November 29, 2022

Lukmaan IAS

A Blog for IAS Examination

DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS (OCTOBER 05, 2022)

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THE INDIAN POLITY AND GOVERNANCE

1. CJI SENDS 2ND NOTE OVER NAMING NEW JUDGES: WHAT IS THE SC COLLEGIUM, HOW IT WORKS

THE CONTEXT: With two of the five-member Supreme Court Collegium against a proposal to recommend four new judges to the top court through a written note instead of a formal meeting, Chief Justice of India U U Lalit is learnt to have written to them again, seeking reconsideration of their stand.

THE EXPLANATION:

  • CJI Lalit is due to retire in little over a month, leaving him with very little time for appointments. As per convention, the government writes to the outgoing CJI before his retirement and the CJI recommends the name of the most senior judge as the successor about a month before retirement.
  • Once a new name is recommended, the incumbent CJI usually refrains from taking decisions on appointment of judges.

The Collegium system

  • The collegium system is the way by which judges of the Supreme Court and High Courts are appointed and transferred. The collegium system is not rooted in the Constitution or a specific law promulgated by Parliament; it has evolved through judgments of the Supreme Court.
  • The Supreme Court Collegium is a five-member body, which is headed by the incumbent CJI and comprises the four other senior most judges of the court at that time. A High Court collegium is led by the incumbent Chief Justice and four other senior most judges of that court. By its very nature, the composition of the collegium keeps changing.
  • Judges of the higher judiciary are appointed only through the collegium system, and the government has a role only after names have been decided by the collegium. Names recommended for appointment by a High Court collegium reach the government only after approval by the CJI and the Supreme Court collegium.
  • The role of the government in this entire process is limited to getting an inquiry conducted by the Intelligence Bureau (IB) if a lawyer is to be elevated as a judge in a High Court or the Supreme Court. The government can also raise objections and seek clarifications regarding the collegium’s choices, but if the collegium reiterates the same names, the government is bound to appoint them.
  • Critics have pointed out that the system is non-transparent, since it does not involve any official mechanism or secretariat. It is seen as a closed-door affair with no prescribed norms regarding eligibility criteria, or even the selection procedure. There is no public knowledge of how and when a collegium meets, and how it takes its decisions. There are no official minutes of collegium proceedings.

2. THE SUPREME COURT SAYS ABORTION RIGHTS NOT LIMITED TO ‘CIS-GENDER WOMEN’: WHAT THIS TERM MEANS

THE CONTEXT: In a significant judgment, the Supreme Court said it was unconstitutional to distinguish between married and unmarried women while allowing abortion when the foetus is between 20-24 weeks. Going a step further, the court said the term ‘woman’ in the judgment included persons other than cisgender women.

THE EXPLANATION:

  • The three-judge bench said in the order delivered by Justice D Y Chandrachud, “Before we embark upon a discussion on the law and its application, it must be mentioned that we use the term ‘woman’ in this judgment as including persons other than cis-gender women who may require access to safe medical termination of their pregnancies.”

What is cisgender?

  • The term cisgender is used to define people whose gender identity and expression match the identity assigned to them at birth.
  • When a child is born, it is assigned a gender identity based on its physical characteristics. Many believe that gender is a social construct, and growing up, the child may or may not confirm to the birth identity.
  • For transgender people, their sense of gender identity does not match the one assigned to them at birth.
  • Thus, a cisgender woman is a person who was assigned female at birth and continues to identify as a woman. On the other hand, a child assigned female at birth can feel it identifies more authentically as a man as it grows up.

Cisgender: Origins of the term

  • The latin prefix ‘cis’ literally means ‘on the same side of’, while ‘trans’ means on the other side. Trans as a prefix is used commonly (transatlantic, trans-tasman), though cis is rarer in popular usage.
  • ‘Cisgender’ entered Britain’s Oxford English Dictionary in 2015, and the USA’s Merriam Webster Dictionary in 2016. Both dictionaries document its first usage around 1994. Dana Leland Defosse, a biologist at the University of Minnesota, is believed to have first used the word in connection with a study on transphobia, in May 1994.
  • What is commonly agreed upon is that the word existed in academic journals since the mid-90s. It was popularised by gender theorist and activist Julia Serano’s 2007 book Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity, and gradually, especially with the advent of the internet, became part enough of popular parlance to be included in the dictionaries.

Why the word cisgender is important?

  • If there are ‘transgender’ people, there should be a word for those who are not. Giving a label to only one section of the population, especially when that is in the minority, implies that the others are default, ‘normal’, and only that section needs to be labeled.

Use of gender-inclusive vocabularies in official documents

  • Before India’s Supreme Court used ‘cisgender’ in the context of reproductive rights, last year in June, the US government had replaced the word ‘mothers’ with ‘birthing people’ in a section on bringing down maternal mortality in its 2022 fiscal year budget, provoking quite a furore in Republican circles.

