Daily Current Affairs

COMMON CHARGER FOR ALL DEVICES

A common charger for your iPhone, your Android tablet and your Windows 11 laptop? That’s not quite possible yet, but this is what the future could look like.
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About:

  • The Union Ministry of Consumer Affairs has written to industry and other concerned stakeholders, inviting them to brainstorm a plan for having one cable for charging all your devices.
  • The ministry’s move comes in the backdrop of the concept of LiFE — Lifestyle for the Environment — announced by the Prime Minister at the UN Climate Change Conference (CoP 26) held in Glasgow in November 2021.
  • Due to the incompatibility of charging ports between old and new devices, consumers are forced to buy a separate charger and cable every time they purchase a new gadget. Not only do consumers face inconvenience, this also adds to avoidable e-consumption.

OPEN NETWORK FOR DIGITAL COMMERCE (ONDC)

US firm Microsoft has become the first big tech company to join the Open Network for Digital Commerce (ONDC), a Government of India backed project.
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About:

  • ONDC is an initiative aimed at promoting open networks for all aspects of exchange of goods and services over digital or electronic networks.
  • ONDC is to be based on open-sourced methodology, using open specifications and open network protocols independent of any specific platform.
  • It is being developed as a counter to the current duopoly in the Indian e-commerce market which is largely dictated by Amazon and Walmart-owned Flipkart. 

LANGYA

Almost three years after the novel coronavirus was detected in China, a new zoonotic virus has been discovered in the country’s two eastern provinces with 35 infections identified so far. This new type of Henipavirus is also being called Langya Henipavirus or the LayV.
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About:

  • The newly discovered virus is a “phylogenetically distinct Henipavirus”. Henipaviruses are classified as biosafety level 4 (BSL4) pathogens. They can cause severe illness in animals and humans, and as of now there are no licensed drugs or vaccines meant for humans.
  • The types of Henipaviruses that had been identified prior to this included Hendra, Nipah, Cedar, Mojiang and the Ghanaian bat virus. Langya, meanwhile, is known to cause fever.
  • Langya’s genome organization is “identical to that of other Henipaviruses”, and that it is closely related to the “Mojiang Henipavirus, which was discovered in southern China”. 

MAR-A-LAGO

On August 9, 2022, the former United States President, Donald Trump announced that his “beautiful home, Mar-a-Lago” was “under siege, raided and occupied by a large group of FBI agents”.
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About:

  • American media reported the FBI searches were in connection with an investigation into whether he had taken classified White House records to the estate.
  • During his four-year tenure as United States President, Donald Trump’s sprawling private club in Florida, Mar-a-Lago, was often described as the “winter White House”.
  • Trump spent all or part of 142 days of his presidency at the resort, which he visited 32 times.
  • And after he reluctantly exited Washington DC in January 2021, Mar-a-Lago was where Trump set up base. 

PALESTINIAN ISLAMIC JIHAD

The past week has witnessed a fresh round of violence between Israel and Gaza, and the most serious intensification of conflict since the 11-day crisis in May 2021.
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About:

  • Rockets fired from the Gaza Strip reached Jerusalem for the first time since the 2021 crisis. These rockets had been fired in retaliation for the killing of Khaled Mansour, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad commander for southern Gaza.
  • The Palestinian Islamic Jihad is a militant faction, like Hamas, but is smaller in size. Like Hamas, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad has been designated a terrorist organization by the US, Israel, and the EU.
  • the Palestinian Islamic Jihad was founded in 1982 by Fathi Abd al-Aziz al-Shikaki, a physician from Rafah, Gaza. Although it had its origins in the network of the Muslim Botherhood, it has over the years developed into a distinct organisation.
 
  • CORBEVAX

    The Centre has said that the option of heterologous precaution dose with Corbevax will be available to all people above 18 years of age.
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    About:

    • Corbevax will be available as precaution dose after the completion of six months from the date of administration of the second dose of either Covaxin or Covishield vaccines for a population above 18 years.
    • Corbevax is a protein subunit COVID-19 vaccine developed by Texas Children’s Hospital Center for Vaccine Development and Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas and Dynavax technologies based in Emeryville, California.
    • It is licensed to Indian biopharmaceutical firm Biological E. Limited (BioE) for development and production.

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CENTRE RELEASES ₹1.16 LAKH CRORES TO STATES

The Centre released over ₹1.16 lakh crore to the States, equivalent to two monthly instalments of tax devolution, to help front-load State governments’ capital spending abilities in this financial year.
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About:

  • Coming soon after the expiry of the assured Goods and Services Tax (GST) compensation to States from this July, economists expect the move to give the States twice the monthly share of net proceeds of Union taxes and duties for August to bolster their cash flows and nudge them into planning and executing capital expenditure (capex) outlays.
  • The development assumes significance as some Chief Ministers raised concerns about their dwindling resources and sought more funds from the Centre through extension of the GST compensation period and a higher share in the divisible pool of taxes, at NITI Aayog’s Governing Council meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on August 7.
  • As against a “normal monthly devolution” of ₹58,332.86 crore, the Finance Ministry said ₹1,16,665.75 crore had been released “in line with the commitment of the Government of India to strengthen the hands of States to accelerate their capital and developmental expenditure”.
TRANSGENDER PILOTS
In a big win for aspiring pilot Adam Harry and the entire transgender community, the aviation safety regulator has for the first time framed new medical guidelines that allow transgender persons who have completed gender transition therapy or surgery to be declared fit to fly.
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About:

  • An ongoing hormone therapy will also not be a ground for disqualification.
  • The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) issued guidelines for aeromedical evaluation of transgender persons for obtaining medical clearance for all categories of pilot’s licence — private pilot’s licence, student pilot licence and commercial pilot licence.
  • These say that candidates who have completed their hormone therapy and gender affirmation surgery more than five years ago will be declared medically fit provided they clear screening for mental health in accordance with the World Professional Association for Transgender Health.
  • If transgender applicants have completed the treatment within the past five years, they will have to undergo a psychological and psychiatric evaluation apart from providing a detailed report from their treating endocrinologist as well as a report from the surgeon, if there has been a surgery within the past year.
INFLATION REDUCTION ACT (IRA) 2022
On August 7, 2022, the U.S. Senate approved a bill titled the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) 2022.
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About:

  • The IRA has a special focus on climate, healthcare, and tax provisions to address inflation.
  • The Bill marks the largest American investment aimed toward making the U.S. a leader in clean energy. It provides a tax deduction to low and middle-income households to go electric and seeks to lower the energy bills of U.S. households.
  • For disadvantaged low-income communities and tribal communities, the Bill provides funding to benefit from zero-emission technologies. It also imposes a fee on methane leaks from oil and gas drilling.
  • However, climate advocates criticise the bill for coupling the development of renewable energy, which is the cause of global warming, with land leasing for oil and gas drilling. 
ASIAN REGIONAL FORUM
The Election Commission of India will be hosting a virtual meet of the ‘Asian Regional Forum’ on the theme “Making our Elections Inclusive, Accessible and Participative” at Nirvachan Sadan on August 11, 2022.
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About:

  • This Regional Forum meet is precursor to the “Global Summit for Democracy” to be hosted by the National Electoral Institute of Mexico in the coming month.
  • As part of this ‘Global Summit for Democracy’, five Regional Forums namely Africa, America, Asia, Europe, and countries of the Arab States have been created. India is hosting the Asian Regional Forum meet of the EMBs.
  • The meet will have participation from Election Management Bodies (EMBs) of Mexico, Mauritius, Philippines, Nepal, Uzbekistan, Maldives and Representatives from International IDEA, Association of World Election Bodies (A-WEB) and International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES).
  • As part of this ‘Global Summit for Democracy’, five Regional Forums namely Africa, America, Asia, Europe, and countries of the Arab States have been created. India is hosting the Asian Regional Forum meet of the EMBs.
FARE CAP ON AIR TICKETS
Center has decided to remove the fare cap on air tickets from 31st of August 2022.
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About:

  • The cap on airfares was imposed by the Civil Aviation Ministry in May, 2020.
  • Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia said, the decision has been taken after a careful analysis of daily demand and prices of air turbine fuel. He said, stabilisation has set in and the government is certain that the sector is poised for growth in domestic traffic in the near future. 
PMAY-URBAN
Union Cabinet has approved continuation of Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana-Urban (PMAY-U) – Housing for All Mission up to 31st December 2024.
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About:

  • Financial assistance is being provided for the completion of already sanctioned over 122 lakh houses till 31st March 2022.
  • The scheme is one of the major flagship programmes being implemented by Central Government to provide all-weather pucca houses to all eligible beneficiaries in the urban areas of the country through States, Union Territories, and Central Nodal Agencies.
  • The continuation of the scheme based on the request of States and UTs upto 31st December 2024 will help in completion of already sanctioned houses under Beneficiary Led Construction, Affordable Housing in Partnership, and In-situ Slum Redevelopment verticals.
  • Central Assistance approved since 2015 is two lakh three thousand crore rupees against 20 thousand crore rupees in 2004-2014.
QUIT INDIA MOVEMENT
On this day 80 years ago — on August 9, 1942 — the people of India launched the decisive final phase of the struggle for independence. It was a mass upsurge against colonial rule on a scale not seen earlier, and it sent out the unmistakable message that the sun was about to set on the British Empire in India.
 

About:

  • Mahatma Gandhi, who had told the Raj to “Quit India” on the previous day (August 8) was already in jail along with the entire Congress leadership, so when August 9 dawned, the people were on their own — out on the street, driven by the Mahatma’s call of “Do or Die”.
  • This truly people-led movement was eventually crushed violently by the British, but by then it was clear that nothing short of their final departure was acceptable to India’s masses.
  • Reasons: While factors leading to such a movement had been building up, matters came to a head with the failure of the Cripps Mission. The failure of the Cripps Mission made Gandhi realise that freedom would come only if Indians fought tooth and nail for it.

Gandhi’s address: Do or Die

  • On August 8, 1942, Gandhi addressed the people in the Gowalia Tank maidan in Bombay (Mumbai).
  • “The mantra is: ‘Do or Die’. We shall either free India or die trying; we shall not live to see the perpetuation of our slavery,” Gandhi said.
  • Aruna Asaf Ali hoisted the Tricolour on the ground.
  • The Quit India movement had been officially announced
DINOSAUR FOOTPRINTS IN CHINA
Scientists have discovered over 4,300 dinosaur footprints in Hebei province of Zhangjiakou in northern China. This is the largest number of footprint fossils found in one spot in the country.
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About:

  • The largest number of dinosaur footprint fossils located in northern China, these cover an area of 9,000 square metres. According to news reports, the footprints show four different dinosaur species, one of which might be undiscovered.
  • The footprints belong to herbivores and carnivores dinosaurs; while the former could reach lengths of nearly 15 metres, the latter was four to five metres. Scientists believe the area may have attracted dinosaurs due to the availability of water and trees at the time.

How did the dinosaur footprints become fossils?

  • Preserved footprints, also known as ichnites, are trace fossils that have survived millions of years. These are found in earthen materials that were soft enough to form the foot impression and hard enough to retain it.
  • Over time, the material dried, hardened, and was covered with layers of sediment, helping the impression become fossilised. In numerous instances, soil erosion is now bringing them to the surface.
AGM-88 HARM
United States Under Secretary of Defence for Policy Colin Kahl confirmed on August 8, 2022 that Washington has supplied some “anti-radiation missiles” to Ukraine, which could be fired from some Ukrainian Air Force aircraft.
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About:

  • The statement, kind of, confirms Russian allegations that an American anti-radar missile, AGM-88 HARM, which is part of NATO’s inventory, has been used in the theatre of conflict.
  • The acronym ‘HARM’ in the AGM-88 HARM air-to-surface missile stands for High-Speed Anti-Radiation Missile.
  • It is a tactical weapon fired from fighter aircraft, and has the capability to detect and home into radiation emitted by hostile radar stations that have surface-to-air detection capabilities.
  • The missile was originally developed by the Dallas-headquartered Texas Instruments, but is now produced by the major American defence contractor Raytheon Corporation. 
RAMSAR SITES
India has added 10 more Ramsar sites, or wetlands that are of international importance, taking the number of such sites to 64, Environment Minister Bhupendra Yadav said.
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About:

  • The 10 new sites — six in Tamil Nadu and one each in Goa, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Odisha — encompass an area of 1,51,842.41 hectares, bringing India’s total wetland area to 1.2 million hectares.
  • The sites are Koothankulam Bird Sanctuary, Gulf of Mannar Marine Biosphere Reserve, Vembannur Wetland Complex, Vellode Bird Sanctuary, Vedanthangal Bird Sanctuary and Udhayamarthandapuram Bird Sanctuary, all in Tamil Nadu, Satkosia Gorge in Odisha, Nanda Lake in Goa, Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary in Karnataka, and Sirpur Wetland in Madhya Pradesh.
  • Until 2012, India had 26 Ramsar sites, with the last decade witnessing a meteoric rise. On July 26, Mr. Yadav announced that India had added five Ramsar sites.
  • Ramsar wetlands now comprise around 10% of the total wetland area in the country.
  • Being designated one, however, doesn’t necessarily invite extra international funds but that States —and the Centre — must ensure that these tracts of land are conserved and spared from man-made encroachment. Acquiring this label also helps with a locale’s tourism potential and its international visibility.
MONSOON SESSION OF PARLIAMENT
Both the House of Parliament adjourned Sine Die, four days ahead of the schedule.
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About:

  • The Monsoon Session of Parliament, which commenced on 18th of last month, was scheduled to end on the 12th of this month.
  • Rajya Sabha conducted business for 38 hours while it lost 47 hours due to disruptions during the session. the Question Hour could not be taken up on seven days. Only five Bills were considered and passed. the House took up a short duration discussion on the rising prices of essential items in the country.
  • In the Lok Sabha, six bills were introduced and seven bills were passed during the session. 16 sittings were held and the House conducted business for more than 44 hours. The House also held two short duration discussions on the price rise and steps to promote sports in the country.
EXERCISE VAJRA PRAHAR 2022
The 13th Edition of the Indo-US Joint Special Forces exercise “Ex Vajra Prahar 2022” commenced at the Special Forces Training School at Bakloh of Himachal Pradesh.
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About:

  • The Vajra Prahar series of joint exercise aims to share best practices and experiences in areas such as joint mission planning and operational tactics as also to improve inter-operability between the Special Forces of both the Nations.
  • This annual exercise is hosted alternatively between India and the United States. The 12th edition was conducted at Joint Base Lewis Mcchord, Washington (USA) in October last year. 
MUHARRAM
The Ashoora-e-Muharram was observed with due reverence and solemnity in various parts of the country.
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About:

  • The day marks the martyrdom of Prophet Muhammad’s grandson, Hazrat Imam Hussain, and his companions, who laid down their lives for upholding truth, righteousness and justice in Karbala.
  • Tazia processions were taken out to mark the occasion which were buried later in the evening at designated places.
  • Majlis or religious meetings were also organized where religious scholars highlighted various aspects of Karbala incident.
Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Arvind Kejriwal on August 7 declared a six-point “guarantee” for tribals in Gujarat’s Chhota Udepur district, including the “strict implementation” of The Panchayats (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act (PESA Act).Q
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About:

  • The PESA Act was enacted in 1996 “to provide for the extension of the provisions of Part IX of the Constitution relating to the Panchayats to the Scheduled Areas”.
  • Under the PESA Act, Scheduled Areas are those referred to in Article 244(1), which says that the provisions of the Fifth Schedule shall apply to the Scheduled Areas and Scheduled Tribes in states other than Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura, and Mizoram. The Fifth Schedule provides for a range of special provisions for these areas.
  • The PESA Act was enacted to ensure self-governance through Gram Sabhas (village assemblies) for people living in the Scheduled Areas.
  • It recognises the right of tribal communities, who are residents of the Scheduled Areas, to govern themselves through their own systems of self-government, and also acknowledges their traditional rights over natural resources. 
FAOs Food Price Index (FPI)
Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla believes “inflation is going to drop rapidly” and prices of commodities used in the manufacture of electric vehicles “trending down in six months”.
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About:

  • What he’s projecting is already happening in food. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s Food Price Index (FPI) averaged 140.9 points in July, 8.6% down from its previous month’s level and marking the steepest monthly drop since October 2008.
  • The FPI – a trade-weighted average of international prices of key food commodities over a base period value, taken at 100 for 2014-16 – hit an all-time-high of 159.7 points in March, the month that followed the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24.
  • The latest index reading is the lowest since the 135.6 points of January, before the still-ongoing war.
 
HEAVY RAINFALL
With heavy to very heavy rain lashing most of the catchment areas of the Godavari and Krishna basins in Maharashtra, Karnataka, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, the water level in the main course of the two rivers in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh is on the rise.
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About:

  • The Central Water Commission (CWC), based on a forecast by the India Meteorological Department, has indicated that water flow in the Godavari at Kanthanapally, the point after the Indravathi joins the main river course, could be about 6.25 lakh cusecs.
  • The Indravathi, which contributes most to the Godavari after the Pranahitha, is in spate in Chhattisgarh, with the river flowing above the warning level of 539.5 metres at Jagdalpur and is forecast to cross the danger level of 540.8 metres.
  • Authorities of the Water Resources Department (WRD) lifted all the 70 gates of the Prakasam Barrage and released 70,000 cusecs of water into the sea. This is the second time this season that the gates have been lifted. Nearly 82,161 cusecs of flood waters is reaching the barrage from the upper catchment areas.
  • With contribution from the Manjira, Kaddam, Peddavagu and Pranahitha, the water flow at Polavaram is forecast to be over 6.55 lakh cusecs. 
HINDU MINORITY AND GUARDIANSHIP ACT (HMGA), 1956
A mother and father should have equal rights as guardians of their children and the Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act (HMGA), 1956 should be amended as it discriminates against women, a parliamentary panel has recommended in its report.
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About:

  • The said Act does not provide for joint guardianship nor does it recognise the mother as the guardian of the minor legitimate child unless the father is deceased or is found unfit.
  • The Act gives preference to father over mother, it goes against the right to equality and right against discrimination envisaged under Articles 14 and 15 of the Constitution.
  • The committee feels that there is an urgent need to amend the HMGA and accord equal treatment to both mother and father as natural guardians.
  • Section 6 of the HMGA lays down that in the case of a Hindu minor boy and a Hindu minor unmarried girl, the father is the natural guardian and ‘after’ him the mother. Section 7 of the same Act provides that the natural guardianship of an adopted son, who is a minor, passes on adoption to the adopted father and ‘after’ him to the adoptive mother. 
HINDU MINORITY AND GUARDIANSHIP ACT (HMGA), 1956
A mother and father should have equal rights as guardians of their children and the Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act (HMGA), 1956 should be amended as it discriminates against women, a parliamentary panel has recommended in its report.
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About:

  • The said Act does not provide for joint guardianship nor does it recognise the mother as the guardian of the minor legitimate child unless the father is deceased or is found unfit.
  • The Act gives preference to father over mother, it goes against the right to equality and right against discrimination envisaged under Articles 14 and 15 of the Constitution.
  • The committee feels that there is an urgent need to amend the HMGA and accord equal treatment to both mother and father as natural guardians.
  • Section 6 of the HMGA lays down that in the case of a Hindu minor boy and a Hindu minor unmarried girl, the father is the natural guardian and ‘after’ him the mother. Section 7 of the same Act provides that the natural guardianship of an adopted son, who is a minor, passes on adoption to the adopted father and ‘after’ him to the adoptive mother. 
INTERNATIONAL MOBILE EQUIPMENT IDENTITY (IMEI)
With rising cases of mobile phone snatching in the national capital, the Delhi Police is now planning to close ranks with internet service providers and the department of telecommunications to block stolen or robbed phones.
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About:

  • This will be done by using the device’s International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) number.
  • The International Mobile Equipment Identity or IMEI is a unique number that is used to identify a device on a mobile network. It has 15 digits, and is like your phone’s unique identity.
  • When you use the internet or place a call through your cellular service provider, then this number is used to verify the identity of your device.
  • If you have a dual SIM phone, then you will have two IMEI numbers, one for each slot. 
ELECTRICITY (AMENDMENT) BILL 2022
The Electricity (Amendment) Bill 2022 was introduced in Parliament amid protests and later sent to the standing committee for further deliberation. Many power engineers protested the Bill across the country, in states like Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Rajasthan, and others.
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About:

  • In this Bill, Section 42 of the Electricity Act will be amended to allow ‘non-discriminatory open access’ to the distribution network, allowing private companies to supply electricity provided they get a license.
  • Section 14 of the Electricity Act has also been proposed to be amended, allowing private companies to use distribution networks built by public sector electricity companies, enabling competition and enhancing the efficiency of power supply across the country.
  • Under the Bill, consumers will be able to choose from multiple electricity providers, essentially like how they choose currently between telecom providers like Airtel, Vodafone, etc.. 
FPI ADVISORY COMMITTEE (FAC)
The Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) has constituted an expert group of Foreign Portfolio Investors (FPIs) to boost overseas flows into the country.
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About:

  • The FPI Advisory Committee (FAC) will be chaired by former Chief Economic Adviser KV Subramanian and consists of 14 other members representing foreign banks, stock exchanges depositories and RBI.
  • The FAC has been tasked with advising on issues related to investments and operations of FPIs in the financial markets, including measures to facilitate ease of doing business by FPIs in India.
  • The committee will review investment avenues available for FPIs and to advise on the feasibility of new investment avenues. It will also suggest measures required to encourage FPI participation in the bond market. 
ONE DISTRICT – ONE PRODUCT (ODOP)
Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal has unveiled the digital version of the One District-One Product (ODOP) gift catalogue during the Export Promotion Councils and Industry Associations meeting at Vanijya Bhawan, New Delhi.
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About:

  • On the occasion, Mr Goyal highlighted the ways in which the ODOP gift catalogue is a step towards realizing the potential of all districts in the country and will give global recognition to the country’s diverse indigenous products.
  • He urged all the line ministries, Industry Association, and Export Promotion Councils to utilize products from the catalogue for encouragement to designs and branding.
  • The Minister said that utilizing products from the catalogue will promote a brand image for local products in the international market.
  • The ODOP gift catalogue includes a wide range of products like Fragrances and Oils, Indian Spirits, Home Decor products, Fabrics, and Silks and Shawls. 
PARVAZ
The innovative Market Linkage scheme- PARVAZ possesses tremendous potential for uplifting the economic conditions of the farmers across the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir.
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About:

  • The scheme was launched by the Government with an aim to create market linkage support for the shipment of Agriculture and Horticulture perishables being harvested in Jammu and Kashmir through Air Cargo.
  • Under the scheme, 25 per cent subsidy on freight charges is given for carrying perishable fruits harvested in Jammu and Kashmir for shipment through Air Cargo. The subsidy is provided to farmers through DBT mode.
  • Jammu & Kashmir Horticultural Produce Marketing and Processing Corporation (JKHPMC), the implementing agency of the scheme is regularly creating awareness among the farmers about the significance of this scheme so that ample number of them can take benefit from it.
US NAVY SHIP (USNS) CHARLES DREW
In a first, a U.S. Navy Ship, Charles Drew, arrived in India for carrying out repairs and allied services at Larsen & Toubro’s (L&T) Shipyard at Kattupalli, Chennai, adding a new dimension to the fast expanding Indo-U.S. strategic partnership.
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About:

  • This is the first ever repair of a U.S. Navy ship in India. The U.S. Navy had awarded a contract to L&T’s Shipyard at Kattupalli for undertaking maintenance of the ship. The USNS Charles Drew will be at the Kattupalli shipyard for a period of 11 days and undergo repairs in various areas.
  • The event signifies the capabilities of Indian shipyards in the global ship repairing market.
  • At the India-U.S. 2+2 in April, both sides agreed to explore the possibilities of utilising Indian shipyards for the repair and maintenance of ships of the U.S. Maritime Sealift Command to support mid-voyage repair of U.S. Naval ships.
SSLV-D1-EOS 02
The Indian Space Research Organisation Chairman S Somanath has said that the maiden launch of the Small Satellite Launch Vehicle, SSLV failed to place the satellites in the intended orbit due to sensor anomaly.
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About:

  • SSLV-D1-EOS 02 launched from Sriharikota launch pad had placed the satellites into 356kmX76 kms elliptical orbit instead of 356 km circular orbit. Due to which the two satellites remained unstable and are no longer usable.
  • The ISRO Chairman has said the launch vehicle took off majestically at the intended time from the launch pad in Sriharikota. Its propulsion stages, overall hardware, aerodynamic design and new generation electronics, the separation system used for the first time performed very well.
  • However after reaching an altitude of 356 kms there was a failure of logic to identify sensor failure and go for the salvage motion. Hence the launch vehicle developed an anomaly.
  • The ISRO Chairman has said that a team of experts will go deeper to find out the reason for this isolation. He emphasised that after a small correction and revalidation, SSLV-D2 will be launched very soon. 
MY HANDLOOM MY PRIDE CHALLENGE
On the occasion of the ‘National Handloom Day’ (August 7) Prime Minister Narenda Modi urged all youngsters associated with the world of startups to take part in my handloom my pride challenge.
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About:

  • Mr Modi said it is an excellent opportunity to ideate and innovate for weavers.
  • On the occasion, an insurance scheme for weavers has come into force in Telangana. About 80 thousand weavers in the state will be benefited by the Insurance scheme. 
ISLAMIC STATE (ISIS) IN INDIA
The National Investigation Agency (NIA) has arrested an accused for being allegedly involved in the activities of the Islamic State (ISIS) module case, after conducting searches at Batla House in New Delhi.
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About:

  • He has been arrested for his involvement in collection of funds for ISIS from sympathisers in India as well as abroad. He was sending these funds to Syria and other places in form of crypto currency in order to further the activities of ISIS.
  • The Islamic State announced its establishment of a new branch in India (Wilayat-al Hind) after Indian security forces in Kashmir killed a group member in May 2019.
  • The Islamic State started its jihadist propaganda in India in 2020 during the pandemic crisis publishing its magazine Voice of Hind or Sawt al-Hind to encourage Indian Muslims to wage jihad and carry out attacks in the country. 

CARBON MARKETS

The creation of a domestic carbon market is one of the most significant provisions of the proposed amendment The Energy Conservation (Amendment) Bill, 2022.
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About:

  • Carbon markets allow the trade of carbon credits with the overall objective of bringing down emissions. These markets create incentives to reduce emissions or improve energy efficiency.
  • For example, an industrial unit which outperforms the emission standards stands to gain credits. Another unit which is struggling to attain the prescribed standards can buy these credits and show compliance to these standards. The unit that did better on the standards earns money by selling credits, while the buying unit is able to fulfill its operating obligations.
  • Under the Kyoto Protocol, the predecessor to the Paris Agreement, carbon markets have worked at the international level as well.
  • Domestic or regional carbon markets are already functioning in several places, most notably in Europe, where an emission trading scheme (ETS) works on similar principles.
  • A similar scheme for incentivising energy efficiency has been running in India for over a decade now. This BEE scheme, called PAT, (or perform, achieve and trade) allows units to earn efficiency certificates if they outperform the prescribed efficiency standards. The laggards can buy these certificates to continue operating. 

BADHE CHALO’ MOVEMENT

With the objective of connecting with the youth of the nation, and to instil a deeper sense of patriotism among them, the Ministry of Culture, has decided to create a youth centric activation for greater outreach of Amrit Mahotsav named ‘Badhe Chalo’.
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About:

  • It is designed to involve the youth of the country encouraging them to come forward and imbibe the true spirit of our democracy and celebrate 75 years of India’s independence with youthful fervour.
  • Through this mass movement or ‘Jan Bhagidari’ initiative, the Ministry of Culture also intends to amplify and support the ‘Har Ghar Tiranga’ movement.
  • This movement has been initiated by the Honourable Prime Minister and Home Minister and it calls upon every Indian to hoist a Tiranga in their homes between August 13th– 15th, 2022.
  • To connect and to bring the youth and people together from across the country on one platform, Badhe Chalo will feature Flash Dances, where dancers will perform on a specially created ‘Youth Anthem’.
  • Badhe Chalo is being held across 10 cities every day from 5th August to 11th August, 2022. These events will culminate with a Grand Finale on 12th August, 2022at Talkatora Stadium in New Delhi. 

AYUSHMAN BHARAT – HEALTH AND WELLNESS CENTRES (AB- HWC)

Union Health Minister Dr Mansukh Mandaviya has said that the target of setting up 1.50 lakh Ayushman Bharat – Health and Wellness Centres ( AB- HWC) will become functional by December this year.
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About:

  • Replying to a debate over a private member legislation namely the Right to Health Bill 2021 in the Rajya Sabha yesterday, Dr Mandaviya said that out of the total target of setting up 1.50 lakh such Centres, one lakh 22 thousand are now functional.
  • He said, at these Health and Wellness Centres, screening of 13 non-communicable diseases will conducted in addition to three types of cancers including breast and oral cancer.

PARTITION HORRORS REMEMBRANCE DAY

The University Grants Commission (UGC) has asked all Universities and Colleges to observe August 14 as Partition Horrors Remembrance Day.
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About:

  • They have been asked to organize programmes and seminars to commemorate the sufferings and sacrifices of millions of Indians during the partition in 1947.
  • Prime Minister Modi had last year announced that August 14 will be observed as Partition Horrors Remembrance Day in memory of the struggles and sacrifices of people, saying the pain of partition can never be forgotten.
  • Mr Modi had said that millions of our sisters and brothers were displaced and many lost their lives due to mindless hate and violence

THE ENERGY CONSERVATION (AMENDMENT) BILL, 2022

The Energy Conservation (Amendment) Bill, 2022 was introduced in Lok Sabha on August 3, 2022.
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About:

  • The Bill seeks to amend the Energy Conservation Act, 2001. The Act promotes energy efficiency and conservation. It provides for the regulation of energy consumption by equipment, appliances, buildings, and industries.
  • Obligation to use non-fossil sources of energy: The Act empowers the central government to specify energy consumption standards. The Bill adds that the government may require the designated consumers to meet a minimum share of energy consumption from non-fossil sources.
  • Carbon trading: The Bill empowers the central government to specify a carbon credit trading scheme. Carbon credit implies a tradeable permit to produce a specified amount of carbon emissions.
  • Energy conservation code for buildings: The Bill provides for an ‘energy conservation and sustainable building code’. This new code will provide norms for energy efficiency and conservation, use of renewable energy, and other requirements for green buildings.
  • Applicability to residential buildings: Under the Bill, the new energy conservation and sustainable building code will also apply to the office and residential buildings meeting the above criteria.  The Bill also empowers the state governments to lower the load thresholds.
  • Standards for vehicles and vessels: Under the Act, the energy consumption standards may be specified for equipment and appliances which consume, generate, transmit, or supply energy.  The Bill expands the scope to include vehicles (as defined under the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988), and vessels (includes ships and boats).  

MINERALS SECURITY PARTNERSHIP (MSP)

As part of a global ‘China-plus-one’ strategy adopted post the Covid-19 pandemic that caused massive supply-chain disruptions, a group of western nations are cooperating to develop alternatives to China to ensure key industrial supplies.

About:

  • A new US-led partnership initiative of 11 nations aims to bolster critical mineral supply chains. India is not part of this arrangement — called the Minerals Security Partnership (MSP) — but New Delhi is working through diplomatic channels to fetch an entry.
  • The US and 10 partners — Australia, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Japan, the Republic of Korea (South Korea), Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the European Commission — have come together to form the MSP. The new grouping is aimed at catalysing investment from governments and the private sector to develop strategic opportunities.
  • The new grouping could focus on the supply chains of minerals such as Cobalt, Nickel, Lithium, and also the 17 ‘rare earth’ minerals.

What are rare earth elements?

  • The 17 rare earth elements (REE) include the 15 Lanthanides (atomic numbers 57 — which is Lanthanum — to 71 in the periodic table) plus Scandium (atomic number 21) and Yttrium (39). REEs are classified as light RE elements (LREE) and heavy RE elements (HREE).

EARTH’S SHORTEST DAY

On June 29, the Earth completed one full spin — a day — in 1.59 milliseconds less than its routine 24 hours. It was the shortest day recorded since the 1960s, when scientists first began to use the precise atomic clocks to measure the Earth’s rotational speed.

About:

  • It’s been happening fairly often these days — in recent years, the Earth has been spinning ever so slightly faster. On July 26, the day ended 1.50 milliseconds earlier, with the Earth almost breaking the record it set on June 29.
  • And in the year 2020, when all that the world could think about was the coronavirus, the Earth clocked 28 of its shortest recorded days, the website timeanddate.com reported. July 19 was the shortest of these short days of 2020 — ending 1.47 milliseconds sooner. 

AzaadiSAT

Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) will launch its smallest commercial rocket to unfurl Tricolour in space.

About:

  • The launch will take place from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota.
  • ISRO chairman S Somanath has called the new satellite a “game changer” that will drive India’s dreams of breaking into the lucrative and booming small satellite launch market.
  • On August 15, 2018, Prime Minister Narendra Modi made an announcement that the Tricolour will be unfurled in space during India’s 75th year of Independence.
  • To mark country’s celebrations of ‘Azaadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav’, the SSLV will have a co-passenger satellite called ‘AzaadiSAT’ comprising 75 payloads built by 750 young girl students from 75 rural government schools across India.
  • This project was specially conceptualised for the 75th Independence Day year celebrations to encourage scientific temper and create opportunities for young girls to choose space research as their career.

LASER-GUIDED ANTI-TANK GUIDED MISSILES ATGM

The indigenously developed Laser-Guided Anti-Tank Guided Missiles ATGM were successfully test-fired from Main Battle Tank MBT Arjun by Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and Indian Army at KK Ranges with support of Armoured Corps Centre and School Ahmednagar in Maharashtra.

About:

  • The missiles hit with precision and successfully destroyed the targets at two different ranges. Telemetry systems have recorded the satisfactory flight performance of the missiles.
  • The all-indigenous Laser Guided ATGM employs a tandem High Explosive Anti-Tank HEAT warhead to defeat Explosive Reactive Armour ERA protected armoured vehicles.
  • The ATGM has been developed with multi-platform launch capability and is currently undergoing technical evaluation trials from 120 mm rifled gun of MBT Arjun.
  • Defence Minister Rajnath Singh has complimented DRDO and Indian Army for successful performance of the Laser Guided ATGMs. 

SHRIMAD RAJCHANDRA MISSION

Prime Minister Narendra Modi virtually has inaugurated and laid the foundation stone of various projects of the Shrimad Rajchandra Mission worth more than 300 crore rupees at Dharampur in Gujarat.

About:

  • Addressing the gathering, the Prime Minister said, the initiatives by the Shrimad Rajchandra Mission in the field of rural healthcare have strengthened the Vision of a ‘Healthy India’.
  • The modern healthcare facilities started by the Mission will benefit the rural, poor, and tribal people of South Gujarat.
  • On the occasion, Mr Modi also recalled the spiritual association of Mahatma Gandhi with Rajchandra Ji.
  • Shrimad Rajchandra (1867 – 1901) was a Jain poet, mystic, philosopher, scholar and reformer. He wrote much philosophical poetry including Atma Siddhi. He is best known for his teachings on Jainism and his spiritual guidance to Mahatma Gandhi. 

PERSONAL DATA PROTECTION (PDP) BILL

The government has withdrawn the Personal Data Protection Bill from Parliament as it considers a “comprehensive legal framework” to regulate the online space, including bringing separate laws on data privacy, the overall Internet ecosystem, cybersecurity, telecom regulations, and harnessing non-personal data to boost innovation in the country.

About:

  • The government has taken this step after nearly four years of the Bill being in the works. It had gone through multiple iterations, including a review by a Joint Committee of Parliament (JCP), and faced major pushback from a range of stakeholders including big tech companies such as Facebook and Google, and privacy and civil society activists.
  • The tech companies had, in particular, questioned a proposed provision in the Bill called data localisation, under which it would have been mandatory for companies to store a copy of certain sensitive personal data within India, and the export of undefined “critical” personal data from the country would be prohibited.
  • The activists had criticised, in particular, a provision that allowed the central government and its agencies blanket exemptions from adhering to any and all provisions of the Bill.
  • The delays in the Bill had been criticised by several stakeholders, who had pointed out that it was a matter of grave concern that India, one of the world’s largest Internet markets, did not have a basic framework to protect people’s privacy. 
  •  

PRICES FOR SUGARCANE HARVEST

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA), at its meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has approved Fair and Remunerative Price (FRP) of sugarcane for sugar season 2022-23 (October – September) at ₹305 per quintal.
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About:

  • The amount is for sugarcane with a basic sugar recovery rate of 10.25%. The Centre has also announced a premium of ₹3.05 per quintal for each 0.1% increase in recovery of sugar over and above 10.25% and reduction in FRP by ₹3.05 per quintal for every 0.1% decrease in recovery.
  • The FRP for last season was ₹290 per quintal with a basic recovery rate of 10%.
  • While the Centre claimed the increase will protect the interest of sugarcane farmers, the farmers’ organisations said the FRP is too low when compared to the increase in input cost and the increase of 0.25% in recovery rate is a blow to them.
  • The Centre has also decided that there shall not be any deduction in case of sugar mills where recovery is below 9.5%. 

INDIA’S CLIMATE PLEDGES

India ratified pledges made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Glasgow in November 2021 to accelerate the country’s reliance on renewable energy to power the economy and be effectively free from use of fossil fuels by 2070. However, the approved pledges were fewer than those Mr. Modi committed to.
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About:

  • The Union Cabinet approved an update to India’s Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC).
  • Modi had laid out five commitments, or Panchamrit, as the government references it, namely:
    • India will increase its non-fossil energy capacity to 500 GW (gigawatt) by 2030;
    • will meet 50% of its energy requirements from “renewable energy” by 2030;
    • will reduce the total projected carbon emissions by one billion tonnes from now till 2030;
    • will reduce the carbon intensity of its economy by more than 45%; and
    • will achieve the target of “net zero” by the year 2070, when there will be no net carbon dioxide emitted from energy sources.
  • A press statement, following the Cabinet approval, only mentions two of these promises, namely that
    • India is committed to reduce emissions intensity of its GDP by 45% by 2030, from the 2005 level and
    • achieving 50% cumulative electric power installed capacity from non-fossil fuel-based energy resources by 2030. 

UNSC MEET ON COUNTERTERRORISM

In a first, India will host diplomats and officials from all 15 countries of the United Nations Security Council, including China, Russia and the U.S., for a special meeting on terrorism, in Delhi and Mumbai in October.
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About:

  • The meeting of the Counter-Terrorism Committee (CTC), which India is chairing for 2022 as a member of the UNSC, will focus particularly on challenges such as terrorism financing, cyberthreats and the use of drones.
  • New Delhi is expected to highlight cross-border threats from Pakistan and Afghanistan at the meeting, which will come two months before India completes its tenure as an elected member of the UNSC (2021-22).
  • In addition, India has been pushing for the UN members to adopt a Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism (first proposed in 1996), which is likely to be raised during the meeting.
  • While terror financing is now recognised and dealt with through mechanisms such as the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), it was necessary to build templates and “codes of conduct” for newer threats, including financing through cryptocurrency and the use of drones for terror attacks. 

CENTRAL VIGILANCE COMMISSIONER (CVC)

Vigilance Commissioner Suresh N. Patel was sworn in as the Central Vigilance Commissioner (CVC) by President Droupadi Murmu at the Rashtrapati Bhavan.
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About:

  • Patel was officiating as the Central Vigilance Commissioner (CVC) since June this year after Sanjay Kothari, former Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer, completed his term.
  • With these appointments, the Central Vigilance Commission is in its full strength now.
  • The Commission is headed by a central vigilance commissioner and it can have two Vigilance Commissioners.
  • Mr Patel, former managing director and chief executive officer of Andhra Bank, was in April 2020 appointed as the vigilance commissioner. Mr Patel’s elevation was approved by a selection panel headed by the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition (LoP). 

FREEBIES

The Supreme Court said Parliament may not be able to effectively debate the issue of doing away with “irrational freebies” offered to voters during elections, saying the “reality” is that not a single political party wants to take away freebies.
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About:

  • The court suggested setting up a specialised body composed of persons who can “dispassionately” examine the problem.
  • The observations from a Bench led by Chief Justice of India N.V. Ramana came even as the Centre said these freebies were paving the way for an “economic disaster” besides “distorting the informed decision of voters”.
  • The Centre, represented by Solicitor-General Tushar Mehta, said it “substantially and in principle” supported doing away with the practice of promising freebies to voters.
  • The court directed the parties to make “suggestions for the composition of a body”.
  • It proposed that this body could examine ways to resolve the issue of freebies and file a report before the Centre or the Election Commission of India (ECI). The court said once the parties come up with suggestions on the composition of such a body in a week, it would pass orders. 

TRADE DEFICIT

India’s trade deficit has widened to a record $31.02 billion in July thanks to contracting merchandise exports and a rise in imports. This is a three-times increase from the $10.63 billion trade deficit reported in July last year.
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What is trade deficit?

  • Trade deficit or negative balance of trade (BOT) is the gap between exports and imports. When money spent on imports exceeds that spent on exports in a country, trade deficit occurs.
  • It can be calculated for different goods and services and also for international transactions. The opposite of trade deficit is trade surplus.

What causes it?

  • There are multiple factors that can be responsible.
  • One of them is some goods not being produced domestically. In that case, they have to be imported. This leads to an imbalance in their trade. A weak currency can also be a cause as it makes trade expensive.

Is it bad for a country’s economy?

  • If trade deficit increases, a country’s GDP decreases. A higher trade deficit can decrease the local currency’s value.
  • More imports than exports, according to economists, impact the jobs market and lead to an increase in unemployment. If more mobiles are imported and less produced locally, then there will be less local jobs in that sector. 

E-INVOICE

In a step to ensure better flow of data on taxpayers to the authorities and higher compliance, the turnover threshold for e-invoicing has been halved to Rs 10 crore effective October 1 this year under the Goods and Services Tax (GST) regime.
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What is the decision on the threshold for e-invoice?

  • Businesses with annual turnover of Rs 10 crore or more will have to generate e-invoices for business-to-business (B2B) transactions from October 1 this year. The existing threshold for this is Rs 20 crore.
  • Pursuant to the GST Council’s decision to introduce e-invoicing in a phased manner, the Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs (CBIC) on August 1 notified lowering the e-invoice threshold to Rs 10 crore.
  • The GST Council approved the standard of e-invoice in its 37th meeting held on September 20, 2019. E-invoicing for B2B transactions was made mandatory for companies with turnover of over Rs 500 crore from October 1, 2020, which was then extended to those with turnover of over Rs 100 crore effective January 1, 2021. 

HEAVY RAINFALL IN KERALA

After experiencing poor rainfall in June and July, almost three-fourth of Kerala is experiencing heavy showers in August, with several areas on the brink of flooding.
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Why is Kerala witnessing heavy rains?

  • Kerala is presently under the influence of at least three rainfall triggering weather conditions.
  • There are strong Westerly winds flowing-in from the Arabian Sea, and bringing moisture over Kerala.
  • Another major cause for an increase in rainfall is the presence of an east-west shear zone located 10 degrees north over the southern peninsula.
  • This vertical zone — that can prevail either in the lower, middle or upper atmospheric levels — allows active winds of high speeds to interact. This zone also allows monsoon winds to remain active, thus causing intense rainfall over the area under its influence.
  • The IMD further stated that the presence of a north-south trough running between Chhattisgarh and Comorin areas, which is located closer to south Kerala is causing widespread rainfall. 
 
 

STREET DOGS

The number of dogs on India’s streets declined from 1.71 crore in 2012 to 1.53 crore in 2019, according to figures tabled in Lok Sabha by Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairying Minister.
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About:

  • The Minister cited these figures from the Livestock Censuses of these two years.
  • There was a decline of 18 lakh dogs on the streets across the country, marking a 10% reduction, between 2012 and 2019.
  • The Union Territory of Lakshadweep had not a single dog on the streets, in either of the two Livestock Censuses.

LAWN BOWLS

In the Commonwealth Games, in a major first for India, the women’s fours lawn bowls team of Nayanmoni Saikia, Pinki, Lovely Choubey and Rupa Rani Tirkey, scripted history as they won a gold medal by defeating South Africa 17-10 in the finals. This is India’s first medal in the sport.
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About:

  • Bowls, also known as lawn bowls or lawn bowling, is a sport in which the objective is to roll biased balls so that they stop close to a smaller ball called a “jack” or “kitty”.
  • It is played on a bowling green, which may be flat (for “flat-green bowls”) or convex or uneven (for “crown green bowls”). 

PINGALI VENKAYYA

Sri Pingali Venkayya will always be remembered for his immense contribution to design of National Flag, says Andhra Pradesh Governor.
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About:

  • Pingali Venkayya (1876 – 1963) was an Indian freedom fighter.
  • He was a staunch follower of Mahatma Gandhi and the designer of the flag on which the Indian national flag was based.
  • He designed the National Flag and presented it to Mahatma Gandhi during the latter’s visit to Vijayawada city on 1 April 1921. 

KHULNA-MONGLA RAILWAY LINE

Bangladesh Railway Minister Md. Nurul Islam Sujan has said that the Khulna-Mongla railway line will become operational by the end of this year.
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About:

  • The Mongla-Khulna railway line is funded by the government of India Line of Credit (LOC).
  • The Khulna-Mongla railway project is part of the first Line of Credit extended by India to Bangladesh in 2010.
  • The project is scheduled to be over by the end of this year.
  • According to the IRCON International Ltd, a total 31 bridges and 108 culverts have been built for the train link. The Rupsha bridge was completed on 25 June this year.

AYMAN AL-ZAWAHIRI

Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri was killed in a CIA drone strike in Afghanistan over the weekend, US officials said.
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About:

  • The killing of Zawahiri is considered the biggest blow to the militant group since its founder Osama bin Laden was killed in 2011.
  • Zawahiri, an Egyptian who had a 25 million dollar bounty on his head, helped coordinate the 9/11 attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people in the US in 2001. One of the US officials said the CIA carried out a drone strike in the Afghan capital Kabul on Sunday.
  • US President Joe Biden addressed the nation from the White House on the operation. The drone attack is the first known US strike inside Afghanistan since US troops and diplomats left the country in August 2021.
  • In a statement, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid confirmed that a strike took place and strongly condemned it, calling it a violation of international principles.

RESERVATION IN LOCAL JOBS

The Supreme Court quashed the Jharkhand government’s 2016 decision to grant 100% reservation to local people of 13 Scheduled Areas in public jobs and upheld a High Court decision that had termed the government decision “discriminatory and impermissible”.
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About:

  • The top court said “the citizens have equal rights, and the total exclusion of others by creating an opportunity for one class is unconstitutional and ultra vires Articles 14, 16(2), 16(3) and 35(ai) of the Constitution of India.”

LIST OF OUTCOMES: OFFICIAL VISIT OF PRESIDENT OF MALDIVES TO INDIA

The President of Maldives, Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, is on an Official Visit to India at the invitation of the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi.
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Ground-breaking/Review of Projects

  • Pouring of first concrete of the Greater Male Connectivity Project- an USD 500 Mn India funded project- marking the commencement of permanent works
  • Review of the progress on the construction of 4,000 social housing units in Hulhumale being funded under Exim Bank of India Buyer’s credit finance of USD 227 Mn
  • Overview of India Maldives development cooperation including Addu roads and reclamation, water and sanitation in 34 islands and Friday Mosque restoration projects

Agreements/MoUs Exchanged

  • MoU on Capacity Building & Training of Members of Local Councils & Women Development Committee of Maldives between NIRDPR, India and Local Government Authority, Maldives
  • MoU on Collaboration in potential fishing zone forecast capacity building and data sharing and marine scientific research between INCOIS, India and Ministry of Fisheries, Maldives
  • MoU for Cooperation in the area of Cyber Security between CERT-India and NCIT, Maldives
  • MoU for cooperation in the field of disaster management between NDMA, India and NDMA, Maldives
  • Agreement between EXIM Bank, India and Ministry of Finance, Maldives for USD 41 Mn Buyer’s Credit Financing of Police Infrastructure in Maldives

Announcements

  • Extension of USD 100 Mn new Line of Credit to finance infrastructure projects in Maldives
  • Approval for award of EPC contract for the USD 128 Mn Hanimadhoo Airport Development project under Line of Credit
  • Approval of DPR and commencement of tendering process of the USD 324 Mn Gulhifahlu Port development project under Line of Credit
  • Approval of Feasibility Report and financial closure for the USD 30 Mn Cancer Hospital project under Line of Credit
  • USD 119 Mn Buyer’s Credit financing by Exim Bank of India for additional 2,000 social housing units in Hulhumale

WILD LIFE (PROTECTION) AMENDMENT BILL, 2021

The Lok Sabha passed the Wild Life (Protection) Amendment Bill, 2021.
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About:

  • The Bill amends the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972.  The Act regulates the protection of wild animals, birds and plants.
  • The Bill seeks to increase the species protected under the law, and implement the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). 
  • Currently, the Act has six schedules for specially protected plants (one), specially protected animals (four), and vermin species (one). The Bill reduces the total number of schedules to four.
  • The Bills empowers the central government to regulate or prohibit the import, trade, possession or proliferation of invasive alien species. 

CREATION OF DISTRICTS

The West Bengal cabinet has approved the creation of seven new districts in the state. This will take the number of districts in West Bengal to 30 from the existing 23.
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List of districts

  • A new Sundarban district will be carved out of South 24-Parganas district;
  • two new districts will be created out of North 24-Parganas district — Ichhamati in Bongaon subdivision and a yet unnamed district in Basirhat;
  • Ranaghat, a city and municipality in Nadia district, will become the fourth new district;
  • a new district of Bishnupur will be carved out of the existing Bankura district; and
  • two new districts of Baharampur and Jangipur will be created out of Murshidabad district.

