Monthly Current Affairs for Prelims: March 2020

Please Share with maximum friends to support the Initiative.





 

Content

 Art And Culture

  • Festivals:
    • ‘Attukal Pongala’ fest
    • Navroz
  • Awards And Languages:
    • UNESCO World Heritage List
    • Yakshagana

History

  • Battles And Organization:
    • Marakkars

Geography

  • Mining Permission
  • District mineral foundation (DMF) funds
  • National Interlinking of Rivers Authority (NIRA)
  • Devonian period

Society

  • Health:
    • Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill, 2020 
    • Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897
    • SOLIDARITY trial
    • National Teleconsultation Centre (CoNTeC)
  • Women:-
    • Nari Shakti Puraskar
    • International Women’s Day 2020
    • Kishori shakti karyakram
    • Women Transforming India Awards
    • WISTEMM program
    • Permanent Commission for Women in Indian Navy
  • Society and Education:
    • ODF+ and ODF++ of the Swachh Bharat Mission (Urban)
    • Child Adoption Regulatory Authority (CARA)
    • Parliamentary Standing Committee Report on Demand for grants for school education
  • Tribals:
    • “Tech For Tribals”
    • Minor Forest Produce (MFP)
    • Arr-Rinam
    • Mo Jiban

Polity

  • Executive and Legislature:
    • Delimitation of Constituencies
    • MP Suspension Process
    • Floor test or trust vote
    • Section 188 IPC
    • Role of L-G and government
    • Parliamentary standing committees
    • Starred and unstarred questions, supplementary questions
    • National Population Register
    • Essential Commodities Act
    • Foreigner's tribunal
    • Consumer Protection Act, 1986
    • Force Majeure
  • Constitutional Provisions:
    • Right of an accused to be defended
    • State Election Commission
  • Judiciary:
    • Article 142
    • SC frees trade in cryptocurrencies, annuls RBI curb
    • Removal of controversial ‘name and shame’ hoardings
    • Petitions and safeguards For Understanding the delay in “convicts” hanging
    • Contempt of Court
    • Living entity Concept
  • Bills And Acts:

International Relations

  • Dialogues And Talks:
    • Extradition Treaty between India and Belgium
  • Geopolitical Events:
    • Sir Creek pact
    • Leave India notices
    • Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI)
    • United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
  • Organizations And Conventions:
    • International Criminal Court (ICC)
    • Indian Ocean Commission
    • ReCoMAP And OPEC
    • G7 
    • G20 (Group of Twenty)

Economy

  • Banking And Finance:
    • Reserve Bank of India’s Package for pandemic
    • Recapitalization of RRBs
    • Merger of Banks
    • Additional Tier-1 bonds
  • Finance:
    • Swap Ratio
    • Appropriation Bill
    • Finance Bill
    • Cess fund
    • Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management (FRBM) Act
    • Companies Fresh Start Scheme, 2020
    • National Anti-Profiteering Authority (NAPA)
    • Enforcement Directorate
    • Country-by-Country (CbC) Report
    • Business Immunity Platform
    • The circuit breaker in the stock market
    • Input Tax Credit
  • Employment and Relief Package:
    • Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana
    • NCS (NATIONAL CAREER SERVICE)
    • Kurzarbeit scheme
    • Shared economy
  • Infrastructure:
    • Landlord model
    • Modified Electronics Manufacturing Clusters (EMC 2.0) Scheme
    • North-East Venture Fund (NEVF)
    • Solar Charkha Mission
    • Petroleum & Explosives Safety Organization
    • Coalbed methane (CBM)
  • Agriculture:
    • Small Farmers’ Agri-Business Consortium (SFAC)
    • Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority

Environment

  • Species in news:
  • Pollution And Conservation:
    • Black carbon
    • Bharat Stage Emission Standards (BSES)
    • Uranium Contamination in Ground Water
    • ‘Restaurant’ for vultures
    • The Categorization of industries
  • Environment:
    • Coral bleaching at the Great Barrier Reef
    • Preservation of Eastern, Western Ghats
    • ‘United for Biodiversity’
    • National Clean Air Programme (NCAP)
    • Earth Hour

Science And Technology

  • Space:
    • ExoMars
    • Yuva Vigyani Karyakram
  • Health:
    • Hantavirus
    • Avian influenza (bird flu) 
    • Kyasanur Forest Disease Virus (KFDV)
    • Huntingtin Disease
    • Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES)
    • Ossification test
    • Rare Disease Day
    • World Tuberculosis (TB) Day
    • National Centre for Disease Control 
  • Corona:
    • Novel Coronavirus disease
    • Herd immunity
    • Outbreak, epidemic and Pandemic Explained
    • OneHealth concept
    • Stages of a pandemic
    • South Korean model for COVID 19
    • Schedule-H1 Drug
    • Soap Use in COVID-19
    • Rapid test for COVID-19
    • Convalescent plasma therapy
    • NIDHI program
    • Cord Blood Banking
    • Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients and Production Linked Incentive (PLI) Scheme 
  • New Technology:
    • Biofortification
    • CRIME MULTI AGENCY CENTRE (Cri-MAC)
    • Technology Development Board 
    • Potential Fishing Zone (PFZ)
    • Gagan Enabled Mariner’s Instrument for Navigation and Information (GEMINI)
    • International Conference on Nano Science and Nano Technology(ICONSAT)
  • Computer:
    • National Supercomputing Mission (NSM)
    • National Mission on Interdisciplinary Cyber-Physical Systems
    • ‘Mac-binding’ condition specified for Internet use in J&K

Miscellaneous

  • Exercise And Operation:
  • Defence:
    • Defence Procurement Procedure 2020
    • RaIDer-X
    • India-U.S. Military Cooperation Group (MCG)
  • National Sports Development Fund
  • National Disaster Response Force
  • State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF)

Places in News

Index in News

Schemes in News

 

 

Art And Culture

Festivals:-

‘Attukal Pongala’ fest

  • ‘Attukal Pongala’ is one of the largest religious congregations of women.
  • Preparing ‘pongala’ (a sweet offering) is considered an auspicious all-women ritual as part of the annual festival of the Attukal Bhagavathy Temple, which is popularly known as the “Women’s Sabarimala”.
  • As per local legend, the Pongala festival commemorates the hospitality accorded by women in the locality to Kannagi, the heroine of the Tamil epic Silappadhikaram while she was on her way to Kodungallur in Kerala, after destroying Madurai city to avenge the injustice to her husband Kovalan.
  • Attukal Temple is called the “Women’s Sabarimala” as only women perform rituals, just as predominantly men undertake the pilgrimage to the shrine of Lord Ayyappa.

Navroz

  • Navroz is a 3,000-year-old Zoroastrian tradition, a ritual celebration that signals the start of Spring and the Persian new year.
  • In 1079 AD, an Iranian king named Jalaluddin Malekshah introduced the Navroz (New Year) festival to generate revenue and collect taxes from people.
  • In India, the Parsi community, who follow Zoroastrianism, celebrate Navroz with full fervour.

Awards And Languages:-

UNESCO World Heritage List

  • Context: 
    • The government of India has submitted two nomination dossiers namely ‘Dholavira: A Harappan City’ and ‘Monuments and Forts of Deccan Sultanate’ for inclusion in the World Heritage List for the year 2020.
    • The list contains world heritage sites.
  • What is a World Heritage Site?
    • It is a location having an “Outstanding Universal Value”.
    • According to the World Heritage Convention’s Operational Guidelines, and Outstanding Universal Value signifies “cultural and/or natural significance which is so exceptional as to transcend national boundaries and to be of common importance for present and future generations of all humanity.”
  • Categorisation:
    • Sites fall into three categories:
      • cultural heritage, natural heritage, and mixed heritage (cultural as well as natural).
  • Who selects the Sites?
    • The UNESCO World Heritage Committee meets at least once every year, generally in June/July, to deliberate the addition, removal, or modification of items on the list of World Heritage Sites.
  • How do countries get their preferred spots included?
    • According to the Guidelines, the State Parties prepare a Tentative List or the “inventory of those properties situated on its territory which each State Party considers suitable for nomination to the World Heritage List.”
    • A nomination document is then prepared in this regard based on which the application is considered by the Committee.
    • In India, the Indian National Commission for Co-operation with UNESCO (INCCU), and the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) are the bodies which play a key role in this regard.
    • After receiving nominations from the State Parties, the Committee then puts them through a rigorous examination before any new location can qualify as a World Heritage Site.

Yakshagana

  • Context:
    • More than 900 Yakshagana scripts, including the ones printed in 1905 and 1907, have now been digitized and made available online for free, thanks to the voluntary community effort by some Yakshagana lovers who did it under the banner Yakshavahini, a registered trust.
  • About:
    • Yakshagana is a traditional theatre form of Karnataka.
    • It is a temple art form that depicts mythological stories and Puranas.
    • It is performed with massive headgears, elaborate facial make-up, and vibrant costumes and ornaments.
    • Usually recited in Kannada, it is also performed in Malayalam as well as Tulu (the dialect of south Karnataka).
    • It is performed with percussion instruments like chenda, maddalam, jagatta or chengila (cymbals) and chakratala or elathalam (small cymbals).

History

Battles And Organization:-

Marakkars

  • Context:
    • Recently, a petition was filed in the Kerala High Court against the film- Marakkar: The Lion of The Arabian Sea, alleging ‘distortion of history’ and demanding a stay on the release.
  • Marakkars:
    • By some accounts, they were of Arab origin and had migrated from Tunisia to Panthalayani near Koyilandy in present-day Kozhikode.
    • They later moved to the region around present-day Kottakkal and Thikkodi near Payyoli.
    • By other accounts, the Marakkars were descendants of affluent businessmen from the Cochin kingdom who migrated later to Calicut.
    • The Marakkars were mostly Muslims, but in some parts, they have been found to be Hindus as well.
  • War against the Portuguese:
    • Faced with invading Portuguese ships, the Zamorin reached out to the Marakkars to defend the coast.
    • They were led in succession by four Marakkars, chief admirals who were appointed by the Zamorin with the title of Kunjali.
    • Their strategy was similar to guerrilla warfare. The Portuguese had massive ships which could not make easy maneuvers in the sea.
    • The Marakkars used small ships that could easily surround the Portuguese ships, enabling the fighters to attack at will.
  • Their role in developing modern naval fleet:
    • In the span of 100 years, the exploits of the Marakkars are said to have improved the naval fleet of Calicut as well as other kingdoms, stretching from Saurashtra to Ceylon along the Indian coast. War technologies and ammunition greatly improved as well.

 

Geography

Mining Permission

  • Who grants permission for mining?
    • The state governments grant permission for mining, known as mineral concessions, for all the minerals located within the boundary of the state, under the provisions of the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957 and Mineral Concession Rules, 1960.
    • However, for minerals specified in the First Schedule to the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957, Central government approval is necessary before granting the mineral concession.
    • Minerals specified under the First Schedule include hydrocarbons, atomic minerals and metallic minerals such as iron ore, bauxite copper ore, lead precious stones, zinc, and gold.

District mineral foundation (DMF) funds

  • Context: Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman said state governments should use district mineral foundation (DMF) funds for response and preparedness to fight the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
  • DMF funds may be used to supplement and augment healthcare facilities, screening and testing requirements and any other resources that might be required.
  • About DMFs:
    • DMFs were instituted under the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) (MMDR) Amendment Act 2015.
    • They are non-profit trusts to work for the interest and benefit of persons and areas affected by mining-related operations.
  • Objective:
    • To work for the interest of the benefit of the persons and areas affected mining-related operations in such manner as may be prescribed by the State Government.
    • The fund is collected at the district level. There are certain high-priority areas identified in all states’ DMF rules, where at least 60 percent of the fund must be used. These include vital and pressing concerns, including healthcare.
  • Jurisdiction:
    • Its manner of operation comes under the jurisdiction of the relevant State Government.
  • Pradhan Mantri Khanij Kshetra Kalyan Yojana (PMKKKY):
    • The programme is meant to provide for the welfare of areas and people affected by mining-related operations, using the funds generated by District Mineral Foundations (DMFs).
  • Objectives of the scheme:
    • To implement various developmental and welfare projects/programs in mining-affected areas that complement the existing ongoing schemes/projects of State and Central Government.
    • To minimize/mitigate the adverse impacts, during and after mining, on the environment, health and socio-economics of people in mining districts.
    • To ensure long-term sustainable livelihoods for the affected people in mining areas.

National Interlinking of Rivers Authority (NIRA)

  • Context:
    • The Central government is working on the establishment of an exclusive body to implement projects for linking rivers, To be called the National Interlinking of Rivers Authority (NIRA).
  • Functions of NIRA:
    • It is expected to take up both inter-State and intra-State projects.
    • It will also make arrangements for generating funds, internally and externally.
  • About National River Linking Project (NRLP):
    • The NRLP formally known as the National Perspective Plan envisages the transfer of water from water ‘surplus’ basins where there are flooding to water ‘deficit’ basins where there is drought/scarcity, through interbasin water transfer projects.
  • Significance:
    • It is designed to ease water shortages in western and southern India while mitigating the impacts of recurrent floods in the eastern parts of the Ganga basin.
  • ILR Projects in India:
    • As of now, six ILR projects — the Ken-Betwa, Damanganga- Pinjal, Par-Tapi-Narmada, Manas-Sankosh-TeestaGanga, Mahanadi-Godavari, and Godavari-Cauvery (Grand Anicut) — have been under examination of the authorities.
    • With regard to the peninsular rivers, the Centre has chosen to focus on the Godavari-Cauvery link than the earlier proposal to link the Mahanadi-Godavari-Krishna-Pennar-Cauvery rivers.

Devonian period

  • It is a geologic period and system of the Paleozoic, spanning 60 million years from the end of the Silurian, 419.2 million years ago, to the beginning of the Carboniferous, 358.9 Mya.
  • It is named after Devon, England, where rocks from this period were first studied.
  • The first significant adaptive radiation of life on dry land occurred during the Devonian.
  • Free-sporing vascular plants began to spread across dry land, forming extensive forests which covered the continents.
  • By the end of the period, the first seed-bearing plants appeared.
  • Various terrestrial arthropods also became well-established.
  • Fish reached substantial diversity during this time, leading the Devonian to often be dubbed the Age of Fishes.
  • The ancestors of all four-limbed vertebrates (tetrapods) began adapting to walking on land, as their strong pectoral and pelvic fins gradually evolved into legs.
  • The first ammonites, species of molluscs, appeared.
  • The paleogeography was dominated by the supercontinent of Gondwana to the south, the continent of Siberia to the north, and the early formation of the small continent of Euramerica in between.

 

Society

Health:-

Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill, 2020 

  • Context:
    • The Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill, 2020, which seeks to amend the MTP Act,1971, was passed in Lok Sabha recently.
  • Key changes:
    • It seeks to extend the upper limit for permitting abortions from 20 weeks to 24 under special circumstances.
    • The “special categories of women” include rape survivors, victims of incest, the differently-abled and minors.
    • The Bill proposes a requirement of the opinion of one registered medical practitioner (RMP) for termination of pregnancy up to 20 weeks of gestation.
    • It also provides for the requirement of the opinion of two RMPs for termination of pregnancy of 20 to 24 weeks.
    • Constitution of a Medical Board: Every state government is required to constitute a Medical Board.
    • These Medical Boards will consist of the following members: (i) a gynecologist, (ii) a pediatrician, (iii) a radiologist or sonologist, and (iv) any other number of members, as may be notified by the state government.
    • Under the Bill, if any pregnancy occurs as a result of the failure of any device or method used by a woman or her partner to limit the number of children, such unwanted pregnancy may constitute a grave injury to the mental health of the pregnant woman

Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897

  • Context:
    • The Centre has asked states and Union Territories to invoke provisions of Section 2 of Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897, so that Health Ministry advisories are enforceable. At present, at least 60 COVID-19 cases have been confirmed in India.
  • What is the Epidemic Diseases Act of 1897?
    • It is routinely enforced across the country for dealing with outbreaks of diseases such as swine flu, dengue, and cholera.
    • It was introduced by the colonial government to tackle the epidemic of bubonic plague that had spread in the erstwhile Bombay Presidency in the 1890s.
  • Provisions of the 1897 Epidemic Diseases Act:
    • It empowers state governments/UTs to take special measures and formulate regulations for containing the outbreak.
    • It also empowers the state to prescribe such temporary regulations to be observed by the public or by any person or class of persons as it shall deem necessary to prevent the outbreak of such disease or the spread thereof.
    • The state may determine in what manner and by whom any expenses incurred (including compensation if any) shall be defrayed.
    • The State Government may take measures and prescribe regulations for the inspection of persons traveling by railway or otherwise, and the segregation, in hospital, temporary accommodation or otherwise, of persons suspected by the inspecting officer of being infected with any such disease.
    • It also provides penalties for disobeying any regulation or order made under the Act. These are according to section 188 of the Indian Penal Code (disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant).
    • It also gives legal protection to the implementing officers acting under the Act.
  • Why was this act criticized?
    • Historians have criticized the Act for its potential for abuse. Using powers conferred by the Act, colonies authorities would search suspected plague cases in homes and among passengers, with forcible segregations, evacuations, and demolitions of infected places.
    • In 1897, the year the law was enforced, freedom fighter Bal Gangadhar Tilak was punished with 18 months’ rigorous imprisonment after his newspapers Kesari and Mahratta admonished imperial authorities for their handling of the plague epidemic.

SOLIDARITY trial

  • World Health Organization (WHO) announced a large global trial, called SOLIDARITY, to find out whether any can treat infections with the new coronavirus for the dangerous respiratory disease.
  • The study has been designed to generate the robust data needed to show which treatments are the most effective.
  • India has volunteered to participate in this trial.
  • Many countries, including Argentina, Bahrain, Canada, France, Iran, Norway, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, and Thailand, have already confirmed that they will join the solidarity trial.
  • The Solidarity Trial will test four different drugs or combinations,remdesivir, a combination of two drugs, lopinavir, and ritonavir, the two drugs plus interferon beta, and chloroquine — and will compare their effectiveness to what is called the standard of care, the regular support hospitals treating COVID-19 patients use now.
  • WHO has also created a COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund, to help provide protective equipment for frontline health workers, equip diagnostic laboratories, improve surveillance and data collection and take other critical steps to scale up the public health response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

National Teleconsultation Centre (CoNTeC)

  • Context:
    • Union Ministry of Health & Family Welfare has launched the National Teleconsultation Centre (CoNTeC)The project CoNTeC, an acronym for COVID-19 National Teleconsultation Centre, has been conceptualized by the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare and has been implemented by the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi.
  • How does it work?
    • The CoNTeC is a Telemedicine Hub established by AIIMS, New Delhi, wherein expert doctors from various clinical domains will be available 24×7 to answer the multifaceted questions from specialists from all over the country.
    • It is a multi-modal telecommunications hub through which 2-way audio-video and text communications can be undertaken from any part of the country as well as the world at large.
    • The modes of communication will include simple mobile telephony as well as two-way video communications, using WhatsApp, Skype and Google Duo.

Women:-

Nari Shakti Puraskar

  • Context:
    • To acknowledge Women’s achievements, the Government of India confers Nari Shakti Puraskars on eminent women and institutions in recognition of their service towards the cause of women empowerment.
  • Key facts:
    • Initiated in the year 1999.
    • The awards are given away by the President of India every year on 8 March, International Women's Day.
    • The Ministry of Women and Child Development announces these national-level awards for eminent women, organizations, and institutions.
    • The Nari Shakti Puraskar carries a cash award of Rs.1 Lakh and a certificate for individuals and institutions.
  • Eligibility Criteria:
    • Open to individuals, groups, and institutions for outstanding work towards the empowerment of women.
    • An individual applicant must be at least 25 years of age.
    • Institutions must have at least 5 years of relevant experience.

International Women’s Day 2020

  • Context:
    • International Women’s Day is celebrated on March 8 every year. It is a day when the world comes together to appreciate womanhood and its importance in society. The day also celebrates the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women.
  • International Women’s Day 2020:
    • Theme:
      • According to the United Nations Women, the theme for International Women’s Day 2020 is “Generation Equality: Realizing Women’s Rights”.
  • Historical background:
    • Earlier, it was called National woman’s day and was acknowledged by the U.S. on February 28, 1909. This was done because of the labor movement which was started in 1908 where 15000 female employees went on strike in New York City to protest against poor working conditions.
    • National Women’s Day was recognized as International Women’s Day only in 1910 after German women’s rights activist Clara Zetkin suggested at an International Conference.
  • Why March 8?
    • It was on this day that women in Soviet Russia gained the right the vote in 1917, hence March 8 was declared a national holiday for them.
    • The United Nations General Assembly invited member states to proclaim March 8 as the UN Day for women’s rights and world peace in 1977.

Kishori shakti karyakram

  • It is a campaign started by 14 teenage girls from Odisha’s Berhampur to empower young girls living in slums of the city.
  • The campaign includes making adolescents and the community aware of menstrual hygiene, the right age for marriage, motivating school and college drop-outs to restart studies, promoting gender equality, skill development and formation of adolescent groups.
  • As part of the campaign, ‘teen clubs’ are being established in the targeted slums. These clubs will have girls and boys as members.
  • The activists will be coordinating with Asha volunteers and Anganwadi workers.

Women Transforming India Awards

  • Context:
    • NITI Aayog organizes the Fourth Edition of the Women Transforming India Awards.
    • WTI Awards are NITI Aayog’s initiative to highlight the commendable and ground-breaking endeavours of India’s women leaders and changemakers.
    • Since 2018, the Awards have been hosted under the aegis of NITI Aayog’s Women Entrepreneurship Platform with a special focus on entrepreneurship.
  • What is Women Entrepreneurship Platform?
    • Launched in 8th March 2018, it is the first of its kind facilitation platform which is mandated to work in collaboration with the public as well as private sector organizations and bring them on a single platform by listing their women-focused entrepreneurship schemes, initiatives, and programmes on WEP website.
    • It also enables the sharing of best practices amongst women entrepreneurs and partner organizations and promotes evidence-based policymaking.

WISTEMM program

  • About:
    • Women in Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Medicine (WISTEMM)”program is implemented by the Department of Science and Technology(DST).
  • Aim:
    • To provide opportunities to Indian Women Scientists, Engineers & Technologists to undertake International collaborative research in premier institutions in the U.S.A, to enhance their research capacities and capabilities.
    • The programme is run for two categories of women scientists: Women Overseas Student Internship (Module I) for women students pursuing Ph.D., and Women Overseas Fellowship (Module II) for women with the Ph.D. degree and holding a regular position at any recognized institution/laboratory in India.
  • Eligibility:
    • The fellowship is for bright Indian women citizens within the age bracket of 21 to 45 years.

Permanent Commission for Women in Indian Navy

  • Context: 
    • The Supreme Court has upheld the right of serving Short Service Commission (SSC) women officers of the Navy to be granted permanent commission (PC) on a par with their male counterparts. 
  • Background:
    • The judgment was based on a case filed by 17 women SSC officers who were denied PC and discharged despite completing 14 years of service as SSC officers.
    • They had challenged a February 26, 2008 policy letter of the government granting PCs to SSC officers in all the three branches of the Armed Forces.
    • However, the offer was restricted to certain categories and was to operate prospectively for the benefit of future batches inducted on SSCs after January 2009.
    • The Supreme Court on 17 February upheld a 2010 Delhi high court ruling and had directed the Centre to ensure that women officers are given permanent commissions in the Indian Army on a par with male officers, including for command posting.
  • Observations made by the Supreme Court:
    • Women officers have worked shoulder to shoulder with their men counterparts in every walk of service.
    • Therefore, the “101 excuses” devised by the government, including motherhood and physiological limitations, reeked of a stereotypical mindset.
    • And women's naval officers cannot be denied the right to equal opportunity and dignity entitled to under the Constitution on specious grounds such as physiology, motherhood, and physical attributes.
  • Implications of the judgment:
    • Women naval officers will now be eligible to apply for permanent commission.
    • All serving women short service commission (SSC) officers in at least seven wings, including the executive, engineering, electrical, education, law, and logistics, will be eligible to apply.
    • The grant of PCs will be subject to (i) availability of vacancies in the stabilized cadre; (ii) Suitability of the candidate; and (iii) recommendation by the Chief of Naval Staff.
    • What is a permanent commission?
    • A permanent commission entitles an officer to serve in the Navy till he/she retires unlike short service commission (SSC), which is currently for 10 years and can be extended by four more years, or a total of 14 years.

Society and Education:-

ODF+ and ODF++ of the Swachh Bharat Mission (Urban)

  • Context:
    • Parliamentary Standing Committee on Urban Development recently tabled its report on the performance of the Swachh Bharat Mission (Urban) in Lok Sabha.
  • Key observations:
    • Despite the fact that work on three protocols under the next phase of Swachh Bharat Mission (Urban2), ODF+, ODF++, and Water Plus, is to be completed by 2024, the ground situation was not matching with the assigned timeline. The progress has been slow.
    • Less than 30% of the cities have been certified as ODF+ so far. Out of 4,320 cities declared ODF, as low as 1,276 cities have been certified as ODF+.
    • The number of ODF++ cities,411, means that less than 10 % of cities are certified as ODF++ so far.
  • ODF+, ODF++:
    • ODF+ and ODF++ were launched in August 2018 to further scale up and sustain the work undertaken by the cities after achieving the ODF status under Phase I of the Swachh Bharat Mission — Urban (SBM-Urban).
  • Eligibility:
    • Cities that had been certified ODF at least once, on the basis of the ODF protocols, are eligible to declare themselves as SBM-ODF+ & SBM-ODF++.
  • What do they mean?
    • ODF+ and ODF++ are aimed towards the proper maintenance of toilet facilities and safe collection, conveyance, treatment/disposal of all fecal sludge and sewage.
    • While ODF+ focuses on toilets with water, maintenance, and hygiene, ODF++ focuses on toilets with sludge and septage management.
  • What is water plus?
    • Announced in August 2019, Water Plus aims to sustain toilets by treating and reuse of water. It contributes to the government’s focus on water conversation and reuse under the Jal Shakti Abhiyan and is in alignment with United Nations-mandated Sustainable Development Goal No 6 on clean water and sanitation.

