Current affairs Nov 16, 2021

Bats Role

  • Bats and humans have cohabited since time immemorial.
  • Throughout the night, these bats devour insects in farms, fields, forests, grasslands and around our homes, including agricultural pests and disease-causing mosquitoes.
  • Some bats sip nectar, pollinate flowers, eat fruits, and spread the seeds of many important tree species including wild varieties of bananas, guava, cashew, mango, figs, mahua and other fruits.
  • A study in Thailand has shown that pest biocontrol provided by just one species of bat prevented the loss of 2,900 tons of rice per year or a savings of $1.2 million, and meals for 26,200 people annually.
  • Bat droppings (guano) mined from caves are widely used as a fertilizer for agricultural crops as they have high concentrations of nitrogen and phosphorous.
  • With scientific evidence mounting that the SARSCoV2 virus that causes COVID-19 originated in bats, there are growing fears of further disease transmission from bats.
  • A significant and unique feature of bats is that they are known or suspected to be the natural reservoirs for many novel and recently emerged pathogenic viruses such as Nipah, Hendra, Marburg, Ebola and the coronaviruses that cause severe acute respiratory syndrome.
  • Despite being reservoirs for viruses, bats never fall sick.
  • Flying is a very stressful business, and results in toxic by-products which could damage cell contents.
  • Bats have evolved mechanisms to avoid such damage by suppressing their immune systems.
  • Scientists think that such suppression results in a continuous auto-immune response which helps them combat infections and control virus propagation.
  • Interestingly, this ability to limit excessive inflammatory response (which is responsible for the adverse effects of such viruses in infected humans), ensures they do not over react to viral infections and protects them from multiple chronic age-related diseases.
  • Due to COVID-19, we have suddenly become aware of the several viruses bats carry because they could spill over to us.
  • But such spill overs the transmission of pathogens from their natural host or reservoirs to novel hosts such as humans are unusual and rare events, and tend to occur when there is increased contact between humans and wild hosts.
  • Over the last several 100 years, humans have significantly modified the landscapes around them cutting of forests, clearing of land for agriculture and development resulting in disturbances to bat roosts, and forcing them to change their ‘homes’.
  • Activities such as mining destroy natural cave systems that bats live in.
  • Scientists have shown that when bats are disturbed, they become stressed and could shed viruses that they carry, increasing the risk of spill over.
  • This suggests that human habitat destruction makes bats move closer to human habitation, resulting in stressing them, and in turn viral shedding.
  • Integrated approaches such as One Health, where human health is linked to that of the environment and animals can result in the best possible outcomes.
  • Any such future will require a global commitment to reduction of habitat loss, and the preservation and restoration of our natural habitats and biodiversity.


EU role in indo –pacific

  • Europe’s Asia connect is old, strong and multi-layered.
  • Asia is viewed and evaluated through national and regional perspectives.
  • This explains why at least since 2018, countries such as France, the Netherlands, Germany and the U.K. announced their specific policies towards the Indo-Pacific.
  • The European Union (EU) is in the process of coping with the rise of China and other Asian economies, the tensions due to China’s aggressiveness along its periphery, and economic consolidation through the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, and the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership.
  • In this backdrop, the announcement by the Council of the European Union of its initial policy conclusions in April, followed by the unveiling of the EU strategy for cooperation in the Indo-Pacific on September 16, are notable.
  • The EU is already a significant player in the Indian Ocean littoral states, the ASEAN area and the Pacific Island states, but the strategy aims to enhance the EU’s engagement across a wide spectrum.
  • Future progress will be moulded by principles ranging from the imperative to defend the “rules-based international order”; promote a level-playing field for trade and investment, Sustainable Development Goals and multilateral cooperation; support “truly inclusive policy-making” encompassing the civil society and the private sector; and protect human rights and democracy.
  • The policy document also says cooperation will be strengthened in sustainable and inclusive prosperity, green transition, ocean governance, digital governance and partnerships, connectivity, security and Defence, and human security.
  • The EU thus promises to focus on the security and development dimensions of its relationship with the region.
  • But the EU’s security and Defence capabilities are quite limited, as compared to the U.S. and China.
  • To obviate an imbalance in favour of economic links, EU will need to give adequate space and support to France which has sizeable assets and linkages with the Indo-Pacific.
  • It also must forge strategic coordination with the U.K. as the latter prepares to expand its role in Asia as part of its ‘Global Britain’ strategy.
  • The EU suffers from marked internal divisions.
  • Many states view China as a great economic opportunity, but others are acutely conscious of the full contours of the China challenge.
  • They believe that neither China’s dominance in Asia nor bipolarity leading to a new Cold War will serve Europe’s interests.
  • The risks facing the EU are varied. Russia next door is the more traditional threat. It is increasingly on China’s side.
  • Hence, the EU should find it easy to cooperate with the Quad. However, AUKUS muddied the waters, especially for France.
  • India has reasons to be pleased with the EU’s policy. India’s pivotal position in the region necessitates a closer India-EU partnership. Early conclusion of an ambitious and comprehensive trade agreement and a standalone investment protection agreement will be major steps. Cooperation in Industry 4.0 technologies is desirable.
  • Consolidating and upgrading Defence ties with France, Germany and the U.K. should also remain a significant priority.

 Centre amends rule to clear extension

  • A day after promulgating two ordinances that would allow the Centre to extend the tenures of the Directors of the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate from two years to up to five years, the Personnel Ministry issued an order to amend the Fundamental Rules, 1922 adding the two posts to the list whose services can be extended by up to two years beyond the two year fixed tenure in “public interest”.
  • The previous list comprised Defence Secretary, Foreign Secretary, Home Secretary, Director, Intelligence Bureau and Secretary, Research and Analysis Wing.
  • Though Director, CBI, was also mentioned in the previous order, new notification adds the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, 1946 (25 of 1946) under which the investigation agency’s head is appointed.
  • The notification amended fifth proviso of Clause (d) of Rule 56 of the Fundamental Rules, 1922.
  • It said, “Provided also that the Central Government may, if it considers necessary in public interest so to do, give extension in service to the Defence Secretary, Home Secretary, Director of Intelligence Bureau, Secretary of Research and Analysis Wing and Director of Central Bureau of Investigation appointed under the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, 1946 (25 of 1946) and Director of Enforcement in the Directorate of Enforcement appointed under the Central Vigilance Commission Act, 2003 (45 of 2003) in the Central Government for such period or periods as it may deem proper on a case-to-case basis for reasons to be recorded in writing, subject to the condition that the total term of such Secretaries or Directors, as the case may be, who are given such extension in service under this rule, does not exceed two years or the period provided in the respective Act or rules made there under, under which their appointments are made.”
  • The new law authorizing an extension of the services of the heads of the Central Bureau of Investigation and the Enforcement Directorate until they complete a total tenure of five years will seriously compromise the autonomy of those agencies.
  • It goes against the spirit of the Supreme Court judgment in Vineet Narain vs Union of India (1997) which laid down a dictum that the Directors of the CBI and the ED should have a minimum tenure of two years.
  • This was to prevent their sudden transfer out of office if their functioning goes against the interests of the regime of the day.
  • While it did not specifically bar longer terms or extensions, the prospect of getting an annual extension can be an incentive for displaying regime loyalty in the discharge of their duties.


Urban factor and pollution

The Supreme Court said urban factors such as construction activities, industry, vehicular exhaust and road dust were actually the major causes of pollution in Delhi and not farmers’ stubble burning.