Provision of Act to Suspend Internet in Delhi
Why in News?
- As farmers’ protest turned violent in parts of Delhi on Republic Day, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) issued orders to temporarily suspend Internet in some areas under a rarely used provision of a British era Act.
- The order issued under the Temporary Suspension of Telecom Services (Public Emergency or Public Safety Rules 2017) of the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885 had been issued only twice- in Delhi on December 19 and 20, 2019, at the height of the CAA (Citizenship [Amendment] Act/National Register of Citizens (NRC) protests.
- The rules framed in 2017 empower the Union Home Secretary and a State’s Home Secretary to pass directions to suspend the telecom services, including Internet, in an area “due to public emergency or public safety.”
Guidelines for Electronic Media
Why in News?
- The Supreme Court has decided to examine a petition seeking the framing of guidelines outlining the broad regulatory paradigm within which the right to free speech of broadcasters and electronic media can be judicially regulated.
- The plea filed has also sought the setting up of an independent Media Tribunal to hear and expeditiously adjudicate complaints against “media businesses” filed by viewers and citizens.
- A Bench led by Chief Justice of India S.A. Bobde has issued notices to the Centre, Press Council of India, News Broadcasters Federation, News Broadcasters Standards Authority and Press Trust of India Limited.
What Petitioner wants?
- The petition wants the court to consider substantial questions of law, including whether the electronic media enjoys greater freedom than ordinary citizens and whether they could only be subject to self-regulation.
- It has questioned whether free speech entails misinformation, fake news, hate speech, propaganda, paid news, communal and derogatory reportage, incitement, etc.
- It has asked whether regulation will amount to curtailment of the Press if done within the parameters specified under “reasonable restrictions” of Article 19(2) of the Constitution.
- The plea said right to life and dignity envisaged the right of citizens to “free, fair and proportionate media reporting”.
- “The principal issue before the court is to bring about a balance between the right to freedom of speech and expression of the media and the competing right to information of the citizenry, the right to reputation and dignity as well as the interest of preserving peace and harmony in the nation”.
Celebrating 50th anniversary of 1971 war
Why in News?
- As New Delhi and Dhaka celebrate the 50th anniversary of the 1971 Liberation War, a 122-member tri-Service contingent of Bangladesh marched on Rajpath at the Republic Day parade.
- It had soldiers drawn from the units of that year.
- The majority of the soldiers in this contingent hail from the most distinguished units of the Bangladesh Army comprising 1, 2, 3, 4, 8, 9, 10 and 11 East Bengal Regiment and 1, 2 and 3 Field Artillery Regiment. These units have the distinct honour of fighting and winning the Liberation War.
- The Bangladesh Navy had successfully conducted “Operation Jackpot” during the war, destroying 26 enemy ships in sea ports and river ports.
- The Bangladesh Air Force conducted 50 successful strikes on the enemy targets as part of “Kilo Flight” from the base in Dimapur, India.
- Coinciding with the diamond jubilee of the 1971 war and also 50 years of the establishment of ties, New Delhi and Dhaka have agreed to hold a series of commemorative events throughout the year.
UNSC Unable To Effectively Address Complex Issues
Why in News?
- India has said that the U.N. Security Council is finding itself unable to act effectively to address increasingly complex issues of international peace and security as it lacked inclusivity of those who need to be members of the powerful organ of the world body.
- There is no process in the U.N. that has traversed the “torturous pathways” more than what the process of United Nations Security Council reform has.
- India, along with Brazil, Japan and Germany are pressing for urgent reform of the U.N. Security Council and for a permanent seat in the reformed 15-member top organ of the world body.
First IGN Meeting
- The first IGN meeting on UNSC reform in the 75th session of the General Assembly took place recently in which the G4 nations — Brazil, India, Japan and Germany — asserted that only two things can save the IGN as a format –negotiations of a single text with attributions, reflecting various positions taken by member states in the last 12 years and the application of the rules of procedure of the General Assembly (GA).
