CURRENT AFFAIRS – 02/05/2023

CURRENT AFFAIRS – 02/05/2023

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o IUCN Red List Status:
• Black Rhino: Critically endangered.
• White Rhino: Near Threatened. Researchers have created an embryo of the northern white rhino by using In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) process.
• One-Horned Rhino: Vulnerable
• Javan: Critically Endangered
• Sumatran Rhino: Critically Endangered. It has gone extinct in Malaysia.
• Only the Great One-Horned Rhino is found in India.

• The Indian rhinoceros also called greater one-horned rhinoceros or great Indian rhinoceros is a rhinoceros species native to the Indian subcontinent.
• It is the only large mammal species in Asia to be down-listed from endangered to vulnerable in the International Union for Conservation of Nature, IUCN Red list in 2008.
• It is identified by a single black horn and a grey-brown hide with skin folds.
• They primarily graze, with a diet consisting almost entirely of grasses as well as leaves, branches of shrubs and trees, fruit, and aquatic plants.

• The species is confined to a small habitat area in the Indo-Nepal terai, as well as northern West Bengal and Assam.
• Rhinos are mostly found in Assam, West Bengal, and Uttar Pradesh in India.
• Pabitora Wildlife Reserve, Kaziranga National Park, Rajiv Gandhi Orang National Park, and Manas National Park in Assam are habitats to an estimated 2,640 rhinos.
• Kaziranga National Park and Tiger Reserve is habitat for approximately 2,400 of them.
Protection Status
• IUCN Red List is Vulnerable
• CITES Appendix I (Threatened with the extinction and CITES prohibits the international trade in specimens of these species except when the purpose of the import is not commercial, for instance for scientific research).
• Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972.

Melanistic tiger dies in Similipal Tiger Reserve

A rare melanistic tiger was found dead in the core area of Similipal Tiger Reserve (STR) area, the Forest and Environment Development Department said on Monday. It attributed the death to infighting among male tigers which fiercely clash to defend their territory. A team of the National Tiger Conservation Authority will investigate the circumstances under which the tiger died. The STR first reported the presence of melanistic tigers in 2007. The 2016 tiger census revealed six such tigers in the reserve.

The STR is the only tiger habitat in the world with melanistic tigers, which have broad black stripes running across their bodies and thicker than those seen on normal tigers.

What are Black Tigers?
• Tigers have a distinctive dark stripe pattern on a light background of white or golden.
• A rare pattern variant, distinguished by stripes that are broadened and fused together, is also observed in both wild and captive populations.
• This is known as pseudo-melanism, which is different from true melanism, a condition characterized by unusually high deposition of melanin, a dark pigment.
• This pseudo-melanism is linked to a single mutation in Transmembrane Aminopeptidase Q (Taqpep), a gene responsible for similar traits in other cat species.
• The main cause of the rare mutation is genetic drift. Due to this geographic isolation, genetically related individuals have been mating with each other for many generations in Similipal, leading to inbreeding.
• The only other black tigers outside of Similipal in India exist at the Nandankanan Zoological Park in Bhubaneswar, Ranchi Zoo and Chennai’s Arignar Anna Zoological Park.

Similipal Tiger Reserve
 Located in the northern part of Odisha’s Mayurbhanj district, lies in the eastern end of the eastern ghat.
 Designated a tiger reserve in 1956
 Project Tiger in the year 1973.
 It was declared a biosphere reserve by the Government of India in June, 1994.
 It has been part of the UNESCO World Network of Biosphere Reserve since 2009.
 It is part of the Similipal-Kuldiha-Hadgarh Elephant Reserve popularly known as Mayurbhanj Elephant Reserve, which includes 3 protected areas i.e. Similipal Tiger Reserve, Hadagarh Wildlife sanctuary and Kuldiha wildlife sanctuary.

