Topic 1 : Who are the Palestinians?
Why in news: A feature of the constant media coverage of the latest bloody chapter of the Israel-Palestine conflict has been the oversimplification of the Palestinian identity.
First usage of the word ‘Palestine’ and what did it denote?
- First usage in 5th century:
- The term Palestine was first used by the Ancient Greek historian and geographer Herodotus in the fifth century BCE to describe the coastal land betweenPhoenicia (primarily modern Lebanon) and Egypt.
- It was derived from ‘Philistia’, the name that Greek writers gave to the region of the southwestern Levant, principally around the cities of Gaza, Ashkelon, Ashdod, Ekron, and Gath (all in present-day Israel or Palestine).
- The Levant is the historical-geographical term for the region around the eastern Mediterranean Sea, which represents the land bridge between Africa and Eurasia.
- Roman usage:
- From the very beginning, Palestine was primarily used as a place name and then, as a name for the people living in the region, regardless of ethnicity or religion.
- Thus, Roman records do not distinguish between Christians and Jews when using the term.
- Arab conquest:
- After the Arab conquest of the Levant in the 7th century CE, the term Palestine largely stopped being used in an official capacity.
- It remained common in local usage, and was borrowed into Arabic as “Filasteen” and indeed, Palestine in Hindi is “Filisteen”.
- Impact of Islamisation:
- As the region underwent Islamisation, and saw the spread of Arabic cultural influence, a number of overlapping identities emerged.
- Identity for the Palestinians is and has always been intermingled with a sense of identity on so many other levels, whether Islamic or Christian, Ottoman or Arab, local or universal, or family and tribal.
- Colonial era:
- After the defeat of the Ottomans in World War I and the dismantling of the Ottoman Empire in 1922, the territories of the Ottoman sultan, which included Palestine (apart from modern-day Turkey, Syria and parts of the Arabian peninsula and North Africa), were divided among the British and the French.
- The British Mandate of Palestine defined the geographical extent of Palestine.
- It is this Mandate that would eventually be partitioned into the states of Israel and Palestine in 1947.
- Palestinian usage:
- In the Palestinian imagination, Palestine is the land that lies between the sea (the eastern Mediterranean) and the river (the historically significant Jordan, which flows north to south from the Golan Heights through the Sea of Galilee to the Dead Sea).
Current usage of the term:
- Today, the term Palestinians refers to those living in the State of Palestine (West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem), and to the refugees from the territorial boundaries of the erstwhile British Mandate who have settled elsewhere.
- Some people who currently live in Israeli territories may also identify themselves as Palestinians.
- The Palestinian National Charter of 1968, the ideological document that forms the basis of modern Palestinian nationalism, emphasised the Palestinians’ Arab identity.
- It says that the Palestinians are those Arab nationals who, until 1947, normally resided in Palestine regardless of whether they were evicted from it or have stayed there.
- Anyone born, after that date, of a Palestinian father whether inside Palestine or outside it is also a Palestinian.
- The Charter does not define Palestine in religious terms.
- The majority of Palestinians today are Sunni Muslims.
- 80-85 per cent of the population in the West Bank and 99 per cent of the population in the Gaza Strip is Muslim.
- Jews are the largest religious minority in Palestinian areas, and comprise mostly Zionist settlers living in occupied territories in the West Bank, who make up 12-14 per cent of the population.
- Palestinian Christians are 2.5 per cent of the population.
- Some other estimates put their number at as high as 6 per cent of the population.Topic 2 : Microalgae are adapting to warming climate
Why in news: Microalgae, which form the base of the food chain in the ocean and capture carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, appear to rely on a unique strategy to cope with global warming, according to a new study.
How the microalgae are adapting?
- As climate change reduces the availability of nutrients in the sea, marine microalgae or eukaryotic phytoplankton fire up a protein called rhodopsin.
- It is related to the protein in the human eye responsible for vision in dim light.
- This light-responsive protein is helping the microalgae flourish with the help of sunlight in place of traditional chlorophyll.
What are Microbial rhodopsins?
- Microbial rhodopsins are proposed to be major light capturers in the ocean.
- Estimates suggested they may absorb as much light as chlorophyll-based photosynthesis in the sea, which also captures light to generate energy and food.
