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Answered: Mains Marathon – UPSC Mains Current Affairs Questions – May 26

1. Why is a hybridised mustard variety required? Why is there an objection for its introduction? Discuss the deficiencies in the evaluation process of GM mustard.(GS 3)

Daily Editorial

Why is hybridised mustard variety required:-

  • The GM hybridised mustard, as it is claimed, gives up to 30% more yield than the best varieties such as ‘Varuna’ currently grown in the country.
  • Researchers and promoters of GM Mustard argue that India imports Rs.60,000 crore worth of edible oils every year.
  •            There is an urgent need to reduce dependence on imports and raise domestic crop yields of mustard, which in turn raises production of edible oils domestically.
  • To improve yields, hybridisation is a potential technique as it is successfully demonstrated with many other crops.

Why is there an objection for its introduction-

  • Mustard cannot be naturally hybridised because it is a self-pollinating plant having both male and female reproductive parts in a single flower.
  • Hence there is no natural hybridization system in mustard, unlike in, say, cotton, maize or tomato.
  • The main reason for its objection is in use of GM technology for hybridisation involving use of alien genes.
  • Though GM technology is already commercialised in India through Bt cotton, it is argued that cotton is not a food crop whereas mustard is largest edible oil yielding crop of India. Its introduction may adversely affect human and animal health.
  • It is also argued that the reason for increased imports of edible oils is because of reduction in import duties and that in turn discouraged domestic production by companies. It resulted in reduction of cultivation of the crop by farmers.
  • There was similar opposition to introduction of Btbrinjal, another GM crop approved by the GEAC in 2009.
  • When sustainable farming and low-input agriculture are becoming the buzzwords, crop varieties that will end up doing more harm to the environment and crop fields is not understable. GM mustard will require almost double the quantity of fertiliser and water.
  • GM mustard can affect honeybees directly and indirectly through effecting flowering and pollen production. Protease inhibitors have proved detrimental to the longevity and behaviour of bees.

Deficiencies in the evaluation process of GM mustard:-

  • Regulatory weakness:-
    • The Genetic Engineering Approval Committee, which is responsible for approving large-scale releases and commercialisation of GMOs, functions under the Ministry of Environment and Forests and is not entirely independent.
    • The case of the Review Committee on Genetic Manipulation that supervises and clears research activities and also small-scale field trials is even starker.
      • It is part of the Department of Biotechnology, whose primary task is to promote biotechnology.
      • DBT therefore is the promoter as well as the regulator. On several occasions, developers of transgenic crops have also been members of regulatory committees.
    • The risks to health, environment and agriculture have not been evaluated even through those inadequate tests which were conducted at the time of Bt brinjal examination, though mustard is far more extensively grown and consumed than brinjal.
    • HT (herbicide tolerant) GM crops have been condemned by a number of medical professionals and other scientists for increasing chemical herbicide use, leading to serious health conditions at all stages, but most worryingly at the foetal stage.
    • A scientific report from Argentina found a fourfold increase in birth defects and a threefold increase in childhood cancers in HT soya areas.
    • Shockingly, the GEAC has conveniently omitted to have any herbicide-related studies. A small committee was constituted to “examine” the safety dossier , the tests that were done and the deliberations of GEAC were shrouded in secrecy.
    • After a scathing order from the Central Information Commission, the GEAC made a sham of public consultations, through an opaque and perfunctory eyewash process.
  • What is therefore needed is an independent biotechnology regulatory authority, a single organization that will replace the multiple committees. This authority would deal with the use of all GMOs in agriculture, pharmaceutical and biodiversity sector.


    2. Law Commission has come out with its 268th report on undertrial prisoners. Discuss its recommendations.(GS 2)

The Hindu

Introduction:-

  • Recently Law Commission released its report on bail law reform which deserves urgent attention.
  • The Law Commission, in its 268th Report,highlights the problem where it has become the norm for the rich and powerful to get bail with ease, while others languish in prison

Recommendations:-

  • The Commission seeks to improve on a provision introduced in 2005 to grant relief to thousands of prisoners languishing without trial and to decongest India’s overcrowded prisons.
  • Section 436A of the Code of Criminal Procedurestipulates that a prisoner shall be released on bail on personal bond if he or she has undergone detention of half the maximum period of imprisonment specified for that offence.
  • The Law Commission recommends that those detained for an offence that would attract up to seven years’ imprisonment be released on completing one-third of that period, and those charged with offences attracting a longer jail term, after they complete half of that period.
  • For those who had spent the whole period as undertrials, the period undergone may be considered for remission.
  • In general terms, the Commission cautions the police against needless arrests and magistrates against mechanical remand orders.
  • It gives an illustrative list of conditions that could be imposed in lieu of sureties or financial bonds.
  • It advocates the need to impose the “least restrictive conditions”.
  • The Commission recommended to the government amendments to the bail provisions in the Criminal Procedure Code with emphasis on the early release on bail of undertrials.
  • It recommended that undertrials who have completed one-third of the maximum sentence for offences up to seven years be released on bail. Those who are awaiting trial for offences punishable with imprisonment of more than seven years, should be bailed out if they have completed one-half of their sentence.
  • The Commission said new legal provisions for remission should be included to cover those undertrials who have already endured the full length of the maximum sentence.
  • Prolonged periods in prison where undertrials and convicts were not segregated would only make hardened criminals of the former.

Facts:-

  • Over 60 per cent of arrests were unnecessary and such arrests accounted for 42.3 per cent of jail expenditure.
  • According to law commision the imprisonment rate in India is 33 per 1,00,000 of the national population

Concerns:-

The real solution to the problem of under trials is in providing speed trials


3. What is Vienna convention? ICJ has showed creativity by balancing its powers with principle of state sovereignty and consent. Discuss.(GS 2)

Indian Express

Introduction:

  • Recently in the Kulbushan yadav case ICJ has become the arbitrator in the case and this brought Vienna convention in the spotlight.

Vienna convention:-

  • The right to consular access, encompassing the right of sending-state consuls to visit, converse with and arrange legal representation for nationals of the home-state in custody of the receiving-state, is provided for under article 36(1)(c) of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, 1963 (VCCR), to which both India and Pakistan are parties.
  • Under the VCCR, the receiving state (Pakistan in this case) is obligated to facilitate this protection work by:
    • Promptly informing the competent consulate when one of their nationals is arrested or detained.
    • Inform the detained foreign national of his right to consular access with his home state.
    • Facilitate the protection work performed by the competent consuls in the form of visits, communications and legal arrangements made for the detainee.

Yes, ICJ showed creativity by balancing it’s powers with principle of state sovereignty and consent because of the following reasons:-

  • ICJ has recognised that not all state parties may follow its orders or judgments, a factor inevitable in the multi-state context.
  • Even in the LaGrand case  in 2001, ICJ recognised that “exercising jurisdiction to intervene directly in the fate of an individual would mean some departure from the function of the principal judicial organ of the United Nations to settle inter-state disputes concerning the rights and duties of states”.
  • Thus, innovation must occur always under the shadow of the sovereign equality of all states.
  • However the ICJ has asked Pakistan to take all possible measures to ensure that Indian spy Kulbhushan Yadav is not executed before the court gives its final verdict.
  • There have been celebrations in India about this interim decision of ICJ but, in actual fact, the ground realities have not changed. When all is said and done, the bottomline is that Yadav remains in a Pakistani jail, after being sentenced to death by a military court. 

 

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