23 March 2019

UPSC Prelims 2019

Paper 2:

Topics covered:

  1. Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
  2. Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.

 

Indian Forest Act amendment

 

What to study?

  • For Prelims: Key features of the Indian Forest Act and amendments.
  • For Mains: Need for review and the expected outcomes.

 

Context: In an attempt to address contemporary challenges to India’s forests, the government is amending the Indian Forest Act, 1927.

 

Highlights of the draft:

The amendment accords significant powers to India’s forest officers — including the power issue search warrants, enter and investigate lands within their jurisdictions, and to provide indemnity to forest officers using arms to prevent forest-related offences.

Forest-officer not below the rank of a Ranger shall have power to hold an inquiry into forest offences and shall have the powers to search or issue a search warrant under the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.

The amendment defines community as “a group of persons specified on the basis of government records living in a specific locality and in joint possession and enjoyment of common property resources, without regard to race, religion, caste, language and culture”.

Forest is defined to include “any government or private or institutional land recorded or notified as forest/forest land in any government record and the lands managed by government/community as forest and mangroves, and also any land which the central or state government may by notification declare to be forest for the purpose of this Act.”

“Village forests”, according to the proposed Act, may be forestland or wasteland, which is the property of the government and would be jointly managed by the community through the Joint Forest Management Committee or Gram Sabha.

The legislation also proposes a forest development cess of up to 10% of the assessed value of mining products removed from forests, and water used for irrigation or in industries. This amount would be deposited in a special fund and used “exclusively for reforestation; forest protection and other ancillary purposes connected with tree planting, forest development and conservation,” the draft document noted.

While the preamble of IFA, 1927, said the Act was focused on laws related to transport of forest produce and the tax on it, the amendment has increased the focus to “conservation, enrichment and sustainable management of forest resources and matters connected therewith to safeguard ecological stability to ensure provision of ecosystem services in perpetuity and to address the concerns related to climate change and international commitments”.

Increased role of states: The amendments say if the state government, after consultation with the central government, feels that the rights under FRA will hamper conservation efforts, then the state “may commute such rights by paying such persons a sum of money in lieu thereof, or grant of land, or in such other manner as it thinks fit, to maintain the social organisation of the forest dwelling communities or alternatively set out some other forest tract of sufficient extent, and in a locality reasonably convenient, for the purpose of such forest dwellers”.

The amendment also introduces a new category of forests — production forest. These will be forests with specific objectives for production of timber, pulp, pulpwood, firewood, non-timber forest produce, medicinal plants or any forest species to increase production in the country for a specified period.

 

Indian Forest Act, 1927:

  • The Indian Forest Act, 1927 was largely based on previous Indian Forest Acts implemented under the British. The most famous one was the Indian Forest Act of 1878.
  • Both the 1878 act and the 1927 one sought to consolidate and reserve the areas having forest cover, or significant wildlife, to regulate movement and transit of forest produce, and duty leviable on timber and other forest produce.
  • It also defines the procedure to be followed for declaring an area to be a Reserved Forest, a Protected Forest or a Village Forest.
  • It defines what a forest offence is, what are the acts prohibited inside a Reserved Forest, and penalties leviable on violation of the provisions of the Act.

 

The need for review:

Many reports like the MB Shah report of 2010 and the TSR Subramanian report of 2015, have talked about amending the IFA.

 

Sources: the hindu.


Paper 2:

Topics covered:

  1. India and its neighbourhood- relations.
  2. Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests
  3. Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora.

 

‘Belt and Road’ initiative

 

What to study?

  • For Prelims: Key features of BRI.
  • For Mains: India’s concerns, ways to address them and global implications of the project.

 

Context: Italy set to become first G7 country to join ‘Belt and Road’ initiative.

 

Outcomes:

  • Italy’s decision to get closer to Beijing has caused concern amongst its Western allies — notably in Washington, where the White House National Security Council urged Rome not to give” legitimacy to China’s infrastructure vanity project”.
  • Critics of the BRI say it is designed to bolster China’s political and military influence, bringing little reward to other nations, and warn that it could be used to spread technologies capable of spying on Western interests.

 

BRI:

BRI consisting of the land-based belt, ‘Silk Road Economic Belt’, and ‘Maritime Silk Road’, aims to connect the East Asian economic region with the European economic circle and runs across the continents of Asia, Europe and Africa.

BRI is China’s ambitious project announced in 2013. It covers about 65% of the world population, 60% of the world GDP and over 70 countries in six economic corridors.

  • China is spending almost $1 trillion to revive and renew the overland and maritime trade links between China, Europe, West Asia, and East Africa through construction of modern ports linked to high-speed road and rail corridors.

 

India’s concerns with BRI:

India argues that the BRI and China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project violates its sovereignty because it passes through the part of the Pakistan-occupied Kashmir that belongs to India.

Debt trap: BRI projects are pushing recipient countries into indebtedness, do not transfer skills or technology and are environmentally unsustainable.

China is planning to extend the CPEC to Afghanistan. Meanwhile, Maldives, Nepal, Myanmar and Sri Lanka are eagerly pursuing potential BRI projects.

Through OBOR, China is countering the strategies of India in North East region and is promoting its greater presence in North East India, part of which China claims as its own territory. This may have a security impact on India.

Tense bilateral relations with China, deep mistrusts and India’s growing concerns over Chinese hegemonic intentions in South Asia and Indo-Pacific region make it practically unlikely that India will ever consider joining this project.

Military deployment: The fact that the Chinese have begun to deploy 30,000 security personnel to protect the projects along the CPEC route makes it an active player in the politics of the Indian sub-continent. Clearly, this is a case of double standards.

 

Sources: the hindu.

Mains Question: Do you think China’s motives behind the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) truly benign? Critically comment


Paper 2 and 3:

Topics Covered:

  1. Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
  2. Role of external state and non-state actors in creating challenges to internal security.

 

Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA)

 

What to study?

  • For Prelims: UAPA- features.
  • For Mains: UAPA- reforms and need for reforms.

 

Context: Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has banned separatist Yasin Malik’s Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) under the anti-terror law, Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 (UAPA). The move comes days after the Centre banned Jamat-e-Islami (JeI-J&K) under Section 3(1) of the UAPA.

 

 

About the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA):

  1. This law is aimed at effective prevention of unlawful activities associations in India.
  2. Its main objective is to make powers available for dealing with activities directed against the integrity and sovereignty of India.
  3. The Act makes it a crime to support any secessionist movement or to support claims by a foreign power to what India claims as its territory.
  4. The UAPA, framed in 1967, has been amended twice since: first in 2008 and then in 2012.

 

The law is contested for few draconian provisions:

  1. The Act introduces a vague definition of terrorism to encompass a wide range of non-violent political activity, including political protest.
  2. It empowers the government to declare an organisation as ‘terrorist’ and ban it. Mere membership of such a proscribed organisation itself becomes a criminal offence.
  3. It allows detention without a chargesheet for up to 180 days and police custody can be up to 30 days.
  4. It creates a strong presumption against bail and anticipatory bail is out of the question. It creates a presumption of guilt for terrorism offences merely based on the evidence allegedly seized.
  5. It authorises the creation of special courts, with wide discretion to hold in-camera proceedings (closed-door hearings) and use secret witnesses but contains no sunset clause and provisions for mandatory periodic review.

 

Sources: the hindu.

Mains Question: The ambiguous nature of Unlawful Activities Prevention Act,1967 (UAPA) gives unreasonable power to authorities. Examine. 


Paper 3:

Topics Covered:

  1. Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life Achievements of Indians in science & technology; indigenization of technology and developing new technology.

 

Matter-Antimatter

 

What to study?

For Prelims and Mains: What is matter and antimatter?

 

Context: Physicists from the Large Hadron Collider beauty (LHCb) Collaboration at CERN have observed, for the first time, the matter-antimatter asymmetry known as charge-parity (CP) violation in the decays of a D0 meson, a subatomic particle made up of a charm quark and an up antiquark.

 

What is charge parity and cp violation?

The term CP refers to the transformation that swaps a particle with the mirror image of its antiparticle.

  • The weak interactions of the Standard Model of particle physics are known to induce a difference in the behavior of some particles and of their CP counterparts, an asymmetry known as CP violation.
  • This asymmetry is one of the key ingredients required to explain why today’s Universe is only composed of matter particles, with essentially no residual presence of antimatter.

 

What you need to know about matter and antimatter?

  • The universe consists of a massive imbalance between matter and antimatter. Antimatter and matter are actually the same, but have opposite charges, but there’s hardly any antimatter in the observable universe, including the stars and other galaxies. In theory, there should be large amounts of antimatter, but the observable universe is mostly matter.
  • This great imbalance between matter and antimatter is all tangible matter, including life forms, exists, but scientists don’t understand why.

 

What happens when matter and antimatter meet?

  • When antimatter and matter meet, they annihilate, and the result is light and nothing else. Given equal amounts of matter and antimatter, nothing would remain once the reaction was completed. As long as we don’t know why more matter exists, we can’t know why the building blocks of anything else exist, either.
  • This is one of the biggest unsolved problems in physics. Researchers call this the “baryon asymmetry” problem. Baryons are subatomic particles, including protons and neutrons. All baryons have a corresponding antibaryon, which is mysteriously rare. The standard model of physics explains several aspects of the forces of nature. It explains how atoms become molecules, and it explains the particles that make up atoms.

Sources: et.


Paper 3:

Topics Covered:

  1. Awareness in space.

 

Aurora

 

What to study?

For Prelims and Mains: Aurora- features, types, causes and effects.

 

Context: Geostorm offers Northern US rare chance to see aurora borealis.

 

What is Aurora?

An Aurora is a display of light in the sky predominantly seen in the high latitude regions (Arctic and Antarctic). It is also known as a Polar light.

 

Types:

There are two types- the aurora borealis and aurora australis – often called the northern lights and southern lights.

 

Where do they occur?

They commonly occur at high northern and southern latitudes, less frequent at mid-latitudes, and seldom seen near the equator.

 

Colors:

While usually a milky greenish color, auroras can also show red, blue, violet, pink, and white. These colors appear in a variety of continuously changing shapes.

 

Science behind their occurrence:

  • Auroras are a spectacular sign that our planet is electrically connected to the Sun. These light shows are provoked by energy from the Sun and fueled by electrically charged particles trapped in Earth’s magnetic field.
  • The typical aurora is caused by collisions between fast-moving electrons from space with the oxygen and nitrogen in Earth’s upper atmosphere.
  • The electrons—which come from the Earth’s magnetosphere, the region of space controlled by Earth’s magnetic field —transfer their energy to the oxygen and nitrogen atoms and molecules, making them “excited”.
  • As the gases return to their normal state, they emit photons, small bursts of energy in the form of light.
  • When a large number of electrons come from the magnetosphere to bombard the atmosphere, the oxygen and nitrogen can emit enough light for the eye to detect, giving us beautiful auroral displays.

 

Where do they origin?

They origin at altitudes of 100 to more than 400 km.

 

Why do auroras come in different colors and shapes?

The color of the aurora depends on which gas — oxygen or nitrogen — is being excited by the electrons, and on how excited it becomes. The color also depends upon how fast the electrons are moving, or how much energy they have at the time of their collisions.

High energy electrons cause oxygen to emit green light (the most familiar color of the aurora), while low energy electrons cause a red light. Nitrogen generally gives off a blue light.

The blending of these colors can also lead to purples, pinks, and whites. The oxygen and nitrogen also emit ultraviolet light, which can be detected by special cameras on satellites.

 

Effects:

  • Auroras affect communication lines, radio lines and power lines.
  • It should also be noted here that Sun’s energy, in the form of solar wind, is behind the whole process.

Sources: ie.


Paper 3:

Topics Covered:

  1. Awareness in space.

 

PRISMA Earth observation satellite

 

What to study?

For Prelims and Mains: PRISMA- features, objectives and significance.

 

Context: A European Vega rocket has put PRISM- a new Earth-observation satellite into orbit for the Italian Space Agency.

 

About PRISMA:

PRISMA (an Italian acronym for Hyperspectral Precursor of the Application Mission) is designed to provide information about environmental monitoring, resources management, pollution and crop health.

  • The satellite includes a medium resolution camera that can view across all visual wavelengths, as well as a hyperspectral imager that can capture a wider range of wavelengths between 400 and 2500 nanometers.
  • The satellite will operate in a sun-synchronous orbit, meaning that it circles the Earth in such a way that the sun is always in the same position as the satellite takes pictures of the planet below.
  • The mission can provide a unique contribution to the observations of natural resources and in the study of key environmental processes, such as interaction between atmosphere, biosphere and hydrosphere, observation of global climate change and effects of human activities ecosystems.

 

Sources: toi.


