Today's Headlines

Today's Headlines - 01 May 2023

Ambitious genome project

GS Paper - 3 (Biotechnology)

Scientists unveiled the results of a project comparing the genomes of 240 mammal species – from aardvarks and aye-ayes to zebus and zebras, as well as people – to trace evolutionary changes spanning 100 million years, pinpointing genetic traits widely shared and those more uniquely human.


  1. The findings in the ambitious Zoonomia Project identified parts of the genome functionally important in people and other mammals and showed how certain mutations can cause disease.
  2. The project revealed the genetics of uncommon mammalian traits like hibernation and showed how the sense of smell varies widely.
  3. The researchers said the findings on hibernation genetics could inform human therapeutics, critical care and long-distance space flight.
  4. The Zoonomia findings also can help identify genetic mutations that lead to disease, with one study scrutinizing patients with a brain cancer called medulloblastoma.
  5. The findings, detailed in 11 studies published in the journal Science, involved placentals, by far the world’s most common mammalian assemblage, and known for giving birth to well-developed babies, and not egg-laying monotremes or pouched marsupials.
  6. The project examined most existing mammalian lineages, though only 4% of species.
  7. They ranged in size from the North Pacific right whale, at 59 feet (18 meters) long, to the bumblebee bat, at 1.2 inches (3 cm) long. Our closest evolutionary relatives – chimpanzees and bonobos – were included, along with the western lowland gorilla and Sumatran orangutan.
  8. Zoonomia demonstrated how some mammals have a very keen sense of smell – Hoffman’s two-toed sloth, the nine-banded armadillo and the African savanna elephant – while others have almost none – whales and dolphins. Humans were somewhat average.


India, Russia on accepting RuPay and Mir cards

GS Paper -2 (International Relations)

India and Russia will explore the possibility of accepting RuPay and Mir cards in each other's country for hassle-free payments amid sanctions imposed by the West on Moscow.

More about the news

  1. In the recent high-level Internal Governmental Commission meeting on Trade, Economic, Scientific, Technological and Cultural Cooperation (IRIGC-TEC), it was discussed and agreed to explore the opportunity of allowing acceptance of these cards.
  2. The mutual acceptance of RuPay (India) and Mir cards (Russia) will help Indian and Russian citizens to make hassle-free payments in Indian rupees and Russian ruble in their respective countries.
  3. It was also agreed to explore the possibility of interaction with the Unified Payments Interface (UPI) of National Payment Corporation of India and the Faster Payments System (FPS) of the Bank of Russia.
  4. It was also agreed to look at adopting the Russian financial messaging system, Services Bureau of Financial Messaging System of the Bank of Russia, for cross border payments. Currently, overseas payments from India and vice versa are through the SWIFT network.

Such payment system between India and Singapore:

  1. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong launched the cross-border connectivity between UPI and PayNow.
  2. Linkage of India's Unified Payments Interface (UPI) and Singapore's PayNow, allows people in the two countries to undertake faster and cost-efficient digital transfers.
  3. It will also help the Indian diaspora in Singapore, especially migrant workers and students, through instantaneous and low-cost transfer of money from Singapore to India and vice versa.
  4. The PayNow-UPI linkage is the world's first real-time payment systems linkage to use a scalable cloud-based infrastructure that can accommodate future increases in the volume of remittance traffic.
  5. To begin with, the State Bank of India, Indian Overseas Bank, Indian Bank and ICICI Bank will facilitate both inward and outward remittances while Axis Bank and DBS India will facilitate inward remittances.


  1. The UPI was launched in 2016, and it has emerged as the most popular and preferred payment mode pioneering person-to-person and person-to-merchant transactions, accounting for 75% of the total digital payments.
  2. The volume of UPI transactions has increased manifold from 0.45 crore in January 2017 to 804 crore in January 2023. The value of UPI transactions has increased from just ₹1,700 crore to ₹12.98 lakh crore during the same period.
  3. National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) was incorporated in 2008 as an umbrella organisation for operating retail payments and settlement systems in India.
  4. It has created a robust payment and settlement infrastructure in the country. It facilitates payments through a bouquet of retail payment products such as RuPay card, Immediate Payment Service (IMPS), UPI, Bharat Interface for Money (BHIM), BHIM Aadhaar, National Electronic Toll Collection (NETC Fastag) and Bharat BillPay.


Automated GST return scrutiny system

GS Paper-3 (Economy)

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, in a review meeting with the Central Board of Indirect Taxes & Customs (CBIC) asked the tax authorities to introduce an automated GST return scrutiny system by next week.

More about the news:

  1. It also urged the indirect tax department to do a comprehensive study of the typology of cases in order to intensify the drive against fake billing/input tax credit under the Goods and Services Tax (GST) regime and take measures to increase the taxpayer base.
  2. The total Indirect tax collections for the financial year 2022-23 stood at Rs 13.82 lakh crore, up from Rs 12.89 lakh crore in 2021-22 but slightly lower than the revised estimate of Rs 13.85 lakh crore for FY23.

Why the need of such exercise?

