiming that Haryana has a 50% stake in the airport.
- Haryana had also objected to the name ‘New Chandigarh’ for a township developed in the Mullanpur area adjoining Chandigarh in Punjab.
Connecting the dots:
- Belagavi Dispute
- Inter-state Council
- GS-3: Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization, of resources, growth, development and employment.
- GS-3: Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life.
Context: Google Pay has recently launched a new feature in India, ‘Tap to pay for UPI’, in collaboration with Pine Labs.
- The feature makes use of Near Field Communication (NFC) technology.
- Till now, Tap to Pay was only available for cards.
What is NFC and how does it work?
- NFC is a short-range wireless connectivity technology that allows NFC-enabled devices to communicate with each other and transfer information quickly and easily with a single touch — whether to pay bills, exchange business cards, download coupons, or share a document.
- NFC transmits data through electromagnetic radio fields, to enable communication between two devices.
- Both devices must contain NFC chips, as transactions take place within a very short distance.
- NFC-enabled devices must be either physically touching or within a few centimetres from each other for data transfer to occur.
How will this technology work with the recently launched feature, ‘Tap to pay for UPI’?
- Google Pay has been the first among UPI apps to bring the Tap to Pay feature working on POS terminals.
- It will allow users with UPI accounts configured on Google Pay to make payments just by tapping their NFC-enabled Android smartphones on any Pine Labs Android POS terminal.
- Once users tap their phones on the POS terminal, it will automatically open the Google pay app with the payment amount pre-filled.
- Users can then verify the amount and merchant name and authenticate the payment, using their UPI PIN. They will be notified once the payment is successful.
- The process is much faster compared to scanning a QR code or entering the UPI-linked mobile number which has been the conventional way till now.
Are other companies using NFC tech for payments using smartphones?
- In February 2022, Apple introduced Tap to Pay on the iPhone. It will allow merchants across the U.S. to use their iPhones to accept Apple Pay, contactless credit and debit cards, and other digital wallets through a tap to their iPhone without the need for any additional hardware or payment terminal.
- At checkout, the customer just needs to hold their iPhone or Apple Watch to pay with Apple Pay, their contactless credit or debit card, or other digital wallet near the merchant’s iPhone to complete the payment using NFC technology, Apple said in a release earlier.
What are the other applications of NFC technology?
- It is used in contactless banking cards to perform money transactions or to generate contact-less tickets for public transport.
- Contactless cards and readers use NFC in several applications from securing networks and buildings to monitoring inventory and sales, preventing auto theft, keeping tabs on library books, and running unmanned toll booths, according to investopedia.
- NFC is behind the cards that we wave over card readers in subway turnstiles and on buses to check tickets.
- It is present in speakers, household appliances, and other electronic devices that we monitor and control through our smartphones.
- It also has an application in healthcare, to monitor patient stats through NFC-enabled wristbands. NFC is used in wireless charging too.
How safe is this technology?
- NFC technology is designed for an operation between devices within a few centimetres from each other.
- This makes it difficult for attackers to record the communication between the devices compared to other wireless technologies which have a working distance of several metres.
- The user of the NFC-enabled device determines by the touch gesture which entity the NFC communication should take place with, making it more difficult for the attacker to get connected.
- The security level of the NFC communication is by default higher compared to other wireless communication protocols.
- The NFC Forum has also added Peer to Peer communication which is a mechanism to cipher all exchanged data to avoid external interpretation of recorded communication.
- Since the receiving device reads your data the instant you send it, NFCs also reduce the chance of human error.
Where does it stand in comparison to other wireless technologies?
- There are other wireless technologies available which are replacing cable-based connections.
- The IrDa technology is a short range (a few metres) connection based on the exchange of data over infrared light where the two communication devices must be positioned within a line of sight.
- Today, this technology is mainly used for remote control devices.
- For larger data communication with computer devices this technology was replaced by Bluetooth or WiFi connections.
- However, for these technologies’ receiver devices need their own power supply due to the larger working distance. Therefore, the receiving device cannot be powered by the radiofrequency (RF) field like in NFC, the NFC forum highlighted. A
- nother consequence of the larger working distance is the need for the user to configure their device and to pair them together for communication. Connection cannot be initiated by a simple touch gesture like in NFC.
Connecting the dots:
(Down to Earth: Science & Technology)
April 4th: The Human Genome Project pieced together only 92% of the DNA — now scientists have finally filled in the remaining 8% – https://www.downtoearth.org.in/blog/science-technology/the-human-genome-project-pieced-together-only-92-of-the-dna-now-scientists-have-finally-filled-in-the-remaining-8–82190
- GS-3: Science & Technology
Context: When the Human Genome Project announced that they had completed the first human genome in 2003, it was a momentous accomplishment — for the first time, the DNA blueprint of human life was unlocked.
- But they weren’t actually able to put together all the genetic information in the genome.
- There were gaps: Unfilled, often repetitive regions that were too confusing to piece together.
- With advancements in technology that could handle these repetitive sequences, scientists finally filled those gaps in May 2021, and the first end-to-end human genome was officially published on March 31, 2022.
The missing puzzle pieces
German botanist Hans Winkler coined the word “genome” in 1920, combining the word “gene” with the suffix “-ome,” meaning “complete set,” to describe the full DNA sequence contained within each cell. Researchers still use this word a century later to refer to the genetic material that makes up an organism.
