UN Removes Cannabis from ‘Most Dangerous Drug’ Category
Why in News?
- In a decision that could influence the global use of medicinal marijuana, the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) voted to remove cannabis and cannabis resin from Schedule IV of the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, decades after they were first placed on the list.
- India was part of the voting majority, along with the US and most European nations. China, Pakistan and Russia were among those who voted against, and Ukraine abstained.
- Currently in India, the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act, 1985, illegalises any mixture with or without any neutral material, of any of the two forms of cannabis – charas and ganja — or any drink prepared from it.
The cannabis plant
- According to the WHO, cannabis is a generic term used to denote the several psychoactive preparations of the plant Cannabis sativa. The major psychoactive constituent in cannabis is Delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
- The Mexican name ‘marijuana‘is frequently used in referring to cannabis leaves or other crude plant material in many countries.
- Most species of cannabis are dioecious plants that can be identified as either male or female.
- The unpollinated female plants are called hashish.
- Cannabis oil (hashish oil) is a concentrate of cannabinoids — compounds which are structurally similar to THC — obtained by solvent extraction of the crude plant material or of the resin.
- The WHO says that cannabis is by far the most widely cultivated, trafficked and abused illicit drug in the world.
Under international law
- The Vienna-based CND, founded in 1946, is the UN agency mandated to decide on the scope of control of substances by placing them in the schedules of global drug control conventions.
- Cannabis has been on Schedule IV–the most dangerous category– of the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs for as long as the international treaty has existed.
- Currently, over 50 countries allow medicinal cannabis programs, and its recreational use has been legalised in Canada, Uruguay and 15 US states.
Passage Exercise (PASSEX)
Why in News?
- The Indian Navy (IN) is undertaking a Passage Exercise (PASSEX) with Russian Federation Navy (RuFN) in the Eastern Indian Ocean Region (IOR).
- The exercise involves participation of RuFN guided missile cruiser Varyag, large anti-submarine ship Admiral Panteleyev and medium ocean tanker
- IN is being represented by indigenously constructed guided missile frigate Shivalik and anti-submarine corvette Kadmatt along with integral helicopters.
- Enhancing interoperability, improving understanding and imbibing best practices between both the friendly navies, and would involve advanced surface and anti-submarine warfare exercises, weapon firings, seamanship exercises and helicopter operations.
- PASSEXs are conducted regularly by IN with units of friendly foreign navies, whilst visiting each other’s ports or during a rendezvous at sea.
- This exercise is being conducted on the occasion of ‘Navy Day’ of the IN on 4th December, which emphasizes the strong bonds of friendship shared between the two friendly militaries.
Other Exercise between India & Russia
- Regular exercises such as INDRA Navy conducted biennially, with the last edition held in the Northern Indian Ocean Region from 4 to 5 September 2020.
Fourth South Asia Forum on SDGs
Why in News?
- In the backdrop of the 4th South Asian Forum of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG), United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) South Asia and Pacific organised a special dialogue on disaster and climate resilience in South Asia.
- To identify the opportunities and imperatives to overcome the challenges in implementing the systemic approach to disaster and public health risk management.
- To formulate the strategies for capitalizing on existing regional and sub-regional cooperation mechanism including the South Asian Forum on SDG to scale up multi-hazard and multi-sectoral preparedness systems for future cascading disasters.
Advisory on Advertisements on Online Gaming
Why in News?
- The Centre issued an advisory on advertisements on online gaming, fantasy sports, etc and directed broadcasters to ensure that ads on online gaming and fantasy sports do not promote activity prohibited by statute or law.
Need for this Advisory
- It had come to the notice of the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting that a large number of advertisements on Online Gaming, Fantasy Sports, etc have been appearing on television.
- Concerns were expressed that such advertisements appear to be misleading, do not correctly convey to the consumers the financial and other risks associated thereof, are not in strict conformity with the Advertising Code laid down under Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995 and the Consumer Protection Act, 2019.
As per the advisory
- No gaming advertisement may depict any person under the age of 18 years, or who appears to be under the age of 18, engaged in playing a game of online gaming for real winnings or suggest that such persons can play these games.
Every such gaming advertisement must also carry the following disclaimer:
- Print/static: This game involves an element of financial risk and may be addictive. Please play responsibly and at your own risk.
- Such a disclaimer should occupy no less than 20% of the space in the advertisement.
- It should also specifically meet disclaimer guidelines 4 (i) (ii) (iv) and (viii) laid out in the ASCI code.
- Audio/video: This game involves an element of financial risk and may be addictive. Please play responsibly and at your own risk.
- Such a disclaimer must be placed in normal speaking pace at the end of the advertisement.
- It must be in the same language as the advertisement.
- For audio-visual mediums, the disclaimer needs to be in both audio and visual formats.
- The advertisements should not present ‘Online gaming for real money winnings’ as an income opportunity or an alternative employment option.
- The advertisement should also not suggest that a person engaged in gaming activity is in any way more successful as compared to others.
Guidelines for Feeder-level Solarisation under PM-KUSUM
Why in News?
- The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) has issued guidelines for implementation of feeder-level solarisation under the PM-KUSUM Scheme.
- In February 2019, the government had approved the launch of the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Urja Suraksha evam Utthaan Mahabhiyan (PM-KUSUM) scheme to provide financial and water security to farmers through harnessing solar energy capacities of 25.75 gigawatt (GW) by 2022.
- The scheme consists of three components.
- Component-A includes installation of decentralised ground mounted grid connected renewable power plants,
- Component-B includes installation of standalone solar powered agriculture pumps and
- Component-C includes solarisation of grid-connected agriculture pumps.
- Based on discussions held with states it has been decided to also include feeder level solarisation under Component-C of PM-KUSUM Scheme.
What has Decided
- After consultation with states, it was decided to also allow feeder-level solarisation where instead of putting solar panels at each individual agriculture pump, a single solar power plant of capacity adequate to supply power to an agriculture feeder or multiple feeders will be installed.
- The distribution company (discom)/power department will be the implementing agency for feeder-level solarisation in their respective areas as per the guidelines.
- For installation of feeder-level solar power plant, Central Financial Assistance (CFA) of 30 per cent (50 per cent in case of northeastern states, hilly states/UTs and island UTs) will be provided by the central government and balance will be met through loans from NABARD/PFC/REC.
- Under Component-C of PM-KUSUM scheme, solarisation of 4 lakh grid-connected pumps are targeted for sanction by 2020-21. Also, 50 per cent of these are to be solarised through feeder level solarisation and balance through individual pump solarisation.
2nd Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) 2020 Conference
Why in News?
- The Minister of Science and Technology and Vice President of Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), Dr Harsh Vardhan virtually inaugurated the 2nd TCGA 2020 conference in New Delhi.
- TCGA is a landmark cancer genomics program that molecularly characterized over 20,000 primary cancer and matched normal samples spanning 33 cancer types.
- This joint effort between the US- National Cancer Institute and the National Human Genome Research Institute began in 2006, bringing together researchers from diverse disciplines and multiple institutions.
- Over the years, TCGA generated over 2.5 petabytes of genomic, epigenomic, transcriptomic, and proteomic data.
- The data, which has already led to improvements in the ability to diagnose, treat, and prevent cancer, will remain publicly available for anyone in the research community to use.
- On similar lines, the establishment of an ‘Indian Cancer Genomics Atlas (ICGA)’ has been initiated by a consortium of key stakeholders in India led by CSIR, Government of India in which several government agencies, cancer hospitals, academic institutions and private sector partners.
China’s ‘Artificial Sun’
Why in News?
- China successfully powered up its “artificial sun” nuclear fusion reactor for the first time.
- The HL-2M Tokamak reactor is China’s largest and most advanced nuclear fusion experimental research device, and scientists hope that the device can potentially unlock a powerful clean energy source.
- It uses a powerful magnetic field to fuse hot plasma and can reach temperatures of over 150 million degrees Celsius, approximately ten times hotter than the core of the sun.
- Located in Sichuan province and completed late last year, the reactor is often called an “artificial sun” on account of the enormous heat and power it produces.
- Fusion is considered the Holy Grail of energy and is what powers our sun.
