Daily Current Affairs – 17-05-2023

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    Adopting father’s surname in matrilineal Meghalaya

    Syllabus: GS2/ Mechanisms, Laws, Institutions & Bodies for Protection & Betterment of these Sections

    In News

    • Recently, a tribal council’s order not to issue a Scheduled Tribe (ST) certificate to any Khasi person who adopts the surname of her or his father

    More about the news

    • The order:
      • The Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council (KHADC) has directed the headmen of all villages and urban localities across the Khasi domain not to issue ST certificates to those who adopt their father’s surname instead of sticking to tradition by taking their mother’s clan name. 
      • The Khasi Hills Autonomous District Khasi Social Custom of Lineage Act, 1997 also says that in order for someone to legally belong to their mother’s Khasi clan, they or their mother cannot adopt the “personal laws” of their non-Khasi father (or husband).
    • Significance:
      • KHADC claimed that the move is for the preservation and protection of the age-old tradition of the community.

    Matriliny in Meghalaya 

    • Communities:
      • The Khasis, numbering about 1.39 lakh, are one of the three indigenous matrilineal communities in the northeastern State. The other two are Garos and Jaintias. 
    • What constitutes Matriliny?
      • In this system, lineage and descent are traced through the mother’s clan, like 
        • Children take the mother’s surname, 
        • The husband moves into his wife’s house, and 
        • The youngest daughter (khatduh) of the family is bequeathed the full share of the ancestral — or the clan’s — property.
      • The khatduh becomes the “custodian” of the land.
        • She assumes all responsibility associated with the land, including taking care of aged parents, unmarried or destitute siblings. 
    • Khasi marrying non-Khasi person:
      • It is mandatory for any Khasi woman who marries a non-Khasi needs to obtain the Khasi tribe certificate for applying for the ST certificate for her children. 
    • Activism to switch to the patrilineal system:
      • Men’s rights activists among the Khasis have been fighting for switching over from the matrilineal to the patrilineal system since the 1960s.

    Difference between  ‘matrilineal’ & ‘matriarchal’ society

    • Matriliny:
      • Matriliny is formed with regard to the rules of inheritance. In matrilineal societies pass on property from mother to daughter. 
    • Matriarchy:
      • Matriarchy on the other hand is formed with regard to the exercise of authority and domination. 
      • A matriarchal family structure is where the women exercise authority and dominance.
    • The case of Meghalaya:
      • With the entire state of Meghalaya following a matrilineal system, the one thing most people tend to misuse is the word ‘matrilineal’ and mistake it to be matriarchal in nature. 
        • In the case of the Khasi community, this, however, is not true. The husband is still the head of the family and elder men have a vital part to play in society.
        • The traditional matrilineal society has always kept women out of the larger decision-making process in social institutions like the village council.

    About the Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs) 

    • About:
      • The Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs) are officially designated groups of people and among the most disadvantaged socio-economic groups in India. 
        • The terms are also recognized in the Constitution of India.
    • These communities came to be known as Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes by Clause 1 of Articles 341 and 342 of the Constitution respectively. 
    • Establishment of the National Commissions:
      • Followed by this, Articles 338, and 338-A of the Constitution of India lays down the provision for the establishment of the National Commission for the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes respectively.

    Sixth Schedule (Article 244)

    • The Sixth Schedule of the Constitution deals with the administration of the tribal areas 
      • In the four northeastern states of Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram.
    • The Governor is empowered to increase or decrease the areas or change the names of the autonomous districts. 
    • While executive powers of the Union extend in Scheduled areas with respect to their administration in Vth schedule, 
      • The VIth schedule areas remain within the executive authority of the state.
    • Jurisdiction:
      • The acts of Parliament or the state legislature do not apply to autonomous districts or are applied with specified modifications and exceptions.
      • The Councils have wide civil and criminal judicial powers, like establishing village courts etc. 
      • However, the jurisdiction of these councils is subject to the jurisdiction of the concerned High Court.
    • The sixth schedule to the Constitution includes 10 autonomous district councils in 4 states. 
      • Assam
        • Bodoland Territorial Council, 
        • Karbi Anglong Autonomous Council and 
        • Dima Hasao Autonomous District Council.
      • Meghalaya:
        • Garo Hills Autonomous District Council, 
        • Jaintia Hills Autonomous District Council and 
        • Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council.
      • Tripura: 
        • Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council.
      • Mizoram: 
        • Chakma Autonomous District Council, 
        • Lai Autonomous District Council, 
        • Mara Autonomous District Council.

    Caste Claim

    • Any person who claims to belong to a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe or Other Backward Class has to produce a certificate to the Appointing Authority/Selection Committee/Board etc. in support of his claim so as to make him eligible for reservation and various relaxations and concessions.
    • The Caste/Tribe/Community certificate issued by the appointing authorities in the prescribed form for SCs/STs and for OBCs is only accepted as proof in support of a candidate’s claim as belonging to the Scheduled Caste or the Scheduled Tribe or the Other Backward Class. 

    Source: TH

    Union Public Service Commission (UPSC)

    Syllabus: GS 2 / Indian Polity

    In News 

    • Manoj Soni took the Oath of Office and Secrecy as Chairman of the UPSC. He was already serving as the Chairman in charge since April 2022.

    History of UPSC

    • The Government of India Act 1919 provided for the establishment of a Public Service Commission in India for the first time. The Act embodied the Montagu-Chelmsford reforms (recommended in the report of the Secretary of State for India, Edwin Montagu, and the Viceroy, Chelmsford).
    • The Royal Commission on the Superior Civil Services in India (also known as Lee Commission) in its report submitted in the year 1924, recommended that urgent establishment of the statutory Public Service Commission as envisaged by the Government of India Act, 1919.
    • Subsequently the Public Service Commission was established on October 1, 1926 with Sir Ross Barker as the first Chairman of the Commission.
    • It was reconstituted as Federal Public Service Commission by the Government of India Act 1935.
    • With the inauguration of the Constitution of India on January 26, 1950, the Federal Public Service Commission came to be known as the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC).

    Constitutional Provisions

    • The Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) is a constitutional body headquartered in New Delhi.
    • Articles 315 to 323 of Part XIV of the constitution, titled as Services Under the Union and the States, provide for a Public Service Commission for the Union and for each state.
    • Article-315 deals with Public Service Commissions for the Union and for the States. Parliament may by law provide for the appointment of a Joint State Public Service Commission if two or more States pass a resolution for having one Public Service Commission for that group of States
    • Article-316 deals with Appointment and term of office of members.
    • Article-317 deals with Removal and suspension of a member of a Public Service Commission.
    • Article-318 deals with Power to make regulations as to conditions of service of members and staff of the Commission.
    • Article-319 deals with Prohibition as to the holding of offices by members of Commission on ceasing to be such members.
    • Article-320 deals with Functions of Public Service Commissions.
    • Article-321 deals with Power to extend functions of Public Service Commissions.
    • Article-322 deals with Expenses of Public Service Commissions.
    • Article-323 deals with Reports of Public Service Commissions.

