Newspaper notes for UPSC 14-07-18

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DNA profiles won’t be kept permanently

  • India’s proposed DNA databank, to be used during investigation into crimes or to find missing persons, will not permanently store details of people. The DNA details will be removed, subject to “judicial orders,”.
  • “There will be nothing permanent in a DNA bank,” If there’s a criminal case, till the case is solved the DNA profile will remain in the bank. They will be removed after a judicial order. These things will be specified in the rules.
  • The rules will come after Parliament approves the DNA Technology (Use and Application) Regulation Bill, 2018. 
  • The aim of that draft legislation was to establish an institutional mechanism to collect and deploy DNA technologies to identify persons based on samples collected from crime scenes or to identify missing persons. The Bill envisages a DNA Profiling Board and a DNA Data Bank.

What is DNA analysis ?

  • DNA analysis is an extremely useful and accurate technology in ascertaining the identity of a person from his/her DNA sample, or establishing biological relationships between individuals. A hair sample, or even bloodstains from clothes, from a scene of crime, for example, can be matched with that of a suspect, and it can, in most cases, be conclusively established whether the DNA in the sample belongs to the suspected individual. As a result, DNA technology is being increasingly relied upon in investigations of crime, identification of unidentified bodies, or in determining parentage.


  • The Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister has approved The DNA Technology (Use and Application) Regulation Bill 2018.
  • Forensic DNA profiling is of proven value in solving cases involving offences that are categorized as
  • affecting the human body (such as murder, rape, human trafficking, or grievous hurt),
  • and those against property (including theft, burglary, and dacoity).
  • The aggregate incidence of such crimes in the country, as per the statistics of the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) for 2016, is in excess of 3 lakhs per year. Of these, only a very small proportion is being subjected to DNA testing at present. It is expected that the expanded use of this technology in these categories of cases would result not only in speedier justice delivery but also in increased conviction rates, which at present is only around 30% (NCRB Statistics for 2016).

Purpose and Objectives :

  • The primary intended purpose for enactment of Bill is for expanding the application of DNA-based forensic technologies to support and strengthen the justice delivery system of the country.
  • The utility of DNA based technologies for solving crimes, and to identify missing persons, is well recognized across the world.
  • By providing for the mandatory accreditation and regulation of DNA laboratories, the Bill seeks to ensure that with the proposed expanded use of this technology in the country, there is also the assurance that the DNA test results are reliable and the data remain protected from misuse or abuse in terms of the privacy rights of our citizens.
  • Speedier justice delivery.  Increased conviction rate.
  • Bill’s provisions will enable the cross-matching between persons who have been reported missing on the one hand and unidentified dead bodies found in various parts of the country on the other, and also for establishing the identity of victims in mass disasters.


  • DNA REGULATORY BOARD: The board, which will have regional offices as required, will certify labs authorised to carry out DNA testing, approve establishment of DNA databanks and supervise their functioning, and lay down procedures and guidelines for collection, storing, sharing and deletion of DNA information.
  • DNA DATABANK: A National DNA Databank and certain regional DNA Databanks will store DNA profiles received from DNA labs in a specified format.
  • Only for identification: The Bill states that the DNA data, including DNA profiles, samples and records, contained in any DNA labs and Databank “shall be used only for the purpose of facilitating identification of the person and not for any other purpose”.
  • Other than in suspects and offenders’ index, the identity of a person is not to be stored in other indices. Only case reference numbers are to be stored in such cases, the Bill states
  • Consent: The Bill states that DNA information cannot be taken from an arrested person without consent. The exception is only for specified offences, though the Bill does not elaborate on this. Samples can also be obtained from persons who are witness to a crime, or want to locate their missing relatives, or in similar instances in which they can volunteer, in writing, to offer their DNA samples for a specific purpose.
  • Penalties: The Bill states that disclosure of DNA information to unauthorised persons, or for unauthorised purposes, shall lead to penalties: up to three years in jail and up to Rs 1 lakh as fine.

