Daily Current Affairs

29TH JANUARY,2021 : MOST POWERFUL DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS CONCEPTS

UPSC PRELIMS+MAINS

Index

  1. A) Science and Technology, Defence, Space
  2. All about Lithium and Lithium-ion Batteries (PIB)
  3. Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) (PIB)
  4. B) Schemes, Policies, Initiatives, Awards and Social Issues
  5. Pradhanmantri Jan Vikas Karykram (PMJVK) (PIB)
  6. C) Art, Culture and History
  7. Lala Lajpat Rai (TH)
  8. D) Polity, Bills, Acts and Judgments
  9. Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012 (IE)

 

A) Science and Technology, Defence, Space

  1. All about Lithium and Lithium-ion Batteries (PIB)

  • Context: With electric vehicles fast becoming the new reality, Union Minister for MSME and Road Transport & Highways has stressed the need to emerge as pioneers in developing leading battery and power-train technologies.
  • Noting that the challenge we presently face is the control on strategic reserves of Lithium, which is used to manufacture Lithium-ion rechargeable batteries used in vehicles, the Minister has called upon the EV sector to shift towards a completely indigenous battery technology in the coming years.

Analysis

Lithium discovered in India: What does it mean for Renewables?

  • The Department of Atomic Energy, Government of India has discovered 1600kg Lithium in Mandla district of Karnataka.
  • India is spending a considerable amount of money on Lithium import, which acts as a drain to the Forex. The import bill of Lithium has risen upto three-fold between 2017 to 2020.
  • Lithium has widespread uses across domains. It is added to glasses and ceramics for resistance to temperature fluctuation, it is used in heat-resistant greases and lubricants, and it is alloyed with aluminum and copper for lightweight aerial components.
  • Lithium is also used in psychiatric medications and in dental imprints.
  • The lighter of two lithium isotopes is used in the production of Tritium, a key component of nuclear weapons.
  • The most widespread and well-known use of Lithium is in the Lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery.
  • Some of the most common applications of lithium-ion batteries are power backup appliances, mobile phones, laptops, and other commonly used electric goods.
  • India’s first Lithium plant has been set up at Gujarat in 2021.
  • The growing demand for Lithium in India is driven by the goal of Indian government to become one of the largest electric vehicle markets world over.
  • NITI Aayog has set an ambitious target to increase the number of electric vehicles by 30 percent by 2030.
  • While we have discovered 1600kg Lithium reserves, other countries are far ahead in Lithium discovery and export.
  • Bolivia is the leading producer with 2.10 crore tonnes lithium reserves, and Argentina has 1.70 crore tonnes of Lithium.
  • The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) manufactures these batteries, but their quantity is presently limited, and they are severely restricted in use.
  • The element is promoted because it has a lot of potential in the renewable sector of the modern energy spectrum, some of its advantages include:
  • India has declared 350 GW by 2030 as its renewable energy goals. Lithium discovery is a crucial step to making India self-reliant in the renewable sector and achieve the energy goals.

Four-fold jump in Li-ion battery imports since 2016 (from an article in the Hindu dated Feb 2020)

  • India has quadrupled its imports of lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries and more than tripled its import bill on the product, vital for powering a range of devices from cellphones to electric vehicles, from 2016-2018.
  • Indian manufacturers source Li-ion batteries from China, Japan and South Korea and the country is among the largest importers in the world.
  • The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) manufactures such batteries but volumes are limited and they are restricted for use in space applications.
  • In June 2018, the Central Electro Chemical Research Institute (CECRI) in Tamil Nadu’s Karaikudi, under the Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR) and RAASI Solar Power Pvt Ltd signed a Memorandum of Agreement for transfer of technology for India’s first lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery project.
  • To promote indigenous development of such batteries, the Union Cabinet in 2019 approved a program, called a National Mission on Transformative Mobility and Battery Storage in the NITI Aayog (chaired by CEO NITI Aayog) to “drive clean, connected, shared, sustainable and holistic mobility initiatives.”
  • Electric vehicles are expected to account for a significant share in the growth of the Li-ion battery demand in India though reports say this is unlikely at least until 2025, because electric cars are still significantly costlier than their combustion-engine counterparts.
  • The government has announced investments worth $1.4 billion to make India one of the largest manufacturing hubs for electric vehicles by 2040.

What’s so special about lithium?

  • In a lithium-ion battery, lithium metal migrates through the battery from one electrode to the other as a lithium ion.
  • Lithium is one of the lightest elements, and it has the strongest electrochemical potential of any element.
  • This enables a lithium-based battery to pack a lot of energy storage in a small, light battery.
  • As a result, lithium-ion batteries have become the battery of choice in many consumer electronics such as laptops and cell phones.

Lithium-ion Batteries Gain Momentum

  • Because of the inherent advantages in lithium-ion batteries, sales have grown exponentially since the turn of the century. This has helped drive down costs consistently.
  • However, one country has seized the momentum and established a commanding market lead over its competitors in this space. But it’s not the S., where much of the critical research and development that created the lithium-ion battery took place.

China in the Driver’s Seat

  • China is home to 73% of the global lithium cell manufacturing capacity, followed by the U.S., far behind in second place with 12% of global capacity.
  • Note: Top producers of lithium in the world as in 2019:
  • Australia: 51,000 MT
  • Chile: 16,000 MT
  • China: 8,000 MT
  • China has a major advantage of cheap labor, which has allowed it to dominate many manufacturing industries.
  • But China also has more lithium reserves and much greater lithium production than the U.S. (so at least two reasons)
  • The soft, silvery metal lithium is also known as white petroleum.”
  • Japan’s Sony was the company that first commercialized the technology, but China was able to catch up because of its ability to manufacture the batteries at larger scales and sell them for
  • For further details, refer to the “2019 Nobel Prize in Chemistry” article in 10th October current affairs analysis.

2019 Nobel Prize in Chemistry

  • It will be awarded to John D. Goodenough, M. Stanley Whittingham and Akira Yoshino for the development of lithium-ion batteries.
  • Through their work, this year’s Chemistry Laureates have laid the foundation of a wireless, fossil fuel-free society.
  • Whittingham, awarded this year’s Chemistry Prize, used lithium’s enormous drive to release its outer electron when he developed the first functional lithium battery.
  • Goodenough doubled the lithium battery’s potential, creating the right conditions for a vastly more powerful and useful battery.
  • Yoshino succeeded in eliminating pure lithium from the battery, instead basing it wholly on lithium ions, which are safer than pure lithium. This made the battery workable in practice.
  • The result was a lightweight, hardwearing battery that could be charged hundreds of times before its performance deteriorated.
  • The advantage of lithium-ion batteries is that they are not based upon chemical reactions that break down the electrodes but upon lithium ions flowing back and forth between the anode and cathode.
  • Lithium-ion batteries are used everywhere from mobile phones to electric vehicles, and also to store significant amounts of energy from solar and wind power.

The advantages/disadvantages of Lithium-ion batteries over other batteries are:

Advantages

  • High energy density – This implies Li-ion batteries can last way longer between charges, while maintaining high current output; this is because lithium is highly reactive element, and a lot of energy can be stored in its atomic bonds.
  • Do not need prolonged priming when new. One regular charge is all that’s needed.
  • Relatively low self-discharge – Lithium batteries have low self-discharge, not only whilst being used, but lithium-ion batteries have a clear advantage when not being used as well. When not in use, the rate of self-discharge is extremely low. The leakage of harmful chemicals is a common phenomenon in conventional batteries.
  • Low Maintenance – no periodic discharge is needed; there is no memory.
  • Specialty cells can provide very high current to applications such as power tools.
  • Lithium-ion batteries can serve as a solution for varied power demands across the spectrum. It can range from vast energy storage to portable energy storage solutions. They can thus be used as large or small batteries.
  • One of the advantages of Li-ion batteries is the fact that they come in all shapes and sizes, giving the users with many options to choose from according to their needs.

Limitations

  • Requires protection circuit to maintain voltage and current within safe limits.
  • Subject to aging, even if not in use – storage in a cool place at 40% charge reduces the aging effect.
  • Transportation restrictions – shipment of larger quantities may be subject to regulatory control. This restriction does not apply to personal carry-on batteries.
  • Expensive to manufacture – about 40 percent higher in cost than nickel-cadmium.
  • Not fully mature – metals and chemicals are changing on a continuing basis.
  • Petrol run vehicles use lead-acid batteries, and not Li-ion batteries, because the latter is sensitive to overheating.
  • They also degrade faster in higher temperatures and can even explode on overheating.
  • Dependent on flammable and combustible materials, current Li-ion batteries are susceptible to fire and explosion incidents, most of which is without any warning.
  • One of the major Centres of ISRO, Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC), is offering to transfer the in-house developed Li-ion cell technology to competent Indian Industries on a non-exclusive basis to establish Li-ion cell production facilities in the country.
  • This initiative is expected to enable Zero Emission Policy of India and accelerate the development of indigenous electric vehicle industry.
  1. Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) (PIB)