    Functions 

    • Under Article 320 of the Constitution, UPSC is required to be consulted on all matters relating to recruitment to civil services and posts of the Union.
    • It conducts the civil services examination to select officers of the Indian Administrative Service (IAS), the Indian Foreign Service (IFS) and the Indian Police Service (IPS) and other all-India services.
    • It frames and amends Recruitment Rules for various services and posts under the Government.
    • It deals with disciplinary cases relating to different Civil Services.
    • The commission reports directly to the President and can advise the Government through him/her, although such advice is not binding on the Government.

    Composition

    • Under Art 318, the President of India is empowered to determine number of members of the Commission.
    • At present UPSC is headed by a Chairman and it can have a maximum of 10 members.  

    Appointment

    • As per Article 316, the Chairman and other members of Union Public Service Commission shall be appointed by the President of India.
    • Nearly half of the members of the Commission shall be persons who at the dates of their respective appointments have held office for at least ten years either under the Government of India or under the Government of a State.

    Service conditions

    • Under Art 318, the President of India is empowered to determine the conditions of service of members.
    • Conditions of service cannot be varied to his disadvantage after his appointment.

    Tenure 

    • A member of a UPSC shall hold office for a term of six years from the date on which he enters upon his office or until he attains the age of sixty-five years, whichever is earlier. 

    Retirement

    • As per Art 319, a person who holds office as Chairman shall, on the expiration of his term of office, be ineligible for re-appointment to that office. 
    • Other members of the UPSC shall be eligible for appointment as the Chairman of the UPSC, or as the Chairman of a State Public Service Commission, but not for any other employment either under the Government of India or under the Government of a State.

    Removal

    • Chairman or any other member of a UPSC shall only be removed from their office by order of the President on the ground of “misbehaviour” after the Supreme Court, on reference being made to it by the President, has, on inquiry, reported that they ought to be removed.
    • The President may also by order remove the Chairman or any other member of UPSC if they 
      • are adjudged an insolvent; or
      • engage during his term of office in any paid employment outside the duties of his office; or
      • in the opinion of the President, unfit to continue in office by reason of infirmity of mind or body.

    Source: TH

    Dengue

    Syllabus: GS2/ Health

    In News

    • Serum Institute of India and Panacea Biotec apply for Expression of Interest for clinical trials for indigenous manufacturers of Dengue vaccine.

    Dengue Virus (DENV)

    • Dengue is a viral infection caused by the dengue virus (DENV), transmitted to humans through the bite of infected mosquitoes.
    • DENV is a pathogenic arthropod-borne flavivirus (arbovirus), it is a single-stranded and positive-sense RNA molecule belonging to the family Flaviviridae.

    Geographical Distribution

    • Dengue is found in tropical and sub-tropical climates worldwide, mostly in urban and semi-urban areas.
    • Presently, DENV is prevalent throughout the different countries (at least 100 countries) including in Asia, the Pacific, the Americas, Africa, and the Caribbean. 

    Transmission

    • Transmission through the mosquito bite: The virus is transmitted to humans through the bites of infected female mosquitoes, primarily the Aedes aegypti mosquito. Other species within the Aedes genus can also act as vectors, but their contribution is secondary to Aedes aegypti.
    • Human-to-mosquito transmission: Mosquitoes can become infected by people who are viremic with DENV. This can be someone who has a symptomatic dengue infection, also people who show no signs of illness as well (they are asymptomatic).
      • Human-to-mosquito transmission can occur up to 2 days before someone shows symptoms of the illness, and up to 2 days after the fever has resolved.
    • Maternal transmission: There is evidence of the possibility of maternal transmission (from a pregnant mother to her baby). 
    • Other transmission modes: Rare cases of transmission via blood products, organ donation and transfusions have been recorded. Similarly, transovarial transmission of the virus within mosquitoes have also been recorded. 

    Symptoms

    • high fever (40°C/104°F)
    • severe headache
    • pain behind the eyes
    • muscle and joint pains
    • Nausea
    • Vomiting
    • swollen glands
    • rash. 
    • Individuals who are infected for the second time are at greater risk of severe dengue. Severe dengue symptoms often come after the fever has gone away:
      • severe abdominal pain
      • persistent vomiting
      • rapid breathing
      • bleeding gums or nose 
      • Fatigue
      • Restlessness
      • blood in vomit or stool
      • being very thirsty
      • pale and cold skin
      • feeling weak.

    Prevention

    • The mosquitoes that spread dengue are active during the day. The risk of getting dengue can be reduced by: 
      • clothes that cover as much of your body as possible.
      • mosquito nets if sleeping during the day, ideally nets sprayed with insect repellent window screens.
      • mosquito repellents (containing DEET, Picaridin or IR3535).
      • Avoid water collection around the house to prevent breeding of mosquitoes. If needed, one must cover water with a lid to refrain breeding. 
      • coils and vaporizers.

    Treatment

    • Rest
    • drink plenty of liquids
    • use acetaminophen (paracetamol) for pain
    • avoid non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, like ibuprofen and aspirin
    • watch for severe symptoms.
    • So far one vaccine (Dengvaxia) has been approved and licensed in some countries. However, only persons with evidence of past dengue infection can be protected by this vaccine. Several additional dengue vaccine candidates are under evaluation.

    Vaccines Proposed

    • Two potential vaccines that Serum Institute of India initiated is to conduct Phase-III randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trials in 10,335 healthy adults (aged 18-80 years) in 20 sites (ICMR-funded).
    • The Phase-III protocol has been approved by the Drugs Controller General of India (January 2023) and the company is trying to upscale vaccine production with the trials expected to start in August-September this year.
    • ICMR has noted that the desirable characteristics of a dengue vaccine includes acceptable short- and long-term safety profile (no antibody dependent enhancement), inducing protection against all four serotypes of dengue, reducing risk of severe diseases and deaths, inducing a sustained immune response and effectiveness irrespective of the earlier sero-status and age of the individual.

    Why India Sees Massive Dengue Outbreaks Every Year

    • Poor sewer systems lead to pooling of water in many of the cities in India which leads to breeding of mosquitoes.
    • Many people store water in their habitat because of shortage of water in many parts of India. This makes the place perfect for breeding mosquitoes.
    • There are no adequate efforts from the government to develop a vaccine against Dengue because of other prevalent health conditions.
    • Lack of awareness in the community to prevent mosquito bites and to avoid breeding places for mosquitoes.

    Source: TH

    Spurious Liquor

    Syllabus: GS2/Health/Governance

    In News

    • 22 people had died after consuming spurious liquor in the districts of Tamil Nadu.

    What is the alcohol in liquor?