Need for adaptation:
- Global warming is increasing drought on land and the same thing happens in the ocean:
- The warmer the surface water gets, the lower are the nutrients in these surface water layers.
- There is less mixing between the surface waters and nutrient-rich deeper waters as the oceans warm.
- So nutrients become scarce at the surface, impacting the primary producers such as microalgae that are present in the top layer.
- Algae starve and, therefore, produce less food and capture less carbon dioxide from the atmosphere
Key findings of the study:
- To understand the role of rhodopsins, researchers cloned them in the lab and confirmed that they capture light to generate energy.
- Rhodopsins were found to be more concentrated in low latitudes, where there is less mixing of ocean waters and lower concentrations of nutrients, including dissolved iron.
- For algae to produce food and to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, they need sunlight.
- To harness sunlight, the microalgae require a lot of iron.
- However, 35 per cent of the surface of the ocean does not have enough iron to support the growth of algae, he explained.
- Relevance of Southern Ocean:
- This is particularly relevant for the Southern Ocean, which is the largest iron-limited aquatic ecosystem.
- But they are home to the largest populations of consumers such as krill, fish, penguins and whales, which depend on primary producers such as microalgae.
Significance of the study:
- These findings have the potential to reduce the negative effects of changing environmental conditions, such as ocean warming and even the reduction in the productivity of crops.
- The same mechanism could be deployed to enhance the activity of microbes that cannot use light, such as yeast.
- These can be modifie so that they can use light for growth, which is desirable in biotechnology, such as the production of insulin, antibiotics, enzymes, antivirals and even biofuel.Topic 3 : The Nuclear briefcase
Why in news: During Russian President Vladimir Putin’s recent visit to China, he was seen with officers carrying the “nuclear briefcase”.
What is the ‘nuclear briefcase’?
- It is also known as the ‘Cheget’, named after a mountain in Russia.
- The briefcase is part of a larger system in place for authorising the launch of nuclear strikes.
- It’s part of a secured communication setup, meant to convey orders for a nuclear strike to the rocket forces of the country.
- The communication among the forces is done via the ‘Kazbek’ electronic command-and-control network.
- Kazbek supports another system, known as ‘Kavkaz’.
Instances of its usage:
- The first and only known instance of a nuclear briefcase being opened during a crisis was in 1995.
- The briefcase was a product of the final phase of the Cold War, during the tense early 1980s, when Soviet leaders feared a sudden attack launched from Europe or nearby oceans.
- They needed a remote command system to cut down reaction time.
- In 1995, Russian officers detected the launch of a rocket off Norway’s northern coast and mistook it for a hostile American missile.
- In reality, it was the Black Brant XII, an aeronautical research rocket sent to study the Northern Lights phenomenon.
- This is when the briefcases were handed to the leaders to plan a response.
- Eventually, the nature of the launch became clear to the Russians and the attack was held.
How does the system work?
- Once radar operators sent out alerts of possible enemy action, the Russian electronic command-and-control networks were activated.
- The duty general received his information from the radar operator on a special notification terminal, Krokus.
- He then passed it to the Kavkaz, a complex network of cables, radio signals, satellites and relays that is at the heart of the Russian command and control.
- The alert then reached the three nuclear briefcases.
- It had several buttons, including a white one to give the go-ahead to launch a strike and a red one to stop the order.
Do other countries have such a briefcase?
- The American President has a similar briefcase officially called the Presidential Emergency Satchel.
- It was nicknamed the ‘football’ after a 1960s mission called ‘Dropkick’ (a term related to American football).Topic 4 : Gyan Sahayak Scheme
Why in news: Gujarat government announced the Gyan Sahayak Scheme.
About the scheme:
- Gyan Sahayaks would be appointed in the interim period till the vacant posts of teachers in primary, secondary and higher secondary government schools are filledthrough regular appointments.
- The scheme aims to fill vacancies in government schools with the appointment of teachers on contractual basis till the process of regular appointments is complete.
- The aim, the government said, was that education was not affected.
- Gyan Sahayak Scheme is for government and grant-in-aid schools, especially for Mission Schools of Excellence.
- Primary school:
- To be a Gyan Sahayak in primary school, the candidate should have cleared the Gujarat Examination Board conducted Teachers Eligibility Test (TET)-2.
