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Human Rights Issues

[op-ed of the day] Human rights are not solely an ‘internal matter’op-ed snap

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Paper 2- Violations of human rights.


Context

The human rights situation in Jammu and Kashmir following the dilution of Article 370 and the passage of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) have brought renewed international focus on India’s human rights practice.

Evolution of the modern Human Rights

  • Classical approach: Countries made agreements on the premise that a sovereign state had the exclusive right to take any action it thought fit to deal with its nationals.
    • No recognition of individuals’ rights:  Classic international law governed the conduct between states and did not recognise the rights of individuals.
  • The classical notion was challenged in the 19th century.
  • Modern Human Rights:  Slavery Convention adopted by the League of Nations prohibiting the slave trade heralded the first human rights treaty.
    • It was based on the principle of dignity of a human being.
  • The Universal Declaration of Human Rights: Adopted in 1948 by the United Nations, was the first comprehensive international human rights document.
  • The weakening of Unrestricted sovereignty: The evolution of international human rights law is also about the gradual weakening of the concept of unrestricted sovereignty.

India and Human Rights

  • Unwarranted international scrutiny: The Indian government’s response to its human rights practice has always been that international scrutiny is unwarranted.
    • Why India claims so?: Since the country is the largest democracy in the world with an independent judiciary, free media, and an active civil society no international scrutiny is required.
    • Indian has always assured the international community that the judiciary (the SC) would provide adequate remedies to victims of human rights violations.
    • These claims sound less credible after the recent developments in J&K and the passage of the CAA.
  • Human rights and Discriminatory nature of CAA: Non–discrimination is a fundamental principle of human rights.
    • The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said that CAA is fundamentally discriminatory in nature”.

Role of Civil Society and Media

  • Media’s questionable role: Responding to international concerns the Indian government also refers to the role of free media and civil society in protecting human rights.
    • However, the media’s role in J and K and after CAA is questionable.
  • Weakened Civil Society: The government has imposed various curbs on it since 2014.
    • It has become difficult for it to receive foreign contribution.
    • Use of FRCA: Since 2014, the government has canceled the registration of about 14,000 NGOs under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA).

Conclusion

  • It is possible for the Indian government, due to its diplomatic clout, to avoid robust intervention by the UN Human Rights Council and other UN human rights mechanisms.
  • But it would be difficult to avoid scrutiny by the international community. So, the government must take steps to allay international concerns and avoid situations where it is seen as a violator of human rights.
Communicable and Non-communicable diseases – HIV, Malaria, Cancer, Mental Health, etc.

[op-ed snap] Taking a holistic approach to dengueop-ed snap

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Dengue vaccine

Mains level : Paper 2-Dealing with Dengue, stategies, suggestion, and holistic approach.


Context

The advent of a new tetravalent vaccine against the dengue virus has thrown new light into the evidence-based management of dengue.

Why the holistic approach is needed

  • Apart from promoting the use of the vaccine, gaining control over dengue will also require a holistic approach that has to include within its ambit vector control and proper case management.
  • Tetravalent vaccine: The vaccine is tetravalent i.e. it provides protection against all the four types of dengue viruses.
    • The vaccine confers about 80% protection to children vaccinated between 4 and 16 years of age without any major side effects.
  • Climatic factors: It is essentially a tropical disease that occurs in the countries around the Equator; hot weather and intermittent rainfall favour the sustenance of Aedes aegypti.
    • Aedes eggs can remain dormant for more than a year and will hatch once they come in contact with water.
  • Risk factors: Urbanisation, poor town planning, and improper sanitation are the major risk factors for the multiplication of such mosquitoes.
    • Aedes eggs can remain dormant for more than a year and will hatch once they come in contact with water.
    • Aedes mosquitoes cannot fly beyond a hundred meters. Hence, keeping the ambiance clean can help prevent their breeding.
    • Further, these mosquitoes bite during the daytime, so keeping the windows shut in the day hours is also useful.

What needs to be done?

