Project ELLORA seen in news is associated with
a) Restoring ancient monuments
b) Promoting heritage tourism
c) Encouraging traditional dance forms
d) Preserving languages
These days if a Hindi speaker has to search for any content on the Internet, they can type a query in Devnagari script on their phone or just give a voice command of the same. But what about those who communicate in languages which are spoken by just a few hundred thousand people or languages that have limited to no online presence? These are the languages that Microsoft Research is helping with its Project ELLORA (Enabling Low Resource Languages) in India.
2)With reference to ‘Indus Water Treaty’, consider the following statements
1. It is a water-distribution treaty between India and Pakistan negotiated by the World Bank to use the water in the Indus River and its tributaries
2. The IWT provides a two-step dispute resolution mechanism where the appeals from the Permanent Indus Commission are heard by International Court of Justice
3. India is granted unlimited non-consumptive usage of the western river waters for purposes like power generation
Choose the correct answer using the code given below
a) 1 and 2
b) 2 only
d) 3 only
3)Consider the following statements about ‘Leprosy’
1. It is a chronic infectious disease caused by a type of virus which predominantly affects the skin and peripheral nerves
2. India has achieved the elimination of leprosy as a public health problem
Select the INCORRECT statement(s)
a) 1 only
b) 2 only
d) Neither 1 nor 2
Prelims Specific News Items
1. INS Trikand is participating in the International Maritime Exercise/ Cutlass Express 2023 (IMX/CE-23) being held in the Gulf region from 26 Feb to 16 Mar 23. She will exercise with participants from over 50 nations and international maritime agencies with the common aim of enhancing maritime security and keeping sea lanes in the region safe for maritime commerce.
IMX/CE-23 is one of the largest multinational maritime exercises in the world. While this is Indian Navy’s maiden IMX participation, it also marks the second occasion where an Indian Naval ship is participating in an exercise conducted by the CMF. Earlier, in Nov 22, INS Trikand had participated in the CMF led Operation Sea Sword 2.
2.Ozempic, a medication used to treat type 2 diabetes, is facing global shortages due to its popularity on social media platforms and its potential for weight loss. This injectable drug was developed by the Danish pharmaceutical firm Novo Nordisk. It belongs to a category called GLP-1 agonists
3. Bakhmut, a city in eastern Ukraine, previously known as Artemivsk or Artyomovsk, is the administrative centre of Bakhmut Raion in Donetsk Oblast. Located on the Bakhmutka River, it is situated about 89 kilometres north of Donetsk.
The Ukrainian military is planning a strategic pull-back from Bakhmut, which was an important stronghold for Ukraine. Russia is currently involved in a months-long offensive to capture this city. Bakhmut, though strategically and industrially not important, its annexation creates symbolic significance for Russia. It is a key transport hub and has numerous supply lines running through it. This eastern city is noted for its salt mining activity.
4. According to the Academic Freedom Index report, India’s academic freedom index is in the bottom 30% among 179 countries in 2022.
- Academic freedom refers to the principle that scholars and researchers should have the freedom to pursue their research and express their findings without interference, censorship, or retaliation from the government, private institutions, or other external entities.
What is the Academic Freedom Index?
- It has been published by Global Public Policy Institute as a part of a global time-series dataset (1900-2019) in close cooperation with Friedrich-Alexander University Erlangen-Nürnberg, Scholars at Risk and the V‑Dem Institute.
- The report provides an overview of academic freedom in 179 countries by assessing five indicators. It is based on assessments by more than 2,197 country experts from around the world.
- The indicators include,
- Freedom to research and teach
- Freedom of academic exchange and dissemination,
- Institutional autonomy of universities
- Campus integrity
- The freedom of academic and cultural expression.
- The scores are scaled from 0 (low) to 1 (high).
What are the Key Highlights of the Report?
- It identified 22 countries, including India, China, the United States and Mexico – where it said universities and scholars experience significantly less academic freedom today than they did ten years ago.
- Only five small countries (Gambia, Uzbekistan, Seychelles, Montenegro, and Kazakhstan) representing 0.7 % of the global population, improved their rankings.
- In the remaining 152 countries, academic freedom has stayed stagnant, For the average global citizen, academic freedom has gone back to levels last registered four decades ago.
- Like China and India, populous countries like the United States of America and Mexico have recorded a decline in academic freedom over the past decade.
- Indian Overview:
- India scored 0.38, lower than Pakistan’s 0.43 and the United States’ 0.79.
