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Here are the topics covered for 28th November 2023:
GS-2: Reforming the Structure of the SC, Strengthening MGNREGS Accountability
GS-3: Transposons in Early Embryonic Cells, Galathea Bay ICTP Project
Facts for prelims: Flue Gas Desulphurisers (FGDs), Supplementary Grants
Reforming the Structure of the Supreme Court
- The Supreme Court of India, with its original, appellate, and advisory jurisdictions, plays a pivotal role in the country\’s legal system.
- However, the current structure faces challenges, with a staggering backlog of cases—79,813 pending before 34 judges.
- The need for reform has been a recurring theme, and Chief Justice of India (CJI) D.Y. Chandrachud recently expressed intent to make Constitution Benches of varied strengths a permanent feature. This follows historical proposals, including the idea of splitting the Supreme Court into Constitutional and Legal Divisions.
- The Supreme Court operates with benches of varying sizes, including Constitution Benches of five, seven, or nine judges for constitutional law issues.
- However, the sheer volume of cases has led to delays and demands for structural changes.
- The existing backlog of cases, coupled with the diverse nature of matters, has prompted calls for specialized divisions.
Several proposals have been considered over the years to address the challenges faced by the Supreme Court:
- Division into Constitutional and Legal Divisions: The 1984 proposal suggested splitting the Supreme Court into Constitutional and Legal Divisions, focusing each on specific types of cases. This could streamline proceedings and improve efficiency.
- Regional Benches: The 2009 Law Commission Report recommended establishing regional benches in Delhi, Chennai, Hyderabad, Kolkata, and Mumbai to handle non-constitutional issues. This decentralization aims to make justice more accessible and reduce the burden on the apex court.
- National Court of Appeal: Earlier suggestions, including in the Bihar Legal Support Society case (1986), proposed a National Court of Appeal to handle special leave petitions, allowing the Supreme Court to focus on constitutional and public law-related questions.
- As the Supreme Court grapples with an increasing caseload, the discourse on structural reforms gains significance.
- Balancing the workload, ensuring accessibility, and maintaining the court\’s constitutional focus are crucial elements in any reform.
- As the Constitution Bench analyzes these issues, there is an opportunity to reshape the Supreme Court\’s structure to better meet the demands of justice in contemporary India.
Strengthening MGNREGS Accountability
- The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) has been an important initiative in addressing poverty and developmental issues in India. Recent data from the Ministry of Rural Development sheds light on the progress and challenges associated with the social audit component of MGNREGS.
Progress of Social Audits in MGNREGS:
- Kerala emerges as a frontrunner with a remarkable 100% coverage of gram panchayats in social audits, setting a standard for comprehensive and inclusive practices.
- Five other states have achieved over 50% coverage, including Bihar, Gujarat, Jammu and Kashmir, Odisha, and Uttar Pradesh.
- Only three states, Telangana, Himachal Pradesh, and Andhra Pradesh, have covered 40% or more villages in social audits.
- Some poll-bound states exhibit lower numbers, with Madhya Pradesh, Mizoram, Chhattisgarh, and Rajasthan facing notable challenges.
Understanding Social Audits:
- A social audit is a process of reviewing official records to ensure that reported expenditures align with actual ground-level spending.
- Integral anti-corruption mechanism in the MGNREGA Act, 2005, focusing on quality checks, financial accountability, and procedural adherence.
- Empowering local communities by enabling citizens to scrutinise and assess the efficiency and effectiveness of government initiatives.
- Mandated by Section 17 of the MGNREGA Act, it provides a legal basis for gram sabhas to monitor work execution.
- Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Audit of Schemes Rules, 2011, outlines procedures for social audits and defines roles for entities like Social Audit Units, state governments, and field workers.
- Independent operation of Social Audit Units ensures unbiased evaluations, supported by funds equivalent to 0.5% of the previous year\’s MGNREGA expenditure.
Challenges in Implementation:
- Limited awareness of the legal framework among local communities can hinder active involvement in social audit processes.
- Limited financial resources for Social Audit Units may compromise the thoroughness of audits, restricting their scope.
- Political interference can impact the impartiality of social audits, affecting the authenticity and objectivity of evaluations.
- The lack of cooperation and coordination between implementing authorities and social audit units poses a challenge.
- Inadequate follow-up on social audit findings and recommendations undermines the impact of the audit process.
- Lack of support and protection for social auditors and whistleblowers exposes them to threats and harassment from vested interests.
- While the progress in social audits for MGNREGS is promising in some states, the challenges in implementation highlight the need for sustained efforts. Enhancing awareness, ensuring financial support, minimising political interference, and strengthening accountability mechanisms are crucial for the continued success of social audits in promoting transparency and effectiveness in MGNREGS.
Transposons in Early Embryonic Cells
- Embark on a journey into the intricate world of embryonic development, where recent research explores a fascinating mechanism that shapes the fate of cells in the early stages. This mechanism involves the interplay of transposons, HERVH gene expression, and the delicate dance between cell survival and elimination.
Discovery of Non-Committal Cells:
Genetic Exploration in Human Embryos:
- In 2016, scientists revisited gene expression data from early human embryos, uncovering a novel group of cells within the inner cell mass.
- These non-committed cells, distinct from pluripotent cells, faced early elimination in development.
HERVH Gene and Pluripotency:
- Previous studies identified HERVH gene expression in pluripotent stem cells as crucial for maintaining pluripotency.
- Scientist\’s analysis revealed HERVH expression in inner cell mass cells, marking true pluripotent stem cells.
Understanding the Mechanism:
- HERVH acts as a shield against potentially harmful transposons, also known as \”jumping genes,\” preventing damage to the genome.