- India asserted that in order to achieve progress in the UNSC reform process, it must be ensured in this session of the General Assembly that there is immediate application of GA rules of procedure to the IGN process.
- “This will ensure openness, transparency, and an institutional memory for this process, which is essential if genuine negotiations are to take place.”
- Secondly, there must be an outcome text, which should ideally be the result of a rolling text, updated after each meeting by the co-chairs, to capture the views and positions expressed by all delegations, with attributions.
- India stressed that member states do not deserve to end up in the same position they found ourselves in August 2020, bereft of anything to go by except false promises.
- The IGN has so far been restricted to making repeated statements of known positions, without any effort to narrow differences, it is the only process of its kind in the UN where “negotiations” have been conducted in a multilateral setting without any text.
India’s view on regional representation
- It is absolutely essential that the category of permanent membership reflect contemporary realities and include adequate representation from all regions of the world.
- “It is anachronistic that not one country from the entire continent of Africa or from the entire continent of Latin America is represented in the permanent category of the Security Council today”.
- India calls for six additional permanent seats — two each for Africa and Asia, one for Latin America and the Caribbean, and one for the West European and Others Group and also for increase in non-permanent seats.
- There is also a need to stick to “equitable geographical distribution” and not “regional representation”, which itself is not mentioned in the U.N. Charter.
- Also voiced India’s support for the Common African Position as enshrined in the Ezulwini Consensus and the Sirte Declaration.
Why in News?
- January 26 is observed as Australia Day in the country to commemorate the arrival of the “First Fleet” of ships at Sydney from Britain in 1788.
- Some critics, however, call it “Invasion Day” or “Survival Day” as it marks the beginning of dispossession of the continent’s indigenous people.
- In recent years, the celebration became controversial because of a “change the date” campaign, the supporters of which demand that the date of Australia Day be changed from January 26 to May 9.
What is the controversy surrounding this day?
- On May 9 in 1901, Australia’s first parliament was opened and the six British colonies united to form the Commonwealth of Australia.
- Significantly, the Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islander people see January 26 as the day when colonists took over their lands and they maintain that their people continue to suffer the effects of colonisation and racism.
- The “First Australians”–a term used to refer to Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islander people as the first people of Australia–associate the day as the beginning of the time when they suffered massacres, land theft, stolen children and oppression.
Licence for Your Home Bar in UP now
Why in News?
- In its excise policy for 2021-22, the Uttar Pradesh government has introduced a provision for a personal bar permit for those wanting to keep more than the permitted quantity of liquor at home.
- The general limit for keeping liquor at home without a licence remains unchanged in the new policy.
- This was in response to complaints of harassment and vendetta against those who had mini bars at home.
What is the new provision? How much would you have to pay for the licence?
- Any individual wanting to purchase, transport or keep possession of liquor in excess of the set limit, will require a licence.
- The fee for this licence is Rs 12,000 per year, and this, along with a security deposit of Rs 51,000, will have to be submitted to the local District Excise Officer.
What is the existing limit for possession of liquor for personal use, which would still be applicable?
- Possession of about 4-5 litres of liquor is allowed on average, depending on its strength.
- The state’s excise policy of February 2010 laid down the following limits for possession of liquor:
- Countrymade liquor: 1.5 litres depending upon the hardness
- Foreign liquor or Indian Made Foreign Liquor (IMFL): 6 litres (includes whisky, rum, gin, brandy, and vodka)
- Foreign liquor (brought from overseas): 6 litres
- Wine (bottled in India or overseas): 3 litres
- Beer (bottled in India or overseas): 7.8 litres
Nepali team to climb K2 in winter
Why in News?
- A group of Nepali mountaineers became the first climbers to scale the K2 peak in winter.
What is K2
- At 8,611 metres, K2 is the second highest mountain in the world, after Mount Everest whose height was recently revised to 8,848 m.
- K2 is located on the border between the Pakistan-occupied Gilgit-Baltistan region and China.
- K2 was first climbed in 1954, but all successful ascents have been in the warmer months — until now.
