Daily Current Affairs – 08-08-2023

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    Mediation Bill, 2023

    Syllabus: GS2/Polity

    In News

    • The Parliament has passed the Mediation Bill 2023 to reduce pendency of court cases.

    Background

    • The bill was first introduced in Rajya Sabha in 2021 and referred to the parliamentary committee on law and personnel for its detailed study.
    • Following the report of the committee, the government made certain amendments to the Mediation Bill.

    Key Provisions of the Bill

    • Aim: To promote, encourage, and facilitate mediation, especially institutional mediation, to resolve disputes, commercial and otherwise.
    • Pre-litigation mediation: Parties must attempt to settle civil or commercial disputes by mediation before approaching any court or certain tribunals.  
      • Even if they fail to reach a settlement through pre-litigation mediation, the court or tribunal may at any stage refer the parties to mediation if they request for the same.
    • Disputes not fit for mediation: The Bill contains a list of disputes which are not fit for mediation.  
      • These include disputes: (i) relating to claims against minors or persons of unsound mind, (ii) involving criminal prosecution, and (iii) affecting the rights of third parties.  The central government may amend this list. 
    • Mediation process: Mediation proceedings will be confidential, and must be completed within 180 days (may be extended by 180 days by the parties).   
    • Mediators: Mediators may be appointed by: (i) the parties by agreement, or (ii) a mediation service provider (an institution administering mediation).  
    • Mediation Council of India: The central government will establish the Mediation Council of India.  
      • The Council will consist of a chairperson, two full-time members (with experience in mediation or ADR), three ex-officio members (including the Law Secretary, and the Expenditure Secretary), and a part-time member from an industry body.  
      • Functions of the Council include: (i) registration of mediators, and (ii) recognising mediation service providers and mediation institutes (which train, educate, and certify mediators).
    • Mediated settlement agreement: Agreements resulting from mediation (other than community mediation) will be final, binding, and enforceable in the same manner as court judgments.  
      • They may be challenged on grounds of: (i) fraud, (ii) corruption, (iii) impersonation, or (iv) relating to disputes not fit for mediation.
    • Community mediation: Community mediation may be attempted to resolve disputes likely to affect the peace and harmony amongst residents of a locality.  
      • It will be conducted by a panel of three mediators.

    Amendments made on committee Recommendations

    • Voluntary Pre-litigation: The amended bill makes pre-litigation voluntary, leaving parties with the choice to participate in a pre-litigation mediation process instead of litigating.
      • The change is in line with the suggestions of the standing committee, which had said that mediation must remain voluntary, and that restraining parties from approaching courts or tribunals may amount to denial of access to justice.
    • Reducing the Time Period: While the 2021 draft contemplated a period of 180 days with a further extension for an additional period of 180 days with the consent of parties, the amendment brings this down to 180 days in total. 
      • The parliamentary panel had recommended reducing the time limit from180 days to 90 days, and further an extension period of 60 days.

     

    For More about the Alternative Dispute Resolution & its mode, kindly visit https://www.nextias.com/current-affairs/13-07-2022/mediation-bill

     

    Source: TH

     

    Tribals quota in educational institutions in Chhattisgarh

    Syllabus: GS2/Government Policies & Interventions

    In News

    • The Chhattisgarh Cabinet recently paved the way for a 32% quota for tribals in educational institutions.

    More about the News

    • In a move aimed at allaying the concerns of tribals in Chhattisgarh, the State Cabinet on recently decided that the admission process in educational institutions would be completed under the “existing” system of 58% reservation (12 for SCs, 32 for STs and 14 for OBCs or the 12-32-14 roster), instead of the (pre-March 2012) 16-20–14 (50%) roster.
    • The apex court in its recent interim order had allowed a 58% quota to continue in jobs and promotions in the State subject.

