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03 Jan, 2021

64 Min Read

Iran Nuclear Deal and JCPOA

GS-II : International Relations Iran

Iran Nuclear Deal and JCPOA

  • Iran has informed the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that it intends to produce uranium enriched to up to 20% purity, well beyond the threshold set by the 2015 Vienna accord, the UN nuclear watchdog said.
  • Iran informed the agency of its intention to enrich uranium at a rate of up to 20% in its Fordow underground plant, to comply with a law recently passed by the Iranian Parliament.
  • According to the latest report available from the UN agency, published in November, Tehran was enriching uranium to levels greater than the limit provided for in the Vienna agreement (3.67%) but not exceeding the 4.5% threshold, and still complied with the Agency’s very strict inspection regime.
  • But there has been turmoil since the assassination in late November of Iranian nuclear physicist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh.
  • In the aftermath of the attack, blamed on Israel, hardliners in Tehran pledged a response and Parliament passed a controversial law calling for the production and storage of “at least 120 kg per year of 20% enriched uranium” and to “put an end” to the IAEA inspections intended to check that the country is not developing an atomic bomb.
  • The Iranian government had opposed the initiative at the time.

What is the Iran nuclear deal?

  • It is officially called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
  • Commonly as the Iran nuclear deal or Iran deal, is an agreement on the Iranian nuclear program reached in Vienna on July 14, 2015, between Iran and the P5+1 (the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council—China, France, Russia, United Kingdom, United States—plus Germany) together with the European Union.
  • It was signed between Iran and the P5, plus Germany and the EU in 2015. P5 is the 5 permanent members of the UNSC (US, China, France, Russia, and UK).
  • Under JCPOA, Iran agreed to eliminate its stockpile of medium-enriched uranium, cut its stockpile of low-enriched uranium by 98%, and reduce by about two-thirds the number of its gas centrifuges for 13 years.
  • For the next 15 years Iran will only enrich uranium up to 3.67%. Iran also agreed not to build any new heavy-water facilities for the same period of time.
  • Uranium-enrichment activities will be limited to a single facility using first-generation centrifuges for 10 years. Other facilities will be converted to avoid proliferation risks.
  • To monitor and verify Iran’s compliance with the agreement, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will have regular access to all Iranian nuclear facilities.
  • The agreement provides that in return for verifiably abiding by its commitments, Iran will receive relief from U.S., European Union, and UNSC nuclear-related sanctions.
  • On 5 January 2020, in the aftermath of the Baghdad Airport Airstrike that targeted and killed Iranian general Qassem Soleimani, Iran declared that it would no longer abide by the limitations of the deal but would continue to coordinate with the IAEA, leaving open the possibility of resuming compliance.

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)

  • The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is an international organization that seeks to promote the peaceful use of nuclear energy, and to inhibit its use for any military purpose, including nuclear weapons.
  • The IAEA was established as an autonomous organization in 1957.
  • Though established independently of the United Nations through its own international treaty, the IAEA Statute, the IAEA reports to both the United Nations General Assembly and Security Council.
  • The IAEA has its headquarters in Vienna, Austria.
  • The IAEA has two "Regional Safeguards Offices" which are located in Toronto, Canada, and in Tokyo, Japan.
  • The IAEA serves as an intergovernmental forum for scientific and technical co-operation in the peaceful use of nuclear technology and nuclear power worldwide.
  • The IAEA and its former Director General, Mohamed ElBaradei, were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize 2005.
  • Recently Iran has refused to allow IAEA to two sites where nuclear activity may have occurred in the past (Parachin and Frodo).

Source: TH

Facial Recognition System

GS-III : Internal security Cyber Security

Facial Recognition System

Context: GS III Internal Security-Cyber Security (UPSC Prelims and Mains)

  • It is a biometric technology that uses distinctive features of the face to identify and distinguish an individual.
  • Over a period of almost 6 decades, it has evolved in many ways- from looking at 3D contours of a face to recognizing skin patterns.
  • The facial recognition system works primarily by capturing the face & its features through the camera and then using various kinds of software to reconstruct those features.
  • The captured face along with its features is stored into a database, which can be integrated with any kind of software that may be used for security purposes, banking services, etc.
  • In the Automated Facial Recognition System (AFRS), the large database (containing photos and videos of peoples’ faces) is used to match and identify the person. Image of an unidentified person, taken from CCTV footage, is compared to the existing database using Artificial Intelligence technology, for pattern-finding and matching.

