[Newsbits] 12.08.2023

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Eris Variant

In recent news, a new variant of interest has emerged, known as the Eris variant or EG.5. Descending from the Omicron lineage of XBB.1.9.2, this variant has sparked attention due to specific mutations and its potential impact on global health.

The Eris Variant: EG.5 Lineage and Mutation Details

Alias and Ancestry

Referred to as EG.5, the Eris variant is a descendant of the Omicron lineage XBB.1.9.2.

  • Specific Mutation in EG.5: F456L Amino Acid Mutation
    • This mutation is distinct when compared to the XBB.1.9.2 and XBB.1.5 lineages.
  • EG.5 Lineage Subvariant: EG.5.1
    • The EG.5 lineage further branches into EG.5.1, which exhibits an additional spike mutation known as Q52H.
    • This subvariant is predominant, representing 88% of sequences descended from EG.5, as reported by the WHO.

Significance of the Eris Variant

WHO's Designation and Statement

The Eris variant has been designated as a variant of interest by the World Health Organization (WHO).

  • According to the WHO, EG.5 has the potential for global spread, and while it might contribute to a surge in cases, there is no direct evidence linking it to increased disease severity.

Timeline, Global Presence, and Prevalence

Initial Report and Spread

The Eris variant was first reported on February 17 this year.

  • As of August 9, the variant has been detected in 48 countries.

Country-Specific Prevalence

The prevalence of the Eris variant varies across countries, with China, the USA, and the Republic of Korea showing significant figures:

  • China: Initial prevalence at 24.7%, now at 45.0%.
  • USA: Initial prevalence at 5.6%, now at 12.8%.
  • Republic of Korea: Initial prevalence at 7.6%, now at 19.3%.

Eris Variant in India

In India, the Eris variant has also made its presence known:

  • Detected Locations:
    • Maharashtra: EG.5.1 variant detected in May.
    • Kerala: Presence noted.
  • Other State Case Counts:
    • West Bengal: 220 cases.
    • Uttar Pradesh: 60 cases.
    • Maharashtra: 98 cases.
    • Tripura: 17 cases.
    • Sikkim: 14 cases.
    • Odisha: 13 cases.
    • Haryana: 23 cases.
    • Delhi: 7 cases.
    • Himachal Pradesh: 10 cases.
    • Karnataka: 17 cases.
    • Telangana: 4 cases.
    • Mizoram: 4 cases.
    • Gujarat: 3 cases.
    • Tamil Nadu: 5 cases.


In a recent parliamentary speech during a No Confidence debate, Prime Minister Narendra Modi brought attention to the island of Katchatheevu. This uninhabited island, nestled in the Palk Strait between Tamil Nadu, India, and Sri Lanka, has long been a subject of political debate and contention due to its unique historical and geographical significance.

The Island of Katchatheevu: Features and Significance

Island Features

Katchatheevu is a 285-acre uninhabited island with a length of approximately 1.6 kilometers and a width of slightly over 300 meters. It boasts a unique structure that includes an early 20th-century Catholic shrine, St. Anthony's Church, which hosts an annual festival. The festival witnesses participation from Christian priests and devotees from both India and Sri Lanka.

Hot-Button Political Issue

The island's location in Tamil Nadu has made Katchatheevu a contentious political matter, influencing India's diplomatic discourse with its southern neighbor, Sri Lanka.

Location and Historical Context

Geological Origins

Katchatheevu's relatively new geological timescale is attributed to a 14th-century volcanic eruption.

Historical Control

The island's ownership has transitioned through various historical periods:

  • In the early medieval era, it was under the control of the Jaffna kingdom of Sri Lanka.
  • In the 17th century, the Ramnad zamindari, based out of Ramanathapuram (located 55 km northwest of Rameswaram), claimed authority.
  • During the British Raj's Madras Presidency era, control was established by the British Raj in 1921.
    • This period witnessed a challenge over ownership between India and Sri Lanka, as the British delegation marked Katchatheevu in Sri Lanka, while the Ramnad kingdom claimed ownership.

Cession and Controversy

India's Cession of Katchatheevu

In 1974, India ceded Katchatheevu to Sri Lanka through the Indo-Sri Lankan Maritime Agreement. The then-Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi, made this decision based on the perceived low strategic value of the island and the desire to strengthen ties with the southern neighbor.

  • Fishing rights for Indian fishermen were retained, allowing access to Katchatheevu for specific purposes such as resting, drying nets, and visiting the Catholic shrine. These rights were interpreted by Sri Lanka to be limited to those activities, and without the need for a visa.

1976 Agreement and Fishing Uncertainty

During India's emergency period in 1976, a bilateral agreement was established. This agreement barred fishing in each other's Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs). However, Katchatheevu's location on the edge of the EEZs of both countries has led to uncertainty regarding fishing rights in the surrounding waters.

Interesting Fact

Unsuited for Permanent Settlement

Katchatheevu's lack of a reliable drinking water source has rendered it unsuitable for permanent human habitation, contributing to its status as an uninhabited island.

Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita Bill

In a landmark event, the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita (BNS) Bill 2023 was introduced in the Lok Sabha, signifying a momentous step towards transforming India's legal landscape. This bill aims to replace the archaic 1860 Indian Penal Code (IPC) with a contemporary legal framework that aligns with the evolving societal norms and challenges.

Purpose of the BNS Bill

The primary objective of the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita Bill is to supersede the existing IPC of 1860, which has been deemed outdated and not in harmony with the contemporary legal requirements and societal dynamics.

Highlights of the BNS Bill

Provisions Count Comparison

The BNS Bill encompasses a total of 356 provisions, marking a departure from the IPC's 511 provisions.

Proposed Changes and Reforms

The bill introduces several key changes and reforms in various aspects of criminal law, reflecting the modernization of legal principles and addressing pressing concerns:

  • Defamation laws are revamped.
  • Offenses against women are revisited.
  • The act of attempting to commit suicide undergoes reconsideration.
  • A notable highlight is the repeal of the sedition law, which has stirred debates and controversies.
  • The bill introduces a provision for capital punishment for crimes like mob lynching and rape of minors.

Major Changes in Detail


The BNS Bill proposes a new provision (150) addressing offenses against the State, such as acts that endanger India's unity, sovereignty, and integrity. The penalty ranges from life imprisonment to up to seven years with a fine.


Under provision 101 of the BNS Bill, the punishment for murder can include a life term or the death sentence, especially in cases where a group commits murder based on factors like race, caste, or community.


A new provision (302) in the BNS Bill deals with snatching, defining it as a sudden, forceful seizure. The punishment can range up to three years with a fine.


The BNS Bill introduces a fresh definition for terrorism (provision 111), addressing acts that disturb public order or compromise India's unity, integrity, and security.


Defamation laws are modernized under the BNS Bill, introducing the possibility of community service alongside penalties, in addition to the existing fine or imprisonment provisions.


Section 224 of the BNS Bill addresses suicide, stipulating punishments of up to one year, fine, or community service if the intention was to restrain a public servant.

Sexual Deception

Provision 69 of the BNS Bill addresses sexual deception, where deceitful means or false marriage promises are employed. The punishment can extend up to ten years with a fine, covering false promises of employment or identity suppression.

Historical Context and Previous Reform Attempts

Law Commission Recommendations and Committees

The BNS Bill is not the first attempt at legal reform. The Law Commission of India, along with committees led by individuals like Bezbaruah, Viswanathan, Malimath, and Madhav Menon, has long advocated for legal modernization.

Parliamentary Standing Committee Reports

Reports from the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs, spanning across various years such as the 111th (2005), 128th (2006), and 146th (2010), have highlighted the need for legal reforms and updates.

Lin Settlement

In a remarkable archaeological discovery, scientists have uncovered the remains of an early settlement, shedding light on an ancient lakeside village that existed thousands of years ago. The Lin Settlement, nestled on the Albanian side of Lake Ohrid, holds key insights into Europe's distant past, offering a glimpse into the lives of its early inhabitants.

Unveiling the Ancient Settlement

Discovery Details

The Lin Settlement has emerged from the depths of history, thanks to the diligent efforts of scientists who unearthed its remnants.

The Ancient Lakeside Village

Description and Features

The Lin Settlement is an ancient lakeside village that paints a vivid picture of human habitation in a bygone era.

  • Stilt Houses Settlement: The village was characterized by stilt houses, built above the waters of Lake Ohrid.
  • Radiocarbon Dating: Through radiocarbon dating, the settlement's origins have been placed between 6000 and 5800 BC.
  • Population Estimate: It is believed that the settlement housed anywhere between 200 to 500 inhabitants.
  • Houses Details: The stilt houses were constructed above the lake's waters, adapting to areas that were regularly flooded.

