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DAILY NEWS ANALYSIS

Monthly DNA

05 Jul, 2020

20 Min Read

Dharma Chakra Day

GS-I : Art and Culture Buddhism

Dharma Chakra Day

The Ministry of Culture, Government of India in partnership with the International Buddhist Confederation (IBC) will celebrate the upcoming Asadha Poornima on 4th July, 2020 as Dharma Chakra Day.

The festivities would start off with the chanting of prayers at Sarnath, Varanasi (U.P.) which will be live streamed, following which the opening event will be shifted to the Rashtrapati Bhavan.

  • The auspicious day of Asadha Poornima falls on the first full moon day of the month of Asadha as per the Indian sun calendar.
  • It is also known as Esala Poya in Sri Lanka and Asana Bucha in Thailand. It is the second most sacred day for Buddhists after the Buddha Poornima or Vesak.
  • The day marks Buddha's first teaching after attaining Enlightenment to the first five ascetic disciples (pañcavargika) on the full-moon day of Asadha at ‘Deer Park', patina in the current day Sarnath, near Varanasi, India.
  • This teaching of Dhamma Cakka- PavattanaSutta (Pali) or Dharma chakra Pravartana Sutra (Sanskrit) is also known as the First Turning of Wheels of Dharma and is comprised of the Four Noble Truths and Noble Eightfold Path.
  • The Rainy Season retreat (Varsha Vassa) for the Monks and Nuns also starts with this day lasting for three lunar months from July to October, during which they remain in a single place, generally in their temples (Viharas/ Chaityas) dedicated to intensive meditation.
  • The day is also observed as Guru Poornima by both Buddhists and Hindus as a day to mark reverence to their Gurus.

Guru Purnima

  • According to the Hindu calendar, Guru Purnima generally falls on a full-moon day in the Hindu month of Ashadh.
  • It is dedicated to Maharshi Veda Vyasa, the sage who is believed to have edited the sacred Hindu text, the Vedas and created the 18 Puranas, Mahabharata and the Srimad Bhagavatam.
  • For Buddhists, the festival marks the first sermon of Lord Buddha, which is said to have been delivered at Sarnath, Uttar Pradesh, on this very day.
  • It is also believed to mark the onset of monsoons.

Buddhism and Diplomacy

  • Buddhism has become an important tool in contemporary geopolitics, particularly in Asia, and it has become increasingly evident that whoever controls the Buddhist discourse and activities will sway influence in Asia.
  • The celebration of Dharma Chakra Day is being pushed as an event to show India’s strong Buddhist heritage amid tensions with China. It will see the virtual participation of leaders from major Buddhist countries, except China.
  • The timing of the event is particularly important because this is when both countries would like to resurrect their linkages with others. To show that like-minded countries are coming together sends a message. What is however important is that one has to put in a sustained effort at this, and have a relook at India-China policy with strategic cultural moves.
  • The Central Tibetan Administration has asked Tibetan Buddhists to participate in the online event in large numbers to “support and appreciate” the effort.
  • The Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) is an organisation headquartered in McLeod Ganj, Dharamshala, India. It is also referred to as the Tibetan Government in Exile which has never been recognized by China.
  • The position of the CTA is that Tibet is a distinct nation with a long history of independence and it considers China's administration of Tibet an illegitimate military occupation. In addition to political advocacy, it administers a network of schools and other cultural activities for Tibetans in India.
  • Meanwhile, the People’s Republic of China (PRC)'s World Buddhist Forum (WBF) has been hosting congregations of Buddhist monks since 2005. China's extensive infrastructure investment in Lumbini, Buddha's birthplace in Nepal, is also seen as a strategic move to claim the Buddhist legacy.

While Buddhism might have vanished from India as a religion practised by many people, it is still a critical part of India's civilisational ethos.

There should be more Buddhist corridor including Ladakh, Himachal Pradesh and Arunachal Pradesh, apart from Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh. There could be nodal centres for people-to-people exchanges for those who come from South Korea, Taiwan and other countries. Although no other country can take Buddhist leadership away from India, the status of Buddhism in India is quite different now.

