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19 Feb Current Affairs

Initiatives on women’s safety conceptualized by the WCD Ministry

In News:

The Ministry of Women and Child Development has launched three important initiatives on women’s safety. They are:

Details:

  • Panic button.
  • SCIM portal under Safe City Project.
  • DNA Analysis Facilities in States.

Panic button:

Conceived way back in 2015, mobile phone manufacturers and mobile telephony service providers were mandated by the Ministry of Telecom to include a physical panic button on all mobile phones in the country. Such a panic button must be backed by an emergency response mechanism through the local police when panic button message would alert the specified family members etc. of a woman in distress situation. The emergency response system can be triggered in the following manners:

  • On the smart phones, the power button when pressed three times quickly.
  • Dialing 112 from any phone.
  • In case of feature phones, long press of the touch key 5 or 9.
  • Using 112 India Mobile App.

The emergency message coming out of the above modes, will trigger a response from the emergency response centre through a team of trained personnel who can handle emergency requests of various kinds and get the necessary relief services launched.

SCIM portal under Safe City Project:

Being implemented in 8 cities, the project includes creation on ground assets & resources and mindset safety of women. Some of the key features of the safe city project include:

  • Identification of sensitive hot spots in each city.
  • Installation of CCTV surveillance covering the entire hot spot.
  • Automated number plate reading machines to be deployed in extremely sensitive areas.
  • Intensive patrolling in vulnerable areas beyond the identified hot spots.
  • Improving street lighting and public toilet facilities for women.

Others like setting up women help desks in police stations, augmentation of women support centres etc.

All the above measures would be coordinated through an Integrated Smart Control Room in the city. In order to facilitate States to monitor and manage the Safe City projects and avoid duplication on ground, an online Safe City Implementation Monitoring (SCIM) portal has been developed by MHA.

SCIM will facilitate online tracking of deployment of assets and infrastructure created under the Safe City projects. SCIM facilitates an evidence based online monitoring system. SCIM also creates a digital repository of assets, infrastructure and social outreach programs, as well as best practices achieved in each City.

DNA Analysis Facilities in States:

In view of the complaints of delay in cases of sexual assault investigations, it was proposed that dedicated DNA analysis facilities should be created in the forensic science laboratories on a mission mode. Timely testing of DNA samples from the crime scene is the quickest process of obtaining forensic evidence in cases of sexual assault on women. In the initial phase, dedicated DNA analysis facilities have been sanctioned for the forensic science laboratories located at Chennai, Madurai, Agra, Lucknow, Mumbai and Kolkata.

‘Prevalence and Extent of Substance Use in India’- survey

In News:

A survey was conducted recently on consumption of substances in India. The survey was conducted by the Social Justice and Empowerment Ministry in collaboration with the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS).

Details:

The survey covered general population (10-75 years), in all the 36 states and union territories covering over 2 lakh households and 4.73 lakh people in 186 districts of the country.

Key findings and highlights of the survey:

India is home to six crore alcohol addicts, more than the population of 172 world nations including Italy.

Alcoholism is a condition that requires medical attention, but unfortunately only less than 3% of the people with drinking problem get any treatment.

There is a large number of people in the country addicted to various drugs. More than 3.1 crore Indians (2.8%) have reported using cannabis products, Bhang, Ganja, Charas, Heroin and Opium, in last one year. Unfortunately only one in 20 drug addicts gets treatment at a hospital.

Country liquor accounts for 30% of the total liquor consumption, and Indian made foreign liquor also account for the same amount.

In Punjab and Sikkim, the prevalence of cannabis use disorders is considerably higher (more than thrice) than the national average.

At the national level, Heroin is most commonly used substance followed by pharmaceutical opioids, followed by opium (Afeem).

Less than 1% or nearly 1.18 crore people use sedatives, non medical or non prescription use. However, what is more worrying that its prevalence is high among children and adolescents. This problem of addiction of children is more prevalent in Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Delhi and Haryana.

Cocaine (0.10%) Amphetamine Type Stimulants (0.18%) and Hallucinogens (0.12%) are the categories with lowest prevalence of current use in the country.

What has the government done in this regard?

The Government has taken several policy and other initiatives to deal with drug trafficking problem.

