Today's Headlines

Today's Headlines - 06 May 2023

Neurotoxins gas leak leads to deaths

GS Paper - 3 (Pollution)

11 people died due to a gas leak in the Giaspura area of Ludhiana, Punjab, while four people fell ill and were hospitalised. Any definitive reasons for the leak are not known so far. According to the air quality sensors used by National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) team, high levels of Hydrogen Sulphide gas, a kind of neurotoxin, have been detected and it is being ascertained how this gas might have led to the incident.

What happened in Ludhiana?

  1. The Giaspur area of Ludhiana has several factories and is a thickly-populated area. While the inquiry for the cause of the leak is on, it is suspected that poisonous gas may have emanated from a partially open manhole in the locality and spread to the shops and houses nearby, police said in an FIR. The autopsy reports suggested that the deaths were due to “inhalation poisoning”.
  2. The cause of death has come out as inhalation poisoning but the type of poison will be clear only after viscera examination.
  3. Hydrogen sulphide is so toxic that even one breath of it taken inside can kill a person.
  4. Probably some acidic waste was thrown into the sewer which reacted with methane, carbon monoxide and other sewerage gases to produce hydrogen sulphide.
  5. There are several possibilities that may lead to high concentration of Hydrogen Sulphide.
  6. It indicates that the sewerage system was not cleaned properly, due to which the gas formation continued. There were no vents within the sewerage system to let the gasses escape.

What are neurotoxins?

  1. Neurotoxins are poisonous substances which can directly affect the nervous system.
  2. Neurotoxicity occurs when exposure to natural or man-made toxic substances alters the normal activity of the nervous system.
  3. These substances can eventually disrupt or even kill neurons or nerve cells, which are important for transmitting and processing signals in the brain and other parts of the nervous system.
  4. They directly attack the respiratory tract of the body, thereby overpowering the oxygen concentration of the body and then the nervous system as well.

What are neurotoxic gases?

  1. Methanehydrogen sulphidecarbon monoxide and carbon dioxide are common neurotoxic gases.
  2. While methane and carbon monoxide are odourless gaseshydrogen sulphide has a pungent odour and in higher concentration it can be fatal for humans.
  3. In the present case, the deputy commissioner has indicated that it is likely that a chemical might have reacted with methane gas that is generated during the breakdown of human waste. Samples of sewage were taken from nearby manholes to assess this.
  4. To remove gases such as hydrogen sulphide from wastewaterchemical oxidation is done, where oxidants such as hydrogen peroxide are added to the wastewater.

 

Global Land Outlook report: UNCCD

GS Paper -3 (Environment)

The second edition of the Global Land Outlook report prepared by the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) and its partners stated thatHumans have breached four out of nine planetary boundaries. It draws attention to the depletion of finite land resources and the need to urgently restore the world’s land.

More about the news:

  1. Land is the operative link between biodiversity loss and climate change, which means restoring land, is crucial to solving interconnected crises.
  2. According to the report, humans have already altered more than 70% of the earth’s land area from its natural state.
  3. Land alteration has contributed significantly to global warming and environmental degradation, and also led to a rise in poverty, hunger, inequality, and zoonotic disease transmission.

Planetary boundaries:

  1. They are the thresholds of environmental limits that define a “safe operating space for humanity”.
  2. The nine planetary boundaries are:Biodiversity loss, Land-use change, Climate change, Nitrogen and phosphorus (geochemical) cycles, Freshwater use, Ocean acidification, Chemical pollution, Atmospheric loading, Ozone depletion.
  3. Out of these, climate change, biodiversity loss, land-use change, and geochemical cycles have already been exceeded.
  4. These breaches are directly linked to human-induced desertification, land degradation, and drought.

Land restoration and its relationship with the earth:

  1. The report defines land restoration as “a continuum of activities that avoid, reduce, and reverse land degradation with the explicit objective of meeting human needs and improving biosphere stewardship”.
  2. Avoiding degradation means eliminating practices that degrade the environment, ranging from land and ecosystem conversion to socio-economic inequalities.

Cost of land Degradation:

  1. The global annual cost of land restoration to achieve meaningful results is expected to become at least $300 billion by 2030.
  2. The report noted that each dollar invested in restoration activities has also been estimated to return between $7 and $30 in economic benefits.