- If we compare it to a reference book, a genome is an anthology containing the DNA instructions for life. It’s composed of a vast array of nucleotides (letters) that are packaged into chromosomes (chapters).
- Each chromosome contains genes (paragraphs) that are regions of DNA which code for the specific proteins that allow an organism to function.
- While every living organism has a genome, the size of that genome varies from species to species.
- An elephant uses the same form of genetic information as the grass it eats and the bacteria in its gut. But no two genomes look exactly alike.
- Some are short, like the genome of the insect-dwelling bacteria Nasuia deltocephalinicola with just 137 genes across 112,000 nucleotides.
- Some, like the 149 billion nucleotides of the flowering plant Paris japonica, are so long that it’s difficult to get a sense of how many genes are contained within.
- But genes as they’ve traditionally been understood — as stretches of DNA that code for proteins — are just a small part of an organism’s genome. In fact, they make up less than 2 per cent of human DNA.
- The human genome contains roughly 3 billion nucleotides and just under 20,000 protein-coding genes — an estimated 1 per cent of the genome’s total length.
- The remaining 99 per cent is non-coding DNA sequences that don’t produce proteins. Some are regulatory components that work as a switchboard to control how other genes work. Others are pseudogenes, or genomic relics that have lost their ability to function.
- And over half of the human genome is repetitive, with multiple copies of near-identical sequences.
What is repetitive DNA?
The simplest form of repetitive DNA are blocks of DNA repeated over and over in tandem called satellites.
- While how much satellite DNA a given genome has varies from person to person, they often cluster toward the ends of chromosomes in regions called telomeres.
- These regions protect chromosomes from degrading during DNA replication.
- They’re also found in the centromeres of chromosomes, a region that helps keep genetic information intact when cells divide.
Researchers still lack a clear understanding of all the functions of satellite DNA. But because satellite DNA forms unique patterns in each person, forensic biologists and genealogists use this genomic “fingerprint” to match crime scene samples and track ancestry. Over 50 genetic disorders are linked to variations in satellite DNA, including Huntington’s disease.
- Another abundant type of repetitive DNA are transposable elements, or sequences that can move around the genome.
- Some scientists have described them as selfish DNA because they can insert themselves anywhere in the genome, regardless of the consequences.
- As the human genome evolved, many transposable sequences collected mutations repressing their ability to move to avoid harmful interruptions. But some can likely still move about. For example, transposable element insertions are linked to a number of cases of hemophilia A, a genetic bleeding disorder.
- But transposable elements aren’t just disruptive. They can have regulatory functions that help control the expression of other DNA sequences. When they’re concentrated in centromeres, they may also help maintain the integrity of the genes fundamental to cell survival.
- They can also contribute to evolution. Researchers recently found that the insertion of a transposable element into a gene important to development might be why some primates, including humans, no longer have tails. Chromosome rearrangements due to transposable elements are even linked to the genesis of new species like the gibbons of southeast Asia and the wallabies of Australia.
Completing the genomic puzzle
When the Human Genome Project first launched in 1990, technological limitations made it impossible to fully uncover repetitive regions in the genome.
- Available sequencing technology could only read about 500 nucleotides at a time, and these short fragments had to overlap one another in order to recreate the full sequence.
- Researchers used these overlapping segments to identify the next nucleotides in the sequence, incrementally extending the genome assembly one fragment at a time.
- With near-identical overlapping stretches in many spots, fully sequencing the genome by piecemeal became unfeasible. Millions of nucleotides remained hidden in the first iteration of the human genome.
Since then, sequence patches have gradually filled in gaps of the human genome bit by bit. And in 2021, the Telomere-to-Telomere (T2T) Consortium, an international consortium of scientists working to complete a human genome assembly from end to end, announced that all remaining gaps were finally filled.
- This was made possible by improved sequencing technology capable of reading longer sequences thousands of nucleotides in length.
- With more information to situate repetitive sequences within a larger picture, it became easier to identify their proper place in the genome.
- With the increasing power of long-read DNA sequencing technology, geneticists are positioned to explore a new era of genomics, untangling complex repetitive sequences across populations and species for the first time.
- And a complete, gap-free human genome provides an invaluable resource for researchers to investigate repetitive regions that shape genetic structure and variation, species evolution and human health.
But one complete genome doesn’t capture it all. Efforts continue to create diverse genomic references that fully represent the human population and life on Earth. With more complete, “telomere-to-telomere” genome references, scientists’ understanding of the repetitive dark matter of DNA will become more clear.
(TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE)
Model questions: (You can now post your answers in comment section)
Q.1 MANDAPS are associated with which of the following?
- Gujarat’s Cultural festival
- Education services for Indian students
- Covid-19 vaccinating booths
Q.2 India signed Economic Co-operation and Trade Agreement (ECTA) recently with which of the following country?
Q.3 Appointment of Judges of the Supreme Court and High Courts is made under which of the following articles of the Constitution of India?
- Article 124
- Article 217
- Article 224
- All of the above
ANSWERS FOR 3rd April 2022 TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE (TYK)
On Sri Lanka Economic Crisis:
On Tamil Nadu’s Vanniyar quota:
On building faith in investigative agencies: