July 2020 current affairs
- Aerial Seeding in Haryana
Why in News
Recently, the Haryana government has employed aerial seeding techniques to improve green cover in the Aravalli area of the state.
- The project is being carried out on a pilot basis to regenerate the low vegetation density or denuded areas on inaccessible or difficult sites of Aravalli and Shivalik hills.
- Aerial Seeding is a plantation technique wherein seed balls — seeds covered with a mixture of clay, compost, char and other components — are sprayed using aerial devices, including planes, helicopters or drones.
- Seeds balls/pellets are dispersed in a targeted area by low-flying drones, with the coating providing the required weight for seeds to airdrop on a predetermined location rather than getting deterred by the wind. These pellets sprout when there is enough rain, with nutrients present within them helping in initial growth.
- Areas that are inaccessible, having steep slopes or no forest routes, can be targeted using this method.
- The process of the seed’s germination and growth is such that it requires no attention after it is dispersed and thus seed pellets are known as the “fire and forget” way of
- They eliminate any need for ploughing and do not need to be planted since they are already surrounded by soil, nutrients, and microorganisms. The clay shell also protects them from birds, ants and rats.
Species to be Used for Aerial Seeding:
- The plant species which are native to the area and hardy, with seeds that are of an appropriate size for preparing seedballs are usually used for aerial seeding, with a higher survival percentage.
Use of Seeding Drone:
- The method involves spraying seed balls or seed pellets from the air using seeding drones. It is equipped with a precise delivery mechanism for seeds of different sizes from a height of 25 to 50 metres. A single drone can plant 20,000-30,000 seeds a day.
- The method is being implemented on 100 acres of land to test efficacy of the seed dispersal mechanism and review the success rate.
- The species that will be planted through aerial seeding include Acacia senegal (Khairi), Ziziphus mauritiana (Beri), and Holarrhena spp (Inderjo), all of which have a higher chance of survival in these areas.
- Also, site specific grass seeds will also be added to the mix as they serve as good soil binders.
- It will provide work opportunities to the local community, especially women, who can prepare the seed balls.
- The method will be useful since there are many areas that are either difficult to reach or inaccessible altogether, making traditional methods of plantation difficult.
- Hurricane Hanna
Why in News
Recently, Hurricane Hanna has made landfall (the point at which a hurricane reaches land) in Texas with life-threatening storm surge and strong winds.
Tropical cyclones are called hurricanes in the West Indian islands in the Caribbean Sea and Atlantic Ocean.
- It has reached wind speeds of up to 90 mph and is expected to produce heavy rains across portions of southern Texas and northeastern Mexico, which will result in flash flooding and isolated minor to moderate river flooding.
- It has been categorised as a Category 1 storm on the Saffir–Simpson hurricane wind scale (SSHWS).
- This year, an “above-normal” hurricane season is expected in the USA.
- One reason for this is the warmer-than-average sea surface temperatures in the tropical Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, along with weaker tropical Atlantic trade winds and an enhanced west African monsoon.
- It is a tropical cyclone that occurs in the Atlantic Ocean and the northeastern Pacific Ocean.
- These are formed over the warm ocean waters near the equator. Hurricanes typically form between 5 to 15 degrees latitude north and south of the equator.
Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale
It is a 1 to 5 rating based on a hurricane’s sustained wind speed. This scale estimates potential property damage
- Seismicity Study of Arunachal Himalaya
Why in News
Recently, a study by the Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology (WIHG), pertaining to the exploration of the elastic properties of rocks and seismicity in Arunachal Himalaya, has revealed that the area is generating moderate earthquakes at two different crustal depths.
- WIHG is an autonomous institute of the Department of Science & Technology (DST), Government of India. The region has been placed into Seismic Zone V, thus most vulnerable to earthquakes.
- WIHG has installed 11 broadband seismic stations (connected through the Global Positioning System) along the Lohit River Valley of Arunachal Himalaya to understand the elastic properties of rocks and seismicity in the easternmost part of India.
- It used both teleseismic (earthquakes that occur more than 1000 km from the measurement site) and local earthquake data with the help of
- Two Different Crustal Depths: Low magnitude earthquakes are concentrated at 1- 15 km depth, whereas slightly higher than 0 magnitude earthquakes are mostly generated from 25-35 km depth.
- The intermediate-depth is devoid of seismicity and coincides with the zone of fluid/partial melts.
- High Poisson’s Ratio: Extremely high Poisson’s ratio was also obtained in the higher parts of the Lohit Valley, indicating the presence of fluid or partial melt at crustal depths.
- Poisson’s ratio is a measure of the Poisson effect that describes the expansion or contraction of a material in directions perpendicular to the direction of loading.
- A high Poisson’s ratio denotes that the material exhibits large elastic deformation, even when exposed to small amounts of strain.
Underthrusting of the Indian Plate:
- Himalaya is a result of collision between the Indian and the Eurasian plates about 50- 60 million years ago.
- Due to continuous underthrusting of Indian plate beneath the Eurasian plate, stresses are increasing and accumulating progressively in the Himalayas.
- This process keeps modifying the drainage patterns and landforms and is the pivotal reason for causing an immense seismic hazard in the Himalayan mountain belt and adjoining regions, necessitating assessment and characterization of earthquakes in terms of cause, depth and intensity.
- The Tuting-Tidding Suture Zone: TTSZ is a major part of the Eastern Himalaya, where the Himalaya takes a sharp southward bend and connects with the Indo-Burma Range.
- This part has gained importance in recent times due to the growing need of constructing roads and hydropower projects, therefore emphasising the need for understanding the pattern of seismicity in this region.
- Crustal Thickness: The crustal thickness in this area varies from 46.7 km beneath the Brahmaputra Valley to about 55 km in the higher elevations of Arunachal, with a marginal uplift of the contact.
- This marginal uplift defines the boundary between crust and the mantle, technically called the Moho discontinuity.
- The Moho discontinuity has been defined by the distinct change in velocity of seismological waves as they pass through changing densities of rock.
- Severe Cyclonic Storm Nisarga
Why in news
IMD issues Preliminary Report on Severe Cyclonic Storm ‘NISARGA’ over the Arabian Sea from 1st – 4th June 2020.
- Nisarga originated from a low-pressure area that formed over southeast & adjoining east-central Arabian Sea and Lakshadweep area in the early morning of 31st May 2020, intensifying into a deep depression over the east-central Arabian Sea in the early morning and into the cyclonic storm in the noon of 2nd June.
- It continued to move north-eastwards, crossing the Maharashtra coast close to the south of Alibag as a Severe Cyclonic Storm (SCS) after that it weakened into a cyclonic storm in the evening over north-central Maharashtra and into a deep depression in the midnight of 2nd June 2020 over the same region.
- It lay as a low-pressure area over southeast Uttar Pradesh and adjoining Bihar in the afternoon of 5th June.
- The last cyclone, which crossed the Maharashtra coast, was the cyclonic storm, Phyan in 2009.
- Mizoram quake zone
Why in news
A geologist stated that Mizoram’s zone of earthquakes is caught between two subterranean faults.
- Mizoram experienced at least eight moderate earthquakes between June 21 and July 9, 2020. The tremors ranged from 4.2 to 5.5 on the Richter scale.
- The epicentre of most of these quakes was beneath Champhai district bordering Myanmar, including the last one of magnitude 4.3 and about 10 kilometres deep. A few were beneath the adjoining Saitual and Serchhip districts.
- According to the geologist, this will happen in that location of Mizoram because it is caught between two geological faults i.e, the Churachandpur Mao Fault and the Mat Fault.
- The Churachandpur Mao Fault is named after two places in Manipur and runs north-south into Myanmar along the border of Champhai.
- The Mat Fault runs northwest-southeast across Mizoram, beneath the river Mat near Serchhip. There are several shallower transverse or minor faults in between these two major faults that are deeper.
- Faults are discontinuities or cracks that are the result of differential motion within the earth’s crust. It is a fracture or zone of fractures between two blocks of rock.
- Faults allow the blocks to move relative to each other. This movement may occur rapidly, in the form of an earthquake. Vertical or lateral slippage of the crust along the faults causes an earthquake.
- National Atlas and Thematic Mapping Organisation (NATMO)
Why in news
NATMO publishes 4th updated version of its COVID-19 Dashboard.
- NATMO was established in 1956 as the National Atlas Organisation
- It was renamed in 1978 to give it a broad-based responsibility in the field of thematic cartography and geographical research. It is under the administrative control of the Department of Science &Technology of the Government of India.
- It is headquartered in Kolkata.
Major functions of NATMO:
- Compilation of the National Atlas of India
- Preparation of the National Atlas maps in regional languages
- Preparation of thematic maps based on research studies on environmental and associated aspects and their impact on social and economic development
- Any other work entrusted by the Central Government or its agencies to NATMO
- Installation of automated Mapping System for increasing speed and efficiency in mapping .
Remote Sensing & GIS, Digital Image processing etc.
- Predicting Earthquakes
Why in News
According to a recently published study, researchers have developed a new way to improve the prediction of earthquakes.
- Earthquakes usually occur along faults (fractures between rocks which can range from a few millimetres to thousands of kilometres). When two blocks of earth slip past one another, seismic waves are generated in a short span of time and earthquakes occur.
- The waves travel to the surface causing destruction and are difficult to predict, making it challenging to save lives.
- Scientists have attempted to recreate the faults and their sliding in laboratories to try and understand the conditions in them during earthquakes.
- The actual conditions are so complex that it is difficult to recreate them with full accuracy which makes the prediction of earthquakes difficult.
- Researchers have now used a different approach for earthquake prediction by trying to predict the frictional strength of
- Frictional Strength: It is the force required to cause movement along a fault.
- Phyllosilicates: Minerals in the form of thin plates found along the weakest part of the faults where earthquakes occur.
- The researchers analysed artificial fault zones on a microscopic scale to identify processes that occurred during the experiment. A set of equations were then formulated to predict how the frictional strength of phyllosilicate changes, along with a change in conditions such as humidity or the rate of fault movement.
- This made it easier for modellers to simulate fault movement in natural conditions, including earthquakes. The new model predicts that movement along phyllosilicate-rich fault zones becomes more difficult as it becomes faster and this has been consistent with experiments.
- This behaviour of movement becoming more difficult prevents earthquakes and suggests minerals other than phyllosilicates play an important role in causing earthquakes.
- These are the first waves detected by seismographs (instruments used to detect and record earthquakes).
- These are longitudinal waves which means they vibrate along the same direction as they travel. Other examples of longitudinal waves include sound waves and waves in a stretched spring.
- These waves arrive at the detector after primary waves. These are transverse waves which means they vibrate at a right angle to the direction in which they travel. Other examples of transverse waves include light waves and water waves.
- Both types of seismic waves can be detected near the earthquake centre but only P-waves can be detected on the other side of the Earth. P-waves can travel through solids and liquids (since they are longitudinal waves) whereas S-waves can only travel through solids (as they are transverse waves). This means the liquid part of the core blocks the passage of S-waves.
- The earthquake events are scaled either according to the magnitude or intensity of the shock. The magnitude scale is known as the Richter scale. The magnitude relates to the energy released during the earthquake which is expressed in absolute numbers, 0-10.
- The intensity scale or Mercalli scale takes into account the visible damage caused by the event. The range of intensity scale is from 1-12.
- Hiroshima Black Rain
Why in News
Recently, a district court of Hiroshima (Japan) has recognised 84 survivors of the post-nuclear explosion “black rain” as the atomic bomb survivors enabling them to avail benefits like free medical care.
- In 1945, the USA dropped the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki on 6 and 9 August respectively, which marked the end of World War II.
- 2020 marks the 75 anniversary of the incident.
- The explosion and resultant firestorms are believed to have killed around 80,000 people in Hiroshima and around 40,000 people in Nagasaki.
- The debris and soot from the destroyed buildings in Hiroshima (estimated 69% of the buildings was destroyed) mixed with the radioactive fallout from the bomb, rose high into the atmosphere in the form of a mushroom cloud.
- This material combined with the vapour in the atmosphere and came down as dark drops of liquid that have been called black rain.
- Survivors describe it as consisting of large, greasy drops that are much heavier than normal raindrops.
- Nagasaki witnessed less black rain despite the fact that the nuclear bomb dropped on it was more powerful than Hiroshima’s.
- It killed fewer people and its effects were confined to a smaller area because of Nagasaki’s geographical position between hills.
- The blast did not produce firestorms and the material contributing to black rain was less.
- Black rain is full of highly radioactive material and exposure to it can result in serious illnesses.
- A study conducted in 1945 showed that black rain had come down as far as 29 km away from ground zero.
- In relation to nuclear explosions and other large bombs, ground zero is the point on the Earth’s surface closest to a detonation.
- In the case of an explosion above the ground, ground zero is the point on the ground directly below the nuclear detonation and is sometimes called the
- The rain contaminated everything it came in contact Dead fish were reported floating in water bodies and severely ill cattle were seen lying in the fields.
- Black rain caused Acute Radiation Symptoms (ARS) in many who were exposed to it.
- These symptoms include nausea, diarrhoea, fever, sore throat and loss of hair.
- Over time, many people who were exposed to black rain have developed cancer as well.
Addition to Survivors:
- In 1976, Japan used a 1945 study to demarcate the area within which people could claim to have been affected by black rain and be recognized as survivors of the nuclear blast.
- However, later studies have shown that black rain could have come down on an area nearly four times the size of the one demarcated by the
- It was also argued that people who moved to the area later, could also be affected by the radioactive contamination caused by the rain.
- India’s tiger capacity at peak
Why in news
Union Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change released an updated report on India’s Tiger Survey from 2018.
- Released ahead of the International Tiger Day that is observed every year on 29 July, the report assesses the status of tigers in terms of spatial occupancy and density of individual populations across India.
- India hosts 70% of the world’s tigers.
- The Tiger Survey 2018 had put India’s tiger population at 2,367 — unchanged from the government’s estimate last year.
- With the increasing tiger population, India is a global exemplar in tiger conservation.
- According to the report on the condition of all 50 tiger reserves, Madhya Pradesh has the maximum number of tigers followed by Karnataka.
- At 2,967, experts say, India may slowly be approaching its peak carrying capacity of tigers.
- The study reveals that nearly a third of India’s tigers are living outside tiger reserves and nearly 17 of the 50 reserves are approaching the peak of their capacity at sustaining their populations
- Sources and sinks: The reserves, by definition, are a source and suitable for nourishing a growing tiger population because of prey availability and territory.
- When reserves get too crowded, tigers venture out further from sources and form “sinks”.
- Much of wildlife population dynamics is about understanding this source-sink relationship.
- Generally, there’s a 60-40 split in tigers from source-sink, but this varies.
- For the first time, there is an attempt to segregate how many tigers are largely present within the reserves and how many flitted in and out and were dependent on the core reserve for sustenance. This was to guide conservation policy.
- With many Tiger Reserves approaching the maximum capacity, the focus should be on developing under-utilised reserves and not over-nourish those that have a good population.
- India counts its tigers once in four years
- There are currently 13 tiger range countries — India, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Russia, Thailand and Vietnam.
- tiger numbers up
Why in news :
The number of Tigers is on the rise in Nagarjunasagar Srisailam Tiger Reserve (NSTR).
- According to the tiger census carried out by the Wildlife Institute of India and the National Tiger Conservation Authority (2018) and released on July 29, 2019, Andhra Pradesh has 48 adult tigers and Telangana 26, in comparison with 68 (2014), 72 (2010) and 95 (2006).
- Of the 3,980 tigers left in the world, India, with 2,226, accounts for 75%.
- Tiger is at the top of the food pyramid and is vital to maintain the ecosystem.
Nagarjunasagar Srisailam Tiger Reserve (NSTR):
- It is the largest Tiger Reserve in India.
- It was notified in the year 1978 and came under the protection of Project Tiger in 1983.
- The reserve spreads over five districts in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.
- The multipurpose reservoirs, Srisailam and Nagarjunasagar, are located in the reserve.
- The area consists mostly of the Nallamala Hills.
- The Krishna river cuts its basin almost 200 m (660 ft) deep over a distance of 130 km (81 mi) through the reserve.
- Pied Cuckoo to be Tracked
Why in News
Recently, the Wildlife Institute of India (WII), has decided to study the migration of the Pied Cuckoo Bird (Jacobin Cuckoo or Chaatak), by tagging the bird with satellite transmitters.
- The study will be conducted along with the Indian Institute of Remote Sensing (IIRS) and the Government of India’s Department of Biotechnology.
- IIRS is a constituent unit of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). It is headquartered in Dehradun.
- This is the first study in the country that seeks to trace and observe the migratory routes of the pied cuckoo.
- It aims to gather data and information on climate change and the monsoon. Pied cuckoo is known for its close association with the monsoon in India.
- Farmers have traditionally relied on the arrival of the pied cuckoo as a signal of arrival of monsoon and seed sowing.
- It is part of a larger project called the Indian Bioresource Information Network (IBIN) funded by the Government of India’s Department of Biotechnology (DBT), which aims to put relevant Indian bio-resources information online.
- Gathering information about the migratory route can be invaluable for research on climatic variations taking place in the world, especially since the species has such a close association with the monsoon.
- It will give us information on the monsoon, changes in the monsoon and monsoon winds, erratic rainfall, seasonal fluctuations, water vapour pressure, etc.
- The extent of the effect of ecologies changing can be seen in the movement of species from a less favourable region to a more favourable region.
- Pied Cuckoo:
- It is a bird with black and white plumage (pied) with a fancy crest on the head. Its scientific name is Clamator jacobinus. It is found in Africa and Asia.
- There are two types of pied cuckoos found in India. In central and northern parts of India, pied cuckoos are migratory, they are seen only from just before the monsoon to early winter. It is believed that the pied cuckoos that come to the Himalayan foothills are from Africa.
- They have high site fidelity, that is, they come back to the same location year after year. Pied cuckoos are also found in southern India, but those are resident birds and not migratory.
- The bird is primarily arboreal, which means that it mostly lives on trees. It is a brood parasite e. It lays its eggs in nests that belong to other birds.
- IUCN Status: Least Concerned
- Drilling in Dibru-Saikhowa National Park
Why in News
The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has issued notices to the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC), Oil India Limited (OIL) and two concerned state entities to explain how environmental clearances for the seven proposed drilling sites in the Dibru- Saikhowa National Park were given.
- OIL has clarified that its exploratory drilling project is “under” and not “in” the 765 sq km Dibru-Saikhowa National Park.
- This argument is based on Extended Reach Drilling (ERD) enabled drilling of wells up to a depth of approximately 4 km from an existing well plinth without entering the protected area.
- OIL had obtained permission for the seven wells in 2016 on the basis of the ERD
- ERD is drilling a well horizontally to at least twice its vertical depth. It is extensively used to intersect hydrocarbon targets far from the surface or areas of the reservoir that otherwise were difficult to access.
- The notice has been issued following a gas leak that occurred at OIL’s baghjan oil field, located near the Dibru-Saikhowa National Park. The disaster at Baghjan has impacted the surrounding ecological life and displaced close to 11,000 people from their homes.
Natural Resources in Assam:
- Assam has wildlife sanctuaries, the most prominent of which are two UNESCO World Heritage sites-the Kaziranga National Park and the Manas Wildlife Sanctuary.
- There are three other National Parks in Assam namely Dibru Saikhowa National Park, Nameri National Park and the Orang National Park.
- Kaziranga is a home to Indian one-horned rhinoceros which has also been recognized as the State Animal of Assam.
- Assam has abundant mineral resources– coal, petroleum; limestone and natural gas are the principal mineral resources. It is also the largest producer of crude oil in India.
- OIL is the second largest hydrocarbon exploration and production Indian public sector company with its operational headquarters in Duliajan, Assam under the administrative control of the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas.
Dibru-Saikhowa National Park
- Dibru-Saikhowa is a National Park as well as a Biosphere Reserve situated in the south bank of the river Brahmaputra in Assam.
- The forest type of Dibru-Saikhowa comprises semi-evergreen forests, deciduous forests, littoral and swamp forests and patches of wet evergreen forests.
- It is the largest swamp forest in north-eastern India. It is an identified Important Bird Area (IBA), notified by the Birdlife It is most famous for the rare white-winged wood ducks as well as feral horses.
- Mammals found in the Park include Tiger, Elephant, Leopard, Jungle Cat, Bears, Small Indian Civet, Squirrels, Gangetic Dolphin Hoolock Gibbon, etc. Maguri Motapung wetland is a part of the Reserve.
- Supply of DDT to South Africa for Malaria Control Program
Why in News
Recently, HIL (India) Limited has supplied 20.60 Metric tonne of Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT), a fertilizer to South Africa for their malaria control program.
The Company is further in the process of supplying DDT to Zimbabwe and Zambia in the current Financial Year 2020-21.
HIL (India) Limited
- It is a PSU under the Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers. It was incorporated in 1954 to manufacture and supply DDT to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare for malaria control programmes. It is the sole manufacturer of DDT
- It is a colorless, tasteless, and almost odorless crystalline chemical compound. Its insecticidal action was discovered by the Swiss chemist Paul Hermann Muller in 1939.
- He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1948 “for his discovery of the high efficiency of DDT as a contact poison against several arthropods.
- Arthropods are invertebrate species which include insects (Mosquitos), arachnids (Spiders), and crustaceans (Crabs) etc. Originally developed as an insecticide.
- A worldwide ban on agricultural use was formalized under the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants. However, its limited use in disease vector control continues, because of its effectiveness in reducing malarial infections.
- The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends DDT as one of the efficient Indoor Residual Spraying (IRS) chemicals to curb mosquito menace and it is widely used by Southern African countries like South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Namibia, Mozambique and India.
Supply to South Africa:
- South Africa will be utilising DDT in three provinces bordering
- The region is highly affected with Malaria and it has reported maximum morbidity and mortality.
Supply to Other Countries:
- HIL (India) Limited has recently exported Malathion Technical 95% to Iran under Government-to-Government initiative for the Locust Control Programme and also exported Agrochemica lfungicide to Latin American region.
- Malaria is caused by Plasmodium parasites. The parasites are spread to people through the bites of infected female Anopheles mosquitoes, called “malaria vectors”.
- Malaria continues to be one of the major public health problems In 2018, an estimated 228 million cases of malaria occurred worldwide. Most of the cases and deaths (93%) were reported from African Region.
- In the South East Asia Region, India accounts for the majority of cases and death.
- According to World Malaria Report 2019, India reported 2.6 million fewer cases in 2018 compared to 2017. Thus the overall incidence of malaria in the country has reduced.
- However, 7 states (Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, West Bengal, Gujarat, Odisha and Madhya Pradesh) account for about 90% of the burden of malaria cases in India.
- Bathynomus raksasa: Isopod Species
Why in News
Recently, scientists have reported the discovery of the first super giant isopod species in the eastern Indian Ocean named ‘Bathynomus raksasa’. It has been described as the ‘cockroach of the sea’. A team of researchers from Singapore discovered it while exploring waters of the Indian Ocean in Bantan, off the southern coast of West Java in Indonesia in 2018.
Super Giant Isopod:
- The Bathynomus raksasa is a super giant isopod in the genus
- Isopods are marine invertebrates (animals without backbones) that belong to the greater crustacean group of animals, which also includes crabs and shrimp. They live in many different types of habitat, from mountains and deserts to the deep sea.
- Isopods that reach 50 cm are referred to as supergiants. The largest isopod species are from the genus Bathynomus.
- It has 14 legs but uses these only to crawl along the bed of oceans in search of food. It measures around 50 cm in length, which is big for isopods, which normally do not grow beyond 33 cm.
- The only member of the isopod species that exceeds the raksasa in size is the Bathynomus giganteus, which is commonly found in the deep waters of the western Atlantic Ocean.
- It is the first recorded species of the genus Bathynomus from Indonesia. It is the sixth ‘supergiant’ species from the Indo-West Pacific.
- Mobile app KURMA
Why in news
Conservation efforts for Tortoise and freshwater turtles.
- Tortoise and freshwater turtles are among the most trafficked in the country. A report released in 2019 by TRAFFIC, an international wildlife trade monitoring organisation, showed that at least 200 tortoises and
- freshwater turtles fall prey to illicit poaching and smuggling every week, or 11,000 each year.
- 23 of the 29 species of freshwater turtle and tortoise species found in India come under the threatened category in the IUCN Red List and are under severe existential threat due to human activities.
Mobile-based application called KURMA was launched, aimed at turtle conservation.
- The application has been developed by the Indian Turtle Conservation Action Network (ITCAN) in collaboration with the Turtle Survival Alliance-India and Wildlife Conservation Society-India.
- This app provides a digital database to identify species and the location of the nearest rescue centre for turtles across the country.
- Indian Pangolin
Why in news
A rare pangolin (Mannis crassiscaudata) was rescued from suspected smugglers in an undercover operation by the Forest Department in Andhra Pradesh.
- It is listed in Schedule I of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972. It is classified as Endangered on the IUCN Red List.
- Of the eight extant species of pangolin, the Indian Pangolin Manis crassicaudata and the Chinese Pangolin Manis pentadactyla occur in India.
- Major threats to pangolins in India are hunting and poaching for local consumptive use (e.g. as a protein source and traditional medicine) and international trade, for its meat and scales in East and Southeast Asian countries, particularly China and Vietnam.
- Conservation Initiatives: TRAFFIC (Wildlife Trade Monitoring Network) is mapping pangolin trade hubs, conduits, transportation, high poaching areas and drivers in relation to poaching and illegal trafficking of pangolins.
- In 2015, TRAFFIC, in partnership with WWF-India and Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WCCB) launched a social media campaign to create awareness and divert efforts towards curbing illegal trade in pangolins.
- Bhagirathi Eco-Sensitive Zone
Why in News
Recently, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) has approved the Zonal Master Plan for the Bhagirathi Eco-Sensitive Zone to pave the way for faster execution of Char Dham Road Project.
- In 2012, the MoEF&CC issued a gazette notification declaring the watershed area along the stretch of river Bhagirathi, covering 4,179.59 sq km from Gaumukh to Uttarkashi, an Eco-Sensitive Zone (ESZ).
- ESZs are the ecologically important areas designated to be protected from industrial pollution and unregulated development under the Environment Protection Act of 1986.
- The 2012 notification was issued keeping in view the requirements of the local people without affecting their rights and privileges and also ensuring eco-friendly development for their livelihood security.
- It sought to protect the entire fragile Himalayan region by restricting hydropower projects of over 2 MW, riverbed mining and change of land use. However, it was amended in 2018 following Uttarakhand government’s objection that the notification was ‘anti-development.’
- The 2018 amendment approved land use change to meet the local needs including civic amenities and other infrastructure development in larger public interest and national security with the prior approval of State Government with due study of environmental impacts.
- It also allowed cutting of hills in eco-sensitive areas with proper study and construction on steep slopes in exceptional cases for the benefit of the community.
Zonal Master Plan (ZMP):
- The Bhagirathi Eco-Sensitive Zone notification mandates the State Government of Uttarakhand to prepare ZMP to be implemented under the supervision of the Monitoring Committee.
- The ZMP is based on watershed approach and includes governance in the area of forest and wildlife, watershed management, irrigation, energy, tourism, public health and sanitation, road infrastructure, etc.
- Watershed development approach is based on participatory planning following a bottom-up approach for developing a context appropriate plan for execution, strengthening of local level institution, conservation and appropriate management of watershed’s natural
- Watershed is a geo-hydrological unit draining into a common point by a system of drains. The approval of ZMP is expected to give a boost to conservation and ecology of the area and also to undertake developmental activities as permitted under ZMP.
Char Dham Road Project:
- The Char Dham project proposes to provide all-weather connectivity to Yamunotri, Gangotri, Badrinath and Kedarnath, and has 53 projects of 826 km length, involving an investment of Rs. 12,000 crore. Bhagirathi is the source stream of Ganga. It emanates from Gangotri glacier at Gaumukh at an elevation of 3,892 m.
- In a report prepared after the Kedarnath disaster (2015), the Geological Survey of India stated that road construction in mountains reactivates landslides as it disturbs the ‘toe of the natural slope of the hill’.
- The Himalayas is the region where Indian tectonic plate goes under the Eurasian tectonic plate.
Himalayas are in seismic zone V, thus a major earthquake can happen anytime
- Melghat Tiger Reserve
Why in News
The Chief Minister of Maharashtra has requested the Union government for considering an alternative alignment for the Akola-Khandwa rail line that passes through the Melghat Tiger Reserve.
- It lies in Melghat Forests of Amravati district in Vidarbha region of Maharashtra bordering Madhya Pradesh in the North and East. It is a part of the Satpura-Maikal
- It is spread over an area of 2768.52 sq km. It is among the first nine places in the country designated as tiger reserves in 1973-74.
- Project Tiger was launched in 1973. It was the first Tiger Reserve to be declared in the State of Maharashtra.
Protected Areas within the Reserve:
- It consists of Gugamal National Park, Wan, Ambawarba and Narnala sanctuaries.
- It is the Deccan trap and underlying rock is basalt in one form or another. It has various species of mammals including Tiger, Leopard, Sloth bear, Gaur, etc.
- The forests are of deciduous nature and have been classified as ‘dry deciduous forests’. Most prominent is
- It forms a very important catchment to Tapi river The Korku tribe adds to the cultural diversity of the Reserve.
Other Tiger Reserves in Maharashtra:
- Indigenous bugs help tackle invasive pest
Why in news
Three indigenous bugs including two types of ladybird have been reported to control the woolly whitefly – Caribbean-origin enemy of Indian fruit farmers.
These native predators for the natural control of the woolly whiteflies are found to be the biological weapons against the pest and have been reported to control the pest by devouring them.
Two of these indigenous predators were ladybird beetles of the Coccinellidae family and one was the green lacewing fly from the Neuroptera order.
- According to the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), pests damage 30-35% of crops in the country annually. Among the newest of the 118 exotic pests troubling farmers in India, particularly fruit growers, is the woolly whitefly.
- This whitefly (Aleurothrixus floccosus) is invasive and polyphagous, meaning a creature that feeds on various kinds of food.
- In 2019, ICAR’s National Bureau of Agricultural Insect Resources had reported the spread of woolly whiteflies through transportation of infested seedlings.
- Decrease in Dolphin Number: Chambal River
Why in News
According to the latest census report prepared by the Madhya Pradesh forest department, the number of dolphins in Chambal river has been reduced by 13% in 4 years.
There are just 68 dolphins left in the 435-kilometre-long Chambal river sanctuary which passes through three states i.e. Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan. Gangetic Dolphins are the sanctuary’s main attraction. The decreasing trend is continuing from 2016 when there were 78 dolphins.
- The maximum carrying capacity of dolphins in Chambal is 125. The carrying capacity of an environment is the maximum population size of a biological species that can be sustained in that specific environment, given the food, habitat, water, and other resources available.
- The dolphins were spotted for the first time in 1985 in Chambal river (a tributary of Yamuna) near Etawah, Uttar Pradesh. That time, the number was more than 110.
- Unfavorable Habitat, Poaching, Illegal Sand Mining, Consumption of Water, Lack of Studies
- Scientific Name: Platanista gangetica It is a highly intelligent freshwater mammal placed into the infraorder Cetacea. It is India’s national aquatic animal and is popularly known as ‘Susu’
- Habitat: It is found in parts of the Ganges-Meghna-Brahmaputra and Karnaphuli-Sangu river systems in India, Nepal, and Bangladesh. It requires at least 3 metre depth and 266.42-289.67 m per sec flow of water for sustainable habitat. It is among the four freshwater dolphins in the world. The other three are:
- The ‘Baiji’ now likely extinct from the Yangtze River in China,
- The ‘Bhulan’ of the Indus in Pakistan, and
- The ‘Boto’ of the Amazon River in Latin America.
- Tiger Census 2018: Guinness Book of World Records
Why in News
India’s 2018 Tiger Census has made it to the Guinness Book of World Records for being the world’s largest camera trapping wildlife survey. India has also fulfilled its resolution to double the Tiger numbers made at St. Petersburg Tiger Summit in 2010, before the target year of 2022. The tiger numbers in India have increased from around 1500 in 2010 to 2976 in 2020.
- The fourth cycle of the Tiger Census 2018, conducted in 2018-19 is the most comprehensive in terms of both resource and data recorded. It counted 2976 tigers which is 75% of the global tiger population.
- The census is done quadrennially (every four years) by the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) with technical help from the Wildlife Institute of India. It is done with cooperation from the state Forest Departments and partners.
- Camera traps were placed at multiple locations across different sites and surveyed an effective area of 121,337 square kilometres. Camera Traps are outdoor photographic devices fitted with motion sensors that start recording when an animal passes by. It also conducted extensive foot surveys that sampled habitat plots for vegetation and prey dung.
- Identification: From these photographs 83% of the total tiger population were identified using stripe-pattern-recognition software.
- It was launched in 1973 with 9 tiger reserves for conserving our national animal, the tiger. It is an ongoing Centrally Sponsored Scheme of the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change.
- The tiger reserves are constituted on a core/buffer strategy. The core areas have the legal status of a national park or a sanctuary, whereas the buffer or peripheral areas are a mix of forest and non-forest land, managed as a multiple use area.
- M-STrIPES (Monitoring System for Tigers – Intensive Protection and Ecological Status) is an app based monitoring system, launched across Indian tiger reserves by the NTCA in 2010. The system would enable field managers to assist intensity and spatial coverage of patrols in a geographic information system (GIS) domain.
- Protection Status:
- Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972: Schedule I International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List:
- Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES): Appendix I.
- Tiger Reserves in India: Total Number: 50
- Largest: Nagarjunsagar Srisailam Tiger Reserve, Andhra Pradesh
- Smallest: Orang National park, Assam
- India’s Second Voluntary Review of SDGs
Why in News
Recently, India has represented the second voluntary national review of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) report titled as ‘Decade of Action: Taking SDGs from Global to Local’ to the United Nations High-level Political Forum.
The report, presented by NITI Aayog, discusses SDGs related policy, means of implementation and situation of Covid-19 in India. It presented the first voluntary national review of SDGs in 2017.
- Localizing SDGs: The account of the progress on SDGs has been represented with examples of a range of diverse practices and success stories of interventions from the States, specifically Aspirational Districts.
- Financial Assistance: India has called on developed countries to provide financial assistance to the developing countries, especially for global public good such as climate change mitigation and control of
- Curbing Illicit Financial Flows: Deliberating on the “SDG-17” that is about “partnerships for the goals”, the report highlighted the need for international cooperation for curbing illicit financial flows.
- Efforts to curb the Covid-19: It mentioned the vulnerabilities faced by the migrants and the urban poor in the wake of the pandemic. Government has announced economic relief packages for them.
- CII-ITC Sustainability Awards 2019
Why in News
NTPC Ltd. has won the CII-ITC Sustainability Award 2019, under Outstanding Accomplishment in Corporate Excellence Category.
- CII-ITC Sustainability Award Instituted by the CII-ITC Centre of Excellence for Sustainable Development (CESD) in
- CII (Confederation of Indian Industry) is a non-government, not for- profit, industry-led and industry-managed organization, having members from the private as well as public sectors.
- It also has links with 288 national and regional sectoral industry bodies.
- It works to create and sustain an environment conducive to the development of India, industry, Government and civil society, through advisory and consultative processes. It is headquartered in New Delhi.
Rationale behind the Award:
- Identifying and recognizing exemplary performance in economic, social and environmental dimensions of Indian business, Promoting role models in Indian industry and recognizing excellence achieved by businesses in mainstreaming Sustainability with business practices and Imparting knowledge by which the CESD builds capacity in Indian businesses to adopt sustainability practices.
- It is India’s largest power corporation, established in 1975 to accelerate power development in India. It is headquartered in New Delhi.
- It became a Maharatna company in May 2010. It is under the Ministry of
- Punjab farmers find a better way to grow paddy
Why in news
The Punjab government relaxed sowing schedules for the current year, and many farmers chose Direct Seeding of Rice (DSR) technique instead of traditional transplanting.
Benefits of Direct Seeding of Rice (DSR) technique:
- According to the farmers and agricultural experts, large scale use of DSR technique to plant paddy could solve the staggering problem of stubble burning.
- Saves labour costs involved in sowing and transplant. Less water consumption for irrigation.
- Most importantly, it results in very little post-harvest stubble.
- Stubble burning is a key cause of air pollution across the northern region. The DSR crop gets mature 7-10 days faster than with transplantation.
- A short window of 20-25 days is the key reason for stubble burning
- Bon Bibi: Sundarban
Why in News
A centuries-old folk theatre form and the worship of a forest goddess i.e. Bon Bibi has helped the natives of the Sundarban survive by understanding the power of nature and the limits of human needs.
- Bon Bibi: Bon Bibi is a deity of the forest and the central character of Bon Bibir Palagaan, a musical drama unique to the Sundarbans. Shrines to Bon Bibi and her twin brother Shah Jongoli dot the landscape of the Sundarbans.
- The followers of Bon Bibi are fishermen, crab-collectors and honey-gatherers who live in the mangroves with wild animals such as tigers and crocodiles to earn a livelihood.
- Bon Bibir Palagaan: People express their belief in Bon Bibi through Bon Bibir Palagaan, a dramatic storytelling form that is enacted throughout the island.
- Traditionally, the performances are held near Bon Bibi temples or villages bordering the forests. An unwritten code believed to be given by the deity prohibits islanders from carrying guns or weapons into the forest.
- The Sundarbans is a mangrove area in the delta formed by the confluence of the Ganges, Brahmaputra and Meghna Rivers in the Bay of Bengal.
- It spans from the Hooghly River in India’s state of West Bengal to the Baleswar River in Bangladesh. The active delta region is among the largest in the world, measuring about 40,000 sq km. India’s Sundarban was declared as the UNESCO’S World Heritage site in 1987.
- Sunderban Wetland has been accorded the status of ‘Wetland of International Importance’ under Ramsar Convention in 2019.
- Sunderbans Biosphere Reserve (National Park) is an Important Bird Area under Birdlife International.
- The area is known for many rare and globally threatened wildlife species such as the estuarine crocodile (Crocodylus porosus), royal Bengal tiger (Panthera tigris), Water monitor lizard (Varanus salvator), gangetic dolphin (Platanista gangetica), and olive ridley turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea). Sajnekhali Bird Sanctuary is a part of Sundarban and is famous for the sight of rare birds.
- golden birdwing (India’s largest butterfly )
A Himalayan butterfly named golden birdwing is now India’s largest butterfly (wingspan of 194 mm). While the male golden birdwing (Troides aeacus) is much smaller at 106 mm wingspan, the female of the species is marginally larger than the southern birdwing.
- The record was earlier held by southern birdwing (wingspan of 190 mm) for 88 years.
- The smallest is the quaker (Neopithecops zalmora) with a wingspan of 18 mm.
- Virtual Climate Action Ministerial
Why in news
The fourth edition of the virtual Ministerial on Climate Action witnessed countries exchanging views on how countries are aligning economic recovery plans with the Paris Agreement and the critical enabling conditions to ensure continued climate action.
- The meeting was co-chaired by the European Union, China and Canada to advance discussions on the full implementation of the Paris Agreement under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and to demonstrate continued political commitment to global climate action.
- The virtual meeting was attended by representatives from more than 30 countries.
- The Union Environment Minister highlighted India’s achievements in the ministerial:
- India has achieved a reduction of 21% in the emission intensity of its GDP between 2005 and 2014.
- India’s renewable energy installed capacity has increased by 226% in the last 5 years and stands at more than 87 Gigawatt.
- The share of non-fossil sources in installed capacity of electricity generation increased from 30.5% in March 2015 to 37.7% in May 2020.
- 80 million LPG connections provided in the rural areas providing them with clean cooking fuel and a healthy environment.
- Over 360 million LED bulbs distributed under the UJALA scheme.
- India has moved on to Bharat Stage VI normsfrom Bharat Stage IV by April 2020.
Why in News
Recently, reports of an outbreak of bubonic plague in Mongolia, China and far east Russia have emerged, caused mainly by Tarbagan Marmot (a species of Marmot). It has been compared to the Covid-19 pandemic which was apparently spread by the consumption of bat meat.
- General Description: Marmot (genus Marmota) belongs to the squirrel family (Sciuridae) within the order Rodentia. These have almost 15 species and the closest living relatives of marmots are ground squirrels and prairie dogs.
- Habitat: They are found primarily in the continents of Europe, Asia and North America.
- South Asia or the Indian Subcontinent is home to the Himalayan Marmot and the Long-tailed Marmot (both are Least Concerned in the IUCN Red List). Tarbagan or Mongolian Marmot (Endangered) is found in Mongolia, China and parts of Russia.
- Marmots are hunted for their meat in China and Mongolia. High altitude regions lack proteins. Pastoral nomads usually eat these when they do not have any other means of sustenance. Marmots are also hunted for their fur.
- Plague is caused by the bacteria Yersinia pestis usually found in small mammals and their fleas. It is transmitted between animals and humans by the bite of infected fleas, direct contact with infected tissues and inhalation of infected respiratory droplets. It is one of the examples of bacterial zoonoses.
- There are two main clinical forms of plague infection: Bubonic plague is the most common form and is characterized by painful swollen lymph nodes or ‘buboes’. Highly infectious bubonic plague killed about 50 million people across Africa, Asia and Europe in the 14 century.
- The bacterial disease was named the Black Death after the dark swellings or buboes that victims suffered. Pneumonic plague is a form of severe lung infection. Antibiotic treatment is effective against plague bacteria, so early diagnosis and early treatment can save However, if left untreated, the fever can kill a victim in a very short time.
- Ministry reconstitutes Central Zoo Authority
Why in news
The Environment Ministry has reconstituted the Central Zoo Authority (CZA). The CZA would now include an expert from the School of Planning and Architecture, Delhi, and a molecular biologist.
Central Zoo Authority (CZA):
- CZA is a statutory body chaired by the Environment Minister.
- It is tasked with regulating zoos across the country.
- Every zoo in the country must obtain recognition from CZA for its operation.
- The authority lays down guidelines and prescribes rules under which animals may be transferred among zoos nationally and internationally.
- High Level of Ammonia in Yamuna
Why in News
Recently, high levels (around 3 parts per million) of ammonia in the Yamuna river has been detected in Delhi which led to the disruption of water supply in Delhi.
- As per the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS), the acceptable maximum limit of ammonia in drinking water is 0.5 parts per million (ppm)
- Its chemical formula is NH .
- It is a colourless gas and is used as an industrial chemical in the production of fertilisers, plastics, synthetic fibres, dyes and other products.
- It occurs naturally in the environment from the breakdown of organic waste matter, and may also find its way to ground and surface water sources through industrial effluents, contamination by sewage or through agricultural runoff.
Effect of High Level of Ammonia:
- Ammonia reduces the amount of oxygen in water as it is transformed to oxidized forms of nitrogen. Hence, it also increases Biochemical oxygen demand (BOD).
- If the concentration of ammonia in water is above 1 ppm it is toxic to fishes. In humans, long term ingestion of water having ammonia levels of 1 ppm or above may cause damage to internal organs.
- Mixing of freshwater with ammonia polluted water.
- Chlorination is the process of adding chlorine or chlorine compounds such as sodium hypochlorite to water.
- This method is used to kill certain bacteria and other microbes in tap water. However, chlorine is highly toxic.
Long Term Solution:
- Stringent implementation of guidelines against dumping harmful waste into the river. Making sure untreated sewage does not enter the water. Maintain a sustainable minimum flow, called the ecological flow.
- Ecological flow is the minimum amount of water that should flow throughout the river at all times to sustain underwater and estuarine ecosystems and human livelihoods, and for self regulation.
- The river Yamuna, a major tributary of river Ganges, originates from the Yamunotri glacier near Bandarpoonch peaks in the Mussoorie range of the lower Himalayas in Uttarkashi district of
- It meets the Ganges at the Sangam in Prayagraj, Uttar Pradesh after flowing through Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana and Delhi.
- Length: 1376 km
- Important Dam: Lakhwar-Vyasi Dam (Uttarakhand), Tajewala Barrage Dam (Haryana) etc.
- Important Tributaries: Chambal, Sindh, Betwa and Ken.
- Pink Water of Lonar Lake
Why in News
According to the Agharkar Research Institute, the colour of Lonar lake water in Maharashtra’s Buldhana district turned pink due to a large presence of the salt loving ‘Haloarchaea’ microbes.
- The colour of the lake water recently turned pink, which not only surprised locals, but also nature enthusiasts and scientists. The water samples have been tested by the Nagpur-based National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) and the Agharkar Research Institute in Pune.
- It has been assumed that the absence of rain, less human interference (owing to lockdown) and high temperature resulted in the evaporation of water which increased its salinity and pH.
- pH is a measure of how acidic/basic water is. The increased salinity and pH facilitated the growth of halophilic microbes, mainly
- Halophiles are a group of microorganisms that can grow and often thrive in areas of high salt (NaCl) concentration.
- Haloarchaea or halophilic archaea is a bacteria culture which produces pink pigment and is found in water saturated with salt.
- The colour of the lake is now returning to original as the rainy season has kicked in, allowing dilution of the water.
- Further, it was noted that Haloarchaea microbes were ingested by Flamingos. These microbes acted as carotenoid (pigment) rich food for the birds.
- Lonar Lake, also known as Lonar crater, is a saline and alkaline lake located at Lonar in Buldhana district, It is situated inside the Deccan Plateau—a massive plain of volcanic basalt rock created by eruptions.
- It is an oval shaped and has a mean diameter of 1.2 km. It is a popular tourist hub. It is a notified National Geo-heritage Monument.
- Geo-heritage refers to the geological features which are inherently or culturally significant offering insight to earth’s evolution or history to earth science or that can be utilized for education.
- Geological Survey of India (GSI) is the parent body which is making efforts towards identification and protection of geo-heritage sites. It is believed to have been created over 52,000 years ago when a meteorite hit the Earth.
- Two more species added to India’s list of butterflies
Lepidopterists in Arunachal Pradesh have added two species to India’s expanding list of butterflies. India now has 1,327 species, up from 1,318 in 2015.
- Striped Hairstreak: was first recorded by Japanese entomologists in the Hainan province of China. It was located in Vijaynagar bordering Myanmar.
- Elusive Prince: has a Vietnamese connection and was thought to be the more familiar Black Prince found in the Eastern Himalayas. It was located on the periphery of the Namdapha National Park.
The recording of the two butterflies follows the rediscovery of the Assam Keelback, a non-venomous snake from the Gelling area of Arunachal Pradesh after 129 years.
- Globba andersonii: Rediscovered Plant Species
Why in News
A team of researchers have “rediscovered” a rare plant species called Globba andersonii from the Sikkim Himalayas. The species has been found near the Teesta river valley region after a gap of nearly 136 years.
The plant, known commonly as ‘dancing ladies’ or ‘swan flowers’ was thought to have been extinct until its “re-collection”, for the first time since 1875. The species has been listed as “Endangered” on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
- It is also termed as “narrowly endemic” as the species is restricted mainly to the Teesta River Valley region which includes the Sikkim Himalayasand Darjeeling hill ranges.
- The plant usually grows in a dense colony as a lithophyte (plant growingon a bare rock or stone) on rocky slopes in the outskirts of evergreen forests. It is especially prevalent near small waterfalls along the roadside leading to these hill forests, which are 400-800 m. above sea level.
- Tillari Conservation Reserve Notified
Why in News
The Maharashtra Government has declared 29.53 sq km area of Dodamarg forest range in Sindhudurg district as ‘Tillari Conservation Reserve’.
- Tillari is the seventh wildlife corridor in the state to be declared as a‘conservation reserve’.The area covering nine villages in the forest range is known to serve as a corridor and even as a habitat for the population of tigers and elephants moving between the three states of Goa, Karnataka and Maharashtra.
- It connects Mhadei sanctuary in Goa and Bhimgad in Karnataka. It has semi-evergreen forest, tropical moist deciduous forests, and a number of unique trees, butterflies, and flowers.
Conservation Reserves in Maharashtra:
Maharashtra has 62 conservation reserves, of which 13 are in the western ghats. Tillari is a reserve in western ghats.
Conservation Reserves in India:
Conservation reserves and community reserves act as buffer zones to or connectors and migration corridors between established national parks, wildlife sanctuaries and reserved and protected forests. Such areas are designated as conservation areas if they are uninhabited and completely owned by the Government of India but used for subsistence by communities and community areas if part of the lands are privately owned. These protected area categories were first introduced in the Wildlife (Protection) Amendment Act of 2002 − the amendment to the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972.
- Turning Shivalik forest into tiger reserve
Why in news :
The Saharanpur Divisional Commissioner has sent a proposal to the Uttar Pradesh Government to declare the Shivalik forest in the Saharanpur circle a tiger reserve.
- The forest constitutes the northern tip of the State, located at the foothills of the Shivalik range, connects four States — Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh. o It is believed that it will facilitate safe movement of tigers and also reduce the man-animal conflict.
- As the Uttarakhand Government is proposing to relocate tigers from Corbett to Motichur range of the Rajaji National Park, it is believed that the Shivalik forests in Saharanpur would be suitable for their movement.
The three tiger reserves in Uttar Pradesh are Amangarh in Bijnor, Pilibhit and Dudhwa in Lakhimpur- Kheri.
- Elephant Deaths in Botswana
Why in News
In the past two months, hundreds of elephants have died mysteriously in Botswana’s Okavango Delta.
The cause of the deaths is yet to be established. However, poaching has been ruled out since the dead elephants were found with tusks.
Okavango Delta: It is one of the very few major interior delta systems that do not flow into a sea or ocean.
This delta comprises permanent marshlands and seasonally flooded plains. The delta covers part of Kalahari Desert and owes its existence to the Okavango (Kavango) River. It is home to some of the world’s most endangered species of large mammal, such as the cheetah, white rhinoceros, black rhinoceros, African wild dog and
Botswana: It is a landlocked country in Southern Africa. Its 70% territory is covered by Kalahari Desert.
Botswana has the world’s largest elephant population, estimated to be around 130,000. It is Africa’s oldest continuous democracy
- Kaziranga National Park
Why in News
According to Kaziranga National Park authorities around 80% of its area has been inundated due to floods.
- Location: It is located in the State of Assam and covers 42,996 Hectare (ha). It is the single largest undisturbed and representative area in the Brahmaputra Valley floodplain.
- Legal Status: It was declared as a National Park in 1974. It has been declared a tiger reserve since 2007. It has a total tiger reserve area of 1,030 sq km with a core area of 430 sq. km.
- International Status: It was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in It is recognized as an Important Bird Area by BirdLife International.
- Important Species Found: one-horned rhinos.
- Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary has the highest density of one-horned rhinos in the world and second highest number of Rhinos in Assam after Kaziranga National Park.
- focus of conservation efforts in Kaziranga are focused on the ‘big four’ species— Rhino, Elephant, Royal Bengal tiger and Asiatic water buffalo.
- Kaziranga had an estimated 103 tigers, the third highest population in India after Jim Corbett National Park (215) in Uttarakhand and Bandipur National Park (120) in Karnataka.
- Kaziranga is also home to 9 of the 14 species of primates found in the Indian subcontinent.
Rivers and Highways:
The National Highway 37 passes through the park area. The park also has more than 250 seasonal water bodies, besides the Diphlu River running through it.
Other national parks in Assam are: Dibru-Saikhowa National Park, Manas National Park, Nameri National Park, Rajiv Gandhi Orang National Park.
- 31. Gas leak in Vizag pharma plant
- Hydrogen sulphide vapours leaked from the reactor of a pharmaceutical company’s plant (Sainor Life Sciences Pvt Ltd, Jawaharlal Nehru Pharma City).
- This is the second incident in the Sainor Life Sciences plant since it began operations at JNPC. In September 2015, two workers were charred to death and five others injured in a reactor blast. Cases were booked against the company and it was allowed to resume operations only after the management paid a hefty fine.
- Hydrogen sulfide (H2S) is a colourless chalcogen hydride gas with a characteristic foul odour.• It is very poisonous, corrosive, flammable and can irritate the eyes, nose, throat, and lungs. It halts the breathing centre in the brain, causing death. Because it is heavier than air, it may settle in low spots. It occurs in volcanic gases, natural gas, and in some sources of well water.
- Hydrogen Sulfide is used primarily to produce sulfuric acid and sulfur, and to create a variety of inorganic sulfides used to create pesticides, leather, dyes, and pharmaceuticals. it is also used to produce heavy water for nuclear power plants.
- 1. National Mission for Clean Ganga
Why in News
- Recently, the World Bank has approved a five year loan (for the second phase) to the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) or Namami Gange Project worth Rs.3,000 crore to help stem pollution in the Ganga river basin. So far, 313 projects worth Rs. 25,000 crore have been sanctioned under the mission.
The First Phase: The Namami Gange has already received Rs. 4,535 crore from the World Bank as part of the first phase (valid until December 2021) of the National Ganga River Basin.
The Second Phase:
- Hybrid Annuity Projects: The loan would fund three new ‘Hybrid Annuity Projects’ in Agra, Meerut and Saharanpur, Uttar Pradesh for the tributaries of the Ganga.
- Cleaning Projects: Some of the projects include spillover projects from the first phase of the mission as well cleaning projects in tributaries such as the Yamuna and Kali rivers. DBOT Projects: Rs.1,209 crore is provided for the ongoing DBOT (Design, Build, Operate and Transfer) projects in Buxar, Munger, Begusarai in Bihar.
- Other Initiatives: It would include institutional development, improving investment resilience to Covid-19 like emergency situations, performance based incentive for Urban Local Bodies and communication and management programmes.
- Associated Challenges include Pollution in five states on the river’s main stem i.e. Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, Bihar and West Bengal. Industrial pollution from tanneries in Kanpur, distilleries, paper and sugar mills in the Kosi, Ramganga and Kali river catchments are major
- Another challenge is Violation of e-Flow Norms, According to the Central Water Commission (CWC), 4 of the 11 hydro power projects on the upper reaches of the river Ganga’s tributaries are violating Ganga ecological flow (e-flow)norms which is further interrupting the natural flow of the river. Illegal Construction and Poor Governance: also add to the challanages
- Namami Gange Programme is a ‘Flagship programme operated under the Department of Water Resources,River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation, Ministry of Jal Shakti.
- The main pillars of the programme are Sewerage Treatment Infrastructure & Industrial Effluent Monitoring, River-Front Development & River-Surface Cleaning, Bio-Diversity & Afforestation, Public Awareness
- Rajaji National Park
Why in News
Recently, a clash took place between Van Gujjars(forest-dwelling nomadic community) and the Uttarakhand forest officials in the Rajaji National Park.
Location: Haridwar (Uttrakhand), along the foothills of the Shivalik range, spans 820 square kilometres.
Background: Three sanctuaries in the Uttarakhand i.e. Rajaji, Motichur and Chila were amalgamated into a large protected area and named Rajaji National Park in the year 1983 after the famous freedom fighter C. Rajgopalachari; popularly known as “Rajaji”.
This area is the North Western Limit of habitat of Asian elephants. Forest types include sal forests, riverine forests, broad–leaved mixed forests, scrubland and grassy. It possesses as many as 23 species of mammals and 315 bird species such as elephants, tigers, leopards, deers and ghorals, etc. It was declared a Tiger Reserve in 2015.
Other Protected Areas in Uttarakhand: Jim Corbett National Park (first National Park of India). Valley of Flowers National Park and Nanda Devi National Park which together are a UNESCO World Heritage Site.Govind Pashu Vihar National Park and Sanctuary. Gangotri National Park. Nandhaur Wildlife Sanctuary.
- PLpro: Covid-19
Why in News
According to a new study on Covid-19, pharmacological inhibition of PLpro blocks virus replication and also strengthens immune response in humans.
- Usually, when a virus attacks human cells, the infected body cells release messenger substances known as ‘type 1 interferons’ which attract the killer cells in human bodies. These killer cells kill the infected cells and save humans from getting sick.
- When the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) enters a human cell, it hijacks the cell mechanism and fights back by letting the human cell produce PLpro.
- PLpro is a protein which suppresses the development of type 1 interferons. Due to which, killer cells are not informed about the
- Hence, PL pro plays a crucial role in the replication of the virus.
Significance of the Research:
- Researchers can now monitor these processes in a cell culture (artificial environment). By blocking PLpro, virus production can be controlled.
- In the absence of the PLpro, type 1 interferons will be released informing the killer cells and thus, strengthening the innate immune response of the human cells.
Why in News
Recently, researchers from the S.N. Bose National Centre For Basic Sciences (SNBNCBS), Kolkata have developed a device called “AJO-Neo ” to measure neonatal bilirubin level.
- SNBNCBS is an autonomous research Institute under the Department of Science and Technology (DST), Government of India.
- AJO-Neo is a non-contact and non-invasive spectrometry-based technique for measurement of neonatal bilirubin level without limitations of other available bilirubin meters.
- Bilirubin is a yellowish substance in the blood. It forms after red blood cells break down, and it travels through liver, gallbladder, and digestive tract before being excreted.
- It is a necessary process in the body’s clearance of waste products that arise from the destruction of aged or abnormal red blood cells.
- The screening of bilirubin level in new-borns is necessary to reduce incidents of a type of brain damage called kernicterus that can result from high levels of bilirubin in a baby’s blood. Kernicterus leads to Neuro-psychiatry problems in neonates.
- It is reliable in measuring bilirubin levels in preterm, and term neonates irrespective of gestational or postnatal age, sex, risk factors, feeding behavior or skin color.
- The device delivers an instantaneous report (about 10 seconds) to a concerned doctor.
- The conventional “blood test” method takes more than 4 hours to generate the report.
- World Hepatitis Day
Why in News
World Hepatitis Day is observed each year on 28 July to enhance awareness of viral hepatitis. The theme for the year 2020 is “Hepatitis-free future”, with a strong focus on preventing hepatitis B among mothers and newborns.
- The word hepatitis refers to any inflammation of the liver — the irritation or swelling of the liver cells from any cause.
- It can be acute (inflammation of the liver that presents with sickness — jaundice, fever, vomiting) or chronic (inflammation of the liver that lasts more than six months, but essentially showing no symptoms).
- Usually caused by a group of viruses known as the “hepatotropic” (liver directed) viruses, including A, B, C, D and E.
- Other viruses may also cause it, such as the varicella virus that causes chicken pox. SARS-CoV-2, the virus causing Covid-19 may injure the liver, too.
- Other causes include drugs and alcohol abuse, fat buildup in the liver (fatty liver hepatitis) or an autoimmune process in which a person’s body makes antibodies that attack the liver (autoimmune hepatitis).
- Hepatitis A and E are self-limiting diseases (i.e. go away on their own) and require no specific antiviral medications. For Hepatitis B and C, effective medications are available.
- Hepatitis B and C together are the most common cause of deaths, with 1.3 million lives lost each year.
- In 2016, 194 governments across the globe adopted WHO’s global strategy which aims at eliminating viral hepatitis by 2030.
- 40 million people are chronically infected with Hepatitis B virus and 6 to 12 millionwith Hepatitis C virus.
- In 2018, the government launched the National Viral Hepatitis Program. The program is the largest program for Hepatitis B and C diagnosis and treatment in the world.
- Hepatitis B is included under India’s Universal Immunization Programme (UIP) which provides free of cost vaccination against eleven (excluding Hepatitis B) vaccine-preventable diseases e. Tuberculosis, Diphtheria, Pertussis, Tetanus, Polio, Pneumonia and Meningitis due to Haemophilus Influenzae type b (Hib), Measles, Rubella, Japanese Encephalitis (JE) and Rotavirus diarrhoea.
- Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal and Thailand became the first four countries in the World Health Organization’s Southeast Asia region to have successfully controlled Hepatitis B.
- Recently, an automated coronavirus testing device named ‘COBAS 6800’ was launched which can also detect viral Hepatitis B & C, among others.
It can be noted that only for four diseases viz. HIV-AIDS (1 December), TB (24 March), Malaria (25 April), and Hepatitis, the World Health Organization (WHO) officially endorses disease-specific global awareness days
- Delhi Sero-Survey
Why in News
Recently, the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) conducted a sero-surveillance study for Covid-19 in New Delhi.
NCDC is under administrative control of the Directorate General of Health Services in the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
Detects Specific Antibodies:
- It seeks to assess the prevalence of disease in a population by detecting the presence of specific antibodies against the virus.
- It can also be conducted to check if a person has developed immunity to certain diseases.
- It indicates past infections (and which triggered an immune response), and is not used to detect active infections.
Tested Immunoglobulin G Using ELISA:
- The Sera (a part of blood) of samples were tested for IgG antibodies and Covid-19 infection using Covid Kavach ELISA kits approved by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).
IgG (Immunoglobulin G) is a type of antibody which develops in most Covid-19 patients (infections) at around two weeks after infection and remains in the blood even after recovery.
ELISA (Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay) is a test that detects and measures antibodies in blood
Coverage of the Latest Study:
- Coverage Period: It was conducted from 27 June – 10 July 2020. It was done when the city was reporting over 3,000 cases a day.
- Coverage Groups: A total 21,387 samples were randomly collected across the 11 districts of the capital, which were then divided into two groups, of less than 18 years and older.
- Of the people surveyed had developed IgG antibodies, indicating they had been exposed to the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) that causes Covid-19, with a large number showing no symptoms (asymptomatic).
- The 23.48% rate of seropositivity cannot be extrapolated over Delhi’s entire population.
- Further, currently there isn’t enough scientific data available about the level and duration of immunity that the body will develop after a person tests Covid-positive.
Why in News
Recently, India has started phase I/II clinical trials of Covid-19 vaccine – ZyCoV-D, designed and developed by Zydus (a pharmaceutical company) with support from the Department of Biotechnology (DBT).
The adaptive phase I/II clinical trials will assess the safety, tolerability and immunogenicity of the vaccine.
The other indigenously developed vaccine – Covaxin – produced by Hyderabad based Bharat Biotech is also underway to start clinical trials.
- Description: ZyCoV-D, a plasmid DNA vaccine, comes under the Vaccine Discovery Programme supported by the Department of Biotechnology under the National Biopharma Mission. Plasmids are circular deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) vectors that can be used as vaccines to prevent various types of diseases.
- DNA Vaccine Platform: The development of ZyCov-D has established the DNA vaccine platform in the country which is simple to deploy, temperature stable, and consistently manufacturable- thus lowering costs and enhancing the effectiveness of a vaccine. Furthermore, the platform can be rapidly used to modify the vaccine in a couple of
- weeks in case the virus mutates.
National Biopharma Mission
- It is an industry-academia collaborative mission for accelerating biopharmaceutical development in the country. It was launched in 2017 at a total cost of 1500 crore and is 50% co-funded by World Bank loan. It is being implemented by the Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC).
- BIRAC is a Public Sector Enterprise, set up by the Department of Biotechnology (DBT), Ministry of Science & Technology.
- Under this Mission, the Government has launched Innovate in India (i3) programme to create an enabling ecosystem to promote entrepreneurship and indigenous manufacturing in the biopharma sector.
- Objectives: Development of vaccines, medical devices, diagnostics and biotherapeutics besides, strengthening the clinical trial capacity and building technology transfer capabilities in the country.
- Covid-19 Specific Memory T Cells
Why in News
Recent studies have shown that people unexposed to and not infected with Covid-19 (caused by SARS-CoV-2 or Novel Coronavirus) may still exhibit T cell responses specific to other coronaviruses.
- A huge number of adults are exposed to four different coronaviruses that cause common cold and studies have shown that 20-50% of healthy people display SARS-CoV-2-specific memory T cells.
- The healthy people studied were those tested prior to the pandemic or have not been infected with novel coronavirus. Memory T cells protect against previously encountered pathogens. It is thought that SARS-CoV-2-specific T cell responses seen in healthy people might arise from memory T cells derived from exposure to ‘common cold’ coronaviruses.
- However, it is not known that the presence of pre-existing immunity from memoryT cells offers clinical relevance, when exposed to SARS-CoV-2. Measuring pre-existing immunity and correlating it with infection and severity of disease is the only way to find out its role in protection against SARS-CoV- 2.
- However, the relationship between the infections by and immunity from common cold coronavirus and age is not well established. That is why it is unclear why children do not show severe symptoms, while older people do. These considerations underline how multiple variables may be involved in potential pre-existing partial immunity to Covid-19.
- T cells are so called because they are predominantly produced in the thymus. They recognise foreign particles (antigen) through T cell receptor (TCR).
There are two major types of T cells: the helper T cell and the cytotoxic T cell. As the names suggest, helper T cells ‘help’ other cells of the immune system, whilst cytotoxic T cells kill virally infected cells and tumours. The severity of disease can depend on the strength of these T cell responses.
- Measles and Rubella
Why in news
The World Health Organization (WHO) has said that measles and rubella have been eradicated from Sri Lanka and the Maldives after decades of immunisation programme
This makes Sri Lanka and the Maldives the first two countries in WHO South-East Asia Region to achieve measles and rubella elimination ahead of the 2023 target. Bhutan, DPR Korea and Timor-Leste are other countries in the Region that have eliminated measles. Under the Global Vaccine Action Plan, measles and rubella are targeted for elimination in five WHO Regions by 2020.
Measles and Rubella:
- Both Measles and Rubella are caused by an RNA virus and are generally spread through respiratory droplets of sick people. Measles is a highly contagious viral disease and is a cause of death among young children globally.
- It is caused by a virus which causes rashes all over the body. A person can be vaccinated against both the disease with a Measles, Mumps, and Rubella (MMR) vaccine.
- G4 Virus and Disease Surveillance
Why in News
Recently, scientists have identified a new strain of Swine Flu (H1N1) virus namely, G4 EA H1N1. It has started infecting Chinese pigs and also has the potential of triggering a pandemic.
- Risk Involved: G4 EA H1N (also known as G4) replicates efficiently in human airway paths and so far, has infected a few people without actually making them ill. Thus, greater vigilance in monitoring people is needed because humans have no inbuilt immunity against this new strain of the virus, much like SARS-CoV-2.
- Regional Disease Surveillance: Most countries have their own disease surveillance mechanisms in place to monitor and track emerging diseases.
- India has the Integrated Disease Surveillance Project (IDSP) to strengthen/maintain decentralized laboratory based and IT enabled disease surveillance systems for epidemic prone diseases to monitor disease trends. It was launched by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, in assistance with the World Bank, in 2004.
Global Level Surveillance: Countrywise alerts need to be shared on the global network so that other nations at equal risk might be warned before the outbreak hits their shores. The World Health Organisation (WHO)’s Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network (GOARN) is one of the initiatives which makes scientific predictions based on global data about diseases.
GOARN is a global technical partnership aimed to engage theresources of technical agencies beyond the United Nations for rapid identification, confirmation and response to public health emergencies of international importance.
- Drug Discovery Hackathon 2020
Why in News
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 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.
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.
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.
Arts and culture
- Subhash Chandra Bose Aapda Prabandhan Puraskar
Why in News
The Government of India has invited nominations for the ‘Subhash Chandra Bose Aapda Prabandhan Puraskar’.
Applications for the year 2021 would be accepted till 31 August 2020.
- The Government of India instituted Subhash Chandra Bose Aapda Prabandhan Puraskaar to recognise the excellent work done by the individuals and institutions in the field of disaster management.
- Administered By: National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA -created by the Ministry of Home Affairs under the Disaster Management Act, 2005).
- The awards are announced on the birth anniversary of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose on 23 January every year.
- In addition to a certificate, these awards carry a cash award of Rs. 51 lakhs for an Institution and 5 lakhs for an Individual.
- The Institution has to utilize the cash prize for Disaster Management related activities only.
- Only Indian nationals and Indian institutions can apply for the award. The nominated individual or institution should have worked in any area of disaster management like Prevention, Mitigation, Preparedness, Rescue,
- Response, Relief, Rehabilitation, Research, Innovation or early warning in India.
- Natesa of Rajasthan temple returns to India
Why in news
A rare sandstone idol smuggled out of the country in 1998 is returning to India after 22 years.
- The Natesa icon, currently at the Indian High Commission, London, was originally from the Ghateswar Temple, Baroli, Rajasthan.
- It was smuggled out of the country in 1998.
- A few archaeologists behind the ‘India Pride Project’ have also taken consistent efforts for the restitution of the Natesa
India Pride Project:
- It is a group of art enthusiasts who use social media to identify stolen religious artefacts from Indian temples and secure their return.
- The sandstone Natesa figure stands tall at almost 4 ft. in a rare and brilliant depiction of Shiva.
- A beautiful depiction of Nandi is shown behind the right leg of the Natesa icon.
- The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and the Ministry of Culture should use this restitution as a much-needed impetus to go after thousands of artefacts stolen since the 1960s.
- It is a famous temple architecture belonging to the Gurjara-Pratihara dynasty of Rajasthan.
- They ruled much of Northern India from the mid-8 to the 11 century.
- Nagabhata Il, Mhir Bhoj, Mahenedra pal I
- The architecture is known for their sculptures, carved panels and open pavilion style temples belonging to Nagara Style of temple Architecture.
- They used most common sandstones for idols that have various shades of red, caused by iron oxide (rust).
The greatest development of their style of building is at Khajuraho, Madhya Pradesh, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site
- Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque in Istanbul
- Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan led the first Muslim prayers attended by thousands in Hagia Sophia since the controversial reconversion of the iconic Istanbul cathedral into a mosque.
- Hagia Sophia is the former Greek Orthodox Christian patriarchal cathedral, later an Ottoman imperial mosque and then a museum located in Istanbul, Turkey.
- It was built in 537 AD during the reign of Justinian I, the Eastern Roman emperor.
- The Byzantine architecture monument is famous for its large dome.
- In 1453, when Constantinople fell to Ottoman forces, it was turned into a mosque.
- In 1934, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the Republic of Turkey, converted the mosque into a museum in an attempt to make the country more secular.
- The Council of State, the highest administrative court, unanimously cancelled a 1934 decision by modern Turkey’s founder to turn it into a museum, saying it was registered as a mosque in its property deeds. Mr. Erdogan then swiftly ordered the building to reopen for Muslim worship.
- It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- Madhubani Paintings
Why in News
Recently, artists from Madhubani district of Bihar became famous for making masks with hand-painted Madhubani motif/designs.
- Origin: Madhubani painting has its origins in Mithila region of The painting is one of the oldest and most famous Indian art forms which is also practised in Nepal.
- Traces of Madhubani art can also be noticed in the Ramayana, the Indian epic. It is also known as Mithila or Madhubani art.
- Characteristics: These paintings are popular because of their tribal motifs and use of bright earthy colours.
- Traditionally the women of the village drew these paintings on the walls of their dwelling, as a demonstration of their feelings, hopes, and ideas. Today men are also involved to meet the demand.
- Style: It includes geometrical patterns, floral, animal and bird motifs.
- Colours: The colours used in paintings comprise natural extracts from plants and other natural sources.
- Themes: It is based on the mythological characters which depict the life of Hindu deities like Krishna, Rama, Lakshmi, Shiva, Durga, and Saraswati.
- The designs widely painted are of Tulsi plant, court scenes, wedding scenes, social happenings etc. Also, heavenly bodies like the Sun and the Moon often form the centrepiece of paintings.
- Eminent Artists: Karpuri Devi, Mahalaxmi and Dulari.
- Ravana’s Aviation Route: Sri Lanka
Why in News
Recently, the Civil Aviation Authority of Sri Lanka has sought relevant documents and literature from the public to study Ravana’s “aviation routes”.
- The Civil Aviation Authority will lead a research project titled “King Ravana and the ancient domination of aerial routes now lost”. The project aims to bring out an authoritative narrative about King Ravana as there are many stories about Ravana flying aircrafts and covering these aerial routes.
- According to the civil aviation authority, it was Ravana who used a flying machine called “Dandu monara” to fly not only within the country, but also in the South East Asia region.
- Sri Lanka’s tourism sector promotes the ‘Ramayana trail’ for visitors from India — one of Sri Lanka’s largest tourism markets.
- Sinhala-Buddhists Community: The majority Sinhala-Buddhists community hail the King Ravana. The group calls itself Ravana Balaya.
- Linkages with India: Dravidian parties in Tamil Nadu acknowledge Ravana as “the brave king” similar to the Buddhists community of Sri Lanka.
- Satellite: Sri Lanka named its first satellite Ravana-1 launched in June 2019.
- The community focuses upon Theravada Buddhism, which is the majority belief system of most of the Sinhalese in Sri Lanka. Sinhalese are the largest ethnic group on the island.
- The ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka is rooted in the discrimination against the Tamil minority by the Sinhalese majority after the end of British colonial domination in 1948.
- It is the most ancient branch of extant Buddhism It remains closest to the original teachings of the Buddha. Theravada Buddhism developed in Sri Lanka and subsequently spread to the rest of Southeast Asia.
- It is the dominant form of religion in Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and Thailand. In India, this strain of Buddhism is represented by the followers of Dr B.R. Ambedkarknown as the Ambedkar Buddhists, who are exclusive to India.
- Language of the Tangams
Why in News
Recently, the Chief Minister of Arunachal Pradesh has released a book titled “Tangams: An Ethnolinguistic Study Of The Critically Endangered Group of Arunachal Pradesh”. The book has valuable data on endangered oral narratives like ritual songs, lamentation songs, lullabies and festival songs in Tangam language spoken by the Tangam community, which has reportedly 253 speakers left now.
- It is a little-known community within the larger Adi tribe of Arunachal Pradesh which resides in the hamlet of Kugging in Upper Siang district’s Paindem circle. For long, the only account of the Tangams could be found in a book, “Tangams” (1975) where the community’s population was pegged at 2,000 spread across 25 villages.
- Tangam is an oral language that belongs to the Tani group, under the greater Tibeto-Burman language family. It has been marked ‘critically endangered’ by the UNESCO World Atlas of Endangered Languages (2009).
- Another critically endangered language is Meyor but it is better off than Tangam because the community has a population of around 1,000 people.
Languages of Arunachal Pradesh
- There has been no systematic, scientific or official survey on the number of languages in Arunachal Pradesh till recently. An official linguistic survey by the state government began only in 2018, which is currently underway.
- The languages of Arunachal Pradesh have been classified under the Sino-Tibetan language family and more specifically under the Tibeto-Burman and Tai group of languages, such as Lolo-Burmish, Bodhic, Sal, Tani, Mishmi, Hruissh and Tai.
The education system introduced Devanagari, Assamese and Roman scripts for most tribal languages but new scripts such as Tani Lipi and Wancho Script have been developed by native scholars as well
- Rabari, Bharvad and Charan of Gujarat
Why in News
Recently, the Gujarat government has decided to form a five-member commission to identify members of Rabari, Bharvad and Charan communities, who are eligible for benefits of Schedule Tribe (ST) status.
- Issue: In October 1956, the central government conferred ST status on people of Rabari, Bharvad and Charan communities, living in nesses (tiny, ovalshaped hutments made of mud) of Gir, Barda and Alech areas of Gujarat.
- However, it has been alleged that a number of people not living in nesses have managed to get ST certificates and are enjoying undue reservation benefits, mainly in government jobs. Leaders of these three communities and other communities as well, have been protesting for quite some time against this.
- Objective of the Commission:
- To resolve this issue and identify the legitimate beneficiaries of ST status among the members of the three communities. To ensure that the eligible members of the tribes are not devoid of their right and the others do not get an undue benefit in their names.
- Composition: The five-member commission will comprise a retired judge of the high court as the head, two district judges, one retired forest officer and one retired revenue
- They migrated from Rajasthan via Kutch and now most of them live in the Okhamandal region of Jamnagar district. They speak ‘Bhopa’ which is a mixture of Gujarati, Kachchi, Marwari words and Pharasi (Persian) and use Gujarati script.
- Women stand in almost equal status to that of men. The main economic activity is sheep breeding and selling of milk. Only a few of them own cultivable agricultural land. Recently, they have started engaging as wage labourers in industrial establishments both as skilled and unskilled labourers.
- They profess Hinduism and are followers of Shiva and Shakti. Their folk songs are called ‘Siya’.
- The term Bharwad is a modified form of the word ‘Badawad’. ‘Bada’ means sheep and ‘Wada’ refers to compound or enclosure. The personwho possesses compounds or pens is known as Badawad. They communicate in Gujarati and use Gujarati script.
- Bharwad women have a lower status. The Bharwads are pastorals who are permitted to graze their sheep and cattle in certain demarcated areas of the reserved forest.
- Some of them possess dry agricultural land and earn their livelihood as agricultural labourers. They profess Hinduism and Krishna is considered the supreme God.
- The Charan, also called Gadhvi, is a small tribe in Gujarat and the name Charan is derived from the word ‘Char’ which means They speak Gujarati and use Gujarati script. They marry within their community and practice monogamy.
- The Charans are traditionally cattle breeders. They have also adopted agriculture as their secondary occupation. They profess Hinduism and the main deity is Pithorai Mata.
- As per Census 1931, Schedule tribes are termed as ‘backward tribes’ living in the ‘Excluded’ and ‘Partially Excluded’ The Constitution does not define the criteria for recognition of Scheduled Tribes and hence the definition contained in 1931 Census was used in initial years after independence.
- The Government of India Act, 1935 called for the first time for representatives of ‘backward tribes’ in provincial assemblies. Article 366 (25) of the Constitution only provides a process to define Scheduled Tribes:
- Scheduled Tribes: means such tribes, tribal communities, parts of or groups within such tribes or tribal communities as are deemed under Article 342 to be Scheduled Tribes for the purposes of the Constitution.
- Article 342 (1): The President may with respect to any State or Union Territory, and where it is a State, after consultation with the Governor, by a public notification, specify the tribes or tribal communities or part of or groups within tribes or tribal communities as Scheduled Tribe in relation to that State or Union Territory.
- The category of ‘tribe’ entails a social and cultural dimension but the ‘schedule tribe’ category has political-administrative implications. A majority of the ST population is concentrated in the eastern, central and western belt covering the nine states of Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal.
- About 12% inhabit the North-eastern region, about 5% in the Southern region and about 3% in the Northern states. The Constitution (Scheduled Tribes) Order (Second Amendment) Bill, 2019 will amend Part VI of the Constitution (Scheduled Tribes) Order, 1950 that specifies the tribal and tribal communities which are deemed to be Scheduled
- Other Constitutional Provisions:
- Article 15 (4): Special provisions for advancement of any socially and educationally backward classes of citizens or for the Scheduled Castes (SCs) or the STs.
- Article 16 (4): Enables the state to make any provision for reservation of appointments or posts in favour of any backward class of citizens which, in the opinion of the state, is not adequately represented in the services under the state.
- Article 46: Promotion of educational and economic interests of SCs, STs and other weaker sections.
- Article 330 and 332: Provides for specific representation through reservation of seats for SCs and STs in the Parliament and in the State Legislative Assemblies respectively.
- Article 338 A: Gives powers to the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST) to oversee the implementation of various safeguards provided to STs.
- Mongolian Kanjur Being Reprinted
Why in News
The Ministry of Culture has taken up the project of reprinting 108 volumes of Mongolian Kanjur by March 2022 under the National Mission for Manuscripts (NMM). Some copies were presented to the government of Mongolia on the occasion of Guru Purnima, also known as Dharma Chakra Day, on 4th July, 2020.
- Mongolian Kanjur: It is a Buddhist canonical text in 108 volumes and is considered to be the most important religious text in Mongolia. It is a source of providing a cultural identity to Mongolia. In the Mongolian language ‘Kanjur’ means ‘Concise Orders’– the words of Lord Buddha in particular.
- It has been translated from Tibetan and is written in classical mongolian.
- Cultural Relations Between India and Mongolia: Buddhism was carried to Mongolia by Indian cultural and religious ambassadors during the early Christian era.
- India established formal diplomatic relations with Mongolia in 1955. The publication of Mongolian Kanjur by the Government of India for the Government of Mongolia will act as a symbol of cultural harmony between India and Mongolia and will contribute to furtherance of bilateral relations during the coming years.
- National Mission for Manuscripts (NMM) was launched in February 2003 by the Government of India with the mandate of documenting, conserving and disseminating the knowledge preserved in the manuscripts.
- One of the objectives of the mission is to publish rare and unpublished manuscripts so that the knowledge enshrined in them is spread to researchers, scholars and the general public at large.
- It is under the Ministry of Culture
- Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts
Why in News
The Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA) is planning to highlight the work of artists who have been entertaining and boosting the public’s morale during the Covid-19 pandemic (referred as silent Covid warriors).
- The Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA) was established in 1987 as an autonomous institution under the Ministry of Culture, as a centre forresearch, academic pursuit and dissemination in the field of the arts.
- The IGNCA has a trust (i.e. Board of Trustees), which meets regularly to give general direction about the Centre’s work. The Executive Committee, drawn from among the Trustees, functions under a Chairman. It is a research unit under Project Mausam. Project ‘Mausam’ is a Ministry of Culture project with Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), New Delhi as the nodal agency.
- The central themes that hold Project ‘Mausam’ together are those of cultural routes and maritime landscapes that not only linked different parts of the Indian Ocean littoral, but also connected the coastal centres to their hinterlands.
10. Matsya Sampada
Why in news
- Union Minister for Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairying, Shri Giriraj Singh launched the first edition of the Fisheries and Aquaculture Newsletter “MATSYA SAMPADA” published by the Department of Fisheries, Ministry for Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairying, Government of India and the Operational Guidelines of the Pradhan Mantri Matsya Sampada Yojana (PMMSY).
Pradhan Mantri Matsya Sampada Yojana (PMMSY).
- It is a flagship scheme under which for development of fisheries sector an investment of Rs. 20050 crore will be done .
- The PMMSY with an array of 100 diverse activities is by far the largest ever investment in fisheries sector. Achieving the ambitious targets under PMMSY of an additional 70 lakh tons fish production, rupees one lakh crores fisheries exports, generation of 55 lakh employment over next five years, etc. require multipronged strategies along with collaborative and concerted efforts between the government and the stakeholders
- IM-iCREST: NITI Aayog
Why in News
Recently, the Atal Innovation Mission (AIM) has launched an incubator capabilities enhancement program ‘AIM-iCREST’.
- Atal Innovation Mission (AIM) is a flagship initiative set up by the NITI Aayog to promote a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship in the country.
- AIM-iCREST is an Incubator Capabilities Enhancement program for a Robust Ecosystem focused on creating high performing Startups.
- It has been designed to act as a growth support for AIM’s Atal and Established Incubators across the country.
- For the same, AIM has joined hands with Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Wadhwani Foundation – organizations that can lend credible support and expertise in the entrepreneurship and innovation space.
- The AIM’s incubators are set to be upscaled and provided requisite support to foster the incubation enterprise economy, that will help them to significantly enhance their performance.
- This will be complemented by providing training to entrepreneurs, through technology driven processes and platforms.
- The focus will be on supporting start-up entrepreneurs in knowledge creation and dissemination as well as in developing robust and active
AIM’s Atal and Established Incubators:
- Business incubators are institutions that support entrepreneurs in developing their businesses, especially in initial stages.
- Incubation is usually done by institutions which have experience in the business and technology world.
Atal Incubation Centres:
- AIM intends to support the establishment of new incubation centres called Atal Incubation Centres (AICs) that would nurture innovative start-ups in their pursuit to become scalable and sustainable business enterprises.
Established Incubation Centres:
- AIM envisages to upgrade these Established Incubation Centres (EICs) to world-class standards.
Atal Innovation Mission
- AIM is Government of India’s flagship initiative to promote a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship in the country.
- It’s objective is to develop new programmes and policies for fostering innovation in different sectors of the economy, provide platform and collaboration opportunities for different stakeholders, create awareness and create an umbrella structure to oversee the innovation ecosystem of the country.
- Atal Tinkering Labs: Creating problem solving mindset across schools in India.
- Atal Incubation Centers: Fostering world class startups and adding a new dimension to the incubator model.
- Atal New India Challenges: Fostering product innovations and aligning them to the needs of various sectors/ministries.
- Mentor India Campaign: A national mentor network in collaboration with the public sector, corporates and institutions, to support all the initiatives of the mission.
- Atal Community Innovation Center: To stimulate community centric innovation and ideas in the unserved /underserved regions of the country including Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities.
- Atal Research and Innovation for Small Enterprises (ARISE): To stimulate innovation and research in the MSME industry
- Protesting is a Fundamental Right: UN
Why in News
Recently, the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Committee has reaffirmed that protesting peacefully, online or in person, is a fundamental human right.
- This statement has come in the backdrop of increasing demonstrations over issues like political rights and racial justice.
UN Human Rights Committee:
- It is tasked with monitoring how countries implement the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) 1976, which under Article n21 guarantees the right to peaceful assembly.
Latest Interpretation of the Right to Peaceful Assembly
Fundamental Human Right for People:
- To gather to celebrate or to air grievances in public and in private spaces, outdoors, indoors and online is a fundamental human right.
- Protesters: Everyone, including children, foreign nationals, women, migrant workers, asylum seekers and refugees, can exercise the right of peaceful assembly.
- Protection: Protesters have the right to wear masks or hoods to cover their face and that Governments should not collect personal data to harass or intimidate participants.
Role of Journalists and Human Rights Observers:
- They have the right to monitor and document any assembly, including violent and unlawful ones.
- Governments could not prohibit protests by making “generalised references to public order or public safety, or an unspecified risk of potential violence”.
- Governments cannot block internet networks or close down any website because of their roles in organising or soliciting a peaceful assembly.
- The Committee’s interpretation will be important guidance for judges in national and regional courts around the world, as it now forms part of what is known as ‘soft law’.
- The interpretation is a form of legal advice (not mandatory) from the Committee that monitors the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) 1976.
- India is a state party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).
- The right to protest, to publicly question and force the government to answer, is a fundamental political right of the people that flows directly from a democratic reading of
Article 19 of the Constitution of India.
- Article 19 (1) (a) states that all citizens shall have the right to freedom of speech and expression.
- Article 19 (1) (b) states that all citizens shall have the right to assemble peaceably and without arms.
- However, the State can impose reasonable restrictions on the exercise of right of assembly on two grounds, namely, sovereignty and integrity of India and public order including the maintenance of traffic in the area concerned.
- Further, Indian courts have reiterated that the right to protest is a fundamental right (Ramlila Maidan Incident v. Home Secretary, Union Of India & Ors. case – 2012).
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
- The ICCPR is a key international human rights treaty, providing a range of protections for civil and political rights.
- The ICCPR, together with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights, are considered the International Bill of Human Rights.
- The Bill influences the decisions and actions of Government, State and Non-State actors to make economic, social and cultural rights a top-priority in the formation and implementation of national, regional and international policy and law.
- The ICCPR obligates countries that have ratified the treaty to protect and preserve basic human rights
- The Covenant compels governments to take administrative, judicial, and legislative measures in order to protect the rights enshrined in the treaty and to provide an effective remedy.
- The Covenant was adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1966 and came into force in 1976. 173 countries including India have ratified the Covenant.
- Merger Under Tenth Schedule
Why in News
Recently, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) has issued a whip in Rajasthan Assembly and asked all its six Member of Legislative Assemblies (MLAs) to vote against Indian National Congress (INC) government on floor test.
- However all six BSP MLAs had joined the INC by announcing the merger in September 2019.
- The BSP argued that a state unit of a national party cannot be merged without the party being merged at the national level. It has termed the merger of six MLAs as illegal and unconstitutional.
- It has cited two decisions of the Supreme Court to support its arguments:
Jagjit Singh v State of Haryana 2006 case.
- In this case, four legislators from single-member parties in the Haryana Assembly, who said their parties had split and later joined the Congress. The court upheld the Speaker’s decisions disqualifying them.
Rajendra Singh Rana And Ors vs Swami Prasad Maurya 2007 case.
- In the 2002 Uttar Pradesh elections, 37 MLAs — one-third of the BSP strength — “split” from the party after its government fell, to support Samajwadi Party. The SC ruled that the split cannot be recognized primarily because not all these MLAs split at once.
- It can be noted that the above two cases were prior to the 91 Constitutional Amendment of 2003 which deleted the Paragraph 3 of the Tenth Schedule.
- This amendment was made as the one-third split rule was grossly misused by parties to engineer divisions and indulge in horse-trading. One-third was regarded as an easy target to achieve and the law now exempts defection only when it is at two-thirds (in a merger).
Constitutional Experts on Merger:
- According to D.T. Achary, merger under the Tenth Schedule (anti-defection law) can take place only between two original political parties.
- There are two conditions that need to be fulfilled for a merger under the Tenth Schedule:
- There should be a merger between two original political parties.
- Subsequently, 2/3 of the members of that House belonging to that party should accept the merger. If 2/3 of the members do not accept it, then the merger doesn’t happen as per the law.
- According to Achary, the anti-defection law basically aims at protecting the party system and not just at curbing defection. Subhash C. Kashyap also agreed with D.T. Achary by saying that for a merger, the party which sets up candidates for the election is the party which has to merge under the Tenth Schedule.
- And one of the requirements for this is that 2/3 MLAs of that party should agree to the merger.
- However, Faizan Mustafa disagreed with the above position and questioned the concept of merger between two original parties.
- According to him, this would mean that the legislative party will not have any right to merge with anybody in any state.
- He referred to the definition of ‘Legislature Party’ under the Tenth Schedule, which is defined as a ‘group consisting of all the members of that House’.
- According to him, the merger has to be seen “locally” and not at the national level. Mustafa also pointed out that nowhere does the Tenth Schedule talk about how a ‘national party’ should split or a ‘regional party’ should split.
Previous Similar case:
- In June 2019, the Vice President issued orders to “merge” the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) with the ruling BJP in Rajya Sabha after four of TDP’s five MPs defected.
- Although TDP still has a presence in the Upper House through its lone MP, the party was deemed to have merged only for the purpose of not attracting penalty under the Tenth Schedule for the four MPs who defected.
- The TDP, too, raised arguments similar to what BSP is now claiming that a “merger” can only take place at an organisational level of the party and not in the House.
- In 2016, 12 out of 15 of TDP MLAs joined the ruling TRS. The Speaker recognised the defection as a merger since more than two-thirds had moved.
- Contempt of Court
Why in News
Recently, the Supreme Court of India suo moto initiated the proceedings for criminal contempt of court against lawyer-activist Prashant Bhushan for his tweet criticising the current Chief Justice of India and the role of some Chief Justices of India in the last six years.
- Article 129: Grants Supreme Court the power to punish for contempt of itself.
- Article 142(2): Enables the Supreme Court to investigate and punish any person for its contempt.
- Article 215: Grants every High Court the power to punish for contempt of itself.
- However, the expression ‘contempt of court’ has not been defined by the Constitution.
Contempt of Courts:
- As per the Contempt of Courts Act 1971, contempt refers to the offence of showing disrespect to the dignity or authority of a court. The Act divides contempt into civil and criminal contempt.
- Civil contempt: It is willful disobedience to any judgment, decree, direction, order, writ or other processes of a court or wilful breach of an undertaking given to the court.
- Criminal contempt: It is any act which may result in: Scandalising the court by lowering its authority, Interference in the due course of a judicial proceeding, An obstruction in the administration of justice.
- The Contempt of Courts Act 1971 was amended in 2006 to include the defence of truth under Section 13 of the original legislation. Implying that the court must permit justification by truth as a valid defence if it is satisfied that it is in the public interest.
- Further, innocent publication and distribution of some matter, fair and reasonable criticism of judicial acts and comment on the administrative side of the judiciary do not amount to contempt of court.
Punishment for Contempt of Court:
- The Supreme Court and High Courts have the power to punish for contempt of court, either with simple imprisonment for a term up to six months or with fine up to Rs. 2,000 or with both.
- In 1991, the Supreme Court ruled that it has the power to punish for contempt not only of itself but also of high courts, subordinate courts and tribunals functioning in the entire country.
- On the other hand, High Courts have been given special powers to punish contempt of subordinate courts, as per Section 10 of the Contempt of Courts Act of 1971.
Issues with Contempt Law
- Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution gives the right to freedom of speech and expression to all citizens, while “contempt provisions” curb people’s freedom to speak against the court’s functioning.
- The law is very subjective which might be used by the judiciary arbitrarily to suppress their criticism by the public.
- The contempt of court should not be allowed to be used as a means to prevent criticisms.
- In this backdrop, there is a need to revisit the need for a law on criminal contempt, where India can learn from Britain which abolished the offence of scandalizing the judiciary as a form of contempt of court in 2013 based on the fact that the law was vague and not compatible with freedom of speech.
- Parliamentary vs Presidential Form of Government
Why in News
Recently, it has been suggested that India should adopt the presidential form of government instead of the parliamentary style of democracy, inherited from the British. These suggestions have been given in the backdrop of frequent elections and related administrative as well as financial burden owned by India.
Parliamentary System of Government
- There are two executives. The nominal executive is the head of state e.g. President
- while the real executive is the Prime Minister, who is the head of government.
- the role of president or monarch is primarily ceremonial and the Prime Minister along with the cabinet wields effective power.
- Countries with such a system include Germany, Italy, Japan, United Kingdom as well as Portugal.
- The Constitution of India provides for a parliamentary form of government, both at the Centre and in the States.
- Articles 74 and 75 deal with the parliamentary system of government at the Union level and Articles 163 and 164 contain provisions with regard to the States. Executive is responsible to the legislature for its policies and acts.
Presidential System of Government
- There is only one executive. the President is both head of state and government, e.g. USA, South Korea etc.
- The executive is not responsible to the legislature for its policies and acts, and is constitutionally independent of the legislature in respect of its term of office.
Arguments Against the Parliamentary System:
- Unqualified Legislators: The parliamentary system has created unqualified legislators. It limits executive posts to those who are electable rather than to those who are able,
- Powerful Executive: Most of the laws are drafted by the executive and parliamentary input into their formulation and passage is minimal. It has been seen that the ruling party issues a whip to its members in order to ensure unimpeded passage of a bill. MPs blindly vote as their party directs.
- Fickle Legislative Majority: It has forced governments to concentrate less on governing than on staying in office, and obliged them to cater their coalitions. It puts insurance on defections and horse-trading. The anti-defection Act of 1985 has failed to cure the problem,.
- Distorted Voting Preference: It has distorted the voting preferences of an electorate that knows which individual it wants to vote for but not necessarily which party.
Arguments in Favour of Presidential System:
- Stable Executive: It establishes a stable executive which does not depend upon the fluctuating will of the legislature especially in case of coalition governments..
- Ability Over Electability: Cabinet posts would not be limited to those who are electable rather than those who are able. The President can appoint anyone as secretaries (equivalent to minister).
- Effective Check and Balance: It establishes the presidency and the legislature as two parallel structures. This allows each structure to monitor and check the other, hence preventing the abuse of power.
- Role of Citizens: At the end of a fixed period of time, the public would be able to judge the individual’s performance, rather than on political skill at keeping a government in office.
- Further, the Indian voter will be able to vote directly for the individual he or she wants to be chosen as a head rather than a majority of Members of Parliament and Legislative
Argument Against the Presidential Form:
- Lack of Cooperation: A weakness of the system is its failure to ensure the co-operation between law-makers and administrators. Frequent conflicts between the legislature and the executive may lead to
- Autocratic: A presidential system centralises power in one individual unlike the parliamentary system, where the Prime Minister is the first among equals.
- Concerns over Separation of Powers: If the legislature is dominated by the same party to which the President belongs, he may prevent any move from the legislature.
Benefit of Parliamentary System:
- Ensures Diverse Representation: the parliamentary system ensures the regional representations by selecting candidates from different parts of the country.
- Prevents Authoritarianism: unlike the presidential system, power is not concentrated in one hand, rather in a group of individuals (Council of Ministers).
- Better Coordination: Since the executive is a part of the legislature, and generally the majority of the legislature support the government, it is easier to pass laws and implement them.
- Matured System: It is an old system and can give news ideas with its experience in a democartic setup
- Cabinet decision binding on Governor
Why in news
Political turmoil in the state of Rajasthan.
- There has been a deadlock between Rajasthan Governor and Rajasthan Chief Minister over the summoning of an Assembly session for a floor test.
- While the Chief Minister has been demanding the summoning of an Assembly session at the earliest, the Governor has not been receptive of the demand.
- The article discusses a key Supreme Court judgment which could act as a guiding light during the current deadlock.
- Nabam Rebia versus Deputy Speaker, 2016: In the Nabam Rebia versus Deputy Speaker case of 2016, a Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court had held that a Governor is bound to convene a meeting of the Assembly for a floor test on the recommendation of the Cabinet.
Important observations made in the judgment:
- The judgment was based on the constitutional provision which states that the Governor can summon, prorogue and dissolve the House only on the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers with the Chief Minister as the head.
- Article 163 of the Indian constitution notes that there shall be a council of Ministers with the Chief Minister at the head to aid and advise the Governor in the exercise of his functions.
Limited discretionary power for the governor:
- The Supreme Court has noted that despite the provision for some degree of discretion for the governor provided for under Article 163 (2) of the Indian Constitution, it does not mean a general discretionary power to act against or without the advice of his Council of Ministers.
- This judgment limits the Governor’s discretionary power to specific areas. It noted that the Governor’s discretionary powers are limited to specified areas like giving assent or withholding/referring a Bill to the President or appointment of a Chief Minister or dismissal of a government which has lost confidence but refuses to quit, etc.
- The judgment further held that even in areas where there is scope for discretion for the governor, the action should not be arbitrary or fanciful and must be dictated by reason, actuated by good faith and tempered by caution.
Responsible form of government:
- India has a parliamentary democracy with a responsible form of government. In such a form of government, the Governor functions only as a Constitutional or formal head of the State and his/her powers cannot be enlarged at the cost of the Council of Ministers, who are the real executive.
Constituent assembly discussions:
- The judgment noted the fact that even the Constituent Assembly was wary of extending the Governor’s discretion.
Though the draft Constitution had vested the Governor with the discretion to summon and dissolve, it was later omitted by the framers of the Constitution
- AuditOnline Application for Local Bodies
Why in News
The Ministry of Panchayati Raj has decided to conduct an online audit of accounts of 50,000 Gram Panchayats (GPs) through its application Audit Online during the current financial year (2020-21). This will be the first such exercise.
Online Audit of Accounts:
- 50,000 GPs’ books of accounts for 2019-20 will be audited with a focus on how they used Finance Commission (FC) grants. 50,000 is equivalent to the 20% of the estimated 2.5 lakh GPs across the country.
- In the next financial year (2021-22), the exercise will be scaled up to cover all the GPs.
- It is an application developed as a part of Panchayat Enterprise Suite (PES) under e-panchayat Mission Mode Project (MMP) initiated by the Ministry of Panchayati Raj (MoPR).
- It facilitates the financial audit of accounts at all the three levels of Panchayats viz District, Block and Village Panchayats, Urban Local Bodies (ULB) and Line department by Auditors.
- It also serves the purpose of maintaining the past audit records of the auditee with associated list of the auditors and audit team involved in the audit. The information remains available in public domain and for usage by other PES applications.
Benefits of Online Audit:
- Online audit with the option of physical verification assumes greater relevance given the pandemic and the lockdown.
- Further, it ensures accountability in the utilisation of funds at the ground level. In the offline system, timely availability of records is a major issue.
- an online audit can be monitored at all levels: district-statecentre.
- More than 15% of Panchayats in several states have not completed their books of accounts for the year 2019-20.
- Completing and closing the accounts is a prerequisite for the online audit. While 100% of Panchayats in Maharashtra and Haryana have closed their 2019-20 accounts, no Panchayat has done this in Arunachal Pradesh and Bihar. States like Punjab and Himachal Pradesh are also low performers.
Panchayat Enterprise Suite
- The Ministry of Panchayati Raj (MoPR) has undertaken e-Panchayat Mission Mode Project (e-Panchayat MMP) with a view to introduce and strengthen e- Governance in Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) across the country and build associated capacities of the PRIs for effective adoption of the e-Governance initiative.
- Under e-Panchayat, a suite of 11 Core Common Applications has been deployed that address nearly the entire spectrum of Panchayats’ functioning viz. from core functions such as Planning, Monitoring, Budgeting, Accounting, Social Audit etc. to citizen service delivery operations like issue of certificates, licenses etc.
- Together these 11 software Applications constitute the Panchayat Enterprise Suite (PES).
- If the Panchayats are to perform efficiently and effectively all the mandated tasks, which are increasing day by day, extensive use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is needed. The launch of e-GramSwaraj and Swamitva Programme underlines the same.
- Refusal of Rajasthan Speaker’s Plea by Supreme Court
Why in News
Recently, the Supreme Court (SC) has refused Rajasthan Assembly Speaker’s plea to stop the State’s High Court from deciding the validity of the anti-defection notices.
Earlier, the Speaker had issued notice to the 19 dissident Congress MLAs of the ruling Party on the ground of plotting conspiracy to bring down the government.
- The 19 rebel MLAs of Rajasthan’s ruling party (Congress) have filed a petition before the High Court challenging the disqualification notices issued to them by the Assembly Speaker under Anti Defection Law.
High Court’s Stand:
- The High Court directed the speaker to defer action on the disqualification notices by stating that he cannot decide the matter. It also directed him to extend the time to file replies to disqualification notices.
- The speaker stated that it is unconstitutional and in derogation of the powers of the Speaker under the Constitution.
Non Intervention of HC:
- Giving the reference to the Kihoto Hollohan versus Zachillu and Others, 1992 he argued that his decision is totally in the domain of the Speaker to decide on disqualification of members, and no court can intervene in between.
- He also stated that HC has no jurisdiction to ask him to defer the proceedings. The proceedings under the Tenth Schedule before the Speaker are proceedings of the Legislature and as such cannot be interfered with, as envisaged under Article 212 which has been read with para 6(2) of the Tenth Schedule.
Show Cause Notice:
- He said he had only issued show cause notices to the MLAs on a complaint filed by the Congress chief. The notice was an opportunity for the MLAs to explain their conduct.
Supreme Court’s Argument:
Voice of Dissent:
- SC has questioned about shutting down a legislator’s “voice of dissent” with the threat of disqualification in a
- It asked whether expressing dissent amounts to voluntarily giving up the party membership under Paragraph 2(1) (a) of the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution and inviting anti-defection proceedings.
Speaker as a Tribunal:
- It further stated that the Speaker is like a tribunal and he must not have acted with political intentions.
Disqualification under the Tenth Schedule
- The Anti-Defection Law was passed in 1985 through the 52 amendment to the Constitution. It added the Tenth Schedule to the Indian Constitution.
- The main intent of the law was to combat “the evil of political defections”. According to it, a member of a House belonging to any political party becomes disqualified for being a member of the House, if:
- He voluntarily gives up his membership of such political party
- He votes or abstains from voting in such House contrary to any direction issued by his political party without obtaining prior permission of such party and such act has not been condoned by the party within 15 days.
Exceptions to the Disqualification on the Ground of Defection
- If a member goes out of his party as a result of a merger of the party with another party.
- A merger takes place when two-thirds of the members of the party have agreed to such a merger.
- If a member, after being elected as the presiding officer of the House, voluntarily gives up the membership of his party or rejoins it after he ceases to hold that
Powers of Speaker with regard to Anti-Defection Law
Any question regarding disqualification arising out of defection is to be decided by the presiding officer of the House
- Plea Bargaining
Why in News
Several citizens of various countries, who were accused of violating visa conditions and government guidelines following the Covid-19 pandemic, have obtained release from court cases in recent days by means of plea bargaining.
- Plea Bargaining: It refers to a person charged with a criminal offence (accused) negotiating with the prosecution for a lesser punishment than what is provided in law by pleading guilty to a less serious offence.
- It primarily involves pretrial negotiations between the accused and the prosecutor. It may involve bargaining on the charge or in the quantum of sentence.
Provision in India:
- Plead Guilty: There has always been a provision in the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) for an accused to plead ‘guilty’ instead of claiming the right to a full trial, but it is not the same as plea bargaining.
- Plea Bargaining: Plea bargaining was introduced in 2006 as part of a set of amendments to the CrPC as Chapter XXI-A, containing Sections 265A to 265L.
- Cases for which the plea bargaining is allowed are Only someone who has been charged for an offence that does not attract the death sentence, life sentence or a prison term above seven years can make use of the scheme under Chapter XXI-A.
- It is also applicable to private complaints of which a criminal court has taken
- Other categories of cases that cannot be disposed of through plea bargaining are those that involve offences affecting the “socioeconomic conditions” of the country, or committed against a woman or a child below the age of 14.
Procedure in India:
- The plea bargaining process can be initiated only by the accused. This provision is different from the one in other countries like the USA where the prosecutor plays a key role in bargaining with the suspected offender.
- The accused will have to apply to the court for invoking the benefit of bargaining. Thereafter, the court may permit the prosecutor, the investigating officer and the victim (if any) to hold a meeting for a “satisfactory disposition of the case”.
- The accused may be sentenced to a prison term that is half the minimum period fixed for the offence. If there is no minimum term prescribed, the sentence should run up to one-fourth of the maximum sentence stipulated in law. The outcome may also involve payment of compensation and other expenses to the victim by the accused.
Arguments in Favour:
- As per the Justice Malimath Committee on reforms of the criminal justice system (formed in 2000):
- This ensures speedy trial, ends uncertainty over the outcome of criminal cases, saves litigation costs and relieves the parties of anxiety.
- It would also have a dramatic impact on conviction rates. It is common in the USA, and has been a successful method of avoiding protracted and complicated trials. As a result, conviction rates are significantly high there.
- Prolonged imprisonment of undertrials without any progress in the case for years and overcrowding of prisons are also other factors that may be cited in support of reducing pendency of cases and decongesting prisons through plea bargaining. It may help offenders make a fresh start in life.
- People who are pushed to plea bargain are those who do not have the wherewithal to arrange for bail.
- Even courts are also very particular about the voluntary nature of the exercise, as poverty, ignorance and prosecution pressure should not lead to someone pleading guilty of offences that may not have been committed.
- The Judiciary in its earlier verdicts (especially before the introduction of the process) had disapproved of bargaining with offenders, and pointed out that lenient sentences could be considered as part of the circumstances of the case after a regular trial. Mere acceptance or admission of the guilt should not be a ground for reduction of sentence.
- Further, it may hamper the victim’s right to fair trial, involvement of coercion by the investigating agencies and corruption in the process. Some argue that it is against Article 20 (3) of the Constitution which provides immunity to an accused against self-incrimination.
- Rajya Sabha Members Facing Criminal Charges
Why in News
According to an analysis by the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), about 24% of the sitting Rajya Sabha members have declared criminal cases against themselves.
- Data Analysis: Analysis of 229 of the 233 Rajya Sabha seats showed that 54 MPs had declared criminal cases.
- Among the newly-elected representatives 28 or 12% had declared serious criminal cases.
- It also found out from their self-sworn affidavits that have declared assets estimated at over 1 crore.
- Lok Sabha: According to the finding of Association of Democratic Reforms, about 43% of members elected to 17 Lok Sabha are facing criminal charges in court of law, while 84% have self-declared assets worth more than Rs. 1
- This is the highest number of members of parliament facing serious criminal charges like rape, murder and kidnapping, since 2004.
- ADR is an Indian non-governmental organization established in 1999 situated in New Delhi. With National Election Watch (NEW), ADR is striving to bring transparency and accountability in Indian politics and reduce the influence of money and muscle power in elections. Criminalisation of Politics
- Criminalization of politics is the involvement of the candidates with criminal charges in politics through the elections and even getting elected to the Parliament and state legislature. It takes place primarily because of the nexus between the criminals and the politicians.
- Lack of Political Will: Section 8 of the Ac the Representation of Peoples (RP) Act, 1951 disqualifies a person convicted with a sentence of two years or more from contesting elections. But those under trial continued to be eligible to contest elections.
- Therefore, in order to curb criminalisation of politics, Parliament needs to bring an amendment in the Act.
- Use of Muscle and Money Power: Candidates with serious criminal records seem to do well despite their bad public image, largely due to their ability to finance their own elections and further fund their respective parties for different election activities.
- Vote Bank: Criminals are being wooed by political parties and given cabinet posts because their muscle and money fetches crucial votes.
- Narrow Self-interests of Voters: Some voters tend to view such candidates through a narrow prism of being able to represent their community interests by hook or by crook.
- Lack of Choices: Sometimes voters are left with no options, as all competing candidates have criminal records.
- Ineffective Democracy, Culture of Violence, Black Money
Measures Taken by the Supreme Court :
- Union of India (UOI) vs. Association for Democratic Reforms, 2002: The Supreme Court held that every candidate, contesting an election has to declare their criminal records, financial records and educational qualifications.
- Ramesh Dalal vs. Union of India, 2005: A sitting Member of Parliament (MP) or Member of State Legislature (MLA) shall also be subject to disqualification from contesting elections if he is convicted and sentenced to not less than 2 years of imprisonment by a court of law.
- Lily Thomas vs. Union of India, 2013: Section 8(4) of The Representation of the People Act, 1951 was declared unconstitutional which allowed MPs and MLAs who were convicted to continue in office till an appeal against such conviction was disposed of.
- People’s Union for Civil Liberties vs. Union of India, 2013: The Supreme Court asked Election Commission to provide ‘none of the above’ choice to voters to exercise their right to express no confidence in all candidates.
Election Commission’s Recommendations:
- In 1997, Election Commission directed all the Returning Officers (ROs) to reject the nomination papers of any candidate who stands convicted on the day of filing the nomination papers even if his sentence is suspended.
- It recommended that if a person is found guilty by a commission of Inquiry then he shall be disqualified from contesting elections.
- The First Past The Post (FPTP) electoral system shall be replaced by the 2-ballot system under which a candidate is declared elected from a territorial constituency on the basis of majority principle.
Various committees (Dinesh Goswami, Inderjeet Committee) on the electoral reforms have recommended for state funding of elections. State funding of elections will curb use of black money to a large extent and thereby will have a significant impact on limiting criminalization of politics.
- There is a need for fixing the governance system and effective regulation of political financing along with bold reforms to break the vicious cycle of criminals and politics.
- It is crucial to make the entire governance machinery more accountable and transparent. Citizens must vote in elections based on character, conduct and capability of the candidates and not based on cash, caste, community and criminal prowess.
- Permanent Commission of Women in Army
Why in News
Recently, the Ministry of Defence has issued the formal Government Sanction Letter for grant of Permanent Commission (PC) to Women Officers in the Indian Army.
- The order specifies grant of PC to Short Service Commissioned (SSC) Women Officers in the remaining 8 streams of the Indian Army.
- These 10 streams include Army Air Defence (AAD), Signals, Engineers, Army Aviation, Electronics and Mechanical Engineers (EME), Army Service Corps (ASC), Army Ordnance Corps (AOC), Intelligence Corps, Judge and Advocate General (JAG) and Army Educational Corps (AEC).
- Before the order, women officers are allowed a PC in the JAG and AEC.
- In anticipation, the Army Headquarters had set in motion a series of preparatory actions for the conduct of the Permanent Commission Selection Board (PCSB) for the eligible women officers.
- Under the SSC scheme, women were commissioned into the Army for a period of 10 years, extendable up to 14 years. Women were estricted to roles in specified streams such as Army Education Corps, Corps of Signals, Intelligence Corps and Corps of Engineers. These specified streams excluded combat arms such as infantry and armoured corps.
- Women officers were kept out of any command appointment and could not qualify for a government pension, which starts only after 20 years of service as an officer.
Permanent Commission for Women
- The Ministry of Defence has taken steps to ensure implementation of the grant of PC to women officers and all three services have allowed permanent recruitment of women in select streams including medical, education, legal, signals, logistics and
- In March 2020, the SC cleared the way for PC to women in Indian Navy as well.
- With the order in force, women officers will now be eligible to occupy all the command appointments, at par with male officers, which would open avenues for further promotions to higher ranks for them.
- Appointment of Government Servants as Gram Panchayat Administrator
Why in News
Recently, the Bombay High Court passed an interim order directing that a government servant of the local authority be appointed as an administrator of gram panchayats in Maharashtra.
It is for the 15,000 panchayats where the terms of these officers have ended or would be ending.These administrators include sarpanch, secretary of the panchayats and gram sevaks.
- Petition Against Recent Decisions: The order came after petitions were filed against a recent Government Resolutions (GR) issued by the State Rural Development Department and Maharashtra Village Panchayat (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020.
- Through these, the Maharashtra government ordered appointment of administrators to all gram panchayats by zilla parishad chief executive officers (CEO) in consultation with their respective district ministers.
- The resolution and ordinance were challenged on various grounds related to the appointment of private individuals as administrators of gram
- It also challenged the section 151 of the Maharashtra Village Panchayats Act by allowing appointment of administrators in case the State Election Commission (SEC) could not hold elections due to a natural calamity, pandemic financial emergency or administrative
High Court’s Argument:
- Questioned Private Appointments: The Court ordered that the administrator to be appointed, should be a government servant or an officer from the local authority.
- If not available and the appointment of a private individual is to be made, then each such order shall record the reasons because of which such officer was not available.
- The criteria that administrators have to be “a resident of the village and on the voters’ list” is directory, not mandatory in nature.
- Local Authority Officers: The court emphasised that local authority offices should be the first choice for appointment as an administrator.
- Impact on Local Governance: According to the court private individuals appointment is not warranted in law and such mass appointments will have a lasting adverse impact on the local governance in terms of efficiency, impartiality and effectiveness of the work.
State Government’s Argument:
- Urgent Need: It stated that there is an urgent need for administrators to run the panchayats as pandemic has halted the election process.
- Overburdened Officers: There are a large number of gram panchayats in the State and the government servants are already overburdened. So, it is difficult to appoint them as administrators.
- These are the part of the Panchayati Raj System which has been granted constitutional status by the 73rd Amendment act.
- This scheme of the PRI system increases cooperation among people, democratic participation and decentralization.
- The Gram Sabha (GS) discusses the development work plans of the GP called Gram Panchayat Development Plan (GPDP) and the elected representatives execute the plans.
- Gram Sabha is a body consisting of all persons whose names are included in the electoral rolls for the Panchayat at the village level. The term is defined in the Constitution of India under Article 243(b).
- All eligible voters of the village can participate in the Gram Sabha. The decisions taken by the Gram Sabha cannot be annulled by any other body except itself.
- No Postal Ballots for Above 65 in Bihar
Why in News
Recently, the Election Commission of India (ECI) has decided against extending postal ballots to electors above 65 years of age in the upcoming Bihar Assembly elections due to logistical challenges.
- Earlier in June 2020, the Law Ministry, on the recommendation of ECI, had extended the postal ballot facility to electors over 65 years (being most vulnerable to Covid-19), Covid-19 patients and those suspected to have it by notifying a change to the Conduct of Election Rules, 1961.
- Earlier, postal ballots were extended to Persons with Disabilities (PwD) and electors over 80 years in November 2019 ahead of the Jharkhand and Delhi elections.
- The postal ballot facility for electors above 65 years is different from the conventional postal service. Usually, ballot papers are distributed electronically to electors and are returned to the election officers via post.
- For above 65 and Covid-19 patients, it works as a polling station on the move, with the polling staff visiting the homes of such electors, having them fill out their ballots, sealing them in envelopes and taking it back.
- It was done to minimize vulnerability and exposure at the polling stations for above 65 and to not deprive the Covid-19 patients and people under quarantine of their voting rights.
- After reviewing the preparations for the Bihar polls, the ECI has made this decision keeping in mind the logistical, staff and safety protocol related constraints.
- Ballot papers are distributed electronically to electors and are returned to the election officers via post.
- Currently, only the following voters are allowed to cast their votes through postal ballot: Service voters (armed forces, the armed police force of a state and government servants posted abroad). Voters on election duty. Voters above 80 years of age or Persons with Disabilities (PwD). Voters under preventive detention.
- separate anti-torture law
Why in news
- The alleged torture of a father-son duo in Sattankulam town in Tamil Nadu has given rise to the demand for a separate law against torture.
- Torture is not defined in the Indian Penal Code, but the definitions of ‘hurt’ and ‘grievous hurt’ are clearly laid down. Voluntarily causing hurt and grievous hurt to extort confession are dealt with in the Indian Penal Code..
- Under the Code of Criminal Procedure, a judicial magistrate inquires into every custodial death.
- Though the definition of ‘hurt’ does not include mental torture, Indian courts through their judgments have included psychic torture, environmental coercion, tiring interrogative prolixity, and overbearing and intimidatory methods, among others, in the ambit of torture.
- The Supreme Court judgment in DK Basu v. State of West Bengal was a turning point in the evolving jurisprudence on custodial torture. The Court’s decision in Nilabati Behera v. State of Orissa compels the state to pay compensation in case of custodial torture.
Prevention of Torture Bill:
- A fresh draft of the Prevention of Torture Bill was released in 2017. By proposing for the death penalty for custodial death accused, the proposed quantum of punishment seems too harsh. The 262nd Law Commission Report recommended that the death penalty be abolished except in cases of ‘terrorism-related offences’.
- As opposed to the intention of having a reformative law, the proposed Bill was not a reformative one. It was vague, harsh and retributive in nature.
- There is a need to improve the implementation of the existing laws instead of bringing in a new law. The investigations and the prosecution process are prone to concerns and these aspects need to be reformed. The police need to be trained better. The temptation to use third-degree methods must be replaced with scientific skills.
- Challenge to Anti Defection Law
Why in News
Recently, the 19 rebel MLAs of Rajasthan’s ruling party (Congress) have filed a petition before the High Court challenging the disqualification notices issued to them by the Assembly Speaker under Anti Defection Law.
The disqualification notice was issued on MLAs’ absence from successive Congress Legislature Party (CLP) meetings and a “conspiracy to bring down the government”.
Rebel MLAs Arguments:
- In their writ petition, citing violation of their freedom of speech and expression the legislators argued that they had neither given up their membership of the House nor did their failure to attend the two CLP meetings render them liable for disqualification on the ground of defection.
- Therefore they challenged Clause 2(1)(a) of the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution, and the validity of the Rajasthan Assembly Members (Disqualification on the Grounds of Changing Party) Rules, 1989. Clause 2(1)(a) of the Tenth Schedule states that a member may be disqualified “if he has voluntarily given up his membership” of a political
- They also contended that they could not be disqualified merely for disagreeing with the decisions and policies of some leaders outside the Assembly.
Supreme Court’s Ruling:
- The Supreme Court in the Kihoto Hollohan versus Zachillu and Others, 1992 has said that judicial review cannot be available at a stage prior to the making of a decision by the Speaker/Chairman.
- Nor would interference be permissible at an interlocutory stage of the proceedings. The only exception for any interlocutory interference (decree or judgment) being cases of interlocutory disqualifications or suspensions which may have grave, immediate and irreversible repercussions and consequences.
- Therefore, Constitutional courts cannot judicially review disqualification proceedings under the Tenth Schedule (anti-defection law) of the Constitution until the Speaker or Chairman makes a final decision on
Reason for Limited Role of Courts:
- The Bench explained that the reason for limiting the role of courts in ongoing defection proceedings is that the office of the Speaker is held in the highest respect and esteem in parliamentary traditions.
- Judicial Review: It had said that even the scope of judicial review against an order of a Speaker or Chairman in anti-defection proceedings would be confined to jurisdictional errors, that is infirmities based on violation of constitutional mandate, mala fide actions and non-compliance with rules of natural justice.
Disqualification under the Tenth Schedule
- The Anti-Defection Law was passed in 1985 through the 52 amendment to the Constitution. It added the Tenth Schedule to the Indian Constitution. The main intent of the law was to combat “the evil of political defections”. According to it, a member of a House belonging to any political party becomes disqualified for being a member of the House, if:
- He voluntarily gives up his membership of such political party; or He votes or abstains from voting in such House contrary to any direction issued by his political party without obtaining prior permission of such party and such act has not been condoned by the party within 15 days.
Exceptions to the Disqualification on the Ground of Defection
- If a member goes out of his party as a result of a merger of the party with another party. A merger takes place when two-thirds of the members of the party have agreed to such a merger.
- If a member, after being elected as the presiding officer of the House, voluntarily gives up the membership of his party or rejoins it after he ceases to hold that office. This exemption has been provided in view of the dignity and impartiality of the office.
Powers of Speaker with regard to Anti-Defection Law
- Any question regarding disqualification arising out of defection is to be decided by the presiding officer of the House
- Delimitation in North-east
Why in News
Recently, a former legal advisor to the Election Commission (EC) has held that the Centre’s order for setting up a Delimitation Commission for Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Assam and Nagaland is “unconstitutional” and “illegal”.
The government constituted a Delimitation Commission to redraw Lok Sabha and assembly constituencies of the Union Territory Jammu and Kashmir and the four northeastern states on 6 March 2020. It is headed by the former Supreme Court judge Ranjana Prakash Desai.
- Last delimitation exercise (2002-08) kept out Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur and Nagaland because the data used for it from 2001 Census was challenged for being defective.
- The tribal communities in the four states feared that the delimitation exercise would change the composition of seats reserved for them, hurting their electoral interests. The Delimitation Act of 2002 was amended on 14 January 2008, to empower the President to postpone the exercise in these states after violence erupted.
- Subsequently, Parliament decided that EC would carry out the delimitation exercise in the four states and introduced the Section 8A of the Representation of the People (RP) Act 1950 for this purpose.
- The Centre’s order for setting up a Delimitation Commission is illegal because it violates the Representation of the People Act 1950. Section 8A of the RP Act 1950, introduced by Parliament in 2008, states that delimitation in the four northeastern states would fall within the EC’s remit. Hence, any delimitation exercise by the new Delimitation Commission would be declared void and result in wastage of huge public funds.
- Delimitation is the act of redrawing boundaries of Lok Sabha and Assembly constituencies to represent changes in population and is done on the basis of the preceding Census.
- Article 82 provides the Parliament to enact a Delimitation Act after every Census. The Census Act of 1948 provides for the permanent scheme of conducting population Census. It is carried out in a ten years interval. Article 170 provides division of State into territorial constituencies as per Delimitation Act after every Census.
- Composition: It is usually composed of the retired Supreme Court judge, Chief Election Commissioner and respective states’ Election Commissioners.
- Grant in Aid for Rural Local Bodies
Why in News
Recently, the Ministry of Finance has released a part of grants-in-aid of Rs. 15187.50 crore for around 2.63 lakh Rural Local Bodies (RLBs) of 28 States.
This has been made on the recommendations of the Ministry of Panchayati Raj and the Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation, Ministry of Jal Shakti.
This forms part of the Tied Grant as recommended by the 15 Finance Commission (FC) for the Financial Year (FY) 2020-2021.
- Recommendation of 15 FC: It recommended the grant in aid of 60,750 crore for (FY 2020-21) the RLBs which is the highest ever allocation made by the Finance Commission in any single year.
- Allocation: It will be allocated in two parts, namely Basic Grant and Tied Grant in 50:50%
- Basic Grant: These grants are untied and can be used by RLBs for location-specific needs, except for salary or other establishment expenditure Untied funds are utilised for the works of emergent nature which are normally not covered under the schemes decentralized at the district level.
- Tied Grants: These are used for the basic services of: Sanitation and maintenance of Open-Defecation Free (ODF) Supply of drinking water, rain water harvesting and water recycling.
- If any RLB has fully saturated the needs of one category it can utilize the funds for the other category.
- Assistance: The Ministry of Panchayati Raj would support the states in effective utilization of the grants by providing Web/IT enabled platforms for planning, monitoring, accounting / auditing of the works and funds flow at the level of each of the RLBs.
- It is a constitutional body, that determines the method and formula for distributing the tax proceeds between the Centre and states and among the states as per the constitutional arrangement and present requirements.
- Under Article 280 of the Constitution, the President of India is required to constitute a Finance Commission at an interval of five years or earlier. The 1 FC was set up in 1951 and there have been fifteen so far.
- The 15 FC headed by N.K. Singh was constituted by the President of India on 27 November 2017, against the backdrop of the abolition of the Planning Commission and the introduction of the Goods and Services Tax (GST).
- Karunanidhi on Autonomy Demand
Tamil Nadu Chief Master, Mr. M. Karunanidhi said that states should have more powers to initiate action for economic development without reducing the strength of the Centre.
- A Centre-State Relations Inquiry Committee was set up by the Tamil Nadu state government in September 1969 under the Chairmanship of Dr. P.V. Rajamanar to consider important questions on federalism.
- The Committee in its report recommended the setting up of the Inter-State Council and recommended that any decision of national importance or which may affect one or more States should be taken by the Union Government only after consultation with the Inter-State Council.
- The committee favoured the vesting of the residuary power of legislation taxation in the state legislature. The recommendations were ignored by the union government.
Nature of Indian federal structure
- Due to the centralising tendency of Indian federalism, K C Wheare referred to Indian federalism as “Quasi federal”. Other constitutional experts describe it as,“federation without federalism” and “a Union of Unequal States”, particularly the way it has evolved over the years.
- Features of Indian Federation that reflects a Centralising Tendency
Inequitable Division of Power
- The division of powers is in favour of the Centre and highly inequitable from that of a true federation.
- The Union List contains more numbers and important subjects (like defence, currency, external affairs, citizenship, and railways) than the State List.
- The Centre has overriding authority over the Concurrent List and the residuary powers have also been left with the Centre.
No Territorial Integrity with States
- The Parliament can by unilateral action change the area, boundaries or name of any state (Article 3 of Indian constitution).
- Indian federalism is described as an indestructible union of destructive states.
Flexibility of the Constitution
- The Constitution of India embodies not only the powers of the Centre but also those of the states. The bulk of the Constitution can be amended by the unilateral action of the Parliament and the power to initiate an amendment to the Constitution lies only with the Centre.
- During an emergency, the Central government becomes all-powerful and the states go into the total control of the Centre. It converts the federal structure into a unitary one without a formal amendment of the Constitution.
Appointment of Governor
- The governor is the head of the state but is appointed by the President. He holds office during the pleasure of the President.
- In this capacity, he/she acts as an agent of the Centre.
Integrated Constitutional Offices
- Indian constitution provides for an integrated audit machinery (such as CAG), election commission (such as ECI) and states have no control over these offices.
- Also, features like Single Citizenship, Integrated Judiciary and All India Services also signifies centralising tilt.
Inter state council
- The Inter-State Council is a non-permanent constitutional body set up by a presidential order on the basis of provisions in Article 263 of the Constitution of India. The body was formed by a presidential order dated 28 May 1990 on recommendation of Sarkaria
Inter-State Council Composition
Prime Minister acts as the chairman of the council.
Members of Inter-State Council
- Union Ministers of Cabinet rank in the Union
- Council of Ministers nominated by the Prime Minister.
- Chief Ministers of all states.
- Chief Ministers of Union Territories having a Legislative Assembly and Administrators of UTs not having a Legislative Assembly
Functions of Inter-State Council
- Inquiring and advising upon disputes which may have emerged between the States:
- Investigating and discussing subjects in which the States or the Union has a common interest.
- Making suggestions on any such subject, for the better coordination of policy and action with respect to that subject.
- SC gives ex-royals right to manage deity’s property
Why in news
The Supreme Court has held that the erstwhile Travancore royal family is the “human ministrant” or the shebait (manager) of the properties belonging to Sree Padmanabha, the chief deity of Sree Padmanabhaswamy temple in Kerala.
- The recent judgement is over a dispute of over a decade on whether the temple and its considerable assets should devolve to the Kerala Government following the death of the Travancore ruler Sree Chithira Thirunal Balarama Varma in July 1991.
- Arguments were raised on whether the 26th Constitutional Amendment, which put an end to privy purses enjoyed by erstwhile rulers, would nudge the temple and properties into the hands of the State.
- The Kerala High Court, in 2011, directed the State to take over the temple and exhibit its treasures for public viewing in a museum.
- The Privy Purse was a payment made to the ruling families of erstwhile princely states as a part of their agreement to integrate with India in 1947.
- The 26th Constitutional Amendment Act of 1971 brought an end to this privilege of princely states.
Supreme Court Judgement:
- The recent judgement was given by a division bench comprising of Justices U.U. Lalit and Indu Malhotra.
- According to the judgement, shebaitship does not lapse in favour of the State by the principle of escheat (reversion of property to the State).
- Disabled entitled to same benefits of SC/ST quota
Why in news
According to the recent decision of the Supreme Court, persons with disabilities are entitled to the same benefits of SC/ST quota.
Supreme Court Judgement:
- The Supreme Court, in a significant decision, confirmed that persons with disabilities are also socially backward and entitled to the same benefits of relaxation as Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe candidates in public employment and education.
- A three-judge Bench led by Justice Rohinton Nariman upheld a 2012 judgment of the Delhi High Court in Anamol Bhandari (minor) through his father/Natural Guardian v. Delhi Technological University.
- “In Anamol Bhandari, the High Court has correctly held that people suffering from disabilities are also socially backward, and are therefore, at the very least, entitled to the same benefits as given to the Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe candidates,” the Supreme Court held in the judgment.
- Powers of Election Commission to Delay Polls
Why in News
Recently, various political parties have voiced their concerns over holding elections in Bihar amid Covid-19 pandemic and asked to postpone the same.
Election Commission Mandate:
- The Election Commission (EC) of India is mandated under law to hold elections at any time within six months before the five-year term of the Lok Sabha or Legislative Assembly expires.
- The polls are timed in a way that the new Assembly or Lok Sabha is in place on the day of the dissolution of the outgoing House.
- The six months is the constitutionally defined limit between two sessions of the House/Assembly (Article 85(1) and Article 174(1) of the Constitution, respectively).
Postponement of Election:
- An election once called usually proceeds as per schedule. However, in some exceptional cases, the process can be postponed or even scrapped after its announcement under extraordinary circumstances.
- Under Section 153 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, read with Article 324 of the Constitution of India, the EC can extend the time for completing an election, but such extension: Should not go beyond the six months. Should not go beyond the date of the normal dissolution of the Lok Sabha or the Assembly.
Grounds for Election Postponement:
- Article 172(1) states that, in case of a state of Emergency, an election can be postponed for one year at a time in addition to a period of six months after the Emergency is lifted.
- There is no specific legal provision that specifies the circumstances under which elections can be deferred in non-Emergency situations.
- However, law and order, natural calamities like earthquakes and floods, or any other compelling circumstances which are beyond EC’s control can be the grounds for extension.
Legal Issues Involved:
- Powers under Section 153 can be exercised only after an election schedule has been notified. If the EC wants to postpone Bihar elections, it will have to be done through its extraordinary powers under Article 324.
- Under Article 324 the EC will have to inform the government of its inability to hold polls on time.
- The government can decide the future course — to impose President’s Rule or allow the incumbent Chief Minister to continue for six more
- Article 78
Why in News
Recently, the Prime Minister of India briefed the President on ‘issues of national and international importance’. The meeting took place against the backdrop of border tensions with China, economic crisis and the Covid-19 situation.
Article 78 of the Constitution deals with the duties of the Prime Minister with respect to the furnishing of information to the President.
- As per Article 78, following are the duties of the Prime Minister: To communicate to the President all decisions of the Council of Ministers(CoM – Article 74) relating to the administration of the affairs of the union and proposals for legislation;
- To furnish such information relating to the administration of the affairs of the Union and proposals for legislation as the President may call for;
- and If the President so requires, to submit for the consideration of the CoM, any matter on which a decision has been taken by a Minister but which has not been considered by the CoM.
- Article 167 of the Constitution is a corresponding article in the state executive.
- 23. Strength of CoM in Madhya Pradesh
Why in news
Rajya Sabha member has said that the Congress will move the court as the strength of the Council of Ministers in Madhya Pradesh exceeds the prescribed limit. 20 Cabinet Ministers and 8 Ministers of State were included in the Ministry, expanding it to 34. At present, the number of members in the Madhya Pradesh Legislative Assembly is 206.
Article 164 (1A):
- Article 164 (1A) provides for limiting the number of ministers in the state cabinets.
- It prescribes that the total number of ministers, including the Chief Minister, in the Council of Ministers in a State shall not exceed 15% of the total number of members of the Legislative Assembly of that State.
It was inserted in the Constitution on the recommendation of the National Commission for Review of the Working of the Constitution headed by former Chief Justice of India, M.N. Venkatachaliah on misuse and drainage of public money to put a ban on over-sized cabinets
- Free food grain scheme till Nov. Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PMGKAY)
- The Prime Minister has announced that the free grain distribution scheme under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PMGKAY) will be extended by five months till the end of November 2020, with an additional estimated outlay of 90,000 crore. 5 kg of free food grains (rice or wheat) to each member of a family, and 1 kg of pulses (chana) to each family per month, will be provided free of cost.
- Prime Minister also underlined that the country is moving towards the institution of ‘one nation, one ration card’, which will be of immense benefit to the poor who travel to other states in search of work.
- The scheme covers 80 crore ration card holders (2/3rd of India’s population).
- Attorney General of India
Why in News
The central government has extended the term of K.K. Venugopal as Attorney General (AG) for one year.
- The Attorney General (AG) of India is a part of the Union Executive. AG is the highest law officer in the country. Article 76 of the Constitution provides for the office of AG of India. AG is appointed by the President on the advice of the government. S/he must be a person who is qualified to be appointed a judge of the Supreme Court, i.e. s/he must be a citizen of India and must have been a judge of some high court for five years or an advocate of some high court for ten years or an eminent jurist, in the opinion of the President.
- Term of the Office: Not fixed by the Constitution.
- Removal: Procedures and grounds for the removal of AG are not stated in the Constitution. S/he holds office during the pleasure of the President (may be removed by the President at any time).
- Duties and Functions: To give advice to the Government of India (GoI) upon such legal matters, which are referred to her/him by the President. Performing other duties of a legal character that are assigned to her/him by the President. To appear on behalf of the GoI in all cases in the Supreme Court or in any case in any High Court in which the GoI is concerned. To represent the GoI in any reference made by the President to the Supreme Court under Article 143 (Power of the President to consult the Supreme Court) of the Constitution.
- S/he has the right to speak and to take part in the proceedings of both the Houses of Parliament or their joint sitting and any committee of the Parliament of which s/he may be named a member, but without a right to vote.
- S/he enjoys all the privileges and immunities that are available to a member of Parliament. S/he does not fall in the category of government servants. S/he is not debarred from private legal practice. However, s/he should not advise or hold a brief against the GoI. Solicitor General of India and Additional Solicitor General of India assist the AG in fulfillment of the official responsibilities.
- Corresponding Office in the States: Advocate General (Article 165).
Science and tech
- International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER)
Why in News
Recently, the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) celebrated the start of Assembly of the ITER Tokamak at Saint-Paul-Lez-Durance, France.
Significance of the Event:
- The Celebration was hosted virtually by the French President and all ITER member countries participated either in person, or electronically through remote mode.
- India also participated in the celebrations and considered the global participation of scientists to project as a perfect illustration of the age-old Indian belief – Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam.
- India also mentioned about its fair share in terms of its contributions, viz., the cryostat, cryogenic and cryo-distribution systems, auxiliary heating devices, multi megawatt power supplies, etc.
- ITER cryostat is manufactured by India (Larsen and Tourbo).
- Cryostat is a chamber that can maintain very low temperatures. It is the largest stainless steel high-vacuum pressure chamber ever built (16,000 m ) providing the high vacuum, ultra cool environment for the ITER vacuum vessel and the superconducting magnets.
- European Union (EU) is responsible for the largest portion of construction costs (45.6%); the remainder is shared equally by China, Japan, South Korea, Russia, USA including India (9.1% each).
- A nuclear reaction is the process in which two nuclei, or a nucleus and an external subatomic particle, collide to produce one or more new nuclides. Thus, a nuclear reaction must cause a transformation of at least one nuclide to another.
- The nucleus of an atom splits into two daughter nuclei. This decay can be natural spontaneous splitting by radioactive decay, or can actually be simulated in a lab by achieving necessary conditions (bombarding with neutrons, alpha particles, etc.).
- The resulting fragments tend to have a combined mass which is less than the original. The missing mass is usually converted into nuclear
- Currently all commercial nuclear reactors are based on nuclear fission.
- Nuclear Fusion is defined as the combining of two lighter nuclei into a heavier one.
- Such nuclear fusion reactions are the source of energy in the Sun andother stars.
- It takes considerable energy to force the nuclei to fuse.
- The conditions needed for this process are extreme – millions of degrees of temperature and millions of pascals of pressure.
- The hydrogen bomb is based on a thermonuclear fusion reaction. However, a nuclear bomb based on the fission of uranium or plutonium is placed at the core of the hydrogen bomb to provide initial energy.
International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor
- International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) is a collaboration of 35 nations launched in
- It is located in
- It aims to build the world’s largest tokamak to prove the feasibility of fusion as a large-scale and carbon-free source of energy.
- The tokamak is an experimental machine designed to harness the energy of fusion. Inside a tokamak, the energy produced through the fusion of atoms is absorbed as heat in the walls of the vessel.
- Like a conventional power plant, a fusion power plant uses this heat to produce steam and then electricity by way of turbines and generators.
- ITER will be the first fusion device to maintain fusion for long periods of time and also to test the integrated technologies, materials, and physics regimes necessary for the commercial production of fusion-based electricity.
- The ITER members include China, the European Union, India, Japan, South Korea, Russia and the United States.
- Interplanetary Contamination on Mars
Why in News
- Recently, astrobiologists have expressed concerns about possible ‘interplanetary contamination’ on Mars as ambitious space missions are proliferating the space along with advances in commercial flight. Interplanetary contamination refers to biological contamination of a planetary body by a space probe or spacecraft, either deliberate or unintentional.
- In the past several missions have launched to Mars e.g. China’s Tianwen-1 which aims to land on the Red Planet’s surface, and the UAE’s Al Amal (Hope) which does not involve a landing, but an orbital mission that will study the Martian atmosphere.
- The USA will soon launch its Perseverance mission, which would be the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) 10 successful Mars landing since
- The Perseverance is a rover name for NASA’s Mars 2020 mission. It will seek signs of ancient life and collect rock and soil samples from the planet.
- In the past, space missions have established physical contact with astronomical bodies such as comets and asteroids, and crewed missions have landed on the Moon.
- since these bodies are known to be hostile to life, the possibility of their contamination has not been a pressing issue.
Type of Contamination:
- There are two types of contamination i.e. forward and backward contamination.
- Forward Contamination: It means the transport of Earth-based microbes to other celestial bodies.
- Since, presence of liquid water was already discovered on Mars there is a chance that Mars has life and it is an ethical obligation on humanity to ensure that microbes from Earth do not disturb a possible Martian biosphere, allowing it to evolve in its own
- Secondly, Earth-based organisms could spoil the integrity of the Red Planet’s samples that rovers want to study – a highly disruptive concept for scientists who are looking for signs of native Martian life.
- Back Contamination: It is the transfer of extraterrestrial organisms (if they exist) into the Earth’s biosphere.
- The scientists rule out back contamination with respect to Mars sample-return mission as their biochemistry would be markedly different from that on Earth.
- United Nations Outer Space Treaty of 1967: It serves as a defence mechanism against the militarisation of space and also requires nations to worry about contamination risks. Its 110 state parties include the USA, Russia, China, and India.