  • Source reduction activities: Activities like preventing water stagnation and using chemical larvicides and adulticides.
    • These chemicals need to be applied in periodic cycles to kill the larvae that remain even after the first spray.
  • Dealing with the manpower shortage: The number of skilled workers available for such measures is low; many posts in government departments remain vacant despite there being a dire public health need.
    • Due to this deficiency of manpower, active surveillance is not being done in India, says the National Vector Borne Disease Control Program.
  • Ending the Under-reporting: Dengue cases are often under-reported due to political reasons and also to avoid spreading panic among the common people. Under-reporting needs to be dealt with.
  • Increasing coordination: There is a lack of coordination between the local bodies and health departments in the delivery of public health measures.
    • A comprehensive mechanism is required to address these issues.
  • Need for epidemiological measures: Any communicable disease needs the epidemiological approach. Singapore uses one successful model of mapping and analysing data on dengue, using Geographical Information System (GIS).
    • The use of GIS involves mapping the streets with dengue cases for vector densities.
  • Emphasis on the WHO guidelines: Fluid management in the body is the cornerstone in the management of severe diseases like dengue hemorrhagic fever and dengue shock syndrome.
    • According to the guidelines, coagulation abnormalities are not due to a reduction in the number of platelets alone.
    • This is why the WHO recommends fresh whole blood or packed cell transfusion in the event of bleeding.
  • Caution in using alternative medicine drugs: Modern medicine is not against any complementary medicine; when such a medicine is approved after rigorous testing.
    • However, in the absence of evidence, the efficacy of such medicines remains in the realm of belief instead of science.
    • So, medicines like Nilavembu kudineer and papaya leaf extract are only belief based.

Conclusion

The communicable nature of Dengue and its asymptomatic nature requires the holistic approach to successfully tackle the disease.

 

J&K – The issues around the state

[op-ed snap] Eloquently reticent: On validity of J&K curbsop-ed snap

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Paper 2- Restrictions on the fundamental rights, Constitutional protection to the use of internet.


Context

The SC verdict on the restrictions has some important takeaways.

What the SC verdict means

  • Infinite ban on internet impermissible:  It states categorically that an indefinite ban on the internet is impermissible, but fails to direct the restoration of services. 
  • Section 144 and legitimate expression of opinion: The SC said that Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure “cannot be used as a tool to prevent the legitimate expression of opinion or grievance or exercise of any democratic rights”.
  • No ruling on the Govt. actions: The disappointing aspect of the verdict is the court’s failure to give a ruling on the validity of the government’s actions.
    • The ruling fails to hold the government to account for the manner in which it exercised its powers.
    • It states categorically that an indefinite ban on the internet is impermissible, but fails to direct the restoration of services.
    • The SC does not go beyond directing the authorities to review all their orders and restrictions forthwith.

The key takeaways from the verdict

  • Internet use constitutionally protected: The use of the Internet as a medium for free speech as well as for trade and commerce is constitutionally protected.
  • Test of proportionality: It also lays down that any reasonable restriction on fundamental rights, be it an Internet ban or a Section 144 order, will have to survive the test of proportionality.
    • The proportionality test means that is, the restriction should be proportionate to the necessity for such a measure.
    • At the same time, it cautions against the “excessive utility” of the proportionality doctrine in matters of national security.
  • No secret orders: The government is bound to publish all orders it passes regarding such restrictions so that they can be challenged in a court of law.
    • While the government’s stand that it could not produce all the orders on the restrictions imposed the SC did not strike them down on that ground.

Conclusion

The SC judgment, while laying down some important principles in a fundamental rights case, appears to have the character of an advisory opinion.

 

 

Economic Indicators and Various Reports On It- GDP, FD, EODB, WIR etc

Explained: The fundamentals of the Indian EconomyExplainedPriority 1

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Fundamentals as mentioned in the newscard

Mains level : Fundamentals of Indian Economy


PM Modi highlighted the strong absorbent capacity of the Indian economy while referring to certain fundamentals. He emphasized the strength of these basic fundamentals in absorbing the shocks of ongoing economic slowdown.

What are the ‘fundamentals of an economy’?

  • The PM has reiterated a phrase of reassurance — underscoring the strong fundamentals of the Indian economy — that has been often used by policymakers in the past when the economy is seen to be faltering.
  • When one talks about the fundamentals of an economy, one wants to look at economy-wide variables such as the overall GDP growth, the overall unemployment rate, the level of fiscal deficit, the valuation of a country’s currency against the US dollar, the savings and investment rates in an economy, the rate of inflation, the current account balance, the trade balance etc.
  • There is intuitive wisdom in looking at these “fundamentals” of an economy when it goes through a tough phase.
  • Such an analysis, when done honestly, can give a sense of how deep the strain in an economy run.
  • It can answer the question whether the current crisis just an exaggerated response to a sectoral problem or is there something more “fundamentally” wrong with the economy that needs urgent attention and “structural” reform.
  • To be sure about the broader health of the economy, one looks at the broader variables. That way, one reduces the chances of getting the diagnosis wrong.

