All nations that have nuclear weapons continue to modernise their nuclear arsenals, while India and China increased their nuclear warheads in the last one year, according to a latest report by Swedish think tank Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).
What does the report say?
- The report said China’s nuclear arsenal had gone up from 290 warheads in 2019 to 320 in 2020, while India’s went up from 130-140 in 2019 to 150 in 2020.
- Pakistan’s arsenal was estimated to be between 150160 in 2019 and has reached 160 in 2020. Both China and Pakistan continue to have larger nuclear arsenals than India.
- The nuclear arsenals of the nuclear-armed states other than the United States and Russia were considerably smaller but all these states were either developing or deploying new weapon systems or had announced their intention to do so, it noted.
- Together the nine nuclear armed states — the U.S., Russia, the United Kingdom, France, China, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea — possessed an estimated 13,400 nuclear weapons at the start of 2020, which marked a decrease from an estimated 13,865 nuclear weapons at the beginning of 2019.
- The decrease in the overall numbers was largely due to the dismantlement of old nuclear weapons by Russia and the U.S., which together possess over 90% of the global nuclear weapons.
About SIPRI –
- Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) is an independent international institute dedicated to research into conflict, armaments, arms control and disarmament.
- Established in 1966, SIPRI provides data, analysis and recommendations, based on open sources, to policymakers, researchers, media and the interested public.
- SIPRI was established on the basis of a decision by the Swedish Parliament and receives a substantial part of its funding in the form of an annual grant from the Swedish Government.
- It releases the annual report ‘Trends in World Military Expenditure’.
The traditional art of ‘Talamaddale’, a variant of Yakshagana theatre, has also gone virtual in times of COVID-19.
What is ‘Talamaddale’?
- Talamaddale is an ancient form of performance dialogue or debate performance in Southern India in the Karavali and Malnad regions of Karnataka and Kerala.
- The plot and content of the conversation is drawn from popular mythology but the performance mainly consists of an impromptu debate between characters involving sarcasm, puns, philosophy positions and humour.
- The main plot is sung from the same oral texts used for the Yakshgana form of dance- drama. Performers claim that this was a more intellectual rendition of the dance during the monsoon season.
- The art form is popular in Uttara Kannada, Dakshina Kannada, Udupi and Shimoga districts of Karnataka and Kasaragod district of Kerala. It is a derived form of Yakshagana—a classical dance or musical form of art from the same region.
- A typical Tala-Maddale show consists of veteran artists sitting in a circular fashion along with a Bhagavata (the singer, with “Tala” or pair of small hand cymbals) and a “Maddale” (a type of drum) player. Artists play the roles of characters in stories, typically, from Ramayana, Mahabharata, and other puranas. Some consider them as a good presentation of oratorial skills.
- Subjects of Tala Maddale performances normally focus on episodes from the Hindu epics of Bhagavata and Puranas. However, episodes have also been created on other more current issues, some of which include the Second World War, the Tashkent Agreement, the Indian freedom struggle (Swarajya Vijaya) and computerisation (Ganakasura Kalaga).
Difference from Yakshagana –
- Unlike the Yakshagana performance, in the conventional ‘talamaddale,’ the artists sit across in a place without any costumes and engage in testing their oratory skills based on the episode chosen.
- If music is common for both Yakshagana performance and ‘talamaddale’, the latter has only spoken word without any dance or costumes. Hence it is an art form minus dance, costumes and stage conventions.
Recently, China accorded the pangolin the highest level of protection and removed the scales of the endangered mammal from its list of approved traditional medicines.
What is China’s latest decision?
- A report published on June 6 in the Health Times, a Chinese state-run publication, says that the State Forestry and Grassland Administration had issued a notice on June 5 upgrading its protection of pangolins and banning all commercial trade of the endangered mammal.
- The move came about after the 2020 edition of the “Chinese Pharmacopoeia” excluded traditional medicines made from four species, and also listed alternatives sourced from species which are not endangered, reported the Health Times.
- In February 2020, when the reports linking the transmission of the virus to wet markets in Wuhan emerged, China banned the consumption of wild animals, including pangolins, in an attempt to limit the risk of diseases being transmitted to humans from animals.
Why is Pangolin trafficked?
- Eight species of the scaly insectivorous creatures are distributed across Asia and Africa. They have long been hunted for their meat and scales, which indigenous tribes in central and eastern India are also known to have worn as rings. Two of these species are found in 15 states in India, although their numbers are yet to be completely documented.
- The creatures are strictly nocturnal, repelling predators by curling up into scaly spheres upon being alarmed. The same defence mechanism however, makes them slow and easy to catch once spotted.
- Their alleged health benefits in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) prompted a booming illicit export of scales from Africa over the past decade.
About Indian Pangolin –
- India is home to two species of pangolin. While the Chinese Pangolin (Manis pentadactyla) is found in northeastern India, the Indian Pangolin is distributed in other parts of the country as well as Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Pakistan.
- Both these species are protected and are listed under the Schedule I Part I of the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972 and under Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).
- IUCN status – ‘Endangered’
- Commonly known as ‘scaly anteaters’, the toothless animals are unique, a result of millions of years of evolution.
- Pangolins evolved scales as a means of protection. When threatened by big carnivores like lions or tigers they usually curl into a ball. The scales defend them against dental attacks from the predators.
The Supreme Court has recently asked the government to explain its decision to suspend crucial rules of a parliamentary law against pre-natal sex determination and sex selection till June-end, amid the COVID-19 national lockdown.
What is the issue?
One of the suspended provisions, Rule 8, is intrinsically connected with the statute’s provisions dealing with the mandatory registration of genetic counselling centres, laboratories and clinics. Non-compliance leads to penalty. The Central government has arbitrarily and selectively weakened a legislation aimed at curbing the pernicious activity of sex-selection and sex-determination. By suspending the Rules, the government has diluted the PCPNDT Act, the petition said.
What is PCPNDT Act?
- The Pre-conception & Pre-natal Diagnostics Techniques (PC & PNDT) Act, 1994 was enacted in response to the decline in Sex ratio in India, which deteriorated from 972 in 1901 to 927 in 1991.
- The main purpose of enacting the act is to ban the use of sex selection techniques before or after conception and prevent the misuse of prenatal diagnostic technique for sex selective abortion.
- Offences under this act include conducting or helping in the conduct of prenatal diagnostic technique in the unregistered units, sex selection on a man or woman, conducting PND test for any purpose other than the one mentioned in the act, sale, distribution, supply, renting etc. of any ultra sound machine or any other equipment capable of detecting sex of the foetus.
Provisions of the Act –
- The Act provides for the prohibition of sex selection, before or after conception.
- It regulates the use of pre-natal diagnostic techniques, like ultrasound and amniocentesis by allowing them their use only to detect few cases.
- No laboratory or centre or clinic will conduct any test including ultrasonography for the purpose of determining the sex of the foetus.
- No person, including the one who is conducting the procedure as per the law, will communicate the sex of the foetus to the pregnant woman or her relatives by words, signs or any other method.
- Any person who puts an advertisement for pre-natal and pre-conception sex determination facilities in the form of a notice, circular, label, wrapper or any document, or advertises through interior or other media in electronic or print form or engages in any visible representation made by means of hoarding, wall painting, signal, light, sound, smoke or gas, can be imprisoned for up to three years and fined Rs. 10,000.
- The Act mandates compulsory registration of all diagnostic laboratories, all genetic counselling centres, genetic laboratories, genetic clinics and ultrasound clinics.