    Schedule Tribes of India

    • About: As per Article 342 of the Constitution, the President through a public notification can declare the tribes or tribal communities or part of or groups within these tribes and tribal communities as Schedule Tribes.
    • Criteria: The Constitution is silent about the criteria for the specification of a community as a Scheduled Tribe. 
      • Primitiveness, geographical isolation, shyness, and social, educational & economic backwardness are the traits that distinguish Scheduled Tribe communities from other communities.
    • There are 75 Scheduled Tribes known as Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs), which are characterized by:
      • Pre-agriculture level of technology 
      •  Stagnant or declining population
      •  Extremely low literacy
      •  Subsistence level of the economy

    Tribes of Chhattisgarh

    • The well-known tribes in Chhattisgarh are the Gond Tribe, Bhunjia Tribe, Baiga Tribe, Bisonhorn Maria Tribe, Parghi Tribe, Muria Tribe, Halba Tribe, Bhatra Tribe, Parja Tribe, Dhurvaa Tribe, Muriya Tribe, Dandami Mariya Tribe, Dorla Tribe, Dhanwar Tribe, Kol Tribe, Korwa Tribe, Rajgond Tribe, Kawar Tribe, Bhaiyana Tribe, Binjwar Tribe, Savra Tribe, Manji Tribe, Bhayna Tribe, Kamar Tribe, Munda Tribe, and Abujmaria Tribe.

    Culture of Chhattisgarh Tribes

    • To speak about the Tribal Culture in Chhattisgarh, each of the tribes possesses its own rich history and culture in Chhattisgarh. 
    • Their various forms of dance, music, dress, and food are different from each other. 
    • The chief of a tribe is called the ‘Sarpanch’, who acts as the main advisor and mediator during disputes and other important matters. A team of 5 advisors assists the Chief, each called panch. 

    About Tribal Culture 

    • Communal living: Many tribal communities in India have a strong emphasis on communal living and sharing resources. They live in close-knit communities and often make decisions collectively.
    • Connection with nature: Tribals have a strong connection with nature, with traditional beliefs and practices that revolve around the forests and animals.
    • Self-Sufficiency: Tribe is a synonym for a self-reliant community, a tribe is a relatively closed society and its openness is inversely related to the extent of its self-sufficient pursuits.
    • Spiritual beliefs: Tribals often have their own unique spiritual beliefs, which may involve the worship of ancestors, nature spirits, or deities. 
    • Folk arts and crafts: Tribals are known for their unique art forms, including pottery, weaving, and jewellery making. These crafts often have spiritual or cultural significance and are passed down through generations.

    Issues & challenges

    • Land rights: Tribal communities have been displaced from their traditional lands due to industrialization, and mining which has resulted in the loss of cultural identity, and social and economic marginalization.
    • Discrimination: Tribal communities often face discrimination and prejudice from the dominant society, including limited access to education, healthcare, and other basic services.
    • Climate change and environmental degradation: Climate Change, such as changes in rainfall patterns, increased frequency of natural disasters, loss of biodiversity, deforestation, pollution, and loss of habitat, has negatively impacted their traditional livelihoods and ways of life.
    • Socioeconomic marginalization: Many tribal communities have limited access to education, healthcare, and economic opportunities, which can result in poverty and social exclusion.
    • Cultural assimilation: Many tribal communities face pressure to assimilate into the dominant culture, which can lead to the loss of traditional knowledge, language, and cultural practices.
    • Lack of political representation: Tribal communities often lack political representation and may not have a voice in decision-making processes that affect their lives.
    • Health challenges: Tribal communities often face challenges in accessing quality healthcare, which can result in higher rates of disease, malnutrition, and other health issues.

    Government initiatives to conserve tribal culture & rights

    • National Commission of Schedule Tribes (NCST)
      • The NCST was established by amending Article 338 and inserting a new Article 338A in the Constitution through the 89th Constitutional Amendment Act, 2003.
      • The Commission is vested with all the powers of a civil court while investigating any matter on the inquiry of any complaint relating to deprivation of rights and safeguards for Scheduled Tribes.
    • TRIFED’s Initiatives For Tribal Population:
      • Sankalp Se Siddhi – Mission Van Dhan: The Government plans to establish 50,000 Van Dhan Vikas Kendras, 3000 Haat Bazaars, etc.
      • Institutional Support for Development & Marketing of Tribal Products / Produce (Central Sector Scheme)
      • Tribes India Outlets: The outlets will showcase tribal products from all over the country and the outlets will have a specific geographical indication (GI) and Vandhan corners.
    • Development of Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs): 
      • The scheme covers activities like housing, land distribution, land development, agricultural development, animal husbandry, construction of link roads, etc.
    • Support to Tribal Research Institutes (TRIs) and Tribal Festivals, Research Information, and Mass Education.
    • Scholarships for pre-matric, post-matric, and overseas education 
    • Support to National Scheduled Tribes Finance and Development Corporation
    • Vocational Training in Tribal Areas.
    • The aim of the Scheme is to develop the skills of the ST youth for a variety of jobs as well as self-employment and to improve their socio-economic condition by enhancing their income.
    • The mechanism for Marketing of Minor Forest Produce (MFP) through (MSP) and Development of a Value Chain for MFP’ as a measure of social safety for MFP gatherers (Centrally Sponsored Scheme).