Those who advocate the use of ‘birthing people’ say it is not just women who give birth. Transmen — a person assigned the female gender at birth but who identifies as a man – and genderqueer people – who identify as neither man nor woman – also give birth.

THE HEALTH ISSUES

3. THE INCREASE IN CHOLERA CASES

THE CONTEXT: The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned of a “worrying surge” in cholera cases across the globe.

THE EXPLANATION:

  • Recently 26 countries have reported cholera outbreak in 2022. This is problematic since, normally, less than 20 countries report cholera outbreak every year.
  • Haiti had recorded at least 7 cholera deaths for the first time in 3 years. The health crisis in the Caribbean country was worsened because of surge in fuel prices, which has caused shortages in clean drinking water and adversely affected the operations of healthcare facilities.
  • Conflict, poverty and climate crisis are the main reasons behind the spike in cholera cases at the international level.
  • Extreme climatic conditions like flooding, cyclones and droughts are reducing the access to clean water and supporting the spread of cholera.
  • The WHO warned that these outbreaks are expected to be larger and more fatal in the coming years because of climate change.
  • In 2021, the fatality rate has tripled when compared with the previous 5 years.
  • Currently, the WHO does not have accurate figures on the cholera cases and deaths because of the absence of standard surveillance system in the affected countries.
  • In India, cholera is endemic. This year, the number of cases in Maharashtra surpassed the last year’s figures, resulting in 261 cases and at least 6 deaths in July. The number of deaths in the state is highest in this decade.
  • Though cholera cases are spreading, this disease can be prevented easily.
  • The fatality rate can be reduced below one per cent through the timely and proper administration of oral rehydration and intravenous fluids.
  • While GAVI, the vaccine alliance, has the emergency stockpiles of vaccines against cholera and other diseases, such measures are inaccessible to many countries.
  • Though the WHO has these vaccines, there is a huge shortage because of manufacturing problems. There are insufficient number of vaccines to respond to both acute outbreaks and implement preventive measures.

VALUE ADDITION:

About Cholera:

Cholera is an acute, diarrheal illness caused by infection of the intestine with the bacterium Vibrio cholerae. The infection is often mild or without symptoms, but sometimes can be severe.

How does a person get cholera?

  • A person may get cholera by drinking water or eating food contaminated with the cholera bacterium. In an epidemic, the source of the contamination is usually the feces (stool) of an infected person. The disease can spread rapidly in areas with inadequate treatment of sewage and drinking water.
  • The cholera bacterium may also live in the environment in brackish rivers and coastal waters. Shellfish eaten raw have been a source of cholera. The disease is not likely to spread directly from one person to another; therefore, casual contact with an infected person is not a risk for becoming ill.

Can cholera be treated?

  • Cholera can be simply and successfully treated by immediate replacement of the fluid and salts lost through diarrhea. Patients can be treated with oral rehydration solution, a prepackaged mixture of sugar and salts to be mixed with water and drunk in large amounts.
  • This solution is used throughout the world to treat diarrhea. Severe cases also require intravenous fluid replacement. With prompt rehydration, less than 1% of cholera patients die.
  • Antibiotics shorten the course and diminish the severity of the illness, but they are not as important as rehydration. Persons who develop severe diarrhea and vomiting in countries where cholera occurs should seek medical attention promptly.

GOVERNMENT SCHEMES AND INITIATIVES IN NEWS

4. THE SARTHAK INITIATIVE

THE CONTEXT: NIMHANS and HelpAge India are jointly implementing Sarthak to ensure mental well-being of elderly.

THE EXPLANATION:

  • Sarthak is a community-based initiative that provides nurses, healthcare workers and volunteers training on geriatric mental health.
  • The National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro-Sciences (NIMHANS) and an NGO named HelpAge India are collaborating to implement this initiative.
  • Under Sarthak initiative, 10,000 mental health workers will be trained to identify and counter mental health issues faced by older people.
  • The training will be provided for non-specialized health workers and community caregivers through customized online modules focusing on specific categories like Non-Specialist health workforce, Informal Caregivers and Institutional Caregivers.

Mental health situation among elderly

According to the NGO HelpAge, over 20 per cent of adults aging 60 and above suffer from a mental or neurological disorders like dementia and depression. During the pandemic, it found that in a sample size of 5,000 people, 60 per cent reported that they felt lonely and isolated. 40 per cent of them have felt depressed. This issue is expected to worsen in the coming years. The Longitudinal Ageing Study of India (LASI) report forecasted 14 million senior citizens in India will face mental health issues by 2050. This is a significant increase from the current figure of 5 million. Currently, in India, 2 in 10 people facing mental health issues are not receiving any kind of assistance to address mental health problems. There is only 1 psychiatrist for over 2 lakh people.

