Today's Headlines

Today's Headlines - 08 May 2023

Behind the violence in Manipur

GS Paper - 3 (Internal Security)

Violent clashes broke out at various places in Manipur during the course of a ‘Tribal Solidarity March’ called on 3 May 2023 by the All Tribal Students’ Union of Manipur (ATSUM). The Army and Assam Rifles carried out flag marches in the areas hit by the violence. This march was called to oppose the longstanding demand that the Meitei community be included in the list of the state’s Scheduled Tribes (ST), which received a boost from an order of the Manipur High Court last month.

Which are the major communities residing in Manipur?

  1. The Meiteis are the largest community in Manipur. There are 34 recognized tribes, which are broadly classified as ‘Any Kuki Tribes’ and ‘Any Naga Tribes’.
  2. The central valley in the state accounts for about 10% of the landmass of Manipur, and is home primarily to the Meitei and Meitei Pangals who constitute roughly 64.6% of the state’s population.
  3. The remaining 90% of the state’s geographical area comprises hills surrounding the valley, which are home to the recognized tribes, making up about 35.4% of the state’s population.

Why does the Meitei community want ST status?

  1. There has been an organised push in support of this demand for at least since 2012, led by the Scheduled Tribes Demand Committee of Manipur (STDCM).
  2. The recent plea before the Manipur High Court was by the Meetei (Meitei) Tribe Union, seeking directions to the Manipur government to submit a recommendation to the Union Ministry for Tribal Affairs for the inclusion of the Meetei/Meitei community in the list of Scheduled Tribes in the Indian Constitution, as a “tribe among tribes in Manipur”.
  3. In their plea before the High Court, the petitioners argued that the Meitei community was recognised as a tribe before the merger of the princely state of Manipur with the Union of India in 1949, and that it lost its identity as a tribe after the merger.
  4. It was argued in court that the demand for ST status arose from the need to “preserve” the community, and “and save the ancestral land, tradition, culture and language” of the Meiteis.
  5. In various pleas to the state and central governments, the STDCM  has stated that as a result of being left out of the ST list, “the community has been victimised without any constitutional safeguards to date.
  6. The Meitein/Meetei have been gradually marginalised in their ancestral land. Their population which was 59% of the total population of Manipur in 1951 has now been reduced to 44% as per 2011 Census data”.
  7. What did the Manipur High Court say?
  8. The court observed that “the petitioners and other Unions are fighting long years for inclusion of Meetei/Meitei community in the tribe list of Manipur”, and directed the government to submit its recommendation after considering the case of the petitioners, “preferably within a period of four weeks” of receipt of the order.

Why are tribal groups opposing this order?

  1. The demand for ST status for the Meitei community has long been opposed by the state’s tribal groups. One of the reasons cited for the opposition is the dominance of the Meiteis, both in population and in political representationsince 40 out of 60 Assembly constituencies of the state are in the valley.
  2. “The ST communities of Manipur have been consistently opposing the inclusion of fearing the loss of job opportunities and other affirmative actions granted to STs by the Constitution of India to a much advanced community like the Meitei.
  3. Other arguments against the demand have been that the Manipuri language of the Meiteis is included in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution, and that sections of the Meitei community — which is predominantly Hindu — are already classified under Scheduled Castes (SC) or Other Backward Classes (OBC), and have access to the opportunities associated with that status.


New method in archeological treasure trove

GS Paper - 1 (History)

Inside a Siberian cave that has been an archeological treasure trove an elk’s canine tooth – pierced to become a pendant – was unearthed by scientists with care to avoid contaminating this intriguing artifact made roughly 20,000 years ago.The pristine collection of the pendant from Denisova Cave paid dividends. Scientists on 3 May 2023 said a new method for extracting ancient DNA identified the object’s long-ago owner – a Stone Age woman closely related to a population of hunter-gatherers known to have lived in a part of Siberia east of the cave site in the foothills of the Altai Mountains in Russia.

What is the new method?

  1. The method can isolate DNA that was present in skin cellssweat or other bodily fluids and was absorbed by certain types of porous material including bonesteeth and tusks when handled by someone thousands of years ago.
  2. Objects used as tools or for personal adornment – pendantsnecklacesbraceletsrings and the like – can offer insight into past behavior and culture, though our understanding has been limited by an inability to tie a particular object to a particular person.

How was the excavation done?

  1. The researchers who found the pendant, which was determined to be 19,000-25,000 years old, used gloves and face masks when excavating and handling it, avoiding contamination with modern DNA.
  2. It became the first prehistoric artifact linked by genetic sleuthing to a specific person. It is unknown whether the woman made or merely wore it.

What is the oldest such object located by humans?

  1. Our species Homo sapiens first arose more than 300,000 years ago in Africa, later spreading worldwide.
  2. The oldest-known objects used as personal adornments date to about 100,000 years ago from Africa, according to the University of Leiden’s Marie Soressi, the study’s senior archeologist.
  3. Denisova Cave long ago was inhabited at different times by the extinct human species called DenisovansNeanderthals and our species.
  4. The cave over the years has yielded remarkable finds, including the first-known remains of Denisovans and various tools and other artifacts.
  5. The new nondestructive research technique, used at a “clean room” laboratory in Leipzig, works much like a washing machine.
  6. In this case, an artifact is immersed in a liquid that works to release DNA from it much as a washing machine lifts dirt from a blouse.
  7. By linking objects with particular people, the technique could shed light on prehistoric social roles and division of labor between the sexes or clarify whether or not an object was even made by our species. Some artifacts have been found in places known to have been inhabited, for instance, by Homo sapiens and Neanderthals simultaneously.