Inaugural ASEAN-India maritime exercise in South China Sea from today

Indian naval ships Satpura and Delhi arrive to participate in the ASEAN-India Maritime Exercise in Singapore on Monday. PTI
In a step further in the expanding India-ASEAN (Association of South East Asian Nations) military cooperation, the maiden ASEAN-India Maritime Exercise (AIME) is set to begin on Tuesday, with war games in South China Sea.
The Navy chief, Admiral R. Hari Kumar, is in Singapore for the exercise as well as to take part in the International Maritime Defence Exhibition (IMDEX-23) and International Maritime Security Conference (IMSC) being hosted by Singapore.
In separate developments, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh arrived in the Maldives on a three-day visit, while the Air Force chief, Air Chief Marshal V.R. Chaudhari, embarked on a four-day visit to Sri Lanka.
Indian Naval Ships Satpura and Delhi with Rear Admiral Gurcharan Singh, the Flag Officer Commanding-Eastern Fleet “… arrived at Singapore on May 1 to participate in the inaugural AIME-2023” scheduled from May 2-8, the Navy said in a statement.
“AIME-2023 will provide an opportunity for Indian Navy and ASEAN navies to work together closely and conduct seamless operations in the maritime domain,” it added.
The ‘Harbour Phase’ of the exercise is scheduled to be held at Changi Naval Base from May 2 to 4 and ‘Sea Phase’ from May 7 to 8 in the South China Sea, the Navy said.
The ships, during their port call at Singapore, will also participate in IMDEX-23 and IMSC, it added.
The inaugural edition of the naval and maritime defence event IMDEX was held in 1997 and has since been expanding year on year. There are about 50 delegations this year, it has been learnt.
Mr. Singh reached Male on a three-day visit, the first by an Indian Defence Minister to the Maldives in 11 years, according to the Indian High Commission.
India and the Maldives are working closely to address shared challenges, including maritime security, terrorism, radicalization, organized crime and natural disasters, the Ministry said.

The importance of constitutional punctuality

Manuraj Shunmuga
is Spokesperson, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) and an advocate practising before the High Court of Madras
Constitutional high offices must evolve guidelines to discharge their duties in a time-bound manner, safeguarding the will of the people.
Recently, the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly passed a resolution seeking to provide for a time frame for Governors to act on Bills passed by the State Legislature. The motivation was that the Governor of Tamil Nadu, R.N. Ravi, had withheld assent to as many as 13 Bills passed by the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly. Last week, the Supreme Court of India, while disposing of a case filed by the State of Telangana against its Governor Dr. Tamilisai Soundararajan, remarked that Governors should not sit over Bills indefinitely. Taking this sentiment farther, the idea of constitutional punctuality need not be restricted to gubernatorial offices alone. All constitutional high offices including those of the President of India and Speakers of Assemblies must suo motu evolve guidelines to discharge duties in a time-bound manner.
In the resolution passed on April 10, 2023, the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly urged the Union Government and President to advise the Governor to decide on the bills passed by the State Legislatures within a reasonable time period. The resolution, proposed by the Chief Minister, M.K. Stalin, argued that it was important to protect the sovereignty of the Legislatures and, ultimately, safeguard parliamentary democracy.
Subsequently, the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu wrote to his counterparts in other Opposition-ruled States and encouraged them to pass similar resolutions in their Assemblies. So far, the Chief Ministers of Delhi, Kerala, and West Bengal have expressed their support for the resolution and its underlying principles. In the case of Telangana, the State had already filed a writ petition seeking direction from the Supreme Court to the Governor to decide on the Bills, passed by the Assembly, in a timely manner. Looking at these developments, it would be fair to say that the time has come to evolve a new constitutional architecture that would deliver on the demands for a time-bound constitutional delivery mechanism.

Evolving constitutional scheme
When the Constitution was adopted, in consequence of independence from British rule, some of the sovereign functions were retained for the sake of continuity in governance. As such, there was no time limit fixed for various authorities to discharge duties that arose out of the constitutional scheme. It may also be understood that the drafters of the Constitution, in their contemporaneous wisdom, expected Raj Bhavans to be nominated with those who would discharge sovereign duties beyond the confines of political partisanship.
Article 200 of the Constitution, as it stands today, limits the options before the Governor to give assent to the Bill sent by the legislature, or withhold assent, or reserve a Bill for the consideration of the President. The nub of the issue is that Governors have wrongly understood the function to grant assent to have endowed them with some discretionary responsibility. However, the direct import of the words used in the Constitution as well as a composite reading of the debates in the Constituent Assembly (when this portion of the Constitution was deliberated and, subsequently, adopted) portrays an altogether different interpretation.
The original draft Article 175 moved for discussion in 1949 read as follows: “Provided that where there is only one House of the Legislature and the Bill has been passed by that House, the Governor may, in his discretion, return the Bill together with a message requesting that the House will reconsider the Bill.”
While moving the amendment to this Article on July 30, 1949, B.R. Ambedkar said there “can be no room for a Governor acting on discretion” and recommended removing the phrase “the Governor, in his discretion”. Therefore, the final Article, adopted by the Constituent Assembly and embedded in the Constitution explicitly negates any discretionary power.
This position has been fortified by a seven-Judge Bench of the Supreme Court in Shamsher Singh & Anr vs State Of Punjab (1974), wherein it was held that the discretion of the Governor is extremely limited and, even in such rare cases shall act in a manner that is not detrimental to the interest of the state. Furthermore, the Supreme Court has repeatedly held that the Governor shall only act on the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers.
Moreover, a simple and plain reading of the Article is sufficient to show how the meaning of the phrase “withholds assent therefrom” has been wilfully misinterpreted to mean holding back the Bill — an act which is colloquially referred to as pocket veto. There can be nothing further from constitutional reality and literary meaning. Any straightforward reading of withholding assent can only mean to return the Bill; and not to hold back. The problem is accentuated as there is no time-limit prescribed to return the Bill, and, as such, Governors have considered themselves to be unaccountable to the principles of time-bound governance.