  1. The aim is to implement an action plan to increase the taxpayer base through enhanced use of technology.
  2. GST evasion and frauds has emerged as one of the key concerns of tax authorities. As GST rate tweaks expected before the general elections next year, in a bid to bolster revenue collections, tax authorities have identified registration-linked frauds as one of the key focus areas for tighter scrutiny in the financial year 2023-24.
  3. The effort is to analyse state-wise data for 30-32 sectors, for such instances of tax evasion.
  4. The average gross monthly GST collection for 2022-23 stood at Rs 1.51 lakh crore and monthly GST revenue collections exceeded Rs 1.4 lakh crore for 12 months in a row.

For addressing grievances:

  1. It also emphasised the need for continuously improving taxpayer services such as grievance redressal in each zone.
  2. There is need for interactions to be organised between members of trade and industry that are part of the GST ecosystem to know their issues and suggestions to systematically identify matters to resolve them.
  3. To improve the quality of redressal, there is a need to put in place a system to take feedback on grievances redressed.

Way forward

The comprehensive review covered a variety of work areas, including trade facilitation, taxpayer services, grievance redressal of the trade, finalisation of disciplinary cases and infrastructure projects.


Supreme Court interpretation of ‘sex’ and ‘gender identity’

GS Paper -1 (Society)

Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud, presiding over a five-judge constitution bench, observed that the very notion of a man and a woman is not “an absolute based on genitals”, in response to an argument raised by the Centre that the ‘legislative intent’ of marriage throughout has been a “relationship between a biological man and a biological female”.

More about the news:

The Chief Justice underscored that the Centre was making a ‘value judgment’, that there was no ‘absolute concept of a man or an absolute concept of a woman’ and that gender was ‘far more complex’ than one’s genitals.

Interpretation of ‘sex’ and ‘gender identity’ by Supreme Court previously through various judgements:

Stereotypes and gender roles:

The Supreme Court in 2007 in Anuj Garg v. Hotel Association of India struck down as unconstitutional a law that prohibited women from being employed in spaces serving alcohol, stating that it suffered from “incurable fixations of stereotype morality and conception of sexual role”, and hence discriminated on the grounds of sex.

Limited public knowledge about gender identity and expression:

  1. In its landmark 2014 ruling National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) v. Union of India, the Supreme Court recognized the right to gender identity, holding that transgender persons have the constitutional right to self-identify as male, female, or transgender even without medical re-assignment.
  2. The Court held that the rights to life, dignity, and autonomy include the right to one’s gender identity and sexual orientation.
  3. The Court acknowledged that there was limited public knowledge and understanding of sexual orientation and people whose gender identity and expression are incongruent with their biological sex.
  4. “Recognition of one’s gender identity lies at the heart of the fundamental right to dignity. Gender, as already indicated, constitutes the core of one’s sense of being as well as an integral part of a person’s identity. Legal recognition of gender identity is, therefore, part of the right to dignity and freedom guaranteed under our Constitution”.

Sexual orientation is an essential attribute of privacy:

  1. On August 24, 2017, a nine-judge bench of the Supreme Court in Justice K.S. Puttaswamy v. Union of India confirmed that the right to privacy was a fundamental right under Article 21 of the Constitution, and further held that it extended to an individual’s sexual orientation.
  2. The Court said that sexual orientation is an essential attribute of privacy and that discrimination based on it is deeply offensive to the dignity and self-worth of an individual.
  3. The judges further held that the right to privacy and “the protection of sexual orientation lie at the core of the fundamental rights guaranteed by Arts 14, 15 and 21”.

Sexual orientation is beyond mere sexual preference

  1. In Navtej Singh Johar v. Union of India (2018), a five-judge bench of the Supreme Court decriminalized carnal intercourse ‘against the order of nature’ by reading down Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
  2. The provision technically applied to sexual acts common to heterosexual intercourse as well (such as oral, digital, or anal sex), it was used most commonly to persecute those belonging to the LGBTQ+ community.

International covenants and foreign jurisdictions define ‘sex’ and ‘gender’:

  1. Published in November of 2006, the Yogyakarta Principles on the Application of International Human Rights Law in relation to Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity extensively explain the concepts of gender identity and sexual orientation and were also heavily relied upon by the Supreme Court in Navtej Singh Johar v. Union of India.
  2. ‘Sexual orientation’ has been defined as each person’s capacity for profound emotional, affectional, and sexual attraction to, and intimate and sexual relations with, individuals of a different gender or the same gender or more than one gender.
  3. ‘Gender identity’ has been defined as each person’s deeply felt internal and individual experience of gender, which may or may not correspond with the sex assigned at birth.
  4. The Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating violence against Women and Domestic violence (Istanbul Convention) is the first international human rights document which contains a definition of gender.
  5. Article 3 of the Convention, defines gender as “socially constructed roles, behaviours, activities and attributes that a given society considers appropriate for women and men.” 
  6. In 2015, Malta’s Gender Identity, Gender Expression, and Sex Characteristics Act allowed for the legal gender recognition of persons based on self-determination and bodily integrity and added gender identity as grounds for non-discrimination in the constitution.

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