India has not been promoting its own Buddhist streams or strengthening the original Buddhism. Promoting anything else or any other brand than its own limits a genuine outreach. Promoting anything else becomes a subject of contestation, and the essence of using Buddhism as a diplomatic card gets lost.

Conclusion

There are also hundreds of millions of Chinese who have a deep devotion to Buddhism. India needs to reach out to those Chinese constituencies too, for long-term gains. After all, India conquered the hearts and minds of the Chinese for 200 years without sending a single troop to China.

Source: PIB

Russia - Constitutional Amendments

GS-II : International Relations Russia - Japan

Russia - Constitutional Amendments

Part of: GS-II- IR- Russia (PT-MAINS-PERSONALITY TEST)

The Russian citizens have supported a set of constitutional amendments including the continuation of the presidency by Vladimir Putin in a recently held referendum in the country.

The referendum also included clauses related to the reorganisation of the government, introducing a higher minimum pension and wages, a ban on gay marriage, restricting top officials from holding dual citizenship, enshrining “faith in God” as a core value and emphasising the primacy of the Constitution over international treaties and rulings.

A referendum is a direct and universal vote in which an entire electorate is invited to vote on a particular proposal and can have nationwide or local forms. It supports direct democracy.

The referendum was originally planned for April 2020 but was delayed due to the coronavirus outbreak

Background:

  • Mr. Putin became President for the first time in 2000. After completing his two terms, he swapped the presidency with Mr. Dmitry Medvedv. During the Medvedev presidency, Mr Putin remained at the centre of power as Prime Minister.
  • Mr. Medvedv served one term and stepped aside for Mr. Putin to assume the presidency again. Thus, Mr. Putin is now into the second term of his second stint as President, which will expire in 2024.
  • If Mr. Putin stays in power for two more terms, he will be the longest-serving Russian leader since Peter the Great.
  • The Tsar, who built the Russian Empire, was in power for 43 years until his death in 1725.

Imp Points

Clause for Continuation of Presidency Term:

  • The Russian Constitution bars more than two consecutive presidential terms.
  • The new Constitution doesn’t change the two-term limit in theory, but in practice, it resets Mr Putin's terms so that it will be the first election under the new Constitution for him, to be held in 2024.
  • According to the referendum, the current President of Russia Vladimir Putin can stay in power for two more six-year terms (until 2036) after his term expires in 2024.

Significance

  • The amendments have enhanced the powers of the State Council, an advisory body. Overall, the changes will help to tighten his grip over Russia.
  • The proposed changes had already been approved by Parliament and the Supreme Court but it was put to vote to gain legitimacy and popular approval.
  • The preliminary results released by the Election Commission showed that almost 78% of voters endorsed the amendments, while 21% voted against them. Some 65% of voters had turned up to cast their ballots.

Challenge

  • According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the economy hasn’t expanded in dollar terms for a decade. The Fund estimates the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to shrink by 6.6% in 2020.
  • The pandemic affecting local businesses and the falling oil prices reducing export revenue.
  • In foreign policy, Russia’s relationship with the West remains troublesome. The sanctions imposed on Russia after the annexation of Crimea in 2014 are still in place.
  • Though Russia managed to prevent the collapse of the Syrian regime after its intervention in the civil war, the Syrian crisis is far from resolved.
  • Russia also faces allegations of interference in the elections of other countries.

Earlier, Mr. Putin had inherited a Russia that was in an economic free fall. Now Mr. Putin needs to rebuild the state and the economy and restore some of the country’s lost global clout.

Source: TH

Drug Discovery Hackathon

GS-III :

Drug Discovery Hackathon

Recently, the government has launched Drug Discovery Hackathon 2020 (DDH2020), a first of its kind national initiative for supporting the drug discovery process. The objective is to identify drug candidates against SARS-CoV-2 (Covid-19) by in-silico drug discovery.

In-Silico Drug Discovery

  • In-Silico is an expression used to mean “performed on computer or via computer simulation.”
  • In-Silico drug discovery process is thus the identification of the drug target molecule by employing bioinformatics tools. Drug target molecules generally include DNA, RNA and proteins such as receptors, enzymes etc.
  • Identification of drug target molecules help in knowing their pharmacological relevance to the disease under investigation.

