Answers: Mains Marathon – UPSC Mains Current Affairs Questions – March 12, 2019

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Q.1) As per the latest National Crime Records Bureau data, there were 1.33 lakh rape cases and 90,205 POCSO cases pending trial at the end of 2016. Discuss the reasons behind such large number of cases of this grave nature and steps taken by government to deal with them.

Answer:

Reasons behind pendency:

  1. Lax implementation of laws on speedy trial
  2. Lack of infrastructure despite mandated by acts
  3. Judicial pendency
  4. Excessive adjournments and delays in trial
  5. Lack of scientific forensics and investigative machinery
  6. Insufficient protection to victims

Steps to deal:

  1. Statutory stipulation in the 2012 POCSO Act that every district should have an exclusive court
  2. Fast track special courts to deal with these cases

 

Q.2) Discuss and analyse the effectiveness of mediation as a dispute settlement mechanism in significant issues.

Answer:

Benefits of mediation:

  1. It will provide a long lasting solution to the problem rather than court ordered one, which leaves scope for appeal.
  2. It is a cost effective mechanism; it reduces not only economic costs, but also political and social costs
  3. Provides for a dialogue on the issue which is often missed in court proceedings. Thus it may address the problem from its root cause.

Challenges:

  1. The decision  may be seen to be imposed on the parties not consenting for mediation
  2. There may be biases in listening to opinions of parties. People favorable may be heard appropriately.
  3. It may not be seen as legally appropriate
  4. All parties may not be represented


Q.3) The Official Secrets Act is archaic and irrelevant, government need to rethink it. Critically analyse the statement.

Answer:

Official Secrets Act broadly deals with two aspects:

  1. spying or espionage
  2. disclosure of other secret information of the government

a) The secret information can be any official code, password, sketch, plan, model, article, note, document or information

b) both the person communicating the information, and the person receiving the information, can be punished by the prosecuting agency

Problems with the act:

  1. In 2017, journalist Poonam Agrawal was charged under OSA for conducting a sting operation on an Army official who criticised the sahayak system in the Army.
  2. As the classification of secret information is so broad, it is largely in direct conflict with the Right to Information Act.
  3. Examining the process of decision-making in a government involves looking for information, and documents. Records which are meant to be confidential are sometimes  significant in bringing illegalities to public attention. This was true in the 1980s of irregularities in Bofors defence deal.
  4. It limits the accountability of government by providing them a shield under “national security”. It can lead to massive corruption.


Q.4) What are nanoparticles. Discuss their application and challenges in their utilisation.

Answer:

Nanoparticles are particles that exist on a nanometre scale (i.e., below 100 nm in at least one dimension). They can possess physical properties such as uniformity, conductance or special optical properties. Nanoparticles can be in the form of nanocrystals, nanopowders, or nanoclusters, and the particles act as a bridge between bulk materials and atomic or molecular structures.

Applications:

  1. Medicine

a) They are being tested for use in numerous clinical applications ranging from carriers for drug and gene delivery into tumors to contrast agents in imaging.

b) The use of polymer coated iron oxide nanoparticles to break up clusters of bacteria, possibly allowing more effective treatment of chronic bacterial infections.

c) The surface change of protein filled nanoparticles has been shown to affect the ability of the nanoparticle to stimulate immune responses. Researchers are thinking that these nanoparticles may be used in inhalable vaccines.

2. Manufacturing and Materials

a) Ceramic silicon carbide nanoparticles dispersed in magnesium produce a strong, lightweight material.

b) Silicate nanoparticles can be used to provide a barrier to gasses (for example oxygen), or moisture in a plastic film used for packaging. This could slow down the process of spoiling or drying out in food.

c) Zinc oxide nanoparticles can be dispersed in industrial coatings to protect wood, plastic, and textiles from exposure to UV rays.

3. Environment

a) photocatalytic copper tungsten oxide nanoparticles to break down oil into biodegradable compounds

b) gold nanoparticles embedded in a porous manganese oxide as a room temperature catalyst to breakdown volatile organic pollutants in air

c) Iron nanoparticles are being used to clean up carbon tetrachloride pollution in groundwater

4. Energy and Electronics

a) nanotetrapods studded with nanoparticles of carbon to develop low cost electrodes for fuel cells. This electrode may be able to replace the expensive platinum needed for fuel cell catalysts.

b) Silver nanoparticle ink was used to form the conductive lines needed in circuit boards.

c) A catalyst using platinum-cobalt nanoparticles is being developed for fuel cells that produces twelve times more catalytic activity than pure platinum

Challenges in utilisation:

  1. One of the biggest issues that arise with the use of nanotechnology is the impact on the environment and the toxicity to the humans. The different properties of nanomaterials might lead to adverse biological effects and cause toxicity in the humans.
  2. In the cellular environment, the nanoparticles undergo their biodegradation. This might lead to intracellular changes and gene alterations. The unfavourable or undesirable gene alterations might prove to be hazardous for human life.
  3. Nanomaterials are not very environmentally safe. They might enter the ecosystem’s food chain and bring changes.
  4. There are some safety issues related to the use of nano designs and nanomaterials. For example, nanobots are used to enter the human body and target harmful microorganisms. But, what would happen if there is some programming error and the nanobot attaches itself to the wrong microorganism and alters it?
  5. There is a lot of money involved in the use of nanotechnology. There is funding problem. A huge investment is needed in order to make more nanomaterials and nanodevices. Their use is also costly and not everyone can afford it.
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