- It merges atomic nuclei to create massive amounts of energy—the opposite of the fission process used in atomic weapons and nuclear power plants, which splits them into fragments.
- Unlike fission, fusion does not create radioactive waste, and carries less risk of accidents or the theft of atomic material.
- But achieving fusion is both extremely difficult and prohibitively expensive.
RBI tightens oversight of NBFCs, UCBs
Why in News?
- The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) announced the introduction of risk-based internal audit norms for large urban cooperative banks (UCBs) and non-banking financial companies (NBFCs), as part of measures aimed at improving governance and assurance functions at supervised entities.
- The RBI also moved to harmonise the guidelines on appointment of statutory auditors for commercial banks, UCBs and NBFCs in order to improve the quality of financial reporting.
- With a view to deepening financial markets, Regional Rural Banks (RRBs) would be allowed to access the liquidity adjustment facility (LAF) and marginal standing facility (MSF) of the RBI, as also the call/notice money market.
Secure digital payments
- To significantly improve the ecosystem of digital payment channels with robust security and convenience for users, the RBI has proposed to issue Digital Payment Security Controls directions for the regulated entities.
- These directions will contain requirements for robust governance, implementation and monitoring of certain minimum standards on common security controls for channels like Internet and mobile banking and card payments.
Malayan Giant Squirrel
Why in News?
- A large tree squirrel that is considered to be a “forest health indicator species” is disappearing, and may by the middle of this century no be longer found in the forests of India’s Northeast to which it is native.
Study by the Zoological Survey of India (ZSI)
- Projected that numbers of the Malayan Giant Squirrel (Ratufa bicolor) could decline by 90 per cent in India by 2050, and if urgent steps are not taken, the species could be extinct in the country in subsequent decades.
- The Malayan Giant Squirrel, one of the world’s largest squirrel species that has a dark upper body, pale under parts, and a long, bushy tail, is currently found in parts of West Bengal, Sikkim, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, and Nagaland.
- Destruction of its habitat could restrict the squirrel to only southern Sikkim and North Bengal by 2050
- Only 43.38 per cent of the squirrel’s original habitat in India is now favourable to it; By 2050, the favourable zone could shrink to 2.94 per cent of the area the species was meant to inhabit.
- India is home to three giant squirrel species; the other two – Indian Giant Squirrel and Grizzled Giant Squirrel – are found in peninsular India.
- The Malayan Giant Squirrel is also distributed through Southern China, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Burma, the Malayan Peninsula, Sumatra, and Java.
- It is found mostly in evergreen and semi-evergreen forests, from plains to hills at elevations of 50 m to 1,500 m above sea level.
- The species is listed as Near Threatened on IUCN’s 2016 list, and it is protected under India’s Wildlife Protection Act.
U.S. Urges Countries to Make Law over Access to Tibet
Why in News?
- Slamming China for its alleged repressive regime in Tibet, a top American diplomat has urged other countries to pass their own versions of a U.S. law that calls for denying access to the U.S. for Chinese officials known to be involved in restricting visits to the remote Himalayan region.
- The U.S. adopted the Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act to press for greater access and transparency.
- The Act, signed into law by President Donald Trump in December 2018, calls for denying access to the U.S. for Chinese officials known to be involved in restricting visits to Tibet.
- The Dalai Lama, Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader has been demanding meaningful autonomy for Tibetans.
- The 85-year-old Dalai Lama fled to India in 1959 following a crackdown on an uprising by the local population in Tibet. India granted him political asylum and the Tibetan government-in-exile is based on Dharamsala in Himachal Pradesh since then.
- China views the 14th Dalai Lama as a “separatist” working to split Tibet from China.
Why in News?
- Japanese space agency said the Hayabusa2 spacecraft is on its intended trajectory as it approaches Earth to deliver a capsule containing samples from a distant asteroid that could provide clues to the origin of the solar system and life on Earth.
- The spacecraft left the asteroid Ryugu, about 300 million kilometers (180 million miles) away, a year ago.
- The capsule is to be released 2,20,000 kilometers (1,36,700 miles) away in space and land in a remote, sparsely populated area of Woomera, Australia.
