Monthly Current Affairs for Prelims: February 2020

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Content:

Art And Culture

  • Festivals:
    • Chindu Yakshaganam
    • Kambala
  • Awards And Languages:
    • Bodo Language
    • International Mother Language Day
  • Ancient Monuments And Dynasties:
    • Kumbhabhishekam
    • Hampi
    • Konark Sun Temple
    • Rakhigarhi
    • Varanasi
  • GI Tag:
    • Kala Kumbh
    • Tirur Vettila

History

  • Famous Personalities:
    • Guru Ravidas
    • Dara Shikoh
    • Sham Singh Atariwala
    • J.R.D. Tata
  • Battles And Organization:
    • Islamic Revolution
    • Battle of Çanakkale/Gallipoli

Geography

  • Storm Ciara
  • Mahadayi tribunal’s award
  • Leap years
  • Cauvery Water Management Authority (CMA)
  • 1000 springs initiative
  • Kallakadal
  • Gold Deposits in Sonbhadra
  • Melting of Thwaites Glacier

Society

  • Health:
    • Select Committee recommendations on Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill
    • National Deworming Day
    • School Health Ambassador Initiative
    • Kangaroo mother care (KMC)
    • Assisted Reproductive Technology Regulation Bill
  • Women:
    • Female Genital Mutilation
    • Acid sale Regulation
    • Permanent Commission for Women
    • Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2020
  • Children:
    • Mukti Caravan
    • Parliamentary panel on child pornography
    • Juveniles Justice Act, 2015 And Detention of children in jails
    • Treating child witnesses
    • Happiness curriculum
  • Tribes:
    • Tribes of Tripura And Autonomous District Council
    • Indigenous Muslim groups of Assam
    • Korku Tribe
  • Urbanization And Sanitation:
    • Swachh Iconic Places
    • Swachh Bharat Mission

Polity

  • Executive:
    • Special category status
    • Private member’s Bill
    • Voting Rights of Prisoners
    • Central Administrative Tribunal
    • Delimitation of Constituencies
    • Chief Vigilance Commissioner (CVC)
    • Police and public order in Delhi
    • Clause 6 in Assam Accord
  • Judiciary:
    • Anticipatory bail
    • E-court Integrated Mission Mode Project
    • Gram Nyayalayas
    • Justice Roy Committee
    • Reservation in promotion in public posts, not a fundamental right: SC
    • SC/ST atrocities law
    • Law Commission of India
    • Curative Petition
  • Constitutional Provisions:
    • Recommendations of the 15th Finance Commission
    • The motion of thanks to the President’s Address
  • Bills And Acts:
    • Public Safety Act
    • Disha law

International Relations

  • Dialogues And Talks:
    • East Asia Summit
    • Lucknow Declaration
  • Geopolitical Events:
    • Brexit Deal 
    • 2 Billion Kilometers to Safety’ campaign
    • United States Trade Representative (USTR) on Developing Country list
    • ‘Grey List’ of FATF
  • Organizations And Conventions:
    • Commonwealth
    • PEN Online System
    • Blue dot network
    • BIMSTEC
    • G20

Economy

  • Banking And Finance:
    • Dividend Distribution Tax 
    • Deposit Insurance and Credit Guarantee Corporation (DICGC) 
    • Infrastructure Investment Trusts (InvIT) And Real Estate Investment Trusts (REIT)
    • Cooperative banks under RBI
    • CRR or Cash reserve ratio
    • Debts Recovery Tribunals
    • Adjusted Gross Revenue (AGR) issue
    • Masala Bonds
    • Central Consumer Protection Authority
  • Agriculture:
    • Apiary on Wheels
    • Fruit train
    • Locust attacks
    • Pesticides Management Bill 2020
    • Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana
    • Farmers Producer Organisations
    • Yellow Rust
    • Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK)
  • Infrastructure:
    • Vadhavan port and landlord model
    • Major Port Authority Bill, 2020
    • National Technical Textiles Mission
    • Mission Purvodaya: Accelerated Development of Steel Sector
    • Renewable Energy Management Centre (NR-REMC)
    • Railways:
      • Railways’ corporate train model
      • Station WiFi Programme
      • National Rail Transportation Institute (NRTI)
      • Chatbot ASKDISHA
  • Web Portal And App:
    • SPICe+ web form
    • Ease 3.0 for tech-enabled banking
    • Market Intelligence and Early Warning System (MIEWS) Web Portal

Environment

  • Species in news:
  • Pollution And Conservation:
    • Global conservation list
    • Jal Jeevan Mission
    • Northern European Enclosure Dam (NEED)
    • Bhutan’s new tourism fee
  • Environment:
    • Green India Mission
    • World Wetlands Day 2019
    • Protected Special Agricultural Zone’ (PSAZ)
    • Biodiversity management committees (BMC)
    • Red Snow

Science And Technology

  • Space:
    • NASA’s Voyager 2 spacecraft
    • Solar Orbiter Mission
    • Very Large Telescope
    • GISAT-1 — Geo Imaging Satellite
    • Aditya- L1 mission
    • Artemis Programme
    • 2020 CD3, A mini-moon
  • Health:
    • Yaravirus
    • WHO Naming a Disease
    • Coronavirus Disease Named Covid-19
    • Classical Swine Fever (CSF)
    • H1N1 infection
    • Pigmentary disorder
  • New Technology:
    • Quantum computing
    • Purified Terephthalic Acid (PTA)
    • Reverse osmosis (RO)
    • Kerala’s ban on CFL and filament bulbs 
    • Muktoshri- arsenic-resistant rice
    • SyRI- an identification mechanism
    • RAISE 2020
    • Genome India project

Miscellaneous

  • Exercise And Operation:
  • Defence And Security:
    • Integrated Air Defence Weapon System
    • National Security Act
    • National Investigation Agency (NIA)
    • Lockheed Martin helicopters
    • Arms Act,1959 and Arms Rules
    • Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation (BEFR)
    • ICGS Varad
  • Pharmaceuticals:
    • Uniform Code of Pharmaceuticals Marketing Practices (“UCPMP Code”)

Places in News

Index in News

Schemes in News

 

Art And Culture

Festivals:-

Chindu Yakshaganam

  • Chindu Yakshaganam, a.k.a Chindu Bhagavatam is a form of theatre practiced by members of the Chindu Madiga community.
  • It is a form of entertainment in villages across Telangana, with the artists skillfully depicting classic tales from the epics and entertaining the masses.
  • The art form probably started when people enacted acts of hunting, wars and other acts of valor.
  • The Chindu community has traditionally been a nomadic community.

Kambala

  • Context:
    • After Srinivas Gowda created a storm by covering 100 meters in 9.55 seconds recently, another Kambala runner Nishant Shetty has now overtaken the former by completing the same distance in 9.51 seconds.
  • About Kambala:
    • It is a traditional slush track buffalo race held annually in coastal districts of Karnataka to entertain rural people of the area.
    • The slushy/marshy paddy field track is used for Kambala.
    • The sports season generally starts in November and lasts till March.
  • Why it has become controversial?
    • Over the years, it has, however, become an organized sport with animal rights activists claiming that the buffaloes run in the race due to fear of being beaten, which the organizers dismiss, saying no violence is involved and that several modifications had been made to ensure that it is an animal-friendly event.
    • Karnataka High Court had stayed this sport in view of the Supreme Court’s ban on jallikattu.
    • And later the Govt. of Karnataka had passed an ordinance to exempt this sport from the ban.
  • Jallikattu:
    • Jallikattu is a traditional bull-taming event that is organized in Tamil Nadu every year as part of the harvest festival Pongal.
    • The sport requires fighters to pounce on a running bull, try to hold on to its hump and move along with the animal without falling or getting hurt.

Awards And Languages:-

Bodo Language

  • Context:
    • Bodo language is one of the key thrust areas in the Bodo Accord which was signed recently.
  • About Bodo language:
    • Estimated to have 1.5 million speakers (Census 2011), Bodo is listed in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution.
    • It is spoken in Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Meghalaya, and West Bengal.
    • While Bodo is officially written in the Devanagri script, the language has a history of having been written in at least three different scripts — until, in 1974, the Government recognized Devanagari as its official script.
    • In the first decade of the 20th century, Bodos started writing in the Assamese/Bangla script. Then they also used Roman Script.
    • In the pre-13th century era, it was called Deodhai.
  • Promises in the accord regarding Bodo language:
    • It was only in 2003, under the then Bodo Accord, that the language was listed in the Eighth Schedule. And it was the first tribal language to be included in the Eighth Schedule.
    • In Assam, it has enjoyed the status of official associate language in undivided Goalpara district since 1986.
    • Now the 2020 Accord makes Bodo the associate official language throughout Assam.
    • The new Accord also promises to establish a separate directorate for Bodo medium schools, provincialize schools and colleges in the BTAD (Bodoland Territorial Autonomous District) and establish a Cultural Complex-cum-Centre of Excellence in Kokrajhar for protection and promotion of the language.

International Mother Language Day

  • Observed every year on 21st February since 2000 to promote linguistic and cultural diversity and multilingualism.
  • The idea to celebrate International Mother Language Day was the initiative of Bangladesh.
  • It was approved at the UNESCO General Conference (1999) and has been observed throughout the world since 2000.
  • The United Nations General Assembly had proclaimed 2008 as the International Year of Languages.
  • The Ministry of Human Resource and Development along with educational institutions and language institutions is celebrating the day as the Matribhasha Diwas in the country.

Ancient Monuments And Dynasties:-

Kumbhabhishekam

  • Context:
    • The ‘kumbhabhishekam’ (consecration) of the 1,010-year-old Brihadeeswarar Temple or the Big Temple is being held at Thanjavur.
    • This enormously significant event was held after 23 years, and after the Madras High Court had settled an old argument over the ritual purification process only five days previously.
  • About Brihadishvara Temple:
    • Built by emperor Rajaraja Chola I (985 CE -1015 CE).
    • It has seen only five kumbhabhishekam ceremonies so far.
    • As per the customs of Hinduism, ‘kumbhabhishekam’ is done once in 12 years. According to the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR&CE) department, the temple had ‘kumbhabhishekam’ in 1010, 1729, 1843, 1980 and 1997.
    • Located on the banks of the Kaveri river, it is an exemplary example of a fully realized Dravidian architecture.
    • It is called as Dhakshina Meru (Meru of the south).
    • The temple is a part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site known as the “Great Living Chola Temples”, along with the Chola dynasty era Gangaikonda Cholapuram temple and Airavatesvara temple.
    • There are several shrines added to the temple by most of the following rulers such as the Pandyas, the Vijayanagara rulers and the Marathas, too. 
    • Brihadeshwara Temple is also the first all-granite temple in the world.
  • Background:
    • The judgment delivered on January 31 by the Madurai Bench of the court addressed the struggle for supremacy between the Sanskrit and Tamil traditions that lie at the heart of several cultural battles in the state — and which also played out in the kumbhabishegam ceremony.
  • What was the issue?
    • There was a dispute over which language should be used in the slokas at the kumbhabishegam.
    • The Thanjai Periya Koil Urimai Meetpu Kuzhu (Thanjavur Big Temple Rights Retrieval Committee), an organization that aims to restore Tamil traditions in the Sri Brihadishvara Temple, had demanded that the kumbhabishegam should be held only in Tamil.
    • However, the government had told that the consecration will be performed in both Tamil and Sanskrit. 

Hampi

  • Context:
    • SC backs move of the Karnataka government to demolish restaurants near the Hampi site.
    • The court concluded that the constructions were in violation of the Mysore Ancient and Historical Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act of 1961.
  • About Hampi:
    • It is a UNESCO world heritage site.
    • It was a part of the Mauryan Empire back in the third century BC. 
    • Hampi was the capital city during the four different dynasties altogether in the Vijayanagar city that came into existence in the year 1336 AD.
    • The Vijayanagara Empire reached unfathomable heights under the guidance of King Krishnadeva Raya of the Tuluva Dynasty. 
    • ‘Kishkindha Kaand’ in Ramayana has special significance concerning Hampi.
    • It is located near the Tungabhadra river.
    • By 1500 CE, Hampi-Vijayanagara was the world’s second-largest medieval-era city after Beijing, and probably India’s richest at that time, attracting traders from Persia and Portugal.
    • It has been described by UNESCO as an “austere, grandiose site” of more than 1,600 surviving remains of the last great Hindu kingdom in South India.
  • Background:
    • Previously, the Karnataka High Court had held that the Hampi World Heritage Area Management Authority was empowered to order the demolition of the illegal buildings.

Konark Sun Temple

  • Context:
    • A plan to restore and preserve the nearly 800-year-old Konark Sun Temple in Odisha would be drawn up soon, after a two-day conference of experts at the end of the month, Union Culture Minister Prahlad Singh Patel said.
  • About the Temple:
    • Built-in the 13th century, the Konark temple was conceived as a gigantic chariot of the Sun God, with 12 pairs of exquisitely ornamented wheels pulled by seven horses.
    • It was built by King Narasimhadeva I, the great ruler of the Ganga dynasty.
    • The temple is included in the UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984 for its architectural greatness and also for the sophistication and abundance of sculptural work.
    • The temple is a perfect blend of Kalinga architecture, heritage, exotic beach, and salient natural beauty.
    • It is protected under the National Framework of India by the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains (AMASR) Act (1958) and its Rules (1959).
    • The Konark is the third link to Odisha’s Golden Triangle. The first link is Jagannath Puri and the second link is Bhubaneswar (Capital city of Odisha).
    • This temple was also known as ‘BLACK PAGODA’ due to its dark color and used as a navigational landmark by ancient sailors to Odisha. Similarly, the Jagannath Temple in Puri was called the “White Pagoda”.
    • It remains a major pilgrimage site for Hindus, who gather here every year for the Chandrabhaga Mela around the month of February.
  • Background:
    • The temple had been filled with sand and sealed by the British authorities in 1903 in order to stabilize the structure.
    • A scientific study was carried out by the Roorkee-based Central Building Research Institute from 2013 till 2018 to ascertain the temple’s structural stability as well as the status of the filled-in sand.

Rakhigarhi

  • Context:
    • The center is moving ahead with its plan to develop Rakhigarhi as a tourist hub and set up a museum.
    • As part of encroachment removal at the Rakhigarhi heritage site, 152 households are being shifted to flats.
  • Background:
    • Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had announced the government’s plan to fund five on-site museums, including the under-construction museum initiated by the Haryana government at Rakhigarhi, in her Budget speech on February 1.
    • Other sites mentioned in the Budget — Hastinapur in Uttar Pradesh, Shivsagar in Assam, Dholavira in Gujarat and Adichanallur in Tamil Nadu.
  • What’s the issue now?
    • Rakhigarhi’s rise as a site of ancient curiosity has disrupted the villager’s life to an extent.
    • The ASI has been able to get under its control just 83.5 acres of the 350-hectare site that spans 11 mounds, after first taking over the site in 1996, due to encroachments and pending court cases.
  • About Rakhigarhi:
    • Rakhigarhi, in Haryana, became an archaeological hotspot when Amarendra Nath, former director of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), undertook excavations at the site in 1997.
    • The ASI team unearthed a fire altar, parts of a city wall, drainage structures as well as a hoard of semi-precious beads.
    • Villagers subsequently began to see the significance of the terracotta shards that littered Rakhigarhi.
    • It is a 5,000-year-old site that showcases continuity from the Harappan age to the present times.
    • The village also has Havelis that are a couple of hundred years old.
    • The site is located in the Sarasvati river plain, some 27 km from the seasonal Ghaggar river.
    • In May 2012, the Global Heritage Fund declared Rakhigarhi one of the 10 most endangered heritage sites in Asia.

Varanasi

  • Context:
    • A nearly 4,000-year-old urban settlement has been unearthed in Babhaniyav village (13 km from Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh) by a team of surveyors from the Banaras Hindu University (BHU).
  • About the site:
    • The unearthed site could be one of the craft villages mentioned in ancient texts.
    • During the age of Buddha, there were suburban villages which were in the nature of craft villages, for instance, a carpenter's village, or chariot makers village in the vicinity of Varanasi.
    • Crafts villages have been earlier unearthed in Sarnath, Tilmapur and Ramnagar – Uttar Pradesh.
    • An initial survey of the site in Babhaniyav village had found a temple dating back to the 5th Century AD through 8th Century AD, potteries which are 4000-year-old and walls which are 2000-year-old.
    • Surveyors have also found a pillar with a two-line text in the Kushan-Brahmi script.
  • Varanasi:
    • Varanasi is in southeastern Uttar Pradesh state.
    • It is located on the left bank of the Ganges (Ganga) River and is one of the seven sacred cities of Hinduism.
    • It is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. Its early history is that of the first Aryan settlement in the middle Ganges valley.
    • Varanasi was the capital of the kingdom of Kashi during the time of the Buddha (6th century BCE), who gave his first sermon nearby at Sarnath.
    • The city remained a center of religious, educational, and artistic activities as attested by the celebrated Chinese Buddhist pilgrim Xuanzang, who visited it in about 635 CE.

GI Tag:-

Kala Kumbh

  • With an objective to promote Geographical Indication (GI) crafts and heritage of India, the Ministry of Textiles is organizing Kala Kumbh – Handicrafts Thematic Exhibition in various parts of the country through the Office of Development Commissioner (Handicrafts).
  • The exhibitions are sponsored by the Export Promotion Council for Handicrafts (EPCH).
  • EPCH was established under the Companies Act in the year 1986-87 and is a non-profit organization, with an object to promote, support, protect, maintain and increase the export of handicrafts.

Tirur Vettila

  • Context:
    • Tirur vettila has obtained a Geographical Indication (GI) tag.
  • About:
    • Tirur Vettila is a type of betel leaf which is grown in Tirur and nearby areas of Malappuram district of Kerala.
    • Tirur Vettila is unique for its significantly high content of total chlorophyll and protein in fresh leaves.
    • Tirur vettila possesses some special biochemical characters like unique flavor and aroma.
    • Eugenol is the major essential oil in Tirur betel leaf contributing to its pungency.
    • The leaves are nutritive and contain anticarcinogens, showing future opportunities in anticancer drugs.
    • Betel vine was reported to have immunosuppressive activity and antimicrobial property.
    • The Intellectual property rights (IPR) Cell of Kerala Agricultural University has received National IP Award, 2019 of Government of India its efforts in the facilitation of GI Registration.
  • Other GI Products from Kerala:
    • Kaipad rice, Pokkali rice, Wayanad Jeerakasala rice, Wayanad Gandhakasala rice, Vazhakulam pineapple, Marayoor jaggery, Central Travancore jaggery and Chengalikodan nendran.

History

Famous Personalities:-

Guru Ravidas

  • Context:
    • Sant Ravidas Jayanti was celebrated on February 9th.
  • About Guru Ravidas:
    • Guru Ravidas was a North Indian mystic poet of the bhakti movement.
    • While the exact year of his birth is not known, it is believed that the saint was born in 1377 C.E.
    • Guru Ravidas Jayanti is celebrated on Magh Purnima, which is the full moon day in the Hindu calendar month of Magha.
    • The Adi Granth of Sikhs, in addition to the Panchvani are the two of the oldest documented sources of the literary works of Guru Ravidas.
    • He is believed to be a disciple of the bhakti saint-poet Ramananda and a contemporary of the bhakti saint-poet Kabir.
    • One of his famous disciples was the saint, Mirabai.
    • Among Ravidas’s moral and intellectual achievements were the conception of “Begampura”, a city that knows no sorrow; and a society where caste and class have ceased to matter.
  • Guru Ravidas Teachings:
    • Guru Ravidas spoke against the caste divisions and spoke of removing them to promote unity.
    • His teachings resonated with the people, leading to a religion being born called the Ravidassia religion or Ravidassia Dharam based on his teachings.
    • He taught about the omnipresence of God and said that a human soul is a particle of God and hence Ravidas rejected the idea that people considered lower caste cannot meet God.
    • He said in his teachings that the only way to meet God was to free the mind from the duality.

Dara Shikoh

  • Context:
    • The Ministry of Culture recently set up a seven-member panel of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) to locate the grave of the Mughal prince Dara Shikoh (1615-59).
    • He is believed to be buried somewhere in the Humayun’s Tomb complex in Delhi, one of around 140 graves of the Mughal clan.
  • About Dara Shikoh:
    • He was the eldest son of Shah Jahan.
    • He was killed after losing the war of succession against his brother Aurangzeb.
    • He is described as a “liberal Muslim” who tried to find commonalities between Hindu and Islamic traditions.
    • He translated into Persian the Bhagavad Gita as well as 52 Upanishads.
    • According to the Shahjahannama, after Aurangzeb defeated Dara Shikoh, he brought the latter to Delhi in chains. His head was cut off and sent to Agra Fort, while his torso was buried in the Humayun’s Tomb complex.
  • His legacy:
    • Dara Shikoh is described as “one of the greatest free thinkers of that time”.
    • He realized the greatness of the Upanishads and translated them, which were earlier known only to a few upper-caste Hindus.
    • Some historians argue that if Dara Shikoh had ascended the Mughal throne instead of Aurangzeb, it could have saved thousands of lives lost in religious clashes.
    • He was the total antithesis of Aurangzeb, in that he was deeply syncretic, warm-hearted and generous — but at the same time, he was also an indifferent administrator and ineffectual in the field of battle.
  • About Humayun’s Tomb, Delhi:
    • This tomb, built-in 1570, is of particular cultural significance as it was the first garden-tomb on the Indian subcontinent.
    • Commissioned by Humayun’s first wife and chief consort, Empress Bega Begum (also known as Haji Begum).
    • Humayun’s garden-tomb is an example of the charbagh (a four quadrant garden with the four rivers of Quranic paradise represented), with pools joined by channels.
    • It is also called the ‘dormitory of the Mughals’ as in the cells are buried over 150 Mughal family members. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Sham Singh Atariwala

  • Context:
    • 174th death anniversary of Sikh General Sardar Sham Singh Attariwala observes on Feb 10th.
  • About:
    • Sham Singh Attariwala (1790 – 1846) was a general of the Sikh Empire.
    • Attariwala participated in many campaigns, including the Battles of Multan, Kashmir, and the Frontier Province.
    • Owing to his courage and influence over the Khalsa army, Sham Singh was nominated to the Council of Regency-set up by Maharani Jind Kaur for the minor sovereign Maharaja Duleep Singh.
    • During the first Anglo-Sikh war, he crossed the Sutlej, vowing to lay down his life rather than return in defeat.

J.R.D. Tata

  • About:
    • It was on February 10, 1929, that India got its first pilot in Jehangir R.D. Tata, who qualified with number 1 on his flying license, giving birth to Indian aviation.
    • R.D’s license then called an ‘aviators certificate’, was issued by The Aero Club of India and Burma, an associate of the Royal Aero Club of Great Britain, which was authorized to issue licenses by the British Empire’s Federation Aeronautique Internationale.
    • The Aero Club of India and Burma were recognized by Federation Aeronautique Internationale as a sporting authority.
    • Though not the first to register, J.R.D was the first Indian to pass out with ‘No. 1’ endorsed on his flying license. Purushottam Meghji Kabali is by various aviator accounts considered to be the first Indian pilot.

Battles And Organization:-

Islamic Revolution

  • Context:
    • Iran celebrates the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
    • Following the Iranian Revolution of 1979, the Islamic Republic was formed under Khomeini’s rule.
    • The U.S. Embassy in Iran was taken over by a group of Muslim students and 52 U.S. diplomats and citizens were taken hostage on November 4, 1979.
    • This event came to be known as the Iran Hostage Crisis.
  • About Revolution:
    • Also called Islamic Revolution, it was a popular uprising in Iran in 1978–79 that resulted in the toppling of the monarchy on February 11, 1979, and led to the establishment of an Islamic republic.
  • Reasons advanced for the revolution include:
    • A backlash against Western imperialism.
    • the 1953 Iranian coup d’état.
    • a rise in expectations created by the 1973 oil revenue windfall.
    • an overly ambitious economic program.
    • anger over a short, sharp economic contraction in 1977–78.
    • other shortcomings of the previous regime.

Battle of Çanakkale/Gallipoli

  • Context:
    • Speaking to MPs at a joint session of Pakistan’s Parliament, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan expressed his country’s deep love and affection for Pakistan, strongly backed its position on Kashmir.
    • Erdogan went on to say that what happened in Turkey during World War I was now happening in Kashmir, that is the Battle of Çanakkale
  • About Battle of Çanakkale:
    • The Battle of Çanakkale, also known as the Gallipoli campaign or the Dardanelles campaign, is considered to be one of the bloodiest of World War I, during which the Ottoman army faced off against the Allied forces, leading to the slaughter of tens of thousands of soldiers on both sides.
    • It was an unsuccessful attempt by the Allied Powers to control the sea route from Europe to Russia during World War I. 
    • The campaign began with a failed naval attack by British and French ships on the Dardanelles Straits in February-March 1915 and continued with a major land invasion of the Gallipoli Peninsula on April 25, involving British and French troops as well as divisions of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC).
    • Lack of sufficient intelligence and knowledge of the terrain, along with fierce Turkish resistance, hampered the success of the invasion.
  • Key outcomes and significance:
    • The campaign was considered a great Ottoman victory.
    • In Turkey, it is regarded as a defining moment in the history of the state, a final surge in the defence of the motherland as the Ottoman Empire retreated.
    • The struggle formed the basis for the Turkish War of Independence and the declaration of the Republic of Turkey eight years later.
    • The campaign is often considered to be the beginning of Australian and New Zealand national consciousness- April 25, the anniversary of the Gallipoli landings, is observed as ANZAC Day, the day of national remembrance for the war dead.

Geography

Storm Ciara

  • It is the latest storm to hit Northern Europe.
  • It is expected to hit Ireland, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and Germany.
  • In Germany, it is being referred to as ‘Sabine’. The storm has two names because there isn’t yet a pan-European system in place for labeling weather systems.

Mahadayi tribunal’s award

  • Context:
    • The Supreme Court has passed an interim order allowing an application by the State of Karnataka to notify the Mahadayi Water Dispute Tribunal’s award.
  • About Court view:
    • The implementation of the award would be subject to the final judgment of the Supreme Court in the civil appeals filed by Karnataka, Goa, and Maharashtra, challenging the allocation of water from the Mahadayi river among them.
  • About the tribunal award:
    • August 2018 tribunal award had allocated 13.42 TMC water from the Mahadayi river basin to Karnataka.
    • Maharashtra was allotted 1.33 TMC water while Goa was given 24 TMC in the final decision of the tribunal.
    • The Karnataka government had petitioned the tribunal seeking the release of 7.56 TMC of water for the Kalasa-Banduri Nala project.
  • About the Kalasa-Banduri Nala project:
    • Undertaken by the Government of Karnataka to improve drinking water supply to the Districts of Belagavi, Dharwad, and Gadag. It involves building across Kalasa and Banduri, two tributaries of the Mahadayi river to divert 7.56 TMC of water to the Malaprabha river.
  • About the Mahadayi river:
    • It is a west flowing river.
    • Origin: Degaon village, Belgaum district.
    • Called Mandovi in Goa.
    • Travels 35 km in Karnataka; 82 km in Goa before joining the Arabian Sea.
  • What’s the dispute?
    • Goa raised objection to the Kalasa-Banduri project planned in 1989.
    • Goa filed a complaint seeking setting up of a tribunal in July 2002. Goa moved the Supreme Court in 2006 seeking the constitution of a tribunal.
    • The Mahadayi Water Disputes Tribunal was set up in November 2010.

Leap years

  • Context:
    • The year 2020 is a ‘leap year’, meaning the month of February will have 29 days instead of 28, and the total number of days will be 366 instead of 365.
    • This was also the case in 2016, and 2024 will again be a leap year.
  • Why do we have leap years?
    • The time required by the Earth to complete its orbit around the Sun is approximately 365.242 days. But years are usually only 365 days.
    • To adjust for the extra 0.242 days in the orbital period, which becomes almost one full day in four years, the calendar adds an extra day once every four years.
    • This approximates the time to 365.25 days, which is close to the actual 365.242 days.
  • Exceptions:
    • In the Gregorian calendar, a century year (a year ending with 00) is not a leap year, even though it is a multiple of 4.
    • Thus, the year 2100 will not be a leap year.
    • To ensure that, some century years remain leap years. In the Gregorian calendar, leap years include those century years which are exactly divisible by 400.
    • Thus, 2000 remained a leap year even though it ended with 00.

Cauvery Water Management Authority (CMA)

  • Context:
    • Tamil Nadu and Puducherry have strongly objected to Karnataka’s bid to seek approval for the Mekedatu dam project at the fifth Cauvery Water Management Authority (CWMA) meeting in New Delhi.
    • Following the objections, the CWMA dropped the discussion on Karnataka’s application.
  • About Mekedatu Project:
    • A multi-purpose balancing reservoir project over Mekedatu, built at a cost of Rs 5,912, was aimed at solving the drinking water problems of Bengaluru and Ramnagar district.
    • This project was also touted as one that could generate hydroelectricity to meet the power demand in the state.
  • Why does the Tamil Nadu object?
    • The state contended that “the proposed reservoir would affect the natural flows of the river Cauvery.
    • It argued that Cauvery was already a deficit basin and the construction of the project, or any other project “would drastically affect the lower riparian State in getting their due share of waters.
  • About CWMA:
    • It has been created as per the Cauvery Management Scheme earlier framed by Centre and approved by Supreme Court.
  • Composition and Powers of CMA:
    • The authority will comprise a chairman, a secretary, and eight members.
    • Out of the eight members, two will be full time, while two will be part-time members from the center’s side.
    • The rest four will be part-time members from states.
  • Functions:
    • The main mandate of the CMA will be to secure implementation and compliance of the Supreme Court’s order in relation to “storage, apportionment, regulation, and control of Cauvery waters”.
    • CMA will also advise the states to take suitable measures to improve water use efficiency.
    • It will do so by promoting the use of micro-irrigation, change in cropping patterns, improved farm practices and development of command areas.
    • The CMA will also prepare an annual report covering its activities during the preceding year.
  • Role of Central Government:
    • The central government will provide help in the implementation of the modified award in case of any of the state /UT parties (Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, and Puducherry) do not cooperate in implementing the decision or direction of the tribunal.
    • Initially, the center will contribute Rs. 2 crores for the functioning of the authority.

1000 springs initiative

  • Context:
    • Launched recently.
  • About 1000 springs initiative:
    • It is an online portal on GIS-based Spring Atlas with the hydrological and chemical properties of the springs mentioned.
  • Aim:
    • To improve access to safe and adequate water for the tribal communities living in a difficult and inaccessible part of rural areas in the country.
    • It is an integrated solution around natural springs.
  • Key features:
    • It includes the provision of infrastructure for piped water supply for drinking; provision of water for irrigation; community-led total sanitation initiatives; and provision for water for backyard nutrition gardens, generating sustainable livelihood opportunities for the tribal people.
  • Implementation:
    • Under this initiative, more than 70 young tribal youths from the rural belt of three districts of Odisha namely, Kalahandi, Khandamal and Gajapati have been trained as barefoot hydrogeologists by combining traditional and scientific knowledge for identification and mapping of springs and undertaking rejuvenation and protection measures in their habitations.
  • About Springs:
    • Springs are natural sources of groundwater discharge and have been used extensively in the mountainous regions across the world.
  • Potential:
    • In the central and eastern Indian belt with more than 75% tribal population, it remains largely unrecognized and under-utilized.
  • Significance of this initiative:
    • The initiative will help in harnessing the potential of perennial springs’ water to address the natural scarcity of water in tribal areas.

Kallakadal

  • Kallakadal/Swell surge are flash-flood events that take place without any noticeable advance change in local winds or any other apparent signature in the coastal environment.
  • Kallakkadal is a colloquial term used by Kerala fishermen to refer to the freaky flooding episodes and in 2012 UNESCO formally accepted this term for scientific use.
  • They are caused by meteorological conditions in the Southern Ocean, south of 30°S.
  • During Kallakkadal events, the sea surges into the land and inundates vast areas.

Gold Deposits in Sonbhadra

  • Context:
    • The Geological Survey of India has rejected the UP government's Department of Geology and Mining claims of discovering about 3,000 tonnes of gold deposits in Uttar Pradesh’s Sonbhadra district, saying the actually estimated reserve stands at 160 kg.
  • Sonbhadra:
    • Sonbhadra is the second largest district (area-wise) of Uttar Pradesh after Lakhimpur Kheri.
    • It is the only district in the country which shares borders with four states.
    • Madhya Pradesh to the west, Chhattisgarh to the south, Jharkhand to the south-east and Bihar to the east.
    • Sonbhadra district is an industrial zone and has lots of minerals like bauxite, limestone, coal, gold, etc.
    • It is drained by tributaries of the Ganges including the Belan and Karmanasha rivers. Son river flows through the district from west to east.
    • Rihand river rises to the south in the highlands of the Surguja district of Chhattisgarh and flows north to join the Son in the center of Sonbhadra.
    • The Govind Ballabh Pant Sagar (also known as Rihand Dam) is a reservoir on the Rihand, lies partly in the district and partly in Madhya Pradesh.
    • Kaimoor Wildlife Sanctuary lies mostly within Sonbhadra, reaching generally east and west along the Kaimur Range, and extending to the Son river at its eastern end.

Melting of Thwaites Glacier

  • Context:
    • Recently, a new study has detected the presence of warm water at a vital point beneath the Thwaites glacier as the cause of its melting.
  • About:
    • The study has observed that the temperature of the water at the grounding zone or grounding line of the glacier is two degrees higher than the freezing point of the water.
    • The grounding line is the place below a glacier at which the ice transitions between resting fully on bedrock and floating on the ocean as an ice shelf.
    • The location of the line is a pointer to the rate of retreat of a glacier.
    • When glaciers melt and lose weight, they float off the land where they used to be situated. It makes a retreat of the grounding line.
    • That exposes more of a glacier’s underside to seawater, increasing the likelihood it will melt faster. This results in the glacier speeding up, stretching out, and thinning, causing the grounding line to retreat ever further.
  • Thwaites Glacier
    • Thwaites Glacier is a 120 km wide, fast-moving glacier located in Antarctica.
    • Because of its size (1.9 lakh square km), it contains enough water to raise the world sea level by more than half a meter.
    • It's melting already contributes 4% to global sea-level rise each year. It is estimated that it would collapse into the sea in 200-900 years.
    • Studies have found the amount of ice flowing out of it has nearly doubled over the past 30 years.
    • It is important for Antarctica as it slows the ice behind it from freely flowing into the ocean. Because of the risk it faces, and poses, Thwaites is often called the Doomsday Glacier.

Society

Health:-

Select Committee recommendations on Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill

  • Context:
    • 15 major changes have been suggested in a report presented by the Select Committee on Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill.
    • The bill prohibits commercial surrogacy and allows only altruistic surrogacy.
  • Background:
    • The Bill was passed by the Lok Sabha in August 2019 but had to be referred for re-assessment to the select committee in November 2019, as several Rajya Sabha members found certain clauses contentious such as allowing only altruistic surrogacy with a near relative as a surrogate.
  • Key Recommendations:
    • Keep an option for compensating the surrogate mother beyond medical expenses and insurance coverage that includes taking care of her nutritional food requirements, maternity wear, etc. that is vital for the wellbeing and upkeep of the surrogate mother.
    • The controversial clause of “close relative” has been done away with and instead the committee has recommended the term to be replaced with a “willing woman”.
    • Who can opt? Single women, including a widow and divorcee, between the ages of 35 and 45 years, should be able to opt for surrogacy.
    • Increase insurance cover for the surrogate mother from the 16 months proposed in the Bill to 36 months.
    • In order to protect the interests of the child born through surrogacy, the order regarding the parentage and custody of the child, issued by a Magistrate, shall be the birth affidavit for the surrogate child.

National Deworming Day

  • Context:
    • NDD is observed bi-annually on 10th February and 10th August in all states and UTs followed by mop-up activities.
  • About the National Deworming Day:
    • The National Deworming Day is a single fixed-day approach to treating intestinal worm infections in all children aged 1- 19 years.
    • It will mobilize health personnel, state governments and other stakeholders to prioritize investment in control of Soil-Transmitted Helminth (STH) infections one of the most common infections.
    • All the children are provided deworming tablets in schools and anganwadis. Besides the deworming tablet, various health promotion activities related to Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) are organized in schools and anganwadis.
    • The NDD program is a cost-effective program at the scale that continues to reach crores of children and adolescents with deworming benefits through a safe medicine Albendazole.
  • Background:
    • India carries the highest burden of worm infestation and 64% of the Indian population less than 14 years of age are at risk of Soil-Transmitted Helminths (STH) or worms’ infestation (WHO).
  • About Intestinal parasitic worms:
    • They are large multicellular organisms, which when mature can generally be seen with the naked eye.
    • They are also known as Helminths.
    • They are often referred to as intestinal worms even though not all helminths reside in the intestines.

School Health Ambassador Initiative

  • Context:
    • The Central Government launched the School Health Ambassador Initiative.
  • Overview:
    • To spread awareness about the preventive health aspects.
    • Under the initiative, two teachers will be identified in every government school as ‘health and wellness ambassadors’.
    • The initiative has been launched as a part of Ayushman Bharat.
    • It will be jointly run by the Union ministries of Health and Human Resources Development.
    • The initiative will be linked with other government initiatives such as the Eat Right campaign, Fit India movement and Poshan Abhiyaan for the overall development of children’s health.
  • Implementation:
    • Two teachers will be selected as ”health and wellness ambassadors” in every government school to raise awareness about preventive health aspects.
    • These ambassadors will receive support from class monitors, who will serve as ”Health and Wellness Messengers”.
    • The health and wellness ambassadors will spread awareness regarding preventive health by organizing culturally sensitive activity sessions for one hour every week for 24 weeks in a year to promote joyful learning.
    • The NCERT has constituted a National Resource Group (NRG) comprising 40 members who have sound training skills and experience in adolescent health.
    • The NRG will then train the state resource group.

Kangaroo mother care (KMC)

  • Context:
    • In News very often.
  • About Kangaroo Mother Care (KMC):
    • It is the intervention where babies are placed in skin-to-skin contact with their mothers and exclusively breastfed.
    • It has been recommended worldwide for stable low-birthweight newborns.
    • WHO recommends that it be continued till the baby attains a weight of 2.5 kg or till babies wriggle out.
  • KMC has 3 parts:
    • (1) Skin-to-skin contact
      • The more skin-to-skin contact between the baby’s front and the mother’s chest, the better. For comfort a small nappy is fine, and for warmth, a cap may be used.
      • Skin-to-skin contact should ideally start at birth, but is helpful at any time. It should ideally be continuous day and night, but even shorter periods are still helpful.
    • (2) Exclusive breastfeeding
      • Direct suckling by the baby from the breasts is all that is needed for most mothers and babies. 
      • For very premature babies, expressing milk and the addition of some essential nutrients may be needed.
    • (3) Support to the dyad
      • Whatever is needed for the medical, emotional, psychological and physical well being of mother and baby is provided to them, without separating them.
      • This might mean adding ultramodern equipment if available, or purely intense psychological support in contexts with no resources.
      • It can even mean going home very early.

Assisted Reproductive Technology Regulation Bill

  • Context:
    • Cabinet clears the Assisted Reproductive Technology Regulation Bill, aims to regulate IVF clinics.
  • Overview and key features of the Bill:
    • It would lead to the creation of a national board to lay down and implement a code of conduct for people working at IVF clinics.
    • Determines the minimum standards of physical infrastructure, laboratory, diagnostic equipment, and expert manpower to be employed by ART clinics and banks.
    • The bill intends to make genetic testing of the embryo mandatory before implantation for the benefit of the child born through ART.
    • It also seeks to streamline the cryo-preservation processes for sperm, oocytes, and embryo.
    • It also proposes to constitute a national registry and registration authority to maintain a central database and assist the national board in its functioning.
    • The bill proposes stringent punishment for those “practicing sex selection, sale of human embryos or gametes and running agencies/rackets/organizations for such unlawful practices.
  • Background:
    • According to a registry maintained by the Indian Council of Medical Research, there are 1,269 ART clinics in India (as in November 2019).
    • The number swells up to 1,846 when ART clinics and ART banks are taken together. Maharashtra has the maximum number of ART clinics (266) followed by Tamil Nadu (164), Delhi (113), Karnataka (102), Uttar Pradesh (92) and Gujarat (80).
  • Need for legislation in this regard:
    • The need to regulate the ART services is to protect the affected women and children from exploitation. Registration with the ICMR is a voluntary exercise at the moment because of which many clinics don’t take the trouble and prefer opacity while offering infertility treatment.
  • What is ART? Why it is in demand?
    • Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART), as commonly understood, comprises procedures such as in-vitro fertilisation (IVF), intrauterine insemination (IUI), oocyte and sperm donation, cryopreservation and includes surrogacy as well.
    • The social stigma of being childless and lengthy adoption processes have increased the demand for ART in India. It is thus not surprising that the ART industry is expected to grow by a compounded annual growth rate of 10%.

Women:-

Female Genital Mutilation

  • Context:
    • Every year, February 6 is observed as the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).
  • About Female Genital Mutilation:
    • It is the name given to procedures that involve altering or injuring the female genitalia for non-medical or cultural reasons and is recognized internationally as a violation of human rights and the health and integrity of girls and women.
  • Types:
    • WHO classifies four types of FGM:
      • Type 1 (partial or total removal of the clitoral glans).
      • Type 2 (partial or total removal of the external and visible parts of the clitoris and the inner folds of the vulva).
      • Type 3 (infibulation, or narrowing of the vaginal opening through the creation of a covering seal).
      • Type 4(picking, piercing, incising, scraping and cauterizing the genital area).
  • Where is it practiced?
    • Most girls and women who have undergone FGM live in sub-Saharan Africa and the Arab States, but it is also practiced in some countries in Asia, Eastern Europe, and Latin America.
    • Countries, where FGM is performed, include Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan, Egypt, Oman, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Iraq, Iran, Georgia, Russian Federation, Columbia, and Peru, among others.
  • Why prevent FGM?
    • As per the World Health Organization (WHO), globally, over 200 million girls alive today have suffered FGM in over 30 countries.
    • The economic costs of treating health complications arising out of FGM amount to roughly $1.4 billion for 2018 for 27 countries where FGM is performed. If the prevalence remains the same, the amount is expected to rise up to $2.3 billion by 2047.

Acid sale Regulation

  • Context:
    • The Delhi High Court has sought the State government’s stand on a plea by an acid attack survivor, who has alleged that the chemical was easily available despite the Supreme Court’s directions to regulate its sale.
    • She also alleged that the statutory rules which regulate the sale of acid were not being implemented by the authorities.
  • Supreme Court guidelines on this:
    • These guidelines were an outcome of the 2013 SC ruling.
    • The ruling came during the hearing of an acid attack case in which a woman, Laxmi, whose face and other body parts were disfigured in an acid attack.
    • The victim had filed a PIL asking for the framing of a new law, or amendment to the existing laws such as IPC, Indian Evidence Act, and CrPC.
  • Overview of the guidelines:
    • Acid should be sold only to people who show a valid identity card.
    • Buyers will also have to explain why they need the chemical and sales will have to be reported to the police.
    • There will also be more compensation for victims.
  • Background:
    • Till 2013, there was no separate provision in the Indian Penal Code to charge those accused of acid attacks, nor were there rules restricting the sale and purchase of acid.
    • But after the Supreme Court directives to regulate the sale of harmful substances like acid, the government declared acid attacks a cognizable offense under Section 326 (A) of the Indian Penal Code with punishment up to 10 years.
    • The Supreme Court ordered strict restrictions on the sale of acid which were seldom followed.

Permanent Commission for Women

  • Context:
    • The Supreme Court has brought women officers in 10 streams of the Army on a par with their male counterparts in all respects, setting aside longstanding objections of the government.
    • The court ordered the government to implement its judgment in three months.
  • Court’s observations:
    • The Supreme Court rejected arguments against a greater role for women officers, saying this violated equality under the law. 
    • The biological argument was also rejected as disturbing.
    • The court has rejected the government’s arguments, saying they are based on sex stereotypes premised on assumptions about socially ascribed roles of gender which discriminate against women.
    • It has also said that it only shows the need “to emphasize the need for change in mindsets to bring about true equality in the Army”.
  • Background:
    • The case was first filed in the Delhi High Court by women officers in 2003 and had received a favorable order in 2010. But the order was never implemented and was challenged in the Supreme Court by the government.

Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2020

  • Context:
    • Union Cabinet has approved the Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2020.
    • The amended bill is a reformed version of the draft legislation which was passed by Lok Sabha in August 2019 but its provisions, including that only a close relative of a couple can be a surrogate mother, had invited criticism.
  • Background:
    • The bill incorporates all recommendations made by a Rajya Sabha select committee, which studied an earlier version of the draft legislation and is aimed at banning commercial surrogacy and allowing altruistic surrogacy.
  • Key features of the Bill:
    • It allows any “willing” woman to be a surrogate mother and proposes that widows and divorced women can also benefit from its provisions, besides infertile Indian couples.
    • The bill also proposes to regulate surrogacy by establishing National Surrogacy Board at the central level and, State Surrogacy Board and appropriate authorities in states and Union Territories respectively.
    • The proposed insurance cover for surrogate mother has now been increased to 36 months from 16 months provided in the earlier version.
    • Commercial surrogacy will be prohibited including the sale and purchase of human embryo and gametes.
    • Ethical surrogacy to Indian married couples, Indian-origin married couples and Indian single woman (only widow or divorcee between the age of 35 and 45 years) will be allowed on the fulfillment of certain conditions.

Children:-

Mukti Caravan

  • Context:
    • It was recently flagged off in Rajasthan.
  • Significance:
    • It is mobilizing people against child trafficking with the focus on generating awareness about preventive procedures in place to combat forced labour, exploitation and sexual abuse of children.
  • Objective:
    • Led by the child labour survivors, the caravan will reach out to villages and towns prone to human trafficking.
    • The participants will distribute pamphlets and hold discussions with the people at public places and organize activities such as skits, poem recitation, and screening of short films with an appeal to take action against trafficking.
  • Organizers:
    • The Kailash Satyarthi Children’s Foundation (KSCF) and Rajasthan Police have joined hands to run the campaign, which will be joined by the Superintendents of Police in the districts of their jurisdiction.

Parliamentary panel on child pornography.

  • Context:
    • A parliamentary panel has recommended a code of conduct for Internet service providers (ISPs) and strengthening the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights to curb child pornography.
  • Key recommendations:
    • Put in place a multi-pronged strategy involving technological, institutional, social and educational as well as State-level measures.
    • There is a need for a code of conduct or a set of guidelines for ensuring child safety online.
    • There shall be a greater onus on ISPs to identify and remove child sexual abuse material (CSAM) as well as report such content and those trying to access them to the authorities under the national cybercrime portal.
    • There is also a need for strengthening the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) so that it can serve as the nodal body for curbing child pornography.
    • It is suggested that the capabilities required in the NCPCR should include technology, cyber policing and prosecution.
  • Background:
    • The report was prepared by an ad hoc committee set up by the Rajya Sabha and led by Congress MP Jairam Ramesh.

Juveniles Justice Act, 2015 And Detention of children in jails

  • Context:
    • The Supreme Court has made it clear that the police have no right to detain children in conflict with the law in a lockup or a jail.
  • About the Juveniles Justice Act, 2015:
    • The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 came into force in January 2016.
    • The Act repeals the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000.
    • The JJ Act, 2015 provides for strengthened provisions for both children in need of care and protection and children in conflict with the law.
  • Key provisions:
    • It establishes a statutory status for the Child Adoption Resources Authority (CARA).
    • It also proposes several rehabilitation and social integration measures for institutional and non-institutional children. It provides for sponsorship and fosters care as completely new measures.
    • Mandatory registration of all institutions engaged in providing child care is required according to the Act.
    • New offenses including illegal adoption, corporal punishment in child care institutions, the use of children by militant groups, and offenses against disabled children are also incorporated in the legislation.
    • The law gives the Juvenile Justice Board the power to assess whether the perpetrator of a heinous crime aged between 16 and 18, had acted as a ‘child’ or as an ‘adult.’
    • The board will be assisted in this process by psychologists and social experts.
  • Constitution and composition of JJB:
    • State Government constitutes Juvenile Justice Boards in the districts from time to time, for exercising the powers & to discharge duties, conferred on such Boards in relation to Children in Conflict with Law under this Act and Rule.
  • Composition:
    • A board should consist of a Metropolitan Magistrate or a Judicial Magistrate of First Class not being Chief Metropolitan Magistrate with at least three years experience and two social workers of whom at least one shall be a woman, forming a bench.
  • Observations made by the Court:
    • A juvenile in conflict with the law, if apprehended, has to be placed immediately under the care of the special juvenile police unit or a designated child welfare officer.
    • The child has to be produced before the Juvenile Justice Board (JJB).
    • Once a child is produced before a JJB, bail is the rule. And even if, for some reason, bail is not granted, a child cannot be put behind bars. He has to be lodged either in an observation home or in a place of safety.
    • The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 is meant to protect children and not detain them in jail or keep them in police custody.
  • Background:
    • The order came after the court’s attention was drawn by the recent media reports about “children being detained in police custody and tortured in Delhi and Uttar Pradesh”.

Treating child witnesses

  • Context:
    • In the Bidar school sedition case, the spotlight has fallen on reports that police questioned children. 
  • What’s the issue?
    • The Karnataka State Commission for Protection of Child Rights has pulled up the district police for violations, including repeated questioning of the children.
  • International conventions on children in these situations:
    • Convention on the Rights of the Child since 1992 :
      • It was adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations in 1989.
      • As per the Convention, in all actions concerning children, whether undertaken by public or private social welfare institutions, courts of law, administrative authorities or legislative bodies, the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration.
    • In 2009, the ‘United Nations, Justice in Matters involving Child Victims and Witnesses in Crime, Model Law’ :
      • It provided a more specific set of guidelines in the context of child witnesses. 
      • These guidelines recommend that authorities treat children in a caring and sensitive manner, with interview techniques that “minimize distress or trauma to children”.
  • How do Indian laws address the issue of child witnesses?
    • Under Section 118 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872, there is no minimum age for a witness.
    • Usually during a trial, the court, before recording the testimony of a child witness, determines his or her competency on the basis of their ability to give rational answers.
    • A child is usually asked questions like their name, the school they study in, and the names of their parents to determine their competency.
    • If the child is very young and does not understand the significance of taking an oath to speak the truth, the judge or the staff explain to the child that he or she should speak the truth, thinking of whichever God they believe in.
  • Cases involving children:
    • Trials involving children as witnesses have primarily been in cases of child sexual abuse. Other criminal cases where children are examined as witnesses have included those where a parent is the victim of violence at home, in the sole presence of the child.
  • Laws pertaining to the questioning of children:
    • The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015:
      • The Act’s very preamble says that a “child-friendly approach in the adjudication and disposal of matters in the best interest of children” must be adhered to.
      • It also requires that interviews of children be done by specialized units of police who are trained to sensitively deal with them.
      • The Act prescribes that a Special Juvenile Police Unit is to be constituted by the state government in each district and city, headed by a police officer, not below the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police, and including two social workers, at least one of whom must be a woman, and both of whom should be experienced in the field of child welfare.
      • Their work includes coordinating with the police towards the sensitive treatment of children.
      • The Act also provides for a Child Welfare Committee in every district to take cognizance of any violations by the authorities in their handling of children.
    • The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012:
      • It has specific guidelines regarding interviewing children as witnesses.
      • It states that interviews should be conducted in a safe, neutral, child-friendly environment, including allowing for them to be done at home.
      • It says a child should not be made to recount the incident in question multiple times.
      • The Act also allows for a support person, who could be trained in counseling, to be present with the child to reduce stress and trauma.

Happiness curriculum

  • Context:
    • On her upcoming visit to India next week along with US President Donald Trump, First Lady Melania Trump will visit a Delhi government school, where she will attend a happiness curriculum class.
  • About:
    • The curriculum is one of the flagship schemes of the Delhi government in the education sector launched in July 2018 in all MCD schools.
    • The curriculum calls for schools in India to promote development in cognition, language, literacy, numeracy and the arts along with addressing the wellbeing and happiness of students.
  • Objectives:
    • The objectives of this curriculum include developing self-awareness and mindfulness, inculcating skills of critical thinking and inquiry, enabling learners to communicate effectively and helping learners to apply life skills to deal with stressful and conflicting situations around them.
  • How is the curriculum implemented?
    • The curriculum is designed for students of classes nursery through the eighth standard.
    • Group 1:
      • It consists of students in nursery and KG, who have bi-weekly classes (45 minutes each for one session, which is supervised by a teacher) involving mindfulness activities and exercise. Children between classes 1-2 attend classes on weekdays, which involves mindfulness activities and exercises along with taking up reflective questions.
    • Group 1:
      • The second group comprises students from classes 3-5 and the third group is comprised of students from classes 6-8 who apart from the aforementioned activities, take part in self-expression and reflect on their behavioral changes.

Tribes:-

Tribes of Tripura And Autonomous District Council

  • Context:
    • The Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council (TTAADC) has passed resolutions to codify the customary laws of three tribal clans- Mizo, Kaipeng, and Malsom.
  • About Autonomous District Council:
    • As per the Sixth Schedule, the four states viz. Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura, and Mizoram contain the Tribal Areas which are technically different from the Scheduled Areas.
    • Though these areas fall within the executive authority of the state, provision has been made for the creation of the District Councils and regional councils for the exercise of certain legislative and judicial powers.
    • Each district is an autonomous district and the Governor can modify/divide the boundaries of the said Tribal areas by notification.
  • The Governor may, by public notification:
    • (a) Include any area.
    • (b) exclude any area.
    • (c) create a new autonomous district.
    • (d) increase the area of any autonomous district.
    • (e) diminish the area of any autonomous district.
    • (f) alter the name of any autonomous district.
    • (g) define the boundaries of any autonomous district.
  • Constitution of District Councils and Regional Councils:
    • (1) There shall be a District Council for each autonomous district consisting of not more than thirty members, of whom not more than four persons shall be nominated by the Governor and the rest shall be elected on the basis of adult suffrage.
    • (2) There shall be a separate Regional Council for each area that constituted an autonomous region.
    • (3) Each District Council and each Regional Council shall be a body corporate by the name respectively of the District Council of (name of district) and the Regional Council of (name of region), shall have perpetual succession and a common seal and shall by the said name sue and be sued.
  • 125th amendment bill:
    • About:
      • It seeks to increase the financial and executive powers of the 10 Autonomous Councils in the Sixth Schedule areas of the northeastern region.
      • The amendments provide for elected village municipal councils, ensuring democracy at the grassroots level.
    • Powers:
      • The village councils will be empowered to prepare plans for economic development and social justice including those related to agriculture, land improvement, implementation of land reforms, minor irrigation, water management, animal husbandry, rural electrification, small scale industries, and social forestry.
      • The Finance Commission will be mandated to recommend the devolution of financial resources to them.
    • Finance:
      • The Autonomous Councils now depend on grants from Central ministries and the State government for specific projects.
    • Reservations:
      • At least one-third of the seats will be reserved for women in the village and municipal councils in the Sixth Schedule areas of Assam, Mizoram, and Tripura after the amendment is approved.
  • Other tribes in Tripura:
    • Bhil
    • Bhutia
    • Chaimal
    • Chakma
    • Garo
    • Halam
    • Jamatia
    • Kahshia
    • Kuki
    • Lepcha
    • Lushai
    • Mog
    • Munda
    • Noatia
    • Orang
    • Reang

Indigenous Muslim groups of Assam

  • Context:
    • The government plans to set up a corporation to look after the welfare of these communities who number an estimated 16 lakh in Assam’s 3.3-crore population.
  • About:
    • Assam’s Welfare of Minorities and Development Department has announced plans to hold a census of four communities broadly known as “Assamese Muslims” —Goriya, Moriya, Deshi, and Julha. 

Korku Tribe

  • The Korku mostly resides in the Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, and adjoining the Melghat region of Maharashtra.
  • The Korku are primarily cultivators. They are also excellent agriculturalists and have pioneered the cultivation of potato and coffee.
  • They live in small groups of huts made of grass and wood.
  • Korku is one of the 196 languages termed endangered by UNESCO.
  • A few groups have been more successful in preserving their language, especially the Potharia Korku (from the Vindhya mountains).
  • The community has a distinct cultural heritage. The traditional healing methods are still widely practiced among them.
  • The Korku regard their dead as Gods. To commemorate the dead, they install a memorial pillar, which is called Munda.

Urbanization And Sanitation:-

Swachh Iconic Places

  • Context:
    • The 3rd Annual Review meeting on Swachh Iconic Places (SIP) was held recently at Baidyanath Dham Deoghar, Jharkhand.
  • About Swachh Iconic Places (SIP):
    • It is an initiative of the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation under Swachh Bharat Mission.
    • Aims to take iconic places and their surroundings to higher standards of Swachhata, so that all visitors benefit and also take away home the message of cleanliness.
  • Implementation of the project:
    • It is a collaborative project with three other central Ministries: Urban Development, Culture, Tourism; all levels in the concerned States and more importantly, Public Sector and Private companies as partners.
  • Initiatives are taken up under the Swachh Iconic Places initiative: 
    • Improved sewage infrastructure, installation of Sewage Treatment Plant (STP), drainage facilities, improved sanitation facilities, water vending machines, solid and liquid waste management (SLWM) set-up, structure restoration, lighting arrangements, beautification of parks, roads maintenance, better transport facilities in approach and access areas besides at the main sites.
  • Places selected:
    • Phase I iconic places:
      • They are Ajmer Sharif Dargah, CST Mumbai, Golden Temple, Kamakhya Temple, MaikarnikaGhat, Meenakshi Temple, Shri Mata Vaishno Devi, Shree Jagannath Temple, The Taj Mahal, and Tirupati Temple.
    • Phase II
      • It included Gangotri, Yamunotri, Mahakaleshwar Temple, Charminar, Convent, and Church of St. Francis of Assissi, Kalady, Gommateswara, BaidyanathDham, Gaya Tirth, and Somnath temple.
    • Phase III
      • It includes Raghavendra Swamy Temple (Kurnool, Andhra Pradesh); Hazardwari Palace (Murshidabad, West Bengal); Brahma Sarovar Temple (Kurukshetra, Haryana); VidurKuti (Bijnor, Uttar Pradesh); Mana village (Chamoli, Uttarakhand); Pangong Lake (Leh-Ladakh, J&K); Nagvasuki Temple (Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh); ImaKeithal/market (Imphal, Manipur); Sabarimala Temple (Kerala); and Kanvashram (Uttarakhand).

Swachh Bharat Mission

  • Context:
    • The Centre has approved the second phase of the Swachh Bharat Mission (Rural) with an estimated central and state budget of Rs 52,497 crore.
  • Key facts:
    • The second phase will be implemented on a mission mode between 2020-21 and 2024-25.
    • The second phase will focus on Open Defecation Free Plus (ODF Plus), which includes ODF sustainability and solid and liquid waste management (SLWM).
    • The ODF Plus program will converge with MGNREGA, especially for greywater management, and will complement the newly launched Jal Jeevan Mission.
    • The program will also work towards ensuring that no one is left behind and everyone uses a toilet.
    • The fund sharing pattern between the Centre and States will be 90:10 for the North-Eastern States and the Himalayan States and UT of J&K; 60:40 for other States; and 100:0 for other Union Territories, for all the components.
  • About SBM- Rural:
    • Launched on 2nd October 2014 to accelerate the efforts to achieve universal sanitation coverage and to focus on sanitation.
    • The aim is to achieve a clean and open defecation free (ODF) India.
    • Implemented by the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation.
  • Objectives:
    • It seeks to improve the levels of cleanliness in rural areas through Solid and Liquid Waste Management activities and making Gram Panchayats Open Defecation Free (ODF), clean and sanitized.
  • Eligibility for incentive:
    • Incentive, as provided under the Mission for the construction of Individual Household Latrines (IHHL), shall be available for all Below Poverty Line (BPL) Households and Above Poverty Line (APL) households restricted to SCs/STs, small and marginal farmers, landless laborers with homestead, physically handicapped and women-headed households.
  • Amount of Incentive:
    • The Incentive amount provided under SBM(G) to Below Poverty Line (BPL) /identified APLs households shall be up to Rs.12,000 for construction of one unit of IHHL and provide for water availability, including for storing for hand-washing and cleaning of the toilet.
    • Central Share of this Incentive for IHHLs shall be Rs.9,000/- (75%) from Swachh Bharat Mission (Gramin). The State share will be Rs.3,000/-(25%).
    • For North Eastern State, and Special category States, the Central share will be Rs. 10,800/- and the State share Rs.1,200/- (90% : 10%).

