Today's Headlines

Today's Headlines - 26 April 2023

Kochi Water Metro inaugurated

GS Paper - 2 (Infrastructure)

Prime Minister on 25 April 2023 inaugurated the first phase of the Kochi Water Metro — a first of its kind public boat service in India integrated with a metro rail network.

What is the Kochi Water Metro?

  1. The Kochi Water Metro is a project being implemented by Kochi Metro Rail Corporation Limited (KMRL) with the assistance of a German funding agency, Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau.
  2. It includes boats that are hybridbattery-poweredair-conditioned and disabled-friendly among other features.
  3. The water metro will operate on water bodies like any other ferry or traditional boat service, but with modern facilities, enhanced safety and security measures.

How is the water metro linked to the metro rail?

  1. Kochi Water metro has been envisaged as a feeder service of the Kochi metro rail, which has been operational since 2017.
  2. While boats have been designed as coaches of Kochi Metroboat terminals, passenger entry and exit gates, ticket counters and safety measures mirror the features of the metro rail service.
  3. All jetties feature electronic display boards about boat service. Announcements will be made in English, Hindi and Malayalam when the services are operating in full swing.
  4. Passenger entry and exit to boats, with air-conditioned cabins, are similar to the system in Kochi metros.

Project cost, stakeholders

  1. The Kochi Water Metro project has been conceived as part of the Kochi Metro Rail service.
  2. In 2016, the cost of the water metro had been pegged at Rs 747 crore, but the estimate has been revised to Rs 1136 crore.
  3. Boats have been constructed by Cochin Shipyard Limited.


India’s first water body census

GS Paper -2 (Social sector)

The Ministry of Jal Shakti has released the report of India’s first water body’s census, a comprehensive data base of ponds, tanks, lakes, and reservoirs in the country. The census was conducted in 2018-19, and enumerated more than 2.4 million water bodies across all states and Union Territories.

Definition of a ‘water body’

  1. First Census Report considers “all natural or man-made units bounded on all sides with some or no masonry work used for storing water for irrigation or other purposes (e.g. industrial, pisciculture, domestic/ drinking, recreation, religious, ground water recharge etc.)” as water bodies.
  2. The water bodies “are usually of various types known by different names like tank, reservoirs, ponds etc.”
  3. According to the report, “A structure where water from ice-melt, streams, springs, rain or drainage of water from residential or other areas is accumulated or water is stored by diversion from a stream, nala or river will also be treated as a water body.”

Report findings:

  1. West Bengal’s South 24 Pargana has been ranked as the district having the highest (3.55 lakh) number of water bodies across the country.
  2. The district is followed by Andhra Pradesh’s Ananthapur (50,537) and West Bengal’s Howrah (37,301).

Water bodies that were excluded in census:

  • Oceans and lagoons;
  • Rivers, streams, springs, waterfalls, canals, etc. which are free flowing, without any bounded storage of water;
  • Swimming pools;
  • Covered water tanks created for a specific purpose by a family or household for their own consumption;
  • Awater tank constructed by a factory owner for consumption of water as raw material or consumable;
  • Temporary water bodies created by digging for mining, brick kilns, and construction activities, which may get filled during the rainy season;
  • Pucca open water tanks created only for cattle to drink water.

Need of water bodies census:

  1. The Centre earlier maintained a database of water bodies that were getting central assistance under the scheme of Repair, Renovation and Restoration (RRR) of water bodies.
  2. In 2016, a Standing Committee of Parliament pointed to the need to carry out a separate census of water bodies. The government then commissioned the first census of water bodies in 2018-19 along with the sixth Minor Irrigation (MI) census.
  3. According to the census report,the objective was to collect information “on all important aspects of the subject including their size, condition, status of encroachments, use, storage capacity, status of filling up of storage etc.”

Collection of census data:

  1. According to the report, “traditional methodology i.e. paper-based schedules, were canvassed both for rural and urban areas.
  2. A “village schedule”, “urban schedule” and “water body schedule” were canvassed, and a smart phone was used to “capture latitude, longitude and photo of water bodies”.

Census reveal about encroachment of water bodies:

  1. The census found that 1.6% of enumerated water bodies — 38,496 out of 24, 24,540, had been encroached upon. More than 95% of these were in rural areas.
  2. Uttar Pradesh accounted for almost 40% (15,301) of water bodies under encroachment, followed by Tamil Nadu (8,366) and Andhra Pradesh (3,920). No encroachment was reported from West Bengal, Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, and Chandigarh.


World Malaria Day 2023

GS Paper -3 (Disease)

Malaria has been one of humanity’s greatest scourgesprimarily killing babies and infants. Amongst the human-infecting species of Plasmodium, P. vivax is geographically the most widespread in tropical and subtropical regions, while 95 per cent of all cases of P. falciparum occur in the African region and are associated with severe disease and disease-associated mortality.

More about the news:

  1. World Malaria Day on 25th April, WHO guiding theme this year is “Time to deliver zero malaria: invest, innovate, implement”.
  2. It is caused by parasites (plasmodium vivax, plasmodium falciparum, and plasmodium malariae and plasmodium ovale) that are transmitted through the bite of infected female Anopheles mosquitoes.
  3. Initiatives, like ‘Roll Back Malaria’ launched in 1998 to reduce deaths from Malaria by half by 2010, and a major eradication program launched in 2015, have resulted in a significant reduction in cases and deaths. The disease still kills over 400,000 people each year.
  4. Covid-19 pandemic has caused disruption in malaria control, diagnosis and treatment measures, it may have negatively impacted malaria control measures in a very significant manner.
  5. There are reasons to be hopeful in our quest to control and finally eradicate malaria, in the form of two first generation vaccines that have recently been developed and may soon be rolled out.

