Professor C S Seshadri
Eminent mathematician Professor CS Seshadri, known for his contributions in algebraic geometry and mathematical education, died of Parkinson’s disease recently.
About personality –
He was the founder and Director-Emeritus of the Chennai Mathematical Institute, and is known for his work in algebraic geometry. The Seshadri constant is named after him.
What is Parkinson’s disease?
- Parkinson’s disease is a progressive disorder that is caused by degeneration of nerve cells in the part of the brain called the substantia nigra, which controls movement.
- These nerve cells die or become impaired, losing the ability to produce an important chemical called dopamine. Studies have shown that symptoms of Parkinson’s develop in patients with an 80 percent or greater loss of dopamine-producing cells in the substantia nigra.
- Normally, dopamine operates in a delicate balance with other neurotransmitters to help coordinate the millions of nerve and muscle cells involved in movement.
- Without enough dopamine, this balance is disrupted, resulting in tremor (trembling in the hands, arms, legs and jaw); rigidity (stiffness of the limbs); slowness of movement; and impaired balance and coordination – the hallmark symptoms of Parkinson’s.
- The cause of Parkinson’s essentially remains unknown. However, theories involving oxidative damage, environmental toxins, genetic factors and accelerated ageing have been discussed as potential causes for the disease.
ICJ ruling on Qatar blockade
More than three years after they imposed a sweeping blockade on Qatar, Saudi Arabia and its allies have received a setback from the International Court of Justice (ICJ).
Recently, the top United Nations (UN) court refused an appeal by Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which had challenged the authority of the International Civil Aviation Authority (ICAO) to adjudicate on the legality of the air blockade that the four nations have imposed against Qatar. The ICAO is the international aviation agency of the UN.
Qatar blockade –
- In June 2017, Qatar’s powerful neighbouring Arab nations of Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt moved to sever diplomatic and economic ties with Qatar by shutting off shipping routes and air space, over Doha’s alleged support for terrorism across the region and its ties with Iran.
- Qatar, however, denies supporting Islamic extremism and has widely condemned the isolation as a clear attack on its sovereignty.
- Since 2017, the blockade of Qatar has included the closing of its only land border (with Saudi Arabia), stopping Qatari ships from entering ports anywhere in the Saudi coalition, and blocking Qatari planes from flying in their airspace. Qatari citizens were also expelled as part of the measures.
Dispute at the ICJ –
- Alleging that its rights of free passage under the 1944 Convention on Civil Aviation were violated, Qatar approached the International Civil Aviation Authority (ICAO), the UN aviation body created by that Convention.
- At the ICAO, Saudi Arabia and its allies argued that only the ICJ should have the authority to settle the dispute, since it went beyond aviation matters. In 2018, the ICAO ruled against the Saudi coalition, holding that it did have jurisdiction to hear the case.
- The four countries then took the case to the ICJ, which on Tuesday backed the ICAO finding 15-1. The ICAO is now expected to deliver its verdict on the air blockade next year.
On May 23, 2020, World Turtle Day, a number of conservation agencies launched a citizen science initiative, a mobile-based application called KURMA, aimed at turtle conservation.
- The application, developed by the Indian Turtle Conservation Action Network (ITCAN) in collaboration with the Turtle Survival Alliance India and Wildlife Conservation Society-India, not only provides users a database to identify a species but also provides the location of the nearest rescue centre for turtles across the country.
- It serves as a digital database, with a built-in digital field guide covering 29 species of freshwater turtles and tortoises of India, and information on turtle identification, distribution, vernacular names, and threats.
Threat to turtles –
- Tortoise and freshwater turtles are among the most trafficked in the country. A report released in 2019 by TRAFFIC, showed that at least 200 tortoises and freshwater turtles fall prey to illicit poaching and smuggling every week, or 11,000 each year, adding up to over 1,11,130 turtles poached or smuggled between September 2009 and September 2019.
- One of the major challenges for freshwater turtle conservation in the country is that wildlife crime prevention agencies are not sufficiently equipped to know how to distinguish one species from the other, or their protection status in accordance with CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) and the Wildlife Protection Act.