Polity

Executive:-

Special category status

  • Context:
    • Andhra Pradesh has revived its demand for Special Category Status (SCS).
  • About Special Category Status:
    • There is no provision of SCS in the Constitution; the Central government extends financial assistance to states that are at a comparative disadvantage against others.
    • The concept of SCS emerged in 1969 when the Gadgil formula (that determined Central assistance to states) was approved.
  • Background:
    • It was the bifurcation promise and 15th Finance Commission report that stated that ‘grant of SCS lies in the hands of the Centre’.
    • SCS was promised to Andhra Pradesh by the then Congress government at the Centre in 2014, at the time of bifurcation which resulted in the formation of Telangana.
    • The then Opposition party BJP too agreed to it and even stated that SCS would be extended by five more years if it was voted to power.
  • Some prominent guidelines for getting SCS status:
    • Must be economically backward with poor infrastructure.
    • The states must be located in hilly and challenging terrain.
    • They should have low population density and a significant tribal population.
    • Should be strategically situated along the borders of neighboring countries.
  • Benefits states confer with special category status:
    • The central government bears 90 percent of the state expenditure on all centrally-sponsored schemes and external aid while rest 10 percent is given as loan to state at zero percent rate of interest.
    • Preferential treatment in getting central funds.
    • Concession on excise duty to attract industries to the state.
    • 30 percent of the Centre’s gross budget also goes to special category states.
    • These states can avail of the benefit of debt-swapping and debt relief schemes.
    • States with special category status are exempted from customs duty, corporate tax, income tax, and other taxes to attract investment.
    • Special category states have the facility that if they have unspent money in a financial year; it does not lapse and gets carry forward for the next financial year.
  • Other benefits:
    • Besides tax breaks and other benefits, the State with SCS will get 90% of all the expenditure on Centrally sponsored schemes as Central grants.
    • The rest of the 10% will also be given as a loan at zero % interest. Usually, the ratio for the general category States is 70% loan and 30% grant.
  • When was the first Special Category status bestowed?
    • First SCS was accorded in 1969 to Jammu and Kashmir, Assam and Nagaland.
    • Over the years, eight more states were added to the list — Arunachal Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Sikkim, Tripura and, finally, in 2010, Uttarakhand.
    • Until 2014-15, SCS meant these 11 states received a variety of benefits and sops.

Private member’s Bill

  • Context:
    • Four Members of Parliament are ready with Private Member’s Bill in the Lok Sabha offering a way out for the central government to deal with high unemployment.
  • Who is a Private Member?
    • Any MP who is not a Minister is referred to as a private member.
  • Admissibility of a private member’s Bill:
    • The admissibility is decided by the Chairman for Rajya Sabha and Speaker in the case of Lok Sabha.
  • The procedure is roughly the same for both Houses:
    • The Member must give at least a month’s notice before the Bill can be listed for introduction.
    • The House secretariat examines it for compliance with constitutional provisions and rules on legislation before listing.
  • Is there any exception?
    • While government Bills can be introduced and discussed on any day, private member’s Bills can be introduced and discussed only on Fridays.
  • Has a private member’s bill ever become a law?
    • As per PRS Legislative, no private member’s Bill has been passed by Parliament since 1970. To date, Parliament has passed 14 such Bills, six of them in 1956. In the 14th Lok Sabha, of the over 300 private member’s Bills introduced, roughly four % were discussed, the remaining 96 % lapsed without a single dialogue.
  • The four bills are:
    • Unemployment Allowance Bill 2019 proposes doling out some form of unemployment allowance to jobless citizens.
    • Financial Assistance to Unemployed Post-Graduates Bill 2019 restricts the unemployment allowances to unemployed postgraduates only.
    • Unemployed Youth (Allowance and Employment Opportunities) Bill 2019 eyes the twin-purpose of generating gainful employment opportunities and payment of unemployment allowance.
    • Another Unemployment Allowance Bill proposes unemployment allowances for jobless youth until they get gainful employment.
  • Background:
    • Unable to tame rising unemployment has been the biggest criticism against the present government in its near six-year tenure. Part of the blame does lie with the central government itself. More than 6.83 lakh posts are lying vacant in the central government.

Voting Rights of Prisoners

  • Context:
    • The Delhi High Court has rejected a petition seeking voting rights for prisoners.
  • Observations made by the Court:
    • The right to cast vote is neither a fundamental right nor a common law right and is only provided by a statute.
    • The right to vote provided under the statute — Representation of the People Act — was subject to restrictions imposed by the law, which does not allow prisoners to cast vote from jails.
  • Who can vote and who cannot?
    • Under Section 62(5) of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, individuals in the lawful custody of the police and those serving a sentence of imprisonment after a conviction cannot vote.
    • Undertrial prisoners are also excluded from participating in elections even if their names are on electoral rolls.
    • Only those under preventive detention can cast their vote through postal ballots.

Central Administrative Tribunal

  • About:
    • The Central Administrative Tribunal was established by an Act of Parliament namely the Administrative Tribunals Act, 1985 as the sequel to the 42nd amendment of the Constitution of India inserting Article 323 A.
  • Functions:
    • The tribunal adjudicates disputes and complaints with respect to Recruitment and Conditions of Service of the persons appointed to the Public Services and Posts in connection with the affairs of the Union or any State or of any other Local Authorities within the territory of India or under the control of the Government of India.
  • Composition:
    • The Tribunal is headed by the Chairman and 65 Members, 33 from Judicial (including Chairman) and 33 from the Administrative stream.
    • The Chairman is normally a retired Chief Justice of a High Court.

Delimitation of Constituencies

  • Context:
    • About six months after the State of Jammu and Kashmir was split into the Union Territories of J&K and Ladakh, the government has moved to start the delimitation of Assembly constituencies in J&K.
  • Background:
    • Bifurcation of J&K into two UTs has led to the redrawing of Assembly constituency boundaries. While the UT of Ladakh will not have its own legislature, J&K will. This would be similar to Puducherry or Delhi.
    • Such delimitation was also necessitated in 2014 when Andhra Pradesh and Telangana were bifurcated.
  • About Delimitation:
    • Delimitation literally means the process of fixing limits or boundaries of territorial constituencies in a state that has a legislative body.
  • How it will be done?
    • The new state assembly shall have 114 seats (currently 107), out of which only 90 will be open for elections, and the remaining 24 will be shadow seats reserved for the areas of the erstwhile state that have been occupied by Pakistan (PoJK).
    • For the delimitation exercise, the population figures of the 2011 census shall be taken as the basis.
    • The J&K Representation of the People Act 1957 has now been invalidated and, instead, delimitation will be done as per the Representation of the People Act, 1950 (as amended from time to time) and provisions of Sections 59, 60 of Act 34 of 2019.
  • Who carries out the exercise?
    • Delimitation is undertaken by a highly powerful commission. They are formally known as Delimitation Commission or Boundary Commission.
    • These bodies are so powerful that their orders have the force of law and they cannot be challenged before any court.
    • Such commissions have been constituted at least four times in India — in 1952 under the Delimitation Commission Act, 1952; in 1963 under Delimitation Commission Act, 1962; in 1973 under Delimitation Act, 1972 and last in 2002 under Delimitation Act, 2002.
    • The commissions’ orders are enforced as per the date specified by the President of India. Copies of these orders are laid before the Lok Sabha or the concerned Legislative Assembly. No modifications are permitted.
  • Composition of the Commission:
    • According to the Delimitation Commission Act, 2002, the Delimitation Commission appointed by the Centre has to have three members: a serving or retired judge of the Supreme Court as the chairperson, and the Chief Election Commissioner or Election Commissioner nominated by the CEC and the State Election Commissioner as ex-officio members.

Chief Vigilance Commissioner (CVC)

  • Context:
    • Sanjay Kothari, Secretary to the President of India, will be the next Chief Vigilance Commissioner (CVC).
    • The post of CVC has been vacant since June 2019.
  • About CVC:
    • It is the apex vigilance institution created via executive resolution (based on the recommendations of Santhanam committee) in 1964 but was conferred with statutory status in 2003.
    • It submits its report to the President of India.
    • The Commission was set up on the recommendation of the K.Santhanam Committee on Prevention of Corruption.
  • Composition:
    • Consists of central vigilance commissioner along with 2 vigilance commissioners.
  • Appointment:
    • They are appointed by the President of India on the recommendations of a committee consisting of Prime Minister, Union Home Minister and Leader of the Opposition in Lok Sabha (if there is no LoP then the leader of the single largest Opposition party in the Lok Sabha).
  • Term:
    • Their term is 4 years or 65 years, whichever is earlier.
  • Removal:
    • The Central Vigilance Commissioner or any Vigilance Commissioner can be removed from his office only by order of the President on the ground of proved misbehavior or incapacity after the Supreme Court, on a reference made to it by the President, has, on inquiry, reported that the Central Vigilance Commissioner or any Vigilance Commissioner, as the case may be, ought to be removed.

Police and public order in Delhi

  • Context:
    • The Delhi High Court has issued a series of directions to the Delhi police, the State government, and other agencies for providing all necessary assistance to those affected by the violence in northeast Delhi.
    • The directions were given on a petition seeking police protection for the safe passage of the injured persons from Al-Hind Hospital to other nearest hospitals.
  • Background:
    • More than 20 people have been killed in Delhi’s worst-ever communal violence since 1984 which resulted in clashes that began over the Citizenship (Amendment) Act on Sunday evening.
  • What’s the issue?
    • A key question now being raised is whether or not the government of the National Capital Territory of Delhi can take any action to bring law and order under control. The answer is not a straightforward one, with many factors coming into play.
  • What the elected legislature in Delhi cannot do?
    • The NCT of Delhi, under Article 239 AA, has been given a special status.
    • It gives powers of law-making and administration to an elected legislature and the council of ministers. But, puts two subjects — public order and police — directly under the Union government, however, with exceptions- Two sections of Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) —129 & 130 — give the Executive Magistrate certain powers relating to “unlawful assembly”.
    • Under these two limited powers, the Executive Magistrate, who reports to the Chief Minister, can issue orders relating to public security.
  • About CrPC 129:
    • If a group is found in unlawful assembly under Section 129 CrPC, the Executive Magistrate can issue orders to these persons to disperse. If this fails, the magistrate can use the civil force — which is the police.
  • About CrPC section 130:
    • If efforts under CrPC section 129 fail, the Executive Magistrate, under Section 130 CrPC, can call an officer of the armed forces of the Union to disperse the assembly. This section states that it can be invoked for “public security”.
    • However, this Section empowers the officer to decide, on his own, the manner in which the unlawful assembly has to be dispersed by forces under his command. 
  • How are these powers different from the powers of a full-fledged state?
    • While public order and police are under the state list, the state government may request the Union government to make available armed forces to help restore public order.
    • Even in circumstances where public disorder is not so serious as to fall in the category of an “internal disturbance” as defined in Article 355 of the Constitution, the Union Government may accede to the request.
    • But, as per CrPC 130, except for the limited purpose of dispersing an “unlawful assembly” and arresting its members, neither the state government nor any authority under it has been conferred by the Constitution any legal right to call the armed forces while dealing with a public disorder or “internal disturbance”.
    • Also, the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution states that the use of the armed forces in the maintenance of public order is outside the purview of the states.

Clause 6 in Assam Accord

  • Context:
    • Three major communities, perceived to be migrants in Assam, have expressed concern over the recommendations of the high-powered committee on the implementation of Clause 6 of the Assam Accord of 1985.
    • These communities are the Bengal-origin or Bengali-speaking Muslims (referred to as Miyas), the Bengali Hindus and the Gurkhas.
  • What are the concerns being expressed?
    • Implementation of this clause would lead to exclusion of these communities from the list of indigenous communities. More than 80% of these have been living in Assam for centuries.
  • Background:
    • A 13-member panel set up to study the implementation of the Assam Accord’s Clause 6, which relates to the protection of the Assamese identity, recently submitted its report.
  • Clause 6:
    • Clause 6 states that  “Constitutional, legislative and administrative safeguards, as may be appropriate, shall be provided to protect, preserve and promote the cultural, social, linguistic identity and heritage of the Assamese people.”
    • However, no government has passed any legislation since 1985 to provide constitutional protection to the Assamese people as envisaged under Clause 6. 
  • Assam Accord:
    • Signed between the Union government and leaders of the All Assam Students Union (AASU) in 1985, the Assam Accord came at the end of a six-year-long agitation demanding the expulsion of illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.

Judiciary:-

Anticipatory bail 

  • Context:
    • A constitution bench of the Supreme Court has ruled that anticipatory bail cannot be limited to a fixed time period and can continue until the end of the trial.
  • About Anticipatory Bail:
    • The provision of anticipatory bail under Section 438 was introduced when CrPC was amended in 1973.
    • Section 438 is a procedural provision concerned with the personal liberty of each individual, who is entitled to the benefit of the presumption of innocence.
    • As opposed to ordinary bail, which is granted to a person who is under arrest, in anticipatory bail, a person is directed to be released on bail even before arrest made.
  • Who can apply?
    • 438 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, lays down the law on anticipatory bail.
    • Sub-section (1) of the provision reads:
      • “When any person has reason to believe that he may be arrested on an accusation of having committed a non-bailable offense, he may apply to the High Court or the Court of Session for a direction under this section; and that Court may if it thinks fit, direct that in the event of such arrest, he shall be released on bail.”
      • The provision empowers only the Sessions Court and High Court to grant anticipatory bail.
  • About the judgment:
    • The judgment came in a reference made by a three-judge bench in the case of Sushila Aggarwal v. State of NCT of Delhi regarding the scope of Section 438 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) which provides for the grant of anticipatory bail.
  • Observations made by the Court:
    • If there are any special circumstances necessitating a limit on the tenure of anticipatory bail, it is open for the court to do so. Nothing in Section 438 CrPC compels or obliges courts to impose conditions limiting relief in terms of time.
    • When Parliament has not thought it appropriate to curtail the rights of the citizens, it would be not appropriate for the SC to curtail powers granted to courts with regard to anticipatory bail.
    • Anticipatory bail application could be moved by a person even before filing of FIR.
    • The court, while granting anticipatory bail, should examine the seriousness and gravity of the offense to impose any condition on the petitioner, if necessary.

E-court Integrated Mission Mode Project

  • Context:
    • The International Judicial Conference 2020 was held from 21st-23rd February 2020 in New Delhi.
    • The Conference was organized by the Supreme Court of India.
    • The theme of the Conference was ‘Judiciary and the Changing World’.
  • About:
    • The E-Courts Project was conceptualized on the basis of the “National Policy and Action Plan for Implementation of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in the Indian Judiciary – 2005” submitted by the e-Committee of the Supreme Court of India (set up in 2004).
    • The e-Courts National portal (ecourts.gov.in) was launched in 2013. This provides Case Status, daily Case-list, Cases Filed and Cases Registered through the Case information System (CIS) Software.
    • The National Judicial Data Grid (NJDG) is a part of the e-Courts Integrated Mission Mode Project. It was launched in 2015. The aim is to track judicial performance across different courts in the country.
    • The NJDG is working as a National data warehouse for case data including the orders/judgments for Courts across the country.
    • NJDG works as a monitoring tool to identify, manage & reduce pendency of cases.
    • It also helps to provide timely inputs for making policy decisions to reduce delay and arrears in the system, facilitate better monitoring of court performance and systemic bottlenecks, and, thus, facilitate better resource management.
    • NJDG has specifically helped India improve its ranking in the World Bank's Ease of Doing Business Report.

Gram Nyayalayas

  • Context:
    • The Supreme Court has directed the states, which are yet to come out with notifications for establishing ‘Gram Nyayalayas’, to do so within four weeks, and asked the high courts to expedite the process of consultation with state governments on this issue.
  • What’s the issue?
    • So far only 11 states have taken steps to notify Gram Nyayalayas. Several states have issued notifications for establishing ‘Gram Nyayalayas’ but all of them were not functioning except in Kerala, Maharashtra, and Rajasthan.
    • Only 208 ‘Gram Nyayalayas’ are functioning in the country as against 2,500 estimated to be required by the 12th five-year plan.
  • About Gram Nyayalayas:
    • Gram Nyayalayas or village courts are established under the Gram Nyayalayas Act, 2008 for speedy and easy access to the justice system in the rural areas of India.
    • The Act came into force from 2 October 2009.
  • Composition:
    • The Gram Nyayalayas are presided over by a Nyayadhikari, who will have the same power, enjoy the same salary and benefits of a Judicial Magistrate of First Class. Such Nyayadhikari are to be appointed by the State Government in consultation with the respective High Court.
  • Jurisdiction:
    • A Gram Nyayalaya has jurisdiction over an area specified by a notification by the State Government in consultation with the respective High Court.
    • The Court can function as a mobile court at any place within the jurisdiction of such Gram Nyayalaya, after giving wide publicity to that regard.
    • They have both civil and criminal jurisdiction over the offences.
    • The pecuniary jurisdiction of the Nyayalayas is fixed by the respective High Courts.
    • Gram Nyayalayas has been given the power to accept certain pieces of evidence that would otherwise not be acceptable under the Indian Evidence Act.
  • Procedure to be followed:
    • Gram Nyayalayas can follow special procedures in civil matters, in a manner it deems just and reasonable in the interest of justice.
    • Gram Nyayalayas allow for conciliation of the dispute and settlement of the same in the first instance.
  • Appeals:
    • An appeal in criminal cases shall lie to the Court of Session, which shall be heard and disposed of within a period of six months from the date of filing of such appeal.
    • An appeal in civil cases shall lie to the District Court, which shall be heard and disposed of within a period of six months from the date of filing of the appeal.
  • Significance:
    • The setting up of Gram Nyayalayas is considered as an important measure to reduce arrears and is a part of the judicial reforms. It is estimated that Gram Nyayalayas can reduce around 50% of the pendency of cases in subordinate courts and can take care of the new litigations which will be disposed within six months.

Justice Roy Committee

  • Context: 
    • The Supreme Court panel recommends several prison reforms.
  • Background:
    • The court had in September 2018 appointed the Justice Roy Committee to examine the various problems plaguing prisons, from overcrowding to lack of legal advice to convicts to issues of remission and parole.
    • The decision was in reaction to a letter written by former Chief Justice of India R.C. Lahoti highlighting the overcrowding of prisons, unnatural deaths of prisoners, gross inadequacy of staff and the lack of trained staff.
  • Key recommendations:
    • Every new prisoner should be allowed a free phone call a day to his family members to see him through his first week in jail.
    • Modern cooking facilities, canteens to buy essential items and trial through video-conferencing should be made available.
    • The speedy trial remains one of the best ways to remedy the unwarranted phenomenon of over-crowding.
    • There should be at least one lawyer for every 30 prisoners, which is not the case at present.
    • Special fast-track courts should be set up to deal exclusively with petty offenses which have been pending for more than five years.
  • Note:
    • ‘Prisons/persons detained therein’ is a State subject under Entry 4 of List II of the Seventh Schedule to the Constitution of India.

Reservation in promotion in public posts, not a fundamental right: SC

  • Context:
    • The Supreme Court has recently ruled that the states are not bound to provide reservation in appointments and promotions and that there is no fundamental right to reservation in promotions.
  • Judgment:
    • Reservation in promotion in public posts cannot be claimed as a fundamental right.
    • Articles 16 (4) and 16 (4-A) of the Constitution does not confer individuals with a fundamental right to claim reservation in promotion.
    • It only empowers the State to make a reservation in matters of appointment and promotion in favor of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes, only if in the opinion of the State they are not adequately represented in the services of the State.
    • State governments are not bound to make a reservation and have discretion in providing reservations.
    • The judgment also noted that even the courts could not issue a mandamus directing the States to provide reservation.
  • Constitutional basis for reservations: Article 335
    • Article 335 recognizes that special measures need to be adopted for considering the claims of SCs and STs in order to bring them to a level playing field.
  • Indra Sawhney vs Union of India and M Nagraj case:
    • In its landmark 1992 decision in Indra Sawhney vs Union of India, the Supreme Court had held that reservations under Article 16(4) could only be provided at the time of entry into government service but not in matters of promotion.
    • It added that the principle would operate only prospectively and not affect promotions already made and that reservation already provided in promotions shall continue in operation for a period of five years from the date of the judgment.
    • It also ruled that the creamy layer can be and must be excluded.
    • On June 17, 1995, Parliament, acting in its constituent capacity, adopted the seventy-seventh amendment by which clause (4A) was inserted into Article 16 to enable reservation to be made in promotion for SCs and STs.

SC/ST atrocities law

  • Context:
    • The Supreme Court has upheld a 2018 amendment that barred persons accused of committing atrocities against those belonging to the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes from getting anticipatory bail.
    • The Court upheld the constitutionality of Section 18A of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Act of 2018.
    • The sole purpose of Section 18A was to nullify a controversial March 20, 2018, the judgment of the Supreme Court diluting the stringent anti-bail provisions of the original Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act of 1989.
  • About  Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Act of 2018:
    • A preliminary inquiry is not essential before lodging an FIR under the act and the approval of senior police officials is not needed.
    • There is no provision for anticipatory bail to the accused being charged with the SC/ST Act.
  • Views of the Court:
    • A High Court would also have an “inherent power” to grant anticipatory bail in cases in which prima facie an offence under the anti-atrocities law is not made out.
    • Besides, a High Court, in “exceptional cases”, could also quash cases to prevent the misuse of the anti-atrocities law.
    • However, the courts should take care to use this power to grant anticipatory bail “only sparingly and in very exceptional cases”. It should not become a norm lest it leads to miscarriage of justice and abuse of the process of law.
  • Why stringent provisions against SC/ST atrocities are necessary?
    • Such stringent terms, otherwise contrary to the philosophy of bail, are absolutely essential because a liberal use of the power to grant pre-arrest bail would defeat the intention of Parliament.
    • The express provisions of the Constitution and statutes like the Act, meant to protect the oppressed classes, underline the social or collective resolve to ensure that “all humans are treated as humans, that their innate genius is allowed outlets through equal opportunities and each of them is fearless in the pursuit of her or his dreams”.
  • Background:
    • In March 2018, Supreme Court diluted the stringent provisions of the SC/ST Act (Subhash Kashinath Mahajan v. the State of Maharashtra).
    • The verdict saw a huge backlash across the country. The government filed a review petition in the Supreme Court and subsequently amended the 1989 Act back to its original form.
  • Guidelines issued by the Supreme Court and rationale behind it:
    • Supreme court gave the judgment on the pretext that Innocents cannot be terrorized by the provisions of the SC/ST Act and their fundamental rights need to be protected.
    • The court said that public servants could be arrested only with the written permission of their appointing authority.
    • In the case of private employees, the Senior Superintendent of Police concerned should allow it.
    • A preliminary inquiry should be conducted before the FIR was registered to check if the case fell within the ambit of the Act, and whether it was frivolous or motivated, the court ruled.
  • Why this decision?
    • The court referred to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data for 2015, which said that closure reports had been filed in 15-16 percent of the complaints under the Act.
    • Over 75% of such cases taken up by the courts had resulted in acquittals/ withdrawal or compounding of the cases.
    • Therefore, there was a need to safeguard innocent citizens against false implications and unnecessary arrests for which there is no sanction under the law.

Law Commission of India

  • Context:
    • The Union Cabinet has approved the creation of the 22nd Law Commission, which advises the government on complex legal issues.
    • The term of the previous law panel had ended in August last year.
    • With the cabinet approval, the law ministry will now notify the new panel, which will have a term of three years.
  • Composition:
    • Apart from having a full-time chairperson, the commission will have four full-time members, including a member-secretary.
    • Law and Legislative Secretaries in the Law Ministry will be the ex-officio members of the commission.
    • It will also have not more than five part-time members.
    • A retired Supreme Court judge or Chief Justice of a High Court will head the Commission.
  • Roles and functions:
    • The Law Commission shall, on a reference made to it by the Central Government or suo motu, undertake research in law and review of existing laws in India for making reforms and enacting new legislation.
    • It shall also undertake studies and research for bringing reforms in the justice delivery systems for elimination of delay in procedures, speedy disposal of cases, reduction in the cost of litigation, etc.
  • About the law commission of India:
    • It is an executive body established by an order of the Government of India.
    • Originally formed in 1955, the commission is reconstituted every three years and so far, 277 reports have been submitted to the government.
    • The last Law Commission, under Justice B.S. Chauhan (retd.), had submitted reports and working papers on key issues such as simultaneous elections to the Lok Sabha and the Assemblies and uniform civil code.
    • Prior to independence, the First Law Commission was established in 1834 by the British Government under the Chairmanship of Lord Macaulay.

Curative Petition

  • Context:
    • With curative petitions being a new addition to the field of law in India and that being used by the convicts of one of India’s landmark cases, the Nirbhaya case, it is important to understand what it means and what can be the consequences of such a petition.
  • About Curative Petition:
    • The concept was first evolved by the Supreme Court of India in Rupa Ashok Hurra vs. Ashok Hurra and another case (2002) on the question whether an aggrieved person is entitled to any relief against the final judgment/order of the Supreme Court, even after the dismissal of a review petition.
    • The court used the Latin maxim “actus curiae neminem gravabit”, which means that an act of the court shall prejudice no one.
    • Its objectives are two folds- avoid a miscarriage of justice and to prevent abuse of process.
  • Related Constitutional provisions:
    • The concept of the curative petition is supported by Article 137 of the Indian Constitution.
    • It provides that in the matter of laws and rules made under Article 145, the Supreme Court has the power to review any judgment pronounced (or order made) by it.
    • Such a petition needs to be filed within 30 days from the date of judgment or order.
  • Procedure:
    • A curative petition may be filed after a review plea against the final conviction is dismissed.
    • It can be entertained if the petitioner establishes that there was a violation of the principles of natural justice and that he was not heard by the court before passing an order.
    • It must be rare rather than regular.
    • A curative petition must be first circulated to a Bench of the three senior-most judges, and the judges who passed the concerned judgment, if available.
    • Only when a majority of the judges conclude that the matter needs hearing should it be listed before the same Bench.
    • The Bench at any stage of consideration of the curative petition can ask a senior counsel to assist it as amicus curiae (Friend of the court).
    • A curative petition is usually decided by judges in the chamber unless a specific request for an open-court hearing is allowed.

Constitutional Provisions:-

Recommendations of the 15th Finance Commission

  • Context:
    • The report of the Fifteenth Finance Commission, along with an Action Taken Report, was recently tabled in Parliament.
  • How revenue has been divided?
    • FC has considered the 2011 population along with forest cover, tax effort, area of the state, and “demographic performance” to arrive at the states’ share in the divisible pool of taxes.
    • In order to reward population control efforts by states, the Commission developed a criterion for demographic effort — which is essentially the ratio of the state’s population in 1971 to its fertility rate in 2011 — with a weight of 12.5%.
    • The total area of states, the area under forest cover, and “income distance” were also used by the FC to arrive at the tax-sharing formula.
  • Key recommendations:
    • The Commission has reduced the vertical devolution — the share of tax revenues that the Centre shares with the states — from 42% to 41%.
    • The Commission has said that it intends to set up an expert group to initiate a non-lapsable fund for defence expenditure.
  • State-wise distribution:
    • Shares of the southern states, except Tamil Nadu, have fallen, with Karnataka losing the most.
    • Shares of states like Maharashtra, Himachal Pradesh, and Punjab, along with Tamil Nadu, all of which have fertility rates below the replacement level, have increased slightly.
    • On the other hand, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Karnataka, and West Bengal’s shares have fallen, even though their fertility rates are also low.
    • Incidentally, Karnataka, the biggest loser in this exercise, also had the highest tax-GSDP ratio is 2017-18, as per an RBI report on state finances.
  • Criticisms:
    • The population parameter used by the Commission has been criticized by the governments of the southern states.
    • The previous FC used both the 1971 and the 2011 populations to calculate the states’ shares, giving greater weight to the 1971 population (17.5%) as compared to the 2011 population (10%).
    • The use of 2011 population figures has resulted in states with larger populations like UP and Bihar getting larger shares, while smaller states with lower fertility rates have lost out.
    • The combined population of the Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Jharkhand is 47.8 crore.
    • This is over 39.48% of India’s total population and is spread over 32.4% of the country’s area, as per the 2011 Census.
    • On the other hand, the southern states of Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka and undivided Andhra Pradesh are home to only 20.75% of the population living in 19.34% of the area, with a 13.89% share of the taxes.
    • This means that the terms decided by the Commission are loaded against the more progressive (and prosperous) southern states.