**Bioinformatics is the application of computational technology (such as Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning) to handle the rapidly growing repository of information related to molecular biology.

Other Points

  • Joint Initiative: DDH2020 is a joint initiative of the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD), All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) and the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and supported by partners like Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (CDAC), MyGov and private players.
  • Participants: Researchers/Faculty across the world, students studying in India and abroad.

Functioning:

It will primarily focus on computational aspects of drug discovery and will have three Tracks.

    • Track-1 will deal with computational modelling for drug design or identifying ‘lead’ compounds from existing databases that may have the potential to inhibit SARS-CoV-2.
    • Track-2 will encourage participants to develop new tools and algorithms using data analytics and AI/ML approach for predicting drug-like compounds with minimal toxicity and maximal specificity and selectivity.
    • Track 3 will only deal with novel and out-of-the-box ideas in this field.

Participants will submit their ideas online after which the CSIR and other labs will work towards executing them.

Source: PIB

Meta-analysis does not support continued use of point-of-care serological tests for COVID-19

GS-III :

Meta-analysis does not support continued use of point-of-care serological tests for COVID-19

Serological test

  • Serological tests to detect antibodies against novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) could improve diagnosis of COVID-19 and be useful tools for epidemiological surveillance.

Epidemilogy

  • It is the branch of medicine which deals with the incidence, distribution, and possible control of diseases and other factors relating to health.

  • These have been seen as a tool to issue immunity passports or certificates so that already-infected people can move around freely. There has been increasing number of serological tests, and many are being marketed for point-of-care use.

What is point-of –care testing?

  • Point-of-care testing (POCT or bedside testing) is defined as medical diagnostic testing at or near the point of care—that is, at the time and place of patient care.
  • This contrasts with the historical pattern in which testing was wholly or mostly confined to the medical laboratory, which entailed sending off specimens away from the point of care and then waiting hours or days to learn the results, during which time care must continue without the desired information.

  • A systematic review and meta-analysis of 40 studies of antibody testing for novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) has found “major weaknesses” in the evidence base for serological tests.
  • The “evidence does not support the continued use of existing point-of-care serological tests for COVID-19”, says a study published in The British Medical Journal.

Risk of bias

  • The evidence is “particularly weak” for point-of-care serological tests.
  • The study warns: “Our findings should also give pause to governments that are contemplating the use of serological tests — in particular, point-of-care tests — to issue immunity certificates or passports.”

Primary outcomes

  • The primary outcome of the analysis was to evaluate the overall sensitivity and specificity based on the method of serological testing — ELISA, lateral flow immunoassays (LFIAs), or chemiluminescent immunoassays (CLIAs), and immunoglobulin class (IgG, IgM or both).
  • The study found high risk of patient selection bias in 98% (48/49 studies) of assessments, and high or unclear risk of bias from performance or interpretation of the serological test in 73% (36/49) of studies. Only as little as 10% (4/40) of studies included outpatients.

What is pooled sensitivity?

  • Pooling of results is a Meta-analysis method used to combine the results of different studies in order to get qualitative analysis. Usually used when the size of study is too small to evaluate the effect or relationship. So, pooling results will increase the power of statistical analyses.

Source: TH

Great Oxidation Event (GOE)

GS-I : Human Geography Universe and Solar System

Great Oxidation Event (GOE)

  • The Great Oxidation Event (GOE), sometimes also called the Great Oxygenation Event, Oxygen Catastrophe, Oxygen Crisis, Oxygen Holocaust, or Oxygen Revolution, was a time period when the Earth's atmosphere and the shallow ocean experienced a rise in oxygen, approximately 2.4 billion years ago (2.4 Ga) to 2.1–2.0 Ga during the Paleoproterozoic era.
  • Geological, isotopic, and chemical evidence suggests that biologically produced molecular oxygen (dioxygen, O2) started to accumulate in Earth's atmosphere and changed Earth's atmosphere from a weakly reducing atmosphere to an oxidizing atmosphere, causing many existing species on Earth to die out.
  • The cyanobacteria producing the oxygen caused the event which enabled the subsequent development of multicellular forms.

Source: TH

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