Prelims Booster

16th September – Prelims Booster

M. Visvesvaraya

India celebrates ‘Engineers Day’ on September 15th each year to mark the birth anniversary of Bharat Ratna M. Visvesvaraya.

About M. Visvesvaraya –

  • Born in 1861, Sir M. Visvesvaraya made contributions to several technical projects in his career in Hyderabad, Mysore, Maharashtra and Orissa.
  • He completed his engineering from the Poona College of Science. Soon after this, he accepted an offer to work as an Assistant Engineer in the Public Works Department of the Government of Bombay.
  • He was 22 at that time and one of his first projects was to construct a pipe syphon across one of Panjra river’s (in Maharashtra) channels.
  • In November 1909, he joined the Mysore service as Chief Engineer, ultimately assuming the position of the 19th Dewan of Mysore. He took voluntary retirement in 1918 because he did not agree with the proposal to set aside state jobs for “non-brahmin” community.
  • While outside India, he fully intended to observe how the industrialised countries of America and Europe worked.
  • In 1955, he was awarded the Bharat Ratna.
  • Institute – He established the Sir Jayachamarajendra Occupational Institute in Bangalore in 1943. It was later renamed to Sir Jayachamarajendra Polytechnic. It was meant to impart special training to technicians keeping in mind the impending industrial development of India.
  • Books – His works, “Reconstructing India” and “Planned Economy of India” were published in 1920 and 1934, respectively.

Life on Venus

An announcement by an international team of astronomers about the discovery of phosphine gas in the atmosphere of Venus has triggered global excitement about the possibility of the presence of lifeforms on the neighbouring planet.

Apart from being produced in industrial processes, phosphine, a colourless but smelly gas, is known to be made only by some species of bacteria that survive in the absence of oxygen.

How can we say that there is life on Venus?

  • The scientists have discovered the presence of a chemical which is known to be produced only through biological process, and not through any naturally occurring chemical process.
  • There are some other ways in which this chemical might be produced, for example, in the underbelly of volcanoes or meteorite activity, but that would have shown in much lower concentrations.
  • In fact, this discovery was made in 2017, and the scientists checked and re-checked their data over the last three years before deciding to make it public. The paper in Nature Astronomy says this presence of phosphine is “unexplained” after an exhaustive study of all the possible other sources and “production routes in Venus’s atmosphere, clouds, surface and subsurface, or from lightning, volcanic or meteorite delivery”.
  • So, the only possible explanation for the origin of this phosphine, based on our current knowledge, could be in the biological processes, the way it is produced on Earth, by some microbes.
  • During the announcement, scientists were very careful to emphasise, repeatedly, that this was not a confirmation of the presence of life on Venus.

Can Venus support life?

  • There are several things that we know of about Venus that make life, as we know it, unsustainable on that planet. The temperature of Venus is too high, and its atmosphere is highly acidic, just two of the things that would make life impossible.
  • But it is suggested that this phosphine could be remnants from a time when Venus was a much more hospitable place.

Missions to Venus –

  • Missions to Venus are not new. Spacecraft have been going near the planet since the 1960s, and some of them have even made a landing.
  • The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is also planning a mission to Venus, tentatively called Shukrayaan, in the near future. As of now, the plan is still on the drawing board. All future missions to Venus would now be attuned to investigating further evidence of the presence of life.

About ‘Phosphine’ –

  • Phosphine is a colourless, flammable, and explosive gas at ambient temperature that has the odour of garlic or decaying fish. Small amounts occur naturally from the break down of organic matter. It is slightly soluble in water.
  • Phosphine is used in the semiconductor industry to introduce phosphorus into silicon crystals . It is also used as a fumigant, a polymerisation initiator and as an intermediate for the preparation of several flame retardants.
  • Phosphine has an odour of garlic or decaying fish but is odourless when pure.

Same-sex marriages

The Centre has opposed before the Delhi High Court a petition seeking recognition of same-sex marriages, saying, “our legal system, society and values do not recognise marriage between same sex couples”.

Background –

On September 6, 2018, a five-judge Constitution Bench, led by then Chief Justice Dipak Misra, unanimously held that criminalisation of private consensual sexual conduct between adults of the same sex under Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code is clearly unconstitutional.

What did the Centre say?

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Centre, said the 2018 judgment of the Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court “merely decriminalises homosexuality or lesbianism, nothing more, nothing less”.

Centre’s argument –

  • The SG is said to have asked the court that “if a wife dies within seven years, there is a separate punishment. Now, who will be treated as a wife [in same sex marriage]?”.
  • The Solicitor General said the petition was not permissible as it was asking the court to legislate and also that any relief granted “would run contrary to various statutory provisions”.

Argument of the petitioner –

  • The petition was filed by Abhijit Iyer Mitra, a member of the LGBT community, and three others seeking to recognise same sex marriages under Section 5 of the Hindu Marriage Act on the ground that “it does not distinguish between homosexual and heterosexual couples”.
  • The petitioners argued that “despite the fact that there is absolutely no statutory bar under the Hindu Marriage Act of 1955 and the Special Marriage Act of 1956 against gay marriage, the same are not being registered throughout the country and also in the National Capital Territory of Delhi”.
  • The prohibition of marriage of LGBT people on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity is an absolute discrimination towards them and is also violative of Right to Equality as granted by the Constitution of India. The petition also cited names of 27 countries including the U.S. where same sex marriage is legal.

