Monthly Current Affairs for Prelims: May 2021

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Table of Contents

 

*** Due to COVID, Relevant Prelims news items are occurring very little in current happenings. We have kept the magazine short and crisp without overburdening with unnecessary items. Use this time to brush up old Magazines and the static portion of the syllabus.***

 

Art And Culture

Festivals:

Kuchipudi

  • Context: Kuchipudi village in Andhra Pradesh’s Krishna district, has with the death of the multi-faceted Pasumarthy Keshav Prasad lost its ambassador to the COVID.

More about Kuchipudi:

  • Originally performed by a group of actors going from village to village, known as Kusselavas, Kuchipudi derives its name from the village of Kusselavapuri or Kuchelapuram in Andhra. 
  • In the 17th century, Siddhendra Yogi formalized and systematized the tradition. He authored ‘Bhama Kalapam' and many other plays. 
  • With the advent of Vaishnavism, the dance form became a monopoly of the male Brahmins and began to be performed at temples. 
  • Stories of Bhagavat Purana became a central theme of the recitals, and the dancers came to be known as Bhagavathalus. 
  • The dance form gained prominence under the patronage of the Vijayanagara and Golconda rulers. 
  • However, it remained confined to villages and remained obscure till the advent of the 20th century, when Balasaraswati and Ragini Devi revived this dance form. 
  • Lakshminarayan Sastri, in the early 20th century, brought in new practices such as solo recitals and female participation.

Some of the features of Kuchipudi dance are

  • It involves difficult foot movements and is generally a team performance. 
  • Most of the Kuchipudi recitals are based on stories of Bhagwata Purana but have a secular theme. There is a predominance of Shringara ras.
  • Each principal character introduces itself on the stage with a “daaru”, which is a small composition of dance and song, specifically choreographed for the revelation of each character.
  • Tarangam – The dancer performs with his/her feet on the edges of a brass plate and balances a pot of water on the head or a set of diyas.
  • Both Lasya and Tandava elements are important in the Kuchipudi dance form.
  • A Kuchipudi recital is generally accompanied by Carnatic music; Violin and Mridgangam being the principal instruments. The recital is in the Telugu language.

Buddha Purnima

  • Context:
    • This year the Buddha Purnima is celebrated on May 26.
  • About:
    • It is celebrated to mark the birth of Gautam Buddha, the founder of Buddhism.
    • It is also known as Vesak. In 1999, it became an UN-designated day, to acknowledge the contribution of Buddhism to society.
    • It is considered a 'triple-blessed day' – as Tathagata Gautam Buddha's birth, enlightenment, and Maha Parnirvana.
    • Buddha Purnima falls on a full moon night, usually between April and May, and it is a gazetted holiday in India.
    • Many devotees visit Mahabodhi Temple, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, located in Bodh Gaya, Bihar, on this occasion.
    • Bodhi Temple is the location where Lord Buddha is said to have attained enlightenment.
  • About Gautam Buddha:
    • He was born as Siddhartha Gautama in circa 563 BCE, in Lumbini and belonged to the Sakya clan.
    • Gautam attained Bodhi (enlightenment) under a pipal tree at Bodhgaya, Bihar.
    • Buddha gave his first sermon in the village of Sarnath, near Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh. This event is known as Dharma Chakra Pravartana (turning of the wheel of law).
    • He died at the age of 80 in 483 BCE at Kushinagar, Uttar Pradesh. The event is known as Mahaparinibban or Mahaparinirvana.
    • He is believed to be the eighth of the ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu (Dashavatar).
    • UNESCO’s Heritage Sites Related to Buddhism:
      • Archaeological Site of Nalanda Mahavihara at Nalanda, Bihar Buddhist Monuments at Sanchi, MP Mahabodhi Temple Complex at Bodh Gaya, Bihar Ajanta Caves Aurangabad, Maharashtra.

Ancient Monuments And Dynasties:

Oldest Human Burial

  • Context: Archaeologists have identified the oldest known human burial in Kenya, Africa.

More about Oldest Human Burial:

  • The oldest known human burial has been discovered in Kenya, Africa, according to archaeologists. It dates back nearly 80,000 years. 
  • The archaeologists discovered the remains of a 3-year-old boy, who had been carefully laid to rest in a grave. 
  • Location: The fragile and degraded bones were discovered while excavating the floor underneath a sheltered overhang at the cave's entrance, Panga ya Saidi. 
  • The cave is about 10 miles from the coast of Kenya's coastal plain.
  • Tools: In and around the grave, stone tools for grinding, boring, and engraving were discovered. 
  • Stone points were also discovered, which could have been hafted to wooden shafts to make spears.

Miniature sculpture of the Buddha 

  • Context: A miniature sculpture of the Buddha has been found in Badagabettu village in the Udupi district of Karnataka.

Features of the Buddha sculpture:

  • It is nine centimeters high, five centimeters wide and two centimeters thick. 
  • The sculpture, made out of soft sandstone, looks like a replica of the Sarnath Buddha. The sculpture is created based on the Gupta style.
  • The Buddha has been carved out very beautifully and is seated on a lotus pedestal in Dharma Chakra Pravarthana Mudra. 
  • Below the seat, six disciples are seated on either side of the Dharma Chakra. The Lord wears clothes and earrings. A small Ushnisha is shown on the top of the head. 
  • In the back of the head, a beautifully carved round lobe is seen. On the top corners, two Yakshas and, on either side of his back, two-winged horses have been carved out.

Dharma chakra Mudra:

  • It is also called the gesture of ‘Teaching of the Wheel of Dharma’ that describes one of the most important moments in the Buddha’s life as he performed the Dharma chakra mudra in his first sermon in Sarnath after he attained enlightenment. 
  • It is performed with the help of both the hands which are held against the chest, the left-facing inward, covering the right facing outward.

UNESCO world heritage sites

  • Context: Six sites have been added to India’s tentative list of United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) world heritage sites.

More on news:

  • The government had sent nine places for inclusion in the list of possible UNESCO world heritage sites and six have been approved for the tentative list. 
  • These proposals will remain on the tentative list for a year after which the government will decide which one of them to push for in their final dossier to UNESCO.
  • These  six sites include:
    • Satpura Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh
    • Ghats of Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh
    • Maratha military architecture in Maharashtra
    • Hire Bengal megalithic site in Karnataka
    • Bhedaghat-Lametaghat of Narmada Valley in Madhya Pradesh
    • Temples of Kanchipuram
    • Now, the total number of proposals from India increased to 48.

About the UNESCO world heritage sites:

  • Definition of Site: A UNESCO World Heritage Site is a place that could be a forest, mountain, lake, island, desert, monument, building, complex, or city which has special cultural or physical significance. 
  • The list is maintained by the international World Heritage Programme administered by the UNESCO World Heritage Committee, composed of 21 UNESCO member states, which are elected by the General Assembly.
  • Treaty: It was set up by an international treaty called the Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage, adopted by UNESCO in 1972.
  • Sites in India: Currently, India has 38 world heritage sites that include 30 Cultural properties, 7 Natural properties, and 1 mixed site.
  • Agra Fort and the Ajanta Caves were India's first two sites to be inscribed on the list in 1983.

‘ID-Art’ app

  • Context: ‘ID-Art’ users can check if an object is registered in Interpol’s Stolen Works of Art database.

More about the ‘ID-Art’ app:

  • Interpol has launched a mobile phone application (app) that will help identify the stolen cultural property, reduce smuggling and increase the possibility of recovering stolen works and artifacts.
  • The ‘ID-Art’ app enables users — from law enforcement agencies to the general public — to get mobile access to the Interpol database of stolen works of art, create an inventory of private art collections and report cultural sites that are potentially at risk, said the Interpol. It is available for both Android and Apple devices. 
  • Database: The app’s users can immediately cross-check if an object is among the over 52,000 items registered as stolen in Interpol’s “Stolen Works of Art” database.
  • Object ID: Using international standards known as Object ID, museums and private collectors can capture images and record features of their works of art on the App to help keep track of their collections. 
  • Recovery: In the event of a theft, these records can be provided to law enforcement, greatly enhancing the chances of recovery.
  • Geo Location: Apart from allowing documentation of the state of heritage sites, the App enables the recording of the geographical location. 
  • The resulting ‘site cards’ can then be used as evidence or basis for reconstruction if ever the site is looted or destroyed.

More about Interpol:

  • With 194 member nations, Interpol is the world's largest international police organization.
  • It was established in 1923 to facilitate cross-border police cooperation and to help and assist all organizations, authorities, and services to prevent or combat international crime.
  • Interpol's goal is to make international police collaboration easier even when diplomatic ties between countries aren't present.
  • Action is taken within the framework of current legislation in various countries and in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. 
  • The constitution of Interpol forbids “any interference or practices of a political, military, religious, or ethnic nature.”

History

Famous Personalities:

Rabindranath Tagore

  • Context: PM pays tribute to Rabindranath Tagore on his 160th birth anniversary.

More about Rabindranath Tagore:

  • Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941) was the youngest son of Debendranath Tagore, a leader of the Brahmo Samaj, which was a new religious sect in nineteenth-century Bengal and which attempted a revival of the ultimate monistic basis of Hinduism as laid down in the Upanishads.
  • He was a Bengali poet, short-story writer, song composer, etc., who introduced new prose and verse forms and the use of colloquial language into Bengali literature, thereby freeing it from traditional models based on classical Sanskrit.
  • He was also referred to as ‘Gurudev’, ‘Kabiguru’, and ‘Biswakabi’.
  • In 1913 he became the first non-European to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature. He was influenced by the classical poetry of Kalidasa and started writing his classical poems.
  • He also started an experimental school at Shantiniketan where he tried his Upanishadic ideals of education.
  • From time to time he participated in the Indian nationalist movement, though in his own non-sentimental and visionary way.
  • Tagore was knighted by the ruling British Government in 1915, but within a few years, he resigned the honour as a protest against British policies in India.
  • He was also a philosopher and educationist who in 1921 established the Vishwa-Bharati University, a university that challenged conventional education.
  • He not only gave the national anthems for two countries, India and Bangladesh but also inspired a Ceylonese student of his, to pen and compose the national anthem of Sri Lanka.

His contributions:

  • Although Tagore wrote successfully in all literary genres, he was, first of all, a poet. Among his fifty and odd volumes of poetry are Manasi, Sonar Tari, Gitanjali, Gitimalya, etc.
  • Tagore’s major plays are Raja (1910), Dakghar (1912), Achalayatan (1912), Muktadhara (1922), and Raktakaravi (1926).
  • Besides these, he wrote musical dramas, dance dramas, essays of all types, travel diaries, and two autobiographies, one in his middle years and the other shortly before his death in 1941.
  • Tagore also left numerous drawings and paintings, and songs for which he wrote the music himself.

Gopal Krishna Gokhale

  • Context: Prime Minister pays tributes to Gopal Krishna Gokhale.

About Gopal Krishna Gokhale:

  • Gokhale hailed from the Ratnagiri district in present-day Maharashtra and studied at the Elphinstone College in Mumbai before joining as a professor at the Fergusson College in Pune.
  • In 1899, Gokhale joined the Indian National Congress, emerging as one of the main leaders of its ‘moderate’ wing, and gave up teaching three years later to work as a lawmaker for the remainder of his life.
  • Gokhale is best remembered for his extensive work in colonial legislatures. Between 1899 and 1902, he was a member of the Bombay Legislative Council followed by a stint at the Imperial Legislative Council from 1902 till his death.
  • He became president of INC in 1905 in the Banaras session.

His contributions:

  • Gokhale’s deep concern with social reform led him to found the Servants of India Society (1905), whose members took vows of poverty and lifelong service to the underprivileged.
  • He started an English weekly newspaper, The Hitavada (The people's paper).
  • He founded the 'Ranade Institute of Economics' in 1908.
  • He was against the caste system and untouchability. He also pleaded for the emancipation of women and work for the cause of female education.
  • He was also instrumental in the formation of the Minto-Morley Reforms of 1909 which eventually enacted into law.

His Famous Followers:

  • After Mahatma Gandhi’s return to India, he joined Gokhale’s group before going on to lead the independence movement. Gandhi regarded Gokhale as his political mentor and wrote a book in Gujarati dedicated to the leader titled ‘Dharmatma Gokhale’.
  • Gokhale was also revered by Mohammed Ali Jinnah.

Veer Savarkar 

  • Context:    Prime Minister paid tributes to the great freedom fighter and patriot Veer Savarkar on his 138th birth anniversary.

About the Veer Savarkar :

  • Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, popularly known as Veer Savarkar, was an Indian activist and politician. He was the one to formulate the Hindu nationalist philosophy of Hindutva. 
  • He founded the Abhinav Bharat Society (Young India Society), a secret society with his brother Ganesh Damodar Savarkar in 1904. Initially founded at Nasik as Mitra Mela, the society was associated with several revolutionaries and political activists with branches in various parts of India and London.
  • He went to the United Kingdom and was involved with organizations such as India House and the Free India Society.
  • In 1911, Savarkar was sentenced to 50 years in the cellular jail of Andaman, also known as Kala Pani for revolting against the Morley-Minto reforms (Indian Councils Act 1909). he was released from jail in 1924.
  • He worked for the abolishment of untouchability in Maharashtra.
  • He also served as the President of the Hindu Mahasabha. He opposed the Quit India movement in 1942 and was a critic of the Indian National Congress and its acceptance of India's partition.
  • In his book 'The History of the War of Indian Independence, he analyzed the circumstances of the 1857 uprising. It was via this book that Savarkar became one of the first writers to call for India's first war for independence against the British.

Geography

Cyclone Tauktae

  • Context: The India Meteorological Department (IMD) has warned against a cyclone, which will form over Southeast Arabian Sea.

About the Cyclone Tauktae:

  • Location: The prevailing well-marked low-pressure system over Lakshadweep developed into a depression. 
  • The path covered: The IMD launched a cyclone watch and released the possible track that the cyclone, which is to acquire its name Tauktae, will take in due course. It is headed towards Gujarat and the adjoining Pakistan coast.
  • Intensity: As per the IMD, the Tauktae cyclone will strengthen and intensify into a ‘very severe’ cyclonic storm (winds with speeds of up to 150 to 160 mph). 
  • Destruction: The rapidly intensifying system shall cause extremely heavy rainfall (more than 204 mm) over Lakshadweep, Kerala, Ghats of Tamil Nadu, coastal Karnataka, and Goa will receive moderate intensity rain.

What are Tropical cyclones?

  • Tropical cyclones are known by various names – such as hurricanes and typhoons – in different parts of the world. 
  • They are “multi-hazard” occurrences where strong winds cause physical damage, and tidal waves and heavy rains cause flooding. 
  • Tropical cyclones in the seas are a typical feature of the summer months and play a role in aiding the arrival of the monsoon. 
  • The north Indian Ocean region comprising the Arabian Sea and Bay of Bengal are prone to cyclones, mainly in May and November.

Why more cyclones are developing in the Arabian Sea?

  • Report: UN body IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) report indicates an increase in Arabian Sea cyclones during the pre and post-monsoon seasons as a response to the rapid ocean warming trends.
  • The strength of cyclones affecting the countries bordering the North Indian Ocean has been increasing as the planet has warmed. 
  • Climate change is increasing the danger from cyclones in several ways like cyclones are fuelled by available heat. 
  • Higher sea-surface temperatures mean that cyclone wind speeds can increase.

 

Mount Sinabung

  • Context: Mount Sinabung has recently erupted.

More about Mount Sinabung:

  • Indonesia’s Mount Sinabung is located in the North Sumatra province. 
  • It is a Pleistocene-to-Holocene stratovolcano of andesite.
  • The volcano has been active since 2010 when it erupted after nearly 400 years of inactivity.

Why it occurred?

  • Indonesia is home to many active volcanoes owing to its location in the “Ring of Fire” or the Circum-Pacific Belt — an area along the Pacific Ocean characterized by active volcanoes and frequent earthquakes.
  • The Ring of Fire is home to about 75 percent of the world’s volcanoes and about 90 percent of earthquakes also occur here.

Why does a volcano erupt?

  • There are three types of volcanoes — active, dormant, or extinct. An eruption takes place when magma (a thick flowing substance), which is formed when the earth’s mantle melts, rises to the surface.
  • As magma is lighter than rock, it can rise through vents and fissures on the surface of the earth. Following the eruption, the magma is called lava.
  • Not all volcanic eruptions are explosive since explosivity depends on the composition of the magma. 
  • When the magma is runny and thin, gases can easily escape it. In such cases, the magma will flow out towards the surface. 
  • However, if the magma is thick and dense and gases cannot escape it builds up pressure inside resulting in an explosion.

Types of Volcanoes

  • Shield volcano: Where a volcano produces low viscosity, runny, lava it spreads far from the source forming a volcano with gentle slopes. This type is called a shield volcano. Most shield volcanoes are formed of fluid basaltic lava flows.
  • Stratovolcano or Composite Volcanoes: Stratovolcanoes have relatively steep sides and are more cone-shaped than shield volcanoes. They are formed from viscous, or sticky, lava that does not flow easily. The lava, therefore, builds up around the vent forming a volcano with steep sides. Stratovolcanoes are more likely to produce explosive eruptions due to gas building up in the viscous magma.
  • Caldera: These are the most explosive of the earth’s volcanoes. They are usually so explosive that when they erupt they tend to collapse on themselves rather than building any tall structure. The collapsed depressions are called calderas.
  • Flood Basalt Provinces: These volcanoes outpour highly fluid lava that flows for long distances. Some parts of the world are covered by thousands of sq. km of thick basalt lava flows.
  • Mid-Ocean Ridge Volcanoes: These volcanoes occur in oceanic areas. There is a system of mid-ocean ridges more than 70,000 km long that stretches through all the ocean basins. The central portion of this ridge experiences frequent eruptions.