- For secondary and higher secondary Gyan Sahayak, candidate should have cleared Teacher Aptitude Test (TAT).
- Candidates who have cleared TET-2 five years before the announcement of Gyan Sahayak Scheme cannot apply.
- Age limit:
- While both primary and secondary school teachers should be under 40 years, the age limit is 42 for higher secondary school.
Comparison with Pravasi Shikshak Scheme
- With the implementation of Gyan Sahayak Scheme, all resolutions for Pravasi Shikshak are to be cancelled.
- There is not much change in both these schemes, other than that the Gyan Sahayak Scheme follows a more detailed hiring process along with the eligibility criteria and some changes in the remuneration.Topic 5 : The Special and Local Laws
Why in news: The Special and Local Laws (SLLs) have immense quantitative and qualitative relevance in the Indian criminal justice system and hence need to be reformed.
Meaning of Special Law and Local Law
- Special law:
- A special law is a law applicable to a particular subject.
- Special laws are those that cover specific issues.
- They make crimes out of that which are not previously covered by the Penal Code.
- Examples of these laws include the Excise, Opium, Cattle Trespass, Gambling, and Railway Acts.
- The Negotiable Instruments Act is a unique statute, its provisions take precedence over those of Cr PC, 1973.
- Local law:
- A local law is a law applicable only to a particular part of India.
- Laws applicable to a particular locality only are termed local laws, e.g., Port TrustAct.
Context of the demand for reforms:
- The recent tabling of Bills on criminal laws has become a causa celebre.
- They set overdue reforms into motion.
- The Bills do well to amend the substantive criminal law as codified in the Indian Penal Code (IPC), Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) and Indian Evidence Act (IEA).
- The offences and procedures outlined in the IPC or CrPC represent just one facet of a general criminal law and its vital to recognise that the most critical offences and procedures are encompassed within the Special and Local Laws (SLLs).
- Keeping SLLs away from the ongoing reform process is a major drawback.
- SLLs have immense quantitative and qualitative relevance in the Indian criminal justice system.
Significance of SLLs:
- Nearly 39.9% of all cognisable offences registered in 2021 were under SLLs.
- As per the Crime in India Statistics of 2021, of the total of nearly 61 lakh cognisable offences registered, 24.3 lakh offences were registered under SLLs alone.
- On the qualitative side, SLLs have given rise to several fundamental and pertinent debates, discourses and discussions regarding the limits on the state’s power of criminalisation especially in the context of violation of individual rights and liberties.
Need for reform in SLLs
- Vague definitions and terms:
- The SLLs such as the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 (UAPA) and the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act, 1999 (MCOCA) suffer from glaringly deficient, ambiguous and vague definitions of offences and terms such as ‘terrorist act’, ‘unlawful activity’, ‘organised crime’, ‘organised crime syndicate’etc.
- Criticism of consensual sex between minors:
- The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 is increasingly being criticised for its applicability to consensual sexual activities between minors.
- Criminalisation of conduct:
- Concerns have also been raised regarding criminalisation of such conductthrough SLLs which would otherwise fall squarely within the domain of civil wrongs or at best, regulatory wrongs.
- Dilution of the due process:
- Procedurally, it is through SLLs that universally accepted due process values are increasingly being diluted.
- Increased powers of search and seizure under Section 43A of the UAPA and the admissibility of confessions recorded by police officers under Section 18 of the MCOCA are prime examples.
- The stringent provisions provided for under Section 43(D)(5) of the UAPA, Section 37 of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985 and Section 45 of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) 2002 make the grant of bail a near impossibility.
- As successive governments place increasing reliance on the SLLs for a variety of reasons, it becomes imperative that the same should not be allowed to overpower the idea of codification of penal laws as imbibed in the IPC as well as the CrPC.
- All SLLs which criminalise/seek to criminalise a conduct should find a place as separate chapters within the larger structure of the penal code.
- All SLLs which create a separate procedure for reporting of offences, arrest, investigation, prosecution, trial, evidence and bail must be included either as separate procedures within the CrPC or as exceptions to the general provisions provided therein.
- Non-inclusion of the substantive and procedural aspects of the SLLs in the ongoing reform project is a serious limitation.
- It is imperative therefore that a second generation of reforms be brought in, in order to address the lacunae.