About NIMHANS

The Bengaluru-based National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro-Sciences (NIMHANS) is India’s apex centre for mental health and neuroscience education. It comes under the aegis of the Union Health Ministry and operates autonomously as the Institute of National Importance. The institute’s origin can be traced to the establishment of Bangalore Lunatic Asylum in 1847. The Indian Parliament had passed a law in 2012 to declare it as an Institute of National Importance.

SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY

5. NOBEL PRIZE IN PHYSICS: BREAKTHROUGHS IN QUANTUM TECH

THE CONTEXT: The Nobel Committee announced the names of three physicists as Nobel Laureates for this year. They are Alain Aspect from the University of Paris-Saclay, France; John F. Clauser of John F Clauser and Associates, California, USA; and Anton Zeilinger, University of Vienna, Austria.

THE EXPLANATION:

They have been awarded for “experiments with entangled photons, establishing the violation of Bell inequalities and pioneering quantum information science,” according to a press release by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, which awards the Nobel Prizes every year.

The award

  • At the heart of the award is the concept of quantum entanglement, which Albert Einstein referred to as “spooky action at a distance.” The Prize has been given for experimental work in this area. Two of the laureates—John Clauser and Alain Aspect—worked on firming up this concept and developing more complex experiments that demonstrated this phenomenon, especially creating, processing and measuring what are called Bell pairs. The third laureate, Anton Zeilinger, has been chosen for his innovative use of entanglement and Bell pairs both in research and application such as quantum cryptography.
  • Mechanics is the branch of physics that deals with the movement and interaction of various bodies. Classical mechanics is the study of the dynamics of a system at the very basic level of Newton’s laws of motion.
  • When there are a few bodies or particles interacting, classical mechanics can be used in a straightforward manner. It can be extended to many particle systems like a box containing millions of molecules of a gas, by employing the powerful techniques of statistics. This is called statistical mechanics.

Breakdown of the classical

  • Newton’s laws were, of course, very successful in describing a lot of everyday activities, from playing tennis to sending a rocket to Mars. However, they broke down, or were of no use, when describing the behaviour of subatomic particles or light quanta, for example.
  • Despite all these innovations, there were phenomena that could not be explained by physicists. To understand these problems, in the early decades of the 20 th century, postulates of quantum mechanics were brought in. The chief architects of this were Max Planck, Albert Einstein, Erwin Schrodinger, Werner Heisenberg and Niels Bohr to name a few.
  • Many of the concepts that were useful in visualising the movement of particles in the classical realm break down when you look at particles obeying quantum mechanics.

Trajectory and its absence

  • For example, when a tennis ball is struck, you can observe it and see that it traces out a definite path in space. This path called a trajectory, and it is eminently possible to theoretically calculate the trajectory of the ball to any given accuracy.

THE PRELIMS PERSPECTIVE

6. THE NANSEN AWARD

THE CONTEXT: Recently, the Former German Chancellor Angela Merkel recently received the Nansen Refugee Award.

THE EXPLANATION:

  • Ex-German Chancellor Angela Merkel received the UNHCR Nansen Award for providing asylum for refugees while in office.
  • While Merkel was the Chancellor in 2015 and 2016, Germany welcomed more than 1.2 million refugees and asylum seekers, especially from Syria.
  • The UNHCR recognized Merkel’s determination to protect asylum seekers, helping them to survive and rebuild after facing war.
  • The Nansen Award committee also honoured four regional winners. These include a refugee support cacao cooperative in Costa Rica in the Americas, a volunteer refugee firefighting group in Mauritia in West Africa, humanitarian organization Meikse Myanmar that helps internally displaced people in Asia and the Pacific and an Iraqi gynaecologist known for providing medical and psychological aid to Yazidi girls and women in North Africa and Middle East.
  • The Nansen Awards will be bestowed to Merkel and other winners at a ceremony that will be organized in Geneva, Switzerland on October 10, 2022.
  • While Merkel will receive a cash prize of 150,000 USD, the regional winners will each receive 50,000 USD.

About Nansen Award

  • The Nansen Award is conferred every year by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to an individual, group or organization in recognition of their contribution towards aiding refugees, stateless or displaced people.
  • It was created in 1954 in honour of the first United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Arctic explorer and humanitarian Fridtjof Nansen. The first to receive this award is Eleanor Roosevelt. Regional awards for the Americas, Europe, Africa, Asia and the Middle East are being conferred since 2017.

What is UNHCR?

The UNHCR is a UN agency involved in the protection of refugees and displaced and stateless communities. It is involved in their voluntary repatriation, local integration and resettlement in a foreign country.

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