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2nd April Current Affairs

Bamiyan Buddhas

(GS-I: Indian Culture – Salient aspects of Art Forms, Literature and Architecture from ancient to modern times)

In News:

The Taliban regime in Afghanistan assured the world of its intention to protect and conserve the Buddhist heritage in Mes Aynak.

Details:

The earlier Taliban regime had destroyed several Buddhist related ancient sculptural and architectural treasures in Mes Aynak (2001). This naturally raised fears amongst many when the Taliban regime came back to power

However, the regime has assured the world of its intention to conserve the diverse Buddhist heritage. One of the primary reasons behind this is to ensure investment in the country since the regime is facing economic hardships ever since it came to power.

About Bamiyan Buddhas:

The Bamiyan valley, in the Hindu Kush mountains, is situated along the river Bamiyan, and it was a key node of the early Silk Routes, emerging as a hub of both commercial and cultural exchange.

The Bamiyan Buddha statues, hewn from sandstone cliffs, are said to have dated back to the 5th century AD and were once the tallest standing Buddhas in the world.

These statues were examples of a perfect blend of Gupta, Sassanian and Hellenistic artistic styles.

Salsal and Shamana (two of the tallest Buddha statues in the region) as called by the locals were razed by the Taliban regime in 2001

In 2003, UNESCO included the remains of the Bamiyan Buddhas in its list of world heritage sites.

To mark 20 years of their destruction, on March 9, 2021, the statue of Salsal was “recreated” — a 3D projection was beamed at the alcove where it had stood.

Genome sequencing

(GS-III: Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life)

In News:

Complete human genome sequencing has been done

Details:

Nearly two decades ago, when scientists published the map of the human genome for the first time, about 8% of the human DNA was left unsequenced. Now, this has been completed giving the picture of the human genome for the first time.

Why it matters:

A complete human genome makes it easier to study genetic variation between individuals or between populations.

What was missing:

The genetic sequence made available in 2003 from the Human Genome Project, an international collaboration between 1990 and 2003, contained information from a region of the human genome known as the Here, the chromosome is rich in genes, and the DNA encodes for protein.

The 8% that was left out was in the area called heterochromatin. This is a smaller portion of the genome, and does not produce protein.

There were at least two key reasons why heterochromatin was given lower priority. This part of the genome was thought to be “junk DNA”, because it had no clear function. Besides, the euchromatin contained more genes that were simpler to sequence with the tools available at the time.

Now, the fully sequenced genome is the result of the efforts of a global collaboration called the Telomere-2-Telomere (T2T) project. The invention of new methods of DNA sequencing and computational analysis helped complete the reading of the remaining 8% of the genome.

Genome sequencing is the process that involves deciphering the exact order of base pairs in an individual. This “deciphering” or reading of the genome is what sequencing is all about. Costs of sequencing differ based on the methods employed to do the reading or the accuracy stressed upon in decoding the genome.

Need for genome sequencing:

Ever since the human genome was first sequenced in 2003, it opened a fresh perspective on the link between disease and the unique genetic make-up of each individual.

Nearly 10,000 diseases — including cystic fibrosis, thalassemia — are known to be the result of a single gene malfunctioning.

While genes may render some insensitive to certain drugs, genome sequencing has shown that cancer too can be understood from the viewpoint of genetics, rather than being seen as a disease of certain organs

Importance of Genome Sequencing:

A genetic test, which is commercially available at several outlets in the country, usually involves analysing only a portion of the genome that’s known to contain aberrant genes linked to disease.

It is important to ensure that India, with its unparalleled human diversity, is adequately represented in terms of genomic data and develops indigenous capacity to generate, maintain, analyse, utilize and communicate large-scale genome data, in a scalable manner.

Ever since the human genome was first sequenced in 2003, it opened a fresh perspective on the link between disease and the unique genetic make-up of each individual.

Nearly 10,000 diseases including cystic fibrosis, thalassemia are known to be the result of a single gene malfunctioning.

While genes may render some insensitive to certain drugs, genome sequencing has shown that cancer too can be understood from the viewpoint of genetics, rather than being seen as a disease of certain organs.

The human genome has about 3.2 billion base pairs and just 10 years ago cost about $10,000. Now prices have fallen to a tenth.

India’s efforts towards Genome sequencing:

Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) have done the whole genome sequencing of novel coronavirus

IndiGen Genome project:

The IndiGen initiative was undertaken by CSIR in April 2019, which was implemented by the CSIR-Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology (IGIB), Delhi and CSIR-Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB), Hyderabad.

The objective is to enable genetic epidemiology and develop public health technologies applications using population genome data.

This has enabled benchmarking the scalability of genome sequencing and computational analysis at population scale in a defined timeline.

The ability to decode the genetic blueprint of humans through whole genome sequencing will be a major driver for biomedical science.

IndiGen programme aims to undertake whole genome sequencing of thousands of individuals representing diverse ethnic groups from India.

Genome India:

The Government of India has cleared a gene-mapping project called “Genome India” recently.

To build a grid of the Indian “reference genome”, to understand fully the type and nature of diseases and traits that comprise the diverse Indian population.

This is spearheaded by the Centre for Brain Research at Bengaluru-based Indian Institute of Science as the nodal point of about 20 institutions.

Hindu New Year festival

(GS-I: Indian Culture – Salient aspects of Art Forms, Literature and Architecture from ancient to modern times)

In News:

The President of India extended greetings to the whole nation and Indians all across the world on the occasion of Ugadi.

About Ugadi:

This festival marks the beginning of the traditional New Year in India.