Misleading food ads and regulations to control it

GS Paper -3 (Health)

The Advertisement Monitoring Committeeat the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) flagged fresh cases of food business operators (FBOs) making misleading claims and advertisements. They were found to be in contravention of the Food Safety and Standards (Advertisements & Claims) Regulations, 2018.

More about the news:

  1. As per FSSAI, the cumulative count of such offences has shot up in the last six months.
  2. It urged FBOs to “desist from making any unscientific or exaggerated claims to promote their product sales and to avoid enforcement actions and in larger consumer interest.

Response from FSSAI’s:

  1. The food regulator scrutinised products in varied categories such as health supplements, organic products, fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) products and staples, each endorsing certain health and product claims. The alleged violators include manufacturers and/or marketers of nutraceutical products, refined oils, pulses, flours, millet products, and ghee.
  2. The cases have been referred to the concerned licensing authorities to issue notices and subsequently, withdraw the misleading claims or scientifically substantiate them.
  3. Failure to comply with the provisions, would invite penalties of up to Rs 10 lakh and stringent punishments including the suspension or cancellation of licenses for repeated offences.  
  4. As making deceptive claims or advertisements are punishable offences under Section-53 of the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006. 
  5. The FSSAI said, health benefits attributed to a product must be based on “statistically significant results from well-designated human intervention studies, conducted by or under the guidance of established research institutions”.
  6. They must be in consonance with principles of Good Clinical Practices (GCP) and peer-reviewed or published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal. 

Data about food advertising ecosystem:  

If we goes by numbers, “close to 788 ads that are against food advertising, about 299 are related to (non-disclosure by) food influencers. So, around 490-odd ads where the content of what was being said in the ad was found to be misleading.

Measures for tackling misleading ads and claims:  

  1. FSSAI uses the Food Safety and Standards (Advertisements & Claims) Regulations, 2018 which specifically deal with food (and related products) while Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA)’s regulations cover goods, products and services.  
  2. The Programme and Advertising Codes prescribed under the Cable Television Network Rules, 1994 stipulate that advertisements must not draw inferences that it has “some special or miraculous or supernatural property or quality, which is difficult of being proved.” 
  3. FSSAI seeks that the advertisements and claims be “truthful, unambiguous, meaningful, not misleading and help consumers to comprehend the information provided”.
  4. Product claims suggesting suitability for prevention, alleviation, treatment or cure of a disease, disorder or particular psychological condition is prohibited unless specifically permitted under the regulations of the FSS Act, 2006.  


Washington Declaration

GS Paper -2 (International Relations)

The South Korean President visited the U.S. to commemorate the 70th anniversary of U.S.-South Korea bilateral relations. A highlight of the visit was the signing of the “Washington Declaration” as a nuclear deterrence strategy.

More about the news:

Reason for the U.S. visit:

  1. The successful launch of North Korea’s Hwasong-8 solid-fuel intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), a vital component for nuclear weapons delivery, seems to have triggered the U.S. visit of the South Korean President.
  2. The visit aimed to advance the strategic partnership, drawing an alliance over an extended nuclear deterrence plan against the regional aggression of North Korea.
  3. The Washington agreement will launch a new phase in the partnership between Seoul and Washington.

About the Washington Declaration:

  1. Under the declaration, two countries have agreed to immediate bilateral presidential consultations in the event of North Korea’s nuclear attack.
  2. They promised to respond swiftly, overwhelmingly and decisively using the full force of the alliance, including the United States’ nuclear weapons.
  3. The agreement outlines cooperation towards deterrence, an American nuclear ballistic submarine would be deployed in the Korean peninsula; a nuclear consultative group would be formed to formulate principles of joint response tactics.
  4. South Korea would receive Intel from the U.S. regarding nuclear advancements; and the U.S. will strengthen South Korea’s nuclear deterrence capabilities through joint military training programs and an annual intergovernmental simulation.
  5. The declaration reaffirmed the non-proliferation Treaty implying that South Korea would not venture into the creation of its own independent nuclear capabilities and would instead focus on deterrence measures through an alliance-based approach.
  6. It also mandates the U.S. President as the only ‘sole authority’ to use the nuclear arsenal of the U.S. in the event of a nuclear confrontation.

Reason U.S. not keen on South Korea having a nuclear arsenal:

  1. In the 1990s, the U.S. withdrew one hundred nuclear weapons from South Korea as part of their “Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty”. The U.S. was hoping to make North Korea unarm itself. It was thinking that it could deter the weapons production of North Korea by extracting South Korea’s nuclear capacity.
  2. The Nuclear Posture Review 2022 reflects a shift in the U.S. narrative where it is now concerned about the progressing nuclear capacities of North Korea.
  3. The report states that North Korea creates “deterrence dilemmas for the United States and its Allies and partners,” and that “a crisis or conflict on the Korean Peninsula could involve a number of nuclear-armed actors, raising the risk of broader conflict.”
  4. The U.S. wants to control global nuclear arms production. It has been reluctant to allow South Korea to develop their own nuclear arsenal as it would hinder the prolonged efforts of controlling nuclear production in the world.

The regional response on the declaration:

  1. The Washington Declaration advocates for nuclear deterrence policy in the region, aiming to balance power dynamics against North Korea.
  2. China criticised the agreement saying the agreement provokes confrontation between camps, undermines the nuclear non-proliferation regime and the strategic interests of other countries.

What is the domestic response?

The South Korean public are skeptical about U.S. support. A poll by the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations reported that 71% of South Koreans want to build their own nuclear weapons. With an aggressive North Korea in the neighbourhood, they would prefer their own deterrence.

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