Measures to reduce Land degradation:

  1. It can be reduced by adopting sustainable land and water management practices.
  2. It involves revitalising soil, watersheds, and other elements of natural ecosystems as well as improving livelihoods.
  3. Integrated land use planning – identifying the best combination of land uses while both sustainably meeting the needs of the stakeholders as well as preserving the land resources.
  4. Regenerative agricultural practices, like terrace farming and rainwater harvesting, help restore land and can potentially increase crop yields while reducing greenhouse gas emissions and sequestering atmospheric carbon.

Land Degradation neutrality:

  1. The U.N. General Assembly believes that achieving ‘land degradation neutrality’ is an effective way to accelerate progress towards achieving Sustainable Development Goals, by 2030.
  2. The UNCCD defines ‘land degradation neutrality’ as “a state whereby the amount and quality of land resources necessary to support ecosystem functions and services and enhance food security remain stable or increase within specified temporal and spatial scales and ecosystems”.

Food systems and land degradation

Agriculture has affected the earth more than any other human activity. Worldwide, food systems are responsible for 80% of deforestation, and 70% of freshwater use, and are the single greatest cause of terrestrial biodiversity loss.

 

‘Shoot at sight’ orders and their imposition

GS Paper -2 (Polity)

With the situation worsening in violence-hit Manipur, the state government authorised all District Magistrates to issue “shoot at sight orders” in “extreme cases”. The order came a day after violent clashes broke out at several places during the ‘Tribal Solidarity March’ called by the All Tribal Students’ Union of Manipur (ATSUM).

More about the news:

The march was organised in protest against the demand for inclusion of the state’s Meitei community in the Scheduled Tribe (ST) category, following an April 19 Manipur High Court directive.

Manipur High Court directive:

  1. The Meiteis are the largest community in Manipur, making up roughly 64.6% of its population.
  2. In a plea before the High Court, the Meiteis argued that they were recognised as a tribe before the 1949 merger of the princely state of Manipur with the Union of India.
  3. Due to the loss of their identity as a tribe in the aftermath of the merger, the demand for ST status was felt within the community to “save the ancestral land, tradition, culture, and language” of the Meiteis, they sought inclusion in the ST list on account of the community being “victimised without any constitutional safeguards to date”.
  4. The Manipur High Court observed that the issue had not been decided due to the state government’s negligence in not sending a recommendation to the Centre for the inclusion of the Meitei community in the ST list to date.
  5. The court directed the Manipur government to consider the case of the Meiteis’ inclusion in the ST list “expeditiously” within four weeks.

Reaction of court order:

  1. This resulted in opposition from the existing tribes within Manipur on the grounds that the Meiteis were already dominant in terms of both population and political representation; also their Manipuri language finds a place in the Eighth Schedule.
  2. The sections of the predominantly Hindu Meiteis are already classified under the SC or OBC groups and consequently, have access to opportunities associated with the status.
  3. The court order stands at the center of tensions between the Kukis and the Meiteis and finally escalated into violent clashes between the two communities over the past few days.
  4. As the situation worsened, the state’s Home Department issued “shoot-at-sight” orders “in extreme cases”.

About “shoot-at-sight” orders:

  1. The orders issued in the name of the state governor “in view of the prevailing law and order situation” in Manipur seek to maintain “public order and tranquility”.
  2. The order “authorize all District Magistrates, Sub-Divisional Magistrates and all Executive Magistrates/Special Executive Magistrates detailed by the District Magistrate concerned to issue Shoot at sight orders” in extreme cases where “all forms of persuasion, warning, reasonable force, etc. had been exhausted under the provisions of law under CrPC, 1973 and the situation could not be controlled”.

Provisions of law for “shoot-at-sight” orders:

  1. A “shoot-at-sight” or firing order may be passed in terms of the statutory powers relating to the arrest or prevention of offences or for disbanding unlawful assemblies under Sections 41-60 and Sections 149-152 of the CrPC, 1973.
  2. Section 46 (2), of the CrPC, enables the use of force in the course of arresting a person. If a person “forcibly resists the endeavour to arrest him, or attempts to evade the arrest, such police officer or other person may use all means necessary to effect the arrest,”.
  3. Section 46(3) places a limit on this executive power by saying that the provision does not give a right “to cause the death of a person who is not accused of an offence punishable with death or with imprisonment for life.”
  4. Section 3(a) of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, 1958, which was subsequently amended by the Armed Forces (Assam and Manipur) Special Powers Amendment Act of 1972, empowers the armed forces to use force in “disturbed areas”.
  5. notification in the Official Gazette declaring an area as “disturbed” may be passed by a “Governor of the State of the Administrator of that Union Territory or the Central Government, as the case may be.”
  6. Section 81 of the IPC says that “Nothing is an offence merely by reason of its being done with the knowledge that it is likely to cause harm, if it be done without any criminal intention to cause harm, and in good faith for the purpose of preventing or avoiding other harm to person or property.”
  7. Under Section 144 of the CrPC, enables the use of wide powers while dealing with urgent cases of “apprehended danger” or nuisance through the issuance of orders.
  8. Within this provision lies Section 144(3), which allows curfew orders to be issued in respect of a “particular individual,” “persons residing in a particular place or area,” or “the public generally when frequenting or visiting a particular place or area.” The executive usually relies on the powers conferred on it by Section 144 to issue “shoot-at-sight orders”.

What have the courts said?

  1. In Jayantilal, the Gujarat High Court declared the shoot-at-sight orders imposed for breaking a curfew “void”.
  2. It is ultra vires their powers and also ultra vires Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, Section 188 of the Indian Penal Code, and Articles 20 and 21 of the Constitution and are, therefore, void and of no effect whatsoever.”

 

SARS-CoV-2 virus to stay, but no longer a global emergency: WHO

GS Paper -3 (Disease)

The SARS-CoV-2 virus needs to manage it alongside other infectious diseases, said the World Health Organisation (WHO), issuing an updated ‘COVID-19 Global Strategic Preparedness, Readiness and Response Plan (SPRP) 2023-2025’. It said that COVID-19 no longer qualifies as a global emergency, marking a symbolic end to the devastating coronavirus pandemic that triggered once-unthinkable lockdowns, upended economies worldwide and killed at least 7 million people worldwide.

More about the news:

  1. The latest update is WHO's fourth strategic plan for COVID-19. The document is a guide for countries on how to manage COVID-19 over the next two years in the transition from an emergency phase to a longer-term, sustained response.

2.    WHO states that as the COVID-19 pandemic enters its fourth year, surveillance has declined, while weekly reported cases and deaths are at the lowest level since the pandemic began, millions continue to be infected or re-infected with SARS-CoV-2 and thousands of people are dying each week.

3.    The updated two-year strategy builds on the objectives of the 2022 SPRP and supports countries as they are working to transition their critical emergency response activities to longer-term sustained COVID-19 disease prevention, control and management.

  1. WHO has suggested reducing and controlling the incidence of SARS-CoV-2 variants with increased growth rates and immune escape, with a particular focus on reducing infections in high-risk and vulnerable population;
  2. It suggested preventing, diagnosing and treating COVID-19 to reduce mortality, morbidity, and long-term sequelae; and supporting member states’ transition from crisis response to sustainable, integrated, longer-term and strengthened COVID-19 disease management.

Way forward:

  1. As COVID is showing no signs of becoming seasonal like flu, it is likely to keep evolving & causing surges of infection, at different times in different countries.
  2. The objective is that underlying immunity will hopefully continue to protect against severe disease.

 

Centre Ready to Ease Living Of Gay Couples

GS 2 Polity

The Centre informed the Supreme Court that it is willing to form a committee headed by the Cabinet Secretary to consider administrative measures for addressing “genuine, human concerns” faced by same-sex couples in their daily lives in areas such as banking, insurance, etc, without delving into their plea for legal recognition of same-sex marriage.

Same Sex People view

  1. 99% of same-sex couples want to get married.
  2. Marriage will give their relationship meaning, purpose and identity.
  3. There was a time when we were criminals. Then we became third-class citizens.
  4. Senior advocate said same-sex marriage was not an elitist concept. Young people there want marriage. We want a positive enactment of the right to marry.

CJI Views

  1. Chief Justice Chandrachud said the issue could be approached at three levels.
  2. One, by making administrative changes which the government could easily do.
  3. Two, by tweaking subordinate legislations like rules and regulations, which were also within the government’s domain.
  4. Three, by introducing substantive amendments in law to legally recognize the right of same-sex couples to marry by making the Special Marriage Act gender-neutral.
  5. Right to marry can be located in Section 4 of the Special Marriage Act.

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