    • Liquor is differentiated by its alcohol content — from the 5% or so of beer to the 12% or so of wine to the 40% or so of distilled spirits (all by volume). 
    • In the beverages consumed for recreational purposes, the alcohol in question is almost always ethanol. Technically, ethanol is a psychoactive drug that, in low doses, reduces the level of neurotransmission in the body, leading to its typical intoxicating effects.
    • The World Health Organization has found that no level of its consumption is safe for health. Long-term use leads to dependence, heightens the risk of some cancers and heart disease, and may eventually cause death.

    What is spurious liquor?

    • Spurious liquor is characterised by the liquid mixture containing methanol as well. 
    • In many cases, such liquor is typically a home-made liquor, such as arrack, to which methanol was added to strengthen the intoxicating effects  or to increase its bulk volume.
    • The Food Safety and Standards (Alcoholic Beverages) Regulations 2018 stipulate the maximum permissible quantity of methanol in different liquors. These values span a wide range, including “absent” in coconut fenny, 50 grams per 100 litres in country liquor, and 300 grams per 100 litres in pot-distilled spirits.

    What is methanol (CH3OH)?

    • The most common way to produce methanol is to combine carbon monoxide and hydrogen in the presence of copper and zinc oxides as catalysts at 50-100 atm of pressure and 250°C. 
    • Methanol has several industrial applications, including as a precursor to acetic acid, formaldehyde, and aromatic hydrocarbons. It is also used as a solvent and as antifreeze. 

    How does spurious liquor kill?

    • The deadliness of spurious liquor arises from methanol.
    • The human body contains infinitesimal quantities of methanol (4.5 ppm in the breath of healthy individuals, per a 2006 study) as a result of eating some fruits. But even for an adult, more than 0.1 ml of pure methanol per kilogram of body-weight can be devastating.
    • Once ingested, methanol is metabolised in the liver by ADH enzymes to form formaldehyde (H-CHO). Then ALDH enzymes convert formaldehyde to formic acid (HCOOH). 
    • The accumulation of formic acid over time leads to a baneful condition called metabolic acidosis. Acidosis can lead to acidemia, a condition wherein the blood’s pH drops below its normal value of 7.35, becoming increasingly acidic. 
    • Consuming methanol also leads to methanol-induced optic neuropathy, a serious condition that may result in long-term or irreversible visual impairment or even blindness.
    • Methanol-poisoning can also cause cerebral edema, haemorrhage, and death.

    How can such poisoning be treated?

    • Once methanol is ingested, the body takes some time to completely eliminate it. One estimate suggests that as much as 33% is still left behind after 48 hours. 
    • There are two immediate ways to treat methanol poisoning. 
      • One is to administer ethanol: Ethanol competes very well with methanol for the ADH enzymes. As a result, the methanol is kept from being metabolised to formaldehyde.
      • The other option is to administer an antidote called fomepizole, which has a similar mechanism — it slows the action of the ADH enzymes, causing the body to produce formaldehyde at a rate that the body can quickly excrete, preventing the deadlier effects from kicking in. 
    • Healthcare workers may also have the individual undertake a dialysis to remove methanol and formic acid salts from the blood, and mitigate damage to the kidneys and retina.
    • If the individual consumed ethanol along with the methanol, the damage may not be evident until after a few days, further delaying treatment and increasing mortality.

    Alcohol Prohibition in India

    • Currently, there are five states (Bihar, Gujarat, Lakshadweep, Nagaland, and Mizoram) with total prohibition and some more with partial prohibition.
    • State Subject: Although the prohibition of alcohol use is encouraged in the constitution of India (Article 47, DPSP), alcohol policy is a state subject. 
      • States are having full control of alcohol-related legislation, excise rates and the production, distribution and sale of alcohol. 

    Arguments in favour of Liquor ban

    • Not a loss of revenue: it is possible to have a robust economy even without selling liquor. If the government ensures that there are zero tax evasions, black money stashed abroad is brought back to the country and corruption is controlled in the government.
    • DPSP: the state government has a responsibility to safeguard public health. The Directive Principles of State Policy clearly say that the State is responsible for raising the level of nutrition, standard of living and public health.
    • Injurious to Health: It is known to everyone that liquor is injurious to health and no doctor has ever suggested that liquor will improve a person’s health. It causes damage not only to the liver but also hampers the functioning of the entire body.
    • Affects poor people: In poor households where a person is addicted to alcohol, a major share of the household income which should have been spent for betterment of standard of life goes into liquor.
    • Social Issues: Liquor is also the reason behind perpetuating domestic violence, hampering of family bonds, couples getting divorced and children getting neglected.
    • Addiction and rise in crimes: With easy availability of liquor youngsters are getting addicted. As far as crimes are concerned, it appears that a large percentage of crimes are committed under the influence of alcohol.
    • Crime rate: If the government prohibits liquor it will also result in a decline in the crime rate.

    Arguments against Liquor ban

    • Revenue for the Government: The government argues that the sale of liquor provides it with good revenue in terms of excise duty and that the money is required to develop the economy.
    • The Legal Angle: A rise in crime due to withdrawal symptoms and an inability to find and consume alcohol would be a major problem.
    • Rise in violent crime: This is indicative because if someone wants to consume alcohol under prohibition, then they will have to employ illegal methods. This is the fear that is there behind prohibiting alcohol.
    • Right to Liquor: The arguments that support the contention that the Fundamental Rights guaranteed under the Indian Constitution include the right to consume and trade liquor mainly pertain to Articles 21 and 19(1)(g) of the Constitution.

    Way Forward

    • Not a fundamental Right: Presently, no Indian citizen has the fundamental right to consume and trade liquor. Respective state governments have a monopoly over the liquor market in India. 
    • Awareness: Experts continue to advocate awareness and not prohibition to be the way to go especially in states where the law already prohibits the use of it.
    • Inelastic behaviour: Experts continue to argue that alcohol consumption is inelastic, and this is true for states that don’t have a ban on liquor and yet see a huge spike in deaths due to spurious liquor consumption.

    Source: TH

    Sanchar Saathi Initiative

    Syllabus: GS 3 / Science and Technology

    In News 

    • Union Minister of Communications launched the Sanchar Saathi portal to ensure Safety and security of the users.

    Sanchar Saathi initiative

    • The Department of Telecom has developed a citizen centric portal named Sanchar Saathi.
    • It has following modules:
      • Know your mobile connections – to know mobile connections registered in your name.
      • CEIR (Central Equipment Identity Register) – for blocking stolen/lost mobiles.
      • Telecom Analytics for Fraud Management and Consumer Protection (TAFCOP)
      • ASTR (Artificial Intelligence and Facial Recognition powered Solution for Telecom SIM Subscriber Verification) – to identify fraudulent subscribers.

