Topic 1: Johannesburg II Declaration
Why in news: The 15th BRICS summit in Johannesburg, South Africa expanded the group’s membership to a broader bloc of emerging market and developing countries (EMDC).
- The Johannesburg II Declaration, called for attention to economic vulnerabilities such as high debt levels in some countries due to trade fragmentation and sharp monetary tightening in advanced economies.
- Multilateral financial institutions and development banks need to build economic policies which safeguard long-term financial stability.
- It highlighted the key role played by the New Development Bank (NDB) or “BRICS Bank” in providing and maintaining effective financial solutions to sustainable development.
- The BRICS declaration emphasised the need for continued cooperation on transition finance along with leveraging technology to address climate data gaps.
- While emphasising the importance of implementation of the Paris Agreement, the member countries reiterated the principle of Common but Differentiated Responsibilities and Respective Capabilities (CBDR-RC).
- The member countries have placed a reminder for the developed countries to honour their commitments such as mobilisation of $100 billion by 2020 and through 2025 to support climate action in developing countries, doubling of adaptation finance by 2025 from the base of 2019 and grant-based, concessional financial support.
Topic 2: Self-respect marriages
Why in news: The Supreme Court observed that there is no blanket ban on advocates solemnising “self-respect” marriages under Section 7(A) of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955.
About self-respect marriages
- In 1968, the Hindu Marriage (Tamil Nadu Amendment) Act, 1967, received the President’s approval and became the law.
- This amendment modified the Hindu Marriage Act of 1955, by inserting Section 7-A into it.
- However, it extended only to the state of Tamil Nadu.
- Section 7-A deals with the special provision on “self-respect and secular marriages”.
- It legally recognises any marriage between any two Hindus, which can be referred to as “suyamariyathai” or “seerthiruththa marriage” or by any other name.
- Such marriages are solemnised in the presence of relatives, friends, or other persons, with parties declaring each other to be husband or wife, in a language understood by them.
- Such marriages are also required to be registered as per the law.
- To radically simplify weddings by shunning the need for mandatory Brahmin priests, holy fire and saptapadi (seven steps).
- This allowed marriages to be declared in the presence of the couple’s friends or family or any other persons.
- The amendment was made to do away with the need for priests and rituals, which were otherwise required to complete wedding ceremonies.
Topic 3: Konark Sun temple
Why in news: The inside views of the world-famous Sun Temple at Konark in Puri district have come to the fore with the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) taking photographs of the inside of the sand-filled temple.
About the temple:
- Konark Sun Temple is a 13th-century Sun temple at Konark in Puri district, Odisha.
- The temple is attributed to king Narasimhadeva I of the Eastern Ganga dynasty.
- It is dedicated to the Hindu Sun God Surya.
- The remains of the temple complex has the appearance of a 100-foot high chariot with immense wheels and horses, all carved from stone.
- This temple was called the “Black Pagoda” in European sailor accounts as early as 1676 because it looked like a great tiered tower which appeared black.
- The Jagannath Temple in Puri was called the “White Pagoda“.
- It was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984.
- It remains a major pilgrimage site for Hindus, who gather here every year for the Chandrabhaga Mela.
- The temple follows the traditional style of Kalinga architecture.
- It is oriented towards the east so that the first rays of the sunrise strike the main entrance.
- The temple was built from Khondalite rocks.
- The wheels of the temple are sundials, which can be used to calculate time accurately to a minute.
Topic 4: Takahe bird
Why in news: The Takahē bird, which was formally declared extinct in 1898, is gradually increasing its presence in New Zealand.
About the bird:
- Takahē bird is hailed as one of the world’s rarest creatures.
- Their population declined during the late 1800s.
- By the end of the 19th century, they were declared extinct, but only until they resurfaced in 1948.
- It is indigenous to New Zealand and the largest living member of the rail family.
- Factors for their near extinction:
- loss of habitat
- introduced predators
- IUCN status: Endangered.
Topic 5: AirFibre
Why in news: Reliance Jio has announced the launch of its fixed wireless broadband solution called Jio AirFibre.
- It is a Fixed Wireless Access(FWA) solution.
- This home internet device operates wirelessly on 5G network to power up all devices with superfast Wi-Fi.
- It has fibre-like speed over the air without any wires.
- The core of AirFiber is Fiber-like speeds without wires.
- This means users will be able to enjoy high-speed internet connectivity wireless without any need for additional broadband-like wiring.
- It is like a 5G hotspot device with a highly capable router which is a simple plug-n-play device.
Broadband market in India:
- Even as India has seen a significant uptake in mobile Internet users, home broadband coverage remains patchy.
- According to data released by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), there were a little over 35 million wired broadband subscribers in the country.
- The fixed wireless broadband market is tinier — around 950,000 subscribers.
- The current wired broadband companies are:
- Reliance Jio (9.17 million),
- Bharti Airtel (6.54 million),
- BSNL (3.66 million),
- Atria Convergence (2.16 million) and
- Hathway (1.12 million).
Topic 6: The European Union’s Digital Services Act
Why in news: The European Union’s groundbreaking Digital Services Act (DSA) went into effect recently.
- It constitutes an overhaul of the EU’s social media and e-commerce rules.
- It tightly regulates the way intermediaries, especially large platforms such as Google, Meta, Twitter, and YouTube, moderate user content.
Key features of the Digital Services Act
- Faster removals, opportunity to challenge:
- Social media companies are required to add new procedures for faster removal of content deemed illegal or harmful.
- They must explain to users how their content takedown policy works.
- Users can challenge takedown decisions, and seek out-of-court settlements.
- Bigger platforms have greater responsibility:
- The legislation has junked the one-size-fits-all approach and put a greater burden of accountability on the big tech companies.
