Today's Headlines

Today's Headlines - 22 March 2023

National Security Act invoked

GS Paper - 3 (Internal Security)

Punjab Advocate General Vinod Ghai has said the National Security Act has been invoked in the case of self-styled Sikh preacher and on-the-run Waris Punjab De chief Amritpal Singh. Ghai informed Punjab and Haryana High Court on 21 March 2023, during a hearing regarding a habeas corpus petition filed by the legal advisor of Waris Punjab De for requesting the court to direct the respondents to produce Amritpal Singh before it.

What is the National Security Act, 1980?

  1. The National Security Act was passed by the Parliament in 1980 and has been amended several times since then.

  2. NSA “empowers the state to detain a person without a formal charge and without trial”.

  3. Under the Act, a person is taken into custody to prevent them from acting in any manner prejudicial to “the security of the state” or for “maintenance of the public order”.

  4. It is an administrative order passed either by the Divisional Commissioner or the District Magistrate (DM) – and not detention ordered by police based on specific allegations or for a specific violation of the law.

  5. Even if a person is in police custody, the District Magistrate can slap NSA against them. Or, if a person has been granted bail by a trial court, they can be immediately detained under the NSA.

  6. If the person has been acquitted by the court, the same person can be detained under the NSA. The law takes away an individual’s constitutional right to be produced before the magistrate within 24 hours, as is the case when the accused is in police custody.

  7. The detained person also does not have the right to move a bail application before a criminal court.

What are the grounds for detention?

  1. NSA can be invoked to prevent a person from acting in any manner prejudicial to the defence of India, relations of India with foreign powers or the security of India.

  2. Among others, it can also be applied to prevent a person from acting in any manner prejudicial to the maintenance of supply and services essential to the community.

  3. An individual can be detained without a charge for a maximum period of 12 months.

  4. The detained person can be held for 10 to 12 days in special circumstances without being told the charges against them.

What the top court says

  1. The Supreme Court in earlier cases had held that to prevent “misuse of this potentially dangerous power, the law of preventive detention has to be strictly construed”, and “meticulous compliance with the procedural safeguards” has to be ensured.

Raccoon dogs linked to coronavirus pandemic

GS Paper - 3 (Health and Diseases)

new analysis of genetic data collected from the Huanan Seafood Market in Wuhan, China, has linked coronavirus to raccoon dogs, adding evidence to the belief that the pandemic might have originated from the infected animals sold at the site. An international team of experts said so on 16 March 2023. World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said, “These data do not provide a definitive answer to how the pandemic began, but every piece of data is important to moving us closer to that answer”.

What are raccoon dogs?

  1. Raccoon dogs are neither dogs nor raccoons. They belong to the canid family and are closely related to foxes.

  2. They are the only canids that hibernate during the winter. As per Slate, there are two species of raccoon dogs: “Nyctereutes procyonoides, the common raccoon dog (the species that was in the Wuhan market) and Nyctereutes p. viverrinus, the Japanese raccoon dog.”

  3. These animals, weighing around 16 pounds on average, are omnivores and relish food sources such as rodents and berries.

  4. Although they appear svelte in the summer, they pack on the pounds for winter, when their fur also becomes thicker. They are monogamous, often living in pairs.

Where are raccoon dogs found?

  1. Raccoon dogs are originally from East Asia and are commonly found in parts of China, Korea and Japan, where they are known as tanuki.

  2. They are also found in Europe, where they were first brought in by fur traders in the 1920s.

  3. Today, raccoon dogs are considered to be a threat to the local ecosystem in Europe and an EU report declared them “one of the most successful alien carnivores in Europe.”

Have raccoon dogs been linked to other diseases?

  1. Yes. “Raccoon dogs and related mammals sold for food at a live animal market in China in 2003 were found to carry a coronavirus similar to the virus found in humans during a SARS coronavirus outbreak at the time”.

  2. A 2022 study after taking samples from about 2,000 animals of 18 different species in China found that wild animals known to be consumed by humans, including raccoon dogscarried 102 different viruses from 13 viral families — 21 of those posed a high-risk to humans.

  3. It also added that raccoon dogs specifically carried four canine coronaviruses that were genetically similar to those found in humans.

  4. But this doesn’t mean they are the natural reservoir for coronaviruses. Scientists believe there is a possibility the tested raccoon dogs, including those in the Wuhan market, might have picked up the virus from bats or another species.

IPCC 6threport

GS Paper -3 (Environment)

Climate change is a threat to human well-being and planetary health and there is a rapidly closing window of opportunity to secure a liveable and sustainable future for all, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said in its latest 6th report.

More about the news:

v  This is the final report of the sixth assessment cycle of the UN panel. Through its multiple assessment cycles beginning 1990, the IPCC has collated and analysed research by scientists on global warming.

v  It also assesses the role humans have had in exacerbating it, the long-term climate impact from current and future emissions.

v  The IPCC does not itself undertake scientific assessments but only evaluates the state of scientific evidence on various aspects of climate change.