Facts for Prelims:

 

Langkawi International Maritime Aero Expo (LIMA) 2019

What is it?

Langkawi International Maritime Aero Expo (LIMA-2019) is being held in Langkawi, Malaysia. Indian Air Force is participating in the Maritime Aero Expo for the first time, during which it will showcase its indigenously developed LCA fighter aircraft.

 


Summaries of Important Editorials:

 

United Nations Calls for Registry of Human Gene-Editing Projects:

Context: An advisory panel to the World Health Organization has called for the creation of a global registry to monitor gene-editing research in humans.

 

What necessitated this?

  • Gene editing holds incredible promise for health, but it also poses some risks, both ethically and medically.
  • The World Health Organization (WHO), an agency of the United Nations, is trying to sort out how scientists could responsibly alter human genomes in their labs — an effort to prevent the next He Jiankui from performing unpublicized genetic experiments on human subjects.
  • The recommendations of the 18-person committee, which was established following news late last year that Chinese scientist He Jiankui had carried out human gene editing in secret, are aimed at improving transparency and responsibility in the field.

 

What are Genes and what is gene- editing?

Genes contain the bio-information that defines any individual. Physical attributes like height, skin or hair colour, more subtle features and even behavioural traits can be attributed to information encoded in the genetic material.

An ability to alter this information gives scientists the power to control some of these features. Gene “editing” — sometimes expressed in related, but not always equivalent, terms like genetic modification, genetic manipulation or genetic engineering — is not new.

 

What is CRISPR-Cas9?

  • The clustered, regularly interspaced, short palindromic repeats, or CRISPR/CRISPR-associated protein 9 (Cas9) (CRISPR-Cas9) system has revolutionised genetic manipulations and made gene editing simpler, faster and easily accessible to most laboratories.
  • CRISPR technology is basically a gene-editing technology that can be used for the purpose of altering genetic expression or changing the genome of an organism.
  • The technology can be used for targeting specific stretches of an entire genetic code or editing the DNA at particular locations.
  • CRISPR technology is a simple yet powerful tool for editing genomes. It allows researchers to easily alter DNA sequences and modify gene function.
  • Its many potential applications include correcting genetic defects, treating and preventing the spread of diseases and improving crops. However, its promise also raises ethical concerns.

 

How it works?

  • CRISPR-Cas9 technology behaves like a cut-and-paste mechanism on DNA strands that contain genetic information.
  • The specific location of the genetic codes that need to be changed, or “edited”, is identified on the DNA strand, and then, using the Cas9 protein, which acts like a pair of scissors, that location is cut off from the strand. A DNA strand, when broken, has a natural tendency to repair itself.
  • Scientists intervene during this auto-repair process, supplying the desired sequence of genetic codes that binds itself with the broken DNA strand.

 

Concerns:

Tampering with the genetic code in human beings is more contentious. Leading scientists in the field have for long been calling for a “global pause” on clinical applications of the technology in human beings, until internationally accepted protocols are developed.

 

Ethical challenges:

  • Bioethicists expressed concern over the clinical application of such research. These are still early days in a new frontier of genome engineering.
  • Bioethicists fear abuse of gene editing, not just by misguided governments but also by the private sector preying on a parent’s desire to create a perfect child.
  • It can create unforeseen changes in the genome which are undesirable.
  • It has also been ethically questioned whether editing gene to create babies that parents desires would make them more like commodities.
  • Safety: Due to the possibility of off-target effects (edits in the wrong place) and mosaicism (when some cells carry the edit but others do not), safety is of primary concern.
  • Informed Consent: Some people worry that it is impossible to obtain informed consent for germline therapy because the patients affected by the edits are the embryo and future generations.
  • Researchers and bioethicists also worry about the possibility of obtaining truly informed consent from prospective parents as long as the risks of germline therapy are unknown.
  • Justice and Equity: As with many new technologies, there is concern that genome editing will only be accessible to the wealthy and will increase existing disparities in access to health care and other interventions. Some worry that taken to its extreme, germline editing could create classes of individuals defined by the quality of their engineered genome.

 

Way ahead:

This CRISPR technology is indeed a path-breaking technology, to alter genes in order to tackle a number of conventional and unconventional problems, especially in the health sector. However, experiments and tests to validate its use must be subjected to appropriate scrutiny by the regulators, and their use must be controlled to prevent commercial misuse.

 

 

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