15 July 2021 Daily Current Affairs

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Which of the following is the first country in our immediate neighbourhood to accept mobile based payments through the BHIM App?

a.   Nepal
b.   Bhutan
c.   Maldives
d.   Sri Lanka

2)Bryum Bharatiensis, recently in news, is related to

a.   It is a new fish species discovered in Assam.
b.   It is an extinct bird species found during Pleistocene epoch.
c.   It is a native moss species discovered in Antarctica.
d.   It is a new virus that affects Artic animals.  

3)Consider the following pairs:

1. India’s single largest solar park – Ladakh
2. India’s largest Floating Solar project – Rann of kutch
3. India’s first Green Hydrogen Mobility project – Visakhapatnam.

Which of the pair(s) given above is/are correctly matched?

a.   1 only
b.   1 and 3 only
c.   2 and 3 only
d.   None of the above

Prelims Factual News Items of the Day

  1. Bhutan becomes first neighbor to use BHIM UPI

Bhutan becomes the first country, in India’s immediate neighbourhood, to use the BHIM app for mobile-based payments and “to adopt UPI standards for its QR deployment”.

Bharat Interface for Money (BHIM):-

BHIM is an Indian mobile payment App developed by the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI), based on the Unified Payments Interface (UPI).

Named after B. R. Ambedkar and launched on 30 December 2016 it is intended to facilitate e-payments directly through banks and encourage cashless transactions.

The application supports all Indian banks which use UPI, which is built over the Immediate Payment Service (IMPS) infrastructure and allows the user to instantly transfer money between bank accounts of any two parties.

It can be used on all mobile devices.

Note: Bhutan has become the first country to adopt India’s Unified Payment Interface (UPI) standards for its quick response (QR) code. It is also the second country after Singapore to have BHIM-UPI acceptance at merchant locations, NPCI International Payments Ltd (NIPL).

What is UPI?

Unified Payments Interface (UPI) is an instant real-time payment system developed by NPCI facilitating inter-bank transactions.

The interface is regulated by the Reserve Bank of India and works by instantly transferring funds between two bank accounts on a mobile platform.

2) What is UV-C technology? :– The Union Ministry for Science and Technology has informed that Ultraviolet-C or UV-C Disinfection Technology will soon be installed in Parliament for the mitigation of airborne transmission of SARS-COV-2.

UV-C air duct disinfection system

The UV-C air duct disinfection system was developed by CSIR-CSIO (Central Scientific Instruments Organisation).

The system is designed to fit into any existing air-ducts and the virucidal dosages using UV-C intensity and residence time can be optimized according to the existing space.

The release adds that the virus is deactivated in any aerosol particles by the calibrated levels of UV-C light. It can be used in auditoriums, malls, educational Institutions, AC buses, and railways.

What is Ultraviolet (UV)?

Ultraviolet (UV) is a type of light or radiation naturally emitted by the Sun. It covers a wavelength range of 100-400 nm. The human visible light ranges from 380–700 nm.

UV is divided into three bands: UV-C (100-280 nm), UV-B (280-315 nm) and UV-A (315-400 nm).

UV-A and UV-B rays from the Sun are transmitted through our atmosphere and all UV-C is filtered by the ozone layer.

UV-B rays can only reach the outer layer of our skin or epidermis and can cause sunburns and are also associated with skin cancer.

UV-A rays can penetrate the middle layer of your skin or the dermis and can cause ageing of skin cells and indirect damage to cells’ DNA.

UV-C radiation from man-made sources has been known to cause skin burns and eye injuries.

So, can UV-C kill coronavirus?

UV-C radiation (wavelength around 254 nm) has been used for decades to disinfect the air in hospitals, laboratories, and also in water treatment.

But these conventional germicidal treatments are done in unoccupied rooms as they can cause health problems.

It can destroy the outer protein coating of the SARS-Coronavirus.

Is it safe for humans?:- 

The device is specifically developed to disinfect non-living things.

UV-C radiation used in this device could be harmful to the skin and eyes of living beings.