- To ensure compliance with the Treaty, the Committee on Space Research (COSPAR) lays down a ‘planetary protection policy’ that aims to limit the number of microbes sent to other planets, as well as ensuring that alien life does not cause havoc on Earth.
- Spacecraft Sterilisation: To prevent forward contamination, space missions take care to ensure that spacecraft are sterilised.
- Previous Mars missions, such as NASA’s Viking landers of the 1970s, were all sterilised before being launched into space.
- Containment: In the case of back contamination, sterilisation would not be an option–as this would ruin the extraterrestrial samples.
- Containment would be the only option to break the chain of contact between possible alien microbes and life on Earth.
- Smallpox and its Origins
Why in News
Recently, a new study carried out by an international team of researchers provides fresh insight into the
origins of the Smallpox disease. It suggested that the smallpox was in existence as early as during the Viking age in the 8 century CE.
- The Viking Age was the period during the Middle Ages when the Norsemen (name given to the Scandinavian Vikings) undertook colonizing, conquest and trading throughout Europe, and reached North America in the 9 and 10 century.
- About: Smallpox is a contagious disease, caused by the Variola Virus (VARV).
- Transmission: It transmits through the droplets released from coughing, sneezing, and face to face contact with an infected person.
- Eradication: One of the deadliest diseases known to mankind, it is also the only one to have been eradicated by vaccination.
- In 1980, this was declared as completely eradicated after the global immunization campaign led by the World Health Organization (WHO) with the help of the smallpox vaccine.
- Vaccine: The first effective vaccine was discovered by Edward Jenner in 1796.
- Origin: The origins of smallpox have always been unclear. Until now, the earliest confirmed case of the disease was found in the mummified remains of a 17 century Lithuanian child, even though written records suggest that it is much older.
- Finding Virus Sequence: The Variola virus sequence was recovered from 13 Northern European individuals including 11 dated to 600–1050 CE, overlapping the Viking Age.
- Genetic Makeup: It also suggests that the genetic makeup of the viral strain recovered from the 11 individuals is different from the modern version which was eradicated in 1979-80.
- Course of Evolution: It was suggested as a benign disease (less dangerous) considering that smallpox may have in the past been a mild. In the course of evolution, the active gene count of the virus is shown to have reduced due to mutation.
- Therefore, the researchers speculated that smallpox became more deadly over time.
Implications of the New Research:
- Information about the Viruses: The results of the study does not have any impact on the current spread of the Covid-19 pandemic.
- However, it does provide important information on how a virus may become deadlier over time.
Ways of Spread:
- These findings would help to understand the ways in which diseases have affected human populations in the past. The DNA evidence suggests that diseases such as plague and hepatitis B are associated with major prehistoric migrations — something that seems now to be true of variola too.
- It would also help to seek answers of whether migrations brought the diseases to new areas or the emergence of disease triggered people to move.
- Asteroid 2020 ND
Why in News
Recently, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has issued a warning that a huge “Asteroid 2020 ND” will move past Earth on 24 July.
- The asteroid, about 170 metres-long, will be as close as 0.034 Astronomical Unit (AU- Astronomical Unit is the distance between the Earth and the Sun and is roughly 150 million km) to the Earth, and is travelling at a speed of 48,000 kilometres per
- It is a Near-Earth Objects (NEO) and its distance from Earth has placed it in the Potentially Hazardous Asteroids (PHA)
Potentially Hazardous Asteroids:
- It means that an asteroid has the potential to make threatening close approaches to the Earth.
- all asteroids with a Minimum Orbit Intersection Distance (MOID) of 0.05 AU (which is about 7,480,000 Km) or less and an Absolute Magnitude (H) of 22.0 (about 150 mt in diameter) or less are considered PHAs.
- MOID is a method for calculating the minimum distance between two almost overlapping elliptical orbits. The absolute magnitude is a measure of the star’s luminosity i.e. the total amount of energy radiated by the star every second.
- Deflecting Asteroids: Blowing up the asteroid before it reaches Earth, or deflecting it off its Earth-bound course by hitting it with a spacecraft may ward off the threat.
- AIDA: The measure undertaken so far is the Asteroid Impact and Deflection Assessment (AIDA), which includes NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission and the European Space Agency’s (ESA)
- The scientific interest in comets and asteroids is largely due to their status as relatively unchanged remnant debris from the solar system formation process over 4.6 billion years ago. Therefore, they offer clues about the chemical mixture from the planets formed.
- Asteroids orbit the Sun and are small bodies in the solar system. They are made up of metals and rocks. They tend to have shorter and elliptical orbits. They do not produce a coma or tail atmosphere.
- Comets also orbit the Sun and are relatively small bodies of the solar system. They are made up of ice and hydrocarbons.
- a thin atmospheric tail is formed when a comet is close to the Sun.
- China’s Mars mission
Why in news
China launched the Tianwen-1 Mars rover mission.
It is China’s first fully home-grown Mars mission. It was launched atop Long March-5 carrier rocket.
It consists of an orbiter and a lander/rover duo, a combination of craft that had never before been launched together towards Mars.
- It is especially striking given that it’s China’s first attempt at a full-on Mars mission.
- China did launch a Mars orbiter called Yinghuo-1 in 2011, but the spacecraft accompanied Russia’s Phobos-Grunt mission. However, the launch failed, leaving the probes trapped in Earth orbit.
- Tianwen-1 is expected to arrive at the Red Planet in February 2021.
- The lander/rover pair will touch down on the Martian surface two to three months later somewhere within Utopia Planitia. o Utopia Planitia is a large plain in Mars’ Northern Hemisphere.
- NASA’s Viking 2 lander landed there in 1976.
- The solar-powered rover will then spend about 90 Martian days (called sols, and slightly longer than Earth Days), studying its surroundings in detail.
- The orbiter will eventually settle into a polar elliptical orbit.
- The lander apparently will not do any substantive science work, serving as a delivery system for the rover.
Objectives of Tianwen-1:
- To map the morphology and geological structure.
- To investigate the surface soil characteristics and water-ice distribution.
- To analyze the surface material composition.
- To measure the ionosphere and the characteristics of the Martian climate and environment at the surface.
- To perceive the physical fields (electromagnetic, gravitational) and internal structure of Mars.
- Kakrapar Atomic Plant Achieves Criticality
Why in News
Recently, the third unit of the Kakrapar Atomic Power Project (KAPP-3) in Tapi district of Gujarat achieved its first criticality.
- Criticality is the first step towards power production. A nuclear reactor is said to be critical when the nuclear fuel inside a reactor sustains a fission chain reaction.
- Each fission reaction releases a sufficient number of neutrons to sustain a series of reactions. Heat is produced in the event, which is used to generate steam that spins a turbine to create electricity.
- Fission is a process in which the nucleus of an atom splits into two or more smaller nuclei, and some byproduct. When the nucleus splits, the kinetic energy of the fission fragments (primary nuclei) is transferred to other atoms in the fuel as heat energy, which is eventually used to produce steam to drive the turbines.
- KAPP-3 is the country’s first 700 MWe (megawatt electric) unit, and the biggest indigenously developed variant of the Pressurized Heavy Water Reactor (PHWR).
- Until now, the biggest reactor size of indigenous design was the 540 MWe, two of which have been deployed in Tarapur, Maharashtra.
- PHWR is a nuclear power reactor, commonly using un-enriched natural uranium as its fuel, that uses heavy water (deuterium oxide DO) as its coolant and moderator.
- PHWR technology was started in India in the late 1960s with the construction of the first 220 MWe reactors, Rajasthan Atomic Power Station (RAPS-1).
- The 700 MWe PHWRs have advanced safety features like steel lined inner containment, passive decay heat removal system, containment spray system, hydrogen management system, among others.
- The ‘passive decay heat removal system’ is on the lines of similar technology adopted for Generation III+ plants to negate the possibility of a Fukushima-type accident that happened in Japan in 2011.
- KAPP-3 addresses the issue of excess thermal margins. Thermal margin refers to the extent to which the operating temperature of the reactor is below its maximum operating temperature.
- KAPP-3 would constitute the biggest component in the nuclear power capacity expansion plan.
- India is working to ramp up its existing nuclear power capacity of 6,780 MWe to 22,480 MWe by 2031.
- Currently, nuclear power capacity constitutes less than 2% of the total installed capacity of 3,68,690 MW (end-January 2020).
- IIT-M researchers use artificial materials and ultrasound to detect defects in large structures
Why in news
Researchers in the Indian Institute of Technology Madras and the University of Nairobi have used metamaterials to improve detection of defects in large structures by guided wave ultrasound.
- Engineering structures including buildings, pipelines and rails require periodic testing to prevent catastrophic failures occurring due to corrosion, impact, and strain.
- Conventional bulk ultrasonic inspection is tedious and time-consuming as it involves point-by-point assessment of structures.
Guided Wave Testing:
- In guided wave testing (GWT), the sound waves are sent along the length of the structure rather than into the structure, allowing the waves to travel longer distances.
- GWT has poorer resolution than conventional ultrasound-based testing due to diffraction limitations.
- The research team used metamaterials to improve the resolution of guided ultrasound waves.
- Metamaterials are artificially crafted materials with unique internal microstructures that give them properties not found in nature.
- The constituent artificial units of the metamaterial can be tailored in shape, size, and interatomic interaction, to exhibit unusual properties.
- RADT Vs RT-PCR
Why in News
Recently, New Delhi’s Covid-19 testing strategy has become controversial due to the low level of RT-PCR (Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction) re-testing in persons tested negative in RADT (Rapid Antigen Detection Tests). Using RADT widely without following up with adequate retests contradicts Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) guidelines on use of the RADT test.
- RADT ought to be used only in containment zones, hotspots, hospital settings and laboratories among those who manifested one or other symptoms of the disease, influenza-like illnesses. People with co-morbidities who were asymptomatic and high-risk contacts of those confirmed positive.
- Those who tested ‘negative’ and who were suspected by the clinicians to be harboring the disease ought to be tested sequentially by RT-PCR to rule out infection and higher chances of false negatives.
- Those who test positive don’t need a re-test and must be considered positive.
Testing in New Delhi:
- From 18 June – 16 July, it has conducted 3, 05,820 RADT. Of these, 2,85,225 tests came ‘negative’ and out of them only, 1,670 were chosen for re-test by RTPCR and 262 of these were confirmed positive.
- Only 1 in 200 of those who tested negative in an antigen test to detect possible coronavirus cases were re-tested, which is against the given guidelines of ICMR.
- Of those re-tested with RT-PCR, around 15% tested positive, which is higher than the RADT positive results i.e. 6%.
Arguments for Low Re-tests:
- Re-testing everyone would defeat the purpose of having another (rapid antigen) test. The RT-PCR test takes a minimum of 2-5 hours including the time taken for sample transportation.
- This limits the widespread use of the test and also impedes quick augmentation of testing capacity in various containment zones and hospital settings.
- In RADT, the maximum duration for interpreting a positive or negative test is 30 minutes, thus a quicker complement to the standard RT-PCR
- The consequence of indiscriminately deploying antigen tests would mean expanding the number of tests and presenting a lower positivity rate while not necessarily being able to reliably establish the extent of the spread of the coronavirus in the population.
- A low level of re-testing with RT-PCR in persons who are testing antigen negative will underestimate the cases and make the tracking inaccurate.
- RADT It is a test on swabbed nasal samples that detects antigens (foreign substances that induce an immune response in the body) that are found on or within the SARS-CoV-2
- It is a point-of-care test, performed outside the conventional laboratory setting, and is used to quickly obtain a diagnostic result.
- Like RT-PCR, the rapid antigen detection test too seeks to detect the virus rather than the antibodies produced by the body.
- While the mechanism is different, the most significant difference between the two is time. As the ICMR has pointed out, the RT-PCR test takes a minimum of 2-5 hours including the time taken for sample transportation.
- In a reliable rapid antigen detection test, the maximum duration for interpreting a positive or negative test is 30 minutes.
- Kary Mullis, the American biochemist invented the PCR technique. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1993. Under this, copies of a segment of DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) are created using an enzyme called Polymerase.
- The ‘chain reaction’ signifies how the DNA fragments are copied, exponentially — one is copied into two, the two are copied into four, and so on.
- A fluorescent DNA binding dye called the “probe” is added to DNA, which shows the presence of the virus on a
- However, coronavirus is made of RNA (ribonucleic acid). Therefore to detect coronavirus, RNA is converted into DNA using a technique called reverse transcription. A ‘reverse transcriptase’ enzyme converts the RNA into DNA. Copies of the DNA are then made and amplified
- BlackRock Android Malware
Why in News
Recently, a security firm has alerted about a new malware called BlackRock which targets social, communication, and dating apps.
- Blackrock is a banking Trojan and said to be an enhanced version of existing Xerxes malware which itself is a variant of the LokiBot Android trojan.
- A trojan is any type of malicious program disguised as a legitimate one. Often, they are designed to steal sensitive information (login credentials, account numbers, financial information, credit card information, and the like) from users.
- Banking trojans once installed onto a client machine use a variety of techniques to create botnets, steal credentials, inject malicious code into browsers, or steal money.
- Functioning: It collects user information by abusing the Accessibility Service of Android and overlaying a fake screen on top of a genuine app. It uses Android DPC (Device Policy Controller) to provide access to other permissions.
- Concerns: It surfaces as a google update. The malware is said to have the design to overlay attacks, send, spam, and steal SMS messages as well as lock the victim in the launcher activity. It can also act as a keylogger (i.e. track the keys struck on a keyboard), which essentially could help a hacker to acquire financial information.
- Despite being a banking Trojan, BlackRock is said to target non-financial apps. It targets a total of 337 apps, which is significantly higher than any of the already known malicious code. It makes antivirus applications useless.
- National Thermal Power Corporation Limited
Why in News
Recently, the National Thermal Power Corporation Limited (NTPC Ltd.) has entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the National Investment and Infrastructure Fund (NIIF), acting through the National Investment and Infrastructure Fund Limited (NIIFL). It will explore opportunities for investments in areas like renewable energy (RE), power distribution among other areas of mutual interest in India.
NTPC Ltd. is a central Public Sector Undertaking (PSU) under the Ministry of Power. It is India’s largest energy conglomerate with roots planted way back in 1975 to accelerate power development in India.
Few Recent Initiatives:
- Creation of public charging infrastructure in various cities and battery charging and swapping stations for electric 3-wheelers have been commissioned.
- Providing electric buses to state/city transport undertakings. For example, e-bus solutions for Andaman and Nicobar Administration are under implementation. Launch of its new project involving hydrogen Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles (FCEV) to run in Delhi and Leh.
National Investment and Infrastructure Fund Limited:
- It is a collaborative investment platform for international and Indian investors, anchored by the Government of India. It was set up in December 2015 to catalyse funding into the country’s core sector.
- It invests across asset classes such as infrastructure, private equity and other diversified sectors in India, with the objective to generate attractive risk-adjusted returns for its investors. It has a targeted corpus of Rs. 40,000 crore to be raised over the years. 49% of which will be funded by the government at any given point of time. Remaining 51% is to be raised from domestic and global investors, including international pension funds, sovereign wealth funds and multilateral/bilateral investors.
- Hope: UAE Mars Mission
Why in News
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) Mars Mission or ‘Hope’ is scheduled for launch on 16 July, 2020. It is one of three missions launching to Mars this month. The USA and China, both have surface rovers in the late stages of preparation.
It is the first interplanetary mission for the Arab World. The ‘Hope Orbiter’ will be lifted on an H-IIA rocket from Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, a machinery maker in Japan. It will be launched from Tanegashima Island in Japan.
The UAE does not have its own rocket industry. Once launched, it is expected to arrive in orbit around Mars in Februar 2021 (the year of 50 anniversary of UAE’s founding). It costs about USD 200 million and will carry three instruments: an infrared spectrometer, an ultraviolet spectrometer and a camera.
- It will give planetary scientists their first global view of Martian weather at all times of day.
- Over its two-year mission, it will investigate how dust storms and other weather phenomena near the Martian surface speed or slow the loss of the planet’s atmosphere into space.
- The country’s primary aim is to inspire school children and spur its science and technology industries, which, in turn, will enable the Emirates to tackle critical issues like food, water, energy and a post-petroleum economy.
Previous UAE Space Missions:
- UAE Has built and launched three earth-observing satellites in collaboration with a South Korean manufacturer. In 2019, the UAE bought a seat on a Russian Soyuz rocket and sent its first astronaut for an eight-day stay at the International Space
Other Two Missions on Mars:
- NASA’s Mars rover, Perseverance, with instruments to search for chemical signs of past life, is scheduled to launch on 30 July, 2020. China is also launching an ambitious mission to Mars, Tianwen-1.
Reasons Behind Timing of Mars Missions:
- The timing is dictated by the opening of a one-month window in which Mars and Earth are in ideal alignment on the same side of the sun, which minimizes travel time and fuel use. Such a window opens only once every 26 months.
Existing Missions on Mars:
- Only USA has successfully put a spacecraft on Mars. Two NASA landers are operating on the Mars i.e. InSight and Six spacecraft that are exploring Mars from orbit include three from the USA, two European and one from India (Mars Orbiter Mission).
- Low-cost Supercapacitor
Why in News
Recently, scientists at the International Advanced Research Centre for Powder Metallurgy and New Materials (ARCI) have developed a simple, low-cost, environment friendly, and sustainable supercapacitor device.
ARCI is an autonomous organization of the Department of Science and Technology, Government of India.
- Supercapacitor is a next-generation energy storage device. They are also known as It has significant advantages such as high power density, long durability, and ultrafast charging characteristics as compared to conventional capacitors and Lithium-Ion batteries (LIB).
- Main components of supercapacitors include electrode, electrolyte, separator, and the current collector.
- The supercapacitor is developed from industrial waste cotton based electrode & natural seawater electrolyte. Industrial waste cotton was converted into highly porous carbon fibers by activation process and then utilised to make high-performance supercapacitor Natural seawater was explored as an environment-friendly, cost-effective and alternative aqueous electrolyte.
- Kuaizhou-11 Rocket
Why in News
The Chinese rocket named Kuaizhou-11 failed due to malfunction during the flight, losing both the satellites it was carrying.
- Kuaizhou, meaning “fast ship” in Chinese is a low-cost solid fueled carrier rocket.
- It was operated by the commercial launch firm Expace, and was originally scheduled for 2018 after being developed three years earlier. Also known as KZ-11, it had a lift-off mass of 70.8 tonnes, and was designed to launch low-Earth and Sun-synchronous orbit satellites.
- Significance: Although the launch failed, it signifies a rapidly growing commercial space industry in China.
- Companies such as Expace, iSpace, and Landspace, created after the Chinese government opened its space sector to private investment in 2014, have cut down traditional launch operations and are developing rapid response capabilities, the report stated.
Other Important Missions of China:
- Tianwen-1: China’s Mars Mission to be launched by July, 2020. China’s previous ‘Yinghuo-1’ Mars mission, which was supported by Russia failed in 2012. Tianwen-1 will lift off on a Long March 5 rocket.
- Long March 5 Rocket: Considered as China’s successful step to operate a permanent space station and send astronauts to the Moon.
- Tiangong: China’s own space station to be built by 2022. The Chinese rockets will have to create a niche for themselves in the satellite market where the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has already gained a foothold.
- ISRO’s tried and trusted Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) has till now launched 297 foreign satellites and has various variants, which are meant for carrying different-size payloads and to different orbits.
Steps Taken by India:
- Approval to the Indian National Space Promotion and Authorization Centre (IN-SPACe) to provide a level playing field for private companies to use Indian space infrastructure. New Space India Limited (NSIL), the newly created second commercial arm of the Indian Space Research Organisation.
- ISRO has been a genuine global pioneer of aerospatial cost compression on several fronts. Cost-effectiveness has given the agency a distinct edge in the commercial arena of satellite launch services. With such a valuable base of expertise within the country, it is only natural to expect the emergence of a private space industry that could prove globally competitive.
- Rashtriya Chemicals and Fertilizers Limited
Why in News
Rashtriya Chemicals and Fertilizers Limited (RCF) has introduced a hand cleansing IsoPropyl Alcohol (IPA) Based Gel ‘RCF SAFEROLA’ to assist the government in its effort to combat Covid -19.
- The hand cleansing gel is a skin friendly moisturizer based hand-sanitizer which contains IsoPropyl Alcohol (IPA) and Aloe Vera extract. It is enriched with Vitamin-E and has a fresh lime fragrance.
- RCF is a ‘Mini Ratna’ company and is a leading producer of fertilizers and chemicals in the country. It is under the Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers.
- It manufactures urea, complex fertilizers, bio-fertilizers, micro-nutrients, water soluble fertilizers, soil conditioners and a wide range of Industrial Chemicals.
- It has two operating units, one at Trombay in Mumbai and the other at Thal, Raigad district, about 100 km from Mumbai.
- Rewa Solar Project
Why in News
Recently, the Prime Minister has inaugurated the 750 MW (Mega Watt) solar project set up in Rewa, Madhya Pradesh. It is in line with India’s commitment to attain the target of 175 GW of installed renewable energy capacity by 2022 including 100 GW of solar installed capacity.
- Features: It is Asia’s largest solar power project. It comprises three solar generating units of 250 MW each located on a 500 hectare of land situated inside a solar park (total area 1500 hectare).
- Solar Park: It was developed by the Rewa Ultra Mega Solar Limited (RUMSL), a Joint Venture Company of Madhya Pradesh UrjaVikas Nigam Limited (MPUVN), and Solar Energy Corporation of India (SECI), a Central Public Sector Undertaking. Central Financial Assistance of Rs. 138 crore was provided to the RUMSL for development of the Park.
- Grid Parity Barrier: It is the first solar project in the country to break the grid parity barrier.
- Grid parity occurs when an alternative energy source can generate power at a cost of electricity that is less than or equal to the price of power from the electricity grid. Further, compared to prevailing solar project tariffs of approx. Rs. 4.50/unit in early 2017, it achieved a first year tariff of Rs. 2.97/unit with a tariff escalation of Rs. 0.05/unit over 15 years.
- Risk Reduction: Its payment security mechanism for reducing risks to power developers has been recommended as a model to other states by the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy.
- Renewable Energy Project: It is the first renewable energy project to supply an institutional customer outside the state, i.e. Delhi Metro, which will get 24% of energy from the project with the remaining 76% being supplied to the state DISCOMs of Madhya Pradesh.
- It is also India’s first solar project to get funding from Clean Technology Fund (CTF), which is available at a rate of 0.25% for a 40-year period from the World Bank.
- The CTF promotes scaled-up financing for demonstration, deployment and transfer of low carbon technologies with a significant potential for long-term greenhouse gas emissions savings.
- Carbon Emission Reduction: It will help in reducing the carbon emission equivalent to 15 lakh ton of CO per year.
- Global Appreciation: It has also received the World Bank Group President’s Award for innovation and excellence and was included in the book ‘A Book of Innovation: New Beginnings’.
- Winter Diesel
Why in News
Recently, the Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) has sought approval from the Directorate General of Quality Assurance (DGQA) for the use of winter diesel by armed forces for operations in high altitude areas such as Ladakh.
The winter diesel was introduced as a technological solution by the IOC in 2019 in high-altitude sectors like Ladakh, Kargil, Kaza and Keylong, which face the problem of freezing of diesel in their vehicles in extreme weather conditions.
- Winter Diesel is a specialised fuel for high altitude regions and low temperature regions such as Ladakh, where ordinary diesel can become unusable. It also meets the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) specification of BS-VI
- Characteristics: Low Viscosity: It contains additives to maintain lower viscosity by enabling the fuel to remain fluid in such conditions. Regular diesel fuel contains paraffin wax which is added for improving viscosity and lubrication. At low temperatures, the paraffin wax thickens or “gels” and hinders the flow of the fuel in the car engine.
- Low Pour Point: It is the temperature below which the liquid loses its flow characteristics. It has a low pour point (as low as minus 30-degree Celsius
- Higher Cetane Rating: It has a higher cetane rating — which is an indicator of the combustion speed of diesel and compression needed for ignition.
- Lower Sulphur Content: It would lead to lower chemical deposits in engines and better performance.
Directorate General Quality Assurance
The Directorate General of Quality Assurance (DGQA) is under the Department Of Defence Production, Ministry of Defence. The organisation provides Quality Assurance (QA) cover for the entire range of Arms, Ammunitions, Equipments and Stores supplied to Armed Forces.
- More Metallic Moon: NASA
Why in News
Recently, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has found evidence of greater quantities of metals such as iron and titanium on the Moon’s subsurface.
- The metallic distribution was observed by the Miniature Radio Frequency (Mini-RF) instrument onboard the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO)
- The first instrument, launched on the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft, mapped both polar regions of the Moon.
- The second instrument, currently flying on NASA’s LRO, has been mapping the different geologic units of the lunar surface.
- The Mini-RF findings were backed by metal oxide maps from the LRO Wide- Angle Camera, Japan’s Kaguya mission and NASA’s Lunar Prospector spacecraft, which showed that larger craters with their increased dielectric material were also richer in metals.
- The finding could aid in drawing a clearer connection between Earth and the Moon. NASA has now undertaken further research to find whether the same relation between metal deposits and crater size holds true on the southern hemisphere of the Moon.
- This would also shed more light on the concept of formation of moon and it componenets
- CogX 2020: Festival of AI & Emerging Technology
Why in News
Recently MyGov Corona Helpdesk Chatbot has bagged two awards under categories (1) “Best Innovation for Covid-19 – Society” and (2) “People’s Choice Covid-19 Overall Winner” at the recently held CogX 2020.
- CogX is a Global Leadership Summit and Festival of Artificial Intelligence & Emerging Technology held annually and are given out to the best-of-the-best in AI and emerging technologies across the world.
- MyGov Corona Helpdesk demonstrated the true Public, Private Partnership (PPP), wherein, citizen centric services were provided by MyGov. It was designed, developed, and deployed by a private partner- JioHaptik Technologies Limited.
- This Chatbox has been developed by MyGov, JioHaptik Technologies Limited and WhatsApp. MyGov (launched in 2014) is the world’s largest citizen engagement platform, which facilitates two-way communication between the Government and Citizen and facilitates participatory governance in India.
- Bal Gangadhar Tilak
Why in News
On 23 July, India paid tribute to the freedom fighter and educationist Bal Gangadhar Tilak on his birth anniversary.
- Birth: He was born on July 1856 in Ratnagiri, Maharashtra. Freedom fighter and lawyer, Bal Gangadhar Tilak, is also known as Lokmanya
- Educationist: Founder of the Deccan Education Society (1884) along with his associate Gopal Ganesh Agarkar and others. One of the founders of the Fergusson College (1885) in Pune through the Deccan Education Society.
- Ideology: He was a devout Hindu and used Hindu scriptures to rouse people to fight oppression. Stressed on the need for self-rule and believed that without self-rule or swarajya, no progress was possible.
- Slogan: “Swaraj is my birthright and I shall have it!” A book ‘Indian Unrest’ written by Valentine Chirol, an English journalist, stated Tilak the ‘father of Indian unrest’.
- Emphasised the importance of a cultural and religious revival to go with the political movements.
- Popularised the Ganesh Chaturthi festival in the Maharashtra region. Propounded the celebration of Shiv Jayanti on the birth anniversary of the monarch Chhatrapati Shivaji.
- He was one of the earliest and the most vocal proponents of complete independence or swarajya (self-rule).
- Along with Lala Lajpat Rai and Bipin Chandra Pal, he was part of the Lal-Bal-Pal trio of leaders with extremist outlooks. Joined the Indian National Congress (INC) in 1890. Surat Split: It was the splitting of the INC into two groups – the Extremists and the Moderates – at the Surat session in 1907.
- Reason: The extremists wanted either Tilak or Lajpat Rai to be president, so when Rasbehari Ghose was announced as president, the extremist resorted to violence. Hence Surat Split happened. While extremists wanted to end the tyranny rule of British through protest,
- Moderates were aimed at administrative and constitutional reforms. The Extremist camp was led by Lal Bal and Pal and the moderate camp was led by Gopal Krishna Gokhle.
- Contribution to Freedom Movement: Propagated swadeshi movements and encouraged people to boycott foreign
- Indian Home Rule Movement: It was a movement in British India on the lines of Irish Home Rule movement. Started in 1916, it is believed to have set the stage for the independence movement under the leadership of Annie Besant and Bal Gangadhar Tilak for the educated English speaking upper class Indians.
- All India Home Rule League: Founded by Tilak in April 1916 at Belgaum. It worked in Maharashtra (except Bombay), the Central Provinces, Karnataka and Berar.
- Lucknow Pact (1916): Between the INC headed by Tilak and All-India Muslim League led by Muhammad Ali Jinnah for hindu-muslim unity in nationalist struggle.
- Jail: Between 1908 and 1914, he spent 6 years in Mandalay Prison for defending the actions of revolutionaries Khudiram Bose and Prafulla Chaki. Khudiram Bose and Prafulla Chaki had tried to assassinate the District Judge, Mr. Kingsford by throwing bombs at the carriage in which he was supposed to travel.
- Newspapers: Weeklies Kesari (Marathi) and Mahratta (English)
- Books: Gita Rhasya and Arctic Home of the Vedas.
- Death: He died on 1 August 1920.
- Chandra Shekhar Azad
Why in News
On 23 July, India paid tribute to the freedom fighter Chandra Shekhar Azad on his birth anniversary.
- Birth: Azad was born on July 1906 in the Alirajpur district of Madhya Pradesh.
- Early Life: Chandra Shekhar, then a 15-year-old student, joined a Non- Cooperation Movement in December 1921. As a result, he was arrested. On being presented before a magistrate, he gave his name as “Azad” (The Free), his father’s name as “Swatantrata” (Independence) and his residence as “Jail”. Therefore, he came to be known as Chandra Shekhar Azad.
- Contribution to Freedom Movement: Hindustan Republican Association: After the suspension of the noncooperation movement in 1922 by Gandhi, Azad joined Hindustan Republican Association (HRA).
- HRA was a revolutionary organization of India established in 1924 in East Bengal by Sachindra Nath Sanyal, Narendra Mohan Sen and Pratul Ganguly as an offshoot of Anushilan Samiti.
- Members: Bhagat Singh, Chandra Shekhar Azad, Sukhdev, Ram Prasad Bismil, Roshan Singh, Ashfaqulla Khan, Rajendra Lahiri.
- Kakori Conspiracy: Most of the fund collection for revolutionary activities was done through robberies of government property. In line with the same, Kakori Train Robbery near Kakori, Lucknow was done in 1925 by HRA.
- The plan was executed by Chandra Shekhar Azad, Ram Prasad Bismil, Ashfaqulla Khan, Rajendra Lahiri, and Manmathnath Gupta.
- Hindustan Socialist Republican Association: HRA was later reorganized as the Hindustan Socialist Republican Army (HSRA). It was established in at Feroz Shah Kotla in New Delhi by Chandra Shekhar Azad, Ashfaqulla Khan, Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev Thapar and Jogesh Chandra Chatterjee.
- HSRA planned the shooting of J. P. Saunders, a British Policeman at Lahore in 1928 to avenge
- 244th Independence Day of USA
Why in News
The USA celebrated the 244 anniversary of American Independence Day on 4 July 2020. Indian Prime Minister also congratulated the USA on the same occasion.
- Throughout the 1760s and early 1770s, the American colonies found themselves increasingly at odds with British imperial policies regarding taxation and frontier policy.
- Finally, the United States was founded on an ideal of democracy on the 4 July 1776 by adopting the Declaration of Independence from the 13 colonies.
Declaration of Independence :
The Declaration of Independence was a one-page document, but it laid the foundation for other documents that followed, including the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. It contains three main ideas:
- All men are created equal.
- All men have certain inalienable rights, which include life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
- People have a civic duty to defend these rights for themselves and for others.
Why in News
Recently, the Union Minister for Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution has launched the Bureau of Indian Standard (BIS) Mobile App ‘BIS-Care’ and three portals namely the Standardization, Conformity Assessment and Training Portals of e-BIS for consumers.
- BIS is the National Standard Body of India for the harmonious development of the activities of standardization, marking and quality certification of goods.
- The app can be operated on any Android phone and is operational in Hindi and English
- Consumers can check the authenticity of the ISI-marked and hallmarked products and lodge complaints using this app.
- It is important to ensure that consumers are aware of the standards and quality products and help in eliminating the supply of sub-standard products.
- e-BIS is an integrated portal covering all functions of BIS, enlisting the services of outside agencies for factory and market surveillance and development of mobile app-based and Artificial Intelligence (AI) enabled surveillance methods.
Other Steps Taken:
- BIS has been playing an important role in the formulation of Quality Control Orders (QCO) to make the standards mandatory.
- BIS is developing a portal on Consumer Engagement, which will facilitate the online registration of Consumer Groups, submission of proposals and approval thereof and complaint management.
- BIS plans to implement One Nation, One Standard which is under examination and will be launched soon.
- The Standard National Action Plan has been approved and important sectors of the economy for the development of standards have been identified. BIS developed Covid-19 standards for Cover-all and Ventilators and issued norms for grant of licence for N95 Masks, surgical masks and eye protectors which has resulted in an increased production of ISI-marked Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) items.
- BIS has expanded and modernised its labs and has been creating testing facilities for drinking water and assaying of gold jewellery.
- To achieve the objectives of Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan and protect the interests of consumers, BIS had to further strengthen its efforts to formulate standards in the areas important for boosting India’s exports and regulating the import of cheap and sub-standard products.
- Centre’s divestment with 23 PSU’s
Why in news
The Finance Minister has said that the government is working on completing the stake sale process of about 23 public sector companies whose divestment had already been cleared by the Cabinet.
- Disinvestment means the sale or liquidation of assets of Central and state public sector enterprises, projects, or other fixed assets by the government.
- Divestment can be: Minority Divestment: where the government retains a majority stake in the company, thus ensuring management control (<51%).
- Majority Divestment: where, post divestment, the government holds a minority stake in the company.
- Complete Privatisation: it is a form of majority divestment where 100% of the control is passed on to the buyer.
- Strategic Divestment: It is the transfer of the ownership and control of a public sector entity to some other (private) entity. Strategic sale implies a kind of privatization, unlike simple divestment.
Reasons of disinvestment
- To reduce the fiscal burden on the exchequer.
- To raise money for meeting specific needs.
- To bridge the revenue shortfall from other regular sources.
- To introduce, competition and market discipline.
- To diversify the ownership of PSU in order to enhance the efficiency of individual enterprise.
- As part of the Aatmanirbhar Bharatpackage, the government had announced opening up of all sectors for private participation.
- For the 2020-21 fiscal, the Union Government has set a disinvestment target of 2.10 lakh crore.
- The Finance Ministry has asserted that “Strategic disinvestment has been guided by the basic economic principle that the government should not be in the business to engage itself in manufacturing/producing goods and services in sectors where competitive markets have come of age, and economic potential of such entities may be better discovered in the hands of the strategic investors due to various factors, e.g. infusion of capital, technology up-gradation and efficient management practices,”.
