National Current Affairs – UPSC/IAS Exams- 5th March 2020
Topic: Polity and Governance
In News: The application on behalf of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, seeking to be heard as amicus curiae in the pending litigation in the Supreme Court against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019, is undoubtedly an unusual step.
More on the Topic:
- The High Commissioner is not seeking to be a petitioner. On the contrary, she is offering the undoubted expertise that the premier U.N. body possesses in aid of the Court.
- She has appreciated the amendment’s positive side, noting its potential to redress the “irregular” condition of some migrants through a quicker citizenship process. It must be noted that the Court has relied on principles contained in international legal instruments in some of its judgments.
Why it is not necessary?
- Global human rights perspective that High Commissioner hopes to present is most likely to be raised by some of the petitioners themselves. After all, most of the 140-odd petitions argue that the CAA fails to extend the equal protection of law to all immigrants in the country.
- The moot question is whether the U.N. High Commissioner ought to be given an opportunity to assist the Court in the matter, or whether, even without such assistance, the Court will countenance arguments based on the salutary provisions of international conventions that India is a party to. Needless to say, the amicus brief may not be necessary in the latter situation.
What Lies Ahead?
- The Modi government may be unhappy with the U.N. rights body’s “overreach”, but it will have to be underscored that the CAA’s flawed structure and the aggressive manner in which it was initially linked with a post-implementation exercise to purge the country of illegal immigrants have contributed to the present situation.
- The political Opposition, sections of the legal fraternity, academicians and commentators have made a strong case that making religion a factor to include certain categories for a fast-tracked naturalisation process is violative of secular principles.
- The government’s stout defence of the CAA is that no current Indian citizen would be affected, and that it was meant to help persecuted minorities in countries where Islam was the state religion.
- In addition to having to discharge the burden of proving that the CAA does not contravene the Constitution, the government would have to demonstrate that it is not in violation of provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
- High commissioner’s application marshalls significant aspects of global humanitarian law to buttress her point.
- The Court may probably not take her assistance, but there is little doubt that the Centre cannot evade its obligation to enact non-discriminatory legislation, grant all migrants equal protection and abide by the non-derogable principle of non-refoulement.
|Amicus curiae: An impartial adviser to a court of law in a particular case.|
In News: Supreme Court has set aside an RBI ban on banks dealing with virtual currency holders.
More on the Topic:
- The court held that the ban did not pass the “proportionality” test. The test of proportionality of any action by the government, the court held, must pass the test of Article 19(1)(g), which states that all citizens of the country will have the right to practise any profession, or carry on any occupation or trade and business.
What are virtual currencies? Are they different from cryptocurrencies?
- There is no globally accepted definition of what exactly is virtual currency. It is commonly referred as “a new electronic cash system that’s fully peer-to-peer, with no trusted third party”.
- This essentially meant there would be no central regulator for virtual currencies as they would be placed in a globally visible ledger, accessible to all the users of the technology. All users of such virtual currencies would be able to see and keep track of the transactions taking place.
- Virtual currency is the larger umbrella term for all forms of non-fiat currency being traded online. Virtual currencies are mostly created, distributed and accepted in local virtual networks.
- Cryptocurrencies, on the other hand, have an extra layer of security, in the form of encryption algorithms. Cryptographic methods are used to make the currency as well as the network on which they are being traded, secure.
- Most cryptocurrencies now operate on the blockchain or distributed ledger technology, which allows everyone on the network to keep track of the transactions occurring globally.
Are cryptocurrencies dangerous?
- Organisations across the globe have called for caution while dealing with virtual currencies, while also warning that a blanket ban of any sort could push the entire system underground, which in turn would mean no regulation.
- In June 2013, the RBI had for the first time warned users, holders and traders of virtual currencies about the potential financial, operational, legal and customer protection and security-related risks that they were exposing themselves to.
- The following year, the Financial Action Task Force came out with a report that highlighted both legitimate uses and potential risks associated with virtual currencies. In a different report, it again said use of such virtual currencies was growing among terror financing groups.
Why did the RBI ban virtual currencies?
- Owing to the lack of any underlying fiat, episodes of excessive volatility in their value, and their anonymous nature which goes against global money-laundering rules, the RBI initially flagged its concerns on trade and use of the currency.
- Risks and concerns about data security and consumer protection on the one hand, and far-reaching potential impact on the effectiveness of monetary policy itself on the other hand, also had the RBI worried about virtual currencies.
Source: Indian Express
Topic: Science and Technology
In News: Astronomers have found an exoplanet more than twice the size of Earth to be potentially habitable, opening the search for life to planets significantly larger than Earth but smaller than Neptune.
More on the topic:
- A team from the University of Cambridge used the mass, radius, and atmospheric data of the exoplanet K2-18b and determined that it’s possible for the planet to host liquid water at habitable conditions beneath its hydrogen-rich atmosphere.
- Given the large size of K2-18b, it has been suggested that it would be more like a smaller version of Neptune than a larger version of Earth.
