Factly :-News Articles For UPSC Prelims | 22 Apr, 2021

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USCIRF Recommends “Country of Particular Concern” Tag for India

What is the News?

The USCIRF (US Commission on International Religious Freedom) has recommended classifying India as a Country of Particular Concern(CPC). It is due to the worst violations of religious freedom in India in 2020.

Reasons for recommendations:

  • USCIRF has recommended India to be put on a Countries of Particular Concern(CPC) list because of:
    • Religiously Discriminatory Citizenship Amendment Act
    • Seeming police complicity in the Delhi riots
    • During COVID-19 pandemic, disinformation and hateful rhetoric including from government officials targeted religious minorities.
    • Efforts to prohibit interfaith marriage – such as those in Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh among other reasons.

Suggestions by USCIRF:

  • The US administration should impose targeted sanctions on Indian individuals and entities for ‘severe violations of religious freedom’.
  • The US administration should promote interfaith dialogue and the rights of all communities at forums such as Quadrilateral [the Quad].
  • S. Congress should raise issues in the U.S-India bilateral space by hosting hearings, writing letters, and constituting Congressional delegations.

Other Recommendations of USCIRF:

  • Other new recommendations by USCIRF for the CPC list 2021 are Russia, Syria, and Vietnam.
    • Moreover, countries already on the CPCs list and recommended by USCIRF for re-designation are Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, Nigeria, North Korea, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan.
  • Special Watch List Countries: Comoros, Cuba, Nicaragua, and Russia.

About Country of Particular Concern(CPC):

  • USCIRF recommends the Country of Particular Concern(CPC) designation to the US State Department. It recommends countries engaged in severe violations of religious freedom under IRFA (International Religious Freedom Act) 1998.
    • The IRFA 1998 promotes religious freedom as a foreign policy of the United States.
  • Why is the country given the CPC designation? The countries that receive this designation either engage in or tolerate systematic, ongoing, glaring violations of religious freedom.
  • In addition to its CPC recommendations, the USCIRF established a Special Watch List countries. The list includes countries which does not fit in the CPC criterion, but still engage in or tolerate severe violations of religious freedom.

Note: The recommendations given by the USCIRF are non-binding on the US Government.

Source: The Hindu


SC Guidelines for “Appointment of Ad-hoc Judges” in HCs

What is the News?

The Supreme Court has cleared the way for the appointment of retired judges as ad-hoc judges in High Courts under Article 224A of the Constitution. This has been done to deal with the increasing backlog of cases in High Courts.

Guidelines: For the appointment of ad hoc judges, the Supreme Court laid down several guidelines. The guidelines are:

Appointment of ad-hoc Judges: The Chief Justice of a High Court may initiate the process of recommending an ad-hodge judge if:

  1. The number of judges’ vacancies is more than 20% of the sanctioned strength
  2. Cases in a particular category are pending for over five years.
  3. More than 10% of pending cases are over five years old or
  4. The percentage of the rate of disposal is lower than the institution of the cases either in a particular subject matter or generally in the court.

Appointment Procedure:

  • The appointments can follow the procedure laid down in the Memorandum of Procedure (MoP) for the appointment of judges.
  • Since the nominees have been judges before, the need to refer the matter to the IB or other agencies would not arise, shortening the time period.
  • The Court observed that a period of three months would be sufficient to complete the appointment process.

Number of ad-hoc judges

  • The number of ad hoc Judges should be in the range of 2 to 5 in a High Court.

Role of Ad-hoc Judges:

  • Since the objective was to clear the backlog, the ad-hoc judges can be assigned more than five-year-old cases. This would also not affect the High Court Chief Justice’s discretion to allot any other cases.
  • A division bench only of ad-hoc judges can also be constituted to hear old cases.
  • Further, the SC barred ad-hoc appointees from performing any other legal work – advisory, arbitration, or appearing in court for clients.
  • SC also stated that ad-hoc appointments cannot be a substitute for regular vacancies. Thus, article 224A can only be used when recommendations for at least 20% of regular vacancies have been made. And now their appointments are awaited.