Do you know?

  • States keep creating new districts from time to time as smaller units would make governance easier and would benefit the people by bringing the government and the administration closer to them.
  • This power of creating or scrapping districts, or changing their boundaries lies with the state governments, who can pass a law in the Assembly or simply issue an order and notify it in the gazette. The Centre does not have a say in the matter.

V.K. PAUL TASKFORCE ON MONKEYPOX

In the wake of the detection of monkeypox cases in India, the Union government has constituted a task force to monitor and provide guidance on the expansion of diagnostic facilities and to explore vaccination against the infection in the country.
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About:

  • The team will be headed by V.K. Paul, member (Health), NITI Aayog. India has reported six confirmed cases of monkeypox so far — four in Kerala and two in Delhi.
  • According to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 18,000 cases have been reported from 78 countries.
  • Monkeypox is a zoonotic disease caused by the monkeypox virus, which belongs to the same family of viruses that causes smallpox.
  • The disease is endemic in regions like West and Central Africa, but lately, cases have been reported from non-endemic countries too, according to WHO.

THE INDIAN ANTARCTIC BILL

The Rajya Sabha passed the Indian Antarctic Bill.
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About:

  • The Indian Antarctic Bill, 2022 seeks to allow the application of Indian laws to the country’s research stations in Antarctica.
  • It also aims to provide national measures to protect the Antarctic environment and associated ecosystems.
  • The Bill will also give effect to the Antarctic Treaty, the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources and the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty.

THE WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION AND THEIR DELIVERY SYSTEMS (PROHIBITION OF UNLAWFUL ACTIVITIES) AMENDMENT BILL

The Rajya Sabha passed the Weapons of Mass Destruction and their Delivery Systems (Prohibition of Unlawful Activities) Amendment Bill.
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About:

  • The first Bill will amend the Weapons of Mass Destruction and their Delivery Systems (Prohibition of Unlawful Activities) Act, 2005.
  • The amendment seeks to prevent financing of prohibited activities related to nuclear, biological and chemical weapons.
  • The Bill also proposes to empower the Central government to freeze, seize or attach funds or financial assets or economic resources for preventing financing of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs) and to prohibit making available funds or resources for such activities. 

GATI SHAKTI UNIVERSITY BILL

Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan introduced the Central Universities (Amendment) Bill, which seeks to convert the National Rail and Transportation Institute (NRTI), a deemed-to-be university, into the Gati Shakti Vishwavidyalaya, an autonomous Central university.
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About:

  • The Bill seeks to expand the scope of the university from beyond just the Railways to cover the entire transport sector and support growth and modernisation in the field.
  • The new university, once the Bill clears both Houses of Parliament, will be funded and administered by the Ministry of Railways.
  • The Central Universities (Amendment) Bill, 2022 seeks to amend the Central Universities Act, 2009, inter alia, to provide for the establishment of Gati Shakti Vishwavidyalaya as a body corporate under the said Act.
  • The establishment of the Gati Shakti Vishwavidyalaya would address the need for talent in the strategically important and expanding transportation sector and meet the demand for trained talent to fuel the growth and expansion of the sector.

IAF FIGHTER SQUADRONS

In a tragic accident, a MIG-21 trainer jet of the IAF crashed in Rajasthan killing both the pilots onboard.
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About:

  • The MIG-21 was inducted into the IAF in the early 1960s. Currently, there are four MIG-21 squadrons in service. IAF officials have stated that there is technical life still left in them.
  • The IAF has an authorised strength of 42 fighter squadrons. As time passes, the drawdown is increasing as the total technical life is completed.
  • However, the rate of new inductions is not matching the drawdown, depleting the overall number of fighter squadrons.
  • In addition to the indigenous aircraft coming up, the IAF is confident that increasing the low availability rates of Su-30 and other fighters in service will offset some of the shortfall in the interim. 

ALPHAFOLD

DeepMind, a company owned by Google, announced this week that it had predicted the three-dimensional structures of more than 200 million proteins using AlphaFold.
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About:

  • AlphaFold is an AI-based protein structure prediction tool. It used processes based on “training, learning, retraining and relearning” to predict the structures of the entire 214 million unique protein sequences deposited in the Universal Protein Resource (UniProt) database.
  • The Indian community of structural biology needs to take advantage of the AlphaFold database and learn how to use the structures to design better vaccines and drugs.

INDIA – MALDIVES TIES

Maldives President Ibrahim ‘Ibu’ Solih arrived in Delhi for a bilateral visit, amid rows within his government over ties with India, the Yoga Day attack, and a bitter row with Maldivian Speaker, former President and party colleague Mohammad Nasheed.
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About:

  • During his four-day visit, Mr. Solih will is expected to focus on enhancing trade and connectivity between the two countries.
  • He will meet with Prime Minister Narendra Modi for bilateral talks, discuss strategic ties, and the status of infrastructure agreements between them, and sign a number of MoUs (Memorandum of Understanding).
  • The infrastructure projects include the Greater Male Connectivity Project of bridges connecting the capital city to neighbouring islands, to be built by Indian company Afcon with the help of a $400-million Line of Credit and a $100-million grant from India, along with other projects under India’s $1.4-billion assistance announced during Mr. Solih’s last visit to India in December 2018.

BLASPHEMY AND HATE SPEECH

While Mohammad Zubair of Alt News was arrested for tweeting a still picture from a movie that had some religious context attached to it.
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About:

  • The legality of Section 295(A) was affirmed by a five-judge Bench of the Supreme Court. The court said that the punishment under Section 295(A) deals with aggravated form of blasphemy which is committed with the malicious aim of offending any religious sensibilities.
  • Insulting a religion may be disputed but should not be legally outlawed. The reason for this is because hate speech laws are predicated on the critical distinction between criticising religion and encouraging prejudice towards individuals because of their faith.
  • Blasphemy laws which prohibit religious criticism in general are incompatible with the principles of a democratic society.

HYBRID ELECTRIC VEHICLES

In recent months, automakers Maruti Suzuki, Toyota and Honda have launched hybrid electric vehicles in India, offering car buyers more choices in the nascent electric vehicle market.
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About:

  • A hybrid electric vehicle (HEV) uses an ICE (a petrol/diesel engine) and one or more electric motors to run. It is powered by the electric motor alone, which uses energy stored in batteries, by the ICE, or both
  • The efficiency of HEVs will be determined by their ability to recover as much energy as possible while braking, with a higher degree of energy recovery lowering fuel consumption. A regenerative braking system (RBS) while enhancing fuel economy also helps in energy optimisation resulting in minimum energy wastage.
  • The HEVs can be categorised into micro, mild and full hybrid vehicles, based on the degree of hybridisation. The hybrid variants of the Maruti Suzuki’s Grand Vitara and the Toyota’s Urban Cruiser Hyryder can be classified as full and mild hybrids. 

AL NAJAH-IV

India and Oman will carry out a 13-day military exercise with a focus on counter-terror cooperation.
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About:

  • The fourth edition of India-Oman joint military exercise ‘AL NAJAH-IV’ between contingents of Indian Army and the Royal Army of Oman is scheduled to take place at the Foreign Training Node of Mahajan Field Firing Ranges from August 1 to 13.
  • A 60-member team from the Royal Army of Oman has arrived at the site. The Indian Army will be represented by troops from the 18 Mechanised Infantry Battalion.
  • The previous edition of the exercise was organised in Muscat in March 2019. 

HELICOPTERS

Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. (HAL) has received the Letter of Intent from the Services for the manufacture of 12 light utility helicopters (LUHs), which have been designed and developed indigenously.
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About:

  • At the same time, nine light combat helicopters (LCH) have been manufactured against the sanction of 15 limited series production (LSP) variants and are in the process of being handed over to the Services. The Army is in negotiations for acquiring 11 more Apache AH-64E attack helicopters from the U.S.
  • Last November, the Defence Acquisition Council approved the procurement of an initial lot of 12 LUHs, six each for the Army and the Air Force.
  • In June, the Army raised its first LCH squadron in Bengaluru which will move to the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in the Eastern Command once complete next year.
  • As of now, the Army is looking at acquiring around 111 LUHs and 95 LCHs. Army sources had said that seven LCH units are planned for a combat role in the mountains, each with 10 helicopters. The IAF is scheduled to raise its first LCH squadron in the next few months.
  • The Cabinet Committee on Security earlier gave sanction for the procurement of 39 AH-64 Apache attack helicopters from the U.S. Following this, the IAF inducted 22 Apaches procured under a deal signed in September 2015. 

CoWin

After the success of CoWin as a platform for the nationwide COVID-19 vaccination, the Union government is looking to repurpose the technology for more healthcare requirements.
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About:

  • Right now, work is on to adapt the app for the universal immunisation programme (UIP).
  • For mothers and babies, it will bring the ease of discovery of vaccination centres or camps and reminders for subsequent vaccinations for preventable diseases.
  • The addition of digitally verifiable certificates for routine immunisation will be the first of its kind globally, and it is a great way to start building longitudinal health records for a child right from its birth.
  • In addition to immunisation, the platform will be considered for the use-cases of blood donation and organ donation in the months to come.

ORUNODOI SCHEME

Some 22 lakh beneficiaries of the Orunodoi scheme in Assam will get ₹18 extra for August to buy a National Flag or two.
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About:

  • The Assam government has been transferring ₹1,000 as monetary benefit to the bank accounts of economically weak women on the 10th of every month under the Orunodoi scheme.
  • The extra amount would enable each beneficiary to either buy a larger National Flag priced at ₹18 or two smaller ones of ₹9 each.

Ex VINBAX 2022

The 3rd Edition of Vietnam-India Bilateral Army Exercise “Ex VINBAX 2022” began at Chandimandir. It will continue till 20th August.
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About:

  • The exercise is a sequel to a previously conducted bilateral exercise in Vietnam in 2019 and a major milestone in strengthening the bilateral relations between India and Vietnam.
  • India and Vietnam share a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership and defence cooperation is a key pillar of this partnership. Vietnam is an important partner in India’s Act East policy and the Indo-Pacific vision.
  • The theme of Ex VINBAX – 2022 is the employment and deployment of an Engineer Company and a Medical Team as part of the United Nations Contingent for Peace Keeping Operations.

CHABAHAR DAY CONFERENCE

Union Shipping Minister Sarbanand Sonowal inaugurated the Chabahar Day conference in Mumbai.
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About:

  • Dignitaries from Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Afghanistan were present on the occasion.
  • In May 2016, India and Iran signed a bilateral agreement in which India would refurbish one of the berths at Shahid Beheshti port, and reconstruct a 600 meter long container handling facility at the port.
  • In October 2017, India’s first shipment of wheat to Afghanistan was sent through the Chabahar Port.

Chabahar Port

  • Chabahar Port is a seaport in Chabahar located in southeastern Iran, on the Gulf of Oman.
  • It serves as Iran’s only oceanic port, and consists of two separate ports named Shahid Kalantari and Shahid Beheshti, each of which has five berths.
  • The Chabahar port is a key pillar of India’s Indo-Pacific vision to connect with Eurasia with Indian Ocean Region. The port will also be part of the International North South Transport Corridor network connecting India.
  • Iran has given special incentives to increase trade cooperation activities between India and Iran through Chabahar port. 

ROAD ACCIDENTS

According to figures tabled in Lok Sabha, the number of road accidents, and the resultant deaths and number of people injured declined from 2018 to 2020, with the fall particularly sharp from 4.5 lakh accidents (1.5 lakh deaths) in 2019 to 3.5 lakh accidents (1.3 lakh deaths) in 2020.
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About:

  • Tamil Nadu had the highest number of road accidents in 2020, while Uttar Pradesh had the highest number of deaths as a result of such accidents. 

INDIA’s FIRST INTERNATIONAL BULLION EXCHANGE (IIBE)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched India’s first International Bullion Exchange (IIBE) at Gujarat International Finance Tech (GIFT) City in Gandhinagar.
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About:

  • With the inauguration of IIBE, India can not only influence the gold pricing but also play a role in setting the gold prices.
  • Prime Minister also launched NSE IFSC-SGX Connect and laid the foundation stone of the headquarters of the International Financial Services Centres Authority (IFSCA) at GIFT City.
  • IFSCA also signed memorandums of understanding (MoUs) with regulatory authorities of Singapore, Luxembourg, Qatar, and Sweden in the presence of PM Narendra Modi. 

STATE LEGISLATURES

Kerala, which slipped to the eighth slot in holding Assembly sittings during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, returned to the top spot in 2021, with its House sitting for 61 days, the highest in the country.
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About:

  • The State’s showing was impressive as 2021 saw the more virulent second wave of the pandemic. In fact, between 2016 and 2019, it remained at the top with an average of 53 days.
  • Despite enjoying the record of having the highest number of sittings in 2021, Kerala (where the Left Democratic Front is in power since May 2016) had promulgated 144 ordinances, also the highest in the country.
  • Making the findings in its study on the functioning of State Assemblies for 2021, the PRS Legislative Research (PRS), a New Delhi-based think tank, states that for the year in question, Odisha followed Kerala with 43 sitting days; Karnataka 40, and Tamil Nadu 34 days.
  • Of the 28 State Assemblies and one Union Territory’s legislature, 17 met for less than 20 days. Of them, five — Andhra Pradesh, Nagaland, Sikkim, Tripura and Delhi — met for less than 10 days. The figures for Uttar Pradesh, Manipur and Punjab were 17, 16 and 11, respectively. 

DISTRICT LEGAL SERVICES AUTHORITIES (DLSAs)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will address the inaugural session of the first All India District Legal Services Authorities Meet in New Delhi on July 30, 2022.
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About:

  • The first-ever national-level meet of District Legal Services Authorities (DLSAs) is being organized at Vigyan Bhawan by National Legal Services Authority. The meeting will deliberate on the creation of an integrated procedure to bring homogeneity and synchronization across DLSAs.
  • There are a total of 676 District Legal Services Authorities in the country. They are headed by the District Judge who acts as Chairman of the authority.
  • Through DLSAs and State Legal Services Authorities, various legal aid and awareness programs are implemented by National Legal Services Authority. The DLSAs also contribute towards reducing the burden on courts by regulating the Lok Adalats conducted by NALSA.

REVAMPED DISTRIBUTION SECTOR SCHEME (RDSS)

PM Modi will launch the ministry of power’s flagship Revamped Distribution Sector Scheme (RDSS) on July 30, 2022.The scheme is aimed at improving the operational efficiencies and financial sustainability of the power distribution companies (discoms).
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About:

  • The scheme, with an outlay of over Rs 3.03 trillion in five years to FY26, will enable discoms to modernise and strengthen the distribution infrastructure and improve the reliability and quality of supply of power to end consumers.
  • It also aims to reduce the AT&C (aggregate technical and commercial) losses to pan-India levels of 12-15% and ACS-ARR (average cost of supply-average revenue realised) gap to zero by 2024-25. REC and PFC have been nominated as nodal agencies for the scheme.
  • RDSS mandates compulsory installation of smart meters across the country. The Centre has set an ambitious target of installing 250 million smart meters by 2025.
  • With this new scheme coming into force, all other previous schemes such as Integrated Power Development Scheme, Deendayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana and Ujjwal Discom Assurance Yojana (UDAY) would stand subsumed. 

MIG-21 AIRCRAFT CRASH

A MiG-21 Bison aircraft of the Indian Air Force (IAF) crashed in Barmer, Rajasthan, on July 28, killing the two pilots aboard the trainer version of the fighter aircraft.
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How many MiG-21 aircraft have crashed recently?

  • There have been six MiG-21 Bison crashes in the last two 20 months, with five crashes in 2021 and one in 2022. Five pilots have lost their lives in these crashes. However, this is the first fatal trainer aircraft crash of the MiG-21 Bison in a long time.

How many MiG-21 Bison aircraft are in IAF?

  • There are four squadrons of MiG-21 Bison aircraft currently in service in the IAF with each squadron comprising 16-18 aircraft, including two trainer versions. Out of these one squadron, Srinagar-based No 51 Squadron, is going to be retired from service or ‘number plated’ in IAF jargon on September 30 this year, leaving three squadrons in service.
  • Out of these three squadrons, one will be number plated each year and, thus, MiG-21 Bison will be phased out of IAF by 2025. The IAF is looking towards reviving these squadrons back into service with the indigenous Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas.

CANTONMENTS ACT, 2006

The Government of India has proposed amendments in the Cantonments Act, 2006 by incorporating provisions for imparting, inter-alia, greater democratisation to Cantonment Boards including direct election of Vice-President.
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About:

  • This information was given by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh in a written reply in the Lok Sabha. He said the draft bill is under finalization. The elections to Cantonment Boards are proposed to be held thereafter.
  • Defence Minister said a framework for cutting out civil areas of certain Cantonments and to merge them with neighbouring State municipalities is under consultation with concerned States.
  • He said this will provide uniformity in local governance and greater ease of living for citizens in the process. 

DELIVERY OF INDIGENOUS AIRCRAFT CARRIER (IAC) ‘VIKRANT’

Indian Navy has created maritime history on July 28, 2022 by taking delivery of the prestigious Indigenous Aircraft Carrier (IAC) ‘Vikrant from her builder Cochin Shipyard Limited (CSL), Kochi.
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About:

  • Designed by Indian Navy’s inhouse Directorate of Naval Design (DND) and built by CSL, a Public Sector Shipyard under Ministry of Shipping (MoS), the carrier is christened after her illustrious predecessor, India’s first Aircraft Carrier which played a vital role in the 1971 war.
  • The 262 mtr long carrier has a full displacement of close to 45,000 tonnes which is much larger and advanced than her predecessor. The ship is powered by four Gas Turbines totaling 88 MW power and has a maximum speed of 28 Knots.
  • Built at an overall cost of close to Rs. 20,000 Crs, the project has been progressed in three Phases of contract between MoD and CSL, concluded in May 2007, Dec 2014 and Oct 2019 respectively. The ship’s keel was laid in Feb 2009, followed by launching in Aug 2013.
  • With an overall indigenous content of 76%, IAC is a perfect example of the nation’s quest for “Aatma Nirbhar Bharat” and provides thrust to Government’s ‘Make in India’ initiative.
  • With the delivery of Vikrant, India has joined a select group of nations having the niche capability to indigenously design and build an Aircraft Carrier.
  • The Indigenous Aircraft Carrier would soon be commissioned into the Indian Navy as Indian Naval Ship (INS) Vikrant which would bolster India’s position in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) and its quest for a blue water Navy. 

POPULATION GROWTH

High teenage fertility in some areas remains a cause of concern in India even as the fertility rate has stabilised across the country, the Health Ministry said in its Family Planning Vision-2030 document released.
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About:

  • It added that participation of men will be encouraged in the family planning programme and that lack of access to contraceptives had been identified as a priority challenge area.
  • While multiple factors have been identified that explain low contraceptive use among married adolescents and young women, two most important factors are child marriage and teenage pregnancy.
  • Over 118 districts reported high percentage of teenage pregnancies and are mostly concentrated in Bihar (19), West Bengal (15), Assam (13), Maharashtra (13), Jharkhand (10), Andhra Pradesh (7), and Tripura (4).
  • Additionally, over 44% of the districts in India reported high percentage of women marrying before they reach the age of 18. These districts were in Bihar (17), West Bengal (8), Jharkhand (7), Assam (4), two each in Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Maharashtra.

ELEVENTH AGRICULTURAL CENSUS (2021-22)

The Eleventh Agricultural Census (2021-22) was launched in the country by the Union Minister for Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, Shri Narendra Singh Tomar.
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About:

  • Agriculture Census is conducted every 5 years, which is being undertaken now after delay due to corona pandemic. The field work of agricultural census will start in August 2022.
  • Agricultural Census is the main source of information on a variety of agricultural parameters at a relatively minute level, such as the number and area of operational holdings, their size, class-wise distribution, land use, tenancy and cropping pattern, etc.
  • This is the first time that data collection for agricultural census will be conducted on smart phones and tablets, so that data is available in time. Most of the States have digitized their land records and surveys, which will further accelerate the collection of agricultural census data.

FOREIGN DIRECT INVESTMENT (FDI)

Singapore (27.01%) and USA (17.94%) have emerged as top 2 sourcing nations in FDI equity flows into India in FY2021-22 followed by Mauritius (15.98%), Netherland (7.86%) and Switzerland (7.31%).
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About:

  • It may be noted that as per the UNCTAD World Investment Report (WIR) 2022, in its analysis of the global trends in FDI inflows, India has improved one position to 7th rank among the top 20 host economies for 2021.
  • India is rapidly emerging as a preferred country for foreign investments in the manufacturing sector. FDI Equity inflow in Manufacturing Sectors have increased by 76% in FY 2021-22 (USD 21.34 billion) compared to previous FY 2020-21 (USD 12.09 billion).
  • Despite the ongoing pandemic and global developments, India received the highest annual FDI inflows of USD 84,835 million in FY 21-22 overtaking last year’s FDI by USD 2.87 billion. Earlier, FDI inflows increased from USD 74,391 million in FY 19-20 to USD 81,973 million in FY 20-21. 

HUB AND SPOKE MODEL SILOS

Under ‘Hub and Spoke Model’ meant for development of wheat Silos across the country, the Department of Food & Public Distribution has proposed to develop a capacity of 111.125 LMT of Silos at 249 locations across the country.
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About:

  • With a view to modernize storage of food grains and to ramp-up the storage capacity for food grains in India, a new model ‘Hub & Spoke’ Model for implementation in Public Private Partnership (PPP) Mode has been proposed.
  • The proposed Silos will operate under Design, Build, Fund, Own & Transfer (DBFOT) (FCI’s land) and Design, Build, Fund, Own & Operate (DBFOO) (Land of concessionaire/other agency) mode, through implementing agency i.e. Food Corporation of India (FCI).

Meaning

  • Hub and Spoke Model is a transportation system which consolidates the transportation assets from standalone locations referred to as “Spoke” to a central location named as “Hub” for long distance transportation.
  • Hubs have a dedicated railway siding and container depot facility while the transportation from Spoke to Hub is undertaken through road and from Hub to Hub via rail.
  • This model by harnessing the efficiency of railway siding, promotes cost efficiency through bulk storage & movement, reduces cost and time of handling and transportation and simplifies operational complexities in addition to economic development, infrastructure development & employment generation in the country.

TUNISIA AND ARAB SPRING

Tunisian voters have approved a new Constitution that would turn the country back into a presidential system, institutionalising the one-man reign of President Kais Saied, who suspended the elected Parliament and awarded more powers to himself last year.
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About:

  • While Mr. Saied has welcomed the result, his critics have warned that the new Constitution would erase whatever democratic gains Tunisia has made since the 2011 Arab Spring (Jasmine) revolution and push the country back into an authoritarian slide.
  • The Arab Spring protests began in Tunisia in December 2010, leading to the fall of the regime of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, who had been in power since 1987. Ben Ali had to flee the country in the face of the mass uprising.

Arab spring in other countries

  • Quickly, protests spread to other Arab countries such as Egypt, Libya, Bahrain, Yemen and Syria.
  • While protesters brought down the 30-year-long dictatorship of Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, the revolution did not last long in that country.
  • In Libya, the protests against Mohammar Gaddhafi slipped into a civil war, which saw a military intervention by the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO).
  • In Bahrain, the Shia majority country ruled by a Sunni monarchy, neighbouring Saudi Arabia sent troops to crush protests in Manama’s Pearl Square.
  • In Yemen, President Ali Abdullah Saleh had to relinquish power, but the country fell into a civil war, leading to the rise of the Shia Houthi rebels.
  • In Syria, protests turned into a proxy civil war. President Assad seems to have won the civil war, for now.
  • Tunisia was the only country that saw a peaceful transition to democracy, and with the new Constitution, it is witnessing another transition. 

GOOGLE STREET VIEW

Google Street View is finally available for ten cities in India and is expected to roll out in about 50 more cities by the end of the year.
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About:

  • Google Street View is an immersive 360-degree view of a location captured using special cameras mounted on vehicles or on backpacks by data collectors moving around the city streets.
  • The images are then patched together to create a 360-degree view which users can swipe through to get a detailed view of the location.
  • It is available to view on Android and iOS using the app, or as a web view.
  • In India, unlike in other markets, Google Street View is powered by images from third parties as per the National Geospatial Policy, 2021.
  • Street View in India is not allowed for restricted areas like government properties, defence establishments and military areas. This means in a place like Delhi, the cantonment area will be out of bounds for Street View. 

COFFEE (PROMOTION AND DEVELOPMENT BILL), 2022

The Ministry of Commerce and Industry is planning to replace the 80-year-old Coffee Act with the new Coffee (Promotion and Development Bill), 2022, which has been listed for the Monsoon Session of Parliament.
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About:

  • The Coffee Act, 1942 was first introduced during World War II, in order to protect the struggling Indian coffee industry from the economic downturn caused by the war.
  • The government is now trying to scrap the law because the substantive portion of the Coffee Act, 1942, which deals with pooling and marketing of the commodity, have become redundant/inoperative.
  • The new legislation is now primarily concerned with promoting the sale and consumption of Indian coffee, including through e-commerce platforms, with fewer government restrictions.
  • It also aims at encouraging further economic, scientific and technical research in order to align the Indian coffee industry with “global best practices.”
  • While the Coffee Board continues to have limited control over marketing, exporters will still require a certificate from the statutory body. 

INDIA’S ROLE IN UN PEACEKEEPING MISSIONS

Two BSF personnel who were part of the UN Peacekeeping Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), were among five people killed during a protest in an eastern town near the border with Uganda on July 26.

About:

  • India has a long history of service in UN Peacekeeping, having contributed more personnel than any other country. To date, more than 2,53,000 Indians have served in 49 of the 71 UN Peacekeeping missions established around the world since 1948.
  • Currently, India is the fifth largest troop contributor (TCC) with 5,323 personnel deployed in 8 out of 13 active UN Peacekeeping Missions.
  • India’s contribution to UN Peacekeeping began with its participation in the UN operation in Korea in the 1950s, where India’s mediatory role in resolving the stalemate over prisoners of war in Korea led to the signing of the armistice that ended the Korean War.
  • In 2007, India became the first country to deploy an all-women contingent to a UN Peacekeeping Mission.
  • A total 175 Indian peacekeepers have so far died while serving with the United Nations. India has lost more peacekeepers than any other UN Member State. 

PREVENTION OF MONEY LAUNDERING ACT (PMLA)

The Supreme Court upheld the core amendments made to the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), which gives the government and the Enforcement Directorate (ED) virtually unbridled powers of summons, arrest, and raids, and makes bail nearly impossible while shifting the burden of proof of innocence on to the accused rather than the prosecution.

About:

  • The top court called the PMLA a law against the “scourge of money laundering” and not a hatchet wielded against rival politicians and dissenters.
  • The verdict came on an extensive challenge raised against the amendments introduced to the 2002 Act by way of Finance Acts.
  • “Money laundering is an offence against the sovereignty and integrity of the country, It is no less a heinous offence than the offence of terrorism” the court noted.

NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF RURAL DEVELOPMENT AND PANCHAYATI RAJ (NIRD&PR)

The Union Cabinet has approved the signing of MoU between National Institute of Rural Development and Panchayati Raj (NIRDPR) and University of Reading (UoR), United Kingdom (UK) for collaboration in the field of agriculture and rural development in developing countries.

About:

  • This MoU will help NIRDPR faculty in acquiring and widening their knowledge, and develop an international professional network in agriculture, nutrition and rural development.
  • NIRD&PR, an autonomous organisation under the Union Ministry of Rural Development, is a premier national centre of excellence in rural development and Panchayati Raj.
  • Recognized internationally as one of the UN-ESCAP Centres of Excellence, the Institute is located in Hyderabad, Telangana. In addition to the main campus at Hyderabad, this Institute has North-Eastern Regional Centre at Guwahati, Assam. 

PROJECT FOR SATURATION OF 4G MOBILE SERVICES IN UNCOVERED VILLAGES

The Union Cabinet approved a project for saturation of 4G mobile services in uncovered villages across the country at a total cost of Rs. 26,316 Cr.

About:

  • The project will provide 4G mobile services in 24,680 uncovered villages in remote and difficult areas. The project has a provision to include 20% additional villages on account of rehabilitation, new-settlements, withdrawal of services by existing operators etc.
  • In addition, 6,279 villages having only 2G/3G connectivity shall be upgraded to 4G.
  • The project will be executed by BSNL using Atmanirbhar Bharat’s 4G technology stack and will be funded through Universal Service Obligation Fund.
  • The project cost of Rs. 26,316 Cr includes capex and 5 year opex.
  • The project is a significant step towards the vision of the Government to provide mobile connectivity in rural areas.

Background

  • Last year Government approved a project for providing 4G mobile services in 7,287 uncovered villages in 44 aspirational districts across 5 states.
  • In his Independence Day address in 2021, Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi gave a call for saturation of government schemes.

BM-SEAL-11 PROJECT

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) has approved additional investment of USD 1,600 million (about Rs. 12,000 crore) by Bharat Petro Resources Ltd. (BPRL), a wholly owned subsidiary of Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited (BPCL) for development of BM-SEAL-11 Concession Project in Brazil.

About:

  • The start of production from BM-SEAL-11 project is expected from 2026-27.
  • BPRL has 40% Participating Interest (PI) in this Concession along with Petrobras, National oil company of Brazil, as the Operator with 60% Participating Interest.

This will help in:

  • accessing to equity oil to strengthen India’s energy security.
  • diversifying India’s crude oil supply and Indian oil companies have expressed interest in sourcing more crude oil from Brazil.
  • Strengthening India’s foothold in Brazil, which will further open business avenues in neighbouring Latin American countries.
  • Further strengthening the bilateral ties between the countries. 

COKING COAL MISSION

According to National Steel Policy 2017, to achieve steel making capacity of 300 MTPA (including 180 MTPA through Blast Furnace route) by 2030, ~170 MT coking coal will be required by 2030. Government has launched Coking Coal Mission to meet the demand of domestic coking coal as projected by the Ministry of Steel.

About:

  • The Government has taken steps to explore new coking coal blocks, auction of new coking coal mines, enhancing raw coking coal production and enhancing coking coal washing capacity.
  • CIL has also taken the following steps to increase the output/production of domestic raw coking coal:
    • CIL has undertaken constant efforts to enhance coking coal production by capacity addition of existing coking coal producing mines and by opening new coking coal blocks.
    • Mass Production Technology has been introduced in coking coal producing UG mines of CIL to enhance the raw coking coal production.
    • CIL has taken steps regarding offering of coking coal blocks for production to private sector (including some discontinued mines) on revenue sharing basis through MDO route. 

NATIONAL ANTI-DOPING BILL, 2021

The Lok Sabha has passed the National Anti-Doping Bill,2021 by voice vote.

About:

  • The bill provides for constitution of the National Anti-Doping Agency- NADA for regulating anti-doping activities in sports.
  • Its functions include planning, implementing, and monitoring anti-doping activities as well as investigating anti-doping rule violations.
  • It also seeks to give effect to the UNESCO International Convention against doping in sports and compliance of such other obligations and commitments.
  • The legislation prohibits athletes, athlete support personnel, and other persons from engaging in doping in sports. Under the new legislation, violation of anti-doping rules may result in disqualification of results including forfeiture of medals, points, and prizes, ineligibility to participate in a competition or event for a prescribed period, and financial sanctions.
  • The Bill also proposes to establish the National Board for Anti-Doping in Sports with a view to make recommendations to the government on anti-doping regulations and compliance with international commitments on anti-doping. The Board will oversee the activities of NADA and issue directions to it.  
 

INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION (ISS)

Russia will pull out of the International Space Station after 2024 and focus on building its own orbiting outpost, the country’s new space chief Yuri Borisov said amid high tensions between Moscow and the West over the fighting in Ukraine.

About:

  • Borisov’s statement reaffirmed previous declarations by Russian space officials about Moscow’s intention to leave the space station after 2024 when the current international arrangements for its operation end.
  • NASA and other international partners hope to keep the space station running until 2030, while the Russians have been reluctant to make commitments beyond 2024.
  • The space station is jointly run by the space agencies of Russia, the U.S., Europe, Japan and Canada. The first piece was put in orbit in 1998, and the outpost has been continuously inhabited for nearly 22 years.
  • It is used to conduct scientific research in zero gravity and test out equipment for future space journeys. It typically has a crew of seven, who spend months at a time aboard the station as it orbits about 400 km from Earth. 

RAMSAR SITES

India Designates 5 New Ramsar Sites.

About:

  • India has designated five (5) new wetlands of International importance, which include three wetlands (Karikili Bird Sanctuary, Pallikaranai Marsh Reserve Forest & Pichavaram Mangrove) in Tamil Nadu, one (Pala wetland) in Mizoram and one wetland (Sakhya Sagar) in Madhya Pradesh, making a total of 54 Ramsar sites in the country.
  • The Ramsar sites have been increased from 49 to 54 Ramsar sites.
  • India’s Ramsar wetlands are spread over 11,000 sq.km — around 10% of the total wetland area in the country — across 18 States. No other South Asian country has as many sites, though this has much to do with India’s geographical breadth and tropical diversity.
  • The U.K. (175) and Mexico (142) — smaller countries than India — have the most Ramsar sites, whereas Bolivia spans the largest area with 1,48,000 sq.km under the Convention protection. 

SURYAMITRA SKILL DEVELOPMENT PROGRAMME

Ministry of New and Renewable Energy is implementing Suryamitra Skill Development Programme through National Institute of Solar Energy, Gurugram since Financial Year 2015-16.

About:

  • Objective is to train youth of age above 18 years as solar PV technicians for installation, operation and maintenance of solar power projects.
  • Up to June 2022, a total of 51331 number of candidates have benefited from the skill development training provided under Suryamitra programme, out of which 26967 number of candidates gained employment.
  • This information was given by Shri Bhagwanth Khuba, Minister of State for New and Renewable Energy in a written reply in Rajya Sabha. 

GREEN HYDROGEN

Energy major Oil and Natural Gas Corporation Limited (ONGC) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with M/s Greenko ZeroC Private Limited (Greenko), to jointly pursue opportunities in Renewables, Green Hydrogen, Green Ammonia and other derivatives of green hydrogen.

About:

  • This MoU is in line with the National Hydrogen Mission launched by Hon’ble Prime Minister in making India a global green hydrogen hub.
  • The activities envisaged under this MoU will contribute towards India’s target of producing of 5 million tonnes of Green hydrogen per annum by 2030.
  • This MoU will also act as a stepping stone for ONGC to achieve renewable energy targets as per its Energy Strategy 2040. 

FAMILY COURTS’ AMENDMENT BILL, 2022

The Lok Sabha passed the Family Courts’ Amendment Bill, 2022 by voice vote.

About:

  • It validates the existence of the three family courts in Himachal Pradesh and Two in Nagaland with retrospective effect. The bill also seeks validation of the decisions taken by the two states and the family courts.
  • The family courts located at Shimla, Dharmashala, and Mandi in Himachal Pradesh will come into force, with a retrospective effect of February 15th 2019.
  • The Family Courts located at Dimapur and Kohima in Nagaland will come into force with retrospect effect from November 12th 2008 on enactment of the Bill.
  • The enactment was necessitated as it came to light in connection with a case that the central Government notifications were not existing with respect to these five family courts. 
 
 

ARTICLE 60 (OATH OR AFFIRMATION BY THE PRESIDENT)

 July 26, 2022

Droupadi Murmu took oath of office as the 15th President of India and created history by being the first tribal head of State and the second woman to occupy the country’s highest constitutional post.

About:

  • Every President and every person acting as President or discharging the functions of the President shall, before entering upon his office, make and subscribe in the presence of the Chief Justice of India or, in his absence, the senior most Judge of the Supreme Court available, an oath or affirmation in the following form, that is to say –
  • “I, A.B., do swear in the name of God / solemnly affirm that I will faithfully execute the office of President (or discharge the function of the President) of India and will to the best of my ability preserve, protect and defend the Constitution and the law and that I will devote myself to the service and well-being of the people of India.”

LATEST GUIDELINES ON ARRESTS AND BAIL ORDERS

 July 26, 2022

On July 11, a division bench of the Supreme Court of India in Satender Kumar Antil vs CBI laid down fresh guidelines on arrests in order to have strict compliance with the provisions of Section 41 and 41A of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.

About:

  • These guidelines are in addition to the earlier ones which the apex court had already laid down in the case of Arnesh Kumar vs State of Bihar (2014).
  • The Court in the present case has also emphasised upon separate legislation on the law relating to bail and has also issued specific directions in this regard.
  • On July 16, even the Chief Justice of India (CJI) cautioned against “hasty and indiscriminate arrests”. He further commented on the delay in bails and the plight of undertrial prisoners.

What are Sections 41 and 41A of the Code of Criminal Procedure?

  • Section 41 of the Code provides for the circumstances in which arrest can be made by the police without a warrant and mandates for reasons to be recorded in writing for every arrest and non-arrest.
  • Section 41A of the Code provides for the requirement of a notice to be sent by the investigating agencies before making an arrest in certain conditions prescribed by the Code. 

N-TREAT TECHNOLOGY

 July 26, 2022

To prevent sludge and sewage from 25 storm water drains between Bandra and Dahisar from flowing into the sea, Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has planned in-situ treatment of sewage from the drains.

About:

  • This will be done with the help of Indian Institute of Technology-Bombay’s (IIT-B) N-Treat Technology.
  • N-Treat is a seven-stage process for waste treatment that uses screens, gates, silt traps, curtains of coconut fibres for filtration, and disinfection using sodium hypochlorite.
  • It is a natural and environment friendly way for sewage treatment. Its set up takes place within the nullah channels, that is through the in-situ or on-site method of treatment, and does not require additional space.

HUMAN-ANIMAL CONFLICT

 July 26, 2022

Minister of Environment tabled data in Lok Sabha on human-animal conflict.

About:

  • Between 2018-19 and 2020-21, 222 elephants were killed by electrocution across the country, 45 by trains, 29 by poachers and 11 by poisoning.
  • Among tigers, too, 29 were killed by poaching between 2019 and 2021, while 197 tiger deaths are under scrutiny.
  • Among human casualties of conflict with animals, elephants killed 1,579 humans in three years — 585 in 2019-20, 461 in 2020-21, and 533 in 2021-22. Odisha accounted for the highest number of these deaths at 322.
  • Tigers killed 125 humans in reserves between 2019 and 2021. Maharashtra accounted for nearly half these deaths, at 61.

DEFENCE REFORMS

 July 26, 2022

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh announced the setting up of joint theatre commands of the tri-services to enhance coordination among the armed forces.

About:

  • He was speaking during a programme organised by the Jammu Kashmir People’s Forum here to pay tributes to the martyrs of the Indian Armed Forces.
  • Referring to the defence production, Singh said, “India was the world’s largest importer (of defence products). Today, India is not the world’s largest importer but is among the top 25 nations engaged in defence exports,” he pointed out.
  • Singh said the country has started defence exports worth Rs 13,000 crore and it has fixed a target to increase it to Rs 35,000 to Rs 40,000 crore by 2025-26.
  • This is Singh’s second visit to Jammu in a little over a month. He visited the region on June 17 on the occasion of the 200th year of coronation of Maharaja Gulab Singh.

 

  • GOODS AND SERVICE TAX (GST)

     July 26, 2022

    The Government of India clarified that fresh milk and pasteurised milk are fully exempted from Goods and Service Tax (GST).

    About:

    • Further, milk products like curd, lassi, butter milk and paneer are also exempted from GST if sold in forms other than those pre-packaged and labelled.
    • In a written reply in the Lok Sabha, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said a nominal GST of 5 per cent applies to curd, lassi, butter milk and paneer when sold in pre-packaged and labelled form, and Ultra High-Temperature Milk.
    • Further, a GST of 12 per cent applies to condensed milk, butter, ghee and cheese. GST exemptions and rates apply uniformly across States.
    • She said GST rates are prescribed on the recommendation of the GST Council, which is a constitutional body comprising of representatives from both Centre and the States and Union Territories.

CHINA SPACE STATION

China launched the second of three modules to its permanent space station, in one of the final missions needed to complete the orbiting outpost by year’s end.

About:

  • The 23-tonne Wentian (“Quest for the Heavens”) laboratory module was launched on the back of China’s most powerful rocket, the Long March 5B from the Wenchang Space Launch Centre on the southern island of Hainan. The launch was “a complete success”.
  • China began constructing the space station in April 2021 with the launch of the Tianhe module, the main living quarters, in the first of 11 crewed and uncrewed missions in the undertaking.
  • The Wentian lab module, 17.9 m long, will provide space for experiments, along with the other lab module yet to be launched — Mengtian (“Dreaming of the Heavens”).
  • Mengtian is expected to be launched in October and, like Wentian, is to dock with Tianhe, forming a T-shaped structure. 

HETEROPESSIMISM

A recent example of heteropessimism in India is men trending #MarriageStrike on Twitter when the Delhi HC was hearing a plea to criminalise marital rape.

About:

  • Heteropessimism can be defined as public declarations of dissatisfaction with heterosexual relationships, by people who continue to be in those relationships.
  • Heteropessimism has been caused and shaped by larger social, economic and political currents.
  • the realisation for heterosexual people that dating is really hard (and in many cases, violent or even fatal), and the hard-won prize of marriage is not what it was touted to be, can lead to disillusionment from romantic relationships.

NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF UNANI MEDICINE (NIUM), GHAZIABAD

Union Minister of Ayush Shri Sarbananda Sonowal inspected newly constructed campus of National Institute of Unani Medicine (NIUM) at Ghaziabad, Uttar Pradesh.

About:

  • NIUM, Ghaziabad is a satellite Institute of National Institute of Unani Medicine, Bangaluru and will be first of its kind to be established in northern region of India.
  • The foundation stone for the National Institute of Unani Medicine (NIUM) at Ghaziabad, Uttar Pradesh was laid on 1st March 2019.
  • This Institute will produce high quality professionals in various streams of Unani Medicine.
  • This Institute will have 14 departments and will provide PG and Doctoral courses in various disciplines of Unani Medicine.
  • The Institute will also focus on fundamental aspects, drug development, quality control, safety evaluation and scientific validation of Unani medicine and practices.
  • The Institute will establish Bench Mark standards in Education, Health Care and Research.

FIBERISATION

India is preparing to auction off about 72 Ghz of airwaves to rollout 5G services in the country. However, the infrastructure needed for such a rollout requires existing radio towers to be connected via optical-fibre cables.

What is fiberisation?

  • The process of connecting radio towers with each other via optical fibre cables is called fiberisation.
  • It helps provide full utilisation of network capacity, and carry large amounts of data once 5G services are rolled out. It will also aid in providing additional bandwidth and stronger backhaul support.
  • The backhaul is a component of the larger transport that is responsible for carrying data across the network.
  • It represents the part of the network that connects the core of the network to the edge. As a result, fibre backhaul remains an important part of transport across all telecoms.
  • Fibre-based media, commonly called optical media, provides almost infinite bandwidth and coverage, low latency and high insulation from interference. 

WIND POWER

Last week, the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) said it would be doing away with the practice of reverse auctions — when companies bid to offer the lowest price — while awarding contracts for setting up wind-energy projects.

About:

  • However, wind industry experts say this alone will not necessarily improve the sector’s fortunes.
  • India has committed to installing 60,000 MW of wind power projects by 2022, but has met only two-thirds of the target.
  • While reverse auctions were the norm for all renewable energy projects, including solar and wind projects since 2015, the government’s change of stance signals that the rock-bottom prices associated with clean energy projects — per unit solar power costs have fallen to ₹2.40 a unit — do not reflect the true costs of renewable energy.
  • The cost of large tracts of land required to install wind turbines is among the reasons cited for the dwindling health of the sector.

NEERAJ CHOPRA

Tokyo Olympic gold medallist Neeraj Chopra created history by winning Silver medal in men’s javelin throw event at World Athletics Championships.

About:

  • In the prestigious competition held at Eugene in Oregon, United States, Neeraj Chopra grabbed second position with his best throw of 88.13 metres. Grenadian javelin thrower Anderson Peters won the gold medal with a throw of 90.54 meters.
  • Neeraj Chopra is the first ever Indian to win a silver medal at World Athletics Championships.
  • He is the second Indian after former long jumper Anju Bobby George, who won a bronze medal in long jump at 2003 in Paris.

NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF UNANI MEDICINE (NIUM), GHAZIABAD

Union Minister of Ayush Shri Sarbananda Sonowal inspected newly constructed campus of National Institute of Unani Medicine (NIUM) at Ghaziabad, Uttar Pradesh.

About:

  • NIUM, Ghaziabad is a satellite Institute of National Institute of Unani Medicine, Bangaluru and will be first of its kind to be established in northern region of India.
  • The foundation stone for the National Institute of Unani Medicine (NIUM) at Ghaziabad, Uttar Pradesh was laid on 1st March 2019.
  • This Institute will produce high quality professionals in various streams of Unani Medicine.
  • This Institute will have 14 departments and will provide PG and Doctoral courses in various disciplines of Unani Medicine.
  • The Institute will also focus on fundamental aspects, drug development, quality control, safety evaluation and scientific validation of Unani medicine and practices.
  • The Institute will establish Bench Mark standards in Education, Health Care and Research.
 

Indian Antarctic Bill 2022


Context:

Recently, Lok Sabha passed the Indian Antarctic Bill, 2022 amid clamour from the Opposition to have more discussion.

Relevance:

GS II- Government policies and Interventions

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is the Antarctica Bill?
  2. What is the Antarctica Treaty?
  3. What are the main provisions of the Bill?
  4. What are the prohibitions?
  5. What is the penalty system that has been introduced?

What is the Antarctica Bill?

  • The draft bill is the first domestic legislation with regard to Antarctica in India.
  • Twenty-seven countries including Argentina, Australia, Belarus, Belgium, Canada, Chile, Columbia, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Peru, Russian Federation, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States of America, Uruguay and Venezuela already have domestic legislations on Antarctica. Many others, such as India, are now following suit.
  • While India has been sending expeditions to Antarctica for the past 40 years, these expeditions have been circumscribed by international law.
  • The Bill now puts into place a comprehensive list of regulations related to Antarctica, for such scientific expeditions, as well as for individuals, companies and tourists.
  • The Ministry has explained that it expects activity in Antarctica to increase in the coming years, making the enforcement of a domestic set of protocols essential.
  • A domestic legislation will further provide more validity to the Antarctic Treaty, and subsequent protocols, of which India is a signatory.
  • The most significant part of the Bill is extending the jurisdiction of Indian courts to Antarctica, for crimes on the continent by Indian citizens, or foreign citizens who are a part of Indian expeditions.
  • So far there was no recourse for crimes committed during an expedition, including crimes against the environment.

What is the Antarctica Treaty?

  • The Antarctic Treaty was signed in 1959 by 12 countries — Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Chile, French Republic, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, Union of South Africa, USSR, the UK of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the US of America, and came into force in 1961.
  • The Treaty covers the area south of 60°S latitude.
  • Currently, 54 nations are signatories to the Antarctic Treaty, but only 29 nations have a right to vote at the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meetings – this includes India.
  • India signed the Antarctic Treaty in 1983 and received consultative status the same year.
  • The Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) was set up in 1980 for the protection and preservation of the Antarctic environment and, in particular, for the preservation and conservation of marine living resources in Antarctica.
  • The Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty was signed in 1991 and came into force in 1998.
    •  It designates Antarctica as a “natural reserve, devoted to peace and science”.

Objectives of the treaty:

To demilitarize Antarctica and establish it as a zone used for peaceful research activities and to set aside any disputes regarding territorial sovereignty, thereby ensuring international cooperation.

What are the main provisions of the Bill?

Extending of jurisdiction of Indian courts:

  • While the most significant provision of the Bill remains the extending of jurisdiction of Indian courts to Antarctica, and the investigation and trial for crimes committed on the Arctic continent, the Bill is a comprehensive document of regulations, particularly keeping in mind environmental protection and the fragile nature of the region.

Permit system:

  • The Bill introduces an elaborate permit system for any expedition or individual who wishes to visit the continent.
  • These permits will be issued by a Committee that will be set up by the government.
  • The Committee will comprise of the Secretary Earth Sciences ministry and will also have officials from Defence, Ministry of External Affairs, Finance, Fisheries, Legal Affairs, Science and Technology, Shipping, Tourism, Environment, Communication and Space ministries along with a member from the National Centre for Polar and Ocean Research and National Security Council Secretariat and experts on Antarctica.
  • The permits can be cancelled by the Committee if deficiencies are found or activities in contravention of the law are detected.

Commercial fishing

  • While India does not carry out commercial fishing in the area, since every country has an allotted quota, the Bill now provides for this activity.
  • However, strict guidelines are in place in accordance with international law.

Tourism activity

  • Like fishing, while India does not carry out any tourism activity in the region, and very few Indian tourists visit Antarctica, when they do, they do so through foreign tour operators.
  • Antarctica receives a number of tourists from foreign countries.
  • The Bill now enables Indian tour operators to operate in Antarctica, although, like for commercial fishing, this is circumscribed by strict regulations.
  • The Bill further enlists elaborate standards for environmental protection as well as waste management.

What are the prohibitions?

  • The Bill prohibits drilling, dredging, excavation or collection of mineral resources or even doing anything to identify where such mineral deposits occur — the only exception is for scientific research with a granted permit.
  • Damaging of native plants, flying or landing helicopters or operating vessels that could disturb birds and seals, using firearms that could disturb the birds and animals, remove soil or any biological material native to Antarctica, engage in any activity that could adversely change the habitat of birds and animals, kill, injure or capture any bird or animal have been strictly prohibited.
  • The introduction of animals, birds, plants or microscopic organisms that are not native to Antarctica are also prohibited. Extraction of species for scientific research needs to be done through a permit. The central government can also appoint an officer to carry out inspections.