Five Deeps Expedition

  • Context: The Five Deeps Expedition has measured the depth of the world's five oceans.

What is the Five Deeps Expedition?

  • The Five Deeps Expedition is the first manned expedition to the deepest points in each of the world’s five oceans.
  • A team of more than 30 people will travel around the world with a first-of-its-kind submersible called DSV Limiting Factor.
  • The expedition is led by explorer and private equity investor Victor Vescovo, who will pilot the submersible vehicle on its solo and two-person dives.
  • The DSV Limiting Factor to dive to the bottoms of the Puerto Rico Trench (Atlantic Ocean), South Sandwich Trench (Southern Ocean), Java Trench (Indian Ocean), Challenger Deep (Pacific Ocean), and Molloy Deep (Arctic Ocean).
  • In March 2019, a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed between the Nippon Foundation-GEBCO Seabed 2030 Project and the Five Deeps Expedition, where it was agreed that all of the high-resolution bathymetry data acquired during the Five Deeps Expedition will be donated to Seabed 2030 for inclusion in the global map of the ocean floor,
  • This donation of data will increase humanity’s collective scientific understanding of the world’s oceans.

Key findings

  • The Challenger Deep in the Mariana Trench is the deepest trench in the world. 
  • The second deepest is the Horizon Deep in the Tonga Trench with a depth of 10,816m.
  • The deepest place in the Atlantic is in the Puerto Rico Trench, a place called Brownson Deep at 8,378m. 

Tornadoes

  • Context: Two tornadoes that struck central and eastern China killed at least 12 people and injured more than 400.

More about Tornadoes

  • Definition: Tornadoes are the spiraling wind that descends with great force from severe thunderstorms, with very low pressure at the center, causing massive destruction along the way. 
  • They are often referred to as twisters or cyclones.
  • Tornadoes are a form of natural disaster. 
  • Water sprouts are a form of a tornado that occurs over the sea. 
  • The atmosphere's changes to varying energy distribution are manifested in these violent storms. 
  • Change over: These storms transform potential and heat energy into kinetic energy, allowing the restless atmosphere to return to a more stable state.
  • Description: Tornadoes are small, violently spinning air columns that form within a convective cloud and come into contact with the ground. 
  • Tornadoes most commonly occur in combination with thunderstorms in the mid-latitudes of both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres during the spring and summer.
  • These whirling atmospheric vortices can produce the strongest winds ever recorded on Earth, with wind speeds reaching 500 km (300 miles) per hour.

Tornadoes distribution

  • Polar regions are uncommon, and latitudes greater than 50° N and 50° S are uncommon.
  • Thunderstorms are most common in temperate and tropical climates.
  • Except for Antarctica, tornadoes have been recorded on every continent.
  • Tornadoes in the United States are the most dangerous.
  • Canada has the second-highest number of tornadoes in the world.
  • Bangladesh is the most tornado-prone nation on the Indian subcontinent.
  • There are approximately 1,800 thunderstorms in action around the world at any given time.

 

Farzad-B gas field

  • Context: Indian Oil Company ONGC Videsh has lost the contract of Farzad-B gas field after Iran awarded the contract for developing the giant gas field to a local company.

About the Farzad-B gas field

  • The Farzad-B gas field is an offshore gas field located in the Persian Gulf between the Iranian and Saudi territories.
  • The gas field holds 23 trillion cubic feet of in-place gas reserves, of which about 60 percent is recoverable. 
  • It also holds gas condensates of about 5,000 barrels per billion cubic feet of gas. 
  • The buyback contract signed envisages the daily production of 28 million cubic meters of sour gas over five years. 
  • ONGC Videsh Ltd (OVL) is the overseas investment arm of state-owned Oil and Natural Gas Corp (ONGC).
  • It had discovered this giant gas field in the Farsi offshore exploration block in 2008.
  • OVL and its partners had offered to invest up to USD 11 billion for the development of the discovery, which was later named Farzad-B.
  • This is a setback for India’s energy ties with Iran and is indicative of the impact of the U.S. sanctions on India-Iran energy cooperation.

 

Taiwan Strait

  • Context: China protested the latest passage by a U.S. Navy ship through the Taiwan Strait, calling it a provocation that undermined peace and stability in the region.

More about Taiwan Strait

  • It is also called the Formosa Strait, which is a 180-kilometre-long strait that separates Taiwan from mainland China.
  • Currently, the strait is part of the South China Sea and links to the East China Sea to the north. The narrowest section is 130 kilometres long.
  • The strait is entirely on Asia's continental shelf. 
  • Both the People's Republic of China (PRC) and Taiwan have historically advocated for a One-China Policy, which views the Taiwan Strait as part of a single “China's” exclusive economic zone.

More about the South China Sea

  • In Southeast Asia, the South China Sea is an arm of the western Pacific Ocean.
  • It borders China to the south, Vietnam to the east and south, the Philippines to the west, and Borneo to the north.
  • The People's Republic of China, the Republic of China (Taiwan), the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia, Singapore, and Vietnam are bordering states and territories (clockwise from north).
  • Taiwan Strait connects it to the East China Sea, and Luzon Strait connects it to the Philippine Sea.
  • There are numerous shoals, reefs, atolls, and islands in this region. The most prominent are the Paracel Islands, the Spratly Islands, and the Scarborough Shoal.
  • Since it is the connecting point between the Indian and Pacific Oceans, this sea is of immense strategic significance. (Strait of Malacca) 
  • One-third of global shipping passes through it, bringing trillions of dollars in trade, making it a major geopolitical water body, according to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).

 

World’s largest iceberg breaks off 

  • Context:  The world's largest iceberg has broken off from the Ronne Ice Shelf in Antarctica according to the European Space Agency.

More on news

  • Process: Icebergs form when chunks of ice break off from ice shelves or glaciers and begin to float in open water.
  • It is a huge ice block broken off from western Antarctica into the Weddell Sea, becoming the largest iceberg in the world and earning the name A-76.
  • Size: The iceberg is around 170 kilometers long and 25 kilometers wide, with an area of 4,320 square kilometers, slightly larger than the Spanish island of Majorca.
  • It joins the previous world’s largest title holder A-23A — approximately 3,880 sq. km. in size — which has remained in the same area since 1986. 
  • A-76 was originally spotted by the British Antarctic Survey.

Reasons:

  • Global Warming: Earth's average surface temperature has gone up by one degree Celsius since the 19th century, enough to increase the intensity of droughts, heatwaves, and tropical cyclones. 
  • But the air over Antarctica has warmed more than twice that much. Due to this melting of ice has started at a faster rate.
  • Hydrofracturing: Researches have shown that a process known as hydrofracturing was likely the main culprit in this case. 
  • Hydrofracturing occurs when water –which is heavier than ice – pours through cracks in the surface of ice shelves caused by surface warming, violently forcing the fractures to zip open, and causing an iceberg to break off.

Mount Nyiragongo 

  • Context: Mount Nyiragongo volcano erupted in DR Congo results in thousands fleeing their homes in panic.

More on news

  • Mount Nyiragongo is an active stratovolcano with an elevation of 3,470 m in the Virunga Mountains associated with the Albertine Rift. 
  • Location: It is located inside Virunga National Park, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, about 20 km north of the town of Goma and Lake Kivu and just west of the border with Rwanda. 
  • The main crater is about two kilometers wide and usually contains a lava lake.
  • Nyiragongo and nearby Nyamuragira are together responsible for 40 percent of Africa’s historical volcanic eruptions.
  • Mount Nyiragongo is one of the world's more active volcanoes but there were concerns that its activity had not been properly observed by the Goma Volcano Observatory.
  • Previous eruption: This volcano last erupted in 2002, killing 250 people and making 120,000 homeless.

 

Society

Health:

“The State of Healthcare in India” Report

  • Context: The report titled ‘State of Healthcare in India – Indian cities through the lens of healthcare’ 2021 was released.

About the Report:

  • It is a report by the online real estate portal Housing.com.
  • It is a comparative assessment of the top eight cities including Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, Chennai, Delhi NCR, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Mumbai, and Pune.
  • It is based on several parameters like the number of hospital beds, air quality, water quality, liveability index, etc.

Key Points:

  • Pune stood first in the City Health Card as it scored significantly high on parameters such as the number of beds, ease of living, water quality, and adoption of digital initiatives through e-governance.
  • Bengaluru has emerged as India’s third most equipped city in terms of health infrastructure, with 3.6 hospital beds per 1000 people.
  • According to the report, Bengaluru has the highest number of hospital beds as compared to the other top eight cities, but scores low on air quality and municipal performance. 
  • Delhi-NCR ranked the lowest among eight cities due to an inadequate number of hospital beds, poor air quality, and a low score on the liveability index. 
  • The report highlighted that 69% of hospital beds in the country are concentrated in urban areas.
  • In terms of states, Karnataka, Telangana, and Kerala have the maximum number of beds (of public and private hospitals) per 1,000 populations, while Bihar, Odisha, and Chhattisgarh have the least.
  • According to the report, India spends the least on its healthcare and has the lowest number of beds (public hospitals) per 1,000 populations (0.5).
  • With only 0.86 doctors per 1,000 people, India has the lowest number of healthcare providers compared to other major economies where the doctor to population ratio ranges between 2-4 doctors for every 1,000 people.

National Commission for Women (NCW)

  • Context: The three-member committee of the National Commission for Women (NCW) was constituted to look into post-poll violence against women in West Bengal.

More about NCW:

  • Law: The National Commission for Women Act of 1990 established it as a statutory body in January 1992.
  • Equality: Its goal is to work toward achieving equality and equal participation for women in all aspects of life by ensuring their due rights and entitlements through appropriate policy formulation, legislative interventions, and other means. 
  • Composition: A chairperson, a member secretary, and the other five members must make up the Commission's minimum number of members.
  • Chairperson: The chairperson should be chosen by the central government.
  • Five members: The central government will select the five members from among people of competence, dignity, and status. 
  • They should have prior experience in fields such as law or regulation, trade unionism, management of women's industrial potential, women's voluntary organizations, education, administration, economic growth, and social well-being.

Its responsibilities include: 

  • Reviewing the constitutional and legal protections for women.
  • Recommend legislative changes to address the issue.
  • Facilitate the resolution of complaints.
  • Cases of Violation: Take up cases of infringement of the provisions of the Constitution and other laws relating to women with the relevant authorities
  • Suo Moto Notice: It looks into complaints, and takes Suo Motto's notice of matters relating to – deprivation of women’s rights, Non-implementation of the laws, and Non-compliance of policy decisions guaranteeing the welfare for women society.
  • Advise the government on all issues surrounding women's rights.

Children:

The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006

  • Context: ‘Child marriages may go unnoticed amid lockdown's weddings may be restricted to houses due to norms according to activists.

More about the News:

  • As the pandemic took a grip of the world and India went into lockdown, child rights activists were alarmed to see a slew of child marriages being reported in Karnataka. 
  • Now, with another lockdown in place and weddings being restricted to houses because of tough guidelines, there are fears of child marriages going unnoticed. 

More about The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006:

  • The legislation aims to discourage child marriages by making such acts illegal and placing specific authorities in charge of child marriage prevention and prohibition.
  • Age Limit: An individual who, if a male, has not completed twenty-one years of age, and if a female, has not completed eighteen years of age, is referred to as a “Child” under the Act.
  • A marriage in which one of the contracting parties is a minor is referred to as a “child marriage.”
  • Minor: An individual who has not attained his or her majority under the provisions of the Majority Act of 1875 is referred to as a “minor.” According to the Majority Act of 1875, every person residing in India reaches the age of majority when he or she reaches the age of eighteen.
  • Punishment: Child marriage is a criminal offense punishable by up to two years in jail or a fine of up to Rs.1 lakh, or both. The Act's offenses are both cognizable and non-bailable.
  • Whoever performs, executes, directs, or abets any child marriage is subject to the law's penalties.

Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012

  • Context: Accused booked under provisions of the (POCSO) Act, 2012, cannot get the benefit of release on bail if trial courts are unable to record evidence of the victim-child within 30 days.

More about the News:

  • The goal and intent of Section 35 of the POCSO Act are to protect the victim-child from the trauma of the case trial as soon as possible so that she or he can be rehabilitated and reintegrated into society.
  • When reading the statute, the court said, “The said provision is not to be read in favor of the accused to mandate the accused's release.” 
  • The court issued a series of directions to the State government for effective implementation of the Act and the welfare of child victims.

More about POCSO:

  • It was introduced to shield children from sexual abuse, sexual exploitation, and pornography, while also taking into account the interests and well-being of children.
  • It considers the best interests and wellbeing of children under the age of eighteen to be of utmost importance at all stages, to ensure the child's safe physical, mental, intellectual, and social growth.
  • It distinguishes between various types of sexual assault, such as penetrative and non-penetrative assault, sexual harassment, and pornography.
  • It considers sexual harassment to be “aggravated” in some situations, such as when the abused child is mentally ill or when the violence is perpetrated by someone in a position of confidence or authority, such as a family member, cop, teacher, or doctor.
  • During the investigation, the police are also cast in the role of child protectors.
  • A case of child sexual exploitation must be resolved within one year of the date the offense is registered, according to the Act.
  • It was changed in August 2019 to make sexual offenses against children subject to harsher penalties, including the death penalty.

Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA)

  • Context: Adoption issues to the fore as COVID-19 leaves many orphaned.

More about CARA:

  • Statutory: The Ministry of Women and Child Development established the Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA) as a statutory body.
  • Role: It serves as a repository for Indian child adoptions and is responsible for overseeing and regulating both domestic and international adoptions. 
  • 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.
  • Convention: In compliance with the provisions of the Hague Conventions on Inter-Country Adoptions, 1993, ratified by the Government of India in 2003, CARA has been named as the Central Authority to deal with inter-country adoptions.
  • Through its affiliated/recognized adoption agencies, CARA primarily deals with the adoption of orphaned, abandoned, and surrendered children

Hague convention:

  • The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction is a treaty that regulates the civil aspects of international child abduction.
  • It is a multilateral treaty that was established on December 1, 1983.
  • It is a treaty that guarantees the prompt return of a child who has been “abducted” from their “habitual residence” country.
  • The Convention refers to children under the age of sixteen.

SAMVEDNA

  • Context: Government has initiated the SAMVEDNA scheme for children.

More about the scheme:

  • Authority: SAMVEDNA (Sensitizing Action on Mental Health Vulnerability through Emotional Development and Necessary Acceptance) is a toll-free helpline launched by the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR).
  • Objective: To provide psychological first-aid and emotional support to children affected during the COVID-19 Pandemic, NCPCR is providing Tele-Counselling to children through SAMVEDNA Toll-Free Helpline launched to provide psycho-social mental support.
  • Expert members: Tele-counselling is being provided through a network of qualified Experts/Counselors/Psychologists trained under the guidance of the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro-Sciences (NIMHANS), on various psychosocial issues about COVID-19, using different Tele counseling strategies. 
  • SAMVEDNA tele-counseling service will address stress, anxiety, fear, and other issues among children. 
  • Categories: Tele counselling is provided to children under three categories:
    • Children who are in Quarantine/isolation/COVID Care centers. 
    • Children who have COVID positive parents or family members and near ones. 
    • Children who have lost their parents due to Covid-19 Pandemic.

About the NCPCR:

  • Law: NCPCR is a statutory body established by the Commission for Protection of Child Rights Act, 2005.
  • Ministry: It works under the aegis of the Ministry of Women and Child Development.
  • Function: It examines and reviews the safeguards provided by or under any law for the time being in force for the protection of child rights and recommends measures for their effective implementation.

Society and Education:

Community-Based Inclusive Development (CBID) Program

  • Context: A 6- month CBID Program was launched by the Union Minister of Social Justice & Empowerment. 

About the CBID Program:

  • Aim: The program aims to create a pool of grass-root rehabilitation workers at the community level who can work alongside ASHA and Anganwadi workers to handle cross-disability issues and facilitate the inclusion of persons with disabilities in society. 
  • The program has been designed to provide competency-based knowledge and skills among these workers to enhance their ability to successfully discharging their duties. 
  • These workers will be called 'Divyang Mitra' i.e. friends of persons with disabilities.
  • The Rehabilitation Council of India (RCI) will roll out the course initially on a pilot basis for two batches in vernacular languages.
  • The National Board of Examination in Rehabilitation under the RCI will conduct examinations and award certificates to pass-out candidates.
  • This CBID course has been co-designed by RCI and the University of Melbourne as a joint initiative under the Memorandum of Understanding signed between the Government of Australia and the Government of India.

What is CBID? 

  • CBID is an approach that brings a change in the lives of people with disabilities at the community level, working with and through local groups and institutions. 
  • CBID addresses challenges experienced by people with disabilities, their families, and communities in practical ways. For example, it offers opportunities to join community-based self-help groups and livelihood activities. 
  • CBID program can include health, education, livelihood, social, and empowerment activities, working closely with different stakeholders. 

Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi (PM-KISAN) scheme

  • Context: The first installment of the PM-KISAN scheme for 2021-22 was released. Now farmers of West Bengal are also beneficiaries under the scheme.

More about the scheme:

  • Nature of Funding: It is a Central Sector Scheme that is entirely funded by the Indian government.
  • Ministry: The Ministry of Agriculture and Farmer Welfare is in charge of implementing it.
  • DBT: The scheme provides for the direct deposit of Rs 6,000 per year in three equal instalments into the bank accounts of all landholding farmers, regardless of the size of their holdings. 
  • Aim: It aims to supplement the financial needs of Small and Marginal Farmers (SMFs) in obtaining various inputs to ensure proper crop health and yields, which are proportional to the expected farm income at the end of each crop cycle.
  • Responsibility: The state / UT governments are solely responsible for identifying and locating beneficiary farmer families.
  • This is the first time that farmers in West Bengal will also receive the cash transfer after the West Bengal government, approved the direct transfer and provided verified details of eligible farmers in the state.

Report on long working hours and their impact

  • Context: A study on the impact of long working hours on health was published.

More about the Report:

  • Released by: It is a report jointly published by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Labour Organization (ILO). 
  • In a first global analysis of the loss of life and health associated with working long hours, WHO and ILO estimate that, in 2016, 398 000 people died from a stroke and 347,000 from heart disease.
  • Between 2000 and 2016, the number of deaths from heart disease due to working long hours increased by 42%, and from stroke by 19%. 
  • Working 55 hours or more per week is a serious health hazard.
  • Age group: It showed that most victims (72%) were men and were middle-aged or older.
  • It also showed that people living in Southeast Asia and the Western Pacific region (the region which includes China, Japan, and Australia) were the most affected. 
  • Overall, the study drawing on data from 194 countries said that working 55 hours or more a week is associated with a 35% higher risk of stroke and a 17% higher risk of dying from heart disease compared with a 35-40 hour working week.
  • The study covered the period 2000-2016, and so did not include the COVID-19 pandemic.

About the ILO:

  • The ILO is a United Nations (U.N.) agency founded in October 1919 under the League of Nations. 
  • Goal: The goal of the ILO is to advance social and economic justice by setting international labor standards. 
  • The standards upheld by the ILO are broadly intended to ensure accessible, productive, and sustainable work worldwide in conditions of freedom, equity, security, and dignity.
  • Members: The ILO has 187 member states and is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland. 

Katkari tribe

  • Context: Maharashtra government has neglected Brick Kiln Workers Struggle Amid the Second Lockdown this Year.

More about the Katkari tribe:

  • Katkari is one of the 75 Tribes in Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs).
  • Katkaris can be found mainly in the Maharashtra districts of Raigad and parts of Palghar, Ratnagiri, and Thane, as well as in some parts of Gujarat.
  • Katkaris were forest dwellers in the past. 
  • The name Katkari comes from a forest-based operation involving the production, bartering, and selling of Catechu from the Khair tree (Acacia Catechu).
  • Catechu is an acacia tree extract that is used as a food additive, dye, among other stuff. It's made by heating the wood in water and then evaporating the liquid.
  • The Criminal Tribes Act of 1871 had been used by the British administration to categorize them.
  • Certain groups of people were labelled as “habitually criminal” under the Act. The Act's legitimacy continues to be tarnished.
  • Some of them have recently begun collecting Minor Forest Produce such as Giloy through SHGs under Tribal Co-operative Marketing Federation of India (TRIFED)'s Pradhan Mantri Van Dhan Yojana (PMVDY).

More about Pradhan Mantri Van Dhan Yojana:

  • Marketing: The PMVDY is a retail marketing-led value addition initiative for Minor Forest Produce (MFP) that is designed to help forest-based tribes maximize their local income.
  • Non-timber: MFP refers to all non-timber forest products derived from plants, such as bamboo, canes, fodder, leaves, gums, waxes, dyes, resins, and a variety of foods such as nuts, wild fruits, honey, lac, and tusser.
  • Local Income: People who live in or near forests benefit from it in terms of both subsistence and cash income. 
  • They provide a significant portion of their food, fruits, drugs, and other consumables, as well as cash income from sales.
  • SHG: MFP-based tribal groups/enterprises of around 300 members are created under the programme to collect, value add, package, and sell Minor Forest Produces (MFPs).
  • These tribal enterprises take the form of Van Dhan Self Help Groups (SHGs), which are groups of 15-20 people. These 15 SHGs will be federated into a larger community of Van Dhan Vikas Kendras (VDVKs), which will have about 300 people.
  • Cooperation: TRIFED assists VDVKs by offering model business plans, processing plans, and a preliminary list of equipment for carrying out MFP value-added work.

Dongria Kondh tribe

  • Context: The first cases of coronavirus infection have been reported among the Dongria Kondh tribe.

About the Dongria Kondh:

  • Dongria Kondh is a tribe that lives in the dense forests of Niyamgiri Hills, is spread across the Rayagada and Kalahandi districts of southwestern Odisha. 
  • Niyamgiri Hills is not only a sacred mountain to the Dongrias, but it also plays a major role in the region’s ecology. 
  • PVTG status: The Dongrias has earned the status of PVTG (Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Group) from the Government of India because they still have a primitive lifestyle and geographically isolated from others. 
  • They are more educationally and economically backward than other tribal groups in the country. 

What are the PVTGs?

  • It is a particular group of a tribe based on certain criteria that more marginalized section of the Scheduled tribes of India.
  • Committee: In 1973, the Dhebar Commission created Primitive Tribal Groups (PTGs) as a separate category, which are less developed among the tribal groups.
  • In 2006, the Government of India renamed the PTGs as PVTGs.
  • Criteria: The government of India follows the following criteria for the identification of PVTGs. 
    • Pre-agricultural level of technology 
    • Low level of literacy 
    • Economic backwardness 
    • A declining or stagnant population
  • Accordingly, 75 PTVGs have been identified in the country and Odisha has the highest number of PVTG.
  • Ministry of Tribal Affairs is implementing the scheme of “Development of PVTGs” for their comprehensive socio-economic development.

Polity

Executive:

Sedition law 

  • Context: Supreme Court in a recent judgment said that section 124A of the IPC need interpretation — especially on its application with regard to freedom of the press.

More about the news:

  • The Andhra Pradesh police have taken coercive action against two TV news channels charged with sedition on allegations that the channel is broadcasting programmes in which a Lok Sabha MP and a rebel leader from the ruling YSR congress party, criticized the Andhra Pradesh government.

What is Sedition law?

  • Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) was introduced during the 1860s during colonial rule convict and sentence freedom fighters.
  • 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.
  • This punishment includes 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.
  • Several freedom fighters including Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru were booked under the sedition law. It was first used to prosecute Bal Gangadhar Tilak in 1897.
  • But many times, this law is misused to suppress the voice raised against the government and silence the opposition in the country.

The Kedar Nath Singh vs State of Bihar case (1962)

  • A five-judge Supreme Court constitutional bench laid down some guiding principles while dealing with offences under Section 124A of the IPC. 
  • The court laid down the guidelines consistent with Article 19 (Freedom of Speech) of the constitution that every citizen has a right to say or write about the government, by way of criticism or comment, as long as it does not “incite people to violence” against the government established by law or with the intention of creating public disorder.

The central bureau of investigation (CBI)

Context: A high-powered committee, headed by the Prime Minister and comprising Chief Justice of India (CJI) and Leader of the opposition in the Lok Sabha, met to finalize the choice of the next Director of the CBI.

More about CBI:

  • The CBI was set up in 1963 by a resolution of the Ministry of Home Affairs. Later, it was transferred to the Ministry of Personnel and now it enjoys the status of an attached office. 
  • The Special Police Establishment (which looked into vigilance cases) setup in 1941 was also merged with the CBI.
  • The establishment of the CBI was recommended by the Santhanam Committee on Prevention of Corruption (1962-1964). 
  • The CBI is not a statutory body. It derives its powers from the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, 1946.
  • The CBI is the main investigating agency of the Central Government. It plays an important role in the prevention of corruption and maintaining integrity in administration. 
  • It also assists the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC)  and Lokpal.

Composition of CBI:

  • The CBI is headed by a Director. He is assisted by a special director or an additional director. 
  • Additionally, it has a number of joint directors, deputy inspector generals, superintendents of police, and all other usual ranks of police personnel.
  • With the enactment of the CVC Act, 2003, the superintendence of Delhi Special Police Establishment vests with the Central Government saves investigations of offenses under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, in which, the superintendence vests with the Central Vigilance Commission. 
  • The Director of CBI has been provided security of two-year tenure in office by the CVC Act, 2003.

CBI vs State Police:

  • The role of the Special Police Establishment (SPE) (a division of CBI) is supplementary to that of the state police forces. 
  • Along with state police forces, the Special Police Establishment (SPE) enjoys the concurrent powers of investigation and prosecution for offenses under the Delhi Police Establishment Act, 1946.
  • However, to avoid duplication and overlapping of cases between these two agencies, the following administrative arrangements have been made: 
    • The SPE shall take up such cases which are essentially and substantially concerned with the Central Government’s affairs or employees, even if they also involve certain state government employees. 
    • The state police force shall take up such cases which are substantially concerned with the state government’s affairs or employees, even if they also involve certain Central Government employees. 
    • The SPE shall also take up cases against employees of public undertakings or statutory bodies established and financed by the Central Government.

Lakshadweep 

  • Context: Local residents and politicians are opposing policies introduced by the newly appointed Administrator of Lakshadweep. 

Contentious regulations:

  • The draft Lakshadweep Development Authority Regulation 2021 (LDAR) gives the administrator powers to remove or relocate islanders from their property, for town planning or any developmental activity.
  • The draft regulation for the creation of the LDA is widely resented as the people suspect that this might have been issued at the behest of ‘real estate interests’ seeking to usurp the small holdings of property owned by the islanders.
  • The Prevention of Anti-Social Activities Act (PASA), introduced in January 2021, under which a person can be detained without any public disclosure for a period of up to one year, and the draft panchayat notification, where a member with more than two children is disqualified from being a member.
  • Violations of the draft Lakshadweep Animal Preservation Regulation 2021 could result in life imprisonment and a fine of up to Rs 5 lakh. These regulations ban all beef slaughter and processing on the islands.

About the Lakshadweep:

  • Lakshadweep Islands situated in the Arabian Sea is a group of 36 islands having an area of 32 square kilometers.
  • It is India’s smallest Union Territory and a uni-district Union Territory. Kavaratti is the capital of Lakshadweep.
  • The entire Lakshadweep island group is made up of coral deposits and has storm beaches consisting of unconsolidated pebbles, shingles, cobbles, and boulders.
  • Fishing is the main occupation on which the livelihoods of many people depend.
  • The 8 Degree Channel separates the islands of Minicoy and Maldives. 
  • The 9 Degree Channel separates the island of Minicoy from the main Lakshadweep archipelago.

Petroleum and Explosive Safety Organization (PESO)

Context: The Government has reviewed the existing procedure of registration and approval of global manufacturers for importing oxygen cylinders and cryogenic tankers containers by PESO.

More on news:

  • The Commerce and Industry Ministry said that due to the COVID pandemic, PESO will not carry out a physical inspection of global manufacturers' production facilities before the grant of such registration and approval. 
  • Now, such approvals will be granted online without any delay on submission of manufacturer’s particulars, ISO certificate of the manufacturer, and List of Cylinders, Tankers, and Containers among others.

About the PESO:

  • It was established in 1898 as the Department of Explosives and later on renamed the PESO.
  • It works under Department for the Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade under the Ministry of Commerce and Industry.
  • It is headquartered in Nagpur, Maharashtra.
  • It is the nodal agency for regulating the safety of hazardous substances such as explosives, compressed gas, and petroleum.
  • PESO’s major work is to administer the responsibilities given under the Explosives Act 1884, Petroleum Act 1934, and the Rules related to manufacturing, import, export, transport, possession, sale, and use of Explosives.

Statehood Day of Sikkim

  • Context: Prime Minister recently wished the people of Sikkim a happy Statehood Day.

More about Sikkim:

  • Till 1947, Sikkim was an Indian princely state ruled by Chogyal. In 1947, after the lapse of British paramountcy, Sikkim became a ‘protectorate’ of India, whereby the Indian Government assumed responsibility for the defense, external affairs, and communications of Sikkim. 
  • In 1974, Sikkim expressed its desire for greater association with India. Accordingly, the 35th Constitutional Amendment Act (1974) was enacted by the parliament. 
  • This amendment introduced a new class of statehood under the constitution by conferring on Sikkim the status of an ‘associate state’ of the Indian Union. 
  • For this purpose, a new Article 2A and a new schedule (Tenth Schedule containing the terms and conditions of association) were inserted in the Constitution. This experiment, however, did not last long as it could not fully satisfy the aspirations of the people of Sikkim. 
  • In a referendum held in 1975, they voted for the abolition of the institution of Chogyal and Sikkim becoming an integral part of India. 
  • Consequently, the 36th Constitutional Amendment Act (1975) was enacted to make Sikkim a full-fledged state of the Indian Union (the 22nd state). This amendment amended the First and the Fourth Schedules to the Constitution and added a new Article 371-F to provide for certain special provisions with respect to the administration of Sikkim. 
  • It also repealed Article 2A and the Tenth Schedule that were added by the 35th Amendment Act of 1974.

More about Article 371-F:

  • The Sikkim Legislative Assembly is to consists of not less than 30 members.
  • One seat is allotted to Sikkim in the Lok Sabha and Sikkim forms one Parliamentary constituency. 
  • For the purpose of protecting the rights and interests of the different sections of the Sikkim population, the Parliament is empowered to provide for the: 
    • number of seats in the Sikkim Legislative Assembly which may be filled by candidates belonging to such sections; and 
    • delimitation of the Assembly constituencies from which candidates belonging to such sections alone may stand for election to the Assembly.
  • The Governor shall have special responsibility for peace and for an equitable arrangement for ensuring the social and economic advancement of the different sections of the Sikkim population. 
  • In the discharge of this responsibility, the Governor shall act in his discretion, subject to the directions issued by the President.
  • The President can extend (with restrictions or modifications) to Sikkim any law which is in force in a state of the Indian Union.

Film Certification Appellate Tribunal (FCAT) Abolished

  • Context: The Tribunals Reforms (Rationalisation and Conditions of Service) Ordinance, 2021, has abolished FCAT.

More about the News:

  • Ordinance: The Centre notified the Tribunals Reforms (Rationalisation and Conditions of Service) Ordinance, 2021.
  • This scraps the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal (FCAT), a statutory body that had been set up to hear appeals of filmmakers against decisions of the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC), and transfers its function to other existing judicial bodies. 
  • The ordinance has amended The Cinematograph Act, 1952, and replaced the word ‘Tribunal’ with ‘High Court’. 
  • The move to abolish the FCAT along with other tribunals follows a Supreme Court order in Madras Bar Association vs. Union of India.
  • The move to abolish the FCAT is surprising as it comes in the backdrop of the recommendations of two influential panels — the Mudgal Committee and the Benegal Committee — both of which suggested an expansion of the body’s jurisdiction.
  • The role played by the FCAT, which used to handle at least 20 cases a month, will now have to be performed by courts. That includes watching and reviewing films in their entirety to understand the process of certification.

Competition Commission of India

Context: The 12th Annual Day of the Competition Commission of India (CCI) was recently observed.

More About CCI:

  • CCI is a statutory body of the Government of India responsible for enforcing the Competition Act, 2002.
  • The Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices Act, 1969 (MRTP Act) was repealed and replaced by the Competition Act, 2002, on the recommendations of the Raghavan committee.
  • The objectives of the Commission are: 
    • To prevent practices that harm the competition. 
    • To promote and sustain competition in markets. 
    • To protect the interests of consumers. 
    • To ensure freedom of trade.

Competition Act, 2002:

  • The Competition Act was passed in 2002 and has been amended by the Competition (Amendment) Act, 2007. It follows the philosophy of modern competition laws. 
  • The Act prohibits anti-competitive agreements, abuse of dominant position by enterprises, and regulates combinations (acquisition, acquiring of control, and M&A), which causes or likely to cause an appreciable adverse effect on competition within India. 
  • By the provisions of the Amendment Act, the Competition Commission of India and the Competition Appellate Tribunal have been established.
  • The government replaced Competition Appellate Tribunal (COMPAT) with the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT) in 2017.

Composition of CCI:

  • The Commission consists of one Chairperson and six Members as per the Competition Act who shall be appointed by the Central Government.
  • The commission is a quasi-judicial body that gives opinions to statutory authorities and also deals with other cases. The Chairperson and other Members shall be whole-time Members.
  • The Competition Act guarantees that no enterprise abuses its 'dominant position' in a market through the control of supply, manipulating purchase prices, or adopting practices that deny market access to other competing firms.

Legislature:

Legislative Council

  • Context: The West Bengal government will set up a Legislative Council (Vidhan Parishad), as per a decision taken up at the Cabinet meeting chaired by Chief Minister.