    Source: TH

     

    National Handloom Day

    Syllabus: GS-3/ Indian Economy

    Context:

    • PM Modi addressed the 9th National Handloom Day in Delhi in order to promote India’s rich heritage of handloom.

    Key Points of the event

    • The theme of the National Handloom Day 2023 is “Handlooms for Sustainable Fashion”, focusing on the sustainable and environmentally beneficial alternative to machine-made fabrics.
    • The PM launched a textile and crafts repository e-portal by the name of ‘Bhartiya Vastraevam Shilpa Kosh’, which was developed by NIFT. 
      • It will serve as a one stop resource, providing information on new developments and current events relating to textiles and crafts.
    • The establishment of the Ekta Malls in every state capital.
    • ‘Sangathan se Safalta’ and ‘Khadi for fashion’ are films based on the importance of handloom sectors screened in the event.

    Historical context

    • The Rigveda contains one of the oldest mentions of handloom weaving in India. 
    • The origin of National Handloom Day has its roots back in the Swadeshi Movement of 1905.
      • It commemorates the Swadeshi Movement which was launched on 7 August 1905. The movement meant to boycott foreign goods and rely on Indian-made products, encouraged the indigenous industries, particularly the handloom weavers.

    Significance

    • To honour our handloom-weaving community and highlight the contribution of this sector in the socio-economic development of our country, as they provide employment to millions of people.
    • It is a day to commemorate the centuries-old tradition of handloom weaving in India.
    • Promoting sustainable fashion, because handloom textiles are made with natural fibres having minimum influence on the environment.

    Handloom Sector in India

    • The greatest cottage industry in the nation is the handloom industry. It is the second biggest employer in the rural area.
    • A total of 35,22,512 handloom workers were employed nationwide as per Handloom Census 2019–20.
    • Women make up the majority of the workforce in this sector, accounting for 72.29% of all handloom employees.
    • Production of hand-woven fabric from India constitutes 95 per cent of the global production.

    Challenges

    • Lack of Working Capital and Inputs: Access to enough working capital and raw materials is a problem for weavers.
    • Limited credit availability makes it difficult to finance investments in the handloom industry.
    • Marketing problems include a lack of knowledge of consumer preferences, an inability to differentiate between items made on handlooms and those made on powerlooms, and a lack of effective promotional efforts.
    • Ensure consistent product quality and effective supply chain management to reduce quality inconsistencies and supply chain inefficiencies.
    • Competition from Power Looms and Mills: Power looms and mills pose a significant threat to the handloom sector.
    • Technological Stagnation: For increased effectiveness, the industry must adopt contemporary technologies.
    • Lack of New Designs and Decline in the Number of Weavers: Keeping experienced weavers motivated and innovative is essential for the industry’s development.

    Government initiatives

    • The intention is to support the growth and development of these businesses.
    • The country’s youth are to receive skills training through the Skill India program, notably in the handloom and small industries sectors.
    • Government e-Market place (GeM) provided to enable artisans to sell their products directly to various organisations.
    • To promote e-marketing of handloom products, a policy framework was designed, under which any e-commerce platform can participate in online marketing of handloom products. Accordingly, 23 e-commerce entities have been engaged for on-line marketing of handloom products.
    • Hatkharga Samvardhan Sahayata (HSS): By offering modern looms and accessories, HSS seeks to increase fabric quality and productivity. The plan involves both the different State Governments and the Government of India.
    • PM is the brand ambassador of Indian handlooms all over the world and always prefers gifting Handloom and Handicraft items to dignitaries during his foreign visits.

    Schemes for Handloom Sector

    • Handloom Weavers’ Comprehensive Welfare Scheme: Weavers Comprehensive Welfare Scheme (HWCWS) is providing life, accidental and disability insurance coverage under the components 
      • Pradhan Mantri Jivan Jyoti Bima Yojana (PMJJBY), 
      • Pradhan Mantri Suraksha Bima Yojana (PMSBY) and 
      • Converged Mahatma Gandhi Bunkar Bima Yojana (MGBBY).
    • Pradhan Mantri Mudra Yojana (PMMY): In order to support operations, the initiative provides small businesses with loans upto Rs. 10 lakhs.
    • The National Handloom Development Programme (NHDP) aims to provide handloom weavers with financial assistance so they can advance their technology, market their products, and nurture their abilities.
    • Micro and small businesses’ Credit Guarantee Fund Trust (CGTMSE): This initiative intends to provide operating cash and term loans to micro and small businesses without the need for collateral.
    • The Yarn Supply Scheme: With partial modification, it is  renamed as Raw Material Supply Scheme (RMSS) and has been approved for implementation during the period from 2021-22 to 2025-26.

