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9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – February 19, 2021

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Here is our 9pm current affairs brief for you today

About 9 PM Brief- With the 9 PM Current affairs brief we intend to simplify the newspaper reading experience. In 9PM briefs, we provide our reader with a summary of all the important articles and editorials from three important newspapers namely The Hindu, Indian Express, and Livemint. This will provide you with analysis, broad coverage, and factual information from a Mains examination point of view.

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Article wise list of 9 PM Brief


List of  9 PM Current Affairs Articles

  1. Judicial Review and Public Protests in India
  2. Conservation of Migratory Birds
  3. Importance of Mars 2020 Perseverance Rover
  4. Importance of COVID 19 learnings in fight against tuberculosis
  5. Factors affecting present inflation level in India

Judicial Review and Public Protests in India

Source: The Hindu

Syllabus: GS-2: Structure, Organization, and Functioning of the Executive and the Judiciary

Synopsis: The timely judicial review of the constitutional validity of laws would have reduced the number of protests in India.

Background:

  • In the Shaheen Bagh protest case, in 2020, SC held that there is no absolute right to protest and public spaces cannot be occupied and that too indefinitely. It affects the right of the general public to move freely without hindrance.
  • Recently, the Supreme Court has refused to review its earlier verdict on the Shaheen Bagh protest.

Why the SC decisions on protests are seen as arbitrary?

  • First, many protests took place because laws passed by the Parliament (economic reservation, CAA, Farm laws) were not subject to timely Judicial review.
      • Almost all the major protests that happened recently in India, involved legal and constitutional issues. The court could not deliver the required immediate and effective adjudication over the constitutional validity of bills.
      • If the court would  have delivered the judgement on time regarding the validity of the laws, then the protests could have been probably reduced.
  • Second, the court is attempting to mediate the issue rather than providing a solution to that.
      • For example, Shaheen Bagh protest case verdict. The court balanced its verdict by upholding the right to peaceful protest while stating public spaces cannot be occupied indefinitely.

Why SC’s refusal to review its earlier judgment is not right?

The court’s judgment was against the indefinite occupation of public space in Shaheen Bagh protest case. It provides a licence to the police to commit atrocities against the legitimate protest in the name of the occupation.

During the agitations against the farm laws also, the protesters had to face repressive actions of the state. 

  • Protesters prosecuted by the state on serious charges of sedition and terrorism.
  • Not only the protesters but also their supporters, including comedians and journalists were prosecuted. For example, Disha Ravi (climate activist) recently charged for ‘conspiracy against the government’.
  • Protesters were denied the freedoms of expression and peaceful association provided under Article 19 of the Indian Constitution.

The Supreme Court is globally seen as a guardian of the right to dissent. But it has not provided the protesters with the required support against the state action.

What is the way forward?

  • A fair and effective justice mechanism on constitutional matters can reduce the protest on the streets.
      • For example, according to Sociologist Luke Martell the radical green movement in Britain was at a lower scale when compared with other parts of Western Europe.
      • This is because the “public enquiry system” in the United Kingdom is good. It processes ecological demands, and integrate them into the political system.
      • This minimised the radicalization of the movement arising out of exclusion and marginalisation.
  • The spirit of judgment in Himat Lal K. Shah vs Commissioner of Police (1972) should be upheld.
      • The Court struck down the rules framed by the Ahmedabad Police Commissioner because it conferred arbitrary power on the police officers in the matter of public meetings.
      • Justice Kuttyil Kurien Mathew, in Himat Lal K. Shah, explained that “freedom of assembly is an essential element of a democratic system” and that “the public streets are the ‘natural’ places for expression of opinion and dissemination of ideas”.

Conservation of Migratory Birds

Source- Down To Earth

Syllabus- GS 3 – Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.

Synopsis- Migratory birds are important for ecological balance. However, they are facing several threats, leading to their extinction.

What are migratory birds?

  • Bird migration is the regular seasonal movement. Birds fly hundreds and thousands of KMs to find the best habitats for feeding, breeding, and raising their young ones.
  • Migratory birds come to India from about 29 countries between September and October during the winter migration season. For example, Pallikaranai in Chennai attracts many flamingoes, ducks, and waders.
  • However, India witnessed a decrease in the number of migratory birds.