Their relevance

  • The first advance estimates of national income for the current financial year, released earlier in the week, found that nominal GDP was expected to grow at just 7.5% in 2019-20.
  • This is the lowest since 1978. Real GDP is calculated after deducting the rate of inflation from the nominal GDP growth rate.
  • So, if for argument sake, the inflation for this financial year is 4%, then the real GDP growth would be just 3.5%.
  • Just for perspective, the Union Budget presented in July 2019 expected a real GDP growth of 8% to 8.5% and a nominal GDP growth of 12% to 12.5%, with a 4% inflation level.

So, what is the current state of the fundamentals?

The data on most variables that one may call as fundamentals of the Indian economy are struggling.

  • Growth rate — both nominal and real — has decelerated sharply; now trending at multi-decade lows. Gross Value Added, which maps economic growth by looking at the incomes-generated is even lower; and its weakness in across most of the sectors that traditionally generated high levels of employment.
  • Inflation is up but the consolation is that the spike is largely due to transient factors.
  • However, a US-Iran type of conflagration could result is a sharp hike in oil prices and, as such, domestic inflation may rise in the medium term.
  • Unemployment is also at the highest in several decades.According to some calculations, between 2012 and 2018, India witnessed a decline in the absolute number of employed people — the first instance in India’s history.
  • Fiscal deficit, which is proxy for the health of government finances, is on paper within reasonable bounds but over the years, the credibility of this number has come into question. Many, including the CAG, has opined that the actual fiscal deficit is much higher than what is officially accepted.
  • Bucking the trend, the current account deficit, is in a much better state but trade weakness continues as do the weakness of the rupee against the dollar; although on the rupee-dollar issue, a case can be made that the rupee is still overvalued and thus hurting India’s exports.
  • Similarly, while the benchmark stock indices have run up, and grabbed all attention, the broader stock indices like the BSE500 have struggled.
Freedom of Speech – Defamation, Sedition, etc.

SC underlines restrictions on use of Sec 144Priority 1

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Sec. 144 of CRPC

Mains level : Section 144 : Circumstances of its use and abuse and SC's guidelines


In its order on Jammu and Kashmir the Supreme Court made the following points with regard to the use of Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), 1973.

Key takeaways of the order

  • Sec 144 cannot be used to suppress the legitimate expression of opinion or grievance, or the exercise of democratic rights
  • When Sec 144 is imposed for reasons of apprehended danger, that danger must be an “emergency”.
  • The imposition of Sec 144 must strike a balance between the rights of the individual and the concerns of the state.
  • Powers under Sec 144 should be exercised in a reasonable and bona fide manner, and the order must state material facts in order to enable judicial review.

What is Section 144?

  • Section 144 CrPC, a law retained from the colonial era, empowers a district magistrate, a sub-divisional magistrate or any other executive magistrate specially empowered by the state government in this behalf to issue orders to prevent and address urgent cases of apprehended danger or nuisance.
  • The magistrate has to pass a written order which may be directed against a particular individual, or to persons residing in a particular place or area, or to the public generally when frequenting or visiting a particular place or area.
  • In emergency cases, the magistrate can pass these orders without prior notice to the individual against whom the order is directed.

What powers does the administration have under the provision?

  • The magistrate can direct any person to abstain from a certain act or to take a certain order with respect to certain property in his possession or under his management.
  • This usually includes restrictions on movement, carrying arms and from assembling unlawfully. It is generally believed that assembly of three or more people is prohibited under Section 144.
  • However, it can be used to restrict even a single individual. Such an order is passed when the magistrate considers that it is likely to prevent, or tends to prevent, obstruction, annoyance or injury to any person lawfully employed, or danger to human life, health or safety, or a disturbance of the public tranquility, or a riot, of an affray.
  • However, no order passed under Section 144 can remain in force for more than two months from the date of the order, unless the state government considers it necessary.
  • Even then, the total period cannot extend to more than six months.

Why is it criticised so often?

  • The criticism is that it is too broad and the words of the section are wide enough to give absolute power to a magistrate that may be exercised unjustifiably.
  • The immediate remedy against such an order is a revision application to the magistrate himself.
  • An aggrieved individual can approach the High Court by filing a writ petition if his fundamental rights are at stake.
  • However, fears exist that before the High Court intervenes, the rights could already have been infringed.