     

    Source: TH

     

    Coastal Aquaculture Authority (Amendment) Bill 2023

    Syllabus: GS3/Economy

    In News

    • Lok Sabha has passed the Coastal Aquaculture Authority (Amendment) Bill, 2023.

    Aquaculture

    • It is the breeding, rearing, and harvesting of fish, shellfish, algae, and other organisms in all types of water environments.
    • Coastal aquaculture includes the farming of marine life such as shrimp, prawn or fish in controlled conditions.  It is carried out in saline and brackish water.  

    About the Bill

    • The Bill amends the Coastal Aquaculture Authority Act, 2005.  
      • The Act defines coastal aquaculture as farming, under controlled conditions, of: (i) shrimp, (ii) prawn, (iii) fish or (iv) any other aquatic life in saline or brackish water.  
    • The Bill expands the scope of coastal aquaculture to include allied activities such as hatcheries and nucleus breeding centres.
    • It also decriminalises certain offences under it to promote the ease of doing business. 

    Key Features of the Bill

    • Regulation of allied activities: The Bill allows regulation of allied activities such as nucleus breeding centres and hatcheries.  
      • Nucleus breeding centres are those where fish/shrimp are cultivated at the larva stage of their life cycle.
    • The 2005 Act prohibits coastal aquaculture in certain areas, such as 200 metres within the High Tide Line and in creeks/backwaters within the Coastal Regulation Zone(CRZ).   
      • The Bill amends this to allow some allied activities in protected areas.  For instance: (i) activities like nucleus breeding centres will be permitted to operate in no development zones, and (ii) activities like seaweed culture will be permitted in creeks/backwaters within the CRZ.  
    • Coastal Aquaculture Authority: Under the 2005 Act, functions of the Authority include: (i) regulating construction and operation of aquaculture farms, (ii) registering coastal aquaculture farms, and (iii) demolishing polluting farms. 
      • The Bill adds that the Authority shall: (i) fix standards for inputs and discharge of effluents from aquaculture units, (ii) prohibit the use of certain inputs to prevent harm to the environment, and (iii) monitor and regulate units, inputs, and emissions.
    • Penalties: The 2005 Act penalises unregistered farms or farms in prohibited areas, with imprisonment up to three years and/or a fine of one lakh rupees.  
      • The Bill replaces this and specifies that if coastal aquaculture is carried out illegally: (i) the activity may be suspended, (ii) structure may be removed, (iii) crop may be destroyed, (iv) the registration may be cancelled, and/or (v) a penalty may be imposed.

    Source: News on Air

     

    Pharmacy (Amendment) Bill, 2023

    Syllabus: GS2/Government Interventions and Policies

    News: 

    • The Lok Sabha recently passed the Pharmacy (Amendment) Bill, 2023. 

    About

    • The Bill amends the Pharmacy Act, 1948 which regulates the practice and profession of pharmacy.
    • The Bill looks at the insertion of new section 32C, which provides a special provision relating to persons registered or qualified under the Jammu and Kashmir Pharmacy Act, 2011.
    • The Bill notes that anyone who is registered as a pharmacist under the Jammu and Kashmir Pharmacy Act, 2011 or possesses qualifications prescribed under the 2011 Act will be deemed to be registered as a pharmacist under the Pharmacy Act, 1948. 
    • Further, it will be contingent upon the person submitting an application for registration within a year of the amendment coming into force, and paying a prescribed fee.

    About the Pharmacy Act, 1948

    • This Act, consisting of 5 Chapters, provides for the requirements to be met in order to practise the profession of pharmacist and veterinary. 
    • It creates the Pharmacy Council of India (PCI), which will prescribe the minimum standards of education and approve courses of study and examinations for pharmacists and veterinary.
    • It also provides for Provincial Pharmacy Councils, which will be responsible for the maintenance of provincial registers of qualified pharmacists. 
    • In addition, it empowers State Governments to prohibit the dispensing of medicine on the prescription of a medical practitioner otherwise than by, or under the direct and personal supervision of, a registered pharmacist. 
    • Registration under the Pharmacy Act, 1948 is mandatory to practice pharmacy in India. 