- It has been tried only six times in the coldest months, and each effort ended in failure.
- Prone to avalanches, marked by forbidding temperatures and fierce winds, K2 is so formidable that it is called the ‘Savage Mountain’.
- The climbers, who went in two teams, were Nirmal Purja, Gelje Sherpa, Mingma David Sherpa, Mingma G, Sona Sherpa, Mingma Tenzi Sherpa, Prem Chhiri Sherpa, Dawa Temba Sherpa, Killi Pemba Sherpa and Dawa Tenzing Sherpa.
Non-communicable Diseases (NCD) in India
Why in News?
- Two in five adults have three or more risk factors for non-communicable diseases (NCD) in India, the status of health system in responding to the disease burden is also underscored, revealed the National Non-communicable Disease Monitoring Survey (NNMS) released recently.
- NNMS, the largest comprehensive national Survey on risk factors and health systems preparedness of NCDs along with the framework on use of telemedicine for cancer, diabetes, heart diseases and stroke warned a ticking bomb to go off situation.
- More than one in every four adults and 6.2% adolescents were overweight or obese; almost three out of ten adults had raised blood pressure and 9.3% had raised blood glucose.
- Conducted during the period of 2017–18, the survey results showed that more than two in five adults and one in four adolescents were doing insufficient physical activity and their average daily intake of salt was 8 gms.
- One in every three adults and more than one-fourth proportion of men used any form of tobacco and consumed alcohol in past 12 months respectively.
Purpose of the survey
- To collect reliable baseline data on key indicators (risk factors, select NCDs and health systems response) related to the National NCD monitoring framework and NCD Action Plan.
- This is the first of its kind of a comprehensive survey on NCDs using standardised tools and methods, covering the age groups of 15-69 years, males and females residing in urban and rural areas of the country.
- A World Health Organisation (WHO) survey some years back found that 45% of NCDs are a result of physical inactivity.
- The Fit India Movement has gained significant momentum in generating awareness regarding this which needs to be further amplified.
- More gyms and exercise centers will invariably lessen the need for hospital infrastructure.
Why in News?
- A new report by Oxfam has found that the Covid pandemic deeply exacerbated existing inequalities in India and around the world.
- The report, titled ‘The Inequality Virus’, has found that as the pandemic stalled the economy, forcing millions of poor Indians out of jobs, the richest billionaires in India increased their wealth by 35 per cent.
- “The wealth of Indian billionaires increased by 35 per cent during the lockdown and by 90 per cent since 2009 to $422.9 billion ranking India sixth in the world after US, China, Germany, Russia and France”.
- Since March, as the government announced possibly the strictest lockdown anywhere in the world, India’s top 100 billionaires saw their fortunes increase by Rs 12.97 trillion. In stark contrast, 170,000 people lost their jobs every hour in the month of April 2020, the report points out.
- The report states that Covid has the potential to increase economic inequality in almost every country at once — the first time this has happened since records began over a century ago.
- India’s large informal workforce was the worst hit as it made up 75 per cent of the 122 million jobs lost. Informal workers had relatively fewer opportunities to work from home and suffered more job loss compared to the formal sector. The 40-50 million seasonal migrant workers, typically engaged working in construction sites, factories etc. were particularly distressed.
The pandemic also spiked health and education inequalities
- Only 6 per cent of the poorest 20 per cent households had access to non-shared sources of improved sanitation, compared to 93 per cent of the top 20 per cent households in India.
In terms of caste
- Just 37.2 per cent of SC households and 25.9 per cent of ST households had access to non-shared sanitation facilities, compared to 65.7 per cent for the general population.
The pandemic has also widened gender disparities.
- The unemployment rate among women rose from already high 15 per cent before Covid to 18 per cent.
- The pandemic also fueled domestic violence against women.
- Oxfam India’s findings are part of the Oxfam International report released on the opening day of the World Economic Forum’s “Davos Dialogues”.