What is the penalty system that has been introduced?

  • The draft Bill proposes the setting up of a separate designated court to try crimes committed in Antarctica.
  • The Bill further sets high penal provisions — the lowest penalty comprising an imprisonment between one-two years and a penalty of Rs 10-50 lakh.
  • Extraction of any species native to Antarctica, or introduction of an exotic species to the continent can draw imprisonment of seven years and a fine of Rs 50 lakh.
  • For dumping of nuclear waste or a nuclear explosion, the imprisonment can range between 20 years to life imprisonment with a fine of Rs 50 crore.

-Source: The Hindu


Direct Seeding of Rice


Context:

Punjab is not only a long way away from its target of Direct Seeding of Rice (DSR) for this year (as it could only achieve 6.7% of the total target) but also the state has seen 85.7% decline in DSR area from the last season.

Relevance:

GS III- Agriculture

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is DSR?
  2. How much water can DSR help save?
  3. Advantages of DSR tech
  4. Disadvantages of DSR tech

What is DSR?

Direct Seeding of Rice (DRS):

  • In DSR, a tractor-powered machine drills the pre-germinated seeds straight into the field.
  • This procedure does not require nursery preparation or transplantation.
  • Farmers only need to level their soil and apply pre-sowing irrigation once.

Normal Paddy Transplanting:

  • Farmers create nurseries where paddy seeds are first sowed and nurtured into young plants before transplanting paddy.
  • The nursery seed bed takes up 5-10% of the transplanted area.
  • These seedlings are then pulled and transplanted on the puddled land 25-35 days later.

How much water can DSR help save?

  • According to an analysis by the Punjab Agriculture University, DSR technique can help save 15% to 20% water. In some cases, water saving can reach 22% to 23%.
  • With DSR,15-18 irrigation rounds are required against 25 to 27 irrigation rounds in traditional method.
  • Since area under rice in Punjab is almost stagnant around 3 million hectares for the last three to four years, DSR can save 810 to 1,080 billion litres water every year if entire rice crop is brought under the technique.

Advantages of DSR tech:

  • Solve labour shortage problem: Like the traditional method it does not require a paddy nursery and transplantion of 30 days old paddy nursery into the main puddled field. With DSR, paddy seeds are sown directly with machine.
  • Offers avenues for ground water recharge: It prevent the development of hard crust just beneath the plough layer due to puddled transplanting and it matures 7-10 days earlier than puddle transplanted crop, therefore giving more time for management of paddy straw.
  • Higher yield: A PAU study said that results from research trials and farmers’ field survey have also indicated that yield, after DSR, are one to two quintals per acre higher than puddled transplanted rice.

Disadvantages of DSR tech;

  • Suitability: This is the most significant element since farmers must not seed it in light textured soils because this approach is only suitable for medium to heavy textured soils such as sandy loam, loam, clay loam, and silt loam, which make up around 80% of the state’s land.
    • Avoid using this approach in fields that were previously planted with crops other than rice (such as cotton, maize, or sugarcane), as DSR on these soils is more likely to suffer from iron deficiency and weed problems.
  • Compulsory Laser and Leveling: The field should be levelled with a laser.
  • Herbicide Spraying: Herbicide spraying must be done at the same time as sowing and the initial irrigation.

-Source: Indian Express


Environmental Impact Assessment


Context:

The Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) has notified amendments to the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Rules, making several exemptions to gaining environmental clearance.

  • In order to analyse (and subsequently mitigate) a project or activity’s possible negative consequences on the ecology of a region, the MoEFCC promulgated a new EIA Notification in 2006. This notification requires review of all pertinent facts concerning a project or activity. The years 2016, 2020, and 2021 saw amendments.

Relevance:

GS III- Environment and Ecology

Dimensions of the Article:

  • What are the Exemptions?
  • What is Environment Impact Assessment?
  • Importance of Environment Impact Assessment:
  • Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC)

What are the Exemptions?

Strategic and Defence Projects:

  • Exempts strategic and defense-related highway projects, including those located 100 km from the Line of Control, from the need for an environmental review before construction.
  • The exemption to be granted to highways of strategic importance does away with the requirement for green clearance for construction of the contentious Char Dham project, which includes widening of 899 km roads in ecologically sensitive areas of Uttarakhand to I
  • The case is presently being heard in Supreme Court, which has set up a high-powered committee to look into the matter.

Biomass Based Power Plants:

  • Thermal power plants up to 15 MW based on biomass or non-hazardous municipal solid waste using auxiliary fuel such as coal, lignite or petroleum products up to 15% have also been exempted — as long as the fuel mix is eco-friendly.

Ports and Harbour dealing in Fish:

  • Fish handling ports and harbours with less pollution potential compared to others, and caters to small fishermen, are exempted from environmental clearance.

Two other projects are exempted:

  • Toll plazas that require additional width for the installation of toll collection booths to accommodate a large number of vehicles,
  • Expansion activities at existing airports related to the expansion of terminal buildings without increasing the airport’s current area rather than the expansion of runways, etc.

What is Environment Impact Assessment?

  • Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is a process of evaluating the likely environmental impacts of a proposed project or development, taking into account inter-related socio-economic, cultural and human-health impacts, both beneficial and adverse.
  • UNEP defines Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) as a tool used to identify the environmental, social and economic impacts of a project prior to decision-making.
  • It aims to predict environmental impacts at an early stage in project planning and design, find ways and means to reduce adverse impacts, shape projects to suit the local environment and present the predictions and options to decision-makers.
  • Environment Impact Assessment in India is statutorily backed by the Environment Protection Act, 1986 which contains various provisions on EIA methodology and process.

Stages of Environment Impact Assessment:

  • Project screening: This entails the application of EIA to those projects that may have significant environmental impacts.
  • Scoping: This step seeks to identify, at an early stage, the key, significant environmental issues from among a host of possible impacts of a project and all the available alternatives.
  • Consideration of alternatives
  • Description of the project/development action: This step seeks to clarify the purpose and rationale of the project and understand its various characteristics, including the stages of development, location and processes.
  • Description of the environmental baseline: This includes the establishment of both the present and future state of the environment, in the absence of the project, taking into account the changes resulting from natural events and from other human activities.
  • The prediction of impacts: This step aims to identify the likely magnitude of the change (i.e., impact) in the environment when the project is implemented in comparison with the situation when the project is not carried out.
  • Evaluation and assessment of significance: This seeks to assess the relative significance of the predicted impacts to allow a focus on key adverse impacts.
  • Mitigation: This involves the introduction of measures to avoid, reduce, remedy or compensate for any significant adverse impacts.
  • Public consultation and participation: This aims to assure the quality, comprehensiveness and effectiveness of the EIA, as well as to ensure that the public’s views are adequately taken into consideration in the decision-making process.
  • EIS presentation: This is a vital step in the process. If done badly, much good work in the EIA may be negated.
  • Review: This involves a systematic appraisal of the quality of the EIS, as a contribution to the decision-making process.
  • Decision-making:
  • Post-decision monitoring: This involves the recording of outcomes associated with development impacts, after the decision to proceed with the project.
Importance of Environment Impact Assessment:
  • Reduced cost and time of project implementation and design,
  • Avoided treatment/clean-up costs and impacts of laws and regulations.
  • Lays base for environmentally sound projects;
  • Greater awareness of environmental legislation;
  • Protection of Environment
  • Optimum utilization of resources (balance between development and Environmental protection)

Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC)

  • The EAC is a multidisciplinary sectoral appraisal committee comprising of various subject matter experts for appraisal of sector-specific projects. The EAC is the recommendatory body. Based on the recommendations of the Expert Appraisal Committee, environmental clearance is accorded or rejected to the project by MoEF&CC.
  • After 2006 Amendment the EIA cycle comprises of four stages:
    1. Screening
    2. Scoping
    3. Public hearing
    4. Appraisal
  1. Category A projects require mandatory environmental clearance and thus they do not undergo the screening process.
  2. Category B projects undergoes screening process and they are classified into two types.
  3. Category B1 projects (Mandatorily requires EIA).
  4. Category B2 projects (Do not require EIA).

Thus, Category A projects and Category B, projects undergo the complete EIA process whereas Category B2 projects are excluded from complete EIA process.

-Source: The Hindu


Private Member’s Bill


Context:

Opposition members protested against the introduction of a private member’s Bill on the repeal of The Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991, in the Rajya Sabha.

Relevance:

GS II- Polity and Governance

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Private Member’s Bill
  2. Difference between private and government Bills
  3. What is the Places of Worship Act?

Private Member’s Bill

  • A private member’s Bill is different from a government Bill and is piloted by an MP who is not a minister. An MP who is not a minister is a private member.
  • Individual MPs may introduce private member’s Bill to draw the government’s attention to what they might see as issues requiring legislative intervention.

Difference between private and government Bills

  • While a government Bill can be introduced and discussed on any day, a private member’s bill can only be introduced and discussed on Fridays.
  • A private member’s Bill is different from a government Bill and is piloted by an MP who is not a minister
  • Individual MPs may introduce private member’s Bill to draw the government’s attention to what they might see as issues requiring legislative intervention.
  • he admissibility of a private Bill is decided by the Chairman in the case of the Rajya Sabha and the Speaker in the case of the Lok Sabha
  • Before the Bill can be listed for introduction, the Member must give at least a month’s notice, for the House Secretariat to examine it for compliance with constitutional provisions and rules on legislation
  • As per PRS Legislative, no private member’s Bill has been passed by Parliament since 1970. To date, Parliament has passed 14 such Bills, six of them in 1956.

What is the Places of Worship Act?

The long title describes it as “An Act to prohibit conversion of any place of worship and to provide for the maintenance of the religious character of any place of worship as it existed on the 15th day of August, 1947, and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.”

What are its provisions?

  • Section 3 of the Act bars the conversion, in full or part, of a place of worship of any religious denomination into a place of worship of a different religious denomination — or even a different segment of the same religious denomination.
  • Section 4(1) declares that the religious character of a place of worship “shall continue to be the same as it existed” on August 15, 1947.
  • Section 4(2) says any suit or legal proceeding with respect to the conversion of the religious character of any place of worship existing on August 15, 1947, pending before any court, shall abate — and no fresh suit or legal proceedings shall be instituted.
    • The proviso to this subsection saves suits, appeals and legal proceedings that are pending on the date of commencement of the Act, if they pertain to the conversion of the religious character of a place of worship after the cut-off date.
  • Section 5 stipulates that the Act shall not apply to the Ramjanmabhoomi-Babri Masjid case, and to any suit, appeal or proceeding relating to it.

When was this law passed?

  • The Act was brought by the Congress government of Prime Minister P V Narasimha Rao at a time when the Ram temple movement was at its peak.
  • The Babri Masjid was still standing, but L K Advani’s rath yatra, his arrest in Bihar, and the firing on kar sevaks in Uttar Pradesh had raised communal tensions.

Issues with the law

  • The law has been challenged on the ground that it bars judicial review, which is a basic feature of the Constitution.
  • It imposes an “arbitrary irrational retrospective cutoff date”, and abridges the right to religion of Hindus, Jains, Buddhists and Sikhs.

DROUPADI MURMU

Former Jharkhand Governor and National Democratic Alliance (NDA) candidate Droupadi Murmu was elected the 15th President of India, the first tribal woman to be appointed to the position and the youngest as well.

About:

  • After four rounds of polling, Ms. Murmu received 2,824 votes of 6,76,803 value, while Mr. Sinha received 1,877 votes of 3,80,177 value.
  • She received 64.03% of the total valid votes polled, much more than what was openly declared in her support and pointing to the fact there had been a lot of cross-voting in Ms. Murmu’s favour from the Opposition ranks.
  • Murmu, who had been a former Governor of Jharkhand, hails from the Santhal tribe and was born in Mayurbhanj, coming up the hard way in life, graduating and teaching in Odisha before entering politics at the local body level and later being elected MLA and serving as a Minister from 2000 to 2004.
  • She holds the record of being the only Governor of Jharkhand till date to complete a full tenure, and was known to intervene in stopping amendments to the Chota Nagpur Tenancy Act that was being brought in by the BJP government of Raghubar Das, which involved changing land use in tribal areas.

NITI AAYOG INNOVATION INDEX

Karnataka has bagged the top rank in NITI Aayog’s India Innovation Index, 2022, which determines innovation capacities and ecosystems at the sub-national level. The State has held this position, under the Major States category, in all three editions of the Index so far.

About:

  • In the Index released, Manipur secured the lead in the Northeast and Hill States category, while Chandigarh was the top performer in the Union Territories and City States category.
  • Karnataka was followed by Telangana, Haryana, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu. Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Bihar and Gujarat were at the bottom of the index.
  • Given the country’s ambitious targets to be named among the top 25 nations in the Global Innovation Index, the report has recommended measures, such as increasing Gross Domestic Expenditure on R&D (GDERD), promoting private sector participation in R&D and closing the gap between industry demand and what the country produces through its education systems.
  • The report went on to state that countries that spend less on GDERD fail to retain their human capital in the long run and the ability to innovate is dependent on the quality of human capital; India’s GDERD as a percentage of GDP stood at about 0.7%. 

INDIAN ANTARCTIC BILL, 2022

The Lok Sabha deferred the consideration and passing of the Indian Antarctic Bill, 2022, due to protests by the Congress members outside of Parliament over the Enforcement Directorate’s summoning of their party president Sonia Gandhi for questioning.

About:

  • The Indian Antarctic Bill, 2022 was introduced in Lok Sabha on April 1, 2022.
  • The Bill seeks to give effect to the Antarctic Treaty, the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources, and the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty.
  • Applicability: The provisions of the Bill will apply to any person, vessel or aircraft that is a part of an Indian expedition to Antarctica under a permit issued under the Bill.
  • Central committee: The central government will establish a Committee on Antarctic Governance and Environmental Protection. The Committee will be chaired by the Secretary of the Ministry of Earth Sciences.
  • Need for permit: A permit by the Committee or written authorisation from another party to the Protocol (other than India) will be required for various activities.
  • Prohibited activities: The Bill prohibits certain activities in Antarctica including: (i) nuclear explosion or disposal of radioactive wastes, (ii) introduction of non-sterile soil, and (iii) discharge of garbage, plastic or other substance into the sea which is harmful to the marine environment.

RIGHT TO SAFE ABORTION

Denying an unmarried woman the right to a safe abortion violates her personal autonomy and freedom, the Supreme Court held in an order.

About:

  • A Bench led by Justice D.Y. Chandrachud was hearing the appeal of a woman who wanted to abort her 24-week pregnancy after her relationship failed and her partner left her.
  • The lower court had taken an “unduly restrictive view” that her plea for a safe abortion was not covered under the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act as the pregnancy arose from a consensual relationship outside wedlock.
  • Chastising the lower court, the Bench said live-in relationships had already been recognised by the Supreme Court. There were a significant number of people in social mainstream who see no wrong in engaging in pre-marital sex.
  • The law could not be used to quench “notions of social morality” and unduly interfere in their personal autonomy and bodily integrity.
  • The court noted that an amendment to the Act in 2021 had substituted the term ‘husband’ with ‘partner’, a clear signal that the law covered unmarried women within its ambit.
  • A woman’s right to reproductive choice is an inseparable part of her personal liberty under Article 21 of the Constitution. She has a sacrosanct right to bodily integrity. 

INDIA – UK MOU ON MUTUAL RECOGNITION OF ACADEMIC QUALIFICATION

India and the UK sign MoU on Mutual Recognition of Academic Qualification to facilitate student mobility and academic collaboration between Higher Education Institution (HEIs).
 

About:

  • In May 2021, during the Virtual Summit between Prime Ministers of India and UK, a comprehensive Roadmap to 2030 was adopted for an enhanced bilateral cooperation between the two countries. Both sides also agreed to a new Enhanced Trade Partnership.
  • Education forms an important pillar of this roadmap. In light of India’s National Education Policy 2020 (NEP 2020), the two sides agreed to expand educational by agreeing to a mutual recognition of academic qualifications.
  • This is a landmark moment in our bilateral educational relations as signing of this MoU would enable smoother student mobility between the two countries and help in developing stronger institutional collaboration and widen the scope of academic and research collaboration between the Higher Education Institutions of both countries.III

What are SPRINT challenges?

  • SPRINT challenges aimed at giving a boost to the usage of indigenous technology in Indian Navy.
  • In a bid to achieve ‘Aatmanirbharta’ in defence and as part of ‘Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav’, NIIO, in conjunction with the Defence Innovation Organisation (DIO), aims to induct at least 75 new indigenous technologies/products into the Indian Navy. 
  • This collaborative project is named SPRINT {Supporting Pole-Vaulting in R&D through Innovations for Defence Excellence (iDEX), NIIO and Technology Development Acceleration Cell (TDAC)}.

NIIO’s seminar ‘Swavlamban’-

  • It was the first ‘Swavlamban’ (self-reliance) seminar for a self-reliant Navy.
  • It aimed to engage Indian industry and academia towards achieving self-reliance in the Defence sector. 
  • It was organised by the Naval Innovation and Indigenisation Organisation (NIIO) and the Society of Indian Defence Manufacturers (SIDM).
  • It provided a platform for leaders from Industry, Academia, Services and Government to come together on a common platform to ideate and come up with recommendations for the Defence Sector. 

Naval Innovation and Indigenisation Organisation(NIIO)-

  • It was launched by the Defence Minister in 2020.
  • The NIIO puts in place dedicated structures for the end users to interact with academia and industry towards fostering innovation and indigenisation for self-reliance in defence in keeping with the vision of Atmanirbhar Bharat.
  • The NIIO is a three-tiered organisation.
    • Naval Technology Acceleration Council (N-TAC) that brings together the twin aspects of innovation and indigenisation and provide apex level directives. 
    • A Technology Development Acceleration Cell (TDAC) was created for induction of emerging disruptive technology in an accelerated time frame.
  • The Draft Defence Acquisition Policy 2020 (DAP 20) envisages service headquarters establishing an Innovation & Indigenisation Organisation within existing resources. 
  • Indian Navy already has a functional Directorate of Indigenisation (DoI) and the new structures created will build upon the ongoing indigenisation initiatives, as well as focus on innovation.

The Society of Indian Defence Manufacturers (SIDM)-

  • SIDM is a not-for-profit association formed to be the apex body of the Indian defence industry. 
  • Itl plays a proactive role as an advocate, catalyst, and facilitator for the growth and capability building of the defence industry in India

NUCLEAR POWER PLANTS

The Government of India informed that Unit 3 of Kakrapar atomic plant is expected to commence commercial operation by December 2022, after obtaining stage-wise regulatory clearances.

About:

  • Unit-4 of Kakrapar Atomic Power Project (KAPP-4) has achieved a physical progress of 93.65% as of June-2022. Kakrapar Atomic Power Station is a nuclear power station in India, which lies in the proximity of Surat and Tapi river in the state of Gujarat.
  • Among the other 700 MW PHWRs under construction, RAPP 7&8 at Rawatbhata, Rajasthan have achieved physical progress of 95% and 80.8% respectively. In respect of GHAVP 1&2 at Gorakhpur, Haryana, various buildings and structures are under construction.
  • In the ten PHWRs viz., Kaiga 5&6 at Kaiga in Karnataka, GHAVP 3&4 at Gorakhpur in Haryana, Mahi Banswara 1 to 4 at Mahi Banswara in Rajasthan and Chutka 1&2 at Chutka in Madhya Pradesh, pre-project activities at sites and procurement of long delivery equipment have been undertaken. Excavation has also commenced at Kaiga-5&6. 

SPACE REFORMS

Union Minister Dr Jitendra Singh said, 10 (Ten) in-orbit operational communication satellites have been transferred from Government of India to M/s. New Space India Ltd (NSIL), a CPSE under Department of Space.

About:

  • Communication satellites viz. GSAT-8, GSAT-10, GSAT-12R (CMS-01), GSAT-14, GSAT-15, GSAT-16, GSAT-17, GSAT-18, GSAT-30 and GSAT-31 have been transferred at a written down value of Rs 4697.60 crores against issue of equity to Government of India, with 01.04.2021 as the effective date of transfer.
  • The Board of NSIL is authorized to price the transponder capacity as per the global trends. NSIL shall carry out the activities related to offering and allocation of capacity, as per the guidelines to be adopted by its Board.
  • The transfer of operational satellites is part of the Space Sector reforms, aimed at strengthening the role of NSIL in order to enhance the nation’s share in global space economy.
  • The Minister also informed that the Government has taken several steps to increase India’s share in global space market, through the reforms undertaken in 2020, which seek to augment the space sector in the country with greater participation of Non-Governmental Entities (NGEs).
  • The Indian National Space Promotion & Authorization Centre [IN-SPACe] has been created as a single window agency to promote, handhold and authorize the activities of NGEs in the sector, thus providing them with a level playing field. 

CENTRAL BANK DIGITAL CURRENCY (CBDC)

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) is in the process of implementing the Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC) in a phased manner for wholesale and retail segments, an official said.

About:

  • The introduction of CBDC was announced in the Union Budget 2022-23, by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and necessary amendments to the relevant section of the RBI Act, 1934 have been made with the passage of the Finance Bill 2022.
  • The passage of the bill has enabled the RBI to conduct a pilot and subsequent issuance of CBDC.
  • The RBI is also working on phased implementation of a central bank digital currency (CBDC) in both wholesale and retail segment.
  • CBDC is a digital or virtual currency but it is not comparable with private virtual currencies or cryptocurrency that have mushroomed over the last decade. Private virtual currencies do not represent any person’s debt or liabilities as there is no issuer

REINTRODUCTION OF CHEETAHS

 

India and Namibia signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) for reintroduction of cheetahs into the historical range in India.

About:

  • First batch of eight cheetahs comprising four male and as many female cheetahs are expected to arrive in India before Independence Day.
  • The cheetahs will be released in Kuno National Park, Madhya Pradesh.
  • India plans to introduce 8-10 cheetahs every year with a total 50 from Namibia, South Africa and other African countries over the next five years.
  • Under the MoU, both the countries will also collaborate in areas of climate change, environmental governance, environmental impact assessments, pollution and waste management.

MISC: 

 

TERRORIST ATTACKS IN J&K

 

The security situation has improved significantly in Jammu and Kashmir with the continuous decline in terrorist attacks in recent years.

About:

  • The number of terrorist attacks has substantially declined to 229 in 2021 as compared to 417 in 2018 in J&K.
  • Similarly, the attacks on civilians have also decreased from 33 in 2018 to 12 in 2021. This was informed by Minister of State for Home Nityanand Rai in a written reply in the Rajya Sabha.
  • On the attacks on Kashmiri Pandits in recent months, Mr. Rai said, the government has taken several measures for the safety of minorities in the valley.
  • These include a robust security and intelligence grid, day and night area domination, patrolling and proactive operations against the terrorists, and round-the-clock checking at nakas.

BANTHIA COMMISSION

 

The Supreme Court accepted the report of the Banthia Commission and directed the Maharashtra State Election Commission to hold elections as per this report.

About:

  • With this, the way for political reservation for candidates belonging to Other Backward Classes in the Local Bodies’ Elections in the state has been cleared.
  • Apart from this, the top court has also asked to take steps to hold the stalled elections in the state urgently. It has been ordered to announce the Election Schedule in the next two weeks.
  • The Jayantkumar Banthia Commission, in its report, recommended that OBCs should be given up to 27 percent reservation in local bodies. As the court accepted this report, OBCs will get 27 percent political reservation in local self-government elections in the state. 

Increase in Indians renouncing their Citizenship

Polity & Governance
important acts
Context

According to the latest information provided by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) to the Lok Sabha, over 1.6 lakh Indians renounced their citizenship in 2021, highest in the past five years.

About

Key-highlights of the development

  • US remain the highest among all countries for acquisition of its citizenship by other Nationals.
    • Over 78,000 Indians acquired S. citizenship by giving up Indian citizenship.
  • As many as 362 Indians living in China also acquired Chinese citizenship.
  • Others: Australia- 23,533, Canada- 21,597, U.K.-14,637, Italy-5,986, Netherlands- 2187, New Zealand- 2643, Singapore- 2516, U.S.A.- 78284, Pakistan-41 and Nepal-10.

The idea of citizenship

  • The Citizenship Act, 1955 provides for the acquisition and renunciation of Indian citizenship.
  • India does not allow dual citizenship.
  • Citizenship signifies the relationship between’ individual’ and ‘state’.
  • India has two kinds of people—citizens and aliens. Citizens are full members of the Indian State and owe allegiance to it. They enjoy all civil and political
  • Citizenship is an idea of exclusion as it excludes non-citizens.

What does the Constitutional say for Citizenship?

The Constitution does not define the term ‘citizen’ but details of various categories of persons who are entitled to citizenship are given in Part 2 (Articles 5 to 11).

  • Article 5: It provided for citizenship on commencement of the Constitution.
  • Article 6: It provided rights of citizenship of certain persons who have migrated to India from Pakistan.
  • Article 7: Provided Rights of citizenship of certain migrants to Pakistan.
  • Article 8: Provided Rights of citizenship of certain persons of Indian origin residing outside India.
  • Article 9: Provided that if any person voluntarily acquired the citizenship of a foreign State will no longer be a citizen of India.
  • Article 11: It empowers Parliament to make any provision with respect to the acquisition and termination of citizenship and all matters relating to it.

What are the provisions for renunciation of the Citizenship in India?

The citizenship act, 1955 prescribes three ways of losing citizenship:

By renunciationBy terminationBy deprivation

Any citizen of India of full age and capacity can make a declaration renouncing Indian citizenship

  • Such a declaration may not be accepted during war.
  • Even the minor children of the person who renounces citizenship stands to lose their Indian citizenship. However, when their children attain the age of eighteen, he may resume Indian citizenship.

 

If a citizen of India voluntarily acquires the citizenship of another country, then he loses the citizenship of India However, this provision does not apply during times of war.

 

It causes for compulsory termination of Indian citizenship by the Central government, in the following conditions:

  • Obtained the citizenship by fraud.
  • Citizen has shown disloyalty to the Constitution of India.
  • Citizen has unlawfully traded or communicated during the times of war.
  • Within 5 years of naturalization, the said citizen is imprisoned for a term of two years.
  • Citizen has been ordinarily resident out of India for a period of 7 years.

 

  • After Renunciation of Indian Citizenship, it is necessary to apply for Surrender or a Renunciation certificate.
  • However, such persons can get Overseas Citizens of India (OCI) status after acquiring foreign citizenship.

Recent changes in the policy

  • The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has simplified the process for Indians who want to renounce their citizenship.
  • Provisions have been made for applicants to upload documents online, with an upper limit of 60 days for the renunciation process to be completed.
  • According to the 2009 Citizenship Rules, the fee to renounce citizenship for an applicant in India is ?5,000, and for someone applying through an Indian mission in a foreign country is ?7,000.

The new National Emblem

Polity & Governance
Miscellaneous
Context

Prime Minister has recently given the nation a first look of the national emblem atop the new Parliament House coming up as part of the Central Vista Project.

Background
  • On January 26, 1950, the Lion Capital of Asoka at Sarnath officially became the national emblem of India.
  • Five students of renowned artist Nandalal Bose created the emblem.
  • It represents courage, power and pride.
  • It was built in 250 BC to commemorate the first sermon of Gautama Buddha, where he is said to have shared the Four Noble Truths of life.

The Original Structure

  • There are Four Asiatic lions which are part of the national emblem with three lions being visible to the naked eye and the fourth one always hidden.
  • They are taken from the Sarnath Lion Capital of the Mauryan emperor
  • The existing one is seven feet tall sculpture made of polished sandstone.
  • It was mounted on a base of a frieze of smaller sculptures, including a horse (under fire in the new replica for its tail supposedly resembling that of a dog), a lion, a bull and an elephant moving in a clockwise direction.
  • They are separated by a wheel, representing the Dharmachakra of Buddhism, on all four sides.
  • Each chakra or wheel has 24 spokes. The chakra was later adopted as part of the national flag.
  • This abacus was mounted on an inverted lotus which is a symbol of Buddhism.
  • Chinese traveller Hiuen Tsang has left a detailed account of Asoka’s lion pillar in his writings.

About the New Emblem

  • It is a 5 metre bronze emblem designed by Sunil Deore and Romiel Moses.
  • The four animals are said to be guardians of the four directions — north, south, east and west. 
  • The latest has a steel pillar support of 6,500 kgs.
  • The concept sketch and process of casting the national emblem on the roof of the new Parliament building have gone through eight stages of preparation, from clay modelling and computer graphics to bronze casting and polishing.

Why Sarnath Pillar was embraced as the National emblem?

  • After Independence, it was felt that the pillar epitomised the power, courage and confidence of the free nation.
  • The emblem depicts a two-dimensional sculpture.
  • It contains the words Satyameva Jayate (truth alone triumphs) written below it, taken from the Mundaka Upanishad, written in Devanagari script.
  • The emblem represents the seal of the Republic of India.

What is the issue in the current replica?

  • The lions in the latest replica looked “too aggressive”, which amounted to tampering with the original in a hurry to meet the deadline of the Central Vista Project.

Why India has cut windfall tax on Fuel exports?

Economy
Trade Concepts
Context

The Indian government has cut the recently imposed cesses and levies on diesel and aviation turbine fuel (ATF) and removed the cess on exports of petrol.

About

Background

  • Due to the Global crude prices are rising and domestic crude producers were making windfall gains, the government is trying to back the economy from recession.
  • Private oil marketing companies were exporting petrol and diesel to foreign countries like Australia for better realisation.
  • The shortage of fuel at retail outlets because of the oil marketing companies were not willing to sell the commodity at a loss since prices had not increased despite rising crude and depreciating rupee.

What is Windfall Tax?

  • A windfall tax is a higher tax rate on sudden big profits levied on a particular company or industry.
  • Domestic producers sell crude oil to domestic refineries at international parity prices, thus making windfall gains.

Reason for Duty cuts on fuel

  • Addressing Fuel Shortage: With an aim to address the issue of fuel shortage in the country, the government had imposed special additional excise duty on export of petrol and diesel.
  • Cesses equal to 6 per litre on petrol and Rs.13 per litre on diesel were imposed on their exports.
  • Global Recession: The government also imposed a cess of Rs.23, 250 per tonne (by way of special additional excise duty) or windfall tax on domestic crude being sold to domestic refineries at international parity prices.
  • The government has also exempted petrol, diesel and ATF from levy of duties when exported from refinery units located in Special Economic Zones.

Impacts of Windfall tax

  • On External Trade: For India, which imports 85% of its requirements, costlier oil implies a higher import bill and inflation, besides straining the current account, the broadest measure of India’s goods and services transactions with the rest of the world.
  • Less Investment: Investments in the Oil sector and related industry hit hard after the spur in Windfall tax.

Government Interventions

  • Incentivise the oil production: To incentivise higher domestic output, the cabinet committee on economic affairs has decided to provide greater pricing power to domestic oil producers to enable market-determined price discovery.
  • CCEA’s decision thus could result in ONGC gaining by 7-8% from its crude and spur more investments in exploration and drilling, resulting in higher output.
  • Inclusion of Oil producers: They deregulate the crude sales and the waiver from allocating domestically produced oil only to government-owned refineries.
  • PPP model: The largest state-owned producer, ONGC, thus can auction its output from Mumbai High to any refinery in the public and private sector. 

First Genetically modified cowpea in Ghana

Science & Technology

Biotechnology

Context

GM crops represent a potentially important tool for the Ghana’s food security strategy and harnessing it is a challenge now for many.

 

What is Cowpea?

  • Cowpea, a black-eyed pea in some parts of the world – is a major source of protein in Ghana and the rest of the sub-continent.
  • It is a staple and is integral to Ghana’s food security.
  • Ghana is the fifth largest producerof cowpea in Africa.
  • Especially in the northern part of Ghana, where it is second to groundnut in terms of area cultivated.
  • Farmers of the area face many challenges, including an array of pests.
  • The GM cowpea has been genetically engineered to resist the ‘Maruca pod borer’- the major pest in the region.
  • The GM resistance will help decrease the amount of insecticide farmers have been using to control pests and increase yields.
  • Insecticides are known to be deleterious to human health, but their use is on the rise throughout Africa.

About Maruca pod borer

  • Maruca vitrata is a pan-tropical insect pest of leguminous crops like pigeon pea, cowpea, mung bean and soybean.
  • Its common names include the maruca pod borer, bean pod borer, soybean pod borer, mung moth, and the legume pod borer.
  • The species was first described by Johan Christian Fabricius in 1787.
  • It can cause losses of 20–80% on the harvests of cowpeas.
  • Its feeding sites on plants are flower buds, flowers and young pods.


What are the hurdles to commercialise it in Africa?

  • The complex partnerships in developing GM crops and ownership rights.
  • The appropriateness of the technology.
  • Pricing and accompanying intellectual property rights.
  • The Ghanaian government’s ability to regulate GM seeds and crops.
  • GM cowpea could cost as much as 50% more than conventional seed.

The Pakistan and IMF talks

Context:

Recently, the staff-level talks between Pakistan and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) concluded for the seventh and eighth review under Extended Fund Facility (EFF).

Relevance:

GS III- Indian Economy

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About International Monetary Fund (IMF)
  2. What was the Extended Fund Facility (EFF)?
  3. How important is the IMF support to Pakistan?
  4. Why have the Pakistan-IMF relations remained complicated?
  5. What lies ahead for Pakistan and the IMF?

About International Monetary Fund (IMF)

  • The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is an international organization headquartered in Washington, D.C.
  • It consists of 189 countries working to foster global monetary cooperation, secure financial stability, facilitate international trade, promote high employment and sustainable economic growth, and reduce poverty around the world.
  • It periodically depends on the World Bank for its resources.
  • Through the fund and other activities such as the gathering of statistics and analysis, surveillance of its members’ economies, and the demand for particular policies, the IMF works to improve the economies of its member countries.
Functions of the IMF
  • To provide financial assistance to member countries with balance of payments problems, the IMF lends money to replenish international reserves, stabilize currencies and strengthen conditions for economic growth. Countries must embark on structural adjustment policies monitored by the IMF.
  • It oversees the international monetary system and monitors the economic and financial policies of its 189 member countries. As part of this process, which takes place both at the global level and in individual countries, the IMF highlights possible risks to stability and advises on needed policy adjustments.
  • It provides technical assistance and training to central banks, finance ministries, tax authorities, and other economic institutions. This helps countries raise public revenues, modernize banking systems, develop strong legal frameworks, improve governance, and enhance the reporting of macroeconomic and financial data. It also helps countries to make progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

What was the Extended Fund Facility (EFF)?

  • The 39-month EFF between the two was signed in July 2019 to provide funds amounting to Self-Drawing Rights (SDR) — $4,268 million.
  • The EFF was signed by Pakistan to address the medium-term balance of payment problem, and work on structural impediments and increase per capita income.
  • The IMF placed demands including fiscal consolidation to reduce debt and build resilience, the market-determined exchange rate to restore competitiveness, eliminate ‘quasi-fiscal’ losses in the energy sector and strengthened institutions with transparency.
  • The decision to freeze the fuel prices by the then Pakistani President Imran Khan in February 2022 was considered a major deviation under the EFF benchmarks.
  • Mr. Khan’s government, that gave tax amnesties to the industrial sector, impacted the tax regime and a structural benchmark for fiscal consolidation.
  • Loans under Kamyab Pakistan Program were another point of contention. The IMF insisted on its demands before approving any release of the tranche.

How important is the IMF support to Pakistan?

  • Pakistan’s economic situation is dire. According to the Economic Survey of Pakistan 2022, the fiscal deficit in FY 22 was $18.6 billion, and the net public debt at $252 billion, which is 66.3% of the GDP.
  • The power sector’s circular debt is $14 billion.
  • According to the State Bank of Pakistan’s latest report, the current account deficit has peaked to $48.3 billion.
  • The budgeted expenditure outlay for FY 23 states that 41% ($19 billion) of total expenditure will be used in debt servicing.
  • The IMF’s support in addressing the above numbers is crucial. According to the latest quarterly report of the Economic Affairs Division, during the financial year 2021-22, the IMF’s contribution to the total external debt (of $9.4 billion), is only $834 million.
  • However, the IMF’s support is not limited to fixing the balance sheet, but validates and provides economic confidence to other multilateral institutions.

Why have the Pakistan-IMF relations remained complicated?

  • Structural reforms require long-term commitment, which have been sacrificed due to Pakistan’s short-sighted political goals; hence the urge to go to the IMF for fiscal stability has been repeated over time.
  • Pakistan has signed various lending instruments with the IMF, and sought support from IMF around 22 times. However, only once has a programme been completed.
  • Since the 1990s, the IMF has placed specific demands but were addressed by Pakistan in bits and pieces.
    • For example, during the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) rule in 2008, Pakistan was to implement economic reforms, including improvements in tax administration, removal of tax exemptions as well structural reforms. However, successive governments kept domestic political calculations a priority, than the economic reforms.
  • The latest EFF was on the verge of collapse, but the ruling coalition government continued its efforts to revive the discussions.
  • To address the structural benchmarks of the IMF, the authorities have worked on specific legislations, for example, the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) amendment act, and the Finance Bill 2022.

What lies ahead for Pakistan and the IMF?

  • Despite the latest agreement, the road ahead for the IMF and Pakistan is not an easy one.
  • Political calculations and the elections ahead will play a role in Pakistan’s economic decision-making.
  • In 2019, the Director-General Debt Office of the Ministry of Finance revealed that Pakistan has to pay $31 billion by 2026. Total public debt as a percentage of gross domestic product is expected to increase further.
  • There is also a narrative that Pakistan has the fifth largest population with nuclear weapons that cannot be allowed to fail.
  • A section within Pakistan also places the geo-strategic location of the country would provide an edge for cooperation, rather than coercion. Hence, this section believes, the IMF would continue to support.
  • Given the IMF’s increased assertion, Pakistan’s political calculations and the elections ahead, the relationship between the two is likely to remain complicated.

-Source: The Hindu


One Sun One World One Grid

Context:

India and UK, jointly announced a declaration on “one sun, one world, one grid” — or OSOWOG at the Conference of Parties (COP26), held in Glasgow, UK

Relevance:

GS-III: Environment and Ecology (Conservation of the Environment, International Treaties and Agreements), GS-II: International Relations (India’s neighbors, Foreign Policies affecting India’s Interests), GS-III: Industry and Infrastructure (Solar Energy, Renewable Energy), GS-III: Science and Technology (Indigenization of Technology)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. One Sun One World One Grid (OSOWOG)
  2. How would the OSOWOG work?
  3. What are the challenges to the OSOWOG project?

One Sun One World One Grid (OSOWOG)

  • The One Sun One World One Grid (OSOWOG) aims to connect energy grids across borders to facilitate a faster transition to the use of renewable energy.
  • India had first proposed connecting solar energy supply across borders at the International Solar Alliance in 2018 to allow parts of the world with excess renewable power to send power to other countries.
  • The proposal is aimed at addressing the issue of reliability of supply from solar power plants, which do not generate electricity after the sun has set.
  • OSOWOG is also aimed at addressing the issue of high cost of energy storage.
  • The new Global Green Grids Initiative One Sun One World One Grid (GGI-OSOWOG) is an evolution of the International Solar Alliance’s OSOWOG multilateral drive to foster interconnected solar energy infrastructure at a global scale.
  • India, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Nepal already share transmission capacity for energy transfer across borders which can be expanded further and utilised for the transfer of solar power between these countries.

How would the OSOWOG work?

  • This initiative aims to tap solar energy and have it travel seamlessly across borders. The initiative will work towards accelerating the making of large solar power stations and wind farms in the best locations, linked together by continental-scale grids crossing national borders.
  • The sun offers a huge source of energy for mankind. All the energy humanity uses in a year is equal to the energy that reaches the earth from the sun in a single hour.
  • Given that the sun never sets and that half the planet is always receiving sunlight, there is the potential to harness solar energy continuously across the globe and trade this energy across borders to ensure adequate energy supply to meet the needs of everyone on earth.
  • A transnational grid would allow countries to source solar power from regions where it is daytime to meet their green energy needs even when their own installed solar capacity is not generating energy.
  • This initiative will bring together an international coalition of national governments, financial organisations, and power system operators.
OSOWOG can help to:
  • Prevent dangerous climate change
  • Meet the targets of the Paris Agreement
  • Accelerate the clean energy transition
  • Achieve the Sustainable Development Goals
  • Stimulate green investments
  • Create millions of good jobs

What are the challenges to the OSOWOG project?

  • The project is seen as an Indian endeavour for world leadership but under Covid-19 uncertainties, the geopolitical implications of projects like OSOWOG are hard to decipher.
  • The mechanism of cost-sharing will be challenging, given the varied priorities of participating countries depending on their socio-economic orders.
  • In India, the major issue of renewable energy developers is to deal with different state governments and hence, different laws and regulations.
  • The transmission of power across vast distances would require large capital investment to set up long transmission lines.
  • Experts have pointed out that transmission across great distances can potentially be very expensive.
  • There is a difference in voltage, frequency and specifications of the grid in most regions. Maintaining grid stability with just renewable generation would be technically difficult.

-Source: Down to Earth


Minority Status in India is State-dependent: Supreme Court

Context:

The minority status of religious and linguistic communities is “State-dependent”, said the Supreme Court.

Relevance:

GS II- Polity and Governance

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Who is a minority and who decides that?
  2. What does the PIL argue?
  3. Constitutional Provisions

Who is a minority and who decides that?

  • The PIL specifically questions the validity of Section 2(f) of the National Commission for Minority Educational Institutions or NCMEI Act 2004, terming it arbitrary and contrary to Articles 14, 15, 21, 29 and 30 of the Constitution.
    • Section 2(f) says “minority ,”for the purpose of this Act, means a community notified as such by the Central Government.”
    • Section 2(c) of the of National Commission for Minorities (NCM) Act, 1992 also gives the Centre similar powers.
  • In 2005, the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) at the Centre notified five communities — Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Parsis — as minorities at the national level.
  • In 2014, the government notified followers of Jainism as a minority community, making them the sixth on the national list.

What was the petition about?

  • The court was hearing a petition complaining that followers of Judaism, Bahaism and Hinduism are the real minorities in Ladakh, Mizoram, Lakshadweep, Kashmir, Punjab and the North-East States.
  • However, they cannot establish and administer educational institutions of their choice because of the non-identification of ‘minority’ at the State level.
  • Religious communities such as Hindus here are socially, economically, politically non-dominant and numerically inferior in several States.
Why such move?
  • Hindus are merely 1% in Ladakh, 2.75% in Mizoram, 2.77% in Lakshadweep, 4% in Jammu & Kashmir, 8.74% in Nagaland, 11.52% in Meghalaya, 29% in Arunachal Pradesh, 38.49% in Punjab, and 41.29% in Manipur.

Constitutional Provisions

  • Article 15 and 16: Prohibition of discrimination against citizens on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth. Citizens’ right to ‘equality of opportunity’ in matters relating to employment or appointment to any office under the State, and prohibition in this regard of any discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth.
  • Article 25 (1), 26 and 28: People’s freedom of conscience and right to freely profess, practise and propagate religion. Right of every religious denomination or any section to establish and maintain institutions for religious and charitable purposes, manage its own religious affairs, and own and acquire property and administer it. People’s freedom as to attendance at religious instruction or religious worship in educational institutions wholly maintained, recognized, or aided by the State.
  • Article 29: It provides that any section of the citizens residing in any part of India having a distinct language, script or culture of its own, shall have the right to conserve the same. It grants protection to both religious minorities as well as linguistic minorities. However, the Supreme Court held that the scope of this article is not necessarily restricted to minorities only, as use of the word ‘section of citizens’ in the Article includes minorities as well as the majority.
  • Article 30: All minorities shall have the right to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice. The protection under Article 30 is confined only to minorities (religious or linguistic) and does not extend to any section of citizens (as under Article 29).
  • Article 350-B: The 7th Constitutional (Amendment) Act 1956 inserted this article which provides for a Special Officer for Linguistic Minorities appointed by the President of India. It would be the duty of the Special Officer to investigate all matters relating to the safeguards provided for linguistic minorities under the Constitution.

-Source: The Hindu


Marburg virus

Context

The first two cases of the Marburg virus, a highly infectious Ebola-like disease, have been confirmed officially by Ghana after test results were verified by a Senegal laboratory.

  • This outbreak is only the second time that the disease has been detected in West Africa.

Relevance:

GS II- Health

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is the Marburg virus disease?
  2. What are the symptoms of Marburg virus disease?
  3. How can Marburg virus disease be diagnosed and treated?

What is the Marburg virus disease?

  • Marburg virus disease (MVD), earlier known as Marburg haemorrhagic fever, is a severe, often fatal hemorrhagic fever, according to the WHO.
  • Marburg, like Ebola, is a filovirus; and both diseases are clinically similar.
  • Rousettus fruit-bats are considered the natural hosts for Marburg virus.
  • However, African green monkeys imported from Uganda were the source of the first human infection.
  • It was first detected in 1967 after simultaneous outbreaks in Marburg and Frankfurt in Germany; and in Belgrade, Serbia.
  • The disease has an average fatality rate of around 50%.
  • However, it can be as low as 24% or as high as 88% depending on virus strain and case management, says the WHO.

What are the symptoms of Marburg virus disease?

  • After the onset of symptoms, which can begin anytime between 2 to 21 days, MVD can manifest itself in the form of high fever, muscle aches and severe headache.
  • Around the third day, patients report abdominal pain, vomiting, severe watery diarrhoea and cramping.
    • In this phase, the WHO says, the appearance of patients has been often described as “ghost-like” with deep-set eyes, expressionless faces, and extreme lethargy.
  • Between days 5 and 7, patients report bleeding from nose, gums and blood appearing in vomits and faeces.
  • Severe blood loss leads to death, often between 8 to 9 days after symptoms begin.

How can Marburg virus disease be diagnosed and treated?

  • It is difficult to clinically distinguish MVD from diseases such as malaria, typhoid fever and other viral haemorrhagic fevers.
  • However, it is confirmed by lab testing of samples, which like Coronavirus and Ebola are extreme biohazard risk.
  • There is no approved antiviral treatment or vaccine for MVD as of now.
  • It can be managed with supportive care.
  • According to the WHO, rehydration with oral or intravenous fluids, and treatment of specific symptoms can help prevent death.

-Source: Indian Express


Anayoottu Ritual

Context:

Anayoottu, an annual ritual at the Sree Vadakkunnathan Temple, Thrissur was recently held.

Relevance:

GS I- History

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About Anayoottu
  2. Reason for the Anayootu

About Anayoottu

  • The Aanayoottu (gaja pooja/ feeding of elephants) is a festival held in the precincts of the Vadakkunnathan temple in City of Thrissur, in Kerala.
  • The festival falls on the first day of the month of Karkkidakam (timed against the Malayalam calendar), which coincides with the month of July.
  • It entails placing several plain elephants in the middle of a throng of people so they can be adored and fed.
  • People swarm the temple in order to feed the elephants.

Reason for the Anayoottu

  • The god of riches and desire fulfilment, Lord Ganesha, is said to be appeased by presenting poojas and delectable food to the elephants.
  • The Aanayottoo ceremony has been held annually at the Vadakkunnathan temple, which is one of the oldest Shiva temples in southern India.

-Source: The Hindu

 Juvenile Justice Board


Context:

Recently, The Supreme Court asked the central government, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) and the State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (SCPCR) to consider issuing guidelines or directions to assist and facilitate the Juvenile Justice Boards (JJBs) in making the preliminary assessment for determining whether a child of 16 years of age and above can be tried as an adult for a heinous offence.

Relevance:

GS-II: Social Justice and Governance (Issues Related to Children, Governance and Government Policies, Issues Arising Out of Design & Implementation of Policies)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About Juvenile Justice Board
  2. What does the law say on trying a juvenile as an adult?
  3. Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015
  4. Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Amendment Bill, 2021
  5. What happens when a juvenile is ordered to be treated as an adult?
  6. What was the case before the Supreme Court?

About Juvenile Justice Board:

  • Juveniles accused of a crime or detained for a crime are brought before the Juvenile Justice Board (JJB) under the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act 2000 (amended in 2006).
  • The aim of JJB is to hold a child culpable for their criminal activity, not through punishment, but counselling the child to understand their actions and persuade them away from criminal activities in the future.
Structure:
  • The JJB consists of judicial magistrate of the first class and two social workers, at least one of whom should be a woman.
  • JJB are meant to resolve cases within a four month period.
  • Most circumstances the juvenile can be released on bail by the JJB.
  • The JJB is a child-friendly space that should not be intimidating or overwhelming for the child.

What does the law say on trying a juvenile as an adult?

  • According to Section 15 of The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act (JJ Act), where a child of 16 years of age or above has committed a heinous offence — a crime for which the minimum punishment is seven years imprisonment — the JJB is required to “conduct a preliminary assessment with regard to his mental and physical capacity to commit such offence, ability to understand the consequences of the offence and the circumstances in which he allegedly committed the offence” before taking a decision whether the child needs to be tried as an adult.
  • The assessment is required to be done within three months from the date of first production of the child before the JJB.
  • The apex court also said that when the JJB does not comprise a practising professional with a degree in child psychology or child psychiatry, it would have to mandatorily seek the assistance of experts.

Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015

  • The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 replaced the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000 to comprehensively address children in conflict with law and children in need of care and protection.
  • The Act changes the nomenclature from ‘juvenile’ to ‘child’ or ‘child in conflict with law’.
  • Also, it removes the negative connotation associated with the word “juvenile”.
  • It also includes several new and clear definitions such as orphaned, abandoned and surrendered children; and petty, serious and heinous offences committed by children.
  • The 2015 law also included special provisions to tackle child offenders committing heinous offences in the age group of 16-18 years.
  • It mandates setting up Juvenile Justice Boards and Child Welfare Committees in every district. Both must have at least one-woman member each.
  • A separate new chapter on Adoption to streamline adoption procedures for an orphan, abandoned and surrendered children,
  • Also, the Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA) was granted the status of a statutory body to enable it to perform its function more effectively.
  • All Child Care Institutions, whether run by State Government or by voluntary or non-governmental organisations are to be mandatorily registered under the Act within 6 months from the date of commencement of the Act.

Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Amendment Bill, 2021

  • Now, “Serious offences” will also include offences for which maximum punishment is imprisonment of more than seven years, and minimum punishment is not prescribed or is of less than seven years. [Serious offences are those for which the punishment under the Indian Penal Code or any other law for the time being is imprisonment between three and seven years.]
  • The Juvenile Justice Board inquiries about a child who is accused of a serious offence.
  • The Bill amends the present act to provide that an offence which is punishable with imprisonment between three to seven years to be non-cognizable (non-cognizable where arrest is allowed without warrant).
  • Presently, the adoption order issued by the court establishes that the child belongs to the adoptive parents. The Bill provides that instead of the court, the District Magistrate (including Additional District Magistrate) will issue such adoption orders.
  • The Bill provides that any person aggrieved by an adoption order passed by the District Magistrate may file an appeal before the Divisional Commissioner, within 30 days from the date of passage of such order.
Changes to the Child Welfare Committee (CWC)
  • The amendment provides Additional Functions of the District Magistrate as the supervising the District Child Protection Unit, and also mandates the District Magistrate to conduct a quarterly review of the functioning of the Child Welfare Committee.
  • The amendments include authorizing District Magistrate including Additional District Magistrate to issue adoption orders under Section 61 of the JJ Act, in order to ensure speedy disposal of cases and enhance accountability.It provides that a person will not eligible to be a member of the CWC if he/she:
    • has any record of violation of human rights or child rights,
    • has been convicted of an offence involving moral turpitude,
    • has been removed or dismissed from service of the central government, or any state government, or a government undertaking,
    • is part of the management of a child care institution in a district.

What happens when a juvenile is ordered to be treated as an adult?

  • The case is transferred before the children’s court.
  • As per Section 19 of the amended Act, the court can pass a decision on whether there is a need for trial of the child as an adult, or otherwise.
  • A children’s court has to ensure that the child in conflict with the law is sent to a “place of safety” until he reaches the age of 21 years, and is only then transferred to jail.
  • The court can also order the conditional release of the child after he attains the age of 21 years.
  • Two important protections — protection from disqualification, and erasure of conviction record after a reasonable period — do not extend to a child who has been tried as an adult.
  • If the child is tried as an adult, the sentence can go up to life imprisonment, but if the child is tried by the board as a juvenile, the maximum sentence can only be three years in a special home.

What was the case before the Supreme Court?

  • In September 2017, a Class 2 student of a prominent school in Gurgaon was found murdered inside the school washroom.
  • Haryana Police arrested a conductor of a school bus for the murder and claimed that he had confessed to the crime. However, the CBI, which took over the investigation, arrested a student of Class 11 at the school for the murder.
  • In December 2017, the JJB decided to treat the accused as an adult. In October 2018, the Punjab and Haryana High Court directed the JJB to make a fresh assessment of whether the accused should be treated as an adult or a juvenile. Both the victim’s father and the CBI challenged the High Court’s decision before the Supreme Court.
  • In November 2018, the apex court ordered a status quo in the case. The petitions were dismissed on July 13 2022. The accused has remained in an observation home since his arrest by the CBI.
In absence of any guidelines on making the assessment, how does the JJB take a call on whether to try the child as an adult?
  • The Supreme Court said that while considering a child as an adult, one should look at his or her physical maturity, cognitive abilities, and social and emotional competencies.
  • It rejected the view that if the child has the mental capacity to commit the offence, then he automatically has the capacity to understand the consequences of the offence as well.
  • The “consequences” mentioned in Section 15 of the Act would not just be confined to the immediate consequence, “but it would also take within its ambit the consequences which may fall upon not only the victim as a result of the assault, but also on the family of the victim, on the child, his family, and that too not only immediate consequences but also the far reaching consequences in future”, the court said.
  • The court also said that children may be geared towards instant gratification, and may not be able to understand the long-term consequences of their actions. “They are also more likely to be influenced by emotion rather than reason,” it said.

-Source: Indian Express


Tropical Ozone Hole


Context:

A new ozone hole has been detected over the tropics, at latitudes of 30 degrees South to 30 degrees North, a recent study claimed. But some experts are divided over this.

Relevance:

GS I- Geography

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is Ozone Layer and what are Ozone Holes?
  2. Ozone creation and destruction
  3. Tropical Ozone Hole
  4. What caused an ozone hole in the tropics?
  5. Significance of the finding

What is Ozone Layer and what are Ozone Holes?

  • Ozone layer, also called ozonosphere, is a region of the upper atmosphere, between roughly 15 and 35 km (9 and 22 miles) above Earth’s surface which contains relatively high concentrations of ozone molecules (O3).
  • Approximately 90 percent of the atmosphere’s ozone occurs in the stratosphere, the region extending from 10–18 km (6–11 miles) to approximately 50 km (about 30 miles) above Earth’s surface.
  • The ozone layer effectively blocks almost all solar radiation of wavelengths less than 290 nanometres from reaching Earth’s surface, including certain types of ultraviolet (UV) and other forms of radiation that could injure or kill most living things.

What are Ozone Holes?

  • The ‘ozone hole’ is not really a hole — it refers to a region in the stratosphere where the concentration of ozone becomes extremely low in certain months.
  • The ‘ozone holes’ most commonly talked about are the depletions over Antarctica, forming each year in the months of September, October and November, due to a set of special meteorological and chemical conditions that arise at the South Pole, and can reach sizes of around 20 to 25 million sq km.
  • Such holes are also spotted over the North Pole, but owing to warmer temperatures than the South Pole, the depletions here are much smaller in size.

Ozone creation and destruction

  • The production of ozone in the stratosphere results primarily from the breaking of the chemical bonds within oxygen molecules (O2) by high-energy solar photons. This process, called photodissociation, results in the release of single oxygen atoms, which later join with intact oxygen molecules to form ozone.
  • The amount of ozone in the stratosphere varies naturally throughout the year as a result of chemical processes that create and destroy ozone molecules and as a result of winds and other transport processes that move ozone molecules around the planet.
  • Over the course of several decades, however, human activities substantially altered the ozone layer.
  • Ozone depletion, the global decrease in stratospheric ozone observed since the 1970s, is most pronounced in polar regions, and it is well correlated with the increase of chlorine and bromine in the stratosphere.
  • Those chemicals, once freed by UV radiation from the chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and other halocarbons (carbon-halogen compounds) that contain them, destroy ozone by stripping away single oxygen atoms from ozone molecules.
  • As the amount of stratospheric ozone declines, more UV radiation reaches Earth’s surface, and scientists worry that such increases could have significant effects on ecosystems and human health.

Tropical Ozone Hole

  • According to the study, the ozone hole is located at altitudes of 10-25 km over the tropics.
  • This hole is about seven times larger than Antarctica, the study suggested.
  • It also appears across all seasons, unlike that of Antarctica, which is visible only in the spring.
  • The hole has become significant since the 1980s. But it was not discovered until this study.

What caused an ozone hole in the tropics?

  • Studies suggested another mechanism of ozone depletion: Cosmic rays.
  • Chlorofluorocarbon’s (CFC) role in depleting the ozone layer is well-documented.
  • The tropical stratosphere recorded a low temperature of 190-200 Kelvin (K).
  • This can explain why the tropical ozone hole is constantly formed over the seasons.

Significance of the finding

  • The tropical ozone hole, which makes up 50 percent of Earth’s surface, could cause a global concern due to the risks associated with it.
  • It is likely to cause skin cancer, cataracts and other negative effects on the health and ecosystems in tropical regions.

-Source: Down to Earth


Kala-Azar


Context:

Eleven districts of Bengal reported at least 65 cases of black fever or ‘Kala-Azar disease in the last couple of weeks, a senior official of the health department said, based on state-administered surveillance.

Relevance:

GS III- Health, Prelims

About Kala Azar

  • Kala-azar is a slow progressing indigenous disease caused by a protozoan parasite of genus Leishmania.
  • In India Leishmania donovani is the only parasite causing this disease.
  • The Kala-azar is endemic to the Indian subcontinent in 119 districts in four countries (Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal).
  • This disease is the second-largest parasitic killer in the world. Elimination is defined as reducing the annual incidence of Kala Azar (KA) to less than 1 case per 10,000 people at the sub-district level.
  • It is a neglected tropical disease affecting almost 100 countries.
  • Neglected tropical diseases are a diverse group of communicable diseases that prevail in tropical and subtropical conditions in 149 countries.
There are three types of leishmaniasis
  • Visceral leishmaniasis, which affects multiple organs and is the most serious form of the disease.
  • Cutaneous leishmaniasis, which causes skin sores and is the most common form.
  • Mucocutaneous leishmaniasis, which causes skin and mucosal lesions.

The Visceral leishmaniasis, which is commonly known as Kala-azar in India, is fatal in over 95% of the cases, if left untreated.

Symptoms of Kala azar
  • It is associated with fever, loss of appetite (anorexia), fatigue, enlargement of the liver, spleen and nodes and suppression of the bone marrow.
  • It also increases the risk of other secondary infections.
Diagnosing Kala azar
  • The first oral drug found to be effective for treating kala-azar is miltefosine.
  • The most common method of diagnosing kala azar is by dipstick testing. However, this method is highly problematic.

Where has kala-azar been detected in India?

  • In West Bengal, the districts where the maximum number of cases were registered include Darjeeling, Malda, Uttar Dinajpur, Dakshin Dinajpur and Kalimpong.
  • The districts of Birbhum, Bankura, Purulia, and Murshidabad have also reported a few cases, while none have been detected in Kolkata yet.
  • The disease is endemic in Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal.
  • An estimated 165.4 million people are at risk, according to data from the National Centre for Vector Borne Disease Control Programme (NCVBDC).
  • In the country as a whole, there has been a significant decline in cases over the years.
  • In 2014, around 9,200 cases were reported while in 2021 the number fell to 1,276 cases.

What does the treatment include?

  • Anti-leishmanial medicines are available for treatment.
  • Vector control is also recommended by the WHO, which means reducing or interrupting the transmission of disease by decreasing the number of sandflies in surroundings through insecticide spray, use of insecticide-treated nets, etc.
  • The government aimed to eliminate the disease in India by 2015, but that deadline was missed.
  • However, the number of cases has been brought down significantly through the National Kala-Azar Elimination Programme.
  • Medicines, insecticides and technical support were given by the central government, while state governments provided for costs involved in implementation.
  • The program was implemented through State/District Malaria Control Offices and the primary health care system.

-Source: Indian Express

 


Wildfires Intensifying in Europe


Context:

Europe is battling intense wildfires with countries like Spain, Greece and France struggling to stamp out fires and contain the damage.

Relevance:

GS I- Geography

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is wildfire?
  2. What causes Wildfire?
  3. How dangerous is inhaling wildfire smoke?

What is wildfire?

  • A wildfire is an uncontrolled fire that burns in the wildland vegetation, often in rural areas. 
  • Wildfires can burn in forests, grasslands, savannas, and other ecosystems, and have been doing so for hundreds of millions of years.
  • They are not limited to a particular continent or environment.

What causes Wildfire?

  • Wildfires require right climatic conditions, burnable fuel and a spark.
  • Rising temperatures suck moisture out of plants, creating an abundance of dry fuel.
  • Drought and high heat can kill plants and dry out dead grass, and other material on the forest floor that fuel the fire once it starts sweeping through a patch.
  • While dry vegetation is the burnable fuel that serves as kindling for fires, the spark is sometimes caused by lightning, at other times by accident or recklessness of the local population.
Wildfire in Europe:
  • As for Europe, the region has been hit by an early fire season due to an unusually dry, hot spring that left the soil parched.
  • Authorities attribute this to climate change. They add that the fires are being fanned by earlier-than-usual extreme temperatures and drought conditions in some parts.
  • Wildfire experts agree as they see clear climate change signatures in the dryness, high heat and early fire season.

How dangerous is inhaling wildfire smoke?

  • While fire poses a direct risk to people’s life and property, wildfire smoke, and particularly the concentration of PM 2.5, or particles smaller than 2.5 microns, can also affect the respiratory and cardiovascular systems.
  • For those already suffering from cardiovascular or respiratory illnesses, there is a risk of flare-ups.

Source: Indian Express


 

National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF) 2022


Context:

The Indian Institute of Technology, Madras (IIT-M), is yet again the top higher educational institute in the country .

  • This is the seventh consecutive edition of NIRF.

Relevance:

GS II- Education

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Highlights of  National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF) 2022:
  2. About NIRF

 


Fundamental Duties


Context:

The Supreme Court has allowed the Centre’s request for two months’ time to file a reply to a petition seeking the enforcement of fundamental duties of citizens, including patriotism and unity of nation, through “comprehensive, and well-defined laws”.

Relevance:

GS II- Polity (Indian Constitution)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Details
  2. How were the fundamental duties incorporated in the Constitution?
  3. What are the fundamental duties of the citizen?

Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao Scheme


Context:

According to recent guidelines issued by the Ministry of Women and Child Development, Beti Bachao Beti Padhao (BBBP) Scheme will be extended to all Districts.

Relevance:

GS-II: Social Justice and Governance

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What are the Guidelines?
  2. About Beti Bachao Beti Padhao Scheme
  3. Criticism of Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao

 


Shanghai Cooperation Organization


Context:

Iran and Belarus are likely to be the two newest additions to the China and Russia-backed Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) grouping.

Relevance:

GS II- International Relations

About Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO);-

  • It is a permanent intergovernmental international organization.
  • It’s creation was announced on 15 June 2001 in Shanghai (China) by the Republic of Kazakhstan, the People’s Republic of China, the Kyrgyz Republic, the Russian Federation, the Republic of Tajikistan, and the Republic of Uzbekistan.
  • It was preceded by the Shanghai Five mechanism.
  • The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation Charter was signed during the St. Petersburg SCO Heads of State meeting in June 2002, and entered into force on 19 September 2003.
  • The SCO’s official languages are Russian and Chinese.
  • Its membership was expanded to include India and Pakistan in 2017.
  • The SCO also has four observer states i.e. Afghanistan, Iran, Belarus and Mongolia,  which may be inducted at a later date.
  • Headquarters:  Beijing, China.

Forest Conservation Rules 2022


Context:

Recently, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) has issued the Forest (Conservation) Rules, 2022.

Relevance:

GS III- Science and Technology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What are the Forest Conservation Rules?
  2. What do the updated rules say?
  3. Other Provisions of Forest (Conservation) Rules,2022

What are the Forest Conservation Rules?

  • The Forest Conservation Rules deal with the implementation of the Forest Conservation Act (FCA), 1980.
  • They prescribe the procedure to be followed for forest land to be diverted for non-forestry uses such as road construction, highway development, railway lines, and mining.
  • The broad aims of the Forest Conservation Act are to protect forest and wildlife, put brakes on State governments’ attempts to hive off forest land for commercial projects and striving to increase the area under forests.
Forest Advisory Committee (FAC):
  • For forest land beyond five hectares, approval for diverting land must be given by the Central government. This is via a specially constituted committee, called the Forest Advisory Committee (FAC).
  • This committee examines whether the user agency, or those who have requested forest land, have made a convincing case for the upheaval of that specific parcel of land, whether they have a plan in place to ensure that the ensuing damage — from felling of trees in that area, denuding the local landscape — will be minimal and the said piece of land doesn’t cause damage to wildlife habitat.
  • Once the FAC is convinced and approves (or rejects a proposal), it is forwarded to the concerned State government where the land is located, who then has to ensure that provisions of the Forest Right Act, 2006, a separate Act that protects the rights of forest dwellers and tribals over their land, are complied with.
  • The FAC approval also means that the future users of the land must provide compensatory land for afforestation as well as pay the net present value (ranging between ₹10-15 lakh per hectare.)

What do the updated rules say?

  • The rules make a provision for private parties to cultivate plantations and sell them as land to companies who need to meet compensatory forestation targets.
  • This, according to the government, will help India increase forest cover as well as solve the problems of the States of not finding land within their jurisdiction for compensatory purposes.
  • While this has invited its own controversy, the latest point of contention is the absence of wording, in the updated Forest Conservation Rules, of what happens to tribals and forest-dwelling communities whose land would be hived off for developmental work.
Prior to the updated rules
  • State bodies would forward documents to the FAC that would also include information on the status of whether the forest rights of locals in the area were settled.
  • After 2009, the Environment Ministry passed an order mandating that proposals would not be entertained by the FAC unless there was a letter from the State specifying that the forest rights in the place had been “settled” and the gram sabha, or the governing body in villages in the area, had given their written consent to the diversion of forest.
  • However, there have been a series of orders by the Environment Ministry over the years, and frequently opposed by the Ministry of Tribal Affairs, that have sought to skirt the necessity for consent from the gram sabha.
New Rules
  • It formally codify this and say that a project, once approved by the FAC, will then be passed on to the State authorities who will collect the compensatory fund and land, and process it for final approval.
  • Only in passing, is it mentioned that the States will ensure “settlement” of Forest Rights Acts applicable.

Other Provisions of Forest (Conservation) Rules,2022

It constituted an

  • Advisory Committee
  • Regional empowered committee at each of the integrated regional offices
  • Screening committee at State/Union Territory (UT) government-level.

Advisory Committee:

  • The Advisory Committee’s role is limited to providing advice or making recommendations regarding the grant of approval under applicable sections with regard to proposals that have been referred to it as well as any matter relating to the conservation of forests that has been referred to it by the Central government.

Project Screening Committee:

  • For an initial examination of plans including the diversion of forest land, the MoEFCC has directed the establishment of project screening committees in each state and the UT. The five-member committee will meet at least twice a month and provide time-bound project advice to the state governments.
  • Within 60 days for all non-mining projects with a size of 5 to 40 hectares, and within 75 days for all such mining projects.
  • The committee is given greater time for projects covering larger areas: 150 days for mining projects and 120 days for non-mining projects involving more than 100 hectares.

Regional Empowered Committees:

  • All linear projects (roads, highways, etc), projects involving forest land up to 40 hectares and those that have projected a use of forest land having a canopy density up to 0.7 — irrespective of their extent for the purpose of survey — shall be examined in the Integrated Regional Office.

Compensatory Afforestation:

  • The applicants for diverting forest land in a hilly or mountainous state with green cover covering more than two-thirds of its geographical area, or in a state/UT with forest cover covering more than one-third of its geographical area, will be able to take up compensatory afforestation in other states/UTs where the cover is less than 20%.

Source: The Hindu


Draft Eco-Sensitive Area Norms for Western Ghats


Context:

The Union Environment Ministry’s latest draft notification on Ecologically Sensitive Areas (ESA) in the Western Ghats is facing stiff opposition in Karnataka.

  • The Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) had issued a draft notification, which demarcated large parts of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Maharashtra and as eco-sensitive areas.
  • Among these states, Karnataka contains the lion share of the notified areas in the Western Ghats, at 20,668 sq km.

Relevance:

GS III- Environment and Ecology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What are Eco-Sensitive Zones?
  2. What does the new draft notification for the Western Ghats say?
  3. What are the curbs that the state governments will have to implement as per the notification?
  4. Suggestions by the Kasturirangan panel

What are Eco-Sensitive Zones?

  • Eco Sensitive Zones are fragile areas around protected areas declared by the Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change (MoEFCC).
  • They are areas notified by the MoEFCC around Protected Areas, National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries.
  • The purpose of declaring ESZs is to create some kind of “shock absorbers” to the protected areas by regulating and managing the activities around such areas.
  • Among activities prohibited in the eco-sensitive zone are hydroelectric projects, brick kilns, commercial use of firewood and discharge of untreated effluents in natural water bodies or land areas.
  • No new commercial hotels and resorts shall be permitted within 1 km of the boundary of the protected area or up to the extent of the eco-sensitive zone, whichever is nearer, except for small temporary structures for eco-tourism activities.

What does the new draft notification for the Western Ghats say?

  • The draft notification demarcates 46,832 sq km in the five states Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Goa and Tamil Nadu as ESA in the Western Ghats.
  • Kerala is excluded from the draft notification and it had earlier undertaken the exercise of demarcating ESA in the state by physical verification.
  • The ESA recommended by the Kerala state government is spread over an area of 9,993.7 square kilometers, in contrast to the 13,108 sq km recommended by the K Kasturirangan panel that gave its report in 2013.
  • Among the five states, 20,668 sq km of the ESA lies in Karnataka, 1,461 sq km in Goa, 17,340 sq km in Maharashtra, 6,914 sq km in Tamil Nadu and 449 sq km in Gujarat.
  • According to the notification, the concerned state governments are responsible for monitoring and enforcing the provisions of the notification.

What are the curbs that the state governments will have to implement as per the notification?

  • The draft notification states there shall be a complete ban on mining, quarrying and sand mining in the ESA.
  • All existing mines are to be phased out within five years from the date of issue of the final notification or on the expiry of the existing mining lease.
  • It also bars setting up of new thermal power projects and expansion of existing plants in the sensitive area, and the banning of all new ‘Red’ category industries.
    • These are activities that have a Pollution Index score of 60 and above, such as petrochemical manufacturing, and coal liquefaction.
  • The construction of new townships and area development projects will also be prohibited in the areas.
  • However, all existing health care establishments shall continue in ESA and so will new hydropower projects on the basis of the Environmental Impact Assessment notification.
  • ‘Orange’ category industries, with a pollution index score of 41-59, such as jute processing and ‘White’ industries that are considered non-polluting, like chalk making, will also be allowed with strict compliance of environmental regulation.

How will the Centre ensure the implementation of these norms?

  • Decision Support and Monitoring Centre for Western Ghats shall be established by the Environment Ministry in collaboration with the state governments of the Western Ghats region.
  • This will assess and report on the status of ecology of Western Ghats on a regular basis, and provide a decision support facility in the implementation of the provisions of the notification.
  • The post clearance monitoring of projects and activities allowed in the ESA will be carried out by the concerned state government, the State Pollution Control Board and the regional office of the Ministry.
  • All projects in the Eco-sensitive Area which have been given an environmental clearance or forest clearance will be monitored at least once a year by the concerned regional office of the Union Environment Ministry.
  • On an annual basis, the state governments will also prepare a ‘State of Health Report’ of the Western Ghats region within their jurisdiction, and provide details of the steps taken to monitor and enforce the provisions of the notification.

Suggestions by the Kasturirangan panel

  • The panel, formed in 2012, was tasked with the mandate of taking a “holistic view of the issue, and to bring synergy” between the aims of protecting the environment and biodiversity, while maintaining the needs and aspirations of the local and indigenous people, of sustainable development and environmental integrity of the region.
  • This high-level working group had suggested future steps to be taken to prevent further degradation of the fragile ecology of the Ghats.
  • The report had recommended a blanket ban on mining, quarrying, red category industries and thermal power projects.
  • It also stated that the impact of infrastructural projects on the forest and wildlife should be studied before permission is given.

Source: Indian Express


Reform in Bail Law


Context:

Recently, the Supreme Court underlined that “there is a pressing need” for reform in the law related to bail and called on the government to consider framing a special legislation on the lines of the law in the United Kingdom.

Relevance:

GS II- Government policies and Interventions

Dimensions  of the Article:

  1. What is the ruling about?
  2. What is the India’s law on bail?
  3. What is Bail Law the UK law?
  4. What has the Supreme Court held on reforms?

What is the ruling about?

  • A two-judge Bench issued certain clarifications to an older judgment delivered in July 2021 on bail reform (Satender Kumar Antil vs CBI).
    • The ruling essentially a reiteration of several crucial principles of criminal procedure.
  • Referring to the state of jails in the country, where over two-thirds lodged are undertrials, the Supreme Court underlined that arrest is a draconian measure that needs to be used sparingly.
  • Theoretically, the court also linked the idea of indiscriminate arrests to magistrates ignoring the rule of “bail, not jail” to a colonial mindset.
    • The Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) was first drafted in 1882 and continues to be in use with amendments from time to time.

What is the India’s law on bail?

  • The CrPC does not define the word bail but only categories offences under the Indian Penal Code as ‘bailable’ and ‘non-bailable’.
  • The CrPC empowers magistrates to grant bail for bailable offences as a matter of right.
  • This would involve release on furnishing a bail bond, without or without security.
  • Non-bailable offences are cognisable, which enables the police officer to arrest without a warrant. In such cases, a magistrate would determine if the accused is fit to be released on bail.

What is Bail Law in the UK law?

  • The Bail Act of the United Kingdom, 1976, prescribes the procedure for granting bail. A key feature is that one of the aims of the legislation is “reducing the size of the inmate population”.
  • The law also has provisions for ensuring legal aid for defendants.
  • The Act recognises a “general right” to be granted bail.
  • Its Section 4(1) raises the presumption of bail by stating that the law applies to a person who shall be granted bail except as provided in Schedule 1 to the Act.
  • For rejecting bail, the prosecution must show that grounds exist for believing the defendant on bail would not surrender to custody, would commit an offence while on bail, or would interfere with witnesses or otherwise obstruct the course of justice; unless the defendant must be detained for his own welfare or protection; or in other circumstances.

What has the Supreme Court held on reforms?

The court’s ruling is in the form of guidelines, and it also draws the line on certain procedural issues for the police and judiciary.

Separate Law for Bail

  • The court underlined that the CrPC, despite amendments since Independence, largely retains its original structure as drafted by a colonial power over its subjects.
  • The court made this point to signal that despite its rulings, structurally, the Code does not account for arrest as a fundamental liberty issue in itself.
  • It also highlighted that magistrates do not necessarily exercise their discretionary powers uniformly.
  • Uniformity and certainty in the decisions of the court are the foundations of judicial dispensation.
  • Persons accused with same offense shall never be treated differently either by the same court or by the same or different courts.
  •  Such an action though by an exercise of discretion despite being a judicial one would be a grave affront to Articles 14 and 15 of the Constitution of India.
  • The court’s solution on this is the framing of a separate law that deals with the grant of bail.

Indiscriminate Arrests:

  • The court noted that the culture of too many arrests, especially for non-cognisable offences, is unwarranted.
  • It emphasised that even for cognisable offences, arrest is not mandatory and must be “necessitated.
    • Such necessity is drawn to prevent the committing of any further offense, for a proper investigation, and to prevent him/her from either disappearing or tampering with the evidence.
    • He/she can also be arrested to prevent such person from making any inducement, threat, or promise to any person according to the facts, so as to dissuade him from disclosing said facts either to the court or to the police officer.
    • One more ground on which an arrest may be necessary is when his/her presence is required after arrest for production before the Court and the same cannot be assured.
  • It held that lower courts must satisfy that these conditions are met and “Any non-compliance would entitle the accused for grant of bail”.

Bail Application:

  • There need not be any insistence of a bail application while considering the application under Section 88, 170, 204 and 209 of the Code.
  • These sections relate to various stages of a trial where a magistrate can decide on release of an accused.
  • These range from power of the magistrate to take bond for appearance (Section 88) to power to issue summons (Section 204).
  • The Supreme Court held that in these circumstances, magistrates must routinely consider granting bail, without insisting on a separate bail application.

Direction to States:

  • The SC also directed all state governments and Union Territories to facilitate standing orders to comply with the orders and avoid indiscriminate arrests.
  • The CBI has already communicated earlier orders of the Court to special judges under its jurisdiction.
  • This would certainly take care of not only the unwarranted arrests, but also the clogging of bail applications before various Courts as they may not even be required for the offences up to seven years.

Source: Indian Express


Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY)


Context:

Recently, the Union Agriculture Ministry announced that Andhra Pradesh has decided to rejoin the crop insurance scheme Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY) from the ongoing kharif season.

  • Andhra Pradesh was one of six states that have stopped implementation of the scheme over the last four years. The other five, which remain out, are Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Jharkhand, and Telangana.

Relevance:

GS II- Welfare Schemes

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Why did the states opt out?
  2. About Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY)
  3. Risks covered under the scheme

Why did the states opt out?

Andhra Pradesh:
  • The state left the PMFBY from rabi season 2019-20.
  • State had mentioned several reasons:
    • That the scheme should be voluntary;
    • That states should be given options to choose the risks covered;
    • The scheme should be universal;
    • The cut-off date for enrolment should be flexible;
    • The state should be given option to use their own database of E-crop, an application used by the state government to collect information about crops.
Bihar: 
  • The first state to opt out, from 2018-19, after implementing the scheme in 2016-17 (27.1 lakh farmers insured) and 2017-18 (23 lakh).
  • There were main three reasons for the state’s decision:
    • The state wanted universal coverage.
    • The state government wanted zero premium for farmers (meaning the entire premium should be paid by the government.)
    • The rate of premium was very high for Bihar because of the history of claims under earlier schemes.
Jharkhand:
  • It stopped implementing the scheme soon after the Centre revamped it in February 2020, effective from kharif 2020.
  • Under the revised guidelines, “The non-payment of the State Share of premium subsidy within the prescribed timelines as defined in the seasonality discipline will lead to the disqualification of the State Government to implement the scheme in the next season.”
  • Jharkhand’s share of premium subsidy was overdue for 2018-19 and 2019-20.
  • This was the main reason that Jharkhand opted out from 2020-21.
  • Besides, there were other “operational challenges” and “political reasons.
West Bengal:
  • The reason for West Bengal not implementing the PMFBY is purely “political”.
  • The state wants to implement the scheme without mentioning Pradhan Mantri in the scheme’s name, which is not possible.
  • West Bengal implemented the scheme for three years from 2016-17 to 2018-19, covering 41.3 lakh farmers in 2016-17, 40.4 lakh in 2017-18, and 51.3 lakh in 2018-19.
Gujarat:
  • It implemented the PMFBY from 2016-17 to 2019-20, covering 19.8 lakh farmers in 2016-17, 17.6 lakh in 2017-18, 21.7 lakh in 2018-19, and 24.8 lakh in 2019-20.
  • After the scheme was revamped, Gujarat invited tenders for three years in 2020 but insurance companies quoted a very high premium, and hence the state opted out.
Telangana :
  • It implemented the PMFBY for the initial four years, covering 9.7 lakh, 11 lakh, 8 lakh in 2018-19 and 10.3 lakh farmers in successive yaers before stopping in 2020-21.
  • Telangana’s share of premium was overdue for 2018-19 and 2019-20, the main reason why it did not notify the scheme for 2020-21.

About Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY)

  • The Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY) launched on 2016 by Prime Minister Narendra Modi is an insurance service for farmers for their yields.
  • PMFBY is in line with One Nation – One Scheme theme.
  • The PMFBY will replace the existing two schemes National Agricultural Insurance Scheme as well as the Modified NAIS.
  • The Scheme shall be implemented through a multi-agency framework by selected insurance companies under the overall guidance & control of the Department of Agriculture, Cooperation & Farmers Welfare (DAC&FW), Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare (MoA&FW), Government of India (GOI) and the concerned State in co-ordination with various other agencies.
  • Premium cost over and above the farmer share is equally subsidized by States and the Central Government of India. However, the Central Government shares 90% of the premium subsidy for North Eastern States to promote the uptake in the region.
    •  Under the PMFBY, a farmer is required to pay as premium 2% of the sum insured or actuarial rate, whichever is less, for all kharif foodgrain and oilseed crops; 1.5% of sum insured or actuarial rate, whichever is less, for all rabi foodgrain and oilseed crops; and 5% for horticultural crops.
Objectives
  • To provide insurance coverage and financial support to the farmers in the event of failure of any of the notified crop as a result of natural calamities, pests & diseases.
  • To stabilise the income of farmers to ensure their continuance in farming.
  • To encourage farmers to adopt innovative and modern agricultural practices.
  • To ensure flow of credit to the agriculture sector.

Beneficiaries: All farmers growing notified crops in a notified area during the season who have insurable interest in the crop are eligible.

Coverage of Crops:
  • Oil seeds
  • Food crop
  • Annual Commercial / Annual Horticultural crops.
  • In addition, for perennial crops, pilots for coverage can be taken for those perennial horticultural crops for which standard methodology for yield estimation is available.

Risks covered under the scheme

  • Prevented Sowing/Planting/Germination Risk: Insured area is prevented from sowing/planting/germination due to deficit rainfall or adverse seasonal/weather conditions.
  • Standing Crop (Sowing to Harvesting): Comprehensive risk insurance is provided to cover yield losses due to non-preventable risks, viz. Drought, Dry spell, Flood, Inundation, widespread Pests and Disease attack, Landslides, Fire due to natural causes, Lightening, Storm, Hailstorm and Cyclone.
  • Post-Harvest Losses: Coverage is available only up to a maximum period of two weeks from harvesting, for those crops which are required to be dried in cut and spread / small bundled condition in the field after harvesting against specific perils of Hailstorm, Cyclone, Cyclonic rains and Unseasonal rains
  • Localized Calamities: Loss/damage to notified insured crops resulting from occurrence of identified localized risks of Hailstorm, Landslide, Inundation, Cloud burst and Natural fire due to lightening affecting isolated farms in the notified area.
  • Add-on coverage for crop loss due to attack by wild animals: The States may consider providing add-on coverage for crop loss due to attack by wild animals wherever the risk is perceived to be substantial and is identifiable.
  • General Exclusions: Losses arising out of war and nuclear risks, malicious damage and other preventable risks shall be excluded.

 Increase in Current Account Deficit


Context:   

The Finance Ministry has asserted that the current account deficit (CAD) could, however, deteriorate this year mainly due to rising trade deficits.

Relevance:

GS III- Indian Economy (Growth and Development)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is the Current Account Deficit?
  2. What is Balance of Payments?
  3. What has been the recent trend?
  4. What are the reasons for the current account deficit?

What is the Current Account Deficit?

  • A current account deficit occurs when the total value of goods and services a country imports exceeds the total value of goods and services it exports.
  • The balance of exports and imports of goods is referred to as the trade balance. Trade Balance is a part of ‘Current Account Balance’.
  • According to an earlier report of 2021, High Oil Imports, High Gold Imports are the major driving force, widening the CAD.

What is Balance of Payments?

  • BoP of a country can be defined as a systematic statement of all economic transactions of a country with the rest of the world during a specific period, usually one year.
  • Purposes of Calculation of BoP:
    • Provides information about a country’s financial and economic situation.
    • Can be used to evaluate whether the value of a country’s currency is appreciating or depreciating.
    • Assists the government in making budgetary and trade policy decisions.
    • Provides crucial data for analysing and comprehending the economic dealings of a country with other countries.
Components of the Balance of payments (BOP)
  • Current account: It includes the financial transactions dealing with the export and import of goods, services, unilateral transfers, investment income etc.
  • Capital account: It includes the financial transactions dealing with assets such as foreign direct investment, foreign portfolio investment, foreign loans etc.
  • Official reserve transactions: It conducted by the central bank in case of the BOP deficit or BOP surplus.
  • Errors and omissions: It is the element of BOP (other than the current account and the capital account) which refers to the balancing items reflecting the inability to record all the international financial transactions.

What has been the recent trend?

  • In Q4 FY 2021-22, CAD improved to 1.5% of GDP or $13.4 billion from 2.6% of GDP in Q3 FY 2021-22 ($22.2 billion).
  • The difference between the value of goods imported and exported fell to $54.48 million in Q4FY 2021-22 from $59.75 million in Q3 FY2021-22.
  • However, based on robust performance by computer and business services, net service receipts rose both sequentially and on a year-on-year basis.
  • Remittances by Indians abroad also rose.

What are the reasons for the current account deficit?

  • Intensifying geopolitical tensions and supply chain disruptions leading to crude oil and commodity prices soaring globally have been exerting upward pressure on the import bill.
  • A rise in prices of coal, natural gas, fertilizers, and edible oils have added to the pressure on trade deficit.
  • However, with global demand picking up, merchandise exports have also been rising.

Global Gender Gap Index, 2022


Context:

India ranks 135 among a total of 146 countries in the Global Gender Gap Index, 2022, released by the World Economic Forum. The country is the worst performer in the world in the “health and survival” sub-index in which it is ranked 146.

Relevance:

GS-II: Social Justice (Women Empowerment, Governance and Government Policies, Issues Arising Out of Design & Implementation of Policies), GS-II: International Relations (Important International Institutions and their Reports) GS-I: Indian Society (Issues related to Women, Gender Inequality)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About the Global Gender Gap Report
  2. About World Economic Forum (WEF)
  3. Highlights of the Global Gender Gap report 2021

About the Global Gender Gap Report

  • The Global Gender Gap Report is published by the World Economic Forum and The Global Gender Gap Index is an index designed to measure gender equality.
  • The index is designed to “measure gender-based gaps in access to resources and opportunities in countries rather than the actual levels of the available resources and opportunities in those countries.” Therefore, it is not necessarily true that highly developed countries should have higher scores.
  • The methodology used to determine index scores is designed in such a way as to count situations in which men are disadvantaged relative to women as “equal”. (Gender imbalances to the advantage of women do not affect the score.). Over the Index, the highest possible score is 1 (equality) and the lowest possible score is 0 (inequality) – To put it more simply: women could be better off in all areas and still the index would deem that country perfectly equal.

The report’s Gender Gap Index ranks countries according to calculated gender gap between women and men in four key areas to gauge the state of gender equality in a country:

  • Economic participation and opportunity,
  • Educational attainment,
  • Health and survival,
  • Political empowerment.  

About World Economic Forum (WEF)

  • The World Economic Forum is the International Organization for Public-Private Cooperation.
  • It was established in 1971 as a not-for-profit foundation and is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland. It is independent, impartial and not tied to any special interests.
  • The Forum strives in all its efforts to demonstrate entrepreneurship in the global public interest while upholding the highest standards of governance.

Major reports published by WEF:

  • Energy Transition Index.
  • Global Competitiveness Report.
  • Global IT Report (WEF along with INSEAD, and Cornell University)
  • Global Gender Gap Report.
  • Global Risk Report.
  • Global Travel and Tourism Report.

Highlights of the Global Gender Gap report 2022

  • The Global Gender Report, 2022, which includes the index, says it will now take 132 years to reach gender parity, with the gap reducing only by four years since 2021 and the gender gap closed by 68.1%.
  • But this does not compensate for the generational loss between 2020 and 2021 as the trends leading up to 2020 showed that the gender gap was set to close within 100 years.
  • India ranks poorly among its neighbours and is behind Bangladesh (71), Nepal (96), Sri Lanka (110), Maldives (117) and Bhutan (126).
  • Only the performance of Iran (143), Pakistan (145) and Afghanistan (146) was worse than India in South Asia. In 2021, India ranked 140 out of 156 nations.
  • It measures scores on a 0-to-100 scale, which can be interpreted as the distance covered towards parity or the percentage of the gender gap that has been closed.
  • India ranks 146 in health and survival, 143 in economic participation and opportunity, 107 in educational attainment and 48 in political empowerment.
    • The report notes that India’s score of 0.629 was its seventh-highest score in the past 16 years.
  • India also “recovered” ground since 2021 in economic participation and opportunity, though the report goes on to add that the labour force participation shrunk for both men (by -9.5 percentage points) and women (-3 percentage points).

 – Source: The Hindu


Centre’s Push for Labour Codes


Context:

With the rollout of the labour codes getting delayed due to the pandemic, renewed deliberations are underway at the highest levels of government on a fresh implementation schedule, amid divergent views on whether to push through all four codes simultaneously or opt for the more practical option of staggering them.

Relevance:

GS-II: Social Justice and Governance (Government Interventions and Policies, Issues arising out of the design and implementation of Government Policies), GS-III: Indian Economy (Human Resource)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Labour Codes
  2. Code on Wages Act, 2019
  3. Industrial Relations Code Bill 2020
  4. Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code Bill, 2020
  5. Code on Social Security Bill, 2020
  6. Concerns regarding the implementation of the codes (labour law reforms)

Labour Codes:

It includes 4 versions: 

  1. Code of Wages Act 2019,
  2. Industrial Relations Code Bill, 2020,
  3. Social Security Code Bill, 2020,
  4. Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code Bill, 2020

Code on Wages Act, 2019

  • The new wage code removes the multiplicity of wage definitions, which can significantly reduce litigation as well as compliance cost for employers.
  • It links minimum wage across the country to the skills of the employee and the place of employment.
  • It seeks to universalise the provisions of minimum wages and their timely payment to all employees irrespective of the sector and wage ceiling.
  • It seeks to ensure Right to Sustenance for every
  •  and intends to increase the legislative protection of minimum wage.
  • A National Floor Level Minimum Wage will be set by the Centre and will be revised every five years, while states will fix minimum wages for their regions, which cannot be lower than the floor wage.
  • It subsumes the following four labour laws:
    • Payment of Wages Act, 1936
    • Minimum Wages Act, 1948
    • Payment of Bonus Act, 1965
    • Equal Remuneration Act, 1976

Industrial Relations Code Bill 2020

  • The code, among its important provisions, makes it easier for companies to hire and fire workers.
  • Companies employing upto 300 workers will not be required to frame rules of conduct for workmen employed in industrial establishments. Presently, it is compulsory for firms employing upto 100 workers.
  • It proposes that workers in factories will have to give a notice at least 14 days in advance to employers if they want to go on strike.
  • Presently, only workers in public utility services are required to give notices to hold strikes.
  • Besides, every industrial establishment employing 20 or more workers will have one or more Grievance Redressal Committees for resolution of disputes arising out of employees’ grievances.
  • The code also proposes setting up of a reskilling fund to help skill retrenched workers.

Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code Bill, 2020

  • It spells out duties of employers and employees, and envisages safety standards for different sectors, focusing on the health and working condition of workers, hours of work, leaves, etc.
  • The code also recognises the right of contractual workers.
  • The code provides employers the flexibility to employ workers on a fixed-term basis, on the basis of requirement and without restriction in any sector.
  • More importantly, it also provides for statutory benefits like social security and wages to fixed-term employees at par with their permanent counterparts.
  • It also mandates that no worker will be allowed to work in any establishment for more than 8 hours a day or more than 6 days in a week.
  • In case of an overtime, an employee should be paid twice the rate of his/her wage. It will be applicable to even small establishments, which have upto 10 workers.
  • The code also brings in gender equality and empowers the women workforce. Women will be entitled to be employed in all establishments for all types of work and, with consent can work before 6 am and beyond 7 pm subject to such conditions relating to safety, holidays and working hours.
  • For the first time, the labour code also recognises the rights of transgenders. It makes it mandatory for industrial establishments to provide washrooms, bathing places and locker rooms for male, female and transgender employees.

Code on Social Security Bill, 2020

  • This will replace nine social security laws, including Maternity Benefit Act, Employees’ Provident Fund Act, Employees’ Pension Scheme, Employees’ Compensation Act, among others.
  • The code universalizes social security coverage to those working in the unorganised sector, such as migrant workers, gig workers and platform workers.
  • For the first time, provisions of social security will also be extended to agricultural workers also.
  • The code also reduces the time limit for receiving gratuity payment from the continuous service of five years to one year for all kinds of employees, including fixed-term employees, contract labour, daily and monthly wage workers.

Concerns regarding the implementation of the codes (labour law reforms)

  • The Government announced its intentions of implementing the Codes from April 2021 even as State governments were completely unprepared with the rules. Further, the major political parties reallocated their energies to regional elections rather than the implementation of codes.
  • The central government has deferred the possible date of implementation to October 2021, while the Supreme Court of India has exerted pressure on both the central and the State governments to implement a ‘one nation, one ration card’ (ONOR) scheme (which is essential alongside the implementation of the labour law reforms) and register all the unorganised workers under the National Database for Unorganized Workers (NDUW), which was to have been done by July 2021. Hence, Government agencies are rushing to comply with both the directives.

 – Source: Indian Express


Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA)


Context:

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has removed some crucial data from the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA) website.

  • The information removed includes the annual returns of NGOs and a list of NGOs whose licences have been cancelled.

Relevance:

GS-II: Polity and Governance (Government Policies & Interventions, Non-Governmental Organisations -NGOs), GS-III: Indian Economy (External Sector, Mobilization of Resources)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is the FCRA?
  1. Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 2010
  2. Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Amendment Act, 2020
  3. Issues Related to FCRA
  4. Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) in India
  5. Why have NGOs been controversial recently?
  6. MHA guidelines regarding FCRA and NGOs

What is the FCRA?

  • The FCRA was enacted during the Emergency in 1976 amid apprehensions that foreign powers were interfering in India’s affairs by pumping money into the country through independent organisations.
  • These concerns were, in fact, even older — they had been expressed in Parliament as early as in 1969.
  • The law sought to regulate foreign donations to individuals and associations so that they functioned “in a manner consistent with the values of a sovereign democratic republic”.

Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 2010

The Foreign Contribution (regulation) Act, 2010 is a consolidating act whose scope is to regulate the acceptance and utilisation of foreign contribution or foreign hospitality by certain individuals or associations or companies and to prohibit acceptance and utilisation of foreign contribution or foreign hospitality for any activities detrimental to the national interest and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.

Key Points regarding FCRA
  • Foreign funding of voluntary organizations in India is regulated under FCRA act and is implemented by the Ministry of Home Affairs.
  • The FCRA regulates the receipt of funding from sources outside of India to NGOs working in India.
  • It prohibits the receipt of foreign contribution “for any activities detrimental to the national interest”.
  • The Act held that the government can refuse permission if it believes that the donation to the NGO will adversely affect “public interest” or the “economic interest of the state”. However, there is no clear guidance on what constitutes “public interest”.
  • The Acts ensures that the recipients of foreign contributions adhere to the stated purpose for which such contribution has been obtained.
  • Under the Act, organisations require to register themselves every five years.

Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Amendment Act, 2020

  • The Act bars public servants from receiving foreign contributions. Public servant includes any person who is in service or pay of the government, or remunerated by the government for the performance of any public duty.
  • The Act prohibits the transfer of foreign contribution to any other person not registered to accept foreign contributions.
  • The Act makes Aadhaar number mandatory for all office bearers, directors or key functionaries of a person receiving foreign contribution, as an identification document.
  • The Act states that foreign contribution must be received only in an account designated by the bank as FCRA account in such branches of the State Bank of India, New Delhi.
  • The Act proposes that not more than 20% of the total foreign funds received could be defrayed for administrative expenses. In FCRA 2010 the limit was 50%.
  • The Act allows the central government to permit a person to surrender their registration certificate.

Issues Related to FCRA

  • The Act also held that the government can refuse permission if it believes that the donation to the NGO will adversely affect “public interest” or the “economic interest of the state” – however, there is no clear guidance on what constitutes “public interest”.
  • By allowing only some political groups to receive foreign donations and disallowing some others, can induce biases in favour of the government. NGOs need to tread carefully when they criticise the regime, knowing that too much criticism could cost their survival. FCRA norms can reduce critical voices by declaring them to be against the public interest – Hence, it can be said that FCRA restrictions have serious consequences on both the rights to free speech and freedom of association under Articles 19(1)(a) and 19(1)(c) of the Constitution.
  • In 2016, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association undertook a legal analysis of the FCRA and stated that restrictions in the name of “public interest” and “economic interest” failed the test of “legitimate restrictions” as they were too vague and gave the state excessive discretionary powers to apply the provision in an arbitrary manner.

Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) in India

  • Worldwide, the term ‘NGO’ is used to describe a body that is neither part of a government nor a conventional for-profit business organisation.
  • NGOs are groups of ordinary citizens that are involved in a wide range of activities that may have charitable, social, political, religious or other interests.
  • In India, NGOs can be registered under a plethora of Acts such as the Indian Societies Registration Act, 1860, Religious Endowments Act,1863, Indian Trusts Act, etc.
  • India has possibly the largest number of active NGOs in the world.
  • Ministries such as Health and Family Welfare, Human Resource Department, etc., provide funding to NGOs, but only a handful of NGOs get hefty government funds.
  • NGOs also receive funds from abroad, if they are registered with the Home Ministry under the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA). There are more than 22,500 FCRA-registered NGOs.
  • Registered NGOs can receive foreign contribution under five purposes — social, educational, religious, economic and cultural.

Why have NGOs been controversial recently?

  • An Intelligence Bureau (IB) report, submitted to the PMO and National Security Adviser in 2019, alleged that several foreign-funded NGOs were stalling India’s economic growth by their obstructionist activism.
  • In 2015, the Home Ministry had cancelled the FCRA licences of 10,000 organisations.
  • The annual inflow of foreign contribution has almost doubled between the years 2010 and 2019, but many recipients of foreign contribution are being not utilised the same for the purpose for which they were registered or granted prior permission under amended provisions of the FCRA 2010.

MHA guidelines regarding FCRA and NGOs

  • The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) issued new regulating guidelines to banks under Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 2010. It states that the donations received in Indian rupees by non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and associations from any foreign source (even if that source is located in India at the time of such donation) should be treated as foreign contribution.
  • Under the issued regulations, donations given in Indian rupees (INR) by any foreigner/foreign source including foreigners of Indian origin like Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) or Person of India Origin (PIO) cardholders should also be treated as foreign contribution.
  • The guidelines mandate that good practices should be followed by NGOs in accordance with standards of global financial watchdog- Financial Action Task Force (FATF).
  • MHA asked NGOs to inform the Ministry about “suspicious activities” of any donor or recipient and “take due diligence of its employees at the time of recruitment.”

-Source: Indian Express


I2U2 Initiative


Context:

The U.S. believes that ‘I2U2’, a group comprising India, Israel, the U.S., and the UAE, can become “a feature” of the West Asian region, just like the Quad is for the Indo-Pacific.