The motion of thanks to the President’s Address

  • About “Motion of Thanks”:
    • The President makes an address to a joint sitting of Parliament at the start of the Budget session, which is prepared by the government and lists its achievements.
    • It is essentially a statement of the legislative and policy achievements of the government during the preceding year and gives a broad indication of the agenda for the year ahead.
    • The address is followed by a motion of thanks moved in each House by ruling party MPs. During the session, political parties discuss the motion of thanks also suggesting amendments.
  • Amendments to the “Motion of Thanks”:
    • Notices of amendments to Motion of Thanks on the President’s Address can be tabled after the President has delivered his Address.
    • Amendments may refer to matters contained in the Address as well as to matters, in the opinion of the member, the Address has failed to mention.
    • Amendments can be moved to the Motion of Thanks in such form as may be considered appropriate by the Speaker.
  • Limitations:
    • The only limitations are that members cannot refer to matters which are not the direct responsibility of the Central Government and that the name of the President cannot be brought in during the debate since the Government and not the President is responsible for the contents of the Address.
  • Provisions governing them:
    • President’s Address and Motion of Thanks are governed by Articles 86 (1) and 87 (1) of the Constitution and Rules 16 to 24 of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in Lok Sabha.
  • Its passage:
    • Members of Parliament vote on this motion of thanks. This motion must be passed in both of the houses.
    • A failure to get the motion of thanks passed amounts to the defeat of government and leads to the collapse of the government.
    • This is why the Motion of Thanks is deemed to be a no-confidence motion.
  • Constitutional provisions on this:
    • Article 86(1) of the Constitution:
      • It provides that the President may address either House of Parliament or both Houses assembled together, and for that purpose require the attendance of members.
    • Article 87:
      • It provides for the special address by the President.
      • Clause (1) of that article provides that at the commencement of the first session after each general election to the House of the People and at the commencement of the first session of each year, the President shall address both Houses of Parliament assembled together and inform Parliament of the causes of its summons.
      • No other business is transacted till the President has addressed both Houses of Parliament assembled together.

Bills And Acts:-

Public Safety Act

  • Context:
    • The Jammu and Kashmir administration has slapped the stringent Public Safety Act (PSA) against former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Ministers Mehbooba Mufti and Omar Abdullah besides two political stalwarts from the National Conference and the Peoples Democratic Party.
  • What is the J&K PSA?
    • The Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act (PSA) received the assent of the J&K Governor on April 8, 1978.
    • The Act was introduced as a tough law to prevent the smuggling of timber and keep the smugglers “out of circulation”.
    • The law allows the government to detain any person above the age of 16 without trial for a period of two years.
    • The PSA allows for administrative detention for up to two years “in the case of persons acting in any manner prejudicial to the security of the State”, and for administrative detention up to one year where “any person is acting in any manner prejudicial to the maintenance of public order”.
    • Detention orders under PSA can be issued by Divisional Commissioners or District Magistrates.
    • Section 22 of the Act provides protection for any action taken “in good faith” under the Act:
      • “No suit, prosecution or any other legal proceeding shall lie against any person for anything done or intended to be done in good faith in pursuance of the provisions of this Act.”
    • Under Section 23 of the Act, the government is empowered to “make such rules consistent with the provisions of this Act, as may be necessary for carrying out the objects of this Act”.
  • What happens after PSA is used?
    • Within four weeks of passing the detention order, the government has to refer the case to an Advisory Board.
    • This Advisory Board will have to give its recommendations within eight weeks of the order. If the Board thinks that there is a cause for preventive detention, the government can hold the person up to two years.
    • The person detained has limited rights. Usually, when a person is arrested, they have the right to legal representation and can challenge the arrest.
    • But, when a person is arrested under the PSA, they do not have these rights before the Advisory Board unless sufficient grounds can be established that the detention is illegal. There have been cases where the High Court has interfered and quashed the detention.
    • According to Section 13(2), the detaining authority need not even inform the detained individual as to the reason for the action, if it decides that it goes against the public interest.

Disha law

  • Context:
    • The Andhra Pradesh state government is preparing to implement the Disha Bill once it gets the nod of the President. As per the law, the state has to equip itself with facilities like forensic laboratories, special courts, and public prosecutors.
  • Background:
    • Last year, the Andhra Pradesh Legislative Assembly had passed the Andhra Pradesh Disha Bill, 2019 (Andhra Pradesh Criminal Law (Amendment) Act 2019).
  • Key features of the Bill:
    • It envisages the completion of investigation in seven days and trial in 14 working days, where there is adequate conclusive evidence, and reducing the total judgment time to 21 days from the existing four months.
    • It prescribes life imprisonment for other sexual offences against children and includes Section 354 F and 354 G in IPC.
    • In cases of harassment of women through social or digital media, the Act states two years imprisonment for the first conviction and four years for second and subsequent convictions. For this, a new Section 354 E will be added to IPC, 1860.
    • As per the Bill, the Andhra Pradesh government will establish, operate and maintain a register in electronic form, to be called the ‘Women & Children Offenders Registry’.
    • This registry will be made public and will be available to law enforcement agencies.
    • The government will establish exclusive special courts in each district to ensure speedy trial.
    • These courts will exclusively deal with cases of offences against women and children including rape, acid attacks, stalking, voyeurism, social media harassment of women, sexual harassment and all cases under the POCSO Act.
    • The government will constitute special police teams at the district level to be called District Special Police Team to be headed by DSP for investigation of offences related to women and children.
    • The government will also appoint a special public prosecutor for each exclusive special court.

International Relations

Dialogues And Talks:-

East Asia Summit

  • Context:
    • India is set to host an East Asia Summit conference this week in Chennai with a focus on maritime security cooperation and tackling challenges in the maritime domain.
    • It will be organized by the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), in partnership with the governments of Australia and Indonesia.
  • About the East Asia Summit:
    • EAS is an initiative of ASEAN and is based on the premise of the centrality of ASEAN.
    • It is a forum held annually by leaders of 18 countries in the East Asian, Southeast Asian and South Asian regions.
    • EAS meetings are held after annual ASEAN leaders’ meetings.
    • The first summit was held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on 14 December 2005.
    • There are six priority areas of regional cooperation within the framework of the EAS. These are – Environment and Energy, Education, Finance, Global Health Issues and Pandemic Diseases, Natural Disaster Management, and ASEAN Connectivity. India endorses regional collaboration in all six priority areas.
  • Significance:
    • The Conference is expected to serve as a platform for free and open dialogue among all the EAS partners on various issues of maritime security cooperation, and to come up with useful suggestions on tackling challenges in the maritime domain in a cooperative manner.
  • Background:
    • This conference is the fourth in a series of EAS Maritime Security Conferences organized by the Indian government — the first conference was organized in New Delhi in November 2015, the second in Goa in November 2016 and the third in Bhubaneswar in June 2018.

Lucknow Declaration

  • Context:
    • It is a joint declaration adopted as an outcome of the first India-Africa Defence Ministers’ Conclave which was held along the side-lines of the DefExpo 2020.
  • Aim:
    • The Conclave was conducted with the aim of exporting India-made equipment to the African continent in keeping with long-standing defence partnerships since the 1950s.
  • About:
    • The Declaration calls for deeper cooperation in the domain of defence industry including through investment, joint ventures in defence equipment software, digital defence, research & development, provisioning of defence equipment, spares and their maintenance on sustainable and mutually beneficial terms.

Geopolitical Events:-

Brexit Deal 

  • Context:
    • Britain has officially left the European Union (EU) and has become the first country to leave the 28-member bloc.
    • The UK stopped being a member of the European Union (EU) after 23:00 GMT on 31 January 2020.
  • European Union:
    • The EU is an economic and political union involving 28 European countries.
    • It allows free trade, which means goods can move between member countries without any checks or extra charges.
    • The EU also allows free movement of people, to live and work in whichever country they choose.
    • The UK joined in 1973 (when it was known as the European Economic Community) and it will be the first member state to withdraw.
  • Brexit deal:
    • The transition period and other aspects of the UK’s departure were agreed upon in a separate deal called the withdrawal agreement.
    • Most of that was negotiated by Theresa May’s government. But after Mr. Johnson replaced her in July 2019, he removed the most controversial part – the backstop.
    • The backstop was designed to ensure there would be no border posts or barriers between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland after Brexit. If needed, it would have kept the UK in a close trading relationship with the EU.
    • Under Mr. Johnson’s deal, a customs border will effectively be created between Northern Ireland and Great Britain. Some goods entering Northern Ireland from Great Britain will be subject to checks and will have to pay EU import taxes (known as tariffs).
    • These would be refunded if goods remain in Northern Ireland (ie are not moved to the Republic of Ireland).

2 Billion Kilometers to Safety’ campaign

  • The UN Refugee Agency UNHCR has announced a new global campaign urging people worldwide to cover the total distance traveled by refugees each year – 2 billion kilometers – by running, jogging or walking.
  • The “2 Billion Kilometers to Safety” campaign vies to encourage people to support refugees by championing individual acts of solidarity.
  • The goal is to acknowledge the resilience and strength of refugees. 

United States Trade Representative (USTR) on Developing Country list

  • Context:
    • The Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) has published a notice, amending lists of developing and least-developed countries that are eligible for preferential treatment with respect to countervailing duties (CVDs) investigations.
    • The new lists consist of 36 developing countries and 44 least developed countries.
  • Concern for India:
    • India was, until February 10, on the developing country list and therefore eligible for these more relaxed standards. It has now been taken off of that list.
    • Countries not given special consideration have lower levels of protection against a CVD investigation.
    • This will now make it easier for it to impose countervailing duties (CVDs) on goods from India.
    • The move has cast a shadow on India being able to restore preferential benefits under the Generalised System of Preference (GSP) as part of its trade talks with the US, as only developing countries are eligible for it.
  • The basis for classification:
    • To harmonize U.S. law with the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) Subsidies and Countervailing Measures (SCM) Agreement, the USTR had, in 1998, come up with lists of countries classified as per their level of development.
    • These lists were used to determine whether they were potentially subject to U.S. countervailing duties.
    • The de minimis (too small to warrant concern) thresholds and import volume allowance are more relaxed for developing and least-developed countries.
    • The de minimis standard is usually a subsidy of 1% or less ad valorem and 2 percent for special cases.
    • The 1998 rule is now “obsolete” as per the USTR notice.
  • About Negligible import volumes:
    • If a country’s goods constitute less than 3% of all imports of that good into the U.S., it meets the ‘negligible import volumes’ standard. For special cases, it is 4%.
    • Imports do not meet the standard, if, individual volumes are less than 3% (special cases: 4%) but the aggregate volume of imports into the U.S. is 7% of all such goods.
  • Criteria:
    • The USTR used the following criteria to determine whether a country was eligible for the 2% de minimis standard:
      • (1) Per capita Gross National Income or GNI
      • (2) share of world trade
      • (3) other factors such as Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) membership or application for membership, EU membership, and Group of Twenty (G20) membership.
  • Why India was removed from this list?
    • India, along with Brazil, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam were taken off the list since they each have at least a 0.5% share of the global trade, despite having less than $12, 375 GNI (the World Bank threshold separating high-income countries from others).
    • India was taken off the list also because, like Argentina, Brazil, Indonesia, and South Africa, it is part of the G20. Given the global economic significance of the G20, and the collective economic weight of its membership (which accounts for large shares of global economic output and trade), G20 membership indicates that a country is developed.

‘Grey List’ of FATF

  • Context:
    • The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) has given an extension of four months to Pakistan to act against organizations involved in terror financing.
    • Pakistan will remain on the Grey List.
  • Key observations:
    • All deadlines given to Pakistan to check terror funding have ended and it has failed to complete its action plan in line with an agreed timeline and failed to check terror funding risks emanating from its jurisdiction.
    • If Pakistan fails to prosecute, it will be penalized on terror funding acts by June.
  • Implications:
    • With Pakistan’s continuation in the ‘Grey List’, it will be difficult for the country to get financial aid from the IMF, the World Bank, the ADB, and the European Union.
    • This will further enhance problems for the nation which is in a precarious economic situation.
    • Also, there is every possibility that the global body may put the country in the ‘Black List’ along with North Korea and Iran.
  • Background:
    • Pakistan has been under the FATF’s scanner since 2018, when it was put on the greylist for terror financing and money laundering risks, after an assessment of its financial system and law enforcement mechanisms. Pakistan has largely addressed 14 of 27 action items.
  • About FATF:
    • It is an inter-governmental body established in 1989 on the initiative of the G7.
    • Its Secretariat is located at the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) headquarters in Paris.
  • Member Countries:
    • There are 39 members of FATF, representing most financial centres around the world. This includes 2 regional organizations- GCC and EC.
    • The FATF Plenary is the decision making body of the FATF. It meets three times per year.
  • Objectives:
    • The objectives of the FATF are to set standards and promote effective implementation of legal, regulatory and operational measures for combating money laundering, terrorist financing and other related threats to the integrity of the international financial system.
  • FATF lists:
    • Grey List:
      • Countries that are considered safe haven for supporting terror funding and money laundering are put in the FATF grey list. This inclusion serves as a warning to the country that it may enter the blacklist.
    • Black List:
      • Countries are known as Non-Cooperative Countries or Territories (NCCTs) are put in the blacklist. These countries support terror funding and money laundering activities. The FATF revises the blacklist regularly, adding or deleting entries.

Organizations And Conventions:-

Commonwealth

  • Context:
    • The Maldives re-joined the Commonwealth, more than three years after the Indian Ocean island nation quit amid mounting criticism of its human rights.
    • In 2016, the Maldives pulled out of the Commonwealth.
    • The Maldives has been formally reinstated into the Commonwealth as its 54th member state.
  • About Commonwealth of Nations:
    • The Commonwealth of Nations, at one time known as the British Commonwealth, is an organization of fifty-three states that were principally below the colonial rule of the British Government. They came into existence with the proclamation of the sovereignty of the state from the colonial rule of the British Empire and were later given self-governance.
    • It proclaims that the Commonwealth nations are “free and equal.” The insignia of this Commonwealth Association is Queen Elizabeth II who is considered the Supreme of the Commonwealth nations.
    • The member states of the commonwealth are not legally liable or bound to each other. They are rather united by language, history, culture, the likeness of the democracy, human rights and the rule of law.
    • Their values are listed down within the Commonwealth Charter and the hands of harmony towards the member states are extended by the Commonwealth Games held every four years.
    • Former British mandates that did not become members of the Commonwealth are Egypt, Transjordan, Iraq, British Palestine, Sudan, British Somaliland, Oman, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates.

PEN Online System

  • About:
    • The Pre-Export Notification (PEN) Online is developed by UNODC/International Narcotics Control Board (INCB).
    • It is used by the Member States exporting precursor chemicals to alert the national competent authorities in the importing country with the details of the export transaction.
    • It enables the easy on-line exchange of information between the Member States on shipments (export and import) of the chemicals required for the manufacture of illegal addictive drugs.
    • The system also facilitates electronic reply to acknowledge receipt and notify the exporting country of clearance to export. An electronic copy is sent to INCB by default.
  • United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime:
    • The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) was established in 1997.
    • UNODC publishes the World Drug Report.

Blue dot network

  • Context:
    • The first meeting of the Blue Dot Network‘s embryonic steering committee was held recently in Washington, with Australia and Japan as partners.
  • About Blue dot network:
    • The U.S., Australia, and Japan announced the network during the November 4, 2019, Indo-Pacific Business Forum in Bangkok. The initiative aligns with the G20’s Principles for Quality Infrastructure Investment, particularly on governance, environmental standards, and transparency.
    • It is a new S.-led certification plan.
    • A “blue dot” will be awarded to projects the initiative endorses. 
    • The Network will not itself directly invest in projects.
    • At present, the project is led by the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (boasting access to $60 billion in the capital), in partnership with the government-owned Japan Bank for International Cooperation and Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs. 
    • Once fully up and running, the new network will bring together governments, the private sector, and other organizations behind a set of high-quality global infrastructure development standards.
  • Significance:
    • It will act as a globally recognized seal of approval for major infrastructure projects, letting people know the projects are sustainable and not exploitative.
  • Working:
    • Any country or company can participate in the network, as long as it agrees to adhere to the network’s high standards of promoting quality, private sector-led investment. Projects that seek to be certified by the Blue Dot Network will complete an online application.
    • Countries, companies and local communities will all benefit from the Blue Dot Network. When projects are certified by the Blue Dot Network, communities and investors can be confident about the high standards and sustainability of the infrastructure.

BIMSTEC

  • Context:
    • The 2nd Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) Disaster Management Exercise was recently conducted in Bhubaneswar, Odisha.
    • The focus of the 2nd edition of Exercise is on heritage structures’ protection.
  • Background:
    • The first edition of the BIMSTEC DMEx was also hosted by India in 2017 with the focus on testing the region’s preparedness and resilience towards effective activation of inter-Governmental interaction/dialogue/agreements for immediate deployment of regional resources for disaster response.
  • About BIMSTEC:
    • In an effort to integrate the region, the grouping was formed in 1997, originally with Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, and Thailand, and later included Myanmar, Nepal, and Bhutan.
    • BIMSTEC, which now includes five countries from South Asia and two from ASEAN, is a bridge between South Asia and Southeast Asia.
    • It includes all the major countries of South Asia, except Maldives, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.

G20

  • Context:
    • The G20 meeting was held recently in Riyadh (Saudi Arabia).
    • Saudi Arabia is the first Arab nation to hold the G20 presidency.
  • Theme:
    • “Realizing Opportunities of the 21st Century for All”.
  • Focus areas:
    • Action plan to shield the world economy from the impact of the Coronavirus Epidemic.
    • Discuss ways to achieve a fairer global taxation system for the digital era.
    • Discuss the global economic outlook and possible policy responses to support growth and safeguard against downside risks.
  • About G20:
    • An informal group of 19 countries and the European Union along with representatives of the IMF and the World Bank.
    • Represents about two-thirds of the world’s population, 85% of global gross domestic product, 80% of global investment and over 75% of global trade.
  • Genesis:
    • Amid the 2008 Financial Crisis, the world saw the need for a new consensus-building at the highest political level. It was decided that the G20 leaders would begin meeting once annually.
  • Members:
    • The members of the G20 are Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey, the United Kingdom, the United States, and the European Union.

Economy

Banking And Finance:-

Dividend Distribution Tax 

  • Context:
    • Dividend Distribution Tax shifted to individuals instead of companies, says FM.
  • About:
    • It is a tax levied on dividends that a company pays to its shareholders out of its profits.
  • Application:
    • The Dividend Distribution Tax, or DDT, is taxable at source and is deducted at the time of the company distributing dividends.
    • The dividend is the part of the profits that the company shares with its shareholders.
    • The law provides for the Dividend Distribution Tax to be levied at the hands of the company, and not at the hands of the receiving shareholder.
    • However, an additional tax is imposed on the shareholder, who receives over Rs. 10 lakh in dividend income in a financial year.
  • Is Dividend Distribution Tax applicable to private companies?
    • Under Section 115-O, the Income Tax Act, any domestic firm which is declaring or distributing dividends has to pay DDT at the rate of 15 % on the gross amount of dividends.
  • Is the Dividend Distribution Tax fair?
    • Market participants, especially brokers, have been calling for long to scrap the DDT. The tax makes markets unattractive as it leads to significant taxation of corporate earnings, they argue.
    • Other than Dividend Distribution Tax (DDT), the Securities Transaction Tax (STT) and Long-Term Capital Gains (LTCG) tax are other major taxes levied on market instruments.

Deposit Insurance and Credit Guarantee Corporation (DICGC) 

  • Context:
    • In Budget 2020, finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman has proposed to increase the limit of insurance cover in case of bank failure on deposits to  ₹5 lakh from  ₹1 lakh. The proposal come in the wake of the crisis at Mumbai-based urban cooperative bank, PMC Bank.
  • About:
    • Deposit insurance is providing insurance protection to the depositor’s money by receiving a premium.
    • The government has set up Deposit Insurance and Credit Guarantee Corporation (DICGC) under RBI to protect depositors if a bank fails.
    • Every insured bank pays premium amounting to 0.001% of its deposits to DICGC every year.
  • What happens to depositors’ money when a bank fails?
    • When a bank is liquidated, depositors are entitled to receive an insurance amount of ₹1 lakh per individual from the Deposit Insurance and Credit Guarantee Corporation of India (DICGC).
    • The ₹1 lakh insurance limit includes both principal and interest dues across your savings bank accounts, current accounts, fixed deposits and recurring deposits held with the bank. 
  • Procedure:
    • The DICGC does not deal directly with depositors.
    • The RBI (or the Registrar), on directing that a bank be liquidated, appoint an official liquidator to oversee the winding-up process.
    • Under the DICGC Act, the liquidator is supposed to hand over a list of all the insured depositors (with their dues) to the DICGC within three months of taking charge.
    • The DICGC is supposed to pay these dues within two months of receiving this list.
    • In FY19, it took an average of 1,425 days for the DICGC to receive and settle the first claims on a de-registered bank.
  • Who is insured by the DICGC?
    • The corporation covers all commercial and co-operative banks, except in Meghalaya, Chandigarh, Lakshadweep and Dadra and Nagar Haveli. Besides, Only primary cooperative societies are not insured by the DICGC.
    • The DICGC does not include the following types of deposits:
      • Deposits of foreign governments.
      • Deposits of central/state governments.
      • Inter-bank deposits.
      • Deposits of the state land development banks with the state co-operative bank.
      • Any amount due on account of any deposit received outside India.
      • Any amount specifically exempted by the DICGC with the previous approval of RBI.

Infrastructure Investment Trusts (InvIT) And Real Estate Investment Trusts (REIT)

  • Context:
    • The proposal in the Union Budget to tax dividends in the hands of unitholders/ investors would hurt future InvITs and REITs, say real estate and infrastructure industry officials and analysts.
  • Why and how?
    • Such a decision is contrary to the government’s move to encourage InvITs and REITs to provide tax stability to long-term infrastructure investors.
    • Uncertainty in the tax regime would hurt the sentiment of foreign investors who are already wary of the stability of the tax regime in India, they added.
    • The resultant tax burden on the part of investors will put at risk plans for raising about $100 billion with regard to INVITs and REITs.
  • About Infrastructure Investment Trusts (InvIT):
    • It is like a mutual fund, which enables direct investment of small amounts of money from possible individual/institutional investors in infrastructure to earn a small portion of the income as a return.
    • InvITs can be treated as the modified version of REITs designed to suit the specific circumstances of the infrastructure sector.
    • They are similar to REIT but invest in infrastructure projects such as roads or highways which take some time to generate steady cash flows.
  • About Real Estate Investment Trusts (REIT):
    • A REIT is roughly like a mutual fund that invests in real estate although the similarity doesn’t go much further.
    • The basic deal on REITs is that you own a share of the property, and so an appropriate share of the income from it will come to you, after deducting an appropriate share of expenses.
    • Essentially, it’s like a group of people pooling their money together and buying real estate except that it’s on a large scale and is regulated.

Cooperative banks under RBI

  • Context:
    • Union Cabinet has approved to bring regulation of cooperative banks under the Reserve Bank of India. In order to achieve this, the Cabinet approved amendments to the Banking regulation act.
    • The amendments will apply to all urban co-operative banks and multi-state cooperative banks.
  • How cooperative banks are regulated?
    • Cooperative banks are currently under the dual control of the Registrar of Cooperative Societies and RBI.
    • While the role of the registrar of cooperative societies includes incorporation, registration, management, audit, supersession of board and liquidation, RBI is responsible for regulatory functions such as maintaining cash reserve and capital adequacy, among others.
  • What are the co-operative banks?
    • Co-operative banks are financial entities established on a co-operative basis and belonging to their members. This means that the customers of a co-operative bank are also its owners.
  • As per the changes:
    • Cooperative banks will be audited according to RBI’s norms.
    • RBI can supersede the board, in consultation with the state government, if any cooperative bank is under stress.
    • Appointments of chief executives will also require permission from the banking regulator, as is the case for commercial banks.
  • Why this was necessary?
    • This was felt necessary in the wake of the recent Punjab & Maharashtra Cooperative (PMC) Bank crisis.
    • Cooperative banks have 8.6 lakh account holders, with a total deposit of about ₹5 lakh crore.
    • Besides, Urban cooperative banks reported nearly 1,000 cases of fraud worth more than ₹220 crores in the past five fiscal years.

CRR or Cash reserve ratio

  • Context:
    • The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has exempted banks from maintaining cash reserve ratio (CRR) for loans to retail and micro, small and medium enterprises for five years, if these loans are extended between January 31 and July 31, 2020.
  • About CRR:
    • It is a certain minimum amount of deposit that the commercial banks have to hold as reserves with the central bank.
    • The percentage of cash required to be kept in reserves, vis-a-vis a bank’s total deposits, is called the Cash Reserve Ratio.
    • The cash reserve is either stored in the bank’s vault or is sent to the RBI. Banks do not get any interest on the money that is with the RBI under the CRR requirements.
  • The cash reserve ratio is:
    • It is also referred to as the number of funds which the banks have to keep with the Reserve Bank of India (RBI).
    • It’s a vice-versa process.
    • If a central bank increases CRR then the available amount with the banks decreases or comes down.
    • The CRR is used by RBI to wipe out excessive money from the system.
  • There are two primary purposes of the Cash Reserve Ratio:
    • Since a part of the bank’s deposits is with the Reserve Bank of India, it ensures the security of the amount. It makes it readily available when customers want their deposits back.
    • Also, CRR helps in keeping inflation under control. At the time of high inflation in the economy, RBI increases the CRR, so that banks need to keep more money in reserves so that they have less money to lend further.
  • Background:
    • At present, CRR is 4% of net demand and time liabilities. Banks do not earn any interest in maintaining CRR with the RBI.

Debts Recovery Tribunals

  • Context:
    • The Direct Tax Vivaad se Vishwas Bill, 2020 will now cover pending litigation in debt recovery tribunals (DRTs) as well besides those in various courts and tribunals, the Union cabinet said while approving the change to the bill.
  • About DRTs:
    • Debt Recovery Tribunals were established to facilitate the debt recovery involving banks and other financial institutions with their customers.
    • DRTs were set up after the passing of Recovery of Debts due to Banks and Financial Institutions Act (RDBBFI), 1993. Section 3 of the RDDBFI Act empowers the Central government to establish DRTs.
    • Appeals against orders passed by DRTs lie before Debts Recovery Appellate Tribunal (DRAT).
  • Powers and functions:
    • The Debts Recovery Tribunal (DRT) enforces provisions of the Recovery of Debts Due to Banks and Financial Institutions (RDDBFI) Act, 1993 and also Securitization and Reconstruction of Financial Assets and Enforcement of Security Interests (SARFAESI) Act, 2002.
    • The Debts Recovery Tribunal (DRT) is fully empowered to pass comprehensive orders and can travel beyond the Civil procedure Code to render complete justice.
    • A Debts Recovery Tribunal (DRT) can hear cross suits, counterclaims and allow set-offs.
    • However, a Debts Recovery Tribunal (DRT) cannot hear claims of damages or deficiency of services or breach of contract or criminal negligence on the part of the lenders.
    • In addition, a Debts Recovery Tribunal (DRT) cannot express an opinion beyond its domain, or the list pending before it.
    • The Debts Recovery Tribunal can appoint Receivers, Commissioners, pass ex-parte orders, ad-interim orders, interim orders apart from powers to Review its own decisions and hear appeals against orders passed by the Recovery Officers of the Tribunal.
  • Other key facts:
    • A DRT is presided over by a presiding officer who is appointed by the central govt. and who shall be qualified to be a District Judge; with tenure of 5 years or the age of 62, whichever is earlier
    • No court in the country other than the SC and the HCs and that too, only under articles 226 and 227 of the Constitution have jurisdiction over this matter.
    • The central government, in 2018, raised the pecuniary limit from Rs 10 lakh to Rs 20 lakh for filing an application for recovery of debts in the Debts Recovery Tribunals by such banks and financial institutions.

Adjusted Gross Revenue (AGR) issue

  • Context:
    • The Supreme Court has come down heavily on the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) for issuing a notification last month that asked for no coercive action against telecom companies even though they had not paid the adjusted gross revenue (AGR) dues by the stipulated deadline of January 23.
    • The Court also initiated contempt proceedings against the telecom companies for not paying the AGR dues.
    • The court also asked DoT to immediately withdraw the notification which said that there would be no coercive action against telcos.
  • Background:
    • Last year, the Supreme Court upheld the definition of Adjusted Gross Revenue (AGR) calculation as stipulated by the Department of Telecommunications.
    • The order by the top court means that the telecom companies will have to immediately clear the pending AGR dues, which amount to nearly Rs 1.47 lakh crore.
  • About AGR:
    • Adjusted Gross Revenue (AGR) is the usage and licensing fee that telecom operators are charged by the Department of Telecommunications (DoT).
    • It is divided into spectrum usage charges and licensing fees, pegged between 3-5 percent and 8 percent respectively.
  • How is it calculated and what’s the contention?
    • As per DoT, the charges are calculated based on all revenues earned by a telco – including non-telecom related sources such as deposit interests and asset sales.
    • Telcos, on their part, insist that AGR should comprise only the revenues generated from telecom services.

Masala Bonds

  • Context:
    • Asian Development Bank (ADB) has listed its 10-year masala bonds worth Rs 850 crore on the global debt listing platform of India INX. The proceeds would be used to support local currency lending and investment in India.
  • Background:
    • India INX is the country’s first international exchange, located at International Financial Services Centre, GIFT City in Gujarat. ADB’s masala bonds are listed on both Luxembourg exchange and India INX.
  • About Masala Bonds:
    • They are bonds issued outside India by an Indian entity or corporate. These bonds are issued in Indian currency than local currency.
    • Indian corporates usually issue Masala Bonds to raise funds from foreign investors.
    • As it is pegged into Indian currency, if the rupee rates fall, investors bear the risk. The first Masala bond was issued in 2014 by IFC for the infrastructure projects in India.
  • How does Masala Bonds help bond issuer?
    • As Masala bonds are issued directly in Indian rupees, the investor needs to bear the exchange rate risks.
    • Rupee rate falls will not affect the issuer of Masala Bonds. In simpler words, as Masala Bonds are rupee-denominated bonds, the risk goes directly to the investor.
  • Who is eligible to invest in Masala bonds?
    • Investors from outside of India who would like to invest in Indian assets can invest in Masala bonds. Indian entities like HDFC, NTPC and Indiabulls Housing have raised funds via Masala Bonds.