Child Adoption Regulatory Authority (CARA)

  • Context:
    • The Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA) has invited suggestions and feedback for simplification of the adoption process from all stakeholders, including prospective adoptive parents, specialized adoption agencies, child welfare committees, state adoption resource agencies, and the general public.
  • Adoption in India:
    • In India, an Indian citizen or a non-resident Indian (NRI) can adopt a child under the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act of 1956 and the Guardian and Wards Act of 1890.
    • Eligibility criteria for prospective adoptive parents:
    • The prospective adoptive parents shall be physically, mentally and emotionally stable, financially capable and shall not have any life-threatening medical condition.
    • Any prospective adoptive parents, irrespective of his marital status and whether or not he has a biological son or daughter, can adopt a child subject to following, namely:
      • a) the consent of both the spouses for the adoption shall be required, in case of a married couple;
      • b) a single female can adopt a child of any gender;
      • c) a single male shall not be eligible to adopt a girl child;
    • No child shall be given in adoption to a couple unless they have at least two years of a stable marital relationship.
    • The minimum age difference between the child and either of the prospective adoptive parents shall not be less than twenty-five years.
    • The age criteria for prospective adoptive parents shall not be applicable in case of relative adoptions and adoption by step-parent.
    • Couples with three or more children shall not be considered for adoption except in case of special needs children.
  • About CARA:
    • Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA) is a statutory body of the Ministry of Women & Child Development, Government of India.
    • It functions as the nodal body for the adoption of Indian children and is mandated to monitor and regulate in-country and inter-country adoptions.
    • CARA is designated as the Central Authority to deal with inter-country adoptions in accordance with the provisions of the Hague Convention on Inter-country Adoption, 1993, ratified by the Government of India in 2003.
    • CARA primarily deals with the adoption of orphan, abandoned and surrendered children through its associated /recognized adoption agencies.
    • CARA is also mandated to frame regulations on adoption-related matters from time to time as per Section 68 of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015.

Parliamentary Standing Committee Report on Demand for grants for school education 

  • Context:
    • The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Human Resource Development (HRD) recently submitted its report on the 2020-2021 demand for grants for school education to the Rajya Sabha. In this report, the committee has made various observations on the state of government schools in India.
  • What is the state of government schools? Findings by the panel:
    • Almost half the government schools in the country do not have electricity or playgrounds.
    • The budgetary allocations saw a 27% cut from proposals made by the School Education Department. Despite proposals for ₹82,570 crores, only ₹59,845 crores was allocated.
    • There is slow progress in building classrooms, labs, and libraries to strengthen government higher secondary schools.
    • Overall, for the core Samagra Shiksha Scheme, the department had only spent 71% of revised estimates by December 31, 2019.
    • India is also dealing with a scenario of significant teacher vacancies, which are to the tune of almost 60- 70 percent in some states.
  • Need of the hour- key recommendations:
    • Core schemes should get additional funds at the revised estimates stage.
    • HRD Ministry should collaborate with the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme to construct boundary walls.
    • It should also work with the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy to provide solar and other energy sources so that schools have access to power.
  • The Delhi Model of Education:
    • For too long, there have been two kinds of education models in the country: one for the classes and another for the masses. The AAP government in Delhi sought to bridge this gap.
    • Its approach stems from the belief that quality education is a necessity, not a luxury. Hence, it built a model that essentially has five major components and is supported by nearly 25% of the State Budget.
  • Key components of the model:
    • Transformation of school infrastructure.
    • Training of teachers and principals.
    • Engaging with the community by reconstituting school management committees (SMC).
    • Curricular reforms in teaching-learning.
    • No fee increase in private schools.

Tribals:-

“Tech For Tribals”

  • Context:
    • TRIFED Launches transformational “Tech For Tribals” program in partnership with Institutes of National Importance (INIs) to develop Tribal entrepreneurship.
  • Key features of the program:
    • Aim:
      • To transform 5 crores Tribal Entrepreneurs.
    • It is supported by the Ministry of MSME.
    • It also aims at capacity building and imparting entrepreneurship skills to tribal forest produce gatherers enrolled under the Pradhan Mantri VanDhan Yojana (PMVDY).
    • The trainees will undergo a 30 days program over six weeks comprising 120 sessions.
    • The Partners will develop course contents relevant to Entrepreneurship in Value Addition and Processing of Forest Produces.
    • The course curriculum will include Achievement Motivation and positive psychology, Entrepreneurial Competencies, Identification of locally available NTFP Based Business Opportunities.
  • What is Van Dhan Kendras?
    • TRIFED under Ministry of Tribal Affairs is establishing 1,200 “Van Dhan Vikas Kendra (VDVK)”, across 28 States engaging 3.6 Lakhs Tribal Forest Produce gatherers.
    • One typical VDVK comprises of 15 Self Help Groups, each consisting of 20 Tribal gatherers.
  • About Van Dhan Vikas Kendras initiative:
    • The initiative aims to promote MFPs-centric livelihood development of tribal gatherers and artisans.
    • It mainstreams the tribal community by promoting primary level value addition to MFP at the grassroots level.
  • Significance:
    • Through this initiative, the share of tribals in the value chain of Non-Timber Forest Produce is expected to rise from the present 20% to around 60%.

Minor Forest Produce (MFP)

  • Context:
    • The Union government’s ‘mechanism for the marketing of minor forest produce (MFP) through minimum support price (MSP) and development of value chain for MFP’ scheme can offer respite to forest-dependent laborers in the wake of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, according to experts.
  • What is this scheme all about?
    • The Union Cabinet, in 2013, approved a Centrally Sponsored Scheme for the marketing of non-nationalized / non monopolized Minor Forest Produce (MFP) and development of a value chain for MFP through Minimum Support Price (MSP).
    • This was a measure towards social safety for MFP gatherers, who are primarily members of the Scheduled Tribes (STs) most of them in Left Wing Extremism (LWE) areas.
  • Key features of the scheme:
    • Ensure that the tribal population gets a remunerative price for the produce they collect from the forest and provide alternative employment avenues to them.
    • Establish a system to ensure fair monetary returns for forest dweller’s efforts in the collection, primary processing, storage, packaging, transportation, etc, while ensuring the sustainability of the resource base.
    • Get them a share of the revenue from the sales proceeds with costs deducted.
  • Coverage:
    • The scheme would cover 12 MFPs, which are not nationalized in States having Scheduled Areas and Scheduled Tribes in accordance with Fifth Schedule of Constitution. These are Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Rajasthan, and Jharkhand.
    • The 12 MFPs are Tendu, Bamboo, Karanj, Mahuwa Seed, Sal Leaf, Sal Seed, Lac, Chironjee, Wild Honey, Myrobalan, Tamarind, and Gums (Gum Karaya).
  • Implementation:
    • The responsibility of purchasing MFP on MSP will be with State designated agencies.
    • To ascertain market price, services of market correspondents would be availed by the designated agencies particularly for major markets trading in MFP.
    • The scheme supports primary value addition as well as provides for supply chain infrastructure like cold storage, warehouses, etc.
    • The Ministry of Tribal Affairs will be the nodal Ministry for implementation and monitoring of the scheme. The Minimum Support Price would be determined by the Ministry with the technical help of TRIFED.

Arr-Rinam

  • It is a tribal lockdown ritual observed in Arunachal Pradesh.
  • It is the Galo equivalent of lockdown imposed by consensus for 48 hours whenever an epidemic strikes.
  • It has been imposed now on account of COVID- 19 spread.
  • It was last performed almost four decades ago when a water-borne disease had affected many members of the community.
  • The Adi community inhabiting East Siang and Lower Dibang Valley districts too performed a similar ritual called Motor that they believe lets shamans with legendary powers to locate wild herbs to combat an epidemic.

Mo Jiban

  • It is a new programme launched by Odisha Government, under which people of the State have to take a resolute vow to stay home and not to go outside during the lockdown period to remain safe from the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

Polity

Executive And Legislature:-

Delimitation of Constituencies

  • Context:
    • The government has constituted a Delimitation Commission, to be headed by former Supreme Court judge Ranjana Prakash Desai, to redraw Lok Sabha and assembly constituencies of the Union Territory Jammu and Kashmir and the northeastern states of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, and Nagaland.
  • Delimitation:
    • Delimitation literally means the process of fixing limits or boundaries of territorial constituencies in a state that has a legislative body.
  • 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 the 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.

MP Suspension Process

  • Context:
    • Seven Congress members were recently suspended for unruly behavior in the Lok Sabha. The motion was passed by a voice vote.
  • What is the reason for suspending an MP?
    • The general principle is that it is the role and duty of the Speaker of Lok Sabha to maintain order so that the House can function smoothly. This is a daunting task even at the best of times.
    • In order to ensure that proceedings are conducted in the proper manner, the Speaker is empowered to force a Member to withdraw from the House (for the remaining part of the day), or to place him/her under suspension.
  • Rules under which the Speaker acts:
    • Rule Number 373 of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business says: “The Speaker, it is of the opinion that the conduct of any Member is grossly disorderly, may direct such Member to withdraw immediately from the House, and any Member so ordered to withdraw shall do so forthwith and shall remain absent during the remainder of the day’s sitting.”
    • To deal with more recalcitrant Members, the Speaker may take recourse to Rules 374 and 374A.
      • Rule 374 says:
        • “(1) The Speaker may, it deems it necessary, name a Member who disregards the authority of the Chair or abuses the rules of the House by persistently and wilfully obstructing the business thereof.
        • “(2) If a Member is so named by the Speaker, the Speaker shall, on a motion being made forthwith put the question that the Member (naming such Member) be suspended from the service of the House for a period not exceeding the remainder of the session: Provided that the House may, at any time, on a motion being made, resolve that such suspension be terminated.
        • “(3) A member suspended under this rule shall forthwith withdraw from the precincts of the House.”
  • Procedure for the revocation of a Member’s suspension:
    • While the Speaker is empowered to place a Member under suspension, the authority for revocation of this order is not vested in her. It is for the House, if it so desires, to resolve on a motion to revoke the suspension.
  • Rajya Sabha Process:
    • Like the Speaker in Lok Sabha, the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha is empowered under Rule Number 255 of its Rule Book to “direct any Member whose conduct is in his opinion grossly disorderly to withdraw immediately” from the House.
    • “Any Member so ordered to withdraw shall do so forthwith and shall absent himself during the remainder of the day’s meeting.

Floor test or trust vote

  • Context:
    • Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath has requested Governor Lalji Tandon to hold a floor test in the Assembly session starting from March 16, on a date fixed by the Speaker.
  • Floor test or trust vote:
    • A floor test is a constitutional mechanism. It is used to determine if the incumbent government enjoys the support of the legislature.
  • How it takes place?
    • This voting process happens in the state’s Legislative Assembly or the Lok Sabha at the central level.
    • Technically, the chief minister of a state is appointed by the Governor. The appointed chief minister usually belongs to the single largest party or the coalition which has the ‘magic number’. The magic number is the total number of seats required to form a government or stay in power. It is the halfway mark, plus one. In case of a tie, the Speaker casts the deciding vote.
    • However, at times, a government’s majority can be questioned. The leader of the party claiming the majority has to move a vote of confidence.
    • If some MLAs remain absent or abstain from voting, the majority is counted on the basis of those present and voting. This effectively reduces the strength of the House and in turn, brings down the majority-mark.
    • The voting process can happen orally, with electronic gadgets or a ballot process.
    • The Governor can also ask the Chief Minister to prove his or her majority in the House if the stability of the government comes into question.
  • Composite floor test:
    • While there is another test, Composite floor test, which is necessitated when more than one person stakes the claim to form the government and the majority is not clear.
    • Governor may call a special session to assess who has the majority. The majority is counted based on those present and voting and this can be done through voice vote also.

Section 188 IPC

  • Context: 
    • The Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897 lays down punishment as per Section 188 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, for flouting orders issued by various state governments to contain the spread of COVID-19.
    • In the past, the Act has been routinely enforced across the country for dealing with outbreaks of diseases such as swine flu, dengue, and cholera. Its penal provisions are currently being invoked by states to contain the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Section 188 of the Indian Penal Code:
    • Section 188 relates to Disobedience to order duly promulgated by a public servant.
    • It says violators can be punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to one month or with fine which may extend to two hundred rupees, or with both; and if such disobedience causes or tends to cause danger to human life, health or safety, or causes or tends to cause a riot or affray, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to six months, or with fine which may extend to one thousand rupees, or with both.
  • What happens if you violate the lockdown orders?
    • Under Section 188, there are two offenses:
      • 1. Disobedience to an order lawfully promulgated by a public servant, If such disobedience causes obstruction, annoyance or injury to persons lawfully employed
        • Punishment:
          • Simple Imprisonment for 1 month or fine of Rs 200 or both
      • 2. If such disobedience causes danger to human life, health or safety, etc.
        • Punishment:
          • Simple Imprisonment for 6 months or fine of Rs 1000 or both
        • According to the First Schedule of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), 1973, both offenses are cognizable, bailable, and can be tried by any magistrate.
  • These are extraordinary times, but under what circumstances is Sec 188 IPC invoked normally?
    • To be punishable under S. 188, the order has to be for public purposes by public functionaries. An order made in a civil suit between two parties does not fall under this Section.
    • There must be evidence that the accused had knowledge of the order with the disobedience of which he is charged.
    • Mere proof of a general notification promulgating the order does not satisfy the requirements of the section.
    • Mere disobedience of the order does not constitute an offense in itself, it must be shown that the disobedience has or tends to a certain consequence.

Role of L-G and government

  • Context:
    • Madras High Court has set aside its own order restraining the L-G from interfering in the day-to-day affairs of the elected government of the union territory.
  • Background:
    • Previously, On March 30, 2019, the Madras High Court had said that the L-G does not have the power to interfere in the day-to-day activities of the union territory.
    • LG also have doesn’t the right to seek any government documents from the Puducherry government.
  • Observations made by the High Court in its latest order:
    • The role of Puducherry’s Lieutenant Governor and that of an elected government in the Union Territory were intertwined as per law, and therefore they were expected to act in unison and not in division.
    • In the past judgment on these issues, the single judge had erred in holding that the Puducherry Legislative Assembly enjoys similar powers to that of a State legislature.
    • A government is “a trustee for the little man who should not have a perception that the running of the government is a gigantic conspiracy”.
  • What are the powers and sources of LG of Puducherry?
    • The Government of Union Territories Act, 1963 provides for a Legislative Assembly of Pondicherry (as Puducherry was then called), with a Council of Ministers to govern the “Union Territory of Pondicherry”.
    • The same Act says that the UT will be administered by the President of India through an Administrator (LG).
    • Section 44 of the Act, says the Council of Ministers headed by a Chief Minister will “aid and advise the Administrator in the exercise of his functions in relation to matters with respect to which the Legislative Assembly of the Union Territory has the power to make laws”.
    • • The same clause also allows the LG to “act in his discretion” in the matter of lawmaking, even though the Council of Ministers has the task of aiding and advising him.
  • What happens when there is a difference of opinion?
    • In case of a difference of opinion between the LG and his Ministers on any matter, the Administrator is bound to refer it to the President for a decision and act according to the decision given by the President.
    • However, the Administrator can also claim that the matter is urgent, and take immediate action as he deems necessary.
  • When prior sanction of the Administrator is required?
    • Under Section 22 of the Act, prior sanction of the Administrator is required for certain legislative proposals.
    • These include Bills or amendments that the Council of Ministers intends to move in the Legislative Assembly, and which deal with the “constitution and organization of the court of the Judicial Commissioner”, and “jurisdiction and powers of the court of the Judicial Commissioner with respect to any of the matters in the State List or the Concurrent List”.
    • It is also obligatory on the part of the UT government to seek the “recommendation” of the LG before moving a Bill or an amendment to provide for “the imposition, abolition, remission, alteration or regulation of any tax”, “the amendment of the law with respect to any financial obligations undertaken or to be undertaken”, and anything that has to do with the Consolidated Fund of the UT.

Parliamentary standing committees

  • Context:
    • All meetings of parliamentary standing committees have been deferred indefinitely because of the lockdown to curb the spread of COVID-19.
  • What are the types of committees?
    • ‘Standing’ committees:
      • Their existence is uninterrupted and usually reconstituted on an annual basis. Some standing committees are departmentally related.
    • “Select” committees :
      • They are formed for a specific purpose, for instance, to deliberate on a particular bill. Once the Bill is disposed of, that select committee ceases to exist.
    • “Finance” committees :
      • They are considered to be particularly powerful. The three financial committees are the Public Accounts Committee, the Estimates Committee and the Committee on Public Undertakings.
  • Powers:
    • Parliamentary committees draw their authority from Article 105 (on privileges of Parliament members) and Article 118 (on Parliament’s authority to make rules for regulating its procedure and conduct of business).
  • Significance:
    • Committee reports are usually exhaustive and provide authentic information on matters related to governance.
    • Bills that are referred to committees are returned to the House with significant value addition. However,
    • Parliament is not bound by the recommendations of committees.
  • Why have parliamentary committees?
    • Parliament is the embodiment of the people’s will. Committees are an instrument of Parliament for its own effective functioning.
    • The smaller cohort of lawmakers, assembled on the basis of the proportional strength of individual parties and interests and expertise of individual lawmakers, could have more open, intensive and better-informed discussions.
    • Members of Parliament may have great acumen but they would require the assistance of experts in dealing with such situations. It is through committees that such expertise is drawn into lawmaking.
    • Executive accountability to the legislature is enforced through questions in Parliament also, which are answered by ministers. However, department standing committees go one step further and hear from senior officials of the government in a closed setting, allowing for more detailed discussions.
    • This mechanism also enables parliamentarians to understand the executive processes closely.

Parliament Logjam Part 4: Strengthening committee system can ...

Starred and unstarred questions, supplementary questions.

  • Context:
    • Congress leader Rahul Gandhi recently said his right as an MP to ask a supplementary question in Lok Sabha was taken away as Speaker Om Birla did not allow him to ask one.
    • Rahul Gandhi was asking the government to name wilful bank loan defaulters but was not allowed another supplementary question amid uproar in the lower house.
  • The right of MPs to question:
    • Members of Parliament have a right to ask questions which is one of the devices available to them to seek information on matters of public importance.
    • The Question Hour is one such mechanism in which the members ask questions on varied aspects of administration and governmental activity.
  • What is Question hour?
    • The first hour of every parliamentary sitting is termed as Question hour.
    • It is mentioned in the Rules of Procedure of the House.
    • During this time, the members ask questions and the ministers usually give answers.
  • How many starred questions can be asked?
    • The number of starred questions was fixed at 20 per Question Hour from the fourth session of the fifth Lok Sabha in 1972.
  • Type of Questions:
    • Members have a right to ask questions to elicit information on matters of public importance within the special cognizance of the Ministers concerned. The questions are of three types:
      • Starred Questions:
        • A Starred Question is one to which a member desires an oral answer from the Minister in the House and is required to be distinguished by him/her with an asterisk. Answer to such a question may be followed by supplementary questions by members.
      • Unstarred Questions:
        • An Unstarred Question is one to which written answer is desired by the member and is deemed to be laid on the Table of the House by Minister. Thus it is not called for oral answer in the House and no supplementary question can be asked thereon.
      • Short Notice Questions:
        • A member may give notice of question on a matter of public importance and of urgent character for an oral answer at a notice less than 10 days prescribed as the minimum period of notice for asking a question in the ordinary course. Such a question is known as ‘Short Notice Question’.
  • Questions to Private Members:
    • A Question may also be addressed to a Private Member (Under Rule 40 of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in Lok Sabha), provided that the subject matter of the question relates to some Bill, Resolution or other matter connected with the business of the House for which that Member is responsible. The procedure in regard to such questions is the same as that followed in the case of questions addressed to a Minister with such variations as the Speaker may consider necessary.

National Population Register

  • Context:
    • The Union Home Ministry has informed a parliamentary panel that it proposes to collect details on additional questions such as “date and place of birth of parents” in the National Population Register (NPR) to “facilitate back-end data processing and making the data items of date and place of birth complete for all households”.
  • National Population Register (NPR):
    • It is a Register of the usual residents of the country.
    • It is being prepared at the local (Village/sub-Town), sub-District, District, State and National level under provisions of the Citizenship Act 1955 and the Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003.
    • It is mandatory for every usual resident of India to register in the NPR.
  • Objectives:
    • To create a comprehensive identity database of every usual resident in the country.
  • Who is a usual resident?
    • A usual resident is defined for the purposes of NPR as a person who has resided in a local area for the past 6 months or more or a person who intends to reside in that area for the next 6 months or more.

Essential Commodities Act

  • Context:
    • Govt brings masks and hand sanitizers under the Essential Commodities Act. Under the EC Act, powers of the Central Government have already been delegated to the States by way of orders from 1972 to 1978. The States/UTs, therefore, may take action against the offenders.
  • Background:
    • The coronavirus pandemic has triggered panic buying of masks and hand sanitizers at many places around the world, including in India.
    • The government’s order has come in the wake of reports of a shortage of these commodities and a sudden and sharp spike in their prices, and the alleged hoarding of stocks by manufacturers.
  • What is the Essential Commodities Act?
    • The ECA was enacted way back in 1955.
    • It has since been used by the Government to regulate the production, supply, and distribution of a whole host of commodities it declares ‘essential’ in order to make them available to consumers at fair prices.
    • The list of items under the Act includes drugs, fertilizers, pulses, and edible oils, and petroleum and petroleum products.
    • The Centre can include new commodities as and when the need arises, and take them off the list once the situation improves.
    • Under the Act, the government can also fix the maximum retail price (MRP) of any packaged product that it declares an “essential commodity”.
  • Working:
    • If the Centre finds that a certain commodity is in short supply and its price is spiking, it can notify stockholding limits on it for a specified period.
    • The States act on this notification to specify limits and take steps to ensure that these are adhered to.
    •  Anybody trading or dealing in a commodity, be it wholesalers, retailers or even importers are prevented from stockpiling it beyond a certain quantity.
    • A State can, however, choose not to impose any restrictions. But once it does, traders have to immediately sell into the market any stocks held beyond the mandated quantity.
  • But, why the recent Economic Survey said that this act is outdated and must go?
    • In September 2019, the Centre invoked the ECA Act’s provisions to impose stock limits on onions after heavy rains wiped out a quarter of the Kharif crop and led to a sustained spike in prices.
    • Although the restrictions on both retail and wholesale traders were meant to prevent hoarding and enhance supply in the market, the Survey showed that there was actually an increase in price volatility and a widening wedge between wholesale and retail prices.
    • This is due to the fact that the ECA act fails to differentiate between hoarding and Storage.
    • Thus in the long term, the Act disincentivizes the development of storage infrastructure, thereby leading to increased volatility in prices following production/ consumption shocks — the opposite of what it is intended for.
    • The report finds that the ECA has been enacted in the year 1955 when the economy was ravaged by famine and food shortages. The government should note that today’s scenario is much more different.

Foreigner's tribunal

  • Context:
    • A series of judgments delivered by the Gauhati High Court over the course of the last few weeks have brought into sharp focus the utter brutality of the regime governing the Foreigners’ Tribunals in Assam.
  • What is Foreigner's tribunal?
    • In 1964, the govt brought in the Foreigners (Tribunals) Order.
  • Composition:
    • Advocates not below the age of 35 years of age with at least 7 years of practice (or) Retired Judicial Officers from the Assam Judicial Service (or) Retired IAS of ACS Officers (not below the rank of Secretary/Addl. Secretary) having experience in quasi-judicial works.
  • Who can set up these tribunals?
    • The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has amended the Foreigners (Tribunals) Order, 1964, and has empowered district magistrates in all States and Union Territories to set up tribunals (quasi-judicial bodies) to decide whether a person staying illegally in India is a foreigner or not.
    • Earlier, the powers to constitute tribunals were vested only with the Centre.
    • Typically, the tribunals there have seen two kinds of cases: those concerning persons against whom a reference has been made by the border police and those whose names in the electoral roll has a “D”, or “doubtful”, marked against them.
  • Who can approach?
    • The amended order (Foreigners (Tribunal) Order, 2019) also empowers individuals to approach the Tribunals.
    • Earlier, only the State administration could move the Tribunal against a suspect.
  • How a person is declared a foreigner by these tribunals?
    • Foreigners Tribunals, quasi-judicial authorities in Assam, have been deciding on matters pertaining to citizenship in order to identify foreigners.
    • The process begins by the border police or the Election Commission referring the case of a suspected foreigner to the Foreigners Tribunal.
    • The tribunal calls on the person to appear before it and prove that they are not a foreigner and then pass an order in favor of or against them.

Consumer Protection Act, 1986

  • Context:
    • A district consumer disputes redressal forum in New Delhi has directed e-commerce platform Flipkart to compensate a complainant by paying over ₹11,000 for delivering a defective mobile handset and failing to redress the grievance.
  • Dispute redressal under Consumer Protection Act, 1986:
    • The Consumer Protection Act, 1986 provides for a 3-tier structure of the National and State Commissions and District Forums for the speedy resolution of consumer disputes. They are quasi-judicial bodies.
  • Composition:
    • Each District Forum is headed by a person who is or has been or is eligible to be appointed as a District Judge and each State Commission is headed by a person who is or has been a Judge of High Court.
  • Ambit:
    • The provisions of this Act cover ‘goods’ as well as ‘services’.
    • The goods are those which are manufactured or produced and sold to consumers through wholesalers and retailers. The services are in the nature of transport, telephone, electricity, housing, banking, insurance, medical treatment, etc.