Threats to Migratory Birds in India

Migratory birds are under threat from the following factors:

  1. Loss of biodiversity- Over-exploitation, unsustainable use of natural resources, population explosion along with increased weather variabilities, and climate change has resulted in the loss of biodiversity.
  2. Declining water sources
  3. Illegal killing – Hunting along migration routes threatens some migratory bird species.
  4. Stopover habitat loss – Migratory birds use stopover sites to feed, rest and re-energize during their migration period. But many stopover sites are threatened due to increased urbanization and over-exploitation.
  5. Collision – Structures such as power lines, windmills, and offshore oil-rigs have also affected migratory birds.
  6. Poisoning by pesticides– Pesticides have an adverse effect on migratory birds as they can directly kill some birds.
  7. Increasing illumination – The artificial light at night adversely affects migration by confusing the birds.
  8. Increasing encroachment and human interferences, lack of food become a challenge, and birds can die of starvation.

Importance of migratory birds

  1. Migratory birds play a critical role in maintaining a balance in the ecosystem. They are helpful in pollinating plants, dispersing seeds, act as pest control agents, and consuming insects and small mammals.
  2. The absence of these birds from an area can result in disasters like a Locust attack.
  3. Duck helps in the transportation of fish eggs in their guts to other water bodies. Bird droppings are rich in Nitrogen and act as organic fertilizers.

What are the measures required to address the issues?

  • Long-term monitoring programs to assess the migration trends in birds, diseases monitoring and enumeration.
  • Educating people about bird migrations and their impacts. Seeking local support for nesting and conservation of migratory birds.
  • Fishing operation to be minimized/abandoned/banned during the migration season.
  • Need to create Bird-friendly landscape and maintain natural habitat to help birds roost and build their nests.
  • Banning single-use plastics and avoiding dumping of single-use plastics in water bodies.
  • Strict law enforcement is required to support the conservation of migratory birds.
  • Modern technologies like drones can be used to track poachers in areas where birds converge.
  • Minimizing night illumination along the migration paths.
  • Promote awareness regarding the conservation and protection of migratory birds and their natural habitats.

Importance of Mars 2020 Perseverance Rover

Source: The Indian Express

Syllabus: GS 3: Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life

Synopsis: NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance Rover touched down on the Martian surface. The results of the experiment will determine the quest for life on Mars and the future manned mission to Mars.

Introduction 

Perseverance mission is the most advanced, most expensive, and most sophisticated mobile laboratory sent to Mars. The results will determine the next couple of decades of Martian exploration

Experiments on Mars in the past 30 years:

    1. Viking missions in the mid-70s: During these missions the first chemical analyses of Martian soil took place. Along with that, four biology experiments to detect biological activity were also conducted. 
    2. In 1984, a study showed that the isotopic composition of rare gases (Xenon, Krypton, Neon, and Argon) in the earth, matched the isotopic ratios of the Martian atmosphere measured by Viking spacecraft. This discovery boosted the understanding of the geochemical evolution of Mars.
    3. Mars Odyssey spacecraft in 2001: This spacecraft found the hydrogen signature on Mars. This indicated the presence of water ice on Mars.
    4. Phoenix Mars lander in 2008: NASA sent another spacecraft to Mars. It landed near the Martian South Pole. The lander officially confirmed the presence of water on Mars for the first time.

Why are scientists so interested in Mars? 

Scientists are interested in Martian research primarily for two reasons. They are, 

First, life may have evolved in the past on Mars. Further, Mars had conditions similar to earth. There is a possibility that microscopic life evolved on Mars.

Second, Mars is the only planet that humans can visit. It has a temperature ranging from between 20 degrees C at the Equator to minus 125 degrees C at the poles.

What is the significance of the Perseverance mission?

Perseverance focuses on finding life on Mars and will help in a future human mission to that planet.

  1. Perseverance would bring rock samples back from Mars. This will provide a decisive answer on whether life existed on Mars in the past or not.
  2. Producing oxygen on Mars is necessary for a successful human mission. Perseverance has an instrument known as MOXIE or Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilisation Experiment. It will use 300 watts of power to produce about 10 grams of oxygen using atmospheric carbon dioxide.
    • This will provide oxygen for breathing and rocket fuel.
  3. Perseverance will carry the Radar Imager for Mars’ Subsurface Experiment (RIMFAX). This will help in looking for underground water on Mars. It could possibly help in the human settlement on Mars if the water is found.
  4. Apart from that, Perseverance will try to fly a helicopter on Mars (which has a sparse atmosphere). The Mars Helicopter is really a small drone. Currently, long-distance transportation on Mars has to depend on vehicles that rely on rocket engines for powered ascent and powered descent.

Conclusion 

  • Perseverance is expected to provide a significant understanding of whether a human mission to Mars is possible or not. Not only that, it is expected to give a decisive answer to the question of whether Mars ever had or still has microscopic life on the planet.