Uses of Facial recognition

  • It is used for identification and authentication purposes with a success rate of almost 75%.
  • For instance, the NCRB’s Crime and Criminal Tracking Network & Systems (CCTNS) managing crime data for police, uses automated facial recognition to identify criminals, missing people, and unidentified dead bodies, as well as for “crime prevention”.
  • The project is aimed at being compatible with other biometrics such as iris and fingerprints.
  • The integration of fingerprint database, face recognition software and iris scans will massively boost the police department’s crime investigation capabilities.
  • In India, where there are just 144 constables per 1 lakh citizens, this can act as a force multiplier. It neither requires too much manpower nor regular upgradation. Hence, this technology coupled with the present manpower in place can act as a game-changer.
  • It is increasingly being used for everything from unlocking of mobile phones to validating the identity, from auto-tagging of digital photos to finding missing persons, and from targeted advertising to law enforcement.
  • However, China’s reported use of facial recognition technologies for surveillance in the Xinjiang province opens the possibility of its abuse which becomes problematic in the absence of privacy and data security laws..
  • European Commission is considering imposing a five-year moratorium on the use of facial recognition technologies in the European Union (EU). The United States municipalities are also passing rules for its prohibition. But, India is keen to adopt public facial recognition techniques.
  • Facial recognition systems have been made active at several major Indian airports, including Delhi airport, installed under DigiYatra Initiative.

But there are certain challenges

  • Technologies like Artificial Intelligence and Big Data are costly to implement. The size of stored information is extremely large and requires huge network & data storage facilities, which are currently not available in India.
  • In today’s world of cybercrime, there is a dire need to put appropriate safeguards in place in order to ensure the integrity of the repository/database, so that it doesn’t leak out the information and is not privatized or monetized.
  • Also, International & domestic accessibility interests need to be properly addressed.
  • The collected data from social media profiles where anybody can put anybody’s image, puts to risk the authenticity of the data. Hence, experts are needed to verify such details before storing them who should be provided proper training to protect & avoid abuse and misuse of the collected data & database.
  • As the data collected may be used in the court of law during the course of a criminal trial, the reliability and the admissibility of the data along with standards and procedure followed would be taken into consideration. Hence, the authenticity of the data is crucial.
  • Government although plans to address the question of privacy through the legal framework like data privacy regime, but keeping in mind the objectives it aims to achieve with the use of such technology, it comes into conflict with one another.
  • In the absence of data protection laws, Indian citizens become more vulnerable to privacy abuses. As it is sensitive data, it has tremendous potential of being misused. Hence, the constitutional mandate of right to privacy needs to be safeguarded along with the nature of technology, addressing the fears of invasion & surveillance.

Automated Facial Recognition System (AFRS):

  1. It is a component of CCTNS (Crime and Criminal Tracking Network and Systems) and is implement by NCRB (National Crime Records Bureau).
  2. It is a repository of photographs of criminals in the country.
  3. It is also used to track missing children & unidentified dead bodies by putting cameras in critical locations.
  4. Only law enforcement agencies can use it.
  5. The system will treat each person captured in CCTV images as potential criminal creating a map of the face with biometrics & measurements and match features against CCTNS database.
  6. San Franscisco has complete ban on police use of facial recognition.

Source: AspireNotes

Types of Vaccines

GS-III : S&T Health

Type of Vaccines

Context: UPSC GS Paper III - Vaccines, S&T, COVID-19 (Prelims Mains)

Each type is designed to teach your immune system how to fight off certain kinds of germs — and the serious diseases they cause.

What does scientists consider when they create a vaccine?

  1. How your immune system responds to the germ
  2. Who needs to be vaccinated against the germ
  3. The best technology or approach to create the vaccine

Based on a number of these factors, scientists decide which type of vaccine they will make.