  • Context: On World Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTD) Day, on 30th January 2021, more than 50 landmarks representing 25 nations across the world will be lit up to celebrate how far we have come together in beating NTDs. India too will proudly join these countries, by illuminating UNESCO world heritage site Qutub Minar.
  • 1 in 5 people around the world are affected by NTDs. India is home to the world’s largest absolute burden of at least 11 of these major neglected tropical diseases.

Analysis

What are “neglected tropical diseases”?

  • There are four primary criteria that define an illness as a neglected tropical disease (NTD):
  • First, there is a significant burden of mortality and morbidity.
  • Secondly, a majority of incidents occur in the world’s tropical and sub-tropical regions, and it particularly impacts the poor.
  • Thirdly, the disease is amenable to treatment, as well as prevention.
  • Finally, the overall level of investment in research addressing the disease, from prevention to diagnosis to treatment and rehabilitation, is exceptionally low in comparison to its impact.

Some of the neglected tropical diseases identified by WHO are (please note that this list keeps on changing, red coloured diseases might no longer be in the latest list):

  • Buruli ulcer
  • Chagas disease
  • Dengue and Chikungunya
  • Dracunculiasis (guinea-worm disease)
  • Echinococcosis
  • Foodborne trematodiases
  • Human African trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness)
  • Leishmaniasis
  • Leprosy (Hansen’s disease)
  • Lymphatic filariasis
  • Mycetoma, chromoblastomycosis and other deep mycoses
  • Onchocerciasis (river blindness)
  • Rabies
  • Scabies and other ectoparasites
  • Schistosomiasis
  • Soil-transmitted helminthiases
  • Snakebite envenoming
  • Taeniasis/Cysticercosis
  • Trachoma
  • Yaws (Endemic treponematoses)
  • The following six NTDs can be controlled or even eliminated through mass administration of safe and effective medicines or other, effective interventions:
  • Dracunculiasis (Guinea Worm Disease)
  • Lymphatic Filariasis
  • Onchocerciasis
  • Schistosomiasis
  • Soil-transmitted Helminths (STH) (i.e., Ascaris, Hookworm, and Whipworm)
  • Trachoma

Neglected tropical diseases − Summary

  • Dengue: A mosquito-borne infection causing flu-like illness that may develop into severe dengue and cause lethal complications.
  • Rabies: A preventable viral disease transmitted to humans through the bites of infected dogs that is invariably fatal once symptoms develop.
  • Trachoma: A chlamydial infection transmitted through direct contact with infectious eye or nasal discharge, or through indirect contact with unsafe living conditions and hygiene practices, which left untreated causes irreversible corneal opacities and blindness.
  • Buruli ulcer: A debilitating mycobacterial skin infection causing severe destruction of the skin, bone and soft tissue.
  • Yaws: A chronic bacterial infection affecting mainly the skin and bone.
  • Leprosy: A complex disease caused by infection mainly of the skin, peripheral nerves, mucosa of the upper respiratory tract and eyes.
  • Chagas disease: A life-threatening illness transmitted to humans through contact with vector insects (triatomine bugs), ingestion of contaminated food, infected blood transfusions, congenital transmission, organ transplantation or laboratory accidents.
  • Human African trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness): A parasitic infection spread by the bites of tsetse flies that is almost 100% fatal without prompt diagnosis and treatment to prevent the parasites invading the central nervous system.
  • Leishmaniases: Disease transmitted through the bites of infected female sandflies that in its most severe (visceral) form attacks the internal organs and in its most prevalent (cutaneous) form causes face ulcers, disfiguring scars and disability.
  • Taeniasis and neurocysticercosis: An infection caused by adult tapeworms in human intestines; cysticercosis results when humans ingest tapeworm eggs that develop as larvae in tissues.
  • Dracunculiasis (guinea-worm disease): A nematode infection transmitted exclusively by drinking-water contaminated with parasite-infected water fleas.
  • Echinococcosis: Infection caused by the larval stages of tapeworms forming pathogenic cysts in humans and transmitted when ingesting eggs most commonly shed in faeces of dogs and wild animals.
  • Foodborne trematodiases: Infection acquired by consuming fish, vegetables and crustaceans contaminated with larval parasites; clonorchiasis, opisthorchiasis and fascioliasis are the main diseases.
  • Lymphatic filariasis: Infection transmitted by mosquitoes causing abnormal enlargement of limbs and genitals from adult worms inhabiting and reproducing in the lymphatic system.
  • Onchocerciasis (river blindness): Infection transmitted by the bite of infected blackflies causing severe itching and eye lesions as the adult worm produces larvae and leading to visual impairment and permanent blindness.
  • Schistosomiasis: Trematode infections transmitted when larval forms released by freshwater snails penetrate human skin during contact with infested water.
  • Soil-transmitted helminthiases: Nematode infections transmitted through soil contaminated by human faeces causing anaemia, vitamin A deficiency, stunted growth, malnutrition, intestinal obstruction and impaired development.
  • Mycetomais a chronic, progressively destructive inflammatory skin disease which usually affects the lower limbs. Infection is thought to be caused by the inoculation, through a thorn prick or skin damage, of fungi or bacteria into the subcutaneous tissue.