Also read: 

Explained: How Section 144 CrPC works

J&K – The issues around the state

SC order on Internet ShutdownsPriority 1SC Judgements

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Sec. 144 of CRPC

Mains level : Internet shutdown as an infringement of FR


Directing the government to mandatorily publish all orders permitting Internet shutdowns, the Supreme Court has for the first time set the stage for challenging suspension orders before courts.

What triggered the SC?

  • India tops the list of Internet shutdowns globally. According to Software Freedom Law Center’s tracker, there have been 381 shutdowns since 2012, 106 of which were in 2019.
  • The ongoing shutdown in Kashmir is the longest ever in any democratic country.

The prime mover for Supreme Court

  • The Temporary Suspension of Telecom Services (Public Emergency or Public Service) Rules, 2017 issued under the Telegraph Act deals with restricting Internet access.
  • It does not provide for publication or notification of the order suspending Internet, the apex court mandated that such orders must be made available to the public.
  • The court declared that it is a “settled principle of law, and of natural justice” that requires publication of such orders, “particularly one that affects lives, liberty and property of people”.
  • This allows individuals to now challenge the orders before courts in J&K and rest of India.

Internet suspension orders are subjected to Judicial Review

  • In the wake of protests against the new citizenship law, Internet services were suspended temporarily in parts of Uttar Pradesh, Delhi and Karnataka.
  • There should not be excessive burden on free speech even if complete prohibition is imposed, and the government has to justify imposition of such prohibition and explain why lesser alternatives were inadequate, the bench stated.
  • It ruled that Restrictions are to be imposed in an emergency. Hence they must be proportionate to the concern. Their objective must be legitimate rather than cavalier.
  • Authorities must necessarily consider an alternative and least restrictive mechanism before opting to restrict rights. Every decision to impose restriction should be backed by sufficient material and amenable to judicial review.

Pacing up with technology

  • The bench also noted that the law needs to keep pace with technological development:
  • We need to note that the law should imbibe the technological development and accordingly mould its rules so as to cater to the needs of society.
  • Non-recognition of technology within the sphere of law is only a disservice to the inevitable.

Justifying the Kashmir shutdown

  • Lastly, the court mandated that all orders regarding the Kashmir case be made public, and to provide essential services such as e-banking and hospitals immediately.
  • What the centre was arguing in this case was that this is a matter of national security given that it pertains to Kashmir with a history of militancy.
Financial Inclusion in India and Its Challenges

National Strategy for Financial Inclusion (NSFI)Priority 1

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : National Strategy for Financial Inclusion (NSFI)

Mains level : Financial inclusion in India


The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has chalked out an ambitious strategy for financial inclusion of all till 2024.

National Strategy for Financial Inclusion (NSFI)

  • Financial inclusion is increasingly being recognised as a key driver of economic growth and poverty alleviation the world over.
  • The strategy aims to strengthen the ecosystem for various modes of digital financial services in all Tier-II to Tier VI centres to create the necessary infrastructure to move towards a less-cash society by March 2022.
  • One of the objectives of the strategy includes increasing outreach of banking outlets of to provide banking access to every village within a 5-km radius or a hamlet of 500 households in hilly areas by March 2020.
  • RBI said that the aim was also to see that every adult had access to a financial service provider through a mobile device by March 2024.
  • With the aim of providing basic of financial services, a target has been set that every willing and eligible adult, who has been enrolled under the PM Jan Dhan Yojana, be enrolled under an insurance scheme and a pension scheme by March 2020.
  • The plan is also to make the Public Credit Registry (PCR) fully operational by March 2022 so that authorised financial entities could leverage the same for assessing credit proposals from all citizens.
Defence Sector – DPP, Missions, Schemes, Security Forces, etc.

In news: Dept. of Military Affairs’Priority 1

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Dept. of Military Affairs’

Mains level : Terms of reference for the office of CDS


The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has approved the Rules of Business for the newly created Department of Military Affairs (DMA) headed by the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS).

Department of Military Affairs (DMA)

  • The DMA headed by Gen Bipin Rawat will have two Joint Secretaries, 13 Deputy Secretaries, 25 Under Secretaries and 22 Section officers.
  • The training policy, most of the training establishments and cadre management of the Services will be under the purview of the DMA.
  • Defence diplomacy of the neighbourhood countries would also be under the CDS.
  • Similarly, deputations to the training establishments such as the National Defence Academy (NDA), the Indian Military Academy (IMA), the Officers Training Academy (OTA) and the Defence Services Staff College (DSSC) would also be under the CDS.
  • Cadre review of Junior Commissioned Officers (JCO) and Other Ranks (OR) will be looked after by the CDS.