It is known by different names across the country:

Andhra Pradesh, Karnatakaand Telangana: Ugadi or Yugadi.

Maharashtra:Gudi Padwa

Sindhis:Cheti Chand

Kashmir: Navreh

The first day of the Hindu lunisolar calendar’s month of Chaitra is celebrated as Ugadi.

According to Hindu mythology, it is believed that Lord Brahma started the creation of the universe on Ugadi.

During this time, there is also a celebration of the nine forms of Durga (Chaitra Navami) in states such as Maharashtra.

Central Bureau of Investigation

(GS-II: Important organization)

In News:

Chief Justice of India N.V. Ramana calls for immediate need for the creation of an independent umbrella institution, so as to bring various central agencies like the CBI, Enforcement Directorate and the Serious Fraud Investigation Office under one roof.

Need for such an umbrella institution:

Lack of credibility: Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), ED and other central government investigating agencies had come under deep public scrutiny. Its actions and inactions had raised questions regarding its credibility.

To uphold democratic values: All the institutions including the police and the investigative bodies uphold and strengthen the democratic values,” he said.

The police and the probe agencies need to function within democratic framework as prescribed under the Constitution. Any deviation will hurt the institutions and will weaken our democracy.

The police and the investigative agencies may have de-facto legitimacy, but yet, as institutions, they still have to gain social legitimacy.

To ensure legislative oversight: The umbrella body, if created under a statute, clearly defining its powers, functions and jurisdictions, will ensure parliament upholds effective accountability of these institutions.

To end multiplicity of proceedings: A single incident gets investigated by multiple agencies, often leading to dilution of evidence, contradiction indepositions, prolonged incarceration of innocents.

Ensure collaboration: The umbrella body will ensure a harmonious relationship between the State and Central agencies, given that the goal of all those organisations was to secure justice.

To ensure adequate representation of women in the criminal justice system

Proposed structure of the institution:

Independent head: The proposed umbrella body should be headed by an independent and impartial authority, appointed by a committee akin to the one which appointed the CBI Director. Its head could be assisted by deputies having specialisation in different domains.

Statutory backing: The body should be created under a statute, clearly defining its powers, functions and jurisdictions.

Directions: Once an incident is reported, the organisation should decide as to which specialised wing should take up investigation.

Separation of prosecution and investigation wings: was to have separate and autonomous wings for prosecution and investigation, to ensure total independence.

Annual audit: A reasonable check and balance would be a provision in the proposed law for annual audit of the institution’s performance by the appointing committee.

Replication by states: Since, the police and public order under the State list, State agencies must be equipped to deal with increasing challenges in the field of investigation. The proposed Central law for the umbrella investigative body, can be suitably replicated by the States.

What is CBI?

Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is the premier investigating police agency in India.

It functions under the superintendence of the of Personnel, Ministry of Personnel, Pension & Public Grievances, Government of India – which falls under the prime minister’s office.

For investigations of offences under the Prevention of Corruption Act, its superintendence vests with the Central Vigilance Commission.

It coordinates on behalf of India with Interpol Member countries.

Its conviction rate is as high as 65 to 70% and it is comparable to the best investigation agencies in the world.

Challenges associated with the autonomy of CBI:

The agency is dependent on the home ministry for staffing, since many of its investigators come from the Indian Police Service.

The agency depends on the law ministry for lawyers and also lacks functional autonomy to some extent.

The CBI, run by IPS officers on deputation, is also susceptible to the government’s ability to manipulate the senior officers, because they are dependent on the Central government for future postings.

Dependence on State governments for invoking its authority to investigate cases in a State, even when such investigation targets a Central government employee.

Since police is a State subject under the Constitution, and the CBI acts as per the procedure prescribed by the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), which makes it a police agency, the CBI needs the consent of the State government in question before it can make its presence in that State. This is a cumbersome procedure and has led to some ridiculous situations.

SC over CBI’s autonomy:

The landmark judgment in Vineet Narain v. Union of India in 1997 laid out several steps to secure the autonomy of CBI.

Why was it called caged parrot by the Supreme Court?

Politicisation of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has been a work in progress for years.

Corruption and Politically biased: This was highlighted in Supreme Court criticism for being a caged parrot speaking in its master’s voice.

CBI has been accused of becoming ‘handmaiden’ to the party in power, as a result high profile cases are not treated seriously.

Since CBI is run by central police officials on deputation hence chances of getting influenced by government were visible in the hope of better future postings.

What institutional reforms are needed for CBI?

Ensure that CBI operates under a formal, modern legal framework that has been written for a contemporary investigative agency.

The Second Administrative Reforms Commission (2007) suggested that a new law should be enacted to govern the working of the CBI.

Parliamentary standing committee (2007) recommended that a separate act should be promulgated in tune with requirements with time to ensure credibility and impartiality.

The 19th and 24th reports of the parliamentary standing committees (2007 and 2008) recommended that the need of the hour is to strengthen the CBI in terms of legal mandate, infrastructure and resources.

The government must ensure financial autonomy for the outfit.

It is also possible to consider granting the CBI and other federal investigation agencies the kind of autonomy that the Comptroller and Auditor General enjoys as he is only accountable to Parliament.

A new CBI Act should be promulgated that ensures the autonomy of CBI while at the same time improving the quality of supervision. The new Act must specify criminal culpability for government interference.

One of the demands that has been before Supreme Court, and in line with international best practices, is for the CBI to develop its own dedicated cadre of officers who are not bothered about deputation and abrupt transfers.

A more efficient parliamentary oversight over the federal criminal and intelligence agencies could be a way forward to ensure better accountability, despite concerns regarding political misuse of the oversight.