Weekly Current Affairs – 2nd Feb to 8th Feb 2015
OCCUPATIONAL SHIFT AMONG SANTHALS
The Anthropological Survey of India (AnSI) recently took up a research that has pointed to a shift in the socio-economic and cultural life of tribal communities like the Santhals over the past few decades. The study was conducted by the AnSI at Kuotala village in West Bengal’s Birbhum district and has revealed that in six decades the economy of the village has shifted from agriculture to one of menial work. Most of the men from the village now work as daily labourers, rickshaw pullers, gardeners and caretakers at private residences. The women are engaged as maids in the various households in the region.
A seminal work on the Santhals of the village by Nabendu Datta Majumdar titled ‘The Santhal — A study in cultural change,’ clearly states that the tribal society was primarily agrarian. This book was based on the research he carried out in the 1950s. The book also stated that the principal economic activities of the Santhals of Kuotala and adjoining villages are agriculture, hunting, fishing, rearing of domestic animals and day labour. Agriculture is the chief source of livelihood.
Santhals are the third largest tribe in India. They are mostly found in the states of West Bengal, Bihar, Orissa, Jharkhand and Assam. They belong to the Pre Aryan period. They were the great fighters during the British regime in India. They wagged war against the permanent settlement of Lord Cornwallis in 1855. During the late 1850, Santhals hero Sidhu had accumulated around 10 thousand Santhals to run parallel government against the British government. Baba TilkaMajhi was the first Santhal leather who raise weapons against the Britishers in 1789.
Santhali is the prime language spoken by the Santhal Tribe. This Indian tribe also have a script of their own called Olchiki. Apart from Santhali, they also speak Bengali, Oriya and Hindi. The Santhal tribes of India have a typical tribal lifestyle. Basic needs are fulfilled by forests. The tribes are also engaged in fishing and cultivation.
Santhals don’t have a temple of their own and neither do they worship any idols. These tribes of India follow the Sarna religion, with Marangburu, Jaheraera, and Manjhi as their god and goddess.
EFFICIENCY NOTHING TO DO WITH AFFIRMATIVE ACTION
According to a study about the impact of reservations in public sector jobs on productivity and efficiency, the affirmative action did not reduce productivity in any sector, but raised it in some areas. India’s much-debated reservation policy for the educationally and socially backward classes is poorly studied.
The Indian Railways is the world’s largest employer where affirmative action applies. It employs between 1.3 and 1.4 million people at four levels of employment — Group A to Group D, with Group A employees being the senior-most. There is 15 per cent reservation for the SCs and 7.5 per cent reservation for the STs at all levels, with additional reservation for Other Backward Classes (OBCs). The study looked at SC and ST employees in Group A and B only, since people from marginalised backgrounds would have been unlikely to reach high levels of employment without reservation.
Individuals from marginalised groups may be especially highly motivated to perform well when they attain decision-making and managerial positions, because of the fact that they have reached these positions in the face of claims that they are not sufficiently capable, and they may consequently have a strong desire to prove their detractors wrong.
300 MILLION INDIANS STILL ENGULFED IN EXTREME POVERTY
Even as the Millennium Development Goal (MGD) programme is on the verge of expiration in December, about 30 crore people still live in extreme poverty in India. This was revealed in a United Nations report, namely, ‘India and the MGDs: Completing the Task’ that said that still nearly 300 million people live in extreme poverty in India and face deprivation in terms of access to basic services, including education, health, water, sanitation and electricity. India has a population of over 125 crore and was adopted the United Nation’s MGD in 2000 with an aim to free millions from extreme poverty and hunger, illiteracy, poor health.The eight-point MGD among others targets promotion of gender equality and women empowerment, reducing child mortality, improve maternal health, combating HIV/AIDS and environmental sustainability. India has an opportunity to become a leader in sustainable development. It has achieved the poverty reduction target, but the progress is uneven. After MGD expiry, the UN will begin its SDG programme. India has halved incidence of poverty from 1990s. Still over 27 crore people in 2012 remained in extreme poverty, making the post-2015 goal of eliminating extreme poverty by 2030 challenging, but feasible.