Other facts

  • On December 30, the government notified the DMA creation, with the CDS also as a Secretary in the MoD.
  • The DMA is the fifth department in the MoD, the others being the Department of Defence, the Department of Defence Production, the Department of Defence Research and Development and the Department of Ex-Servicemen Welfare.
  • The Services have been brought under the ambit of the DMA in addition to the Territorial Army and works relating to the three Services and procurement exclusive to the Services except capital acquisitions.
  • Defence imports and procurements would be under the the Department of Defence headed by the Defence Secretary.
Policy Wise: India’s Power Sector

[pib] State Energy Efficiency Index 2019DOMRPIB

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : State Energy Efficiency Index

Mains level : Various initiatives for promotion of energy efficiency of power sector


The Ministry of Power and New & Renewable Energy has released the ‘State Energy Efficiency Index 2019’.

State Energy Efficiency Index

  • The first such Index, the “State Energy Efficiency Preparedness Index 2018”, was launched on August 1, 2018.
  • The index tracks the progress of Energy Efficiency (EE) initiatives in 36 states and union territories based on 97 significant indicators.
  • It is developed by Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE) in association with Alliance for an Energy Efficient Economy (AEEE).
  • It categorizes states as ‘Front Runner’, ‘Achiever’, ‘Contender’ and ‘Aspirant’ based on their efforts and achievements towards energy efficiency implementation.
  • It incorporates qualitative, quantitative and outcome-based indicators to assess energy efficiency initiatives, programs and outcomes in five distinct sectors – buildings, industry, municipalities, transport, agriculture, and DISCOMs.

Performance evaluation

  • For rational comparison, States/UTs are grouped into four groups based on aggregated Total Primary Energy Supply (TPES) required to meet the state’s actual energy demand (electricity, coal, oil, gas, etc.) across sectors.
  • TPES grouping shall help states compare performance and share best practices within their peer group.
  • Under four categories based on TPES, Haryana, Kerala, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Puducherry and Chandigarh have been evaluated as progressive states/UTs in the index.
  • The top performing states Haryana, Kerala and Karnataka – are in the ‘Achiever’ category.
  • Manipur, Jammu & Kashmir, Jharkhand and Rajasthan performed the worst in each of their groups.

Utilities of the index

  • It will help states contribute towards national goals on energy security and climate action by helping drive EE policies and program implementation.
  • It will help tracking progress in managing the states’ and India’s energy footprint and institutionalising the data capture and monitoring of EE activities by states.
J&K – The issues around the state

[op-ed snap] Eloquently reticent: On validity of J&K curbsop-ed snap

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much.

Mains level : Paper 2- Restriction on fundamental rights, use of internet protected by the constitution


Context

The SC verdict on the restrictions has some important takeaways.

What the SC verdict means

  • Infinite ban on internet impermissible:  It states categorically that an indefinite ban on the internet is impermissible, but fails to direct the restoration of services. 
  • Section 144 and legitimate expression of opinion: The SC said that Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure “cannot be used as a tool to prevent the legitimate expression of opinion or grievance or exercise of any democratic rights”.
  • No ruling on the Govt. actions: The SC stops short of ruling on the validity of the government’s actions.
    • The ruling fails to hold the government to account for the manner in which it exercised its powers.
    • It states categorically that an indefinite ban on the internet is impermissible, but fails to direct the restoration of services.
    • The SC does not go beyond directing the authorities to review all their orders and restrictions forthwith.

The key takeaways from the verdict

  • Internet use constitutionally protected: The use of the Internet as a medium for free speech as well as for trade and commerce is constitutionally protected.
  • Test of proportionality: It also lays down that any reasonable restriction on fundamental rights, be it an Internet ban or a Section 144 order, will have to survive the test of proportionality.
    • The proportionality test means that is, the restriction should be proportionate to the necessity for such a measure.
    • At the same time, it cautions against the “excessive utility” of the proportionality doctrine in matters of national security.
  • No secret orders: The government is bound to publish all orders it passes regarding such restrictions so that they can be challenged in a court of law.
    • While the government’s stand that it could not produce all the orders on the restrictions imposed the SC did not strike them down on that ground.

Conclusion

The SC judgment, while laying down some important principles in a fundamental rights case, appears to have the character of an advisory opinion.

