Daily Current Affairs for UPSC IAS | 1st November 2021

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1.  Indus river Dolphin

UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: Environment & Biodiversity
Sub Theme: About Indus River Dolphin | UPSC

Context – The census of one of the world’s most threatened species, is all set to commence in the winter as part of a project by the Centre. However, Punjab’s wildlife preservation wing has gone a step ahead to not only protect the dolphins but also their natural habitat.
Scientific name- Platanista gangetica minor

IUCN status-
Habitat – Freshwater species – Inland wetlands- deep rivers in low velocity areas
Geographic range-
Indus river dolphins are believed to have originated in the ancient Tethys Sea. When the sea dried up approximately 50 million years ago, the dolphins were forced to adapt to its only remaining habitat—rivers.
Until recently they were believed to be endemic to lower Indus basin Pakistan but in 2007 they were also discovered in Punjab’s Harike wildlife sanctuary and lower Beas basin.

Threats –
Additional information-
They have adapted to life in the muddy river and are functionally blind. They rely on echolocation to navigate, communicate and hunt prey including prawns, catfish, and carp.
It is declared as Punjab’s state aquatic animal.
Punjab is planning for extension programmes with the help of dedicated individuals who will be called – “Beas-Dolphin Mitras”


2.  Exchange Traded Funds (ETF)

UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: Indian Economy
Sub Theme: About Exchange Traded Funds | UPSC

What is an Exchange Traded Fund or ETF? An Exchange Traded Fund is a fund which invests in shares, bonds or commodities and track their prices. Hence, the value of ETF is in turn based upon the value of underlying security or commodity. The ETFs are traded on the stock exchanges like Shares.

Examples: CPSE ETF, Bharat-22 ETF etc.

BHARAT BOND ETF:  Debt-based ETF made by pooling bonds issued by central public sector enterprises. 1st corporate bond ETF of India. Minimum investment: Rs.1000; Maximum investment for retail investors: Rs. 2 Lakh; Maturity Period: 3-year and 10-year.

What are Gold-based ETFs? The Gold-based ETFs are those ETFs which invest in Gold. The company issuing the gold ETFs invests its money in physical Gold and converts its investment in different units of paper-based ETF. Normally, 1 unit of gold ETF in paper form represents 1 gm of physical gold. So, when a person buys 10 units of ETF, it is akin to buying of 10 gms of gold.

Please note that the person does not get custody of the physical gold on buying the ETF. He gets only the units of ETF which represents physical Gold. These ETFs can be bought or sold in the stock exchange.

Redemption of Gold-based ETFs: Only some of the ETFs provide the option of redemption of Gold based ETF in terms of physical Gold for the retail Investor. However, for large Investors, the Redemption in terms of physical Gold is allowed only after their investment exceeds a certain threshold. This threshold varies across ETF and is usually above 1 kg (1000 Units).

Advantages of Gold-based ETF:

  • Secure investmentNo concerns over theft or storage
  • Easy Transactions: Traded on the Stock Exchanges
  • Loan Collateral: Can be used as Collateral to borrow loans
  • Higher Returns: Provide higher returns to the Investment


3.  Project 15 B

UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: Science & technology
Sub Theme: About Project 15 B | UPSC

Context- Y 12704 (Visakhapatnam), the lead ship of Project 15B stealth guided missile destroyers being built at Mazgaon Docks Limited (MDL), was delivered to the Indian Navy on 28 Oct 21.

Key facts-
The overall indigenous content of the project is 75%.
This project 15B is a follow-on of the Kolkata class (Project 15A) destroyers commissioned in the last decade.
Designed by Directorate of Naval Design, Indian Navy’s in-house design organisation; and built by M/s Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Ltd, Mumbai.
The four ships are christened after major cities from all four corners of the country viz. Visakhapatnam, Mormugao, Imphal and Surat.
These ships are equipped with BrahMos supersonic cruise missiles and long range surface to air missiles.

4.  Living on Death row with illness

UPSC Syllabus: Mains – GS Paper II – Polity & Governance
Sub Theme: Mental Illness |Prison Reforms | UPSC

Context: Report on ‘Deathworthy: A Mental Health Perspective of the Death Penalty’ explores the mental health concerns of prisoners who have been awarded death sentence, their intellectual disabilities and the psychological impact of being on death punishment. The Report is part of Project 39A by National Law University, Delhi. Section 84 of Indian Penal Code exempts such person committing crime who by reason of unsoundness of mind is incapable of knowing the nature of the act which is either wrong or contrary to law.