Central Consumer Protection Authority

  • Context:
    • The government is all set to establish a Central Consumer Protection Authority.
  • About Central Consumer Protection Authority:
    • The authority is being constituted under Section 10(1) of The Consumer Protection Act, 2019. 
  • Aim:
    • To protect the rights of the consumer by cracking down on unfair trade practices, and false and misleading advertisements that are detrimental to the interests of the public and consumers.
    • It will be headquartered in the National Capital Region of Delhi but the central government may set up regional offices in other parts of the country.
  • Powers and Functions:
    • Inquire or investigate matters relating to violations of consumer rights or unfair trade practices suo motu, or on a complaint received, or on a direction from the central government.
    • Recall goods or withdrawal of services that are “dangerous, hazardous or unsafe.
    • Pass an order to a refund the prices of goods or services so recalled to purchasers of such goods or services; discontinuation of practices which are unfair and prejudicial to consumer’s interest”.
    • Impose a penalty up to Rs 10 lakh, with imprisonment up to two years, on the manufacturer or endorser of false and misleading advertisements. The penalty may go up to Rs 50 lakh, with imprisonment up to five years, for every subsequent offence committed by the same manufacturer or endorser.
    • Ban the endorser of a false or misleading advertisement from making an endorsement of any products or services in the future, for a period that may extend to one year. The ban may extend up to three years in every subsequent violation of the Act.
    • File complaints of violation of consumer rights or unfair trade practices before the District Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, and the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission.
  • Composition:
    • It will have a Chief Commissioner as head, and only two other commissioners as members — one of whom will deal with matters relating to goods while the other will look into cases relating to services.
    • The CCPA will have an Investigation Wing that will be headed by a Director-General.
    • District Collectors too, will have the power to investigate complaints of violations of consumer rights, unfair trade practices, and false or misleading advertisements.
  • For manufacture, selling, storage, distribution, or import of adulterated products, the penalties are:
    • If the injury is not caused to a consumer, fine up to Rs 1 lakh with imprisonment up to six months.
    • If the injury is caused, fine up to Rs 3 lakh with imprisonment for up to one year.
    • If grievous hurt is caused, fine up to Rs 5 lakh with imprisonment up to 7 years.
    • In case of death, fine of Rs 10 lakh or more with a minimum imprisonment of 7 years, extendable to imprisonment for life.

Agriculture:-

Apiary on Wheels

  • Context:
    • The Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises recently flagged off ‘Apiary on Wheels’.
  • About:
    • It is a unique concept designed by the Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC) for the easy upkeep and migration of Bee Boxes having live Bee colonies.
    • It is a platform that can carry 20 Bee Boxes from one place to another without any difficulty.
    • It is like an attachment that can be easily connected with a Tractor or a Trolley and may be pulled to any suitable destination.
  • Background:
    • The KVIC launched Honey Mission in 2017 and has been training beekeepers, distributing Bee Boxes and helping rural, educated but unemployed youth to earn extra income through beekeeping activities, at their doorstep.
  • Significance:
    • It is a holistic approach to address the challenges faced by beekeepers.
    • It is designed so as to reduce the labor and cost of maintaining and upkeeping Bee Boxes and live bee colonies across India.
  • Khadi and Village Industries Commission:
    • KVIC is a statutory body established under the Khadi and Village Industries Commission Act, 1956.
    • The KVIC is charged with the planning, promotion, organization, and implementation of programmes for the development of Khadi and other village industries in the rural areas in coordination with other agencies engaged in rural development wherever necessary.
    • It functions under the Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises.

Fruit train

  • Context:
    • ‘fruit train’, said to be the first of its kind in the country, was recently flagged off from Tadipatri Railway Station in Andhra Pradesh.
  • About:
    • The fruit train was carrying a load of 980 metric tonnes of locally grown bananas to the Jawaharlal Nehru Port in Mumbai, from where the consignment will be exported to Iran.
    • This is the first time in India that an entire train is being sent to the gateway port (JNPT) for export.
    • This helps save both time and fuel as 150 trucks would have been required to send a consignment of this size by road to JNPT, which is over 900 km away before the temperature-controlled containers are loaded on ships.

Locust attacks

  • Context:
    • During the past few weeks, major locust attacks have been observed in several countries in western and southern Asia and in eastern Africa.
  • Which countries are affected?
    • The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations has currently identified three hotspots of threatening locust activity, where the situation has been called “extremely alarming” — the Horn of Africa, the Red Sea area, and southwest Asia.
    • The Horn of Africa has been called the worst-affected area, where the FAO has said there is “an unprecedented threat to food security and livelihoods”.
    • Locust swarms from Ethiopia and Somalia have traveled south to Kenya and 14 other countries on the continent.
    • In the Red Sea area, locusts have struck in Saudi Arabia, Oman, and Yemen.
    • In southwest Asia, locusts swarms have caused damage in Iran, India, and Pakistan.
    • Pakistan and Somalia have recently declared locust emergencies.
  • What are locusts?
    • Locusts are a group of short-horned grasshoppers that multiply in numbers as they migrate long distances in destructive swarms (up to 150km in one day).
    • Four species of locusts are found in India:
      • Desert locust (Schistocerca gregaria), Migratory locust (Locusta migratoria), Bombay Locust (Nomadacris succincta) and Tree locust (Anacridium sp.).
  • How do they inflict damage?
    • The swarms devour leaves, flowers, fruits, seeds, bark, and growing points, and also destroy plants by their sheer weight as they descend on them in massive numbers.
    • The desert locust is regarded as the most destructive pest in India as well as internationally, with a small swarm covering one square kilometer being able to consume the same amount of food in one day as 35,000 people.

Pesticides Management Bill 2020

  • Context:
    • Union Cabinet has approved the Pesticide Management Bill 2020 to promote the use of organic pesticides in the country.
  • Key provisions:
    • The bill will empower farmers to get all the information regarding pesticides including their strengths and weaknesses and the risk and alternatives involved, as the data would be made available in open source, in a digital format, and in all languages.
    • The bill will also include the provision of compensating the farmers in case of losses due to the use of spurious or low quality of pesticides.
    • The union government may form a central fund to take care of the compensation.
    • Any person who wants to import, manufacture, or export pesticides would have to register under the new bill and provide all details regarding any claims, expected performance, efficacy, safety, usage instructions, and infrastructure available to stock that pesticide.
    • The information will also include details on the pesticide’s potential effects on the environment.
    • The bill also plans to regulate pesticides-related advertisements to check misleading claims by industries and manufacturers.
  • Need for a fresh law:
    • The current state of regulation of pesticides in India, using the extant law called Insecticides Act 1968, has not caught up with post-modern pest management science nor has taken cognizance of a huge body of scientific evidence on the ill effects of synthetic pesticides. Therefore, it is high time that new legislation is brought in.
    • Besides, the acute pesticide poisoning deaths and hospitalizations that Indian farmworkers and farmers fall prey to are ignominious by now.
    • It is not just human beings but wildlife and livestock that are poisoned routinely by toxic pesticides as numerous reports indicate.

Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana

  • Context:
    • Cabinet Approves Changes in Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana to address the existing challenges in implementation.
  • Changes approved:
    • Allocation of business to Insurance Companies to be done for three years.
    • Central Subsidy under PMFBY/RWBCIS to be limited for premium rates upto 30% for unirrigated areas/crops and 25% for irrigated areas/crops.
    • Districts having 50% or more irrigated areas will be considered as irrigated areas/districts.
    • Flexibility to States/UTs to implement the Scheme with the option to select any or many additional risk covers/features like prevented sowing, localized calamity, mid-season adversity, and post-harvest losses.
    • For estimation of crop losses/admissible claims, the Two-Step Process to be adopted based on defined Deviation matrix” using specific triggers like weather indicators, satellite indicators, etc. for each area along with normal ranges and deviation ranges.
    • Enrolment under the Scheme to be made voluntary for all farmers.
    • Central Share in Premium Subsidy to be increased to 90% for the North Eastern States from the existing sharing pattern of 50:50.
  • Benefits:
    • With these changes, it is expected that farmers would be able to manage risk in agriculture production in a better way and will succeed in Stabilizing the farm income.
    • Further, it will increase coverage in the northeastern region enabling farmers of NER to manage their agricultural risk in a better way.
    • These changes will also enable quick and accurate yield estimation leading to faster claims settlement.
  • Background:
    • Under the PMFBY, which was launched in February 2016 by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, it is mandatory for loanee farmers to take insurance cover under this scheme. Currently, 58 percent of the total farmers are loanees.
    • Various farmers’ bodies and states were raising some concerns about this.
  • About PMFBY:
    • Launched in 2016.
    • Merged schemes include the National Agricultural Insurance Scheme (NAIS) and the Modified National Agricultural Insurance Scheme (MNAIS).
    • It aims to reduce the premium burden on farmers and ensure early settlement of crop assurance claim for the full insured sum.
  • Coverage:
    • The Scheme covers all Food & Oilseeds crops and Annual Commercial/Horticultural Crops for which past yield data is available and for which requisite number of Crop Cutting Experiments (CCEs) are being conducted under General Crop Estimation Survey (GCES).
  • Premium:
    • 2% for Kharif crops.
    • 1.5% for Rabi crops.
    • 5% for commercial and horticultural crops.

Farmers Producer Organisations

  • Context:
    • Prime Minister Narendra Modi will launch 10,000 Farmers Producer Organisations (FPOs) all over the country, on 29 February, in Chitrakoot, Uttar Pradesh.
  • About FPOs:
    • It is a Producer Organisation (PO) where the members are farmers. Small Farmers’ Agribusiness Consortium (SFAC) is providing support for the promotion of FPOs.
    • FPOs help in the collectivization of such small, marginal and landless farmers in order to give them the collective strength to deal with such issues.
    • Members of the FPO will manage their activities together in the organization to get better access to technology, input, finance and market for faster enhancement of their income.
  • Support by the Government:
    • The government has launched a new dedicated Central Sector Scheme titled “Formation and Promotion of Farmer Producer Organizations (FPOs)” with a clear strategy and committed resources to form and promote 10,000 new FPOs.
  • What are the essential features of a PO?
    • It is formed by a group of producers for either farm or non-farm activities.
    • It is a registered body and a legal entity.
    • Producers are shareholders in the organization.
    • It deals with business activities related to the primary produce/product.
    • It works for the benefit of the member producers.
    • A part of the profit is shared amongst the producers.
    • The rest of the surplus is added to its owned funds for business expansion.

Yellow Rust

  • Context:
    • Yellow Rust was recently detected in wheat crops in parts of Punjab and Haryana.
  • About:
    • It is a disease that appears as yellow stripes of powder or dust on leaves and leaf sheaths of the wheat crop.
  • Occurrence:
    • This occurs when the rust colonies in the leaves drain the carbohydrates from the plant and reduce the green leaf area.
    • Rain, dew, and fog favor the disease’s development.
  • Spread:
    • The disease can spread rapidly under congenial conditions and affects crop development, and eventually the yield.
    • Yield due to the disease can be affected by between 5 and 30 percent.
  • Where else is it observed in India?
    • In India, it is a major disease in the Northern Hill Zone and the North-Western Plain Zone and spreads easily during the onset of cool weather and when wind conditions are favorable.
  • Disease management:
    • Breeding resistant varieties are the most cost-effective method to control this rust.
    • These resistance genes, however, have become ineffective due to the acquisition of virulence to that particular resistance gene rendering the variety susceptible.

Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK)

  • Context:
    • 11th National Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK) Conference was recently inaugurated.
  • About KVKs-, “farm science center”:
    • A Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK) is an agricultural extension center in India.
    • Usually associated with a local agricultural university, these centers serve as the ultimate link between the Indian Council of Agricultural Research and farmers, and aim to apply agricultural research in a practical, localized setting.
    • All KVKs fall under the jurisdiction of one of the 11 Agricultural Technology Application Research Institutes (ATARIs) throughout India.
  • Activities:
    • KVKs provide several farm support activities like providing technology dissemination to farmers, training, awareness, etc.
  • To achieve these, KVKs undertake:
    • Farm advisory service.
    • Training programme for different categories of people.
    • Training programme for the extension functionaries.
    • Front line demonstration.
    • On-farm testing.

Infrastructure:-

Vadhavan port and landlord model

  • Context:
    • The Union Cabinet has approved a proposal to set up a major port at Vadhavan near Dahanu in Maharashtra with a total cost of ₹65,545 crores.
  • Key facts:
    • This will be the 13th major port in India.
    • With the development of this port, India will become one of the countries in the top-10 container ports in the world.
    • A special purpose vehicle (SPV) will be formed with Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT) as the lead partner, with equity participation equal to or more than 50% to implement the project.
    • The port will be developed on the landlord model.
  • How many major ports are there in India currently?
    • Currently, India has 12 major ports at Deendayal (erstwhile Kandla), Mumbai, JNPT, Mormugao, New Mangalore, Cochin, Chennai, Kamarajar (earlier Ennore), VO Chidambaranar, Visakhapatnam, Paradip and Kolkata (including Haldia).
  • What is the landlord model?
    • In the landlord port model, the publicly governed port authority acts as a regulatory body and as a landlord while private companies carry out port operations—mainly cargo-handling activities.
    • Here, the port authority maintains ownership of the port while the infrastructure is leased to private firms that provide and maintain their own superstructure and install own equipment to handle cargo.
    • In return, the landlord port gets a share of the revenue from the private entity.
    • The role of the landlord port authority would be to carry out all public sector services and operations such as the award of bids for cargo terminals and dredging.
  • Need:
    • Currently, most major port trusts in India carry out terminal operations as well, resulting in a hybrid model of port governance.
    • The involvement of the port authorities in terminal operations leads to a conflict of interest and works against objectivity.
    • The neutrality of the landlord port authority is a basic requirement for fair competition between port service providers, particularly the terminal operators.

Major Port Authority Bill, 2020

  • Context:
    • The Cabinet has given its nod to Major Ports Authority Bill that will replace a 1963 law governing country’s 12 major ports.
  • Background:
    • At present, the ports are governed by a ports law of 1963.
    • The major port sector has not seen the required level of fixed assets creation to pare the country’s high logistic costs owing to legacy issues including the Tariff Authority for Major Ports (TAMP)’s archaic regulatory grip.
  • Overview of the Bill:
    • The proposed law is aimed at enhancing the overall efficiencies of the ports.
    • Now ‘major ports’ will get to determine the tariffs for various port-related services as well as the terms for private developers who team up with them.
    • Every port will now be governed by a Port Authority which will have powers to fix reference tariffs for various port services.
    • The Bill also proposes the creation of an adjudicatory board at the apex level for review of port authority’s decisions. It will have the mandate to resolve the disputes between port authorities and the PPP operators.
  • Major Ports in India:
    • India has 12 major ports — Deendayal (erstwhile Kandla), Mumbai, JNPT, Marmugao, New Mangalore, Cochin, Chennai, Kamarajar (earlier Ennore), V O Chidambarnar, Visakhapatnam, Paradip and Kolkata (including Haldia).

National Technical Textiles Mission

  • Context:
    • The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) has approved the setting up of a National Technical Textiles Mission at a total outlay of ₹1,480 Crore.
  • Aim:
    • To position the country as a global leader in technical textiles and increase the use of technical textiles in the domestic market.
  • About:
    • The Mission will be implemented for four years from 2020-2021 and will have four components:
      • The first component will focus on research and development and innovation and will have an outlay of ₹1,000 crores. The research will be at both, fiber level and application-based in geo, agro, medical, sports and mobile textiles, and development of bio-degradable technical textiles.
      • The second component will be for promotion and development of the market for technical textiles. The Mission will aim at taking domestic market size to $40 billion to $50 billion by 2024.
      • The third component will focus on export promotion so that technical textile exports from the country reach from the ₹14,000 crores now to ₹20,000 crores by 2021-2022 and ensure 10% average growth every year till the Mission ends.
      • The last component will be on education, training and skill development.
  • About technical textiles:
    • Technical textiles are defined as textile materials and products manufactured primarily for their technical performance and functional properties rather than aesthetic and decorative characteristics.
    • Technical textiles include textiles for automotive applications, medical textiles, geotextiles, agro textiles, and protective clothing.

Mission Purvodaya: Accelerated Development of Steel Sector

  • Context:
    • A workshop on “Enabling Procedures for Increase of Steel Usage for the Growth of Economy” was organised by the Ministry of Steel in partnership with the Government of Japan and Confederation of Indian Industries (CII).
  • About:
    • The Eastern belt has the potential to add more than 75% of the country’s incremental steel capacity. In India’s march towards a $5 trillion economy, the eastern states can play a major role where the steel sector can become the catalyst.
    • It is expected that out of the 300 MT capacity by 2030-31, over 200 MT can come from this region alone, driven by Industry 4.0.
    • Earlier, Japan and India have also launched the India Japan Steel Dialogue to ensure sustainable growth of the steel sector. Iron ore exports from India, particularly Odisha, helped Japan in becoming a leading economic power.
  • Mission Purvodaya
    • It was launched in 2020 for the accelerated development of eastern India through the establishment of an integrated steel hub in Kolkata, West Bengal.
    • The focus will be on eastern states of India (Odisha, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, West Bengal) and northern part of Andhra Pradesh which collectively hold ~80% of the country’s iron ore, ~100% of coking coal and significant portion of chromite, bauxite and dolomite reserves.
    • The Integrated Steel Hub would focus on 3 key elements:
    • Capacity addition through easing the setup of Greenfield steel plants.
    • Development of steel clusters near integrated steel plants as well as demand centres.
    • Transformation of logistics and utilities infrastructure which would change the socio-economic landscape in the East.
    • The objective of this hub would be to enable swift capacity addition and improve overall competitiveness of steel producers both in terms of cost and quality.

Renewable Energy Management Centre (NR-REMC)

  • Context:
    • Recently, the Northern Region Renewable Energy Management Centre (NR-REMC) was inaugurated at a function in New Delhi.
  • About Renewable Energy Management Centers (REMCs):
    • They are equipped with Artificial Intelligence based Renewable Energy (RE) forecasting and scheduling tools.
    • They provide greater visualization and enhanced situational awareness to the grid operators. 
    • Renewal energy supply can be seasonal (wind) or limited to some hours in the day (solar). It disturbs the power grid, used to seamless supply of thermal power.
    • Need: The Government of India’s target of 175 GW Renewable Energy (RE) capacity by 2022 driving accelerated RE penetration poses challenges to the grid management due to intermittent and variable nature of RE generation. 
    • The Government of India had approved the implementation of the REMCs as a Central Scheme and had mandated POWERGRID, a Maharatna Central Public Sector Enterprise (CPSE) under the Ministry of Power as an Implementing Agency.
    • Presently, 55 GW of Renewable (Solar and Wind) is being monitored through the eleven REMCs, located in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Rajasthan.

Railways:-

Railways’ corporate train model

  • Context:
    • The Kashi Mahakal Express is the country’s third ‘corporate’ train after the two Tejas Express trains between Delhi-Lucknow and Mumbai-Ahmedabad started over the past few months.
  • About Corporate train model:
    • This is a new model being actively pushed by Indian Railways- to ‘outsource’ the running of regular passenger trains to its PSU, the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC).
  • How does the model work?
    • In this model, the corporation takes all the decisions of running the service– fare, food, onboard facilities, housekeeping, complaints, etc.
    • Indian Railways is free from these encumbrances and gets to earn from IRCTC a pre-decided amount, being the owner of the network.
    • This amount has three components- haulage, lease, and custody.
    • Haulage charge includes the use of the fixed infrastructure like tracks, signaling, driver, station staff, traction and pretty much everything needed to physically move the rake.
    • Lease charges on the rake have to be paid as Indian Railways coaches are leased to its financing arm, the Indian Railway Finance Corporation (IRFC).
    • Custody charge has to be paid for keeping the rake safe and sound while it is in the custody of the PSU.
    • IRCTC has to pay Indian Railways a sum total of these three charges, roughly Rs 14 lakh for the Lucknow Tejas runs in a day (up and down) and then factor in a profit over and above this. This money is payable even if the occupancy is below expectations and the train is not doing good business.

Station WiFi Programme

  • Context:
    • Five years after it started the ‘Station’ programme to bring free public Wi-Fi to 400 busiest railway stations in India, Google has decided to gradually wind down the service globally.
    • However, users in India will be able to continue using the existing facilities at the over 400 stations via RailTel, Google’s partner in India for the programme.
  • About:
    • Google believes that better data plans and improving mobile connectivity have made it “simpler and cheaper” for users to get online.
    • India, specifically now has among the cheapest mobile data per GB in the world, with mobile data prices have reduced by 95% in the last 5 years, as per TRAI in 2019. Today, Indian users consume close to 10 GB of data, each month, on average.
    • Besides the Indian government’s continuous impetus for internet penetration through the Digital India programme, private sector initiatives such as Vodafone’s SuperWi-fi coupled with the entry of Reliance Jio 4G services have drastically brought down the cost of internet subscription.
    • This has been instrumental in the growth of internet users in India.
    • Above all, the challenge of varying technical requirements and infrastructure among partners across countries has also made it difficult for the Station to scale and be sustainable.
  • Background:
    • The programme was kick-started in India in 2015 as a partnership between Google, Indian Railways and RailTel to bring fast, free public WiFi to over 400 of the busiest railway stations by mid-2020.
    • However, the company crossed that number by June 2018, following which more locations were added across the country in partnership with telecommunication companies, ISPs, and local authorities.

National Rail Transportation Institute (NRTI)

  • Context:
    • Railway Board of India and the University of Birmingham have announced the launch of a joint masters programme in Railway Systems Engineering and Integration in the academic year 2020-2021 by the National Rail Transportation Institute (NRTI).
  • Significance:
    • This initiative will benefit NRTI students by providing them access to world-class expertise and facilities in railway systems at the Birmingham Centre for Railway Research and Education (BCRRE).
    • BCRRE will also gain valuable insights into India’s transport sector and get involved in related research and development issues in India.
  • Background:
    • The initiative has been taken under the Centre of Excellence for Next-Generation Transportation Systems which was set up by an MoU between the NRTI and the University of Birmingham in 2019.
  • About National Rail Transport Institute:
    • It was set up as a deemed to be university and has been operational since 2018 and is India’s first to focus on transport-related education, multidisciplinary research, and training.
    • It is situated in Vadodara, Gujrat.
  • Functions:
    • It is specifically established to create a resource pool of best-in-class professionals for the railway and transportation sector through institutional partnerships for collaborating on developing curriculum, research projects, and executive education programs.
    • It aims to develop interdisciplinary Centres of Excellence, bringing together academicians, scientists and engineers from various backgrounds and plans to leverage its academic and industry partnerships and collaborations.

Chatbot ASKDISHA

  • Context:
    • The Indian Railways Catering & Tourism Corporation Limited (IRCTC) has powered voice-enabled ASKDISHA Chatbot to converse with customers in the Hindi language.
    • The customers can now ask queries to ASKDISHA in Hindi by voice as well as text.
  • What is ASKDISHA Chatbot?
    • It is an Artificial Intelligence-based chatbot. It is a special computer programme designed to simulate conversations with users, especially over the internet.
    • Initially launched in the English language in October 2018. Developed by Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC).
    • The aim is to resolve queries of railway passengers over the internet pertaining to various services offered.
  • Services provided:
    • Since its initial launch, passengers seeking help on the reservation of tickets, cancellation, inquiry of refund status, fare, PNR search, train running status, inquiry about retiring rooms and tourism products have been benefited.

Web Portal And App:-

SPICe+ web form

  • Context:
    • As part of the Government of India’s Ease of Doing Business (EODB) initiatives, the Ministry of Corporate Affairs has notified a new Web Form christened ‘SPICe+’ (pronounced ‘SPICe Plus’) replacing the existing SPICe form.
  • About:
    • SPICe+ would be an integrated Web Form.
    • It would offer 10 services by 3 Central Government Ministries & Departments (Ministry of Corporate Affairs, Ministry of Labour & Department of Revenue in the Ministry of Finance) and One State Government (Maharashtra).
    • It aims to save as many procedures, time and cost for Starting a Business in India and would be applicable for all new company incorporations.
    • The new web form would facilitate onscreen filing and real-time data validation for the seamless incorporation of companies.

Ease 3.0 for tech-enabled banking

  • Context:
    • FM Nirmala Sitharaman launches Ease 3.0 for tech-enabled banking. This move is expected to change the customer’s experience at the Public Sector Banks (PSBs).
  • About:
    • Ease (Enhanced Access and Service Excellence) 3.0 reform agenda aims at providing smart, tech-enabled public sector banking for aspiring India.
    • New features that customers of public sector banks may experience under EASE 3.0 reforms agenda include facilities like:
    • Palm Banking for “End-to-end digital delivery of financial service”.
    • “Banking on Go” via EASE banking outlets at frequently visited spots like malls, stations, complexes, and campuses.
  • The idea behind EASE 3.0 agenda:
    • The Ministry has the idea of establishing paperless and digitally-enabled banking at places where people visit the most.
    • The government aims to focus on digitalization in the Public Sector Banks (PSBs) among themes that include responsible banking, PSBs as Udyami Mitra, customer responsiveness, credit take-off, and deep financial inclusions.
  • Background:
    • PSB Reforms EASE Agenda is a common reform agenda for PSBs aimed at institutionalizing clean and smart banking.
    • It was launched in January 2018, and the subsequent edition of the program ― EASE 2.0 built on the foundation laid in EASE 1.0 and furthered the progress on reforms.
    • In EASE 2.0, the government had proposed pushing liquidity in the public sector banks, reconstituting the management committee and possible mergers among the ideal partners in the Indian banking sector.

Market Intelligence and Early Warning System (MIEWS) Web Portal

  • Context:
    • The MIEWS Dashboard and Portal is a ‘first-of-its-kind’ platform for ‘real-time monitoring’ of the prices of tomato, onion, and potato (TOP).
  • About:
    • It also generates alerts for intervention under the terms of the Operation Greens (OG) scheme.
    • The portal would disseminate all relevant information related to TOP crops such as prices and arrivals, area, yield and production, imports and exports, crop calendars, crop agronomy, etc. in an easy to use visual format.
    • The MIEWS system is designed to provide advisories to farmers to avoid cyclical production as well as an early warning in situations of gluts.

Environment

Species in news:

Name Of Species: Information:

Pangolin

  • Context:
    • Pangolins could be responsible for the spread of the deadly coronavirus in China, scientists have said after they found the genome sequence separated from the endangered mammals 99 % identical to that from infected people.
    • Birds and animals are in the center of the debate about how the virus originated.
    • In the beginning, snakes were blamed for the virus.
    • Chinese health experts later contended that the virus originated from bats, but whether there are more intermediate carriers between bats and humans requires further investigation.
    • The virus was believed to have been spread from Wuhan’s Hunan seafood wholesale market.
  • About Pangolin:
    • It is the only scaly mammal on the planet.
    • According to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), it is also the most illegally traded vertebrate within its class (Mammalia).
  • Protection Status:
    • Chinese pangolin has been listed as “critically endangered” by UN-affiliated International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List.
    • Indian pangolin (Manis crassicaudata) has been listed as “endangered” in IUCN Red List.
    • It is also a Schedule I category protected animal, under the Wildlife Protection Act (1972).

Urban bent-toed gecko

  • About:
    • It is a new species of lizard discovered in Guwahati, Assam.
    • Urbanization is a major threat to the survival of geckos.
  • Scientific name:
    • Cyrtodactylus urbanus).

Asian Elephant

  • Context:
    • The Great Indian Bustard, Asian Elephant, and Bengal Florican have been included in Appendix I of the UN Convention on Migratory Species.
    • This was done at the ongoing 13th Conference of the Parties (COP) to the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) in Gandhinagar (Gujarat).
  • About:
    • Found in India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, and Myanmar.
  • IUCN status:
    • Endangered.
    • It is also listed in Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and Schedule I of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.

Great Indian Bustard

  • Context:
    • The Great Indian Bustard, Asian Elephant, and Bengal Florican have been included in Appendix I of the UN Convention on Migratory Species.
    • This was done at the ongoing 13th Conference of the Parties (COP) to the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) in Gandhinagar (Gujarat).
  • About:
    • It is one of the heaviest flying birds in the world.
    • Its largest populations are found in the Indian state of Rajasthan.
    • State bird of Rajasthan.
  • IUCN status:
    • It is listed as ‘Critically Endangered’ on the IUCN Red List.
    • It is also listed in Appendix I of CITES andSchedule I of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.

Bengal Florican

  • Context:
    • The Great Indian Bustard, Asian Elephant, and Bengal Florican have been included in Appendix I of the UN Convention on Migratory Species.
    • This was done at the ongoing 13th Conference of the Parties (COP) to the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) in Gandhinagar (Gujarat).
  • About:
    • In India, it is found in Uttar Pradesh, Assam, and Arunachal Pradesh.
  • IUCN status:
    • It has been listed as ‘Critically Endangered’ on the IUCN Red List.
    • The bird is listed under Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act of India, 1972 and Appendix I of CITES.

Olive Ridley turtles

  • Context:
    • Preparations are almost done at the Rushikulya rookery on the Odisha coast to welcome and protect olive ridley turtles during mass nesting.
  • Security:
    • To provide security to mother turtles as well as the eggs from human and predator intervention, the forest department is erecting an over 5-km-long fence of the metal net from Gokharkuda to Bateswar. This stretch is the most preferred location for mass nesting in the Rushikulya rookery.
  • Key facts:
    • The Olive Ridleys are the second smallest and most abundant of all sea turtles found in the world.
    • They inhabit warm waters of the Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian Oceans.
    • It is well known for its arribadas or annual mass nestings.
  • IUCN Status:
    • Vulnerable.
    • Protection under CITES Appendix 1 and the Indian Wildlife Protection Act of 1972.
  • Operation Kachhapa:
    • Launched by the Wildlife Protection Society of India in collaboration with the Orissa State Forest Department and the Wildlife Society of Odisha and other local NGOs.

Craspedotropis gretathunbergae

  • Context:
    • It is a new species of land snail discovered recently.
  • About:
    • It is named in honor of Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg.
    • The new species come from tropical rainforests and are sensitive to drought and extreme temperatures.
    • The snails were found during a field course conducted by Taxon Expeditions at Kuala Belalong Field Studies Centre in Brunei.
  • Features:
    • The two-millimeter-long snails have dark grey tentacles, a pale body and a concave shell, whose outer part is greenish-brown.