Previous Versions :

  • The draft Bill was first named DNA Profiling Bill in 2007 and then Human DNA Profiling Bill in 2015. In July 2017, the Law Commission’s report proposed a new amended draft called ‘DNA based Technology (Use and Regulation) Bill’, 2017, addressing some concerns on privacy and possible misuse. This current Bill is modelled largely on the Law Commission proposal, except for some nominal changes.
  • The Secretary of the Department of Biotechnology has been made the ex-officio chairman of the proposed DNA Regulatory Board. In previous versions, including the draft of the Law Commission, this job was open for other “eminent persons” as well, provided they had expertise and knowledge of biological sciences for at least 25 years.

We’re not a surveillance state: SC

  • The Bench was hearing a petition it alleged that the proposal for a “social media communication hub” by the Centre is a “brazen attempt at mass surveillance.”
  • If the government seeks to monitor every social media message, the country will become a surveillance state, the Supreme Court said.
  • Justice D.Y. Chandrachud, who is a member of the Bench led by Chief Justice made the oral observation, about the Central government’s proposal to create a hub to track social media trends.
  • The proposed Social Media Communication Hub seeks to create a technology architecture that merges mass surveillance with a capacity for disinformation.

Survey launched to rank States on rural cleanliness

  • The Centre has launched the Swachh Survekshan Grameen, 2018, a nationwide survey of rural India to rank the cleanest and dirtiest States and districts on the basis of qualitative and quantitative evaluation.
  • A random selection of 6, 980 villages across 698 districts will surveyed during the month of August, following which the Swachh Survekshan Grameen awards are expected to be announced.
  • This is the first comprehensive survey for rural India, which has been launched after three successful editions of a similar survey in urban India.
  • The rankings will be based on three basic parameters:
    • direct observation of public places by independent surveyors,
    • service-level progress using data from the Swachh Bharat Mission’s information system and
    • citizens’ feedback.
  • The feedback will be solicited through village meetings, online feedback and direct interviews, as well as discussions with key influencers such as local officials, elected representatives and anganwadi workers.
  • AIR Spotlight : Swachh Survekshan Grameen

In tightrope walk, India schedules talks with Iran and U.S.

  • Ahead of the first set of U.S. sanctions on Iran kicking in on August 6, the Union government is planning to hold talks with senior Iranian and American officials back-to-back next week.
  • The U.S. team will be in Delhi as part of a it’s outreach to several countries to convince them to cut down oil imports from Iran to “zero” as well as cut off trade ties.
  • This would be the “first face-to-face meeting with the U.S. since sanctions were reimposed”, the two sides would exchange “perspectives as friends” on the issue.
  • According to officials privy to the U.S. team’s agenda, Iran’s role in supporting terror groups in West Asia would be brought up strongly, and they will highlight the U.S.’s support to India on fighting terror.
  • “India tells us fighting cross-border terror is a priority. Then it must also take U.S. concerns about Iran as a state sponsor of terror and major cause of middle east instability into account,” a diplomat said.

India going ahead with S-400 buy

  • India is going ahead with the purchase of S-400 air defence systems from Russia despite American concerns, and has told the U.S. that it is for them to address concerns over its recent Russia sanctions, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said.
  • The 2+2 talks between the Defence and External Affairs Ministers and their U.S. counterparts, which was postponed in early July, is likely to be held in the first week of September.
  • The U.S. has passed the CAATSA (Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act) that proposes to impose sanctions on nations that have significant defence relations with Russia.
  • While the U.S. administration has said waivers will be incorporated in it to protect friends and allies, it is yet to be done. This has generated significant concern in India which is heavily dependent on Russia for military hardware.
  • “We have made it clear that CAATSA is a U.S. law and not a UN law,” Ms. Sitharaman said.
  • On the S-400 deal, Ms Sitharaman said negotiations had reached a “conclusive stage” with Russia. Last month, India and Russia had concluded commercial negotiations for the purchase of five S-400 systems worth over Rs. 39,000 crore.