In disposing of five entities — HPCL, REC, NPCC, HSCC and DCIL — in the last two years, the government did not make profitability a criterion
- Electronics Manufacturing in India
Why in News
Recently, the Government of India unveiled three schemes of about Rs. 48,000 crore to promote electronics manufacturing in India.
These schemes are:
- Production Linked Incentive (PLI) Scheme.
- Scheme for Promotion of Manufacturing of Electronic Components and Semiconductors (SPECS).
- Modified Electronics Manufacturing Clusters (EMC 2.0) Scheme.
- Domestic production of electronics has grown from USD 29 billion in 2014-15 to nearly USD 70 billion in 2019-20 (Compounded Annual Growth Rate of 25%).
- Most of this production takes place in the final assembly units (last-mile industries) located in India and focussing on them would help develop deep backward linkages, thus inducing industrialisation.
- This idea was propounded by economist Albert O Hirschman in his theory of ‘Unbalanced Growth’.
- The Economic Survey 2019-20 also promoted this idea and suggested “assembly in India for the world”, especially in “networked products”.
- This is the strategy that helped China become the economic superpower it is today.
- The recently launched PLI Scheme plans to achieve this goal by granting an incentive of 4-6% for domestic production.
- the net value added by production units is very low.
Limited Indigenous Capability in Upstream Industries:
- In the era of global supply chains, the value addition at the final stages of production is very low, especially in electronics because the more complicated processes, involving greater value addition, occur prior to assembly, in ‘upstream’ industries.
- These include the production of processors, display panels, memory chips, cameras, etc. Currently, these imports nearly constitute 80% of these components, with approximately 67% of the imports coming from China
Absence of Foundries:
- In the absence of foundries (semiconductor fabrication plants where microchips are produced), India has to rely on foreign contractors to produce microchips.
Challenges in Set-up of Foundries:
- It requires massive capital expenditure to the tune of USD 2 billion and more. Foundries are also required to adopt newer technologies and processes almost every 18 months to ensure competitiveness which means high capital depreciation and often accounts for 50-60% of the production cost.
- Domestic players have also shown low interest due to their inability to compete with tech giants in research and development (R&D) and investment.
- Many industry experts also cite the lack of a foundry as contributing to low R&D in this sector in India, which results in poor talent retention and eventually ‘brain drain’.
- National Security Considerations: Most of the chips, as well as components used in Indian communication and critical systems, are imported. This could hamper national security and sovereignty as backdoors could be programmed in chips during manufacturing, which could compromise networks and cyber-security.
- It is expected that electronics imports will soon overtake crude oil as India’s largest import commodity which will result in assembly units ending up as little more than mere packaging units.
- Increasing Investments
- Profiting from Anti-Chinese Sentiments
- Pushing Make in India
- India is one of the upcoming hubs for microchip designing with start-ups making substantial progress in this field. some IITs have developed indigenous microchip designs like Shakti and Ajit.
- The schemes to promote electronics manufacturing combined with the Prime Minister’s call for an ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’, have rejuvenated hopes of a rise of the indigenous electronics industry, allowing India to be truly self-sufficient.
- Gross NPAs to climb as much as 14.7% by March
Why in news
Reserve Bank of India’s observation on gross non-performing assets (GNPA) ratio of scheduled commercial banks (SCBs).
- RBI has observed that the GNPA ratio of SCBs may escalate to 14.7% under a very severely stressed scenario, which assumes hypothetically that GDP would suffer a contraction of 8.9% in 2020-21.
- Earlier in its Financial Stability Report, RBI had predicted that the GNPA ratio of all SCBs may increase to 12.5% by March 2021.
- On the assessment of systemic risk, the RBI said in its report that the Indian financial system remained stable, notwithstanding the significant downside risks to economic prospects.
Gross Non-Performing Assets:
- Gross NPA is the summation of all loan assets that are classified as NPA as per RBI guidelines.
- Gross NPA consists of Substandard Assets, Doubtful Assets and Loss Assets.
Net Non-Performing Asset:
- For precautions and to meet unforeseen losses, banks are required to make provisions as per RBI guidelines. RBI issues guidelines on Income Recognition, Asset Classification and Provisioning.
- From the gross NPA, provisions provided are netted to arrive at Net NPA.
- Net non-performing assets = Gross NPAs – Provisions.
Impact of High NPAs on Banks:
- NPA is an important financial component that is considered while analyzing a bank. It indicates the asset quality of banks.
- Banks with high NPAs have lesser funds to advance because of the higher provisioning that they have to provide.
- Lesser lending would mean lesser interest income, impacting the profitability of the banks. Banks would have to face difficulty maintaining capital adequacy ratio.
- RBI Signs Currency Swap for Sri Lanka
Why in News
Recently, India and Sri Lanka had a virtual meeting in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. It was attended by the officials from the Ministry of External Affairs, Ministry of Finance, representatives of the Sri Lankan government and the Export-Import (Exim) Bank. Exim Bank is the premier export finance institution of India.
- The Reserve Bank of India has agreed to a USD 400 million currency swap facility for Sri Lanka till November 2022 to boost the foreign reserves and ensure the financial stability of the country.
- Currency Swaps are used to obtain foreign currency loans at a better interest rate than could be obtained by borrowing directly in a foreign market.
- Central banks and Governments engage in currency swaps with foreign counterparts to meet short term foreign exchange liquidity requirements or to ensure adequate foreign currency to avoid Balance of Payments (BOP) crisis till longer arrangements can be made.
- Government and industry representatives from both countries also participated in a webinar on ‘Deepening Economic Collaboration between India and Sri Lanka’, organised by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) in association with other institutes.
- Sri Lanka highlighted that non-tariff barriers in receiving countries create difficulties in market access.
- A nontariff barrier is a way to restrict trade by using barriers other than a tariff. These include quotas, embargoes, sanctions, and levies.
- To resolve that, it urged FICCI to collaborate with the Sri Lankan Mission in New Delhi to help boost the export of its spices and concentrates to the Indian market..
- The Sri Lankan President pointed towards India’s varying amounts of developmental assistance in the northern Tamil region and highlighted the discriminatory tendencies. India’s attitude and relationship with her immediate neighbours depend on their appreciation of India’s regional security concerns.
- India expects her neighbours to serve as buffer states in the event of an extra-regional threat and not proxies of the outside powers.
- Both countries can explore possible collaborations in textiles, information technology and agribusiness, few of the sectors on which India has a stronghold.
- Sri Lanka should facilitate, protect and promote a liberal ecosystem for Indian investors and welcome Indian businesses in developing industrial zones, automotive components, pharma, textiles and engineering.
- There should be continued high-level engagement on building economic and people-to-people links.
- The bilateral relationship between both countries is an important cornerstone of a peaceful and prosperous South Asia. Examples of Singapore-Malaysia and New Zealand-Australia indicate that a smaller country’s economic success is tied to having a strong or at least stable relationship with its larger neighbour.
- In the current times of pandemic, the fact that several Indian companies are involved in the race to develop a vaccine presents India with a potentially huge, once-in-ageneration opportunity to cement its goodwill with the neighbourhood by securing regional access to these vaccines
- Restrictions on Public Procurement
Why in News
Recently, the Government of India imposed restrictions on public procurement from bidders of countries that share a land border with India, citing grounds of defence and national security.
- This was done by amending the General Financial Rules 2017. Earlier the Central government has made it mandatory for sellers on the Government e-Marketplace (GeM) portal to clarify the country of origin of goods when registering new products.
- The government also amended Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) rules mandating prior approval for investment by entities in countries that share land borders with India.
- Reason: According to experts, this decision has been taken to prevent the influx of Chinese products and investments into India, following the clashes between Indian and Chinese troops in Galwan Valley. To push for Atmanirbhar Bharat (self-reliant India).
- New Order: Bidders from these countries will be eligible only if they are registered with the Registration Committee (Competent Authority) constituted by the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT).
- For national security reasons, the Registration Committee shall not be required to give reasons for rejection/cancellation of registration of a Bidders will also be required to take mandatory political and security clearance from the ministries of External Affairs and Home respectively. The order will not apply to procurement by the private sector.
Order Mandatory for State Governments:
- The Central government has invoked the provisions of Article 257(1) of the Constitution, directing the state governments to implement this order for all public procurement.
- For State government procurement, the Competent Authority will be constituted by the states but political and security clearance from Central government ministries will remain necessary.
- Relaxation will be provided for procurement of Covid-19 medical supplies till 31st December 2020.
- The order for prior registration will not apply for countries to which India extends lines of credit or provides development assistance, even if they share a land border with India.
- India shares its border with China, Nepal, Bhutan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Myanmar.
- As per official data, out of these, the government has extended lines of credit to Bangladesh, Nepal, Myanmar. India also provides various developmental assistance to Bhutan and
- It states that the executive power of every State shall be so exercised as not to impede or prejudice the exercise of the executive power of the Union.
- It also authorises the Union to give such directions to a State as may appear to the Government of India to be necessary for that purpose.
In case if the state failed to comply with (or to give effect to) any directions given by the Centre under Article 257(1), it will be lawful for the President to impose President’s rule under Article 356.
- Credit platform for MSMEs takes shape
Why in news
A nationwide newly-developed credit protocol infrastructure – OCEN is all set to start.
Open Credit Enablement Network (OCEN):
- The credit protocol infrastructure is known as Open Credit Enablement Network (OCEN).
- Indian Software Products Industry Round Table (iSPIRT) has developed the platform. It will mediate the interactions between loan service providers (usually fintechs and mainstream lenders) including all large banks and NBFCs.
- These will involve multiple banks and thousands of MSMEs. Meanwhile, private equity and venture capital players, angel investors, high net worth individuals and others also could be part of this exercise as investors.
- With this, credit is expected to become more accessible for a large number of entrepreneurs and small businesses in India. It is believed that this would lead to the democratisation of credit.
- G20 Digital Economy Ministers Meeting
Why in News
Recently, a virtual meeting of G20 Digital Economy Ministers was hosted by Saudi Arabia in which Indian Union Minister for Electronics and Information Technology represented India.
Saudi Arabia is holding the presidency of currently.
- Few major initiatives taken by India to tackle Covid-19 were highlighted: Early lockdowns which helped in curbing the spread of the virus as well as preparing for the upcoming challenges effectively.
- Digital innovations for managing Covid-19: Initiatives like Aarogya Setu mobile appCovid-19 Quarantine Alert System (geofencing system for monitoring quarantined patients) and Covid-19 Savdhan (bulk messaging systems).
- Digital innovations for helping people in general: Direct Benefit Transfers and digital payments ensured that even the weakest in the society was provided various financial relief during the
- India Emphasised Upon: Emerging technologies like Artificial Intelligence should be leveraged for inclusive growth and development especially in healthcare and education. In the wake of a pandemic like Covid-19, there is a need for building a resilient global supply chain.
- All digital platforms need to be accountable and sensitive towards concerns related to defence and data privacy of citizens of sovereign countries.
India’s Step for Data Protection:
- India is soon going to put in place a robust personal data protection law (Personal Data Protection Bill 2019 which will not only address the data privacy-related concerns of citizens but also ensure availability of data for innovation and economic development.
- The digital economy must go hand in hand with the data economy because data is an important component to accelerate the digital economy.
There is a need to acknowledge who has sovereignty over data. Data must belong to the sovereign nation concerned, to protect the privacy of its people, to protect digital concerns for its people. Digital platforms having a presence in many countries must become trustworthy, safe and secure
- ‘E-commerce sites to state country of origin’
Why in news
The Centre told the Delhi High Court that all e-commerce entities, including Amazon, Flipkart and Snapdeal, have to ensure the mandatory declaration of country of origin of imported products sold on their respective sites.
- The law relating to the issue has been enacted under the Legal Metrology Act, 2009 and the Legal Metrology (Packaged Commodities) Rules, 2011.
- The enforcement of the provisions of the Act and Rules rests with the State and Union Territory governments. Whenever violations are observed, action is taken by the legal metrology officials of the State/UT governments in accordance with the law.
- The Consumer Protection (E-commerce) Rules, 2020, under the Consumer Protection Act prescribes that the E-commerce portals would mandatorily have to mention the country of origin which is necessary for enabling the consumer to make an informed decision at the pre-purchase stage on its platform.
- E-commerce portals assert that the law does not mandate a disclosure of the country of origin/manufacture/assembly separately, in case of India-manufactured goods.
- They have argued that, in many cases, finished goods sourced from different countries are packed together or assembled in a third country, prior to their shipment to India.
- It could not be simply presumed that the Rules intended that the last country of export alone be declared as the “country of origin”, unless the law was amended or clarified to expressly state so.
- Consumer law
Why in news
The Consumer Protection Act, 2019 came into force on 20th July 2020.
- The new Act empowers buyers to ask for replacements, refunds or damages from brands, e-tailers and service providers.
- Aggrieved customers in India will now be able to seek effective legal remedy, on the lines of class action suits seen in many countries.
Salient features of the Act:
Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA):
- The law proposes a Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) to regulate matters of consumer rights, trade practices and advertisements prejudicial to the interests of the public, and to promote, protect and enforce the rights of the consumers as a class.
- The proposed CCPA will be able to file suo motu cases on behalf of a class of customers, thereby initiating class action suits that would hold brands and e-tailers accountable.
Simplified Dispute Resolution Process:
- Consumer Commissions are empowered to enforce their orders.
- State Commissions & District Commissions can now review their own orders.
- Ease of approaching Consumer Commissions through E-filing and video conferencing for hearing.
- Mediation is prescribed as an Alternate Dispute Resolution (ADR) mechanism.
- Reference to mediation by Consumer Commissions wherever scope for early settlement exists and parties agree for it. No appeal against settlement through mediation.
- A manufacturer or product service provider or product seller to be responsible to compensate for injury or damage caused by defective product or deficiency in services.
This provision would deter manufacturers and service providers from delivering defective products or deficient services.
- National Financial Reporting Authority
Why in News
Recently, the National Financial Reporting Authority (NFRA) has constituted a Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) to aid and advise the executive body of the NFRA on issues relating to drafts of accounting standards and auditing standards. The TAC comprises seven members including the chairman – R. Narayanaswamy.
- Constitution: NFRA was constituted in by the Government of India under section 132 (1) of the Companies Act, 2013. It is an audit regulator.
- The decision to constitute the NFRA was taken after the role of auditors and the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India came under the scanner for alleged lapses in various corporate scams including that at the Punjab National Bank.
- It consists of a chairperson, who shall be a person of eminence and having expertise in accountancy, auditing, finance or law, appointed by the Central Government and such other members not exceeding 15.
- It can undertake investigation related to the following class of companies and bodies corporate, namely:-
- Companies whose securities are listed on any stock exchange in India or outside India.
- Unlisted public companies having paid-up capital of not less than 500 crores or having annual turnover of not less than Rs. 1,000 crores or having, in aggregate, outstanding loans, debentures and deposits of not less than Rs. 500 crores as on the 31 March of immediately preceding financial year.
- Insurance companies, banking companies, companies engaged in the generation or supply of electricity.
- Where professional or other misconduct is proved, it has the power to make order for imposing penalty of— not less than one lakh rupees, but which may extend to five times of the fees received, in case of individuals; and not less than ten lakh rupees, but which may extend to ten times of the fees received, in case of
- Its account is monitored by the Comptroller and Auditor-General of India.
- It is headquartered in New Delhi.
- Consumer protection act
Why in news
The Consumer Protection Act, 2019 came into force on 20th July 2020.
- The Consumer Protection (E-commerce) Rules, 2020, which fall under the Consumer Protection Act, will be notified within a few days.
The Consumer Protection (E-commerce) Rules, 2020, under the Consumer Protection Act:
- The e-commerce portals will have to set up a robust consumer redressal mechanism as part of the rules under the Consumer Protection Act, 2019 and will have to provide every detail relating to return, refund, exchange, warranty and guarantee, delivery and shipment, modes of payment, grievance redressal mechanism, payment methods, security of payment methods, charge-back options and so on.
- They will also have to mention the country of origin which is necessary for enabling the consumer to make an informed decision at the pre-purchase stage on its platform.
- The rules also prohibit the e-commerce companies from manipulating the price of the goods or services to gain unreasonable profit through unjustified prices.
- The sellers cannot refuse to take back goods or withdraw services or refuse refunds, if such goods or services are defective, deficient, delivered late, or if they do not meet the description on the platform.
- The e-commerce platforms also have to acknowledge the receipt of any consumer complaint within 48 hours and redress the complaint within one month from the date of receipt under this Act and will also have to appoint a grievance officer for consumer grievance redressal.
- These rules are mandatory and not merely advisories as issued earlier. This is the first
- Retail Inflation Growth at 6.09%
Why in News
Recently, the National Statistical Office (NSO) released the retail inflation data, which rose to 6.09% in the month of June, 2020. Retail inflation is measured by the Consumer Price Index (CPI).
- The retail inflation growth was mainly due to a rise in pulses and products prices that saw a 68% on-year rise in June. Apart from pulses and products segment, the meat and fish segment saw a rise of 16.22%, while that of oils and fats rose 12.27% and spices prices gained 11.74%.
- The retail inflation has grown beyond the Reserve Bank of India’s (RBI) upper margin of 6%.
- The Central government has mandated the RBI to keep inflation within the range of 4±2%. This inflation range (4% within a band of +/- 2%) was recommended by the committee headed by Urjit Patel in 2014.
- The NSO also released the Consumer Food Price Index (CFPI) data which measures the inflation in the food basket.
- Inflation refers to the rise in the prices of most goods and services of daily or common use, such as food, clothing, housing, recreation, transport, consumer staples, etc. Inflation measures the average price change in a basket of commodities and services over time.
- Inflation is indicative of the decrease in the purchasing power of a unit of a country’s currency. This could ultimately lead to a deceleration in economic growth.
- However, a moderate level of inflation is required in the economy to ensure that production is promoted. The NSO under the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation measures inflation.
- In India, inflation is primarily measured by two main indices — WPI (Wholesale Price Index) and CPI (Consumer Price Index) which measure wholesale and retail-level price changes, respectively.
Consumer Price Index
- It measures price changes from the perspective of a retail buyer. The CPI calculates the difference in the price of commodities and services such as food, medical care, education, electronics etc, which Indian consumers buy for use.
- The CPI has several sub-groups including food and beverages, fuel and light, housing and clothing, bedding and footwear.
- Four types of CPI are as follows:
- CPI for Industrial Workers (IW).
- CPI for Agricultural Labourer (AL).
- CPI for Rural Labourer (RL).
- CPI (Rural/Urban/Combined).
- Of these, the first three are compiled by the Labour Bureau in the Ministry of Labour and Employment. Fourth is compiled by the National Statistical Office (NSO) in the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation. Base Year for CPI is The Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) uses CPI data to control inflation.
- ASPIRE Portal
Why in News
The International Centre of Automotive Technology (ICAT) is developing a technology platform for the automotive industry called ASPIRE – Automotive Solutions Portal for Industry, Research and Education.
The Portal envisages Make in India and Atmanirbhar vision of the Government of India.
- The Portal is being developed in line with the initiative by the Department of Heavy Industry (DHI) under the Ministry of Heavy Industries & Public Enterprises.
- DHI has taken an initiative to promote innovation and to develop the related ecosystem.
- Objective: To enhance the technological capability of Indian automotive sector through exchange of knowledge & expertise, in order to make them self reliant and to facilitate the growth of the automobile sector and overall socio-economic progress of the country.
- Functioning: It will facilitate the Indian auto industry, R&D institutions and academia (colleges & universities) to come together for R&D, technology development, shop floor/quality/warranty issue’s resolution, expert opinions on issues involving technology advancements.
- The portal will also host grand challenges in line with the need of the industry as will be identified from time to time, for development of key automotive technologies.
International Centre for Automotive Technology
- ICAT is a leading world class automotive testing, certification and R&D service provider under the aegis of NATRiP (National Automotive Testing and R&d Infrastructure Project), Government of India. NATRiP is a fully Government of India funded project with a total project cost of Rs. 3727.30 crore.
- The vision is to create state-of-art research and testing infrastructure to drive India into the future of global automotive excellence. It was established in 2006 at Manesar, Haryana.
- Atmanirbhar Skilled Employee Employer Mapping (ASEEM)
Why in news
Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship launches AI-based ASEEM digital platform to bridge the demand-supply gap of skilled workforce across sectors.
About ASEEM digital platform:
- The ASEEM portal aims to help skilled people find sustainable livelihood opportunities.
- the Artificial Intelligence-based platform has been envisioned to strengthen their career pathways by handholding them through their journeys to attain industry-relevant skills and explore emerging job opportunities. Besides identifying the major skills gap in the sectors and providing a review of global best practices, ASEEM will provide employers a platform to assess the availability of skilled workforce and formulate their hiring plans.
- It refers to all the data, trends and analytics which describe the workforce market and map demand of skilled workforce to supply.
- It will provide real-time granular information by identifying relevant skilling requirements and employment prospects.
Who developed ASEEM
- ASEEM, also available as an App, is developed and managed by the National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) in collaboration with Bengaluru-based company Betterplace, specialising in blue-collar employee management.
- The portal consists of three IT-based interfaces:
- Employer Portal – Employer onboarding, Demand Aggregation, candidate selection
- Dashboard – Reports, Trends, analytics, and highlight gaps
- Candidate Application – Create & Track candidate profile, share job suggestion
- ASEEM will be used as a match-making engine to map skilled workers with the jobs available.
- It will enable policymakers to take a more objective view of various sectors.
- draft rules on wages Act
Why in news
The Union Labour and Employment Ministry has published the draft rules framed for the implementation of the Code on Wages Act, 2019, that guarantees minimum wages to all and defines how the wages will be calculated.
- The Code on Wages is the first of the four codes proposed by the government, as a part of its labour law reforms that was passed by Parliament in August 2019; Code on Industrial Relations, Social Security and Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions being the other three.
- In the new draft rules, the Centre has reduced normal working hours in a day to eight hours from nine proposed in the earlier version released in November 2019.
- Net intake of 2,700 calories per day, 66 metres cloth per year per standard working-class family, housing rent expenditure as 10 percent of food and clothing expenditure, three adult consumption units are some of the factors that would determine the fixation of the national minimum wage.
- The draft rules state that the Centre shall constitute a technical committee which would advise on the skill categories, while an advisory board may recommend the minimum wage.
- Agriculture Infrastructure Fund
Why in News
Recently, the Union Cabinet has given approval to a pan India central sector scheme i.e. Agriculture Infrastructure Fund, to inject formal credit into farm and farmprocessing based activities. It is a part of the over Rs. 20 lakh crore stimulus package announced in response to the Covid-19 crisis. The Union Cabinet has also approved amendment to the Essential Commodities Act (ESA), 1955.
- Aim: To provide medium – long term debt financing facility for investment in viable projects for post-harvest management Infrastructure and community farming assets.
- The funds will be provided for setting up of cold stores and chains, warehousing, silos, assaying, grading and packaging units, e-marketing points linked to e-trading platforms and ripening chambers, besides PPP projects for crop aggregation sponsored by central/state/local bodies.
- Duration: Financial Year 2020 to 2029.
- Financial Support: 1 Lakh Crore will be provided by banks and financial institutions as loans to Primary Agricultural Credit Societies (PACS), Marketing Cooperative Societies, Farmer Producers Organizations (FPOs), Self Help Group (SHG), Farmers, Joint Liability Groups (JLG), Multipurpose Cooperative Societies, Agri-entrepreneurs and Central/State agencies or Local Bodies sponsored by Public Private Partnership Projects.
- Loans will be disbursed in four years starting with sanction of Rs. 10,000 crore in the current year and Rs. 30,000 crore each in next three financial years.
- Interest Subvention: Loans will have interest subvention of 3% per annum up to a limit of Rs. 2 crore. This subvention will be available for a maximum period of seven years.
- CGTMSE Scheme: A credit guarantee coverage will be available for eligible borrowers from the scheme under Credit Guarantee Fund Trust for Micro and Small Enterprises (CGTMSE) scheme for a loan up to Rs. 2 crore.
- Farmer Producer Organizations: In case of FPOs the credit guarantee may be availed from the facility created under FPO promotion scheme.
- Management: The fund will be managed and monitored through an online Management Information System (MIS) It will enable all the qualified entities to apply for loan under the Fund. The National, State and District level monitoring committees will be set up to ensure real-time monitoring and effective feed-back.
- 18. Fugitive Economic Offenders Act, 2018
Why in News
Recently, assets worth Rs. 329.66 crore of the Punjab National Bank (PNB) fraud mastermind Nirav Modi have been confiscated under Section 12(2) and (8) of the Fugitive Economic Offenders Act, 2018.
- In this money laundering case, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) has so far attached properties valued at Rs. 2,348 crore. The properties were earlier attached under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, (PMLA) 2002.
- To proactively detect such frauds, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) is in the process of putting together an exclusive wing for banking fraud oversight. This wing will have teams for meta-data processing and analysis, artificial intelligence analysis units, as well as proactive risk assessment cells.
- Fugitive Economic Offenders Act, 2018: It seeks to confiscate properties of economic offenders who have left the country to avoid facing criminal prosecution or refuse to return to the country to face prosecution.
- Fugitive economic offender: A person against whom an arrest warrant has been issued for committing an offence listed in the Act and the value of the offence is at least Rs. 100 crore.
- Some of the offences listed in the act are:
Counterfeiting government stamps or currency, Cheque dishonor, Money laundering, Transactions defrauding creditors.
- Declaration of a Fugitive Economic Offender: After hearing the application, a special court (designated under the PMLA, 2002) may declare an individual as a fugitive economic offender. It may confiscate properties which are proceeds of crime, Benami properties and any other property, in India or abroad. Upon confiscation, all rights and titles of the property will vest in the central government, free from encumbrances (such as any charges on the property).
- The central government may appoint an administrator to manage and dispose of these properties.
- World Bank’s Support to India for MSMEs
Why in News
Recently, the World Bank (WB) and the Government of India has signed the USD 750 million agreement for an Emergency Response Programme for Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs). Emergency Response Programmes are dedicated towards enhancing the resilience of communities and livelihoods in order to address fragility, poverty and vulnerability to conflict and disaster.
- Financial Support: The USD 750 million loan which is being granted from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD – a part of the WB group), has a maturity of 19 years including a 5-year grace period.
- The WB groups and its private sector arm – the International Finance Corporation (IFC), will support the government’s initiatives to protect the MSME sector which is severely impacted by the Covid-19
- Earlier, the World Bank has committed to support India’s emergency Covid-19 response, including the new MSME project with USD 2.75 billion.
- The first USD 1 billion emergency support was announced in April 2020 for immediate support to India’s health sector.
- Another USD 1 billion project was approved in May to increase cash transfers and food benefits to the poor and vulnerable, including a more consolidated delivery platform – accessible to both rural and urban populations.
- Unlocking Liquidity: the program will support the government’s efforts to channel liquidity to the MSME sector by de-risking lending from banks and Non- Banking Financial Companies (NBFCs) to MSMEs through a range of instruments, including credit guarantees.
- Strengthening NBFCs and SFBs: The programme will address the urgent and varied needs of the MSMEs by improving the funding capacity of key market-oriented channels of credit, such as the NBFCs and Small Finance Bank (SFBs).
- Enabling Financial Innovations: Currently only about 8% of MSMEs are served by formal credit channels. The program will incentivize and mainstream the use of fintech and digital financial services in MSME lending and payments.
World Bank Group: With 189 member countries, the World Bank Group is a unique global partnership which consists of five development institutions.
- International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) provides loans, credits, and grants.
- International Development Association (IDA) provides low- or no-interest loans to low-income countries.
- The International Finance Corporation (IFC) provides investment, advice, and asset management to companies and governments.
- The Multilateral Guarantee Agency (MIGA) insures lenders and investors against political risk such as war.
- The International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) settles investment-disputes between investors and countries. India is not a member of ICSID.
- Core Sector Shrinks by 23.4%
Why in News
the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, released data the eight core sector industries contracted by 23.4% in May, 2020. In April 2020 the eight core sectors had contracted by 37%. In May 2019 the eight core sectors had grown by 3.8%.
- Except fertiliser, all seven sectors — coal, crude oil, natural gas, refinery products, steel, cement, and electricity — had recorded negative growth in May.
- The fertiliser production showed growth at 7.5% after two consecutive months of contraction. The steel and cement showed a shrinkage of 48.4% and 22.2% respectively.
Reason: The main reason for contraction was factories remained affected by a lack of labour and cash shortages owing to the nationwide lockdown.
Impact: Experts are of the opinion that aftershocks of the lockdown will continue to affect domestic industry in coming months. They will see a lower but certain contraction.
Core Sector Industries
The eight core sector industries include coal, crude oil, natural gas, refinery products, fertiliser, steel, cement and electricity The eight Core Industries in decreasing order of their weightage: Refinery Products> Electricity> Steel> Coal> Crude Oil> Natural Gas> Cement> Fertilizers.
- Rafale jet
Why in news
- The Indian Air Force (IAF) is scheduled to induct the first batch of five Rafale fighter jets from France at the Air Force Station.
- These include three single-seater and two twin-seater aircraft. They would be inducted into the Golden Arrows squadron of the Indian Air Force (IAF).
- It is a powerful symbol of the strategic partnership between India and France.
- The introduction of Meteor Beyond Visual Range air-to-air missile is widely recognised as a game-changer in air combat with a range of over 150 km.
- The SCALP long-range stand-off attack air-to-ground missile and the MICA multi-mission air-to-air missilesinto the IAF’s inventory will give the force an edge in the neighbourhood.
- The Storm Shadow/SCALP is a long-range, air-launched, stand-off attack missile. It is capable of engaging the targets precisely in any weather conditions during day and night.
- MICA is the multi-mission air-to-air missile system for the Rafale. It has a high level of tactical flexibility in order to meet Beyond Visual Range (BVR) multi-target/multi-shoot.
- In addition to these, with the ongoing border tensions, the IAF has decided to procure HAMMER (Highly Agile Modular Munition Extended Range) medium-range air-to-ground missiles for the Rafales. It has a range of 60-70 km.
The HAMMER missile lends India the capability to destroy bunkers, hardened shelters and other targets in all other terrains including the mountainous locations such as Eastern Ladakh. A single Rafale fighter jet can carry up to 6 HAMMER missiles to hit multiple targets simultaneously
- Collaboration with Israel in Defence Sector under FDI
Why in News
India has collaborated with the Israeli defence companies under the new liberalised Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) regime in defence manufacturing.
Earlier, the government has increased the limit for FDI in defence through the automatic route from 49% to 74%.
- FDI is an investment made by a firm or individual in one country into business interests located in another country.
- Recently, the Defence Ministry has given emergency powers to the Armed Forces to procure weapons systems up to Rs. 300 crore on an urgent basis without any further clearances to cut short the procurement cycle.
- Therefore, Indian Armed Forces are undertaking a series of emergency defence purchases amid ongoing tensions with China on the border.
- The Army has decided to order launchers, Spike Anti-Tank Guided Missiles (ATGM) and additional Heron Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV), from Israel through the emergency procurement route.
India-Israel Defence Cooperation
- Description: The strong bilateral ties of India and Israel are driven by their respective national interests—i.e., India’s long-sought goals of military modernisation, and Israel’s comparative advantage in commercialising its arms industries.
- Patrolling and Surveillance: The Israeli imports eases the operational ability of armed forces in wartime.
- Make in India: The export-oriented Israeli defence industry and its openness to establishing joint ventures complement both ‘Make in India’ and ‘Make with India’ in defence.
- Trusted Supplier: Israel has always been a ‘no-questions-asked supplier’, i.e., it transfers even its most advanced technology without placing limits to its use.
- Its credibility was reinforced during the Kargil War of 1999 when it supplied the Indian Air Force (IAF) with the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) ‘Searcher’ and surveillance systems for Jaguar and Mirage squadrons. Similar weapons were used in the Balakot strike in February 2019.
- Ready to Use Technology: India suffers from many constraints in defence production and acquisition including lack of technical expertise, lack of manufacturing infrastructure, inadequate funding and project delays. Israel fills these shortcomings by supplying ready-to-use critical technologies, even on short notices.
- Influence of USA: Some of the Israeli technologies utilise USA components because of which the USA has veto powers over the sale of those technologies. Hence, it may cause hurdles in transportation of technologies.
- Cold War Politics: The potential of India-Israel ties have been sacrificed on the altar of Cold War politics. Factors like Arab–Israeli conflict, Iran-Israel conflict, constant interference of countries like Russia and USA in such issues and overall relationship of India with these countries have impacted the ties with Israel.
- Non Alignment: India’s commitment to the non-alignment causes freezing relations with Israel that were increasingly seen as leaning towards the Western bloc. India must strategically balance its relationship with Israel on conflict issues.
- Dependence for Energy Security: India’s dependence on Arab states for oil imports led to a pro-Arab tilt in its West Asia Policy, which has further constrained Israel’s options in the region.
- Israel Palestine Conflict: The territorial conflicts of Gaza Strip and West Bank have played an important role in shaping India-Israel relationships. Due to Israel-Palestine peace negotiations (Oslo Accords of 1993) India has started normalising the relationship with Israel.
- as a part of Link West Policy, India has de-hyphenated its relationship with Israel and Palestine in 2018 to treat both the countries mutually independent and exclusive.
Defence Technologies Imported by India
Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs):
- Searcher: It is a multi-mission tactical UAV for surveillance, target acquisition, artillery adjustment and damage assessment.
- Hermes 900: In December 2018, Adani Defence and Elbit Systems inaugurated the first India-Israel joint venture in defence at Hyderabad.
- This facility will manufacture high-technology, cost-effective Hermes 900 to be deployed in all-weather terrains.
- Heron: It is a medium-altitude long-endurance unmanned air vehicle (UAV) system primarily designed to perform strategic actions .
Air Defence Systems:
- BARAK: The surface-to-air missile can be deployed as a low-range air defence interceptor. In India, the BARAK version is known as BARAK-8 (for naval vessels).
- Spike: These are the 4 generation Anti-Tank Missiles with a range of up to 4km, which can be operated in fire-and-forget mode. These are manufactured by the Rafael Advanced Defence Systems, Israel.
- Crystal Maze: It is an Indian variant of the air-to-surface missile AGM-142A
- Popeye – jointly developed by the Israeli-based Rafael and US-based Lockheed Martin.
- Search Track and Guidance Radar (STGR): India imported the STGR radar to make INS Kolkata, INS Shivalik and Kamorta-class frigates compatible for deploying BARAK-8 SAM missiles.
- Phalcon: This airborne warning and control system (AWACS), is also hailed as Indian Airforce Force’s “eyes in the skies”.
- The strategic cooperation between India and Israel carries immense potential and India must harness the technological expertise from Israel to modernise an indigenous defence industry.
- Indo-Israel defence cooperation must be up-scaled in terms of Joint Ventures (JV) and Joint Research and Development (RD) which can be a force multiplier to realistically achieve India’s ambition to be a major global power.