Source: Indian Express


Indian Ads Increase Gender Stereotypes, Shows Study 

What is the News? 

UNICEF and the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media(GDI) have released a study titled “Gender bias and inclusion in advertising in India”.

About the study:

  • Purpose: The study measures the level and type of gender stereotyping found in Indian advertisements on TV and YouTube. For this purpose, over 1,000 most viewed advertisements were analyzed in 2019.
  • The study found that female representation in Indian ads still depicts colorism, hypersexualization, and also women without careers or aspirations outside the home.

Key Findings of the study:

  • Women in ads dominate the screen and speaking time with 59.7% and 56.3% of female representation respectively. This is above the global average of 44% and 39%
  • Female-dominated activities in ads include roles of shopping, cleaning, and preparing meals.
  • Male-dominated activities in these ads include them being in an office, outdoors, or at a sporting event
  • A greater percentage of female characters are depicted as married, than male characters (11% compared with 8.8%).
  • Female characters are thrice as likely to be shown as caretakers or a parent than male characters (18.7% to 5.9%).
  • Male characters are more likely to be shown making decisions about their future than female characters (7.3% compared with 4.8%),
  • Lower Income Class: Characters of a lower-income class are underrepresented. Only 6.4% of the ads show people from that class. The Middle-class is most prominent with 51.3% representation.
  • Sexualisation: Female characters are 6 times more likely to be in revealing clothing than men (11.2% to 1.7%). They are 5 times more likely to be sexually objectified (4.7% compared to 0.9%).
  • Intelligence: Male characters are more likely to be shown as smart, than female characters (32.2% compared to 26.2%).
  • Skin Tone: Two-thirds of female characters (66.9%) in Indian ads have light or medium-light skin tones — a higher percentage than male characters (52.1%).

Source: The Hindu


“Exercise Khanjar” – A military exercise between India and Kyrgyzstan

What is the News?

India and Kyrgyzstan Special Forces started a military exercise named “Exercise Khanjar” in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.

About Exercise Khanjar
  • Exercise Khanjar is a Joint Special Forces Military Exercise between India and Kyrgyzstan.
  • Initiated in: The exercise was started in the year 2011. This is the Eighth Edition of the Exercise.
  • Aim: The exercise aims to boost the strategic partnership between India and Kyrgyzstan. It also focuses on high-altitude, mountains and counter-extremism drills.

Click Here to Read about Special Forces of India

Other Exercises by Special Forces of India:

  • Exercise Vajra Prahar is a Special Forces joint military exercise between India and the US. This exercise takes place alternately in India and the US.
  • Aim: The aim of the exercise is to enable sharing of best practices and experiences in areas such as joint mission planning capabilities and operational tactics.

About Kyrgyzstan:

  • Kyrgyzstan is a landlocked country in Central Asia bordering Kazakhstan, China, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Its capital is Bishkek.
  • Significance: It is often referred to as ‘Central Asia’s only democracy.
  • Member of: Kyrgyzstan is a member of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO).
    • CSTO is a Russia-led military alliance, aims to ensure the collective defence of any member that faces external aggression.
  • Further, Kyrgyzstan is also a member of the Commonwealth of Independent States, Eurasian Economic Union, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation and the United Nations.
  • The mountainous region of Tian Shan covers over 80% of the country.

Source: WION


What is “Dogecoin” cryptocurrency?

What is the News?

Dogecoin’s value has risen phenomenally this week– adding around $19.9 billion in the last 24 hours and now valued at $34 billion.

About Dogecoin:

  • Dogecoin is a Cryptocurrency created in 2013 by software engineers Billy Markus and Jackson Palmer. It was created as a faster alternative to Bitcoin.
  • Origin: Dogecoin was started as a satire on the numerous fraud crypto coins that had sprung up at the time. It takes its name and logo from a Shiba Inu meme that was viral several years ago.
  • How is it different from Bitcoins? Bitcoins fixed the maximum possible number as 21 million (a figure that is estimated to be reached by 2040). But the Dogecoin numbers do not have an upper limit and there are already more than 100 billion in existence.
  • The reason behind Dogecoin’s Rise: The main reason believed to be behind Dogecoin’s rise is its listing on Coinbase (Coinbase is the most popular virtual currency exchange in the US).
  • Concerns: Cryptocurrencies are considered highly volatile and may crash as fast as they rise. This is because they do not have any intrinsic value such as land or gold. Further, they are also susceptible to manipulation by small groups who often hold large numbers of virtual currency in circulation.