Force Majeure

  • Context:
    • Indian Railways has decided that the period from 22.03.2020 to 14.04.2020 shall be treated under “Force Majeure”.
    • During this period no demurrage, wharfage, stacking, stabling, detention, and ground usage charge shall be leviable.
  • About:
    • A force majeure (FM) means extraordinary events or circumstances beyond human control such as an event described as an Act of God (as a natural calamity).

Constitutional Provisions:-

Right of an accused to be defended

  • Article 22(1) gives the fundamental right to every person not to be denied the right to be defended by a legal practitioner of his or her choice.
  • Article 14 provides for equality before the law and equal protection of the laws within the territory of India.
  • Article 39A, part of the Directive Principles of state policy, states that equal opportunity to secure justice must not be denied to any citizen by reason of economic or other disabilities, and provides for free legal aid.
  • Supreme Court observations in 2010 A S Mohammed Rafi vs State of Tamil Nadu case:
    • Such resolutions are wholly illegal, against all traditions of the bar and against professional ethics.
    • Every person, however wicked, depraved, vile, degenerate, perverted, loathsome, execrable, vicious or repulsive he may be regarded by society has a right to be defended in a court of law and correspondingly, it is the duty of the lawyer to defend him.”
    • Such resolutions were “against all norms of the Constitution, the statute and professional ethics”, called these “a disgrace to the legal community”, and declared them null and void.

State Election Commission

  • Context:
    • The Andhra Pradesh government has filed petitions in the Supreme Court and the High Court over the issue of the State Election Commission (SEC) postponing the local body elections citing the COVID-19 threat.
  • About the State Election Commission:
    • The Constitution of India vests in the State Election Commission, consisting of a State Election Commissioner, the superintendence, direction and control of the preparation of electoral rolls for, and the conduct of all elections to the Panchayats and the Municipalities (Articles 243K, 243ZA).
    • The State Election Commissioner is appointed by the Governor.
    • As per article 243(C3) the Governor, when so requested by the State Election Commission, make available to the State Election Commission such staff as may be necessary for the discharge of the functions conferred on the SEC by clause (1).
  • What was the need for State Election Commissions?
    • Under the Constitution, the establishment of local self-government institutions is the responsibility of the states (entry 5, List II, Seventh Schedule).
    • However, experience showed that not all state governments were serious about empowering Panchayati Raj institutions as elections were not being conducted regularly.
    • The Constitution was amended in 1992 to define the term (five years) for these institutions. Simultaneously, another provision was made for setting up a constitutional authority, the SEC, on the lines of the EC to conduct regular panchayat elections.
    • The ECI and SECs have a similar mandate; do they also have similar powers?
    • The provisions of Article 243K of the Constitution, which provides for setting up of SECs, are almost identical to those of Article 324 related to the EC. In other words, the SECs enjoy the same status as the EC.
    • In 2006, the Supreme Court emphasized the two constitutional authorities enjoy the same powers. In Kishan Singh Tomar vs Municipal Corporation of the City of Ahmedabad, the Supreme Court directed that state governments should abide by orders of the SECs during the conduct of the panchayat and municipal elections, just like they follow the instructions of the EC during Assembly and Parliament polls.
  • How far can courts intervene?
    • Courts cannot interfere in the conduct of polls to local bodies and self-government institutions once the electoral process has been set in motion.
    • Article 243-O of the Constitution bars interference in poll matters set in motion by the SECs; Article 329 bars interference in such matters set in motion by the EC.
    • Only after the polls are over can the SECs’ decisions or conduct be questioned through an election petition.
    • These powers enjoyed by the SECs are the same as those by the EC.

Judiciary:-

Article 142

  • Context:
    • In an extraordinary display of its constitutional powers under Article 142 of the Indian Constitution, the Supreme Court has stripped Manipur Cabinet Minister T. Shyamkumar, who is facing disqualification proceedings for defection, of his office and banned him from entering the Assembly with immediate effect.
  • Article 142
    • Article 142 “provide(s) a unique power to the Supreme Court, to do “complete justice” between the parties, i.e., where at times law or statute may not provide a remedy, the Court can extend itself to put a quietus to a dispute in a manner that would befit the facts of the case.
    • Article 142(1) states that “The Supreme Court in the exercise of its jurisdiction may pass such decree or make such order as is necessary for doing complete justice in any cause or matter pending before it, and any decree so passed or order so made shall be enforceable throughout the territory of India in such manner as may be prescribed by or under any law made by Parliament and, until provision in that behalf is so made, in such manner as the President may by order prescribe”.

SC frees trade in cryptocurrencies, annuls RBI curb

  • Context:
    • The Supreme Court has set aside April 6, 2018, circular of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) that prohibited banks and entities regulated by it from providing services in relation to virtual currencies (VCs).
  • SC Verdict:
    • RBI has not come out with a stand that any of the entities regulated by it namely, nationalized banks/scheduled commercial banks/cooperative banks/NBFCs, have suffered any loss or adverse effect directly or indirectly, on account of virtual currencies (VCs) exchanges.
    • Hence, the RBI circular is “disproportionate” with an otherwise consistent stand taken by the central bank that VCs were not prohibited in the country.
    • Besides, the court found that the RBI did not consider the availability of alternatives before issuing the circular.
    • Besides, the court referred to the Centre’s failure to introduce an official digital rupee despite two draft Bills and several committees.
  • Background:
    • The top court's order followed a plea by the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IMAI) objecting to the RBI ban.
    • In April 2018, the central bank had tightened rules to discourage the use of virtual currencies such as Bitcoins, prohibiting banks and financial institutions from providing any related services.
  • Arguments by IMAI:
    • Cryptocurrency is not strictly currency and was more in the nature of the commodity, and RBI does not have powers to impose such a ban in the absence of a law in that regard prohibiting cryptocurrency.
    • India should look at most other nations that are not only allowing cryptocurrency trading but have moved to launch their own virtual currencies.
  • What are Cryptocurrencies?
    • Cryptocurrencies are digital currencies in which encryption techniques are used to regulate the generation of units of currency and verify the transfer of funds, operating independently of a central bank.
      • Examples: Bitcoin, Ethereum, etc.
  • How is it being regulated worldwide?
    • While many regulators around the world have been warning against trading in Bitcoin, some have backed it. In 2017, Japan accepted Bitcoin as legal currency and evenofficially recognized exchanges dealing in the cryptocurrency.

 

Removal of controversial ‘name and shame’ hoardings

  • Context:
    • Allahabad High Court has directed the Lucknow administration to remove forthwith the controversial ‘name and shame’ hoardings of those arrested during protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act.
  • What’s the issue?
    • The police put up several hoardings across Lucknow identifying those accused of violence during the protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act in December last, triggering those named to fear for their safety.
    • Later, the Allahabad High Court had taken suo motu notice of this act.
  • Important observations made by the Court:
    • The action of the State is nothing but an unwarranted interference in the privacy of people.
    • The same hence is in violation of Article 21 of the Constitution of India.
    • The placement of personal data of selected persons “reflects the colorable exercise of powers” by the government.
    • There are certain provisions empowering the investigating agencies or other Executives to take picture of accused of the purpose of their identification and record but that too is not open for publication.
    • The only time these photographs be published is to have assistance in the apprehension of a fugitive from justice.
    • No power is available in the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 to the police or the Executive to display personal records of a person to the public at large.
    • On the issue of the court taking the case suo motu, it said “where there is gross negligence on the part of public authorities and government, where the law is disobeyed and the public is put to suffering and where the precious values of the constitution are subjected to injuries, a constitutional court can very well take notice of that on its own.

Petitions and safeguards For Understanding the delay in “convicts” hanging

  • Context:
    • The mercy plea filed by one of the four convicts in the 2012 Delhi gangrape case was recently rejected by the President. Now, they will be hanged on March 20.
    • The fresh date is in line with the requirement of a gap of 14 days between the date of rejection of the mercy petition and the date of hanging.
  • What is the regular legal procedure followed in death penalty cases?
    • The legal procedure by which a convict is sent to his death is complex and packed with safeguards.
    • First, a trial court may pronounce the death sentence only in the “rarest of the rare” cases.
    • Such a sentence is automatically referred to the High Court for confirmation.
    • A warrant of execution may only be issued once the sentence has been confirmed by the High Court.
    • Next, the convict has the option of approaching the Supreme Court against the High Court’s decision.
    • After the Supreme Court’s decision, the convict may file a review petition and a separate curative petition before the Supreme Court. Both are standard legal processes, meant to rectify egregious errors in judgments.
    • Thereafter, a mercy petition before the President may be filed. Such a petition is disposed of after a process involving a recommendation from the relevant state government, and sanction from the Home Ministry.
    • The convict may then approach the Supreme Court again by filing a petition questioning the legitimacy of the President’s decision in the mercy petition.
    • Finally, the disposal of this petition ends the process, and the death sentence may be executed thereafter.
    • In conclusion, four separate petitions are available to a convict even after the Supreme Court has confirmed the conviction.
  • Need for such checks and balances:
    • A regular legal procedure in death penalty cases has multiple checks because of the realization of past failures.
    • This has resulted in the addition of an extra layer of protection for death row convicts.
    • Besides, it is a principle of criminal law that it is preferable to exonerate 10 criminals to condemning even a single innocent.

Contempt of Court

  • Context: 
    • The Supreme Court has held that courts are empowered to order parties in a contempt case to surrender their passport in order to ensure their presence in the proceedings.
  • Background:
    • The court was hearing a contempt case in connection with a civil suit on the partition of a disputed property in Delhi.
  • What is contempt under the Indian law?
    • In India, the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971, divides contempt into civil contempt and criminal contempt.
    • ‘Civil contempt’ is ‘wilful disobedience to any judgment, decree, direction, order, writ or other processes of a The court or wilful breach of an undertaking given to the court’.
    • ‘Criminal contempt’ is ‘the publication (whether by words, spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation, or otherwise) of any matter or the doing of any other act whatsoever which:
      • Scandalises or tends to scandalize, or lowers or tends to lower the authority of, any court.
      • Prejudices, or interferes or tends to interfere with the due course of any judicial proceeding.
      • Interferes or tends to interfere with, or obstructs or tends to obstruct, the administration of justice in any other manner.’
  • Need:
    • Judiciary ensures justice and equality to every individual and institutions, therefore, the makers of the constitution upheld the sanctity and prestige of the revered institution by placing provisions under articles 129 and 215 of the constitution, which enables the courts to hold individuals in contempt if they attempt to demean or belittle their authority
  • Contempt of Courts (Amendment) Act, 2006:
    • The statute of 1971 has been amended by the Contempt of Courts (Amendment) Act, 2006 to include the defense of truth under Section 13 of the original legislation.
    • Section 13 that already served to restrict the powers of the court in that they were not to hold anyone in contempt unless it would substantially interfere with the due process of justice, the amendment further states that the court must permit ‘justification by truth as a valid defence if it is satisfied that it is in public interest and the request for invoking the said defence is bona fide.’
  • Constitutional Background:
    • Article 129: Grants Supreme Court the power to punish for contempt of itself.
    • Article 142(2): Enables the Supreme Court to investigate and punish any person for its contempt.
    • Article 215: Grants every High Court the power to punish for contempt of itself.

Living entity Concept

  • Context:
    • The Punjab and Haryana high court has declared Sukhna Lake a “living entity” or “legal person” with rights, duties, and liabilities of a living person. It also declared all citizens of Chandigarh as loco parentis (in the place of a parent) to save the lake from extinction.
  • Polluter pays principle:
    • Invoking the ‘polluter pays’ principle of environmental law, the Court said in its order: “The States should have taken precautionary measures to save the catchment of Sukhna lake. It is the duty of the States of Punjab and Haryana to restore the catchment area. The State government has also failed to take precautionary measures to save the catchment area. The damage caused to the catchment area is enormous.”
  • What is the legal entity?
    • A legal entity means an entity that acts like a natural person but only through a designated person, whose acts are processed within the ambit of the law.
  • About Sukhna lake:
    • The man-made Sukhna Lake was built in 1958 by Le Corbusier, the architect of Chandigarh. Located in the foothills of the Shivalik Hills, it was designed to collect runoff water from the Hills. The Lake, which is in the process of being officially notified as a wetland, also has a nearby wildlife sanctuary that is home to sambar, pangolin, wild boars, red jungle fowl, cobras, and other species.
  • Facts for Prelims:
    • In 2018, a bench presided over by justice Sharma had accorded the status of “legal person or entity” to animals in Haryana.
    • In Uttarakhand high court, justice Sharma was part of a bench in 2017, which declared the Ganga and Yamuna as living entities, a verdict that was later stayed by the Supreme Court.
    • In June 2019, the Punjab and Haryana High Court had ruled that all animals, birds and aquatic life in Haryana would be accorded the status of legal persons or entities.
  •  

Bills And Acts:-

BILLS  FEATURES
National Commission for Indian System of Medicine Bill, 2019
  • Context:
    • The National Commission for Indian System of Medicine Bill, 2019 (NCIM) was recently passed in Rajya Sabha.
    • The Bill seeks to repeal the Indian Medicine Central Council Act, 1970.
  • About:
    • Constitution of the National Commission for Indian System of Medicine:
      • The NCISM will consist of 29 members, appointed by the central government. These posts will have a maximum term of four years. They will be recommended by a search committee.
      • The Search Committee will consist of five members including the Cabinet Secretary and three experts nominated by the central government (of which two should have experience in any of the fields of Indian System of Medicine).
  • Functions of the NCISM include:
    • Framing policies for regulating medical institutions and medical professionals of the Indian System of Medicine.
    • Assessing the requirements of healthcare-related human resources and infrastructure.
    • Ensuring compliance by the State Medical Councils of Indian System of Medicine of the regulations made under the Bill.
    • Ensuring coordination among the autonomous boards set up under the Bill.
  • Autonomous boards to be set up:
    • Board of Ayurveda and the Board of Unani, Siddha, and Sowa-Rigpa. Medical Assessment and Rating Board for Indian System of Medicine. Ethics and Medical Registration Board.
  • Entrance examinations:
    • There will be a uniform National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test for admission to under-graduate education in each of the disciplines of the Indian System of Medicine in all medical institutions regulated by the Bill.
Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (Second Amendment) Bill, 2019
  • Context:
    • The report on the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (Second Amendment) Bill, 2019 was tabled by the Standing Committee on Finance in Parliament recently.
    • Three committee members said the IBC Bill was discriminatory as it does not treat homebuyers on a par with other financial creditors and violates a Supreme Court ruling,
  • Features:
    • The Bill has introduced a new clause that sets a threshold of 100 homebuyers, or 10% of the buyers, in a residential project, whichever is less, as a requirement to jointly take the developer to an insolvency court.
    • This means that an individual homebuyer, who is a financial creditor, cannot file an insolvency application.
  • Effects of the amendment:
    • The amendment brings the much-awaited changes needed in the insolvency sector.
    • It clears the air on various aspects and provides relief to both corporate debtors as well as the creditors. The thresholds introduce will prevent the admission of unnecessary cases to the insolvency court.
    • However, even after anticipation, cross border insolvency framework has not been included in the amendment. Now, the same is expected to get cleared in the next session.
Mineral Laws (Amendment) Bill 2020
  • Context:
    • The Lok Sabha has given its nod to the Mineral Laws (Amendment) Bill.
    • The Bill amends the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957 (MMDR Act) and the Coal Mines (Special Provisions) Act, 2015 (CMSP Act).
  • Under the Bill:
    • Allocation of coal/lignite blocks for composite prospecting licence cum mining lease has been provided.
    • The requirement of previous approval in cases where the allocation of blocks was made by Central Govt has been dispensed with.
  • Removal of restriction on end-use of coal:
    • Companies will be allowed to carry on coal mining operation for own consumption, sale or for any other purposes, as may be specified by the central government.
  • Transfer of statutory clearances to new bidders:
    • The Bill provides that the various approvals, licenses, and clearances given to the previous lessee will be extended to the successful bidder for a period of two years. During this period, the new lessee will be allowed to continue mining operations.
  • Advance action for auction:
    • Under the MMDR Act, mining leases for specified minerals (minerals other than coal, lignite, and atomic minerals) are auctioned on the expiry of the lease period. The Bill provides that state governments can take advance action for auction of a mining lease before its expiry.
Major Port Authorities Bill, 2020
  • Context:
    • Major Port Authorities Bill 2020 Introduced in The Loksabha.
  • Aims and objectives:
    • Decentralise decision making and infuse professionalism in the governance of major ports.
    • Impart faster and transparent decision making benefiting the stakeholders and better project execution capability.
    • Reorient the governance model in central ports to the landlord port model in line with the successful global practice.
  • Implications:
    • The bill will replace the Major Port Trusts Act, 1963.
    • This will empower the Major Ports to perform with greater efficiency on account of full autonomy in decision making and by modernizing the institutional framework of Major Ports.
National Commission for Homoeopathy Bill, 2019
  • Context:
    • The Bill was recently passed in the Rajya Sabha.
    • The Bill seeks to repeal the Homoeopathy Central Council Act, 1973.
  • Key features:
    • Constitution of the National Commission for Homoeopathy: It will consist of 20 members, appointed by the central government and recommended by a Search Committee.
    • The Search Committee will consist of six members including the Cabinet Secretary and three experts nominated by the central government (of which two will have experience in the homeopathic field).
    • Within three years of the passage of the Bill, state governments will establish State Medical Councils for Homeopathy at the state level.
    • Functions of the National Commission for Homoeopathy: framing policies for regulating medical institutions and homeopathic medical professionals, assessing the requirements of healthcare-related human resources and infrastructure.
  • Powers:
    • The State Medical Councils and the Board of Ethics and Medical Registration for Homoeopathy have the power to take disciplinary action against the medical practitioner including imposing a monetary penalty.
  • Appeals:
    • If the medical practitioner is aggrieved of the decision of the Board, he can approach the NCH to appeal against the decision. The appeal of the decision of the NCH lies with the central government.
Central Sanskrit Universities Bill, 2019
  • Context:
    • The Central Sanskrit Universities Bill, 2019 was recently introduced in Rajya Sabha. The bill was passed in Lok Sabha in December last year.
    • The Bill is intended to convert India’s three deemed-to-be Sanskrit universities into Central Sanskrit Universities.
      • 1. Rashtriya Sanskrit Sansthan, New Delhi.
      • 2. Shri Lal Bahadur Shastri Rashtriya Sanskrit Vidyapeeth, New Delhi.
      • 3. Rashtriya Sanskrit Vidyapeeth, Tirupati.
  • What the universities will do?
    • The proposed central universities will:
      • (i) disseminate and advance knowledge for the promotion of Sanskrit,
      • (ii) make special provisions for integrated courses in humanities, social sciences, and science, and
      • (iii) train manpower for the overall development and preservation of Sanskrit and allied subjects.
  • Powers and functions:
    • These include:
      • (i) prescribing courses of study and conducting training programs,
      • (ii) granting degrees, diplomas, and certificates,
      • (iii) providing facilities through a distance education system,
      • (iv) conferring autonomous status on a college or an institution,
      • (v) providing instructions for education in Sanskrit and allied subjects.

 

International Relations

Dialogues And Talks:-

Extradition Treaty between India and Belgium

  • Context:
    • Cabinet approves signing and ratifying of the Extradition Treaty between India and Belgium.
  • About:
    • Obligation to Extradite:
      • Each Party agrees to extradite to the other any person found in its territory, who is accused or convicted of an extraditable offence in the territory of the other Party.
    • Extraditable Offences:
      • An extraditable offence means an offence punishable under the laws of both the Parties with imprisonment for a period of one year or more severe punishment.
    • Duration of the sentence:
      • Where extradition is sought in respect of a convicted person, the duration of the sentence remaining to be served must be at least six months at the time of making the request.
    • Offences relating to taxation, or revenue or is one of a fiscal character also fall within the scope of this Treaty.
    • Extradition of Nationals is discretionary. The nationality will be determined at the time the offence was committed.
  • Under the Treaty, extradition shall be refused if:
    • The offence involved is a political offence. However, the Treaty specifies certain offences, which will not be considered as political offences.
    • The offence for which extradition is requested is a military offence
    • The request for prosecution has been made for the purpose of prosecuting or punishing the person on account of his race, sex, religion, nationality or political opinion.
    • The prosecution of the enforcement of sentences has become time-barred.
  • Extradition
    • As defined by Hon’ble Supreme Court of India, ‘Extradition is the delivery on the part of one State to another of those whom it is desired to deal with for crimes of which they have been accused or convicted and are justifiable in the Courts of the other State’.
  • When can it be initiated?
    • An Extradition request for an accused can be initiated in the case of under-investigation, under-trial and convicted criminals.
    • In cases under investigation, abundant precautions have to be exercised by the law enforcement agency to ensure that it is in possession of prima facie evidence to sustain the allegation before the Courts of Law in the Foreign State.
  • What is the Legislative Basis for Extradition in India?
    • The Extradition Act of 1962 provides India’s legislative basis for extradition. It consolidated the law relating to the extradition of a criminal fugitive from India to foreign states. The Indian Extradition Act, 1962 was substantially modified in 1993 by Act 66 of 1993.
  • Who is the nodal authority for Extradition in India?
    • CPV Division, Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India is the Central/Nodal Authority that administers the Extradition Act and it processes incoming and outgoing Extradition Requests.

Geopolitical Events:-

Sir Creek pact

  • Context:
    • The third edition of WION’s global summit was held in Dubai recently.
  • Theme:
    • “Navigating and negotiating global imperatives”.
    • Several topics, including balancing and recalibrating Pakistan’s diplomatic strategy and getting the youth to participate in democracy, were discussed at the summit.
    • At the event, Former Pakistan Minister Kasuri recalled the plan for Sir Creek pact.
  • What is Sir Creek?
    • Sir Creek is a 96-km strip of water disputed between India and Pakistan in the Rann of Kutch marshlands.
    • Originally named Ban Ganga, Sir Creek is named after a British representative.
    • The Creek opens up in the Arabian Sea and roughly divides the Kutch region of Gujarat from the Sindh Province of Pakistan.
  • What’s the dispute?
    • The dispute lies in the interpretation of the maritime boundary line between Kutch and Sindh.
    • Before India’s independence, the provincial region was a part of the Bombay Presidency of British India.
    • But after India’s independence in 1947, Sindh became a part of Pakistan while Kutch remained a part of India.
    • Pakistan claims the entire creek as per paragraphs 9 and 10 of the Bombay Government Resolution of 1914 signed between then the Government of Sindh and Rao Maharaj of Kutch.
    • The resolution, which demarcated the boundaries between the two territories, included the creek as part of Sindh, thus setting the boundary as the eastern flank of the creek popularly known as Green Line.
    • But India claims that the boundary lies mid-channel as depicted in another map drawn in 1925, and implemented by the installation of mid-channel pillars back in 1924.
    • In its support, it cites the Thalweg Doctrine in International Maritime Law, which states that river boundaries between two states may be divided by the mid-channel if the water-body is navigable.

Leave India notices

  • Context:
    • Five foreigners had have asked to leave India for violating visa norms by participating in anti-CAA protests.
  • How does Indian law define ‘anti-govt’ activities for them?
    • According to visa guidelines laid out by the MHA, foreign nationals shall be required to strictly adhere to the purpose of visit declared while submitting the visa application.
    • However, a foreign national (other than a Pakistani national) coming to India on any type of visa will be allowed to avail of activities permitted under tourist visas.
    • However, there are no provisions specified under the “anti-government” activities subhead.
    • The absence of any such provision in visa laws or Foreigner’s Act makes it necessary for the government to define “anti-government” activities under a statute.
  • What do ‘anti-government’ activities mean for an Indian national?
    • According to the lawyers, “anti-government” activities are those which are listed as punishable under Section 124A (sedition) of the Indian Penal Code.
    • Section 124A IPC states:
      • “Whoever, by words, either spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation, or otherwise, brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards, the Government established by law in India, shall be punished with imprisonment for life, to which a fine may be added; or, with imprisonment which may extend to three years, to which a fine may be added; or, with fine.”
  • Does a foreigner on Indian visa have a right to protest?
    • The right to protest peacefully is enshrined under Article 19(1)(a) of Indian Constitution which guarantees the freedom of speech and expression.
    • Article (19)(b) guarantees the citizens of the country the right to assemble peacefully and without arms. However, this fundamental right is available only to the citizens of India and not to the aliens. Hence, a foreigner on Indian Visa has no right to protest.
  • Can a foreigner be asked to leave India without specifying the act committed by him or her amounting to the order?
    • The government does not have unfettered powers to impose such an order without furnishing reasons. This was clarified by the Delhi High Court in a 2019 case, where a Pakistani national was served a leave India notice without specifying the reason.

Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI)

  • Context:
    • Thousands of Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) cardholders have been forced to cancel trips to India owing to the recent ban on their entry by the GOI and are apprehensive they will not be able to get back in the event of an emergency.
  • Who are OCI cardholders?
    • The government of India launched the ‘Overseas Citizenship of India' (OCI) Scheme’ by making amendments to the Citizenship Act, 1955 in 2005.
    • On 09 January 2015, the Government of India discontinued the PIO card and merged it with the OCI card.
  • Eligibility:
    • Government of India allows the following categories of foreign nationals to apply for OCI Card

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights

  • Context:
    • The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights “intends to file” an Intervention Application as amicus curiae (third party) in the Supreme Court of India, seeking to intervene in Writ Petition in ‘Deb Mukharji & Ors vs Union of India & Ors’ case which relates to a challenge to the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA), 2019.
  • How can a UN body seek intervention in a case involving a domestic Indian law?
    • The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (UN Human Rights) is the leading UN entity on human rights.
    • It is mandated to, Inter alia protect and promote all human rights and to conduct necessary advocacy in that regard, established pursuant to the United Nations General Assembly resolution 48/141.
    • It also has to promote adherence to international human rights law and, with this purpose in mind, to support domestic courts, with their constitutional or judicial function, in ensuring the implementation of international legal obligations. This is the basis for seeking intervention.
  • What exactly does the intervention application say? What are the issues raised wrt to CAA?
    • The CAA, it says, raises “important human rights issues, including its compatibility in relation to the right to equality before the law and nondiscrimination on nationality grounds under India’s human rights obligations”.
    • It questions the reasonableness and objectivity of the criterion of extending the benefits of the CAA to Buddhists, Sikhs, Hindus, Jains, Parsis, and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan alone.
  • The Muslim community is also affected:
    • It points out that while the Indian government has suggested that persons of Muslim faith, regardless of denomination or ethnicity, are protected in Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, recent reports by UN human rights treaty bodies, special procedures and other mechanisms show that Ahmadi, Hazara and Shia Muslims in these countries warrant protection on the same basis as that provided in the preferential treatment proposed by the CAA

Organizations And Conventions:-

International Criminal Court (ICC)

  • Context:
    • ‘Unanimous’ ICC gives the go-ahead to probe Afghanistan alleged war crimes. Prosecutors have been given the green light to investigate alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity in Afghanistan – and beyond its borders – linked to Afghan, Taliban and US troops.
  • Background:
    • The prosecutors alleged in a 2017 report they have enough information to prove U.S. forces “committed acts of torture, cruel treatment, outrages upon personal dignity, rape and sexual violence against conflict-related detainees in Afghanistan and other locations, principally in the 2003-2004 period.”
  • About ICC:
    • The International Criminal Court (ICC), located in The Hague, is the court of last resort for prosecution of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity.
    • It is the first permanent, treaty-based, international criminal court established to help end impunity for the perpetrators of the most serious crimes of concern to the international community.
    • Its founding treaty, the Rome Statute, entered into force on July 1, 2002.
  • Funding:
    • Although the Court’s expenses are funded primarily by States Parties, it also receives voluntary contributions from governments, international organizations, individuals, corporations and other entities.
  • Composition and voting power:
    • The Court’s management oversight and legislative body, the Assembly of States Parties, consists of one representative from each state party.
    • Each state party has one vote and “every effort” has to be made to reach decisions by consensus. If consensus cannot be reached, decisions are made by vote. The Assembly is presided over by a president and two vice-presidents, who are elected by the members to three-year terms.
  • Jurisdiction:
    • The ICC has the jurisdiction to prosecute individuals for the international crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes.
    • The ICC is intended to complement existing national judicial systems and it may therefore only exercise its jurisdiction when certain conditions are met, such as when national courts are unwilling or unable to prosecute criminals or when the United Nations Security Council or individual states refer situations to the Court.

Indian Ocean Commission

  • Context:
    • India was recently accepted as an observer in the Indian Ocean Commission, getting a seat at the table of the organization that handles maritime governance in the western Indian Ocean.
    • India’s entry is a consequence of its deepening strategic partnership with France as well as its expanding ties with the Vanilla Islands.
  • Significance of this status for India:
    • India will get an official foothold in a premier regional institution in the western Indian Ocean, boosting engagement with islands in this part of the Indian Ocean.
    • These island nations are increasingly important for India’s strategic outreach as part of its Indo-Pacific policy.
    • This move would enhance ties with France which is the strong global power in the western Indian Ocean.
    • It lends depth to India’s SAGAR (security and growth for all in the region) policy unveiled by PM Modi in 2015.
    • The move would lead to greater security cooperation with countries in East Africa.
    • The move also strengthens the western flank of the Indo-Pacific and is a stepping stone to security cooperation with East Africa.
  • About IOC:
    • It is an intergovernmental organization created in 1982.
    • It was institutionalized in 1984 by the Victoria Agreement in Seychelles.
    • The COI is composed of five African Indian Ocean nations: Comoros, Madagascar, Mauritius, Réunion (an overseas region of France), and Seychelles.
    • COI's principal mission is to strengthen the ties of friendship between the countries and to be a platform of solidarity for the entire population of the African Indian Ocean region.
    • The Commission has a Secretariat which is located in Mauritius and headed by a Secretary-General.
    • The Commission has four observers — China, EU, Malta and International Organisation of La Francophonie (OIF).

ReCoMAP And OPEC

  • Context:
    • Saudi Arabia, the world’s top oil exporter, plans to raise its crude oil production significantly above 10 million barrels per day (BPD) in April, after the collapse of the OPEC+ supply cut agreement with Russia.
    • The COI has funded a number of regional and national conservation and alternative livelihood projects through ReCoMAP, Regional Programme for the Sustainable Management of the Coastal Zones of the Countries of the Indian Ocean (PROGECO in French). This project ended in 2011.
  • What’s the issue?
    • A three-year pact between OPEC and Russia ended in acrimony recently after Moscow refused to support deeper oil cuts to cope with the outbreak of the coronavirus and OPEC responded by removing all limits on its own production.
    • Oil prices plunged 10% as the development revived fears of a 2014 price crash when Saudi Arabia and Russia fought for market share with U.S. shale oil producers, which have never participated in output-limiting pacts.
  • What next?
    • Effects now could quickly flood global markets at a time when the demand has already weakened substantially.
  • What is Opec+?
    • Opec+ refers to the alliance of crude producers, who have been undertaking corrections in supply in the oil markets since 2017.
    • OPEC plus countries include Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Brunei, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Mexico, Oman, Russia, South Sudan, and Sudan.
  • What are their goals?
    • The Opec and non-Opec producers first formed the alliance at a historic meeting in Algiers in 2016.
    • The aim was to undertake production restrictions to help resuscitate a flailing market.
  • What is OPEC?
    • The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) was founded in Baghdad, Iraq, with the signing of an agreement in September 1960 by five countries namely the Islamic Republic of Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Venezuela.
    • They were to become the Founder Members of the Organization.
    • It is a permanent, intergovernmental organization.
    • Currently, the Organization has a total of 14 Member Countries.
    • OPEC's objective is to co-ordinate and unify petroleum policies among Member Countries, in order to secure fair and stable prices for petroleum producers; an efficient, economic and regular supply of petroleum to consuming nations; and a fair return on capital to those investing in the industry.
    • It is headquartered in Vienna, Austria.
    • OPEC membership is open to any country that is a substantial exporter of oil and which shares the ideals of the organization.
  • Why is OPEC+ more influential than OPEC?
    • OPEC’s 14 members control 35 percent of global oil supplies and 82 percent of proven reserves. With the addition of the 10 Non-OPEC nations, notable among them Russia, Mexico and Kazakhstan, those shares increase to 55 percent and 90 percent respectively. This affords OPEC+ a level of influence over the world economy never seen before.

G7 

  • Context:
    • President Donald Trump is scrapping this year’s G7 summit at Camp David near Washington due to the COVID-19 crisis and will instead hold the event by videoconference.
    • The United States heads the group of seven wealthy democracies in 2020 and Mr. Trump had been due to host fellow leaders at the presidential retreat known as Camp David in June.
    • The G7 summit is held by the presiding country each year.
  • What is the G7 Summit?
    • G7 Summit is an event conducted annually where world leaders from seven powerful economies of the world come together to discuss burning issues happening around the globe.
    • They, by mutual understanding, also form policies or figure out remedies for the concerned issue.
  • What is G7?
    • The G7, originally G8, was set up in 1975 as an informal forum bringing together the leaders of the world’s leading industrial nations.
    • The summit gathers leaders from the European Union (EU) and the following countries:
      • 1. Canada.
      • 2. France.
      • 3. Germany.
      • 4. Italy.
      • 5. Japan.
      • 6. the United Kingdom.
      • 7. the United States.
  • How did G7 become G8?
    • Russia was formally inducted as a member of the group in 1998, which led G7 to become G8.
    • However, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s condemnable act of moving Russian troops into eastern Ukraine and conquering Crimea in 2014 drew heavy criticism from the other G8 nations.
    • The other nations of the group decided to suspend Russia from the G8 as a consequence of its actions and the group became G7 again in 2014.

G20 (Group of Twenty)

  • Context:
    • Leaders of the G20 (Group of Twenty) nations are holding a video conference.
    • The virtual summit will be led by King Salman bin Abdulaziz al Saud of Saudi Arabia, which is the current president of the economic grouping.
    • For 2020, Spain, Jordan, Singapore, and Switzerland are the invited countries.
  • What is the G20?
    • The G20 is an annual meeting of leaders from the countries with the largest and fastest-growing economies. Its members account for 85% of the world’s GDP, and two-thirds of its population.
    • The G20 Summit is formally known as the “Summit on Financial Markets and the World Economy”.
  • Establishment:
    • After the Asian Financial Crisis in 1997-1998, it was acknowledged that the participation of major emerging market countries is needed on discussions on the international financial system, and G7 finance ministers agreed to establish the G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors meeting in 1999.
  • Presidency:
    • The group has no permanent staff of its own, so every year in December, a G20 country from a rotating region takes on the presidency.
    • That country is then responsible for organizing the next summit, as well as smaller meetings for the coming year.
    • They can also choose to invite non-member countries along as guests. The first G20 meeting took place in Berlin in 1999, after a financial crisis in East Asia affected many countries around the world.
  • Full membership of the G20:
    • Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, the United Kingdom, the United States, and the European Union.
  • Its relevance in changing times:
    • As globalization progresses and various issues become more intricately intertwined, the recent G20 summits have focused not only on macroeconomy and trade but also on a wide range of global issues which have an immense impact on the global economy, such as development, climate change, and energy, health, counter-terrorism, as well as migration and refugees.
    • The G20 has sought to realize an inclusive and sustainable world through its contributions towards resolving these global issues.
  • What is G20+?
    • The G20 developing nations, also called G21/G23/G20+ is a bloc of developing nations that was established on August 20, 2003. It is distinct from the G20 major economies.
    • The G20+ originated in September 2003 at the 5th ministerial conference of the WTO held at Cancun, Mexico.
    • Its origins can be traced to the Brasilia Declaration signed by the foreign ministers of India, Brazil and South Africa on 6th June 2003.

 

Economy

Banking:-

Reserve Bank of India’s Package for pandemic

  • Context:
    • Reserve Bank of India’s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) has come out with its own measures to help deal with economic fall out of COVID-19 pandemic.
    • This was the first time that the MPC met outside its bi-monthly meeting calendar.
  • Four steps were taken by the RBI:
    • 1. Increase the liquidity in the system.
    • 2. Make sure the lower policy rate is transmitted. Steps one and two are linked.
    • 3. Give a three-month window for payback on all term loans.
    • 4. Take steps to reduce volatility and provide stability.
  • Measures announced and their impact:
    • 1. Cut in repo rate:
      • A big cut in the repo rate by 75 basis points (100 basis points make a percent, so three-quarters of a percentage point) to 4.4%.
      • A low repo rate has the overall effect of reducing interest rates for the system. Lower rates make it easier for entrepreneurs to take loans for working capital and for households for homes, vehicles and so on.
    • 2. Cut in reverse repo rate:
      • The ratio has been cut by 90 bps to 4%.
      • This is the rate at which banks lend to the RBI.
      • A reduction of the reverse repo to 4% makes it unattractive to banks to park it with the RBI and banks will be nudged to lend.
    • 3. Moratorium on Repayments of Loans:
      • RBI has also allowed banks to defer payment of Equated Monthly Instalments (EMIs) on home, car, personal loans as well as credit card dues for three months till May 31.
      • The RBI also allowed lending institutions, banks to defer interest on working capital repayments by 3 months, a move aimed at addressing the distress among firms as production is down.
      • For banks and lending institutions, this will affect their cash flows as they may not be getting repayments for three months. But the RBI has reduced their cash reserve ratio (CRR) requirements, providing them additional liquidity.
    • 4. Cut in Cash Reserve Ratio (CRR):
      • The RBI reduced the cash reserve ratio (CRR) by a full percentage point down to 3% for a year. The CRR is the percentage of demand and time deposits banks have to keep with the RBI.
      • RBI has reduced the CRR to 3%, freeing up ₹1.37 trillion for banks to lend. CRR has been chosen rather than SLR because this increases ‘primary liquidity’ with the banks a bit better.
    • 5. Targeted long-term repo operations:
      • RBI will lend money to banks (a total of ₹1 trillion) that can be invested in bonds and other forms of lending instruments.
      • TLTRO will provide financing to credit institutions.
    • 6. Marginal standing facility (MSF):
      • ₹1.37 trillion will be made available under the emergency lending window called the marginal standing facility (MSF).
      • Banks will now be able to borrow 3% of their deposits under this window, up from the current 2%. Basically, RBI is willing to lend more than before.

Recapitalization of RRBs

  • Context:
    • The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs has given its approval for continuation of the process of recapitalization of Regional Rural Banks (RRBs) by providing minimum regulatory capital to RRBs for another year beyond 2019-20, that is, up to 2020-21.
    • This is for those RRBs which are unable to maintain minimum Capital to Risk-weighted Assets Ratio (CRAR) of 9%, as per the regulatory norms prescribed by the Reserve Bank of India.
  • Why this is necessary?
    • A financially stronger and robust Regional Rural Banks with improved CRAR will enable them to meet the credit requirement in rural areas.
    • With the recapitalization support to augment CRAR, RRBs would be able to continue their lending to these categories of borrowers under their PSL target, and thus, continue to support rural livelihoods.
  • Background:
    • The recapitalization process of RRBs was approved by the cabinet in 2011 based on the recommendations of a committee set up under the Chairmanship of KC Chakrabarty.
    • The National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) identifies those RRBs, which require recapitalization assistance to maintain the mandatory CRAR of 9% based on the CRAR position of RRBs, as on 31st March of every year.
  • What is Capital to Risk-Weighted Assets Ratio (CRAR)?
    • The CRAR, also known as the Capital Adequacy Ratio (CAR), is the ratio of a bank’s capital to its risk. It is a measure of the amount of a bank’s core capital expressed as a percentage of its risk-weighted asset.
    • It is decided by central banks and bank regulators to prevent commercial banks from taking excess leverage and becoming insolvent in the process.
  • Why CRAR was enforced?
    • The enforcement of regulated levels of this ratio is intended to protect depositors and promote the stability and efficiency of financial systems around the world. It determines the bank’s capacity to meet the time liabilities and other risks such as credit risk, operational risk, etc.
    • The Basel III norms stipulated a capital to risk-weighted assets of 8%.
    • However, as per RBI norms, Indian scheduled commercial banks are required to maintain a CRAR of 9%.
  • What are RRBs?
    • Regional Rural Banks were set up on the basis of the recommendations of the Narasimham Working Group (1975), and after the legislation of the Regional Rural Banks Act, 1976.
    • The first Regional Rural Bank “Prathama Grameen Bank” was set up on 2nd October 1975.
    • The equity of a regional rural bank is held by the Central Government, concerned State Government and the Sponsor Bank in the proportion of 50:15:35.

Merger of Banks

  • Context:
    • The government has approved a scheme for the amalgamation of 10 state-owned banks into four. After the process is complete, India will have 12 PSBs instead of 27 back in 2017.
  • New mergers include:
    • 1. Punjab National Bank, Oriental Bank of Commerce and United Bank of India will combine to form the nation’s second-largest lender.
    • 2. Canara Bank and Syndicate Bank will merge.
    • 3. Union Bank of India will amalgamate with Andhra Bank and Corporation Bank.
    • 4. Indian Bank will merge with Allahabad Bank.
  • Committees in this regard:
    • Narasimham committee (1991 and 1998) suggested a merger of strong banks both in the public sector and even with the developmental financial institutions and NBFCs.
    • Khan committee in 1997 stressed the need for harmonization of roles of commercial banks and financial institutions.
    • Verma committee pointed out that consolidation will lead to the pooling of strengths and lead to an overall reduction in the cost of operations.

Additional Tier-1 bonds

  • Context:
    • The Association of Mutual Funds in India (AMFI) has written to the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) to allow fund houses a temporary write-down of additional tier 1 bond of Yes Bank to avoid a huge hit on the net asset value of schemes that hold such bonds.
  • Implications:
    • This assumes significance as many fund houses stand to lose thousands of crores if the additional tier 1 bond is completely written off.
  • Background:
    • Under the Based III framework, banks’ regulatory capital is divided into Tier 1 and Tier 2 capital. Tier 1 capital is subdivided into Common Equity (CET) and Additional Capital (AT1).
  • What are Additional Tier-1 bonds?
    • They are a type of unsecured, perpetual bonds that banks issue to shore up their core capital base to meet the Basel-III norms.
  • Key features:
    • These have higher rates than tier-II bonds.
    • These bonds have no maturity date.
    • The issuing bank has the option to call back the bonds or repay the principal after a specified period of time.
    • The attraction for investors is a higher yield than secured bonds issued by the same entity. Individual investors too can hold these bonds, but mostly high net worth individuals (HNIs) opt for much higher risk, higher-yield investments.
    • Given the higher risk, the rating for these bonds is one to four notches lower than the secured bond series of the same bank. For example, while SBI’s tier-II bonds are rated AAA by Crisil, its tier I longterm bonds are rated AA+.
  • However, it has a two-fold risk:
    • 1. First, the issuing bank has the discretion to skip coupon payments. Under normal circumstances, it can pay from profits or revenue reserves in case of losses for the period when the interest needs to be paid.
    • 2. Second, the bank has to maintain a common equity tier I ratio of 5.5%, failing which the bonds can get written down. In some cases, there could be a clause to convert into equity as well. Given these characteristics, AT1 bonds are also referred to as quasi-equity.
  • Differences between Common Equity (CET) and Additional Capital (AT1):
    • Equity and preference capital is classified as CET and perpetual bonds are classified as AT1. Together, CET and AT1 are called Common Equity.
    • By nature, CET is the equity capital of the bank, where returns are linked to the banks’ performance and therefore the performance of the share price.
    • However, AT1 bonds are in the nature of debt instruments, which carry a fixed coupon payable annually from past or present profits of the bank.

Finance:-

Swap Ratio

  • Context:
    • The swap ratio is the ratio at which an acquiring company will offer its own shares in exchange for the target company's shares during a merger or acquisition.
    • Eight state-owned banks have announced swap ratios for the proposed mergers.
  • How is it calculated?
    • To calculate the swap ratio, companies analyze financial ratios such as book value, earnings per share, profits after tax, and dividends paid, as well as other factors, such as the reasons for the merger or acquisition.
    • The current market prices of the target and acquiring company's stock are compared along with their respective financial situations.
    • A ratio is when configured which states the rate at which the target company's shareholders will receive acquiring company shares of stock for every one share of the target company stock they currently hold.

Appropriation Bill

  • Context:
    • The Lok Sabha has passed the Appropriation Bill 2020-21 that empowers the government to draw over ₹110 lakh crore from the Consolidated Fund of India for its working, as well as for the implementation of its programs and schemes.
    • Now, only the Finance Bill that pertains to the government’s taxation proposal awaiting passage.
    • The Appropriation Bill was passed by a voice vote.
    • Following this, Speaker Om Birla applied “guillotine” — the Parliamentary tool to club all other pending subjects for discussion.
  • What is Appropriation Bill?
    • Appropriation Bill is a money bill that allows the government to withdraw funds from the Consolidated Fund of India to meet its expenses during the course of a financial year.
    • As per article 114 of the Constitution, the government can withdraw money from the Consolidated Fund only after receiving approval from Parliament.
    • To put it simply, the Finance Bill contains provisions on financing the expenditure of the government, and the Appropriation Bill specifies the quantum and purpose for withdrawing money.
  • Procedure followed:
    • The government introduces the Appropriation Bill in the lower house of Parliament after discussions on Budget proposals and Voting on Demand for Grants.
    • The Appropriation Bill is first passed by the Lok Sabha and then sent to the Rajya Sabha.
    • The Rajya Sabha has the power to recommend any amendments in this Bill. However, it is the prerogative of the Lok Sabha to either accept or reject the recommendations made by the upper house of Parliament.
    • The unique feature of the Appropriation Bill is its automatic repeal clause, whereby the Act gets repealed by itself after it meets its statutory purpose.
  • What happens when the bill is defeated?
    • Since India subscribes to the Westminster system of parliamentary democracy, the defeat of an Appropriation Bill (and also the Finance Bill) in a parliamentary vote would necessitate resignation of a government or a general election. This has never happened in India till date, though.

Finance Bill

  • Context:
    • Finance bill passed ahead of coronavirus lockdown.
  • What is a Finance Bill?
    • As per Article 110 of the Constitution of India, the Finance Bill is a Money Bill.
    • The Finance Bill is a part of the Union Budget, stipulating all the legal amendments required for the changes in taxation proposed by the Finance Minister.
    • This Bill encompasses all amendments required in various laws pertaining to tax, in accordance with the tax proposals made in the Union Budget.
    • The Finance Bill, as a Money Bill, needs to be passed by the Lok Sabha — the lower house of the Parliament.
    • Post the Lok Sabha’s approval, the Finance Bill becomes Finance Act.
  • Difference between a Money Bill and the Finance Bill:
    • A Money Bill has to be introduced in the Lok Sabha as per Section 110 of the Constitution. Then, it is transmitted to the Rajya Sabha for its recommendations. The Rajya Sabha has to return the Bill with recommendations in 14 days. However, the Lok Sabha can reject all or some of the recommendations.
    • In the case of a Finance Bill, Article 117 of the Constitution categorically lays down that a Bill pertaining to sub-clauses (a) to (f) of clause (1) shall not be introduced or moved except with the President’s recommendation. Also, a Bill that makes such provisions shall not be introduced in the Rajya Sabha.
  • Who decides the Bill is a Finance Bill?
    • The Speaker of the Lok Sabha is authorized to decide whether the Bill is a Money Bill or not. Also, the Speaker’s decision shall be deemed to be final.

Cess fund

  • Context:
    • The union government has asked all states to dip into the ₹52,000 crore Construction Cess fund to give financial and allied benefits to the construction workers through direct benefit transfer (DBT).
    • The central advice comes as Corona outbreak spreads and the country is facing an unprecedented lockdown hampering livelihood of millions of informal workers.
    • The advisory comes under Section 60 of the Building and Other Construction Workers (BOCW) Act, 1996.
    • The amount to be granted to construction workers may be decided by the respective state governments and Union territories.
  • What is cess?
    • A cess is levied on the tax payable and not on the taxable income. In a sense, for the taxpayer, it is equivalent to a surcharge on tax.
    • A cess can be levied on both direct and indirect taxes. The revenue obtained from income tax, corporation tax, and indirect taxes can be allocated for various purposes.
    • The proceeds of all taxes and cesses are credited in the Consolidated Fund of India (CFI), an account of the Government of India.
  • Difference between tax and cess?
    • Unlike a tax, a cess is levied to meet a specific purpose; its proceeds cannot be spent on any kind of government expenditure. While the tax proceeds are shared with the States and Union Territories according to the guidelines by the Finance Commission, the cess proceeds need not be shared with them.
    • Recent examples of cess are infrastructure cess on motor vehicles, clean environment cess, Krishi Kalyan cess (for the improvement of agriculture and welfare of farmers), and education cess.

Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management (FRBM) Act

  • Context:
    • To help fund the emergency relief package, Kerala proposes to borrow as much as ₹12,500 crores from the market in April itself and therefore the Chief Minister has urged the Centre to provide Kerala with flexibility under the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management (FRBM) Act so as to ensure that the State’s finances are not adversely impacted in the rest of the financial year starting on April 1.
  • How does a relaxation of the FRBM work?
    • The law does contain what is commonly referred to as an ‘escape clause’.
    • Under Section 4(2) of the Act, the Centre can exceed the annual fiscal deficit target citing grounds that include national security, war, national calamity, the collapse of agriculture, structural reforms and decline in real output growth of a quarter by at least three percentage points below the average of the previous four quarters.
  • What is the FRBM Act?
    • The Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management Act (FRBM Act), 2003, establishes financial discipline to reduce the fiscal deficit.
  • What are the objectives of the FRBM Act?
    • The FRBM Act aims to introduce transparency in India's fiscal management systems.
    • The Act’s long-term objective is for India to achieve fiscal stability and to give the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) flexibility to deal with inflation in India.
    • The Act was enacted to introduce a more equitable distribution of India's debt over the years.
  • Key features of the FRBM Act:
    • The FRBM Act made it mandatory for the government to place the following along with the Union Budget documents in Parliament annually:
      • 1. Medium Term Fiscal Policy Statement.
      • 2. Macroeconomic Framework Statement.
      • 3. Fiscal Policy Strategy Statement.
    • The FRBM Act proposed that revenue deficit, fiscal deficit, tax revenue, and the total outstanding liabilities be projected as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP) in the medium-term fiscal policy statement.
  • Amendments:
    • The Act has been amended several times.
    • In 2013, the government introduced a change and introduced the concept of effective revenue deficit. This implies that effective revenue deficit would be equal to revenue deficit minus grants to states for the creation of capital assets.
    • In 2016, a committee under N K Singh was set up to suggest changes to the Act. According to the government, the targets set under the FRBM Act previously were too rigid.
  • N K Singh Committee's recommendations were as follows:
    • Targets:
      • The committee suggested using debt as the primary target for fiscal policy and that the target must be achieved by 2023.
    • Fiscal Council:
      • The committee proposed to create an autonomous Fiscal Council with a chairperson and two members appointed by the Centre (not employees of the government at the time of appointment).
    • Deviations:
      • The committee suggested that the grounds for the government to deviate from the FRBM Act targets should be clearly specified
    • Borrowings:
      • According to the suggestions of the committee, the government must not borrow from the RBI,   except when:
        • 1. The Centre has to meet a temporary shortfall in receipts.
        • 2. RBI subscribes to government securities to finance any deviations.
        • 3. RBI purchases government securities from the secondary market.