- Mine Ploughs on T-90 Tanks
Why in News
Recently, the Ministry of Defence has signed Rs. 557 crore contract with the BEML Limited (formerly known as the Bharat Earth Movers Limited) for the procurement of 1,512 mine ploughs for T-90 Tanks. The induction is expected to be completed by 2027.
- These Russian-origin tanks are the Indian Army’s main battle tanks. Indian Army recently deployed them in the Galwan Valley sector of Ladakh amid the face-off with Chinese troops.
- Mine ploughs help tanks to clear minefields and minimize risks to men and machines. After being fitted on T-90 Tanks, they will facilitate individual mobility to the tanks while negotiating a minefield.
- The mobility of the tank fleet will enhance manifolds which in turn would extend the reach of the armoured formations deep into enemy territory without becoming a mine casualty. As per the procedure, the contract has Buy and Make (Indian) categorisation with a minimum of 50% indigenous content in the Make portion.
- It was established in 1964 as a Public Sector Undertaking (PSU). It has partially disinvested and presently the Government of India owns 54% of total equity and the rest 46% is held by public and financial institutions, foreign institutional investors, banks and employees.
- The company operates under three major business verticals Mining and Construction, Defence and Rail and Metro.
- Spike-LR Anti-Tank Guided Missiles
Why in News
The India Army is set to place a repeat order for Spike-LR (Long Range) Anti-Tank Guided Missiles (ATGM) from Israel as part of emergency procurement.
The decision comes in the backdrop of continuing tensions on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China.
- Last year, the Army procured 12 launchers and around 250 missiles from Israel under the new emergency financial powers sanctioned by the Defence Ministry after the Balakot airstrike.
Emergency Financial Powers:
- Under these, armed forces have been given a free hand to procure equipment worth up to Rs. 300 crore on a priority basis with deliveries stipulated to be completed in three months but extendable up to six months.
- These are the 4 generation Anti-Tank Missiles developed and manufactured by the Rafael Advanced Defence Systems, Israel. It is a portable anti-armour weapon system with a range of up to 4 km, which can be operated in fire-and-forget mode and in the fire, observe and update mode using the fibre-optic data link.
- These are used by infantry soldiers, special rapid reaction forces, ground forces and helicopter aircrew. It can work in non-line-of-sight (NLOS) mode allowing the gunner to operate from a covered position.
- The army recently decided to place a repeat order for 72,400 Sig 716 assault rifles from the USA as well. They will replace the existing Indian Small Arms System (Insas) rifles manufactured locally by the Ordnance Factories Board.
- They will be used by the troops in the counter-terrorism operations and frontline duties on the Line of Control (LoC). India acquired the rifles under the fast-track procurement (FTP) programme.
- The remaining forces would be provided with the AK-203 rifles, which are to be produced jointly by India and Russia at Amethi ordnance factory.
- The Army has a much larger requirement for ATGMs which will be met through indigenous Man-Portable ATGM under development by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).
- NATGRID gets access to data from 14,000 police stations
Why in news
The National Intelligence Grid has signed a MoU with the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) to access the centralised online database on FIRs and stolen vehicles.
- First conceptualised in 2009, NATGRID seeks to become the one-stop destination for security and intelligence agencies to access databases related to immigration entry and exit, banking and telephone details of a suspect on a “secured platform”.
- The data will be procured by NATGRID from 21 organisations such as telecom, tax records, bank, immigration, etc. NATGRID will act as a link between intelligence and investigation agencies. The project aims to go live by December 31, 2020.
- The MoU will give NATGRID access to the Crime and Criminal Tracking Network and Systems database, a platform that links around 14,000 police stations.
- At present, security agencies directly contact an airline or a telephone company if they are on a suspect’s trail. The data is shared through international servers. The NATGRID will ensure that such information is shared through a secure platform.
- Once NATGRID is operational, all agencies will have to route their requests through the secured platform. However, the State police will not be part of NATGRID and they could directly contact the airlines or railways for information.
- AH-64E Apache attack helicopters
Why in news
Boeing has handed over the last of the five AH-64E Apache attack helicopters to the Indian Air Force (IAF).
- India contracted 22 Apache helicopters and 15 Chinook helicopters from Boeing through the Foreign Military Sales programme of the U.S. government in September 2015 under a $3 billion deal.
- During the India visit of President Donald Trump in February 2020, India and the U.S. signed a deal for six additional Apaches for the Army.
- Boeing’s joint venture in Hyderabad, Tata Boeing Aerospace Limited, has been producing aero-structures for the AH-64 Apache helicopter for both the U.S. Army and international customers.
- Earlier, Boeing handed over the last five of the 15 CH-47F(I) Chinook heavy-lift helicopters to the IAF.
- Ofek 16 satellite
Why in news
Israel Defence Ministry has announced the successful launch of a new “Ofek 16” spy satellite into orbit by using a locally-developed Shavit rocket from a launch pad at Palmachim airbase in central Israel. This was the first launch of an Israeli spy satellite into space since the Ofek-11 which entered orbit in September 2016.
- Ofek 16 is an electro-optical reconnaissance satellitewith advanced capabilities including breakthrough ‘blue and white’ technology and its payload was developed by defence firm Elbit Systems.
- The satellite was tested by engineers from the Ministry of Defense and State-owned Israel Aerospace Industries [ISRAI.UL]before starting full operations.
- IDF’s (Israel Defense Force) 9900 Intelligence Unit will be responsible for the Ofek 16 satellite once it gets operational.
- ‘OFEC 16’ started sending data and started orbiting around the Earth. It will also monitor Iran and developments in its nuclear and missile programs.
- Dispute Panels Against India: WTO
Why in News
Recently, the Dispute Settlement Body (DSB) of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) has set up two dispute settlement panels targeting import duties imposed by India on a number of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) products including mobile phones.
- It was done on the request of Japan and Taiwan, taking up the number of panels constituted to examine the same tariff-related issue to three. In June 2020, the European Union (EU) had a panel established against India on the same issue.
- The panels would determine whether India’s customs duties on imports of certain ICT products infringe the WTO’s norms or not. The panels have been set up to decide on 20% customs duty levied by India on mobile phones and some other ICT products.
- India decided to levy 10% customs duty on these products for the first time in July 2017 which was increased to 15% in the same year. These custom duties were further increased to 20% despite opposition from a number of WTO members.
- The EU, USA, China, Singapore, Taiwan, Canada, Japan and Thailand initiated consultations with India on the matter claiming that the move substantially affects them.
- The goods covered in the complaint include telephones for cellular networks or for other wireless networks; base stations; machines for the reception, conversion and transmission or regeneration of voice, images or other data, etc.
- Japan and Taiwan said that their failed consultations with India prompted them to submit the requests for panels. Japan, Taiwan and the EU have argued that these products fall within the scope of the relevant tariff lines for which India has set the bound rate of 0% for its WTO schedule of commitments.
- Bound Rates are the legally bound commitments on customs duty rates, which act as ceilings on the tariffs that member governments can set. Once a rate of duty is bound, it may not be raised without compensating the affected parties
- They held that India is applying tariffs on ITC goods falling under five tariff lines in excess of the 0% bound rate and that for some products, the applied tariff rate was as high as 20% some times. Tariff Line refers to the classification codes of goods, applied by individual countries, that are longer than the 6-digit level of the Harmonized System (HS).
- HS is a system of code numbers for identifying products. The codes are standard up to six digits. Beyond that countries can introduce national distinctions for tariffs and many other purposes.
- India managed to block Japan’s first request for a panel on the grounds that the complaint undermined India’s sovereignty. India also rejected the EU’s suggestion of agreeing to one consolidated panel combining complaints from all three of them and saving time and resources.
- India argued that all three complainants are seeking to get the country to take on commitments under the Information Technology Agreement-II (ITA-II) which it never agreed to.
Information Technology Agreement
- It is a plurilateral agreement enforced by the WTO and concluded by 29 participants in the Ministerial Declaration on Trade in Information Technology Products at Singapore in 1996.
- It entered into force on 1 July 1997.
- It seeks to accelerate and deepen the reduction of trade barriers for the critically important ICT industry.
- Currently, the number of participants has grown to 82, representing about 97% of world trade in IT products. India is a signatory.
Information Technology Agreement-II
- Few developed countries proposed to broaden the scope and coverage of the ITA.
- At the Nairobi Ministerial Conference in December 2015, over 50 members concluded the expansion of the Agreement, which now covers an additional 201 products valued at over USD 1.3 trillion per year.
- Its aim was to increase the coverage of IT products on which customs duty would be bound at zero, addressing non-tariff measures and expanding the number of signatory countries to include countries such as Argentina, Brazil and South Africa.
- India has decided not to participate in this for the time being because India’s experience with the ITA-I has been most discouraging, which almost wiped out the IT industry from India.
- The real gainer from that agreement has been China which raised its global market share from 2% to 14% between 2000-2011. China is a significant exporter of ICT goods.
- AIIB and India
Why in News
Jin Liqun has been re-elected as the President of the China-based Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) for a second five-year term.
- The President stated that the bank would remain an “apolitical institution” and continue to back projects in India.
- The management will look at the proposed projects from the economic and financial point of view and not with a political view.
India and AIIB:
- India was among the AIIB’s 57 founding members in 2016. It is also its second-largest shareholder (with 7.62% voting shares) after China (26.06%).
- It has received USD 4.35 billion from the Bank. This is the highest of any country, with the bank so far approving loans of USD 19.6 billion to support 87 projects in 24 countries.
- AIIB has approved financing projects in India in a host of sectors like energy, transport and water including the Bangalore metro rail project (USD 335 million), Gujarat rural roads project (USD 329 million) and Phase 3 of the Mumbai urban transport project (USD 500 million).
- In a recent virtual meeting, India said that it expects AIIB to introduce new financing instruments, provide financing for social infrastructure and to integrate development of climate resilient and sustainable energy access infrastructure into AIIB’s recovery response to the Covid-19 crisis.
- This implies that India is unlikely to alter its engagement with the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), despite a host of offensive measures announced recently to reduce its trade and investment links with China.
- In June 2020, AIIB approved USD 500 million for Covid-19 Emergency Response Fund and Health Systems Preparedness Project and another USD 750 million for Covid-19 Active Response and Expenditure Support, in a co-financing arrangement with the Asian Development Bank (ADB).
- USD 750 million loan was approved two days after the clash in Galwan Valley in Ladakh along the India-China border.
- It has supported several projects under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) framework, but is not formally linked to the plan. India has concerns over the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor – a part of the
Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank
- The AIIB is a multilateral development bank with a mission to improve social and economic outcomes in Asia.
- Headquartered in Beijing (China), it began operations in January 2016 and has now grown to 103 approved members worldwide.
- India should continue to engage with AIIB as it will be able to access resources for the financing of national and cross-border infrastructure projects from the Bank.
- AIIB is also significant as the World Bank is continued to be dominated by the USA while Japan has more influence over Asian Development Bank (ADB).
- Further, India needs to ensure that its own interests are served by its membership very explicitly. It should make sure that AIIB doesn’t end up becoming a tool of Chinese geopolitical agenda.
- Working with India to make clean power accessible: U.K. Minister
Why in news
U.K. Minister of State (Minister for South Asia and the Commonwealth) was on a virtual visit to India.
India – UK partnership:
- The U.K. had recently contributed analysis and market simulations for India’s Real-Time Power Market which was launched on June 1 2020, to get more renewables on the national grid at more competitive rates.
- It has been announced that the U.K. would strengthen its collaboration, in areas such as increased use of renewable energy by Indian Railways to help it become a net-zero carbon emitter by 2030.
- Britain is also working with Indian partners on a clean energy transition.
- UKRI research partnerships would help develop the next generation of solar buildings and through the Newton–Bhabha Fund, Catapult innovation centres are partnering institutions in Bangalore to develop electric mobility and air pollution solutions.
- UK is working together with India through the MGNREGA to build climate-resilient livelihoods.
- This focused on drought-proofing, flood defences and river structures for aquifer replenishment.
- The Infrastructure for Climate Resilient Growth (ICRG) has invested in climate-resilient livelihood strategies in Odisha, Chhattisgarh and Bihar.
- The Green Growth Equity Fund’s (GGEF) first investment in India had gone to Ayana Renewable Power, with a target of 6 GW in 5 years.
- It aims to leverage private sector investment from the City of London to invest in Green Infrastructure Projects in India.
- The Fund has also invested in e-mobility and integrated waste management.
- India is demonstrating leadership with the International Solar Alliance and the U.K. is working with it and other countries to mobilise more than $1 trillion of investments in solar energy by 2030.
- Separately, the U.K. is supporting a £40 million programme for technology advancement and market development of electric cooking, using solar and other energy sources.
- This programme, in operation in 15 ISA member-countries, is now establishing itself in India.
- The United Kingdom holds the Presidency of the next UN Climate Change Conference, COP26 that is planned for 2020.
- New Supreme Court Building of Mauritius
Why in News
The Prime Minister of India and the Prime Minister of Mauritius will jointly inaugurate the new Supreme Court building of Mauritius on 30 July, 2020.
- It will be the first India assisted infrastructure project within the capital city of Port Louis, Mauritius.
- The new Supreme Court Building is expected to become an important landmark in the city center symbolizing the strong bilateral partnership between the two countries.
- It is one of the five projects being implemented under the ‘Special Economic Package’ of 353 million USD extended by the Government of India to Mauritius in 2016.
- Connections between India and Mauritius date back to 1730 and diplomatic relations were established in 1948 before Mauritius became an independent state (1968).
- India has viewed Mauritius through the prism of diaspora. This was, perhaps, natural since communities of Indian origin constitute a significant majority in the island.
- More than 68% of the Mauritian population are of Indian origin, most commonly known as Indo-Mauritians.
- It is a significant partner of India in celebrating Pravasi Bharatiya Diwas which is a forum for issues concerning the Indian Diaspora.
- Geo-strategic: India has begun to see the strategic significance of Mauritius to the renewed great power contestation in the Indian Ocean.
- Mauritius is part of India’s security grid including Coastal Surveillance Radar (CSR) station of Indian Navy’s National Command Control Communication Intelligence network.
- In 2015 India unveiled an ambitious policy called the SAGAR (security and growth for all).
- Through SAGAR, India seeks to deepen economic and security cooperation with its maritime neighbours and assist in building their maritime security capabilities.
- In 2015, India and Mauritius signed an agreement that allows India to develop infrastructure in terms of establishing military bases on the Mauritian islands.
- The agreement covers within its purview our shared efforts in antipiracy operations, and enhanced Exclusive Economic Zones
- (EEZ) surveillance to prevent intrusions by potential economic offenders including those indulging in illegal fishing, poaching, drug and human trafficking.
- As a “central geographic point” Maurituis holds importance for commerce and connectivity in the Indian Ocean.
- As a member of the African Union, Indian Ocean Rim Association and the Indian Ocean Commission, Mauritius is a stepping stone to multiple geographies.
- Mauritius is the second largest source of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) for India after Singapore.
- As new investments pour into Mauritius from Africa, Mauritius can be the fulcrum for India’s own African economic outreach. India could also contribute to the evolution of Mauritius as a regional centre for technological innovation. Therefore, India must respond to the demands from Mauritius for higher education facilities.
Pivot of Island Policy:
- Until now India has tended to deal with the so-called Vanilla islands of the south western Indian Ocean — Comoros, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mayotte, Reunion and Seychelles — on a bilateral basis.
- If the Indian establishment thinks of them as a collective, it could make Mauritius the pivot of Delhi’s island policy..
Keeping Pace with China:
- In its “string of pearls” policy, China has built significant relations across the Indian Ocean, from Gwadar (Pakistan) to Hambantota (Sri Lanka) to Kyaukpyu (Myanmar).
- Deep Rooted Perception: There is an urgent need to discard the deep-rooted perception that Mauritius is simply an extension of India.
- Mauritius is a sovereign entity with an international identity of its own due to the island’s special place in the Indian Ocean as a thriving economic hub and an attractive strategic location.
China Centric Policies:
- China’s rapidly growing presence in the northern part of the Indian Ocean along with the deployment of Chinese submarines and ships in the region is a challenge for India.
- However, India has often been accused of being self-centred in its relations with its smaller neighbours.
- Much of India’s move of reaching out to its littoral neighbours has been driven by China’s increasing involvement in this region mainly through large and ambitious infrastructure projects.
Indian Ocean Region:
- As the power dynamic in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) is changing, world has started to view Mauritius as an integral part of the new security architecture.
- As India takes an integrated view of its security cooperation in the south western Indian Ocean, Mauritius is the natural node for it. Therefore, it is important to take coursecorrections in India’s Neighbourhood First policy.
- India-Indonesia Defence Ministers’ Dialogue
Why in News
Recently, the Defence Ministers’ Dialogue between India and the Republic of Indonesia has been held in Delhi.
- The Indonesian Defence Minister General Prabowo Subianto is in India for strengthening the ties between the two maritime neighbours.
- At the dialogue, India and Indonesia aimed at injecting a new momentum to their strategic partnership by expanding security cooperation in a range of areas including defence industries and technology sharing.
- India conveyed satisfaction on the military to military interactions and indicated that the defence cooperation between both nations has witnessed an upswing in recent years, in consonance with the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership between the two sides.
- The issue of possible export of BrahMos cruise missile to Indonesia by India and ways to further deepen maritime security cooperation figured prominently in the talks.
- Even though both countries acknowledge China’s aggressive posturing in eastern Ladakh and the South China Sea, there was no official statement on it.
- Both of them have agreed to work together for peace, security, and prosperity in order to achieve their shared vision on maritime cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region.
- The Strait of Malacca – waterway connecting the Andaman Sea (Indian Ocean) and the South China Sea (Pacific Ocean) – runs between the Indonesian island of Sumatra to the West and peninsular (west) Malaysia and extreme southern Thailand to the east.
- Both of them recognise the threat of extremism and terrorism and have agreed to work closely bilaterally and globally to tackle them.
- India is working with Indonesia to strengthen the ties in the areas of defence, security, connectivity, trade and investment and people-to-people exchanges.
Trade and Commerce:
- Bilateral trade has increased from USD 4.3 billion in 2005-06 to USD 21 billion in 2018-19. Indonesia has emerged as the second largest trading partner of India in the ASEAN region.
- India is the second largest buyer of coal and crude palm oil from Indonesia and imports minerals, rubber, pulp and paper and hydrocarbons reserves.
- there is a need for greater market access for Indian commodities in Indonesia including, pharmaceutical, automotive and agricultural products.
- Both countries are members of G20, the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), East Asia Summit and the United Nations.
Comprehensive Strategic Partnership:
- The two countries inked a defence cooperation agreement in 2018 which aimed at reflecting the elevation of the relationship between the two countries to a comprehensive strategic partnership.
- In September 2019, Indonesia announced that the country’s capital would be relocated to East Kalimantan province on Borneo island from Jakarta.
- Exercise Samudra Shakti the bilateral maritime
- Garuda Shakti is the joint military exercise between India and Indonesia.
- INDIA-UK Free Trade Agreement
Why in News
Recently, India and the United Kingdom (UK) affirmed their shared commitment towards a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) during the 14 virtual Joint Economic and Trade Committee (JETCO) meeting. The next meeting is scheduled to be held around September, 2020 in New Delhi to carry forward the dialogue.
- The meeting was held by India and UK to revive and revitalise the long standing trade and economic linkages between them.
- They agreed to an early harvest scheme or a limited trade agreement to lower tariffs on a small set of goods apart from easing rules for select services.
- They also resolved to cooperate in the health sector especially in the wake of Covid-19 pandemic.
- Previously, India and the UK were involved in discussing a preferential trading arrangement under the proposed India-European Union FTA.
- In FTA, two trading partners eliminate or significantly reduce import duties on the maximum number of goods traded between them.
- India-UK Trade: UK is a significant partner of India as an FDI investor after Mauritius and Singapore which ranked second and first respectively.
- the U.K. is one of the largest investors in India, among the G20 countries. The bilateral trade between the two countries stood at 5 billion USD in 2019-20 as against 16.87 USD billion in 2018-19.
- Brexit: The UK has been pushing India for a bilateral trading arrangement ever since it voted to leave the European Union (EU) in June 2016 and left finally in january 2020.
- India had been resisting these efforts as it decided that the Brexit process should complete first.
Exit from RCEP:
- India opted out of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership deal in November 2019. Therefore, there is renewed focus on trade deals with the US, the European Union and the UK,
- The UK is a permanent member of the UN Security Council, and one of the strategic partners of India.
- Strengthening bonds with the trade would seek UKs support at global issues like standoff with China in the Ladakh sector of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) and claim for permanent seat at UNSC.
Review of Trades:
- India could seek a review of trading agreements including renegotiating tariffs on some items along with the tightening of provisions governing country-of-origin certification.
Joint Economic Trade Committee
- JETCO provides a forum to United Kingdom companies to enhance their links and develop new partnerships with India business and decision-makers.
- Government to Government negotiations, which address issues of market liberalization and market access, are conducted through the JETCO process.
- According to policymakers, FTAs signed by India with the UK have not brought the expected tangible benefits and, on the contrary, have hurt the country’s manufacturing sector due to liberal rules of origin.
Therefore, there is a need for a detailed assessment of FTAs in terms of goods, services and investment flows by all the stakeholders involved
- China Proposes Territory Swap with Bhutan
Why in News
Recently, China has offered Bhutan a “package solution” to its boundary dispute. Although the package solution is not specified, it may be seen as a revival of the 1996 proposal by China for a territory swap.
- In 1996, China wanted to exchange the valleys to the north of Bhutan (an area of 495 square kilometres), with the pasture land to the west (including Doklam), totalling 269 square kilometres.
- The deal would have benefited Bhutan by giving it the larger chunk of land, and resolving its tensions with China.
- However it was a big worry for India, as the Doklam swap would have given China access to the strategically sensitive “chicken neck” of the Siliguri corridor.
Repeated Claim Over Sakteng:
- China also repeated its claim on Bhutan’s eastern boundary at Sakteng. Earlier, China has made the claim over Sakteng at an online meeting of the Global Environment Facility (GEF) Council, while unsuccessfully objecting to the funding request to develop the Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary project in eastern Bhutan.
- China claims that the boundary between China and Bhutan has never been delimited. It has had disputes over the eastern, central and western sectors of Bhutan. Bhutan outrightly rejected the claim made by China by saying that Sakteng is an integral and sovereign territory of Bhutan.
- According to Bhutan, China and Bhutan have a dispute in only two sectors of the border, one in the north (central) – Pasamlung and Jakarlung, and second in the west – Doklam.
Reason Behind the New Offer:
- The aim may be to pressure Bhutan into concluding a deal quickly on terms on offer, otherwise the claims may keep increasing. The similar offer was made to India on Arunachal Pradesh, which subsequently expanded to include a Chinese claim on Tawang in 1985.
Concerns for India:
- In 2017 China had intruded into Doklam plateau, which is claimed by Bhutan, leading to a standoff between Indian and Chinese Armies. Even after the India-Bhutan Friendship Treaty of 2007, Indian military is virtually responsible for protecting Bhutan from the kind of external threat that the Chinese military poses.
Bhutan has protested against Chinese territorial claims in eastern Bhutan and said that it will also contest in future if China refers to the territory as disputed. Safety of Border from China is a concern for both India and Bhutan. Therefore, both sides need to work together on this issue
- Warships meet U.S. strike group
Why in news
Naval ships conducted a Passage Exercise (PASSEX) with the U.S. Navy’s USS Nimitz carrier strike group near the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. The exercise comes amid a high alert by the Navy in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) due to the stand-off with China along the border in Ladakh.
- PASSEX is a passage exercise. A passage exercise is normally conducted when there is an opportunity in contrast to pre-planned maritime drills.
- As part of this, four frontline naval ships, Shivalik, Sahyadri, Kamorta and Rana including a stealth corvette, teamed up with carrier USS Nimitz and three other U.S. ships in the eastern Indian Ocean near the islands. USS Nimitz is the U.S. Navy’s largest aircraft carrier.
- The Indian Navy had conducted similar PASSEXs with the Japanese Navy and the French Navy in the recent past.
The Navy is keeping a close watch on the movement in the IOR of Chinese naval ships, whose presence has gone up considerably over the years in the name of anti-piracy patrols. In 2017, China opened its first overseas military base in Djibouti in the Horn of Africa
- Govt. mulls Australia’s entry into Malabar drill
Why in news
Inclusion of Australia into the Malabar naval exercise.
- The Malabar exercise began as a bilateral exercise between India and the U.S. in 1992 and was expanded into a trilateral format with the inclusion of Japan in 2015.
- Japan and the U.S. have been pressing India for Australia’s inclusion in Malabar. Australia first requested for observer status in the trilateral exercise in April 2017. India has been reluctant to include Australia due to China’s sensitivities.
- The bilateral cooperation between India and Australia has gone up significantly over the years.
- Recently, India and Australia have signed the long-pending Mutual Logistics Support (MLSA) agreement, elevated their partnership to Comprehensive Strategic partnership and have also announced a joint declaration on a shared vision for maritime cooperation in the Indo-Pacific.
- A meeting at the Ministry of Defence (MoD) discussed the issue of inviting Australia for the trilateral Malabar naval exercise with Japan and the United States.
- There has been the increasing consensus at the official level that Australia should join the naval war games. The final decision has been delayed in view of the ongoing standoff with China on the Line of Actual Control (LAC).
The move to include Australia will bring all Quad countries together and mark a major shift for India’s Indo-Pacific plans. This could point towards the militarization of the Quad coalition.
- Agreement on Scientific Cooperation Between India and EU
Why in News
Recently, India and the European Union (EU) agreed to renew the Agreement on Scientific Cooperation for the next five years (2020-2025) during the virtual 15 India-EU Summit.
- European Union (EU), is an international organization comprising 27 European countries and governing common economic, social, and security policies.
- EU was designed to enhance European political and economic integration by creating a single currency (the euro), a unified foreign and security policy, and common citizenship rights and by advancing cooperation in the areas of immigration, asylum, and judicial affairs.
- Renewal of Agreement on Scientific Cooperation: India and the EU have agreed to further collaborate in research and innovation based on the principles of mutual benefit and reciprocity, as established in the India-EU Agreement on Science and Technology (2001) which expired on 17 May 2020.
- Both parties are also committed to launch the renewal procedure for the above agreement and acknowledge 20 years of cooperation on research and innovation.
- It will also strengthen the institutional linkages in research, exchange of researchers, students, startups and attract co-investment of resources for co-generation of knowledge.
- India-EU Science and Technology Cooperation: Science and Technology: India-EU Science & Technology Steering Committee meets annually to review scientific cooperation.
- The Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES) and the European Commission (EC) have established a Co-Funding Mechanism (CFM) to support joint research projects selected under European Research & Innovation Framework Program ‘Horizon 2020’ related to climate change and polar research.
Space Technology: Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has had a long standing cooperation with the European Union, since the 1970s. ISRO and the European Space Agency are working towards enhancing cooperation in earth observation. It also involves the Copernicus programme signed in 2018. Copernicus is the European Union’s Earth observation programme.
- Traders upbeat over resumption of business with Afghanistan
Why in news
Traders in Punjab’s Amritsar are upbeat about resuming their business after Pakistan recently allowing Afghanistan to send goods to India using the Attari -Wagah border under the Pakistan-Afghanistan Transit Trade Agreement.
Pakistan-Afghanistan Transit Trade Agreement:
- The Afghanistan–Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement (also known as APTTA) is a bilateral trade agreement signed in 2010 by Pakistan and Afghanistan.
- The 2010 agreement supersedes the 1965 Afghanistan Transit Trade Agreement, which granted Afghanistan the right to import duty-free goods through Pakistani seaports, most notably from Karachi.
- It calls for greater facilitation in the movement of goods amongst the two countries.
- It allows for both countries to use each other’s airports, railways, roads, and ports for transit trade along designated transit corridors.
- The agreement does not cover road transport vehicles from any third country, be it from India or any Central Asia country.
- However, the signed Agreement permits Afghanistan trucks access to the Wagah border with India, where Afghan goods will be offloaded onto Indian trucks.
This agreement does not permit Indian goods to be loaded onto trucks for transit back to Afghanistan
- U.S. stance on CAATSA unchanged
Why in news
The U.S state department said, they urge all of our allies and partners to forgo transactions with Russia that risk triggering sanctions under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA).
- This message was reiterated in the context of India’s planned jet fighter deal with Russia at an estimated 18,148 crore.
- Despite a change in the ground realities following the clash between India and China along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in June 2020, the U.S’s message to countries, including India, on sanctions for the purchase of Russian arms has not changed.
What is CAATSA?
- The Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) is a United States federal law that imposed sanctions on Iran, North Korea and Russia.
- It includes sanctions against countries that engage in significant transactions with the Russian defence and intelligence sectors.
- India Report on Digital Education, 2020
Why in News
Recently, the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) has launched India Report on Digital Education, 2020. Recently the MHRD has been renamed as the Ministry of Education.
- It has been prepared by the digital education division of MHRD in consultation with education departments of the states and union territories.
- It elaborates the innovative methods adopted by the MHRD, for ensuring accessible and inclusive education to children at home and reducing learning gaps during the Covid-19 pandemic.
- It has initiated many projects to assist teachers, scholars and students in their pursuit of learning like DIKSHA platform, Swayam Prabha TV Channel, On Air – Shiksha Vani, e-PathShala and telecast through TV channels. It also released guidelines on digital education called ‘PRAGYATA’.
- States and Union Territories have provided digital education at the doorstep of the students. Some of them are:
- Social Media Interface for Learning Engagement (SMILE) in Rajasthan.
- Project Home Classes in Jammu.
- Padhai Tunhar Duvaar (Education at your doorstep) in Chhattisgarh.
- Unnayan Initiatives in Bihar.
- Mission Buniyaad in NCT of Delhi.
- Kerala’s own educational TV channel (KITE VICTERS).
- E-scholar portal as well as free online courses for teachers in Meghalaya.
- Some of the states/UTs like Lakshadweep, Nagaland and Jammu & Kashmir have also distributed tablets, DVDs and pendrives, equipped with e-contents to students.
- They have also distributed textbooks at children’s doorsteps to ensure inclusive learning in remote areas where internet connectivity and electricity is poor.
- Several states have also focussed on the mental well-being of the children e.g Delhi conducted happiness classes.
- MHRD has also launched the ‘Manodarpan’ initiative, which aims to provide psychosocial support to students, family members and teachers for their mental health and well-being during the times of Covid-19.
- While the education is moving towards blended learning through online and offline mode, it shall be the endeavour of all the stakeholders in the field of education to ensure that no student is left behind for want of affordability and accessibility of quality education.
- NEP focus: leave no child behind, bridge digital divide
Why in news
The Union Cabinet has approved the new National Education Policy.
- This is the first new education policy in 34 years.
- A panel headed by former ISRO chief K. Kasturirangan submitted a draft in December 2018, which was made public and opened for feedback in May 2019.
- The policy draft has been approved. The Ministry of Human Resource and Development has been renamed as Education Ministry.
Replacing 10+2 structure of school curricula with a 5+3+3+4 format:
- The 10+2 system will be divided into 5+3+3+4 format.
- the first five years of school will comprise of the foundation stage.
- The next three years will be divided into a preparatory stage from classes 3 to 5.
- Later, there will be three years of middle stage (classes 6 to 8), and four years of secondary stage (classes 9 to 12).
- Schools will not have any rigid formation of streams of arts, commerce, science, etc. and students can take up whichever courses they want.
- A new curricular framework is to be introduced, including the pre-school and Anganwadi years.
- A National Mission on Foundational Literacy and Numeracy will ensure basic skills at the Class 3 level by 2025.
- Students will begin classes on coding as well as vocational activities from Class 6 onwards.
- Indian knowledge systems, including tribal and indigenous knowledge, will be incorporated into the curriculum in an accurate and scientific manner.
- Language issues caused the most outrage, as the original draft called for mandatory teaching of Hindi to all school students. That clause was subsequently dropped.
- There will be greater flexibility in the three-language formula, and no language will be imposed on any State.
- The three languages learned by children will be the choices of States, regions, and students.
- Sanskrit will be offered as an option at all levels of school and higher education.
- Other classical languages will also be available, possibly as online modules, while foreign languages will be offered at the secondary level.
- The medium of instruction till at least Grade 5, and preferably till Grade 8 and beyond will be in Home Language/Mother tongue/Regional Language.
- Inclusion is a theme of the Policy beyond technology as well.
- As per the Ministry, under NEP, efforts will be made to incentivise the merit of students belonging to SC, ST, OBC, and other SEDGs.
- Private Higher Educational Institutions will be encouraged to offer larger numbers of scholarships to their students.
- The National Scholarship Portal will be expanded to support, foster, and track the progress of students receiving scholarships.
- Regions such as aspirational districts, which have large numbers of students facing economic, social or caste barriers will be designated as ‘Special Educational Zones’.
- Special funds have been earmarked for special education.
- The NEP emphasises universal access to schools, and aims to bring two crore out-of-school children back into the educational mainstream.
- It also aims to double the Gross Enrolment Ratio in higher education, including vocational education, from 26.3% in 2018 to 50% by 2035.
Gender Inclusion Fund
- The Centre will also set up a ‘Gender-Inclusion Fund’ to build the country’s capacity to provide equitable quality education to all girls and transgender students.
- The fund will be available to States to implement priorities determined by the Central government critical for assisting female and transgender children in gaining access to education.
- Standalone Higher Education Institutes and professional education institutes will be evolved into multi-disciplinary institutes.
- By 2049, all higher education institutions (HEIs) should aim to become multidisciplinary institutions, each of which will aim to have 3,000 or more students, as per the data shared by MHRD.
- Further, by 2030, the aim is to set up at least one large multidisciplinary HEI in or near every district.
Exit options in degree courses:
- The undergraduate degree, which is of 3 to 4-year duration will have multiple exit options.
- After completing one year, if a student decides to drop out, s/he will get a certificate in a discipline or field including vocational and professional areas.
- On dropping out after two and three years, students will get a diploma and a Bachelor’s degree, respectively.
- The four-year multidisciplinary Bachelor’s program, however, will be the preferred option and will give a degree with research if a student has pursued a project along with it.
- Phil. degree would be abolished.
- It would establish a common higher education regulator with fee fixation for both private and public institutions.
Academic Bank of Credit:
- The ABC will digitally store the academic credits earned from various recognized HEIs so that the degrees from an HEI can be awarded taking into account credits earned.
- Currently, a similar programme is being run where a student can opt for a course related to their degree on SWAYAM – online portal by the government, and credits associated with that course will be given to the student and help in their assessment for their degree course also.
- By 2030, the minimum degree qualification for teaching will be a four-year integrated B.Ed degree.
Technology in Education:
- The policy has proposed the setting up of a National Educational Technology Forum (NETF), a platform for the free exchange of ideas on the use of technology to enhance learning, assessment, planning, administration, etc., for both school and higher education.