Cyber Security – CERTs, Policy, etc

[pib] Indian Cyber Crime Coordination Centre (I4C)PIB

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Indian Cyber Crime Coordination Centre (I4C)

Mains level : Cyber Security and various protection mechanisms


Union Minister for Home Affairs has inaugurated the Indian Cyber Crime Coordination Centre (I4C) and also dedicated National Cyber Crime Reporting Portal to the Nation.

I4C

  • The scheme to setup I4C was approved in October 2018 to deal with all types of cybercrimes in a comprehensive and coordinated manner.
  • At the initiative of Union Ministry for Home Affairs (MHA), 15 States and UTs have given their consent to set up Regional Cyber Crime Coordination Centres at respective States/UTs.
  • It has seven components:
  1. National Cyber Crime Threat Analytics Unit
  2. National Cyber Crime Reporting Portal
  3. National Cyber Crime Training Centre
  4. National Cyber Crime Research and Innovation Centre
  5. National Cyber Crime Forensic Laboratory Ecosystem
  6. Platform for Joint Cyber Crime Investigation Team
  7. Cyber Crime Ecosystem Management Unit

About National Cyber Crime Reporting Portal

  • National Cyber Crime Reporting Portal (www.cybercrime.gov.in) is a citizen-centric initiative that will enable citizens to report cyber crimes online through the portal.
  • All the cyber crime related complaints will be accessed by the concerned law enforcement agencies in the States and Union Territories for taking action as per law.
  • This portal was launched on pilot basis on 30th August, 2019 and it enables filing of all cyber crimes with specific focus on crimes against women, children, particularly child pornography, child sex abuse material, online content pertaining to rapes/gang rapes, etc.
  • This portal also focuses on specific crimes like financial crime and social media related crimes like stalking, cyber bullying, etc.
  • This portal will improve coordination amongst the law enforcement agencies of different States, districts and police stations for dealing with cyber crimes in a coordinated and effective manner.
Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Species in news: Chinese paddlefishPrelims OnlySpecies in News

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : IUCN , Red List, Chinese paddlefish

Mains level : IUCN mechanism of listing


One of the largest freshwater species, Chinese paddlefish has been declared extinct.

Chinese paddlefish

  • The Chinese paddlefish (Psephurus gladius) was an iconic species, measuring up to 7 m in length, dating back from 200 million years ago, and therefore swimming the rivers when dinosaurs ruled the Earth.
  • Its ancestral home was the Yangtze River.
  • It was once common in the Yangtze, before overfishing and habitat fragmentation — including dam building — caused its population to dwindle from the 1970s onwards.
  • Between 1981 and 2003, there were just around 210 sightings of the fish. The researchers estimate that it became functionally extinct by 1993, and extinct sometime between 2005-2010.

How did the study determine that it has gone extinct?

  • Chinese researchers made this conclusion based on the Red List criteria of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
  • The Red List has several categories for extinction, or for how endangered a species is.
  • For example, “extinct in the wild” means a species survives only in a captive environment while “locally extinct” means a species has ceased to exist in a particular area but may exist in other areas.
  • Then there is “functionally extinct”, which means the species continues to exist but it has too few members to enable to reproduce meaningfully enough to ensure survival.
  • To be “globally extinct”, it means a species has no surviving member anywhere. Such a conclusion is reached when there is no reasonable doubt left that its last member has died.

How does extinction status matters for conservation?

  • Declaring a species extinct is an elaborate process.
  • It involves a series of exhaustive surveys, which need to be taken at appropriate times, throughout the species’ historic range and over a time-frame that is appropriate to the species’ life cycle and form.
  • When these surveys fail to record the existence of any individuals belonging to that species, a species may be presumed to be extinct.
  • Once declared extinct, a species is not eligible for protective measures and conservation funding; therefore, the declaration has significant consequences.
Antibiotics Resistance

CoronavirusPrelims Only

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Coronavirus, Pneumonia

Mains level : NA


A new virus has been identified by Chinese researchers which is responsible for a new pneumonia-like illness.

Coronavirus

  • Coronaviruses are a specific family of viruses, with some of them causing less-severe damage, such as the common cold, and others causing respiratory and intestinal diseases.
  • A coronavirus has many “regularly arranged” protrusions on its surface, because of which the entire virus particle looks like an emperor’s crown, hence the name “coronavirus”.
  • Apart from human beings, coronaviruses can affect mammals including pigs, cattle, cats, dogs, martens, camels, hedgehogs and some birds.
  • So far, there are four known disease-causing coronaviruses, among which the best known are the SARS coronavirus and the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) coronavirus, both of which can cause severe respiratory diseases.