Relevance:

GS II- International Relations

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About I2U2 Initiative
  2. What is the aim of I2U2 grouping?
  3. Significance

About I2U2 Initiative:

  • Following the Abraham Accords between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, I2U2 was founded in October 2021 to address marine security, infrastructure, and transportation challenges in the region.
  • It was known as the ‘International Forum for Economic Cooperation’ at the time.
  • The ‘West Asian Quad‘ was coined to describe this situation.
  • India, Israel, the United States, and the United Arab Emirates have formed the I2U2 initiative.
  • ‘I2’ refers for India and Israel in the group’s name, while ‘U2’ stands for the United States and the United Arab Emirates.
  • This is an outstanding achievement that reflects the region’s geopolitical shifts.
Focus:

This will not only revitalize and re-energize the system of alliances and partnerships around the world, but also stitch together partnerships that did not exist previously or were not utilized to their full extent.

What is the aim of I2U2 grouping?

  • Its stated aim is to discuss “common areas of mutual interest, to strengthen the economic partnership in trade and investment in our respective regions and beyond”.
  • Six areas of cooperation have been identified by the countries mutually, and the aim is to encourage joint investments in water, energy, transportation, space, health, and food security. 

Significance:

  • It empowers partners and encourages them to collaborate more closely, resulting in a more stable region.
  • India is seen as a large consumer market as well as a large producer of high-tech and highly sought-after items in the United States.
  • When it comes to Israel’s relationship with the United Arab Emirates, the US wants to improve commercial and economic ties between the two nations.
  • The Abraham Accords will allow India to enhance its relationship with Israel without jeopardising its ties with the UAE and other Arab states.

 – Source: The Hindu


Cervavac


Context:

The Serum Institute of India (SII)’s vaccine Cervavac recently received the Drugs Controller General of India’s (DGCI) approval for market authorisation.

Relevance:

GS III- Science and Technology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About Cervavac
  2. About Cervical cancer

About Cervavac:

  • Cervavac is India’s first quadrivalent human papillomavirus vaccine (qHPV) vaccine, and intended to protect women against cervical cancer.
  • Experts see this as a real opportunity to eliminate cervical cancer, and have expressed the hope that it will be rolled out in national HPV vaccination strategies, and be available a cost more affordable than existing vaccines.
  • The vaccine is based on VLP (virus like particles), similar to the hepatitis B vaccine, and provides protection by generating antibodies against the HPV virus’s L1 protein.
  • Experts have expressed hope that the DGCI approval will allow the government to procure enough HPV vaccines at a special price to vaccinate nearly 50 million girls aged 9–14 years in India who are waiting to receive the vaccine.
  • This will be a huge step to accelerate cervical cancer elimination in India and globally, a statement from IARC-WHO has said.

About Cervical cancer:

  • Cervical cancer is preventable, but kills one woman every eight minutes in the country.
  • It is preventable as long as it is detected early and managed effectively.
  • Cervical cancer is a common sexually transmitted infection.
  • Long-lasting infection with certain types of HPV is the main cause of cervical cancer.
  • Worldwide, cervical cancer is the second most common cancer type and the second most common cause of cancer death in women of reproductive age (15–44).
  • India accounts for about a fifth of the global burden, with 1.23 lakh cases and around 67,000 deaths per year according to the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC-WHO).

Existing vaccines

  • Two vaccines licensed globally are available in India — a quadrivalent vaccine (Gardasil, from Merck) and a bivalent vaccine (Cervarix, from GlaxoSmithKline).
  • Although HPV vaccination was introduced in 2008, it has yet to be included in the national immunisation programme.

-Source: Indian Express

States Startup Ranking 2021: Results of Ranking of States on support to Start-up Ecosystems declared

 
What is the News?

The 3rd edition of the State Startup Ranking was released by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry.

What is State Startup Ranking?

Conducted byDepartment for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT) since 2018.

Aim: To support states and union territories in developing their start-up ecosystem and learn from the best practices in each state and union territory.

Parameters: The states were evaluated across 7 broad Reform Areas ranging from 1) Institutional Support, 2) Fostering Innovation and Entrepreneurship, 3) Access to Market, 4) Incubation support, 5) Funding Support, 6) Mentorship Support and 7) Capacity Building of Enablers.

Classification: For the purposes of the Ranking, States and Union Territories are classified into 5 categories: 1) Best Performers, 2) Top Performers, 3) Leaders, 4) Aspiring Leaders and 5) Emerging Start-up Ecosystems.

What are the key takeaways from State Startup Ranking 2021?
States start-up ranking

Source: Economic Times

Best Performers: Gujarat and Karnataka appeared as the Best Performers in the States category. Meghalaya topped among UTs and North-eastern States category.

Top Performers: Kerala, Maharashtra, Orissa and Telangana won the Top Performers award among states category. Jammu and Kashmir appeared as the Top Performer among UTs and NE states category.

 

Toy imports down by 70% and exports up 61% over last three years as Make in India yields positive results for the sector

 

According to Ministry of Commerce and Industry data, the import of toys is down by 70% in the last three years. On the other hand, the exports of Toys have jumped by 61.38% over the same period. 

India’s Toys Industry

India’s Toys Industry is estimated to be $1.5 bn making up 0.5% of the global market share. 

The toy manufacturers in India are mostly located in NCR, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and clusters across central Indian states. 

The sector is fragmented with 90% of the market being unorganized and 4,000 toy industry units from the MSME sector. 

FDI norms in Toy Industry100% FDI is allowed under the Automatic Route.

What are the government Interventions in the Toy Industry?

Firstly, the Directorate General of Foreign Trade(DGFT) mandated sample testing of each consignment and no permission for sale unless the quality testing is successful. In case of failure, the consignment is either sent back or destroyed at the cost of the importer.

Secondly, Basic Custom Duty(BCD) on Toys has increased from 20% to 60% in February 2020.

Thirdly, To instil standardization in the production and import of toys, a Toy Quality Control Order(QCO) was issued in 2020 under the BIS act to ensure toys manufactured or imported into the country were in-line with global quality standards.

– QCO on Toys was amended in 2020 to exempt goods manufactured and sold by artisans registered with the Development Commissioner and also by authorized users of GI Tag products.

Fourthly, BIS made special provisions in 2020 to grant licenses to micro-scale units manufacturing toys without the testing facility for one year and not to insist on establishing in-house facilities.

 

Restoring Banni grasslands, Gujarat battles invasive tree species

Source: The post is based on the article “Restoring Banni grasslands, Gujarat battles invasive tree species” published in Indian Express on 6th July 2022.
What is the News?

The Gujarat forest department plans to restore 10,000 hectares of the Banni grasslands in the coming year and every year in the coming decade.

What are Banni Grasslands?

Banni Grassland is situated near the Great Rann of Kutch in Gujarat.

It constitutes about 4.33% of the total geographical area of Gujarat distributed in eight districts and three different climatic regions — Kutch, Saurashtra and central Gujarat. 

Banni grassland was declared a Protected Forest in 1955, under the Indian Forest Act, 1927.

The grasslands have native trees like Acacia nilotica, Salvadora persica and Capparis decidua which are protected under Section 26 in the Indian Forest Act, 1927. 

Banni also has sensitive soil ecology where the sweet soil rests on salinity only 2 to 3 meters below the ground and any disturbance of the soil brings up salinity destroying the rich productivity of the land.

What are the threats faced by Banni Grassland?

The landscape of Banni has shown drastic changes with the deterioration of the grassland taking place due to 1) Heavy uncontrolled grazing, 2) Widespread ingress of julifora (a harmful exotic tree species), 3) Dams constructed on rivers flowing towards Banni, 4) Periodic occurrence of droughts and 5) Continuous increase in soil salinity.

 

Draft Development of Enterprise and Service Hubs (DESH) Bill: SEZs to be turned into mfg hubs for domestic markets

 

Government plans to table the Development of Enterprise and Service Hubs (DESH) Bill in the monsoon session of the Parliament. This bill will replace the current Special economic zones (SEZ) Act,2005.

Why does India need to replace the SEZ Act, 2005?

The World Trade Organization’s dispute settlement panel has ruled that India’s export-related schemes including the SEZ Scheme were inconsistent with WTO rules, since they directly linked tax benefits to exports. Countries aren’t allowed to directly subsidize exports as it can distort market prices. 

Further, SEZs also started losing their attraction after the introduction of minimum alternate tax and a sunset clause to remove tax sops. SEZ units used to enjoy 100% income tax exemption on export income for the first five years, 50% for the next five years, and 50% of the ploughed back export profit for another five years.

Hence, that’s why this new Draft DESH Bill has been brought to replace SEZ Act, 2005.

What are the key provisions of the draft Development of Enterprise and Service Hubs (DESH) Bill?

Firstly, Special Economic Zones will now be renamed as Development of Enterprise and Service Hubs (DESH).

Secondly, these hubs will no longer be required to be net foreign exchange positive cumulatively in five years (i.e, export more than they import) as mandated in the SEZ regime.

Thirdly, the hubs will be allowed to sell in the domestic market easily with duties only to be paid on the imported inputs and raw materials instead of the final product. In the current SEZ regime, duty is paid on the final product when a product is sold in the domestic market. 

Fourthly, the Bill proposes an equalization levy for goods or services supplied to the domestic market to bring taxes at par with those provided by units outside.

Fifthly, the units operating within the new hubs will no longer benefit from direct tax incentives, which will be scrapped — a move that will make the hubs compliant with World Trade Organization rules.

Sixthly, the bill does not limit how long units can store goods, which is one year currently. Besides, there is no mandatory payment requirement in foreign exchange.

Lastly, in the current SEZ regime, most decisions were made by the Department of Commerce at the Centre. Now the Bill allows states to participate and even directly send recommendations for development hubs to a central board for approval. Besides, state boards would be set up to oversee the functioning of the hubs.

 

Explained: The three new ‘exotic’ sub-atomic particles discovered at CERN

 

The Large Hadron Collider(LHC) has observed three never-before-seen particles: a new kind of “pentaquark” and the first-ever pair of “tetraquarks”, which includes a new type of tetraquark. 

What is the Large Hadron Collider(LHC)?

The Large Hadron Collider is a giant, complex machine built to study particles that are the smallest known building blocks of all things.

Located at: It is a 27-km-long track-loop buried 100 meters underground on the Swiss-French border. 

Built by: European Organization for Nuclear Research(CERN) between 1998 and 2008 in collaboration with over 10,000 scientists from hundreds of universities and laboratories.

Significance: It is the world’s largest and most powerful particle accelerator. 

Experiments conducted at LHC: ATLAS is the largest general-purpose particle detector experiment at the LHC

– The Compact Muon Solenoid(CMS) experiment is one of the largest international scientific collaborations in history with the same goals as ATLAS but which uses a different magnet-system design.

Major Discovery: In 2012, scientists at CERN had announced to the world the discovery of the Higgs boson or the ‘God Particle’ during the LHC’s first run. This led to Peter Higgs and his collaborator François Englert being awarded the Nobel Prize for physics in 2013. 

Note: The Higgs boson is the fundamental particle associated with the Higgs field, a field that gives mass to other fundamental particles such as electrons and quarks.

 

Explained: What are Nairobi flies, which are causing disease in Sikkim?

 

Around 100 students of an engineering college in East Sikkim have reported skin infections after coming in contact with Nairobi flies.

What are Nairobi Flies?

Nairobi flies are also called as Kenyan flies or dragon bugs. They are small, beetle-like insects that belong to two species, Paederus eximius and Paederus sabaeus. 

They are orange and black in color and thrive in areas with high rainfall. Like most insects, they are also attracted by bright light.

How are humans affected by Nairobi Flies?

Usually, the insects attack pests that consume crops and are beneficial to humans — but at times, they come in contact with humans directly and cause harm. 

Health officials say these flies do not bite, but if disturbed while sitting on anyone’s skin, they release a potent acidic substance called pederin.

This substance can cause irritation if it comes in contact with the skin, leading to lesions or unusual marks or colouring on the skin. The skin begins to heal in a week or two, but some secondary infections can occur, especially if the victim scratches the irritated skin.

Have there been outbreaks of Nairobi Flies disease?

Major outbreaks have happened in Kenya and other parts of eastern Africa. In 1998, unusually heavy rain caused a large number of insects to come into the region. Outside Africa, outbreaks have happened in India, Japan, Israel and Paraguay in the past.

 

 

 Minimum Support Price


Context:

Ahead of the nationwide protests demanding a law to ensure MSP, NITI Aayog has asserted that the MSP should continue till markets become competitive and efficient.

Relevance:

GS-III: Agriculture (Agriculture Pricing), GS-II: Social Justice (Welfare Schemes)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is Minimum Support Price (MSP)?
  2. Why is there a need for MSP?
  3. What are the issues related to MSP?

What is Minimum Support Price (MSP)?

  • Minimum Support Price is the price at which government purchases crops from the farmers, whatever may be the price for the crops.
  • MSPs have no statutory backing — a farmer cannot demand MSP as a matter of right.
  • Commission for Agricultural Costs & Prices (CACP) in the Ministry of Agriculture recommends MSPs for 23 crops.
  • CACP consider various factors while recommending the MSP for a commodity like cost of cultivation, supply and demand situation for the commodity; market price trends (domestic and global) and parity vis-à-vis other crops etc.
  • MSP seeks to:
    • Assured Value: To give guaranteed prices and assured market to the farmers and save them from the price fluctuations (National or International).
    • Improving Productivity: By encouraging higher investment and adoption of modern technologies in agricultural activities.
    • Consumer Interest: To safeguard the interests of consumers by making available supplies at reasonable prices.

While recommending MSPs, the CACP looks at the following factors:

  •  the demand and supply of a commodity;
  •  its cost of production;
  •  the market price trends (both domestic and international);
  • inter-crop price parity;
  • the terms of trade between agriculture and non-agriculture (that is, the ratio of prices of farm inputs and farm outputs);
  • a minimum of 50 per cent as the margin over the cost of production; and
  • the likely implications of an MSP on consumers of that product.
Crops covered

Crops covered by MSPs include:

  • 7 types of cereals (paddy, wheat, maize, bajra, jowar, ragi and barley),
  •  5 types of pulses (chana, arhar/tur, urad, moong and masur),
  • 7 oilseeds (rapeseed-mustard, groundnut, soyabean, sunflower, sesamum, safflower, nigerseed),
  • 4 commercial crops (cotton, sugarcane, copra, raw jute)

Why is there a need for MSP?

  • The MSP is a minimum price guarantee that acts as a safety net or insurance for farmers when they sell particular crops.
  • The guaranteed price and assured market are expected to encourage higher investment and in adoption of modern technologies in agricultural activities.
  • With globalization resulting in freer trade in agricultural commodities, it is very important to protect farmers from the unwarranted fluctuation in prices.

What are the issues related to MSP?

  • Low accessibility and awareness of the MSP regime: A survey highlighted that, 81% of the cultivators were aware of MSP fixed by the Government for different crops and out of them only 10% knew about MSP before the sowing season.
  • Arrears in payments: More than 50% of the farmers receive their payments of MSP after one week.
  • Poor marketing arrangements: Almost 67% of the farmers sell their produce at MSP rate through their own arrangement and 21% through brokers.
  • According to NITI Aayog report on MSP, 21% of the farmers of the sample States expressed their satisfaction about MSP declared by the Government whereas 79% expressed their dissatisfaction due to various reasons. Although, majority of the farmers of the sample States were dissatisfied on MSP rates, still 94% of them desired that the MSP rates should be continued.

-Source: The Hindu


 

EU’s Sustainable Finance Taxonomy


Context:

Supporters say EU’s sustainable finance taxonomy is the world’s most ambitious green investment rulebook and could direct huge sums of money into fighting climate change. Critics say it’s a “greenwashing” exercise that puts the European Union’s climate change targets at risk.

Relevance:

GS III- Environment and ecology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is the EU taxonomy?
  2. What does it say about gas and nuclear energy?
  3. What’s the taxonomy for?
  4. What makes a “green” investment?

What is the EU taxonomy?

  • The EU taxonomy is a complex system to classify which parts of the economy may be marketed as sustainable investments.
    • It includes economic activities, as well as detailed environmental criteria that each economic activity must meet to earn a green label.
  • Rules for most sectors came into effect this year, covering investments including steel plants, electric cars and building renovations.
  • The rules for gas and nuclear energy, however, have been long delayed amid intense lobbying from governments who disagree on whether the fuels help fight climate change.

What does it say about gas and nuclear energy?

  • The European Commission made a proposal in February 2022 to add gas and nuclear power plants to the taxonomy if they meet certain criteria.
  • The European Parliament supported that proposal, paving the way for it to become law and apply from 2023.
  • Under the Commission proposal, for a gas-fuelled power plant to be deemed green, it must emit no more than 270 grams of CO2 equivalent per kilowatt hour, or have average emissions of 550g CO2e/kW over 20 years.
  • It must also commit to switch to low-carbon gases by 2035.
  • The Commission’s original proposal for gas, published in late 2020, had included a lower 100g CO2 limit.
  • It was amended following backlash from countries including Poland and Bulgaria, who say gas investments are needed to quit more-polluting coal.
  • Others, such as Denmark and Luxembourg, say it is not credible to label gas, a fossil fuel, as green.

What’s the taxonomy for?

  • The taxonomy does not ban investments in activities not labelled “green”, but it limits which ones companies and investors can claim are climate-friendly.
  • The EU’s goal to eliminate its net emissions by 2050 will require huge investments, much of it private funding.
  • The taxonomy aims to make truly green activities more visible and attractive to investors.
  • The rules also aim to stamp out greenwashing, where organisations exaggerate their environmental credentials, among so-called eco-friendly investment products.

Who does it apply to?

  • Providers of financial products – including pension providers – in the EU must disclose which investments comply with the taxonomy’s climate criteria.
  • For each investment, fund or portfolio, they must disclose what share of underlying investments comply with the rules.
  • Large companies and listed firms must also disclose what share of their turnover and capital expenditure complies.
  • That means polluting companies can get recognition for making green investments.
    • For example, if an oil company invested in a wind farm, it could label that expenditure as green.

What makes a “green” investment?

  • The rules classify three types of green investments.
    • First, those that substantially contribute to green goals, for example, wind power farms.
    • Second, those that enable other green activities, for example, facilities that can store renewable electricity or hydrogen.
    • Third, transitional activities that cannot be made fully sustainable, but which have emissions below industry average and do not lock in polluting assets or crowd out greener alternatives.
  • Gas and nuclear power plants are classed as transitional activities.

-Source: Indian Express


Nominated Members in Rajya Sabha


Context:

Olympic sprinter PT Usha and music composer Ilaiyaraaja among others have been nominated to the Rajya Sabha in the category of eminent persons nominated by the President.

Relevance:

GS II- Polity and Governance

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About Nominated Members of Rajya Sabha:
  2. Article 80
  3. Difference between Nominated and Elected members

About Nominated Members of Rajya Sabha:

  • 12 people are nominated by the President for six year term in Rajya Sabha for their contribution and expertise in the fields of:
    • Art
    • Literature
    • Science
    • Social Service
Normal composition
  • The present strength is 245 members of whom 233 are representatives of the states and UTs and 12 are nominated by the President.
  • The Rajya Sabha is not subject to dissolution; one-third of its members retire every second year.

Article 80

  • As per Article 80 (Part V) of the Constitution, President can nominate 12 members in the Council of States (Rajya Sabha).
  • These persons should have special knowledge or practical experience in the field of Art, Science, Literature and Social Service.
  • The rationale behind principle of the nomination is to facilitate the representation of eminent professionals and experts who cannot face direct elections.

Difference between Nominated and Elected members:

  • Nominated members enjoy all powers, privileges and immunities available to an elected member of Parliament.
  • They, however, are not entitled to vote in the election of the President of India.  
  • But in the election of the Vice-President of India, they have a right to vote.
  • A nominated member is allowed six months, should he decide to join a political party after he has taken his seat in the House in terms of article 99 of the Constitution. 
  • A nominated member has also been exempted from filing his assets and liabilities under Section 75A of the Representation of the Peoples Act, 1951 which requires the elected member to do so within 90 days of his making or subscribing oath/affirmation.

-Source: The Hindu


Critical Minerals


Context:

India and Australia have decided to strengthen their partnership in the field of projects and supply chains for critical minerals.

Relevance:

GS III- Indian Economy

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What are Critical Minerals?
  2. Why is this resource critical?
  3. What is China ‘threat’?
  4. What are countries around the world doing about it?

What are Critical Minerals?

  • Critical minerals are elements that are the building blocks of essential modern-day technologies, and are at risk of supply chain disruptions.
  • These minerals are now used everywhere from making mobile phones, computers to batteries, electric vehicles and green technologies like solar panels and wind turbines.
  • Based on their individual needs and strategic considerations, different countries create their own lists.
  • However, such lists mostly include graphite, lithium and cobalt, which are used for making EV batteries; rare earths that are used for making magnets and silicon which is a key mineral for making computer chips and solar panels.
  • Aerospace, communications and defence industries also rely on several such minerals as they are used in manufacturing fighter jets, drones, radio sets and other critical equipment.

Why is this resource critical?

  • As countries around the world scale up their transition towards clean energy and digital economy, these critical resources are key to the ecosystem that fuels this change.
  • Any supply shock can severely imperil the economy and strategic autonomy of a country over-dependent on others to procure critical minerals.
  • But these supply risks exist due to rare availability, growing demand and complex processing value chain.
  • Many times the complex supply chain can be disrupted by hostile regimes, or due to politically unstable regions.
  • They are critical as the world is fast shifting from a fossil fuel-intensive to a mineral-intensive energy system.

What is China ‘threat’?

  • China is the world’s largest producer of 16 critical minerals.
  • China alone is responsible for some 70% and 60% of global production of cobalt and rare earth elements, respectively, in 2019.
  • The level of concentration is even higher for processing operations, where China has a strong presence across the board.
  • China’s share of refining is around 35% for nickel, 50-70% for lithium and cobalt, and nearly 90% for rare earth elements.
  • It also controls cobalt mines in the Democratic Republic of Congo, from where 70% of this mineral is sourced.
  • In 2010, China suspended rare earth exports to Japan for two months over a territorial dispute.

What are countries around the world doing about it?

  • US has shifted its focus on expanding domestic mining, production, processing, and recycling of critical minerals and materials.
  • India has set up KABIL or the Khanij Bidesh India Limited, a joint venture of three public sector companies, to “ensure a consistent supply of critical and strategic minerals to the Indian domestic market”.
  • Australia’s Critical Minerals Facilitation Office (CMFO) and KABIL had recently signed an MoU aimed at ensuring reliable supply of critical minerals to India.
  • The UK has unveiled its new Critical Minerals Intelligence Centre to study the future demand for and supply of these minerals.

-Source: Indian Express


Environment Protection Act 1986


Context:

The Union Environment Ministry proposes to soften the provisions of the EP Act (EPA) by replacing a clause that provides for imprisoning violators with one that only requires them to pay a fine.

Relevance:

GS III- Environment and Ecology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About Environment (Protection) Act 1986
  2. Objectives of the Environment Protection Act
  3. Main Provisions of the Environment Protection Act

About Environment (Protection) Act 1986

  • The original constitution of India did not have any provisions related to natural environment conservation. However, by the 42nd amendment to the constitution, fundamental duties were added describing the protection of the natural environment that includes lakes, forests, wildlife, and rivers as the fundamental duty of all citizens.
  • EP Act was passed under Article 253 of the Constitution, which empowers the Centre to enact laws to give effect to international agreements signed by the country.
  • After the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment was held in Stockholm, in 1972, measures were taken for improving the environmental condition.
  • The Wildlife Protection Act 1972, Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act 1974, and the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act 1981 were enacted followed by the Environment Protection Act 1986, passed by the Indian government for safeguarding the environment after the Bhopal Gas Tragedy on 2 December 1984, which emphasized on the need and measures for the protection of the environment.

Objectives of the Environment Protection Act

  • To protect the environment from degradation and take actions to improve the current condition.
  • To implement the decisions made at the UN Conference on the Human Environment held in Stockholm in 1972.
  • To set up a government body to look after the industries and regulate the effect they have on the environment, and also issue direct orders such as for closure of industries.
  • To punish and penalize those posing a danger to the environment, health, and safety.
    • For each failure, a fine of up to 1 Lakh, a prison term of five years, or both can be included. In certain cases, the term can be extended up to seven years.
  • To coordinate the work of the agencies for the protection of the environment under existing laws.
  • To enforce this law in all regions, including the places earlier exempted under previous laws.
  • To encourage and work towards sustainable development of the environment.

Main Provisions of the Environment Protection Act

  • Under this act, protection of the environment against all forms of pollution is covered, including air, water, soil, and noise.
  • The Centre can carry out various activities and programmes to further environmental protection.
  • The discharge or emission of environmental pollutants by industries will be regulated by safe standards, set by the Centre.
  • Any citizen, except the authorized government officers, can file a complaint regarding a breach of any of the provisions of the EPA.
  • Restrictions on certain locations for the establishment of a business or personal property can be imposed under this act if they seem to endanger the environment.
  • Under this act, samples of air, water, or soil from any place can be tested and analyzed by the authorized party.
  • The discharge of hazardous pollutants beyond safety standards by any individual or organization makes them liable for punishment and even a complete ban on their activity.
  • Management of hazardous substances should be done as per the regulatory norms of the government.

-Source: The Hindu

Exit of Foreign Portfolio Investors


Context:   

June 2022 witnessed the worst Foreign Portfolio Investor (FPI) selloff since March 2020 when India announced a nationwide lockdown at Rs. 50,000 crore.

  • June was also the ninth on the trot that FPIs had sold net of their assets i.e. sold more than they had purchased.

Relevance:

GS III- Indian Economy (Capital Market)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is FPI?
  2. What are the categories of FPIs?
  3. Significance of FPI
  4. How Big are FPI In India?
  5. Why have FPIs been selling India holdings?
  6. What Impact Does an FPI Selloff Have?

What is FPI?

  • Foreign portfolio investors are those that invest funds in markets outside of their home turf.
    • Examples of FPIs include stocks, bonds, mutual funds, exchange traded funds, American Depositary Receipts (ADRs), and Global Depositary Receipts (GDRs).
  • FPI is part of a country’s capital account and is shown on its Balance of Payments (BOP).
  • The FPI system is regulated by SEBI.
  • The Foreign Institutional Investor (‘FII’) and Qualified Foreign Investor (‘QFI’) regimes were merged into the FPI regime as a standardised path for foreign investment in India.
  • FPI is often referred to as “hot money” because of its tendency to flee at the first signs of trouble in an economy. FPI is more liquid, volatile and therefore riskier than FDI.
Regulations
  • Permitted Instruments: Shares of listed Indian companies, non-convertible debt, units of domestic mutual funds, government securities, derivatives.
  • A single FPI’s investment must be less than 10% of the Indian investee company’s post-issue paid-up share capital, and a collective investment must be less than 24%.
  • An FPI’s (including linked FPIs) investment in a corporate bond issue must be less than 50%.
  • Minimum residual maturity of more than one year for corporate bonds, subject to the condition that short-term corporate bond investments (less than one year residual maturity) do not exceed 20% of that FPI’s total corporate bond investment.

What are the categories of FPIs?

Cat I: Government and government related foreign investors such as Central Banks, Sovereign Wealth Funds.

Cat II: Funds, which are broad based and (i) appropriately regulated, or (ii) whose investment manager is appropriately regulated. Includes mutual funds (‘MF’), investment trusts, insurance / reinsurance companies. Also includes banks, Asset Management Companies, investment managers / advisors, portfolio managers, broker dealers and swap dealers, University funds, and Pension funds.

Cat III: Endowments, Charitable societies, Corporate bodies, Trusts, Family offices, Individuals**

** Non-resident Indians (NRIs) are not permitted to register as FPIs, however they can invest in FPIs, subject to conditions

Significance of FPI:

  • Investors may be able to reach an increased amount of credit in foreign countries, enabling the investor to utilize more leverage and generate a higher return on their equity investment.
  • As markets become more liquid, they become more profound and broader, and a more comprehensive range of investments can be financed.
  • As a result, investors can invest with confidence knowing that they can promptly manage their portfolios or sell their financial securities if access to their savings is required.
  • Increased competition for financing leads to rewarding superior performance, prospects, and corporate governance.
  • As the market’s liquidity and functionality evolve, equity prices will become value-relevant for investors, ultimately driving market efficiency.

How Big are FPI In India?

  • FPIs are the largest non-promoter shareholders in the Indian market and their investment decisions have a huge bearing on the stock prices and overall direction of the market.
  • Holding of FPIs (in value terms) in companies listed on National Stock Exchange stood at Rs. 51.99 lakh crore as on 31st March 2022, a decrease of 3.36% from Rs. 53.80 lakh crore as on 31st December 2021 due to the sustained sell-off since October 2021.
  • FPIs hold sizeable stakes in private banks, tech companies and big caps like Reliance Industries.
  • The US accounts for a major chunk of FPI investments at Rs. 17.57 lakh crore as of May 2022, followed by Mauritius Rs. 5.24 lakh crore, Singapore Rs. 4.25 lakh crore and Luxembourg Rs. 3.58 lakh crore, according to data available from the National Securities Depository Ltd (NSDL).

Why have FPIs been selling India holdings?

Effects of the Pandemic:

  • The recovery of the Indian economy following the Pandemic has been uneven.
  • In 2021, the second Covid-19 pandemic wave wreaked havoc on people’s lives and livelihoods.
  • When a third, albeit less severe, wave began to spread early in 2021, the economy stumbled once more.
  • As the pandemic abated, pent-up demand began to surface in economies all over the world, which caused problems as the speed of recovery caught suppliers off guard and led to supply-side shortages.
    • Pent-up demand is the term used to describe a sudden rise in demand for a good or service, usually after a period of slow expenditure.

Russia Ukraine Conflict:

  • The availability of sunflower and wheat in these two countries was affected, which increased the price of these products globally.
  • Globally constricted supply led to an increase in commodity prices and a quickening of inflation overall.
  • The Reserve Bank’s upper comfort level of 6 percent was consistently exceeded by the rate of price growth in India for five consecutive months, reaching a peak of 7.8 percent in April before declining to a somewhat less aggressive 7.04 percent the following month.
  • The S&P Global India Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) dropped from 54.6 in May to 53.9 in June, the lowest reading in nine months. According to survey data, this was caused by inflation pressures, which also caused business confidence to decline to its lowest level in 27 months in June.

US Federal Reserve:

  • In its fight against surging inflation, the US Federal Reserve recently announced the most aggressive interest rate rise in in 30 years, raising the benchmark borrowing rate by 0.75 percentage points.
  • The capacity of investors to obtain healthy returns is damaged when the difference between interest rates in the U.S. and other markets narrows, especially if such a development is accompanied by a strengthening of the dollar.
  • An investor can earn fewer Dollars for a given amount of Rupee assets sold if the Dollar appreciates against the Rupee.
  • Investors frequently sell off assets that are viewed as “risky,” such those in developing nations like South Africa, India, or Brazil.
  • The rupee has been falling in value against the dollar.
    • The rupee touched its record low of 79.33 against the greenback in July 2022.

What Impact Does an FPI Selloff Have?

Local Currency:

  • The local currency suffers when FPIs sell their assets and repatriate money to their home markets.
  • Investors exchange their home market currency for the sale of rupees.
  • The rupee’s value decreases as the amount available on the market increases.
  • We have to spend more money to import the same amount of goods as a result.

Regarding exports and imports:

  • India is one of the world’s major consumers of crude oil.
  • Crude oil imports become more expensive when the rupee depreciates against the dollar, which may cause cost-driven inflation to spread throughout the entire economy, particularly in sectors that are particularly vulnerable to changes in the price of crude oil.
  • On the other hand, India’s exports, particularly those related to IT and IT-enabled services, may somewhat gain from a stronger dollar relative to the rupee.
  • Due to intense competition in the export industry, exporters might not completely benefit from the same thing.

Reserves:

  • India’s foreign exchange reserves have fallen USD46 billion in the last nine months to USD596.45 billion as on 10th June 2022, mainly due to the dollar appreciation and FPI withdrawals.
  • Other Effects:
  • Foreign investors pulling out can result in a decline in stocks and equity mutual fund investments.
  • Lowering the value of the rupee relative to the dollar keeps import costs higher, driving inflation even higher than it already is.
  • Increased inflation is bad for the market as a whole. Another drawback is that FPI outflows would persist if the rupee does not rise.
  • It will cost more rupees for travellers and students studying abroad to purchase dollars from banks.

-Source: The Hindu


Sub-Categorisation of OBCs


Context:

Recently, the Centre extended the tenure of The Commission to Examine Sub-categorisation of Other Backward Classes (OBCs) headed by Justice G Rohini, former Chief Justice of Delhi High Court.

  • The Commission, constituted nearly five years ago, has got 10 extensions so far, and now has until January 31 next year to submit its report.

Relevance:

GS II- Polity and Governance

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is sub-categorisation of OBCs?
  2. What is the Commission’s brief?
  3. What progress has it made so far?
  4. What have its findings been so far?
  5. What is the extent of OBC recruitment in central jobs?

What is sub-categorisation of OBCs?

  • The idea is to create sub-categories within the larger group of OBCs for the purpose of reservation.
  • OBCs are granted 27% reservation in jobs and education under the central government.
  • This has been a legal debate for other reservation categories too: in September 2021, a Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court reopened the debate on sub-categorisation of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes for reservations.
  • For OBCs, the debate arises out of the perception that only a few affluent communities among the over 2,600 included in the Central List of OBCs have secured a major part of the 27% reservation.
  • The argument for creating sub-categories within OBCs is that it would ensure “equitable distribution” of representation among all OBC communities.
    • It was to examine this that the Rohini Commission was constituted on October 2, 2017.

What is the Commission’s brief?

It was originally set up with three terms of reference:

  1. To examine the extent of inequitable distribution of benefits of reservation among the castes or communities included in the broad category of OBCs with reference to such classes included in the Central List.
  2.  To work out the mechanism, criteria, norms and parameters in a scientific approach for sub-categorisation within such OBCs.
  3. To take up the exercise of identifying the respective castes or communities or sub-castes or synonyms in the Central List of OBCs and classifying them into their respective sub-categories. A fourth term of reference was added on January 22, 2020.
  4. To study the various entries in the Central List of OBCs and recommend correction of any repetitions, ambiguities, inconsistencies and errors of spelling or transcription.

This was added following a letter to the government from the Commission on July 30, 2019, in which it flagged “several ambiguities in the list as it stands now”.

What progress has it made so far?

  • In its letter on July 30, 2019, the Commission wrote that it is ready with the draft report on sub-categorisation. Following the new term of reference added in January 22, the Commission began studying the list of communities in the central list.
  • Among the challenges it has faced, one has been the absence of data for the population of various communities to compare with their representation in jobs and admissions.
  • The Commission wrote to Minister of Social Justice and Empowerment on December 12, 2018, requesting for an appropriate Budget provision for a proposed all-India survey for an estimate of the caste-wise population of OBCs.
  • On August 31, 2018, then Home Minister had announced that in Census 2021, data of OBCs will also be collected, but since then the government has been silent on this, whereas groups of OBCs have been demanding enumeration of OBCs in the Census.

What have its findings been so far?

  • In 2018, the Commission analysed the data of 1.3 lakh central jobs given under OBC quota over the preceding five years and OBC admissions to central higher education institutions, including universities, IITs, NITs, IIMs and AIIMS, over the preceding three years.
  • The findings were: 97% of all jobs and educational seats have gone to just 25% of all sub-castes classified as OBCs; 24.95% of these jobs and seats have gone to just 10 OBC communities; 983 OBC communities — 37% of the total — have zero representation in jobs and educational institutions; 994 OBC sub-castes have a total representation of only 2.68% in recruitment and admissions.

What is the extent of OBC recruitment in central jobs?

  • According to data tabled in Parliament by MoS for Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions, in Rajya Sabha on March 17, the total number of Group A to Group C employees (including safai karmacharis) was 5.12 lakh (see table).
    • Of these, 17.70% are SC, 6.72% ST, 20.26% OBC (Other Backward Classes), and 0.02% EWS (Economically Weaker Sections).
    • In Group-A, the highest tier among these, the representation of SCs is just 12.86%, of STs 5.64% and of OBCs 16.88%. Reservation for these communities is 15%, 7.5% and 27% respectively.
  • These data cover 43 departments and government offices including Cabinet Secretariat, UPSC and Election Commission, but excluding the largest central government employers such as Railways and Department of Posts.
  • Among Secretaries and Special Secretaries, only six belong to SCs and STs, and, “no data regarding OBC is maintained”.
  • Out of 91 Additional Secretaries, the number of officers belonging to SC/ST and OBC communities are 10 and 4 respectively and out of 245 Joint Secretaries, the number of officers belonging to SC/ST and OBC communities are 26 and 29 respectively in various Ministries/Departments under Central Staffing Scheme.

-Source: Indian Express


Direct Seeding of Rice


Context:

Recently, the state of Punjab was unable to achieve its target in the water-saving method (direct-seeded rice).

Relevance:

GS III- Agriculture

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is DSR?
  2. How much water can DSR help save?
  3. Advantages of DSR tech
  4. Disadvantages of DSR tech

What is DSR?

Direct Seeding of Rice (DRS):

  • Direct Seeded Rice(DSR), also known as the ‘broadcasting seed technique,‘ is a water-saving method of sowing paddy.
  • In DSR, a tractor-powered machine drills the pre-germinated seeds straight into the field.
  • This procedure does not require nursery preparation or transplantation.
  • Farmers only need to level their soil and apply pre-sowing irrigation once.

Normal Paddy Transplanting:

  • Farmers create nurseries where paddy seeds are first sowed and nurtured into young plants before transplanting paddy.
  • The nursery seed bed takes up 5-10% of the transplanted area.
  • These seedlings are then pulled and transplanted on the puddled land 25-35 days later.

How much water can DSR help save?

  • According to an analysis by the Punjab Agriculture University, DSR technique can help save 15% to 20% water. In some cases, water saving can reach 22% to 23%.
  • With DSR,15-18 irrigation rounds are required against 25 to 27 irrigation rounds in traditional method.
  • Since area under rice in Punjab is almost stagnant around 3 million hectares for the last three to four years, DSR can save 810 to 1,080 billion litres water every year if entire rice crop is brought under the technique.

Advantages of DSR tech:

  • Solve labour shortage problem: Like the traditional method it does not require a paddy nursery and transplantion of 30 days old paddy nursery into the main puddled field. With DSR, paddy seeds are sown directly with machine.
  • Offers avenues for ground water recharge: It prevent the development of hard crust just beneath the plough layer due to puddled transplanting and it matures 7-10 days earlier than puddle transplanted crop, therefore giving more time for management of paddy straw.
  • Higher yield: A PAU study said that results from research trials and farmers’ field survey have also indicated that yield, after DSR, are one to two quintals per acre higher than puddled transplanted rice.

Disadvantages of DSR tech;

  • Suitability: This is the most significant element since farmers must not seed it in light textured soils because this approach is only suitable for medium to heavy textured soils such as sandy loam, loam, clay loam, and silt loam, which make up around 80% of the state’s land.
    • Avoid using this approach in fields that were previously planted with crops other than rice (such as cotton, maize, or sugarcane), as DSR on these soils is more likely to suffer from iron deficiency and weed problems.
  • Compulsory Laser and Leveling: The field should be levelled with a laser.
  • Herbicide Spraying: Herbicide spraying must be done at the same time as sowing and the initial irrigation.

-Source: Indian Express


Bharat NCAP


Context:

Recently, the  Ministry of Road Transport and Highways approved the draft GSR notification to introduce Bharat NCAP (New Car Assessment Program).

  • Bharat NCAP (New Car Assessment Program) will be rolled out from April 1, 2023.

Relevance:

GS II- Governance

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About Bharat NCAP
  2. Feature
  3. Significance

About Bharat NCAP

  • It is a new car safety assessment programme which proposes a mechanism of awarding ‘Star Ratings’ to automobiles based upon their performance in crash tests.
  • Bharat NCAP standard is aligned with global benchmarks and it is beyond minimum regulatory requirement.
  • The US was the first country to start a programme that provided information on car safety with regard to crashes to customers in 1978. Later, a number of similar programmes were started across regions.

Feature:

  • The proposed Bharat NCAP assessment will allocate Star Ratings from 1 to 5 stars.
  • The testing of vehicles for this programme will be carried out at testing agencies, with the necessary infrastructure.
  • Bharat NCAP (New Car Assessment Program) will be applicable on type approved motor vehicles of category M1 with gross vehicle weight less than 3.5 tonnes, manufactured or imported in the country.
    • M1 category motor vehicles are used for the carriage of passengers, comprising eight seats, in addition to the driver’s seat.
  • Auto firms in India follow AIS-145 (automotive Indian standard-145), which enforces safety features for vehicles such as seatbelts tell-tale, passenger airbags, and the speed limit alarm.

Significance

  • Bharat NCAP will encourage manufacturers to participate voluntarily in the safety testing assessment programme and incorporate higher safety levels in new car models.
    • It aims to reduce 50 per cent road accident deaths by 2024.
  • Bharat NCAP will also promote a healthy competition among original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) in India to manufacture safer vehicles.
  • Bharat NCAP will ensure structural and passenger safety in cars, along with increasing the export-worthiness of Indian automobiles.
  • Bharat NCAP will prove to be a critical instrument in making our automobile industry Aatmanirbhar with the mission of making India the top automobile hub in the world.

-Source: The Hindu


What is a Derecho?


Context:

Recently, States of Nebraska, Minnesota and Illinois in the US were hit by a storm system called a derecho.

Relevance:

GS I- Geography

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is a derecho?
  2. Why did the sky turn green during the derecho that hit US recently?
  3. Are there different types of derechos?
  4. Where do derechos usually occur?

What is a derecho?

  • A derecho, according to the US’s National Weather Service is “a widespread, long-lived, straight-line windstorm” that is associated with a “band of rapidly moving showers or thunderstorms”.
    • The name comes from the Spanish word ‘la derecha’ which means ‘straight’.
  • Straight-line storms are those in which thunderstorm winds have no rotation unlike a tornado.
  • These storms travel hundreds of miles and cover a vast area.
  • Being a warm-weather phenomenon, a derecho generally – not always – occurs during summertime beginning May, with most hitting in June and July.
  • However, they are a rare occurrence as compared to other storm systems like tornadoes or hurricanes.
  • For a storm to be classified as a derecho it must have wind gusts of at least 93 km per hour; wind damage swath extending more than 400 km.
  • According to University of Oklahama’s School of Meteorology, the time gap between successive wind damage events should not be more than three hours.

Why did the sky turn green during the derecho that hit US recently?

  • Severe thunderstorms result in a ‘green sky’ due to light interacting with the huge amount of water they hold.
  • A report in the Washington Post said that it is believed that the big raindrops and hail scatter away all but the blue wavelengths due to which primarily blue light penetrates below the storm cloud.
  • This blue then combines with the red-yellow of the afternoon or the evening sun to produce green, the report said.

Are there different types of derechos?

They fall into three categories –

  • A progressive derecho is associated with a short line of thunderstorms that may travel for hundreds of miles along a relatively narrow path. It is a summer phenomenon.
  • serial derecho, on the other hand, has an extensive squall line – wide and long – sweeping across a large area. It usually occurs during spring or fall.
  • Hybrid ones have the features of both progressive and serial derechos.

Where do derechos usually occur?

  • They mostly occur across central and eastern parts of the United States.
  • The May 8, 2009 “Super Derecho” was one of the “most intense and unusual derechos ever observed” in the US as it swept from Kansas to Kentucky with wind speeds reaching up to 170 km/hr.
  • Derechos have also been documented elsewhere across the world.
    • In 2010, Russia witnessed its first documented derecho.
    • They have also swept through Germany and Finland, and more recently in Bulgaria and Poland.

What is CAATSA?


Context:

Recently, US Democratic Representative said the US government must not impose sanctions on India under the Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) for its purchase of S-400 missile weapons system from Russia.

Relevance:

GS-II: International Relations (Foreign Policies affecting India’s Interests)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is the CAATSA, and could it apply to India?
  2. Why has India not faced CAATSA sanctions yet?
  3. About S-400 Triumf
  4. About India’s acquisition of S-400

What is the CAATSA, and could it apply to India?

  • CAATSA is a law that came into effect in the US in 2017, meant to punish countries having deep engagements with Russia, North Korea, and Iran using economic sanctions.
  • It said countries having a “significant transaction” with Russian intelligence and military agents will be subject to at least five kinds of sanctions.
  • Ordinary transactions will not invite sanctions, and the decision of who has sanctions imposed on them comes down to the interpretation of “significant transaction”.
  • This is one of the various waivers or exemptions mentioned, such as the transaction not affecting US strategic interests, not endangering the alliances it is a part of, etc.
  • Section 231 of the law notifies 39 Russian entities, including all the major defence companies like Rosoboronexport, Sukhoi Aviation, Russian Aircraft Corporation MiG, transactions with whom could invite sanctions.
    • Almaz-Antey Air and Space Defence Corporation JSC, who have made the S-400 system, are in this list.
  • India has purchased the S-400 Triumf missile systems, which have advanced capabilities to judge the distance from a target and launch a surface-to-air missile attack.
  •  Five such systems were bought by India in 2018 for US$ 5.5 billion and in November last year, their delivery began. They were deployed in Punjab.
  • However, the application of CAATSA is not limited to the S-400, and may include other joint ventures for manufacturing or developing weapons in the future, or any other kinds of major deals with Russia.

Why has India not faced CAATSA sanctions yet?

  • The US has never categorically stated whether CAATSA would apply to India.
  • In March 2022, it was reported that President Biden was yet to decide on the matter.
  • With the ongoing conflict in Ukraine and the US hardening its stance against Russia, India has continued its neutrality and not joined any of the sanctions against Russia imposed by Western countries.
  • India has mentioned the need for the S-400 missiles for its border defence several times in the past.

About S-400 Triumf

  • S-400 Triumf is one of the world’s most advanced surface-to-air missile (SAM) systems designed by Russia.
  • The system is a large complex of radars, control systems and different types of missiles, with the capability to simultaneously track numerous incoming objects in a radius of a few hundred kilometres.
  • It can employ appropriate missile systems to launch the counter attack and to neutralise the objects with the potential of ensuring a high success rate.
  • It is the most dangerous operationally deployed modern long-range SAM (MLR SAM) in the world, considered much ahead of the US-developed Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system (THAAD).

Issues with Acquisition of S-400

  • The acquisition of S-400 by countries has taken centre stage in the American diplomacy regarding Russia.
  • U.S. believes that S-400 could access sensitive U.S. military technologies in service with the potential buyers.
  • Russia has also deployed at least two S-400 systems in Syria, which is of much concern to observers who fear the system could contribute to a global conflict breaking out in Syria.
  • Among the countries under pressure from the U.S. to not buy this weapon are India and Turkey.
  • NATO countries objected strongly to reports of Russia giving its systems to Iran and Syria.

About India’s acquisition of S-400

  • Russia had offered its highly advanced Air Defence System to India, which agreed to purchase five of the S-400 Air Defence Systems.
  • Before India, Russia had only sold this system to China even though Iran, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Belarus were eyeing it as well.
  • This is the first time that Russia is providing a different system to India, a departure from its tradition of supplying only attacking weapons.
  • India needs high end weapons for very valid reasons. It is the only country in the world that is flanked by two nuclear armed neighbours– Pakistan and China and has fought wars with both of these countries.
  • India maintains close military relations with both United States and Russia.
  • But over the years, Russia has been the largest supplier of military weapons to India.
  • In 2012-2016, Russia (68%), US (14%) and Israel (7.2%) were the major arms suppliers to India.
  • India is the second largest market for Russia’s defence industry and Russia is the chief supplier of defence equipment to India.
About U.S. Objections
  • United States has raised concerns of India purchasing S-400 system on two counts:
  • The official count is that US has a legal position where any country that is taking systems or military equipment from their adversaries, the US expects to put sanctions on that country.
  • The other count is that US is planning to put F 16 factories in India and sell drones to it.

-Source: Indian Express


Guidelines to Curb Unfair Advertisements


Context:

The Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) recently issued guidelines to prevent false or misleading advertisements.

Relevance:

GS II- Government policies and Interventions

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Details
  2. What do the new advertising guidelines say?
  3. What is surrogate advertising?
  4. What are the Guidelines’ implications?
  5. About Central Consumer Protection Authority

Details:

  • The guidelines were issued  by the Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA)
  • It includes a Rs 10 lakh penalty for first violation and a Rs 50 lakh penalty for subsequent violations.
  • Notified by the Consumer Affairs Ministry, the guidelines were issued days after outrage over a controversial perfume ad.

What do the new advertising guidelines say?

  • The Guidelines for Prevention of Misleading Advertisements and Endorsements for Misleading Advertisements, 2022, have been released to “protect the consumers” and “to ensure that consumers are not being fooled with unsubstantiated claims, exaggerated promises, misinformation and false claims”.
  • These guidelines focus on misleading ads and ads shown during programming for children.
  • Surrogate ads, meanwhile, have been banned completely.
    • Misleading ads have not been defined, instead characteristics of non-misleading ads have been mentioned such as those which “contain truthful and honest representation” and do not exaggerate benefits.
  • On advertisements aimed at children, detailed criteria has been spelt out to disqualify certain ads, such as: ads that encourage practices detrimental to children’s physical health or mental well-being, imply children are “likely to be ridiculed or become less popular” if they do not purchase the goods, and ads that use qualifiers such as ‘just’ or ‘only’ to make the price of goods seem less expensive even when additional charges are present.
  • The guidelines have also introduced the need to have “disclaimers in advertisements” to clarify a claim made in such advertisement or make qualifications or resolve ambiguities therein in order to explain such claim in further detail.
  • Moreover, the advertiser must not “attempt to hide material information with respect to any claim made in such advertisement, the omission or absence of which is likely to make the advertisement deceptive or conceal its commercial intent”.
  • The guidelines also impose duties on the manufacturers, service providers and advertising agency to not claim and make comparisons in an advertisement which relate to matters of objectively ascertainable fact.