- India’s freedom index score was high in the past, ranging from 0.60-0.70 between 1950 and 2012, except from 1974-1978.
- China’s academic freedom index stood at 0.07 in 2022, occupying the bottom 10 %.
- India scored 0.38, lower than Pakistan’s 0.43 and the United States’ 0.79.
5. The Bhojpur’s Millet Festival was organized from February 28 to March 1 in Bihar. Union Minister of Food Processing Industries Pashupati Kumar Paras inaugurated this event. It is part of the many Millet-related events conducted in 2023, which has been declared by the UN as the International Year of Millets.
6. The Methane Global Tracker report is the annual report released by the International Energy Agency. According to the latest report, fossil fuel companies released 120 million metric tonnes of methane into the atmosphere last year. This is just a slight decline from the unprecedented record created in 2019.
7. ‘Regulator’s proposal on Rajasthan power lines flouts SC orders, threatens bustard’
About Great Indian Bustard :- The Great Indian Bustard is a critically endangered bird species found in India, known for its striking appearance and elaborate courtship displays. They are one of the heaviest flying birds in the world and can weigh up to 15 kg.
Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES): Appendix1
Convention on Migratory Species (CMS): Appendix I
Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972: Schedule I
Unfortunately, their population has declined significantly due to Power transmission lines, habitat loss and hunting, and there are now fewer than 300 individuals remaining in the wild.
What was the SC order regarding Power Transmission lines in Rajasthan to Save GIB :- Environmentalists petitioned the Supreme Court in 2019, and the court ordered that all “low voltage ” power lines be underground in regions designated as “priority and probable habitats of the Great Indian Bustard” in the Thar and Kutch deserts in 2021.
What are ‘bio-computers’ and how do they function?
Bio-computers are devices that use biological systems, such as cells or proteins, to perform computing operations. These systems can perform calculations and data processing in ways that are different from traditional electronic computers.
For example, bio-computers can use DNA molecules to store and process information, or use enzymes and other biological molecules to perform logic operations. They can also be designed to interact with living organisms, such as detecting and responding to specific signals or pathogens.
These are also known as Brain-organoids.
Ocean treaty: Historic agreement reached after a decade of talks
The High Seas Treaty aims to place 30% of the seas into protected areas by 2030, to safeguard and recuperate marine nature.
The agreement was reached on Saturday evening, after 38 hours of talks, at UN headquarters in New York.
The negotiations had been held up for years over disagreements on funding and fishing rights.
The last international agreement on ocean protection was signed 40 years ago in 1982 – the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.
That agreement established an area called the high seas – international waters where all countries have a right to fish, ship and do research – but only 1.2% of these waters are protected.
Marine life living outside of these protected areas has been at risk from climate change, overfishing and shipping traffic.
In the latest assessment of global marine species, nearly 10% were found to be at risk of extinction, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
These new protected areas, established in the treaty, will put limits on how much fishing can take place, the routes of shipping lanes and exploration activities like deep sea mining – when minerals are taken from a sea bed 200m or more below the surface.
Environmental groups have been concerned that mining processes could disturb animal breeding grounds, create noise pollution and be toxic for marine life.
Government to provide Rs 10,000 crore/year under Urban Infrastructure Development Fund
The government would contribute Rs 10,000 crore annually to the Urban Infrastructure Development Fund (UIDF), which will be created using the gap in financing to the key sectors.
Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman revealed the idea during her speech for the 2023–24 budget, saying the UIDF will be run by the National Housing Bank and used by government organisations to build urban infrastructure in Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities.
What is the News?
The Supreme Court has used its extraordinary powers under Article 142 to attract younger talent to preside over consumer courts by reducing the mandatory professional experience from 20 to 10 years.
What is Article 142 of the Constitution?
- Article 142 provides for the enforcement of decrees and orders of Supreme Court.It consists of two clauses:
- Article 142(1) states that Supreme Court in the exercise of its jurisdiction may pass such decree or make such order as is necessary for doing complete justice in any cause or matter pending before it and the orders shall be enforceable throughout the territory of India.
- Article 142(2) states that Supreme Court shall have the power to make any order for the purpose of (a)securing the attendance of any person, (b)the discovery or production of any documents or (c)the investigation or punishment of any contempt of itself.
Where was Article 142 used earlier?
- The Supreme Court had used Article 142 in 1989 to provide relief to the thousands of people affected by the Bhopal gas tragedy.Applying the provision in the case the court had awarded compensation of $470 million to the victims.