Time-bound governance
Other jurisdictions where similar powers have been bestowed show a starkly different picture. In the United Kingdom, there has been no royal veto since 1708 when the assent to the Scottish Militia Bill was vetoed by Queen Anne. Whereas in the United States, there is a time limit of 10 days for the President to give assent or veto a bill. If the President does not sign or vetoes the Bill within this time, it automatically becomes an Act. If the President vetoes and returns the bill to the Congress or Senate, then both the chambers of the Congress must override the veto for it to become a law.
Over time, matters involving an inexplicable delay in exercising powers by various authorities have been brought under the ambit of judicial review by constitutional courts. The Supreme Court, in Keisham Meghachandra Singh vs The Hon’ble Speaker Manipur (2020), issued a writ of mandamus to the Speaker of the Meghalaya Legislative Assembly to decide on the disqualification petitions under the 10th Schedule of the Constitution within a period of four weeks.
In the case filed by the State of Telangana against the Governor, the Supreme Court found it fit to highlight the spirit of Article 200. While disposing of the case on April 24, 2023, the Court acknowledged that the words in Article 200, “as soon as possible after the presentation of the Bill”, held significant constitutional content and that Governors should necessarily bear this in mind.
As such, it would be appropriate for various constitutional authorities such as Governors exercising powers under Article 200 and Speakers acting as quasi-judicial tribunals under Tenth Schedule to evolve strict time frames and avoid unnecessary delays. Only such an approach will advance the constitutional scheme and safeguard the will of the people exercised through the legislatures.
Inputs for this article by Arun P.S.

The ever expanding medicinal uses and properties of psychedelic substances

Psychedelic drugs, banned in India under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, are emerging in research as promising ways to treat treatment-resistant depression and post-traumatic stress disorder
Psychedelics are a group of drugs that alter perception, mood, and thought-processing while a person is still clearly conscious. Usually, the person’s insight also remains unimpaired. Psychedelics are non-addictive, non-toxic and compared to illicit drugs, they are less harmful to the end user. In India, the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act 1985 prohibits the use of psychedelic substances. Ketamine, a dissociative anaesthetic with psychedelic properties, is used under strict medical supervision, for anaesthesia and treatment-resistant depression.

What is the history of psychedelics?
A psychiatrist named Humphrey Osmond first used the term ‘psychedelic’ in 1957. The word is derived from the Greek words psyche, meaning ‘mind’, and deloun, meaning ‘to manifest’. Humans have used psilocybin and mescaline for ceremonies, healing, and spiritual rituals for millennia. Temples built for mushroom ‘deities’ in indigenous cultures in Mexico and Guatemala date back to 7000 BC. Records of the Greek ‘Eleusinian Mysteries’ indicate that psychedelics were used in ceremonial rituals.
The modern-day use of psychedelics is commonly associated with the German chemist Arthur Heffter isolating mescaline from the peyote cactus in 1897. In 1938, while investigating compounds related to ergotamine (one of the ergot alkaloids), the Swiss chemist Albert Hofmann first synthesised LSD. When Hofmann accidentally contaminated himself with a small dose of LSD, he experienced what was likely the world’s first ‘acid trip’. On a hunch, he resynthesised LSD in 1943 and, with further testing, found LSD to be extremely potent and physiologically relatively safe.
Between 1947 and 1967, LSD was widely used as a therapeutic catalyst in psychotherapy. The Harvard Psilocybin Project, founded by psychologist Timothy Leary, further proselytised LSD and psilocybin which led to the increasing recreational use of these substances. Around this time, medical concerns and the Vietnam War prompted the conservative Richard Nixon administration to criminalise the use of psychedelics and other psychoactive drugs. This “war on drugs” stopped all medical use and pushed recreational use underground. Media campaigns in the 1960s and 1970s further stigmatised the use of all psychoactive drugs.