What is surrogate advertising?

  • Surrogate advertising is the strategy of advertising a product that cannot be advertised openly.
  • Advertisers instead create ads that help in building a brand, and often involve popular celebrities – all without naming the actual product that is being indirectly advertised.
  • In India, tobacco products and alcohol cannot be advertised openly under laws like the Cigarette and Other Tobacco Products Act, 2003, which bans all kinds of direct and indirect advertisements of tobacco products.
  • To circumvent them, surrogate advertising is done.
    • A few years ago, the Delhi government pulled up actor Pierce Brosnan for endorsing an Indian pan masala brand. Brosnan claimed he was “cheated” by the brand and unaware of the fact that the “breath freshener” ad was a surrogate ad used to disguise the actual product – areca nut or supari, which the Delhi government argued was a cancer-causing agent.

What are the Guidelines implications?

  • The rules are groundbreaking since they expressly state the obligations of advertisers while addressing key gaps in consumer protection. The recommendations make an effort to counteract the promotion of child-targeted irrational consumption.
  • For far too long, the issue of deceptive, bait, surrogate, and child-targeted advertising has festered without relief.
  • The recommendations play a crucial role in aligning India’s regulatory structure with global norms and standards.
  • The guidelines are momentous in empowering customers against mischievous advertisers.
  • The guidelines mention the conditions for defining a “non-misleading and valid” advertisement instead of defining what constitutes a misleading or invalid advertisement. This reduces the scope for exploitation of loopholes.
  • The challenges in the enforcement of existing advertisement regulations have also been addressed by the guidelines through the imposition of stringent penalties.

About Central Consumer Protection Authority

  • CCPA is a regulatory body established in 2020 based on the provisions of the Consumer Protection Act, 2019.
  • CCPA works under the administrative control of the Ministry of Consumer Affairs.
Objective:
  • To promote, protect and enforce the rights of consumers as a class.
  • To conduct investigations into violation of consumer rights and institute complaints/prosecution.
  • To order the recall of unsafe goods and services, discontinuation of unfair trade practices and misleading advertisements.
  • To impose penalties on manufacturers/endorsers/publishers of misleading advertisements.

-Source: The Hindu


Who Are the Pasmanda?


Context:

In a political conclave in Hyderabad, PM made a special mention for the Pasmanda muslim community and their social upliftment.

Relevance:

GS I-  Salient features of Indian Society

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Who are the Pasmanda Muslims?
  2. Why political parties are focusing on them?
  3. What is the history of the Pasmanda movement?

Who are the Pasmanda Muslims?

  • A Persian word, ‘Pasmanda’, means the ‘ones left behind’, and is used to describe depressed classes among the Muslims, while underlining their deliberate or conscious exclusion.
  •  Pasmanda has become an umbrella identity used by backward, Dalit, and tribal Muslims to push back against caste-based discrimination against them within the community.
  • This community has its stronghold in Uttar Pradesh where the Pasmandas account for around 75% of the total Muslim population.
  • In fact, 85% of the total population of Muslims in the country is known as Pasmanda.
  • It is believed that the so-called untouchable Hindu converts are categorised as Pasmanda.
A caste system in minorities
  • Asian Muslims are subject to the caste system in the same manner that Indian society is.
  • Of the Muslims from South Asia, including those who reside in India, 15% are Ashraf, or members of an elite caste.
  • Arzal and Ajlaf, the remaining 85 percent of Muslims, are regarded as Dalits and backward. Arzal implies degraded.

Why political parties are focusing on them?

  • If reports are to be believed then the creamy section of the Muslim society looks down upon them.
  • They are backward and oppressed economically, socially and educationally. This oppressed section among Muslims is called Pasmanda in India.

What is the history of the Pasmanda movement?

  • While the movement to ensure social justice for Pasmandas, and the recurrent use of the term, gathered pace in the post-Mandal era, its best known flag-bearers in the period before Independence were Abdul Qayyum Ansari and Maulana Ali Hussain Asim Bihari, both of whom belonged to the julaha (weaver) community.
  • Both these leaders opposed the communal politics being propagated at the time by the Muslim League, and challenged the League’s claim to represent all Muslims.
  • The first-wave leaders of the Pasmanda movement were leading an anti-colonial, anti-Ashraf, and anti-Mulim League fight.
  • About when the movement actually began,  “India has a history of caste associations across communities. Among Pasmanda Muslims, such caste associations started emerging from 1910 onwards.
  • There were caste collectives of weavers (julahas), butchers (qureshis), cotton carders (mansooris), saifis, rayeens, etc.
  • These were reformist in nature, but also acted like pressure groups led by upwardly mobile lower caste communities.
    • These outfits manifested the new kinds of demands from within the Muslim community.
  • In the 1980s, the All India Muslim OBC Organisation (AIMOBCO) from Maharashtra started spearheading the fight for the rights of Pasmandas, and went on to enlist the unwavering support of Bollywood thespian Dilip Kumar, a Pathan.
  • The 1990s saw the rise of two outfits: the All-India Backward Muslim Morcha (AIBMM) set up by Dr Ejaz Ali, and the Pasmanda Muslim Mahaz founded by Ali Anwar.
    • This marked the phase of getting small caste-based outfits among Muslims to close ranks. Several other outfits started to work for the uplift of Pasmanda Muslims across states.

-Source: Indian Express


Cloudbursts


Context:

At least eight people have died after a cloudburst occurred at the Amarnath Cave Shrine near Pahalgam in south Kashmir.

Relevance:

GS-I: Geography (Physical Geography, Climatology, Important Geophysical phenomena), GS-III: Environment and Ecology (Climate Change and its effects), GS-III: Disaster Management

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is a Cloudburst?
  2. Why do cloudbursts happen only in the mountains and hilly areas?
  3. Why does cloudburst cause so many deaths?

What is a Cloudburst?

  • Cloudbursts are sudden and extreme rainfall events over a limited area in a short span of time. There is no universal definition of a cloudburst.
  • The India Meteorological Department (IMD) defines a cloudburst as any event where 100 millimetres of rainfall have fallen in a span of an hour over a region that is 20-30 square kilometres in area. By this definition, 5 cm of rainfall in half an hour would also be classified as a cloudburst.

How do Cloudbursts occur?

  • A cloudburst occurs when moisture-carrying air moves up a hilly terrain, forming a vertical column of clouds known as ‘cumulonimbus’ clouds.
  • Such clouds usually cause rain, thunder and lightning. This upward motion of the clouds is known as an ‘orographic lift’.
  • These unstable clouds cause an intense rainstorm over a small area after becoming heavy enough and locked in the ridges and valleys between the hills.
  • The energy necessary for the cloudburst comes from the upward motion of air. Cloudbursts mostly occur at elevations between 1,000-2,500 metres above sea level.
  • The moisture is usually provided by a low-pressure system (usually associated with cyclonic storms in the ocean) over the Gangetic plains associated with low level winds flowing in from the east.
  • Sometimes winds flowing in from the north west also aid the occurrence of cloudbursts. The many factors that have to come together to make a cloudburst event happen make them highly unlikely.

Why do cloudbursts happen only in the mountains and hilly areas?

  • Cloudbursts do happen in plains as well, but there is a greater probability of them occurring in mountainous zones; it has to do with the terrain.
  • Cloudbursts happen when saturated clouds are unable to produce rain because of the upward movement of very warm current of air.
  • Raindrops, instead of dropping down, are carried upwards by the air current.
  • New drops are formed and existing raindrops gain in size. After a point, the raindrops become too heavy for the cloud to hold on to, and they drop down together in a quick flash.
  • Hilly terrains aid in heated air currents rising vertically upwards, thereby, increasing the probability of a cloudburst situation.
  • In addition, as pointed out earlier, cloudbursts get counted only when they result in largescale destruction of life and property, which happens mainly in mountainous regions.

Why does cloudburst cause so many deaths?

  • The rainfall itself does not result in the death of people, though sometimes, the raindrops are big enough to hurt people in a sustained downpour.
  • It is the consequences of such heavy rain, especially in the hilly terrain, that causes death and destruction.
  • Landslides, flash floods, houses and establishments getting swept away and cave-ins lead to the deaths.

Is the frequency of cloudbursts increasing?

  • There is a paucity of past data on cloudbursts; in addition, since only some of them get counted – only those that result in death and destruction – there is a problem of accuracy as well.
  • But what is very clear is that events of extreme precipitation have been on the rise in the last few decades due to global warming; it is expected, keeping in mind that trend, that cloudburst events might be on the increase as well.
  • Extreme weather events are indeed increasing in the Himalayan region.

-Source: Down to Earth Magazine


 

PARIMAN: The Geo-Portal for NCR made Public

What is the News?

The Government of India has decided to make the PARIMAN portal open to the public.

What is PARIMAN?

PARIMAN is a Geo-portal for the NCR

Purpose: The portal is a robust system to facilitate better sub-regional and local planning in NCR.

Features: The portal consists of around 179 Layers presented as Line, Point & Polygon features covering details of various sectors like Land Use, Transport, Industries, Water, Power, Health, Shelter, Heritage & Tourism, and Disaster Management.

Developed by: National Informatics Centre(NIC).

The portal was initially for use by NCR participating states and the office of the National Capital Region Planning Board(NCRPB). Now it has been made completely public.

 

INS TARKASH – Long Range Overseas Deployment

What is the News?

Indian Navy’s stealth frigate INS Tarkash visited Djibouti as part of her long-range overseas deployment, followed by a Maritime Partnership Exercise with Sudan Navy. 

What is INS Tarkash?

INS Tarkash is a state-of-the-art stealth frigate of the Indian Navy.

Built by: Yantar Shipyard at Kaliningrad, Russia.

Features: It is equipped with a versatile range of weapons and sensors capable of addressing threats in all three dimensions.

– The ship incorporates the latest stealth features such as reduced radar, infra-red, acoustic, and magnetic signatures, thus making it difficult to detect at sea. 

Part of: The ship is part of the Indian Navy’s Western Fleet based at Mumbai under the Western Naval Command.

 

Defence exports touch ₹13,000 crore: official

What is the News?

India’s defence exports touched a record Rs. 13,000 crores in the 2021-2022 fiscal.

About India’s Defence Exports

For the first time, India’s defence exports have reached Rs 13,000 crore in 2021-2022.

This increase in defense exports is almost “eight times” what it was around five years ago.

The US was a major buyer of India’s defense exports. Other countries were from Southeast Asia, West Asia, and Africa.

The private sector accounted for 70% of the defence exports, while public sector firms accounted for the rest.

Note: Earlier, the private sector used to account for 90%, but now the share of defense public sector units has gone up.

The reason behind the rise in public sector share is due to the Rs 2,500 crore deal that India made with the Philippines for the BrahMos missiles.

What is the Artificial Intelligence in Defence(AIDef) symposium?

Organized by: Department of Defence Production, Ministry of Defence.

Purpose: To showcase the cutting-edge AI-enabled solutions developed by the Industry, start-ups & innovators.

At the event, 75 newly-developed AI products/technologies having applications in defense will also be launched.

The products are in the domains of automation/unmanned/robotics systems, cybersecurity, human behavior analysis, intelligent monitoring system, logistics and supply chain management, speech/voice analysis, and Command, Control, and Communication.

 

1 million animal and plant species face extinction threat: Study

Source: The post is based on the article “1 million animal and plant species face extinction threat: Study” published in TOI on 9th July 2022

What is the News?

Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) has released a report titled “Sustainable Use of Wild Species”.

What is the purpose of the report?

The report offers insights into the sustainable use of wild species by reminding the global community how much, human beings are interdependent, with all living beings and why it’s important to conserve them by stopping overexploitation and protecting their habitats.

What are the key findings of the report?

Source: TOI

Dependence on Wildlife Species: 50,000 wild species are used for different human purposes, including more than 10,000 wild species harvested directly for food.

– 70% of the world’s poor are directly dependent on wild species.

– One in five people rely on wild plants, algae, and fungi for their food and income; 

– One in three people – 2.4 billion – rely on fuel wood for cooking.

Non-Extractive use: Even non-extractive uses of wild species are important. For instance, tourism based on observing wild species is an important revenue source.

Cultural Significance: Certain species have cultural importance, as they offer multiple benefits that define tangible and intangible features of people’s cultural heritage.

Threats faced by Wildlife Species:

Overexploitation, climate change, pollution, and deforestation are pushing one million species towards extinction.

Hence, unless humankind improves the sustainable use of nature, the Earth is on its way to losing 12% of its wild tree species, over a thousand wild mammal species, and almost 450 species of sharks and rays among other irreparable harm.

Suggestions given by the report:

Firstly, integration of diverse value systems, equitable distribution of costs and benefits, changes in cultural norms and social values, and effective institutions and governance systems can facilitate the sustainable use of wild species.

Secondly, bringing scientists and indigenous peoples together to learn from each other will strengthen the sustainable use of wild species.

Thirdly, reducing illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing, suppressing harmful financial subsidies, supporting small-scale fisheries, adapting to changes in oceanic productivity due to climate change, and proactively creating effective transboundary institutions.

 

 

 

Section 69 (A) of the Information Technology Act, 2000


Context:

Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology (MeitY) issued orders under Section 69 (A) of the Information Technology Act, 2000 to take down certain posts from Twitter (Microblogging Site).

  • Twitter has moved to Karnataka High Court, claiming that many of the blocking orders are procedurally and substantively deficient under Section 69 (A) of the Act.

Relevance:

GS III- Science and Technology

What is the Current Issue?

  • According to Section 69(A) of the IT Act, the company “failed to comply with the orders on numerous occasions,” according to the Ministry.
  • In response to a request from the government in 2021, Twitter provided a list of more than 80 accounts and tweets that it had previously disabled.
  • Twitter asserts that the reasons why the Ministry flagged several accounts and posts are either “overbroad and arbitrary” or “disproportionate.”
  • According to Twitter, some of the ministry’s flagged content may relate to official political party accounts, and removing them might violate their Right to Free Speech.

What is the IT Act?

  • The year 2000 saw the rise of IT Bill which it received assent of President and hence came to be the Information Technology (IT) act in which Cyber laws are contained.
  • The Aim of the Act was to provide legal infrastructure for e-commerce in India.
  • The Information Technology Act, 2000 also aims to provide for the legal framework so that legal sanctity is accorded to all electronic records and other activities carried out by electronic means. The Act states that unless otherwise agreed, an acceptance of contract may be expressed by electronic means of communication and the same shall have legal validity and enforceability.
  • In India, the Information Technology (IT) Act, 2000, as amended from time to time, governs all activities related to the use of computer resources.
  • It covers all ‘intermediaries’ who play a role in the use of computer resources and electronic records.
  • The role of the intermediaries has been spelt out in separate rules framed for the purpose in 2011- The Information Technology (Intermediaries Guidelines) Rules, 2011.

Amendment to the IT Act

  • The Information Technology (Amendment) Act, 2008 – An act to amend the IT Act 2000 received the assent of the President on 5th February 2009.
It dealt with various changes such as:
  • Data Protection –with no specific reference to Data Protection in 2000 Act, the ITA 2008 introduced two sections addressing Data Protection, Section 43A (Compensation for failure to protect data), and Section 72A (Punishment for disclosure of information in breach of lawful contract.
  • Information Preservation – Section 67C refers to the Preservation and Retention of Information by Intermediaries. According to Central Government, any intermediary who intentionally or knowingly contravenes the provisions shall be punished with an imprisonment for a term which may extend to 3 years and shall not be liable to fine.
  • Section 69 gives power to issue directions for interception or monitoring or decryption of any information through any computer source.
    • Section 69B authorizes to monitor and collect traffic data or information through any computer resource for Cyber security.

Section 69 of the IT Act

  • It confers on the Central and State governments the power to issue directions “to intercept, monitor or decrypt any information generated, transmitted, received or stored in any computer resource”.

The grounds on which these powers may be exercised are:

  • In the interest of the sovereignty or integrity of India, defence of India, the security of the state.
  • Friendly relations with foreign states.
  • Public order, or for preventing incitement to the commission of any cognizable offence relating to these.
  • For investigating any offence.
Process of Blocking Internet Websites:
  • Section 69A, for similar reasons and grounds (as stated above), enables the Centre to ask any agency of the government, or any intermediary, to block access to the public of any information generated, transmitted, received or stored or hosted on any computer resource.
  • The term ‘intermediaries’ includes providers of telecom service, network service, Internet service and web hosting, besides search engines, online payment and auction sites, online marketplaces and cyber cafes.
  • Any such request for blocking access must be based on reasons given in writing.

Intermediaries and their obligation as per the IT Act

  • The term ‘intermediaries’ includes providers of telecom service, network service, Internet service and web hosting, besides search engines, online payment and auction sites, online marketplaces and cyber cafes.
  • It includes any person who, on behalf of another, “receives, stores or transmits” any electronic record. Social media platforms would fall under this definition.
  • Intermediaries are required to preserve and retain specified information in a manner and format prescribed by the Centre for a specified duration.
  • Contravention of this provision may attract a prison term that may go up to three years, besides a fine.
  • When a direction is given for monitoring, the intermediary and any person in charge of a computer resource should extend technical assistance in the form of giving access or securing access to the resource involved.
  • Failure to extend such assistance may entail a prison term of up to seven years, besides a fine.
  • Failure to comply with a direction to block access to the public on a government’s written request also attracts a prison term of up to seven years, besides a fine.

-Source: The Hindu


Metaverse Standards Forum


Context:

Recently, various brands gathered for the founding of the Metaverse Standards Forum for the development of interoperability standards to drive the growth of the metaverse.

Relevance:

GS III- Science and technology

    What is Metaverse?

    • It is a network of always-on virtual environments in which many people can interact with one another and digital objects through virtual representations of themselves.
    • The term may also refer to digital spaces which are made more lifelike by the use of virtual reality (VR) or augmented reality (AR).
    • There is also a specific type of metaverse which uses blockchain technology. In these, users can buy virtual land and other digital assets using cryptocurrencies.

    What are the key aspects of a Metaverse?

    There are three key aspects of a metaverse:

    •  Presence is the feeling of actually being in a virtual space, with virtual others. This sense of presence is achieved through virtual reality (VR) technologies such as head-mounted displays. It improves the quality of online interactions.
    • Interoperability means being able to seamlessly travel between virtual spaces with the same virtual assets. That is, one virtual representation created, can be used in different virtual worlds.
    • Standardization– These are common technological standards that are essential for widespread adoption. This enables interoperability of platforms and services across the metaverse.

    What is the Metaverse Standards Forum?

    • The concept of the metaverse has yet to be fully established, but interest in virtual and augmented realities fast-tracks the growth of various metaverse projects.
    • In light of the growing anticipation for the metaverse, Metaverse Standards Forum was established “to foster the development of open standards for the metaverse”.
    • “Open Standards” are standards made available to the general public and are developed (or approved) and maintained via a collaborative and consensus driven process. “Open Standards” facilitate interoperability and data exchange among different products or services and are intended for widespread adoption.
    • The internet is interoperable through the power of HTML, the metaverse also requires a similar interface for users to navigate between virtual worlds freely.
    Objectives:
    • It aims to analyze the interoperability necessary for running the metaverse.
    • Interoperability is the driving force for the growth and adoption of the open metaverse.
    • It will focus on pragmatic, action-based projects such as implementation prototyping, hackathons, plugfests, and open-source tooling to accelerate the testing and adoption of metaverse standards.
    • It will also develop consistent language and deployment guidelines to expand the online universe.

    What is the Need of Interoperability of Metaverse?

    • Interoperability equips the metaverse with support for the different features and activities across projects.
    • This continuity is essential in generating a fluid user experience from one metaverse project to another.
    • With open interoperability standards and guidelines to follow, companies can launch fully interoperable projects, allowing them to integrate their programming interfaces with other projects.
    • There has to be a set of commonly agreed upon protocols to make the metaverse work, just like how Transfer Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) enabled the Internet to go live four decades ago.
    • Such protocols help us in connecting to a WiFi network from home and office without changing our devices.
    • They are a result of open standards. The potential of the metaverse will be best realised only if it is built on open standards.
    • Proponents of the metaverse call it the future of the Internet with 3D at its core. And to fully simulate the digital world, 3D interoperability has to be met.

    -Source: The Hindu


    Monkeypox Infection


    Context:

    Recently,  Study finds three asymptomatic monkeypox cases.

    Relevance:

    GS II-Health

      About Monkeypox virus

      • The monkeypox virus is an orthopoxvirus, which is a genus of viruses that also includes the variola virus, which causes smallpox, and vaccinia virus, which was used in the smallpox vaccine.
      • Monkeypox causes symptoms similar to smallpox, although they are less severe.
      • While vaccination eradicated smallpox worldwide in 1980, monkeypox continues to occur in a swathe of countries in Central and West Africa, and has on occasion showed up elsewhere.
      • According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), two distinct clade are identified: the West African clade and the Congo Basin clade, also known as the Central African clade.

      Zoonotic disease

      • Monkeypox is a zoonosis, that is, a disease that is transmitted from infected animals to humans.
      • According to the WHO, cases occur close to tropical rainforests inhabited by animals that carry the virus.
      • Monkeypox virus infection has been detected in squirrels, Gambian poached rats, dormice, and some species of monkeys.
      • Human-to-human transmission is, however, limited — the longest documented chain of transmission is six generations, meaning the last person to be infected in this chain was six links away from the original sick person, the WHO says.
      Transmission:
      • Transmission, when it occurs, can be through contact with bodily fluids, lesions on the skin or on internal mucosal surfaces, such as in the mouth or throat, respiratory droplets and contaminated objects.

      Symptoms and treatment

      • According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), monkeypox begins with a fever, headache, muscle aches, back ache, and exhaustion.
      • It also causes the lymph nodes to swell (lymphadenopathy), which smallpox does not.
      • The WHO underlines that it is important to not confuse monkeypox with chickenpox, measles, bacterial skin infections, scabies, syphilis and medication-associated allergies.
      • The incubation period (time from infection to symptoms) for monkeypox is usually 7-14 days but can range from 5-21 days.
      • Usually within a day to 3 days of the onset of fever, the patient develops a rash that begins on the face and spreads to other parts of the body.
      • The skin eruption stage can last between 2 and 4 weeks, during which the lesions harden and become painful, fill up first with a clear fluid and then pus, and then develop scabs or crusts.
      • According to the WHO, the proportion of patients who die has varied between 0 and 11% in documented cases, and has been higher among young children.

      Treatment:

      • There is no safe, proven treatment for monkeypox yet.
      • The WHO recommends supportive treatment depending on the symptoms.
      • Awareness is important for prevention and control of the infection.

      -Source: The Hindu


      Mission Vatsalya  Scheme


      Context:

      Recently, the central government issued guidelines to states about the Mission Vatsalya child protection scheme

      Relevance:

      GS II- Welfare schemes

        What are the New Guidelines?

        • According to the guidelines, states cannot change the original name of the scheme in order to gain access to funding granted by the central government.
        • Funds to states will be approved through the Mission Vatsalya Project Approval Board (PAB), which will be chaired by the WCD Secretary, who will scrutinise and approve annual plans and financial proposals received from states and UTs for release of grants.
        • It will be implemented as a Centrally Sponsored Scheme in partnership with state governments and UT administrations, with a fund-sharing pattern in a 60:40 ratio.
          • However, for the eight states in the Northeast — as well as Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and the UT of Jammu and Kashmir — the Centre and state/UT’s share will be 90:10
        • MVS, in partnership with states and districts, will execute a 24×7 helpline service for children, as defined under Juvenile Justice Act, 2015.
        • It will support State Adoption Resource Agencies (SARA), which will further support the Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA) in promoting in-country adoption and regulating inter-country adoption.
          • SARA shall coordinate, monitor and develop the work related to non-institutional care, including adoption in the state.
        • The Mission plans to establish cradle baby reception centers in at least one specialized adoption agency in each area for receiving abandoned and trafficked children
        • Children in need of care, as well as special needs children, will be placed in distinct homes based on gender (including separate homes for transgender children) and age.
        • As they are unable to attend school due to physical or mental disabilities, these institutions will provide special educators, therapists, and nurses to impart occupational therapy, speech therapy, verbal therapy, and other remedial classes.
        • Further, employees in these specialised divisions must be fluent in sign language, Braille, and other related languages.
        • Establishment of open Shelters by the state government will be supported to care for runaway children, missing children, trafficked children, working children, children in street situations, child beggars, child substance abusers etc.
        • Financial support has also been prescribed for vulnerable children living with extended families or in foster care, supporting their education, nutrition, and health needs.

        About  Mission Vatsalya Scheme:

        Nodal:  Ministry of Women & Child Development

        • It is a Centrally Sponsored Scheme .
        • “Mission Vatsalya” erstwhile Child Protection Services (CPS) Scheme, since 2009-10 for the welfare and rehabilitation of children. 
        • Mission Vatsalya is a roadmap to achieve development and child protection priorities aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
        • It lays emphasis on child rights, advocacy and awareness along with strengthening of the juvenile justice care and protection system with the motto to ‘leave no child behind’.
        • The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 provisions and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 form the basic framework for implementation of the Mission.

        Vision and Mission of the Scheme:

        Vision:
        • To secure a healthy & happy childhood for each and every child in India, ensure opportunities to enable them to discover their full potential and assist them in flourishing in all respects, in a sustained manner.
        • Mission Vatsalya promotes family based non-institutional care of children in difficult circumstances based on the principle of institutionalization of children as a measure of last resort.
        The Mission aims to:
        • Support and sustain Children in difficult circumstances;
        • Develop context-based solutions for holistic development of children from varied backgrounds;
        • Provide scope for encouraging innovative solutions;
        • Cement convergent action.

        Key objectives of Mission Vatsalya

        • Prioritisation of children in the scheme of Administration keeping Centrality of the Child during all the activities and actions taken under the Mission.
        • Best interest of the Child while designing or delivering projects and programmes and to take affirmative action to ensure right to grow in happy family environment with strong social safety net to support families.
        • Ensuring Children’s right to Survival, Development, Protection and Participation.
        • To establish essential services and strengthen emergency outreach, noninstitutional care within the family and community, and institutional care counselling and support services at the national, regional, state and district levels.
        • To ensure appropriate inter-sector response at all levels, coordinate and network with all allied systems to promote convergent efforts for seamless service delivery to children.
        • To strengthen child protection at family and community level, equip families and communities to identify risks and vulnerabilities affecting children, create and promote preventive measures to protect children from situations of vulnerability, risk and abuse.
        • Encourage private sector partnerships and interventions to support children within the framework of law.
        • Raise public awareness, educate public about child rights, vulnerabilities and measures for protection sponsored by government and engage community at all levels as stakeholder in ensuring the best interest of children.
        • To build capacities of duty holders & service providers at all levels.
        • Monitor progress on objective parameters against well-defined Outputs and Outcomes
        • Participation of Panchayats and Municipal Local Bodies at the village level and at the ward and the urban cluster level within the urban municipal ward, for sustained assessment of the issues deserving attention, implementation of appropriate interventions, regular monitoring to develop a robust social safety net for children.

        -Source: Indian Express


        Sannati Site


        Context:

        Left almost unattended to for 20 years after excavation, the ancient Buddhist site on the bank of Bhima river near Kanaganahalli (forming part of Sannati site) in Kalaburagi district, has finally got some attention.

        Relevance:

        GS I- Art and Culture

        Dimensions of the Article:

        1. About Sannati
        2. Significance of Sannati

        About Sannati

        • Sannati is a small village on the banks of the River Bhima in Chittapur Taluk of Kalaburagi (Gulbarga).
        • It came into prominence after the collapse of the roof of the Kali temple in Chandralamba temple complex in 1986.
        • The collapse revealed the historically valuable Ashokan edicts written in Prakrit language and Brahmi script at the foundations of the temple, attracting historians from across India.
        • While the Stupa is believed to be one of the largest of its time.
        • The stone-portrait is considered to be the only surviving image of the Mauryan Emperor which had the inscription ‘Raya Asoko’ in Brahmi on it.

        Significance of Sannati

        • Further revelations led to the discovery of the magnificent Maha Stupa, which had been referred to as Adholoka Maha-Chaitya (The Great Stupa of the Netherworlds) in the inscriptions.
        • More importantly, a sculpture-portrait of Ashoka seated on his throne with his queens was also discovered.
        • Historians believe that the Sannati Ranamandal (war zone) was a fortified area spread over 210 acres, of which only a couple of acres have been excavated so far

        United Nations’ World Population Prospects


        Context:

        The 2022 edition of the United Nations’ World Population Prospects (WPP) was released.

        • India is projected to surpass China as the world’s most populous country in 2023.

        Relevance:

        GS II- Population & Associated Issues

        Dimensions of the Article:

        1. What is the World Population Prospects?
        2. Main takeaways for the global population
        3. What is the significance of India overtaking China?

        What is the World Population Prospects?

        • The Population Division of the UN has been publishing the WPP in a biennial cycle since 1951.
        • Each revision of the WPP provides a historical time series of population indicators starting in 1950.
        • It does so by taking into account newly released national data to revise estimates of past trends in fertility, mortality or international migration.

        Main takeaways for the global population

        Pace of growth is slowing down:

        • The global population is expected to grow to around 8.5 billion in 2030, 9.7 billion in 2050 and 10.4 billion in 2100. In 2020, the global growth rate fell under 1% per year for the first time since 1950.

        Rates of population growth vary significantly across countries and regions:

        • More than half of the projected increase in global population up to 2050 will be concentrated in just eight countries: the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, India, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines and the United Republic of Tanzania.
        • Disparate growth rates among the world’s largest countries will re-order their ranking by size. The 46 least developed countries (LDCs) are among the world’s fastest-growing.
        • Many are projected to double in population between 2022 and 2050, putting additional pressure on resources and posing challenges to the achievement of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

        The population of older persons is increasing both in numbers and as a share of the total:

        • The share of the global population aged 65 years or above is projected to rise from 10% in 2022 to 16% in 2050.
        • As such, the report warns that countries with ageing populations should take steps to adapt public programmes to the growing proportion of older persons, including by improving the sustainability of social security and pension systems and by establishing universal health care and long-term care systems.

        A sustained drop in fertility :

        • A sustained drop in fertility has led to an increased concentration of the population at working ages (between 25 and 64 years), creating an opportunity for accelerated economic growth per capita.
        • This shift in the age distribution provides a time-bound opportunity for accelerated economic growth known as the “demographic dividend”.

         International migration

        • This is having important impacts on population trends for some countries.
        • For high-income countries between 2000 and 2020, the contribution of international migration to population growth (net inflow of 80.5 million) exceeded the balance of births over deaths (66.2 million).
        • Over the next few decades, migration will be the sole driver of population growth in high-income countries.
        • In many of these countries, the outflows were due to temporary labour movements, such as for Pakistan (net flow of -16.5 million), India (-3.5 million), Bangladesh (-2.9 million), Nepal (-1.6 million) etc.
        How reliable is the UN projection, and how do they compare with India’s Census?
        • In India, of course, the Registrar General comes out with a population projection based on the Census.
        • The last such projection was released in 2019 and it was based on Census 2011.
        • The Census projection is slightly lower than the UN projection.
        • Still UN projection is widely acknowledged across the world

        What is the significance of India overtaking China?

        • That India would overtake China has been known for a while.
        • Moreover, in the past, when the world population was still at 5-billion or 6-billion levels, there was a concern about overcrowding.
        • Those concerns no longer exist because the global population is already 8 billion and several countries (including India) have achieved a replacement rate of fertility.
        • The concern now is not about the absolute numbers — India’s population is already 1.4 billion and may go up to 1.6 billion before declining.

        -Source: Indian Express


        New Guidelines To Prevent Unfair Trade Practices


        Context:

        Recently, the Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) announced five guidelines to prevent unfair trade practices and to protect consumer interests regarding the levy of service charges in hotels and restaurants.

        • The guidelines are in addition to the Centre’s 2017 guidelines which prohibit the levy of service charges on consumers by hotels and restaurants, and terms the charging for anything other than “the prices displayed on the menu card along with the applicable taxes” without “express consent” of the customer as “unfair trade practices”.

        Relevance:

        GS II- Polity and Governance

        Dimensions of the Article:

        1. About Central Consumer Protection Authority
        2. What is a service charge?
        3. What do the new guidelines specify? 
        4. Why were new guidelines issued?

        About Central Consumer Protection Authority

        • CCPA is a regulatory body established in 2020 based on the provisions of the Consumer Protection Act, 2019.
        • CCPA works under the administrative control of the Ministry of Consumer Affairs.
        Objective:
        • To promote, protect and enforce the rights of consumers as a class.
        • To conduct investigations into violation of consumer rights and institute complaints/prosecution.
        • To order the recall of unsafe goods and services, discontinuation of unfair trade practices and misleading advertisements.
        • To impose penalties on manufacturers/endorsers/publishers of misleading advertisements.

        What is a service charge?

        • A service charge is a tip or a direct transaction between the customer and the restaurant staff, specifically the wait staff.
        • It is a fee collected to pay for services associated with the purchase of a primary product or service.
        • It is collected by hospitality sectors and food and beverage industries as a fee for serving customers.

        What do the new guidelines specify? 

        • As per the new guidelines, hotels or restaurants are prohibited from levying extra charges automatically or by default in the bill or by any other name.
        • Also, they are not allowed to force service charges, and must clearly inform the consumers that service charges are voluntary, optional, and at their discretion.
        • Most importantly, hotels and restaurants are no longer allowed to restrict entry or services based on the collection of service charges. Furthermore, hotels cannot add service charges to their bills and charge GST on the total.
        • The point here is that any tip, donation, token, gratuity, etc., is no longer permitted to be charged and shall be considered as a separate transaction between the consumer and the staff of the hotel and restaurant.
        • It is entirely up to the consumer to decide whether or not to tip. If a consumer enters a restaurant or orders something, the restaurant policy cannot require them to tip.
        • Therefore, consumers cannot be forced to pay a service charge without having the choice to decide whether they want to do so.

        Why were new guidelines issued?

        • The CCPA has taken cognisance of various grievances that were registered on the National Consumer Helpline (NCH) related to the unnecessary levying of service charges in the bill.
        • Usually, this charge is levied in addition to the total price of the food items mentioned on the menu and applicable taxes, often in the guise of some other fee.
        • The said guidelines now consider charging a customer other than the price of food items displayed on the menu along with applicable taxes, as an ‘unfair trade practice’ under the CPA.
        • In general, the price of any product covers both the cost of the product and the cost of the service.
        • This implies that the price of food and beverages served in the hotels and restaurants includes the price of the ‘service’.
        • There is no restriction on hotels or restaurants to set the prices at which they want to offer food or beverages to consumers.
        • Placing an order involves consent to pay only the prices of food items displayed on the menu along with applicable taxes.
        • Charging anything other than the said amount would amount to ‘unfair trade practice’ under the Act.

        -Source: The Hindu


        Sarfaesi Act


        Context:

        Banks have invoked the Securitisation and Reconstruction of Financial Assets and Enforcement of Security Interest (Sarfaesi) Act against telecom infrastructure provider GTL to recover their pending dues.
        Context:

        GS III- Indian Economy

        Dimensions of the Article:

        1. What is the Sarfaesi Act?
        2. Why was such a law needed?
        3. What powers do banks have under the law?

        What is the Sarfaesi Act?

        • The Sarfaesi Act of 2002 was brought in to guard financial institutions against loan defaulters.
        • To recover their bad debts, the banks under this law can take control of securities pledged against the loan, manage or sell them to recover dues without court intervention.
        • The law is applicable throughout the country and covers all assets, movable or immovable, promised as security to the lender.

        Why was such a law needed?

        • Before the law was enacted in December 2002, banks and other financial institutions were forced to take a lengthy route to recover their bad debts.
        • The lenders would appeal in civil courts or designated tribunals to get hold of ‘security interests’ to recovery of defaulting loans, which in turn made the recovery slow and added to the growing list of lender’s non-performing assets.

        What powers do banks have under the law?

        • The Act comes into play if a borrower defaults on his or her payments for more than six months.
        • The lender then can send a notice to the borrower to clear the dues within 60 days.
        • In case that doesn’t happen, the financial institution has the right to take possession of the secured assets and sell, transfer or manage them.
        • The defaulter, meanwhile, has a recourse to move an appellate authority set up under the law within 30 days of receiving a notice from the lender.
        • According to a 2020 Supreme Court judgment, co-operative banks can also invoke Sarfaesi Act.
        • According to the Finance Ministry, the non-banking financial companies (NBFCs) can initiate recovery in Rs 20 lakh loan default cases.

        -Source: Indian Express


        Dark Matter


        Context:

        Many physicists strongly believe that the entire visible part of the universe forms only 5% of all matter in it. They believe the rest is made up of dark matter and dark energy.

        • The latest to hit the news in the field of dark matter is a dark matter detector experiment named LUX-ZEPLIN (LZ) in South Dakota in the U.S. As of today this is the most sensitive dark matter detector in the world.

        Relevance:

        GS III- Science and Technology

        Dimensions of the Article:

        1. Details
        2. What is dark matter and why is it so elusive?
        3. Why do physicists believe strongly that dark matter exists?
        4. What are the evidences from other distance scales?

        Details:

        • To give an idea of the degree of difficulty in measuring evidence of a dark particle, it is said that the chamber of this LZ detector, can contain only one gram of dust if it is to detect a dark matter particle.
        • This is the extent to which researchers have to go to rule out unwanted signals coming from other entities.

        What is dark matter and why is it so elusive?

        • All interactions in the universe are a result of four fundamental forces acting on particles —
          • Strong nuclear force
          • Weak nuclear force
          • Electromagnetic force
          • Gravitation
        • Dark matter is made up of particles that do not have a charge — which means they do not interact through electromagnetic interactions.
          • So, these are particles that are “dark”, namely because they do not emit light, which is an electromagnetic phenomenon, and “matter” because they possess mass like normal matter and hence interact through gravity.
        • Gravitational force, besides not being fully integrated and understood by particle physicists, is extremely weak.
        • For one thing, a particle that interacts so weakly becomes rather elusive to detect.
        • This is because interactions from other known particles could drown out signals of dark matter particles.

        Why do physicists believe strongly that dark matter exists?

        • There is strong indirect evidence for dark matter, and this evidence is reflected at various levels. At the shortest distance scale, consider the rotation of galaxies.
        • If you look at stars all the way from the centre of any galaxy to its rim, the way the velocities of the observed stars change may be plotted.
        • In the lab this same function may be plotted on a graph by assuming the visible matter is all that exists.
        • There is a marked difference between the observed plot of star speeds and the calculated value as you move from the inner part of the galaxy towards its rim.
        • Now if you assume there is a certain fraction of matter which exerts a gravitational pull on the rest of the stars in the galaxy, for it cannot be seen in any other way, and recalculate the plot, it fits in with the observed value.
          • This means that there is a definite amount of dark matter in the galaxy. 
        • One may argue that it is the model that is at fault and there is some other way to reconcile this discrepancy between the calculated and observed value of velocities in rotating galaxies. This is where evidence from other distance scales comes up.

        What are the evidences from other distance scales?

        • The universe can be observed at various levels — at the level of electrons and nuclei or atoms, or galaxies, or galaxy clusters, or even larger distances where the entire universe can be mapped and studied.
        • Cosmologists, people who study the physics of the universe, typically work in the last mentioned three scales, and particle physicists study the lowest and even smaller scales.
        • In this context, the second evidence came from observations of the so-called Bullet cluster of galaxies.
          • The Bullet cluster is formed through the merging of two galaxy clusters.
          • Physicists found from their calculations that the way these mergers took place could not be fully explained if we believed that the visible universe were all that existed.
          • Therefore, there should be something like dark matter as well as an estimate of how much dark matter there should be in the universe.
        • Similar arguments exist from mappings of the universe such as the Sloan Digital Sky Survey and studies of the filamentous nature of the universe at a closer look.
        • While fixing the model could help explain away one of these discrepancies, not all of them can be explained in the same manner. Hence physicists now take the concept of dark matter very seriously.

        NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope


        Context:

        Recently, The United States space research agency NASA said in a release that its James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) has produced the deepest and sharpest infrared image of the distant universe that has ever been seen, heralding a major event in astronomy. The JWST is the largest and most powerful telescope ever built.

        Relevance:

        GS III- Science and Technology

        Dimensions of the Article:

        1. What is NASA’s James Webb Telescope?
        2. What is the mission of the James Webb Space Telescope?
        3. How is the James Webb better than the Hubble?

        What is NASA’s James Webb Telescope?

        • The telescope has been in the works for years. NASA led its development with the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Canadian Space Agency.
        • It was launched aboard a rocket on December 25, 2021, and is currently at a point in space known as the Sun-Earth L2 Lagrange point, approximately 1.5 million km beyond Earth’s orbit around the Sun.
          • Lagrange Point 2 is one of the five points in the orbital plane of the Earth-Sun system.
        • Named after Italian-French mathematician Josephy-Louis Lagrange, the points are in any revolving two-body system like Earth and Sun, marking where the gravitational forces of the two large bodies cancel each other out.
        • Objects placed at these positions are relatively stable and require minimal external energy or fuel to keep themselves there, and so many instruments are positioned here.
        • L2 is a position directly behind Earth in the line joining the Sun and the Earth. It would be shielded from the Sun by the Earth as it goes around the Sun, in sync with the Earth.

        What is the mission of the James Webb Space Telescope?

        NASA says the James Webb Space Telescope will be “a giant leap forward in our quest to understand the Universe and our origins”, as it will examine every phase of cosmic history: from the Big Bang to the formation of galaxies, stars, and planets to the evolution of our own Solar System.

        The science goals for the Webb can be grouped into four themes.

        • To look back around 13.5 billion years to see the first stars and galaxies forming out of the darkness of the early universe.
        • To compare the faintest, earliest galaxies to today’s grand spirals and understand how galaxies assemble over billions of years.
        • To see where stars and planetary systems are being born.
        • To observe the atmospheres of extrasolar planets (beyond our solar system), and perhaps find the building blocks of life elsewhere in the universe. The telescope will also study objects within our own Solar System.

        How is the James Webb better than the Hubble?

        • JWST is much more powerful and has the ability to look in the infrared spectrum, which will allow it to peer through much deeper into the universe, and see-through obstructions such as gas clouds.
        • As electromagnetic waves travel for long distances, they lose energy, resulting in an increase in their wavelength. An ultraviolet wave, for example, can slowly move into the visible light spectrum and the infrared spectrum, and further weaken to microwaves or radio waves, as it loses energy.
        • Hubble was designed to look mainly into the ultraviolet and visible regions of the electromagnetic spectrum. JWST is primarily an infrared telescope, the first of its kind.

        -Source: Indian Express


        G20 Foreign Ministers Meeting


        Context:

        Recently, the External Affairs Minister of India met with the US Secretary of State and Russian Foreign Minister and other counter parts in Bali (Indonesia) on the sidelines of the G20 Foreign Ministers Meeting.

        The meeting was held under the theme of “Building a more peaceful, stable, and prosperous world together.”

        Relevance

        GS-II: International Relations (Important International Groupings and Agreements, Foreign Policies affecting India’s Interests)

        Dimensions of the Article:

        1. Highlights of  recent G20 Meeting
        2. About G20
        3. Structure and functioning of G20

        Highlights of  recent G20 Meeting

        India and China:

        • The Indian Minister of External Affairs met with the Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister.
        • India urged that the unresolved problems along the LAC in Eastern Ladakh be resolved quickly.
        • India emphasised the need to maintain the momentum to complete disengagement from all remaining regions in order to restore peace and tranquillity in the border areas, recalling the disengagement accomplished in several friction areas.
        • Both sides agreed that military and diplomatic representatives from the two countries should continue to communicate regularly and expressed enthusiasm for the next Senior Commanders meeting.
        • China expressed appreciation to India for its assistance during this year’s BRICS Chairmanship and provided a guarantee of support for India’s upcoming G20 and SCO Presidency.

        Other topics of conversation

        • At the meetings, Russia accused the US of pressuring Europe and the rest of the globe into giving up inexpensive energy sources, while the US accused Russia of causing “global food insecurity.” These accusations highlighted the G20 group’s growing divisions.
        • The G20, which consists of the 20 largest economic powers in the world, is mandated to debate issues of international trade, but western members criticism of Russia predominated the Bali Foreign Ministers Meeting.
        • The conflict in Ukraine and its economic ramifications suggest a rift within the international community, with the US, EU, Japan, Canada, Australia, and France forming a single anti-Russian bloc while other nations take a cautious approach and call for a peaceful end to the conflict.

        About G20

        • The G20 is an informal group of 19 countries and the European Union, with representatives of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.
        • The G20 membership comprises a mix of the world’s largest advanced and emerging economies, representing about two-thirds of the world’s population, 85% of global gross domestic product, 80% of global investment, over 75% of global trade and roughly half the world’s land area.
        • The members of the G20 are Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey, the United Kingdom, the United States, and the European Union.
        • Spain as a permanent, non-member invitee, also attends leader summits.
        • India will hold the Presidency of the G20 from 1 December 2022 to 30 November 2023, culminating with the G20 Summit in India in 2023.

        Structure and functioning of G20

        • The G20 Presidency rotates annually according to a system that ensures a regional balance over time.
        • For the selection of presidency, the 19 countries are divided into 5 groups, each having no more than 4 countries. The presidency rotates between each group.
        • Every year the G20 selects a country from another group to be president.
        • India is in Group 2 which also has Russia, South Africa and Turkey.
        • The G20 does not have a permanent secretariat or Headquarters.
        • The work of G20 is divided into two tracks:
          • The Finance track comprises all meetings with G20 finance ministers and central bank governors and their deputies. Meeting several times throughout the year they focus on monetary and fiscal issues, financial regulations, etc.
          • The Sherpa track focuses on broader issues such as political engagement, anti-corruption, development, energy, etc.
        • Since 2008, the group convenes at least once a year, with the summits involving each member’s head of government.

        -Source: The Hindu


        Parliamentary Committee Opposes Mediation Bill


        Context:

        The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Law and Justice has recommended substantial changes to the Mediation Bill.

        Relevance:

        GS-II: Governance (Government Policies and Initiatives, Issues arising out of the design and implementation of Policies)

        Dimensions of the Article:

        1. Mediation Bill, 2021
        2. What is Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)?
        3. Types of Alternative Dispute Resolution
        4. Highlights of the Draft Mediation Bill 2021
        5. Issues with the bill

        Mediation Bill, 2021

        • Mediation is a voluntary dispute resolution process.
        • It is an informal, confidential, flexible, and non-binding process in which an impartial person called a “mediator” helps the parties to understand the interests of everyone involved, and their practical and legal choices.
        • The Bill requires persons to try to settle civil or commercial disputes through mediation before approaching any court or tribunal.
        • Agreements resulting from mediation will be binding and enforceable in the same manner as court judgments

        What is Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)?

        • The process by which disputes between the parties are settled or amicably resolved without the intervention of judicial institution and any trial is known as Alternative Dispute Resolution.
        • The ADR mechanism offers to facilitate the resolution of matters of business issues and the others where it has not been possible to initiate any process of negotiation or arrive at a mutually agreeable solution.
        • ADR offers to resolve all types of matters including civil, industrial, and family, etc where people are finding it difficult to settle.
        • Generally, ADR uses a neutral third party who helps parties to communicate, discuss the differences and resolve the dispute.
        • ADR enables individuals and groups to maintain co-operation, social order, and provides an opportunity to reduce hostilities.

        Types of Alternative Dispute Resolution

        Arbitration:

        • The dispute is submitted to an arbitral tribunal which makes a decision (an “award”) on the dispute that is mostly binding on the parties.
        • It is less formal than a trial, and the rules of evidence are often relaxed.
        • Generally, there is no right to appeal an arbitrator’s decision.
        • Except for some interim measures, there is very little scope for judicial intervention in the arbitration process.

        Conciliation:

        • A non-binding procedure in which an impartial third party, the conciliator, assists the parties to a dispute in reaching a mutually satisfactory agreed settlement of the dispute.
        • Conciliation is a less formal form of arbitration.
        • The parties are free to accept or reject the recommendations of the conciliator.
        • However, if both parties accept the settlement document drawn by the conciliator, it shall be final and binding on both.

        Mediation:

        • In mediation, an impartial person called a “mediator” helps the parties try to reach a mutually acceptable resolution of the dispute.
        • The mediator does not decide the dispute but helps the parties communicate so they can try to settle the dispute themselves.
        • Mediation leaves control of the outcome with the parties.

        Negotiation:

        • A non-binding procedure in which discussions between the parties are initiated without the intervention of any third party with the object of arriving at a negotiated settlement to the dispute
        • It is the most common method of alternative dispute resolution.
        • Negotiation occurs in business, non-profit organizations, government branches, legal proceedings, among nations and in personal situations such as marriage, divorce, parenting, and everyday life.

        Lok Adalats:

        • The establishment of Lok Adalat system of dispute settlement system was brought about with the Legal Services Authorities Act 1987 for expediting the system of dispute settlement.
        • In Lok Adalats, disputes in the pre-litigation stage could be settled amicably.

        Highlights of the Draft Mediation Bill 2021

        • The Draft Mediation Bill 2021 recognizes mediation as a profession and acknowledges the importance of institutes to train mediators, and service providers to provide structured mediation under their rules. These provisions of the bill are seen as a huge improvement over the part-time honorarium basis it has in the court-annexed mediation schemes.
        • The Bill does away with the confusion emanating from using both expressions ‘Mediation’ and ‘Conciliation’ in different statutes by opting for the former in accordance with international practice, and defining it widely to include the latter.
        • It provides for pre-litigation mediation and also recognises online dispute resolution (ODR).
        • It provides for enforcement of commercial settlements reached in international mediation viz between parties from different countries as per the Singapore Convention on Mediation to which India was a notable signatory.
        • The Convention assures disputants that their mediation settlements will be enforced without much difficulty across the world, unlike the fresh headaches that the litigative decree or arbitration award presents at the time of enforcement.
        • It is expected that this Bill would make India a hub for international mediation in the commercial disputes field, and indeed institutions are being opened for this purpose.