 Henneguya salminicola

  • Context:
    • It is a non-oxygen breathing animal discovered recently.
  • About:
    • It is a fewer-than-10-celled microscopic parasite that lives in the salmon muscle.
    • It relies on anaerobic respiration (through which cells extract energy without using oxygen).
    • It does not have a mitochondrial genome.
    • Mitochondria is the “powerhouse” of the cell, which captures oxygen to make energy.

Hornbill of India

  • About:
    • India is home to nine species of hornbills.
    • The northeastern region has the highest diversity of hornbill species within India.
    • Five hornbill species are found here, with the northeast being the exclusive habitat for three of them, the wreathed hornbill (Aceros undulatus), the brown hornbill (Anorrhinus austeni) and the Rufous-necked hornbill (Aceros nipalensis).
    • The other two species, the great hornbill (Buceros bicornis) and the Oriental pied hornbill (Anthracoceros albirostris) also occur in other parts of India.
    • The great hornbill is the state bird of Arunachal Pradesh and Kerala. It is ‘vulnerable’ under the IUCN Red List.
    •  The Hornbill festival celebrated in Nagaland is named after the bird – Hornbill which is the most revered and admired bird for the Nagas.

Pollution And Conservation:-

Global conservation list

  • Context:
    • The COP is scheduled to be organized from February 17 to 22 in Gandhinagar, Gujarat.
    • India has been designated the President of the COP for the next three years.
  • About CMS:
    • In order to protect the migratory species throughout their range countries, a Convention on Conservation of Migratory Species (CMS), has been in force, under the aegis of the United Nations Environment Programme.
    • Also referred to as the Bonn Convention, it provides a global platform for the conservation and sustainable use of migratory animals and their habitats and brings together the States through which migratory animals pass, the Range States, and lays the legal foundation for internationally coordinated conservation measures throughout a migratory range.
  • Classification of species:
    • Under this convention, migratory species threatened with extinction are listed on Appendix I and Parties strive towards strictly protecting these animals, conserving or restoring the places where they live, mitigating obstacles to migration and controlling other factors that might endanger them.
    • Migratory species that need or would significantly benefit from international co-operation are listed in Appendix II of the Convention.
    • CMS is only a global and UN-based intergovernmental organization established exclusively for conservation and management of terrestrial, aquatic and avian migratory species throughout their range.
  • What are migratory species? Why protect them?
    • Migratory species are those animals that move from one habitat to another during different times of the year, due to various factors such as food, sunlight, temperature, climate, etc.
    • The movement between habitats can sometimes exceed thousands of miles/kilometers for some migratory birds and mammals.
    • A migratory route can involve nesting and also requires the availability of habitats before and after each migration.

Jal Jeevan Mission

  • Context:
    • Rajasthan government has sought changes in the norms for Central assistance for the Jal Jeevan Mission (JJM) in order to reduce the financial burden on the States.
    • The flagship Central scheme at present stipulates the share in a 50:50 ratio.
  • About Jal Jeevan Mission:
    • The Mission was announced in August 2019.
    • The chief objective of the Mission is to provide a piped water supply (Har Ghar Jal) to all rural households by 2024.
  • Key features:
    • It aims to create local infrastructure for rainwater harvesting, groundwater recharge, and management of household wastewater for reuse in agriculture.
    • The Jal Jeevan Mission is set to be based on various water conservation efforts like point recharge, desilting of minor irrigation tanks, use of greywater for agriculture and source sustainability.
    • The Jal Jeevan Mission will converge with other Central and State Government Schemes to achieve its objectives of sustainable water supply management across the country.

Northern European Enclosure Dam (NEED)

  • Context:
    • A mammoth Northern European Enclosure Dam (NEED) has been proposed to protect millions of people and important economic regions of 15 Northern European Countries from rising seas as a result of climate change.
  • About the proposed dam:
    • Two dams of a combined length of 637 km will be constructed.
    • The first dam will be built between northern Scotland and western Norway, measuring 476 km and with an average depth of 121 m and a maximum depth of 321 m.
    • The second dam will be built between France and southwestern England, of length 161 km, and an average depth of 85 m and a maximum depth of 102 m.
  • Costs involved:
    • Researchers have estimated the total costs associated with NEED at between €250 billion and €550 billion.
    • If construction is spread over a 20-year period, this will work out to an annual expense of around 0.07%-0.16% of the GDP of the 15 Northern European countries that will be involved.
  • Implications:
    • The construction will “heavily impact” marine and terrestrial ecosystems inside and outside the enclosure, will have social and cultural implications, and affect tourism and fisheries.
  • Need for such measures:
    • Such protection efforts are required if mitigation efforts fail to limit sea-level rise.
    • And, separating the North and Baltic Seas from the Atlantic Ocean may be the “most viable option” to protect Northern Europe against unstoppable sea-level rise (SLR).
    • While NEED may appear to be “overwhelming” and “unrealistic”, it could be “potentially favorable” financially and in scale when compared with alternative solutions to fight SLR.
  • Way ahead:
    • Such mega-enclosures could potentially be considered in other regions of the world, including the Persian Gulf, the Mediterranean Sea, the Baltic Sea, the Irish Sea, and the Red Sea.

Bhutan’s new tourism fee

  • Context:
    • Bhutan will now impose a “sustainable development fee” (SDF) on Indian, Bangladeshi and Maldivian tourists.
    • The new levy, however, will not be applicable across Bhutan. To promote tourism in the less popular Eastern Bhutan, the SDF will not be levied on tourists traveling to 11 districts in the region.
    • The decision has been taken to protect the ecology of the country, amid a spike in visitors from India.
  • Background:
    • So far, tourists from the three countries had been exempt from a levy that other nationals had to pay — $250 per person per day during the peak season, and $200 per person per day during the low season. The low season is in the winter from December to February, and during the rains from June to August.

Environment:-

Green India Mission

  • Context:
    • A sum of Rs 343.08 crore has been released under the Green India Mission (GIM) for undertaking afforestation activities over an area of 126,916.32 hectares (ha) in 13 states, according to the Economic Survey 2019-20.
  • About Green India Mission:
    • GIM is one of the eight missions launched under the National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC).
    • GIM, launched in February 2014, is aimed at protecting, restoring and enhancing India’s diminishing forest cover and responding to climate change by a combination of adaptation and mitigation measures.
  • Objectives of the Mission:
    • To protect, restore and enhance India’s falling forest cover.
    • To respond to climate change through a combination of adaptation as well as mitigation measures.
    • To increased forest-based livelihood incomes.
    • To enhance annual Carbon sequestration by 50 to 60 million tonnes in the year 2020.
  • Goals:
    • Improvement in quality of forest cover and ecosystem services of forests /non-forests, including moderately dense, open forests, degraded grassland and wetlands (5 m ha).
    • Eco-restoration/afforestation of scrub, shifting cultivation areas, cold deserts, mangroves, ravines and abandoned mining areas (1.8 m ha).
    • Improvement in forest and tree cover in urban/peri-urban lands (0.20 m ha)
    • Improvement in forest and tree cover on marginal agricultural lands/fallows and other non-forest lands under agroforestry /social forestry (3 m ha)
    • Management of public forest/ non-forests areas (taken up under the Mission) by the community institutions
    • Adoption of improved fuelwood-use efficiency and alternative energy devices by project-area households.
    • Diversification of forest-based livelihoods of about 3 million households living in and around forests.

World Wetlands Day 2019

  • Context:
    • World Wetlands Day is celebrated on February 2 each year to mark the Day the Convention on Wetlands was adopted in the Iranian city of Ramsar in 1971.
    • India is a party to the Convention since 1982 and committed to the Ramsar approach of wise use of wetlands.
    • The theme for 2020 is ‘Wetlands and Biodiversity’.
  • Status of wetlands in India:
    • The bad news is that India’s cities have lost 25 ha of wetland for every one sq. km’ increase in a built-up area in the last four decades.
    • The good news is that 10 more wetland sites around India have been added to the Ramsar Convention, rendering them sites of ‘national importance’.
  • Wetlands in India:
    • The country has over 757,000 wetlands with a total wetland area of 15.3 million ha, accounting for nearly 4.7% of the total geographical area of the country.
    • India has 37 Ramsar sites now, covering an area of 1.07 million ha.
    • The latest additions include Maharashtra’s first Ramsar site, the Nandur Madhmeshwar bird sanctuary; three more from Punjab (in Keshopur-Miani, Beas Conservation Reserve and Nangal); and six more from Uttar Pradesh (in Nawabganj, Parvati Agra, Saman, Samaspur, Sandi and Sarsai Nawar).
  • Significance of wetlands:
    • Wetlands provide a wide range of important ecosystem services, such as food, water, groundwater recharge, water purification, flood moderation, erosion control, microclimate regulation, landscape aesthetics and, of course, livelihood opportunities. They are in fact a major source of water and the principal place from which India’s cities receive their freshwater.

Protected Special Agricultural Zone’ (PSAZ)

  • Context:
    • Tamil Nadu CM declares Cauvery Delta as Protected Special Agriculture Zone. A law in this regard will be enacted soon. The protected zone will include Thanjavur, Tiruvarur, Nagapattinam districts and delta regions of Trichy, Ariyalur, Cuddalore, and Pudukkottai.
  • About Protected Agriculture Zone:
    • Declaring as the Protected Special Agriculture Zone ensures that a particular region will not be granted permission for any new projects like those related to hydrocarbons.
    • Only Agro-based Industries would be given permission to be built.
  • Significance:
    • PSAZ is aimed at protecting the Cauvery delta region for the future, fulfilling TN’s food requirements and ensuring the welfare of delta farmers.
    • It has recognized farmer concerns about hydrocarbon exploration and accorded primacy to food security.
  • Need for:
    • The delta, which produces 33 lakh tonnes of grains in 28 lakh acres, has seen multiple protests for a decade over methane, hydrocarbon, oil and natural gas projects, which required the acquisition of fertile lands and well drilling — proposals which triggered fears of groundwater contamination.

Biodiversity management committees (BMC)

  • Context:
    • The National Biodiversity Authority (NBA) is set to tell the National Green Tribunal that it created 243,499 biodiversity management committees (BMC) and 95,525 people’s biodiversity registers (PBR) as of January 2020.
  • Background:
    • NGT is hearing a case on the full implementation of the Biodiversity Act, 2002.
  • About Biodiversity Management Committees (BMC):
    • As per the Biological Diversity Act 2002, BMCs are created for “promoting conservation, sustainable use and documentation of biological diversity” by local bodies across the country.
  • Composition:
    • It shall consist of a chairperson and not more than six persons nominated by the local body, of whom not less than one third should be women and not less than 18% should belong to the Scheduled Castes/ Scheduled Tribes.
    • The Chairperson of the Biodiversity Management Committee shall be elected from amongst the members of the committee in a meeting to be chaired by the Chairperson of the local body.
    • The chairperson of the local body shall have the casting votes in case of a tie.
  • Functions:
    • The main function of the BMC is to prepare People’s Biodiversity Register in consultation with the local people. The Register shall contain comprehensive information on availability and knowledge of local biological resources, their medicinal or any other use or any other.

Red Snow

  • Context:
    • The phenomenon of “red snow” or “watermelon” has been observed over the last few weeks around Ukraine’s Vernadsky Research Base, off the coast of Antarctica’s northernmost peninsula.
  • About:
    • The snow is red because of red-pigmented, microscopic algae called Chlamydomonas nivalis chlamydomonas, which thrives in freezing water as the ice melts.
    • This phenomenon has been known since ancient times but now it raises concerns about climate change.
    • Aristotle is believed to be one of the first to give a written account of red snow, over 2,000 years ago. He attributed the redness of the snow to the color of worms and grub (larva of an insect), which are found in long-lying snow.
    • According to modern-day scientists, it is an algae species, Chlamydomonas nivalis chlamydomonas which exists in the snow in the polar and glacial regions and carries a red pigment to keep itself warm.
    • Algae contain chlorophyll (green pigment) as well as a red carotene layer in their cells which mixes with the green colour to cause snow to look like “raspberry jam”.
    • This layer is also said to protect the algae from ultraviolet radiation.
    • These algae change the snow’s albedo (the amount of light or radiation the snow surface is able to reflect back).
    • The intensity of the redness increases with the dense presence of the algae. The darker tinge leads to more absorption of heat by the snow. Subsequently, the ice melts faster.
    • The melting is good for the microbes that need the liquid water to survive and thrive but it is bad for already melting glaciers.

Science And Technology

Space:-

NASA’s Voyager 2 spacecraft

  • Context:
    • NASA has managed to fix its Voyager-2 probe remotely, almost 11.5 billion miles away from its location.
  • Background:
    • The probe has reportedly been acting in an unexpected manner as it failed to carry out a maneuver as planned on January 25. Moreover, the glitch in the probe was detected by the spacecraft’s fault detection software which was relayed to NASA.
  • About Voyager mission:
    • Launched in the 1970s, and the probes sent by NASA were only meant to explore the outer planets – but they just kept ongoing.
    • Voyager 1 departed Earth on 5 September 1977, a few days after Voyager 2 and left our solar system in 2013.
    • The mission objective of the Voyager Interstellar Mission (VIM) is to extend the NASA exploration of the solar system beyond the neighborhood of the outer planets to the outer limits of the Sun’s sphere of influence, and possibly beyond.
    • The Voyager spacecraft are the third and fourth human spacecraft to fly beyond all the planets in our solar system. Pioneers 10 and 11 preceded Voyager in outstripping the gravitational attraction of the Sun but on February 17, 1998, Voyager 1 passed Pioneer 10 to become the most distant human-made object in space.
  • Accomplishments so far:
    • Voyager 2 is the only probe ever to study Neptune and Uranus during planetary flybys.
    • It is the second man-made object to leave our planet.
    • Voyager 2 is the only spacecraft to have visited all four gas giant planets — Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune — and discovered 16 moons, as well as phenomena like Neptune’s mysteriously transient Great Dark Spot, the cracks in Europa’s ice shell, and ring features at every planet.
  • What is Interstellar space?
    • Scientists use the heliopause to mark where interstellar space begins, although depending on how you define our solar system it can stretch all the way to the Oort Cloud, which begins 1,000 times farther away from the sun than Earth’s orbit.
  • The Heliosphere:
    • The heliosphere is a bubble around the sun created by the outward flow of the solar wind from the sun and the opposing inward flow of the interstellar wind.
    • That heliosphere is the region influenced by the dynamic properties of the sun that are carried in the solar wind–such as magnetic fields, energetic particles, and solar wind plasma.
    • The heliopause marks the end of the heliosphere and the beginning of interstellar space.

Solar Orbiter Mission

  • Context:
    • Solar Orbiter mission was launched recently.
    • The mission is a collaboration between ESA (the European Space Agency) and NASA.
    • The spacecraft was launched from Cape Canaveral on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket.
  • About Solar Orbiter:
    • Solar Orbiter is a mission dedicated to solar and heliospheric physics.
    • It was selected as the first medium-class mission of ESA’s Cosmic Vision 2015-2025 Programme.
    • This is the first mission that will provide images of the sun’s north and south poles using a suite of six instruments on board that will capture the spacecraft’s view.
    • It is a seven-year mission and will come within 26 million miles of the sun.
    • It will be able to brave the heat of the sun because it has a custom titanium heat shield coated in calcium phosphate so that it can endure temperatures up to 970 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Objectives:
    • Solar Orbiter will be used to examine how the Sun creates and controls the heliosphere, the vast bubble of charged particles blown by the solar wind into the interstellar medium.
    • The spacecraft will combine in situ and remote sensing observations to gain new information about the solar wind, the heliospheric magnetic field, solar energetic particles, transient interplanetary disturbances, and the Sun’s magnetic field.
  • Significance:
    • Understanding the sun’s magnetic field and solar wind are key because they contribute to space weather, which impacts Earth by interfering with networked systems like GPS, communications and even astronauts on the International Space Station.
    • The sun’s magnetic field is so massive that it stretches beyond Pluto, providing a pathway for the solar wind to travel directly across the solar system.
  • Journey ahead:
    • It will take Solar Orbiter about two years to reach its highly elliptical orbit around the sun.
    • Gravity assists from Earth and Venus will help swing the spacecraft out of the ecliptic plane, or the space that aligns with the sun’s equator, so it can study the sun’s poles from above and below.
    • The mission will work in tandem with NASA’s Parker Solar Probe, which is currently orbiting the sun on a seven-year mission and just completed its fourth close approach of the star.
  • Background:
    • Solar Orbiter follows the Ulysses spacecraft, another collaboration between ESA and NASA that launched in 1990 and also flew over the sun’s poles.
    • Ulysses completed three passes of the sun before its mission ended in 2009, but its view was limited to what it could see from the sun’s equator.

Very Large Telescope

  • Context:
    • Using the European Space Organisation’s (ESO) Very Large Telescope (VLT), astronomers have noticed the unprecedented dimming of Betelgeuse, a red supergiant star (over 20 times bigger than the Sun) in the constellation Orion.
    • Along with the dimming, the star’s shape has been changing as well, as per recent photographs of the star taken using the VISIR instrument on the VLT.
  • What is happening to Betelgeuse and why is it significant?
    • Betelgeuse was born as a supermassive star millions of years ago and has been “dramatically” and “mysteriously” dimming for the last six months.
    • According to a report in Sky and Telescope, among the brightest nighttime stars, Betelgeuse ranks 10th, but by the last week of December 2019, its brightness had dimmed so low, that the star was ranked as the 21st brightest, “a remarkable decline — and a historic low.”
    • Astronomers do not think that Betelgeuse is dimming because it is going to explode.
    • They have other hypotheses that may explain the reasons for Betelgeuse’s change in shape and dimming.
    • The two scenarios they are working on are cooling of the surface due to exceptional stellar activity or dust ejection towards the earth.
  • About VLT:
    • Location:
      • Atacama Desert, Northern Chile.
    • It is the world’s most advanced optical instrument, consisting of four Unit Telescopes with main mirrors of 8.2m diameter and four movable 1.8m diameter Auxiliary Telescopes.
    • The telescopes can work together, to form a giant ‘interferometer’, the ESO Very Large Telescope Interferometer, allowing astronomers to see details up to 25 times finer than with the individual telescopes.
    • The VLT consists of four individual telescopes. They are generally used separately but can be used together to achieve very high angular resolution.
    • The four separate optical telescopes are known as Antu, Kueyen, Melipal, and Yepun, which are all words for astronomical objects in the Mapuche language. 
  • How does it work? 
    • The light beams are combined in the VLTI using a complex system of mirrors in underground tunnels where the light paths must be kept equal to distances less than 1/1000 mm over a hundred meters.
    • With this kind of precision, the VLTI can reconstruct images with an angular resolution of milliarcseconds, equivalent to distinguishing the two headlights of a car at the distance of the Moon.
    • Individual telescope help see objects that are four billion (four thousand million) times fainter than what can be seen with the unaided eye.

GISAT-1 — Geo Imaging Satellite

  • Context:
    • Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is preparing to launch GISAT-1, a new earth observation satellite, in the first week of March.
    • It will be the first of two planned Indian EO spacecraft to be placed in a geostationary orbit of around 36,000 km.
    • It will apparently be in a fixed spot looking over the Indian continent at all times.
    • It will have high-resolution cameras which will help to monitor any changes in borders and the overall geographical condition of the country, etc.
  • Background:
    • Earth Observation Satellites of ISRO has been successfully able to establish many operational applications in the country. Both at the Central and State level, there is a large number of users who utilize space-based inputs for various purposes.
    • Some of the important missions of ISRO, in terms of the IRS series of satellites, that have enabled unique applications of space-based imaging are Cartosat-1 & 2, Resourcesat-1 & 2, Oceans-1 & 2, Risat-1, Megha-Tropiques, SARAL, Scatsat, INSAT series, and host of other satellites.

Aditya- L1 mission

  • Context:
    • Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is preparing to send its first scientific expedition to study the Sun.
    • Named Aditya-L1, the mission, expected to be launched early next year, will observe the Sun from a close distance, and try to obtain information about its atmosphere and magnetic field.
  • About Aditya- L1 mission:
    • It is India’s first solar mission.
    • It will be launched using the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) in XL configuration. The space-based observatory will have seven payloads (instruments) on board to study the Sun’s corona, solar emissions, solar winds and flares, and Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs), and will carry out round-the-clock imaging of the Sun.
  • Objectives:
    • Study the sun’s outermost layers, the corona, and the chromospheres.
    • Collect data about coronal mass ejection, which will also yield information for space weather prediction.
  • Significance of the mission:
    • The data from Aditya's mission will be immensely helpful in discriminating between different models for the origin of solar storms and also for constraining how the storms evolve and what path they take through the interplanetary space from the Sun to the Earth.
  • Position of the satellite:
    • In order to get the best science from the sun, continuous viewing of the sun is preferred without any occultation/ eclipses and hence, Aditya- the L1 satellite will be placed in the halo orbit around the Lagrangian point 1 (L1) of the sun-earth system.
  • What are Lagrangian points and halo orbit?
    • Lagrangian points are the locations in space where the combined gravitational pull of two large masses roughly balances each other.
    • Any small mass placed at that location will remain at constant distances relative to the large masses. T
    • here are five such points in the Sun-Earth system and they are denoted as L1, L2, L3, L4, and L5.
    • A halo orbit is a periodic three-dimensional orbit near the L1, L2 or L3.
  • Why do we study the sun and the solar wind?
    • The sun is the only star we can study up close.
    • By studying this star we live with, we learn more about stars throughout the universe. The sun is a source of light and heat for life on Earth.
    • The more we know about it, the more we can understand how life on Earth developed. It is the source of the solar wind; a flow of ionized gases from the sun that streams past Earth at speeds of more than 500 km per second (a million miles per hour).
    • Disturbances in the solar wind shake Earth’s magnetic field and pump energy into the radiation belts, part of a set of changes in near-Earth space known as space weather.
    • Effects On satellites:
      • Space weather can change the orbits of satellites, shorten their lifetimes, or interfere with onboard electronics.
      • The more we learn about what causes space weather – and how to predict it – the more we can protect the satellites we depend on.
    • Safety and preparedness:
      • The solar wind dominates the space environment.
      • As we send spacecraft and astronauts further and further from home, we must understand this space environment just as early seafarers needed to understand the ocean.

Artemis Program

  • Context:
    • United States space agency National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) announced that it will begin to accept applications for astronauts under its Artemis programme from March 2 to March 31, 2020.
  • Eligibility:
    • The space agency has listed several requirements in order to qualify for training under the Artemis programme:
      • One must be a US citizen and have a master’s degree in a STEM (Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) field from an accredited institution.
      • Candidates must also have completed at least 1,000 hours of pilot-in-command time in jet aircraft or have two years of related experience.
      • Another mandatory requirement is to pass NASA’s long-duration spaceflight physical test.
  • About Artemis:
    • Artemis– Acceleration, Reconnection, Turbulence, and Electrodynamics of Moon’s Interaction with the Sun.
    • It is NASA’s next mission to the Moon.
  • Objective:
    • To measure what happens when the Sun’s radiation hits our rocky moon, where there is no magnetic field to protect it.
    • Artemis was the twin sister of Apollo and the goddess of the Moon in Greek mythology.
  • Significance of the mission:
    • With the Artemis program, NASA will land the first woman and next man on the Moon by 2024.
  • Mission details:
    • NASA’s powerful new rocket, the Space Launch System (SLS), will send astronauts aboard the Orion spacecraft nearly a quarter-million miles from Earth to lunar orbit.
    • Astronauts will dock Orion at the Gateway and transfer to a human landing system for expeditions to the surface of the Moon.
    • They will return to the orbital outpost to board Orion again before returning safely to Earth.
  • Artemis 1, 2 and 3:
    • The agency will fly two missions around the Moon to test its deep space exploration systems.
    • NASA is working toward launching Artemis I, an uncrewed flight to test the SLS and Orion spacecraft together, followed by the Artemis II mission, the first SLS and Orion test flight with the crew.
    • NASA will land astronauts on the Moon by 2024 on the Artemis III mission and about once a year thereafter.
  • Scientific objectives:
    • Find and use water and other critical resources needed for long-term exploration.
    • Investigate the Moon’s mysteries and learn more about our home planet and the universe.
    • Learn how to live and operate on the surface of another celestial body where astronauts are just three days from home.
    • Prove the technologies we need before sending astronauts on missions to Mars, which can take up to three years roundtrip

2020 CD3, A mini-moon

  • Context:
    • Astronomers have observed a small object orbiting Earth, which they have dubbed a 2020 CD3, “mini-moon” or the planet’s “second moon”.
  • Key features:
    • It is actually an asteroid, about the size of a car; its diameter is about 1.9-3.5 m. It is called a Temporarily Captured Object (TCO).
    • And unlike our permanent Moon, the mini-moon is temporary; it will eventually break free of Earth’s orbit and go off in its own way.

Health:-

Yaravirus

  • Context:
    • Researchers have discovered an unusually small virus in a lake in Brazil.
  • About:
    • The virus has been named Yaravirus after ‘Yara’, a water-queen figure in Brazilian mythology.
    • The Yaravirus infects amoeba and has genes that have not been described before, something that could challenge how Deoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA) viruses are classified.
    • DNA viruses are classified based on the protein that makes up their shell, or capsid. The Yaravirus' capsid doesn't resemble any previously known protein.
    • The Yaravirus does not infect human cells.

WHO Naming a Disease

  • Context:
    • On February 11, the World Health Organization officially announced COVID-19 as the name for the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
    • This comes more than 40 days after WHO was alerted by China about a cluster of pneumonia-like cases seen in the city of Wuhan in Hubei province.
  • Background:
    • The WHO had to come up with the name in line with the 2015 guidelines between the global agency, the World Organisation for Animal Health and the Food and Agriculture Organization.
  • What does the name COVID-19 stand for?
    • The “CO” in COVID stands corona, while “VI” is for virus and “D” for the disease.
    • The number 19 stands for the year 2019 when the outbreak was first identified.
  • Why was WHO in a hurry to name the disease?
    • The urgency to assign a name to the disease is to prevent the use of other names that can be “inaccurate or stigmatizing”.
    • People outside the scientific community tend to call a new disease by common names. But once the name gets “established in common usage through the Internet and social media, they are difficult to change, even if an inappropriate name is being used.
    • Therefore, it is important that whoever first reports on a newly identified human disease uses an appropriate name that is scientifically sound and socially acceptable.
  • Why and how did the WHO come up with guidelines to name new diseases?
    • In May 2015, the WHO came up with guidelines on how to name a new disease.
    • The WHO identified the best practices to name new human diseases in consultation and collaboration with the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).
    • The main aim behind this exercise was to “minimize the unnecessary negative impact of disease names on trade, travel, tourism or animal welfare, and avoid causing offense to any cultural, social, national, regional, professional or ethnic groups”.
  • What best practices did the guidelines suggest?
    • According to the guidelines, the name of a new disease should consist of a combination of terms.
    • These terms consist of a generic descriptive term based on clinical symptoms (respiratory), physiological processes (diarrhea), and anatomical or pathological references (cardiac).
    • It can refer to specific descriptive terms such as those who are afflicted (infant, juvenile, and maternal), seasonality (summer, winter) and severity (mild, severe).
    • The name can also include other factual elements such as the environment (ocean, river), causal pathogen (coronavirus) and the year the new disease is first detected with or without mentioning the month.
    • The year is used when it becomes “necessary to differentiate between similar events that happened in different years”.
    • Besides, the WHO has also listed out the terms that should be avoided while naming a new disease.
    • This includes geographic locations, people’s names, species of animal or food, references to culture, population, industry or occupation, and terms that incite undue fear.
  • Background:
    • There are a few disease names that mention the geographic location — cities, countries or regions, where the disease, Zika, etc.
    • Few diseases carry the name of the person who first identified the disease. Chagas disease is named after the Brazilian physician Carlos Chagas, who discovered the disease in 1909.
    • Some diseases carry the name of animals, bird flu (H5N1) and swine flu (H1N1). The 2009 H1N1 pandemic was commonly referred to as swine flu.

Coronavirus Disease Named Covid-19

  • Context:
    • The World Health Organisation (WHO) has named the new coronavirus disease as ‘Covid-19’.
  • About:
    • The new name is taken from the words “corona”, “virus” and “disease”, with 2019 representing the year when it emerged (the outbreak was reported to the WHO on 31st December 2019).
    • The WHO wanted to avoid stigmatizing a country or particular group, so it chose a name that did not refer to a geographical location, an animal, an individual or a group of people.
    • Moreover, the word coronavirus refers to the group of viruses it belongs to, rather than the latest strain.
    • The latest strain has been designated ‘Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2)’ by the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses.
    • The new strain has killed over 1,000 people in China and sickened more than 43,000 others globally.

Classical Swine Fever (CSF)

  • Context:
    • The Indian Institute of Veterinary Research (IVRI) of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) has developed a new vaccine to control classical swine fever.
  • Classical Swine Fever (CSF):
    • Hog Cholera or Classical swine fever (CSF) is a contagious viral disease of domestic and wild swine.
    • It happens due to the viruses that bring viral diarrhea in pigs and ailments in sheep.
    • The disease does not harm humans but all-important precautions are advised to follow.
  • About the vaccine and it’s significance:
    • It is a live attenuated CSF cell culture vaccine (indigenous strain).
    • The indigenously developed vaccine will help in saving rabbits as the currently used vaccine (lapinized CSF vaccine) is produced by sacrificing large numbers of rabbits.
    • Besides, the new vaccine gives immunity for two years as compared to 3 to 6 months of protection under the currently used vaccines.
    • The new vaccine will be a part of the government’s One Health Initiative.