    Know Your Mobile

    • It facilitates the citizens to check the genuineness of IMEI of their mobile device.
    • The International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) is the 15-digit numbers that uniquely identify each mobile device.
    • Phones with a dual-SIM option have two IMEI numbers, one for each SIM. The IMEI number can help network providers track down a device in case it gets stolen or is lost. 
    • The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has made it mandatory for mobile phone manufacturers to register the IMEI of all handsets made in India with the government. 

    Centralized Equipment Identity Register (CEIR)

    • CEIR is the citizen centric portal of the Department of Telecommunications for tracing the lost/stolen mobile devices. 
    • This also facilitates blocking of lost/stolen mobile devices in the network of all telecom operators so that lost/stolen devices cannot be used in India. 
    • In case anyone tries to use the stolen device, the system allows Law Enforcement Agencies to trace the device. Once a mobile phone is found it may be unblocked on the portal for its normal use by the citizens.
    • It also prevents mobile devices with inaccurate or forged IMEIs being used in Indian networks.

    Telecom Analytics for Fraud Management and Consumer Protection (TAFCOP)

    • TAFCOP module facilitates a mobile subscriber to check the number of mobile connections taken in his/her name using paper-based documents. 
    • The system allows users to report fraudulent connections. It also allows users to block the connections which are not required.

    ASTR

    • ASTR stands for “Artificial Intelligence and Facial Recognition powered Solution for Telecom SIM Subscriber Verification”.
    • This artificial-intelligence-based facial recognition tool has the capability of running checks on subscriber databases of telecom operators to deduce whether it contains multiple connections associated with the same person. 
    • The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) allows an individual to take nine legitimate mobile phone connections using a single identity proof. Thus, in essence, the ASTR looks up if there are more than nine connections against a single individual’s photograph.
    • It can potentially bring down cyber frauds by detecting and blocking possible fraudulent mobile connections.

    Working of ASTR:

    • Human faces in subscribers’ images are encoded using convolutional neural network (CNN) models in order to account for the tilt and angle of the face, opaqueness and dark colour of the images.
    • After that, a face comparison is carried out for each face against all faces in the database, and similar faces are grouped under one directory. Two faces are concluded to be identical by ASTR if they match to the extent of at least 97.5 per cent. 
    • Once the faces are matched, ASTR’s algorithm uses what it describes as “fuzzy logic” to find similarity or approximate matches for the subscriber names.

    Significance: Need of this initiative 

    • With 117 crore subscribers, India has emerged as the second largest telecom ecosystem in the world. In addition to communication, mobile phones are being used for banking, entertainment, e-learning, healthcare, availing government services, etc.
    • It is therefore crucial that the users are protected from various frauds such as identity theft, forged KYC, theft of mobile devices, banking frauds, etc.

    Source: ET

    WHO Warns Against Artificial Sweeteners

    Syllabus: GS2/ Health

    In News

    • The World Health Organization (WHO) has released a new guideline on non-sugar sweeteners (NSS), which recommends against the use of NSS to control body weight or reduce the risk of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs).

    What are the WHO guidelines regarding use of non-sugar sweeteners?

    • Non-sugar sweeteners do not really help with weight loss. They do not confer any long-term benefit in reducing body fat in adults or children.
    • The available evidence also suggests that there may be potential undesirable effects from long-term use of NSS, such as an increased risk of Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and mortality in adults. 
    • Non-sugar sweeteners do not have any nutritional value. 
    • Earlier, according to one study, Erythritol, a popular artificial sweetener, is associated with an increased risk of heart attack and stroke.

    What are the non-sugar sweeteners (NSS) or Artificial Sweeteners?

    • Artificial sweeteners, also called non-nutritive sweeteners (NNS) refers to a substance that is made chemically to mimic sugar. They have zero calories and sometimes are even sweeter than table sugar.
    • They are 30-1,300 times sweeter than the natural sugar called sucrose. These are used in preparation of sweetened beverages, juices, dairy products, desserts, processed foods, jams and so on.
    • Common NSS include acesulfame K, aspartame, advantame, cyclamates, neotame, saccharin, sucralose, stevia and stevia derivatives.
    • The first five of these have been generally recognised as safe (GRAS) by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), USA. Stevia, a plant based sweetener that has been used in Japan since the 1970s, has not yet been approved by the FDA.

    Health Concerns  with Artificial Sweeteners

    • Saccharine was used in both World Wars for sugar rationing. In laboratory animals, it was found to induce bladder cancer. 
    • Aspartame is toxic to patients who suffer from a rare disorder called phenylketonuria. It has been blamed for brain tumours and chronic fatigue syndrome.
    • A more damaging study (published in a top journal, ‘Nature Medicine’ a few days ago) shows that an artificial sweetener, erythritol (sold singly or combined with other artificial sweeteners such as stevia), can induce thrombosis (clotting), thus having potential to cause heart attack or stroke over three years.

    Source: IE

    Pension Sector in India

    Syllabus: GS 3 / Economy

    In News

    • The 8th All India Pension Adalat was held in Delhi in May 2023.

    All India Pension Adalat

    • The Pension Adalat will be linked through Video Conferencing (VC) at different locations, where Pension Adalats are being organized by Ministries/Departments across India to take up complicated cases. 
    • The Pension Adalat initiative was started on an experimental basis in 2017 by the Department of Pension & Pensioners’ Welfare. In 2018 National Pension Adalat was held by leveraging technology for speedy resolution of Pensioners’ grievances. 
    • Till date 7 All India Pension Adalat have been organised by the Department of Pension & Pensioners’ Welfare, in which 24218 cases have been taken up and 17235 cases have been resolved.

    Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority (PFRDA)

    • Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority (PFRDA) is the regulatory body for overall supervision and regulation of pensions in India. 
    • It operates under the jurisdiction of the Union Ministry of Finance. 
    • It was established in 2003 based on the recommendations of the Indian government “OASIS” (an acronym for old age social & income security) report.
    • It is a statutory body governed by the PFRDA Act of 2013.

    National Pension System (NPS)

    • The NPS was introduced in 2004, the primary pension system for government employees.
    • NPS for government employees is a defined contribution plan with co-contribution from the government. The value of the pension corpus is marked-to-market, and accordingly, the rate of return is market determined. 
    • In 2009, NPS was extended to all the citizens of the country in the age group of 18-70 years, including the unorganised sector workers (on a voluntary basis) 
    • In 2011, PFRDA launched the “NPS-Corporate Sector Model” in 2011 to provide NPS to the employees of corporate entities, including PSUs.

    Atal Pension Yojana (APY)

    • The APY was launched in 2015. 
    • The scheme applies to all individuals aged 18-40 years, with an emphasis on underprivileged, unorganised, and low-income individuals. 
    • Subscriber will receive pension benefit on attaining the age of 60 years. Hence, the pension benefit under APY is expected to start from 2035 onwards.

