Stop the fence-sitting in cluster bomb use
Context: The United States’ decision to provide cluster munitions to Ukraine for military aid against Russia has sparked controversy.
Relevance: GS 3 Defence
- Cluster munitions release multiple explosive submunitions (bomblets) that explode upon hitting the ground, causing casualties and damage.
- Dormant submunitions act as landmines, posing long-term threats to civilians.
Cluster Bombs’ History:
- Cluster bombs have been used since World War II in various conflicts.
- US employed them in Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq.
- High casualties in cluster munition-affected countries: 56,000 to 86,000 deaths since the 1960s.
Human Rights Watch Report:
- Russia used cluster bombs in Ukraine, leading to civilian deaths and infrastructure damage.
- Cities like Kharkiv were affected, causing hundreds of civilian casualties.
- Russia’s actions fueled concerns about the use of such weapons.
Enactment of Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM):
- International campaign led by Human Rights Watch resulted in the CCM treaty in 2008.
- 112 countries, including NATO members, ratified the treaty; significant nations like the US, Russia, China, Israel, and India did not.
- CCM prohibits production, use, stockpiling, and transfer of cluster munitions.
Customary International Law and Cluster Bomb Use:
- Indiscriminate attacks prohibited by customary international law.
- CIL norm: Use of force must be discriminate, targeting military objectives, not civilians.
- Cluster bombs’ nature violates this norm, failing to differentiate between combatants and civilians or military and civilian objects.
- Proportionality rule prohibits excessive use of force that causes disproportionate civilian harm.
- Cluster bomb usage inherently indiscriminate, causing harm to civilians; hence, violates proportionality.
US Supplying Cluster Munitions:
- US supplying cluster munitions to Ukraine outside CCM might not breach international law.
- US-made cluster bombs reportedly have a low dud rate, potentially meeting proportionality and discrimination requirements.
Global Ban on Cluster Bombs:
- Supplying cluster bombs to any country is considered irresponsible.
- Universal ban envisaged in the CCM.
- Eradication of cluster bombs requires all UN member countries to join and uphold the treaty.
- The controversy surrounding the US sending cluster munitions to Ukraine highlights the complex international legal and ethical issues associated with their use.
- Despite legal technicalities, the broader consensus is that cluster bombs’ indiscriminate nature violates fundamental principles of international humanitarian law.
- Advocates stress the importance of achieving a universal ban on cluster munitions to protect civilian populations and promote global security.
Change State’s name to Keralam, Assembly resolution urges Centre
Context: The Kerala Assembly passed a unanimous resolution requesting the central government to officially change the state’s name from “Kerala” to “Keralam.”
Relevance: GS 2 Constitution
Constitutional Amendment Request:
- The Assembly calls for an amendment to the Constitution, which currently refers to the state as “Kerala.”
- The resolution seeks to reflect the commonly used name “Keralam” in the Constitution.
- Parliament holds the authority to change a state’s name under Article 3 of the Constitution.
- Article 3 outlines the procedure for altering a state’s boundaries, area, or name.
Initiation of Proposal:
- Renaming process can be initiated by either the Parliament or the state assembly.
- State legislature sends a renaming proposal via a resolution to the Central government.
- In Parliament, the bill requires a recommendation from the President.
Reasons for the Name Change:
- The demand for a united Kerala for Malayalam-speaking communities has historical roots.
- The Assembly calls for immediate action under Article 3 of the Constitution to align the state’s official name with its Malayalam name.
Origin of Names:
Origin of Kerala:
- The earliest mention of Kerala dates back to emperor Asoka’s Rock Edict II in 257 BC.
- The local ruler is referred to as “Keralaputra” (son of Kerala) and “son of Chera” (referring to Chera dynasty).
Origin of Keralam:
- “Keralam” is believed to have originated from “Cheram.”
- “Keram” is the Canarese (Kannada) form of “cheram.”
- Scholars link Keralam with the region between Gokarnam and Kanyakumari.
- “Cher” (to join) might be the root, clear in “Cheralam” where “alam” means region or land.
India takes first step to remove animals from drug-testing
Context: The Indian Government’s amendment to the New Drugs and Clinical Trial Rules 2023 aims to eliminate the use of animals in drug research and testing.
Relevance: GS -3 Science & Technology
It permits researchers to use advanced methods like 3D organoids, organs-on-chip, and computational techniques to assess drug safety and efficacy.
Current Drug Development Process:
- Traditional drug testing involves animal testing, usually in rodents and non-rodents, to evaluate potential treatment efficacy and side effects.
- However, this method often fails to accurately predict human responses due to complex human-specific factors.
Limitations of Animal Testing:
- Human biology varies significantly due to factors like age, sex, genetics, etc., which are not captured by animal testing.
- High failure rate in drug development due to the “mismatch” between animal and human responses.
Emergence of Alternative Testing Modes:
- Researchers are turning to non-animal systems, such as organoids (mini-organs) and organs-on-chip, to better replicate human biology and predict responses.
- 3D bioprinting is also used to create human tissues for testing.
Advantages of Non-Animal Methods:
- Non-animal systems offer more accurate and personalized drug testing using patient-specific cells.
