Current Affair – July 6, 2021

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CURRENT AFFAIRS

Hope captures ‘discrete aurora’ on Mars

  • The UAE’s Hope spacecraft is orbiting Mars.
  • The Hope Probe took off from Earth in July last year, and has been orbiting the Red Planet since February.
  • It is the Arab world’s first mission to Mars.
  • It has captured images of glowing atmospheric lights in the Red Planet’s night sky, known as discrete auroras.
  • The data gathered by the orbiter “include far and extreme ultraviolet aurora emissions which have never been imaged before at Mars.”
    • “The beacons of light that stand out against the dark night side disk are highly structured discrete aurora, which traces out where energetic particles excite the atmosphere after being funneled down by a patchy network of crustal magnetic fields that originate from minerals on the surface of Mars.”
  • Unlike auroras on Earth, which are seen only near the north and south poles, discrete auroras on Mars are seen all around the planet at night time.

What causes an aurora on Earth?

  • Auroras are caused when charged particles ejected from the Sun’s surface called the solar wind enter the Earth’s atmosphere.
  • These particles are harmful, and our planet is protected by the geomagnetic field, which preserves life by shielding us from the solar wind.
  • However, at the north and south poles, some of these solar wind particles are able to continuously stream down, and interact with different gases in the atmosphere to cause a display of light in the night sky.
  • This display, known as an aurora, is seen from the Earth’s high latitude regions (called the aurora oval), and is active all year round.
  • In the northern part of our globe, the polar lights are called aurora borealis or Northern Lights, and are seen from the US (Alaska), Canada, Iceland, Greenland, Norway, Sweden and Finland. In the south, they are called aurora austral is or southern lights, and are visible from high latitudes in Antarctica, Chile, Argentina, New Zealand and Australia.

How are Martian auroras different?

  • Unlike Earth, which has a strong magnetic field, the Martian magnetic field has largely died out. This is because the molten iron at the interior of the planet– which produces magnetism– has cooled.
  • However, the Martian crust, which hardened billions of years ago when the magnetic field still existed, retains some magnetism.
    • So, in contrast with Earth, which acts like one single bar magnet, magnetism on Mars is unevenly distributed, with fields strewn across the planet and differing in direction and strength.
  • These disjointed fields channel the solar wind to different parts of the Martian atmosphere, creating “discrete” auroras over the entire surface of the planet as charged particles interact with atoms and molecules in the sky– as they do on Earth.
  • Studying Martian auroras is important for scientists, for it can offer clues as to why the Red Planet lost its magnetic field and thick atmosphere– among the essential requirements for sustaining life.

What is the Hope orbiter studying?

  • The primary objective of the mission is to study Martian weather dynamics.
    • By correlating the lower atmosphere and upper atmosphere conditions, the probe will look into how weather changes the escape of hydrogen and oxygen into space.
  • By measuring how much hydrogen and oxygen is spilling into space, scientists will be able to look into why Mars lost so much of its early atmosphere and liquid water.
  • It is expected to create the first complete portrait of the planet’s atmosphere. With the information gathered during the mission, scientists will have a better understanding of the climate dynamics of different layers of Mars’ atmosphere.
Source: Indian Express

Common Palm Civet in Odisha after 129 years

  • The common palm civet (Paradoxurus hermaphrodites) has made a comeback in Odisha after 129 years.
  • It was caught in the camera trap in Satkosia Tiger Reserve (STR), in Odisha’s Angul District, on March 13, 2020. The finding was published in journal Zoo June 21.

About common palm Civet

  • It is also called the Asian palm civet.
  • A partial albino common palm civet, Saliapatani, was last sighted in 1891 in the forests of Kandhamal district.

The common palm civet is a small mammal belonging to the family Viverridae.

  • It can be found in southern and southeastern Asia.
  • Their long, stocky body is covered with coarse, shaggy hair that is usually grey in colour.
  •   It is thought to lead a solitary lifestyle, except for brief periods during mating.
  • It is both terrestrial and arboreal, and shows a nocturnal activity

pattern with peaks between late evening until after midnight. It is usually active between dawn and four in the morning, but less active during nights when the moon is the brightest.

The vegetation of Satkosia largely conforms to north Indian moist deciduous forest, northern tropical dry deciduous forest, and moist peninsular low-level Sal. The terrain is undulating.  