CROATIA, SERBIA ABSOLVED OF GENOCIDE
The United Nations International Court of Justice (ICJ) has ruled that neither Serbia nor Croatia had committed acts of genocide in the events following the collapse of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The court, which deliberated on accusations of genocide by Serbia and Croatia against each other, ruled that neither party had been able to prove that the other had committed an act of genocide. The crimes in question were allegedly committed during the Croatian independence war, which followed the breakup of the former Yugoslavian republic, and left about 20,000 people dead between 1991 and 1995. The ICJ ruled that Serbia intended to create a Serbian state by driving the Croatian population away from a region instead of destroying it, while noting that the acts of Croatian troops were not on a scale sufficient to establish an intention of genocide.
• The Croatian government had accused Serbia of committing genocide in the town of Vukovar in 1991. The Vukovar incident, and a subsequent 87-day siege by the Yugoslavian army, is said to have left over 2,000 dead and displaced tens of thousands of people. The court also ruled that Serbia cannot be found guilty of acts committed before April 27, 1992, when the country signed the genocide convention.
• Serbia had filed a counterclaim against the forced expulsion of 200,000 Serbs from Croatia, in an incident where the Croatian military bombarded a majority Serb area, in an exercise called Operation Storm. The proportion of ethnic Serbs in the area had reportedly dwindled to 4 percent from 12 percent before the attack.
• The initial filing to the ICJ was made in 1999, accusing Slobodan Milosevic, president of the erstwhile Yugoslavian republic, of waging a systematic campaign of violence against ethnic Croats. Milosevic was tried for genocide at the International Criminal Tribunal and Yugoslavia was broken up into a collection of states including Serbia, Croatia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Serbia’s counterclaim was filed in 2010.
UN GAZA WAR CRIMES PROBE GETS NEW CHIEF
A U.N. commission tasked with investigating potential war crimes committed last summer in Gaza was called for scrapping Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, after reports emerged that its chief resigned amid accusations he was biased against Israel. According to Netanyahu, the commission, set up by the Geneva-based U.N. Human Rights Council, was an “anti-Israeli body” that has proved it has nothing to do with human rights. The U.N. commission was due to issue its
report, but Israel did not cooperate with it, calling it hostile to Israel and that its conclusions were known in advance.
The summer’s war in Gaza, the third between Israel and Hamas since the group seized the seaside territory, killed more than 2,200 Palestinians and 72 people on the Israeli side. At least 1,483 Palestinian civilians were killed in the war 66 per cent of the overall death toll according to preliminary United Nations figures.
INDIA AND THE WORLD
INDIA AGREED TO SHARE DATA ON NUCLEAR MATERIAL
n order to secure the U.S. agreement to waive its tracking requirements, India has accepted to share data on nuclear material and equipment. As per sources, India’s concession on the issue was the reason for the breakthrough in agreement on the administrative arrangements for the Indo-U.S. civilian nuclear deal during President Obama’s visit. The data collected would be shared during annual consultations between a U.S.-Indian group, which would be specially set up to implement the administrative arrangements that will guide the nuclear deal.
According to Indian officials, the data sharing agreement was the same as had been extended to other countries. The text of the Canadian agreement that was finalised in April 2013, hasn’t yet been made public, but is understood to only allow for IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) safeguards while sharing data based on aggregates from the U.N. agency.
However, the source denied that the US President had issued any executive waiver to bypass the requirement to monitor the use of nuclear material in India. The American requirement, under he Hyde Act of 2006 stipulates that the U.S. President must certify to U.S. Congress that India is in compliance with U.S. tracking and flagging requirements on fissile material and nuclear equipment at reactors supplied by the U.S., even if it is from third parties.
INDIA RANKS SECOND LAST IN GLOBAL IP INDEX
The US Chamber of Commerce’s Global Intellectual Property Center (GIPC) recently released the third edition of the International IP Index, entitled UP: Unlimited Potential, which speaks to some of these IP concerns. The GIPC Index maps the IP environment in 30 countries based on factors indicative of a strong IP environment. In the 2015 GIPC Index, India ranked 29 out of the featured 30 countries. According to the report, India’s overall score has improved from previous editions with a score of 7.23, while the US which tops the list has a score of 28.53.