About TRAFFIC –
- The TRAFFIC, the Wildlife Trade Monitoring Network, is a leading non-governmental organisation working on wildlife trade in the context of both biodiversity conservation and sustainable development.
- It is a joint program of World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
- It was established in 1976 and has developed into a global network, research-driven and action-oriented, committed to delivering innovative and practical conservation solutions.
- Headquarters – Cambridge, United Kingdom
- It aims to ensure that trade in wild plants and animals is not a threat to the conservation of nature.
India is discussing the issue of inviting Australia for the trilateral Malabar naval exercise with Japan and the United States.
What is Malabar Exercise?
Exercise Malabar is a trilateral naval exercise involving the United States, Japan and India as permanent partners. Originally begun in 1992 as a bilateral exercise between India and the United States, Japan became a permanent partner in 2015. Past non-permanent participants are Australia and Singapore.
- Malabar Naval exercises between India and the US has been an ongoing affair since 1992. After a brief interlude due to India’s 1998 nuclear tests and the imposition of sanctions, the exercise became an annual feature since 2002.
- Initially pitched at a basic level of naval drills between the US and India, Malabar 2005 involved the participation of the aircraft carriers of both navies for the first time.
- In Malabar 2006, a complete US expeditionary strike group and Coast Guard ships of both navies participated in anti-piracy drills, pollution control, search and rescue, visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) techniques, all of which were in consonance with the prevailing and perceived maritime threats.
Objectives of Malabar Exercise –
- The primary aim of the exercise was to increase interoperability amongst the navies of India, Japan and the US as well as develop a common understanding and procedures for maritime security operations.
- The exercise is a demonstration of the joint commitment of all three nations to address common maritime challenges across the spectrum of operations and will go a long way in enhancing maritime security in the Indo-Pacific region for the benefit of the global maritime community.
- The Indo-Pacific region holds immense geo-political and geo-strategic significance for navies around the world.
- The challenges of piracy, maritime terrorism, organised crime like drug trafficking, weapons smuggling, trafficking of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and related material, all have forced navies to conduct joint patrols and provide escort duties for shipping assets.
- In conjunction with these non-conventional challenges, the challenge to freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, unrelenting firing of missiles by North Korea and apprehension of non-accessibility of crucial choke points have elicited varying responses from the stake holders.
- Such exercises have also resulted in better training, improved readiness, and evolution of standard operating procedures (SOPs) as well as facilitated joint operations and increased the trust quotient among participating sides.
- The employment of hi-tech equipment in these exercises not only helps show-case superior technology, whose efficacy is keenly watched, but also leads to subsequent procurement deals thereby further boosting inter-operability and integration. The Poseidon Eight India (P8I) long range maritime patrol aircraft procured by India from the US is a pertinent example in this regard.
Controversies and subsequent increasing of pace –
- In June 2007, days before the first-ever official-level security consultation between the US, India, Japan and Australia, China issued demarches to each of the participants seeking to know the purpose behind their meeting.
- The Chinese reaction revealed the degree of suspicion with which it had started viewing such naval exercises. From 2009 onwards, all Malabar exercises have increased in complexity to include surface and anti-submarine warfare, coordinated gunnery exercises, air defence, employment of aircraft and submarines, VBSS drills and other high-end manoeuvres for exigencies likely to be encountered at sea.
- The sea-phase of the exercises has been conducted almost alternately in the Indian and Pacific Oceans since 2009, and Japan has been participating in these exercises whenever they were conducted in the waters of the Pacific Ocean in its vicinity.
Recent changes –
- In 2015, India took the bold move of including Japan as a permanent member of the Malabar exercises. The change proclaimed India’s readiness to stand its ground on security matters and was welcomed both by the US and Japan.
- In January 2017, Australia requested that its naval assets be allowed to attend Malabar exercises as an ‘observer’. Though Australia was denied an observer status in Malabar-2017, participation of the country in future Malabar exercises has not been foreclosed.