Fortification and Defensive Measures

Remarkably, the Lin Settlement was fortified using innovative methods for defense.

  • Thousands of Spiked Planks: The village's defensive barricades consisted of thousands of spiked planks.
  • 100,000 Spikes Location: Astonishingly, these spikes were discovered at the bottom of Lake Ohrid, just off the shores of Lin.

The Significance of the Lin Settlement

European Standing and Early Sedentary Communities

The Lin Settlement holds a significant place in European history, as one of the earliest known sedentary communities in the region.

European Lakeside Village Record

The Lin Settlement breaks records as the oldest lakeside village discovered in Europe, surpassing known sites across the continent.

  • Comparison with Known Sites: When compared to other known settlements in Mediterranean and Alpine regions, the Lin Settlement predates them by several hundred years.

Tracing Back 8,000 Years

Time Frame

The Lin Settlement's origins date back a staggering 8,000 years, transporting us to an era when human civilization was taking its early steps.

Where History Unfolds

Location Specifics

The Lin Settlement is situated on the Albanian side of Lake Ohrid, a body of water that straddles the borders of North Macedonia and Albania.

  • Lake Ohrid's Age: Lake Ohrid, where the settlement once thrived, holds the distinction of being one of the world's oldest lakes, with a history spanning over a million years.
  • Unique Records: The lake stands out as one of Europe's deepest and oldest lakes, making it a point of geological fascination.

Designations and Recognition

Lake Ohrid has garnered attention beyond its natural beauty, earning designations that underscore its significance:

  • UNESCO World Heritage Site: Lake Ohrid's exceptional cultural and natural values have earned it a place on the prestigious UNESCO World Heritage Site list.
  • Ramsar Site: The lake is also recognized as a Ramsar Site, highlighting its importance as a wetland of international significance.

Union Home Minister’s Medal for Excellence in Investigation

In a significant move towards recognizing and honoring exceptional contributions to investigation work in the Indian law enforcement landscape, the Union Home Ministry has instituted the Union Home Minister's Medal for Excellence in Investigation. This prestigious award aims to promote professionalism and acknowledge outstanding efforts in the field of investigations carried out by police officers across various levels.

Announcement and Awardee Details

Announcement by Union Home Ministry

The Union Home Ministry made a noteworthy announcement on a Saturday, unveiling the list of police officers who have been selected to receive the esteemed Union Home Minister's Medal for Excellence in Investigation.

  • The announcement stands as a testament to the government's commitment to appreciating exceptional contributions in the realm of investigation.

Diverse Selection of Awardees

A total of 140 police officers have been chosen for this distinction, reflecting the dedication and competence exhibited across different units of law enforcement. The selection encompasses officers from various branches and regions, demonstrating a commitment to recognizing excellence on a comprehensive scale.

  • Among the awardees, 15 are from the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), 12 from the National Investigation Agency (NIA), and 10 from the Uttar Pradesh police force.
  • Notably, 22 of the awardees are women officers, highlighting the increasingly significant role played by women in law enforcement.

Distribution of Awardees

Diverse Representation

The distribution of the Union Home Minister's Medal for Excellence in Investigation is spread across a range of central and state-level agencies, with the focus being on acknowledging exemplary investigative work carried out across the nation.

  • Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) personnel constitute 15 of the awardees.
  • The National Investigation Agency (NIA) has 12 of its officers recognized.
  • The Uttar Pradesh police force, showcasing its commitment to investigative excellence, boasts 10 awardees.

Award Objective: Fostering Professionalism and Excellence

The Union Home Minister's Medal for Excellence in Investigation was instituted with a clear and vital objective in mind: to bolster and reinforce professional standards within the realm of investigation and to commend those who have exhibited exceptional skills and dedication in carrying out their investigative responsibilities.

  • The award serves as a strong encouragement for police officers to strive for excellence in their investigative efforts, thus ensuring a higher quality of law enforcement and justice delivery.

Recognition of Awardees

Conferred on Exceptional Groups

The Union Home Minister's Medal for Excellence in Investigation is conferred upon police officers from a diverse range of entities, highlighting the breadth and depth of the investigative field.

  • This recognition extends to officers from central investigating agencies such as the CBI and the NIA.
  • Officers from state and union territory police forces are also eligible for this esteemed award.
  • Investigating agencies, both at the central and state levels, are part of this recognition scheme.