• The intellectual property (IP) and innovation are among the top national priorities. IP- related issues were an integral part of the agenda during the recent visit of India’s Prime Minister to the US, and it is a well-known fact that IP is imperative for the continuous growth of business and economy of any country. Now, with the recent focus on IP by the government, industry is particularly interested to see whether India is taking concrete steps to strengthen their IP protections, or if the issues are just confined to ministerial meetings and foreign visits.
• In recent years, industry has become discouraged by India’s IP environment, and US authorities have called IP issues a major roadblock in bilateral relations. Specifically, weak IP laws are holding back three major sectors – pharmaceutical, technology, and entertainment.
In order to send a signal to investors that India is ready to get serious about intellectual property protection, political leadership is needed. Companies need assurances that their IP will be protected. The continued use of patent revocations and denials may cause investors to lose confidence in the Indian market, despite the country having huge technological, technical and creative potential.
To capitalize on the many benefits which IP provides, India can introduce appropriate legislation, support policies, and encourage legal decisions that embrace, rather than inhibit innovation and intellectual property. While the United States has been encouraged by the recent attention to IP in India, business wants to see action that goes beyond the rhetoric.
Steps to be taken: India has great business and economic potential, but it cannot be capitalized upon until the policies in place encourage investment. The government has started moving on a path leading towards the increased enforcement and promotion of strong IP rights, but the proper execution of these initiatives will be critical to their long-term success. In India, too often innovation is approached as jugaad and focuses on reverse engineering. Yet, for India to effectively encourage companies to ‘Make in India,’ India must adopt both a mindset and policies which promote home- grown innovation, and which is underpinned by strong IP protections. The creation of an infrastructure and environment that encourages innovation will radically change India’s economic and creative ecosystem. The ongoing engagement between the US and India should lead India to adopt tangible policy changes, allowing intellectual property to flourish and enabling investors and innovators to commit to India’s market for the long term.
SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
NASA successfully launched its first Earth satellite designed to collect global observations of the vital soil moisture. The Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) observatory, a mission with broad applications for science and society, lifted off from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, on a United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket. After a series of activation procedures, the spacecraft established communications with ground controllers and deployed its solar array.
About SMAP: SMAP is managed for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington by JPL, with instrument hardware and science contributions made by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. JPL built the spacecraft and is responsible for project management, system engineering, radar instrumentation, mission operations and the ground data system. Goddard is responsible for the radiometer instrument and science data products. Both centers collaborate on science data processing and delivery to the Alaska Satellite Facility, in Fairbanks, and the National Snow and Ice Data Center at the University of Colorado in Boulder. NASA’s Launch Services Program at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida was responsible for launch management. JPL is managed for NASA by the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.
NASA monitors Earth’s vital signs from land, air and space with a fleet of satellites and ambitious airborne and ground-based observation campaigns. NASA develops new ways to observe and study Earth’s interconnected natural systems with long- term data records and computer analysis tools to better see how our planet is changing. The agency shares this unique knowledge with the global community and works with institutions in the United States and around the world that contribute to understanding and protecting our home planet.
UK’S GREEN SIGNAL TO MAKE BABIES FROM DNA
In a historic move, UK’s House of Common MPs voted in favour of the creation of babies with DNA from two women and one man. The UK is now set to become the first country to introduce laws to allow the creation of babies from three people. In a free vote in the Commons, 382 MPs were in favour and 128 against the technique that stops genetic diseases being passed from mother to child. A further vote is required in the House of Lords. It everything goes ahead then the first such baby could be born next year. The proponents consider the backing as good news for progressive medicine, but the critics will continue to fight against the technique that raises too many ethical and safety concerns. Estimates suggest 150 three- person babies could be born each year.
The method was developed in Newcastle and involves mitochondria. For the families affected by mitochondrial disease, this is the only option for a healthy child. While some people argue changing mitochondria is akin to a blood transplant the implications are much wider. This is a change that will be passed down through the generations.
v Mitochondria are the tiny compartments inside nearly every cell of the body that convert food into useable energy. They have their own DNA, which does not affect characteristics such as appearance. Defective mitochondria are passed down only from the mother. They can lead to brain damage, muscle wasting, heart failure and blindness. The technique uses a modified version of IVF to combine the DNA of the two parents with the healthy mitochondria of a donor woman. It results in babies with 0.1% of their DNA from the second woman and is a permanent change that would be passed down through the generations.
v Two eggs are fertilised with sperm, creating an embryo from the intended parents and another from the donors.