It constituted Narco-Coordination Centre (NCORD) in November, 2016 and revived the scheme of “Financial Assistance to States for Narcotics Control”.

In 2017, the government approved new Reward Guidelines with increased quantum of reward for interdiction or seizure of different illicit drugs.

For effective coordination with foreign countries, India has signed 37 Bilateral Agreements/Memoranda of Understanding.

Narcotics Control Bureau has been provided funds for developing a new software i.e. Seizure Information Management System (SIMS) which will create a complete online database of drug offences and offenders.

The government has constituted a fund called “National Fund for Control of Drug Abuse” to meet the expenditure incurred in connection with combating illicit traffic in Narcotic Drugs; rehabilitating addicts, and educating public against drug abuse, etc.

The government is also conducting National Drug Abuse Survey to measure trends of drug abuse in India through Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment with the help of National Drug Dependence Treatment Centre of AIIMS.

The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment has drafted National Action Plan for Drug Demand Reduction (2018-2023) for addressing the problem of drug and substance abuse in the country, dumping a long-pending draft policy on the matter.

Central Wakf Council

In News:

Central Wakf Council is a statutory body established in 1964 by the Government of India under Wakf Act, 1954 (now a sub section the Wakf Act, 1995).

Details:

It has been established for the purpose of advising Centre on matters pertaining to working of the State Wakf Boards and proper administration of the Wakfs in the country.

It is a permanent dedication of movable or immovable properties for religious, pious or charitable purposes as recognized by Muslim Law, given by philanthropists.

Composition and appointments:

The Council is headed by a Chairperson, who is the Union Minister in charge of Wakfs and there are maximum 20 other members, appointed by Government of India as stipulated in the Wakf Act.

‘Vision Zero’ concept

In News:

‘International Vision Zero Conference’ to Promote Occupational Safety and Health is being held in Mumbai.

Details:

The conference provides a forum for promoting safety and health at work by exchanging knowledge, practices and experience.

The Conference has been organized by Directorate General Factory Advice and Labour Institutes (DGFASLI), Ministry of Labour and Employment, German Social Accident Insurance (DGUV), Germany in association with Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay and International Social Security Association – Manufacturing, Construction and Mining.

What is ‘Vision Zero’ concept?

The concept of Vision Zero is based on four fundamental principles viz. life is non-negotiable, humans are fallible, tolerable limits are defined by human physical resistance, and people are entitled to safe transport and safe workplaces. The Vision is based on principles of Controlling Risks, Ensuring Safety and Health in Machines, Equipment and Workplaces and Skill Upgradation of Workforce.

Way ahead:

The concept of ‘Vision Zero’ is fast gaining international acceptance and is expected to leverage the efforts of the Government of India to raise the occupational safety and health standards in the country so as to improve the occupational safety and health situation.

SC turns down petition on use of ‘Dalit’ by media

In News

The Supreme Court has refused to entertain a petition challenging Centre’s notification advising the media not to use the term “Dalit” to describe members of Scheduled Castes.

Background:

In its August 7, 2018, circular, the Information and Broadcasting Ministry had advised that the media should refrain from using the word “Dalit” for members belonging to Scheduled Castes and had directed that ‘Scheduled Caste’ should alone be used for all official transaction, matters, dealings, certificates for denoting the persons belonging to the community. It was questioned in the Supreme Court.

This advice had come in compliance with a direction from the Nagpur Bench of the Bombay High Court.

What does the petition say?

The plea said the word “Dalit” is a self-chosen name, used as a “positive self-identifier and as a political identity”. The petitioner said the name represented the people who have been affected by the caste system and the practice of untouchability.

The debate over the use of word- Dalit:

The debate over the appropriateness of using the term ‘Dalit’ to refer to members of the Scheduled Castes is far from new.

A decade ago, the National Commission for Scheduled Castes disfavoured the use of ‘Dalit’, which it felt was unconstitutional. This is because belonging to a ‘Scheduled Caste’ is a legal status conferred on members of castes named in a list notified by the President under Article 341 of the Constitution.

Therefore, arguably, ‘Scheduled Caste’ is the appropriate way to refer to this class of people in official communications and documents.

What’s the issue with advisory issued?

The I&B Ministry’s advisory is confusing as it uses the words “for all official transactions, matters”, though the media’s references to the community are usually beyond official contexts.