Breakthrough Malaria vaccines:

Scientists across the world have generally found it very difficult to develop efficacious vaccines against malaria. Of more than 100 malaria candidate vaccines to have entered clinical trials in the last three decades, none of them have yet shown the benchmark efficacy of 75percent set by, WHO.

RTS, S vaccine:

  1. Given the urgency of malaria control and prevention, last year, the WHO gave a historic go-ahead for the first malaria vaccine called RTS, S to be rolled out in high transmission African countries.
  2. It is a result of collaborative efforts of several organisations across the world, including GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, the PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and the Wellcome Trust, has taken more than 30 years and several hundred million dollars for its development.
  3. Although the RTS, S vaccine has relatively low efficacy, in the range of 30 to 40 per cent, it was granted approval in view of the enormity of the task of malaria control.
  4. The vaccine has already been administered to over one million children in pilot trials since2019, and it has resulted in a significant reduction in severe malaria and hospitalisation in malaria-endemic countries like Ghana, Kenya and Malawi.
  5. An Indian company, Bharat Biotech, has been granted a licence to manufacture this vaccine. Under the agreement, GSK will provide the adjuvant of the vaccine, a key ingredient of any vaccine, and Bharat Biotech is expected to be the only global manufacturer of the vaccine by 2029.

R21 vaccine:

  1. The R21, which like RTS, S works against the liver stage of the parasite, has recently created much excitement in malaria vaccine research circles.
  2. The R21 has been developed by scientists at Oxford University and formulated with a proprietary adjuvant from Novavax called Matrix M. This adjuvant has also been used in protein-based COVID-19 vaccine, manufactured and marketed in India by the Serum Institute of India (SII) under the brand name COVOVAX.
  3. R21 vaccine is manufactured by another India company, the SII, which happens to the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer. Not only is SII the sole manufacturer of the vaccine, it also has sponsored the large Phase 3 licensure clinical trials in Africa.
  4. SII has already established capacity to produce 200 million doses annually, underling its commitment to fight against malaria and its eradication.

Malaria vaccine research in India:

  1. Controlled Human Malaria Infection (CHMI) studies have the potential to fast-track initial assessments of vaccine efficacy, and also facilitate the first clinical evaluation of vaccines involving fewer adult subjects.
  2. Scientists at the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB), New Delhi, have successfully developed and produced two experimental recombinant blood stage malaria vaccines against P. falciparum and P. vivax and carried out Phase I first-in-man clinical trials in India.

Recent measures in India:

  1. Malaria is all set to become a notifiable disease across India, with Bihar, Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Meghalaya too in the process of putting this vector-borne disease in the category. This will then require by law that cases be reported to government authorities.
  2. Currently, malaria is a notifiable disease in 33 States and Union Territories in India; this is part of India’s vision to be malaria-free by 2027 and to eliminate the disease by 2030.

Way forward:

  1. The vaccines against infectious diseases, particularly that target young children, are a long drawn and complex endeavour, as exemplified by development of RTS, S and R21 malaria vaccines.
  2. Their developments essentially require collaboration of multiple stakeholders, stable high quality infrastructure and long-term financial support from government and other agencies.


Juvenile tried as an adult in Court

GS Paper -2 (Polity)

The National Commission for Protection of Children (NCPCR) has recently issued guidelines for conducting a preliminary assessment by the Juvenile Justice Board (JJB) under Section 15 of the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015 (JJ Act, 2015). This preliminary assessment is to ascertain whether a juvenile can be tried as an adult.

More about the news:

How does a child get tried as an adult?

  1. The Act has categorised the offences committed by children into three categories i.e. petty offences, serious offences, and heinous offences. Section 15 of the JJ Act provides that in case of a heinous offence alleged to have been committed by a child, who has completed or is above the age of sixteen years:
  2. The Board shall conduct a preliminary assessment regarding his mental and physical capacity to commit such offence, ability to understand the consequences of the offence and the circumstances in which he allegedly committed the offence.
  3. Section 18 (3) of the Act further suggests that, if the Board, after preliminary assessment under section 15 passes an order that there is a need for trial of the said child as an adult, then the Board may order the transfer of the case to the Children’s Court having jurisdiction to try such offences.
  4. The sole objective of having such a preliminary assessment is to determine whether a child within the age group of 16-18 years should be tried as an adult in case of heinous offences.

Responsibilities of the Board:

  1. The JJB shall be responsible for the preliminary assessment and provide the child, the child’s family, and their counsel a copy of the order.
  2. It further states that in case the JJB does not have at least one member who is a practising professional with a degree in child psychology or child psychiatry, the Board shall take the assistance of psychologists or experts who have the experience of working with children in difficult times.
  3. The child should also be provided with a legal aid counsel through the District Legal Services Authority who shall be present during the preliminary assessment.
  4. The important aspects of the guidelines is that it mandates experts, who have the required qualification to assist the JJB, to undergo training concerning Section 15 of the JJ Act, 2015.
  5. During the preliminary assessment, the Board and experts shall also analyse and take into consideration the Social Investigation Report (SIR), to be prepared by the Probation officer or Child Welfare Officer or any social worker, or a Social Background Report (SBR) to be prepared after interaction with the child or child’s family.

Way forward:

  1. The NCPCR is under a statutory obligation under Section 109 of the JJ Act, 2015 to monitor the proper implementation of the provisions of the Act.
  2. The guidelines have been made to remove any ambiguity and to clarify the steps that need to be followed while conducting the preliminary assessment.
  3. The major issue remains the implementation and absorption of these principles in the system, particularly to be followed by the JJB and the Children’s Court.

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