Is it it’s Last Mission?
- For Hayabusa2, it’s not the end of the mission it started in 2014.
- After dropping the capsule, it will return to space and head to another distant small asteroid called 1998KY26 on a journey slated to take 10 years one way.
- Asteroids, which orbit the sun but are much smaller than planets, are among the oldest objects in the solar system and therefore may help explain how Earth evolved.
- Ryugu in Japanese means Dragon Palace, the name of a sea-bottom castle in a Japanese folk tale.
The rise of Non-metros
- The Vestian white paper ‘Non-metros Rising: Holding on to the Reverse Migration’ has observations on factors that advocate the impending shift towards the non-metros and other smaller cities – the development augmented by the COVID-19 crisis, and whether these cities would be able to sustain this reverse migration through the generation of enough employment.
- Population influx – India’s population is expected to grow by 25% (compared to 2011) to 1.52 billion by 2036, according to the National Commission on Population under the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
- As the country continues to grow, factors such as rising disposable income and better infrastructure are also likely to lead to higher consumption and purchasing power in the non-metros and other smaller cities, thereby leading to faster growth.
Urbanisation rate –
- The pace of urbanisation has been rapid in the country, leading to aspirations from the smaller cities match with those of the metros.
- The growing number of internet users in smaller non-metro cities has today blurred the lines between the inclination of these small-town consumers and people living in larger cities.
Government impetus –
- Various government projects (Smart Cities Mission, UDAN, Atal Mission for Rejuvenation, etc) are underway, aimed at augmenting the growth of smaller cities, modernising and equipping them technologically.
- Employment opportunities have improved and new avenues have opened up for more job profiles.
COVID-19-led disruption –
- While it is still some way off to see people return/migrate to these smaller cities from the metros in vast numbers, the COVID-19 outbreak has exposed just how susceptible the metro cities are to such events, shifting the focus growth to non-metro cities.
The pull-factors –
- The job markets in the non-metros have shown positivity post the lifting of lockdown, and factors such as government relaxing rules to enable Work-From-Home, an increased impetus to e-commerce growth and manufacturing, a strengthening start-up culture, et al, would contribute towards smaller cities, apart from lower cost of setting up a business and relatively cheaper manpower and real estate costs.
- Presently, there is a fair amount of IT/ITeS sector presence in smaller cities such as Visakhapatnam, Indore, Mysuru, Kochi, Chandigarh, and Coimbatore.
Reverse migration-led housing demand –
- With WFH becoming permanent in some IT/ITeS companies and the government relaxing WFH rules, residential demand is expected to be favourably impacted in the non-metros and other smaller cities.
Decisive Factor Regarding Health Risks
Why in News?
- Emission of harmful gases in the air through different sources like vehicles, factories, dust, pollen, mould spores, volcanoes and wildfires are majorly responsible for the deteriorating air quality.
- The level of toxicity is generally determined by the types of gases present in the air and the amount of fine particulate matter.
- But recently experts in the area revealed that these two are not the only decisive factor regarding health risks.
The new indicator
- The harmful nature of atmospheric particulate matter is potentially due to its oxidative potential.
- Oxidative potential of air particles should also be taken into account in future air-quality regulation measures to reduce the adverse health impact of inhaling poor quality air by the people.
Oxidative stress intensifies inflammatory reactions
- During the study, the researchers examined the sources of air pollution in Europe, combining measurements of atmospheric chemical composition, toxicology and oxidative potential.
- In the end, they concluded that certain fine particulate matters create oxidative stress in the lungs, which has the potential to damage the delicate cells and tissues of the human body.
- They found that the fine particulate matter with increased oxidative potential amplifies the inflammatory response of cells and it can be used as an indicator of the harmfulness of aerosols in the future.
What is oxidative potential?
- Exposure to the fine particle matter with diameters generally below 10 micrometres pose the greatest health risk.
- It is because they can get deep into your lungs and even into your bloodstream.
- The capability of these tiny airborne particulate matter (PM) to react with oxygen to form highly reactive chemical molecules is known as reactive oxygen species (ROS) or oxidative potential (OP).