    Source: PIB

    Adopting father’s surname in matrilineal Meghalaya 

    Syllabus: GS2/ Mechanisms, Laws, Institutions & Bodies for Protection & Betterment of these Sections

    In News

    • Recently, a tribal council’s order not to issue a Scheduled Tribe (ST) certificate to any Khasi person who adopts the surname of her or his father

    More about the news

    • The order:
      • The Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council (KHADC) has directed the headmen of all villages and urban localities across the Khasi domain not to issue ST certificates to those who adopt their father’s surname instead of sticking to tradition by taking their mother’s clan name. 
      • The Khasi Hills Autonomous District Khasi Social Custom of Lineage Act, 1997 also says that in order for someone to legally belong to their mother’s Khasi clan, they or their mother cannot adopt the “personal laws” of their non-Khasi father (or husband).
    • Significance:
      • KHADC claimed that the move is for the preservation and protection of the age-old tradition of the community.

    Matriliny in Meghalaya 

    • Communities:
      • The Khasis, numbering about 1.39 lakh, are one of the three indigenous matrilineal communities in the northeastern State. The other two are Garos and Jaintias. 
    • What constitutes Matriliny?
      • In this system, lineage and descent are traced through the mother’s clan, like 
        • Children take the mother’s surname, 
        • The husband moves into his wife’s house, and 
        • The youngest daughter (khatduh) of the family is bequeathed the full share of the ancestral — or the clan’s — property.
      • The khatduh becomes the “custodian” of the land.
        • She assumes all responsibility associated with the land, including taking care of aged parents, unmarried or destitute siblings. 
    • Khasi marrying non-Khasi person:
      • It is mandatory for any Khasi woman who marries a non-Khasi needs to obtain the Khasi tribe certificate for applying for the ST certificate for her children. 
    • Activism to switch to the patrilineal system:
      • Men’s rights activists among the Khasis have been fighting for switching over from the matrilineal to the patrilineal system since the 1960s.

    Difference between  ‘matrilineal’ & ‘matriarchal’ society

    • Matriliny:
      • Matriliny is formed with regard to the rules of inheritance. In matrilineal societies pass on property from mother to daughter. 
    • Matriarchy:
      • Matriarchy on the other hand is formed with regard to the exercise of authority and domination. 
      • A matriarchal family structure is where the women exercise authority and dominance.
    • The case of Meghalaya:
      • With the entire state of Meghalaya following a matrilineal system, the one thing most people tend to misuse is the word ‘matrilineal’ and mistake it to be matriarchal in nature. 
        • In the case of the Khasi community, this, however, is not true. The husband is still the head of the family and elder men have a vital part to play in society.
        • The traditional matrilineal society has always kept women out of the larger decision-making process in social institutions like the village council.

    About the Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs) 

    • About:
      • The Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs) are officially designated groups of people and among the most disadvantaged socio-economic groups in India. 
        • The terms are also recognized in the Constitution of India.
    • These communities came to be known as Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes by Clause 1 of Articles 341 and 342 of the Constitution respectively. 
    • Establishment of the National Commissions:
      • Followed by this, Articles 338, and 338-A of the Constitution of India lays down the provision for the establishment of the National Commission for the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes respectively.

    Sixth Schedule (Article 244)

    • The Sixth Schedule of the Constitution deals with the administration of the tribal areas 
      • In the four northeastern states of Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram.
    • The Governor is empowered to increase or decrease the areas or change the names of the autonomous districts. 
    • While executive powers of the Union extend in Scheduled areas with respect to their administration in Vth schedule, 
      • The VIth schedule areas remain within the executive authority of the state.
    • Jurisdiction:
      • The acts of Parliament or the state legislature do not apply to autonomous districts or are applied with specified modifications and exceptions.
      • The Councils have wide civil and criminal judicial powers, like establishing village courts etc. 
      • However, the jurisdiction of these councils is subject to the jurisdiction of the concerned High Court.
    • The sixth schedule to the Constitution includes 10 autonomous district councils in 4 states. 
      • Assam
        • Bodoland Territorial Council, 
        • Karbi Anglong Autonomous Council and 
        • Dima Hasao Autonomous District Council.
      • Meghalaya:
        • Garo Hills Autonomous District Council, 
        • Jaintia Hills Autonomous District Council and 
        • Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council.
      • Tripura: 
        • Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council.
      • Mizoram: 
        • Chakma Autonomous District Council, 
        • Lai Autonomous District Council, 
        • Mara Autonomous District Council.

    Caste Claim

    • Any person who claims to belong to a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe or Other Backward Class has to produce a certificate to the Appointing Authority/Selection Committee/Board etc. in support of his claim so as to make him eligible for reservation and various relaxations and concessions.
    • The Caste/Tribe/Community certificate issued by the appointing authorities in the prescribed form for SCs/STs and for OBCs is only accepted as proof in support of a candidate’s claim as belonging to the Scheduled Caste or the Scheduled Tribe or the Other Backward Class. 

    Source: TH

     

    Union Public Service Commission (UPSC)

    Syllabus: GS 2 / Indian Polity

    In News 

    • Manoj Soni took the Oath of Office and Secrecy as Chairman of the UPSC. He was already serving as the Chairman in charge since April 2022.

    History of UPSC

    • The Government of India Act 1919 provided for the establishment of a Public Service Commission in India for the first time. The Act embodied the Montagu-Chelmsford reforms (recommended in the report of the Secretary of State for India, Edwin Montagu, and the Viceroy, Chelmsford).
    • The Royal Commission on the Superior Civil Services in India (also known as Lee Commission) in its report submitted in the year 1924, recommended that urgent establishment of the statutory Public Service Commission as envisaged by the Government of India Act, 1919.
    • Subsequently the Public Service Commission was established on October 1, 1926 with Sir Ross Barker as the first Chairman of the Commission.
    • It was reconstituted as Federal Public Service Commission by the Government of India Act 1935.
    • With the inauguration of the Constitution of India on January 26, 1950, the Federal Public Service Commission came to be known as the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC).

    Constitutional Provisions

    • The Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) is a constitutional body headquartered in New Delhi.
    • Articles 315 to 323 of Part XIV of the constitution, titled as Services Under the Union and the States, provide for a Public Service Commission for the Union and for each state.
    • Article-315 deals with Public Service Commissions for the Union and for the States. Parliament may by law provide for the appointment of a Joint State Public Service Commission if two or more States pass a resolution for having one Public Service Commission for that group of States
    • Article-316 deals with Appointment and term of office of members.
    • Article-317 deals with Removal and suspension of a member of a Public Service Commission.
    • Article-318 deals with Power to make regulations as to conditions of service of members and staff of the Commission.
    • Article-319 deals with Prohibition as to the holding of offices by members of Commission on ceasing to be such members.
    • Article-320 deals with Functions of Public Service Commissions.
    • Article-321 deals with Power to extend functions of Public Service Commissions.
    • Article-322 deals with Expenses of Public Service Commissions.
    • Article-323 deals with Reports of Public Service Commissions.