Intellectual disability

It is a term used when there are limits to a person’s ability to learn at an expected level and function in daily life. Levels of intellectual disability vary greatly in children. It can be caused by injury, disease, or a problem in the brain. Intellectual Disability involves problems with general mental abilities that affect functioning in two areas:

  1. Intellectual functioning (such as learning, problem solving, judgment)
  2. Adaptive functioning (activities of daily life such as communication and independent living)
Statistics of the Report

  • The report presents the detailed histories of 88 death row prisoners in India.
  • Of them, 30 were found with a depressive illness, 19 with anxiety disorder, and three prisoners reported having psychotic episodes.
  • Of particular concern is the fact that eight had attempted suicide and close to 50% said they had considered it.
  • Worryingly, nearly 11% of these death row prisoners were diagnosed with intellectual disabilities and most of them had deficits in intellectual functioning.

The United Nations Commission on Human Rights calls upon countries “not to impose the death penalty on a person suffering from any form of mental disorder or to execute any such person”. Yet, the laws of most countries do not explicitly prohibit this.

Problems with convicts suffering from Mental Illness 

  • Such convicts may not able to instruct their lawyers to mount a robust defence – this jeopardises right to fair trial
  • Even in instances of history of mental illness of convicts, Courts generally reject the plea of insanity by defence lawyers.

High Courts and Supreme Court on recognising the aspect of Mental Illness

  • Bombay High Court in State of Maharashtra v. Santosh Maruti Mane (2014) – while conforming death penalty held that mere prior incidence of treatment is not sufficient. It has to be established that at the time of commission of an offence, the accused was of unsound mind and incapable of understanding the consequences of his action.
  • Shatrughan Chauhan v. Union of India (2014) – Supreme Court had said that mental illness should warrant the commutation of death sentence to life imprisonment. Despite this, courts do not consider mental illness as a mitigating factor when imposing punishment.
  • In Re-Inhuman Conditions Case – Supreme Court recognised that every prisoner with mental illness has a right to live with dignity. The court also upheld the right of prisoners on death row to meet mental health professionals under Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution.
  • Courts have stressed on providing psychological counseling to prisoners – to prevent or ensure early detection of mental illness. The High Courts have also reiterated that prisoners cannot be deprived of treatment for mental illness, such as in the Vaman Narain Ghiya case, and emphasised the treatment and rehabilitation of prisoners with mental illnesses.
  • Recommendations of Courts as per the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (UN Nelson Mandela Rules) and Rights of Persons with Mental Illness RULES, 2018 – Both the rules provides a comprehensive standard for mental healthcare services in prisons, including mental status examinations at the time of entry to prison and questionnaire screening for substance abuse. However, these safeguards remain woefully inadequate due to their non-implementation.

What approach should the Court take in such instances of Mental Illness?

  • Taking Psycho-Social Approach – A psycho-social approach will allow courts to take into account the life history of an individual and relate this to the mental state of the individual especially during commission of the crime.
  • Following Framework recommended by Supreme Court in Bachhan Singh v. State of Punjab (1980) – The Article suggests that courts should take a psycho-social approach towards sentence reduction using the framework recommended by the Supreme Court in Bachhan Singh v. State of Punjab (1980). As a part of framework laid down in Bachhan Singh case (which upheld the constitutional validity of capital punishment) – it also suggested to consider mental health issues such as “extreme mental or emotional disturbance” at the time of the incident and acting under “duress”.
  • Social Determinants of Mental Illness should also be considered – Mental illness is more common among the poor and those with mental illness are more likely to end up in poverty. Those who have experienced childhood abuse are significantly more likely to experience mental illness in adulthood than those who did not. Report by Project 39A provides an insight into the poverty, abuse, neglect and violence that mark the overwhelming majority of death row prisoners with mental illness. It sheds light on the stigma, social exclusion and grief of families of those sentenced to death.

Way Forward – Mental illness is not a crime and those with mental illness are vulnerable to violation of their rights. Rights of convicts suffering from mental illness should be addressed by qualified doctors and shortcomings under the existing legal framework of Mental Healthcare (Rights of Persons with Mental Illness) Rules, 2018 must be addressed.


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