    Pharmacy Council of India(PCI)

    •  It is a statutory body under the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. 
    • The Pharmacy education and profession in India upto graduate level is regulated by the PCI, a body governed by the provisions of the Pharmacy Act, 1948.
    • Functions:
      • To prescribe the minimum standard of education required for qualifying as a pharmacist.
      • Framing of Education Regulations prescribing the conditions to be fulfilled by the institutions seeking approval of the PCI for imparting education in pharmacy.
      • To approve the course of study or withdraw approval
      • To approve qualifications granted outside the territories to which the Pharmacy Act extends i.e. the approval of foreign qualification. 
      • To maintain the Central Register of Pharmacists. 

    Indian pharmaceutical industry

    • India is the third-largest producer of pharmaceutical goods globally (in terms of volume) and the twelfth-largest producer (in terms of value).
    • India is the largest provider of generic drugs globally and is known for its affordable vaccines and generic medications.
    • The Indian pharmaceutical sector supplies over 50% of global demand for various vaccines, 40% of generic demand in the US and 25% of all medicine in the UK. 
    • Presently, over 80% of the antiretroviral drugs used globally to combat AIDS are supplied by Indian pharmaceutical firms. India is rightfully known as the “pharmacy of the world” due to the low cost and high quality of its medicines.
    • The Pharma sector currently contributes to around 1.72% of the country’s GDP and the Indian pharmaceutical market is estimated to touch US$ 130 billion in value by the end of 2030. 

    Way Ahead

    • The pharma sector in India is a significant part of the nation’s foreign trade and offers lucrative potential for investors. Millions of people around the world receive affordable and inexpensive generic medications from India.
    • Hence, India needs to ensure the robustness of this sector and provide drug security to its populace through various measures like this Bill. 
    • Since India is the pharmacy of the world, it needs to give to its citizens the benefit that it offers to the world i.e. cheap and quality drugs. 

    Source: TH

    Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2023

    Syllabus: GS 2/Government’s Policies and Interventions /GS 3/Economy

    In News

    • Parliament passed the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2023.

    About the bill 

    • The Bill amends the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957.  
    • The Bill omits at least six previously mentioned atomic minerals from a list of 12 which cannot be commercially mined. 
      • Being on the atomic minerals list, the exploration and mining of these six — lithium, beryllium, niobium, titanium, tantalum and zirconium, was previously reserved for government entities.

    Key Highlights 

    • The 1957 Act prohibits pitting, trenching, drilling, and sub-surface excavation as part of reconnaissance, which included mapping and surveys. 
      • The Bill allows these prohibited activities.
    • The Bill also proposes a new type of licence to encourage reconnaissance — level and or prospective stage exploration by the private sector.
      • This exploration licence (EL), for a period of five years (extendable by two years), will be granted by the State government by way of competitive bidding.
    • It also specifies the maximum area for exploration; activities in up to 1,000 sq km will be allowed under a single exploration licence. 
    • It also states that the licensee will be allowed to retain up to 25% of the originally authorised area after the first three years after submitting a report to the State government stating reasons for retention of the area.
    • It also reserves the conduct of auctions for composite licence and mining lease for specified critical and strategic minerals for the central government.

    Objectives and Need 

    • The lack of availability of a variety of minerals  or the concentration of their extraction or processing in a few geographical locations leads to import dependency, supply chain vulnerabilities, and even disruption of their supplies. 
    • Majority of exploration projects have been carried out by the government agency Geological Survey of India and other Public Sector Undertakings (PSUs) with very little private sector participation.
    • India’s mining policy had kept greenfield exploration of minerals out of the purview of private-sector explorers for some years which meant they could only get licences to further prospect and mine resources that had been explored by a government entity. 
      • Companies also saw a lack of adequate incentives.
    • The new Bill seeks to bring exploration processes in India at par with that of developed countries by getting private sector capacity into exploration
    • It aims to attract private sector investment in the exploration of critical and deep-seated minerals in the country. 