How do the drugs work in the body?
Users of psychedelic substances report changes in perception, somatic experience, mood, thought-processing, and entheogenic experiences. Perceptual distortions most commonly include the visual domain. An intriguing phenomenon called synaesthesia may occur, where the sensory modalities cross and the user may ‘hear colour’ or ‘see sounds’.
About half of the ingested psilocybin is absorbed via the digestive tract. In the body, psilocybin is converted to psilocin, which is then metabolised in the liver. LSD is completely absorbed in the digestive tract and then metabolised in the liver. Classical psychedelics boost brain serotonin levels. Psilocybin’s therapeutic effects require a ‘trip’ that is mediated by the activation of serotonin receptors. A recent case report published in the American Journal of Psychiatry demonstrated that robust and sustained antidepressant effects can occur even in the absence of psilocybin’s psychedelic effects. This finding, if replicated in larger trials, will have major implications for people with treatment-resistant depression. They can then get better without having to endure a trip.
Modern neuroimaging suggests that psychedelics are neither stimulants nor depressants of brain activity. Instead, they increase the cross-talk between different brain networks, and this correlates with the subjective effects of psychedelics.

Can such substances cause harm?
Death due to direct toxicity of LSD, psilocybin or mescaline has not been reported despite 50-plus years of recreational use. An overdose requires cardiac monitoring and supportive management in a low-stimulus and reassuring environment.
Synthetic psychedelics (such as 25I-NBOMe) have been associated with acute cardiac, central nervous system, and limb ischaemia, as well as serotonin syndrome. There have also been reports of death attributed directly to synthetic psychedelic use.
The psychological effects of psychedelics depend on the interaction between the drug and the user’s mindset (together called a set), and the environmental setting. People with a personal or family history of psychosis are strongly discouraged from experimenting with psychedelics.
There is also no evidence that psychedelics cause physiological or psychological dependence — nor has any withdrawal syndrome been identified. Tension headaches are common in the 24 hours after use and are offset by the use of simple analgesics. This said, brief and self-limiting psychotic episodes can occur when a user is intoxicated with psychedelics, particularly LSD. They are more common among first-time users and among those with a personal or family history of psychiatric illness. Users describe these experiences as a ‘bad trip’ and they are more likely to occur in unfavourable environments.

Can psychedelics be used to treat neuropsychiatric disorders?
In November 2022, the results from a phase II psilocybin trial were published in the New England Journal of Medicine. The trial found that a single 25-mg dose of psilocybin reduced depression scores over three weeks in people with treatment-resistant depression. Adverse events included headache, nausea, and dizziness which occurred in 77% of the participants. Suicidal ideation, suicidal behaviour, and self-injury occurred in all dose groups (1 mg, 10 mg, and 25 mg).
In 2017, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) designated the use of 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine, also known as MDMA, to be the “breakthrough therapy” in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Under its “expanded access” program, the FDA has allowed a small number of people — particularly those seriously ill with PTSD and who haven’t responded to other treatment — to use MDMA.
Recently, the U.S. non-profit Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) also announced positive results from its observational study on MDMA-assisted therapy for patients with PTSD, echoing the findings of its phase-III MDMA trial, published in Nature Medicine in May 2021. In 2018, the FDA had granted “breakthrough therapy” status to psilocybin for treatment-resistant depression as well.

What does this mean for the use of psychedelics?
Although recent findings are encouraging, there remains uncertainty about where the psychedelic renaissance will take us. Psychedelic substances provide an intriguing avenue through which one can probe the broader constructs of creativity, spirituality, and consciousness, aside from their therapeutic effects.
While not a panacea, psychedelic substances have certainly reinvigorated clinical and research interests, and have added to psychiatry’s ever-expanding therapeutic armamentarium. If larger phase III trials establish their safety and therapeutic efficacy, the FDA and other regulatory bodies may clear these agents for routine clinical use.
Dr. Alok Kulkarni is a senior geriatric psychiatrist and neurophysician at the Manas Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences, Hubli.