Importance of COVID 19 learnings in fight against tuberculosis

Source: https://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/coronavirus-covid-19-cases-tuberulosis-cases-in-india-7194807/ 

Syllabus: GS 2 – Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health

Synopsis: The COVID 19 pandemic has given an opportunity to India for combating other respiratory diseases like Tuberculosis (TB). The learnings from the pandemic can be used to control the spread of TB.

Background:

  • The first case of COVID 19 was reported on 30th January 2020. After that, the disease claimed the lives of 1,54,000 people and infected 10.7 million in India.
  • However, with robust efforts, the government managed to control its spread. Due to this, the country is not facing a brutal second wave as suffered by other countries.
  • The number of active cases is decreasing since mid September and people are getting back to their normal lives.
  • The focus should now be shifted to other respiratory diseases like TB.

About Tuberculosis:

  • It is a contagious infection that usually attacks your lungs. But can infect other parts like your brain and spine. 
  • It is a bacterial disease caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis and affecting mankind for 3000 years.
  • Furthermore, it is a disease with the ability to damage multiple organs which enhances mortality risks.

Issues with Tuberculosis:

As per World Health Organisation (WHO), India has more than 10 million active cases of TB. 4 lakh lives are lost per year due to TB and shares 1/4th of the global burden.

  1. First, it causes a disproportionate impact on the poor who live in overcrowded spaces and lack proper nutrition.
  2. Second, numerous myths and stigma are associated with the disease which discourages reporting and proper treatment.
  3. Third, it becomes very difficult to control TB if multi-drug resistance gets developed or a person is already suffering from diabetes or  HIV.

Using COVID 19 Lessons to combat TB:

  • First, the PM must take a lead to sensitize masses about the disease. It was done by him in the case of COVID 19, to induce behaviour change. 
  • Second, the concept of physical distancing can be effective in curtailing the spread. The droplets from one person will not reach another if the due distance is maintained.
  • Third, patients, as well as nearby family members, must wear masks to curb the spread of infection.
  • Fourth, improved detection techniques developed during COVID can be used to replace the traditional sputum tests. This would ensure better diagnosis and quick results.
  • Fifth, in order to improve tracking and contact tracing, the focus should be on instant notification techniques.
  • Sixth, awareness is developed around respiratory diseases. It can be used to build community-led participation and burst the stigma surrounding TB.
  • Lastly, the enthusiasm shown by media and coordination shown by governments in tackling COVID-19 should also be carried forward to TB. 

India has set a target to eliminate TB by 2025 which is 5 years prior to the sustainable development goals target. This can be achieved if COVID 19 learnings are aptly adopted in combating TB. 


Factors affecting present inflation level in India

Source: https://epaper.thehindu.com/Home/ShareArticle?OrgId=GHU89SO5J.1&imageview=0 

Syllabus: GS 3 – Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization, of resources, growth, development, and employment.

Synopsis: The recent January 2021 retail inflation data provides relief to monetary authorities. Consumer Price Index (CPI) stood at 4.06% which is a desired outcome for ensuring macroeconomic stability. 

Background:

  • The inflation had remained above the RBI’s threshold mark of 6% for six months till November. The ideal range of CPI is 2-6%.
  • In January 2021, inflation reached a 16-month low.
  • The fall in the inflation rate was particularly attributed to a modest rise of 1.89% in Consumer Food Price Index. This was majorly a result of 15.48% drop in vegetable prices and easing of cereal prices.

RBI’s view over inflation:

  • As per RBI, bumper Kharif crops, good vegetable supply in winters, and better prospects of rabi produce could reduce inflation in future months.
  • Further, rising fears of avian flu will decrease poultry demand and control inflation.
  • However, RBI is cautious of higher inflation in pulses and edible oils. A 13.4% price rise was seen in pulses and products. Further, the rise in the oils and fats category was 19.7%.

Future concerns which may cause inflation to rise:

  • First, inflation for eggs and meat was in double digits despite the avian flu threat.
  • Second, the favorable base effect is about to decrease. It is causing fear of rising inflation in the future. The base effect is the fluctuation in a monthly inflation figure due to low or high base i.e. level of inflation in the same month a year-ago.
  • Third, the producers in multiple sectors (automobile, real estate, etc.) are expected to transfer the cost of inputs to consumers. This is due to rising input costs as shown by IHS Markit India Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI).
  • Fourth, the rising fuel prices could also contribute to increasing inflation. Diesel has already crossed the 80 rupees mark which has pushed prices of numerous goods.

In the current scenario, banks have been given necessary support which has enhanced their liquidity. This calls for due vigilance by policymakers, else inflation can’t be moderated thereby impacting macroeconomic stability.

Factly :-News Articles For UPSC Prelims | Feb 19, 2021

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