Conferring eminence

  • In its report on higher education for the Twelfth Plan, the working group of the erstwhile Planning Commission identified expansion, inclusion and excellence as the three pillars for growth. The NDA government had the theme of excellence in its 2016 annual budget, with a proposal to make 10 institutions each in the public and private sectors globally competitive.
  • The challenge of excellence is to develop liberal institutions founded on academic rigour, high scholarship and equitable access for all classes of students. Quite ambitiously, the Ministry of Human Resource Development has taken the decision to give Institution of Eminence (IoE) status to six institutes, three each from the public and private sectors. Potentially, this will help the select few rise above the many State, Central and private universities, national-level institutes of technology, science, management and humanities, and attract talent.
  • Giving the tag to Jio Institute, which is yet to come up, generated understandable controversy. It should be ensured that this conditional recognition is fulfilled transparently, and that it meets the requirements on governance structure, infrastructure and faculty within three years.
  • The idea of developing centres of higher learning advances the Nehruvian vision of building ‘temples of modern India’. The IoEs can become models of autonomy, academic innovation and equity of access, and lead to a transformation of higher education.
  • That there is need for urgent reform became clear during the selection process: the empowered committee found that State universities had a low output because some of them had several faculty members recruited on contract basis, with no incentive to do research. Such ad hocism must end, and public universities should be insulated from political pressures.
  • Vice-chancellors should be appointed on merit, free of ideological biases. With good governance structures and significant new financial grants, the selected public institutions will be able to innovate on courses and encourage research. The growth of these and other national institutions will also depend on policies to raise the expenditure on R&D as a percentage of GDP.
  • Among countries with a comparable research output, India with 0.8% R&D spending trails Russia, Brazil, South Korea and even Singapore, according to Unesco data. Islands of eminence can inspire, but the long-term goal should be to raise the quality of higher education in all institutions through academic reform. The quality is uneven, and at the bottom levels, abysmal.

Business line IOE

  • The sta­tus of In­dian In­sti­tutes of Tech­nol­ogy as in­sti­tu­tions of nerdy em­i­nence has been in­ter­na­tion­ally val­i­dated for many years now. That per­sons of In­dian ori­gin to­day head Google, Mi­crosoft, Pep­siCo, among many other For­tune 500 com­pa­nies, is am­ple tes­ti­mony to the ro­bust­ness at the core of In­dia’s sys­tem of higher ed­u­ca­tion. And, yet, in the global rank­ings of world uni­ver­si­ties, In­dian cam­puses sel­dom make it into the top 200, largely due to an in­ad­e­quate em­pha­sis on se­cur­ing an in­ter­na­tional pro­file — both in terms of fac­ulty and stu­dents — and poor re­search-fo­cussed per­for­mance. Some of this is, of course, at­trib­ut­able to the cum­ber­some reg­u­la­tions that tie down these in­sti­tu­tions.
  • the HRD Min­istry’s fi­nal se­lec­tion of six In­sti­tu­tions of Em­i­nence — three each in the pub­lic and pri­vate spa­ces — has been clouded over by a wholly avoid­able con­tro­versy. In par­tic­u­lar, its choice of the Re­liance-pro­moted Jio In­sti­tute, an en­tity that for now ex­ists only in name, has stoked jus­ti­fi­able out­rage. In its de­fence, the Min­istry cites that Jio In­sti­tute was cho­sen in the “green­field” cat­e­gory, and that one of the crit­i­cal con­sid­er­a­tions that weighed in its favour was the size of the pro­mot­ers’ net­worth and their ca­pac­ity to cre­atively dis­rupt the in­dus­tries they op­er­ate in. How­so­ever per­sua­sive these ar­gu­ments are, it is hard to dis­pel the no­tion that the goal­posts have been set up in a way that priv­i­leges an in­dus­trial group that is per­ceived to be prox­i­mate to the rul­ing dis­pen­sa­tion.

