Today's Headlines

Today's Headlines - 05 March 2023

 Hidden corridor in the Great Pyramid of Giza

GS Paper - 1 (Art and Culture)

A hidden corridor9 m long and roughly 2 m wide, has been unearthed by scientists close to the main entrance of the 4,500-year-old Great Pyramid of Giza. Egyptian antiquities officials confirmed the discovery. The discovery was originally made by the ScanPyramids project in 2016 using a non-invasive technique called cosmic-ray muon radiography.

The greatest pyramid

  1. The Great Pyramid of Giza is the largest of the three pyramids in Giza, originally standing roughly 147 m above the Giza plateau.
  2. Construction was started in circa 2550 BC, during the reign of Khufu, often considered the greatest pharaoh of Egypt’s old kingdom.
  3. It is estimated that the pyramid was built using 2.5 million stone blocks, each weighing between 2.5 and 15 tonnes according to The National Geographic.
  4. Building the Great Pyramid was a feat of engineering unmatched for thousands of years. Of note is not only the scale of the building – it was the tallest structure on the planet until the main spire of the Lincoln Cathedral in the United Kingdom overtook it in 1400 AD – but also its symmetry and perfect alignment to the four cardinal directions (the error is less than 1/15th of a degree).

The inside of the Great Pyramid

  1. But as interesting as the Great Pyramid’s towering presence is, perhaps of even greater fascination are its inner secrets – passages and chambers hiding many mysteries, some still untouched, others found and long forgotten, and many currently accessible.
  2. According to the Smithsonian MagazineKhufu’s pyramid contains “by far the most elaborate system of passages and chambers concealed within any pyramid”.
  3. His is the only one of the 35 such tombs constructed between 2630 and 1750 BC to contain tunnels and vaults well above ground level – most others either have a chamber at the ground level or well below it with the structures being completely solid inside.
  4. This has meant that the Great Pyramid hides within it a world unto itself which has attracted treasure hunters and scholars of Egypt’s antiquity alike.
  5. There are two distinct tunnel systems inside the Great Pyramid – the Descending Passage (described by Greeks like Herodotus) and the Ascending Passage (more hidden, opened by the Arabs as recently as the 9th century).

The latest discovery and the technology used

  1. The initial discovery of a void was made using a imaging technique known as cosmic-ray muon radiography.
  2. This method uses the penetrative power of cosmic subatomic particles called muons to scan large structures.
  3. muon detector tracks the number of muons going through the object from different directions, to form a three-dimensional image.
  4. Subsequently, this picture is compared with a muon image of the “free sky” – indicating how many muons have been blocked. The final picture is essentially a shadow of the object, in the light of cosmic muons.
  5. Further tests were then carried out with radar and ultrasound before a 6 mm-wide (0.24 in) endoscope was fed through a tiny joint between the stones that make up the chevrons. The footage from this camera was unveiled during Waziri’s news conference.

 Right against self-incrimination

GS Paper - 2 (Polity)

The Supreme Court refused to hear a plea by Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia seeking bail in the excise policy case after a Delhi court remanded him in CBI custody. The Supreme Court disapproved of Sisodia approaching it directly under Article 32 of the Constitution when the remedy of moving the High Court under Section 482 of the CrPC was available to him. The court had rejected Sisodia’s arguments that he had a right against self-incrimination.

What is an individual’s right against self-incrimination?

  1. The right against self-incrimination has its origins in Roman law, and evolved as a distinct right in the English jurisprudence.
  2. The Fifth Amendment in the United States Constitution says “No person shall be…compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself…without due process of law…”, a right that is colloquially referred to as “taking/ pleading the Fifth”.
  3. Article 20(3) in Part III (Fundamental Rights) of the Indian Constitution says, “No person accused of any offence shall be compelled to be a witness against himself.”
  4. The right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty and the right to remain silent in an interrogation essentially flow from this constitutionally guaranteed right against self-incrimination.
  5. This right also ensures that police cannot coerce anyone to confess to a crime, and obtain a conviction based on that confession.

How does the right against self-incrimination apply in criminal cases?

  1. Since the onus of proving the case against the accused beyond reasonable doubt is on the state, a person cannot be compelled to testify against himself or share information that might go against him in a trial.
  2. In the landmark 1961 verdict in The State of Bombay versus Kathi Kalu Oghad, an eleven-judge Bench of the Supreme Court ruled that obtaining photographsfingerprintssignatures, and thumb impressions would not violate the right against self-incrimination of an accused. The court distinguished “to be a witness” from “furnishing evidence”.
  3. In 2019, the Supreme Court in its ruling in Ritesh Sinha versus State of Uttar Pradesh broadened the parameters of handwriting samples to include voice samples, adding that this would not violate the right against self-incrimination.
  4. Earlier in 2010, in Selvi v State of Karnataka, the Supreme Court held that a narcoanalysis test without the consent of the accused would amount to violation of the right against self-incrimination.
  5. However, obtaining a DNA sample from the accused is permitted. If an accused refuses to give a sample, the court can draw adverse inferences against him under Section 114 of the Evidence Act.

 World Bank to support India’s health sector

GS Paper -2 (International Organizations)

The World Bank is lending up to $1 billion to help India with preparedness for future pandemics as well as to strengthen its health infrastructure. The lending will be divided into two complementary loans of $500 million each.

More about the news:

Ø  Through this combined financing of $1 billion, the bank will support India’s flagship Pradhan Mantri-Ayushman Bharat Health Infrastructure Mission (PM-ABHIM), launched in October 2021, to improve the public healthcare infrastructure across the country.