3) Amnesty Scheme for violators of Environment Norms :-

The union environment ministry has put together an amnesty scheme for infrastructure and industrial projects that have violated environmental clearance (EC) norms for Environment Impact Assessment.

What is the Scheme?

The new amnesty scheme empowers regulatory institutions at both central and state levels:

(1) To identify and report cases of violation

  • It refers to identify, examine and appraise violation projects, refraining from causing further environmental damage and also compensating for causing damage to the environment.

(2) To take action against violators in terms of closure or demolition of a project

  • It defines three different actions to be taken for the violation projects depending upon their EC status.
  • In case the project has not obtained EC, it will be ordered to close its operations.
  • If the project has undergone expansion without obtaining EC for the expanded portion, it will be ordered to revert the activity/production to the limit granted in the existing EC.

(3) To levy penalty on them that is akin to the scale of the project

  • It entitles the regulatory authorities to levy penalties on the proponent, in addition to the bank guarantee.

Issues with the scheme

  • There is also no established procedure to ensure that the complaints made against the violator are not dismissed without hearing.
  • This ambiguity in the memorandum leaves scope for a less transparent redressal mechanism.
  • The penalties suggested could be termed as legitimating non-compliance.

Criticisms

  • Environmental experts argue that such a move to regularise projects, irrespective of size, scale or impact, is purely a political move.
  • They regarded this move as weakening the EIA process.
  • This will be the largest regularization scheme for projects that have operated illegally in India and added to our total environmental and social burdens.
  • Thousands of projects operate in different states without any environmental approval.

Way forward

  • Looking at the plethora of violation cases it is imperative to develop such a mechanism.
  • However, we should not compromise the existing environmental regulations and adopt a ‘zero tolerance for violation’.

5) Promotion of Pseudoscience in India :- The Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) is India’s premier national institute for improving access to education. Recently, IGNOU launched a degree course in astrology.

This obsession with astrology is not a new phenomenon in a country which recently sent a spacecraft in orbit around Mars. A similar decision was taken by the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government in 2001, which was withdrawn after widespread opposition. In this context, all the citizens of this country who are concerned about the status of education and the role of scientific temperament in education need to take a stance about this decision.

Critique of Astrology :-

Let us try and evaluate the three basic assumptions of astrology on which this syllabus is based.
The first assumption is that the planets around us in the universe have a continuous effect on human life.
The second assumption is that the result depends on the time of birth of the person and
the third assumption is that the future of a person depends on all this and can be changed by solutions offered by an astrologer.

  1. As per astrology, nine Navagrahas affect our lives. All of us know that four of these Navagrahas are not even grahas (planets). The sun is not a planet but a star. The moon is the natural satellite of the earth. Rahu and Ketu, which are claimed to be the most dangerous planets in astrology, are not even planets but points of intersection of the paths of the sun and the moon.
  2. Next, let us look at the time of birth. The nature of a horoscope is dependent on the time of one’s birth. And the time of birth used for this purpose by astrology is the time when the baby takes the first breath outside the mother’s womb. Modern science tells us that the baby is actually born when the sperm and ovum come together to form the embryo, and it grows for the next nine months through different stages. How do all these Navagrahas not have any impact on the baby when it is inside the mother’s womb and start affecting it only when it comes out? 
  3. Astrology exploits the vulnerability of the human mind while people face uncertainty. On the other hand, astrophysics depends on the core scientific principles of precise observations, hypothesis, experimentation and results based on all these.

In an era where pseudoscience has started becoming the new normal, it’s our responsibility as citizens to oppose such decisions and demand the withdrawal of such a course.

6) India’s neurological disease burden rising :- In 2019, the largest contributors to the total neurological disorder DALYs in India were stroke (37·9%), headache disorders (17·5%), epilepsy (11·3%), cerebral palsy (5·7%), and encephalitis (5·3%).

The contribution of non-communicable and injury-related neurological disorders to the total disease burden in India has more than doubled between 1990 and 2019, revealed a study published in The Lancet Global Health.

