Indian Express Explained 07/05/2020

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1) Vizag gas leak: What is styrene gas?

A gas leak, reminiscent of the 1984 Bhopal tragedy (because of Methyl Isocyanate from Union Carbide Pesticide plant, 2-3 Dec. 1984) , has claimed at least 11 lives and affected thousands of residents in five villages in Visakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh. The source of the leak was a styrene plant owned by South Korean electronics giant LG, located at RRV Puram near Gopalapatnam, about 15 kms from the coast city.

What is styrene?

It is a flammable liquid that is used in the manufacturing of polystyrene plastics, fiberglass, rubber, and latex. According to Tox Town, a website run by the US National Library of Medicine, styrene is also found in vehicle exhaust, cigarette smoke, and in natural foods like fruits and vegetables.

What happens when exposed to styrene?

As per the US-based Environment Protection Agency (EPA), short-term exposure to the substance can result in respiratory problems, irritation in the eyes, irritation in the mucous membrane, and gastrointestinal issues. And long-term exposure could drastically affect the central nervous system and lead to other related problems like peripheral neuropathy. It could also lead to cancer and depression in some cases.

2)Buddha Purnima: Why Ambedkar converted to Buddhism

On October 14, 1956, B R Ambedkar along with 3,65,000 of his Dalit followers made history when they decided to leave the folds of Hinduism and embrace Buddhism.

2 theories on His Conversion:-

  • Some believe that it was because of his experience with Hinduism which made him realise that Hinduism was not meeting his requirements.
  • Secondly , some suggest it was a political move.

Most importantly though, Ambedkar truly believed that Buddhism carried within it a rational and modern spirit. Conversion to Buddhism is believed to have met with Ambedkar’s complex requirements of reason, morality, and justice.

What is Vesaka or Buddha Purnima:- Vesak, also known as Buddha Jayanti, Buddha Purnima and Buddha Day, is traditionally observed by Buddhists and some Hindus in South and Southeast Asia as well as Tibet and Mongolia. The festival commemorates the birth, enlightenment, and death of Gautama Buddha in Theravada and Tibetan Buddhism.

3) Explained: 123 years ago, when bubonic plague led to country’s Epidemic Diseases Act

Recently Centre amended the Epidemic Disease Act, 1897, making attacks on healthcare workers a cognisable, non-bailable offence.

It had invoked the Act in March itself to fight the Covid-19 outbreak. The colonial-era Act empowers the state governments to take special measures and prescribe regulations in an epidemic, defines penalties for disobedience of these regulations, and provides for immunity for actions taken under the Act “in good faith”.

Council member J Woodburn tabled the Epidemic Diseases Bill on January 28, 1897, during an outbreak of bubonic plague.

The Bill noted that municipal bodies, cantonments and other local governments had extraordinary powers to deal with such situations but felt those were “inadequate.” 

Recent Amendment : -Cabinet amended the Act to say that commission or abetment of acts of violence against healthcare service personnel shall be punished with imprisonment for a term of three months to five years, and with fine of Rs 50,000 to Rs 2 lakh.

In case of causing grievous hurt, imprisonment shall be for a term of six months to seven years and with fine of Rs1 lakh to Rs 5 lakh.

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