- Organ-on-chip systems replicate physiological processes and interactions within the body.
Global Regulatory Landscape:
- Various countries have enacted or proposed legislation to transition away from animal testing.
- The European Union, US, South Korea, and Canada have introduced regulations to promote alternative testing methods.
India’s Amendment to Rules:
- The Indian government amended the New Drugs and Clinical Trial Rules 2019 to incorporate non-animal methods in drug development.
- The amendment followed public consultation and expert input from the Drug Technical Advisory Board.
Challenges and Readiness in India:
- Developing non-animal methods requires multidisciplinary expertise, lacking in India.
- Creating human-centric technologies necessitates collaboration between various disciplines.
- Suggestions to establish dedicated centers (e.g., like the Wyss Institute in Boston) to focus on innovations in emulating human biology.
Resource and Validation Challenges:
- Many required materials and instruments for non-animal methods are imported.
- Customization of testing setups based on specific diseases leads to concerns about variability in data.
Guidelines and Standards:
- Need for guidelines on quality criteria and standards for non-animal methods.
- Reevaluation and revision of existing animal testing guidelines considering advancements in cell-based and gene-editing-based therapeutics.
Can SMRs help India achieve net zero?
Context: The world’s quest to decarbonise itself is guided, among other things, by the UN Sustainable Development Goal 7: “to ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all”.
Relevance: GS 3 Environment
- Transitioning from coal-fired power generation to clean energy presents challenges.
- Solar and wind energy alone might not suffice to provide affordable energy for all.
- Grid reliability and cost reduction necessitate the addition of firm power-generating technologies.
Critical Minerals Demand:
- Clean energy technologies require critical minerals like lithium, cobalt, etc.
- Demand for these minerals is expected to increase significantly, posing challenges in terms of mining and processing facilities.
- Geopolitical and environmental concerns arise due to concentrated extraction capacities and control.
Role of Nuclear Power:
- Nuclear power provides reliable, 24/7 low-carbon electricity generation.
- Nuclear power plants (NPPs) contribute significantly to avoiding natural gas demand and CO2 emissions.
- Nuclear power helps in the net-zero transition.
Advantages of SMRs:
- Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) are designed with enhanced safety features and reduced risk of radioactive contamination.
- They utilize passive safety systems and require less storage for spent nuclear fuel.
- SMRs can be installed at existing thermal power plant sites, minimizing land acquisition and displacement.
Community and Economic Benefits:
- SMRs can be developed in brownfield sites, involving the local community in the process.
- They provide jobs in technology, manufacturing, and operations.
International Collaboration and Safeguards:
- SMRs can accelerate the coal-to-nuclear transition.
- International cooperation is essential in harmonizing regulatory requirements for efficient deployment.
- Collaboration with International Atomic Energy Agency is crucial.
Grid Integration and Energy Security:
- SMRs contribute to grid stability due to continuous power generation.
- Integration with the national grid can balance energy from coal-based thermal power plants and variable renewable energy sources.
Legal and Regulatory Changes:
- Amendments to the Atomic Energy Act are needed to allow private sector involvement in setting up SMRs.
- Government control over nuclear fuel, radioactive waste, and security is crucial.
- Independent regulatory boards with expertise must oversee the entire nuclear power generation cycle.
Public Perception and Communication:
- The Department of Atomic Energy needs to enhance public perception by disseminating environmental and health data from civilian reactors operating under international safeguards.
Conclusion: Embracing Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) offers India an opportunity to enhance energy security, decarbonize the energy sector, and create jobs. While facing challenges of regulatory adjustments, collaboration, and public communication, SMRs provide a promising pathway towards reliable and clean energy generation.
Amazon nations to jointly fight deforestation
Context: Eight South American countries formed an alliance to combat deforestation in the Amazon rainforest.
- The Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organisation (ACTO) summit was held in Brazil to address the critical state of the rainforest.
Shared Agenda and Declaration:
- Member countries (Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru, Suriname, and Venezuela) adopted a joint declaration in Belém.
- The declaration outlines a comprehensive roadmap focused on sustainable development, ending deforestation, and tackling organized crime associated with it.
Importance of the Amazon:
- The Amazon rainforest is a vital buffer against climate change.
- Experts warn that the rainforest is on the verge of collapse due to deforestation.
- The shared agenda aims to halt deforestation and promote sustainable practices.
- It focuses on combating organized crime linked to deforestation.
- The summit emphasized the need for collective action in response to the climate crisis.
Orbit reduction manoeuvre of Chandrayaan-3 performed
Context: The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) conducted another orbit reduction manoeuvre for Chandrayaan-3, India’s third moon mission. The manoeuvre was executed from the ISRO Telemetry, Tracking and Command Network (ISTRAC) center in Bengaluru.
Indo-Japanese Lunar Polar Exploration:
- The Indo-Japanese Lunar Polar Exploration mission aims to explore the “dark side of the moon” or the side perpetually facing away from Earth.
- The mission’s primary objective is to confirm the presence of water in the moon’s polar regions.
- The mission is anticipated to launch in the coming years.