The pronuclei which contain genetic information, are removed from both embryos but only the parents’ are kept.
v A healthy embryo is created by adding the parents’ pronuclei to the donor embryo, which is finally implanted into the womb.
v Eggs from a mother with damaged mitochondria and a donor with healthy mitochondria are collected.
v The majority of the genetic material is removed from both eggs.
v The mother’s genetic material is inserted into the donor egg, which can be fertilised by sperm.
INDIA WORLD’S 4TH GM CROP ACREAGE
According to the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA), India has the fourth largest area planted under genetically modified (GM) crops, Farmers in India planted a total 11.6 million hectares (mh) under transgenics in 2014, behind the corresponding areas for Argentina (24.3 mh), Brazil (42.2 mh) and the US (73.1 mh). The GM crop acreage in India far surpassed China’s 3.9 mh, while equalling that of Canada’s 11.6 mh.
King Faisal Award
Saudi Arabia is well known for using its vast oil wealth to promote extreme interpretations of Islam around the world. The king of Saudi Arabia has handed his country’s most-prestigious prize to a preacher who has previously said the Koran allows Muslims to have sex with female slaves. Indian cleric Zakir Naik, who has also said 9/11 was an inside job, was handed the King Faisal International Prize for Services to Islam at a glittering ceremony in Riyadh. A physician by training, the Mumbai-based 49-year-old has carved out a career as a charismatic television preacher, but his controversial views have led to him being banned from entering the UK.
City-based Islamic scholar, Dr Zakir, has won the Saudi Arab’s King Faisal Award 2015. Naik and four others were chosen for the prestigious award for their services to Islam. Naik, founder if Islamic Research Foundation (IRF), is an international preacher on Islam. He did his MBBS from Nair College in Mumbai and later opted to preach Islam. The award contains a prize of 7.5 Lakh Saudi Riyal. Naik runs an Islamic international school and a research centre in Mumbai.
The other prize winners were:
In Islamic studies, Saudi Arabia’s Abdulaziz bin Abdulrahman Kaki for his research on the cultural heritage of the Muslim holy city of Medina
In medicine, Jeffrey Ivan Gordon of the United States, whose research has enhanced understanding of diseases such as obesity, which is a growing problem in Saudi Arabia
In science, Michael Gratzel of Switzerland for his development of solar cells, and co-winner Omar MwannesYaghi of the United States for his work in the new field of metal organic frameworks.
The Jnanpith Selection Board selected the eminent Marathi litterateur Bhalchandra Nemade, whose 1963 novel Kosala(Cocoon) changed the dimensions of Marathi novel, for 2014 Jnanpith Award, the highest literary honour in India.
Nemade is the fourth Marathi writer to win the literary honour after VS Khandekar in 1974, VV Shirwadkar alias Kusumagraj in 1988, and Govind Karandikar alias Vinda Karandikar in 2003. Novelist poet, critic, academic, and a relentless advocate of the literary movements and the leader of the post-1960s Little Magazine movement, Nemade has inscribed his name prominently in the annals of Indian literature.
Noted sculptor Mrinalini Mukherjee passed away recently. Mukherjee, the only daughter of acclaimed artists from Santiniketan, BenodeBehari and Leela Mukherjee, was best known for her sculptures using knotted hemp fibre and cast bronzes.
The artist had studied painting at M S University in Baroda between 1965 and 1970 and later undertook a post diploma in mural design under K.G. Subramanyan. The artist, who had a career in the art world spanning five decades, was born
in Mumbai, grew up in Dehradun, and visited Santiniketan often. She was unmarried. In 1994, she was invited by the Museum of Modern Art, Oxford, for an exhibition of her sculptures that later travelled in the United Kingdom. More recently, Mukherjee’s work was included in the ‘The Body in Indian Art’, an exhibition curated by NamanAhuja at Bozar in Brussels in 2013. Previously, in 2012, she was part of a group exhibition ‘Crossings: Time Unfolded (Part II)’ curated by RoobinaKarode at KiranNadar Museum of Art.
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