    Functions 

    • Under Article 320 of the Constitution, UPSC is required to be consulted on all matters relating to recruitment to civil services and posts of the Union.
    • It conducts the civil services examination to select officers of the Indian Administrative Service (IAS), the Indian Foreign Service (IFS) and the Indian Police Service (IPS) and other all-India services.
    • It frames and amends Recruitment Rules for various services and posts under the Government.
    • It deals with disciplinary cases relating to different Civil Services.
    • The commission reports directly to the President and can advise the Government through him/her, although such advice is not binding on the Government.

    Composition

    • Under Art 318, the President of India is empowered to determine number of members of the Commission.
    • At present UPSC is headed by a Chairman and it can have a maximum of 10 members.  

    Appointment

    • As per Article 316, the Chairman and other members of Union Public Service Commission shall be appointed by the President of India.
    • Nearly half of the members of the Commission shall be persons who at the dates of their respective appointments have held office for at least ten years either under the Government of India or under the Government of a State.

    Service conditions

    • Under Art 318, the President of India is empowered to determine the conditions of service of members.
    • Conditions of service cannot be varied to his disadvantage after his appointment.

    Tenure 

    • A member of a UPSC shall hold office for a term of six years from the date on which he enters upon his office or until he attains the age of sixty-five years, whichever is earlier. 

    Retirement

    • As per Art 319, a person who holds office as Chairman shall, on the expiration of his term of office, be ineligible for re-appointment to that office. 
    • Other members of the UPSC shall be eligible for appointment as the Chairman of the UPSC, or as the Chairman of a State Public Service Commission, but not for any other employment either under the Government of India or under the Government of a State.

    Removal

    • Chairman or any other member of a UPSC shall only be removed from their office by order of the President on the ground of “misbehaviour” after the Supreme Court, on reference being made to it by the President, has, on inquiry, reported that they ought to be removed.
    • The President may also by order remove the Chairman or any other member of UPSC if they 
      • are adjudged an insolvent; or
      • engage during his term of office in any paid employment outside the duties of his office; or
      • in the opinion of the President, unfit to continue in office by reason of infirmity of mind or body.

    Source: TH

    Dengue

    Syllabus: GS2/ Health

    In News

    • Serum Institute of India and Panacea Biotec apply for Expression of Interest for clinical trials for indigenous manufacturers of Dengue vaccine.

    Dengue Virus (DENV)

    • Dengue is a viral infection caused by the dengue virus (DENV), transmitted to humans through the bite of infected mosquitoes.
    • DENV is a pathogenic arthropod-borne flavivirus (arbovirus), it is a single-stranded and positive-sense RNA molecule belonging to the family Flaviviridae.

     

    Geographical Distribution

    • Dengue is found in tropical and sub-tropical climates worldwide, mostly in urban and semi-urban areas.
    • Presently, DENV is prevalent throughout the different countries (at least 100 countries) including in Asia, the Pacific, the Americas, Africa, and the Caribbean. 

    Transmission

    • Transmission through the mosquito bite: The virus is transmitted to humans through the bites of infected female mosquitoes, primarily the Aedes aegypti mosquito. Other species within the Aedes genus can also act as vectors, but their contribution is secondary to Aedes aegypti.
    • Human-to-mosquito transmission: Mosquitoes can become infected by people who are viremic with DENV. This can be someone who has a symptomatic dengue infection, also people who show no signs of illness as well (they are asymptomatic).
      • Human-to-mosquito transmission can occur up to 2 days before someone shows symptoms of the illness, and up to 2 days after the fever has resolved.
    • Maternal transmission: There is evidence of the possibility of maternal transmission (from a pregnant mother to her baby). 
    • Other transmission modes: Rare cases of transmission via blood products, organ donation and transfusions have been recorded. Similarly, transovarial transmission of the virus within mosquitoes have also been recorded. 

     

    Symptoms

    • high fever (40°C/104°F)
    • severe headache
    • pain behind the eyes
    • muscle and joint pains
    • Nausea
    • Vomiting
    • swollen glands
    • rash. 
    • Individuals who are infected for the second time are at greater risk of severe dengue. Severe dengue symptoms often come after the fever has gone away:
      • severe abdominal pain
      • persistent vomiting
      • rapid breathing
      • bleeding gums or nose 
      • Fatigue
      • Restlessness
      • blood in vomit or stool
      • being very thirsty
      • pale and cold skin
      • feeling weak.

    Prevention

    • The mosquitoes that spread dengue are active during the day. The risk of getting dengue can be reduced by: 
      • clothes that cover as much of your body as possible.
      • mosquito nets if sleeping during the day, ideally nets sprayed with insect repellent window screens.
      • mosquito repellents (containing DEET, Picaridin or IR3535).
      • Avoid water collection around the house to prevent breeding of mosquitoes. If needed, one must cover water with a lid to refrain breeding. 
      • coils and vaporizers.

    Treatment

    • Rest
    • drink plenty of liquids
    • use acetaminophen (paracetamol) for pain
    • avoid non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, like ibuprofen and aspirin
    • watch for severe symptoms.
    • So far one vaccine (Dengvaxia) has been approved and licensed in some countries. However, only persons with evidence of past dengue infection can be protected by this vaccine. Several additional dengue vaccine candidates are under evaluation.

    Vaccines Proposed

    • Two potential vaccines that Serum Institute of India initiated is to conduct Phase-III randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trials in 10,335 healthy adults (aged 18-80 years) in 20 sites (ICMR-funded).
    • The Phase-III protocol has been approved by the Drugs Controller General of India (January 2023) and the company is trying to upscale vaccine production with the trials expected to start in August-September this year.
    • ICMR has noted that the desirable characteristics of a dengue vaccine includes acceptable short- and long-term safety profile (no antibody dependent enhancement), inducing protection against all four serotypes of dengue, reducing risk of severe diseases and deaths, inducing a sustained immune response and effectiveness irrespective of the earlier sero-status and age of the individual.

    Why India Sees Massive Dengue Outbreaks Every Year

    • Poor sewer systems lead to pooling of water in many of the cities in India which leads to breeding of mosquitoes.
    • Many people store water in their habitat because of shortage of water in many parts of India. This makes the place perfect for breeding mosquitoes.
    • There are no adequate efforts from the government to develop a vaccine against Dengue because of other prevalent health conditions.
    • Lack of awareness in the community to prevent mosquito bites and to avoid breeding places for mosquitoes.

    Source: TH

    Spurious Liquor

    Syllabus: GS2/Health/Governance

    In News

    • 22 people had died after consuming spurious liquor in the districts of Tamil Nadu.

    What is the alcohol in liquor?