- In 2014, Article 142 was used to cancel allocation of coal blocks granted from 1993 onwards without any specific finding on wrongdoing by those who were allotted these blocks.
- Article 142 has been used for restoring the white marble of the Taj Mahal and for constituting the Justice Mukul Mudgal Committee to probe the 2013 Indian Premier League spot-fixing scandal.
What was the case about?
The Government of India released the Consumer Protection Rules, 2020 that govern the appointment of the President and members of State and District Consumer Disputes Redressal Commissions.
The rules prescribed a minimum experience of not less than 20 years for the appointment of the president and members of the State Commission.
The High Court had held that the minimum experience condition is in violation of Article 14 of the Constitution and quashed them.
This judgment prompted the Union Ministry of Consumer Affairs to file the appeal before the Supreme Court.
What did the Supreme Court rule?
The Supreme Court said that the High Court was right in striking down the rules.
It said as per Article 233 of the Constitution, a lawyer needs to have only 7 years of practice as an advocate in the High Court. Under the circumstances providing 20 years’ experience is rightly held to be unconstitutional, arbitrary and violative of Article 14 of the Constitution of India.
IMPORTANT CHANGE IN ELECTION COMMISSION APPOINTMENT – EDITORIAL
Choosing the watchdog: On Election Commissioners appointment
What is the News?
A five-judge bench of the Supreme Court (SC) unanimously ruled that the appointment of the Chief Election Commissioner(CEC) and the Election Commissioners(EC) shall be made by the President on the advice of a Committee consisting of the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition of the Lok Sabha and Chief Justice of India (CJI).
Why did the Supreme Court give this verdict on the appointment of CEC and EC?
The original intent of the Constitution makers was that the manner of appointment should be laid down in parliamentary law.
Article 324 says the President should appoint the CEC and Commissioners, subject to any law made on that behalf by Parliament. However, successive regimes have failed to enact a law.
Hence, due to inertia of the Legislature and the vacuum created in the absence of law make it necessary for the court to intervene.
What was the government’s argument on this?
The government had argued that in the absence of such a law by parliament, the President has the constitutional power and asked the SC to exhibit Judicial restraint.
Will the presence of CJI in the selection panel bring independence and credibility to the institution of ECI?
The presence of the CJI in the selection panel is not the only way in which an institution’s independence can be preserved.
For instance, there is no clear proof that the independence of the CBI director, who is appointed by a panel that includes the CJI, or his nominee, has been preserved or enhanced.
Further, the CJI’s presence may give pre-emptive legitimacy to all appointments and affect objective judicial scrutiny of any error or infirmity in the process.
Hence, on its part, the government will be well advised to enact a law — but not one that seeks to preserve the current convention to get around the verdict — that is in tune with the spirit of the Court’s emphasis on the ECI’s independence.
The Fendouzhe Deep Ocean Project (奋斗者深海计划) is a Chinese deep-sea exploration project that aims to advance the country’s capabilities in oceanic research and technology. The project is named after the Chinese term “fendouzhe,” which means “striver” or “fighter.”
The Fendouzhe Deep Ocean Project made headlines in November 2020 when a team of Chinese scientists and engineers, led by Chinese astronaut-turned-explorer Yang Liwei, successfully completed a 10,000-meter dive to the bottom of the Mariana Trench in the Pacific Ocean. The Mariana Trench is the deepest known part of the world’s oceans, with a depth of approximately 11,000 meters.
Scrub typhus is an infectious disease caused by the bacteria Orientia tsutsugamushi.
It is transmitted to humans through the bites of infected mites found in areas of high vegetation such as forests and grasslands. Scrub typhus is commonly found in the Asia-Pacific region and is more prevalent during the rainy season.
Symptoms include fever, headache, muscle aches, and rash. If left untreated, scrub typhus can lead to severe complications such as respiratory failure and organ damage. Treatment usually involves antibiotics, and prevention includes avoiding contact with mites and wearing protective clothing in high-risk areas.
ASSAM MOIDAMS – Mound Burial system of Ahoms
Assam moidams are ancient burial mounds found in the Indian state of Assam. These mounds are believed to date back to the Ahom kingdom, which ruled the region from the 13th to the 18th century. The mounds are typically made of earth and stone and vary in size from a few meters to several tens of meters in diameter. The burial mounds are considered to be an important part of Assam’s cultural heritage and are protected under the state’s archaeology laws. Many of the mounds have been excavated by archaeologists, revealing artifacts such as pottery, metal objects, and jewelry, providing insights into the life and customs of the Ahom people.