        Issues with the bill

        • Despite dispute resolution being the judiciary’s domain, there is no role for CJI in the appointment process.
        • It unwisely treats international mediation when conducted in India as a domestic mediation.
        • Now, that is excellent for cases between Indian parties, but disastrous when one party is foreign. The reason is that the Singapore Convention does not apply to settlements that already have the status of a judgment or decree. Therefore, if you conduct your cross-border mediation in India, you lose out on the tremendous benefits of worldwide enforceability.
        • The Council has three members, a retired senior judge, a person with experience of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) law and an academic who has taught ADR. None of the members will be active practitioners as mediators, hence, it establishes a profession which is being regulated without a single professional on the regulator side.
        • There is an unnecessary long list of disputes which should not be mediated, which is not understandable. For example:
          • Patents and copyright cases settle on commercial terms leaving untouched the validity of the grant, so why deny this possibility and consign the parties to litigative longevity.
          • In the case of telecom, why can’t manufacturers and service providers and consumers be allowed to talk and resolve issues?
          • In cases involving minors or persons of unsound mind, the law provides for the court to pass orders to protect them.

        -Source: The Hindu


        National Child Labour Project


        Context:

        The Centre does not have any data on child labour in the country and a reason for this is the drying up of budgetary provisions meant for the National Child Labour Project (NCLP).

        Relevance:

        GS II- Welfare Schemes

        Dimensions of the Article:

        1. What is Child Labour?
        2. About National Child Labour Project (NCLP) Scheme
        3. Objectives of NCLP

        What is Child Labour?

        • Child labour is the term used to describe the exploitation of children for any type of job that prevents them from having an equal opportunity to receive an education and have a typical childhood.
        • The victimised child is then typically employed for physically, socially, and cognitively destructive employment.
        • To meet the government’s development goals by 2030, the use of child labour must be ended.

        About National Child Labour Project (NCLP) Scheme

        • The NCLP Scheme is a Central Sector Scheme .
        • Since 1988, the National Child Labour Project (NCLP) Scheme has been carried out by the Ministry of Labour and Employment with the goal of rehabilitating child labourers.
        • The NCLP rescues or removes children between the ages of 9 and 14 from employment and places them in NCLP Special Training Centers.
        • Through strong collaboration with the SarvaShikshaAbhiyan, children between the ages of 5-8 are directly connected to the formal education system.
        • A dedicated online portal named PENCiL (Platform for Effective Enforcement for No Child Labour) is developed for better monitoring and implementation.

        Objectives of NCLP:

        • The Scheme seeks to adopt a sequential approach with focus on rehabilitation of children working in hazardous occupations & processes in the first instance.
        • Under the Scheme, survey of child labour engaged in hazardous occupations & processes has been conducted.
        • The identified children are to be withdrawn from these occupations & processes and then put into special schools in order to enable them to be mainstreamed into formal schooling system.
        • Project Societies at the district level are fully funded for opening up of special schools/Rehabilitation Centres for the rehabilitation of child labour.

        The special schools/Rehabilitation Centres provide:

        • Non-formal/bridge education
        • Skilled/vocational training
        • Mid Day Meal
        • Stipend @ Rs.150/- per child per month.
        • Health care facilities through a doctor appointed for a group of 20 schools.

        -Source: The Hindu


        Red Panda


        Context:

        The Singalila National Park, the highest protected area in West Bengal, will soon wild Red Panda.

        Relevance:

        GS III- Environment and Ecology

        Dimensions of the Article:

        1. About Red Panda
        2. About Singalila National Park
        3. Why introduce Red Panda?

        About Red Panda

        • The Giant Panda and the Red Panda are the only two distinct panda species found in the world.
        • It serves as Sikkim’s official animal as well.
        • Red pandas are timid, lonely, arboreal creatures that are used as indicators of ecological change.
        • Both (sub)species are found in India.
          • Himalayan red panda (Ailurus fulgens)
          • Chinese red panda (Ailurus styani)
        • The two phylogenetic species are split by the Siang River in Arunachal Pradesh.
        • It can be discovered in the jungles of India, Nepal, Bhutan, as well as the northern mountains of Myanmar and the southern provinces of China.
        Protection Status:

        Red Pandas:

        • IUCN Red List: Endangered
        • CITES: Appendix I
        • Wildlife Protection Act 1972: Schedule I

        Giant Pandas:

        • IUCN Red List: Vulnerable
        • CITES: Appendix I

        About Singalila National Park

        • Singalila National Park is located on the Singalila Ridge at an altitude of more than 7000 feet above sea level, in the Darjeeling district of West Bengal.
        • It is well known for the trekking route to Sandakphu that runs through it.
        • The Singalila area in Darjeeling was purchased by the British Government from Sikkim Durbar in 1882, and notified a Reserve Forest under the Indian Forest Act 1878.
        • It was notified as a National Park in 1992 and was also officially opened up for tourism.

        Why introduce Red Panda?

        • Even in Singalila and Neora Valley National Parks, the two protected locations in West Bengal where the mammal is found in the wild, the number of red pandas has been falling.
        • According to recent surveys, there are 32 in Neora and 38 in Singalila.
        • The Red Panda Augmentation Programme is centred on the zoological park.
        • Red panda conservation breeding is just one aspect of the approach.

        -Source: The Hindu

        TLR 7/8

        The Indian Institute of Chemical Technology (IICT), a Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) lab helped in the development of key molecule for Covaxin, the indigenous vaccine developed by the city-based Bharat Biotech International Limited.

        About:

        • The vaccine is a highly purified, whole virion, inactivated SARS-Cov-2.
        • The vaccine has been formulated with ‘Algel-IMDG’, which contains chemically absorbed TLR7/8 as an agonist or an adjuvant onto aluminium hydroxide gel to generate the requisite type of immune responses without damaging the body.
        • The firm had approached the IICT to develop the synthetic route for the adjuvant molecule TLR 7/8 with indigenous chemicals at an affordable price and with highest purity.
        • This indigenously developed molecule aided Bharat Biotech to scale up the production of the adjuvant.

         

        KHUJLI GHAR

        Some villages in Nagaland are trying to revive a traditional form of punishment that seeks to check crime with an itch in time.

        About:

        • Social offenders or violators of Naga customary laws have over the ages dreaded a cramped, triangular cage made from the logs of Masang-fung, a local tree that people avoid because of the irritation it causes.
        • The dread is more of humiliation or loss of face within the community or clan than of spending at least a day scratching furiously without any space to move.
        • Such itchy cages are referred to as khujli ghar in Nagamese — a pidgin lingua franca — but each Naga community has its own name. The Aos, one of the major tribes of Nagaland, call it Shi-ki that means flesh-house.
        • The cage is usually placed at a central spot in the village, usually in front of the morung, or bachelor’s dormitory, for the inmate to be in full public view.

         

        SURYAKIRAN AEROBATIC TEAM (SKAT)

        The Suryakiran Aerobatic Team (SKAT) will perform at an airshow at the Galle Face in Colombo from March 3 to 5 as part of the 70th anniversary celebrations of the Sri Lankan Air Force (SLAF).

        About:

        • This will be the first performance for the SKAT team outside India since it was resurrected in 2015 with the Hawk advanced jet trainers.
        • Earlier, the SKAT team had toured Sri Lanka during the 50th anniversary of the SLAF in 2001.
        • The SKAT team, also known as 52 Squadron or The Sharks, is based in Bidar.
        • The team was formed in 1996 with Kiran Mk-II aircraft and had enthralled spectators across the country till 2011. It was revived in 2015 with Hawk trainers initially with four aircraft and grew to the nine-aircraft formation.
        • Since its inception, the SKAT team has carried out over 600 displays all around the country. It has also represented India across southeast Asia including China.

         

        TUNI

        The Metropolitan Magistrate Court (Railway Court) has served summons on 40 persons reportedly involved in the arson at the Tuni railway station in East Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh in January 2016.

        About:

        • Tuni is a town in East Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh. It is known for mango export, with nearly 250 varieties. It is also famous for betel leaves and jute bags.
        • Kapu leader and present Tuni MLA Dadisetti Ramalingeswara Rao (Raja) and many other leaders organised Kapu Gharjana Sabha in the town on January 31, 2016, demanding reservation for the Kapu community under the Backward Class (BC) category.
        • The agitators suddenly squatted on the tracks, stopped the Ratnachal Express between Tuni and Hamsavaram stations and threw stones at the train. When the panicked passengers alighted from the train, the mob climbed on it and set some coaches on fire.
        • The Government Railway Police and RPF personnel registered cases against the accused.

         

        GLOBAL ASSOCIATION FOR PHYSICIANS OF INDIAN ORIGIN (GAPIO)

        Union Minister for Health addressed the Global Indian Physicians Congress, organized by the Global Association for Physicians of Indian Origin (GAPIO), through video conference.

        About:

        • GAPIO is a non-profit organization established in 2011.
        • Padma Vibhushan, Dr. Prathap C Reddy, Chairman of Apollo Hospitals Group is the Founder President of GAPIO along with Dr. Sanku Rao – Past President of AAPI, USA and Dr. Ramesh Mehta – President of BAPIO, UK.
        • The aim of the organization is to bring together 1.4 million physicians of Indian origin in the world on one professional platform.
        • GAPIO has held 10 annual conferences in India and has held 9 midyear conferences overseas since 2011.

         

        COMMON SURNAME

        A section of Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) has signalled its opposition to changing a law that forces married couples to have the same surname.

        About:

        • In the recent past, Japan has witnessed heated debates over the century-old law, with women’s rights activists pitted against conservative figures.
        • Under Japan’s civil code, married couples are required to share the same surname, thus making the country the only industrialised nation where having different surnames for married spouses is illegal.
        • The requirement was first introduced in 1896 during the Meiji era (1868-1912), when it was common for women in the country to leave their families and become a part of the husband’s family.
        • While the law makes having one surname compulsory, it does not specify which name a couple should adopt. However, in an overwhelming number of cases, couples choose to adopt the husband’s surname at birth. Currently, 96 per cent of women drop their maiden name in Japan, reflecting the country’s male-dominated society.
        • The law even forbids in-between options, such as hyphenating last names, keeping one’s family name as a middle name, or combining the two surnames into a new one.

        Important Info :

        • Japan often faces criticism for its poor performance when it comes to gender equality.
        • In the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2020, Japan was ranked 121st out of 153 countries (India was at 112).

         

        PIXXEL INDIA’S ANAND SATELLITE

        PSLV-C51 mission was supposed to carry a satellite from Pixxel India, one of the several new start-ups. But eventually the satellite could not be part of the launch.

        About:

        • Pixxel India is a Bengaluru-based start-up that completed two years of existence recently.
        • It is planning to place a vast constellation of earth-imaging satellites for continuous monitoring of every part of the globe, and beam high-resolution imagery and other data that can be utilized for a variety of applications in climate change, agriculture and urban planning.
        • The first of its satellites, called Anand, was supposed to be on this PSLV-C51 rocket that took off from the Sriharikota launching range this morning.
        • But less than a week before the launch, the company announced that due to “certain software issues” during testing, it would not go ahead with the launch of the satellite at this time.

         

        LATERAL ENTRY

        The Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) issued an advertisement seeking applications “from talented and motivated Indian nationals willing to contribute towards nation building” for three posts of Joint Secretary and 27 of Director in central government Departments.

        About:

        • These individuals, who would make a “lateral entry” into the government secretariat, would be contracted for three to five years. These posts were “unreserved”, meaning were no quotas for SCs, STs and OBCs.
        • NITI Aayog, in its three-year Action Agenda, and the Sectoral Group of Secretaries (SGoS) on Governance in its report submitted in February 2017, recommended the induction of personnel at middle and senior management levels in the central government. These ‘lateral entrants’ would be part of the central secretariat which in the normal course has only career bureaucrats from the All India Services/ Central Civil Services.
        • Lateral recruitment is aimed at achieving the twin objectives of bringing in fresh talent as well as augment the availability of manpower.

         

        MARITIME INDIA SUMMIT 2021

        Prime Minister Narendra Modi will inaugurate ‘Maritime India Summit 2021’ on 2nd March via video conferencing.

        About:

        • The Maritime India Summit 2021 is being organized by the Ministry of Ports, Shipping and Waterways on a virtual platform www.maritimeindiasummit.in from 2nd March to 4th March 2021.
        • Denmark is the partner country for the three-day summit.
        • The Summit will visualize a roadmap for India’s Maritime sector for next decade and will work to propel India to the forefront of the Global Maritime Sector.
        • Eminent speakers from several countries are expected to attend the Summit and explore the potential business opportunities and investments in Indian Maritime domain.

         

        CENTRE OF EXCELLENCE IN GAMING

        Government has decided to form Centre of Excellence in gaming and other related areas in collaboration with IIT Bombay.

        About:

        • The Centre is at an advanced stage of preparation and will come into effect as the new session of IIT begins in 2021.
        • This was announced by Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar while addressing the virtual exhibition and prize announcement of “Khel Khel Mein”, a Pan Maharashtra toy/game project design competition.

        FARMER PRODUCER ORGANIZATIONS (FPOs)

        Union Ministers for Agriculture celebrated the first anniversary of the Central Sector Scheme on “Formation & Promotion of 10,000 Farmer Producer Organizations (FPOs)”.

        About:

        • The scheme was launched by Prime Minister on 29.02.2020 at Chitrakoot (Uttar Pradesh) with a budgetary provision of Rs 6865 crore.
        • FPOs will make farming more viable by aggregating land.
        • More than 2200 FPOs produce clusters have been allocated for the formation of FPOs in the current year, of which 100 FPOs for specialized Organic produce, 100 FPOs from Oilseeds & 50 commodity-specific FPOs with value chain development will be formed.
        • Implementing Agencies (IAs) are engaging Cluster-Based Business Organizations (CBBOs) to aggregate, register & provide professional handholding support to each FPO for a period of 5 years.
        • CBBOs will be the platform for an end to end knowledge for all issues related to FPO promotion.
        • FPOs will be provided financial assistance up to Rs 18.00 lakh per FPO for a period of 03 years.

        CHIEF OF INTEGRATED DEFENCE STAFF TO CHAIRMAN CHIEFS OF STAFF COMMITTEE (CISC)

        Vice Admiral Atul Kumar Jain took over as Chief of Integrated Defence Staff to Chairman Chiefs of Staff Committee (CISC) on 02 Mar 2021.

        About:

        • Chief of Integrated Defence Staff to the Chairman Chiefs of Staff Committee (CISC) is the head of the Integrated Defence Staff which acted as the point organisation for jointmanship in the Ministry of Defence.
        • The CISC is a Three-star rank officer from the three Services in rotation.
        • The CISC reports to the Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee (Chairman COSC) in New Delhi.
        • He is assisted by the following five Principal Staff Officers (all three-star appointments) who headed the various branches within the IDS.

         

        LAND PORTS AUTHORITY OF INDIA (LPAI)

        The Land Ports Authority of India (LPAI) celebrated its 9th Foundation Day today at its Headquarter in New Delhi.

        About:

        • Type: It is a statutory body (created through the Land Ports Authority of India Act, 2010).
        • Founded in: 2012.
        • Parent ministry: Ministry of Home Affairs.
        • Mandate: It is responsible for creating, upgrading, maintaining and managing border infrastructure in India. It manages several Integrated Check Posts (ICPs) all across Borders of India.

         

        NATIONAL FOOD SECURITY ACT (NFSA), 2013

        The NITI Aayog recently circulated a discussion paper on a proposed revision in the National Food Security Act (NFSA), 2013.

        About:

        • The NFSA provides a legal right to persons belonging to “eligible households” to receive food grains at subsidised price– rice at Rs 3/kg, wheat at Rs 2/kg and coarse grain at Rs 1/kg — under the Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS).
        • These are called central issue prices (CIPs).
        • Under sub-section (1) of Section 3 of the Act, the term “eligible households” comprises two categories — “priority households”, and families covered by the Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY).
          • Priority households are entitled to receive 5 kg of food grains per person per month.
          • AAY households are entitled to 35 kg per month at the same prices.

        What has the NITI Aayog proposed?

        • The national rural and urban coverage ratio be reduced from the existing 75-50 to 60-40. if this reduction happens, the number of beneficiaries under the NFSA will drop to 71.62 crore (on the basis of the projected population in 2020).
        • To make these changes in the law, the government will have to amend sub-section (2) of Section 3 of the NFSA. For this, it will require parliamentary approval.
        • If the national coverage ratio is revised downward, the Centre can save up to Rs 47,229 crore (as estimated by the NITI Aayog paper). However, the move may be opposed by some of the states.

         

        MOBILE TRAIN RADIO COMMUNICATION (MTRC)

        Mobile Train Radio Communication (MTRC) System has been commissioned in Western Railway Trains in Mumbai.

        About:

        • The Mobile Train Radio Communication system is an effective and a technologically advanced communication system which can play an intrinsic role in preventing train accidents and reducing delays through effective communication.
        • MRTC acts in a similar way to that of Air traffic control (ARC) for aircrafts. The system will monitor, track and aid in communication between the trains and the control room thereby ensuring smooth movement of rakes as well as help in preventing adverse events.
        • This is the first time that MTRC is commissioned in Indian Railways. It is a historic move of the Indian Railways.
        • The new system has already been installed in 90 out of 100 rakes running between Churchgate and Virar.

         

        SUGAMYA BHARAT APP

        Union Minister for Social justice and Empowerment will virtually launch “Sugamya Bharat App”

        About:

        • The App has been developed by the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (DEPwD) under Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment.
        • Sugamya Bharat APP — a Crowdsourcing Mobile Application is a means for sensitising and enhancing accessibility in the 3 pillars of the Accessible India Campaign i.e. built environment, transportation sector and ICT ecosystem in India.
        • The app provides for five main features, 4 of which are directly related to enhancing accessibility, while the fifth is a special feature meant only for Divyangjan for COVID related issues.
        • The accessibility related features are: the registration of complaints of inaccessibility across the 3 broad pillars of the Sugamya Bharat Abhiyaan; positive feedback of examples and best practices worth emulating being shared by people as jan-bhagidhari; Departmental updates; and guidelines and circulars related to accessibility.

         

        SWACHHTA SAARTHI FELLOWSHIP

        The Office of the Principal Scientific Adviser to the Government of India under its “Waste to Wealth” Mission launched the “Swachhta Saarthi Fellowship”

        About:

        • Aim of the fellowship to recognize students, community workers/self-help groups, and municipal/sanitary workers who are engaged in tackling the enormous challenge of waste management, scientifically and sustainably.
        • The Waste to Wealth Mission is one of the nine national missions of the Prime Minister’s Science, Technology, and Innovation Advisory Council (PM-STIAC).
        • The three categories of awards under the fellowships are as below:
          • Category-A – Open to School students from 9th to 12th standards engaged in waste management community work
          • Category-B – Open to College students (UG, PG, Research students) engaged in waste management community work
          • Category-C – Open to Citizens working in the community and through SHGs, municipal or sanitary workers working beyond specifications of their job requirement/descriptions
        • The last date for applying to the fellowship is March 19th, 2021. Up to 500 fellows will be recognised under the fellowship.

         

        POMPEII

        Archaeologists working at Pompeii have announced the discovery of a large ceremonial chariot, found with four wheels, its iron components, bronze and tin decorations, mineralised wood remains, and imprints of organic materials.

        About:

        • It is likely that the chariot was used as a transport vehicle by Roman elites during various ceremonies.
        • This is an exceptional discovery, because it represents a unique find – which has no parallel in Italy thus far – in an excellent state of preservation.
        • Pompeii was a Roman town in Southern Italy’s Campania region situated along the Bay of Naples. The town was completely buried by volcanic ash after the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 CE, over 2,000 years ago.

         

        PRESS INFORMATION BUREAU (PIB)

        Jaideep Bhatnagar has taken over today as Principal Director General, Press Information Bureau.

        About:

        • It is one of the media units working under the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, Government of India.
        • It is the nodal agency for public communication and media relations for the entire Union Government of India
        • It is based in National Media Centre, New Delhi.
        • It was established in 1919 as a small cell under Home Ministry under the British government.
        • In 2019, the PIB set up a fact-checking unit to check government related news.

        GEORGE’S ORTHODOX CHURCH

        The centuries-old St. George’s Orthodox Church at Cheppad in Kerala faced demolition for widening of National Highway 66, but is now set to become a Centrally-protected monument of national importance with Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) recognition.

        About:

        • The church is one of the rarest in Kerala, having traditional Kerala church architectural pattern with rare and beautiful mural paintings on the walls of the altar.
        • The church is thought to date back to AD 950, but some experts say it was built in AD 1050. Though rebuilt in 1952, the old apse at the eastern end preserves the murals.
        • There are 47 murals and the paintings are of St. Paul with a sword, the birth of Jesus Christ, resurrection of Lazarus, the kiss of Judas, the Last Supper, Christ bearing the cross, Adam and Eve eating the forbidden fruit, and Noah’s Ark.
        • These paintings, blending Persian and Kerala mural art styles, draw enthusiasts from far and wide.

        CENTRAL REVENUES CONTROL LABORATORY (CRCL)

        Central Revenues Control Laboratory (CRCL), New Delhi was recognized as a Regional Customs Laboratory (RCL) of the World Customs Organisation (WCO) for Asia-Pacific Region.

        About:

        • Central Revenues Control Laboratory (CRCL), New Delhi is under the administrative control of Central Board of Indirect Taxes & Customs.
        • Established in 1939, CRCL is the headquarters of 14 Revenue Laboratories, including 2 laboratories working at Government Opium & Alkaloid Works, Ghazipur & Neemuch.
        • With its recognition as RCL, CRCL joins a select group of Customs Laboratories in the region like those in Japan & Korea.

         

        • The World Customs Organization (WCO), established in 1952 as the Customs Co-operation Council (CCC) is an independent intergovernmental body whose mission is to enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of Customs administrations.
        • It is headquartered in Brussels, Belgium.

         

        EXERCISE DESERT FLAG VI

        The Indian Air Force is participating for the first time in Exercise Desert Flag along with air forces of United Arab Emirates, United States of America, France, Saudi Arabia, South Korea and Bahrain.

        About:

        • Exercise Desert Flag is an annual multi-national large force employment warfare exercise hosted by the United Arab Emirates Air Force.
        • Exercise Desert Flag VI is scheduled from 03 Mar 21 to 27 Mar 21 at Al-Dhafra airbase, UAE.
        • The IAF is participating with six Su-30 MKI, two C-17 and one IL-78 tanker aircraft.
        • The aim of the exercise is to provide operational exposure to the participating forces while training them to undertake simulated air combat operations in a controlled environment.

         

        UDAIPUR SCIENCE CENTRE

        The Udaipur Science Centre, at Udaipur, Tripura was dedicated to the people by the Governor of Tripura.

        About:

        • Udaipur Science Centre is the 22nd Science Centre which has been developed by National Council of Science Museums (NCSM) and handed over to the State Governments under the Ministry of Culture’s Scheme for Promotion of Culture of Science.
        • This Science Centre has been developed at a cost of Rs 6 crore funded jointly by Ministry of Culture, Govt. of India and Dept. of Science, Technology & Environment, Government of Tripura.
        • With this; NCSM has now set-up science centres in all the north eastern states.

        Important Info :

        • Udaipur, formerly known as Rangamati, is the third biggest city in Tripura.
        • The city was a former capital of the state during the reign of the Maharajas. This city is famous for the Tripura Sundari temple also known as Tripureswari temple

         

        REPRESENTATION OF THE PEOPLE ACT, 1951

        Registration of political parties is governed by the provisions of section 29A of the Representation of the People Act, 1951.

        About:

        • A party seeking registration under the said section with the Commission has to submit an application to the Commission within a period of 30 days following the date of its formation as per guidelines prescribed by the Commission in exercise of the powers conferred by Article 324 of the Constitution of India and Section 29A of the Representation of the People Act, 1951.
        • As per existing guidelines, the applicant association is, inter-alia, asked to publish proposed Name of party in two national daily newspapers and two local daily newspapers, on two days for submitting objections, if any, with regard to the proposed registration of the party before the Commission within 30 days from such publication.

        Important Info :

        Recent development:

        • The Commission has announced the General Elections for the Legislative Assemblies of West Bengal, Assam, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Puducherry on 26.02.2021.
        • The Election Commission has given a relaxation and has reduced the notice period from 30 days to 7 days for the parties who have published their public notice on or before 26.02.2021.

         

        MARITIME INDIA SUMMIT 2021

        Prime Minister Narendra Modi today inaugurated the ‘Maritime India Summit 2021’.

        Key highlights of the summit:

        • He informed that capacity of major ports have increased from 870 million tonnes in 2014 to 1550 million tonnes now.
        • Mega ports with world class infrastructure are being developed in Vadhavan, Paradip and Deendayal Port in Kandla.
        • India aims to operationalise 23 waterways by 2030.
        • India has as many as 189 lighthouses across its vast coastline and has drawn up a programme for developing tourism in the land adjacent to 78 lighthouses.
        • Steps are also being taken to introduce urban water transport systems in key states and cities such as Kochi, Mumbai, Gujarat and Goa.
        • To encourage domestic shipbuilding, approval has been given to the Shipbuilding Financial Assistance Policy for Indian Shipyards.
        • The Ministry of Port Shipping and Waterways has created a list of 400 investable These projects have an investment potential of $ 31 billion or Rs 2.25 lakh crores.
        • The Maritime India Vision 2030 outlines the priorities of the Government.
        • The Sagar-Manthan: Mercantile Marine Domain Awareness Centre has been launched. It is an information system for enhancing maritime safety, search and rescue capabilities, security and marine environment protection.
        • Government is in the process of installing solar and wind-based power systems at all the major ports across the country and aims to increase usage of renewable energy to more than 60% of total energy by 2030 in three phases across Indian ports.

         

        BETTER THAN CASH ALLIANCE

        The Government of India, Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), and UN-based Better Than Cash Alliance hosted Merchant Digitization Summit 2021: Towards AatmaNirbhar (Self Reliance) Bharat with special focus on Himalayan Regions, North East Regions and Aspirational Districts of India.

        About:

        • Based at the United Nations, the Better Than Cash Alliance is a partnership of governments, companies and international organizations that accelerates the transition from cash to responsible digital payments.
        • The Alliance has 75 members which are committed to digitizing payments.
        • The Alliance Secretariat works with members on their journey to digitize payments by:
          • Providing advisory services based on their priorities.
          • Sharing action-oriented research and fostering peer learning on responsible practices.
          • Conducting advocacy at national, regional and global level.
        • It was created in 2012. It was launched by the United Nations Capital Development Fund, the United States Agency for International Development, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Citigroup, the Ford Foundation, the Omidyar Network, and Visa Inc.

         

        NAG RIVER

        The Nag River Pollution Abatement Project has been approved at a cost of Rs. 2,117.54 crores.

        About:

        • This was announced by Union Minister Nitin Gadkari after chairing a meeting of World Bank officials, DG NMCG and Nagpur Municipal commissioner.
        • The project , approved under the National River Conservation Plan, will be implemented by the National River Conservation Directorate, NRCD.
        • It will reduce the pollution level in terms of untreated sewage, flowing solid waste and other impurities flowing into the Nag river and its tributaries.
        • The Nag River is a river flowing through the city of Nagpur in Maharashtra. Nagpur city derives its name from the Nag river.
        • Forming a part of the Kanhan-Pench river system, the Nag River originates in Lava hills near wadi.

         

        PRASHAD SCHEME

        Union Minister for Tourism virtually laid the Foundation Stone for the project “Development of Maa Bamleshwari Devi Temple, Dongargarh, Chhattisgarh” approved under PRASHAD Scheme of the Ministry of Tourism.

        About:

        • The ‘National Mission on Pilgrimage Rejuvenation and Spiritual, Heritage Augmentation Drive’ (PRASHAD) is a Central Sector Scheme fully financed by the Government of India.
        • It was launched by the Ministry of Tourism in the year 2014-15 with the objective of integrated development of identified pilgrimage and heritage destinations.
        • The scheme aimed at infrastructure development such as entry points (Road, Rail and Water Transport), last mile connectivity, ATM/ Money exchange, area Lighting and illumination with renewable sources, waiting rooms, first aid centers, craft bazars etc.
        • Till now, 13 projects have been successfully completed under PRASHAD Scheme to promote spiritual tourism. The completed projects include two projects each at Somnath, Mathura, Tamil Nadu and Bihar and one project each at Varanasi, Guruvayur and Amaravati (Guntoor), Kamakhya and Amritsar.

         

        CAFE REGULATIONS

        Union Minister for Road Transport looked into request by carmakers from the Society of India Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM) to postpone implementation of BS 6 CAFÉ Phase II regulations to April 1st 2024, on the grounds that the industry is still recovering from the impact of COVID.

        About:

        • CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Efficiency) regulations are similar norms to BS6 but with a different approach towards reducing the carbon footprint in the exhaust gasses of the vehicle.
        • CAFE majorly focuses on COx emissions. BS6, on the other hand, focuses on overall emissions which include NOx (Nitrogen Oxides), SOx (Sulphur Oxides).
        • The CAFE regulations aim to reduce the overall COx (Carbon Oxides) from the exhaust of the vehicle. The reduced carbon footprint leads to increased fuel economy.
        • These regulations were first implemented in India on 1st April 2017 with the introduction of BS4 exhaust emission norms.

        FREEDOM IN THE WORLD 2021: DEMOCRACY UNDER SIEGE

        Freedoms in India have reduced, according to a report from a U.S. thinktank, Freedom House, resulting in India being classified as ‘partly free’.

        About:

        • India’s score was 67, a drop from 71/100 from last year (reflecting 2019 data) downgrading it from the free category last year (based on 2020 data).
        • According to the report “Freedom in the World 2021: Democracy under Siege”, the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and its State-level allies continued to crack down on critics during the year.
        • The ruling Hindu nationalist movement also encouraged the scapegoating of Muslims, who were disproportionately blamed for the spread of the virus.
        • The U.S. dropped three points over one year, down to 83/100.
        • China, classified as ‘not free’, dropped a point from last year going down to 9/100.

         

        SEBI CALLS FOR MECHANISM TO PREVENT MARKET ABUSE

        SEBI asked stock exchanges, clearing corporations and depositories to put in place a code of conduct and institutional mechanism to prevent fraud or market abuse by them and their designated persons.

        About:

        • Under this, the managing director (MD) or chief executive officer (CEO) of market infrastructure institutions (MIIs) will be obligated to frame a code of conduct and put in place an institutional mechanism.
        • Further, the board of directors needs to ensure compliance by the MD/CEO in this regard.
        • MIIs will have to formulate a code of conduct to regulate, monitor and report trading by their designated persons and immediate relative of designated persons towards achieving compliance with the prohibition of insider trading regulations.

         

        WORLD HEARING DAY

        WHO is celebrating the world hearing day.

        About:

        • World Hearing Day is held on 3 March each year to raise awareness on how to prevent deafness and hearing loss and promote ear and hearing care across the world.
        • Theme for 2021: Hearing Care for ALL! Screen, Rehabilitate, Communicate.
        • World Hearing Day 2021 will mark the launch of the first-ever World Report on Hearing (WRH).
        • The Report has been developed in response to the World Health Assembly resolution (WHA70.13), adopted in 2017 as a means of providing guidance for Member States to integrate ear and hearing care into their national health plans.
        • The report proposes a set of key H.E.A.R.I.N.G. interventions that must be delivered through a strengthened health system to realize the vision of ‘Integrated people-centered ear and hearing care’ (IPC-EHC).

        Indian scenario

        • According to a 2018 WHO report, 2% of India’s population, mainly children, suffer from the condition of Otitis Media.
        • The disabling hearing loss affected 2.9% of the population and was noted to effect communication, education and work.
        • The prevalence of total hearing loss, unilateral &bilateral was found to be as high as 9.93%.
        • National Programme for Prevention and Control of Deafness will target over 6% of India’s population with Disabling Hearing Loss. The program was launched in 2006.

         

        HURUN GLOBAL RICH LIST 2021

        The world added 607 new billionaires, or more than three billionaires in two days, while India added 55 new billionaires, or more than one billionaire every week, in 2020, despite the COVID-19 pandemic, as per the 10th edition of Hurun Global Rich List 2021.

        About:

        • Tesla’s Elon Musk added $151 billion to become the richest man in the world for the first time with a net worth of $197 billion, followed by Amazon’s Jeff Bezos ($189 billion).
        • Reliance Industries Chairman Mukesh Ambani, who emerged as the richest man in India with a net worth of $83 billion, came in at number eight.
        • India retained the third spot in the number of billionaires from a country with a total of 177 billionaires living in the country.
        • In the list of Indian billionaires, Mr. Ambani was followed by Adani Group’s Gautam Adani and family with his wealth almost doubling to $32 billion.

         

        NEGEV LIGHT MACHINE GUNS (LMGs)

        The Army will begin inducting the first lot of 6,000 new Light Machine Guns (LMG) from Israel, with frontline troops on the borders set to receive them later this month.

        About:

        • These are part of the 16,497 Negev LMGs contracted from Israeli Weapons Industry (IWI) in March 2020 under fast track procurement to meet the immediate requirement. The remaining guns in the order will be delivered by March 2022.
        • The contracted Negev 7.62X51 mm LMG is a combat proven weapon and currently used by several countries around the globe.
        • This LMG will greatly enhance the lethality and range of a soldier vis-a-vis the presently used weapon.

         

        SANSAD TV

        After nearly two years of work, the merger of the Lok Sabha TV (LSTV) and the Rajya Sabha TV (RSTV) has been finalised and will be replaced by Sansad TV.

        About:

        • Retired IAS officer Ravi Capoor was appointed Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Sansad TV. Mr. Capoor’s mandate is also to work out the nitty-gritty of the merger, including the integration of the assets and manpower.
        • In November 2019, a committee headed by former Prasar Bharati Chairman Surya Prakash was set up. It submitted a report in February 2020.
        • The Surya Prakash panel held a meeting with Members of Parliament from different political parties and they strongly recommended the continuation of the live telecast.
        • Under the banner of Sansad TV, the LSTV would continue to telecast live the House proceedings and the RSTV that of the Upper House.
        • During the inter-session period and beyond the working hours of Parliament, both will telecast common content to a large extent. The LSTV platform would telecast programmes in Hindi, while RSTV would do so in English.

         

        HIMALAYAN SEROW

        Himalayan serow was spotted in the Manas Tiger Reserve in Assam. It was spotted close to the border with Bhutan in Manas’s Bansbari-Mathanguri forest.

        About:

        • The Himalayan serow is a subspecies of the mainland serow native to the Himalayas.
        • Common name: Himalayan Serow
        • Scientific name: Capricornis sumatraensi thar.
        • Local name: Jingal, Yemu.
        • Description: An appearance of a goat with long, donkey like ears, and a habit of standing with forelegs astraddle, make the Serow an ungainly goat antelope. Its coarse coat(long hair length than the Goral) varies from black to red.
        • IUCN status: Near threatened.
        • It is listed in CITES Appendix I.

         

        KARNATAKA’S ENGINEERING RESEARCH POLICY

        Karnataka launched the country’s maiden Engineering Research & Development (ER&D) Policy to raise its contribution to the sector in the country to 45% in the next five year.

        About:

        • The State government anticipates the policy has the potential to create over 50,000 jobs in the ER&D space in five years.
        • According to industry apex body Nasscom, ER&D has the potential to become a $100-billion industry in the country in the next five years.
        • The ER&D sector in the country is the fastest growing industry with a CAGR of 12.8%. Meanwhile, the global engineering research and development industry is expected to reach a spend of $2 trillion by 2025.
        • The new policy has identified five key focus sectors such as aerospace and defence; auto, auto components and EV; biotechnology, pharma and medical devices; semiconductors, telecom, ESDM; and software products.

         

        SPECTRUM AUCTION

        The telecom spectrum auctions concluded after bidding for a day and a half, with the Centre garnering 77,814.8 crore in revenues.

        About:

        • The amount exceeded the expectations of the government as well as analysts, as telcos focused on renewing expiring spectrum and consolidating holdings in select bands.
        • The Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Jio was the biggest bidder, acquiring 488.35 MHz of spectrum for ₹57,122.65 crore, followed by Bharti Airtel, which bid for 355.45 MHz of spectrum for ₹18,698.75 crore. Vodafone Idea bid for only 11.8 MHz of airwaves for ₹1,993.4 crore.
        • The spectrum will be assigned to bidders for a period of 20 years.
        • In the auction — the first in nearly five years and among the shortest, with participation from only three players — a total of 2308.80 MHz of spectrum across seven bands and worth about ₹3.92 lakh crore was put up for sale.
        • Bids were received for 855.60 MHz, or 37%, of the spectrum. No bids were received for the premium 700 MHz and 2500 MHz bands. The 700 MHz band remained unsold during the 2016 auctions as well due to the high prices.
        • Reliance Jio acquired spectrum in all 22 telecom circles, across 800 MHz, 1800 MHz and 2300 MHz bands, and its owned spectrum footprint had increased by 55% to 1,717 MHz.

         

        SRI LANKA’S WEST CONTAINER TERMINAL (WCT) PROJECT

        Sri Lanka said it will develop the West Container Terminal (WCT) at the Colombo Port, along with India and Japan.

        About:

        • The decision comes a month after the Rajapaksa government ejected the two partners from a 2019 tripartite agreement to jointly develop the East Container Terminal (ECT), citing resistance to “foreign involvement”.
        • While the High Commission of India had “approved” Adani Ports, which was to invest in the ECT project earlier, Japan is yet to name an investor.
        • In the ECT project agreed upon earlier, the Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA) was to hold majority 51%, but in the WCT proposal, India and Japan will be accorded 85% stake, as is the case in the nearby Colombo International Container Terminal (CICT), where China Merchants Port Holdings Company Limited holds 85%.
        • The WCT is adjacent to the China-run CICT and just a couple of kilometres away from the China-backed Port City being built on reclaimed land, making it a strategically desirable spot for India, whose concerns over China’s presence in Sri Lanka are well known.

        QS WORLD UNIVERSITY RANKINGS 2021

        As many as 25 courses by Indian universities have figured in the top 100 globally, according to QS World University Rankings by Subject.

        • Three Indian Institutes of Technology have entered the top 100 engineering institutes with IIT-Bombay grabbing the best-ever 49th position in the engineering and technology category followed by IIT Delhi (54) and IIT Madras (94). MIT, USA has retained its top position.
        • Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore — that secured number one position in the NIRF 2020 — is placed at the 92nd spot for natural sciences, followed by IIT Bombay (114), IIT Madras (187), and IIT Delhi (210).
        • Similarly, IIT-Madras is at number 30 for its petroleum engineering programme, IIT-Bombay and IIT-Kharagpur have grabbed 41 and 44 positions, respectively, in the subject ranking for mineral and mining engineering.
        • In the life sciences and medicine category, the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) bagged 248th spot.
        • Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) has been ranked 159th for arts and humanities, followed by the University of Delhi (252).
        • Also, Delhi University bagged 208th spot worldwide in the social sciences and management category.

        Important Info :

        • QS World University Rankings by subject calculate performance based on four parameters — academic reputation, employer reputation, research impact (citations per paper) and the productivity of an institution’s research faculty.
        • The QS rankings offer independent data on the performance of 253 programmes at 52 Indian higher education institutions, across 51 academic disciplines

         

        SIMLIPAL BIOSPHERE RESERVE

        The Simlipal forest reserve area frequently witnesses forest fires during dry weather conditions. A fire which started in the biosphere reserve area in February and has been raging for nearly a week now, was finally brought under control.

        About:

        Similipal, which derives its name from ‘Simul’ (silk cotton) tree, is a national park and a tiger reserve situated in Odisha’s Mayurbhanj district.

        Similipal and the adjoining areas, comprising 5,569 sq km, was declared a biosphere reserve by the Government of India on June 22, 1994, and lies in the eastern end of the eastern ghat.

        This protected area is part of the UNESCO World Network of Biosphere Reserves since 2009.

         

        MUNICIPAL PERFORMANCE INDEX (MPI) 2020

        Minister of Housing and Urban Affairs announced the release of the final rankings of Municipal Performance Index (MPI) 2020.

        About:

        • In the Million+ category, Indore has emerged as the highest ranked municipality, followed by Surat and Bhopal.
        • In the Less than Million category, New Delhi Municipal Council has emerged as the leader, followed by Tirupati and Gandhinagar.
        • The MPI examined the sectoral performance of 111 municipalities (with Delhi being assessed separately for NDMC, and the three Municipal Corporations) across five verticals which comprise of 20 sectors and 100 indicators in all totality.
        • The five verticals under MPI are Services, Finance, Policy, Technology and Governance.

         

        EASE OF LIVING INDEX (EoLI) 2020

        Minister of Housing and Urban Affairs announced the release of the final rankings of Ease of Living Index (EoLI) 2020.

        About:

        • The EoLI aims to measure the well-being of Indian citizens in 111 cities, across the pillars of Quality of Life, Economic-ability, and Sustainability, with 49 indicators under 13 categories.
        • The EoLI 2020 strengthens its scope by consolidating the framework with the addition of a Citizen Perception Survey in the index, holding a weightage of 30%.
        • The rankings under Ease of Living Index 2020 were announced for cities with a population of more than a million, and cities with less than a million people.
        • Bengaluru emerged as the top performer in the Million+ category.
        • In the Less than Million category, Shimla was ranked the highest in ease of living.

         

        CSIR FLORICULTURE MISSION

        Recently, CSIR Floriculture Mission has been approved for implementation in 21 States/UTs wherein available knowledgebase in CSIR Institutes will be utilized and leveraged to help Indian farmers and industry re-position itself to meet the import requirements.

        About:

        • Floriculture, or flower farming, is a discipline of horticulture concerned with the cultivation of flowering and ornamental plants for gardens and for floristry, comprising the floral industry.
        • This Mission is being implemented in collaboration with Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR)-Directorate of Floriculture; KVIC; APEDA, TRIFED; Fragrance and Flavour Development Centre (FFDC), Kannauj, Ministry of MSME and Universities.
        • Despite the fact that India has diverse agro-climatic and edaphic conditions, and rich plant diversity, it shares only 0.6 % of global floriculture market.
        • At least 1200 million USD worth of floriculture products are being imported by India every year from different countries”.

        CSIR’s Societal Portal?

        • Harsh Vardhan also launched CSIR’s Societal Portal along with the Android App. This portal has been developed by CSIR Team with the help of MyGov Team. The Portal is to facilitate the public to submit the societal problems that can be resolved using S&T interventions.

         

        NH – 248BB

        The Union Minister of Road Transport & Highways reviewed the progress of India’s First Grade Separated Urban Expressway, Dwarka Expressway (NH – 248BB).

        About:

        • The Minister expressed hope that the 29-kilometre long Expressway, being constructed under the Bharatmala Project and with a cost of Rs.8,662 crore, would be completed before the Independence Day next year.
        • Being built in four packages, total length of the Expressway is 29 kilometres out of which 18.9 kilometre length falls in Haryana while remaining 10.1 kilometre length is in Delhi. It starts from Shiv-Murti on National Highway-8 and ends near KherkiDaula Toll Plaza.
        • Delhi-Gurugram section of National Highway-8, a part of Delhi-Jaipur-Ahmedabad-Mumbai arm of Golden Quadrilateral (GQ), is presently carrying traffic of over three lakh Passenger Car Units (PCUs). With the construction of the present project, 50 to 60 per cent traffic on National Highway-8 will be reduced.

        Key highlights:

        • It will be the first-ever elevated Urban Expressway in India and will immensely help reducing the air pollution in Delhi-NCR.
        • The Dwarka Expressway would also be the first instance of a project where Tree Plantation of approximately 12,000 trees has been undertaken, keeping protection of the environment in view.
        • This will have longest (3.6 kilometre) and widest (8 lane) Urban Road Tunnel in India.
        • It will also comprise India’s first 9-kilometre long 8-lane flyover (34-metre wide) on single pier with 6-lane service roads.
        • The entire project will be equipped with Intelligent Transportation System (ITS).

         

        KENDRIYA VIDYALAYAS

        Union Education Minister announced opening of two new Kendriya Vidyalayas, one each in the state of Karnataka and Punjab.

        About:

        • KV Sadalaga, Belagavi, Karnataka and KV IIT Ropar, Punjab will be two new addition to the family of Kendriya Vidyalaya Sangathan.
        • With this the total number of KVs across the Country will raise to 1247.

        Kendriya Vidyalaya Sangathan

        • The Scheme of Kendriya Vidyalayas (KVS) (Central Schools) was approved in 1962 to provide uninterrupted education to the wards of transferrable central government employees.
        • The Kendriya Vidyalaya Sangathan was registered as a society under the Societies Registration Act in 1965 to manage the Kendriya Vidyalayas located all over India and abroad. The Government of India wholly finances the Sangathan.

         

        BAO-DHAAN

        In a major boost to India’s rice exports potential, the first consignment of ‘red rice’ was flagged off to the USA.

        About:

        • Iron rich ‘red rice’ is grown in Brahmaputra valley of Assam, without the use of any chemical fertilizer.
        • The rice variety is referred as ‘Bao-dhaan’, which is an integral part of the Assamese food.
        • As the exports of ‘red rice’ grow, it would bring enhance incomes of farming families of the Brahmaputra flood plains.

        Important Info :

        • APEDA has promoting rice exports through collaborations with various stakeholders in the value chains. The government had set up the Rice Export Promotion Forum (REPF), under the aegis of the APEDA.

         

        CERAWeek

        Prime Minister Narendra Modi will receive the CERAWeek Global Energy and Environment Leadership Award at the Cambridge Energy Research Associates Week (CERAWeek) 2021 on 5th March via video conferencing.

        About CERAWeek

        • CERAWeek was founded in 1983 by Dr. Daniel Yergin.
        • It has been organized in Houston in March every year since 1983 and is considered the world’s premier annual energy platform.
        • CERAWeek 2021 is being convened virtually from 1st March to 5th March, 2021.

        About the Award

        • CERAWeek Global Energy and Environment Leadership Award was instituted in 2016.
        • It recognizes the commitment of leadership on the future of global energy & environment and for offering solutions and policies for energy access, affordability & environmental stewardship.

         

        SHRAVAN

        Department of ENT, Command Hospital, Southern Command, Pune celebrated the World Hearing Week from 24 February 2021 to 03 March 2021 to commemorate the World Hearing Day at ‘SHRAVAN’

        About:

        • ‘SHRAVAN’ is the only Centre for “Early Intervention & Rehabilitation of Hearing Loss” for entire Southern Command Zone of Indian Army.
        • ‘SHRAVAN’ is being run as a centre of excellence for providing seamless, organized and effective intervention for the hearing impaired.
        • The centre has rehabilitated over 280 children till date and presently 90 children are undergoing auditory verbal therapy at the centre.

        BLACK-BROWED BABBLER

        Long-Lost Babbler Bird Documented in Borneo for the First Time in Over 170 Years. The Bird was last recorded between 1843 and 1848, when a scientist collected the first and only museum specimen.

        About:

        • The black-browed babbler (Malacocincla perspicillata) is a songbird species in the family Pellorneidae.
        • The species is endemic to Borneo.
        • Its IUCN conservation status is Data Deficient. Formerly, it was classified as Vulnerable by the IUCN.
        • Only a single specimen, collected in the nineteenth century was known, until the bird was rediscovered in Indonesia during 2020.

        Borneo?

        • Borneo is the third-largest island in the world and the largest in Asia.
        • The island is politically divided among three countries: Malaysia and Brunei in the north, and Indonesia to the south.

         

        TEA GARDEN WORKERS IN ASSAM

        Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra visited tea gardens in Assam. One of the five promises Priyanka announced if Congress comes to power was increasing the per day wage of tea garden workers to Rs 365.

        About:

        • Assam accounts for over half of India’s total tea production.
        • Tea garden workers were brought by the British from states like Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal afterwards of 1860.
        • Till today it is marked by exploitation, economic backwardness, poor health conditions and low literacy rates.
        • The tea tribe community — comprising 17 per cent of the state’s population — is a deciding factor in almost 40 Assam assembly seats out of the 126.
        • Last month, the Assam government increased the wages of tea garden workers from Rs 167 to Rs 217. Tea gardens workers’ bodies have already expressed their dissatisfaction with the hike, which they consider inadequate.

         

        INCOME TAX RETURNS

        The latest government data shows a 6.6 per cent contraction in the number of income tax returns (ITRs) filed by individuals earning up to Rs 50 lakh in financial year 2019-20.

        About:

        • The latest data on ITRs showed a 9.8 per cent contraction in filings of ITR-1 offline and 4.5 per cent contraction in filings of ITR-1 online for FY20.
        • ITR-1 Sahaj can be filed by a resident individual, who is not included in the Hindu Undivided Family (HUF), having an income of up to Rs 50 lakh.
        • Total income includes income from salary or pension, income from one house property, income from other sources such as interest from a bank account (excluding winnings from lottery and income from racehorses, income taxable under section 115BBDA, or income of nature referred to in section 115BBE) and where agricultural income is up to Rs 5,000.

         

        QAnon

        Some of former US President Donald Trump’s followers, who believe in the QAnon conspiracy, thought that he will return to power on March 4. Last year, the FBI said fringe political conspiracy theories including QAnon are a domestic threat.