There are 4 main types of vaccines:

  1. Live-attenuated vaccines
  2. Inactivated vaccines
  3. Subunit, recombinant, polysaccharide, and conjugate vaccines
  4. Toxoid vaccines

1. Live-attenuated vaccines

  • Live vaccines use a weakened (or attenuated) form of the germ that causes a disease.
  • Because these vaccines are so similar to the natural infection that they help prevent, they create a strong and long-lasting immune response.
  • Just 1 or 2 doses of most live vaccines can give you a lifetime of protection against a germ and the disease it causes.
  • But live vaccines also have some limitations:
    1. Because they contain a small amount of the weakened live virus, some people should talk to their health care provider before receiving them, such as people with weakened immune systems, long-term health problems, or people who’ve had an organ transplant.
    2. They need to be kept cool, so they don’t travel well. That means they can’t be used in countries with limited access to refrigerators.
  • Live vaccines are used to protect against:
    1. Measles, mumps, rubella (MMR combined vaccine)
    2. Rotavirus
    3. Smallpox
    4. Chickenpox
    5. Yellow fever

2. Inactivated vaccines

  • Inactivated vaccines use the killed version of the germ that causes a disease.
  • Inactivated vaccines usually don’t provide immunity (protection) that’s as strong as live vaccines. So you may need several doses over time (booster shots) in order to get ongoing immunity against diseases.
  • Inactivated vaccines are used to protect against:
    1. Hepatitis A
    2. Flu (shot only)
    3. Polio (shot only)
    4. Rabies

3. Subunit, recombinant, polysaccharide, and conjugate vaccines

  • Subunit, recombinant, polysaccharide, and conjugate vaccines use specific pieces of the germ — like its protein, sugar, or capsid (a casing around the germ).
  • Because these vaccines use only specific pieces of the germ, they give a very strong immune response that’s targeted to key parts of the germ.
  • They can also be used on almost everyone who needs them, including people with weakened immune systems and long-term health problems.
  • One limitation of these vaccines is that you may need booster shots to get ongoing protection against diseases.
  • These vaccines are used to protect against:
    1. Hib (Haemophilus influenzae type b) disease
    2. Hepatitis B
    3. HPV (Human papillomavirus)
    4. Whooping cough (part of the DTaP combined vaccine)
    5. Pneumococcal disease
    6. Meningococcal disease
    7. Shingles

Toxoid vaccines

  • Toxoid vaccines use a toxin (harmful product) made by the germ that causes a disease.
  • They create immunity to the parts of the germ that cause a disease instead of the germ itself.
  • That means the immune response is targeted to the toxin instead of the whole germ.
  • Like some other types of vaccines, you may need booster shots to get ongoing protection against diseases.
  • Toxoid vaccines are used to protect against:
    1. Diphtheria
    2. Tetanus

Source: vaccines.gov

T. S. R. Subramanian Committee Report on Education

GS-III : Economic Issues Education

T. S. R. Subramanian Committee Report on Education

The T.S.R. Subramanian committee was entrusted with preparing a new education policy for India. The major recommendations are

  1. An Indian Education Service (IES) should be established as an all India service with officers being on permanent settlement to the state governments but with the cadre controlling authority vesting with the Human Resource Development (HRD) ministry.
  2. The outlay on education should be raised to at least 6% of GDP without further loss of time.
  3. There should be minimum eligibility condition with 50% marks at graduate level for entry to existing B.Ed courses. Teacher Entrance Tests (TET) should be made compulsory for recruitment of all teachers. The Centre and states should jointly lay down norms and standards for TET.
  4. Compulsory licensing or certification for teachers in government and private schools should be made mandatory, with provision for renewal every 10 years based on independent external testing.
  5. Pre-school education for children in the age group of 4 to 5 years should be declared as a right and a programme for it implemented immediately.
  6. The no detention policy must be continued for young children until completion of class V when the child will be 11 years old. At the upper primary stage, the system of detention shall be restored subject to the provision of remedial coaching and at least two extra chances being offered to prove his capability to move to a higher class.
  7. On-demand board exams should be introduced to offer flexibility and reduce year end stress of students and parents. A National Level Test open to every student who has completed class XII from any School Board should be designed.
  8. The mid-day meal (MDM) program should now be extended to cover students of secondary schools. This is necessary as levels of malnutrition and anaemia continue to be high among adolescents.
  9. UGC Act must be allowed to lapse once a separate law is created for the management of higher education. The University Grants Commission (UGC) needs to be made leaner and thinner and given the role of disbursal of scholarships and fellowships.
  10. Top 200 foreign universities should be allowed to open campuses in India and give the same degree which is acceptable in the home country of the said university.