    • Liquor is differentiated by its alcohol content — from the 5% or so of beer to the 12% or so of wine to the 40% or so of distilled spirits (all by volume). 
    • In the beverages consumed for recreational purposes, the alcohol in question is almost always ethanol. Technically, ethanol is a psychoactive drug that, in low doses, reduces the level of neurotransmission in the body, leading to its typical intoxicating effects.
    • The World Health Organization has found that no level of its consumption is safe for health. Long-term use leads to dependence, heightens the risk of some cancers and heart disease, and may eventually cause death.

    What is spurious liquor?

    • Spurious liquor is characterised by the liquid mixture containing methanol as well. 
    • In many cases, such liquor is typically a home-made liquor, such as arrack, to which methanol was added to strengthen the intoxicating effects  or to increase its bulk volume.
    • The Food Safety and Standards (Alcoholic Beverages) Regulations 2018 stipulate the maximum permissible quantity of methanol in different liquors. These values span a wide range, including “absent” in coconut fenny, 50 grams per 100 litres in country liquor, and 300 grams per 100 litres in pot-distilled spirits.

    What is methanol (CH3OH)?

    • The most common way to produce methanol is to combine carbon monoxide and hydrogen in the presence of copper and zinc oxides as catalysts at 50-100 atm of pressure and 250°C. 
    • Methanol has several industrial applications, including as a precursor to acetic acid, formaldehyde, and aromatic hydrocarbons. It is also used as a solvent and as antifreeze. 

    How does spurious liquor kill?

    • The deadliness of spurious liquor arises from methanol.
    • The human body contains infinitesimal quantities of methanol (4.5 ppm in the breath of healthy individuals, per a 2006 study) as a result of eating some fruits. But even for an adult, more than 0.1 ml of pure methanol per kilogram of body-weight can be devastating.
    • Once ingested, methanol is metabolised in the liver by ADH enzymes to form formaldehyde (H-CHO). Then ALDH enzymes convert formaldehyde to formic acid (HCOOH). 
    • The accumulation of formic acid over time leads to a baneful condition called metabolic acidosis. Acidosis can lead to acidemia, a condition wherein the blood’s pH drops below its normal value of 7.35, becoming increasingly acidic. 
    • Consuming methanol also leads to methanol-induced optic neuropathy, a serious condition that may result in long-term or irreversible visual impairment or even blindness.
    • Methanol-poisoning can also cause cerebral edema, haemorrhage, and death.

    How can such poisoning be treated?

    • Once methanol is ingested, the body takes some time to completely eliminate it. One estimate suggests that as much as 33% is still left behind after 48 hours. 
    • There are two immediate ways to treat methanol poisoning. 
      • One is to administer ethanol: Ethanol competes very well with methanol for the ADH enzymes. As a result, the methanol is kept from being metabolised to formaldehyde.
      • The other option is to administer an antidote called fomepizole, which has a similar mechanism — it slows the action of the ADH enzymes, causing the body to produce formaldehyde at a rate that the body can quickly excrete, preventing the deadlier effects from kicking in. 
    • Healthcare workers may also have the individual undertake a dialysis to remove methanol and formic acid salts from the blood, and mitigate damage to the kidneys and retina.
    • If the individual consumed ethanol along with the methanol, the damage may not be evident until after a few days, further delaying treatment and increasing mortality.

    Alcohol Prohibition in India

    • Currently, there are five states (Bihar, Gujarat, Lakshadweep, Nagaland, and Mizoram) with total prohibition and some more with partial prohibition.
    • State Subject: Although the prohibition of alcohol use is encouraged in the constitution of India (Article 47, DPSP), alcohol policy is a state subject. 
      • States are having full control of alcohol-related legislation, excise rates and the production, distribution and sale of alcohol. 

    Arguments in favour of Liquor ban

    • Not a loss of revenue: it is possible to have a robust economy even without selling liquor. If the government ensures that there are zero tax evasions, black money stashed abroad is brought back to the country and corruption is controlled in the government.
    • DPSP: the state government has a responsibility to safeguard public health. The Directive Principles of State Policy clearly say that the State is responsible for raising the level of nutrition, standard of living and public health.
    • Injurious to Health: It is known to everyone that liquor is injurious to health and no doctor has ever suggested that liquor will improve a person’s health. It causes damage not only to the liver but also hampers the functioning of the entire body.
    • Affects poor people: In poor households where a person is addicted to alcohol, a major share of the household income which should have been spent for betterment of standard of life goes into liquor.
    • Social Issues: Liquor is also the reason behind perpetuating domestic violence, hampering of family bonds, couples getting divorced and children getting neglected.
    • Addiction and rise in crimes: With easy availability of liquor youngsters are getting addicted. As far as crimes are concerned, it appears that a large percentage of crimes are committed under the influence of alcohol.
    • Crime rate: If the government prohibits liquor it will also result in a decline in the crime rate.

    Arguments against Liquor ban

    • Revenue for the Government: The government argues that the sale of liquor provides it with good revenue in terms of excise duty and that the money is required to develop the economy.
    • The Legal Angle: A rise in crime due to withdrawal symptoms and an inability to find and consume alcohol would be a major problem.
    • Rise in violent crime: This is indicative because if someone wants to consume alcohol under prohibition, then they will have to employ illegal methods. This is the fear that is there behind prohibiting alcohol.
    • Right to Liquor: The arguments that support the contention that the Fundamental Rights guaranteed under the Indian Constitution include the right to consume and trade liquor mainly pertain to Articles 21 and 19(1)(g) of the Constitution.

    Way Forward

    • Not a fundamental Right: Presently, no Indian citizen has the fundamental right to consume and trade liquor. Respective state governments have a monopoly over the liquor market in India. 
    • Awareness: Experts continue to advocate awareness and not prohibition to be the way to go especially in states where the law already prohibits the use of it.
    • Inelastic behaviour: Experts continue to argue that alcohol consumption is inelastic, and this is true for states that don’t have a ban on liquor and yet see a huge spike in deaths due to spurious liquor consumption.

    Source: TH

    Sanchar Saathi Initiative

    Syllabus: GS 3 / Science and Technology

    In News 

    • Union Minister of Communications launched the Sanchar Saathi portal to ensure Safety and security of the users.

    Sanchar Saathi initiative

    • The Department of Telecom has developed a citizen centric portal named Sanchar Saathi.
    • It has following modules:
      • Know your mobile connections – to know mobile connections registered in your name.
      • CEIR (Central Equipment Identity Register) – for blocking stolen/lost mobiles.
      • Telecom Analytics for Fraud Management and Consumer Protection (TAFCOP)
      • ASTR (Artificial Intelligence and Facial Recognition powered Solution for Telecom SIM Subscriber Verification) – to identify fraudulent subscribers.