- Oxfam has argued the urgent need for policymakers to tax the wealthy individuals and rich corporates and use that money to “invest in free quality public services and social protection to support everyone, from cradle to grave”.
Global Climate Risk Index, 2021
Why in News?
- India ranks seventh among countries most affected in 2019 by climate change, according to the Global Climate Risk Index, 2021, released by Germanwatch — an NGO based in Bonn, Germany.
- In 2019, monsoon continued for a month longer than normal in India.
- From June to the end of September 2019, 110% of the long-period average was recorded.
- There were eight tropical cyclones in India. Six of them intensified to become “very severe.”
- Between 2000 and 2019, over 4,75,000 people lost their lives as a direct result of more than 11,000 extreme weather events globally, and economic losses.
- India is blessed by many ecologies – glaciers, high mountains, long coastlines as well as massive semi-arid regions which are the hotspots for climate change.
- Global warming is leading to an increase in the frequency of cyclones, melting of glaciers at much faster rates, and heatwaves.
- A majority of the Indian population is dependent on agriculture, which is being severely affected by the impact of climate change. This year, India saw many of its cities drowning due to variability of the monsoon system.
- The Global Climate Risk Index (CRI) analyses quantified impacts of extreme weather events both in terms of the fatalities and economic losses. The index is based on data from Munich Re’s NatCatSERVICE.
Billions of Cicadas Set To Emerge Across Eastern US
Why in News?
- Billions of cicadas that have spent 17 years underground are set to emerge across large areas of the eastern US, bringing swarming numbers and loud mating calls to major towns and cities.
- The periodic cicadas – bugs with strikingly red eyes, black bodies and orange wings – burrow underground as nymphs and suck fluids from the roots of plants as they grow.
- The last such event for 15 states including New York, Ohio, Illinois and Georgia occurred in 2004. The cicadas emerge in a 17-year cycle, meaning they will appear this year once temperatures are warm enough, expected to be mid-May.
- While cicadas will not harm people, pets that gorge on them may become ill.
- It is thought that long underground development helps cicadas survive predators, as their huge and synchronized arrival provides protection in numbers.
- The noise made by the enormous swarms will be noticeable, however, with males emitting mating calls that can reach 100 decibels, the same sound as standing next to a motorcycle revving its engine.
- The males produce these mating “songs” by vibrating their tymbals, two rigid, drum-like membranes on the underside of the abdomen.
Air Pollution Linked To Higher Risk of Irreversible Sight Loss
- Small increases in air pollution are linked to an increased risk of irreversible sight loss from age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
- Already found a link between dirty air and glaucoma and a link to cataracts is suspected.
- The eyes have a particularly high flow of blood, potentially making them very vulnerable to the damage caused by tiny particles that are breathed in and then flow around the body.
- It found a small increase in exposure to tiny pollution particles raised the risk of AMD by 8%, while small changes in larger pollution particles and nitrogen dioxide were linked to a 12% higher risk of adverse retinal changes.
- AMD is the leading cause of irreversible blindness among the over-50s in high-income countries and there are 200 million people around the world with the condition.
- The biggest risk factors for AMD are genetics and poor physical health issues, such as smoking and obesity. But as lifestyles become healthier, the impact of air pollution will become more important and, unlike genetics, levels dirty air can be reduced with the right policies.
- Air pollution is being linked to an increasingly wide range of diseases, and the World Health Organization says 90% of the world population live with dirty air.
- A global review in 2019 concluded that air pollution may be damaging every organ in the human body, as inhaled particles travel around the body and cause inflammation.
Mangroves Threatened By Plastic Pollution from Rivers
- Mangrove ecosystems are at particular risk of being polluted by plastic carried from rivers to the sea. Fifty-four percent of mangrove habitat is within 20 km of a river that discharges more than a ton of plastic waste a year into the ocean.
- Mangroves in Southeast Asia are especially threatened by river-borne plastic pollution.
- The majority of plastic waste carried to sea by rivers ends up trapped along coastlines, but some types of coastal environments trap much more plastic than others.