    Some of the possible issues 

    • The primary way of generating revenue for a private company that has an exploration license would be a share of the premium paid by the miner, which would come only after a successfully discovered mine is auctioned and operationalised. 
      • Trends show that such a process could take years to materialize owing to government timelines for clearances or may not happen at all considering the complexity of the deposit and geography.
    • The explorer would not know how much revenue they will receive as the auction premium would be known only when a mine is successfully auctioned.
    • Another issue with the auction method of allocation for exploration licenses. 
      • While it’s feasible to auction something that has a known value (like a spectrum or a discovered mineral deposit), it is difficult to auction something for which exploration has not begun.
    • Besides, in its 2012 ruling, the Supreme Court had observed that since big capital investments go into discovering natural resources through exploration and mining contracts, companies would only want to spend big amounts if they’re assured of utilising any discovered resources.
      •  In the new policy, only the government can auction what an explorer has discovered and the latter would only get a share of the premium at an unknown stage. 
      • This is unlike other global jurisdictions where private explorers can sell their discoveries to miners.

    Conclusion  

    • India’s unique geological and tectonic setting is conducive to hosting potential mineral resources and that its geological history is similar to the mining-rich regions of Western Australia and Eastern Africa.
    • The primary step to discovering mineral resources and eventually finding economically viable reserves is mineral exploration, which comes in various stages before mining. 
    • These minerals are difficult and expensive to explore and mine compared with surface or bulk minerals.
    • There is a need to further augment expediting exploration and mining of deep-seated minerals. 
    • The proposed bill  can facilitate, encourage and incentivise private sector participation in all spheres of mineral exploration for critical and deep-seated minerals
      • Involvement of private agencies in exploration would bring advanced technology, finance and expertise in exploration for deep-seated and critical minerals. 

    Overview of Mining Sector in India

    • The history of mineral extraction in India dates back to the days of the Harappan civilization. 
    • The Mining industry in India is one of the core industries of the economy.
    • India has large reserves of Iron ore, Bauxite, Chromium, Manganese ore, Baryte, Rare earth and Mineral salts.
    • India produces as many as 95 minerals, which includes fuel, metallic, non-metallic, atomic and minor minerals (including building and other materials).
    • 100% foreign direct investment (FDI) is allowed in the mining and exploration sector through automatic route, currently there is no significant FDI received in these sectors.

    Data Analysis 

    • The total value of mineral production (excluding atomic and fuel minerals) during 2021-22 has been estimated at Rs. 211857 crore, which shows a increase of about 31.96% over that of the previous year.
    • The Ministry of Mines, in June 2023 came out with a list of 30 minerals critical to the country’s economic development and national security. 
      • India is highly dependent on imports for a majority of minerals on this list. For instance, as per figures quoted by the Ministry, India is 100% import-dependent on countries including China, Russia, Australia, South Africa, and the U.S. for the supply of critical minerals like lithium, cobalt, nickel, niobium, beryllium, and tantalum.
        • China has majority ownership of cobalt mines in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where 70% of the world’s cobalt is mined. 
        • China also has by far the largest amount of reserves of REEs of any country in the world, followed by Vietnam, Brazil and Russia.
    • It is estimated that India has explored just 10% of its Obvious Geological Potential (OGP), less than 2% of which is mined and the country spends less than 1% of the global mineral exploration budget. 

    Source:TH

    Havana Syndrome

    Syllabus:GS2/Health

    News

    • Recently a Bengaluru resident filed a petition in Karnataka High Court requesting a writ of mandamus for an enquiry on Havana Syndrome in India.

    What is Havana Syndrome?

    • Havana Syndrome refers to a set of mental health symptoms that are said to be experienced by United States intelligence and embassy officials in various countries.The word ‘syndrome’ simply means a set of symptoms.
    • Symptoms:Hearing certain sounds without any outside noise, nausea, vertigo and headaches, memory loss and balance issues.
    • Origin: It traces its roots to Cuba in late 2016 when the US opened its embassy in the capital city Havana. Some US intelligence officials and members of the staff at the embassy began experiencing sudden bursts of pressure in their brains followed by persistent headaches, feelings of disorientation and insomnia.

    Where else has Havana syndrome been reported?

    • Since the Cuban incident, American intelligence and foreign affairs officials posted in various countries like China, Uzbekistan,Russia, Poland, Georgia, Colombia etc have reported symptoms of the syndrome.
    • In 2019 and 2020, such incidents have been reported from within the US — particularly in Washington DC. 
    • In India, the first such case was reported in 2021, when a US intelligence officer traveling to New Delhi with CIA director William Burns reported symptoms of Havana Syndrome.