Thorough Recommendation Process

The process of selecting awardees involves a meticulous recommendation and approval mechanism.

  • Recommendations for the award are made by the respective state and union territory governments.
  • These recommendations are then scrutinized and approved by the Union Home Minister.
  • A committee is involved in the finalization of the awardees, ensuring transparency and fairness in the selection process.

Historical Context and Annual Announcement

Inception in 2018

The inception of the Union Home Minister's Medal for Excellence in Investigation occurred in the year 2018, marking a significant step in appreciating and encouraging outstanding investigative work in law enforcement.

Annual Announcement Tradition

The announcement of the recipients of this prestigious medal takes place annually on August 12th. This consistent tradition underscores the government's dedication to recognizing and celebrating investigative excellence on a regular basis.

Hawaii Wildfire

Recent news reports have highlighted the devastating impact of wildfires in Hawaii, particularly in the Lahaina area on Maui's west coast. These wildfires have caused significant damages, leading to evacuations, power outages, and destruction of historical sites.

Wildfire Causes and Major Damages in Hawaii

Wildfire Impact

The recent wildfires in Hawaii have resulted in major damages, particularly in the historic town of Lahaina, a popular tourist destination on Maui's west coast. The fires have led to evacuations, power outages, and the destruction of iconic landmarks.

Highlights of the Wildfire Incident

Brush Fire Report

The wildfire incident in Hawaii's Lahaina area was initially reported as a brush fire. This fire was sparked under specific circumstances, leading to limited evacuations and concerns about containment.

  • Lahaina Area
    • The wildfire primarily affected the Lahaina area, a picturesque town on Maui's west coast.
    • Lahaina is known for its historical significance and popularity among tourists.
  • Sparked Limited Evacuation
    • The severity of the fire prompted authorities to initiate limited evacuations in the vicinity to ensure residents' safety.

Blaze Containment

Efforts to contain the wildfire were initiated, and after a few hours, there were some positive developments.

  • The firefighting teams worked tirelessly to gain control over the blaze.
  • Within a few hours of the initial outbreak, the authorities reported progress in containing the fire.

Warnings and Impact

High Winds and Power Lines

The wildfire's rapid spread was exacerbated by high winds, which played a crucial role in its destructive path.

  • Powerful winds in the region contributed to the fast-paced expansion of the wildfire.
  • These winds brought down power lines, causing widespread electricity outages in the affected areas.

Destruction of Historic Hawaiian Town

The historic town of Lahaina suffered extensive damage due to the wildfire.

  • Lahaina, located on Maui's west coast, holds immense historical significance.
  • The town's popularity among tourists adds to its cultural and economic value.

Factors Contributing to the Rapid Spread

Quick Spreading Reasons

Maui's Western Side

The specific geography and climate conditions of Maui's western side were key factors in the wildfire's rapid spread.

  • Limited rainfall in the region created dry conditions conducive to the spread of wildfires.
  • The area is sheltered by an extinct volcano, creating an environment prone to quick fire propagation.

Island's Topography

The island's topography, particularly the slope towards Lahaina, played a significant role in the wildfire's spread.

  • The slope directed the fire's path towards Lahaina, exacerbating its impact.
  • This topographical feature increased the vulnerability of the town to wildfires.

Current Year's Dry Conditions

The current year experienced particularly dry conditions, further contributing to the wildfire risk.

  • Insufficient rainfall and drought conditions made the region more susceptible to ignition.

Change in Land Use Pattern

Changes in land use patterns around Lahaina contributed to the wildfire's severity.

  • Previously, the area was characterized by intensively managed plantations, irrigation ditches, and terracing.
  • The transition to abandoned land led to the growth of flammable vegetation, including long grasses, shrubs, and young trees, providing ample fuel for the blaze.

Winds and Hurricane Influence

The powerful winds that fueled the wildfire were influenced by a distant hurricane.

  • These winds traveled hundreds of miles in a southwest direction from the hurricane's location.
  • The downslope winds were dry and warm, reducing vegetation moisture and driving extreme fire behavior.

Mitigation and Future Preparedness

Efforts to mitigate the impact of the wildfires and enhance future preparedness are crucial for safeguarding Hawaii's communities and landscapes.

  • Invest in early warning systems to detect and respond to wildfires more effectively.
  • Develop and implement controlled burns and vegetation management strategies to reduce the risk of extensive wildfires.
  • Raise awareness among residents and tourists about fire safety measures and evacuation plans.

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