The first comprehensive estimates of disease burden due to neurological disorders and their trends in every state of India from 1990, a part of the Global Burden of Disease Study 2019, were published by the India State-Level Disease Burden Initiative a joint initiative of Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) along with other public health institutions.

According to the study, in 2019, the largest contributors to the total neurological disorder DALYs in India were stroke (37·9%), headache disorders (17·5%), epilepsy (11·3%), cerebral palsy (5·7%), and encephalitis (5·3%). Stroke.

“Headache is the commonest neurological disorder affecting 1 in 3 Indians, and is often neglected in terms of public health priority. It is the second leading contributor to the disease burden from neurological disorders in India. Migraine affects females more than males, greatly affecting adults in the working age population. Headaches, especially migraine, need to be recognised as a public health problem and included under the national NCD programme,” 

Editorial of the Day

Editorial 01 : Issues with making welfare conditional

Context

Recently, the government of Uttar Pradesh released a “Population Policy” in which it stated its intention to bring the gross fertility rate in the State down from the existing 2.7 to 2.1 by 2026.

Provisions in the Bill

  • This draft law, titled the Uttar Pradesh Population (Control, Stabilisation and Welfare) Bill, 2021, seeks to provide a series of incentives to families that adhere to a two-child norm.
  • The Bill also intends on disentitling families that breach the norm from benefits and subsidies.
  • It promises public servants who undergo sterilisation and adopt a two-child norm several benefits.
  •  The draft Bill also contains a list of punishments.
  • A person who breaches the two-child norm will be debarred from securing the benefit of any government-sponsored welfare scheme and will be disqualified from applying to any State government job.
  • Existing government employees who infringe the rule will be denied the benefit of promotion.
  • Transgressing individuals will be prohibited from contesting elections to local authorities and bodies.

Issues with coercive population control policies

1) Counter-productive measure

  • Through an affidavit filed in court, the central government argued that “international experience shows that any coercion to have a certain number of children is counter-productive and leads to demographic distortions”. 

2) Against international obligations

  • India is committed to its obligations under international law, including the principles contained in the International Conference on Population and Development Programme of Action, 1994.
  • Foremost in those principles was a pledge from nations that they would look beyond demographic targets and focus instead on guaranteeing a right to reproductive freedom.

3) Against right to reproductive freedom and privacy

  •  In Suchita Srivastava & Anr vs Chandigarh Administration (2009),  the Court found that a woman’s freedom to make reproductive decisions is an integral facet of the right to personal liberty guaranteed by Article 21.
  • This ruling was endorsed by the Supreme Court’s nine-judge Bench verdict in K.S. Puttaswamy vs Union of India (2017).
  • A reading of the plurality of opinions there shows us that the Constitution sees a person’s autonomy over her body as an extension of the right to privacy.
  • A simple reading of U.P.’s draft law will show us that, if enacted, it will grossly impinge on the right to reproductive freedom.
  • However, In Javed & Ors vs State of Haryana & Ors (2003), the Court upheld a law that disqualified persons with more than two children from contesting in local body elections.
  • But the present UP Bill is far more disproportionate, therefore, the judgment in Javed can no longer be seen as good law.
  • The UP government will likely argue that there is no violation of privacy here because any decision on sterilisation would be voluntary.
  • But, as we ought to by now know, making welfare conditional is a hallmark of coercion.
  • Therefore, the proposed law will fall foul of a proportionality analysis.

4) Negative consequences

  • An already skewed sex ratio may be compounded by families aborting a daughter in the hope of having a son with a view to conforming to the two-child norm.
  • The law could also lead to a proliferation in sterilisation camps, a practice that the Supreme Court has previously deprecated.
  • In Devika Biswas vs Union of India (2016), the Court pointed to how these camps invariably have a disparate impact on minorities and other vulnerable groups.

Way forward

  • Experiences from other States in India show us that there are more efficacious and alternative measures available to control the growth of population, including processes aimed at improving public health and access to education.

Conclusion

For one thing, the reasoning of the Bill goes against the Puttaswamy case.  But as rousing as the nine-judge Bench verdict is, its legacy depends on how its findings are applied.


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