Decriminalisation of homosexuality –

  • The Supreme Court in 2018 unanimously ruled that Gay sex among consenting adults is not a criminal offence. The bench maintained that it is a part of a 158-year-old colonial law that criminalised it, violated the constitutional right to equality and dignity.
  • It unanimously held that the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) community possess the same constitutional rights as other citizens of the country.
  • It termed sexual orientation as a “biological phenomenon” and “natural” and held that any discrimination on this ground was violative of the fundamental rights. It ruled that it is declared that insofar as Section 377 criminalises consensual sexual acts of adults in private, is violative of Articles 14, 15, 19, and 21 of the Constitution.
  • It is, however, clarified that such consent must be free consent, which is completely voluntary in nature, and devoid of any duress or coercion. The bench also said that homosexuality was not a mental disorder, but a completely natural condition.

Section 377 –

The Chapter XVI, Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) 1860 was introduced during the British rule of India. The section criminalises sexual activities “against the order of nature”.

The bench diluted the controversial section to exclude all kinds of adult consensual sexual behaviour.

Why there is opposition to LGBT rights in India?

  • The Apostolic Churches Alliance was opposing case since they argued that homosexuality was an abomination in the Bible.
  • It is contended that decriminalising homosexuality would make the Prevention of Immoral Trafficking Act, 1956 redundant.
  • It is also maintained that if the section is allowed then sexual transmitted diseases like AIDS would further spread and harm the people.
  • Moreover, they contended that it would lead a big health hazard and also morally degrade the society.

Mekedatu Reservoir

Karnataka Government is likely to take a delegation to bring pressure on the Centre to approve the construction of the Mekedatu balancing reservoir that has been proposed to store water for drinking purposes.

Background –

  • Being set up by the Karnataka government, the project is near Mekedatu, in Ramanagaram district, across the river Cauvery from Tamil Nadu.
  • Its primary objective is to supply drinking water to Bengaluru and recharge the groundwater table in the region.

Conflict –

  • Tamil Nadu has moved the Supreme Court. Its main argument is that the project violates the final award of the Cauvery River Water Tribunal, and that the “construction of the two reservoirs would result in impounding of the flows in the intermediate catchment below the Krishnaraja Sagar and Kabini reservoirs, and Billigundulu in the common border of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu”.
  • Karnataka says, the project will not come in the way of releasing the stipulated quantum of water to Tamil Nadu, nor will it be used for irrigation purposes.

About Cauvery Water Management Authority (CWMA) –

  • In a gazette notification, the Ministry of Water Resources said it has framed a scheme constituting the CMA and the Cauvery Water Regulation Committee to give effect to the decision of the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal as modified by the Supreme Court order. 
  • The authority would comprise a chairman, eight members besides a secretary. Out of eight members, two each will be full-time and part-time members, while the rest four would be part-time members from states.
  • The chairman of the authority should either be a “senior and eminent engineer” with an experience of water resource management and handling of inter-state water dispute or an IAS officer with an experience in water resources management and handling the inter-state dispute. 
  • He will have the tenure of five years or until he reaches the age of 65, whichever is earlier.

About Cauvery river –

  • The Cauvery river is the longest river of Peninsular India. And it is also the third largest river after Godavari and Krishna in south India and the largest in Tamil Nadu which on its course, bisects the state into North and South.
  • The river has water flow throughout the year because it gets rainwater from south-west monsoons in the upper-catchment area (located in Karnataka) and from the north-east monsoons in the lower-catchment area (located in Tamil Nadu).
  • Source of origin – The river rises from Talakaveri in the hills of Brahmagiri in Coorg district in the state of Karnataka.
  • Confluence or mouth of the river – The river drains its waters into the Bay of Bengal before forming a wide delta called the garden of southern India.

World Ozone Day 2020

World Ozone Day is observed on September 16, every year. It is celebrated to spread awareness among people about the depletion of the Ozone Layer and search for possible solutions to preserve it.

Background –

  • On December 19, 1994, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed September 16 the International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer, commemorating the date, in 1987, on which the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer was signed.
  • On September 16, 1987, the United Nations and 45 other countries signed the Montreal Protocol, on substances that deplete the Ozone layer. Every year, this day is celebrated as the International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone layer.
  • The purpose of the Montreal Protocol is to protect the Ozone layer by reducing the production of substances that are supposed to be responsible for Ozone layer depletion.

About World Ozone Day 2020 –

  • Ozone for life” is the slogan for World Ozone Day 2020. This year, we celebrate 35 years of global ozone layer protection.
  • The slogan of the day, “Ozone for life”, reminds us that ozone is crucial for our life on Earth and we must continue to protect the ozone layer for our future generations also.
  • This year, we celebrate 35 years of the Vienna Convention and 35 years of global ozone layer protection.

About Ozone layer –

  • Ozone (chemically, a molecule of three oxygen atoms) is found mainly in the upper atmosphere, an area called the stratosphere, between 10 and 50 km from the earth’s surface.
  • Though it is talked of as a layer, ozone is present in the atmosphere in rather low concentrations.
  • Even at places where this layer is thickest, there are not more than a few molecules of ozone for every million air molecules.
  • But they absorb the harmful ultraviolet radiations from the sun. UV rays can cause skin cancer and other diseases and deformities in plants and animals.
  • In the Earth’s lower atmosphere (troposphere) near ground level, ozone is formed when pollutants emitted by cars, power plants, industrial boilers, refineries, chemical plants, and other sources react chemically in the presence of sunlight. Surface level Ozone is a harmful air pollutant. It may reduce lung function and make breathing difficult.

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