H1N1 infection

  • Context:
    • Five judges of the Supreme Court of India have been affected by Swine Flu which is caused by the H1N1 virus.
  • About Swine flu (H1N1):
    • Also called pig influenza, swine flu, hog flu, and pig flu. It is an infection caused by any one of several types of swine influenza viruses.
    • The swine influenza virus is any strain of the influenza family of viruses that is endemic in pigs. Influenza A (H1N1) virus is the subtype of the influenza A virus that is the most common cause of human influenza.
    • It is an orthomyxovirus that contains glycoproteins haemagglutinin and neuraminidase.
    • Haemagglutinin causes red blood cells to clump together and binds the virus to the infected cell.
    • Neuraminidase is a type of glycoside hydrolase enzyme which helps to move the virus particles through the infected cell and assist in budding from the host cells.
  • Spread and Effects:
    • H1N1 influenza (or swine flu) is a highly contagious acute respiratory disease of pigs caused by type A influenza virus that regularly causes outbreaks of influenza in pigs.
    • Swine flu viruses do not normally infect humans. However, sporadic human infections with swine flu have occurred.
    • Most commonly, these cases occur in people with direct exposure to pigs (e.g., children near pigs at a fair or workers in the swine industry).
    • However, there have been cases of human-to-human spread of swine flu.
  • Treatment consists of antivirals:
    • Typical treatment includes rest, pain relievers and fluids. In some cases, antiviral medication and IV fluids may be required.

Pigmentary disorder

  • Context:
    • Studies to understand the problem of pigmentary disorders are expected to get a major shot in the arm with Wellcome Trust/DBT India Alliance conferring an Intermediate Fellowship Award on Dr. Rajender K. Motiani, Assistant Professor at Faridabad-based Regional Centre for Biotechnology.
    • The award consists of a grant of Rs 3.60 crore for a period of five years.
  • About pigmentary disorders:
    • Physiological pigmentation is a critical defense mechanism by which skin is protected against harmful UV radiation.
    • Inefficient pigmentation predisposes to skin cancers, which are one of the leading causes of cancer-associated deaths worldwide.
    • Further, pigmentary disorders (both hypo and hyper pigmentary) are considered a social stigma and therefore they impart long-term psychological trauma and tremendously hamper mental well-being of patients.

New Technology:-

Quantum computing

  • Context:
    • Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s Union Budget for 2020-21, presented on February 1, 2020, proposed Rs 8,000 crore over five years for National Mission on Quantum Technologies and Applications. 
  • About Quantum Technologies:
    • Quantum technologies comprise quantum computing, quantum communication, quantum optics, quantum information processing, quantum internet, and quantum artificial intelligence.
  • Need for special attention:
    • The interest and excitement about the quantum computer are because of its power to dabble with complex calculations involved in fields like cyber-security which digital computers now deal with.
    • Quantum communications can enhance (cyber) security, provide unique fingerprints and also increase available bandwidth for internet networks.
  • About quantum computers:
    • Quantum computers work by harnessing the properties of quantum mechanics.
    • Quantum computers use logical units called quantum bits, or qubits for short, that can be put into a quantum state where they can simultaneously represent both 0 and 1.
  • Difference between classical and quantum computers?
    • Classical computers process information in a binary format, called bits, which can represent either a 0 or 1.
    • While the bits in a classical computer all operate independently from one another, in a quantum computer, the status of one qubit affects the status of all the other qubits in the system, so they can all work together to achieve a solution.
  • How the result is obtained?
    • While a conventional computer outputs the same answer to a problem every time you run a calculation, the outputs of a quantum computer are probabilistic.
    • That means it does not always produce the same answer. So to use a quantum computer, you have to run a calculation through the system thousands or even millions of times, and the array of outputs converge around the answer that is most likely to be correct.

Purified Terephthalic Acid (PTA)

  • Context:
    • The government has announced that it was abolished in “public interest” an anti-dumping duty that was levied on imports of a chemical called PTA.
  • About PTA:
    • Purified Terephthalic Acid (PTA) is a crucial raw material used to make various products, including polyester fabrics.
    • PTA makes up for around 70-80% of a polyester product and is, therefore, important to those involved in the manufacture of man-made fabrics or their components.
    • This includes products like polyester staple fiber and spun yarn. Some sportswear, swimsuits, dresses, trousers, curtains, sofa covers, jackets, car seat covers and bed sheets have a certain proportion of polyester in them.
  • Implications:
    • Domestic manufacturers of polyester have called the move a huge relief for the industry, claiming they had been fighting to remove the duty for four-and-a-half years.
  • Reason For government's decision:
    • There has been persistent demand that they should be allowed to source that particular product at an affordable rate, even if it means importing it.
    • Easy availability of this “critical input” at competitive prices was desirable to unlock “immense” potential in the textile sector, seen as a “significant” employment generator.
    • The duty had meant importers were paying an extra $27-$160 for every 1,000 kg of PTA that they wanted to import from countries like China, Taiwan, Malaysia, Indonesia, Iran, Korea, and Thailand.
    • Removing the duty will allow PTA users to source from international markets and may make it as much as $30 per 1,000 kg cheaper than now.

Reverse osmosis (RO)

  • Context:
    • The Union Environment Ministry has issued a notification to comply with the NGT order which prohibited the use of reverse osmosis (RO) purifiers in places where total dissolved solids (TDS) in the supplied water are below 500 mg per liter.
    • The NGT had ordered a ban on RO filters on the grounds that they wasted water and that, in the process of removing salts, they often deprived drinking water of essential salts, which could affect the nutritional intake of the people.
  • Osmosis and RO:
    • Osmosis involves ‘a solvent (such as water) naturally moving from an area of low solute concentration, through a membrane, to an area of high solute concentration.
    • A reverse osmosis system applies an external pressure to reverse the natural flow of solvent and so seawater or brackish water is pressurized against one surface of the membrane, causing salt-depleted water to move across the membrane, releasing clean water from the low-pressure side’.
  • Background:
    • Current BIS regulations consider 500 mg/litre—1,200 mg/liter of total dissolved solids, which consist of salts and some organic matter, as acceptable.
  • What are the problems with RO plants?
    • Affects fauna and flora:
      • Hyper salinity along the shore affects plankton, which is the main food for several of these fish species. The high-pressure motors needed to draw in the seawater end up sucking in small fish and life forms, thereby crushing and killing them — again a loss of marine resources.
    • Cost and time:
      • On average, it costs about ₹900 crores to build a 100 MLD-plant and, as the Chennai experience has shown, about five years for a plant to be set up.
    • The energy needed:
      • To remove the salt required, there has to be a source of electricity, either a power plant or a diesel or battery source. Estimates have put this at about 4 units of electricity per 1,000 liters of water.
      • It is estimated that it cost ₹3 to produce 100 liters of potable water.
    • Miscellaneous:
      • Deposition of brine (highly concentrated saltwater) along the shores.
      • Construction of the RO plants required troves of groundwater. Freshwater was sucked out and is replaced by saltwater, rendering it unfit for the residents around the desalination plants.
  • Is RO water healthy?
    • There are concerns that desalinated the RO water may be short of vital minerals such as calcium, magnesium, zinc, sodium, potassium, and carbonates.
    • Most RO plants put the water through a ‘post-treatment’ process whereby salts are added to make TDS around 300 mg/l.
  • Are there technological alternatives?
    • Low-temperature thermal desalination (LTTD) technique :
      • It works on the principle that water in the ocean 1,000 or 2,000 feet below is about 4º C to 8º C colder than surface water.
      • So, salty surface water is collected in a tank and subject to high pressure (via an external power source).
      • This pressured water vapourises and this is trapped in tubes or a chamber. Coldwater plumbed from the ocean depths is passed over these tubes and the vapor condenses into freshwater and the resulting salt diverted away.
    • Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion:
      • It will draw power from the vapor generated as a part of the desalination process.
      • This vapor will run a turbine and thereby will be independent of an external power source. While great in theory, there is no guarantee it will work commercially.
      • For one, this ocean-based plant requires a pipe that needs to travel 50 kilometers underground in the sea before it reaches the mainland.

Kerala’s ban on CFL and filament bulbs 

  • Context:
    • Kerala will impose a ban on the sale of compact fluorescent lamps (CFL) and incandescent (filament) bulbs starting November this year as part of sustainable energy policy.
    • This is in line with the government project of ‘Filament-free Kerala’ envisaged in 2018 as part of the state’s Urja Kerala mission.
  • What is the filament-free Kerala project?
    • It will be implemented by the Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB) and the Energy Management Centre,
    • Consumers in the state can place orders for LED bulbs on the KSEB website in exchange for existing filament bulbs.
    • Nine-watt LED bulbs are being sold at reduced prices by the government to encourage usage. Last year, Peelikode in Kasaragod district became the first panchayat in the country to be completely filament-free.
    • The project is also part of the long-term sustainable energy policy to reduce the dependence on conventional energy sources and instead maximize potential on renewable sources like solar and hydel power.
  • Key differences between LED and CFL:
    • The major difference between the CFL and LED is that in CFL the emission of light is because of the ionization of mercury vapor.
    • The mercury vapour when ionize produces ultraviolet rays. These rays when collides with phosphorous coating tube generate visible light.
    • Whereas in the LED it is because of the PN junction diode. When the forward current applies across the diode, the recombination of the charge carrier takes place. This charge carrier gives energy in the form of heat and light.
  • The rationale behind the ban:
    • The CFL uses mercury vapour which is dangerous for the environment and living beings.
    • Also, it requires additional components like ballast, tungsten tube coated with barium, etc., which increases their cost.
    • The destruction of the LED is easier than the CFL because LED does not have any harmful metal which pollutes the environment.
    • The brightness of LED is more as compared to CFL because LED emits light only in one direction.

Muktoshri- arsenic-resistant rice

  • Context:
    • West Bengal government’s rice research centre has come up with a new variety of rice called Muktoshri that can be grown in arsenic prone areas.
    • It was developed jointly by the Rice Research Station at Chinsurah, coming under West Bengal’s Agriculture Department and the National Botanical Research Institute, Lucknow.
  • Arsenic- Key facts:
    • Arsenic is naturally present at high levels in the groundwater of a number of countries. It is also present in rocks and soils.
    • Arsenic is highly toxic in its inorganic form.
  • Permissible limit:
    • World Health Organization’s provisional guideline value for arsenic in drinking water is 0.01 mg/l (10 μg/l). The permissible limit of arsenic in India in the absence of an alternative source is 0.05 mg/l (50 μg/l).
  • Harmful effects:
    • Contaminated water used for drinking, food preparation and irrigation of food crops pose the greatest threat to public health from arsenic.
    • Long-term exposure to arsenic from drinking-water and food can cause cancer and skin lesions.
    • It has also been associated with cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
    • In utero and early childhood, exposure has been linked to negative impacts on cognitive development and increased deaths in young adults.
  • What’s the difference between organic arsenic and inorganic arsenic?
    • Atoms of arsenic bond with other elements to form molecules — if carbon is one of these elements, then the arsenic compound is an organic compound.
    • If there is no carbon present, then the arsenic compound is in an inorganic compound.
    • Inorganic arsenic is a known human carcinogen — it is this form of arsenic that is linked with increased risks of cancer and other health effects.
  • Background:
    • West Bengal has a high concentration of arsenic in groundwater, with 83 blocks across seven districts having higher arsenic levels than permissible limits.

SyRI- an identification mechanism

  • Context:
    • In a first anywhere in the world, a court in the Netherlands recently stopped SyRI- a digital identification scheme for reasons of exclusion.
  • Implications worldwide:
    • This has a context for similar artificial intelligence systems worldwide, especially at a time when identity, citizenship, and privacy are pertinent questions in India.
  • About SyRI :
    • SyRI (System Risk Indicator) was developed by the Dutch Ministry of Social Affairs developed in 2014 to weed out those who are most likely to commit fraud and receive government benefits.
    • It allowed government agencies to share 17 categories of data about welfare recipients such as taxes, land registries, employment records, and vehicle registrations with a private company.
    • The company, called “The Intelligence Agency”, used an algorithm to analyze data for four cities and calculate risk scores. The selective rollout was conducted in low-income and immigrant neighborhoods, which have a higher number of beneficiaries.
    • Elevated risk scores were sent to relevant government arms, which stores these on government databases for a maximum of two years. The government, in that time period, could open an investigation on the targeted person.
  • Why the Court ruled against it?
    • A Dutch district court ruled against this scheme because of data privacy and human rights concerns.
    • The court said using new technology to control fraud was acceptable, it held SyRI was too invasive and violative of the privacy guarantees given by European Human Rights Law as well as the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation.
    • Legal criticism had mounted on this case of algorithmic governance, alleging that the algorithm would begin associating poverty and immigrant statuses with fraud risk.
    • The court found that opaque algorithmic decision-making puts citizens at a disadvantage to challenge the resulting risk scores.
  • Government’s defence:
    • The Dutch government defended the program in court, saying it prevented abuse and acted as only a starting point for further investigation instead of a final determination.
    • The government also refused to disclose all information about how the system makes its decisions, stating that it would allow gaming of the system.
  • How relevant is this for India?
    • Similar to the Supreme Court’s Aadhaar judgment setting limits on the ID’s usage, the Hague Court attempted to balance social interest with personal privacy.
    • However, the Aadhaar judgment was not regarding algorithmic decision-making; it was about data collection.
    • The ruling is an example of how a data protection regulation can be used against government surveillance. The court ruled that SyRI was violative of principles of transparency and data minimization laid out in their General Data Protection Regulation.

RAISE 2020

  • Context:
    • It is a maiden summit on Artificial Intelligence to spearhead social empowerment, inclusion, and transformation.
  • About:
    • The event named RAISE 2020 ‘Responsible AI for Social Empowerment 2020’ will be held in April in New Delhi.
    • This is India’s first Artificial Intelligence summit to be organized by the Government in partnership with the industry and the academia.
    • The summit will be a global meeting of minds to exchange ideas and charter a course to use AI for social empowerment, inclusion, and transformation in key areas like healthcare, agriculture, education and smart mobility amongst other sectors.

Genome India project

  • Context:
    • The government has cleared an ambitious gene-mapping project, called Genome India Project.
  • Overview of Genome India Project:
    • The Rs 238-crore Genome India Project will involve 20 leading institutions including the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) in Bengaluru and a few IITs.
    • The first stage of the project will look at samples of “10,000 persons from all over the country” to form a “grid” that will enable the development of a “reference genome”.
    • The IISc’s Centre for Brain Research, an autonomous institute, will serve as the nodal point of the project.
  • What is genome sequencing?
    • A genome is an organism’s complete set of DNA, including all of its genes. Genomics is an interdisciplinary field of science focusing on the structure, function, evolution, mapping, and editing of genomes.
    • Genomics also involves the sequencing and analysis of genomes through uses of high throughput DNA sequencing.
    • Advances in genomics have triggered a revolution in discovery-based research and systems biology to facilitate understanding of even the most complex biological systems such as the brain.

Miscellaneous

Exercise And Operation:

Exercise Name:  Operation:
Exercise AJEYA WARRIOR – 2020
  • Context:
    • The fifth edition of the Joint Military Exercise AJEYA WARRIOR – 2020 between India and the United Kingdom will be conducted at Salisbury Plains, the United Kingdom in February 2020.
  • About:
    • The aim of this exercise is to conduct company level joint training with an emphasis on counter-terrorists operations in urban and semi-urban areas.
    • The first edition of the exercise was conducted in 2013 at Belgaum,
Indradhanush
  • Indradhanush is a joint military exercise between the air forces of India and the United Kingdom.
  • The focus of this edition of the exercise, being held in India, is ‘Base Defence and Force Protection’.

Defence And Security:-

Integrated Air Defence Weapon System

  • Context:
    • The U.S. Department of State has approved the potential sale of a $1.867 billion Integrated Air Defence Weapon System (IADWS) to India.
  • About:
    • The Integrated Air Defence Weapon System, also known as the National Advanced Surface to Air Missile System (NASAMS), provides integrated air missile defence and is currently deployed around Washington, DC.
    • The IADWS system includes radar, launchers, targeting, and guidance systems, advanced medium-range air-to-air missile (AMRAAM) and Stinger missiles, and related equipment and support.

National Security Act

  • Context:
    • The NSA has repeatedly come under criticism for the way it is used by the police.
    • As per a Law Commission report from 2001, more than 14 lakh people (14,57,779) were held under preventive laws in India.
  • About National Security Act:
    • It is a stringent law that allows preventive detention for months if authorities are satisfied that a person is a threat to national security or law and order.
    • The person does not need to be charged during this period of detention. The goal is to prevent the individual from committing a crime.
    • It was promulgated on September 23, 1980, during the Indira Gandhi government.
  • As per the National Security Act, the grounds for preventive detention of a person include:
    • Acting in any manner prejudicial to the defence of India, the relations of India with foreign powers, or the security of India.
    • Regulating the continued presence of any foreigner in India or with a view to making arrangements for his expulsion from India.
    • Preventing them from acting in any manner prejudicial to the security of the State or from acting in any manner prejudicial to the maintenance of public order or from acting in any manner prejudicial to the maintenance of supplies and services essential to the community it is necessary so to do.
  • Duration:
    • Under the National Security Act, an individual can be detained without a charge for up to 12 months; the state government needs to be intimated that a person has been detained under the NSA.
    • A person detained under the National Security Act can be held for 10 days without being told the charges against them.
  • Appeal:
    • The detained person can appeal before a high court advisory board but they are not allowed a lawyer during the trial.

National Investigation Agency (NIA)

  • Context:
    • The Delhi High Court has sought response of the Centre and the AAP government on a PIL seeking National Investigation Agency (NIA) probe under the unlawful activities law UAPA into the violence in northeast Delhi over the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA).
  • About NIA:
    • It acts as the Central Counter-Terrorism Law Enforcement Agency.
    • It is empowered to deal with terror-related crimes across states without special permission from the states. Established under the National Investigation Agency Act 2008.
  • Governing Body:
    • Ministry of Home Affairs.
  • Jurisdiction:
    • A State Government may request the Central Government to hand over the investigation of a case to the NIA, provided the case has been registered for the offenses as contained in the schedule to the NIA Act.
    • Central Government can also order NIA to take over the investigation of any scheduled offense anywhere in India.
  • Composition:
    • Officers of the NIA are drawn from the Indian Police Service and Indian Revenue Service.
  • Special NIA Courts:
    • Various Special Courts have been notified by the Central Government of India for the trial of the cases registered at various police stations of NIA under Section 11 and 22 of the NIA Act 2008.
    • Any question as to the jurisdiction of these courts is decided by the Central Government.
    • These are presided over by a judge appointed by the Central Government on the recommendation of the Chief Justice of the High Court with jurisdiction in that region.
    • Supreme Court of India has also been empowered to transfer the cases from one special court to any other special court within or outside the state if the same is in the interest of justice in light of the prevailing circumstances in any particular state.
    • The NIA Special Courts are empowered with all powers of the court of sessions under the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 for a trial of any offense.
    • An appeal from any judgment, sentence or order, not being an interlocutory order, of a Special Court lies to the High Court both on facts and on the law.
    • State Governments have also been empowered to appoint one or more such special courts in their states.

Lockheed Martin helicopters

  • Context:
    • Cabinet Committee on Security clears procurement of 24 US multi-role helicopters for the Indian Navy.
  • About:
    • The 24 Lockheed Martin helicopters will be procured through the foreign military sales (FMS) route from the US government.
    • The multi-role helicopters will be equipped with Hellfire missiles and torpedoes, and are meant to help the Indian Navy track submarines in the Indian Ocean, where China is expanding its presence.

Arms Act,1959 and Arms Rules

  • Context:
    • Amendments in Arms Act, 1959 and Arms Rules, 2016 notified.
  • Overview– key changes:
    • As per the new rules, now International medallists/renowned shooters are allowed to keep additional weapons up to a total of twelve under the exempted category, which earlier was seven.
    • If a shooter is renowned in one event, he/she can keep maximum eight (previously it was four), if a shooter is renowned in two events he/she can keep maximum ten (previously it was seven) and if a shooter is renowned in more than two events, he/she can keep maximum twelve (previously it was seven) firearms under the exempted category.
    • Junior target shooters/aspiring shooters are now allowed to possess two weapons (previously one) of any category in which the person is engaged.
    • Apart from the above exemptions, shooters are entitled to possess two firearms as normal citizens under provisions of the Arms Act, 1959.
    • Similarly, by amending the provision under Rule 40 of the Arms Rules, 2016 the quantity of ammunition that can be purchased by the shooters during the year for the practice has also been increased considerably.
    • Through these amendments, it has also been clarified that no license is required for Indian citizens for acquisitions, possession of small arms falling under the category of curio.
    • However, an appropriate license as prescribed would be required for use or to carry or transport such as small arms.
    • Without the endorsement of such firearms in the prescribed license of the owner, no ammunition shall be sold for their use.
  • About the Arms (Amendment) Bill, 2019:
    • It seeks to enhance the punishment for existing offences like illegal manufacture, sale, transfer, etc.; illegal acquiring, possessing or carrying prohibited arms or prohibited ammunition; and illegal manufacture, sale, transfer, conversion, import, export, etc., of firearms.
    • It also proposes to define new offences and prescribes punishment for them, such as taking away firearms from police or armed forces, involvement in an organized crime syndicate, illicit trafficking including smuggled firearms of foreign make or prohibited arms and prohibited ammunition, use of firearms in a rash and negligent manner in celebratory gunfire endangering human life, etc.
    • It seeks to enhance the period of arms license from three years to five years and also to issue arms license in its electronic form to prevent forgery.

Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation (BEFR)

  • Context:
    • The Mizoram government has sought the revision of the boundary with Assam, based on the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation (BEFR), 1873 and the Inner Line of the Lushai Hills Notification of 1993.
  • About BEFR:
    • The BEFR allows Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Mizoram, and Nagaland not to let non-resident Indians in without an inner-line permit for a temporary stay.
  • Key facts:
    • Mizoram used to be the Lushai Hills district of Assam before being made a Union Territory in 1972 and a State in 1987.
    • Mizoram shares a 123-km border with southern Assam and has been claiming a 509-square mile stretch “occupied” by the neighbouring State.

ICGS Varad

  • Context:
    • The Indian Coast Guard’s Offshore Patrol Vessel, ICGS Varad has been commissioned into service.
  • Key facts:
    • ICGS Varadis the fifth in the series of seven offshore patrol vessels, being constructed by Larsen and Toubro as a part of their 2015 contract with the Union Ministry of Defence.
    • The vessel is the first major defence ship to clear all the sea trials in one single sea sortie, creating a record of sorts in the Indian shipbuilding industry.
    • The ICGS Varadwill be deployed at Paradip in Odisha, under the operational control of the North-Eastern Region’s Coast Guard.
    • ICGS Varad will be deployed for the surveillance of India’s Exclusive Economic Zone.

Pharmaceuticals:-

Uniform Code of Pharmaceuticals Marketing Practices (“UCPMP Code”)

  • Context:
    • Department of Pharmaceuticals (DoP) has yet again “requested companies to abide by the Uniform Code of Pharmaceutical Marketing Practices (UCPMP)”.
  • Background:
    • There have been several instances of breach of the voluntary Uniform Code of Pharmaceutical Marketing Practices (UCPMP) by pharma companies.
    • There has also been a demand from the Indian Medical Association (IMA) and doctors to make it mandatory.
  • About UCPMP Code:
    • It is a voluntary code issued by the Department Of Pharmaceuticals relating to marketing practices for Indian Pharmaceutical Companies and as well medical devices industry.
  • Applicability:
    • At present, the UCPMP Code is applicable to Pharmaceutical Companies, Medical Representatives, Agents of Pharmaceutical Companies such as Distributors, Wholesalers, Retailers, and Pharmaceutical Manufacturer’s Associations.
  • Key features and provisions:
    • No gifts, pecuniary advantages or benefits in kind may be supplied, offered or promised, to persons qualified to prescribe or supply drugs, by a pharmaceutical company or any of its agents.
    • As regards travel facilities, the UCPMP Code prohibits extending travel facility inside the country or outside, including rail, air, ship, cruise tickets, paid vacations, etc., to HealthCare Professionals and their family members for vacation or for attending the conference, seminars, workshops, CME program, etc. as a delegate.
    • The Code also provides that free samples of drugs shall not be supplied to any person who is not qualified to prescribe such a product.
    • Meaning thereby that free samples can only be supplied to persons qualified to prescribe such products.
    • It also prescribes additional conditions that are to be observed while providing samples.
    • Further, as per the UCPMP Code, in order to appoint Medical Practitioners/HCPs as Affiliates there should be written contract, legitimate need for the services must be documented, and criteria for selecting affiliates must be directly related to the identified need.
    • The UCPMP Code also provides that the number of affiliates retained must not be greater than the number reasonably necessary to achieve the identified need and that the compensation must be reasonable and reflect the fair market value of the services provided.

Places in News

 

Place in News: Why In News, And Some Information About the Place:

River Ujh

  • Context:
    • The project is planned to be constructed in Kathua District of J&K on the River Ujh which is a major tributary of River Ravi.
    • The project, after completion, will enhance the utilization of waters of Eastern Rivers allotted to India as per the Indus Water Treaty.
  • About:
    • The Ujh river originates in Kailash mountains (near Bhaderwah hills, part of the Pir Panjal Range) at an altitude of 4,300 meters (14,100 ft).
    • Four streams, Bhini, Sutar, Dunarki and Talan join Ujh at Panjtirthi.

Burhi Dihing river

  • Context:
    • A stretch of the eastern Assam’s Burhi Dihing River was recently on fire for the last two days due to a leakage in the underwater oil pipeline.
  • About:
    • Dihing or Burhi Dihing is a large tributary of the Brahmaputra River in Upper Assam.
    • Originates in the Eastern Himalayas (the Patkai Hills) in Arunachal Pradesh and flows through Tinsukia and Dibrugarh Districts in Assam to its confluence with the Brahmaputra at Dihingmukh.

Chambal River

  • About:
    • Chambal River originates at the Singar Chouri peak in the northern slopes of the Vindhya mountains (Indore, Madhya Pradesh).
    • From there, it flows in the North direction in Madhya Pradesh and then follows a north-easterly direction through Rajasthan.
    • It enters Uttar Pradesh and joins the Yamuna River in Etawah District.
    • It is a rainfed river and its basin is bounded by the Vindhyan mountain ranges and the Aravallis. The Chambal and its tributaries drain the Malwa region of northwestern Madhya Pradesh.
    • Tributaries: Banas, Kali Sindh, Parbati.
    • It is one of the most pollution-free rivers in India.

Singur Dam

  • About:
    • Singur Dam is located in Medak district of Telangana.
    • It was constructed on the Manjeera River in 1989.
    • Manjeera is a tributary of Godavari river.
    • Manjeera river originates in Maharashtra and flows from the states of Karnataka and Telangana.
    • It is a reservoir built for hydroelectric and irrigation purposes.
    • It also serves as a source of drinking water for Hyderabad.
    • The deep waters of the reservoir are home to about 1000 crocodiles.

Yongle Blue Hole (YBH)

  • Context:
    • Carbon more than 8,000 years old lies deep inside a yawning sinkhole in the South China Sea.
  • About YBH:
    • It is the deepest known marine cavern.
    • Located in the Xisha Islands of the South China Sea (SCS).
    • It measures roughly 300 meters from top to bottom.
    • Its waters are mostly isolated from the surrounding ocean and receive little fresh water from rainfall, making it a rare spot to study the chemistry of oxygen-deprived marine ecosystems.

Mt. Aconcagua

  • Context:
    • A 12-year old Mumbai student, Kaamya Karthikeyan has set a record of becoming the youngest in the world to summit Mt. Aconcagua.
  • About Mt. Aconcagua:
    • It is the highest peak of the Andes Mountains in Argentina, South America.
    • It is the highest mountain outside of Asia, with a summit elevation of 6,960.8 meters.
    • The mountain is one of the so-called Seven Summits of the seven continents.

Madhav National Park

  • About:
    • Located in Madhya Pradesh.
    • It was named after Madho Rao Scindia, the Maharaja of Gwalior belonging to the Scindia dynasty of the Marathas.
    • It is a combination of dry deciduous & dry thorn forests.
    • It makes a home for different varieties of antelopes like Nilgai, Chinkara, and Deer, and carnivorous such as leopard, wolf, jackal, fox, wild pig, etc.

Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary (WWS)

  • Context:
    • The Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary (WWS), though home to more than half the number of tigers present in Kerala, may not be notified as a tiger reserve as the proposal lacks public support.
  • About Wayanad wildlife sanctuary:
    • Located in Kerala.
    • It is the second-largest wildlife sanctuary in Kerala.
    • The ‘Status of Tigers in India’ report released last year had estimated the tiger population of Wayanad as between 75 and 80 individuals.
    • The sanctuary is now an integral part of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve.
    • It is bounded by a protected area network of Nagarhole and Bandipur of Karnataka in the northeast, and on the southeast by Mudumalai of Tamil Nadu.

Pakke tiger reserve

  • Context:
    • Arunachal Pradesh State government is planning to build a 692.7 km highway through the Pakke Tiger Reserve (PTR) in East Kameng district.
    • Named the East-West Industrial Corridor, the highway aims to connect Bhairabhunda in West Kameng district and Manmao in Changlang district along Arunachal Pradesh’s border with Assam.
  • About:
    • Pakke Tiger Reserve is also known as Pakhui Tiger Reserve.
    • This Tiger Reserve has won India Biodiversity Award 2016 in the category of ‘Conservation of threatened species’ for its Hornbill Nest Adoption Programme.
    • It is bounded by Bhareli or Kameng River in the west and north, and by Pakke River in the east.
  • Neighbours:
    • Papum Reserve Forest in Arunachal Pradesh, Assam’s Nameri National Park, Doimara Reserve Forest, and Eaglenest Wildlife Sanctuary.
    • The main perennial streams in the area are the Nameri, Khari and Upper Dikorai. West of Kameng River is Sessa Orchid Sanctuary.