Way ahead:

It is inexplicable to oppose the use of the term ‘Dalit’ in the media and in non-official contexts — a nomenclature chosen and used by the community itself. Doing so lends itself to the charge that there is an attempt to deny the powerful and emotive meaning of the word Dalit.

The term has evolved over a period of time and has come to symbolise different things in different contexts — self-respect, assertion, solidarity and opposition to caste oppression. In the past, Dalits were referred to as ‘untouchables’, but the official term during British rule was ‘depressed classes’.

Mahatma Gandhi sought to remove the stigma of ‘pollution’ by using the term ‘Harijans’, or ‘children of god’. In course of time, the community rejected this appellation as patronising and sanctimonious. It was only some decades ago that they began to refer to themselves as Dalits.

‘Dalit’ literally means ‘downtrodden’ or ‘broken’, but it is a word pregnant with meaning, reflecting the struggle of a community to reassert its identity and lay claim to the rights that were denied to them for centuries.

Source: The Hindu

Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells (iPSC)

In News:

Japan approves stem cells trial to treat spinal cord injuries. A team of Japanese researchers will carry out an unprecedented trial using human-induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS) to treat spinal cord injuries.

Details:

Induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) are adult cells that have been genetically reprogrammed to an embryonic stem cell–like state by being forced to express genes and factors important for maintaining the defining properties of embryonic stem cells.

Although additional research is needed, iPSCs are already useful tools for drug development and modeling of diseases, and scientists hope to use them in transplantation medicine.

What are stem cells, and why are they important?

Stem cells have the remarkable potential to develop into many different cell types in the body during early life and growth. In addition, in many tissues they serve as a sort of internal repair system, dividing essentially without limit to replenish other cells as long as the person or animal is still alive. When a stem cell divides, each new cell has the potential either to remain a stem cell or become another type of cell with a more specialized function, such as a muscle cell, a red blood cell, or a brain cell.

Stem cells are distinguished from other cell types by two important characteristics:

First, they are unspecialized cells capable of renewing themselves through cell division, sometimes after long periods of inactivity.

Second, under certain physiologic or experimental conditions, they can be induced to become tissue- or organ-specific cells with special functions. In some organs, such as the gut and bone marrow, stem cells regularly divide to repair and replace worn out or damaged tissues. In other organs, however, such as the pancreas and the heart, stem cells only divide under special conditions.

What are the similarities and differences between embryonic and adult stem cells?

One major difference between adult and embryonic stem cells is their different abilities in the number and type of differentiated cell types they can become. Embryonic stem cells can become all cell types of the body because they are pluripotent. Adult stem cells are thought to be limited to differentiating into different cell types of their tissue of origin.

Embryonic stem cells can be grown relatively easily in culture. Adult stem cells are rare in mature tissues, so isolating these cells from an adult tissue is challenging, and methods to expand their numbers in cell culture have not yet been worked out. This is an important distinction, as large numbers of cells are needed for stem cell replacement therapies.

Source: The Hindu

Fateh Submarine

In News:

It is a “state-of-the-art” domestically produced Iranian submarine capable of firing cruise missiles. It was unveiled recently in Bandar Abbas.

Details:

It is Iran’s first submarine in the semi-heavy category.

The underwater-vessel weighs nearly 600 tonnes and is equipped with torpedoes and naval mines in addition to cruise missiles.

The submarine can operate more than 200 metres below sea level for up to 35 days.

It has subsurface-to-surface missiles with a range of about 2,000 kilometres (1,250 miles), making it capable in reaching Israel and U.S. military bases in the region.

Maiden ‘Regional Maritime-Safety Conference’

In News:

Maiden ‘Regional Maritime-Safety Conference’ is being held in Mumbai. The Conference is being organized by India for the first time.

Theme: ‘Regional Maritime-Safety Conference’.

The objective of the conference is to deliberate on issues related to assuring maritime safety in the India-ASEAN sub region, safeguarding our shores and promoting trade along the sea routes. The conference will address a wide range of issues that affect regional maritime safety, including transport safety, maritime law, ship building, transportation of hazardous goods, marine oil spill, pollution and environmental safety.

The inaugural edition is being organised by the National Maritime Foundation (NMF) in coordination with the Ministry of Shipping and the Ministry of External Affairs.

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