WHO issues new 10-year plan to end suffering from neglected tropical diseases

  • The overarching 2030 global targets are:
  • reduce by 90% the number of people requiring treatment for NTDs
  • at least 100 countries to have eliminated at least one NTD
  • eradicate two diseases (dracunculiasis and yaws)
  • reduce by 75% the disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) related to NTD
  • Additionally, the road map will track 10 cross-cutting targets and disease specific targets that include:
  • a reduction by more than 75% in the number of deaths from vector-borne NTDs such as dengue, leishmaniasis and others,
  • promote full access to basic water supply,
  • sanitation and hygiene in areas endemic for NTDs and achieve greater improvement in collecting and reporting NTD data disaggregated by gender.

 B) Schemes, Policies, Initiatives, Awards and Social Issues

3.Pradhanmantri Jan Vikas Karykram (PMJVK) (PIB)

  • Context: Union Minister for Minority Affairs has said during the last about 6 years, the Government has constructed basic infrastructure in needy areas across the country under “Pradhanmantri Jan Vikas Karykram” (PMJVK).

Analysis

C) Art, Culture and History

4.Lala Lajpat Rai (TH)

  • Context: The Prime Minister has paid tributes to Lala Lajpat Rai ji on his Jayanti.

Analysis

Safety-valve theory

  • In his Young India published in 1916, the Extremist leader Lala Lajpat Rai used the safety-valve theory to attack the Moderates in the Congress. Having discussed the theory at length and suggested that the Congress ‘was a product of Lord Dufferin’s brain,’ he argued that ‘the Congress was started more with the object of saving the British Empire from danger than with that of winning political liberty for India. The interests of the British Empire were primary and those of India only secondary.’

Swadeshi Movement

  • Lala Lajpat Rai spread the Swadeshi message in Punjab and other parts of northern India.
  • The militant nationalists, led by Tilak, Bipin Chandra Pal, Lajpat Rai and Aurobindo Ghosh, were in favour of extending the movement to the rest of India and carrying it beyond the programme of just Swadeshi and boycott to a full-fledged political mass struggle.
  • In Rawalpindi, in Punjab, the arsenal and railway engineering workers went on strike as part of the 1907 upsurge in the Punjab which had led to the deportation of Lajpat Rai and Ajit Singh.

Formation of the All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC) in 1920

  • Lokamanya Tilak, who had developed a close association with Bombay work., was one of the moving spirits in the formation of the AITUC, which had Lala Lajpat Rai, the famous Extremist leader from Punjab, as its first president and Dewan Chaman Lal, who was to become a major name in the Indian labour movement, as its General Secretary.
  • Lajpat Rai was among the first in India to link capitalism with imperialism and emphasize the crucial of the working class in fighting this combination. He said on 7 November, 1920: ‘India… has… been bled by the forces of organized capital and is today lying prostrate at its feet. Militarism and Imperialism are the twin-children of capitalism; they are one in three and three in one. Their shadow, their fruit and their bark all are poisonous. It is only lately that an antidote has been discovered and that antidote is organized labour.’
  • Lala Lajpat Rai said: ‘Revolutions and revolutionary movements are only natural . . . there can be no progress in the world without revolutions and revolutionary movements.”

Swaraj Party

  • Lajpat Rai and Madan Mohan Malaviya separated themselves from the Swaraj Party on Responsivist as well as communal grounds.