IIM Bill, 2017

  1. To grant IIMs power to grant degrees and not Post Graduate Diploma.
  2. Allows students to acquire Doctoral degrees (not fellowships) from IIMs and increase research.
  3. 20 IIMs to get INI status (Institute of National Importance) and functional autonomy.
  4. Board of Governors to appoint Director of each IIM through Search cum select committee.

Source: AspireNotes

Ramsar sites in India

GS-III : Biodiversity & Environment International Envt Treaties

Ramsar Convention or Convention on Wetlands of International Importance

  • It is an intergovernmental treaty for conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources.
  • It was adopted in 2 Feb, 1971 (Thus World Wetlands Day) in the Iranian city of Ramsar (Caspian Sea) and came into force in 1975.
  • It is the only global environmental system treaty that deals with a particular ecosystem.

Criteria for Wetlands of International Importance

  • If it has a unique, rare example of natural wetland type.
  • If it supports vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered species or threatened ecological communities.
  • If it supports plant or animal species important for maintaining biodiversity of a region.
  • If it regularly supports > 20000 waterbirds or 1% of individuals in 1 species or subspecies of waterbird.
  • If it supports a significant proportion of indigenous fish subspecies; if it is an importance source of food for fishes, spawning ground, nursery and migration path.
  • It is an important source of food and water resource, increased possibilities for recreation and eco-tourism, imporved scenic and educational values.

Ramsar Sites in India

  • Chillika lake was designated the first Ramsite in India in 1981. Sundarbans = largest Ramsar site.
  • As on January 2021, there are 42 Ramsar sites in India.

Sundarbans declared as the Ramsar Wetland:

  • Sundarbans = 10000 sq km 60% in Bangladesh. It covers ~ 43% of Mangrove forests of India.
  • It is the largest tidal halophytic mangrove forest in the world.
  • It is located in delta region of Padma, Meghna and Brahmaputra river basins.
  • West Bengal has 2 Wetlands now = East Kolkata Wetlands & Sundarbans (which has now become the largest Ramsar Site in India).
  • The Sundarbans was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987.
  • They are the only mangrove habitat which supports a significant population of Royal Bengal Tigers, and they have unique aquatic hunting skills.
  • It is home to critically endangered northern river terrapin (Batuga, Basaka), the endangered Irrawaddy dolphin, and the endangered fishing cat. It also has Chital Deer, Crocodile & Snakes.
  • It met 4 out of 9 criteria of Ramsar: presence of rare species and threatened ecological communities, biological diversity, significant and representative fish and fish spawning ground and migration path.
  • The part of the Sundarban delta, which lies in Bangladesh, was accorded the status of a Ramsar site in 1992.

Latest Ramsar sites of India

  • Nandur Madhameshwar (1st in Maharashtra);
  • Keshopura, Miani, Beas Conservation, Nangal in Punjab;
  • Nawabganj, Parvati, Agra, Saman, Samaspur, Sandi, Sarsai Nawar in UP.
  • Kabartal Wetland, also known as Kanwar Jheel, covers 2,620 hectares of the Indo-Gangetic plains in the northern Bihar State. Five critically endangered species inhabit the site, including three vultures – the red-headed vulture, white-rumped vulture and Indian vulture.
  • Asan Conservation Reserve is a 444-hectare stretch of the Asan River running down to its confluence with the Yamuna River in Dehradun district of Uttarakhand.
  • Sur Sarovar, commonly known as Keetham Lake, is a human-made reservoir in the State of Uttar Pradesh in northern India.
  • Lonar Lake (Site no. 2441), on the Deccan Plateau in Maharashtra State, is an endorheic or closed basin, almost circular in shape, formed by a meteorite impact onto the basalt bedrock. The Site includes the lake as well as escarpments, which form the crater walls, and forested zones. The lake is high in salinity and alkalinity, as the lack of an outflow leads to a concentration of minerals as the lake water evaporates. Specialized micro-organisms such as anaerobes, cyanobacteria and phytoplankton survive in this harsh chemical environment.
  • India has designated its 42nd Ramsar Site: Tso Kar Wetland Complex is found at more than 4,500 metres above sea level in the Changthang region of Ladakh. The complex includes two connected lakes, the freshwater Startsapuk Tso and the larger hypersaline Tso Kar.