Ø  In addition to the national-level interventions, one of the loans will prioritise health service delivery in seven States including Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Meghalaya, Odisha, Punjab, Tamil Nadu, and Uttar Pradesh.

Division of fund:

The $500-million Public Health Systems for Pandemic Preparedness Program (PHSPP):

It will support the government’s efforts to prepare India’s surveillance system to detect and report epidemics of potential international concern.

The other $500 million Enhanced Health Service Delivery Program (EHSDP):

It will support the government's efforts to strengthen service delivery through a redesigned primary healthcare model, which includes improved household access to primary healthcare facilities, stronger links between each household and its primary care facility through regular household visits and risk assessment of non-communicable diseases.

Similarity between the funds:

  • Both the PHSPP and the EHSDP utilise the Program-for-Results financing instrument that focuses on achievement of results rather than inputs.
  • Both the PHSPP and EHSDP loans from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) have a final maturity of 18.5 years including a grace period of five years, stated the World Bank.

Why the need for such a fund?

v  The COVID-19 pandemic brought to the fore the urgent need for pandemic preparedness and health system strengthening around the world and was a stark reminder that pandemic preparedness is a global public good.

v  India’s performance in health has improved over time. According to World Bank estimates, India’s life expectancy has increased from 58 in 1990 to 69.8 in 2020. This is higher than average for the country’s income level.

v  The under-five mortality rate (36 per 1,000 live births), infant mortality rate (30 per 1,000 live births), and maternal mortality ratio (103 per 100,000 live births) are all close to the average for India’s income level, reflecting significant achievements in access to skilled birth attendance, immunisations, and other priority services.

v  Despite these advances in the health of the Indian population, COVID-19 has underscored the need for developing capacity for core public health functions, as well as for improving the quality and comprehensiveness of health service delivery.

v  The two Programs leverage the unique strengths of both the Center and the States to support the development of more accessible, high-quality, and affordable health services.

v  This strengthening of health systems, combined with attention to strong disease response, will improve preparedness and response to future disease outbreaks.

 Forests under threat and there certification

GS Paper -3 (Environment)

At the Glasgow climate meeting in 2021, more than 100 countries took a pledge to stop, and start reversingdeforestation by 2030.Europe and the United States have passed laws that regulate the entry and sale of forest-based products in their markets.

More about the news:

To contain deforestation, the certification industry comes in, offering a multi-layer audit system that seeks to authenticate the origin, legality, and sustainability of forest-based products such as timber, furniture, handicraft, paper and pulp, rubber, and many more.

Two major international standards for sustainable management of forests and forest-based products:

ü  One has been developed by Forest Stewardship Council, or FSC; the other by Programme for Endorsement of Forest Certifications, or PEFC.FSC certification is more popular and in demand, and also more expensive.

ü  Organisations like FSC or PEFC are only the developers and owners of standards like, for example, the International Organisation of Standardisation (ISO) or Bureau of International Standards (BIS).

ü  They are not involved in the evaluation and auditing of the processes being followed by the forest managers or manufacturers or traders of forest-based products. That is the job of certification bodies authorised by FSC or PEFC.

ü  Two main types of certification: forest management (FM) and Chain of Custody (CoC). CoC certification is meant to guarantee the traceability of a forest product like timber throughout the supply chain from origin to market.

Forest certification in India:

Ø  The forest certification industry has been operating in India for the last 15 years. Currently, forests in only one state, Uttar Pradesh are certified.

Ø  Forty one divisions of the UP Forest Corporation (UPFC) are PEFC-certified, meaning they are being managed according to standards endorsed by PEFC.

Ø  These standards have been developed by the New Delhi-based non-profit Network for Certification and Conservation of Forests (NCCF).

Ø  The Bhamragad forest division in Maharashtra was the first to obtain FSC certification for forest management. Later, two divisions in Madhya Pradesh and one in Tripura also obtained FSC certification.

Ø  Many agroforestry projects, such as those run by ITC, and several paper mills too have forest management certification. The forests here are meant for captive use of the industry.

India-specific standards:

  • India allows the export of only processed wood, not timber. In fact, the timber harvested from Indian forests is not enough to meet the domestic demand for housing, furniture, and other products.
  • The demand for wood in India is 150-170 million cubic metres annually, including 90-100 million cubic metres of raw wood. The rest goes mainly towards meeting the demand for paper and pulp.
  • India’s forests contribute just about five million cubic metres of wood every year. Almost 85 percent of the demand for wood and wood products is met by trees outside forests (ToF).
  • ToF are so important, new certification standards are being developed for their sustainable management. PEFC already has certification for TOF and last year.
  • FSC came up with India-specific standards that included certification for ToF. The Environment Minister launched the FSC’s India standards in June 2022.

The government own standards:

  • Based on the recommendations of an expert committee in 2005, the Environment Ministry had asked relevant institutions like the Bhopal-based Indian Institute of Forest Management to draw up national forest standards.
  • Adraft Cabinet note seeking the government’s approval for setting up such standards was drawn up. However, the effort did not come to fruition.
  • When the NCCF (Network for Certification and Conservation of Forests) came into being in 2015, offering PEFC certification in India, the Environment Ministry nominated an officer on the governing board, lending it official legitimacy. But the nomination was later withdrawn. Last year, the Ministry associated itself with FSC, by launching its new India standards.

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