Source: Indian Express


First “Human-Monkey Embryo” Sparks Ethical Debate

What is the News?

Researchers at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in the US have for the first time created the first monkey embryo containing human cells. This particular field of research is called “chimera research”.

About the Chimera Research:

  • Research: Scientists have injected human stem cells(cells that have the ability to develop into many different body tissues) into the macaque monkey embryos. This integration created a chimeric tool.
    • Chimeras are organisms that are made up of the cells of two distinct species. In this case, it was humans and monkeys.
    • For instance, if this hybrid embryo is placed in the womb of a monkey, it could possibly grow into a new kind of animal (however this was not the aim of this study).
  • Outcome: This human-monkey chimeric embryo was monitored in the lab for 19 days, before being destroyed. Researchers found that the human stem cells survived and integrated with better relative efficiency than in the previous experiments.

Purpose of Chimera Research: Researchers believe that the ability to grow cells of two different species together helps scientists in research and Medicine such as:

  • Advancing current understanding about early human development,
  • Understanding disease onset and progression
  • Drug evaluation and
  • Also, it can address the critical need for organ transplantation.

Concerns Regarding Chimera Research:

  • Moral Dilemma: Humans are widely (but not universally) thought to have a higher moral status than other animals. But human-animal chimeras blur this line. These Chimeras are not fully human nor fully non-human.
  • Survival Issues: Some rare hybrid animals exist naturally probably as a result of unintentional cross-breeding between animals of different species.
    • However, generally different species don’t cross-breed. But if they do, their offspring don’t survive for long and are prone to infertility.
  • Issue of Infertility: Mules are an example of a hybrid animal that is the result of mating between a female horse and a male donkey.
    • Mules can live a long healthy life. But they are infertile which means that they cannot have offspring of their own.
  • Injustice Against Animals for Human Needs: Chimera research has the potential to worsen injustice against animals as it is being done to meet human needs.

Source: Indian Express


India’s “New Covid-19 vaccine policy”

What is the News?

The Government of India has announced the fourth phase of its New  Covid-19 vaccine policy. This phase expands its vaccination coverage to everyone aged 18 and older from May 1.

Earlier Three Phases:

  • The first three phases vaccinated healthcare workers, frontline workers, and those above the age of 45.
  • The Centre procured the entire quantity of vaccines from manufacturers Serum Institute of India and Bharat Biotech(Covishield and Covaxin respectively). The centre then distributed them to states for vaccination.
  • The states distributed the stock to government vaccination centres. These government centres administered the vaccine free of cost. Private hospitals charged recipients Rs 250 per dose.

Fourth Phase of Covid-19 Vaccine Policy:

Under this phase there are few changes,

Changes for Citizens:

  • All adults over the age of 18 will be eligible for vaccination starting from May 1.
  • Those eligible in the earlier phases can continue to get the free doses provided by the Government of India.

Changes in Distribution:

  • Earlier, 100% of vaccines were being procured by the Centre and allocated to the states based on demand.
  • Under the new rules, the Centre will automatically receive only 50% of vaccines produced by manufacturers. It will allocate these to states based on the extent of infection (active cases) and performance (speed of administration).
  • The remaining 50% can be acquired by the states directly or by private hospitals and industrial establishments at a price.

Note: The government will monitor the prices charged by private hospitals. A mechanism will be put in place to monitor vaccine stocks and capturing prices on the Co-win platform.

Imported Vaccines:

  • The Centre will allow the imported, fully ready-to-use vaccines to be entirely utilised in the other-than-Government of India channel.
  • Thus, if a foreign pharma giant brings its vaccine to India, it will be free to directly sell the entire stock in the open market at a competitive price.

 Source: Indian Express

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