The study found
- River deltas receive 52 percent of river-borne plastic pollution, though they make up less than 1 percent of global coastlines. Rocky shores, in contrast, receive only 6 percent of the plastic pollution, though they make up 73 percent of global coastlines. No type of coastal environment is unaffected by river-borne plastic pollution.
- Also assessed the exposure of mangroves, coral reefs, seagrass, and saltmarsh to rivers that discharge high amounts of plastic into the sea, in excess of one ton per year.
- Mangroves were the most affected, with 54 percent of mangrove areas located near at least one of these highly polluting rivers.
- Coral reefs were the least affected of the four habitats, with just 17 percent of coral reefs located within 20 km of a river that discharges more than a ton of plastic pollution a year.
- It is more affected by river-borne plastic pollution than any other region in the world.
- Previous research has estimated that 86 percent of plastic pollution enters the ocean from Asian rivers.
- This is one reason why mangroves in Southeast Asia are especially vulnerable to plastic pollution.
- Coral reefs in Southeast Asia are also more affected by marine plastic than reefs in most other regions of the globe, while coral reefs in Australia appear to have escaped severe impact from plastic pollution.
- African trypanosomiasis (also known as sleeping sickness) is a disease transmitted by tsetse flies and is fatal to humans and other animals; however, there is currently no vaccine, this disease is mainly controlled by reducing insect populations and patient treatment.
- A study suggests that the approved drug nitisinone could be repurposed to kill tsetse flies without harming important pollinator insects.
- Currently, the most effective method of controlling the transmission of African trypanosomiasis is by employing insecticide-based vector control campaigns (traps, targets, ground and cattle spraying) as all tsetse control methods are directed against the adult fly.
- However, in addition to killing tsetse flies, neurotoxic insecticides can harm the environment by contaminating water sources and reducing populations of key insect pollinator species.
- The orphan drug nitisinone is a drug approved for the safe treatment of two rare human genetic diseases, hereditary tyrosinemia type 1 and alkaptonuria.
- Nitisinone was not toxic to bumblebees, as the bees who ingested the drug had a mortality rate similar to the control group that only received a sugar source.
Nuclear war could trigger big El Nino and decrease seafood
- A nuclear war could trigger an unprecedented El Niño-like warming episode in the equatorial Pacific Ocean, slashing algal populations by 40 percent and likely lowering the fish catch, according to study.
- The research shows that turning to the oceans for food if land-based farming fails after a nuclear war is unlikely to be a successful strategy—at least in the equatorial Pacific.
- Scientists studied climate change in six nuclear war scenarios, focusing on the equatorial Pacific Ocean.
- The scenarios include a major conflict between the United States and Russia and five smaller wars between India and Pakistan. Such wars could ignite enormous fires that inject millions of tons of soot (black carbon) into the upper atmosphere, blocking sunlight and disrupting Earth’s climate.
- With an Earth system model to simulate the six scenarios, the scientists showed that a large-scale nuclear war could trigger an unprecedented El Niño-like event lasting up to seven years.
- The El Niño-Southern Oscillation is the largest naturally occurring phenomenon that affects Pacific Ocean circulation, alternating between warm El Niño and cold La Niña events and profoundly influencing marine productivity and fisheries.
- During a “nuclear Niño,” scientists found that precipitation over the Maritime Continent (the area between the Indian and Pacific oceans and surrounding seas) and equatorial Africa would be shut down, largely because of a cooler climate.
- More importantly, a nuclear Niño would shut down upwelling of deeper, colder waters along the equator in the Pacific Ocean, reducing the upward movement of nutrients that phytoplankton—the base of the marine food web—need to survive.
- Moreover, the diminished sunlight after a nuclear war would drastically reduce photosynthesis, stressing and potentially killing many phytoplankton.
- “Turning to the sea for food after a nuclear war that dramatically reduces crop production on land seems like it would be a good idea.
- “But that would not be a reliable source of the protein we need, and we must prevent nuclear conflict if we want to safeguard our food and Earth’s environment.”