Today's Headlines

Today's Headlines - 22 January 2023

Women get command roles in the Indian Army

GS Paper - 2 (Empowerment)

As many as 108 women officers in the Army are set to be cleared for the rank of Colonel (selection grade) by 22 January 2023 by a special selection board, which will make them eligible to command units and troops in their respective arms and services for the first time. A total of 244 women officers are being considered for promotion against the vacancies — from the batch of 1992 to 2006 — in arms and services

Why is this significant?

  1. Most importantly, it grants women officers’ parity with their male counterparts.
  2. Earlier, with a limited period career in the force, there were no promotion avenues for women officers to become a Colonel and command a unit like male Army officers.
  3. It is not that women officers did not reach the rank of Colonel or beyond in the past, but they were only in two branches — the Judge Advocate General (JAG) branch and the Army Education Corps — where they were granted permanent commission in 2008.
  4. However, these were staff appointments — which are more administrative in nature — and not purely command appointments in which an officer commands troops on ground.
  5. The Supreme Court’s order to grant permanent commission to women Army officers in February 2020 opened the doors for promotion to women officers across all streams of the Army, except pure combat arms.

Why did their Colonel promotions come so late?

  1. An officer in the Army is promoted to the rank of Colonel only after serving between 16 and 18 years, based on certain criteria such as annual confidential reports and various courses.
  2. Women officers who were inducted into the Army were inducted as Short Service Commission (SSC) officers in 1992 and in the years after did not have the choice to opt for permanent commission.
  3. JAG and Army Education Corps were exceptions, where a permanent commission was opened for them in 2008.
  4. For other arms and services, women could not become permanent cadre, and had to retire much before they completed the service period that is mandatory to become a Colonel.

What did the Supreme Court order in 2020?

  1. In 2019, the Army changed its rules allowing SSC women officers to opt for permanent commission who would have otherwise retired after 14 years of service. However, this was not retrospective, and applied only to the batches of women officers starting their career in the Army in 2020.
  2. With the landmark Supreme Court judgment of February 2020, permanent commission was granted to women officers with retrospective effect.
  3. All major countries including the United StatesUnited KingdomRussia, and Israel allow women in command positions of their national armed forces.


Verdict on trademark violation

GS Paper - 3 (IPR)

‘sub’ is not only a sandwich from SubwayDelhi High Court ruled, and dismissed a case of trademark infringement brought by the global fast food chain against Suberb, a Delhi-based restaurant. The term ‘sub’ is widely used for submarine sandwiches — a cylindrical bread roll slit lengthwise and filled — the court said.

What was the case before the court?

  1. Subway moved the HC against Infinity Foods, which uses the name Suberb for its restaurants in Delhi.
  2. Subway claimed that the brand name and logo “Suberb”, with a yellow and green colour scheme, was identical to its mark “Subway”.
  3. Subway owns trademarks in the brand name “Subway” as a whole, as well as for its sandwiches named “Veggie Delite” and “Subway Club”.
  4. Subway also claimed trademark infringement of its menu cardoutlet decor, and recipes by Suberb.

What is a trademark?

  1. trademark is a symbol, design, word or phrase that is identified with a business. When a trademark is registered, its owner can claim “exclusive rights” on its use.
  2. The Trademark Act 1999, governs the regime on trademark and its registration. The Act guarantees protection for a trademark that is registered with the Controller General of Patents, Designs, and Trademarks, also known as the trademark registry.
  3. A trademark is valid for 10 years, and can be renewed by the owner indefinitely every 10 years.

Violation of trademark

  1. Using a registered trademark without authorisation of the entity that owns the trademark is a violation or infringement of the trademark.
  2. Using a substantially similar mark for similar goods or services could also amount to infringement. In such cases, courts have to determine whether this can cause confusion for consumers between the two.
  3. There are several ways in which a trademark can be infringed. However, the trademark owner has to show that the trademark has a distinct character.
  4. DECEPTIVE SIMILARITY: The law states that a mark is considered deceptively similar to another mark if it nearly resembles that other mark, confusing the consumer in the process. Such deception can be caused phonetically, structurally or visually.
  5. PASSING OFF: Say a brand logo is misspelt in a way that’s not easy for the consumer to discern; in such cases, the infringing products need not be identical — but similarity in the nature, character, and performance of the goods of the rival traders has to be established.
  6. The Supreme Court has said that passing off is a “species of unfair trade competition or of actionable unfair trading by which one person, through deception, attempts to obtain an economic benefit of the reputation which other has established for himself in a particular trade or business”.