It’s all bleak on the cli­mate front

  • Last week, the In­ter­gov­ern­men­tal Panel for Cli­mate Change (IPCC), which is the United Na­tion’s sci­en­tific body meant to look at and re­port on cli­mate change, had (as usual) some dread­ful news for the world.
  • The ba­sic mes­sage of the sec­ond and fi­nal draft, a re­port that IPCC would soon re­lease, is that the world is not do­ing enough to keep the planet from heating up ex­ces­sively. The con­se­quences will be ter­ri­ble.
  • The Panel was asked by the United Na­tions Frame­work Con­ven­tion on Cli­mate Change in De­cem­ber 2015, to pre­pare a spe­cial re­port by 2018, on what would be the im­pact on the world if the planet grew hot­ter by 1.5 de­grees Cel­sius, over the global av­er­age sur­face tem­per­a­tures that ex­isted be­tween 1850 and 1900.
  • First a lit­tle back­ground. ‘Green­house gases’ (like car­bon diox­ide and meth­ane), largely spewed by hu­man ac­tiv­ity, form a shield in the up­per at­mos­phere, pre­vent­ing the planet’s heat from dis­si­pat­ing, caus­ing ‘global warm­ing’.
  • At Paris in De­cem­ber 2015, all coun­tries agreed on an aim: by the turn of this cen­tury, the planet should not get hot­ter by two de­grees Cel­sius than the av­er­age tem­per­a­ture dur­ing the ref­er­ence pe­riod — 1850-1900. While ‘2 de­grees’ was the Lak­sh­man Rekha, they also agreed on an “am­bi­tion” to limit global warm­ing to 1.5 de­grees. Now, IPCC is say­ing that the ‘1.5 de­grees’ am­bi­tion will be fed to the fires as early as 2040.
  • This syncs well with what an­other UN body, the UNEP, has been say­ing con­sis­tently in its an­nual Emis­sion Gap Re­ports. In the re­port of 2016, it said that even if all the coun­tries did ex­actly what they promised to do in Paris, the two-de­gree aim would not be met; last year’s re­port said that un­less emis­sions are re­duced ur­gently, it is “ex­tremely un­likely” that the tar­get would be met.
  • Clearly, mea­sures that are vis­i­ble, such as rise of re­new­able en­ergy and elec­tric ve­hi­cles, are just not enough. The in­evitable con­se­quences will be more floods and droughts, for­est fires, is­lands los­ing ground to ris­ing sea wa­ters, wa­ter scarcity, and vector-borne dis­eases — to name just a few.
  • The sit­u­a­tion calls for rapid ac­tion. What we are see­ing is rapid ac­tion — in the op­po­site di­rec­tion.
  • Af­ter pulling out of the Paris ac­cord, the US ad­min­is­tra­tion has be­gun to sup­port coal, a fuel chiefly re­spon­si­ble for the cli­mate mess.Fur­ther, the US has slashed its con­tri­bu­tion to the Global En­vi­ron­ment Fa­cil­ity (GEF), a big fun­der of cli­mate projects in de­vel­op­ing coun­tries, to $273 mil­lion in 2018 from $546 mil­lion, for GEF’s fouryear bud­get. As a re­sult, devel­oped coun­tries’ fund­ing to GEF has come down by $300 mil­lion, to $4.1 bil­lion.
  • Un­for­tu­nately, Aus­tralia is fol­low­ing the US’s ter­ri­ble ex­am­ple.
  • When the US and Aus­tralia back coal, what to speak of poor coun­tries like In­done­sia? Hav­ing tasted money in ex­port­ing coal over the last decade, the coun­try wants to do more and, in the process, is muck­ing up things for the world.
  • Ac­cord­ing to the Stock­holm En­vi­ron­ment In­sti­tute, min­ing per­mits cover 6.3 mil­lion hectares of Con­ser­va­tion For­est and Pro­tected For­est ar­eas, de­spite laws.
  • The In­sti­tute notes that the sit­u­a­tion is likely to worsen with the de­vel­op­ment of a new, Rus­sia-funded rail­way that will open up new ar­eas of Kal­i­man­tan for coal. By the way, in 2017, the trop­ics lost 15.9 mil­lion hectares, the size of Bangladesh, to de­for­esta­tion — 40 foot­ball fields of trees ev­ery minute for the en­tire year.
  • In­dia is par­tic­u­larly vul­ner­a­ble to cli­mate change ef­fects. Melt­ing of Hi­malayan glaciers would dev­as­tate north In­dia, while the penin­sula, which is highly de­pen­dent on the mon­soons, will be af­fected by un­cer­tain rains. Most other de­vel­op­ing coun­tries will face sim­i­lar prob­lems.
  • The world is on a tra­jec­tory that will take it way past the Lak­sh­man Rekha. Why are we be­ing so cal­lous? The an­swer per­haps lies in the rea­son­ing out­lined by In­dian econ­o­mist, Mon­tek Singh Ah­luwalia, who in a re­cent in­ter­view to the World Re­sources In­sti­tute said: “Do­ing some­thing (right) hurts right now, but the ben­e­fits are go­ing to be some neg­a­tive thing avoided in the long term.”

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