- Under the DSA, ‘Very Large Online Platforms’ (VLOPs) and ‘Very Large Online Search Engines’ (VLOSEs), that is, platforms with more than 45 million users in the EU, have more stringent requirements.
- Direct supervision by the European Commission:
- These requirements and their enforcement will be centrally supervised by the European Commission itself, ensuring that companies are not able to sidestep the legislation at the member-state level.
- More transparency on how algorithms work:
- VLOPs and VLOSEs will face transparency measures and scrutiny of how their algorithms work, and will be required to conduct systemic risk analysis and reduction to drive accountability about the societal impacts of their products.
- VLOPs must allow regulators and researchers to access their data to assess compliance and identify systemic risks of illegal or harmful content.
- Clearer identifiers for ads and who’s paying for them:
- Online platforms must ensure that users can easily identify advertisements and understand who presents or pays for the ads.
- They must not display personalised ads directed towards minors or based on sensitive personal data.
- The DSA imposes heavy penalties for non-compliance, which can be up to 6 per cent of the company’s global annual turnover.
- Companies that do not wish to abide by the rules cannot function within the EU.
- Due to the harsh repercussions and the threat of losing a market of around 450 million users, major social media companies have fallen in line, and announced they will allow more freedom to users in the way they interact with their platforms.
Topic 7: Radioactive chapatis
Why in news: A Member of Parliament in the United Kingdom has called for a statutory inquiry into medical research carried out on Indian-origin and South Asian women decades ago in the city of Coventry.
- The MP said that there were concerns over the use of radioactive isotopes in chapatis that were fed to the women as part of a study purportedly on combating iron deficiency among South Asian women in the city.
- It was claimed that the women’s consent was not sought and proper information on the experiment was not given to them.
About the study:
- As part of a study, in 1969, around 21 Indian-origin women, identified by a general practitioner (GP) in Coventry, were given Chapatis containing Iron-59, a radioactive iron isotope.
- The women had sought medical help from the GP for minor ailments but were then, without their knowledge, made part of a research trial to address the issue of widespread anaemia (a disease caused by iron deficiency).
- Chapatis containing Iron-59 were delivered to participants’ homes.
- After eating the chapatis, women in the study were taken to the Atomic Energy Research Establishment, where their radiation levels were measured to judge how much iron had been absorbed.
- The UK’s Medical Research Council (MRC) said the study proved that Asian women should take extra iron because the iron in the flour was insoluble.
Was the study ‘ethical’?
- Public criticism led to the MRC establishing an independent Committee of Inquiry.
- This committee’s report in 1998 said that low levels of radiation can be dealt with by the human body up to a certain threshold.
- It added, that many do not accept this view and say that the damage to human DNA due to any level of radiation is more severe.
- The report suggested that the nature of the studies did not appear to be unethical.
- questions of consent,
- understanding in the light of giving consent, and
- the degree to which the risks were explained to the participants or even taken into account by researchers.
- Prior judgements:
- Researchers also made some prior judgements about the benefits and costs of the study without keeping the participants at its centre, in line with the paternalistic nature of science (and wider society at the time).
- Informed consent:
- The MRC no longer had the list of the study’s participants.
- A public call for participants to come forward also did not yield results.
- Misleading portrayal:
- While the procedures for such experiments are much stricter today, back then the need to provide written explanations to participants or get their written consent was not necessary.
- It caused considerable unnecessary concern among Asian people and that their portrayal was seriously misleading.
What are radioactive isotopes?
- Radioactive isotopes are unstable forms of an element that emit radiation to transform into a more stable form.
- Such isotopes have unstable nuclei, i.e. the proton to neutron ratio is such that they contain excess energy in the nucleus.
- This excess energy is dissipated spontaneously through radiation – the emmission of energy through waves or particles.
- Depending on the amount and the specific kind, radiation can have various long term health effects on human beings.
Topic 8: Hollongapar sanctuary and Hoolock Gibbon
Context: Primatologists have suggested rerouting a 1.65-km long railway track that has divided the Hollongapar Gibbon Sanctuary dedicated to the western hoolock gibbon (Hoolock hoolock) into two unequal parts.
- Their report in Science, a journal, follows that of the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) on designing an artificial canopy bridge to facilitate the movement of the hoolock gibbons across the broad-gauge line within the Hollongapar Gibbon Sanctuary.
- Housing about 125 hoolock gibbons, India’s only ape, the sanctuary covers an area of 21 sq. km.
- Gibbon families on both sides of the railway track have been effectively isolated from each other, thereby compromising their population’s genetic variability and further endangering their already threatened survival in the sanctuary
- Like the other 19 gibbon species on earth, it is marked endangered due to habitat loss and habitat fragmentation.
About Hoolock Gibbons:
- The hoolock gibbons are three primate species of genus Hoolock in the gibbon family, Hylobatidae.
- It is native to eastern Bangladesh, Northeast India, Myanmar, and Southwest China.
- The western hoolock gibbon is found in Assam, Mizoram, and Meghalaya in India.
- It is found where the canopy is contiguous, broad-leaved, wet evergreen and mixed evergreen forests, including dipterocarp forests and often in mountainous terrain.
About the Hollongapar Sanctuary:
- The Hollongapar Gibbon Sanctuary was formerly known as the Gibbon Wildlife Sanctuary or Hollongapar Reserved Forest.
- It is an isolated protected area of evergreen forest located in Assam.
- The sanctuary was officially constituted and renamed in 1997.
- The Hollongapar Gibbon Sanctuary contains India’s only gibbons – the hoolock gibbons, and Northeastern India’s only nocturnal primate – the Bengal slow loris.