    What are the causes of Havana Syndrome?

    • Initially during the Cuban experience, the suspicion was on Cuban intelligence or a section within the Cuban establishment that did not want US-Cuba relations to normalize. It was then speculated to be a “sonic attack”.
    • However, further study suggests that they may have been subjected to high-powered microwaves that either damaged or interfered with the nervous system. It was said to have built pressure inside the brain that generated the feeling of a sound being heard. 
    • Greater exposure to high-powered microwaves is not only to interfere with the body’s sense of balance but also to impact memory and cause permanent brain damage. 
    • It was suspected that beams of high-powered microwaves were sent through a special gadget that Americans then called a “microwave weapon”.

    Concluding Remarks

    • After many years of data collection, experiments and medical examination of victims, the US has as yet not been able to come up with any conclusive evidence suggesting the “microwave weapon” is a reality. 
    • There is also a question mark on how the so-called weapon is able to specifically target individuals and not affect all the people in its range.
    • Some medical experts in the US have outrightly debunked this theory, calling the syndrome a psychological illness amplified by widespread fear of being targeted.

    Source:IE

     

    Facts In News

    Indian Buddhist Culture and Heritage Centre

    Syllabus :GS 1/History 

    In News 

    • Construction work of the Indian Buddhist Culture and Heritage Centre began in Lumbini, Nepal.

    About Indian Buddhist Culture and Heritage Centre

    • The 1.60 billion rupee heritage Centre is expected to be lotus shaped which will be built in zero-net technology and may be completed in one and a half years.
      • The  foundation stone was laid in 2022.
    • India and Nepal share cultural heritage, and constructing a monastery at international standards in Lumbini will promote spiritual and religious tourism.

    Significance of Lumbini

    • Lumbini is one of the holiest places of one of the world’s great religions, and its remains contain important evidence about the nature of Buddhist pilgrimage centres from as early as the 3rd century BC.
    • Siddhartha Gautama, the Lord Buddha, was born in 623 B.C. in the famous gardens of Lumbini, which soon became a place of pilgrimage. 
    • Among the pilgrims was the Indian emperor Ashoka, who erected one of his commemorative pillars there. 
    • The site is now being developed as a Buddhist pilgrimage centre, where the archaeological remains associated with the birth of the Lord Buddha form a central feature.

    Source:News on air 

     

    Gita Mittal Committee

    Syllabus: GS2/Functioning of Judiciary

     

    News: 

    • Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud recently announced the appointment of an all-women’s committee of three former High Court judges to oversee violence-torn Manipur.

    About the committee:

    • It will be headed by Justice Gita Mittal, former Chief Justice of the Jammu & Kashmir High Court and Justice Shalini Phansalkar Joshi and Justice Asha Menon will be the members of the committee.
    • This will be a broad-based committee which will be constituted to supervise, intervene and monitor relief and rehabilitation, restoration of homesteads, religious places of worship, better relief work, etc.
    • The court also intended to appoint the retired Maharashtra-cadre IPS officer Dattatray Padsalgikar, to monitor the overall investigation of cases registered during the violence.
    • To have an eye from outside the state, it said it would direct the Directors-General of Police (DGP) from six States to name six officers of the rank of Deputy Inspector-General to take charge of six SITs each and monitor its work.

    Source: TH

    LK-99

    Syllabus: GS3/Science and Technology

    News: 

    • According to a paper released recently, the South Korean team has created a groundbreaking new material, LK-99, a room-temperature superconductor working at ambient pressure.

    About LK-99:

    • Named after two scientists, Lee and Kim, and the year of its discovery — 1999 — LK-99 is a compound which is a copper-doped lead apatite.
    • Apatites are a group of phosphate minerals that have a phosphate scaffold with a tetrahedral, or pyramidal motif: one phosphorus atom is surrounded by four oxygen atoms. Other atoms can sit in between these pyramids.
    • The work of the Korean group’s involves filling the space between the phosphate pyramids with lead and oxygen ions. Then, some of the lead atoms are replaced with those of copper, a process called substitution.
    • The group reported that at 10% copper substitution, the wonder material LK-99 arises: copper-substituted lead appetite. 
    • The group subjected this material to a variety of tests and claimed that it has essentially zero resistance to the flow of an electric current.

