National Current Affairs – UPSC/KAS Exams- 14th February 2019
Topic: Important Cultural Monuments
In News: The Supreme Court pulled up the Uttar Pradesh government for the poor upkeep of the Taj Mahal.
- Bench asked the State to file a fresh vision document in four weeks, detailing the manner in which the monument would be preserved and protected.
- Earlier, the court had said the protection of the Taj Mahal should not be restricted to the world heritage monument alone but everything around it that goes to protect the ivory-white mausoleum commissioned by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan for his wife, Mumtaz Mahal, in 1632.
- The court had said that the Taj Mahal was only the “centre-piece”. The forest cover, the river Yamuna and the grounds of the Taj Mahal should also be saved from pollution.
- The Bench had said the Vision Document for Taj Trapezium Zone (TTZ) should examine and end the proliferation of hazardous industries, foundries, seepage and emissions which are slowly but steadily destroying the Taj Mahal and the protective cover around it.
- In its 1996 judgment, the Supreme Court had noted that the Taj Mahal was not threatened by only traditional causes of decay, but also social and economic conditions.
- Industrial emissions, brick-kilns, vehicular traffic and generator-sets polluted air around TTZ. The monument itself was slowly turning yellow from the collected grime.
- The Taj Mahal is an ivory-white marble mausoleum on the south bank of the Yamuna river in the Indian city of Agra.
- It was commissioned in 1632 by the Mughal emperor, Shah Jahan (reigned from 1628 to 1658), to house the tomb of his favourite wife, Mumtaz Mahal.
- It also houses the tomb of Shah Jahan, the builder. The tomb is the centerpiece of a 17-hectare (42-acre) complex, which includes a mosque and a guest house, and is set in formal gardens bounded on three sides by a crenellated wall.
- The construction project employed some 20,000 artisans under the guidance of a board of architects led by the court architect to the emperor, Ustad Ahmad Lahauri.
- The Taj Mahal was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983 for being “the jewel of Muslim art in India and one of the universally admired masterpieces of the world’s heritage”.
- It is regarded by many as the best example of Mughal architecture and a symbol of India’s rich history. The Taj Mahal attracts 7–8 million visitors a year and in 2007, it was declared a winner of the New7Wonders of the World (2000–2007) initiative.
Source: The Hindu
Law removing leprosy as ground for divorce
Topic: Social Justice
In News: Parliament passed a Bill removing leprosy as a ground for divorce under five personal laws, including the Hindu Marriage Act.
More on the Topic:
- The Personal Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2018 sought to remove leprosy as a ground for divorce in five personal laws — Hindu Marriage Act, Dissolution of Muslim Marriages Act, Divorce Act (for Christians), Special Marriage Act and the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act.
- The law eliminates leprosy as a ground for dissolution of marriage or divorce.
- The condition under Section 18 (2) (c) of the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, that a Hindu wife is entitled to live separately from her husband without forfeiting her claim to maintenance if the latter is suffering from a virulent form of leprosy has been omitted.
- The amendments introduced in the Bill omit the provisions which stigmatise and discriminate against leprosy-affected persons.
- The Bill is meant to provide for the integration of leprosy patients into the mainstream. It is in keeping with the UN General Assembly Resolution of 2010 on the ‘Elimination of discrimination against persons affected by leprosy and their family members’ .
- The proposed law follows a National Human Rights Commission recommendation a decade ago to introduce amendments in personal laws and other statutes.
- Leprosy is one of the world’s oldest diseases with India accounting for over 60% of the annual new cases of leprosy.
- Also, known as Hansen’s disease (HD), it is a chronic, progressive bacterial infection caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium leprae.
- It primarily affects the nerves of the extremities, the skin, the lining of the nose, the upper respiratory tract and the eyes.
- The disease produces skin ulcers, nerve damage, and muscle weakness. If it isn’t treated, it can cause severe disfigurement and significant disability.
- Official data says that the number of new Leprosy cases detected during 2016-17 is around 140000 and the prevalence Rate per 10000 population as on March 2017 for India is 0.66, it is established that the number underestimates the real Leprosy burden. In 2017, India along with Brazil and Indonesia are the only countries where more than 10000 new cases are reported per year.
Model Mains Question: Discuss the importance of The Personal Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2018 and how it will end the discrimination against leprosy patients.
Source: The Hindu
National Board for Wildlife (NBWL)
Topic: Important Institutions in News
In News: India’s apex National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) — charged with allowing forest land in Protected Areas to be diverted for industry — cleared 682 of the 687 projects (99.82%) that came up for scrutiny, according to a response to a query in the Lok Sabha earlier this month. Only five projects were rejected since August 2014.
More on the Topic:
- The NBWL, formally headed by the Prime Minister, adjudicates on industrial projects, road diversions or the like that could encroach into Protected Areas or eco-sensitive zones of forests.
- A smaller Standing Committee of the NBWL is charged with deliberating on the merits of projects that come to it for scrutiny; the committee comprises scientists and government officials and is chaired by Union Environment Minister Harsh Vardhan.
About National Board of Wild Life:
- National Board for Wild Life is a “Statutory Organization” constituted under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. Theoretically, the board is “advisory” in nature and advises the Central Government on framing policies and measures for conservation of wildlife in the country.
- However, it is a very important body because it serves as apex body to review all wildlife-related matters and approve projects in and around national parks and sanctuaries.
- Primary function of the Board is to promote the conservation and development of wildlife and forests. It has power to review all wildlife-related matters and approve projects in and around national parks and sanctuaries. No alternation of boundaries in national parks and wildlife sanctuaries can be done without approval of the NBWL.