Albinism

  • Albinism is a hypo-pigmentary disorder with a total lack of both melanins in hair, eyes and skin due to the heritable absence of functional tyrosinase enzyme in pigment cells affecting skin and hair. This resulting in a total white plumage / fur with red eyes.
  • Albinism is controlled via inheritance by an autosomal recessive gene in all animal species.
  • The coat colour variation in common palm civet in Satkosia calls for the need to revisit taxonomic and distribution status. Aberrant colouration has been reported widely in pelage of mammals and can vary due to environmental and geographical variations.
  • While it is known that the aberration is due to genetic mutations affecting the melanin metabolic pathway, the exact mutation responsible cannot be confirmed by limited visual observations of phenotype in wild individuals.
  • The extent and appearance of albinism varies and can be broadly described as complete albinism or leucism or partial albinism.
Source: Down-to-earth

Khadi Prakritk paint

  • The new automated manufacturing unit of Khadi Prakritik Paint was virtually inaugurated in Jaipur by Minister for Road Transport and Highways & MSME.
  • To enable maximum people to benefit from this innovation, KVIC has included this project under the Prime Minister Employment Generation Program (PMEGP). PMEGP is a flagship scheme of the Central government for employment generation

About the paint

  • It is India’s first and only paint made from cow dung. It was launched by Shri Gadkari on 12th January 2021
  • Available in two variants- Distemper and Emulsion, Khadi Prakritik Paint contains “AshtaLaabh”; i.e. the eight benefits like anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and natural thermal insulation properties. This paint is eco-friendly, non-toxic, odorless and cost-effective.
  • Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC) is credited for the successful research.
  • The new plant has been set up on the campus of Kumarappa National Handmade Paper Institute (KNHPI), Jaipur, which is a unit of KVIC. Earlier Prakritik Paint was being manufactured manually on a prototype project.

Significance

  • The technology innovation would help in empowering the rural and agro-based economy in the country.
  • Khadi Prakritik Paint has immense potential of creating sustainable development for benefit of the poorest of the poor.
  • The Paint has been launched with the twin objectives of increasing farmers’ income and creating self-employment across the country.

About Khadi& Village Industries Commission (KVIC)

  • The KVIC is a statutory body established under Khadi and Village Industries Commission Act of 1956. In April 1957, it took over the work of former All India Khadi and Village Industries Board.
  • Functions: It is an apex organization under the Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises, with regard to khadi and village industries within India, which seeks to – “plan, promote, facilitate, organise and assist in the establishment and development of khadi and village industries in the rural areas in coordination with other agencies engaged in rural development wherever necessary.”
  • Objectives
    • The Social Objective – Providing employment in rural areas.
    • The Economic Objective – Providing saleable articles.
    • The Wider Objective – Creating self-reliance amongst people and building up a strong rural community spirit.
Source: PIB

Indian Army Memorial at Cassino in Italy

  • During his four-day visit to the UK and Italy, Indian Army Chief Manoj Naravane will inaugurate the Indian Army Memorial at Cassino in Italy, about 140 km away from Rome.
  • The memorial commemorates over 3,100 Commonwealth servicemen who took part in the effort to liberate Italy in World War II. Apart from this, 900 Indian soldiers were also commemorated on this memorial.

What was happening in Italy in WWII?

  • Under Benito Mussolini, Italy had joined Nazi Germany in 1936 and in 1940 it entered WWII (1939-1945) against the Allies.
  • But in 1943, Mussolini was overthrown and instead, Italy declared war on Germany.
  • The invasion of Italy by the Allies coincided with an armistice that was made with the Italians. Even so, the UK’s National Army Museum notes that for two years during WWII, Italy became one of the war’s most “exhausting campaigns” because they were facing a skilled and resolute enemy.

What was India’s involvement in World War II?

  • In the first half of the 1940s, India was still under the British rule and the Indian Army fought in both the world wars. It comprised both Indian and European soldiers.
  • Apart from this, there was the East India Company Army that also recruited both Indian and European soldiers and the British Army, which was also present in India.
  • Indian Army was the largest volunteer force during WWII, with over 2.5 million (more than 20 lakh) Indians participating. These troops fought the Axis powers (Germany, Italy and Japan) as part of the Allies.
  • By 1945, the Allies had won, Italy had been liberated, Adolf Hitler was dead and India was barely a couple years short of independence.
  • However, while millions of Indians participated, their efforts are not always recognised.
  • Three infantry divisions of the Indian Army took part in the Italian campaign. These were the 4th, 8th and 10th Indian Divisions.
    • The first one to land in the country was the 8 Indian Infantry Division that saw action in Iraq and Iran when the British invaded these countries in 1941.
    • The second one arrived was the 4 Indian Division that came to Italy from North Africa in December 1943. In 1944, it was deployed in Cassino.
    • The third, which is the 10 Indian Divisions, was formed in 1941 in Ahmednagar and moved to Italy in 1944.
  • In addition, it has to be noted how the men from the Punjab, and Indian plains, coped with the extremely hostile conditions experienced in Italy. Even the Gurkhas from Nepal struggled with the heavy and persistent rain, and freezing nights in the Italian mountains. All three Divisions performed well in the Italian Campaign and were highly respected by the Allied and Axis commanders alike
Source: Indian Express