    About Bardeen-Cooper-Schrieffer theory of Superconductivity: 

    • It was developed in 1957 by the American physicists John Bardeen, Leon N. Cooper, and John R. Schrieffer to explain the behaviour of superconducting materials
    • The theory describes superconductivity as a microscopic effect caused by a condensation of Cooper pairs. 
    • Cooper had discovered that electrons in a superconductor are grouped in pairs, (Cooper pairs), and that the motions of all of the Cooper pairs within a single superconductor functions as a single entity. 
    • Application of an electrical voltage to the superconductor causes all Cooper pairs to move, constituting a current. When the voltage is removed, current continues to flow indefinitely because the pairs encounter no opposition.
    • For the current to stop, all of the Cooper pairs would have to be halted at the same time, a very unlikely occurrence. 
    • As a superconductor is warmed, its Cooper pairs separate into individual electrons, and the material becomes normal, or non superconducting.

    Why the quest?

    • An electric current carried by a metal wire suffers losses owing to the wire’s electrical resistance. A significant amount of electricity generated in power plants is lost in transmission for this reason.
    • Hence, there is a quest to make a material that would offer no resistance to current flow.
    • Scientists discovered such materials more than a century ago. They found that elemental mercury, a liquid metal at ambient conditions, becomes a superconductor at an unimaginably cold temperature of -268 degrees Celsius. 
    • Years of research revealed that superconductivity is a rather common phenomenon in metals if they can be cooled down to similar temperatures.
    • But Scientists have been looking for a material that can superconduct without having to be cooled to very low temperatures and which does not require the application of extreme pressure.

    Way Ahead

    • All the claims of scientists having found a room-temperature superconductor so far have failed to withstand independent scrutiny. 
    • Hence, independent verification by qualified scientists becomes crucial — for which the South Korean group must share all the data.
    • The ambient condition superconductor has remained one of the most elusive and coveted prizes of the field. The South Korean group’s claim, if proved true, will therefore be groundbreaking.

    Source: TH

     

    Telangana Folk Singer Gaddar

    Syllabus: Miscellaneous

    In News 

    • Popular Telugu singer Gaddar passed away in Hyderabad aged 74.

    About

    • He was born as Gummadi Vittal Rao in Toopran, Medak district, and went on to become popular as ‘Gaddar’. 
    • He was a former naxalite, led an underground life, including in the forests. Subsequently, he joined the mainstream and voted for the first time in his life in the Telangana Legislative Assembly polls in 2018.
    • His work: He penned songs for films, and they became sensations. One such hit was his song ‘Bandenaka bandi katti’ in the 1979 film ‘Maa Bhoomi’.
      • He also acted in a few films including ‘Maa Bhoomi” where he was seen singing the popular song ‘Bandenka Bandi Katti Padahaaru Bandlu Katti’.
    • Role in Telangana Agitation: His role in the Telangana agitation cannot be forgotten and his iconic song – Podustunna Poddu Meeda Nadustunna Kaalama Poru Telanganama – was a must in every meeting of the Telangana agitation. 
      • Ideologically too, he was close to Telangana aspirations and used his music to reach out to the masses and expose the injustice meted out to the region. 
      • His contribution to people’s movements in the combined Andhra Pradesh during the peak of the Naxal movement fetched him a cult status among the Telugu-speaking population.

    Source: News on Air

     

    Direct Incentive Disbursement Program

    Syllabus:GS3/Economy

    News

    • The Postal Life Insurance (PLI) introduced the pilot program for “Direct Incentive Disbursement” in the Delhi and Uttarakhand Circles.

    About

    • The scheme is to  Recognise the pivotal role of PLI’s sales force which is the driving force behind the department’s accomplishments.
    • The sales force include Gramin Dak Sevaks, Direct Agents, Field Officers, and Departmental Employees.

    Key benefits of pilot program

    • Swift and Secure Transactions: Salesforce receives incentives directly in their  Post Office Savings Bank (POSB) accounts.
    • Convenience and Motivation: Salesforce can conveniently manage their funds, and immediate rewards drive optimal performance.
    • Simplified Administration: Automated payouts reduce administrative costs, enabling a greater focus on delivering client service.

    Postal Life Insurance (PLI)

    • Postal Life Insurance (PLI) was introduced in 1884.It is the oldest life insurer in the country. 
    • It started as a welfare scheme for the benefit of postal employees and was later extended to the employees of the Telegraph Department in 1888. 
    • In 1894, PLI extended insurance cover to female employees of the erstwhile P & T Department at a time when no other insurance company covered female lives. 

    Source:PIB