Companies Fresh Start Scheme, 2020

  • Context:
    • Ministry of Corporate Affairs introduces the “Companies Fresh Start Scheme, 2020” and revised the “LLP Settlement Scheme, 2020” to provide relief to law-abiding companies and Limited Liability Partnerships (LLPs) in the wake of COVID 19.
  • What do these schemes entail?
    • These schemes incentivize compliance and reduce compliance burden during the unprecedented public health situation caused by COVID-19.
    • The schemes provide a one-time waiver of additional filing fees for delayed filings by the companies or LLPs with the Registrar of Companies during the currency of the Schemes, i.e. during the period starting from 1st April 2020 and ending on 30th September 2020.
    • They also significantly reduce the related financial burden on them, especially for those with long-standing defaults, thereby giving them an opportunity to make a “fresh start”.
    • Both the Schemes also contain a provision for giving immunity from penal proceedings, including against imposition of penalties for late submissions.
    • They also provide additional time for filing appeals before the concerned Regional Directors against the imposition of penalties, if already imposed.
  • What is an LLP?
    • A Limited Liability Partnership (LLP) is a partnership in which some or all partners have limited liability. It, therefore, exhibits elements of partnerships and corporations.
    • In an LLP, one partner is not responsible or liable for another partner's misconduct or negligence.
  • Salient features of an LLP:
    • An LLP is a body corporate and legal entity separate from its partners. It has perpetual succession.
    • Being the separate legislation (i.e. LLP Act, 2008), the provisions of the Indian Partnership Act, 1932 are not applicable to an LLP and it is regulated by the contractual agreement between the partners.
    • Every Limited Liability Partnership shall use the words “Limited Liability Partnership” or its acronym “LLP” as the last words of its name.

National Anti-Profiteering Authority (NAPA)

  • Context:
    • The Delhi High Court has stayed the National Anti-Profiteering Authority (NAPA) order directing Johnson & Johnson to deposit over ₹230 crores it allegedly profiteered by not passing on benefits of GST reduction in over 306 items, including baby products, through commensurate price cut.
  • About NAA:
    • The National Anti-Profiteering Authority (NAA) has been constituted under Section 171 of the Central Goods and Services Tax Act, 2017.
    • It is to ensure the reduction in the rate of tax or the benefit of the input tax credit is passed on to the recipient by way of commensurate reduction in prices.
    • The Authority’s core function is to ensure that the benefits of the reduction in GST rates on goods and services made by GST Council and proportional change in the Input tax credit passed on to the ultimate consumers and recipient respectively by way of reduction in the prices by the suppliers.
  • Composition:
    • The National Anti-profiteering Authority shall be headed by a senior officer of the level of a Secretary to The Government of India and shall have four technical members from the Centre and/or the States.
  • Powers and functions of the authority:
    • In the event the National Anti-profiteering Authority confirms the necessity of applying antiprofiteering measures, it has the power to order the business concerned to reduce its prices or return the undue benefit availed along with interest to the recipient of the goods or services.
    • If the undue benefit cannot be passed on to the recipient, it can be ordered to be deposited in the Consumer Welfare Fund.
    • In extreme cases, the National Anti-profiteering Authority can impose a penalty on the defaulting business entity and even order the cancellation of its registration under GST.

Enforcement Directorate

  • Context:
    • Yes Bank founder Rana Kapoor was recently placed under arrest by the Enforcement Directorate. He was charged under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).
    • He was also booked for cheating under the IPC, along with accepting illegal gratification and misconduct under the Prevention of Corruption Act.
  • About Enforcement Directorate:
    • It is a Multi-Disciplinary Organization mandated with the task of enforcing the provisions of two special fiscal laws – Foreign Exchange Management Act, 1999 (FEMA) and Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 (PMLA).
  • Powers:
    • The Directorate enforces two laws:
      • FEMA, a Civil Law having quasi-judicial powers, for investigating suspected contraventions of the Exchange Control Laws and Regulations with the powers to impose penalties on those adjudged guilty.
      • PMLA, a Criminal Law, whereby the Officers are empowered to conduct inquiries to locate, provisionally attach/confiscate assets derived from acts of Schedules Offences besides arresting and prosecuting the Money Launderers.
  • Composition:
    • Besides directly recruiting personnel, the Directorate also draws officers from different Investigating Agencies, viz., Customs & Central Excise, Income Tax, Police, etc. on deputation.
  • Other functions:
    • Processing cases of fugitive/s from India under the Fugitive Economic Offenders Act, 2018.
    • Sponsor cases of preventive detention under Conservation of Foreign Exchange and Prevention of Smuggling Activities Act, 1974(COFEPOSA) in regard to contraventions of FEMA.
  • Special courts:
    • For the trial of an offense punishable under section 4 of PMLA, the Central Government (in consultation with the Chief Justice of the High Court), designates one or more Sessions Court as Special Court(s). The court is also called “PMLA Court”.
    • Any appeal against any order passed by the PMLA court can directly be filed in the High Court for that jurisdiction.

Country-by-Country (CbC) Report

  • Context:
    • With Central Board of Direct Taxes(CBDT) notifying rules for furnishing “Country-by-Country Report” (CbC) specifying information pertaining to all large multinational enterprises (MNEs), the Finance Ministry has said that Joint Director of Income-tax (Risk Assessment)-1 has been designated as the Income-tax Authority before whom particulars of the parent entity and alternate reporting entity would be notified.
  • Background:
    • The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has developed an Action Plan called “Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) Action Plan 13” to ensure that a multinational enterprise would report its profit correctly where it is earned.
  • What is a Country-by-Country (CbC) Report?
    • The Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) Action 13 report (Transfer Pricing Documentation and Country-by-country Reporting) provides a template for multinational enterprises (MNEs) to report annually and for each tax jurisdiction in which they do business the information set out therein. This report is called the Country-by-country (CbC) Report.
    • This information enables an enhanced level of assessment of tax risk by both tax administrations.
  • What CBC contains?
    • Aggregated country-by-country information relating to the global allocation of income, the taxes paid, and certain other indicators of a multi-national company.
    • A list of all the constituent entities of the multi-national company operating in a particular jurisdiction and the nature of the main business activity of each constituent entity.
  • What is BEPS?
    • Base erosion and profit shifting refer to the phenomenon where companies shift their profits to other tax jurisdictions, which usually have lower rates, thereby eroding the tax base in India.
    • India in July 2019 ratified the international agreement to curb base erosion and profits shifting (BEPS)– Multilateral Convention to Implement Tax Treaty Related Measures.
    • About the Multilateral Convention to Implement Tax Treaty Related Measures to Prevent Base Erosion and
  • Profit Shifting:
    • The Convention is an outcome of the OECD / G20 BEPS Project to tackle base erosion and profit shifting through tax planning strategies that exploit gaps and mismatches in tax rules to artificially shift profits too low or no-tax locations where there is little or no economic activity, resulting in little or no overall corporate tax being paid.

Business Immunity Platform

  • Context:
    • Invest India has launched The Invest India Business Immunity Platform.
  • About Business Immunity Platform:
    • The platform is designed as a comprehensive resource to help businesses and investors get real-time updates on India’s active response to COVID-19 (Coronavirus).
    • This dynamic and constantly updating platform keeps a regular track on developments with respect to the virus, provides the latest information on various central and state government initiatives, gives access to special provisions, and answers and resolves queries through emails and on WhatsApp.
    • It is the active platform for business issue redressal, operating 24/7, with a team of dedicated sector experts and responding to queries at the earliest.
  • What is Invest India?
    • Invest India is the National Investment Promotion and Facilitation Agency of India, set up as a nonprofit venture under the aegis of the Department of Industrial Policy & Promotion, Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Government of India.
    • It facilitates and empowers all investors under the ‘Make in India’ initiative to establish, operate and expand their businesses in India.
    • Operationalized in early 2010, Invest India is set up as a joint venture company between the Department of Industrial Policy & Promotion (DIPP) (now renamed as Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT)), Ministry of Commerce & Industry (35% equity), Federation of
    • Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) (51% equity), and State Governments of India (0.5% each).

Circuit breaker in the stock market

  • In June 2001, the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) implemented index-based market-wide circuit breakers.
  • Circuit breakers are triggered to prevent markets from crashing, which happens when the market participants start to panic induced by fears that their stocks are overvalued and decide to sell their stocks.
  • This index-based market-wide circuit breaker system applies at three stages of the index movement, at 10, 15 and 20 percent.
  • Implications: When triggered, these circuit breakers bring about a coordinated trading halt in all equity and equity derivative markets nationwide.

Input Tax Credit

  • Context:
    • Restrictions imposed on the input tax credit, used by business establishments to reduce their tax liability, on inward supplies under the Central Goods and Services Tax Act, has been challenged in the Rajasthan High Court with the plea that the amendment made to a rule to introduce the provision had imposed “unreasonable and arbitrary” conditions.
  • What’s the issue?
    • The amended Rule 36 (4) of the CGST Rules, 2017, provides that the input tax credit can be availed only when a supplier of goods updates and uploads online the details of supplies through each of the bills. The petition now contended that the right to avail of credit could not be taken away by imposing the restrictions contained in the provisions of Section 43A of the Act, which was yet to be notified, through rules.
  • What is the Input Tax Credit (ITC)?
    • It is the tax that a business pays on a purchase and that it can use to reduce its tax liability when it makes a sale.
    • In simple terms, input credit means at the time of paying tax on output, you can reduce the tax you have already paid on inputs and pay the balance amount.
    • Exceptions:
      • A business under composition scheme cannot avail of an input tax credit. ITC cannot be claimed for personal use or for goods that are exempt.

Employment and Relief Package:-

Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana

  • Context:
    • The Union Finance & Corporate Affairs Minister Smt. Nirmala Sitharaman has announced Rs 1.70 Lakh Crore relief package under Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana for the poor to help them fight the battle against Corona Virus.
    • These measures are intended at reaching out to the poorest of the poor, with food and money in hands, so that they do not face difficulties in buying essential supplies and meeting essential needs.
    • The package includes a range of measures that the Government of India will take to alleviate the economic, health, and food-related distress of India’s poor.
  • Health Insurance:
    • Benefits:
      • Any health professional, who while treating COVID-19 patients, meet with some accident, then he/she would be compensated with an amount of Rs 50 lakh under the scheme.
    • Coverage:
      • All government health centers, wellness centers and hospitals of Centre, as well as States, would be covered under this scheme.
      • Approximately 22 lakh health workers would be provided insurance cover to fight this pandemic.
      • Safai karamcharis, ward-boys, nurses, ASHA workers, paramedics, technicians, doctors and specialists, and other health workers would be covered.
  • PM Garib Kalyan Ann Yojana:
    • Under this scheme, 80 crore poor people, covering about two-thirds of the country’s population, will get 5 kg rice or wheat each month for the next three months free of charge, in addition to the 5 kg they already get. Each household will get 1 kg of dal of their choice, for the next three months, also free of charge.
    • Besides, to ensure adequate availability of protein to all the above-mentioned individuals, 1 kg per family, would be provided pulses according to regional preferences for the next three months.
    • The first installment of Rs 2,000 due in 2020-21 will be front-loaded and paid in April 2020 itself under the PM KISAN Yojana. It would cover 8.7 crore farmers.
  • Cash transfers Under PM Garib Kalyan Yojana:
    • A total of 20.40 crores PMJDY women account-holders would be given an ex-gratia of Rs 500 per month for the next three months.
    • Gas cylinders, free of cost, would be provided to 8 crore poor families for the next three months.
    • Wage-earners below Rs 15,000 per month in businesses having less than 100 workers: The government proposes to pay 24 percent of their monthly wages into their PF accounts for the next three months.
  • Support for senior citizens (above 60 years), widows and Divyang:
    • The government will give them Rs 1,000 to tide over difficulties during the next three months.
    • MNREGA wages would be increased by Rs 20 with effect from 1 April 2020. The wage increase under MNREGA will provide an additional Rs 2,000 benefit annually to a worker.
  • Self-Help groups:
    • The limit of collateral-free lending would be increased from Rs 10 to Rs 20 lakhs.
  • Other components:
    • Employees’ Provident Fund Regulations will be amended to include Pandemic as the reason to allow the nonrefundable advance of 75 percent of the amount or three months of the wages, whichever is lower, from their accounts.
    • Welfare Fund for Building and Other Constructions Workers: State Governments will be given directions to utilize this fund to provide assistance and support to these workers to protect them against economic disruptions.

NCS (NATIONAL CAREER SERVICE)

  • Context:
    • The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Labour in its report has flagged the under-utilization of funds by the Union Labour and Employment Ministry, which was yet to spend almost 20% of its 2019-2020 Budget (revised estimate) as of February 10.
    • The report noted that the utilization of funds for the National Career Services (NCS) scheme of the Ministry, which facilitates job-seekers, was the worst compared to other schemes.
  • About NCS (NATIONAL CAREER SERVICE):
    • It is one of the mission mode projects under the umbrella of the E-Governance Plan.
    • It works towards bridging the gap between job-seekers and employers, candidates seeking training and career guidance and agencies providing training and career counseling by transforming the National Employment Service.
    • NCS provides a host of career-related services such as dynamic job matching, career counseling, job notifications, vocational guidance, information on skill development courses, internships and alike.

Kurzarbeit scheme

  • Context:
    • Amid the all-round disruption caused to the economy by the novel coronavirus outbreak, a concern across the world is the possibility of a loss of jobs.
    • Germany’s Kurzabeit is being mentioned time and again in this context. Also, the German cabinet is planning to extend the benefit of a short-time work allowance by the first half of April through legislation.
  • About Kurzarbeit:
    • Kurzarbeit is German for “short-work”.
    • The policy provides for a short-time work allowance, called kurzarbeitgeld, which partially compensates for lost earnings during uncertain economic situations.
    • The policy was rolled out during the 2008 economic crisis while its origins date back as far as the early 20th century, before and after World War I.
  • How does it work?
    • The scheme aims to address workers who are impacted by the loss of income due to shortened work hours during such times.
    • They can apply for short-term work benefits under the scheme, with the government stepping in to pay employees a part of their lost income.
    • This helps the companies retain their employees instead of laying them off, and allows the latter to sustain themselves for a period of up to 12 months.
  • Quantum of payment:
    • Payment under Kurzarbeit is calculated on the basis of a net loss of earnings. As per Germany’s Federal Agency for Work, short-time employees generally receive about 60 percent of the flat-rate net wage, In case there is at least one child in the house of the short-time worker, he/she receives 67 percent of the flat-rate net wage.

Shared economy

  • Context:
    • The sharing economy in India is estimated to be about $2 billion industry by the end of the current year, according to a recent report by Maple Capital Advisors
  • About:
    • The sharing economy, also known as collaborative consumption or peer-to-peer-based sharing, is a concept that highlights the ability of individuals to rent or borrow goods rather than buy and own them.
    • The ‘sharing economy’ includes segments such as co-working (Awfis, WeWork India), co-living (Stanza Living, OYO Life, Oxford Caps), shared mobility (Uber, Ola, Shuttl) and furniture rental (Furlenco, Rentomojo.)

Agriculture:-

Small Farmers’ Agri-Business Consortium (SFAC)

  • Context:
    • Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA) has signed an MoU with the Small Farmers Agribusiness Consortium (SFAC) to have better sync with their activities for the benefit of farmers.
  • Key facts:
    • As per the MoU, both organizations will work towards capacity development, outreach programs, awareness programs and workshops of various stakeholders.
    • APEDA will facilitate the certification of organic produce/areas by the FPCs assisted or identified by SFAC.
  • Significance of this approach:
    • It is expected that with the approach of joint collaboration with organizations like SFAC, APEDA will be able to reach to a large farmer base for improving the production base of Agri products quantitatively and qualitatively both for maintaining the consistency of supply and establish an image of the quality supplier in the international market leading to an increase in export volume and value and indirectly contribute to the doubling of farmers’ income.
  • About SFAC:
    • The Government established Small Farmers’ Agri-Business Consortium (SFAC) as a Society in January 1994 to facilitate agri-business ventures by catalyzing private investment through Venture Capital Assistance (VCA).
    • The scheme in close association with financial institutions.
    • The role of State SFACs is to aggressively promote agribusiness project development in their respective States.
  • Management:
    • The Society is governed by the Board of Management which is chaired, ex-officio, by Hon’ble Union Minister for Agriculture and Farmers Welfare as the President and the Secretary, Department of Agriculture, Cooperation and Farmers Welfare, Government of India, is the ex-officio Vice-President.
  • The main functions of SFAC are:
    • Promotion of development of small agribusiness through the VCA scheme.
    • Helping the formation and growth of Farmer Producer Organizations (FPOs) / Farmer Producer Companies (FPCs).
    • Improving the availability of working capital and the development of business activities of FPOs/FPCs through Equity Grant and Credit Guarantee Fund Scheme.
    • Implementation of National Agriculture Market (e-NAM) Electronic Trading platform.

Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority

  • It is an authority established under an act of Parliament and under the administrative control of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Government of India.
  • It has been mandated with the responsibility of export promotion and development of the scheduled products viz. fruits, vegetables, meat products, dairy products, alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, etc.
  • APEDA has also been entrusted with the responsibility to monitor the import of sugar

Infrastructure:-

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.

Modified Electronics Manufacturing Clusters (EMC 2.0) Scheme

  • Context:
    • Cabinet approves Modified Electronics Manufacturing Clusters (EMC 2.0) Scheme.
  • Key features:
    • The scheme provides for the development of world-class infrastructure along with common facilities and amenities through Electronics Manufacturing Clusters (EMCs).
    • The Scheme would support the setting up of both Electronics Manufacturing Clusters (EMCs) and Common Facility Centers (CFCs).
  • Where can these clusters be setup?
    • 1. An Electronics Manufacturing Cluster (EMC) would set up in geographical areas of a certain minimum extent, preferably contiguous, where the focus is on the development of basic infrastructure, amenities and other common facilities for the ESDM units.
    • 2. For Common Facility Centre (CFC), there should be a significant number of existing ESDM units located in the area and the focus is on upgrading common technical infrastructure and providing common facilities for the ESDM units in such EMCs, Industrial Areas/Parks/industrial corridors.
  • Benefits of the scheme:
    • 1. Availability of ready infrastructure and Plug & Play facility for attracting investment in the electronics sector.
    • 2. New investment in the electronics sector
    • 3. Jobs created by the manufacturing units;
    • 4. Revenue in the form of taxes paid by the manufacturing units

North-East Venture Fund (NEVF)

  • Context:
    • The NEVF (North-East Venture Fund) disbursed over Rs.18 crore to 12 start-ups to date- the information given in Parliament.
  • About North East Venture Fund (NEVF):
    • Launched in September 2017.
    • Set up by North Eastern Development Finance Corporation Limited (NEDFi) in association with the Ministry of Development of North Eastern Region (M-DoNER).
    • It is a close-ended fund with a capital commitment of Rs 100 crore.
    • It is the first dedicated venture capital fund for the North Eastern Region.
  • Objective:
    • To contribute to the entrepreneurship development of the NER and achieve attractive risk-adjusted returns through long term capital appreciation by way of investments in privately negotiated equity/ equity-related investments.
    • The investment under this schemer ranges from Rs.25 lakh to Rs.10 crore per venture, which is long term in nature with an investment horizon of 4-5 years.

Solar Charkha Mission

  • Context:
    • Based on the Expression of Interest (EOI), a total of 10 proposals have been approved under Mission Solar Charkha to date which is expected to benefit about 13784 artisans/workers.
  • About Solar Charkha Mission:
    • Launched in 2018.
    • It is a Ministry of Micro Small & Medium Enterprises (MSME) initiative launched during June 2018.
    • The Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC) would implement the programme.
    • It seeks to generate employment in rural areas and contribute to the green economy.
    • The mission will entail a subsidy of Rs 550 crore in the initial two years for 50 clusters and every cluster will employ 400 to 2000 artisans.
    • The scheme also aims at linking five crore women across the country to the initiative.
    • The mission is expected to create one lakh jobs during the first two years.
  • The objectives of the Scheme are as follows:
    • To ensure inclusive growth by the generation of employment, especially for women and youth, and sustainable development through solar charkha clusters in rural areas.
    • To boost the rural economy and help in arresting migration from rural to urban areas.
    • To leverage low-cost, innovative technologies and processes for sustenance.
  • Significance of the mission:
    • These solar charkhas are to be operated using solar power which is a renewable energy source. It will help in the development of the Green Economy as it is an environment-friendly program.
    • It will also generate sustainable employment for the artisans.

Petroleum & Explosives Safety Organization

  • Context:
    •  Petroleum & Explosives Safety Organization takes various measures to address the problems faced by Petroleum, Explosives, Oxygen and Industrial Gas Industries.
  • About:
    • It is a department under the Department for the Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade under the Ministry of Commerce and Industry.
    • It is a regulatory authority with autonomous status.
    • It was established during British India in the 1890s as the Department of Explosives and later expanded to various other activities.
    • As a statutory authority, PESO is entrusted with the responsibilities under the Explosives Act, 1884; Petroleum Act, 1934; Inflammable Substances Act, 1952, Environment (Protection Act), 1986.

Coalbed methane (CBM)

  • India’s CBM potential:
    • India has the fifth-largest coal reserves in the world, and CBM has been looked at as a clean alternative fuel with significant prospects.
    • India’s CBM resources are estimated at around 92 trillion cubic feet (TCF), or 2,600 billion cubic meters (BCM).
    • The country’s coal and CBM reserves are found in 12 states of India, with the Gondwana sediments of eastern India holding the bulk.
    • The Damodar Koel valley and Son valley are prospective areas for CBM development.
  • What is coalbed methane (CBM)?
    • It is an unconventional form of natural gas found in coal deposits or coal seams.
    • CMB is formed during the process of coalification, the transformation of plant material into coal.

Environment

Species in news:

Name Of Species: Information:
Himalayan Ibex
  • Context:
    • A recent study by scientists of the Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) has proved that Himalayan Ibex, distributed in the trans-Himalayan ranges of Jammu and Kashmir, Ladakh and Himachal Pradesh is a distinct species from the Siberian Ibex.
    • To unravel the complexity in species recognition of Indian Ibex, the researchers, under a project funded through the National Mission on Himalayan Studies implemented by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, undertook field surveys and collected fecal samples from Lahaul and Spiti, Himachal Pradesh.
  • Key findings:
    • The latest genetic analysis provided the first evidence to claim that Himalayan Ibex is genetically different from all other ranges of Siberian Ibex.
    • The results of the genetic analysis surprisingly revealed that I-T clade (referred to as Siberian Ibex) was estimated to have diverged from Alpine Ibex during the Pleistocene epoch (2.4 million years ago) than the Siberian Ibex during the Miocene-Pliocene boundary (6.6 million years ago).
  • About Siberian Ibex:
    • It is a species of wild goat and is distributed in diverse habitats, ranging from cold deserts, rocky outcrops, steep terrain, high-land flats and mountain ridges to low mountains and foothills.
    • Siberian ibex is a polytypic species, plausibly formed by lumping of at least 2 species and or 3 to 4 subspecies.
    • IUCN status:
      • Least concern.
  • Distribution:
    • From Mongolia, its distribution extends towards Altai, Hangai, Gobi-Altai, the Hurukh mountain ranges as well as the Sayan Mountains near Russia and scattered populations in the small mountains of Trans-Altai Gobi.
    • In Asia, Ibex is distributed in the Montane habitats, ranging in elevations from 500 m to 6,700 m in countries like India, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Mongolia, Pakistan, Southern Siberia, and China.
    • In India, the Ibex is distributed mainly in the trans-Himalayan ranges of the Union Territories of Ladakh and Jammu and Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh up to the river Sutlej.

Eurasian Otter
  • Context:
    • Spotted in Chilika lake.
  • IUCN Red List:
    • Near Threatened
  • Protection:
    • CITES Appendix I,
    • Indian Wildlife Protection Act, 1972: Schedule II.
  • Habitat:
    • Found throughout Europe and in Asia. In India, the species is distributed in the Himalayan foothills, southern Western Ghats and the central Indian landscape.

Red Panda
  • IUCN status:
    • Endangered.
  • About:
    • State animal of Sikkim.
    • It is the only living member of the genus Ailurus.
  • Habitats in India:
    • Sikkim, Meghalaya, West Bengal, and Arunachal Pradesh. About 5,000-6,000 red pandas are estimated to be present in these four Indian states. This is the second-largest population after China (6,000- 7,000). Nepal accounts for 580 animals, while Bhutan and Mynamar have no estimate of the animal’s population.
  • Protection:
    • CITES: Appendix I.
  • Protected areas:
    • 1. Kanchendzonga National Park (NP) — Sikkim
    • 2. Neora Valley NP – West Bengal
    • 3. Namdapha National Park – Arunachal Pradesh
    • 4. Singalila National Park – West Bengal

Oculudentavis khaungraae
  • It is the smallest dinosaur discovered yet.
  • The scientists found the fossilized skull of a dinosaur — the size of a modern hummingbird — trapped in a 99-million-year-old amber in northern Myanmar.
  • The fossil represented the smallest dinosaur from the Mesozoic era — about 250 million to 65 million years ago.

 Gaur
  • Context:
    • Gaur (Bos Gaurus) has not only returned to Bihar’s Valmiki Tiger Reserve (VTR) but are also breeding there due to an increase in grassland cover. They have been attracted to VTR due to the increase in grassland cover.
  • Key facts:
    • Gaur is the largest extant bovine in the world.
    • Gaur is grassland specialists and their main food is grass.
    • Native to south and southeast Asia.
    • The species is listed as ‘vulnerable’ on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species since 1986.
  • About VTR:
    • VTR was set up in the early 1990s. It is spread over 899 square kilometers in Bihar’s West Champaran district, bordering Nepal’s Chitwan National Park to its north and Uttar Pradesh to its west.

White giraffe
  • Context:
    • Poachers have killed two extremely rare white giraffes in northeast Kenya, leaving just one such animal in the world.
  • Key facts:
    • The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) had classified giraffes as vulnerable in the Red List in December 2016.
    • They are listed under Appendix II of the CITES.
  • Why is the white color?
    • The white appearance of the giraffe is due to leucism, a genetic condition that causes skin cells to have no pigmentation.
    • Leucism is different from albinism where no melanin is produced at all

CARISSA KOPILII
  • Context:
    • The Carissa kopilii is threatened by the very river it is named after — Kopili in central Assam. It is a distant cousin of multi-utility wild berry.
  • Properties:
    • It has medicinal and utilitarian properties.
  • Reasons:
    • A hydroelectric project on the river and water turned acidic because of coal mining in Meghalaya upstream.
  • Distribution:
    • The “sun-loving” plant is distributed sparsely, rooted in rocky crevices along the Kopili riverbed at altitudes ranging from 85-600 meters above sea level.

Sahyadri Megha
  • It is a new variety of paddy resistant to blast disease and rich in nutrients.
  • It was developed by the University of Agricultural and Horticultural Sciences (UAHS), Shivamogga, as part of its initiative to prevent a decline in the area under paddy cultivation.

Pollution And Conservation:-

Black carbon

  • Context:
    • Researchers recently conducted a study on varying levels of Black Carbon in the Himalayas.
  • Key findings:
    • Black carbon concentrations near the Gangotri glacier rose 400 times in summer due to forest fires and stubble burning from agricultural waste and triggered glacial melt.
    • The monthly mean concentration of EBC (equivalent black carbon) was found to be minimum in August and maximum in the month of May. The observed seasonal mean concentrations of EBC indicated a pristine glacial source and an absence of EBC sources in the locality.
    • The concentration varied from a minimum of 0.01μg/cubic metre in winter to 4.62μg/cubic metre during summer. Being a pristine zone far from sources of pollution, the measurements are critical to establishing a baseline for pollution loads and estimating the contribution of various sources to pollution.
  • What is Black Carbon? What are the concerns?
    • Black carbon results from the incomplete combustion of fossil fuels and biomass.
    • BC is produced both naturally and by human activities as a result of the incomplete combustion of fossil fuels, biofuels, and biomass.
    • Primary sources include emissions from diesel engines, cookstoves, wood burning, and forest fires.

Bharat Stage Emission Standards (BSES)

  • Context:
    • The Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers has said it has approached the Supreme Court seeking directions to ensure that sale and registration of BS-IV complaints are allowed till March 31, 2020.
    • The move follows circulars from some State governments setting a cut-off date ranging between February 29 and March 25, 2020, for accepting registration applications for BS-IV-compliant vehicles.
  • About the Bharat Stage Emission Standards (BSES):
    • Introduced in the year 2000.
    • They are set by the Central Pollution Control Board under the Ministry of Environment and ClimateChange.
  • Objective:
    • To keep air pollutants emitted by the internal combustion engine of vehicles under control.
    • They are based on European (EURO) emission standards.
    • Bharat Stage (BS) emission norms were first brought into effect in 2000 under the head “India 2000”.
    • This was followed by BS2 in 2001 and BS3 in 2005.
  • How does BS6 emission norms differ from BS4?
    • The following are the key differences between BS4 and BS6 emission norms:
      • Diesel Particulate Filter (DPF) and Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) are being introduced with the roll-out of Bharat Stage VI norms, which were not a part of Bharat Stage IV.
      • Real Driving Emission (RDE) will be introduced in India for the first time with the implementation of Bharat Stage VI emission norms. It will measure a vehicle’s emission in real-time conditions against laboratory conditions.
      • Onboard Diagnostics (OD) has been made mandatory for all vehicles.
      • Sulfur and Nitrogen Oxide content:
        • Sulphur traces in BS6 fuel is five times lower (10 ppm) as compared to sulfur traces in BS4 fuel (50 ppm). Further, the nitrogen oxide level for BS6-grade diesel engines and petrol engines will be brought down by 70% and 25%, respectively.
      • BS-VI can bring PM in diesel cars down by 80 percent. The new norms will bring down nitrogen oxides from diesel cars by 70 percent and in petrol cars by 25 percent.

Uranium Contamination in Ground Water

  • Context:
    • A report on Uranium Contamination in groundwater in Parliament.
  • What is the acceptable limit?
    • The Indian Standard IS 10500: 2012 for Drinking Water specification has specified the maximum acceptable limits for radioactive residues as alpha and beta emitters, values in excess of which render the water not suitable.
    • These requirements take into account all radioactive elements including uranium. No individual radioactive elements have been specifically identified.
    • As per the Bureau of Indian Standard (BIS), the maximum permissible limit of Uranium is 0.03 mg/l (as per WHO provisional guidelines) in all drinking water standards after following due process.
  • Affected states:
    • A report brought out by Duke University, the USA in association with Central Ground Water Board and State Ground Water departments state that Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Odisha, Punjab, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, and Jammu & Kashmir have localized occurrence of Uranium concentration.

‘Restaurant’ for vultures

  • It is a feeding station for vultures in the Pong Dam Lake Wild Life sanctuary in the Kangra district of Himachal Pradesh.
  • It has been set up as a part of the state wildlife wing’s ongoing project to conserve the big scavenging bird in natural habitat, whose numbers showed a critical decline in the past decades in the Indian subcontinent.
  • Measuring 100 meters x 100 meters with seven feet high fencing at an open space in Suknara near Nagrota Surian in Pong wetland, the ‘Vulture Restaurant’ provides deskinned carcasses to vultures.
  • There are seven species of vultures in the new world and 16 species in the old world that includes Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia, etc. Out of 16 in the old world, eight species (including Himalayan Griffon, Eurasian Griffon) have been reported in Kangra district also.
  • (VULTURE COVERED IN PREVIOUS MONTHS COMPILATION)

The Categorization of industries

  • About:
    • Industries are categorized based on their pollution load by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC).
  • Criteria:
    • The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) has developed the criteria of categorization of industrial sectors based on the Pollution Index which is a function of the emissions (air pollutants), effluents (water pollutants), hazardous wastes generated and consumption of resources.
  • Categories:
    • 1. Red category:
      • Includes the Cement industry, Petrochemicals, pharmaceuticals, sugar, paper and pulp, nuclear power plants, organic chemicals, fertilizers, firecrackers.
    • 2. Orange category:
      • Includes coal washeries, glass manufacturing, paints, stone crushers, and aluminum and copper extraction from scrap.
    • 3. Green category:
      • Includes aluminum utensils, steel furniture, soap manufacturing, and tea processing.
    • 4. White category:
      • Includes the industries that are “practically non-polluting”. These industries, like air cooler or air conditioning units, chalk factories, biscuit tray units, won’t need a green clearance enabling easier financing.
  • Score:
    • Industries scoring 60 and above on a scale of 1 to 100 have been rated red. An index between 41 and 59 earns an orange category, while a score between 21 and 40 gets a green. The pollution index lower than 20 has been rated white.
Environment:-

Coral bleaching at the Great Barrier Reef

  • Context:
    • Scientists have warned that the Great Barrier Reef will face a critical period of heat stress over the coming weeks, following the most widespread coral bleaching the natural world has ever endured.
  • About the Great Barrier Reef:
    • The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, which spreads across a length of over 2,300 km and is roughly the size of Italy, is home to about 3,000 coral reefs, 600 continental islands, 1,625 type of fish, 133 varieties of shark and rays and 600 types of soft and hard corals.
    • It is a world heritage site.
  • What are Coral reefs?
    • Coral reefs are important hotspots of biodiversity in the ocean. Corals are animals in the same class (Cnidaria) as jellyfish and anemones. They consist of individual polyps that get together and build reefs.
  • Significance:
    • Coral reefs support a wide range of species and maintain the quality of the coastal biosphere.
    • Corals control the level of carbon dioxide in the water by converting it into a limestone shell. If this process does not take place, the amount of carbon dioxide in the ocean water would increase significantly and affect ecological niches.
  • Threats:
    • Coral reefs are threatened by climate change.
    • When the sea surface temperature increases beyond a tolerable limit, they undergo a process of bleaching.
  • What is bleaching?
    • Basically bleaching is when the corals expel certain algae known as zooxanthellae, which live in the tissues of the coral in a symbiotic relationship. About 90% of the energy of the coral is provided by the zooxanthellae
    • which are endowed with chlorophyll and other pigments. They are responsible for the yellow or reddish-brown colors of the host coral. In addition, the zooxanthellae can live as endosymbionts with jellyfish also.
    • When a coral bleaches, it does not die but comes pretty close to it. Some of the corals may survive the experience and recover once the sea surface temperature returns to normal levels.

Preservation of Eastern, Western Ghats

  • Context:
    • A public interest litigation petition has been filed in the Madras High Court seeking a direction to the Centre and State government to constitute a permanent body for taking serious steps to safeguard the flora, fauna and other natural resources in the Eastern and Western Ghat areas in Tamil Nadu.
    • The petition is on the basis of the recommendations made by the Madhav Gadgil and Kasturi Rangan committees.
  • What did the Gadgil Committee say?
    • It defined the boundaries of the Western Ghats for the purposes of ecological management.
    • It proposed that this entire area be designated as an ecologically sensitive area (ESA).
    • Within this area, smaller regions were to be identified as ecologically sensitive zones (ESZ) I, II or III based on their existing condition and nature of the threat.
    • It proposed to divide the area into about 2,200 grids, of which 75 percent would fall under ESZ I or II or under already existing protected areas such as wildlife sanctuaries or natural parks.
    • The committee proposed a Western Ghats Ecology Authority to regulate these activities in the area.
  • Why was the Kasturirangan Committee setup?
    • None of the six concerned states agreed with the recommendations of the Gadgil Committee, which submitted its report in August 2011.
    • In August 2012, then Environment Minister constituted a High-Level Working Group on the Western Ghats under Kasturirangan to “examine” the Gadgil Committee report in a “holistic and multidisciplinary fashion in the light of responses received” from states, central ministries, and others.
    • The Kasturirangan report seeks to bring just 37% of the Western Ghats under the Ecologically Sensitive Area (ESA) zones — down from the 64% suggested by the Gadgil report.
  • Recommendations of the Kasturirangan Committee:
    • A ban on mining, quarrying and sand mining.
    • No new thermal power projects, but hydropower projects allowed with restrictions.
    • A ban on new polluting industries. Building and construction projects up to 20,000 sq m were to be allowed but townships were to be banned.
    • Forest diversion could be allowed with extra safeguards.
  • Importance of western ghats:
    • The Western Ghats is an extensive region spanning over six States. It is the home of many endangered plants and animals. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
    • It is one of the eight “hottest hot-spots” of biological diversity in the world.
    • According to UNESCO, the Western Ghats are older than the Himalayas. They influence Indian monsoon weather patterns by intercepting the rain-laden monsoon winds that sweep in from the south-west during late summer.
  • Eastern Ghats:
    • The Eastern Ghats run from northern Odisha through Andhra Pradesh to Tamil Nadu in the south passing some parts of Karnataka.
    • They are eroded and cut through by four major rivers of peninsular India, viz. Godavari, Mahanadi, Krishna, and Kaveri.

‘United for Biodiversity’

  • Context:
    • The European Commission (EC) has launched the ‘United for Biodiversity’ coalition. It was launched on World Wildlife Day 2020- 3rd March.
  • What is it?
    • The coalition is made up of zoos, aquariums, botanical gardens, national parks, and natural history and science museums from around the world.
    • The coalition offers the opportunity for all such institutions to “join forces and boost public awareness about the nature crisis, ahead of the crucial COP-15 of the Convention on Biological Diversity in Kunming, China in October 2020.

National Clean Air Programme (NCAP)

  • Context:
    • Union Environment Ministry has asked for city-level plans for the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) as these problems need to be dealt with at the local level.
  • What is the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP)?
    • Launched in January 2019, it is the first-ever effort in the country to frame a national framework for air quality management with a time-bound reduction target.
    • The programme will not be notified under the Environment Protection Act or any other Act to create a firm mandate with a strong legal back up for cities and regions to implement NCAP in a time-bound manner for effective reduction.
    • The plan includes 102 non-attainment cities, across 23 states and Union territories, which were identified by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) on the basis of their ambient air quality data between 2011 and 2015.
  • What are Non-attainment?
    • Non-attainment cities are those which have been consistently showing poorer air quality than the National Ambient Air Quality Standards. These include Delhi, Varanasi, Bhopal, Kolkata, Noida, Muzaffarpur, and Mumbai.
  • Key features of the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP):
    • Target:
      • Achieve a national-level target of 20-30% reduction of PM2.5 and PM10 concentration by between 2017 and 2024.
    • Implementation:
      • Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) will execute this nation-wide programme in consonance with section 162 (b) of the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act.
      • As part of the programme, the Centre also plans to scale up the air quality monitoring network across India.
      • At least 4,000 monitors are needed across the country, instead of the existing 101 real-time air quality (AQ) monitors, according to an analysis.

Earth Hour

  • Context:
    • Every year, Earth Hour is observed on the last Saturday of March at 8:30 pm. And while previously it brought the public out onto the roads to mark the hour, this year the famous environmental initiative went digital as many countries are in lockdown.
  • What is Earth Hour?
    • Dating back to 2007, Earth Hour is an annual event organized by the World Wildlife Fund that promotes conservation and sustainable energy. During this time, civilians are encouraged to switch off their lights for one an hour to help reduce the effect of global warming and raise awareness for climate change and wildlife conservation.
  • Background:
    • It was famously started as a lights-off event in Sydney, Australia in 2007. Since then it has grown to engage more than 7000 cities and towns worldwide. Today, Earth Hour engages a massive mainstream community on a broad range of environmental issues.
    • The one-hour event continues to remain the key driver of the now larger movement.
  • What’s the difference between Earth Hour and Earth Day?
    • Whereas Earth Hour stands as a climate change initiative where people reduce their electricity usage, Earth Day (April 22) celebrates our natural environment by inspiring people to plant trees, recycle regularly and keep the planet tidy.

 

Science And Technology

Space:-

ExoMars

  • Context:
    • Launch of ExoMars rover delayed to 2022.
  • About the rover:
    • The European-built Rosalind Franklin rover, named for the famed British chemist and Xray crystallographer whose work contributed to DNA research, recently passed final pre-launch thermal and vacuum tests at an Airbus facility in Toulouse, France.
    • Rosalind Franklin is the first European Mars rover.
  • About ExoMars:
    • It is a joint endeavor between ESA and the Russian space agency, Roscosmos.
    • The primary goal of the ExoMars programme is to address the question of whether life has ever existed on Mars.

Yuva Vigyani Karyakram

  • Context:
    • ISRO has shortlisted 358 high school students from across the country to be part of this programme.
  • About:
    • Launched by the Indian Space Research Organisation.
    • It is a special programme for School Children, in tune with the Government’s vision “Jai Vigyan, Jai Anusandhan”.
  • Aim:
    • The Program is primarily aimed at imparting basic knowledge on Space Technology, Space Science and Space Applications to the younger ones with the intent of arousing their interest in the emerging areas of Space activities.
  • Participants:
    • It is proposed to select 3 students each from each State/ Union Territory to participate in this programme covering CBSE, ICSE and State syllabus.
  • Eligibility:
    • Those who have just completed the 9th standard will be eligible for online registration. The selection is based on the 8th Standard academic performance and extracurricular activities.
    • Students belonging to the rural area have been given special weightage in the selection criteria.
    • In case there is a tie between the selected candidates, the younger candidates will be given priority.

Health:-

Hantavirus

  • Context:
    •  Case of hantavirus in the Yunnan province of China.
  • About:
    • The hantaviruses are a family of viruses spread mainly by rodents. A person can get infected if he/she comes in contact with a rodent that carries the virus.
    • It remains unclear whether human-to-human transmission of the virus is possible.
    • A person infected with the virus may show symptoms within the first to eighth week after they have been exposed to fresh urine, feces or the saliva of infected rodents.
    • Symptoms may include fever, fatigue, muscle aches, headaches, chills, and abdominal problems. Four to ten after being infected, late symptoms of HPS may start to appear, which include coughing and shortness of breath.

Avian influenza (bird flu) 

  • Context:
    • Suspected cases of avian influenza (bird flu) are being reported from various parts of Kerala. So, the Kerala government has decided to pay compensation to the owners of the hens which were culled as part of the government’s precautionary measures following the outbreak of bird flu.
  • About Avian influenza (bird flu):
    • It is a viral infection that can infect not only birds but also humans and other animals. Most forms of the virus are restricted to birds.
    • It is a highly contagious viral disease affecting several species of food-producing birds (chickens, turkeys, quails, guinea fowl, etc.), as well as pet birds and wild birds.
    • Occasionally mammals, including humans, may contract avian influenza.
    • Influenza A viruses are classified into subtypes based on two surface proteins, Hemagglutinin (HA) and Neuraminidase (NA).
  • What causes bird flu?
    • Although there are several types of bird flu, H5N1 was the first avian influenza virus to infect humans.
    • The first infection occurred in Hong Kong in 1997. The outbreak was linked to handling infected poultry.
  • How H5N1 affect humans?
    • The symptoms of H5N1 infection in humans include mild upper respiratory tract infection (fever and cough), early sputum production and rapid progression to severe pneumonia. It can lead to sepsis with shock, acute respiratory distress syndrome and even death.

Kyasanur Forest Disease Virus (KFDV)

  • About the Disease:
    • KFD is caused by the Kyasanur Forest Disease Virus (KFDV). The virus was identified in 1957 when it was isolated from a sick monkey from the Kyasanur Forest. Since then, between 400-500 humans cases per year have been reported.
    • Hard ticks (Hemaphysalis spinigera) are the reservoir of the KFD virus and once infected, remain so for life.
    • Rodents, shrews, and monkeys are common hosts for KFDV after being bitten by an infected tick. KFDV can cause epizootics with high fatality in primates.
  • Transmission:
    • Transmission to humans may occur after a tick bite or contact with an infected animal, most importantly a sick or recently dead monkey.
    • The disease as of now is stated to be transmitted through monkeys. Large animals such as goats, cows, and sheep may become infected with KFD but play a limited role in the transmission of the disease.
    • These animals provide the blood meals for ticks and it is possible for infected animals with viremia to infect other ticks, but the transmission of KFDV to humans from these larger animals is extremely rare.
    • Furthermore, there is no evidence of disease transmission via the unpasteurized milk of any of these animals.
  • Symptoms:
    • After an incubation period of 3-8 days, the symptoms of KFD begin suddenly with chills, fever, and headache.
    • Severe muscle pain with vomiting, gastrointestinal symptoms and bleeding problems may occur 3-4 days after initial symptom onset.
    • Patients may experience abnormally low blood pressure, and low platelet, red blood cell, and white blood cell count.
    • After 1-2 weeks of symptoms, some patients recover without complication. However, the illness is biphasic for a subset of patients (10-20 %) who experience a second wave of symptoms at the beginning of the third week.
    • These symptoms include fever and signs of neurological manifestations, such as severe headache, mental disturbances, tremors, and vision deficits.

Huntingtin Disease

  • Context:
    • Scientists have found that the pathogenic protein called the Huntingtin Protein causes a decrease in overall protein production.
  • What they have found?
    • A team of scientists from the National Centre for Cell Science (NCCS) in Pune has observed that the pathogenic Huntingtin protein causes a decrease in the overall protein production in cells.
    • They also found that the Huntingtin clumps collect together (sequester) molecules of another protein called Orb2, which is involved in the process of protein formation.
    • In simple terms, Scientists have found that in a diseased person the Huntingtin protein interfered with the protein production of the cells. This is how wrong instructions are sent, mainly due to the faulty protein level. They also reduced the level of protein production of a normal cell.
  • What is Huntingtin Disease?
    • It is a progressive genetic disorder.
    • It affects the brain that causes uncontrolled movements, impaired coordination of balance and movement, a decline in cognitive abilities, difficulty in concentrating and memory lapses, mood swings, and personality changes.
  • How is it caused?
    • It is caused by a mutation in a gene called HTT. The HTT genes are involved in the production of a protein called huntingtin.
    • They provide the instruction for making the protein. When the genes mutate, they provide faulty instructions leading to the production of abnormal huntingtin proteins and these form into clumps.
    • The clumps disrupt the normal functioning of the brain cells, which eventually leads to the death of neurons in the brain, resulting in Huntington disease.

Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES)

  • Context:
    • Amid coronavirus, Encephalitis returns in Bihar as a toddler dies in Muzaffarpur.
    • While the causes of AES are still researched, the association with hypoglycemia and litchi fruit has drawn attention.
  • About AES:
    • Acute encephalitis syndrome is a basket term used for referring to hospitals, children with clinical neurological manifestation that includes mental confusion, disorientation, convulsion, delirium, or coma.
    • Meningitis caused by virus or bacteria, encephalitis (mostly Japanese encephalitis) caused by a virus, encephalopathy, cerebral malaria, and scrub typhus caused by bacteria are collectively called acute encephalitis syndrome.
    • The disease most commonly affects children and young adults and can lead to considerable morbidity and mortality.
  • Symptoms:
    • It is characterized as acute-onset of fever and a change in mental status (mental confusion, disorientation, delirium, or coma) and/or new onset of seizures in a person of any age at any time of the year.
  • Cause of the disease:
    • Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES) is considered a very complex disease as it can be caused by various agents including bacteria, fungi, viruses, and many other agents.
    • Viruses are the main causative agents in AES cases, although other sources such as bacteria, fungus, parasites, spirochetes, chemicals, toxins, and non-infectious agents have also been reported over the past few decades.
    • Japanese encephalitis virus (JEV) is the major cause of AES in India (ranging from 5%-35%).
    • Nipah virus, Zika virus are also found as causative agents for AES.
  • How is it related to litchi fruits? How it affects?
    • In India, AES outbreaks in the north and eastern India have been linked to children eating unripe litchi fruit on empty stomachs.
    • Unripe fruit contains the toxins hypoglycin A and methylene-cyclopropyl glycine (MCPG), which cause vomiting if ingested in large quantities. Hypoglycin A is a naturally occurring amino acid found in the unripened litchi that causes severe vomiting (Jamaican vomiting sickness), while MCPG is a poisonous compound found in litchi seeds.

Ossification test

  • Context:
    • Over a month after a boy was charged with rioting and arrested by police during the communal violence in north-east Delhi and subsequently sent to Mandoli jail, a Delhi court granted him bail recently following results of the bone ossification test confirming he is a minor.
    • It is the primary test for age determination.
  • About:
    • Human bones are remodeled and a new layer of bone material is laid by a process called ossification (or osteogenesis). Based on this phenomenon, the ossification test is carried out.
  • Under Indian law:
    • Courts have held that medical opinion based upon the ossification test is merely an expert opinion under the Indian Evidence Act, 1872. Therefore, it cannot be binding upon courts.
    • In-State of Madhya Pradesh v. Anoop Singh, the court held that the ossification test is not the sole criterion for determination of age.
  • Other key facts:
    • This test only tells the ‘estimated’ age of a person and not the exact age.
    • The test is not useful when a person has crossed 25-27 years of age. This is primarily because nearly all the bones are completely ossified and the skeletal growth ceases by the age of 25 years.

Rare Disease Day 

  • Context:
    • Rare Disease Day is observed on February 29.
  • What is a rare disease?
    • A rare disease also referred to as an orphan disease, is any disease that affects a small percentage of the population.
    • Most rare diseases are genetic, and are present throughout a person’s entire life, even if symptoms do not immediately appear.
    • The most common rare diseases recorded in India are Haemophilia, Thalassemia, sickle-cell anemia and primary immunodeficiency in children, auto-immune diseases, Lysosomal storage disorders such as Pompe disease, Hirschsprung disease, Gaucher’s disease, Cystic Fibrosis, Hemangiomas and certain forms of muscular dystrophies.
  • Definition:
    • While there is no universally accepted definition of rare diseases, countries typically arrive at their own descriptions, taking into consideration disease prevalence, its severity and the existence of alternative therapeutic options.
    • In the US, for instance, a rare disease is defined as a condition that affects fewer than 200,000 people. The same definition is used by the National Organisation for Rare Disorders (NORD).

World Tuberculosis (TB) Day

  • Context:
    • World Tuberculosis (TB) Day is observed on March 24 to raise public awareness about the devastating health, social and economic consequences of TB, and to step up efforts to end the global TB epidemic.
    • The date marks the day in 1882 when Dr. Robert Koch announced that he had discovered the bacterium that causes TB, which opened the way towards diagnosing and curing this disease.
    • The theme of World TB Day 2020 is “It’s TIME”.
  • What is TB?
    • TB is an infectious disease caused by the bacillus Mycobacterium tuberculosis.
    • It typically affects the lungs (pulmonary TB) but can also affect other sites.
    • The disease is spread when people who are sick with pulmonary TB expel bacteria into the air, for example by coughing.
    • Diagnostic tests for TB disease include – Rapid molecular test, Sputum smear microscopy, Culture-based methods.
    • Without treatment, the mortality rate from TB is high
  • Initiatives in India:
    • 1. TB treatment is free in India.
    • 2. India aims to eliminate TB by 2025. UN aims to eliminate TB by 2030.
    • 3. Mass BCG vaccination to prevent TB.
    • 4. In 1993, the Revised National TB Control Programme (RNTCP) was launched, offering free diagnosis and treatment for patients, rescuing them from otherwise sure death.
    • 5. Rs 12,000 cr fund to fight TB over the next 3 years.
    • 6. TB Harega Desh Jeetega campaign.

Cord Blood

  • Context:
    • The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) does not recommend commercial stem cell banking.
  • What is Cord Blood?
    • Cord blood (short for umbilical cord blood) is the blood that remains in the umbilical cord and placenta post-delivery.
    • It contains special cells called hematopoietic stem cells that can be used to treat some types of diseases.
  • What is Cord blood banking?
    • Cord blood banking is the process of collecting the cord blood and extracting and cryogenically freezing its stem cells and other cells of the immune system for potential future medical use.
    • Globally, cord blood banking is recommended as a source of hematopoietic stem cell transplantation for hematological cancers and disorders where its use is recommended.
    • For all other conditions, the use of cord blood as a source of stem cells is not yet established.
  • What Can It Be Used For?
    • The umbilical cord fluid is loaded with stem cells.
    • They can treat cancer, blood diseases like anemia, and some immune system disorders, which disrupt your body's ability to defend itself.
    • The fluid is easy to collect and has 10 times more stem cells than those collected from bone marrow.
    • Stem cells from cord blood rarely carry any infectious diseases and are half as likely to be rejected as adult stem cells.

National Centre for Disease Control

  • The NCDC is an institute under the Directorate General of Health Services, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare.
  • It was previously known as the National Institute of Communicable Diseases.
  • The institute engages in research, and it has several sections and laboratories dealing with different communicable diseases.

Corona:-

Novel Coronavirus disease

  • About:
    • COVID-19 is a respiratory infection. There are many types of coronavirus, some linked to the common cold, but this one is new and was detected toward the end of 2019.
    • COVID-19 is the official name given to the virus by the World Health Organization. Before WHO officially named the virus, it was also referred to as coronavirus, the novel coronavirus, and 2019-nCOV (to indicate the year when the virus was first detected).
  • Why it is named so?
    • The coronavirus gets its name from the way it looks:
      • It has a core of genetic material covered by an envelope with protein spikes that resemble a crown. In Latin, a crown is a corona. It’s called a novel coronavirus because it’s new and hasn’t been detected in people before.
  • What are the symptoms?
    • COVID-19 is similar to other respiratory illnesses and symptoms include fever, dry cough, sore throat, and headache. There may also be aches and pains, fatigue and, in some cases, vomiting and diarrhea.
    • While most cases are mild, some individuals may experience more severe symptoms such as shortness of breath and difficulty breathing and may experience pneumonia in both lungs. Those with health issues or underlying conditions may also have a harder time recovering.
    • It may take up to 14 days after exposure for symptoms to appear.
  • How is COVID-19 spread?
    • COVID-19 is transmitted through liquid droplets or particles when a person coughs or sneezes. These droplets, if containing the virus, can infect a person by entering through the eyes, nose or throat. It’s not believed to be airborne and it’s not known to infect via the skin.
    • However, the virus can survive on some surfaces so if a person sneezes into their hand, shake your hand and you then rub your eye with your hand, the transmission is possible through self-inoculation.
  • What’s the difference between a cold, the flu and COVID- 19?
    • All three are respiratory illnesses but each is caused by a different virus.
    • The cold is caused by the rhinovirus, the flu is caused by the influenza virus, and COVID-19 is caused by the novel 2019 coronavirus.
    • All three can lead to pneumonia if complicated by other health issues or underlying conditions.

Herd immunity

  • Context:
    • The UK's Chief Scientific Adviser has said a degree of herd immunity will help the UK population as COVID-19 spreads.
    • Herd immunity is when a large number of people are vaccinated against a disease, lowering the chances of others being infected by it. When a sufficient percentage of a population is vaccinated, it slows the spread of disease. It is also referred to as community immunity or herd protection.
  • About:
    • Herd protection of the unvaccinated occurs when a sufficient proportion of the group is immune.
    • The decline of disease incidence is greater than the proportion of individuals immunized because vaccination reduces the spread of an infectious agent by reducing the amount and/or duration of pathogen shedding by vaccines, retarding transmission.

Outbreak, epidemic and Pandemic Explained

  • Context:
    • As fresh coronavirus cases continue to be reported from different countries, the World Health Organization has finally declared the novel coronavirus a ‘pandemic‘.
    • WHO said it was deeply concerned both by the alarming levels of spread and severity and by the alarming levels of inaction.
    • Earlier, on January 30 the WHO declared it was a “Public Health Emergency of International Concern”.
  • What is an outbreak, epidemic, and pandemic?
    • An outbreak is understood to be a sudden rise in the cases of a disease in a particular place.
    • An epidemic is a large outbreak among a particular population or region (such as the current situation in China).
    • A pandemic is “the worldwide spread of a new disease”. There is no specific number of countries that a disease must touch for WHO to classify it as a pandemic.
  • The spread of COVID 19:
    • The novel coronavirus disease that emerged in Wuhan, China, in the final days of last year, is now in at least 47 countries around the world, spanning every continent except Antarctica. More than 82,000 people have been infected, and over 2,800 are dead.
    • Affected countries include Japan, Brazil, Sweden, Canada, Australia, Iran among others.
  • Previous Pandemics:
    • In June 2009, the WHO declared a global pandemic of novel influenza A (H1N1), commonly known as swine flu.
    • The WHO has abandoned that system of classification now, even though the term pandemic can still be used “colloquially”.
  • Implications:
    • The WHO continues to advise countries “to enact plans based on national risk assessments of local circumstances, taking into consideration the information provided by WHO’s global assessments”.

OneHealth concept

  • Context:
    • The concept of ‘One Health’, which recognizes that the health of human beings is connected to the health of animals and environment is gaining importance as most of the contagious diseases affecting humans are zoonotic (animal to man origin) in nature.
    • The concept of One Health can be effectively implemented for reducing the incidence of emerging zoonotic threats like COVID-19.
  • What is the OneHealth concept?
    • One Health is the collaborative efforts of multiple disciplines working locally, nationally, and globally, to attain optimal health for people, animals, and our environment, as defined by the One Health Initiative Task Force.
    • One Health model facilitates an interdisciplinary approach in disease control so as to control emerging and existing zoonotic threats.
  • What are the common One Health issues?
    • One Health issues include zoonotic diseases, antimicrobial resistance, food safety, and food security, vectorborne diseases, environmental contamination, and other health threats shared by people, animals, and the environment.
    • Even the fields of chronic disease, mental health, injury, occupational health, and noncommunicable diseases can benefit from a One Health approach involving collaboration across disciplines and sectors.

Stages of a pandemic

  • What are the stages of a pandemic?
    • In the first stage of a disease epidemic that eventually takes the form of a pandemic sweeping the globe, cases are imported into a country in which the infection did not originate. An infection whose spread is contained within the boundaries of one or a few countries is obviously not a pandemic.
    • The second stage is when the virus starts being transmitted locally. Local transmission means that the source
    • of the infection is from within a particular area and the trajectory the virus has taken from one person to the next is clearly established.
    • The third stage is that of community transmission.
  • What is the community spread of the infection?
    • The World Health Organisation (WHO) says community transmission “is evidenced by the inability to relate confirmed cases through chains of transmission for a large number of cases, or by increasing positive tests through sentinel samples (routine systematic testing of respiratory samples from established laboratories)”.
    • In the simplest terms, community spread is when you do not know the source of the infection — you are unable to trace it back to someone who has traveled in an affected area overseas or got it through contact with someone who is infected.
  • Why it is worrisome?
    • Community spread implies that the virus is now circulating in the community, and can infect people with no history — either of travel to affected areas or of contact with the infected person.
    • In a situation of community transmission, it is theoretically possible for every person regardless of where they are from or whether they have been in contact, to spread the infection.
    • When can it be said that the virus is definitely in the stage of community spread?
    • There have to be several cases of untraced infection sources to conclude definitively that the outbreak has moved to the next level.
  • What is the fourth stage?
    • It is when the disease becomes endemic in some countries. Among diseases that are currently endemic in India — meaning they occur round the year across the country — are malaria and dengue.
  • How does categorizing an outbreak in this manner help?
    • The stages of a pandemic are uniform the world over.
    • This is so because, in today’s interconnected world, it is important to have a standardized phraseology that conveys the same thing to every person around the world, and helps countries prepare better.
    • The categorization helps countries take specific actions that are necessary to target just that particular scenario.

South Korean model for COVID 19

  • Context:
    • The Korean Model, a vigorous regime of “trace, test, treat”, has shown remarkable results in controlling the spread of the novel coronavirus, without putting a nationwide lockdown in place.
  • How is the situation in Korea?
    • Korea is now in full control of the spread of the disease. The number of new confirmed cases per day has been showing a steady decline since hitting a peak at 989 in February to double-digit figures as of mid-March.
    • Korea might be the only country that hasn’t imposed a lockdown within its territories or even of its international borders.
  • How has this been possible? What is the ‘Korean model’?
    • It is grounded on concentrated testing of high-risk areas and clusters.
    • Korea found out at the beginning of the spread of the virus that a certain religious cult and its gathering was the cause of a large portion of the spread in a certain area of the country. This group had massive gatherings in a closed-off space.
    • The government listed all members of the group across the country, tracked their whereabouts and conducted tests on a massive scale, leading to a rapid increase in the number of confirmed cases.
    • However, Korea succeeded in identifying and isolating potential cases at a very early stage and finally flattened the curve.
    • The moment the virus DNA pattern was confirmed in Wuhan, Korean medical teams and bio-companies were able to develop new testing kits with surprising speed. This made it possible for Korea to conduct mass-scale testing of 18,000 cases a day.
    • Anybody in Korea who has symptoms or reasons to be tested can get the test within minutes at ‘drive-thru’ or ‘walk-thru’ testing centers and receive the result by text message the very next day. Korea made available over 650 testing centers nationwide.

Schedule-H1 Drug

  • Context:
    • The government has notified anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine under Schedule-H1.
    • This was done in exercise of its powers conferred by Section 26B of the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940 (23 of 1940).
    • The move is aimed at stopping misuse of the drug which has now been allowed by the government for prophylactic use in high-risk contacts of COVID-19 patients and healthcare workers treating such patients.
  • Implications of this classification:
    • It restricts its sale only based on prescription.
    • The sale of the drug from now on should be in accordance with the conditions for the sale of drugs as specified in Schedule H1 to the Drugs and Cosmetics Rules, 1945.
  • What are Schedule H1 Drugs?
    • The Drugs and Cosmetics Rules, 1945, are the set of rules under The Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940, which has provisions for classification of drugs into different schedules and also guidelines for storage, sale, display.
    • Schedule H1 has been introduced through Gazette notification GSR 588 (E) dated 30-08-2013 to check the indiscriminate use of antibiotics, anti-TB, and some other drugs in the country.
    • The schedule contains certain 3rd and 4th generation antibiotics, certain habit forming drugs and anti-TB drugs.
  • As per government notification, these drugs are required to be sold in the country with the following conditions:
    • The supply of a drug specified in Schedule H1 shall be recorded in a separate register at the time of the supply giving the name and address of the prescriber, the name of the patient, the name of the drug and the quantity supplied and such records shall be maintained for three years and be open for inspection.
    • The drug specified in Schedule H1 shall be labeled with the symbol Rx which shall be in red and conspicuously displayed on the left top corner of the label, and shall also be labeled with the following words in a box with a red border.

Soap Use in COVID-19

  • Context:
    • Guidelines by the World Health Organization, to reduce the risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection, specify that one of the ways to reduce the risk of infection is by regularly and thoroughly cleaning one’s hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or washing them with soap and water.
  • How does washing with soap helps get rid of the coronavirus?
    • Using soap is more effective in removing microbes on our hands.
    • Viruses such as coronavirus, influenza-causing viruses, Ebola, Zika have their genetic material encased in a layer of fat called the lipid envelop.
    • Soap molecules are pin-shaped with a head that is water-loving (hydrophilic) and a tail that is oil-loving (oleophilic). Being oleophilic, the tail portion of the molecule tends to have an affinity for and ‘competes’ with the lipids in the virus envelope.
    • Since the chemical bonds holding the virus together are not very strong, the long oleophilic tail gets inserted into the envelope and tends to have a ‘crowbar’ effect that breaks the lipid envelope of the virus.
    • The tail also competes with the bond that binds the RNA and the lipid envelop thus dissolving the virus into its components which are then removed by water.
  • Do all viruses have the lipid layer?
    • No, certain viruses do not have the lipid envelop and are called the non-enveloped viruses. Rotavirus which causes severe diarrhea, poliovirus, adenovirus that cause pneumonia and even human papillomavirus (HPV) does not contain the lipid envelope.
    • The oil-loving tail of the soap molecule also disrupts the bond that binds dirt and non-enveloped viruses to the hand. The dirt and viruses are surrounded by several tails making them remain suspended particles. Rinsing with water washes away the suspended particles leading to clean hands.
  • How do alcohol-based hand sanitizers help get rid of coronavirus?
    • Like soap, the alcohol present in hand sanitizers dissolves the lipid envelop, thus inactivating the virus.
    • In addition, the alcohol also tends to change the shape or denature the mushroom-shaped protein structures that stick out of the lipid envelope.
    • The mushroom-shaped protein structures help the virus to bind to special structures found on human cells and enter the cells.
    • To be effective, the sanitizers should contain at least 60% alcohol.
    • Unlike water, alcohol run does not remove the dead viruses from the hand.
    • While a sanitizer can quickly reduce the number of microbes, it does not get rid of all types of germs and is “not as effective when hands are visibly dirty or greasy”.
  • Primary precautions:
    • WHO cautions that using a mask alone will be insufficient to provide an “adequate level of protection”.
    • It should be combined with hand hygiene to prevent human-to-human transmission.

Rapid test for COVID-19

  • Context:
    • To tackle suspicions of whether the novel coronavirus has spread into the community and if not prevent such a scenario, the Kerala government has announced ‘rapid tests’ that will ensure speedy results within half an hour.
  • What is the ‘rapid test’ for Coronavirus?
    • A rapid test is conducted to determine whether there has been any kind of recent viral infection in a person’s body.
    • When a pathogen enters a human body, specific antibodies are released as a response to the virus.
    • A rapid test can detect the presence of such antibodies in blood, serum or plasma samples quickly, indicating a viral infection. Rapid testing is conducted usually to check for community transmission of a virus during an epidemic.
    • According to the health department, it is a simple test that can be done with a person’s blood sample and will give out results within 10-30 minutes. It is also a low-cost test.
  • What does Kerala’s health department plan to do?
    • Rapid tests can be used to conduct screening within the community and identify those with suspected infection, put them under observation and if required, subject them to the PCR test for coronavirus confirmation.
    • Kerala plans to acquire as many rapid antibody kits as possible from ICMR-NiV and begin to use them, especially on those under quarantine in areas like Kasaragod district which has reported 80 of the 181 active cases.
    • The situation in Kasaragod is critical than in other districts and has been met with stricter lockdown measures by the administration.

Convalescent plasma therapy

  • Context:
    • As the proportion of patients infected with COVID-19 continues to rise in the United States, the Food and Drug Administration is facilitating access to COVID-19 convalescent plasma for use in patients with serious or immediately life-threatening COVID-19 infections.
  • Why was this necessary?
    • While clinical trials are underway to evaluate the safety and efficacy of administering convalescent plasma to patients with COVID-19, the FDA is granting clinicians permission for use of investigational convalescent plasma under single-patient emergency Investigational New Drug Applications (INDs), since no known cure exists and a vaccine is more than 1 year away from becoming available.
  • What is Convalescent plasma therapy? How does it work?
    • It seeks to make use of the antibodies developed in the recovered patient against the coronavirus.
    • The whole blood or plasma from such people is taken, and the plasma is then injected in critically ill patients so that the antibodies are transferred and boost their fight against the virus.
  • WHO guidelines in this regard:
    • WHO guidelines in 2014 mandate a donor’s permission before extracting plasma. Plasma from only recovered patients must be taken, and donation must be done from people not infected with HIV, hepatitis, syphilis, or any infectious disease. If whole blood is collected, the plasma is separated by sedimentation or centrifugation, then injected in the patient.
    • If plasma needs to be collected again from the same person, it must be done after 12 weeks of the first donation for males and 16 weeks for females, the WHO guidelines state.

NIDHI program

  • Context:
    • New technology has been adopted by the Maharashtra hospitals in the fight of COVID-19 fight. The technology was developed by a Pune based Start-Up.
    • The product is named “Scitech Airon”. It is a Negative Ion Generator.
    • The technology has been developed under the NIDHI PRAYAS program initiated by the Department of Science and Technology (DST).
  • How does it work?
    • The SciTech Airon ionizer machine generates negatively charged ions at approximately a hundred million per 8 seconds (10 ions per sec).
    • The negative ions generated by the ionizer form clusters around microparticles such as airborne mold, corona or influenza viruses, mite allergens, bacteria, pollens, dust and so on and render them inactive through a chemical reaction by creating highly reactive OH groups called hydroxyl radicals and H O which are highly reactive and known as atmospheric detergents.
    • The detergent property generated by the ion generator helps in the breakdown of the outer protein of the allergens, viruses, and bacteria, which helps in controlling airborne diseases.
    • It increases the body’s resistance to infections and harmful environmental factors. This resistance could be helpful for the next 20-30 days outside the ion atmosphere.
    • It also decomposes gaseous pollutants like Carbon Monoxide (1000 times more harmful than Carbon dioxide), Nitrogen dioxide, and Volatile Organic Compounds.
  • Significance of the technology:
    • It helps to control the virus, bacteria, and other fungal infections in a closed environment and could help purify the air and disinfect areas around COVID-19 positive cases and suspects.
    • Hence it could ensure the wellbeing of the staff, doctors, and nurses who are working round the clock in quarantine facilities by enhancing their disease-resistance power and ability to fight the virus.
  • What is the NIDHI program?
    • Department of Science & Technology has launched a NIDHI program (National Initiative for Developing and Harnessing Innovations) under which programmes for setting up of incubators, seed fund, accelerators and 'Proof of concept' grant for innovators and entrepreneurs have been launched.

Cord Blood Banking

  • Context:
    • Poona Citizen Doctors’ forum dispels beliefs on commercial cord blood banking. It has warned to-be parents against falling prey to the emotional marketing tactics by stem cell banking companies.
  • What’s the issue?
    • Over the past decade, stem cell banking has been aggressively marketed even as its use is still in experimental stages. But these companies charge enormous fees from parents to preserve cells.
    • The concern here is that it is merely by emotional marketing that companies convince parents to bank the cells for several years promising future therapeutic use.
    • Private companies who have forayed into this field offer packages anywhere between ₹50,000 and ₹1 lakh to store and preserve the cells in the right conditions.
    • So far there is no scientific basis for preservation of cord blood for future self-use and this practice, therefore, raises ethical and social concerns.

Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients and Production Linked Incentive (PLI) Scheme 

  • Context:
    • The Union government has approved a package comprising the scheme on Promotion of Bulk Drug Parks and Production Linked Incentive (PLI) Scheme to promote domestic manufacturing of critical Key Starting Materials/Drug Intermediates and Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients in the country.
  • The scheme on the Promotion of Bulk Drug Parks:
    • The scheme aims to promote medical device parks in the country in partnership with the states.
    • Under the scheme, an incentive of five percent of incremental sales over the base year 2019-20 will be provided on the segments of identified medical devices.
  • Implementation of the Scheme:
    • The Scheme for Promotion of Medical Device Parks will be implemented by a State Implementing Agency (SIA).
    • The PLI Scheme for promoting domestic manufacturing will be implemented by a Project Management Agency (PMA) to be nominated by the Department of Pharmaceuticals.
  • There are four categories of medical devices considered under the PLI Scheme:
    • 1. Cancer care/Radiotherapy medical devices
    • 2. Radiology & Imaging medical devices (both ionizing & non-ionizing radiation products) and Nuclear Imaging Devices.
    • 3. Anesthetics & Cardio-Respiratory medical devices including Catheters of Cardio-Respiratory Category & Renal Care Medical Devices.
    • 4. AII Implants including implantable electronic devices like Cochlear Implants and Pacemakers.
  • Significance of these schemes:
    • Lead to a substantial reduction in the import of target segments of medical devices.
    • Boost domestic manufacturing by attracting large investments in the medical device sector

New Technology:-

Biofortification

  • Context:
    • Scientists of ARI, Pune develop biofortified, high protein wheat variety- MACS 4028.
    • It is a semi-dwarf variety. It has shown superior and stable yielding ability.
    • It is resistant to stem rust, leaf rust, foliar aphids, root aphids, and brown wheat mite.
  • What is biofortification?
    • Biofortification is the process of the increased the nutritional value of food crops by increasing the density of vitamins and minerals in a crop through either conventional plant breeding; agronomic practices or biotechnology.
    • Examples of these vitamins and minerals that can be increased through biofortification include provitamin A Carotenoids, zinc, and iron.
  • How are crops fortified?
    • Conventional crop breeding techniques are used to identify varieties with a particularly high concentration of desired nutrients.
    • These are cross-bred with varieties with other desirable traits from the target areas (such a virus resistance, drought tolerance, high yielding, taste) to develop biofortified varieties that have high levels of micronutrients (for example, vitamin A, iron or zinc), in addition to other traits desired by farmers and consumers.
    • Agronomic biofortification entails the application of minerals such as zinc or iron as foliar or soil applications, drawing on plant management, soil factors, and plant characteristics to get enhanced content of key micronutrients into the edible portion of the plant.
  • Why biofortification?
    • Biofortification is one solution among many interventions that are needed to solve the complex problem of micronutrient malnutrition. It is considered one of the most cost-effective interventions for countries to employ in combating micronutrient malnutrition.
    • Biofortification reaches rural consumers who have limited access to industrially fortified foods, supplementation interventions, and diverse diets.
    • Biofortification combines increased micronutrient content with preferred agronomic, quality, and market traits and therefore biofortified varieties will typically match or outperform the usual varieties that farmers grow and consume.
  • How does Biofortification differ from food fortification?
    • Biofortification has increased nutritional micronutrient content imbedded in the crop being grown. Food fortification increases the nutritional value of foods by adding trace amounts of micronutrients to foods during processing.

CRIME MULTI AGENCY CENTRE (Cri-MAC)

  • Context:
    • Union Home Minister launched Crime Multi-Agency Centre (Cri-MAC).
  • About:
    • Cri-MAC aims to share information between various police forces on heinous crimes.
    • It is meant to share information on heinous crimes and other issues related to inter-state coordination.

Technology Development Board 

  • Context:
    • Technology Development Board under DST invites technology proposals for fighting COVID 19. The proposal may include technologically innovative solutions like low-cost masks, cost-effective scanning devices, technologies for sanitization of large areas as well as for contactless entry, rapid diagnostic kits and oxygenators, and ventilators.
  • About the Technology Development Board:
    • It is a statutory body established by the Technology Development Board Act, 1995.
  • Objective:
    • To promote the development and commercialization of indigenous technology and adaptation of imported technology for much wider application.
  • Roles and functions of the board:
    • Encourage enterprises to take up technology-oriented products.
    • Provide equity capital or loans to industrial concerns and financial assistance to research and development institutions.
  • Global Innovation & Technology Alliance (GITA):
    • In order to stimulate the private sector's investment in R&D, TDB has established the Global Innovation & Technology Alliance (GITA).
    • It is a joint venture between the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and TDB with an equity contribution of 51:49 respectively.
    • The GITA will assist the Department of Science & Technology (DST) in implementing industrial research and development programme with different countries under bilateral and multilateral science and technology cooperation agreements.

Potential Fishing Zone (PFZ)

  • Context:
    • The Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services (INCOIS) has reported that Oceansat Satellite data are used to prepare the Potential Fishing Zone (PFZ) advisories on the potential rich fishing areas and provide to the seafaring fishermen in all states.
  • How are these zones identified?
    • This methodology utilizes data on chlorophyll concentration (Chl) obtained from ISRO’s Oceansat-2 satellite and the sea surface temperature from the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA / USA satellites).
  • About Oceansat-2:
    • Launched in 2009, it is designed to provide service continuity for operational users of the Ocean Colour Monitor (OCM) instrument on Oceansat-1.
    • The main objectives of OceanSat-2 are to study surface winds and ocean surface strata, observation of chlorophyll concentrations, monitoring of phytoplankton blooms, the study of atmospheric aerosols and suspended sediments in the water.

Gagan Enabled Mariner’s Instrument for Navigation and Information (GEMINI)

  • For seamless and effective dissemination of emergency information and communication on disaster warnings, Potential Fishing Zones (PFZ) and Ocean States Forecasts (OSF) to fishermen, the Government today launched the Gagan Enabled Mariner’s Instrument for Navigation and Information (GEMINI) device.
  • The GEMINI device receives and transfers the data received from GAGAN satellite/s to a mobile through Bluetooth communication.
  • A mobile application developed by INCOIS decodes and displays the information in nine regional languages.

International Conference on Nano Science and Nano Technology(ICONSAT)

  • Context:
    • The International Conference on Nano Science and Nano Technology (ICONSAT) under the aegis of Nano Mission, Department of Science and Technology (DST) is being held at Kolkata focusing on the recent advances in this frontier research field.
  • Mission on Nano Science and Technology (Nano Mission):
    • Launched in 2007.
    • It is an “umbrella capacity-building programme”.
    • The Mission's programmes will target all scientists, institutions, and industry in the country.
    • It will also strengthen activities in nanoscience and technology by promoting basic research, human resource development, research infrastructure development, international collaborations, among others.
    • It will be anchored in the Department of Science and Technology and steered by a Nano Mission Council chaired by an eminent scientist.

Computer:-

National Supercomputing Mission (NSM)

  • What is National Supercomputing Mission (NSM)?
    • It is being implemented and steered jointly by the Department of Science and Technology (DST) and the Department of Electronics and Information Technology (DeitY).
    • Implemented by the Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC), Pune and the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bengaluru.
  • The focus of the mission:
    • The Mission envisages empowering national academic and R&D institutions spread over the country by installing a vast supercomputing grid comprising of more than 70 high-performance computing facilities.
    • These supercomputers will also be networked on the National Supercomputing grid over the National Knowledge Network (NKN).
    • The NKN is another programme of the government which connects academic institutions and R&D labs over a high-speed network.
    • The Mission includes the development of highly professional High-Performance Computing (HPC) aware human resources for meeting challenges of development of these applications.
  • Achievements:
    • The first supercomputer assembled indigenously, called Param Shivay, was installed in IIT (BHU) and was inaugurated by the Prime Minister.
    • Similar systems Param Shakti and Param Brahma were installed at IIT Kharagpur and IISER, Pune. They are equipped with applications from domains like Weather and Climate, Computational Fluid Dynamics, Bioinformatics, and Material science. Biofortified crops.

National Mission on Interdisciplinary Cyber-Physical Systems

  • Context:
    • Department of Science and Technology (DST) has sanctioned Rs 7.25 crore to IIT Mandi to establish a Technology Innovation Hub (TIH) at the Institute.
    • DST has sanctioned the funds under its National Mission on Interdisciplinary Cyber-Physical Systems (NMICPS).
  • Main tasks of the Technology Innovation Hub (TIH):
    • The TIH will develop tools, education material, hands-on experiments with specialized tool kits, connecting with existing innovation ecosystems.
    • It will inter-link with different stakeholders and connect with other initiatives of the Government of India by providing an innovation platform for schools, colleges and advanced technical training institutes in the targeted areas. The deliverables include:
      • Technology Deliverables:
        • To develop a technology interface for challenges concerning landslides, environment (including climate change), air pollution, agriculture, cybersecurity, defence forces, healthcare, and forensics.
      • Human Resource and Skill Development Deliverables:
        • To generate skilled manpower in the HCI area at graduate, post-graduate, doctoral, post-doctoral and faculty levels by organizing workshops and seminars.
      • International Collaborations Deliverables:
        • To develop and sustain existing and new collaboration with universities and organizations in India and abroad.
      • Entrepreneurship and Startup Deliverables:
        • To create a startup ecosystem by working with the technology-business incubator of IIT Mandi, Catalyst, with an approach of Knowledge Generation Technology Development Technology Translation Technology Commercialisation.
  • How the TIH will work on Cyber-Physical Systems (CPS)?
    • The TIH will also work on the development and evaluation of interfaces of IoT-based Cyber-Physical Systems (CPS), where CPS contains physical elements (sensors) for collecting data and cyber elements (analytics and visualization software) for alerting/ educating people for directed action.
  • What is it?
    • Cyber-Physical Systems (CPS) are a new class of engineered systems that integrate computation and physical processes in a dynamic environment. CPS encompasses technology areas of Cybernetics, Mechatronics, Design and Embedded systems, Internet of Things (IoT), Big Data, Artificial Intelligence (AI) among others.
  • About National Mission on Interdisciplinary Cyber-Physical Systems (NM-ICPS):
    • To harness the potential of this new wave of technology and make India a leading player in CPS, the Union Cabinet approved the launch of the National Mission on Interdisciplinary Cyber-Physical Systems (NM-ICPS) in 2018.
    • It had a total outlay of INR 3,660 crores for a period of five years.

‘Mac-binding’ condition specified for Internet use in J&K

  • Context:
    • According to a recent order issued by the government, the Internet has been restored in Jammu and Kashmir, but the connectivity will be made available “with mac-binding”.
  • What is Mac-binding?
    • Every device has a Media Access Control (MAC) address, a hardware identification number that is unique to it.
    • While accessing the Internet, every device is assigned an IP address.
    • Mac-binding essentially means binding together the MAC and IP addresses, so that all requests from that IP address are served only by the computer having that particular MAC address.
    • In effect, it means that if the IP address or the MAC address changes, the device can no longer access the Internet. Also, monitoring authorities can trace the specific system from which a particular online activity was carried out. 

Miscellaneous

Exercise And Operation:

Exercise Name:  Operation:

“Operation Namaste”

  • Indian Army launched “Operation Namaste” to contain the spread of the Corona Virus in the country.
    • Under the operation, the army will help the Government of India fight against the deadly disease.
    • Under the operation, the Indian Army has established 8 quarantine so far. Also, Command wise helpline numbers have been established.
    • Facilities for the families of the army men have been arranged to visit the nearest camps in case of emergency while they are away serving the country.

Exercise Red Flag

  • Context:
    • The U.S. Air Force has canceled Phase-I of its flagship multilateral air exercise, Red Flag, scheduled in Alaska from April 30.
    • The Indian Air Force (IAF) was to take part in the exercise with its Sukhoi Su-30 fighter jets.
  • About:
    • Exercise Red Flag is a two-week advanced aerial combat training exercise held several times a year by the United States Air Force. It aims to offer realistic air-combat training for military pilots and other flight crew members from the United States and allied countries.
    • Only countries considered friendly towards the United States take part in Red Flag exercises.

Defence:-

Defence Procurement Procedure 2020

  • Context:
    • Raksha Mantri Shri Rajnath Singh unveils draft of Defence Procurement Procedure 2020. It aims at further increasing indigenous manufacturing and reducing timelines for the procurement of defence equipment.
  • Key highlights of the draft:
    • Indigenous Content (IC) stipulated in various categories of procurement has been increased by about 10% to support the ‘Make in India’ initiative.
    • Leasing has been introduced as a new category for acquisition in addition to existing ‘Buy’ & ‘Make’ to substitute huge initial capital outlays with periodical rental payments. Here, the lessor can be both Indian as well as global.
    • New Category Buy (Global – Manufacturer in India) has been introduced with a minimum of 50% indigenous content on the cost basis of the total contract value.
    • There is also long-term product support — which would be three to five years after the warranty period is over.
    • A “price variation clause” has been introduced that will be applicable to all cases where the total cost of the contract is more than Rs 1,000 crore and the delivery schedule exceeds 60 months.
  • Background:
    • The first DPP was promulgated in 2002 and has since been revised a number of times to provide impetus to the growing domestic industry and achieve enhanced self-reliance in defence manufacturing.
  • What is DPP?
    • The Defence Procurement Procedure mainly contains processes that need to be followed to streamline and simplify defence procurement procedures and ultimately achieve the objective of self-reliance in meeting all the security needs of the Indian Armed Forces by promoting indigenous design, development and manufacture of Defence weapon systems and, platforms in a time-bound manner without any delays.

RaIDer-X

  • Context:
    • The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore has developed a new bomb detection device called Raider-X.
  • What is RaIDer-X?
    • It is an explosives detection device.
    • It can detect up to 20 explosives from a stand-off distance of two meters.
    • Developed by the High Energy Material Research Laboratory (HEMRL) — an arm of the DRDO — in Pune and the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore.
    • It can also discern bulk explosives even if they have been concealed.
  • Applications:
    • The device has various applications including narcotics, for local police, for customs and other detection agencies who need to detect various elements that may be explosive or non-explosive in nature.
  • Significance:
    • Most of the recent terrorist attacks had explosives that were made from easily available ingredients like petrol and gelatin sticks rather than high-end materials. And devices like RaIDer-X are incremental to thwarting the threat from homemade explosives.

India-U.S. Military Cooperation Group (MCG)

  • Context:
    • The India-U.S. Military Cooperation Group (MCG) dialogue, scheduled for later this month, has been canceled in view of the COVID-9 outbreak.
  • What is MCG?
    • The MCG is a forum to review the progress of defence cooperation between India’s Integrated Defence Staff and the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command (USINDOPACOM) at the strategic and operational levels.
    • The Integrated Defence Staff was responsible for coordination among the armed forces before the appointment of the Chief of Defence Staff.

National Sports Development Fund

  • Context:
    • Under CSR initiative, Security Printing & Minting Corporation of India (SPMCIL) contributes Rs 1 crore towards the National Sports Development Fund.
  • What is NSDF?
    • Established in 1998 under the Charitable Endowments Act 1890 and notified by the Government of India in November 1998.
    • The purpose of creation is to impart momentum and flexibility to assist the cause of sports.
    • The role of the Fund is supplementary to the overall policy and activities of the Department of Sports in achieving excellence in sports.
  • OBJECTIVES OF NSDF:
    • To administer and apply the money of the Fund for promotion of sports in general and specific sports disciplines and individual sportspersons in particular for achieving excellence at the National and of International level;
    • To impart special training and coaching in relevant sports disciplines to sportspersons, coaches and sports specialists;
    • To construct and maintain infrastructure for the promotion of sports and games;
    • To supply sports types of equipment to organizations and individuals for the promotion of sports and games;
    • To identify problems and take up research and development studies for providing support to excellence in sports;
    • To promote international cooperation, in particular, exchanges which may promote the development of sports;
    • To provide low-interest or interest-free loans for projects and activities related to any of the aforesaid objects.
  • MANAGEMENT AND ADMINISTRATION OF NSDF:
    • Council of NSDF:
      • The Fund is managed by a Council constituted by the Central Government. Union Minister in charge of Youth Affairs and Sports is the Chairperson of the Council. Members of the Council include senior Officers of the Department of Sports, Chairman & Managing Directors of Private and Public Sector Companies / Corporations, representatives of Sports Promotion Boards, etc.

National Disaster Response Force

  • Context:
    • The National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) has trained more than 15,000 staff deployed at the air and land ports across the country on the protocols to be followed in view of the COVID-19 outbreak.
  • About NDRF:
    • The Disaster Management Act has made the statutory provisions for the constitution of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) for the purpose of specialized response to natural and man-made disasters.
  • Why was it needed?
    • Two national calamities in quick succession in the form of Orissa Super Cyclone (1999) and Gujarat Earthquake (2001) brought about the realization of the need of having a specialist response mechanism at the National Level to effectively respond to disasters. This realization led to the enactment of the DM Act on 26 Dec 2005.
  • ROLE AND MANDATE OF NDRF:
    • 1. Specialized response during disasters.
    • 2. Proactive deployment during impending disaster situations.
    • 3. Acquire and continually upgrade its own training and skills.
    • 4. Liaison, Reconnaissance, Rehearsals and Mock Drills.
    • 5. Impart basic and operational level training to State Response Forces (Police, Civil Defence, and Home Guards).
    • 6. Community Capacity Building Programme.
    • 7. Organize Public Awareness Campaigns.

State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF)

  • Context:
    • Ministry of Home Affairs decided to treat COVID-19 as a notified disaster for the purpose of providing assistance under the State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF).
  • What is a disaster?
    • According to the Disaster Management Act, a disaster is defined as the following, “a catastrophe, mishap, calamity or grave occurrence in any area, arising from natural or man-made causes, or by accident or negligence which results in substantial loss of life or human suffering or damage to, and destruction of, property, or damage to, or degradation of, environment, and is of such a nature or magnitude as to be beyond the coping capacity of the community of the affected area”.
    • Ministry of Home Affairs has defined a disaster as “extreme disruption of the functioning of a society that causes widespread human, material, or environmental losses that exceed the ability of the affected society to cope with its own resources.
  • What is the State Disaster Response Fund?
    • Constituted under the Disaster Management Act, 2005 by respective states and it is the primary fund available with state governments for responses to notified disasters.
  • Composition:
    • The Central government contributes 75 percent towards the SDRF allocation for general category states and UTs, and over 90 percent for special category states/UTs, which includes northeastern states, Sikkim, Himachal Pradesh, and Uttarakhand).
    • For SDRF, the Centre releases funds in two equal installments as per the recommendation of the Finance Commission.
  • Support from the National Disaster Response Fund:
    • it supplements the SDRF of a state, in case of a disaster of severe nature, provided adequate funds are not available in the SDRF.
    • The disasters covered under the SDRF include cyclones, droughts, tsunamis, hailstorms, landslides, avalanches and pest attacks among others.
  • Deciding authority:
    • The state executive committee headed by the Chief Secretary is authorized to decide on all matters relating to the financing of the relief expenditure from the SDRF.

Places in News

 

Place in News: Why In News, And Some Information About the Place:
Pakke Tiger Reserve
  • Context:
    • The Arunachal Pradesh government has decided to “keep in abeyance” the survey work for a road through the Pakke Tiger Reserve (PTR).
    • A 40-km stretch of the East-West Industrial Corridor road proposed to connect Seijosa in Pakke Kessang district and Bhalukpong in West Kameng district of the State passes through PTR, a biodiversity hotspot of the eastern Himalayas.
  • 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.
    • The main perennial streams in the area are the Nameri, Khari and Upper Dikorai. West of Kameng River is Sessa Orchid Sanctuary.
  • Neighbors:
    • Papum Reserve Forest in Arunachal Pradesh, Assam’s Nameri National Park, Doimara Reserve Forest, and Eaglenest Wildlife Sanctuary.

Rushikulya rookery coast
  • About:
    • Gahirmatha marine sanctuary and Rushikulya rookery coast in Ganjam district are the main Olive Ridley Nesting sites in Odisha. Of these sites, Gahirmatha marine sanctuary is the largest rookery (mass nesting site) of Olive Ridley turtles.
    • Olive Ridley is listed as Vulnerable under IUCN Red List.

 Reunion Island
  • Context:
    • India and France, For the first time, have conducted joint patrols from the Reunion Island.
  • About:
    • India has so far carried out Coordinated Patrols (CORPAT) only with maritime neighbors and had rejected a similar offer by the US.

Danube-Oder-Elbe Canal 

 

  • Context:
    • Environmental organizations from across central and eastern Europe are criticizing this project.
  • About:
    • They say, the project, if constructed, would destroy the region’s river landscapes, in violation of EU environmental laws.
    • It intends to connect the Danube, Oder and Elbe rivers and thus provide another navigable link from the Black Sea to the North and Baltic Seas.

 

 

Index in News

 

Name of the Index: Publishing Authority: Performance and Facts:
International Index:

Gender Social Norms Index  UN Development Programmme (UNDP)
  • Context:
    • The first Gender Social Norms Index was recently released by the UN Development Programmme (UNDP).
  • About the index:
    • This index measures how social beliefs obstruct gender equality in areas like politics, work, and education, and contains data from 75 countries, covering over 80 percent of the world’s population.
    • The index found new clues to the invisible barriers women face in achieving equality – potentially forging a path forward to breaking through the so-called “glass ceiling”.
  • Key findings:
    • Despite decades of progress closing the equality gap between men and women, close to 90 percent of men and women hold some sort of bias against women.
    • Almost half of those polled feel that men are superior political leaders.
    • More than 40 percent believe they make better business executives and are more entitled to jobs when the economy is lagging.
    • Moreover, 28 percent think it is justified for a man to beat his wife.
    • The analysis also highlighted a bias shift in some 30 countries, revealing that while some show improvements, attitudes in others appear to have worsened in recent years – signaling that progress cannot be taken for granted.
QS World University Rankings 2020 World University Rankings
  • Context:
    • QS (Quacquarelli Symonds) has released the World University Rankings by Subject 2020.
  • Background:
    • To produce the QS World University Rankings by subject area for this year, QS analyzed over 22 million papers, producing close to 200 million citations.
    • 1,368 institutions have been ranked across 48 subjects in 5 broad categories across 159 locations, which reflects the scale behind this internationally benchmarked undertaking to produce these subject rankings.
  • 5 categories are:
    • 1. Arts and humanities.
    • 2. Engineering and technology.
    • 3. Life sciences and medicine.
    • 4. Natural sciences.
    • 5. Social sciences and management.
  • Performance of Indian Institutions:
    • Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Bombay and IIT Delhi has secured 44th and 47th positions respectively in the Engineering and Technology category.
    • Top 100:
      • Other Indian technological and engineering institutes like IIT Kharagpur (86), IIT Madras (88) and IIT Kanpur (96) found their places in the top 100 of this category.
    • However, engineering and technology were the only major subject group where Indian institutions were able to crack the elite top 100 tier.
    • Overall, 12 institutions from the country were ranked in the top 500 in this category alone.
    • In the Natural Sciences category, three Indian institutions made it to the top 200: IIT-Bombay at 108th rank, closely followed by the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore at the 111th position, while IITMadras scraped in at the 195th rank.
    • Jawaharlal Nehru University remained the country’s top institution in the Arts and Humanities category, with a global ranking of 162, followed at a distance by Delhi University at 231.
    • Delhi University topped the Social Sciences and Management category, with a global ranking of 160, followed by IIT-Delhi at 183.
    • There are no Indian institutions in the world’s top 200 when it comes to Life Sciences and Medicine. The top institution in the country is the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, which had a global ranking of 231.
World Happiness Report Sustainable Development Solutions Network for the United Nations

 

  • Context:
    • The World Happiness Report 2020 has been released.
  • About World Happiness Report:
    • It is released by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network for the United Nations by the UN General Assembly.
    • It is a landmark survey of the state of global happiness that ranks 156 countries by how happy their citizens perceive themselves to be.
  • What’s special about the 2020 report?
    • This is the eighth World Happiness Report. The 2020 report for the first time ranks cities around the world by their subjective well-being and digs more deeply into how the social, urban and natural environments combine to affect our happiness.
  • How the countries are ranked?
    • Nationally representative samples of respondents are asked to think of a ladder, with the best possible life for them being a 10, and the worst possible life being a 0.
    • In the reports, experts in fields including economics, psychology, survey analysis, and national statistics, describe how measurements of well-being can be used effectively to assess the progress of nations, and other topics.
  • Interconnections between law, governance, and happiness: Why do these connections matter?
    • Happiness has come to be accepted as a goal of public policy. And this discourse has given a fillip to a new narrative where the interconnections between law, governance, and happiness are being searched.
    • Experiences from several nations confirm that the countries with higher GDP and higher per capita income are not necessarily the happiest countries and there exists a link between the state of happiness and rule of law.

Freedom in the World 2020

America based Freedom House
  • Context:
    • Freedom in the World 2020 has been released by America based Freedom House.
  • Top 5:
    • Finland, Norway, Sweden, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg are the top five countries in the free category.
  • India’s performance:
    • The report has placed India at 83rd position along with Timor-Leste and Senegal among the bottom five of “free democracies”.
    • India witnessed the worst score decline among the world’s 25 largest democracies.
    • India's overall score declined from 75 in 2019 to 71 in 2020, with civil liberties taking the biggest hit.
  • Background:
    • Freedom House is a US-based watchdog, which has been tracking global political and civil liberties for almost half a century.

 

Schemes in News

 

Scheme: Concerned Ministry : Features:
Indira Gandhi Matritva Poshan Yojana State of Rajasthan 
  • Context:
    • The scheme was recently announced by the Rajasthan Government on a pilot basis in 4 districts.
    • The scheme will be implemented in Udaipur, Pratapgath, Banswara, and Dungarpur, where nutrition indicators among children and anemia levels among mothers are worse than the average for the State.
  • Key features of the scheme:
    • It is a maternity benefit scheme.
    • Under the scheme ₹, 6,000 will be offered for the birth of the second child.
    • The government aims to reach out to 75,000 beneficiaries annually. It estimates an expenditure of ₹45 crores per year.
    • The State scheme will complement the Central government’s Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana which offers ₹5,000 for the birth of the first child.
  • About PMMVY:
    • It 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.

Members of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme (MPLADS)

Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MoSPI)
  • Context:
    • As a part of Government’s efforts to contain the spread of COVID – 19, the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MoSPI) has issued a circular granting one-time dispensation for utilizing funds under the Members of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme (MPLADS) to address the challenges in the fight against COVID-19.
  • About the MPLAD scheme:
    • It was launched in December 1993, to provide a mechanism for the Members of Parliament to recommend works of developmental nature for creation of durable community assets and for provision of basic facilities including community infrastructure, based on locally felt needs.
    • The MPLADS is a Plan Scheme fully funded by the Government of India. The annual MPLADS fund entitlement per MP constituency is Rs. 5 crores.

Pradhan Mantri Laghu Vyapari Maan-Dhan Yojana

Ministry of Labour
  • Context:
    • The underperformance of the National Pension Scheme for Traders, Shopkeepers, and Self-Employed Persons.
    • Just over 34,000 people have signed up so far.
    • The Labour Ministry’s vision document in 2019 had set a target of 25 lakh enrolments for the scheme in 2019-2020.
  • What is Pradhan Mantri Laghu Vyapari Maan-Dhan Yojana?
    • It is a voluntary and contribution-based central sector scheme.
      • The government launched the scheme, entailing monthly minimum assured pension of ₹3,000 for the entry the age group of 18-40 years after attaining the age of 60 years, with effect from July 22, 2019.
      • Under the scheme, the government makes a matching contribution to the subscribers' accounts.
      • The scheme is based on self-declaration as no documents are required except bank account and Aadhaar Card.
  • Eligibility:
    • All small shopkeepers, self-employed persons, and retail traders aged between 18-40 years and with Goods and Service Tax (GST) turnover below Rs.1.5 crore can enroll for pension schemes.
    • To be eligible, the applicants should not be covered under the National Pension Scheme, Employees’ State Insurance Scheme, and the Employees’ Provident Fund or be an Income Tax assessee.
  • Benefits to the family on the death of an eligible subscriber:
    • During the receipt of a pension, if an eligible subscriber dies, his spouse shall be only entitled to receive fifty percent. of the pension received by such eligible subscriber, as family pension and such family pension shall be applicable only to the spouse

Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Janaushadhi Pariyojana (PMBJP)

Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers
  • Context:
    • Janaushadhi week is being celebrated across the country from 1st March to 7th March 2020.
  • About PMBJP:
    • ‘Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Janaushadhi Pariyojana’ is a campaign launched by the Department of Pharmaceuticals, Govt. Of India, to provide quality medicines at affordable prices to the masses through special kendra’s known as Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Jan Aushadhi Kendra.
    • Bureau of Pharma PSUs of India (BPPI) is the implementing agency of PMBJP. BPPI (Bureau of Pharma Public Sector Undertakings of India) has been established under the Department of Pharmaceuticals, Govt. of India, with the support of all the CPSUs.
  • SALIENT FEATURES OF THE SCHEME:
    • Ensure access to quality medicines.
    • Extend coverage of quality generic medicines so as to reduce the out of pocket expenditure on medicines and thereby redefine the unit cost of treatment per person.
    • Create awareness about generic medicines through education and publicity so that quality is not synonymous with an only high price.
    • A public programme involving Government, PSUs, Private Sector, NGO, Societies, Co-operative Bodies, and other Institutions.
    • Create demand for generic medicines by improving access to better healthcare through low treatment costs and easy availability wherever needed in all therapeutic categories.
  • What is a generic medicine?
    • There is no definition of generic or branded medicines under the Drugs & Cosmetics Act, 1940 and Rules, 1945 made thereunder.
    • However, generic medicines are generally those which contain the same amount of same active ingredient(s) in the same dosage form and are intended to be administered by the same route of administration as that of branded medicine.
    • The price of an unbranded generic version of a medicine is generally lower than the price of a corresponding branded medicine because, in the case of the generic version, the pharmaceutical company does not have to spend money on the promotion of its brand.
Schemes/policies for minorities in various States  
  • 1. Maulana Azad National Fellowship Scheme:
    • Provide fellowships in the form of financial assistance.
  • 2. Naya Savera – Free Coaching and Allied Scheme:
    • The Scheme aims to provide free coaching to students/candidates belonging to minority communities for qualifying in entrance examinations of technical/ professional courses and Competitive examinations.
  • 3. Padho Pardesh:
    • Scheme of interest subsidy to students of minority communities on educational loans for overseas higher studies.
  • 4. Nai Udaan:
    • Support for Students clearing Prelims conducted by Union Public Service Commission (UPSC), State Public Service Commission (PSC) Staff Selection Commission (SSC), etc.
  • 5. Nai Roshni:
    • Leadership development of women belonging to minority communities.
  • 6. Seekho Aur Kamao:
    • The skill development scheme for the youth of 14 – 35 years age group and aiming at improving the employability of existing workers, school dropouts, etc.
  • 7. Pradhan Mantri Jan Vikas Karyakram (PMJVK) :
    • It is restructured in May 2018 earlier known as MsDP – Implemented for the benefit of the people from all sections of the society in identified Minority Concentration Areas for the creation of assets in education, skill and health sectors.
  • 8. Jiyo Parsi:
    • Scheme for containing population decline of Parsis in India.
  • 9. USTTAD (Upgrading the Skills and Training in Traditional Arts/Crafts for Development):
    • It was launched in May 2015.
  • 10. Nai Manzil:
    • It is a scheme for formal school education & skilling of school dropouts launched in Aug. 2015.
  • 11. Hamari Dharohar:
    • A scheme to preserve the rich heritage of minority communities of India under the overall concept of Indian culture implemented since the 2014-15.

 



Please Share with maximum friends to support the Initiative.

Enquire now

Give us a call or fill in the form below and we will contact you. We endeavor to answer all inquiries within 24 hours on business days.