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31st December Current Affairs

NCW issues memo on prevention of sexual harassment

(GS-II: Mechanisms, Laws, Institutions and Bodies constituted for the Protection and Betterment of these Vulnerable Sections)

In News:

The National Commission for Women (NCW) has asked all states to ensure that coaching centres and educational institutes strictly enforce the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013.

The Commission has also asked:

To conduct awareness programmes on the Act among all stakeholders in order to ensure that cases of sexual harassment at work are reported responsibly and effectively.

To ensure that these coaching centres are registered with the relevant authorities and a background check is conducted on those responsible for running the centres.

The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act, 2013:

Background:

The Vishakha Guidelines were issued by the Supreme Court (in Vishakha and others v. The State of Rajasthan 1997) with the primary goal of creating a framework for workplace sexual misconduct redress and grievance processes.

The Act of 2013 was motivated by these guidelines.

About the Act of 2013:

Objective: Its goal is to safeguard women’s rights at work and make the workplace a safer place for them. It also serves as a platform for both avoiding and addressing problems.

Provisions of the Act:

It is applicable to all sectors including organised and unorganised sectors.

It defines a workplace as an extended space by covering any place visited by an employee during the course of his or her employment which would include transportation, etc.

Internal Complaint Committee (ICC): Any corporation or organisation with more than 10 employees to establish an ICC to hear and address sexual harassment allegations.

Local Complaint Committee in each district where there are less than 10 workers.

Duties of employer: The employer must disclose the legal repercussions of engaging in sexual harassment-related activities, as well as the composition of the ICC.

Penalties: If an employer fails to comply with the regulations, a penalty of Rs. 50000 may be imposed, and the licence may be revoked.

Procedure to be followed:

An aggrieved female has 3 months (according to the SC, this can be extended) to make a written complaint with the ICC.

Before initiating an investigation, the committee can try to resolve the matter through mediation.

While directing the investigation (to be completed in 90 days), the Committee has the same authority as a civil court and works as per the Natural justice principles.

Loopholes and issues in the law:

Not a gender-neutral law.

Legislation is very vague in respect of the ICC constitution (includes only personnel from the company itself).

Necessary steps against malicious complaints would discourage women from coming forward.

Conclusion:

A law as revolutionary as Sexual Harassment of Women in the Workplace will have huge social implications, if public awareness, sensitivity and robust implementation are ensured.

What lies ahead in 2023 – A new social media, Metaverse, and more AI?

(GS-III: Science and Technology- Developments and their Applications and Effects in Everyday Life)

In News:

Around the same time last year (December 2021), India was on the verge of a major technological shift – the transition to 5G.

Because the year 2022 has only reinforced our reliance on technology, we will try to figure out what big tech breakthrough awaits us in 2023.

Trends to look out for in 2023:

More intelligent, more pervasive AI:

ChatGPT has shown the world that conversational artificial intelligence (AI) is an idea whose time has come.

ChatGPT (Generative Pre-trained Transformer) is an OpenAI chatbot that was released in November 2022.

It is based on top of OpenAI’s GPT-3.5 family of large language models and is customised using both guided and adaptive learning techniques.

Time for post-social:

As Facebook’s user base becomes older by the year, younger users are preferring new platforms like Discord, where conversations happen more in closed groups than in virtual town squares.

The evolution of such platforms is already challenging traditional methods of monetising social media engagement.

Internet becoming more regional:

As the Internet spreads to new users, especially in countries like India, it is also becoming more localised and multilingual.

The English language internet appears to have peaked around the world, prompting companies like Google to focus more on the potential to serve smaller, regional languages.

Provides an opportunity to test new technologies that can solve more localised problems and the one-size-fits-all features will be limited.

Metaverse:

The Metaverse is defined as a spatial computing platform that offers digital experiences as an alternative to or replica of the real world.

It also offers key civilizational aspects such as social interactions, currency, trade, economy, and property ownership – all built on the foundation of blockchain technology.

Expect a more commercial version of the Metaverse to be accessible to regular users during the year. However, the big disruptor could be an affordable device (say, a smartphone) that logs users into the Metaverse easily.

Tidal disruption event

In News:

Telescopes operated by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) recently observed a massive black hole devouring a star.

Details:

The astronomical phenomenon of the destruction of a star by a black hole is formally called a tidal disruption event (TDE).

About TDE:

A tidal force is a difference in the strength of gravity between two points. If the tidal force exerted on a body is greater than the intermolecular force that keeps it together, the body will get disrupted.

During a TDE, the tidal force of a black hole disrupts the star in the vicinity. While about half of the star’s debris continues on its original path, the other half is attracted by the black hole’s gravitational pull. The gradual growth of this material bound to the black hole produces a short-lived flare of emission, known as a tidal disruption event.

The event is formally called AT2021ehb and took place in a galaxy with a central black hole about 10 million times the mass of our sun.

TDEs are attractive to astronomers because of their observability and short duration, and the opportunity to study the impact of black holes’ gravity on materials around them.

Vibrant Village Programme (VVP)

In News:

Union Home Minister asks border-guarding forces to strengthen Vibrant Village Programme and ensure welfare programmes are implemented

Key points highlighted by HM:

Soldiers on the ground and fencing were necessary but borders can be truly secured when “we create villages with people who are concerned for the country”

About the VVP:

It was announced in the 2022-23 budget with an aim to enhance the infrastructure in border villages along India’s border with China.

Activities include Housing, Tourism promotion, Road Infrastructure, Renewable Energy, livelihood generation etc.

Promotes community knowledge in the border management.

Other similar initiatives:

Border Area Development Programme (BADP); Border Infrastructure and Management Scheme etc.

GNB1 Encephalopathy

In News:

Researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Madras, Tel Aviv University and Columbia University are studying a rare genetic brain disease called “GNB1 Encephalopathy” and trying to develop a drug to treat it effectively.

About GNB1 Encephalopathy:

GNB1 Encephalopathy is a kind of neurological disorder, which affects individuals in the foetus stage.

Scientists say delayed physical and mental development, intellectual disabilities, and frequent epileptic seizures, are among the early symptoms of the disease.

A single nucleotide mutation in the GNB1 gene that makes one of the G-proteins, the “Gβ1 protein,” causes this disease.

Children born with GNB1 mutation experience mental and physical developmental delay, epilepsy (abnormal brain activity), and movement problems.