The US hits the debt ceiling

GS Paper - 3 (Economy)

The United States hit its debt ceiling of $31.4 trillion, forcing the Treasury Department to initiate “extraordinary measures” to ensure that the federal government keeps paying its bills and can stave off default until June — when it will run out of funds.

What is the debt ceiling?

  1. The debt ceiling which was introduced in 1917 during World War I is the maximum amount that the US federal government can borrow to fulfill its financial obligations.
  2. The government spends more than it earns through taxes and other revenues, it needs to borrow money in order to pay for expenses, such as social security and Medicare benefits, and the salaries of US military service members.
  3. In 2021, this borrowing limit was raised to $31.4 trillion.

What happens now?

  1. The Department is now taking special measures to make sure the government continues paying the nation’s bills.
  2. Such measures have in the past involved steps such as temporarily suspending investments that the government is supposed to make into retirement and health benefit funds for federal employees, and “re-topping those funds at a later date”.
  3. Some accounting manoeuvres involving the Civil Service Retirement and Disability Fund, the Postal Service Retiree Health Benefits Fund, and the Federal Employees Retirement System Thrift Savings Plan.

Has the US breached the debt ceiling earlier?

  1. No, the US has never breached the debt ceiling so far. However, experts suggest that even approaching debt default might severely impact the economy in the longer run.
  2. In 2011, congressional Republicans and then President Barack Obama fought a prolonged, bruising battle over the debt ceiling that continued until just before the deadline for action ran out.
  3. Even so, ratings agency Standard & Poors downgraded the country’s credit rating for the first time, which made it more costly for the US federal government to borrow money thereafter.


Ancient port city traced undersea

GS Paper -1 (Culture)

Researchers of Bharathidasan University’s Department of Remote Sensing, the lead agency of a Department of Science and Technology claimed to have found traces of an ancient port city buried undersea, at a depth of 50-100 metres, about 30-40 km off the coast of the present-day Poompuhar in Mayiladuthurai district.

More about the news:

  1. The city was spread over about 250 sq. km, complete with a huge harbour, a lighthouse, ship and dockyards, and settlements.
  2. The study covered the coastal area and about 1,000 square kilometres of the offshore area in the Bay of Bengal, and the findings were based on satellite, the General Bathymetry Chart of the Oceans (GEBCO) and multi-beam eco sounder (MBES) data.
  3. The MBES data were collected by the National Institute of Ocean Technology, Chennai.
  4. major finding, based on a study of the past sea levels, is that Poompuhar is not just 2,500 years old as believed widely and might be more than 15,000 years old.
  5. It might be one of the oldest port cities in the world,” said Professor of Eminence and national coordinator, Project Poompuhar.

About Poompuhar:

  1. Poompuhar, also known as Kaveripoompattinam, was submerged by the sea, and there are references to this in the Tamil epic Manimekalai.
  2. The disappearance of the port city remained a mystery. They set out to digitally reconstruct the history of Poompuhar with the support of the Department of Science and Technology.
  3. The studies carried out using GEBCO data showed a series of three deltas of the Cauvery, which run up to 40 km in the sea.
  4. The MBES data led to the discovery of a major coastal land system with sand banks, backwaters, beach ridges, rivers, estuaries and ancient shorelines.
  5. It also inferred a scientifically designed harbour, about 11 km long and 2.5 km wide, running from north to south, with a number of canals meant for movement of big vessels and turning them.

Geological features:

  1. Several features such as deep river cut valleys of the Cauvery river system and submarine canyons were interpreted on the seafloor.
  2. They indicate that the Poompuhar region was prone to floods, tsunamis and accelerated impact of sea level rise and cyclone-induced surges.
  3. The port city had probably been relocated and rebuilt repeatedly owing to such natural occurrences.
  4. The seventh redevelopment was probably about 2,500 years ago and it might have submerged due to rise in sea level about 1,020 years ago.