Way forward –
- It is time that a holistic view of the evolving security scenario in the Indo-Pacific region is taken to arrive at a pragmatic decision of expanding the Malabar exercise to include Australia and perhaps other like-minded countries. The operationalisation of the Gwadar port, deployment of troops in the Chinese base at Djibouti, among other developments, indicate the enhanced Chinese presence in the Indian Ocean Region.
- Considering that Australia also shares similar security challenges in the Indo-Pacific region as India in the present context, its inclusion thereby upgrading the present trilateral format to a ‘quad of nations’ would be a pragmatic decision that India will need to take very soon.
Based on the platform provided by the Malabar exercises, a perceptible beginning to a peaceful Indo-Pacific region can be made if India seizes this opportunity to take the lead in forming an overarching security quad of India, Australia, Japan and the US, thereby demonstrating a cooperative approach, greater coherence and a shared resolve to address maritime security issues in the Indo-Pacific.
The rubber sector, which has about 1.3 million rubber farmers contributing to a ₹ 1 lakh crore industry, is in turmoil amid concerns that the Centre plans to repeal the Rubber Act of 1947.
What are the concerns?
- The very existence of the Rubber Board, the system of licensing, extension, replanting, research, subsidies, control over export-import and a host of other support systems depend on the Act.
- Withdrawal of the Act would empower the Centre to disband the board and end the present system of rubber farming, growers’ representatives fear.
- The Rubber Act came into being in 1947 to promote natural rubber, a strategic product, entrusting the task to the Rubber Board. The sector has since grown to comprise 8.22 lakh hectares of cultivation and 13.2 lakh small cultivating units.
Many members of the Tablighi Jamaat belonging to different countries have obtained release from court cases in recent days by means of plea bargaining. Accused of violating visa conditions by attending a religious congregation in Delhi, these foreign nationals have walked free after pleading guilty to minor offences and paying the fines imposed by the court.
What is ‘plea bargaining’?
- Plea bargaining refers to a person charged with a criminal offence negotiating with the prosecution for a lesser punishment than what is provided in law by pleading guilty to a less serious offence.
- It is common in the United States, and has been a successful method of avoiding protracted and complicated trials. As a result, conviction rates are significantly high there. It primarily involves pre-trial negotiations between the accused and the prosecutor. It may involve bargaining on the charge or in the quantum of sentence.
- In India, the concept was not part of law until 2006. There has always been a provision in the Code of Criminal Procedure for an accused to plead ‘guilty’ instead of claiming the right to a full trial, but it is not the same as plea bargaining.
- The Law Commission of India, in its 142nd Report, mooted the idea of “concessional treatment” of those who plead guilty on their own volition, but was careful to underscore that it would not involve any plea bargaining or “haggling” with the prosecution.
- Plea bargaining was introduced in 2006 as part of a set of amendments to the CrPC as Chapter XXI-A, containing Sections 265A to 265L.
In what circumstances is it allowed?
- The Indian code makes plea bargaining a process that can be initiated only by the accused; further, the accused will have to apply to the court for invoking the benefit of bargaining.
- Only someone who has been charge sheeted for an offence that does not attract the death sentence, life sentence or a prison term above seven years can make use of the scheme under Chapter XXI-A.
- It is also applicable to private complaints of which a criminal court has taken cognisance. Other categories of cases that cannot be disposed of through plea bargaining are those that involve offences affecting the “socio-economic conditions” of the country, or committed against a woman or a child below the age of 14.
Solar Orbiter, a Sun-observing mission jointly organised by the NASA and ESA, launched on February 10, 2020 has sent down the first images of the Sun from a distance of about half the Earth-Sun distance. This is the closest observation of the Sun so far.
About Solar Orbiter –
- It will observe the Sun with high spatial resolution telescopes and capture observations in the environment directly surrounding the spacecraft to know how the Sun can affect the space environment throughout the solar system.
- It also intends to give a better understanding of how stars can affect the space environment throughout the solar system.
- The spacecraft also will be the first to provide images of the Sun’s poles.
- The mission will also study the magnetic environment around the Sun, which in turn will provide information about the Sun’s 11-year solar cycle and its periodic outpouring of solar storms.