The current report does not weigh in on new scientific evidence but synthesises findings from three working groups:

ü  Working Group I (which evaluated the physical science basis of climate change),

ü  Working Group II (impacts, adaptation and vulnerability),

ü  Working Group III (mitigation, or reducing future greenhouse gas emissions)

It also integrates evidence from three special reports during the sixth assessment cycle:

ü  Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C (October 2018),

ü  Special Report on Climate Change and Land (August 2019),

ü  Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate (September 2019),

About reports finding:

Ø  As future reports of the IPCC aren’t expected until 2030,it said if significant action to cut emissions is not taken, it would be impossible to prevent the earth from heating 1.5 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial levels.

Ø  The IPCC said in the report, overshooting 1.5°C will result in irreversible adverse impacts on certain ecosystems with low resilience, such as polar, mountain, and coastal ecosystems, impacted by ice-sheet, glacier melt, or by accelerating and higher committed sea level rise.

Ø  It added that certain future changes are “unavoidable and/or irreversible” but could be limited by deep, rapid and sustained global greenhouse gas emissions reduction.

Ø  The synthesis report underscores the urgency of taking more ambitious action and shows that, if we act now, we can still secure a liveable sustainable future for all.

Ø  It said, climate justice is crucial because those who have contributed least to climate change are being disproportionately affected.

India’s view on report:

v  Union Environment Minister said that India “welcomed” the report and it “reaffirmed” the principle that historically few developed rich countries were responsible for the crisis.

v  He said the role of unsustainable lifestyles and patterns of consumption have been emphasized, current (financial) flows are inadequate and this includes the promised but never received $100 billion.

v  The most significant implications of the report for India are the increased frequency and intensity of extreme weather events. They could have dire consequences for agriculture, the economy, and public health.

v  The report highlights the need for policymakers to prioritise investments in disaster risk reduction, including early warning systems, evacuation plans, and infrastructure development to protect vulnerable populations.

Active volcano found on Venus

GS Paper - 3 (Space Technology)

A new analysis of archival radar images taken around three decades ago has found direct geological evidence of recent volcanic activity on the surface of Venus, also known as Earth’s twin, for the first time. Researchers have observed a volcanic vent changing its shape and getting bigger in size in around eight months, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) said. The new findings are described in a study, ‘Surface changes observed on a Venusian volcano during the Magellan mission’, published in the journal Science.

What are the findings?

  1. Scientists made the new discovery by pouring over images of Venus taken by NASA’s Magellan spacecraft between 1990 and 1992.

  2. During their examination, they looked at the planet’s Atla Regio area, where two of the biggest volcanoes of Venus, Ozza Mons and Maat Mons, are located.

  3. vent situated on the north side of a domed shield volcano that is part of the larger Maat Mons volcano that changed significantly in shape and size between February and October 1991.

  4. The paper said in the February radar image, this vent appeared nearly circular and deep with steep walls, covering 2.6 sq km of area.

  5. However, in the images that were taken eight months later, the same vent had become irregular in outline; shallower and nearly filled while covering about 3.9 sq km. This indicated an eruption or flow of magma beneath the vent.

  6. The new findings didn’t come easily to analyse Magellan spacecraft’s radar images for hundreds of hours — these images are reportedly of much lower resolution than images taken by the cameras attached to spacecraft today and are also relatively coarse. Moreover, during its mission, Magellan also changed its viewing geometry each time it flew over Venus.

  7. As volcanoes act like windows to provide information about a planet’s interior, the new findings take scientists a step further to understand the geological conditions of not just Venus but also other exoplanets.

  8. Apart from this, the findings give us a glimpse of what more is to come regarding Venus as in the next decade, three new Venus missions would be launched, including the European EnVision orbiter and NASA’s DAVINCI and VERITAS missions.

Entrepreneur first launches ‘Graduate program’ in India:

GS Paper -2 (Education)

Entrepreneur First (EF), an early-stage talent investing firm launched its ‘Graduate program’ in India for the country’s current students and recent graduates. The programme is focused on promoting entrepreneurship amongst young Indians.

EF and its objectives:

Ø  It is Co-founded by Matt Clifford and Alice Bentinck in 2011, Entrepreneur First invests in individuals to build startups from scratch.

Ø  EF runs programmes in North America, Europe, and Asia, and the talent investor entered India in 2019, and last year, it announced that it will be doubling down on the country.

Ø  EF brings together people with extraordinary futures to develop their most ambitious ideas and raise money from the world’s best investors.

EF India’s vision:

v  Through Entrepreneur First’s Graduate program, it will help provide local talent with the resources they need to solve important problems.

v  The programme will create a new generation of successful entrepreneurs and contribute to the growth of India’s start-up ecosystem.

v  At EF, the folks who come with a certain clarity of thought, and aspiring founders who have got the ability to challenge conventional belief systems and perhaps are technically capable, or commercially capable, make for a great founder.

v  The EF’s graduate programme is open to everyone across the country, irrespective of the organisation they come from, their background and experience.

v  EF believes India has the potential to become a global leader in technology entrepreneurship and helps themproviding necessary tools, including the capital, mentorship, and network to build successful businesses.

v  EF has been in India for about three years now, and had a successful start to the programme in India.

v  This is the first time they are launching an exclusive programme for early-career individuals and the cohort will be set up exclusively with individuals who have 0-2 years of industry experience.

v  The individuals selected in the Graduate cohort will receive a stipend towards living expenses; the opportunity to collaborate with an exceptional pool of potential co-founders; access to top mentors and advisors; and a platform to pitch for pre-seed investment.