Section 43D (5) of Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA)

  • Just two days before his death, Stan Swami had moved the Bombay High Court challenging Section 43D (5) of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) — a provision Swami termed “illusory”.
  • The provision makes grant of bail virtually impossible under UAPA since it leaves little room of judicial reasoning.
  • In the case of Zahoor Ahmed Shah Watali, the Supreme Court in 2019 confirmed that courts must accept the state’s case without examining its merits while granting bail. In string of rulings, however, courts have taken an alternative reading of this provision, emphasising the right to a speedy trial and raising the bar for the state to book an individual under UAPA.

What the provision says

  • Just two days before his death, Stan Swami had moved the Bombay High Court challenging Section 43D (5) of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) — a provision Swami termed “illusory”.
  • The provision makes grant of bail virtually impossible under UAPA since it leaves little room of judicial reasoning.
  • In the case of Zahoor Ahmed Shah Watali, the Supreme Court in 2019 confirmed that courts must accept the state’s case without examining its merits while granting bail. In string of rulings, however, courts have taken an alternative reading of this provision, emphasising the right to a speedy trial and raising the bar for the state to book an individual under UAPA.

What the provision says

  • The UAPA, enacted in 1967, was strengthened by the Congress-led UPA government in 2008 and 2012.
  • The test for denying bail under the UAPA is that the court must be satisfied that a “prima facie” case exists against the accused. In 2019, the SC defined prima facie narrowly to mean that the courts must not analyse evidence or circumstances but look at the “totality of the case” presented by the state.
  • Section 43D(5) reads: “Notwithstanding anything contained in the Code, no person accused of an offence punishable under Chapters IV and VI of this Act shall, if in custody, be released on bail or on his own bond unless the Public Prosecutor has been given an opportunity of being heard on the application for such release. Provided that such accused person shall not be released on bail or on his own bond if the Court, on a perusal of the case diary or the report made under section 173 of the Code is of the opinion that there are reasonable grounds for believing that the accusation against such person is prima facie true.”

When courts granted bail

  • Union of India vs. K A Najeeb (2021) : It upheld the grant of bail under UAPA when the accused had undergone incarceration for a significant period even as it recognised that bail under UAPA was an exception.
  • In February, the Bombay High Court granted bail to Telugu poet Varavara Rao — an accused in the Elgar Parishad case along with Swami — holding that bail under UAPA can be granted by constitutional courts purely on grounds of sickness and advanced age.
  • On June 17, the Karnataka High Court granted bail to over 115 accused charged under UAPA for the 2020 East Bengaluru riots holding that the NIA court had extended the time for investigation without hearing the accused. The court cited that the fundamental right to be treated fairly under the law of the accused was violated as reason for granting bail.

Appeals against HC rulings

On June 15, the Delhi High Court, in granting bail to three student-activists Devangana Kalita, Natasha Narwal, and Asif Iqbal Tanha, circumvented the stringent bail provision under UAPA by questioning if the alleged offences qualified as “terrorist offences” to be booked under UAPA in the first place.

  • However, after the government appealed, the Supreme Court said that the High Court ruling cannot be used as a precedent till the appeal is decided.
  • In Zahoor Ahmed Shah Watali v NIA in 2018, Delhi High Court held that trial courts must not act “merely as a post-office of the investigating agency” but should “scrutinize the material with extra care” in determining whether a prima facie case exists.
  • However, when an appeal was move against this ruling, the Supreme Court in 2019 rejected the High Court’s decision that the material by the investigation agency must be carefully examined. It held Bail can be denied by relying upon prosecution documents even though they would be inadmissible in evidence during the trial.
“… The phrase ‘terrorist act’ has been defined in a very wide and detailed manner within Section 15 itself, in our opinion, the court must be careful in employing the definitional words and phrases used in Section 15 in their absolute literal sense or use them lightly in a manner that would trivialize the extremely heinous offence of ‘terrorist act’, without understanding how terrorism is different even from conventional, heinous crime,” —Delhi HC  
Source: Indian Express

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