    Know Your Mobile

    • It facilitates the citizens to check the genuineness of IMEI of their mobile device.
    • The International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) is the 15-digit numbers that uniquely identify each mobile device.
    • Phones with a dual-SIM option have two IMEI numbers, one for each SIM. The IMEI number can help network providers track down a device in case it gets stolen or is lost. 
    • The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has made it mandatory for mobile phone manufacturers to register the IMEI of all handsets made in India with the government. 

    Centralized Equipment Identity Register (CEIR)

    • CEIR is the citizen centric portal of the Department of Telecommunications for tracing the lost/stolen mobile devices. 
    • This also facilitates blocking of lost/stolen mobile devices in the network of all telecom operators so that lost/stolen devices cannot be used in India. 
    • In case anyone tries to use the stolen device, the system allows Law Enforcement Agencies to trace the device. Once a mobile phone is found it may be unblocked on the portal for its normal use by the citizens.
    • It also prevents mobile devices with inaccurate or forged IMEIs being used in Indian networks.

    Telecom Analytics for Fraud Management and Consumer Protection (TAFCOP)

    • TAFCOP module facilitates a mobile subscriber to check the number of mobile connections taken in his/her name using paper-based documents. 
    • The system allows users to report fraudulent connections. It also allows users to block the connections which are not required.

    ASTR

    • ASTR stands for “Artificial Intelligence and Facial Recognition powered Solution for Telecom SIM Subscriber Verification”.
    • This artificial-intelligence-based facial recognition tool has the capability of running checks on subscriber databases of telecom operators to deduce whether it contains multiple connections associated with the same person. 
    • The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) allows an individual to take nine legitimate mobile phone connections using a single identity proof. Thus, in essence, the ASTR looks up if there are more than nine connections against a single individual’s photograph.
    • It can potentially bring down cyber frauds by detecting and blocking possible fraudulent mobile connections.

    Working of ASTR:

    • Human faces in subscribers’ images are encoded using convolutional neural network (CNN) models in order to account for the tilt and angle of the face, opaqueness and dark colour of the images.
    • After that, a face comparison is carried out for each face against all faces in the database, and similar faces are grouped under one directory. Two faces are concluded to be identical by ASTR if they match to the extent of at least 97.5 per cent. 
    • Once the faces are matched, ASTR’s algorithm uses what it describes as “fuzzy logic” to find similarity or approximate matches for the subscriber names.

    Significance: Need of this initiative 

    • With 117 crore subscribers, India has emerged as the second largest telecom ecosystem in the world. In addition to communication, mobile phones are being used for banking, entertainment, e-learning, healthcare, availing government services, etc.
    • It is therefore crucial that the users are protected from various frauds such as identity theft, forged KYC, theft of mobile devices, banking frauds, etc.

    Source: ET

    Facts In News

    WHO Warns Against Artificial Sweeteners

    Syllabus: GS2/ Health

    In News

    • The World Health Organization (WHO) has released a new guideline on non-sugar sweeteners (NSS), which recommends against the use of NSS to control body weight or reduce the risk of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs).

    What are the WHO guidelines regarding use of non-sugar sweeteners?

    • Non-sugar sweeteners do not really help with weight loss. They do not confer any long-term benefit in reducing body fat in adults or children.
    • The available evidence also suggests that there may be potential undesirable effects from long-term use of NSS, such as an increased risk of Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and mortality in adults. 
    • Non-sugar sweeteners do not have any nutritional value. 
    • Earlier, according to one study, Erythritol, a popular artificial sweetener, is associated with an increased risk of heart attack and stroke.

    What are the non-sugar sweeteners (NSS) or Artificial Sweeteners?

    • Artificial sweeteners, also called non-nutritive sweeteners (NNS) refers to a substance that is made chemically to mimic sugar. They have zero calories and sometimes are even sweeter than table sugar.
    • They are 30-1,300 times sweeter than the natural sugar called sucrose. These are used in preparation of sweetened beverages, juices, dairy products, desserts, processed foods, jams and so on.
    • Common NSS include acesulfame K, aspartame, advantame, cyclamates, neotame, saccharin, sucralose, stevia and stevia derivatives.
    • The first five of these have been generally recognised as safe (GRAS) by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), USA. Stevia, a plant based sweetener that has been used in Japan since the 1970s, has not yet been approved by the FDA.

    Health Concerns  with Artificial Sweeteners

    • Saccharine was used in both World Wars for sugar rationing. In laboratory animals, it was found to induce bladder cancer. 
    • Aspartame is toxic to patients who suffer from a rare disorder called phenylketonuria. It has been blamed for brain tumours and chronic fatigue syndrome.
    • A more damaging study (published in a top journal, ‘Nature Medicine’ a few days ago) shows that an artificial sweetener, erythritol (sold singly or combined with other artificial sweeteners such as stevia), can induce thrombosis (clotting), thus having potential to cause heart attack or stroke over three years.

    Source: IE

    Pension Sector in India

    Syllabus: GS 3 / Economy

    In News

    • The 8th All India Pension Adalat was held in Delhi in May 2023.

    All India Pension Adalat

    • The Pension Adalat will be linked through Video Conferencing (VC) at different locations, where Pension Adalats are being organized by Ministries/Departments across India to take up complicated cases. 
    • The Pension Adalat initiative was started on an experimental basis in 2017 by the Department of Pension & Pensioners’ Welfare. In 2018 National Pension Adalat was held by leveraging technology for speedy resolution of Pensioners’ grievances. 
    • Till date 7 All India Pension Adalat have been organised by the Department of Pension & Pensioners’ Welfare, in which 24218 cases have been taken up and 17235 cases have been resolved.

    Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority (PFRDA)

    • Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority (PFRDA) is the regulatory body for overall supervision and regulation of pensions in India. 
    • It operates under the jurisdiction of the Union Ministry of Finance. 
    • It was established in 2003 based on the recommendations of the Indian government “OASIS” (an acronym for old age social & income security) report.
    • It is a statutory body governed by the PFRDA Act of 2013.

    National Pension System (NPS)

    • The NPS was introduced in 2004, the primary pension system for government employees.
    • NPS for government employees is a defined contribution plan with co-contribution from the government. The value of the pension corpus is marked-to-market, and accordingly, the rate of return is market determined. 
    • In 2009, NPS was extended to all the citizens of the country in the age group of 18-70 years, including the unorganised sector workers (on a voluntary basis) 
    • In 2011, PFRDA launched the “NPS-Corporate Sector Model” in 2011 to provide NPS to the employees of corporate entities, including PSUs.

    Atal Pension Yojana (APY)

    • The APY was launched in 2015. 
    • The scheme applies to all individuals aged 18-40 years, with an emphasis on underprivileged, unorganised, and low-income individuals. 
    • Subscriber will receive pension benefit on attaining the age of 60 years. Hence, the pension benefit under APY is expected to start from 2035 onwards.

    Source: PIB