- A reactive oxygen species build-up in cells may cause damage to DNA, RNA, proteins, and may cause cell death.
Aerosols of human origin are more oxidative
- It was also revealed that fine particles majorly consists of minerals and inorganic aerosols,
- Such as the ammonium nitrate and ammonium sulphate used in agriculture,
- But the oxidative potential of it is mainly due to organic aerosols like from wood fires and metal emissions.
- So, to reduce the risk of air pollution on health – it is important to take both -fine particle and its oxidative potential into consideration.
Why in News?
- British Indian journalist and author Anita Anand’s book that tells the story of a young man caught up in the 1919 Jallianwala Bagh massacre in Amritsar has won a prestigious history-literary prize in the UK.
- The Patient Assassin: A True Tale of Massacre, Revenge and the Raj beat six other titles for the PEN Hessell-Tiltman Prize for History 2020.
- Awarded annually for a non-fiction book of specifically historical content.
- English PEN, which stands for Poets, Playwrights, Editors, Essayists, Novelists, is one of the world’s oldest human rights organisations championing the freedom to write and read.
- It is the founding centre of PEN International, a worldwide writers’ association with 145 centres in more than 100 countries.
- Marjorie Hessell-Tiltman was a member of PEN during the 1960s and 1970s and on her death in 1999, she bequeathed 100,000 pounds to the PEN Literary Foundation to found a prize in her name.
- Entries are required to be works of high literary merit that is, not primarily written for the academic market and can cover all historical periods.
Hybrid Renewable Energy Park
Why in News?
- On December 15, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will travel to Kutch to lay the foundation stone for a 30,000 MW (megawatt) hybrid renewable energy park close to the Indo-Pak border in Kutch district.
- The project is billed as the largest of its kind in the world.
What is this hybrid renewable energy park taking shape in Gujarat?
- With the Government of India committing itself to installing 175 GW of renewable energy capacity by 2022.
- The Gujarat government identified 1,00,000 hectares of wasteland near Khavda, 72 km north of Bhuj, close to the international border with Pakistan in Kutch, for an energy park.
- The renewable energy park will have two zones: one, a 49,600-hectare hybrid park zone that will accommodate wind and solar power plants of 24,800 MW capacity; and two, an exclusive wind park zone spread over 23,000 hectares.
- The project will be located between Khavda village and Vighakot.
Surgery as part of Ayurveda
Why in News?
- On November 19, a government notification listed out specific surgical procedures that a postgraduate medical student of Ayurveda must be “practically trained to acquaint with, as well as to independently perform”.
- The notification has invited sharp criticism from the Indian Medical Association, which questioned the competence of Ayurveda practitioners to carry out these procedures, and called the notification an attempt at “mixopathy”.
- The IMA has planned nationwide protests on December 8 against this notification, and has threatened to withdraw all non-essential and non-Covid services on December 11.
How far is surgery part of Ayurveda?
- It is not that Ayurveda practitioners are not trained in surgeries, or do not perform them.
- In fact, they take pride in the fact that their methods and practices trace their origins to Sushruta, an ancient Indian sage and physician, whose comprehensive medical treatise Sushruta Samhita has, apart from descriptions of illnesses and cures, also detailed accounts of surgical procedures and instruments.
- There are two branches of surgery in Ayurveda —
- Shalya Tantra, which refers to general surgery, and
- Shalakya Tantra which pertains to surgeries related to the eyes, ears, nose, throat and teeth.
- All postgraduate students of Ayurveda have to study these courses, and some go on to specialise in these, and become Ayurveda surgeons.
- The only thing that we do not do is super-speciality surgeries, like neurosurgey.
So, what is new?
- Ayurveda practitioners say the latest notification just brings clarity to the skills that an Ayurveda practitioner possesses.
- The surgeries that have been mentioned in the notification are all that are already part of the Ayurveda course. But there is little awareness about these.
- A patient is usually not clear whether an Ayurvedic practitioner has the necessary skill to perform one of these operations.
- The notification mentions 58 surgical procedures that postgraduate students must train themselves in, and acquire skills to perform independently.
- These include procedures in general surgery, urology, surgical gastroenterology, and ophthalmology.