- A dedicated unit for the purpose of creating digital infrastructure, digital content and capacity building will be set up in the ministry.
- Indian Council of Agricultural Research
Why in News
Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) celebrated its 92 foundation day on 16 July 2020.
- The Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) was established on 16 July 1929 as a registered society under the Societies Registration Act, 1860.
- It is an autonomous organisation under the Department of Agricultural Research and Education (DARE), Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, Government of India. It is headquartered at New Delhi. With 102 ICAR institutes and 71 agricultural universities spread across the country this is one of the largest national agricultural systems in the world.
- The Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) will start a Farmers Innovation Fund. The ‘Kisan Diwas’ or National Farmers Day is observed across the country on 23 December to celebrate the birth anniversary of Chaudhary Charan Singh, the former Prime Minister of India.
- Norman E. Borlaug was the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 for his work in global agriculture. He is also known as the Father of the Green Revolution.
- The World Food Prize is also known as the “Nobel Prize for Food and Agriculture”. Dr. Rattan Lal has been declared the winner of the World Food Prize 2020.
- M.S. Swaminathan, the father of India’s green revolution, was the first recipient of this award in 1987.
- Online NISHTHA Programme
Why in News
Recently, the National Initiative for School Heads and Teachers Holistic Advancement (NISHTHA) programme has been launched for the first time in online mode in the state of Andhra Pradesh.
- Initially, the NISHTHA programme was launched in 2019 through face-to-face mode to improve learning outcomes at the elementary level in the country. NISHTHA has been customized for online mode to be conducted through Digital Infrastructure for Knowledge Sharing (DIKSHA) and NISHTHA
- National Initiative for School Heads’ and Teachers’ Holistic Advancement (NISHTHA) is a capacity building programme for improving the quality of school education through integrated teacher training. It aims to build competencies among all the teachers and school principals at the elementary stage.
- The functionaries (at the state, district, block level) will be trained in an integrated manner on learning outcomes, school based assessment, learner – centred pedagogy, new initiatives in education, addressing diverse needs of children through multiple pedagogies, etc.
- It is being organized by constituting National Resource Groups (NRGs) and State Resource Groups (SRGs) at the National and the State level who will be training 42 lakhs teachers
Digital Infrastructure for Knowledge Sharing
- DIKSHA Portal was launched by the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD in It provides a digital platform for teachers giving them an opportunity to learn and train themselves and connect with the teacher community. It is built considering the whole teacher’s life cycle – from the time student teachers enroll in Teacher Education Institutes (TEIs) to after they retire as teachers. It also provides access to NCERT textbooks and lessons, following the regular school curriculum.
- PRAGYATA: Guidelines on Digital Education
Why in News
Recently, the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) has released guidelines on digital education titled ‘PRAGYATA’. The guidelines have been prepared by the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT).
These are only advisory in nature and state governments can formulate their own rules, based on local needs. The guidelines include eight steps of online/digital learning i.e. Plan- Review-Arrange- Guide- Yak (talk)- Assign- Track- Appreciate.
- Over 25 crore students across the country have been out of school since mid- March 2020 (owing to Covid-19 pandemic).
- The guidelines acknowledge that these students live in households which fall into different categories: Those who have computers or smartphones with 4G internet access, Those with smartphones but limited or no internet access, Those with television with cable or DTH, Those with a radio set or a basic mobile phone with FM radio, And those with no communication devices at all.
- It emphasised the aim of digital classrooms is not to try and recreate Face-to-Face (F2F) classrooms over the internet.
Need for Survey:
- It advises schools to first survey the digital infrastructure available with teachers as well as students, the levels of parental involvement before making decisions about the mode of teaching.
- Therefore, schools must also make arrangements to reach students who do not have access to any digital infrastructure at home.
- For kindergarten, nursery and pre-school, only 30 minutes of screen time per day for interacting with parents is recommended. Schools can hold live online classes for a maximum of 5 hours per day for Classes 1-8, and 3 hours per day for Classes 9-12.
Synchronous or Real-time Communication:
- This is real-time teaching and learning that can happen collaboratively at the same time with a group of online learners or individuals, and teachers allowing instant feedback
- Apart from live classes, it offered a number of recommendations for asynchronous learning with tools to allow students to download lessons or listen to radio and TV programmes, communicate through Whatsapp and SMS, study on their own and undertake creative
- The National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) is an autonomous organisation of the Government of India which was established in 1961 as a literary, scientific and charitable Society under the Societies Registration Act, 1860.
Social issues /schemes/miscellaneous
- Dare to Dream 2.0
Why in News
The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has launched an innovation contest ‘Dare to Dream 2.0’ on the 5 death anniversary of former President Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam.
- The ‘Dare to Dream 2.0’ is an open challenge to promote the innovators and startups of the country, for innovation in defence and aerospace technologies in the country after the call of Atmanirbhar Bharat.
- Award money, up to Rs.10 lakh for startup and Rs. 5 lakh to individual category, will be given to the winners.
- APJ Abdul Kalam is known as the missile man as he was part of many successful projects for development of ballistic missiles and satellite launch vehicle technologies during his lifetime.
- Khelo India Youth Games 2021
Why in News
Recently, the government has announced that Haryana will host the fourth edition of Khelo India Youth Games (KIYG).
- The 2021 Khelo India Youth Games are scheduled to take place after the 2021 Tokyo Olympics and will be held in Panchkula (Haryana).
- The 2021 Tokyo Olympics are set to open on 23 July. In 2020, for the first time, the Olympics were postponed following the Covid-19 outbreak. Usually, the KIYG takes place in January of every year.
- KIYG is a part of the revamped national programme for development of sports ‘Khelo India’ which was approved by the Union Cabinet in
- The 2020 edition of KIYG was held in Guwahati (Assam). The Khelo India Scheme aims to encourage sports all over the country, thus allowing the population to harness the power of sports through its cross-cutting influence, namely holistic development of children & youth, community development, social integration, gender equality, healthy lifestyle, national pride and economic opportunities related to sports development.
- Under the Scheme, talented players identified in priority sports disciplines at various levels are provided annual financial assistance of Rs. 5 lakh per annum for 8 years.
- Khelo India App, developed by the Sports Authority of India (SAI), aims to create awareness about sports and fitness in the country. SAI is under the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports.
- Regulation of Government Advertising: CCRGA
Why in News
Recently, the Supreme Court-mandated Committee on Content Regulation in Government Advertising (CCRGA) issued a notice to the Delhi government, seeking clarifications on a recent advertisement placed by it in Mumbai editions of prominent newspapers.
- according to the Delhi government, CCRGA doesn’t have jurisdiction over the Delhi government. The advertisement content of Delhi government is regulated by its own State-level committee.
- As per the directions of Supreme Court in 2015, the Government of India had set up a three member body in 2016 to look into content regulation of government funded advertisements in all media platforms.
- It is empowered to address complaints from the general public and can also take suomoto cognizance of any violation of the Supreme Court guidelines and recommend corrective actions.
Supreme Court Guidelines:
- The content of government advertisements should be relevant to the government’s constitutional and legal obligations as well as the citizen’s rights and entitlements. The advertisement materials should be designed to meet the objectives of the campaign and to ensure maximum reach in a cost effective way.
- It should be accurate and not presenting pre existing policies and products as new. The advertisement content should also not promote the political interests of the ruling
- Maratha Quota
Why in News
The Supreme Court (SC) is set to commence the final hearing on the batch of Special Leave Petitions (SLPs-Article 136) against Maratha reservation in Maharashtra on a daily basis through video-conferencing.
- The apex court will also hear a petition challenging admission to postgraduate medical and dental courses under the quota in the state.
- The SLPs challenged the Bombay High Court (HC) decision, which upheld the constitutional validity of the Maratha quota under the state’s Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (SEBC) Act, 2018.
- The SEBC Act provides for reservation of seats for admission in educational institutions in the state and for reservation of posts for appointments in public services and posts under the state.
- Maharashtra is one of the few states which have more than 50% reservation. Tamil Nadu, Haryana and Telangana also exceeds the reservation cap.
- Indra Sawhney case 1992 ruled that the total reservation for backward classes cannot go beyond the 50% mark.
- A group of medical students challenged the constitutional validity of an amendment to the SEBC Act, 2018 allowing Maratha reservation for 2019-2020 admissions to MBBS courses.
- In July 2019, the Bombay HC dismissed the petition. The SC refused to stay the judgement and have, time and again, refused to put an interim stay on the quota.
- Recently, the SC refused to grant interim stay on a plea by medical students, seeking a direction that the 12% quota not be made applicable for admissions in postgraduate medical and dental courses for the academic year 2020-21.
- It is a politically dominant community in Maharashtra comprising mainly peasants and landowners and forms nearly one-third of the population of the state.
- Majority of the Chief Ministers of the state have been from this community since the formation of the state in 1960.
- While the backwardness of the community was not comparable with Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs), it was comparable with several other backward classes, which find a place in the list of Other Backward Classes (OBC) pursuant to the Mandal Commission.
Findings of Maharashtra State Backward Class Commission:
- It surveyed about 45,000 families from two villages from each of 355 talukas with more than 50% Maratha population.
- 86% of Maratha families are engaged in agriculture and agricultural labour for their livelihood. Only 35-39% have personal tap water connections.
- During 2013-2018, total 13,368 farmers committed suicides and 23.56% of them were Marathas.
- 42% of Marathas are illiterate, 35.31% primary educated, 43.79% Secondary and Higher Secondary educated, 6.71% undergraduates and postgraduates and 0.77% technically and professionally qualified.
- 93% of Maratha families have an annual income of Rs. 1 lakh, which was below the average income of middle-class families. 37.38% of families were Below Poverty Line (BPL) against the state average of 24%.
- The commission submitted its report on 15 November 2018 establishing that the Maratha community is socially, economically and educationally backwards and also established inadequacy of representation of the Maratha community in public employment in the state.
- The quotas for Nomadic Tribes and Special Backward Classes have been carved out of the total OBC quota.
- With the addition of 12-13% Maratha quota, the total reservation in the state is 64- 65%. The 10% Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) quota is also effective in the state.
- settling Bru refugees
Why in news
Six places have been proposed by the non-Brus of Tripura for settling the displaced Brus from Mizoram.
- Limits have also been placed for the number of families to be accommodated in two subdivisions that have borne the brunt of the 23-year-old refugee crisis.
- There are 7 relief camps among which the Bru families are distributed in these two subdivisions.
- Non-Bru groups have been maintaining that the Brus were difficult to coexist with. The burden was put on the state government by the Bru leaders, to honour a quadripartite agreement in January 2020 for resettling more than 6,500 families in suitable areas.
- The areas proposed by the Joint Movement Committee (comprising Bengali, Mizo and other indigenous communities of the subdivisions of North Tripura district) and those sought by the Bru organisations do not match.
- Social Security Number for Migrants
Why in News
The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Labour has recommended that the government introduce a social security number for migrant workers, especially those working in the unorganised sectors which are beyond the purview of the labour laws.
- The Ministry of Labour and Employment was unable to give any concrete figures on the number of migrant workers.
- It was pointed out that students and family members of the workers too used these trains and thus this figure doesn’t accurately record the number of migrant workers.
Social Security Number:
- Instead of making Aadhar the basis for providing government benefits to migrants, they should be given a social security number which is a more effective way of covering them for insurance, health and other welfare programmes.
- It flagged issues related to the social security fund stated under the Social Security Code Bill 2019. There are no specific details in the legislation as to who will contribute to the fund and how it will be utilised.
- It discussed changes in labour laws by some states in the wake of pandemic and impact on workers. Most of the beneficiaries under the PM Garib Kalyan Yojana were local workers and not migrants.
Social Security Code Bill, 2019
- The central government has been working to concise 44 central labour laws into four broad codes on wages, industrial relations, social security and occupational health & safety.
- The Social Security Code Bill seeks to amend and consolidate nine laws related to social security, including the Employees’ Provident Fund Act, 1952, the Maternity Benefit Act, 1961, and the Unorganised Workers’ Social Security Act, 2008.
- Social security refers to measures to ensure access to health care and provision of income security to workers. It proposes setting up a social security fund.
- MANODARPAN: Mental Health Initiative
Why in News
Recently, the Ministry of Human Resources Development (MHRD) has launched the ‘Manodarpan’ initiative under Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan.
It is aimed to provide psychosocial support to students, family members and teachers for their mental health and well-being during the times of Covid-19
- The platform includes a national toll free helpline for students of schools, universities and colleges, which will be manned by a pool of experienced counsellors, psychologists and mental health professionals.
- It also has a website, a national database of counsellors which will host an interactive online chat platform, advisories and tips through webinars and other resources.
- It would act as an element of strengthening human capital and increasing productivity for the education sector in the wake of covid-19. Covid 19 lockdown had led to forced close down of schools and colleges. Therefore, it would help children as well as their parents in facing tense situations and its effects on academics.
- Vulnerable groups petition global fund
Why in news
Deprived of sources of livelihood during the pandemic, sex workers, trans-persons, gay and bisexual men, drug users and people living with HIV/AIDS have written to the Global Fund for AIDS, TB and Malaria (GFATM) protesting against being ignored by governments and multilateral agencies in COVID-19-related emergency relief efforts.
Global Fund for AIDS, TB and Malaria (GFATM)
- Founded in 2002, GFATM, also known as Global Fund, is an international financing organization.
- The Global Fund was formed as an independent, non-profit foundation under Swiss law and hosted by the World Health Organization in January 2002.
- In January 2009, the organization became an administratively autonomous organization, terminating its administrative services agreement with the World Health Organization.
- It aims to “attract, leverage and invest additional resources to end the epidemics of HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria to support attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals established by the United Nations.”
It is a partnership between governments, civil society, the private sector and people affected by the diseases. Its secretariat is in Geneva, Switzerland
- Zoram Mega Food Park: Mizoram
Why in News
Recently, the government has operationalized the first Mega Food Park (MFP) of Mizoram i.e. Zoram Mega Food Park. It has been set up under the ‘Mega Food Park Scheme’.
- Zoram MFP: It is located in Khamrang village in Kolasib District, Mizoram. It is spread over 55 acres of land and is set up at a cost of Rs. 75. 20 crores. It is not only expected to benefit the people of Mizoram but also that of adjoining districts in Assam.
- Assam already has a MFP in its Nalbari district- North East Mega Food Park.
- It will boost the North-East Region’s potential to become the organic destination of the world due to its rich agricultural and horticultural
- Sikkim has already been declared as an organic state.
Mega Food Park Scheme: Launched in: 2008-09 under the purview of the Ministry of Food Processing Industries.
- To provide a mechanism to link agricultural production to the market by bringing together farmers, processors and retailers so as to ensure maximizing value addition, minimizing wastage, increasing farmers income and creating employment opportunities particularly in the rural sector.
- The Scheme is based on the “Cluster” approach and envisages creation of state of art support infrastructure in a well-defined agri/horticultural zone for setting up of modern food processing units in the industrial plots provided in the park with a well-established supply chain.
- A Mega food Park typically consists of supply chain infrastructure including collection centers (cc), primary processing centers (ppc) central processing centers (cpc), cold chain and around 25-30 fully developed plots for entrepreneurs to set up food processing
- The central government provides financial assistance upto Rs. 50 Crore per Mega Food Park (MFP) project. The MFP project is implemented by a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) which is a Body Corporate registered under the Companies Act,
Presently, 18 MFP Projects are under implementation in various states and 19 Mega Food Parks have already become functional in the States. It is in line with the ‘Make in India’ and ‘Atmanirbhar’ vision of the Government of India
- a steep decline in maternal mortality ratio
Why in news
The Maternal Mortality Ratio in India (2016-18) released by the Office of the Registrar General’s Sample Registration System (SRS), India has registered a steep decline in Maternal Mortality Ratio (MMR).
Maternal Mortality Rate (MMR):
the number of maternal deaths per 1,00,000 live births. The target 3.1 of Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) set by the United Nations aims to reduce the global maternal mortality ratio to less than 70 per 1,00,000 live births.
- The Maternal Mortality Ratio (MMR) in India has declined to 113 in 2016-18 from 122 in 2015- 17 and 130 in 2014-2016. This is almost 100 deaths less than the 2007-09 period where MMR was at 212. Maternal mortality in a region is a measure of the reproductive health of women in the area.
- As per the World Health Organization, maternal death is the death of a woman while pregnant or within 42 days of termination of pregnancy, from any cause related to or aggravated by the pregnancy or its management.
- The MMR of various States includes Assam (215), Bihar (149), Madhya Pradesh (173), Chhattisgarh (159), Odisha (150), Rajasthan (164), Uttar Pradesh (197) and Uttarakhand (99).
- The southern States registered a lower MMR — Andhra Pradesh (65), Telangana (63), Karnataka (92), Kerala (43) and Tamil Nadu (60).
- 11. National Doctor’s Day
Why in News
National Doctor’s Day is celebrated on 1 July every year to recognise the invaluable work done by doctors and physicians and thank them for their dedicated service. The day also marks the birth and death anniversary of Dr. Bidhan Chandra Roy who was one of the most renowned physicians in the country. 2020 Theme: ‘Lessen the mortality of Covid-19’ which includes awareness about asymptomatic hypoxia and early aggressive therapy.
Dr Bidhan Chandra Roy (1882-1962) served as a physician, a freedom fighter, an educationist and a politician. He was born in Patna Bengal Presidency, British India, in 1882 He was a follower of Brahmo Samaj. He also led the Civil disobedience movement (began in 1930) in Bengal. The British Medical Journal, in its obituary of Roy, called him the “first medical consultant in the subcontinent of India, who towered over his contemporaries in several fields”.
- Diana Award
Why in News
A 13-year-old schoolgirl from Delhi has been selected among the recipients of the 2020Diana Award, an honour given on the birth anniversary of Princess Diana (of Wales) to youngsters for humanitarian efforts.
- She received the award for developing Recycler App, a web-based mobile application to connect users with waste-handlers. The door-to-door pick up service helps in easy disposal of recyclable waste for those who may not have the means or time to travel to drop their waste.
- Her work on sustainable recycling is a valuable contribution towards achieving the United Nation-mandated Sustainable Development Goals of poverty alleviation, innovation, infrastructure, responsible consumption and climate action. Diana Awards were established in 1999 and it is considered one of the highest accolades a young person can receive for social action or humanitarian efforts.
- 13. Accelerate Vigyan
Why in news
The Science and Engineering Research Board (SERB) has launched a new scheme called ‘Accelerate Vigyan’ (AV).
The idea behind the launch of this scheme is to provide a single platform for research internships, capacity building programs, and workshops across the country.
The vision of the scheme is to expand the research base, with three broad goals: 1. Consolidation 2. Aggregation of all scientific programs, initiating high-end orientation workshops 3.Creating opportunities for research internships for those who do not have access to such resources/facilities
Components under the AV:
ABHYAAS Program: It is an attempt to boost research and development in the country by enabling and grooming potential PG/PhD students by means of developing their research skills in selected areas across different disciplines or fields. It has two components: High-End Workshops (‘KARYASHALA’) and Research Internships (‘VRITIKA’). This is especially important for those researchers who have limited opportunities to access such learning capacities/facilities/infrastructure.
SAMMOHAN: Under this, there are two subcomponents: SAYONJIKA: It is an open-ended program to catalogue the capacity building activities in science and technology supported by all government funding agencies in the country.
SANGOSHTI: It is a pre-existing program of SERB.
- 14. Dharma Chakra Day
Why in News
The Ministry of Culture, Government of India in partnership with International Buddhist Confederation (IBC) will celebrate the upcoming Asadha Poornima on 4 July, 2020 as Dharma Chakra Day.
- The festivities would start off with at Sarnath, Varanasi (U.P.), and will be livestreamed ,following which the opening event will be shifted to the Rashtrapati Bhavan.
- It is also known as Esala Poya in Sri Lanka and Asanha Bucha inThailand. It is the second most sacred day for Buddhists after the Buddha Poornima or Vesak.
- 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.
- The day marks Buddha’s first teaching after attaining Enlightenment to the first five ascetic disciples (pancavargika) on the full-moon day of Asadha at ‘Deer Park’,
- 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, The day is also observed as Guru Poornima by both Buddhists and Hindus as a day to mark reverence to their Gurus.
Buddhism and Diplomacy
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 Central Tibetan Administration has asked Tibetan Buddhists to participate in the online event in large numbers to “support and appreciate” the effort
- jal jeevan mission
Why in news
From april 2020 to june 2020, despite lockdown 19 lakh households in rural areas were provided with tap water connection. for the continuous progress and implementation of Jal Jeevan Scheme for FY 2020-21 Rs 8050 crore were allocated by center under this scheme
- Jal Jeevan Mission (JJM) envisages supply of 55 litresof water per person per day to every rural household through Functional Household Tap Connections (FHTC) by
- Creation of local infrastructure for source sustainability measures as mandatoryelements, like rainwater harvesting, groundwater recharge and management of household wastewater for reuse, would be undertaken in convergence with other government programmes/schemes.
- The fund sharing pattern between the Centre and states is 90:10for Himalayan and North-Eastern States, 50:50 for other states, and 100% for Union Territories.
For the implementation of JJM, following institutional arrangement has been proposed:
- National Jal Jeevan Mission (NJJM) at the Central level
- State Water and Sanitation Mission (SWSM) at the State level
- District Water and Sanitation Mission (DWSM) at the District level
- Village Water Sanitation Committee (VWSC) at Village level
- Every village will prepare a Village Action Plan (VAP)which will have three components:
- Water source & its maintenance
- Water supply and
- Greywater (domestic wastewater) management
- 16. ASHA Workers
Why in news
Karnataka’s ASHA workers have emerged crucial in the fight against COVID-19.
ASHA stands for Accredited Social Health Activists. It is an initiative under the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) to address the health requirements of rural India. They spread awareness on health issues and mobilise the rural community to use health services more efficiently.
- Swachh Survekshan 2021
Why in news
A new category of awards titled ‘Prerak Dauur Samman’ announced as part of Swachh Survekshan 2021.
- The Prerak Dauur Samman has a total of five additional subcategories – Divya (Platinum), Anupam (Gold), Ujjwal (Silver), Udit (Bronze), Aarohi (Aspiring) – with top three cities being recognized in each.
- In a departure from the present criteria of evaluating cities on ‘population category’, this new category will categorize cities on the basis of six select indicator-wise performance criteria which are as follows:
o Segregation of waste into Wet, Dry and Hazard categories
- o Processing capacity against wet waste generated
- o Processing and recycling of wet and dry waste
- o Construction & Demolition (C&D) waste processing
- o Percentage of waste going to landfills
- o Sanitation status of cities
- To encourage cities to improve urban sanitation, the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs has been conducting the Swachh Survekshan since 2016.
- The competition has been able to imbibe a spirit of healthy competition among the citizens with respect to improving the cleanliness of their cities.
- In the 2020 Swachh Survekshan, an unprecedented 1.87 crore citizens participated. The results for 2020 are yet to be released by the Ministry.
- While Mysuru had won the award for the Cleanest City of India in the first edition of the survey, Indore has retained the top position for three consecutive years (2017, 2018, 2019).
- Garib Kalyan Rojgar Abhiyaan (GKRA)
Why in news
The GKRA was launched to start extensive public works to provide livelihood opportunities and create local employment to returnee migrants and similarly affected rural citizens.
- As part of this Abhiyan, Jal Jeevan Mission aims at providing household tap connections to every rural household and offers a huge opportunity to engage skilled, semi-skilled and migrant returnees in drinking water supply related works.
- States have been requested to start works in villages of these districts so that it will not only help to ensure an adequate quantity of water at the household level but will also help in providing employment to migrant returnees.
- States have been advised to prioritize taking up works of ‘low hanging fruits’ i.e. by augmenting or retrofitting existing piped water supply schemes so that these villages become ‘Har Ghar Jal Gaon’ i.e. 100% Functional Household Tap Connection (FHTC) villages.
- Mahajobs Portal: Maharashtra
Why in News
The Maharashtra Government has launched a portal named ‘Mahajobs’ for job seekers and employers, owing to the economic situation caused by Covid-19 pandemic.
- Aim: To make local manpower available to companies and employment opportunities to workers.
- Functioning: The job seekers and providers/industrial units can register themselves on the Portal. The Portal has identified 17 sectors including engineering, logistics, and chemicals, and provides for selecting jobs across 950 trades mainly for local youth who would need to produce domicile certificates.
- There would be regular reviews of the jobs provided. There would be a study on the kind of problems faced by employers as well as youth seeking employment.
- Developed by: Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation (MIDC).
- Corresponding Initiative at the National Level: National Career Service Project, implemented by the Ministry of Labour & Employment, works towards bridging the gap between job seekers and employers.
- Samadhan se Vikas: Haryana
Why in News
Recently, the Haryana government has introduced a one-time settlement scheme called ‘Samadhan se Vikas’ for the recovery of long-pending dues on account of External Development Charges (EDC) and Infrastructural Development Charges (IDC).
The scheme is modeled on the central scheme of ‘Vivad se Vishwas-2020’.
- External Development Charges: charges paid by the real estate developer to civic authorities for maintenance of civic amenities within the periphery of the developed project including construction of roads, water and electricity supply, landscaping, maintenance of drainage and sewage systems, waste management etc. The EDC is decided by the civic authorities.
- Infrastructure Development Charges: charges paid by the real estate developer to the state government for development of major infrastructure projects across the state, which include construction of transportation networks including highways, bridges etc.
- Legal Provision in Haryana: As per terms and conditions of the Haryana Development and Regulation of Urban Areas Rules, 1976, a licensee (developer) has to pay the EDC as per schedule of payment. If the developer does not deposit the EDC/IDC nor avail the EDC Reschedulement Policy, then a show cause notice is issued by the Town and Country Planning Department warning such defaulters of revocating bank guarantee on account of non-payment of EDC/IDC.
- India Global Week 2020: India Inc.
Why in News
Recently, the Prime Minister of India has addressed the inaugural session of a three-day virtual conference of India Global Week 2020 organised in London, United Kingdom by India Inc. It also marks the 100 birth anniversary of Pandit Ravi Shankar, a great Indian musician (Sitar player, composer and singer).
- India Global Week is an annual flagship event organised by India Inc., a London based media house to re-energise and ignite optimism at global level. It brings about an action-oriented focus by giving a forum to global deliberations from geopolitics to business, arts & culture to emerging technologies, banking and finance, pharma, defence and security, social impact and the diaspora dividend.
- India Inc. also produces incisive contents and events on investment, trade and policy matters related to India’s increasingly globalised economic and strategic agenda. Its flagship publication: India Global Business.
- Diaspora news network:
- Theme: Be The Revival: India and a Better New World.
- Objective: Explore business, strategic and cultural opportunities, understand the challenges and make informed decisions as the world looks ahead to a better, brighter future beyond Covid-19.
- Significance for India:
- Global Revival: As India is playing a leading role in the global revival, it has brought India’s ancient culture (AYUSH), universal, peaceful ethos and the beauty of classical music to the world.
- Global Audience: The event as a forum has helped to bring the opportunities in India to a global audience and made the links between India and UK stronger.
- Trade and Investment: It would focus on India’s trade and foreign investment processes as it has done many reforms e.g. private investment in the space sector. Reforms in agriculture would provide an opportunity to invest in storage and logistics.
- Invest India Programme: It will help in improving the Invest India programme. India has recently been reviewing 50 investment proposals from China under its new screening policy which is being done under the new rules.
- New rules: India announced new investment rules in April 2020. Under the new rules, all the investments by the entities based in neighbouring countries have to be approved by Indian Government. This was introduced to curb opportunistic takeovers during Covid-19-period.
- Battle against the Covid-19: As India is fighting a strong battle against the global pandemic it would recognise India’s efforts towards revival with care, compassion and sustainability – both for the environment and the economy.
- Swabhiman Anchal
Why in News
Recently, a passenger bus service was started for the first time after India’s Independence in Swabhiman Anchal region (formerly known as the cut-off area) in Odisha’s Malkangiri district.
- The bus service was able to start after the construction of the Gurupriya Bridge in 2018, which connected Swabhiman Anchal with the rest of the State. Till now, motor launches and boats were used to be the only mode of communication to reach ferry points and from there people were taking country boats to reach villages.
- Swabhiman Anchal is situated along the Odisha-Andhra Pradesh border, and had long been a stronghold of left-wing extremists.
The region is covered by water from three sides and another side by inhospitable terrain. Balimela reservoir is also situated in the region. Recently, a new police station also started functioning in Jodambo (a gram panchayat in Swabhiman Anchal)
- Aids to Navigation Bill 2020
Why in news
Shipping Ministry issues draft “Aids to Navigation Bill 2020” for public consultation.
- The draft bill is proposed to replace the almost nine decades old Lighthouse Act, 1927, to incorporate the global best practices, technological developments and India’s international obligations in the field of Aids to Marine Navigation.
- The draft bill provides for empowering the Directorate General of Lighthouses and Lightships (DGLL) with additional power and functions such as vessel traffic service, wreck flagging, training and certification, implementation of other obligations under international conventions, where India is a signatory.
It also provides for the identification and development of heritage lighthouses
- FASTag Details for New Vehicle Registration
Why in News
Recently, the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH) has decided to ensure capturing of FASTag details while registering or issuing fitness certificates to vehicles all over the country.
Besides facilitating smooth commutation/transit, use of electronic medium of FASTag payment, would also help in checking Covid-19 spread as cash payment is avoided.
- Introduced in 2017, it is an electronic toll collection system with reloadable tag feature which allows automatic deduction of toll without having to stop for carrying out the cash transaction.
- The reloadable tag allows addition of monetary values multiple times. It is operated by the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) under the supervision of MoRTH.
- The tag uses Radio Frequency IDentification (RFID) technology and is fixed on the windscreen of the vehicle once active.
- RFID is the use of radio waves to read and capture information stored on a tag attached to an object. A tag can be read from up to several feet away and does not need to be within the direct line-of-sight of the reader to be
- It is linked to a prepaid account from which the applicable toll amount is deducted. Consumers avoided using it following complaints of technical glitches, and money getting deducted twice from their bank accounts or e-wallets.
- The MoRTH has directed the National Information Centre (NIC) to ensure details of the electronic toll collection device are captured on VAHAN portal.
- The full integration of National Electronic Toll Collection (NETC) with VAHAN portal has been achieved and the portal is now getting all information on FASTags through Vehicle Identification Number/ Vehicle Registration Number (VIN/VRN).
- VAHAN Portal: It acts as an integrated solution for vehicle registration for the State Transport Department. It helps in various processes like fitness, taxes, permits & enforcement to get computerized.
- The State Transport Department is governed by both Central Motor Vehicle Regulation (CMVR) and state specific Motor Vehicle Regulation (State MVR). Consequently, VAHAN was conceptualized as a product that would capture the functionalities mandated by CMVR as well as state MVRs.
National Electronic Toll Collection: It was developed by National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) in 2016 for electronic toll collection at toll plazas using FASTag
- App to Monitor Rice Fields: Paddy Watch
Why in News
Researchers from University of Sydney in collaboration with other partners have been developing an app i.e. Paddy watch, which will act as the first real-time monitoring platform for rice fields. The project has been undertaken in collaboration with Google Earth and the Group on Earth Observations (GEO).
- Development of the App: The Paddy watch is being developed in partnership with Indian Agricultural Research Institute, India along with the research institutes from different countries i.e. China, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Vietnam.
- Among these, India, China and Indonesia are the world’s three largest producers of rice and together account for about 60% of the total world production.
- Functioning: The real-time land-use data will be generated using Google Earth and cloud computing technology, and will be verified by field operators in partner countries to ensure accuracy of rice production worldwide.
Group on Earth Observations
- GEO is a unique global network connecting government institutions, academic and research institutions, data providers and scientists to benefit the world by comprehensive and sustained Earth observations. It coordinates international efforts to build a Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS).
- It aims to produce a global public infrastructure that generates, near-real-time environmental data, information and analyses for a wide range of users and mitigation of global issues like climate change.
- World Youth Skills Day
Why in News
15 July is marked as World Youth Skills Day. It was designated by the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in 2014.
- Aim: To achieve better socio-economic conditions for today’s youth in terms of challenges of unemployment and under-employment.
- Theme for 2020: “Skills for a Resilient Youth”.
- According to UNGA, Covid-19 has led to the worldwide closure of training institutions, threatening the continuity of skills development. Nearly 70% of the world’s youth are affected by school closures.
- According to the Global Trends for Youth 2020 report, since 2017, there has been an upward trend in the number of youth not in employment, education or training (NEET).
- Global Trends for Youth report is released by International Labour Organisation (ILO).
- 2030 Agenda: Education and training are central to the achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The vision of the Incheon Declaration: Education 2030 is fully captured by Sustainable Development Goal-4, which aims to “Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all”. Education 2030 devotes attention to technical and vocational skills development, acquisition of technical and vocational skills for employment, decent work and It also focuses on the elimination of gender disparity.
- Skill India Mission: The day also marks the 5 anniversary of the launch of Skill India Mission. Skill India is an initiative of the Government of India which has been launched to empower the youth of the country with skill sets which make them more employable and more productive in their work environment. Skill India offers courses across several sectors which are aligned to the standards recognised by both, the industry and the government under the National Skill Qualification Framework.
- Vallarpadam Terminal
Why in News
Recently, the Ministry of Shipping reviewed the development of the country’s first trans-shipment hub – Kochi International Container Trans-shipment Terminal (ICTT). ICTT is locally known as the Vallarpadam Terminal.
- It is a terminal at a port which handles containers, stores them temporarily and transfers them to other ships for the onward destination.
- It basically acts as a switching point for cargo carried by deep-sea vessels operating on trans-continental trade routes.
- It is a part of the Cochin Port in Kochi, It is located on Vallarpadam Island.
- It was built with an investment of about Rs. 3,200 crore, shared by the government and the Dubai-government-owned entity (Dubai Ports World).
- It was opened in February 2011 and can handle cargo up to one million TEUs (Twenty-foot equivalent units) per annum.
- It is proposed to be a leading trans-shipment hub of South Asia. This is because of its:
- Proximity to International sea routes.
- Location with respect to all Indian feeder (secondary/smaller) ports.
- Proximity to key hinterland markets of India.
- Large infrastructure to manage large ships and capacity to scale it up as per requirement.
- It will cut India’s dependence on neighboring hub ports such as Colombo in Sri Lanka, Jebel Ali in Dubai and Port Klang in Malaysia to send and receive container cargo, thus saving time and cost for exporters and importers.
- It is in line with the Prime Minister’s vision of Atmanirbhar Bharat. It will ensure that Indian cargo trans-ship through an Indian Port. Further, the Indian ocean is one of the most critical maritime transportation links in the world.
- It will facilitate the setting up of port based industries and their allied facilities such as Container Freight Station, Island Container Depots, etc. in Kerala which will generate additional employment opportunities