Montreux Record:

  • It is a register of wetlands maintained as a part of Ramsar Sites where changes in the ecological character have occured or are occuring as a result of technological developments, pollution or human influence.
  • 2 Sites from India included in this are Keoladeo National Park, Rajasthan and Loktak Lake, Manipur.

Source: TH

FATF, Terrorism and Pakistan

GS-III : Internal security FATF

FATF, Terrorism and Pakistan

What is the news?

  • Nearly five years after he was released on bail in the 26/11 Mumbai attacks case, Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) operations commander Zaki-ur-Rahman Lakhvi was arrested in Pakistan by its Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) on charges of using terror funds.
  • The timing of the arrest is significant as it comes ahead of meetings of the global watchdog Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and its Asia Pacific Joint Group (APJG, which will consider Pakistan’s “greylist” status, meant for countries “under increased monitoring”.
  • Lakhvi is accused of running a dispensary using funds collected for terrorism financing. He and others also collected funds from this dispensary and used them for further terrorism financing and for personal expenses.
  • The statement added that Lakhvi’s offences were compounded by the fact that he is on the United Nation’s Security Council list of banned terrorists, and thus cannot have recourse to any funds without special clearance.
  • However, Indian officials questioned the seriousness of the action, saying it had become routine for Pakistan to showcase arrests of key terrorist figures just before FATF meetings.
  • The arrest of LeT founder Hafiz Saeed in July 2019 came three months before an FATF plenary session was due to decide on downgrading Pakistan to the ‘blacklist’ or “High Risk Jurisdictions” that face severe financial sanctions.
  • Pakistan has been retained on the greylist, but faces blacklisting if it fails to complete a 27-point action plan to curb terror financing and money laundering.

Financial Action Task Force (FATF), 1989

  • It is an intergovernmental body established in 1989 by G7 Summit in Paris.
  • Secretariat is at OECD HQ in Paris. It is a 39 member body. India is a member of FATF.
  • Purpose
  1. It was established initially to combat money laundering.
  2. Later in 2001 it added terrorist financing and
  3. In 2012, added proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
  • The FATF is a “policy-making body”.
  • The objectives of the FATF are
    1. To set standards and promote effective implementation of legal, regulatory and operational measures
    2. For combating money laundering, terrorist financing and other related threats to the integrity of the international financial system.
  • Grey/ Black Listing of Countries
    1. Out of 39 countries, 18 countries are on Grey List. Iran and North Korea are black listed. Pak is in Grey List.
    2. Pakistan to remain in the Grey List of FATF. FATF blacklists Iran on Blacklists.
    3. IMF doesn't give loans to Grey and Black list of FATF.

Pakistan and FATF

  • FATF to keep Pakistan in grey list to monitor its record against terror financing.
  • 27 Point Action Plan - is not completed by Pakistan. Pakistan needs to tighten security and restrict banking services to block loopholes and take actions against terrorists.
  • UNSCR 1267 is not being fully implemented. It is a list of people associated with Al Qaeda or Taliban.
  • If it doesn’t fulfil criteria by February 2020, it will be on black list.
  • China, Turkey and Malaysia are supporting Pakistan, hence can’t be blacklisted.

Source: TH

Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR)

GS-III : S&T Health

Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR)

  • ICMR is India’s apex scientific body for the formulation, coordination and promotion of biomedical research.
  • It was established in 1911 as Indian Research Fund Association (IRFA) making it one of oldest and largest medical research bodies in the world. ICMR functions under Dept of Health Research, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. HQ - Delhi.
  • Presided by Health Minister.
  • Director General– Prof. Balram Bhargava.
  • It publishes Indian Journal of Medical Research.

Source: AspireNotes

Evolution of Life


Evolution of Life

Chemists have come up with a new proposition for how life may have begun. In a study published in Angenwandte Chemie, the researchers showed a simple compound diamidophosphate could have knitted together the building blocks of DNA to form the primordial structures. The possibility is that DNA and RNA arose together and that the first life forms were a mixture of the two.

Source: TH

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