Malai Mahadeshwara Wildlife Sanctuary

  • Context:
    • The decks have been cleared to notify the Malai Mahadeshwara Wildlife Sanctuary in Karnataka’s Chamarajanagar district as a tiger reserve.
    • The approval from the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) is expected at any time now.
  • About:
    • The sanctuary presently has about 20 tigers.
    • Once notified, the Chamarajanagar district will have a rare distinction in the country of having three tiger reserves.
    • It already has Bandipur and Biligiri Ranganatha Temple (BRT) Tiger Reserve within its territorial limits.
    • Also, with this, Karnataka will have six tiger reserves, the others being Nagarahole, Bhadra, and Anshi-Dandeli, apart from Bandipur and BRT Tiger Reserves.

Mukurthi National Park

  • Context:
    • Ahead of summer and peak fire season, ‘fire lines’ or ‘fire breaks’, in the Mukurthi National Park (MNP) are being constructed by the Tamil Nadu government.
  • Extent:
    • Mukurthi National Park (MNP) is located in the northwest corner of Tamil Nadu in the Western Ghats.
  • About:
    • It is a part of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve (UNESCO World Heritage Site) along with Mudumalai Wildlife Sanctuary, Bandipur National Park, Nagarhole National Park, Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary and Silent Valley.
  • Keystone Species:
    • The park was created to protect its keystone species, the Nilgiri Tahr.
    • There has been almost a 27% increase in the population of the Tahr in the Nilgiris over the last few years.
  • Forest Type:
    • The park is characterized by montane grasslands and shrublands interspersed with sholas in a high altitude area of high rainfall, near-freezing temperatures and high winds.
  • Peaks:
    • The Park is also home to Mukurthi Peak, one of the highest peaks in the Nilgiri Hills.

Mukundara Hills Tiger Reserve

  • Location:
    • The Mukundra Tiger Reserve (TR) is located near Kota, Rajasthan.
  • About:
    • The park is situated in a valley formed by two parallel mountains viz. Mukundra and Gargola.
    • The 4 rivers (Ramzan, Ahu, Kali, and Chambal) form the boundary of the valley.
    • It is located on the eastern bank of the Chambal River and is drained by its tributaries.
  • Protected Area:
    • The Mukundra Hills was declared a Wildlife Sanctuary in 1955 and a National Park (Mukundra Hills (Darrah) National Park) in 2004.
    • It was notified as a Tiger Reserve (2013) under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 and became the 3rd Tiger Reserve of Rajasthan in the form of the Mukundra Hills Tiger Reserve.
    • Other Tiger Reserves in Rajasthan: Ranthambore and Sariska.

Kaimoor Wildlife Sanctuary

 

  • About:
    • Kaimoor Wildlife Sanctuary lies mostly within Sonbhadra, reaching generally east and west along the Kaimur Range, and extending to the Son river at its eastern end.
    • Sonbhadra is known for its several Cave painting sites found in the Vindhya region.
    • The Lakhania caves are located in the Kaimur ranges and are known for their beautiful ageless rock paintings.
    • These historic paintings are about 4000 years old.
    • It is in Uttar Pradesh
    • Khodwa Pahar or Ghoramangar is another well-known ancient cave painting site.

Nameri Tiger Reserve

  • About:
    • Nameri Tiger Reserve (declared in 1999-2000) is located in the foothills of the eastern Himalayas in the Sonitpur district of the state of Assam.
    • It is on the interstate border with Arunachal Pradesh.
    • The Pakke tiger Reserve of Arunachal Pradesh adjoins it on its north-eastern point.
    • The river Jia-Bhareli (a tributary of Brahmaputra River) with its tributaries, the Nameri, Upper Dikorai, and Bor Dikorai flow through the Reserve.
    • Besides Tiger, the reserve is also home to the sambar, barking deer, wild boar, and bison.

 Idlib

  • Context:
    • The nine-year-old war in Syria is currently raging in the northwestern province of Idlib, with rapidly escalating tensions between government forces of President Bashar al-Assad and the Turkish military.
  • About:
    • Idlib is a city in northwestern Syria, 59 kilometers southwest of Aleppo, which is the capital of the Idlib Governorate.

 

Index in News

 

Name of the Index: Publishing Authority: Performance and Facts:
National Index
State of India’s Birds 2020 Put together by over ten institutions and numerous citizen scientists, was released recently at the ongoing United Nations 13th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Migratory Species in Gandhinagar, Gujarat.
  • Context:
    • The research titled ‘State of India’s Birds 2020’ (SoIB) put together by over ten institutions and numerous citizen scientists, was released recently at the ongoing United Nations 13th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Migratory Species in Gandhinagar, Gujarat.
  • Key findings:
    • Over 50 % of the 867 species studied, exhibit a population decline in the long term while 146 are at great risk in the short term.
    • The populations of raptors (eagles, hawks, kites, etc.), migratory seabirds and birds that live in specialized habitats were the most affected in the past decades.
    • The number of birds in the Western Ghats, which is considered one of the world’s foremost biodiversity hotspots, also declined by almost 75 %since 2000.
    • Indian Peafowl, the national bird, has shown a dramatic increase in both abundance and distribution across the country.
    • The number of house sparrows has also stabilized nationwide, although there is still a marked decline in their population in cities.
    • 126 species, including the peafowl, house sparrow, Asian Koel, rose-ringed parakeet and the common tailorbird, are expected to increase in numbers, primarily due to their ability to survive in human habitats.
  • How was the study carried out?
    • The data for these birds was collected through the citizen science app ‘eBird’, which received a record ten million entries by approximately 15,500 citizen scientists.
    • Cornell University’s Laboratory of Ornithology hosts the app, while its India-specific portal is curated and customized by Bird Count India, an informal group of birdwatching enthusiasts, ornithologists, naturalists and conservationists dedicated to documenting Indian birds.
International Index
Global Go To Think Tank Index  University of Pennsylvania 
  • About the index:
    • The Index is released by the University of Pennsylvania each year since 2008.
    • It evaluates public-policy research analysis and engagement organizations that generate policy-oriented research, analysis, and advice on domestic and international issues.
    • It claims to enable policymakers and the public to make informed decisions on public policy.
  • Top players:
    • The list was topped by Carnegie Endowment for International Peace of US, followed by Belgium”s Bruegel and French Institute of International Relations (IFRI).
    • UK”s Chatham House was ranked 6th on the list.
  • Performance of institutions in India:
    • Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) has been placed at No. 16. CSE climbed up two notches in the 14th version of the report.
    • The organization also moved up three places among ‘best independent think tanks’ to be at No.123 in the world and sixth among Indian think tanks.
    • Globally, it was ranked 41 of 60 organizations committed to energy and resource policy.
    • India’s Observer Research Foundation (ORF) has jumped more than 90 places to 27th position among 176 global think tanks.
    • Syama Prasad Mookerjee Research Foundation was the highest-ranked Indian think tank with a political party affiliation in the world, getting a rank of 31st, among 38 such institutions.
    • India Foundation and Vivekananda International Foundation were ranked 36th and 37th on that list.
International IP Index 2020 U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Global Innovation Policy Center (GIPC).
  • Context:
    • The International IP Index 2020 has been released by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Global Innovation Policy Center (GIPC).
  • About IIP index:
    • Released by GIPC, the Index evaluates the IP infrastructure in each economy based on 45 unique indicators, which are critical to the growth of effective IP systems.
    • The indicators encompass 8 categories of IP protection: patents, copyrights, trademarks, trade secrets, commercialization of IP assets, enforcement, systemic efficiency, and membership and ratification of international treaties.
  • Performance of India:
    • Ranked 40 out of 53 global economies.
    • Last year India was ranked at 36th position out of 50 countries.
    • India also continues to score well in the Systemic Efficiency indicator, scoring ahead of 28 other economies in these indicators.
  • Observations made on India:
    • Since the release of the 2016 National IPR Policy, the Government of India has made a focused effort to support investments in innovation and creativity through increasingly robust IP protection and enforcement.
    • Implementation of the policy has improved the speed of processing for patent and trademark applications, increased awareness of IP rights among Indian innovators and creators.
    • India has made significant progress towards establishing stronger IP protections—but the “job is not yet done”.
    • In 2019, the Delhi High Court used dynamic injunctions to disable access to copyright-infringing content online, resulting in an increase in India’s score on two of the copyright-related indicators. As a result, India scores ahead of 24 other economies in the copyright indicators.
  • Global performance:
    • Top five economies: The US, the UK, Sweden, France, and Germany.
Future of Earth 2020 South Asia Future Earth Regional Office, Divecha Centre for Climate Change, Indian Institute of Science.
  • Context:
    • The Future of Earth 2020 report has been released by the South Asia Future Earth Regional Office, Divecha Centre for Climate Change, Indian Institute of Science.
    • The report was prepared with the aim of reducing carbon footprint and halting global warming below 2 degrees Celsius by 2050.
  • Five global risks:
    • The report lists five global risks that have the potential to impact and amplify one another in ways that may cascade to create a global systemic crisis. They are:
      • Failure of climate change mitigation and adaptation.
      • Extreme weather events.
      • Major biodiversity loss and ecosystem collapse.
      • Food crises.
      • Water crises.
  • Key observations:
    • The interrelation of risk factors:
      • Extreme heatwaves can accelerate global warming by releasing large amounts of stored carbon from affected ecosystems, and at the same time intensify water crises and/or food scarcity.
    • Biodiversity loss and its impact:
      • The loss of biodiversity weakens the capacity of natural and agricultural systems to cope with climate extremes, increasing our vulnerability to food crises.
      • The five years from 2014 to 2018 were the warmest recorded over land and ocean since 1880.
Worldwide Educating for the Future Index (WEFFI) 2019 The Economist Intelligence Unit.
  • Context:
    • Worldwide Educating for the Future Index (WEFFI) 2019 report was published by The Economist Intelligence Unit.
  • About the index:
    • Commissioned by the Yidan Prize Foundation. Developed to assess the effectiveness of education systems in preparing students for the demands of work and life in a rapidly changing landscape.
  • Significance:
    • It is the first comprehensive global index to evaluate inputs to education systems rather than outputs such as test scores and concentrates on the 15-24 age band in 35 economies.
  • How are countries ranked?
    • Countries are ranked based on their abilities to equip students with skill-based education. The rankings are based on three categories:
    • Policy environment.
    • Teaching environment.
    • Overall socio-economic environment.
  • India’s performance:
    • Ranked 35th. Jumped five ranks from the 40th rank.
    • Scored 53.
    • India’s growth is attributed to the new national education policy introduced and published in 2019.
    • The policy mentions future-oriented skills such as critical thinking, communication, and entrepreneurship.
  • Global performance:
    • Finland topped the index followed by Sweden.
    • Among the world’s largest economies, the US, UK, France, and Russia fell back in the index while China, India, and Indonesia took steps forward.
‘A Future for the World’s Children’ report WHO, UNICEF, and the Lancet medical journal
  • Context:
    • ‘A Future for the World’s Children’ report was recently released by the WHO, UNICEF, and the Lancet medical journal.
    • The report calculates the Flourishing Index and Sustainability Index of 180 countries.
  • How are the countries ranked?
    • Flourishing Index:
      • Flourishing is the geometric mean of Surviving and Thriving.
      • The parameter of Surviving considers maternal survival, survival in children younger than 5 years old, suicide, access to maternal and child health services, basic hygiene, sanitation, and lack of extreme poverty.
      • The parameter of Thriving considers educational achievement, growth and nutrition, reproductive freedom, and protection from violence.
    • Sustainability Index:
      • The Sustainability Index ranks countries on the basis of excess carbon emissions compared with the 2030 target.
  • Performance of India:
    • India stands 77th (sustainability index) and is at 131st on a ranking that measures the best chance at survival and well-being for children.
    • India has improved in health and sanitation but has to increase its spending on health.
  • Global Scenario:
    • Children in Norway, the Republic of Korea and the Netherlands have the best chance at survival and well-being.
    • Children in the Central African Republic, Chad, Somalia, Niger, and Mali face the worst odds.
World Air Quality Report 2019  IQAir and Greenpeace
  • Context:
    • World Air Quality Report 2019 was released by the pollution tracker IQAir and Greenpeace.
    • The ranking is based on a comparison of PM 2.5 levels. Bangladesh emerged as the most polluted country for PM 2.5. Pakistan, Mongolia, Afghanistan, and India followed behind respectively.
  • Background:
    • PM 2.5 includes pollutants such as sulfate, nitrates and black carbon.
    • Exposure to such particles has been linked to lung and heart disorders and can impair cognitive and immune functions.
  • Performance of India:
    • Twenty-one of the world’s 30 cities with the worst air pollution is in India.
    • Six cities from India are in the top ten.
    • Ghaziabad, an area close to New Delhi in northern Uttar Pradesh state, is ranked as the world’s most polluted city, with an average PM 2.5 concentration measurement of 110.2 in 2019.
    • National air pollution in India decreased by 20% from 2018 to 2019, with 98% of cities experiencing varying levels of improvement.
    • The report points to the economic slowdown, favorable weather conditions, and efforts towards cleaning the air as reasons behind the decrease.
    • The report also points to India’s launch of the country’s first National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) which aims to reduce PM 2.5 and the bigger particulate PM 10 air pollution in 102 cities by 20-30% by 2024 compared to 2017 levels.
  • South Asia:
    • South Asia continues to be of particular concern, with 27 of the 30 most polluted cities in India, Pakistan or Bangladesh.
    • However, South Asia has seen improvements from the previous year.
    • Chinese cities have overall seen marked improvements in recent years, with average concentrations of pollutants falling 9% from 2018 to 2019, according to the report.
Report of the International Narcotics Control Board for 2019 The United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC)
  • Context:
    • The United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC)has released the 2019 report of the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB).
  • About:
    • The report features India among top manufacturers of illicit and licit drugs that are smuggled to other countries and into the hands of addicts.
  • Global Scenario:
    • Increased Smuggling of Pharmaceutical Drugs:
    • Drug traffickers tend to smuggle pharmaceutical drugs rather than illicit drugs (e.g. hashish,heroin,etc.) because of the more lenient penalties imposed for smuggling of controlled pharmaceutical drugs.
  • Phenobarbital Drug:
    • It is one of the most internationally traded controlled psychotropic substances, with more than 161 countries reporting imports of the substance in 2018.
    • It included on the WHO Model List of Essential Medicines for treating epilepsy (a neurological disorder).
    • China is the lead manufacturing country of phenobarbital in 2018, followed by India and Hungary.
    • Limited Usage of Pre-Export Notification:
    • It has also been noted that countries like China, South Korea, and the United States have received drugs without pre-notification through the PEN Online system.
Global Health Security (GHS) Index, 2019 Nuclear Threat Initiative, the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security and the Economist Intelligence Unit,
  • Context:
    • According to the Global Health Security (GHS) Index, 2019, national health security is “fundamentally weak” around the world. The report gains significance in the context of the recent Coronavirus (COVID19) outbreak.
    • The Global Health Security (GHS) Index, a report from the Nuclear Threat Initiative, the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security and the Economist Intelligence Unit, was released in October 2019.
  • Key Findings:
    • The GHS Index analysis finds that no country is fully prepared for epidemics or pandemics. Collectively, international preparedness is weak.
    • The average overall GHS Index score among all 195 countries assessed is 40.2 of a possible score of 100.
    • Overall, the GHS Index finds severe weaknesses in-country abilities to prevent, detect, and respond to health emergencies; severe gaps in health systems; vulnerabilities to political, socioeconomic, and environmental risks that can hamper outbreak preparedness and response; and a lack of adherence to international norms.
  • Ranking of Different Countries:
    • The US is the “most prepared” nation (scoring 83.5), with the UK (77.9), the Netherlands (75.6), Australia (75.5) and Canada (75.3) behind it. Thailand is ranked sixth in the Index — the highest ranking for an Asian country.
    • Much of Europe, Russia, the Middle East, Asia, and Central and South America are described as “more prepared,” with scores between 66 and 34.3, while the majority of countries ranked “least prepared” are in Africa.
    • India is ranked 57th with a score of 46.5, falling in the middle tier.
    • North Korea (17.5), Somalia (16.6) and Equatorial Guinea (16.2) are listed in the index's bottom three.
    • China – which is at the center of the recent coronavirus outbreak – is at the 51st place, scoring 48.2.
Worldwide Educating for the Future Index (WEFFI) 2019  The Economist Intelligence Unit.
  • Context:
    • India ranked 35th in the Worldwide Educating for the Future Index (WEFFI) 2019, as per a report published by The Economist Intelligence Unit.
  • About:
    • This year, India scored 53 and has jumped five ranks from the 40th rank with an overall score of 41.2 across categories in 2018.
    • Finland topped the index followed by Sweden.
    • Worldwide Educating for the Future Index
    • The index and report are commissioned by the Yidan Prize Foundation.
    • It was developed to assess the effectiveness of education systems in preparing students for the demands of work and life in a rapidly changing landscape.
    • It is the first comprehensive global index to evaluate inputs to education systems rather than outputs such as test scores and concentrates on the 15-24 age band in 35 economies.
  • Key Points:
    • WEFFI ranks countries based on their abilities to equip students with skill-based education.
    • The rankings are based on three categories:
      • Policy environment.
      • Teaching environment.
      • Overall socio-economic environment.
    • The report analyses the education system from the perspective of skill-based education in areas such as critical thinking, problem-solving, leadership, collaboration, creativity, and entrepreneurship as well as digital and technical skills.
    • Among the world’s largest economies, the US, UK, France, and Russia fell back in the index while China, India, and Indonesia took steps forward.

 

Schemes in News

 

Scheme: Concerned Ministry : Features:
Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana (PMMVY) Ministry of Women and Child Development

Context:

  • States/UTs and districts awarded for best performance under PMMVY.

Key performers:

  • In the category of best performance since inception of the Scheme to States/UTs having a population of more than 1 crore, the first position was awarded to the state of Madhya Pradesh, followed by Andhra Pradesh and Haryana in the third position.
  • In the same category among States/UTs having a population of less than 1 crore, Dadra & Nagar Haveli is in the first position. Himachal stood second and Chandigarh is in the third position.
  • In the District level awards for States/UTs with a population of more than 1 crore, the first position went to Indore in Madhya Pradesh. In the same category for States/UTs with a population under 1 crore, the first position went to Serchhip in Mizoram.

About PMMVY:

  • Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana (PMMVY) is a maternity benefit rechristened from erstwhile Indira Gandhi Matritva Sahyog Yojana (IGMSY).
  • The scheme is a conditional cash transfer scheme for pregnant and lactating women.
  • It provides partial wage compensation to women for wage-loss during childbirth and childcare and to provide conditions for safe delivery and good nutrition and feeding practices.

Objectives:

  • Promoting appropriate practice, care, and institutional service utilization during pregnancy, delivery, and lactation.
  • Encouraging the women to follow (optimal) nutrition and feeding practices, including early and exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months.
  • Providing cash incentives for improved health and nutrition to pregnant and lactating mothers.
Sophisticated Analytical & Technical Help Institutes(SATHI) Department of Science & Technology
  • Context:
    • The Department of Science & Technology has launched a unique scheme called “Sophisticated Analytical & Technical Help Institutes(SATHI)”.
  • About the scheme:
    • Aim:
      • To address the need for building shared, professionally managed and strong S&T infrastructure in the country which is readily accessible to academia, start-ups, manufacturing, industry and R&D labs, etc.
    • Implementation:
      • These Centres are expected to house major analytical instruments to provide common services of high-end analytical testing, thus avoiding duplication and reduced dependency on foreign sources.
      • These would be operated with a transparent, open access policy.
      • DST has already set up three such centers in the country, one each at IIT Kharagpur, IIT Delhi and BHU.
    • Objectives of the Scheme:
      • To address the problems of accessibility, maintenance, redundancy and duplication of expensive equipment in the institutions.
      • This will also foster a strong culture of collaboration between institutions and across disciplines to take advantage of developments, innovations, and expertise in diverse areas.
Soil Health Cards (SHC) scheme Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare
  • Context:
    • In the second phase of the scheme’s implementation, 11.69 crores Soil Health Cards were distributed to farmers in two years.
    • And the scheme has led to a decline of 8-10% in the use of chemical fertilizers and also raised productivity by 5-6%.
  • About the scheme:
    • Launched in 2015.
    • Under the scheme, the government plans to issue soil cards to farmers which will carry crop-wise recommendations of nutrients and fertilizers required for the individual farms.
    • This will help farmers to improve productivity through the judicious use of inputs.
  • About the Soil Health Card:
    • A Soil Health Card is used to assess the current status of soil health and, when used over time, to determine changes in soil health that are affected by land management.
    • It displays soil health indicators and associated descriptive terms. The indicators are typically based on farmers’ practical experience and knowledge of local natural resources.
    • The card lists soil health indicators that can be assessed without the aid of technical or laboratory equipment.
  • What it contains?
    • It will contain the status of his soil with respect to 12 parameters, namely N,P,K(Macro-nutrients)
Vivad Se Vishwas scheme Ministry of Finance
  • Context:
    • The vivad se vishwas scheme was announced by Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman during her budget speech on February 1, 2020.
    • The scheme aims to settle the huge number of pending direct tax cases.
  • About Vivad Se Vishwas Scheme:
    • The Direct Tax Vivad Se Vishwas Bill, 2020:
      • The amnesty scheme, at present, covers disputes pending at the level of commissioner (appeals), Income Tax Appellate Tribunals (ITAT), high courts, the Supreme Court and those in international arbitration.
      • It offers a complete waiver on interest and penalty to the taxpayers who pay their pending taxes by March 31.
      • The scheme aims to benefit those whose tax demands are locked in dispute in multiple forums.
      • If a taxpayer is not able to pay direct taxes by March 31st then, he will get further time till June 30th. However, in that case, he would have to pay 10 percent more on the tax.
  • How much?
    • In case it is just the interest and the penalty which is in dispute, the taxpayer will have to pay 25% of the disputed amount till March 31, and subsequently, it will be 30%.
    • If a taxpayer is not able to pay within the March 31 deadline, he gets a further time till June 30, but in that case, he would have to pay 10% more on the tax.
    • In case it is just the interest and the penalty which is in dispute, the taxpayer will have to pay 25% of the disputed amount till March 31, and subsequently, it will be 30%.
SUTRA PIC  Department of Science and Technology (DST)
  • Context:
    • The government has unveiled a programme to research on ‘indigenous’ cows- SUTRA PIC.
  • About SUTRA PIC:
    • Scientific Utilisation Through Research Augmentation-Prime Products from Indigenous Cows.
    • It is led by the Department of Science and Technology (DST).
    • It is supported by the Department of Biotechnology, the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, the Ministry for AYUSH (Ayurveda, Unani, Siddha, Homoeopathy) among others and the Indian Council of Medical Research as partners.
  • It has five themes:
    • The uniqueness of Indigenous Cows.
    • Prime-products from Indigenous Cows for Medicine and Health.
    • Prime-products from Indigenous Cows for Agricultural Applications.
    • Prime-products from Indigenous Cows for Food and Nutrition.
    • Prime-products from indigenous cows-based utility items.
  • Aims and objectives:
    • Scientific research on the complete characterization of milk and milk products derived from Indian indigenous cows.
    • Scientific research on nutritional and therapeutic properties of curd and ghee prepared from indigenous breeds of cows by traditional methods.
    • Development of standards for traditionally processed dairy products of Indian-origin cows, etc.
Shyama Prasad Mukherji Rurban Mission Ministry of Rural Development
  • Context:
    • 4th anniversary of the Shyama Prasad Mukherji Rurban Mission observed.
    • It was Launched from Kurubhat in Rajnandgaon District of Chhattisgarh on 21st February 2016.
  • About Shyama Prasad Mukherji Rurban Mission:
    • Launched in 2016, the programme is designed to deliver catalytic interventions to rural areas on the threshold of growth.
    • It is now a Centrally Sponsored Scheme. Funding:
      • Shared between the Centre and the State in a ratio of 60:40 for Plain area States and 90:10 for Himalayan and NE States.
    • The Mission aims at the development of 300 Rurban clusters, in five years. The objective is to give a boost to economic activities, skill development and infrastructure amenities in the regions.
  • Development:
    • Under the mission, the Central government in coordination with the district administration has taken measures to bring about multi-layered phased development of the rural gram panchayats and villages on the lines of urban cities with proper civic amenities keeping the soul of villages intact.
  • What are the Rurban areas? Why develop them?
    • A ‘Rurban cluster’, would be a cluster of geographically contiguous villages with a population of about 25000 to 50000 in plain and coastal areas and with a population of 5000 to 15000 in desert, hilly or tribal areas.
    • These clusters typically illustrate the potential for growth, have economic drivers and derive locational and competitive advantages.
  • The larger outcomes envisaged under this Mission are:
    • Bridging the rural-urban divide-viz: economic, technological and those related to facilities and services.
    • Stimulating local economic development with an emphasis on the reduction of poverty and unemployment in rural areas.
    • Spreading development in the region.
    • Attracting investment in rural areas.

Khelo India programme Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports
  • Context:
    • The first-ever Khelo India University Games will take off in Odisha.
  • About:
    • Introduced to revive the sports culture in India at the grass-root level by building a strong framework for all sports played in the country and establish India as a great sporting nation.
    • It is implemented by the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports.
    • Under the scheme, the talented players identified in priority sports disciplines at various levels will be provided annual financial assistance of INR 5 lakh per annum for 8 years.
    • It will be a Central Sector Scheme (Scheme implemented by the Central Government machinery and 100% funding by the union government).
USTTAD SCHEME Ministry of Minority Affairs
  • Context:
    • Hunar Haat were Held recently in New Delhi.
  • About Hunar Haat:
    • Organized by the ministry of minority affairs under the “USTTAD” scheme at different parts of the country.
    • It is an exhibition of handicrafts and traditional products made by artisans from the minority communities.
    • These Haat aim to provide market exposure and employment opportunities to artisans, craftsmen, and traditional culinary experts.
  • Significance:
    • “Hunar Haat” has become a successful mission to provide employment and employment opportunities and national as well as international markets for thousands of master artisans, craftsmen, and culinary experts.
  • What is USTTAD SCHEME?
    • USTTAD (Upgrading the Skills and Training in Traditional Arts/Crafts for Development) scheme aims to preserve the heritage of traditional arts and crafts of minority communities and build the capacity of traditional craftspersons and artisans and establish linkages of traditional skills with the global market.
PM KISAN Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare
  • Context:
    • PM-KISAN Scheme completes one year on February 24, 2020.
    • So far, over 8 crores 46 lakh farmers covered under Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi. Central Government transfers Rs.6,000 in three tranches every year to beneficiaries.
  • About Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi:
    • The scheme was started with a view to augment the income of the farmers by providing income support to all landholding farmers’ families across the country, to enable them to take care of expenses related to agriculture and allied activities as well as domestic needs.
    • Under the Scheme, an amount of Rs.6000/- per year is transferred in three 4-monthly installments of Rs.2000/- directly into the bank accounts of the farmers, subject to certain exclusion criteria relating to higher-income status.
    • The entire responsibility of the identification of beneficiaries rests with the State / UT Governments.
  • Ambit:
    • The Scheme initially provided income support to all Small and Marginal Farmers’ families across the country, holding cultivable land upto 2 hectares.
    • Its ambit was later expanded w.e.f. 01.06.2019 to cover all farmer families in the country irrespective of the size of their landholdings. 
  • Exceptions:
    • Affluent farmers have been excluded from the scheme such as Income Taxpayers in the last assessment year, professionals like Doctors, Engineers, Lawyers, Chartered Accountants, etc and pensioners drawing at least Rs.10,000/- per month (excluding MTS/Class IV/Group D employees).
  • Similar programs by states:
    • Bhavantar Bhugtan Yojana- MP.
    • The Rythu Bandhu scheme- Telangana.
    • Krushak Assistance for Livelihood and Income Augmentation (KALIA)- Odisha.

 (ADIP) scheme  Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment
  • Context:
    • PM will distribute assistive aids and devices to senior citizens (under the Rashtriya Vayoshri Yojana-RVY) and the physically challenged (Under ADIP Scheme) at a mega distribution camp at Prayagraj.
    • The objective is to provide assistance through these aids and devices to the daily living and socio-economic development of the Divyangjan (physically challenged) and Senior Citizens.
  • About the ADIP Scheme:
    • The Assistance to Disabled persons for purchasing/fitting of aids/appliances (ADIP) scheme:
    • Being implemented by the Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment.
  • Objective:
    • To assist the needy disabled persons in procuring durable, sophisticated and scientifically manufactured, modern, standard aids and appliances that can promote their physical, social and psychological rehabilitation, by reducing the effects of disabilities and enhance their economic potential.
  • Implementation:
    • The scheme is implemented through implementing agencies such as NGOs, National Institutes under the Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment and ALIMCO (a PSU that manufactures artificial limbs).
  • Eligibility:
    • A person satisfying all the following conditions are eligible:
      • Indian citizen of any age
      • Has 40% disability or more (must have the requisite certificate)
      • Monthly income, not more than Rs.20000.
      • In the case of dependents, the income of parents/guardians should not exceed Rs.20000.
      • Must not have received assistance during the last 3 years for the same purpose from any source. However, for children below 12years of age, this limit would be one year.
 Pradhan Mantri Kisan Sampada Yojana (PMKSY) Ministry of Food Processing Industries
  • Context:
    • Various projects sanctioned under the Unit scheme of Pradhan Mantri Kisan Sampada Yojana (PMKSY).
    • The projects are spread across almost 17 States, leveraging an investment worth 406 Crore rupees.
    • These projects envisage the creation of direct and indirect employment for approximately fifteen thousand persons along with employment opportunities in rural areas to be the focus area.
  • About PMKSY:
    • It is a comprehensive package aiming to create modern infrastructure with efficient supply chain management from farm gate to retail outlet.
    • It is an umbrella scheme with its period coterminous with the cycle of 14th finance commission. It has various schemes within its gamut.
  • Under PMKSY the following schemes are to be implemented:
    • Mega Food Parks
    • Integrated Cold Chain, Value Addition and Preservation Infrastructure
    • Creation/Expansion of Food Processing/Preservation Capacities
    • Infrastructure for Agro-Processing Clusters
    • Scheme for Creation of Backward and Forward Linkages
    • Food Safety & Quality Assurance Infrastructure
    • Human Resources and Institutions

 

 



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