Public Safety Bill in 1928.

  • Frightened by the spread of socialist and communist ideas and influence and believing that the crucial role in this respect was being played by British and other foreign agitators sent to India by the Communist International, the Government proposed to acquire the power to deport ‘undesirable’ and ‘subversive’ foreigners.
  • Nationalists of all colours, from the moderates to the militants, united in opposing the Bill.
  • Lala Lajpat Rai said, ‘Capitalism is only another name for Imperialism . . . We are in no danger from Bolshevism or Communism. The greatest danger we are in, is from the capitalists and exploiters.’

Hindustan Socialist Republican Army (HSRA)

  • Even though, as we shall see, the HSRA and its leadership was rapidly moving away from individual heroic action and assassination and towards mass politics, Lala Lajpat Rai’s death, as the result of a brutal lathi-charge when he was leading an anti-Simon Commission demonstration at Lahore on 30 October her 1928, led them once again to take to individual assassination.
  • The death of this great Punjabi leader, popularly known as Sher-e-Punjab, was seen by the romantic youthful leadership of the HSRA as a direct challenge. And so, on 17 December 1928, Bhagat Singh, Azad and Rajguru assassinated, at Lahore, Saunders, a police official involved in the lathi charge of Lab Lajpat Rai. In a poster, put up by the Hindustan Socialist Republican Army (HSRA) after the assassination, the assassination was justified as follows: ‘The murder of a leader respected by millions of people at the unworthy hands of an ordinary police official . . . was an insult to the nation. it was the bounden duty of young men of India to efface it. . . We regret to have had to kill a person but he was part and parcel

Hindu communal solidarity

  • Lajpat Rai, Madan Mohan Malaviya and N.C. Kelkar joined the Hindu Mahasabha and argued for Hindu communal solidarity.

D) Polity, Bills, Acts and Judgments

5.Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012 (IE)

  • Context: Bombay HC’s interpretation of POCSO risks making the law redundant.

Analysis

  • Recently, the Nagpur Bench of the Bombay High Court in the case of Satish Bandu Ragde v. The State of Maharashtra held that “skin-to-skin” contact is essential to constitute the offence defined under Section 7 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 (POCSO Act) which deals with sexual offences against minors.
  • The POCSO Act was enacted with the specific intention of protecting children from sexual assault and sexual harassment. It took into consideration the standards prescribed by the Convention on the Rights of the Child adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations to which the Indian government acceded to on December 11, 1992.
  • The Act acknowledges the special vulnerability of children and that special protection, above and beyond that provided in the IPC, is required when the victim is a child.
  • Section 354 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, which deals with outraging modesty of women and provides for a lesser sentence in comparison to POCSO.

Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012

  • The Act deals with sexual offences against persons below 18 years of age, who are deemed as children.
  • The Act for the first time, defines “penetrative sexual assault”, “sexual assault” and “sexual harassment”.
  • Speedy trial of offences through appointment of Special Public Prosecutors and designated Special Courts.
  • The Act provides for stringent punishments which have been graded as per the gravity of the offense
  • The Act deems a sexual assault to be “aggravated” under certain circumstances, such as when the abused child is mentally ill or when the abuse is committed by a person in a position of trust or authority vis-a-vis the child, like a family member, police officer, teacher, or doctor.
  • The Act provides for a dedicated ‘Online Complaint System (e‑baalnidaan)’ to ensure timely/speedy redressal of complaints of various violations and deprivation of child rights.
  • The Act also provides for mandatory reporting of sexual offences.
  • The police are also required to bring the matter to the attention of the Child Welfare Committee (CWC) within 24 hours of receiving the report.
  • It provides for special courts that conduct the trial in-camera and without revealing the identity of the child.
  • The Act stipulates that a case of child sexual abuse must be disposed of within one year from the date the offence is reported.
  • The Act provides for the Special Court to determine the amount of compensation to be paid to a child who has been sexually abused, so that this money can then be used for the child’s medical treatment and rehabilitation.

Recent Amendments

  • The amended Act provides death penalty for aggravated sexual assault on children and greater punishments for other crimes against minors.
  • The Bill justifies this by referring to the judgments of the Supreme Court in Machhi Singh (1983) and Devender Pal Singh (2002) in which the court has held that the death penalty can be awarded only in rarest of rare cases.
  • It makes offences against children gender-neutral.

 

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