More about the Legislative council: 

  • The State Legislative Council is the upper house of India's bicameral state legislatures, with the State Legislative Assembly serving as the lower house.
  • West Bengal will become the seventh state to establish a Legislative Council once it is established.
  • The remaining six are as follows: Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, and Maharashtra.
  • The Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Council was abolished after the state was split into J&K and Ladakh Union Territories.
  • Composition of Council: Unlike the members of the legislative assembly, the members of the legislative council are indirectly elected. 
  • The maximum strength of the council is fixed at one-third of the total strength of the assembly and the minimum strength is fixed at 40. 
  • It means that the size of the council depends on the size of the assembly of the concerned state. This is done to ensure the predominance of the directly elected House (assembly) in the legislative affairs of the state. 
  • Though the Constitution has fixed the maximum and the minimum limits, the actual strength of a Council is fixed by Parliament.

Manner of Election:

  • 1/3 are elected by the members of local bodies in the state like municipalities, district boards, etc.,
  • 1/12 are elected by graduates of three years standing and residing within the state, 
  • 1/12 are elected by teachers of three years standing in the state, not lower in standard than secondary school, 
  • 1/3 are elected by the members of the legislative assembly of the state from amongst persons who are not members of the assembly, and 
  • The remainder is nominated by the governor from amongst persons who have special knowledge or practical experience of literature, science, art, cooperative movement, and social service. 
  • Thus, 5/6 of the total number of members of a legislative council is indirectly elected and 1/6 are nominated by the governor. The members are elected in accordance with the system of proportional representation by means of a single transferable vote. 
  • The bonafides or propriety of the governor’s nomination, in any case, cannot be challenged in the courts. This scheme of the composition of a legislative council as laid down in the Constitution is tentative and not final. 
  • The Parliament is authorized to modify or replace the same. However, it has not enacted any such law so far.

Duration of Council:

  • As the Rajya Sabha, the legislative council is a continuing chamber, that is, it is a permanent body and is not subject to dissolution. 
  • But, one-third of its members retire on the expiration of every second year. So, a member continues as such for six years. 
  • The vacant seats are filled up by fresh elections and nominations (by the governor) at the beginning of every third year. 
  • The retiring members are also eligible for re-election and re-nomination any number of times.

Repromulgation of ordinance

  • Context: The central government has recently repromulgated the ordinance that establishes the Commission for Air Quality Management in National Capital Region and Adjoining Areas Ordinance, 2020.

More about Repromulgation of the ordinance:

  • Ordinances are laws that are promulgated by the President of India or State Governors on the recommendation of the Cabinet (not a discretionary power).
  • They will have the same effect as an Act of Parliament or State legislature.
  • Ordinance-making power is the most important legislative power of the executive.
  • It can be retrospective. It cannot be issued to amend the Constitution.
  • The ordinance was originally conceived as an emergency provision.

Constitutional Provisions: 

  • Article 123 of the Constitution empowers the President to promulgate ordinances during the recess of Parliament.
  • Article 213 Constitution of India: Power of Governor to promulgate Ordinances during recess of Legislature.

Cooper case (1970):

  • The Supreme Court ruled that the President's satisfaction may be called into doubt in court if it is based on malfeasance. 
  • This means that the President's decision to issue an ordinance may be challenged in court on the grounds that the President purposefully prorogued one or both Houses of Parliament to promulgate an ordinance on a contentious topic, bypassing parliamentary decision and thereby circumventing Parliament's authority. 
  • The President's satisfaction became definitive and binding under the 38th Constitutional Amendment Act of 1975, and it was no longer subject to judicial review. 
  • The 44th Constitutional Amendment Act of 1978, however, repealed this provision.

D.C. Wadhwa case (1987):

  • The Supreme Court noted in this case that the Governor of Bihar promulgated 256 ordinances between 1967 and 1981, all of which were held in effect for periods ranging from one to fourteen years by promulgation from time to time. 
  • The court ruled that successive repromulgation of ordinances of the same text without any effort to get the bills passed by the assembly would be a breach of the Constitution and that the ordinance would be struck down.
  • It was decided that the extraordinary power of ordinance-making should not be used to replace the legislative power of the state legislature.

Krishnakumar Singh vs State of Bihar (2017):

  • A 7-judge Constitution bench ruled by a 6:1 margin that repromulgation of ordinances is a “fraud” on the Constitution and a subversion of democratic legislative processes, particularly when the government refuses to put the ordinances before the legislature. 
  • The Governor's position does not make him a parallel law-making authority; rather, the legislature is the constitutional repository of legislative power.
  • In accordance with the principle of legislative supremacy, the authority to enact ordinances is subject to “legislative oversight,” according to the majority decision.

Judiciary:

Maratha Reservation Issue 

Context: Supreme Court has given a ruling about the Maratha Reservation Issue.

Background of the issue:

  • In 2016-2017 Marathas under the banner of Maratha Kranti Morcha came together to protest, it was centered on reservation for the community in government jobs and educational institutions.
  • After detailed study and depositions from various groups and individuals, the M G Gaikwad Commission submitted a report stating Marathas should be given reservations under Socially and Educationally Backward Class (SEBC).
  • In November 2018, the Maratha community was given the reservation under the Maharashtra State Socially and Educational Backward Act. The emphasis on legislation was to give reservation under SEBC, legal and constitutional validity.
  • However, the reservation under SEBC was challenged by a PIL in Bombay High Court. The Bombay High Court while upholding the reservation pointed out that instead of 16 percent it should be reduced to 12 percent in education and 13 percent in jobs.
  • Also, the Supreme Court stayed its implementation and referred the case to the Chief Justice of India for a larger bench.

Observation of Supreme Court on the issue:

  • A five-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court struck down the Maharashtra law granting reservation to the Maratha community in admissions and government jobs in the state.
  • It said that the criteria for a group to qualify for reservation is Social and educational backwardness. It reiterated the 50% limit to vertical quotas reasoning that it was needed to ensure “efficiency” in administration. However, the court said that this 50% limit will apply unless in “exceptional circumstances.”
  • The Bench unanimously upheld the constitutional validity of the 102nd Amendment but differed on the question of whether it affected the power of states to identify socially and educationally backward classes (SEBCs).
  • The President alone is empowered to identify SEBCs and include them in a list to be published under Article 342A (1), which shall be deemed to include SEBCs about each State and Union Territory for the Constitution.
  • States can only make suggestions to the President or the statutory commissions.

De-congestion of all prisons

  • Context: The Supreme Court has turned a humanitarian eye on the over four lakh prison population inside overcrowded jails.

More about the News:

  • The Chief Justice bench ordered the police to take a leaf from the court’s judgment in the Arnesh Kumar case and limit arrests during the pandemic to prevent overcrowding in jails.
  • Detention: It especially stressed not mechanically ordering detention in cases involving punishment of less or up to seven years’ imprisonment. 
  • Committees: It further ordered special committees or ‘High-Powered Committees’ constituted in most States and Union Territories to screen prisoners and release them on interim bail.
  • Parole:  Inmates who were given parole in 2020 should be released again on 90-day parole in a bid to de-congest prisons, control infections, and save lives within the prison walls.

More about Prison Reform:

  • Subject matter: Prisons are a State subject under Seventh Schedule to the Constitution.
  • Ministry: However, in various matters concerning prison and prison detainees, the Ministry of Home Affairs offers regular guidance and advice to States and UTs. 
  • Reforms: Earlier in 2013, the former CJI highlighted the inadequacy of reform schemes for offenders and other important issues such as prison overcrowding, unnatural deaths of prisoners, insufficient training of prison staff and present personnel.

Significant reform measures have been implemented in India :

  • In 1835, TB Macaulay designed the modern prison system.
  • The Prison Act of 1894 was enacted to ensure that prisoners functioned uniformly throughout India.
  • The Act established a system for categorizing prisoners. Throughout India, the Jails Manual Committee (1957-59) develops a model prison manual.
  • Under Justice A N Mulla's leadership in 1980-83, the Indian Committee to Reform the Jail proposed the establishment of a National Prison Commission as an ongoing body to modernize Indian prisons.
  • In 1987, the Government of India appointed the Judicial Commission, led by Krishna Iyer, to investigate the situation of female prisoners in India.

Restructuring the tribunal's system

  • Context: The Centre has abolished several appellate tribunals and authorities and transferred their jurisdiction to other existing judicial bodies through the Tribunals Reforms (Rationalisation and Conditions of Service) Ordinance 2021.

More about the News:

  • Despite the Supreme Court’s direction in Rojer Mathew v. South Indian Bank (2019), no judicial impact assessment was conducted before abolishing the tribunals through this Ordinance.
  • While the Ordinance has incorporated the suggestions made in Madras Bar Association v. Union of India (2020) on the composition of a search-cum-selection committee and its role in disciplinary proceedings, it has also fixed a four-year tenure for Chairpersons and members of tribunals
  • The Centre is yet to constitute a National Tribunals Commission (NTC), an independent umbrella body to supervise the functioning of tribunals, the appointment of, and disciplinary proceedings against members.
  • The idea of an NTC was first mooted in L. Chandra Kumar v. Union of India (1997), but it has still not seen the light of day.
  • One of the main reasons that have motivated the idea of NTC is the need for an authority to support uniform administration across all tribunals.

More about the Tribunals:

  • The original Constitution did not contain provisions for tribunals. The 42nd Amendment Act of 1976 added a new Part XIV-A to the Constitution. 
  • This part is entitled ‘Tribunals’ and consists of only two Articles—Article 323 A dealing with administrative tribunals and Article 323 B dealing with tribunals for other matters.
  • Article 323 A empowers the Parliament to provide for the establishment of administrative tribunals for the adjudication of disputes relating to recruitment and conditions of service of persons appointed to public services of the Centre, the states, local bodies, public corporations, and other public authorities.
  • In pursuance of Article 323 A, the Parliament has passed the Administrative Tribunals Act in 1985. The act authorizes the Central government to establish one central administrative tribunal (CAT) and the state administrative tribunals.
  • The CAT exercises original jurisdiction concerning recruitment and all service matters of public servants covered by it. Its jurisdiction extends to the all-India services, the Central civil services, civil posts under the Centre, and civilian employees of defense services. 
  • However, the members of the defense forces, officers and servants of the Supreme Court, and the secretarial staff of the Parliament are not covered by it.
  • The CAT is not bound by the procedure laid down in the Civil Procedure Code of 1908. It is guided by the principles of natural justice.
  • The Administrative Tribunals Act of 1985 empowers the Central government to establish the State Administrative Tribunals (SATs) at the specific request of the concerned state governments.
  • Under Article 323 B, the Parliament and the state legislatures are authorized to provide for the establishment of tribunals for any other purpose that is not covered under Article 323A.

Constitutional Provisions:

The State Election Commission (SEC)

  • Context: Many local government bodies in the country are up for election this year, which will be handled by the state election commission.

More about SEC:

  • 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).
  • Appointment: It consists of a state election commissioner to be appointed by the governor. His conditions of service and tenure of office shall also be determined by the governor. 
  • Removal: He shall not be removed from the office except in the manner and on the grounds prescribed for the removal of a judge of the state high court. The state election commissioner, though appointed by the governor of the state, can be removed only by the President.
  • His conditions of service shall not be varied to his disadvantage after his appointment.
  • Jurisdiction: The state legislature may make provision with respect to all matters relating to elections to the panchayats and municipalities.

GST Council

  • Context: The Goods and Services Tax Council meeting for the first time in more than seven-and-a-half months.

More about GST council:

  • Purpose: The smooth and efficient administration of the goods and services tax (GST) requires cooperation and coordination between the Centre and the States. 
  • Amendment: In order to facilitate this consultation process, the 101st Amendment Act of 2016 provided for the establishment of a Goods and Services Tax Council or the GST Council.
  • Article 279-A empowered the President to constitute a GST Council by an order. The Council is a joint forum of the Centre and the States. 
  • The Secretariat of the Council is located in New Delhi. The Union Revenue Secretary acts as the ex-officio Secretary to the Council.
  • Composition: The Council is a joint forum of the center and the states and consists of the following members: 
    • The Union Finance Minister as the Chairperson 
    • The Union Minister of State in charge of Revenue or Finance 
    • The Minister in charge of Finance or Taxation or any other Minister nominated by each state government.
  • The members of the Council from the states have to choose one amongst themselves to be the Vice-Chairperson of the Council. They can also decide his term.
  • The decision of the council: The decisions of the Council are taken at its meetings. One-half of the total number of members of the Council is the quorum for conducting a meeting. Every decision of the Council is to be taken by a majority of not less than three-fourths of the weighted votes of the members present and voting at the meeting. The decision is taken in accordance with the following principles: 
    • The vote of the central government shall have a weightage of one-third of the total votes cast in that meeting. 
    • The votes of all the state governments combined shall have a weightage of two-thirds of the total votes cast in that meeting.

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC)

  • Context: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) issued an advisory to the Centre and States on “upholding the dignity and protecting the rights of the dead” in view of a large number of deaths during this second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

More about NHRC:

  • Legislation: The National Human Rights Commission is a statutory (and not a constitutional) body. It was established in 1993 under legislation enacted by the Parliament, namely, the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993.
  • The commission is the watchdog of human rights in the country, that is, the rights relating to life, liberty, equality, and dignity of the individual guaranteed by the Constitution.
  • Composition: The commission is a multi-member body consisting of a chairperson and five members. 
  • The chairperson should be retired chief justice of India or a judge of the Supreme Court and members should be a serving or retired judge of the Supreme Court, a serving or retired chief justice of a high court, and three persons (out of which at least one should be a woman) having knowledge or practical experience with respect to human rights.
  • Search and selection: The chairperson and members are appointed by the president on the recommendations of a six-member committee consisting of the prime minister as its head, the Speaker of the Lok Sabha, the Deputy Chairman of the Rajya Sabha, leaders of the Opposition in both the Houses of Parliament and the Central home minister. 
  • Further, a sitting judge of the Supreme Court or sitting chief justice of a high court can be appointed only after consultation with the chief justice of India.
  • Tenure of members: The chairperson and members hold office for a term of three years or until they attain the age of 70 years, whichever is earlier. 
  • They are eligible for re-appointment. After their tenure, the chairperson and members are not eligible for further employment under the Central or state government.

The functions of the Commission are:

  • To inquire into any violation of human rights or negligence in the prevention of such violation by a public servant, either suo motu or on a petition presented to it or on an order of a court.
  • To intervene in any proceeding involving an allegation of violation of human rights pending before a court.
  • Visit jails and detention places to study the living conditions of inmates and make a recommendation thereon.
  • To encourage the efforts of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) working in the field of human rights etc.

International Relations

Dialogues And Talks:

India- EU FTA

  • Context:
    • India and the European Union agreed to relaunch free trade negotiations by resuming talks that were suspended in 2013 for the Bilateral Trade and Investment Agreement (BTIA).
  • Resumption of FTA:
    • Prime Minister of India interacted virtually from Delhi with EU chiefs.
    • India and the European Union agreed to relaunch free trade negotiations by resuming talks that were suspended in 2013 for the Bilateral Trade and Investment Agreement (BTIA).
    • The talks had run into trouble over market access issues, and tariffs by India on products like wine, dairy and automotive parts, as well as EU resistance over visas for Indian professionals.
    • In addition, the Indian government’s decision to scrap all Bilateral Investment Treaties (BITs) in 2015 posed hurdles for new EU investments in India.
  • Connectivity Partnership document:
    • The EU-India leaders adopted a Connectivity Partnership document.
    • The India-EU connectivity partnership committed the two sides to work together on digital, energy, transport, people to people connectivity.
    • The partnership is seen as a response to China’s Belt and Road Initiative and comes as the EU’s negotiations with China on their Comprehensive Agreement on Investment (CAI) have run into trouble.
    • The contract for the second tranche of $150 million from the EU for the Pune Metro rail project was also signed.
    • No EU support for Covid-19 vaccine waiver
    • India failed to secure the support of the European leaders for patent waivers for the Covid vaccine.
    • The support of a major bloc like the EU is crucial to passing the resolution at the WTO by consensus.

G7 Summit

  • Context:
    • External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar will embark on a four-day visit to London to participate in a meeting of foreign ministers of G7 countries. India has been invited to the meeting as a guest country.
  • About the G7 Summit:
    • Location:
      • The G7 Summit takes place at Carbis Bay in Cornwall in the UK.
    • Aim:
      • The aim of this year’s G7 summit is to help the world fight and then build back better from coronavirus and create a greener, more prosperous future.
    • Guest Countries:
      • India, Australia, and South Korea have been invited to participate in the proceedings of the summit as “guest countries”.
    • Group of Seven(G7)
      • G7 is an intergovernmental organization formed in 1975.
    • Purpose:
      • The bloc meets annually to discuss issues of common interest like global economic governance, international security, and energy policy.
    • Countries:
      • G-7 consists of the US, UK, France, Germany, Italy, Canada, and Japan.
    • Origin:
      • The G-7 was formerly referred to as the G-8 until Russia was suspended from the group in 2014 after illegally annexing Crimea.
      • The G-7 is not an official, formal entity and therefore has no legislative or authoritative power to enforce the recommended policies and plans it compiles.
    • D10 Group of Countries
      • D10 is a proposal by the UK Prime Minister to turn the G7 into a forum for the world’s ten leading democracies.
      • The D10 would include G7 countries – UK, US, Italy, Germany, France, Japan, and Canada – plus Australia, South Korea, and India.

In  Ireland's Complex Troubles, Lessons For India

  • Context:
    • A functioning democracy must commit to addressing communal issues with vigilance, tolerance and compromise
  • Background:
    • The communal clashes that took place in April in Northern Ireland contain many relevant lessons and warnings for India.
    • Those riots, that left 74 policemen injured, threaten to undermine the fragile peace between Protestant pro-British loyalist unionists who want to remain part of the United Kingdom forever, and Catholic pro-Irish nationalists who wish Northern Ireland to become part of the Republic of Ireland.
    • The riots are the culmination of a complex mix of change, resistance to change, and ingrained political and social inertia.
    • Northern Ireland altered enormously for the better after the signing of the Anglo-Irish Good Friday Agreement in 1998, and for the accord to have received strong support across the divided island was a remarkable achievement.  
    • This Agreement began the process of dismantling border controls between the North and the Republic of Ireland. Many social issues remained unaddressed: both religious communities ‘experienced little or no peace dividend after the Agreement, and poverty and deprivation linked to educational under-achievement and high unemployment affects both nationalist and loyalist areas alike’ in Northern Ireland.
    • There is an acute lack of social and economic opportunities; 120,000 children are living in poverty, and more than 40,000 people remain on the social housing waiting list. Between 1998 and 2014 suicides were on rising.
    • The localities most deprived during the pre-agreement communal riots remain the most affected areas within Northern Ireland today.
  • Brexit, a stress test:
    • Britain’s break from the European Union (Brexit) was always going to prove a major stress test for Northern Ireland because 56% of its electorate voted to remain in the European Union.
    • The specific protocol concerning Northern Ireland, which ‘provided for the territory to remain in the customs union and single market of the European Union while protecting its status as part of the United Kingdom’ is causing the present trouble.
    • Irish Protestant loyalists argue that the deal puts the union at risk. The unionist party ‘campaigned for Brexit on the basis that the United Kingdom outside the European Union would make a future united Ireland much more difficult to achieve.
    • the Irish Catholic nationalists are talking up the prospects of achieving an early united Ireland and demanding a vote on it, which instils acute anxiety among the union loyalists.
    • In short, ‘Brexit has encouraged a strong revival of identity polarisation, and a possible Irish Language Act, that would give the Irish tongue equal status to English in Northern Ireland’, is feared by unionists as yet another nail in the United Kingdom’s coffin.
    • Demography has changed since the Good Friday Agreement; though unionist parties do not have the majority, political inertia prefers a vacuum, so progress toward an equable and liveable peace has stalled.
    • The  ‘past traumas continue to weigh heavily on current politics in Northern Ireland and that is unlikely to change as the twin challenges of managing the Protocol and preventing communal violence occupy the attention in that territory.
  • Scheduled events:
    • Elections scheduled next year to the ‘Northern Ireland Assembly will be followed in 2024 by an important vote on the Northern Ireland Protocol because, under the terms of the Brexit agreement, the Assembly will have to vote on whether or not to accept the continuing operation of the Protocol.
    • If unionists decide to boycott this vote, the legitimacy of the Protocol will be thrown open to question.
    • Scottish referendum on independence likely to be held around 2024 may well further destabilise Northern Ireland’s fragile politics.
  • Lessons for India:
    • Peace is an extraordinarily brittle entity, and any functioning democracy must ensure a daily commitment to addressing communal issues with vigilance, tolerance and compromise. These are lessons to be drawn in India.
    • The recent violence in Northern Ireland shows that every country needs leadership that takes responsibility for peoples’ social and economic problems and steers prejudices away from entrenched phobias.
    • The ruling party in India needs to be aware that creating religious tensions between communities has incalculable deep-seated negative consequences that will severely damage every section of society and all our established political and national institutions.
  • Conclusion:
    • Mutual fear, esteem and consent, of  Irish people is never addressed and artificial differences are played up by political elements wishing to stoke communal sentiments and keep both communities at the mercy of irresponsible and divisive forces.
    • While the British, Irish and American governments have condemned the violence, there is a lack of local political leadership to stabilise this volatile situation.

Geopolitical Events:

Bangladesh currency swap 

  • Context:
    • Recently, Bangladesh cleared a USD 200 million currency swap facility for Sri Lanka, to help boost its economy.
  • More Info:
    • The word swap means exchange. A currency swap between the two countries is an agreement or contract to exchange currencies with predetermined terms and conditions.
    • In the present context, a currency swap is effectively a loan that Bangladesh will give to Sri Lanka in dollars, with an agreement that the debt will be repaid with interest in Sri Lankan rupees.
    • Central banks and Governments engage in currency swaps with foreign counterparts to meet short term foreign exchange liquidity requirements or to ensure adequate foreign currency to avoid the Balance of Payments (BOP) crisis till longer arrangements can be made.
    • For Sri Lanka, this is cheaper than borrowing from the market, and a lifeline as it struggles to maintain adequate forex reserves even as repayment of its external debts looms. These swap operations carry no exchange rate or other market risks as transaction terms are set in advance.
    • Exchange rate risk, also known as currency risk, is the financial risk arising from fluctuations in the value of a base currency against a foreign currency in which a company or individual has assets or obligations
  • Unusual for Bangladesh:
    • Bangladesh has not been viewed so far as a provider of financial assistance to other countries. It has been among the most impoverished countries of the world, and still receives billions of dollars in financial aid.
    • But over the last two decades, it has managed to elevate its economy itself majorly, and in 2020, was the fastest growing in South Asia.
    • The country has managed to pull millions out of poverty. Its per capita income just overtook India’s.
    • This may be the first time that Bangladesh is extending a helping hand to another country, so this is a landmark of sorts.
  • Sri Lanka’s Approach to India:
    • In 2020, the President of Sri Lanka requested India for a USD 1 billion credit swap, and separately, a moratorium on debts that the country has to repay to India.
    • But India-Sri Lanka relations have been tense over Colombo’s decision to cancel a valued container terminal project at Colombo Port, which made India put off the decision.
    • Earlier, in July 2020, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) extended a USD 400 million credit swap facility to Sri Lanka, which the Central Bank of Sri Lanka settled in February. The arrangement was not extended.
  • RBI’s Framework for Swap Facilities for SAARC:
    • The SAARC currency swap facility came into operation on 15th November 2012.
    • The revised framework is valid from 14th November 2019 to 13th November 2022.
    • The RBI can offer a swap arrangement within the overall corpus of USD 2 billion.
    • The swap drawals can be made in US dollar, euro or Indian rupee. The framework provides certain concessions for swap drawals in the Indian rupee.
    • The facility will be available to all SAARC member countries, subject to their signing the bilateral swap agreements.
    • The presumption was that only India, as the regional group’s largest economy, could do this. The Bangladesh-Sri Lanka arrangement shows that is no longer valid.

Golden visa

  • Context:
    • Bollywood actor Sanjay Dutt recently received his Golden visa from the UAE government.
  • What is it?
    • In 2019, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) implemented a new system for long-term residence visas, thereby enabling foreigners to live, work and study in the UAE without the need of a national sponsor and with 100 per cent ownership of their business.
  • So, what does the Golden Visa offer?
    • The Golden Visa system essentially offers long-term residency (5 and 10 years) to people belonging to the following groups:
      • investors, entrepreneurs, individuals with outstanding talents the likes of researchers, medical professionals and those within the scientific and knowledge fields, and remarkable students.

Eligibility requirements (Have a brief overview; need not mug up):

  • For investors:
    • A deposit of at least AED (United Arab Emirates Dirham) 10 million worth of public investment, either in the form of an investment fund or a company.
    • 60% of the total investment must not be in the form of real estate.
    • The invested amount must not be loaned, or in the case of assets, investors must assume full ownership.
    • The investor must be able to retain the investment for a minimum of three years.
    • May be extended to include business partners, providing that each partner contributes AED 10 million.
    • Can also include the holder’s spouse and children, as well as one executive director and one advisor.
  • For individuals with specialized talents:
    • The category includes doctors, researchers, scientists, investors and artists. These individuals may be granted a 10-year visa following accreditations granted by their respective departments and fields. The visa also extends to their spouses and children.
  • Eligibility for a 5-year visa:
    • The investor must invest in a property of a gross value of not less than AED 5 million.
    • The amount invested in real estate must not be on a loan basis.
    • The property must be retained for at least three years.
  • Outstanding students:
    • Outstanding students with a minimum grade of 95% in public and private secondary schools.
    • University students within and outside the country having a distinction GPA of at least 3.75 upon graduation.
  • Reasons Behind the Move:
    • The UAE’s economy has been hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic and low oil prices, prompting many expatriates to leave.
    • The move intends to bring them back now and keep the “talented people and great minds” in the Gulf country and help in nation-building.
    • It will attract talented professionals from various fields of expertise and further encourage innovation, creativity and applied research, adding to the appeal of a career in the UAE for the world’s brightest minds.
  • Significance for India:
    • It would attract more Indian professionals and businessmen to the Gulf nation and strengthen the India-UAE Relations.
    • It will also facilitate the return of Indians who want to resume work after the relaxation of Covid-19-related restrictions, for which India had requested the members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) in early November 2020.

Diplomatic Immunity

  • Context:
    • The wife of Belgium's ambassador to South Korea is exercising her diplomatic immunity to avoid charges for allegedly slapping a store assistant in April 2021.
  • About  Diplomatic Immunity
    • It is a privilege of exemption from certain laws and taxes granted to diplomats by the country in which they are posted. 
    • Diplomatic immunity is granted on the basis of two conventions, popularly called the Vienna Conventions that includes: 
      • the Convention on Diplomatic Relations, 1961, and 
      • the Convention on Consular Relations, 1963. 
    • They have been ratified by 187 countries, including South Korea. 
    • The custom was formed so that diplomats can function without fear, threat or intimidation from the host country.
  • Extent of Immunity
    • According to the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, 1961, the immunity enjoyed by a diplomat posted in the embassy is “inviolable”. 
    • The diplomat cannot be arrested or detained and his house will have the same inviolability and protection as the embassy.
  • Types 
    • Immunity is not the same for all diplomats and their families.
    • The Vienna Convention classifies diplomats according to their posting in the embassy, consular or international organisations such as the UN.
    • A nation has only one embassy per foreign country, usually in the capital, but may have multiple consulate offices, generally in locations where many of its citizens live or visit.
    • Diplomats posted in an embassy get immunity, along with his or her family members.
    • While diplomats posted in consulates also get immunity, they can be prosecuted in case of serious crimes, that is when a warrant is issued. 
    • Besides, their families don’t share that immunity.
  • Exceptions
    • It is possible for the diplomat’s home country to waive immunity but this can happen only when the individual has committed a ‘serious crime’, unconnected with their diplomatic role or has witnessed such a crime. 
    • Alternatively, the home country may prosecute the individual.
  • Concerns
    • While diplomatic immunity is intended to “insulate” diplomats from harm, it does not insulate their countries from a bad reputation and a blow to bilateral ties. 
    • The privilege of diplomatic immunity is not for an individual’s benefit. If a diplomat acts outside his business of conducting international relations, a question arises over whether his immunity still applies
  • Instances of Immunity Abuse  In The Past
    • In 1967, the Burmese ambassador to Sri Lanka shot his wife whom he suspected of having an affair. 
    • In 1983, a Saudi Arabian diplomat’s son raped a 16-year-old in the US. 
    • In April 2012, in Manila, Panamanian diplomat Erick Bairnals Shcks was accused of raping a 19-year-old Filipino woman but was released from detention because he enjoyed diplomatic immunity.

Safe Passage to Myanmar Refugee

  • Context:
    • The High Court of Manipur has ordered safe passage to seven Myanmar nationals, stranded at a border town in Manipur, to travel to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in New Delhi. 
  • Key Points:
    • Observation made by Manipur HC:
      • Although India has no clear refugee protection policy or framework, it does grant asylum to a large number of refugees from neighbouring country.
      • India usually respects UNHCR’s recognition of the status of such asylum seekers, mainly from Afghanistan and Myanmar.
      • Though India is not a party to the UN Refugee Conventions, it is a party to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights of 1966.
      • Article 21 of the Constitution encompasses the right of non-refoulment.
      • Non-refoulement is the principle under international law that states that a person fleeing persecution from his own country should not be forced to return to his own country.
      • A ceasefire on the border between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan was held following a day of intense fighting between the two ex-Soviet Central Asian neighbours that killed 39 people and wounded more than 175.

Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan Conflict

  • Context:
    • Recently, a ceasefire on the border between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan appeared to be held after a day of intense fighting between the two countries that have killed about 40 people and wounded about 175.
  • Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan:
    • About the recent tensions between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan
    • Both Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan have claimed the area around the water supply facility in Kok-Tash, a dispute dating back decades to when they were both parts of the Soviet Union.
    • After the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) collapsed in late 1991 – Soviet mapmakers drew the dividing lines for Soviet republics which is now the current configuration of the Kyrgyz-Tajik border.
    • The meandering boundary between Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan is particularly tense as over a third of its 1,000-km length is disputed. Restrictions on access to land and water that communities regard as theirs have often led to deadly clashes in the past.
    • Russia and European Union (EU) welcomed the ceasefire deal and emphasised the need for a lasting and peaceful solution.
  • Significance of this region for India:
    • Central Asia serves as a land bridge between Asia and Europe, making it geopolitically axial for India.
    • The region is rich in natural resources such as petroleum, natural gas, antimony, aluminium, gold, silver, coal and uranium which can be best utilized by Indian energy requirements.
    • Central Asia has huge cultivable areas lying barren and without being put to any productive use, offering enormous opportunity for the cultivation of pulses.
    • India intends expansion of the International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC) to Afghanistan and Uzbekistan. This will act as a vital gateway to access Eurasian markets and optimally operationalize its use, requiring a Central Asian state to join the project as a direct stakeholder.
    • India has proposed setting up of ‘India-Central Asia Development Group’ to take forward development partnership between India & Central Asian countries. This group will help India to expand its footprints in the resource-rich region amid China’s massive inroads and to fight terror effectively, including in Afghanistan.
    • India has a very wide array of interests in Central Asia covering security, energy, economic opportunities etc., therefore the Security, stability and prosperity of Central Asia is imperative for the peace and economic development of India.
    • Both India and Central Asian Republics (CARs) share many commonalities and perceptions on various regional and world issues and can play a crucial role in providing regional stability.

Organizations And Conventions:

Interpol

  • Context:
    • Fugitive diamantaire Mehul Choksi, who had recently fled from Antigua and Barbuda, was captured in neighbouring Dominica after an Interpol Yellow Notice was issued against him.
  • What is Interpol?
    • The International Criminal Police Organisation, or Interpol, is a 194-member intergovernmental organisation.
    • headquartered in Lyon, France.
    • Formed in 1923 as the International Criminal Police Commission, and started calling itself Interpol in 1956.
    • India joined the organisation in 1949 and is one of its oldest members.
  • Interpol’s declared global policing goals include:
    • Countering terrorism, promoting border integrity worldwide, protecting of vulnerable communities, providing secure cyberspace for people and businesses, curbing illicit markets, supporting environment security, and promoting global integrity.

SASCOF-19

  • Context:
    • Recently, the consensus report SASCOF-19 was prepared and released by the South Asian Climate Outlook Forum (SASCOF). The report has made a forecast of normal to above normal rainfall over most South Asian countries during the upcoming monsoon season.
  • About
    • It is a forum of climate experts representing Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan
    • It consists of expertise from members of the World Meteorological Organisation, Regional Integrated MultiHazard Early warning System, Japan Meteorological Agency and Korea Meteorological Administration.
    • It is conducted by South Asian nations and the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) since 2010.
    • It prepares consensus seasonal climate information on a regional scale that provides a consistent basis for preparing national level outlooks.
    • It serves to interface with user sectors to understand and enhance the use of climate information as orchestrated and supported by the Global Framework for Climate Services (GFCS).

Economy

Banking and finance:

Business Responsibility and Sustainability Report

  • Context:
    • Recently, SEBI Introduced disclosure requirements under business responsibility and sustainability reporting, covering environmental, social, and governance perspectives.
    • The new report — Business Responsibility and Sustainability Report (BRSR)– will replace the existing Business Responsibility Report (BRR).
  • About:
    • It will apply to the top 1,000 listed entities by market capitalization.
    • Such entities need to disclose an overview of the entity's material ESG (environmental, social, and governance) risks and opportunities, approach to mitigate or adapt to the risks
    • Environment-related disclosures cover aspects such as resource usage (energy and water), air pollutant emissions, green-house (GHG) emissions, transitioning to the circular economy, waste generated and waste management practices, bio-diversity.
    • Social-related disclosures would cover the workforce, value chain, communities, and consumers.
    • The move is expected to bring in greater transparency and enable market participants to identify and assess sustainability-related risks and opportunities

Sovereign Gold Bond (SGB) Scheme

  • Context:
    • Recently, the Government of India, in consultation with the Reserve Bank of India, has decided to issue Sovereign Gold Bonds for 2021-22
  • About:
    • SGBs are government securities denominated in grams of gold.
    • They are substitutes for holding physical gold.
    • Investors have to pay the issue price in cash and the bonds will be redeemed in cash on maturity.
    • The Bond is issued by Reserve Bank on behalf of the Government of India
    • A person resident in India as defined under Foreign Exchange Management Act, 1999 are eligible to invest in SGB
    • Eligible investors include individuals, HUFs, trusts, universities and charitable institutions
  • Advantages:
    • The quantity of gold for which the investor pays is protected
    • The risks and costs of storage are eliminated
    • Investors are assured of the market value of gold at the time of maturity and periodical interest
    • SGB is free from issues like making charges and purity in the case of gold in jewellery form
    • The bonds are held in the books of the RBI or Demat form eliminating the risk of loss of scrip etc
  • Disadvantage:
    • There may be a risk of capital loss if the market price of gold declines
    • However, the investor does not lose in terms of the units of gold that he has paid for

Social Stock Exchanges (SSE)

  • Context:
    • A technical group on Social Stock Exchanges (SSEs), constituted by the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI), has submitted its report
  • About SSE:
    • It is a platform for listing social enterprise, voluntary and welfare organizations
    • The initiative aims to help social and voluntary organizations which work for social causes to raise capital as equity or debt or a unit of mutual fund
    • It was mooted in the Union Budget 2019-20
    • SSE already exists in countries such as Singapore, UK, Canada among others
    • These countries allow firms operating in sectors such as health, environment and transportation to raise capital
  • Key recommendations of the Group:
    • For-Profit Enterprise (FPE) and Not for Profit Organisation (NPO) will be eligible to tap the SSE if they can show their primary goals are social intent and impact
    • Entities listed on SSE will have to disclose their social impact report on an annual basis
    • Political and religious organizations, trade organizations as well as corporate foundations should not be allowed to raise funds through SSEs

External sector:

World Bank report on remittances

  • Context:
    • World Bank, in its latest Migration and Development Brief, said despite COVID-19, remittance flows remained resilient in 2020, registering a smaller decline than previously projected
  • About:
    • A remittance is money sent to another party, usually one in another country.
    • India is the world’s biggest recipient of remittances.
    • Remittances bolster India’s foreign exchange reserves and help fund its current account deficit.
    • India received over USD83 billion in remittances in 2020, a drop of just 0.2% from the previous year, despite a pandemic that devastated the world economy
    • China, which received USD59.5 billion in remittances in 2020 is a distant second in terms of global remittances
    • As COVID-19 still devastates families around the world, remittances continue to provide a critical lifeline for the poor and vulnerable
    • Remittance outflow was the maximum from the United States (USD68 billion), followed by UAE (USD43 billion)

Foreign Direct Investment (FDI)

  • Context:
    • India attracted the highest ever total FDI inflow of US$ 81.72 billion during 2020-21, 10% more than the last financial year
  • About:
    • Foreign direct investment (FDI) is when a company takes controlling ownership in a business entity in another country.
    • With FDI, foreign companies are directly involved with day-to-day operations in the other country.
    • This means they aren’t just bringing money with them, but also knowledge, skills, and technology.
  • Trends in FDI inflow:
    • In terms of top investor countries, ‘Singapore’ is at the apex with 29%, followed by the U.S.A (23%) and Mauritius (9%) for the F.Y. 2020-21
    • Computer Software & Hardware has emerged as the top sector during F.Y. 2020-21 with around 44% share of the total FDI Equity inflow followed by Construction (Infrastructure) Activities (13%) and Services Sector (8%) respectively
    • Gujarat is the top recipient state during the F.Y. 2020-21 with a 37% share of the total FDI equity inflows followed by Maharashtra (27%) and Karnataka (13%).

Development Economics DEC

  • Context:
    • Recently, the World Bank has released the Migration and Development Brief which provides information regarding remittances received by various countries.
  • Prepared by:
    • The report is prepared by the Migration and Remittances Unit, Development Economics (DEC)- the premier research and data arm of the World Bank.
    • The report is produced twice a year.
  • Aim:
    • The report aims to provide an update on key developments. Especially in the area of migration and remittance flows and related policies over the past six months.
    • The report also provides medium-term projections of remittance flows to developing countries.
  • Findings Related to India:
    • India has received the highest amount of remittances in 2020. This was followed by China, Mexico, the Philippines, Egypt, Pakistan, France and Bangladesh.
    • India’s Remittances: India has received over USD83 billion in remittances in 2020. This was despite the pandemic that devastated the world economy.
    • India’s remittances fell by just 0.2% in 2020. This was due to a 17% fall in remittances from the United Arab Emirates. However, this was offset by the resilient flows from the United States and other host countries.
    • Remittances outflow from India in 2020 was USD7 billion. In 2019, it was around USD7.5 billion.
  • Remittances:
    • Remittance is money usually sent to a person in another country. The sender is typically an immigrant and the recipient a relative back home.
    • Remittances represent one of the largest sources of income for people in low-income and developing nations.
  • Other Reports and Publication of WB:
    • Ease of Doing Business
    • World Development Report
    • Global Economic Prospects

Infrastructure:

Toll- Operate-Transfer (TOT) model

  • Context:
    • National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) would offer 1,500 km — 32 projects — under the Toll-Operate-Transfer (TOT) model this financial year as it chalks out a fresh monetization plan
  • About:
    • TOT is a model for monetizing operational national highway projects where investors make a lump sum payment in return for long-term toll collection rights backed by a sound tolling system.
    • Under TOT, the highest bidder wins the right to operate and maintain operating road assets for 30 years, with rights to toll revenues from these assets until then. 
    • This model is more attractive for investors as they don’t have to build an infrastructure project from scratch.

SWAMIH Fund

  • Context:
    • Recently, Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman virtually handed over keys to 640 homebuyers under the central government’s ambitious ‘SWAMIH’ initiative, which completed its first project
  • About:
    • SWAMIH stands for Special Window for Affordable & Mid-Income Housing
    • It is a government-backed fund that was set up as a Category-II AIF (Alternate Investment Fund) debt fund registered with SEBI, launched in 2019
    • It has been formed to complete construction of stalled, brownfield, RERA registered residential developments that are in the affordable housing / mid-income category, are networth positive, and require last-mile funding to complete construction.
    • The Investment Manager of the Fund is SBICAP Ventures, a wholly-owned subsidiary of SBI Capital Markets, which in turn is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the State Bank of India.
    • The Sponsor of the Fund is the Secretary, Department of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance, Government of India on behalf of the Government of India.

Global Electric Vehicles Outlook 2021

  • Context:
    • The International Energy Agency (IEA) recently released the Global Electric Vehicle Outlook
  • About the report:
    • It is an annual report published by IEA
    • The report looks at the latest EV trends
    • Apart from that, it also looks at the drivers for road transport sector electrification around the world
  • What did the report say about India?
    • Around 30% of new vehicle sales in 2030 will be Electric in India
    • The Electric Vehicle penetration in the country will be led by electric three-wheelers and electric two-wheelers
    • Electrification of buses will be lower
    • It will be 15% of the total sale of vehicles by 2030
    • This is mainly because of easier registration of two-wheelers and three-wheelers under the FAME II scheme
    • Only 3% of allocated funds under the FAME II scheme has so far been used for 30,000 vehicles

Agriculture:

National Programme for Organic Production (NPOP)

  • Context:
    • India begins exports of organic millets grown in the Himalayas to Denmark
  • About the export:
    • APEDA, in collaboration with Uttarakhand Agriculture Produce Marketing Board (UKAPMB) and Just Organik, an exporter, has sourced & processed ragi (finger millet), and jhingora (barnyard millet) from farmers in Uttarakhand for exports
    • Millets are unique agricultural products from India which have significant demand in the global market
    • The exports of millets to Denmark would expand exports opportunities in European countries
    • The exports would also support thousands of farmers that are getting into organic farming
  • About NPOP:
    • At present, organic products are exported provided they are produced, processed, packed and labeled as per the requirements of the National Programme for Organic Production (NPOP)
    • The NPOP has been implemented by APEDA since its inception in 2001 as notified under the Foreign Trade (Development and Regulations) Act, 1992
    • The NPOP certification has been recognized by the European Union and Switzerland which enables India to export unprocessed plant products to these countries without the requirement of additional certification
    • NPOP also facilitates the export of Indian organic products to the United Kingdom even in the post Brexit phase
    • NPOP has also been recognized by the Food Safety Standard Authority of India (FSSAI) for the trade of organic products in the domestic market
    • Organic products covered under the bilateral agreement with NPOP need not be recertified for import in India

MACS 1407- A high-yielding and pest-resistant variety of Soybean

  • Context:
    • Scientists from MACS- Agharkar Research Institute (ARI) Pune in collaboration with the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) have developed a variety of Soybean called MACS 1407
  • About:
    • It is developed using the conventional cross-breeding technique which gives 39 quintals per hectare making it a high yielding variety and is also resistant to major insect-pests
    • Its thick stem, higher pod insertion (7 cm) from the ground, and resistance to pod shattering make it suitable even for mechanical harvesting.
    • It is suitable for rain-fed conditions of northeast India
    • It is also suitable for cultivation in the states of Assam, West Bengal, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh 
    • Its seeds will be made available to farmers for sowing during the 2022 Kharif season

The mission for Integrated Development of Horticulture (MIDH)

  • Context:
    • The Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare has provided an enhanced allocation of Rs. 2250 Crore for the year 2021-22 for ‘Mission for Integrated Development of Horticulture (MIDH)
  • About the scheme:
    • It is a Centrally Sponsored Scheme for the holistic growth of the horticulture sector
    • The government of India (GoI) contributes 60% of the total outlay, 40% share is contributed by State Governments.
    • In the case of the North-Eastern States and the Himalayan States, GoI contributes 90%.
    • It is under Green Revolution – Krishonnati Yojana
    • It is being implemented by the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare with effect from 2014-15
  • The Mission includes the following sub-schemes:
    • National Horticulture Mission (NHM)
    • National Horticulture Board (NHB)
    • Horticulture Mission for North East & Himalayan States (HMNEH)
    • Coconut Development Board (CDB)
    • Central Institute for Horticulture (CIH)
    • National Bamboo Mission (NBM)

Environment

Species in news:

Red-eared slider

  • Context:
    • The invasive red-eared slider is threatening to invade the natural water bodies across the Northeast, home to 21 of the 29 vulnerable native Indian species of freshwater turtles and tortoises.
  • About:
    • The red-eared slider (Trachemys scripta elegans) derives its name from red stripes around the part where its ears would be and from its ability to slide quickly off any surface into the water.
    • Native to the U.S. and northern Mexico, this turtle is an extremely popular pet due to its small size, easy maintenance, and relatively low cost.
    • But on the flip side, they grow fast and virtually leaves nothing for the native species to eat
    • The red-eared slider has already affected States such as Karnataka and Gujarat, where it has been found in 33 natural water bodies.
    • But more than elsewhere in India, preventing this invasive species from overtaking the Brahmaputra and other river ecosystems in the Northeast is crucial because the Northeast is home to more than 72% of the turtle and tortoise species in the country, all of them very rare.
    • Although the red-eared slider is traded legally, the time has come for the government to come up with regulations against keeping invasive pets.

White-Bellied Heron

  • Context:
    • Recently, a white-bellied heron, a rare and elusive bird, was spotted at Walong in the Anjaw district of Arunachal Pradesh.
  • About:
    • It is one of the rarest birds in the world.
    • At present, it is found only in Bhutan, Myanmar, and the Namdapha Tiger Reserve in Arunachal Pradesh.
    • It had also been recorded in the adjacent Kamlang Tiger Reserve in Lohit district in camera trap images.
    • The recent sighting at a height of 1,200 meters above sea level is a first at such a higher elevation in India.
    • It is categorized as critically endangered in the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red Data Book.
    • It is also listed in Schedule IV in the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.

Leatherback turtle

  • Context:
    • Environment Appraisal Committee which flagged concerns over NITI Aayog’s ambitious project for Great Nicobar Island has now ‘recommended’ it ‘for grant of terms of reference’ for EIA studies.
  • Threat due to the project:
    • Galathea Bay is the site of the port and the centerpiece of the NITI Aayog proposal.
    • Galathea Bay is also an iconic nesting site in India of the enigmatic Giant Leatherback.
    • The site selection for the port had been done mainly on technical and financial criteria, ignoring the environmental aspects.
  • About leatherback turtle:
    • It is the largest of all living turtles and is the fourth-heaviest modern reptile behind three crocodilians.
    • It can easily be differentiated from other modern sea turtles by its lack of a bony shell; instead, its carapace is covered by oily flesh and flexible, leather-like skin, for which it is named.
    • It is a species with a cosmopolitan global range.
    • IUCN status: Vulnerable.

Blackbucks

  • Context:
    • Odisha’s blackbuck population has doubled in the last six years, according to figures from the latest population census released recently by the chief conservator of forest (wildlife).
  • About:
    • The antelopes numbered 7,358 — 4,196 females, 1,712 males and 1,450 young, according to census figures.
    • Blackbucks are found only in the Ganjam district in the southern part of the state.
  • Protection Status:
    • The blackbuck is a Schedule-1 animal according to the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972 (amended in 1992) and is considered as ‘Vulnerable’ according to the Red Data Book.
    • The blackbuck is known in Odisha and Ganjam as Krushnasara Mruga.
  • Other related facts:
    • Bishnoi community of Rajasthan is known worldwide for their conservation efforts to blackbuck and Chinkara. State animal of Andra Pradesh, Haryana & Punjab.
    • Protected Areas:
      1. Velavadar Blackbuck Sanctuary — Gujarat.
      2. Point Calimere Wildlife Sanctuary.
      3. Nilgiri biosphere reserve.
      4. Corbett national park.

Pollution and conservation:

Global Methane Assessment Report

  • Context:
    • Recently, a report, titled Global Methane Assessment: Benefits and Costs of Mitigating Methane Emissions was released by the Climate and Clean Air Coalition and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
  • About:
    • The report suggested that the world needs to dramatically cut methane emissions to avoid the worst of climate change.
    • Human-caused methane emissions must be cut by 45% to avoid the worst effects of climate change.
    • Such a cut would prevent a rise in global warming by up to 0.3 degrees Celsius by 2045.
    • Most human-caused methane emissions came from three sectors: Fossil fuels, waste, and agriculture.
  • Methane:
    • Methane is responsible for about 30% of warming since pre-industrial times.
    • Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas.
    • Methane is 84 times more potent than carbon and doesn’t last as long in the atmosphere before it breaks down.
    • This makes it a critical target for reducing global warming more quickly while simultaneously working to reduce other greenhouse gases.
    • It is responsible for creating ground-level ozone, a dangerous air pollutant.

Net Zero Producers’ Forum

  • Context:
    • Qatar, the US, Saudi Arabia, Canada and Norway, collectively responsible for 40% of global oil and gas production, have come together to form a cooperative forum that will develop pragmatic net zero-emission strategies.
  • About:
    • The Net Zero Producers’ Forum will consider strategies and technologies which include methane abatement, circular carbon economy approach, development, and deployment of clean energy and carbon capture and storage technologies, diversification from reliance on hydrocarbon revenues, etc.
    • Net-zero, which is also referred to as carbon-neutrality is a state in which a country’s emissions are compensated by the absorption and removal of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.

Environment:

Protected Planet Report 2020

  • Context:
    • The report, titled Protected Planet Report 2020, underlined the progress the world has made toward the ambitious goals agreed by countries in 2010 at the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity.
  • About:
    • Protected Planet Reports are released by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC) and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) with support from the National Geographic Society, a global non-profit
    • These are biennial landmark publications that assess the state of protected and conserved areas around the world.

Nature in a Globalised World Report

  • Context:
    • International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has released a report titled “Nature in a Globalised World: Conflict and Conservation”.
  • Key findings:
    • Armed Conflicts have numerous negative effects on nature.
      • During the 1994 war in Rwanda, 90% of the large mammals in the Akagera National Park were killed for food or trade.
      • The Vietnam War almost certainly accelerated the extinction of the Javan rhinoceros.
    • Armed conflicts are particularly prevalent in some of the more biodiverse regions of the world.
    • Civil unrest and military exercises pose a risk to more than 200 Endangered species.
    • This includes even the iconic species such as the Critically Endangered Eastern gorilla.
    • However, conflicts were less frequent within the boundaries of the natural reserves and other protected areas.

Global Forest Goals Report 2021

 

  • Context:
    • The Department of Economic and Social Affairs of the United Nations has released the Global Forest Goals Report 2021.
  • About the report:
    • It is the first evaluation of the global status of implementing the United Nations Strategic Plan for Forests 2030.
    • The report draws upon data from 52 voluntary national reports and 19 voluntary national contributions
  • Findings of the report:
    • The world is making progress in key areas such as increasing global forest area through afforestation and restoration.
    • The covid-19 pandemic has aggravated the challenges faced by countries in managing their forests.

Science And Technology

Space:

NASA’s OSIRIS-REx

  • Context:
    • Recently, NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft departed from asteroid Bennu and started its two-year-long journey back to Earth.
    • OSIRIS-REx is NASA’s first mission to visit a near-Earth asteroid, survey its surface and collect a sample from it.
  • Key Points:
    • About OSIRIS-REx Mission:
      • It is the United States’ first asteroid sample return mission, aiming to collect and carry a pristine, unaltered sample from an asteroid back to earth for scientific study.
      • The OSIRIS-REx (Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer) spacecraft was launched in 2016 for the journey to Bennu.
      • The mission is essentially a seven-year-long voyage and will conclude when at least 60 grams of samples are delivered back to the Earth (in 2023).
      • As per the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the mission promises to bring the largest amount of extraterrestrial material back to the Earth since the Apollo era.
      • Apollo was the NASA program that resulted in American astronauts’ making a total of 11 space flights and walking on the moon (1968-72).
      • The spacecraft contains five instruments meant to explore Bennu including cameras, a spectrometer and a laser altimeter.
      • Recently, the spacecraft’s robotic arm called the Touch-And-Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism (TAGSAM), made an attempt to “TAG” the asteroid at a sample site and collected a sample.
    • Significance:
      • Scientists will use the asteroid samples to study the formation of the solar system and of habitable planets such as Earth.
      • NASA will also distribute a part of the samples to laboratories worldwide and will reserve about 75% of the samples for future generations who can study it with technologies not yet created.
    • Asteroid Bennu:
      • Bennu is an ancient asteroid, currently more than 200 million miles from Earth.
      • It is about as tall as the Empire State Building (US) and is named after an Egyptian deity.
      • The asteroid was discovered by a team from the NASA-funded Lincoln Near-Earth Asteroid Research team in 1999.
      • It is known that this asteroid is a B-type asteroid, implying that it contains significant amounts of carbon and various other minerals.
      • Because of its high carbon content, it reflects about 4% of the light that hits it, which is very low when compared with a planet like Venus, which reflects about 65% of the light that hits it. Earth reflects about 30%.
      • Around 20-40% of Bennu’s interior is empty space and scientists believe that it was formed in the first 10 million years of the solar system’s formation, implying that it is roughly 4.5 billion years old.
      • There is a slight possibility that Bennu, which is classified as a Near-Earth Object (NEO), might strike the Earth in the next century, between the years 2175 and 2199.
      • NEOs are comets and asteroids nudged by the gravitational attraction of nearby planets into orbits which allows them to enter the Earth’s neighbourhood.
      • Bennu is believed to have been born in the Main Asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter and because of gravitational tugs from other celestial objects and the slight push asteroids get when they release absorbed sunlight, the asteroid is coming closer to Earth.
      • Bennu offers scientists a window into the early solar system as it was first taking shape billions of years ago and tossing ingredients that could have helped seed life on Earth.
      • Significantly, Bennu hasn’t undergone drastic changes since its formation over billions of years ago and therefore it contains chemicals and rocks dating back to the birth of the solar system. It is also relatively close to the Earth.

NEO-01 

  • Context:
    • The Chinese government has launched a robot prototype named ‘NEO-01’ in the Low Earth Orbit through its Long March 6 rocket.
  • What is it?
    • NEO-01 is a robot prototype developed by China-based space mining start-up ‘Origin Space’.
  • Aim:
    • The aim is to observe small celestial bodies in deep space and to experiment with a novel approach to clearing up space debris.
  • Method to remove space debris:
    • NEO-01 will use a large net to capture debris left behind by other spacecraft.
    • After collection, it will burn them using its electric propulsion system.
    • Electric Propulsion(EP) is a class of space propulsion. This propulsion will make use of electrical power to accelerate a propellant. These technologies generate electrical energy either from a solar source or from a nuclear source.
  • What is Space Debris?
    • Firstly, space debris is any piece of machinery or debris left by humans in space.
    • Secondly, it can refer to big objects such as dead satellites that have failed or been left in orbit at the end of their mission. It can also refer to smaller things, like bits of debris or paint flecks that have fallen off from a rocket.
    • Thirdly, space debris is a threat to active satellites and spaceships as they pose the risk of collisions.

Total Lunar Eclipse and Supermoon

  • Context:
    • The two celestial events – Total Lunar Eclipse and Supermoon coincided on May 26.
  • About Lunar Eclipse:
    • The lunar eclipse occurs when the Earth comes between the Sun and the Moon thereby obstructing the sunlight falling on the Moon.
    • Lunar eclipses only happen at Full Moon.
    • Types of Lunar Eclipse: There are three kinds of lunar eclipses:
  • Total Lunar Eclipse:
    • During this, the Earth comes in between the Sun and the Moon. It stops the light of the Sun from reaching the Moon and casting a complete shadow over it.
  • Partial Lunar Eclipse:
    • During this, the moon will travel through the Earth’s outer penumbra before and after partially sweeping through the Earth’s inner dark umbral shadow.
  • Penumbral Lunar Eclipse:
    • During this, the Moon moves through the outer part of the Earth’s shadow, thus becoming very faint.
    • Penumbra or outer shadow is a zone where the Earth blocks part of the Sun’s rays from reaching the Moon.
    • Umbra or inner shadow is a zone where the Earth blocks all direct sunlight from reaching the Moon.
  • What is a supermoon?
    • The Moon travels around our planet in an elliptical orbit or an elongated circle.
    • Each month, the Moon passes through perigee (the point closest to Earth) and apogee (the point farthest from Earth).
    • When the Moon is at or near its closest point to Earth at the same time as it is full, it is called a “supermoon.”
    • During this event, because the full moon is a little closer to us than usual, it appears especially large and bright in the sky

Health:

Mucormycosis 

  • Context:
    • A number of Covid-19 patients are developing a serious fungal infection known as Mucormycosis also called a black fungus.
  • Key Points:
    • Mucormycosis:
      • It is a serious but rare fungal infection caused by a group of moulds called mucormycetes, which is abundant in the environment.
      • It mainly affects people who have health problems or take medicines that lower the body’s ability to fight germs and sickness.
      • The types of Mucormycosis are Rhinocerebral (Sinus and Brain), Pulmonary (Lung), Gastrointestinal, Cutaneous (Skin), and disseminated Mucormycosis.
    • Transmission:
      • It occurs through inhalation, inoculation, or ingestion of spores from the environment.
      • Mucormycosis does not spread between people or between people and animals.
    • Symptoms:
      • These include pain and redness around the eyes and/or nose, fever, headache, coughing, shortness of breath, bloody vomits, and altered mental status.
      • Warning signs can include toothache, loosening of teeth, blurred or double vision with pain.
    • Prevention:
      • Avoiding areas with a lot of dust like construction or excavation sites, avoiding direct contact with water-damaged buildings and flood water after hurricanes and natural disasters and avoiding activities that involve close contact with soil.
    • Treatment:
      • Mucormycosis needs to be treated with prescription antifungal medicine.
      • In some cases, it can require surgery.


Lumpy Skin Disease 

  • Context:
    • The Bihar government sounded an alert and issued an advisory about the likely spread of the disease.
  • About:
    • What is it?
      • Lumpy Skin Disease is a viral illness that causes prolonged morbidity in cattle and buffaloes.
    • Caused by the poxvirus Lumpy skin disease virus (LSDV):
      • The virus is one of three closely related species within the genus capripoxvirus, the other two species being Sheeppox virus and Goatpox virus.
    • Symptoms: 
      • It appears as nodules of two to five-centimetre diameter all over the body, particularly around the head, neck, limbs, udder and genitals.
      • The lumps gradually open up like large and deep wounds.
      • Transmission  The LSD virus easily spreads by blood-sucking insects like mosquitoes, flies and ticks and through saliva and contaminated water and food.
      • Treatment There is no treatment for the virus, so prevention by vaccination is the most effective means of control.
    • Affected Countries: 
      • LSD is endemic to Africa and parts of West Asia, where it was first discovered in 1929.
      • In Southeast Asia, the first case of LSD was reported in Bangladesh in July 2019.
      • In India, it was first reported from Mayurbhanj, Odisha in August 2019.
      • Due to its infectious nature and its implications on the economy, the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) declares it as a notifiable disease.
      • According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), in some cases (under 10%) the infected animal succumbs to the disease.

Ivermectin

  • Context:
    • The World Health Organization (WHO) has recommended against the use of ‘ivermectin’ drug for the treatment of COVID-19 patients.
  • About:
    • Ivermectin is an orally administered drug used to treat parasitic infections. These include parasitic infections of the intestinal tract, skin, and eyes.
  • How does it work?
    • Ivermectin works by binding to parts inside the parasite. It eventually paralyses and kills off the parasite.
    • Or it stops adult parasites from making larvae for a while. This provides relief to the parasitic infection.
  • Why is it used for Covid-19 patients?
    • Ivermectin was found to be effective in reducing the multiplication of certain RNA viruses. Such as SARS and Covid-19 RNA. Hence, it is used for the treatment of COVID-19 in mild to moderate cases.
    • Ivermectin is used for the treatment and eradication of two life-threatening illnesses – Onchocerciasis and filariasis.

SUTRA

  • Context:
    • Scientists see flaws in SUTRA’s approach to forecasting pandemic 
  • About:
    • SUTRA (Susceptible, Undetected, Tested (positive), and Removed Approach) first came into public attention when one of its expert members announced in October that India was “past its peak”.
    • Unlike many epidemiological models that extrapolated cases based on the existing number of cases, the behaviour of the virus and manner of spread, the SUTRA model chose a “data-centric approach”.
    • However, the surge in the second wave was several times what any of the modellers had predicted.
    • The predictions of the SUTRA model were too variable to guide government policy.
  • So, what went wrong in the model:
    • The SUTRA model was problematic as it relied on too many parameters, and recalibrated those parameters whenever its predictions broke down.
    • The more parameters you have, the more you are in danger of overfitting.
    • One of the main reasons for the model not gauging an impending, exponential rise was that constant indicating contact between people and populations went wrong.
    • Further, the model was ‘calibrated’ incorrectly.
    • The model relied on a serosurvey conducted by the ICMR in May that said 0.73% of India’s population may have been infected at that time.
    • This calibration led our model to the conclusion that more than 50% population was immune by January.
    • The SUTRA model’s omission of the importance of the behaviour of the virus; the fact that some people were bigger transmitters; a lack of accounting for social or geographic heterogeneity and not stratifying the population by age as it didn’t account for contacts between different age groups also undermined its validity.

Convalescent Plasma Therapy

  • Context:
    • The use of convalescent plasma has been dropped from the recommended treatment guidelines for COVID-19, according to an advisory from the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).
  • About:
    • The therapy 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 into critically ill patients so that the antibodies are transferred and boost their fight against the virus.
    • A COVID-19 patient usually develops primary immunity against the virus in 10-14 days.
    • Therefore, if the plasma is injected at an early stage, it can possibly help fight the virus and prevent severe illness.
  • How often has it been used in the past?
    • This therapy is no new wonder. It has been used several times.
    • The US used plasma of recovered patients to treat patients of Spanish flu (1918-1920).
    • In 2014, the WHO released guidelines to treat Ebola patients with convalescent whole blood and plasma.
    • In 2015, plasma was used for treating MERS patients.
  • How is it done?
    • The process to infuse plasma in a patient can be completed quickly.
    • It only requires standard blood collection practices and extraction of plasma.
    • If whole blood is donated (350-450 ml), a blood fractionation process is used to separate the plasma.
    • Otherwise, a special machine called the aphaeresis machine can be used to extract the plasma directly from the donor.
    • While blood is indeed extracted from the donor, the aphaeresis machine separates and extracts the plasma using a plasma kit, and the remaining blood components are returned to the donor’s body.

B.1.617 Variant

  • Context:
    • The World Health Organization has classified B.1.617, a coronavirus variant first identified in India as a “global variant of concern”.
    • This variant was classified as a variant under investigation (VUI) by authorities in the UK earlier in May.
    • It has already spread to more than 17 countries.
  • Concerns for India:
    • Last week, the Indian government said that this variant also called the “double mutant variant” could be linked to a surge in the cases of coronavirus seen in some states.
  • How do variants of a virus emerge and why?
    • Variants of a virus have one or more mutations that differentiate it from the other variants that are in circulation.
    • Essentially, the goal of the virus is to reach a stage where it can cohabitate with humans because it needs a host to survive.
    • Errors in the viral RNA are called mutations, and viruses with these mutations are called variants. Variants could differ by a single or many mutations.

New Technology:

Iron Dome

  • Context:
    • Airstrikes and rocket attacks are witnessed from both sides in the recent Israel-Palestine conflict.
    • Videos on social media showed rockets fired from Gaza being intercepted by the Israeli Iron Dome air defence system; here is a look at the features of an Iron dome.
  • What is the Iron Dome?
    • It is a short-range, ground-to-air, air defence system.
    • It includes radar and Tamir interceptor missiles that track and neutralise any rockets or missiles aimed at Israeli targets.
    • It is used for countering rockets, artillery & mortars (C-RAM or counter-RAM) as well as aircraft, helicopters and unmanned aerial vehicles.
  • How does it work?
    • The Iron Dome has three main systems.
    • They work together to provide a shield over the area where it is deployed, handling multiple threats.
  • It has:
    • detection and tracking radar to spot any incoming threats
    • a battle management and weapon control system (BMC)
    • a missile-firing unit
  • Other information:
    • The BMC basically liaises between the radar and the interceptor missile.
    • It is capable of being used in all weather conditions, including during the day and night.
    • Each battery, or the full unit, can cost over $50 million, and one interceptor Tamir missile costs around $80,000.
    • In contrast, a rocket can cost less than $1,000.
    • The system dispatches two Tamir missiles to intercept each rocket.
  • When was it first used?
    • The genesis of the Iron Dome goes back to the 2006 Israeli-Lebanon war when Hezbollah fired thousands of rockets into Israel.
    • The following year, Israel announced that its state-run Rafael Advanced Systems would come up with a new air defence system to protect its cities and people.
    • It was developed with Israel Aerospace Industries.
    • The Iron Dome was deployed in 2011.
  • How does India compare with Israel in this regard?
    • Israel, along with the US and Russia, is the leader in this air defence system.
    • India is in the process of buying S-400 air defence systems from Russia for over $5 billion.
    • Against this backdrop, the Iron Dome was one of the systems that were being spoken of.
    • Israel does have S-400, which also caters to the three threats (rockets, missiles and cruise missiles). But they have a much longer range.
    • While India is continent-sized, Israel is smaller and has to deal with threats that are relatively close around it and hence the Iron dome.
    • At the moment, India has Akash short-range surface-to-air missiles and Russian systems including the Pechora.
    • India is also buying two National Advanced Surface to Air Missile System-II from the US.

Positron Excess Phenomenon

  • Context:
    • High energy particles are generally lower in the cosmic universe. But the high number of high-energy particles of the antimatter called positrons was a mystery for scientists.
    • But the researchers from the Raman Research Institute(RRI), Bengaluru have resolved a mystery called the “Positron Excess Phenomenon“.
  • What is Antimatter?
    • Antimatter is the opposite of normal matter. More specifically, the sub-atomic particles of antimatter have properties opposite those of normal matter. For example, the electrical charge of antimatter particles is reversed.
    • The creation of antimatter happened along with matter after the Big Bang. But in today’s universe, antimatter is rare.
    • For example, Positron.
  • What is Positron or anti-electron?
    • A Positron is an antimatter counterpart to an electron.
    • A positron has the equal or same mass as an electron.
    • But the electron has a Negative Electric Charge whereas Positron has a Positive electric Charge.
  • What is Positron Excess?
    • Over the years scientists observed excess of positron having the energy of more than 10 GeV
    • But Positrons having an energy of more than 300 GeV are lower in comparison to astronomers’ expectations.
    • This behaviour of positrons between 10 and 300 GeV is called as the ‘positron excess’.
  • Reason for Positron Excess:
    • The Milky Way consists of giant clouds of molecular hydrogen. They are the seats of the formation of new stars. These clouds can be as massive as 10 million times of the Sun’s mass. Further, these clouds can extend up to 600 light-years.
    • The Milky Way is a huge collection of stars, dust, and gas. It is called a spiral galaxy because if viewed from the top or bottom, it will look like a spinning pinwheel.
    • Cosmic rays are produced in supernovae explosions. These waves propagate through these giant clouds before they reach the Earth.
    • Cosmic rays interact with molecular hydrogen and can give rise to other cosmic rays primarily electrons and positrons.
    • Further, cosmic rays propagate through these clouds and decay from their original forms and lose their wave energy by energising the clouds. Some may also get re-energised.
    • Researchers from the Raman Research Institute(RRI) found out that Cosmic rays interaction with giant clouds is a viable contributor to the origin of the positron excess phenomenon.
  • What are Cosmic Rays?
    • Cosmic rays are one of the very few direct samples of matter from outside the solar system. They are high energy particles that move through space at nearly the speed of light.
    • They originate from the sun, from outside the solar system in our own galaxy, and from distant galaxies.
    • Furthermore, they are to blame for electronics problems in satellites and other machinery.

India H2 Alliance (IH2A)

  • Context:
    • To tap the opportunities in India’s hydrogen economy and supply chain, a number of industries have come together to commercialize hydrogen technologies under India H2 Alliance (IH2A).
  • About India H2 Alliance (IH2A)
    • It is an alliance of energy and industrial firms led by Chart Industries and Reliance Industries Ltd.
  • The alliance will aid the government efforts towards:
    • Development of National Hydrogen Policy and Roadmap by 2030.
    • Creation of a National Hydrogen Taskforce and Mission in PPP format.
    • Establish large scale exhibition projects to spearhead its development, Creating a National Hydrogen Fund, and Developing Hydrogen-linked capacities covering hydrogen production, storage and distribution, industrial use cases, transport use cases and standards.
    • This includes work on building hydrogen economy and supply chain in India with a focus on blue and green hydrogen production and storage, such as building hydrogen-use industrial clusters with industries like steel, refineries, fertilizer, cement, ports and logistics, and transport use-cases with hydrogen-powered fuel cells in heavy-duty transport establishing robust standards for storage and transport of hydrogen in pressurized and liquefied form.
    • The alliance will collaborate with private sector partners, the government and the public.
    • Overall, the efforts from the alliance will help in reducing hydrogen production cost and achieve net-zero carbon emissions by complementing national renewable energy and EV/battery-technology plans.

Miscellaneous

Ransomware attack on a key US pipeline network

  • Context:
    • Recently a ransomware attack on a key US pipeline network has led to a disruption in fuel supplies in the eastern part of the U.S.
  • What is a ransomware attack?
    • A ransomware attack is a cyber-attack using malware that encrypts the victim’s files and requires users to pay a ransom to decrypt the files.
    • Nowadays with companies having moved to real-time backups, hackers have also added the element of downloading all the data on an enterprise network before encrypting it.
    • The hackers can then threaten to leak the data if the ransom is not paid.
    • This attack on colonial pipeline company is the one which transports 45% of all petrol and diesel which is consumed on the east coast of U.S.
    • The US Federal Bureau of Investigation confirmed that a criminal gang called Darkside was responsible for compromising the Colonial Pipeline network.
  • How did this attack impact oil prices?
    • In response to the attack, the price of Brent crude rose to $69 per barrel on Monday before falling to $67.8 on Tuesday.
    • The Colonial Pipeline company has said that it is restoring operations in a phased manner with the goal of completing the operations by a week.
    • But a prolonged shutdown of the operations of the pipeline could push up petrol prices in the US as demand peaks during the summer.
    • This disruption has already led to an uptick in international refining margins thereby pushing up the price of auto fuels.
    • Moreover, an increase in the price of petroleum products in Asia could provide a further push to petrol and diesel prices in India, which are already at record high levels.
    • Despite a surge in COVID-19infections, crude oil prices have risen over the past fortnight due to the expectations of increasing crude oil demand from the US and Europe.
  • How can oil and gas companies deal with such attacks?
    • Now there is a need to move towards fortifying approaches to prevent attacks by employing a zero-trust security framework in enterprise networks.
    • A zero-trust approach means anything is suspected whenever any activity is done on the network, and every user, including the CEO, will have to be verified time and again.
    • Other measures such as Cloud Access Security Brokers (CPAB), which act as intermediaries between users and cloud service providers, could give teeth to an overall cybersecurity strategy.
    • It is also noted that India’s oil and gas PSUs were making efforts to improve security and the organisations.
    • These PSUs manage critical infrastructures such as pipelines and refineries and are required by the government to implement certain security measures.

Public buildings and fire safety rules

  • Context:
    • The most recent incident, when at least 18 people died after a fire broke out in a COVID hospital in Bharuch in Gujarat.
    • A spate of recent hospital fires has also been reported from Maharashtra, at Virar, a suburb of Mumbai, and Mumbra near Thane and earlier in the year at Nagpur.
  • Synopsis: 
    • Effective regulations to manage fire risks in public buildings like Guidelines of National Building Code are available. However, a lack of enforcement by states has led to fire disasters in India.
    • Fire accident in Public building has been a recurrent event in India. For instance,
    • Fire accidents in hospitals at Bharuch in Gujarat, Virar (Mumbai), and Mumbra near Thane, have killed at least 37 people.
    • According to National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), 330 people have died in commercial building fires in 2019.
    • When we include fire accidents in residential or dwelling buildings, the fatality rate gets very high at 6,329.
  • Some common causes are:
    • Electrical failures
    • failure of the state to ensure adherence to safety laws
    • Lack of modern tech to ensure safety in public buildings.
  • What are the legal provisions available to ensure fire safety compliance in public buildings?
    • First, the National Building Code of India deals with Fire and life safety. The Bureau of Indian Standards has published it, as a recommendatory document. However, the Home Ministry asked States to incorporate it into their local building bylaws. It makes the recommendations a “mandatory requirement”.
  • Guidelines under NBC:
    • One, it provides specifications and guidelines for design and materials that reduce the threat of destructive fires. For example,
    • It specifies fire resistance materials to be used in exterior walls, interior bearing walls, floor, roof, fire check doors, fire enclosure exits, etc.,
    • Two, The Code, classifies all the existing and new buildings by nature of use. For example; residential, educational, institutional, assembly (like cinemas and auditorial), Industrial, etc.,
    • It recommends the location of buildings by type of use in specific zones. This is to ensure that industrial and hazardous structures do not coexist with residential, institutional, office, and business buildings.
    • Three, the code prescribes incorporation of the technologies into buildings to alert in case of a fire and also to fight. Examples are, automatic fire detection and alarm system, automatic sprinklers and water sprays, fireman’s lift, fire barriers, etc.,
    • Four, It provides exemptions for various buildings in case of practical difficulty. A local head, fire services may consider exemptions from the Code.
    • Despite, the existence of fire safety rules in every state, the provisions of the Code are ignored in practice.
    • Second, Fire Safety Committees were constituted. They conduct periodical audits on fire installation, heating, ventilation and air-conditioning, and other electrical equipment in the Union government’s hospitals.
    • Third, Health Ministry has also imposed a third-party accreditation for fire safety. It has also formed strict guidelines for a mandatory fire response plan in every hospital.
    • Fourth, The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) has also provided mandatory requirements for fire safety in public buildings, including hospitals.
    • Such as, maintaining minimum open safety space, protected exit mechanisms, dedicated staircases, and crucial drills to carry out evacuations.
    • Fifth, the Supreme Court has directed all States to carry out fire safety audits of dedicated COVID-19 hospitals.
  • Has there been an adequate implementation of the National Building Code by the estates?
    • Evidence shows that States lack the manpower to inspect and ensure compliance with safety codes, including NBC. For instance,
    • According to Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report (2010 to 2015), in Maharashtra, a joint physical inspection by an audit of 53 government buildings revealed that only fire extinguishers were installed in 11 of 53 buildings, and the remaining 42 buildings were not equipped with any of the fire-fighting installations.
    • Further, Tamil Nadu and Kerala though have broader regulations, still, there has been no reference for compliance with the National Building code.
  • Way forward:
    • Making heavy fire liability insurance compulsory for all public buildings, will ensure protection to occupants and visitors and bring about an external inspection of safety.

Colombo City Project

  • Context:
    • A Chinese-funded tax-free enclave in Sri Lanka recently cleared the final legal hurdle as its Supreme Court gave it a go-ahead.
  • What is it?
    • It is a large-scale integrated city being developed near Colombo, Sri Lanka. The city is being developed as a Special Economic Zone(SEZ).
  • Aim:
    • It aims to attract billions of dollars for trade, banking and offshore services similar to what is available in Dubai and Singapore,
  • Developed by:
    • China Communication Construction is developing the project through its subsidiary China Harbor Engineering Construction (CHEC).
  • Administered by:
    • The Port City will be administered by a commission with unprecedented powers to fast track investment approvals.
  • Benefits:
    • The transactions within Port City will be denominated in foreign currency. Further, all salaries earned by any worker of the Port City will be tax-exempt.
  • Significance of the Project:
    • It is the single biggest private sector development in Sri Lanka. It is also expected to transform Colombo into a commerce, tourism and cultural hub.

National Technology Day

  • Context:
    • CSIR-CMERI has celebrated National Technology Day- 2021 by interacting with the MSME Representatives.
  • About:
    • The day, which was first observed on 11 May 1999, aims to commemorate the scientific and technological achievements of Indian scientists, engineers
    • The theme this year is “Science and Technology for a Sustainable Future”.
  • Significance
    • It is the day India successfully tested nuclear bombs in Pokhran on May 11, 1998. India successfully
    • test-fired its Shakti-1 nuclear missile in operation called Pokhran-II, also codenamed as Operation Shakti.
    • On the same day, India performed a successful test firing of the Trishul missile (surface to air short-range missile) and had test flown the first indigenous aircraft – ‘Hansa – 3’.
  • CSIR-CMERI
    • Central Mechanical Engineering Research Institute (also known as CSIR-CMERI) is a public engineering research and development institution. It was founded in 1959.
    • Part of The institute is a constituent laboratory of the Indian Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).
    • Purpose The institute was founded to develop national mechanical engineering technology, particularly in order to help Indian industries.
    • Currently, the Institute is making R&D efforts in areas such as Robotics, Mechatronics, Cybernetics, Manufacturing, Precision agriculture, embedded system.
    • Located in Durgapur, West Bengal.

Places in News

 

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

Vorukh

  • Context:
    • Kyrgyzstan said at least 31 people have been killed in heavy clashes at its disputed border with Tajikistan, as officials from the two ex-Soviet countries met in a bid to defuse tensions.
  • About:
    • Vorukh is a jamoat in northern Tajikistan. It is an exclave surrounded by Kyrgyzstan that forms part of the city of Isfara in Sughd Region.
    • The location of the border of the enclave is disputed by the Tajik and Kyrgyz governments.
    • More than a third of the two impoverished, mountainous countries’ border is disputed, with the area surrounding the Vorukh, where recent conflict erupted, a regular flashpoint over territorial claims and access to water.
    • In April and May 2021, the region once again brought tensions between the two countries – at least 31 people were killed in ongoing fighting.

Dahla Dam

  • Context:
    • Recently, the Taliban has captured Afghanistan’s second-biggest dam – Dahla Dam.
  • Dahla Dam:
    • The Dahla Dam is also known as Arghandab Dam.
    • It is located in the Shah Wali Kot district of Kandahar Province, Afghanistan.
    • It was constructed in 1952 by the USA.
    • It is built on the Arghandab River.
  • Dams built by India in Afghanistan:
    • Pact for Construction of Shahtoot Dam on Kabul River.
    • Afghanistan-India Friendship Dam (Salma Dam).

Paracel Islands

  • Context:
    • A United States warship sailed through the Paracel Islands in the disputed South China Sea.
  • About
    • The Paracel Islands, also known as the Xisha Islands are a disputed archipelago in the South China Sea.
    • The archipelago includes about 130 small coral islands and reefs, most grouped into the northeast Amphitrite Group or the western Crescent Group.
    • They are distributed over a maritime area of around 15,000 square kilometers with a land area of approximately 7.75 square kilometers.
    • The archipelago includes Dragon Hole, the deepest underwater sinkhole in the world.
    • It is surrounded by productive fishing grounds and a seabed with potential, but as yet unexplored, oil and gas reserves.

Belarus

  • Context:
    • Recently, the Belarus administration forced a commercial airline(RyanAir) flying from Greece to Lithuania to land in its territory (Minsk) allegedly on the pretext of a bomb scare, so it could arrest a dissident journalist(Roman Protasevich) on board.
  • About:
    • Belarus is a landlocked country in Eastern Europe.
    • It is bordered by Russia to the northeast, Ukraine to the south, Poland to the west, and Lithuania and Latvia to the northwest.
    • Its capital is Minsk.
    • After the disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1991, Belarus became a sovereign nation, and its first presidential elections were held in 1994.

Dominica

  • Context:
    • Fugitive diamond trader Mehul Choksi has been arrested in Dominica after he was reported missing early this week from his home in Antigua and Barbuda, the Caribbean nation of which he has been a citizen since early 2018.
  • About:
    • Dominica is an island country in the Caribbean.
    • Its capital is Roseau.
    • It is geographically situated as part of the Windward Islands chain in the Lesser Antilles archipelago in the Caribbean Sea.
    • Dominica has been nicknamed the “Nature Isle of the Caribbean” for its natural environment.
    • It is the youngest island in the Lesser Antilles, and in fact, it is still being formed by geothermal-volcanic activity, as evidenced by the world's second-largest hot spring, called Boiling Lake.
    • The country is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, the United Nations, the Organization of American States and the Non-Aligned Movement.

Taiwan Strait

  • Context:
    •  China protested the latest passage by a U.S. Navy ship through the Taiwan Strait, calling it a provocation that undermined peace and stability in the region.
  • More about Taiwan Strait
    • It is also called the Formosa Strait, which is a 180-kilometre-long strait that separates Taiwan from mainland China.
    • Currently, the strait is part of the South China Sea and links to the East China Sea to the north. The narrowest section is 130 kilometres long.
    • The strait is entirely on Asia's continental shelf. 
    • Both the People's Republic of China (PRC) and Taiwan have historically advocated for a One-China Policy, which views the Taiwan Strait as part of a single “China's” exclusive economic zone.

 

Index in News

 

National/International Index
Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI)
  • Context:
    • The seasonally adjusted IHS Markit India Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) was at 55.5 in April 2021, little changed from March’s reading of 55.4.
  • About:
    • It is compiled by IHS Markit for more than 40 economies worldwide.
    • It is a survey-based measure that asks the respondents about changes in their perception of key business variables as compared with the previous month.
    • The purpose of the PMI is to provide information about current and future business conditions to company decision-makers, analysts, and investors.
    • It is calculated separately for the manufacturing and services sectors and then a composite index is also constructed.
  • The PMI is a number from 0 to 100:
    • A print above 50 means expansion, while a score below that denotes contraction.
    • A reading at 50 indicates no change.
  • If the PMI of the previous month is higher than the PMI of the current month, it represents that the economy is contracting.
  • It is usually released at the start of every month. It is, therefore, considered a good leading indicator of economic activity.
  • As the official data on industrial output, manufacturing and Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth comes much later, PMI helps to make informed decisions at an earlier stage.
World Food Price Index
  • Context:
    • According to the index, world food prices have increased for the 11th consecutive month in April. Further, the prices also hit their highest level since May 2014.
  • About:
    • It is Released by The Food and Agriculture Organization(FAO).
    • It was introduced in 1996 as a public good to help in monitoring developments in the global agricultural commodity markets.
    • The index is a measure of the monthly change in international prices of a basket of food commodities.
    • It consists of the average of five commodity group price indices. Such as cereal, vegetable, dairy, meat and sugar. Also, these five indices are given weightage based on the average export shares.
    • The Base Year for the index is 2014-16.
  •  

 

Schemes in News

 

Scheme Concerned Ministry Features
MP Local Area Development Scheme (MPLADS) Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation
  • Context:
    • MPs have written to Speaker Om Birla to restart the Member of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme (MPLADS).
  • Background:
    • The Union government had resorted to Disaster Management Act to suspend the member of Parliament local area development (MPLAD) scheme in April 2020.
  • About MPLAD scheme:
    • Launched in December 1993.
    • Seeks 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.
  • Special focus:
    • MPs are to recommend every year, works costing at least 15 per cent of the MPLADS entitlement for the year for areas inhabited by Scheduled Caste population and 7.5 per cent for areas inhabited by S.T. population.
  • Release of Funds:
    • Funds are released in the form of grants-in-aid directly to the district authorities.
    • The funds released under the scheme are non-lapsable.
    • The liability of funds not released in a particular year is carried forward to the subsequent years, subject to eligibility.
    • The MPs have a recommendatory role under the scheme.
    • The district authority is empowered to examine the eligibility of works, sanction funds and select the implementing agencies, prioritise works, supervise overall execution, and monitor the scheme at the ground level.
    • At least 10% of the projects under implementation in the district are to be inspected every year by the district authority.
  • Recommendation of works:
    • The Lok Sabha Members can recommend works in their respective constituencies.
    • The elected members of the Rajya Sabha can recommend works anywhere in the state from which they are elected.
    • Nominated members of the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha may select works for implementation anywhere in the country.
Scheme of Financial Assistance to States for Capital Expenditure
Ministry of Finance
  • Context:
    • The Ministry of Finance, Government of India has decided to provide an additional amount of up to ₹15,000 crores to States as an interest-free 50-year loan for spending on capital projects.
    • The Department of Expenditure has issued fresh guidelines in this regard on the “Scheme of Financial Assistance to States for Capital Expenditure” for the financial year 2021-22.
  • Allocation under the scheme:
    • The first part of the scheme is for Northeast and hill states and an amount of ₹2,600 crores has been earmarked.
    • The second part of the scheme is for all other states with an amount of ₹7,400 crores. This amount has been allocated among states in proportion to their share of central taxes as per the award of the 15th Finance Commission for 2021-22.
    • The third part of the scheme is for providing incentives to states for monetisation or recycling of infrastructure assets and disinvestment of state public sector enterprises. An amount of ₹5,000 crores is allocated.
One-Stop Centre Scheme
Ministry of Women and Child Development (MWCD)
  • Context:
    • The Central government will set up One Stop Centres (OSCs) across 10 missions to provide assistance to Indian women who are survivors of gender-based violence.
    • The missions where the OSCs will come up are Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, UAE, Jeddah and Riyadh in Saudi Arabia, Australia, Canada and Singapore.
  • About the scheme:
    • Popularly known as Sakhi, the Ministry of Women and Child Development (MWCD) has formulated this Centrally Sponsored Scheme.
    • It is a sub-scheme of the Umbrella Scheme for the National Mission for Empowerment of women.
  • Target group:
    • The OSC will support all women including girls below 18 years of age affected by violence, irrespective of caste, class, religion, region, sexual orientation or marital status.
  • The Centres will be integrated with a Women Helpline to facilitate access to the following services:
    1. Emergency response and rescue services.
    2. Medical assistance.
    3. Assistance to women in lodging the FIR.
    4. Psycho-social support and counselling.
    5. Legal aid and counselling.
    6. Shelter.
    7. Video conferencing facility.
  • Funds:
    • The Scheme will be funded through Nirbhaya Fund. The Central Government will provide 100% financial assistance to the State Government /UT Administrations under the Scheme.

 



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