- The NBWL is chaired by the Prime Minister. It has 47 members including the Prime Minister. Among these, 19 members are ex-officio members. Other members include three Members of Parliament (two from Lok Sabha and one from Rajya Sabha), five NGOs and 10 eminent ecologists, conservationists and environmentalists.
Source: The Hindu
Blood Banks and India
In News: A ready supply of safe blood in sufficient quantities is a vital component of modern health care. In 2015-16, India was 1.1 million units short of its blood requirements.
- To prevent transfusion-transmitted infections (TTIs), collected blood needs to be safe as well. Due to practical constraints, tests are only conducted post-collection. Thus blood donor selection relies on donors filling in health questionnaires truthfully.
- The collected blood is tested for certain TTIs such as HIV and if the blood tests positive, it has to be discarded.
- However, these tests are not foolproof as there is a window period after a person first becomes infected with a virus during which the infection may not be detectable. This makes it crucial to minimise the risk in the first instance of collection. Collecting healthy blood will also result in less blood being discarded later.
- Blood that is donated voluntarily and without remuneration is considered to be the safest. Unfortunately, professional donors (who accept remuneration) and replacement donation (which is not voluntary) are both common in India. In the case of professional donors there is a higher chance of there being TTIs in their blood, as these donors may not provide full disclosure.
Regulatory Frame work:
- The regulatory framework which governs the blood transfusion infrastructure in India is scattered across different laws, policies, guidelines and authorities.
- Blood is considered to be a ‘drug’ under the Drugs & Cosmetics Act, 1940. Therefore, just like any other manufacturer or storer of drugs, blood banks need to be licensed by the Drug Controller-General of India (DCGI).
- For this, they need to meet a series of requirements with respect to the collection, storage, processing and distribution of blood, as specified under the Drugs & Cosmetics Rules, 1945.
- Blood banks are inspected by drug inspectors who are expected to check not only the premises and equipment but also various quality and medical aspects such as processing and testing facilities. Their findings lead to the issuance, suspension or cancellation of a licence.
Supreme Court Intervention:
- In 1996, the Supreme Court directed the government to establish the National Blood Transfusion Council (NBTC) and State Blood Transfusion Councils (SBTCs). The NBTC functions as the apex policy-formulating and expert body for blood transfusion services and includes representation from blood banks.
- However, it lacks statutory backing (unlike the DCGI), and as such, the standards and requirements recommended by it are only in the form of guidelines.
- This gives rise to a peculiar situation — the expert blood transfusion body can only issue non-binding guidelines, whereas the general pharmaceutical regulator has the power to license blood banks. This regulatory dissonance exacerbates the serious issues on the ground and results in poor coordination and monitoring.
- The present scenario under the DCGI is far from desirable, especially given how regulating blood involves distinct considerations when compared to most commercial drugs. It is especially incongruous given the existence of expert bodies such as the NBTC and National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO), which are more naturally suited for this role. The DCGI does not include any experts in the field of blood transfusion, and drug inspectors do not undergo any special training for inspecting blood banks.
- In order to ensure the involvement of technical experts who can complement the DCGI, the rules should be amended to involve the NBTC and SBTCs in the licensing process. Given the wide range of responsibilities the DCGI has to handle, its licensing role with respect to blood banks can even be delegated to the NBTC under the rules.
- Despite a 2017 amendment to the rules which enabled transfer of blood between blood banks, the overall system is still not sufficiently integrated. A collaborative regulator can, more effectively, take the lead in facilitating coordination, planning and management. This may reduce the regional disparities in blood supply as well as ensure that the quality of blood does not vary between private, corporate, international, hospital-based, non-governmental organisations and government blood banks.
- The aim of the National Blood Policy formulated by the government back in 2002 was to “ensure easily accessible and adequate supply of safe and quality blood”. To achieve this goal, India should look to reforming its regulatory approach at the earliest.
Model Mains Question: A ready supply of safe blood in sufficient quantities is a vital component of modern health care. In 2015-16, India was 1.1 million units short of its blood requirements. Discuss the importance of reforms in the National blood policy frame work to fill this gap.
Ghumot to be Goa’s heritage instrument
In News: Ghumot, Goa’s indigenous traditional percussion instrument made from an earthen vessel, will be notified as a heritage instrument of Goa.
More on the topic:
- The instrument was banned due to the use of the skin of the endangered monitor lizard for the drum membrane. In recent years, ghumot makers have started using goat skin instead. A few years ago, minister Rohan Khaunte had made a case to lift the ban by using permissible material.
- Goa Chief Conservator of Forest Santosh Kumar said the ban is applicable to the use of any animal listed in the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, and that the goat is not one of them.
Multi-nation Cobra Military Exercise
Topic: Bilateral Exercise
In News: The United States and Thailand are hosting the multi-nation Cobra military exercise this year. The exercise is taking place in the northern Thai province of Phitsanulok. 10000 personnel, 29 nations are taking part as participants or observers.
More on the Topic:
- Cobra Gold is an Asia-Pacific military exercise held in Thailand every year. It is the largest Asia-Pacific military exercise held each year, and is among the largest multinational military exercise in which the United States participates.
- India joined this exercise for the first time in 2016 while China was admitted for the first time in 2015 but was only allowed to participate in humanitarian assistance training.
- This exercise improved coordination among the military in response to natural disaster. Some of the examples are the Indian Ocean tsunami 2004, 2011 Tōhoku tsunami, Typhoon Haiya etc.
Source: The Hindu