- Most inner cell mass cells express HERVH, activating a protective mechanism.
- Non-committed cells, lacking HERVH expression, exhibit transposon activity, leading to DNA damage and early cell death.
- The researchers utilized human embryonic stem-cell lines to simulate these early embryonic processes.
The Concept of a \’Selection Arena\’:
- The early human embryo is described as a \’selection arena,\’ where cells expressing HERVH survive, while non-committed cells succumb to transposon-induced damage.
- The interplay between HERVH expression and transposon activity becomes a coordinated game, determining the survival or elimination of specific cells.
Insights into Placenta Formation:
- Cells forming the placenta also exhibit transposon activity, albeit without HERVH expression.
- Despite lacking protective mechanisms, these placental cells are more tolerant of transposons.
- The tolerance of transposon activity in placental cells comes at a cost, as these cells differ from other cells in the baby.
- The placenta, discarded after childbirth, incurs minimal cost to the overall organism.
Role of HERVH in Pluripotency:
- HERVH\’s role in pluripotency carries significant implications for regenerative medicine.
- The study suggests potential connections between transposon activity, embryo fitness, and applications in infertility treatment and in-vitro fertilization.
- The revelation of this intricate cellular ballet, where transposons, HERVH gene, and cell fate intertwine, opens new avenues for understanding the delicate balance between life and death in the early stages of embryonic development. Beyond its scientific significance, the research holds promise for advancing regenerative medicine and influencing approaches to infertility treatments.
Galathea Bay ICTP Project
- The proposed International Container Transshipment Port (ICTP) at Galathea Bay, Great Nicobar Island, represents a significant infrastructural initiative in India.
- Positioned strategically along international shipping routes, the project aims to address the substantial portion of transshipped cargo currently handled by ports outside the country, such as Colombo, Singapore, and Klang.
- The ICTP is designed as a transhipment deepwater seaport, equipped with a deep water channel and expansive berth areas to facilitate the efficient transhipment of containers between different ports.
- Galathea Bay\’s proximity to the International shipping trade route, just 40 nautical miles away, adds to its appeal.
- The venture holds immense significance for India, where a considerable 75% of transshipped cargo is managed outside its borders.
- Colombo, Singapore, and Klang dominate this sector, with Colombo alone handling 45% of the transshipped cargo.
- Galathea Bay\’s strategic location aligns with India\’s aspirations for robust export-import trade, being strategically placed on international shipping routes.
- The ICTP is anticipated to bring substantial benefits to India\’s Forex savings, foreign direct investment, and economic activity at other Indian ports are expected outcomes.
- The project promises enhanced logistics infrastructure, employment generation, and increased revenue share. The development of the Mega Container Terminal is integral to the holistic development of Great Nicobar Island.
Status of the Project:
- As of now, the project has received environmental clearance from the Ministry of Environment, Forests & Climate Change (MoEF&CC).
- Stage 1 forest clearance has also been secured. The phased development plan envisions the commissioning of Phase 1 in 2028, with a handling capacity of approximately 4 million TEUs. The ultimate stage, slated for 2058, aims for a handling capacity of 16 million TEUs.
- While the project holds immense promise, it is crucial for stakeholders to address potential environmental concerns and ensure sustainable development.
- Regular monitoring, community engagement, and adherence to environmental safeguards will be essential.
- Close collaboration with international partners in the shipping industry can further boost the project\’s success.
- The Galathea Bay ICTP project marks a transformative step in India\’s maritime landscape, with the potential to reshape transhipment dynamics.
- As the project progresses through its phases, a balanced approach that considers economic benefits, environmental sustainability, and international collaboration will be key to its long-term success.
- The ICTP stands as a beacon of progress, positioning Great Nicobar Island as a key player in India\’s maritime and trade ambitions.
Facts for prelims:
Flue Gas Desulphurisers (FGDs)
- Flue gas desulphurisers (FGDs) are a set of technologies used to remove sulfur dioxide (SO2) from exhaust flue gases of fossil-fuel power plants and the emissions of other sulfur oxide emitting processes such as waste incineration, petroleum refineries, cement and lime kilns.
- SO2 is a major air pollutant that can cause acid rain, respiratory problems, and other health problems.
- Types of FGD Systems:
- Wet scrubbers use a liquid solution, usually lime or limestone slurry, to absorb SO2 from the flue gas. The slurry is then treated to remove the SO2 and produce a byproduct, such as gypsum.
- Dry scrubbers use a dry sorbent, such as lime or activated carbon, to capture SO2 from the flue gas. The sorbent is then collected and treated to remove the SO2.
- Semi-Dry Scrubbers: Combine features of both wet and dry systems, using a dry sorbent with a limited amount of water.
- FGDs can remove up to 99% of SO2 from flue gas.
- Enshrined in Article 115 of the Indian Constitution, Supplementary Demands for Grants cater to additional financial needs beyond those authorized under Article 114 (Appropriation Bills).
- The President initiates the demand if the authorized amount is deemed insufficient for the intended purposes.
- Supplementary Grants are presented to and approved by both Houses of Parliament before the fiscal year concludes.
- These grants follow the same procedural framework as regular budget allocations.
- The demand for supplementary grants can take different forms: token, technical, or substantive/cash.
- Token: Symbolic amounts (e.g., ₹1 lakh) allocated for specific schemes.
- Technical: Utilization of savings from one Ministry/Department for a different purpose or a scheme requiring additional funds.
- Substantive/Cash: Involves fresh allocations exceeding the budget, necessitating withdrawals from the Consolidated Fund of India.