What are the IMA’s objections?
- IMA doctors insist that they are not opposed to the practitioners of the ancient system of medicine.
- But they say the new notification somehow gives the impression that the skills or training of the Ayurveda doctor in performing modern surgeries are the same as those practising modern medicine.
- This, they say, is misleading, and an “encroachment into the jurisdiction and competencies of modern medicine.
- The IMA is also upset with the recent decision of NITI Aayog to set up four committees for integrating the various systems of medicine in medical education, practice, public health, and administration, as well as research.
- It says such an integration would lead to the death of the modern system of medicine.
- The IMA has demanded that the notification as well as the NITI Aayog move towards ‘One Nation One System’ be withdrawn.
Why in News?
- The Singapore Food Agency (SFA) approved recently the sale of a lab-grown meat product.
- This is the first time cultured meat has been cleared for sale anywhere in the world. The product approved by the SFA is cultured chicken, produced by US-based East Just.
How is lab-grown or cultured meat different from plant-based meat?
- The latter is made from plant sources such as soy or pea protein, while cultured meat is grown directly from cells in a laboratory.
- Both have the same objective: to offer alternatives to traditional meat products that could feed a lot more people, reduce the threat of zoonotic diseases, and mitigate the environmental impact of meat consumption.
- In terms of cellular structure, cultured or cultivated meat is the same as conventional meat — except that cultured meat does not come directly from animals.
- According to the Good Food Institute (GFI)’s 2019 State of the Industry Report on cultivated meats, compared to conventional beef, cultivated beef could reduce land use by more than 95%, climate change emissions by 74-87% and nutrient pollution by 94%.
- The report adds that since cultivated meat is created in clean facilities, the risk of contamination by pathogens such as salmonella and E coli, which may be present in traditional slaughterhouses and meat-packing factories, is significantly reduced.
- It does not require antibiotics either, unlike animals raised for meat, thereby reducing the threat posed to public health by growing antibiotic resistance.
Why in News?
- Every year, India celebrates December 4 as Navy Day to commemorate Operation Trident – a key offensive during the 1971 India-Pakistan War, when the Indian Navy inflicted heavy damage on Pakistani vessels in Karachi harbour.
- The same day also marks the end of Navy Week, which, too, is celebrated annually.
- The Navy plans to celebrate 2021 as ‘Swarnim Vijay Varsh’ as part of commemorating the 50th anniversary of the victory in the 1971 War.
What happened during Operation Trident?
- The India-Pakistan War of 1971 had begun on December 3, when the Pakistan Air Force launched pre-emptive strikes on airfields in Western India.
- India responded by formally declaring war in the wee hours of December 4.
- On December 4, under Operation Trident, the Indian Navy sank three vessels near the Pakistani port city of Karachi.
- The stars of the mission were the then-recently acquired Soviet Osa missile boats, fitted with 4 SS-N-2 (P-15) Styx missiles.
- The 1971 War ended on December 16, as India sealed its victory when the instrument of surrender was signed.
World Soil Day: 5th December
- World Soil Day is celebrated on 5 December annually.
- It aims to raise awareness of the importance of maintaining healthy ecosystems and human well-being by addressing the growing challenges in soil management, fighting soil biodiversity loss, increasing soil awareness, and encouraging governments, organizations, communities, and individuals around the world to commit to proactively improving soil health.
- It also highlights the growing problem due to population expansion.
- Therefore, it is necessary to take a step to reduce the erosion of soil, to maintain fertility so that food safety can be ensured.
- The theme for World Soil Day 2020 is “Keep soil alive, protect soil biodiversity”.
- In 2002, the International Union of Soil Sciences recommended celebrating World Soil Day annually on 5 December.
- The conference of FAO was unanimously endorsed World Soil Day in June 2013 and requested its official adoption at the 68th UN General Assembly.
- In December 2013, UN General Assembly at the 68th session declared 5 December as World Soil Day.
- The first World Soil Day was celebrated on 5 December 2014.
Que- Which country recently become the second nation in the world to grant an emergency-use authorisation for the coronavirus vaccine made by Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech.