Insights Daily Current Affairs + PIB: 28 October 2019
Table of contents:
GS Paper 2:
- Citizenship (Amendment) Bill.
- Institutes of Eminence (IOE) scheme.
- Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA).
GS Paper 3:
- Block Chain Technology.
- Fly ash.
Facts for prelims:
- Sarayu river.
GS Paper 2:
- Indian Constitution- historical underpinnings, evolution, features, amendments, significant provisions and basic structure.
What to study?
For Prelims: Key features of the Bill, Citizenship Act 1955, Citizenship- acquisition and types available.
For Mains: Issues over the Bill, why NE States oppose to this bill?
Context: With political positions on the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) largely unchanged, the government, which is hoping to move a new version of it during the winter session of Parliament, faces tough negotiations.
The Citizenship Amendment Bill:
- It seeks to allow illegal migrants from certain minority communities in Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan eligible for Indian citizenshipby amending the Citizenship Act of 1955.
- It seeks to grant citizenship to people from minority communities — Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians —after 6 years of stay in India even if they do not possess any proper document. The current requirement is 12 years of stay.
- The Bill provides that the registration of Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) cardholders may be cancelled if they violate any law.
The Bill, however, does not extend to illegal Muslim migrants. It also does not talk about other minority communities in the three neighbouring countries, such as Jews, Bahais etc.
However, the bill is being criticised for the following reasons:
- It violates the basic tenets of the Constitution. Illegal immigrants are distinguished on the basis of religion.
- It is perceived to be a demographic threat to indigenous communities.
- The Bill makes illegal migrants eligible for citizenship on the basis of religion. This may violate Article 14 of the Constitution which guarantees the right to equality.
- It attempts to naturalise the citizenship of illegal immigrants in the region.
- The Bill allows cancellation of OCI registration for violation of any law. This is a wide ground that may cover a range of violations, including minor offences.
Need for Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016:
- There are thousands of Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists, Christians and Parsis who have entered India after facing religious persecution in countries like Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan without any valid document.
- These refugees have been facing difficulty in getting Long Term Visa (LTV) or Citizenship.
- The existing Citizenship law does not allow anyone granting Indian nationality if he or she can not show proof of documents on country of birth and therefore they have to stay at least 12 years in India.
- Those Hindus who are persecuted due to religion has no other place to go except India.
Concerns, issues and consequences of these changes:
- Introduced religion as a new principle into the citizenship law: By marking out Muslims as a residual category, it reiterates the narrative of partition, without incorporating the principles of inclusion which were present in both the constitution of India and the Citizenship Act of 1955 at its inception.
- While religious persecution is a reasonable principle for differentiation, it cannot be articulated in a manner that dilutes the republican and secular foundations of citizenship in India, and goes against constitutional morality.
Special concerns of NE indigenous people:
- The Bill has not been sitting well with the Assamese as it contradicts the Assam Accord of 1985, which clearly states that illegal migrants heading in from Bangladesh after March 25, 1971, would be deported.
- Mizoram fears Buddhist Chakmas and Hindu Hajongs from Bangladesh may take advantage of the Act.
- Meghalaya and Nagaland are apprehensive of migrants of Bengali stock.
- Groups in Arunachal Pradesh fear the new rules may benefit Chakmas and Tibetans.
- Manipur wants the Inner-line Permit System to stop outsiders from entering the state.
Sources: the Hindu.
- Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
What to study?
For Prelims: Institutes of Eminence Scheme- features and significance.
For mains: Why are few institutes unwilling to accept this tag?
Context: The decision to accept the Institute of Eminence (IOE) status for Delhi University has been deferred following protests from council members.
Why are they worried?
- The scheme would result in increased privatisation of the university.
- It would also be a huge burden on the university as it called for “world-class” infrastructure, provisions for foreign faculty with differential pay scales and removed caps on fee structures among other issues.
Institutions of Eminence scheme:
- Implemented under the Union human resource development (HRD) ministry.
- Aims to project Indian institutes to global recognition.
- The selected institutes will enjoy complete academic and administrative autonomy.
- They will receive special funding.
- The selection shall be made through challenge method mode by the Empowered Expert Committee constituted for the purpose.
- Eligibility: Only higher education institutions currently placed in the top 500 of global rankings or top 50 of the National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF) are eligible to apply for the eminence tag.
- The private Institutions of Eminence can also come up as greenfield ventures provided the sponsoring organisation submits a convincing perspective plan for 15 years.
- Under the scheme, Public Institutions of Eminence are eligible for a grant of ₹1,000 crore from the government and no funds will be given to Private Institutions of Eminence.
- The IoEs will enjoy complete academic and administrative freedom.
Other benefits include the freedom to:
- to recruit faculty from outside India (limit of 25% of its faculty strength for public institution).
- to enter into academic collaborations with other Institutions within the country.
- to admit additionally foreign students on merit subject to a maximum of 30% of the strength of admitted domestic students.
- to fix and charge fees from foreign students without restriction.
- To fix curriculum and syllabus, with no UGC mandated curriculum structure.
- to offer online courses as part of their programmes with a restriction that not more than 20% of the programme should be in online mode.
- UGC Inspection shall not apply to Institutions of Eminence.
Can granting the Institute of Eminence status make a difference?
If IoEs want to be really competitive globally, they should internationalise higher education. It implies that these institutions should give importance to “enhanced international cooperation and capacity building”.
It is also important for the institutions to have constant exposure to international standards. Research and innovation should be the focus of such institutions and funds should be utilised for these purposes.
They should lead the way in all aspects including teaching, research and innovation and inspire other institutions of higher education.
Sources: the Hindu.
- Important International institutions, agencies and fora, their structure, mandate.
What to study?
For Prelims and Mains: IORA- composition, objectives, functions, significance and relevance.
Context: The 19th IORA Council of Ministers meeting will be held on November 7 in Abu Dhabi with the theme of “Promoting a Shared Destiny and Path to Prosperity in the Indian Ocean”.
- The meeting is important as two of India’s important partners, the United Arab Emirates and Bangladesh, will take charge as the new chair and vice-chair of one of the largest regional maritime organisations for the duration of 2019-21.
- The Indian Ocean Rim Association was set up with the objective of strengthening regional cooperation and sustainable development within the Indian Ocean Region.
- Setup in 1997, it Consists of 22 coastal states bordering the Indian Ocean.
- The IORA is a regional forum, tripartite in nature, bringing together representatives of Government, Business and Academia, for promoting co-operation and closer interaction among them.
- It is based on the principles of Open Regionalism for strengthening Economic Cooperationparticularly on Trade Facilitation and Investment, Promotion as well as Social Development of the region.
Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) has identified six priority areas, namely:
- maritime security,
- trade and investment facilitation,
- fisheries management,
- disaster risk reduction,
- academic and scientific cooperation and
- tourism promotion and cultural exchanges.
Significance of IORA:
- The existence of IORA is a reminder of the untapped potential of Indian Ocean regionalism.
- Nearly five decades ago, in the aftermath of decolonisation, the attempt to bring together the Indian Ocean states faltered amidst deep divisions within the littoral and due to the negative impact of the Cold War.
- Today, the IORA underlines the region’s agency in shaping its own future.
Indian Ocean and it’s significance:
- As the third largest ocean woven together by trade routes, commands control of major sea-lanes carrying half of the world’s container ships, one third of the world’s bulk cargo traffic and two thirds of the world’s oil shipments, the Indian Ocean remains an important lifeline to international trade and transport.
- Home to nearly 2.7 billion people, Member States whose shores are washed by the ocean are rich in cultural diversity and richness in languages, religions, traditions, arts and cuisines.
Sources: the Hindu.
GS Paper 3:
- Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology and issues relating to intellectual property rights.
What to study?
For Prelims: What are Organoids? Features.
For Mains: Applications and ethical concerns.
Context: We’ve heard a lot in the last few years about organoids, the so-called “brains in a dish” created in labs by neuroscientists.
However, experts have expressed concerns over growing mini-brains or organoids in the laboratory that can perceive or feel things.
Why worry about this?
In some cases, scientists have already transplanted such lab-grown brain organoid to adult animals.
- The transplanted organoid had integrated with the animal brain, grown new neuronal connections and responded to light.
- Similarly, lung organoid transplanted into mice was able to form branching airways and early alveolar structures.
These are seen as a step towards potential “humanisation” of host animals.
What is an organoid?
Organoids are a group of cells grown in laboratories into three-dimensional, miniature structures that mimic the cell arrangement of a fully-grown organ.
- They are tiny (typically the size of a pea) organ-like structures that do not achieve all the functional maturity of human organs but often resemble the early stages of a developing tissue.
- Most organoids contain only a subset of all the cells seen in a real organ, but lack blood vessels to make them fully functional.
How are organoids grown in the laboratory?
Grown in the lab using stem cells that can become any of the specialised cells seen in the human body, or stem cells taken from the organ or adults cells that have been induced to behave like stem cells, scientifically called induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC).
- Stem cells are provided with nutrients and other specific molecules to grow and become cells resembling a specific organ.
- The growing cells are capable of self-organising into cellular structures of a specific organ and can partly replicate complex functions of mature organs — physiological processes to regeneration and being in a diseased state.
- Organoids of the brain, small intestine, kidney, heart, stomach, eyes, liver, pancreas, prostate, salivary glands, and inner ear to name a few have already been developed in the laboratory.
- Organoids offer new opportunities to studying proteins and genes that are critical for the development of an organ. This helps in knowing how a mutation in a specific gene causes a disease or disorder.
- For example, Researchers have used brain organoids to study how the Zika virus affects brain development in the embryo.
- Since the organoids closely resemble mature tissues, it opens up new vistas. These include studying the complex arrangements of cells in three-dimension and their function in detail, and understanding how cells assemble into organs.
- Organoids can be used to study the safety and efficacy of new drugs and also test the response of tissues to existing medicines.
- Organoids will bring precision medicine closer to reality by developing patient-specific treatment strategies by studying which drugs the patient is most sensitive to.
What are the ethical challenges of growing organoids?
Scientists argue that organoids do not have sensory inputs and sensory connections from the brain are limited. Isolated regions of the brain cannot communicate with other brain regions or generate motor signals. Thus, the possibility of consciousness or other higher-order perceptive properties [such as the ability to feel distress] emerging seems extremely remote.
Sources: the Hindu.
- Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology.
What to study?
For Prelims and Mains: Blockchain technology- what is it? How it operates? Concerns and potential.
Context: The Tea Board of India is keen to harness latest technologies such as blockchain to help end-consumers track the supply chain of tea of Indian origin, by digitising Indian tea marketing channels.
What are Blockchains?
They are a new data structure that is secure, cryptography-based, and distributed across a network. The technology supports cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, and the transfer of any data or digital asset.
Spearheaded by Bitcoin, blockchains achieve consensus among distributed nodes, allowing the transfer of digital goods without the need for centralized authorisation of transactions.
How it operates?
- The technology allows transactions to be simultaneously anonymous and secure, peer-to-peer, instant and frictionless.
- It does this by distributing trust from powerful intermediaries to a large global network, which through mass collaboration, clever code and cryptography, enables a tamper-proof public ledger of every transaction that’s ever happened on the network.
- A block is the “current” part of a blockchain which records some or all of the recent transactions, and once completed, goes into the blockchain as permanent database.
- Each time a block gets completed, a new block is generated. Blocks are linked to each other (like a chain) in proper linear, chronological order with every block containing a hash of the previous block.
Benefits of blockchain technology:
- As a public ledger system, blockchain records and validate each and every transaction made, which makes it secure and reliable.
- All the transactions made are authorized by miners, which makes the transactions immutable and prevent it from the threat of hacking.
- Blockchain technology discards the need of any third-party or central authority for peer-to-peer transactions.
- It allows decentralization of the technology.
Uses and possibilities of blockchain are:
- Confidential communication of cryptocurrency.
- Safe, cost effective and fast bank transactions.
- Secure legal documents, health data, notaries and personal documents.
- Distribution of land records and government financial assistance.
- Cloudstorage, digital identification, smart communication and digital voting.
Regulation in India:
The current debate in India has, unfortunately, focused too heavily on trading and speculation, looking at cryptocurrencies as an investment tool, rather than understanding the potential of core blockchain technology and the basic role of cryptocurrencies as an incentive mechanism to secure decentralized transactions.
- Prevailing cyber laws in India touch almost all aspects of transactions and activities involving the internet, www and cyber space (IT Act 2000 and amended in 2008, section 463 of IPC, and section 420). But in today’s techno-savvy environment the world is becoming more and more digitally sophisticated and so are the crimes. India’s cyber laws are lacking in this respect.
- There are sufficient global examples of countries that have taken nuanced and cautious steps in regulating the technology, and are focusing on stopping illegal activity without hurting innovation.
Sources: the Hindu.
- Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.
What to study?
For prelims: What is fly ash, how is it produced and where it can be used?
For mains: Concerns associated with its contamination, what needs to be done and legislative measures necessary.
Context: Supreme Court seeks response from the Centre and others on a plea seeking directions to restrain thermal power plants in Singrauli, Madhya Pradesh, and Sonebhadra, Uttar Pradesh, from disposing fly ash, toxic residue and industrial waste in the Rihand reservoir and other water bodies.
What’s the issue?
A petition was filed in the court after more than 35 lakh metric tons of fly ash entered into the Govind Vallabh Pant Sagar ‘Rihand Reservoir‘ from NTPC station in Singrauli.
The reservoir is the only source of drinking water for the people of Singrauli and Sonebhadra districts, and the entire water has been contaminated, making it unfit for consumption.
The damage has been caused to the environment in various contexts viz ground water damage, damage of standing crops and the agricultural land have become unfertile.
What is Fly Ash?
Popularly known as Flue ash or pulverised fuel ash, it is a coal combustion product.
Composed of the particulates that are driven out of coal-fired boilers together with the flue gases.
Depending upon the source and composition of the coal being burned, the components of fly ash vary considerably, but all fly ash includes substantial amounts of silicon dioxide (SiO2), aluminium oxide (Al2O3) and calcium oxide (CaO), the main mineral compounds in coal-bearing rock strata.
Minor constituents include: arsenic, beryllium, boron, cadmium, chromium, hexavalent chromium, cobalt, lead, manganese, mercury, molybdenum, selenium, strontium, thallium, and vanadium, along with very small concentrations of dioxins and PAH compounds. It also has unburnt carbon.
How is it regulated?
In the past, fly ash was generally released into the atmosphere, but air pollution control standards now require that it be captured prior to release by fitting pollution control equipment.
- For example, in the United States, fly ash is generally stored at coal power plants or placed in landfills. About 43% is recycled, often used as a pozzolanto produce hydraulic cement or hydraulic plaster and a replacement or partial replacement for Portland cement in concrete production.
- In modern coal-fired power plants, fly ash is generally captured by electrostatic precipitators or other particle filtration equipment before the flue gases reach the chimneys.
Health and environmental hazards:
Toxic heavy metals present: All the heavy metals found in fly ash nickel, cadmium, arsenic, chromium, lead, etc—are toxic in nature. They are minute, poisonous particles accumulate in the respiratory tract, and cause gradual poisoning .
Radiation: For an equal amount of electricity generated, fly ash contains a hundred times more radiation than nuclear waste secured via dry cask or water storage.
Water pollution: The breaching of ash dykes and consequent ash spills occur frequently in India, polluting a large number of water bodies.
Effects on environment: The destruction of mangroves, drastic reduction in crop yields, and the pollution of groundwater in the Rann of Kutch from the ash sludge of adjoining Coal power plants has been well documented.
However, fly ash can be used in the following ways:
- Concrete production, as a substitute material for Portland cement, sand.
- Fly-ash pellets which can replace normal aggregate in concrete mixture.
- Embankments and other structural fills.
- Cement clinker production – (as a substitute material for clay).
- Stabilization of soft soils.
- Road subbase construction.
- As aggregate substitute material (e.g. for brick production).
- Agricultural uses: soil amendment, fertilizer, cattle feeders, soil stabilization in stock feed yards, and agricultural stakes.
- Loose application on rivers to melt ice.
- Loose application on roads and parking lots for ice control.
The issues which impede its full-scale utilization in India:
Indian fly ash is primarily of the calcareous or class C variety, implying that it possesses not only pozzolanic, but also hydraulic (self-cementing) properties. In contrast, European fly ash is of a silicious or class F variety, implying an absence of hydraulic properties.
The pricing of fly ash is increasingly becoming a contentious issue that is hampering its gainful utilisation.
Imperfections typical of quasi-markets, such as information asymmetry and high transaction costs, vested interests, technical and technological limitations, and the lack of regulatory oversight and political will, have impeded the flow of fly ash to its most value-adding use.
Sources: the Hindu.
Facts for prelims:
Why in News? 5.50 crore earthen lamps on the banks of Saryu River has helped Uttar Pradesh enter into the Guinness Books of World Records for lightening of record number of diyas on any occasion.
- Sarayu flows through Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh. This river is of ancient significance, finding mentions in the Vedas and the Ramayana.
- The Sarayu originates from Lake Mansarovar in the Himalayas and is also known as the Ghaghra and the Manas Nandini. It merges with the Ganga in Bihar’s Saran district.
- It forms at the confluence of the Karnali and Mahakali in Bahraich District.
- Ayodhya is situated on the banks of this river.
- It flows through the Kumaon himalayas.
Kyarr- first Super Cyclone in Arabian Sea in 12 years:
Kyarr is the ninth super cyclone to have developed in the North Indian Ocean, after Super Cyclone Gonu in 2007.
- It is the first Super Cyclonic storm in Arabian Sea in last 12 years after Cyclone Gonu ravaged the Oman coast in 2007.
- What is Super Cyclonic Storm?
- Intense low pressure system represented on a synoptic chart by more than four closed isobars at 2 hPa interval and in which the wind speed on surface level is 120Kts. And above.