- A ‘mini-Neptune’ is expected to have a significant hydrogen ‘envelope’ surrounding a layer of high-pressure water, with an inner core of rock and iron. If the hydrogen envelope is too thick, the temperature and pressure at the surface of the water layer beneath would be far too great to support life.
- The levels of other chemicals such as methane and ammonia were lower than expected for such an atmosphere. Whether these levels can be attributed to biological processes remains to be seen.
- This study opens the search for habitable conditions and bio-signatures outside the solar system to exoplanets that are significantly larger than Earth, beyond Earth-like exoplanets.
- Additionally, planets such as K2-18b are more accessible to atmospheric observations with current and future observational facilities. The atmospheric constraints obtained in this study can be refined using future observations with large facilities such as the upcoming James Webb Space Telescope.
|· The James Webb Space Telescope is a space telescope that is planned to be the successor to the Hubble Space Telescope.
· The JWST will provide improved infrared resolution and sensitivity over Hubble, and will enable a broad range of investigations across the fields of astronomy and cosmology, including observing some of the most distant events and objects in the universe, such as the formation of the first galaxies.
· Other goals include understanding the formation of stars and planets, and direct imaging of exoplanets and novas.
· The JWST is being developed by NASA with significant contributions from the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency.
Source: Science Daily
Topic: Environment and Ecology
In News: The Punjab and Haryana high court on Monday declared Sukhna Lake a “living entity” or “legal person” with rights, duties and liabilities of a living person. It also declared all citizens of Chandigarh as loco parentis (in the place of a parent) to save the lake from extinction.
More on the Topic:
- The court observed that Sukhna Lake is required to be declared as a legal entity for its survival, preservation and conservation. The Chandigarh administration has been directed to declare it a wetland within a period of three months.
- A legal entity means entity which acts like a natural person but only through a designated person, whose acts are processed within the ambit of law.
|· The man-made Sukhna Lake was built in 1958 by Le Corbusier, the architect of Chandigarh. Located in the foothills of the Shivalik Hills, it was designed to collect runoff water from the Hills. The Lake, which is in the process of being officially notified as a wetland, also has a nearby wildlife sanctuary that is home to sambar, pangolin, wild boars, red jungle fowl, cobras and other species.|
Topic: Government Schemes
In News: Janaushadhi week is being celebrated across the country from 1st March to 7th March 2020. On this occasion various activities like health checkup Camp, Jan Aushadhi Paricharcha, Jan Aushadhi ka sath are being undertaken.
More on the Topic:
- “Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Janaushadhi Pariyojana” is a noble initiative by Department of Pharmaceuticals, Government of India which is now making an impact on masses in its endeavor to provide quality medicines at an affordable price. The number of Kendras has grown to more than 6200 and 700 districts are covered under the scheme at present.
- Bureau of Pharma PSUs of India (BPPI) is the implementation agency for PMBJP.
Salient Features of The Scheme:
- Ensure access to quality medicines.
- Extend coverage of quality generic medicines so as to reduce the out of pocket expenditure on medicines and thereby redefine the unit cost of treatment per person.
- Create awareness about generic medicines through education and publicity so that quality is not synonymous with only high price.
- A public programme involving Government, PSUs, Private Sector, NGO, Societies, Co-operative Bodies and other Institutions.
- Create demand for generic medicines by improving access to better healthcare through low treatment cost and easy availability wherever needed in all therapeutic categories.
Topic: Environment and Ecology
In News: The European Commission (EC) launched the ‘United for Biodiversity’ Global Coalition for Biodiversity made up of zoos, aquariums, botanical gardens, national parks, and natural history and science museums from around the world, on World Wildlife Day 2020.
More on the Topic:
- The coalition offers the opportunity for all such institutions to “join forces and boost public awareness about the nature crisis, ahead of the crucial COP-15 of the Convention on Biological Diversity in Kunming, China in October 2020.
- The coalition adopted a common pledge “raise their voice for nature”, citing the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) Global Assessment finding that one million species were already at risk of extinction.
|· IPBES is Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services. It was established in Panama City in 2012 by 94 countries.
· It is not a part of United Nations. However, on the request of IPBES, the United Nations Environment Programme provides secretariat services to IPBES.
· IPBES focuses on assessments, building capacity and knowledge, policy support on Biodiversity.
National Interlinking of Rivers Authority(NIRA)
Topic: Government Initiatives
In News: The Central government is working on the establishment of an exclusive body, NIRA, to implement projects for linking rivers.
More on the Topic:
- The proposed NIRA is expected to take up both inter-State and intra-State projects.
- It will also make arrangements for generating up funds, internally and externally.
- As of now, six ILR projects — the Ken-Betwa, Damanganga- Pinjal, Par-Tapi-Narmada, Manas-Sankosh-Teesta-Ganga, Mahanadi-Godavari and Godavari-Cauvery (Grand Anicut) — have been under examination of the authorities.
- Once approved, the projects will be pursued as national projects, wherein the Centre will absorb 90% of the cost and the States concerned the rest.
Source: The Hindu