        About:

        • QAnon is a pro-Trump conspiracy theory that took shape around 2017 when an anonymous user called “Q” or “Q Clearance Patriot” started posting conspiracy theories. “Q” refers to a security clearance given by the US Department of Energy for access to top-secret information.
        • The followers of this movement believe that the world is being run by a cabal of paedophiles who worship Satan and that one of Trump’s aims as US President is to unmask the cabal and punish them. According to the conspiracy theorists, Trump is secretly preparing for a day of reckoning, “The Storm”, when members of the “deep state” will be executed.
        • The conspiracy theorists believe that Democrats such as Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, and Hollywood actors Tom Hanks and Oprah Winfrey, are part of a global child sex-trafficking ring.

        HARYANA’S QUOTA LAW

        Haryana government notified a new law that requires 75% of private sector jobs in the state, up to a specified salary slab, reserved for local candidate.

        About:

        • The Haryana State Employment of Local Candidates Bill, 2020 requires private companies to set aside for domiciles 75% of jobs up to a monthly salary of Rs 50,000 or as may be notified by the government from time to time.
        • The law is applicable to all the companies, societies, trusts, limited liability partnership firms, partnership firms and any person employing 10 or more persons and an entity, as may be notified by the government from time to time shall come under the ambit of this Act.
        • While constitutional guarantees for reservation has been limited to public employment, attempts to extend it to private sector are not new either. In July 2019, the Andhra Pradesh government had passed a similar law, which was challenged in court.

        Legal issues in such laws

        • First, the question of domicile reservation in jobs. While domicile quotas in education are fairly common, courts have been reluctant in expanding this to public employment.
        • Last year, the Madhya Pradesh government decided to reserve all government jobs for “children of the state”, raising questions relating to the fundamental right to equality of citizens.
        • The second question, which is more contentious, is the issue of forcing the private sector to comply with reservations in employment.

         

        GAIRSAIN

        A year after announcing Gairsain in Chamoli district as the summer capital of Uttarakhand, Chief Minister declared in the state assembly the town as a new administrative division of the state, a third commissionerate after Kumaon and Garhwal.

        About:

        • Gairsain division would be comprised of four hill districts, including Almora and Bageshwar (both in Kumaon) and Rudrapyarag and Chamoli (in Garhwal). A commissioner and a DIG will be deployed in Gairsain.
        • On March 4 last year, CM had announced in the Budget Session of the Assembly held in Gairsain that the town will become summer capital of the state. Three months later, Governor had given her assent for declaration of Bhararisen (Gairsain) as the summer capital.
        • Gairsain, a tehsil in Chamoli district, is located nearly 270-km from the existing temporary capital of Dehradun.
        • Even when Uttarakhand was carved out as a separate state from Uttar Pradesh on November 9, 2000, statehood activists had contended that Gairsain was best suited to be the capital of the mountainous state since it was between both Kumaon and Garhwal regions.
        • But it was Dehradun in the plains that was named the temporary capital.

         

        FIRST STRATEGIC, COUNTER-TERRORISM DIALOGUE BETWEEN INDIA-NIGERIA

        The National Security Adviser (NSA) of Nigeria visited New Delhi for the First Strategic and Counter-Terrorism Dialogue between India and Nigeria at the level of NSA.

        About:

        • Within the framework of the close and strategic partnership between India and Nigeria, the National Security Advisors held in-depth discussions on the threats and challenges faced by democratic societies from terrorism, extremism, and radicalization.
        • The two sides identified specific areas of cooperation to enhance their fight against all forms of terrorism, reaffirming their firm belief that there can be no justification for terrorism in any form or manifestation.

        Important Info :

        • Nigeria is a country in West Africa bordering Niger in the north, Chad in the northeast, Cameroon in the east, and Benin in the west. Its southern coast is on the Gulf of Guinea in the Atlantic Ocean.
        • It’s capital is Abuja.

         

        INDIAN MEDICINES PHARMACEUTICAL CORPORATION LIMITED (IMPCL)

        Indian Medicines Pharmaceutical Corporation Limited (IMPCL) has entered into a tie up with the Government e-Market (GeM) portal for selling its products online.

        About:

        • The deal between IMPCL and GeM was finalised on 03.03.2021, when GeM created 31 categories covering 311 medicines, which are live in the marketplace and IMPCL can now upload these medicines on GeM Portal.
        • With this decision of GeM, the Ayurvedic and Unani medicines of IMPCL will figure on the GeM portal to hundreds of government sector buyers, at prices finalised by Ministry of Finance, Department of Expenditure.

        Important Info :

        • IMPCL is the public sector manufacturing unit of the Ministry of AYUSH.
        • IMPCL is the only CPSE under Ministry of AYUSH, Government of India and its prices are vetted and finalised by the Ministry of Finance (Department of Expenditure) for their Ayurvedic & Unani Medicines.

         

        NATIONAL COMMITTEE TO COMMEMORATE 75 YEARS OF INDIA’S INDEPENDENCE

        The Government has constituted a National Committee headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to commemorate 75 years of India’s Independence.

        About:

        • The committee has 259 members and includes dignitaries and eminent citizens from all walks of life.
        • It will provide policy direction and guidelines for formulation of programs for the commemoration of 75th anniversary of Indian Independence, at the national and international levels.
        • The Government intends to commemorate 75 years of India’s Independence in a befitting manner at national and international level in the form of ‘Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav’.

        Important Info :

        12th March

        • The 75 years of India’s Independence falls on 15th August next year and celebrations are proposed to be launched 75 weeks prior to this date on 12th March this year.
        • 12th March is the 91st anniversary of the historic Salt Satyagraha led by Mahatma Gandhi.

         

        INDIA – SWEDEN VIRTUAL SUMMIT

        Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Prime Minister of Sweden H.E. Stefan Löfven held a Virtual Summit where they discussed bilateral issues and other regional and multilateral issues of mutual interest.

        About:

        • The Prime Minister Modi recalled his 2018 visit to Sweden for the first India-Nordic Summit, and the India visit of Their Majesties the King and Queen of Sweden in December, 2019.
        • The two leaders expressed satisfaction at the implementation of the Joint Action Plan and Joint Innovation Partnership agreed during Prime Minister Modi’s visit to Sweden in 2018.
        • Prime Minister Modi welcomed Sweden’s decision to join the International Solar Alliance (ISA).
        • The leaders also noted the growing member-ship of the India-Sweden joint initiative – the Leadership Group on Indus-try Transition (LeadIT) that was launched during the UN Climate Action Summit in September 2019 in New York.

        SHADOWPAD

        On March 3, Maharashtra Power Minister announced that a State Cyber Cell probe had found 14 Trojan horses in the servers of the Maharashtra State Electricity Transmission Company. These malwares had the potential to disrupt power distribution in the State.

        About:                                                                             

        • The announcement came in the wake of a report from Recorded Future, a U.S.-based cybersecurity firm, stating that a group linked to the Chinese government, which it called ‘Red Echo’, had targeted 10 vital nodes in India’s power distribution system and two seaports.
        • Recorded Future found a large number of IP addresses linked to critical Indian systems communicating for months with AXIOMATICASYMPTOTE servers connected to Red Echo.
        • AXIOMATICASYMPTOTE servers act as command-and-control centres for a malware known as ShadowPad.

        What is ShadowPad?

        • ShadowPad is a backdoor Trojan malware, which means it opens a secret path from its target system to its command-and-control servers.
        • Information can be extracted or more malicious code delivered via this path.
        • ShadowPad is built to target supply-chain infrastructure in sectors like transportation, telecommunication, energy and more. It was first identified in 2017.

         

        UR

        Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, spiritual leader of most of the world’s Shia Muslims, told Pope Francis in a historic meeting in Iraq that the country’s Christians should live in “peace”.

        About:

        • The meeting, on the second day of the first-ever papal visit to Iraq, marked a landmark moment in modern religious history and a milestone in the Pope’s efforts to deepen interfaith dialogue.
        • Pope Francis later addressed the rich spectrum of Iraq’s religious communities at Ur, the birthplace of the Prophet Abraham, a central figure in the Christian, Jewish and Muslim faiths, where he made an impassioned plea for “unity” after conflict.
        • Ur was an important Sumerian city-state in ancient Mesopotamia, located at the site of modern Tell el-Muqayyar in south Iraq’s Dhi Qar Governorate. The city is located on the south bank of the Euphrates River.

         

        GAHIRMATHA MARINE SANCTUARY

        A three-member panel constituted by the Orissa High Court made a field trip to the Gahirmatha marine sanctuary here and assessed the measures taken for the conservation of endangered olive ridley sea turtles.

        About:

        • The action followed a February 4 report on an online environment magazine which said 800 olive ridley turtles have died since January due to negligence of the States Forest and Fisheries department.
        • The olive ridley turtles turn up in millions for mass nesting along the Odisha coast every year.
        • Gahirmatha beach off Bay of Bengal coast in Kendrapara district, Odisha is acclaimed as the world’s largest nesting ground of these turtles.

         

        OVERSEAS CITIZENS OF INDIA (OCI)

        The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has reiterated through a gazette notification that OCI cardholders can lay claim to “only NRI (Non Resident Indian) quota seats” in educational institutions based on all-India entrance tests such as NEET, JEE (Mains), JEE (Advanced) or other such all-India professional tests.

        About:

        • The notification also said that OCIs are not entitled to undertake any “missionary, mountaineering, journalism and tabligh activities” without prior permission of the Government of India.
        • OCI citizens are of Indian origin but they are foreign passport holders and are not citizens of India. India does not allow dual citizenship but provides certain benefits under Section 7B(I) of the Citizenship Act, 1955 to the OCIs.
        • The fresh notification replaces three previous notifications which did not specify the special permission required for “missionary, Tabligh, mountaineering or journalistic activities” and were merely part of the November 2019 guidelines.

         

        N S LAKSHMINARAYANA BHATTA

        Noted Kannada poet, critic and translator N S Lakshminarayana Bhatta died at the age of 84.

        About:

        • Popularly known as ‘NSL’ in Kannada literary world, Bhatta has been a household name through his bhavageete (lyrical poems) and is known for his contribution to modern Kannada poetry, critical works and translations.
        • He had translated about 50 of William Shakespeare’s sonnets, the poetry of T S Elliot in Kannada.
        • He served as Professor at Bengaluru university.
        • A recipient of the Karnataka Sahitya Akademi award and Kannada Rajyotsava Award among others, his popular work include “Thaye ninna Padilla.”
        • His effort related to popularizing the works of the Shishunala Sharif led to a renaissance in the Kannada Bhavageetha movement, earning Dr. Bhatta the moniker of “Sharif Bhatta”.

         

        TRANSGENDER COMMUNITY DESK, CYBERABAD

        In what is claimed to be the first-of-its-kind gender inclusive community policing initiative in the country, the Cyberabad police inaugurated a ‘Transgender Community Desk’ at Gachibowli Police Station in Rangareddy district, Telangana.

        About:

        • The desk will be managed by a police liaison officer and a transgender person who is designated as community coordinator.
        • It will be the focal point for all grievance redressal among the transgender community in the Cyberabad Commissionerate. The desk will provide support to file cases in offences related to violence or discrimination against any transgender person
        • Among other services, the desk will also provide counselling, legal aid, life skills, soft skills training, job placements, and referral linkages to welfare schemes in partnership with the Department of Women and Child Welfare, and District Legal Services Authority.

         

        NATIONAL SCHOOL OF DRAMA (NSD)

        The government is actively considering giving the Institute of National Importance tag to the National School of Drama (NSD), as well as re-developing its campus in Delhi, NSD Society chairman and actor Paresh Rawal said.

        About:

        • The former BJP MP was appointed to the post in September 2020
        • He said that the status of Institute of National Importance would strengthen NSD, allowing it to award degrees, start new courses and set up new centres.
        • The NSD, which has four regional centres in Varanasi, Bengaluru, Agartala and Gangtok, had received a request from Jammu and Kashmir Lieutenant-Governor for setting up a centre in J&K.

        Do you know?

        • National School of Drama (or NSD) is a theatre training institute situated at New Delhi.
        • It is an autonomous organization under Ministry of Culture. It was set up in 1959 by the Sangeet Natak Akademi and became an independent school in 1975.

         

        ELECTRONIC VOTING MACHINES (EVMs)

        The use of electronic voting machines (EVMs) in some booths of the Paravur Assembly constituency in Ernakulam, Kerala is etched in the electoral history as they were introduced in the constituency in the 1982 polling, a first in the country.

        About:

        • The EVMs were introduced in 50 polling stations in the election in which the late A.C. Jose of the Congress and the late N. Sivan Pillai of the Communist Party of India were locked in a tight contest. The Congress candidate was defeated by a razor-thin margin of 123.
        • Jose challenged the election of Sivan Pillai in the Kerala High Court, arguing that the Representation of the People Act, 1951 and the Conduct of Elections Rules, 1961 did not empower the Election Commission to use EVMs. The High Court refused his plea.
        • But on an appeal by Jose, the Supreme Court in 1984 ordered a re-poll in the 50 polling stations using conventional ballot papers. Jose won the seat.
        • In 1992, Parliament inserted Section 61A in the Act and rules validating the use of the EVM and paving way for their use in elections.
        • The EC started using EVMs widely since 1998. The new generation of EVMs has Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT), which prints a small slip of paper that carries the name, symbol and the serial number of the candidate.
        • The plea for abolishing EVMs has been repeatedly rejected by the top court. The top court has issued directives for using VVPAT to ensure accuracy and fairness in the EVM practice in 2013.

         

        DRAFT COASTAL ZONE MANAGEMENT PLAN (CZMP)

        The draft Coastal Zone Management Plan (CZMP) prepared by the National Centre for Sustainable Coastal Management (NCSCM), Chennai has met with criticism in Goa from locals, environmentalists and political parties.

        About:

        • The CRZ notification 2011 by Union Ministry of Environment declared that the coastal stretches and territorial waters of India, excluding Andaman and Nicobar and Lakshadweep islands, as Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ).
        • This restricted the setting up and expansion of any industry, operations or processes and manufacture or handling or storage or disposal of hazardous substances there.
        • The respective state governments and UTs were then directed to prepare Coastal Zone Management Plans (CZMP) by identifying and classifying the CRZ areas.

        Important Info :

        Goa scenario

        • The Goa state department of environment handed over the responsibility of preparing the CZMP to the NCSCM in 2014.
        • The NCSCM’s draft report made public earlier this year states that the primary purpose of a CZMP is to describe proposed actions to be implemented by public authorities and potentially by the private sector to address priority management issues in the coastal zone over a defined implementation period.
        • Discontent has been brewing over a number of issues, including the duration to respond to the draft, re-zoning of beach areas and accommodating allegedly illegal

         

        INDIA SCIENCE RESEARCH FELLOWSHIP (ISRF)

        Forty scholars from six countries have been awarded with the opportunity to carry out their research in Indian Institutes and Universities using state of the art facilities in these places.

        About:

        • These scholars have been selected based on research proposal, experience, academic merit and publication record and recommended for the award of India Science and Research Fellowship (ISRF) 2021.
        • As a part of India’s initiatives to engage with neighbouring countries to develop S&T partnerships, the Department of Science and Technology (DST), Govt. of India has launched ISRF Programme for Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand researchers to work in Indian Universities and Research Institutions.
        • It has been implemented since 2015.

        CHINESE DAM ON BRAHMAPUTRA 

        A draft of China’s new Five-Year Plan (2021-2025), which is set to be formally approved on March 11, 2021, has given the green light for the first dams to be built on the lower reaches of Yarlung Zangbo river, as the Brahmaputra is known in Tibet before it flows into India. 

        About: 

        • The draft outline of the new Five-Year Plan (FYP) for 2025 and “long range objectives through the year 2035” specifically mentions the building of hydropower bases on the lower reaches of the river as among the priority energy projects to be undertaken in the next five years.
           
        • The lower reaches refer to the sections of the river in Tibet before it flows into India.
           
        • The inclusion of the projects in the draft plan suggests the authorities have given the go-ahead to begin tapping the lower reaches for the first time, which marks a new chapter in the hydropower exploitation of the river.
           
        • Other major projects include the construction of coastal nuclear power plants and power transmission channels.
           
        • The project is also listed along with the Sichuan-Tibet railway and the national water network.
           

        Important Info : 

        • In 2015 China operationalised its first hydropower project at Zangmu in Tibet, while three other dams at Dagu, Jiexu and Jiacha are being developed, all on the upper and middle reaches of the river. 

         

        M.T. SWARNA KRISHNA 

        Union Minister Mansukh Mandaviya has flagged off an all-woman crew onboard Shipping Corporation of India (SCI) vessel m.t. Swarna Krishna, the Ministry of Ports, Shipping and Waterways said. 

        About: 

        • It is the first time in maritime history that a ship is being sailed by only women officers
           
        • T. SWARNA KRISHNA is a Oil Products Tanker that was built in 2010 and is being operated by Shipping Corporation of India (SCI).
           

        SANAʽA 

        A Saudi-led military coalition mounted air strikes on Yemen’s Houthi-controlled capital Sana’a after it intercepted 10 drones launched by the Iran-backed rebels. 

        About: 

        • Sanaa also spelled Sanaʽa or Sana, is the largest city in Yemen.
           
        • Under the Yemeni constitution, Sanaʽa is the capital of the country, although the seat of the Yemeni government moved to Aden, the former capital of South Yemen in the aftermath of the Houthi occupation.
           
        • Aden was declared as the temporary capital by President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi in March 2015.
           
        • It is located next to the Sarawat Mountains of Jabal An-Nabi Shu’ayb and Jabal Tiyal, considered to be the highest mountains in the country and amongst the highest in the region.
           
        • The Old City of Sanaʽa, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, has a distinctive architectural character, most notably expressed in its multi-storey buildings decorated with geometric patterns. 

        INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY 

        International Women’s Day 2021 is being celebrated on 8th of March with theme #ChooseToChallenge. It indicates that a “challenged world is an alert world, and from challenge comes change”. 

        About: 

        • Date: International Women’s Day (IWD) is celebrated on March 8 every year.
           
        • History: 
        • IWD has occurred for well over a century, with the first IWD gathering in 1911 supported by over a million people in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland.
           
        • Prior to this the Socialist Party of America, United Kingdom’s Suffragists and Suffragettes, and further groups campaigned for women’s equality.
           
        • Organized by: IWD is not country, group or organization specific. IWD belongs to all groups collectively everywhere.
           
        • Objective: It is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity. 

         

        AIRBAGS 

        The Union Ministry of Road Transport and Highways has issued a Gazette notification regarding mandatory provision of an airbag for passengers seated on the front seat of a vehicle, next to the driver. 

        About: 

        • The Ministry has mandated that “Vehicles manufactured on and after the April 1, 2021, in the case of new models, and August 31, 2021, in the case of existing models, shall be fitted with airbags for the person occupying the front seat, other than the driver.”
           
        • This has been mandated as an important safety feature and is also based on suggestions of the Supreme Court Committee on Road Safety.”
           
        • The latest mandate is for all existing models in the M1 category — passenger motor vehicles having not more than eight seats in addition to the driver’s.
           

        What are airbags? 

        • An airbag pops up as a protective cushion between the passenger and the car’s dashboard during a collision.
           
        • In moderate to severe frontal crashes, front airbags are designed to inflate in order to prevent a person’s head and chest from contacting hard structures in the vehicle. 

        Implications of this decision 

        • India accounts for 10% of all road crash victims in the world, as per a recent World Bank report. 
        • In a country where 415 people die in road accidents every day, an airbag can literally be a lifesaver. 

        Some of the other safety features in automobiles are: 

        • Anti-Lock Braking System (ABS) 
        • Speed Alert System 
        • Reverse Parking Sensors 
        • Driver and passenger seat belt reminder 
        • Manual override for central locking system 

         

        ALI BOUMENDJEL 

        In a move aimed at improving its relations with former colony Algeria, France has admitted that its soldiers tortured and killed the Algerian lawyer and freedom fighter Ali Boumendjel, whose death in 1957 had until now been covered up as a suicide. 

        About: 

        • 37 years old at the time of his death, Boumendjel was an Algerian nationalist and independence activist when the North African country was under French colonial rule.
           
        • In 1957, French troops detained and placed him under solitary confinement during the Battle of Algiers, a part of the eight-year-long Algerian War of Independence. To pass off his death as suicide, Boumendjel was thrown from the sixth floor of a building after he was killed.
           
        • The conflict lasted until 1962, and ended with it 132 years of French domination.
           
        • Significance of the admission: Algeria, which celebrates sixty years of independence from France next year, welcomed the admission.
           

        Important Info : 

        Algeria? 

        • Algeria is a country in the Maghreb region of North Africa. 
        • Algeria is bordered to the northeast by Tunisia, to the east by Libya, to the southeast by Niger, to the southwest by Mali, Mauritania, and the Western Saharan territory, to the west by Morocco, and to the north by the Mediterranean Sea. 
        • Algeria is the largest country by area in the African Union and the Arab world. 
        • The capital is Algiers, located on the Mediterranean coast. 

         

        STUDENTS ISLAMIC MOVEMENT OF INDIA (SIMI) 

        Over 19 years after they were arrested, the court of the Chief Judicial Magistrate of Surat has acquitted all 127 persons accused of “promoting a banned organisation”, the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) in 2001. 

        About: 

        • The Students’ Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) is a banned terrorist organisation that was formed in Aligarh, Uttar Pradesh in April 1977.The stated mission of SIMI is the ‘liberation of India’ by converting it to an Islamic land. It has declared Jihad against India, the aim of which is to establish Dar-ul-Islam (land of Islam) by either forcefully converting everyone to Islam or by violence.The Indian government describes it as a terrorist organisation, and banned it in 2001, shortly after the 9/11 attacks. In February 2019, the Government of India extended ban on SIMI for a period of five more years starting February 1, 2019 under Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.
           

        CALM2 

        In Australia, Leading scientists and medical experts are calling for the pardon of convicted child killer Kathleen Folbigg after a recent study showed that her victims — four of her children — may have died of natural causes. 

        About: 

        • Medical experts have argued that her children died due to a rare genetic defect. They inherited a genetic mutation from their mother called CALM2.
           
        • CALM-2 mutations are known to cause sudden death due to cardiac arrest.
           
        • Calmodulin 2 is a protein that in humans is encoded by the CALM2 gene. Mutations in CALM2 are associated to cardiac arrhythmias. 

         

        SINGORGARH FORT 

        The President of India Ram Nath Kovind laid the foundation stone for the conservation works of Singorgarh Fort in Madhya Pradesh. The President also inaugurated the newly carved Jabalpur Circle of Archaeological Survey of India. 

        About: 

        • Singorgarh Fort is located in Singrampur village of Damoh district in Madhya Pradesh.
           
        • It is a hill-fort of Gondwana Kingdom, spread over the hills of a forested area.
           
        • Before coming in hand of Gond rulers, Singorgarh fort was under Chandel rulers in 1308. It was Gond ruler Sangram shah who conquered the Singorgarh fort in early period of 16th century.
           
        • It is presently in a ruined condition with no caretaker.
           

        AGROFORESTRY IN THE SILK SECTOR 

        The Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare signed a MoU with the Central Silk Board on a convergence model for the implementation of Agroforestry in the silk sector under the ongoing Sub-Mission on Agroforestry (SMAF) Scheme. 

        About: 

        • This initiative in sericulture sector is especially targeted for augmentation of sericulture host plants e.g. Mulberry, Asan, Arjuna, Som, SoaluKesseruBadaKesseruPhanat, etc. to be cultivated both as block plantations and border or peripheral plantations on farmlands. 
        • The Central Silk Board (CSB) is a Statutory Body, established during 1948. It functions under the administrative control of the Ministry of Textiles, having head quarter at Bengaluru. 

        Sub-Mission on Agroforestry (SMAF) 

        • The Department of Agriculture, Cooperation and Farmers Welfare (DAC & FW) has been implementing the Sub-Mission on Agroforestry (SMAF) since 2016-17 as part of the recommendation of the National Agroforestry Policy 2014. 
        • India was the first country to have such a comprehensive policy which was launched at the World Agroforestry Congress held in Delhi in February 2014. 
        • At present, the scheme is being implemented in 20 States and 2 UTs. 
        • SMAF aims to encourage farmers to plant multi-purpose trees together with the agriculture crops for climate resilience and an additional source of income to the farmers, as well as enhanced feedstock to inter alia wood-based and herbal industry. 

        50% CAP ON QUOTA 

        The Supreme Court decided to examine whether its nearly three-decade-old judgment which fixed reservation for the marginalised and the poor in government jobs and educational institutions at 50% needs a relook. 

        About: 

        • In the Indira Sawhney verdict of 1992, a nine-judge Bench of the court had drawn the “Lakshman rekha” for reservation in jobs and education at 50%, except in “extraordinary circumstances”.
           
        • However, over the years, several States, such as Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu, have crossed the Rubicon and passed laws which allow reservation shooting over 60%. 

        Maratha quota law 

        • A five-judge Bench, led by Justice Ashok Bhushan, set up to hear the challenge to the Maratha quota law, decided not to confine the question of reservation spilling over the 50% limit to just Maharashtra. 
        • The Bench expanded the ambit of the case by making other States party and inviting them to make their stand clear on the question of whether reservation should continue to remain within the 50% boundary or not.
           

        DRINKING WATER 

        According to information provided to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Water Resources, Only half of government schools and anganwadis have tap water supply, despite a 100-day campaign for 100% coverage being launched by the Jal Shakti Ministry in October 2020. 

        About: 

        • Less than 8% of schools in Uttar Pradesh and 11% in West Bengal have it, while it is available in only 2-6% of anganwadis in Assam, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Bengal. 
        • The campaign to provide potable piped water supply for drinking and cooking purposes and tap water for washing hands and in toilets in every school, anganwadi and ashramshala or residential tribal school was launched on October 2, Gandhi Jayanti. 
        • The 100-day period should have ended on January 10, 2021. However, as of February 15, only 48.5% of anganwadis and 53.3% of schools had tap water supply, the Ministry told the Parliamentary panel. 
        • Seven States — Andhra Pradesh, Goa, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Telangana and Punjab — achieved 100% coverage.
           

        DEVARA KAADU 

        A boy was killed in a tiger attack at Belluru village in Ponnampet taluk of Kodagu (Coorg) district, Karnataka. the Forest Department team has tracked the animal to a sacred grove or devara kaadu. 

        About: 

        • Devara Kaadu (Sacred Forest) is a small forest like grove marked as the adobe of the local deities.Coorg has many hundred such sacred groves scattered all over the region.Some of them are sprawling mini forests with many hundred acres of span, while the rest are of smaller scales anything from an acre upwards. 
        • As these areas are considered sacred, the groves are left un touched. The trees and never pruned, no paths are cut into the groves, not even the fallen trees, leaves or twigs are cleared.
           
        • Inside the Devara Kaadu there are shrines dedicated to various deities. 

         

        SCHEMES OF WCD MINISTRY 

        For effective implementation of various schemes and programmes of the Ministry of Women and Child Development, all major schemes of the Ministry have been classified under 3 umbrella schemes viz. Mission Poshan 2.0, Mission Vatsalya and Mission Shakti. 

        Schemes included under the Umbrella Scheme are as follows: 

        1. Saksham Anganwadi and POSHAN 2.0: Umbrella ICDS – Anganwadi Services, Poshan Abhiyan, Scheme for Adolescent Girls, National Creche Scheme.
        2. Mission VATSALYA: Child Protection Services and Child Welfare Services.
        3. Mission Shakti (Mission for Protection and Empowerment for Women): 
        • SAMBAL (One Stop Centre, Mahila Police Volunteer, Women’s Helpline/Swadhar/Ujjawala/Widow Homes etc.)

         

        • SAMARTHYA (Beti Bachao Beti Padhao, Creche, Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana, Gender Budgeting/Research) 

         

        • Mission Shakti will run in convergence with the other Missions/ Umbrella Schemes of M/o WCD [viz. Mission POSHAN 2.0; Mission VATSALYA; & Mission SAKSHAM-ANGANWADI (including-common-knowledge-cum-admin-backbone-from-national-to-panchayat-level). 

         

        AZADI KA AMRUT MAHOTSAV 

        The Prime Minister Modi led National Committee to commemorate 75 years of independence, Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav held its first meeting. 

        About: 

        • The Prime Minister informed that 5 pillars have been decided for the celebration of the 75 years.
           
        • These are Freedom Struggle, Ideas at 75, Achievements at 75, Actions at 75 and Resolve at 75.
           
        • Various members of the National Committee attended the meeting including Governors, Union Ministers, Chief Ministers, political leaders, scientists, officials, media personalities, spiritual Leaders and eminent persons from other walks of life.
           

        PROGRAMMES TO PROMOTE WOMEN ENTREPRENEURSHIP 

        Following below are the Programmes launched by Government to promote women entrepreneurship across the country. 

        About: 

        • The Ministry of Skill Development is implementing Pradhan Mantri YUVA (PM YUVA) Yojana, a pilot scheme, for creating an enabling ecosystem through entrepreneurship education, training, advocacy and easy access to entrepreneurship network. 
        • Ministry of Skill Development is implementing the pilot project, ‘Economic Empowerment of Women Entrepreneurs and Startups by Women’ in collaboration with Deutsche Gesellschaftfür Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) Germany. 
        • Ministry of MSME is implementing the Prime Minister’s Employment Generation Programme (PMEGP), which has the target to generate self-employment opportunities through establishment of micro enterprises for non-farm sector. 
        • Ministry of Rural Development is implementing Skill development program through Rural Self Employment Training Institutes (RSETIs) enabling a trainee to take Bank credit and start his/her own Micro-enterprise. 
        • Ministry of Rural Development is also implementing Deendayal Antyodaya Yojana – National Rural Livelihoods Mission (DAY-NRLM) which aims at eliminating rural poverty through promotion of multiple livelihoods for each rural poor household. 
        • Under the Sub-scheme i.e. Start-up Village Entrepreneurship Programme (SVEP) covered under DAY-NRLM, a total of 194,144 enterprises have been set-up ( up to 31st January, 2021). 

         

        HELPLINE 139 

        Indian Railway announced integrated Rail Madad Helpline number “139” for all type of queries/complaints/assistance during travel. 

        About: 

        • To overcome the inconvenience over multiple helpline numbers for grievances and enquiry during railway travel, Indian Railway has integrated all railway helplines into single number 139 (Rail Madad Helpline) for quick grievance redressal and enquiry during the journey. 
        • As the new helpline number 139 will take over all the existing helpline numbers, it will be easy for the passengers to remember this number and connect with Railways for all their needs during the travel. 
        • The Helpline 139 will be available in twelve languages. 
        • There is no need of a smart phone to call on 139, thus, providing easy access to all mobile users. 
        • Ministry of Railways has also launched Social Media campaign #OneRailOneHelpline139 to inform and educate the passengers.
           

        SUSTAINABLE ALTERNATIVE TOWARDS AFFORDABLE TRANSPORTATION (SATAT) SCHEME 

        Union Minister for Petroleum and Natural Gas informed Lok Sabha about SATAT scheme. 

         

        About: 

        • SATAT scheme was launched on October 01, 2018 wherein Oil and Gas Marketing Companies (OGMCs) are inviting Expression of Interest (EoI) from potential entrepreneur to procure Compressed Bio Gas (CBG). 
        • Under this scheme few of the enablers like assured price for offtake of CBG with long term agreements by OGMCs; inclusion of bio manures produced from CBG plants as Fermented Organic Manure (FOM) under Fertilizer Control Order 1985; inclusion of CBG projects under Priority Sector Lending by RBI have been provided. 
        • So far 9 CBG plants have been commissioned and started supply of CBG under SATAT scheme. These plants are located in Andhra Pradesh (1 No.), Gujarat (3 No.), Haryana (1 No.), Maharashtra (3 No.) and Tamil Nadu (1 No.). 
        • These plants are set up by entrepreneurs and private companies who have raised financial resources to develop these plants on the basis of LoIs issued by OGMCs.
           

        WORLD HERITAGE SITES 

        Union Minister of Culture and Tourism informed Lok Sabha about the Declaration Of World Heritage Sites By UNESCO. 

        About: 

        • At present, India has 38 World Heritage Properties. All the sites under the Ministry are conserved as per ASI’s Conservation Policy. 
        • At present, India has 42 sites listed under Tentative List which is a pre-requisite condition for inscription as World Heritage Site. 
        • Dholavira: A Harappan City’ has been submitted for nomination of World Heritage Site in 2019-2020. 
        • Nomination dossiers of ‘Santiniketan, India’ and ‘Sacred Ensemble of Hoysalas’ have been submitted to UNESCO for the year 2021-22 cycle.
           
        • Augmentation of sites on the World Heritage List/Tentative List is a continuous process and sites are selected on the basis of their potential for fulfilling criteria under Operational Guidelines and demonstration of Outstanding Universal Value.
           

        TRISHUL MILITARY AIRBASE 

        Minister of Civil Aviation flagged off the first flight from Delhi to the newly upgraded Trishul Military Airbase, Bareilly Airport, Uttar Pradesh. 

        About: 

        • The Bareilly airport has been upgraded for commercial flight operations under the Regional Connectivity Scheme – Ude Desh Ka Aam Nagrik (RCS-UDAN) of the Government of India. 
        • Trishul Military Airbase, Bareilly belongs to the Indian Air Force and the land was handed over to the Airport Authority of India for construction of the interim civil aviation operations. The upgradation was undertaken by the AAI with a cost of Rs. 65 crores. 
        • Alliance Air was awarded the Delhi – Bareilly route under the UDAN-4 bidding process last year. 

        MAITRI SETU

        The Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated ‘Maitri Setu’ between India and Bangladesh.

        About:

        • The bridge ‘Maitri Setu’ has been built over Feni river which flows between Indian boundary in Tripura State and Bangladesh.
        • The 1.9 Km long bridge joins Sabroom (in Tripura) with Ramgarh (in Bangladesh).
        • The name ‘Maitri Setu’ symbolises growing bilateral relations and friendly ties between India and Bangladesh.
        • The construction was taken up by the National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation Ltd at a project cost of Rs 133 crore.
        • With this bridge, Tripura is set to become the ‘Gateway of North East’ with access to Chittagong Port of Bangladesh, which is just 80 km from Sabroom.
        • PM Modi also laid the foundation stone for setting up an Integrated Check Post at Sabroom.

        INDEPENDENT ENVIRONMENT REGULATOR

        The Supreme Court asked the government to explain why it had not set up an “independent environment regulator” to oversee green clearances.

        About:

        • The top court had ordered the setting up of a national environment regulatory body to ensure independent oversight of green clearances way back in July 2011 in Lafarge Umiam Mining Private Limited v. Union of India, commonly known as the ‘Lafarge mining case’.
        • In 2011, the court had asked the Centre to appoint a national regulator for appraising projects, enforcing environmental conditions for approvals and to impose penalties on polluters.
        • The court had made it clear that till such mechanism was put in place, the Environment Ministry (MoEF) “should prepare a panel of accredited institutions from which alone the project proponent should obtain the Rapid Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and, that too, on the Terms of Reference to be formulated by the MoEF”.

        ‘DESHBHAKTI’ BUDGET

        Finance Minister Manish Sisodia on Tuesday presented a 69,000 crore Deshbhakti Budget for the 2021-22 fiscal, replete with provisions seeking to inspire patriotism in the run-up to the 75th Independence Day, free COVID-19 vaccination, and a vision for “India at 2047”.

        About:

        • The theme of the Delhi government’s 2021-22 budget is ‘deshbhakti’ or patriotism.
        • This will entail placing 500 national flags across the city, like the one in Connaught Place. Rs 45 crore have been set aside for this head.
        • Additionally, Rs 10 crore each have been set aside for programmes and events on the lives and contribution of Bhagat Singh and BR Ambedkar.
        • Following Initiatives have also been clubbed under this particular head
          • Starting a youth mentorship programme for underprivileged students,
          • arranging free Yoga camps for small groups of people,
          • starting a Delhi armed forces academy to prepare children for recruitment in the armed forces, and
          • giving Rs 1 crore to families of police officials and defence personnel who die in the line of duty
        • Last year Delhi government also announced the deskbhakti curriculum.
        • He also announced that the Delhi government aims to bid for hosting the 2048 Olympic Games.

        AGRICULTURE VOLTAGE TECHNOLOGY

        Union Minister of Agriculture informed Lok Sabha about the Agriculture Voltage Technology.

        About:

        • Agri-voltaic system of 105 KW capacity was developed by ICAR-Central Arid Zone Research Institute, Jodhpur.
        • This technology can increase the income of farmers by generation of electricity and growing of cash crops simultaneously on the same piece of land.
        • Under component-I of KUSUM (Kisan Urja Suraksha Utthan Mahabhiyan) scheme, there is a provision for installation of agri-voltaic system in farmers’ fields with a capacity ranging from 500 KW to 2 MW.
        • Moreover, National Solar Energy Federation of India (NSEFI) has also documented 13 operational agri-voltaic systems in the country managed by different solar PV functionaries and public Institutes.

        AMMUNITION CUM TORPEDO CUM MISSILE (ACTCM)

        A contract for construction & delivery of Eleven Ammunition Cum Torpedo Cum Missile (ACTCM) Barges has been concluded with M/s Suryadipta Projects Private Limited, Thane, an MSME on 05 March 2021.

        About:

        • The Ammunition Cum Torpedo Cum Missile Barges will be inducted in Indian Navy to undertake the mission needs for embarking/ disembarking Ammunition, Torpedo & Missile etc.
        • These barges will be built under the Classification Rules of Indian Register of Shipping (IRS).
        • Delivery of Barges is scheduled to commence from May 22.
        • The project adds another milestone to the Atmanirbhar Bharat & Make in India initiative of the Government of India.

        FUEL CELL BASED AIR INDEPENDENT PROPULSION (AIP) SYSTEM

        Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has achieved an important milestone in the development of Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) System by proving the land-based prototype on 8 March 2021.

        About:

        • The system is being developed by Naval Materials Research Laboratory (NMRL) of DRDO.
        • AIP has a force multiplier effect on lethality of a diesel electric submarine as it enhances the submerged endurance of the boat, several folds. Fuel cell-based AIP has merits in performance compared to other technologies.
        • While there are different types of AIP systems being pursued internationally, fuel cell-based AIP of NMRL is unique as the hydrogen is generated onboard.
        • The technology has been successfully developed with the support of industry partners L&T and Thermax. It has now reached the stage of maturity for fitment into target vessels.
        • Raksha Mantri Shri Rajnath Singh congratulated DRDO, Indian Navy and Industry for the achievement.

        MOBILISING ELECTRIC VEHICLE FINANCING IN INDIA

        NITI Aayog and Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) India released a new report ‘Mobilising Electric Vehicle Financing in India’.

        About:

        • It highlights the role of finance in the India’s transition to electric vehicles (EVs) and analyses that the transition will require a cumulative capital investment of USD 266 billion (Rs 19.7 lakh crore) in EVs, charging infrastructure, and batteries over the next decade.
        • The report also identifies a market size of USD 50 billion (Rs 3.7 lakh crore) for the financing of EVs in 2030—about 80% of the current size of India’s retail vehicle finance industry, worth USD 60 billion (Rs 4.5 lakh crore) today.
        • End-users currently face several challenges, such as high interest rates, high insurance rates, and low loan-to-value ratios.
        • To address these challenges, NITI Aayog and RMI have identified a toolkit of 10 solutions that financial institutions such as banks and non-banking financial companies (NBFCs), as well as the industry and government can adopt in catalysing the required capital.

        UNLAWFUL ACTIVITIES PREVENTION ACT

        There has been over 72% increase in the number of persons arrested under the UAPA (Unlawful Activities [Prevention] Act) in 2019 compared to year 2015, data provided by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) in the Lok Sabha show.

        About:

        • As many as 1,948 persons were arrested under the UAPA in 1,226 cases registered across the country in 2019. From 2015 till 2018, the cases registered under the Act annually stood at 897, 922, 901 and 1,182 respectively, while the number of arrests was 1,128, 999, 1,554 and 1,421.
        • In 2019, the highest number of such cases were registered in Manipur (306), followed by Tamil Nadu (270), Jammu & Kashmir (255), Jharkhand (105) and Assam (87) cases.
        • The highest number of arrests in the same year were made in Uttar Pradesh (498), followed by Manipur (386), Tamil Nadu (308), Jammu & Kashmir (227) and Jharkhand (202).
        • The government had declared 42 organisations as terrorist organisations and listed their names in the First Schedule of the UAPA
        • Only 2.2 % of cases registered under the UAPA between 2016-2019 ended in convictions by court.

        Important Info :

        • Cases under the UAPA are investigated by the State police and the National Investigation Agency (NIA).
        • Under the UAPA, getting bail is rare and the investigating agency has up to 180 days to file a charge sheet.

        NATIONAL SOCIAL ASSISTANCE PROGRAMME (NSAP)

        The Centre must increase the “meagre” pensions provided for poor senior citizens, widows and disabled people, said the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Rural Development in its report submitted to the Lok Sabha.

        About:

        • The Committee observed that under National Social Assistance Programme (NSAP), meagre amount of assistance ranging from ₹200 to ₹500 per month is provided under the different components of this Scheme.
        • The panel had previously urged the increase of these miniscule pensions in its reports on the Department of Rural Development’s (DoRD) demand for grants in 2019-20 and 2020-21.

        Important Info :

        • The National Social Assistance Programme (NSAP) is a Centrally Sponsored Scheme of the Government of India that provides financial assistance to the elderly, widows and persons with disabilities in the form of social pensions.
        • The scheme is administered by the Ministry of Rural Development, Government of India.
        • The National Assistance Program consists of five sub-schemes:
          • Indira Gandhi National Old Age Pension Scheme (IGNOAPS)
          • Indira Gandhi National Widow Pension Scheme (IGNWPS)
          • Indira Gandhi National Disability Pension Scheme (IGNDPS)
          • National Family Benefit Scheme (NFBS)
          • Annapurna Scheme

        UDUPI RAMACHANDRA RAO

        Google is celebrating the 89th birthday of renowned Indian professor and scientist Udupi Ramachandra Rao, remembered by many as “India’s Satellite Man.” The doodle features a sketch of Professor Rao with a background of the Earth and shooting stars.

        About:

        • Udupi Ramachandra Rao (1932 – 2017) was an Indian space scientist and chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation.
        • He supervised the 1975 launch of India’s first satellite –“Aryabhata”-one of over 20 satellites he developed that transformed much of rural India by advancing communication and meteorological services.
        • He developed rocket technology such as the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV), which has launched over 250 satellites.
        • He was also the Chairman of the Governing Council of the Physical Research Laboratory at Ahmedabad and Nehru Planetarium at Bengaluru and chancellor of the Indian Institute for Space Science and Technology (IIST) at Thiruvananthapuram.

        Awards:

        • Rao was awarded the Padma Bhushan by the Government of India in 1976, and Padma Vibhushan in 2017.
        • He was inducted into the Satellite Hall of Fame, Washington in 2013. With this he became the first Indian to be inducted.
        • He was also to be inducted in International Astronautics Federation (IAF) in 2016. He was also the first Indian again to achieve such a feat.

        IT (INTERMEDIARY GUIDELINES AND DIGITAL MEDIA ETHICS CODE) RULES, 2021

        The Kerala High Court restrained the Centre from taking coercive action against Live Law Media Private Ltd., which owns a legal news portal, for not complying with Part III of the new IT (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021.

        Arguments by Petition:

        • The court issued notice to the Centre on a petition filed by the firm challenging the rules regulating digital news media, curated content (OTT platforms), and social media intermediaries.
        • The petition said Part III of the rules imposed an unconstitutional three-tier complaints and adjudication structure on publishers.
        • The creation of a grievance redressal mechanism, through a governmental oversight body (an inter-departmental committee constituted under Rule 14) amounted to excessive regulation.
        • Rule 4(2), which makes it mandatory for every social media intermediary to enable tracing of originators of information on its platform, purportedly in furtherance of Section 69 of the IT Act, violated Article 19(1)(a) (freedom of speech and expression).
        • It also deprived the intermediaries of their “safe-harbour protections” under Section 79 of the IT Act.
        • The rules obligating messaging intermediaries to alter their infrastructure to “fingerprint” each message on a mass scale for every user to trace the first originator was violative of the fundamental right to privacy of Internet users.

         

        ARBITRATION AND CONCILIATION (AMENDMENT) BILL, 2021

        The Parliament gave its nod to the Arbitration and Conciliation (Amendment) Bill, 2021 with Rajya Sabha passing it. The Lok Sabha has already passed the bill last month.

        About:

        • The legislation seeks to amend the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996. The Act contains provisions to deal with domestic and international arbitration and defines the law for conducting conciliation proceedings.
        • The Arbitration and Conciliation (Amendment) Bill, 2021 provides for the following:
          • to grant unconditional stay of enforcement of arbitral awards, where the underlying arbitration agreement, contracts or arbitral award is induced by fraud or corruption;
          • to omit Eighth Schedule of the Act which laid down the qualifications, experience and norms for accreditation of arbitrators; and
          • to specify by regulations the qualifications, experience and norms for accreditation of arbitrators and the said amendment is consequential in nature.

        NATIONAL CAPITAL TERRITORY OF DELHI LAWS (SPECIAL PROVISIONS) SECOND (AMENDMENT) BILL, 2021

        The Parliament has passed the National Capital Territory of Delhi Laws (Special Provisions) Second (Amendment) Bill, 2021 with Lok Sabha approving it. Rajya Sabha had already passed the bill last month.

        About:

        • The legislation aims to amend the National Capital Territory of Delhi Laws (Special Provisions) Second Act, 2011. The 2011 Act was valid till 31st December last year. The Bill seeks to extend this deadline to till the end of December 2023.
        • The 2011 Act provided for the regularisation of unauthorised colonies in the National Capital which existed as on 31st March , 2002, and where construction took place till 1st June, 2014.
        • The Bill amends this to provide that unauthorised colonies will be identified for regularisation as per the National Capital Territory of Delhi (Recognition of Property Rights of Residents in Unauthorised Colonies) Act, 2019, and the National Capital Territory of Delhi (Recognition of Property Rights of Residents in Unauthorised Colonies) Regulations, 2019.
        • The legislation provides that the unauthorised colonies which existed as on 1st June 2014, and have 50 per cent development as on 1st January, 2015, will be eligible for regularisation.

         

        FLOATING SOLAR POWER PLANT, RAMAGUNDAM

        The country’s biggest floating solar power plant till date, by generation capacity, which is being developed by the NTPC in the reservoir of its thermal plant at Ramagundam in Peddapalli district, Telangana, is set to be commissioned by May-June next.

        About:

        • Work on this 100 megawatt floating solar power plant at Ramagundam is in the final stages of completion.
        • This will be one of the renewable (solar) energy plants being developed by the NTPC with an installed capacity of 447 MW in the southern region and the entire capacity will be commissioned by March 2023.
        • Except for the 230 MW ground-mounted solar power plant at Ettayapuram in Tamil Nadu, the remaining 217 MW capacity was to be commissioned by May-June this year.

         

        MSME

        Minister of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises inaugurated two technology centres at Visakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh and Bhopal in Madhya Pradesh, three extension centres of big technological centres and seven mobile Udyam Express.

        About:

        • The Ministry of MSME has rolled out the Technology Centres Systems Programme to develop the competitiveness ecosystems of MSME in  the country.
        • These Technology Centres will train more than 16 thousand students annually and have infrastructure for training and production.
        • The minister also launched the 7 Udyan Express Mobile Vans with a view to provide assistance to MSME in remote areas and also make aware the youth of rural areas about government’s schemes.

         

        DUSTLIK

        The India – Uzbekistan joint military exercise “DUSTLIK II” commenced in Foreign Training Node Chaubatia, Ranikhet (Uttarakhand). It will continue till 19th March 2021.

        About:

        • 45 Soldiers each from Uzbekistan and Indian Army are participating in the exercise.
        • Both contingents will be sharing their expertise and skills in the field of counter terrorist operations in mountainous/rural/urban scenario under UN mandate.
        • This is the Second Edition of annual bilateral joint exercise of both armies.
        • The first edition of the exercise was held at Uzbekistan in Nov 2019.

         

        INS KARANJ

        Indian Navy’s third stealth Scorpene class Submarine INS Karanj has been commissioned at the Naval Dockyard Mumbai through a formal commissioning ceremony.

        About:

        • Six Scorpene Class submarines are being built in India by the Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Limited (MDL) Mumbai, under collaboration with M/s Naval Group, France.
        • INS Karanj would form part of the Western Naval Command’s Submarine fleet.
        • The Scorpene Submarines are one of the most advanced conventional submarines in the world.
        • These platforms are equipped with the latest technologies in the world. More deadly and stealthier than their predecessors, these submarines are equipped with potent weapons and sensors to neutralise any threat above or below the sea surface.

         

        KING BHUMIBOL WORLD SOIL DAY – 2020 AWARD

        Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) received the prestigious “King Bhumibol World Soil Day – 2020 Award” of FAO.

        About:

        • The international recognition was announced by the FAO, Rome on the eve of World Soil Day – 2020 in view of the ICAR’s excellent contributions in “Soil Health Awareness” on the theme “Stop soil erosion, save our future” during the last year.
        • Launched in 2018, the King Bhumibol World Soil Day Award acknowledges individuals or institutions that raise public awareness of soils by organising successful and influential World Soil Day celebrations.
        • The award, sponsored by the Kingdom of Thailand, is named after King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand for his lifelong commitment to raising awareness of the importance of sustainable soil management and rehabilitation for food security, poverty alleviation and more.
        • Formers winners of the King Bhumibol World Soil Day Award include Practical Action in Bangladesh in 2018 and the Costa Rican Soil Science Society (AACS) in 2019.

         

        PRADHAN MANTRI SWASTHYA SURAKSHA NIDHI (PMSSN)

        The Union Cabinet has approved the Pradhan Mantri Swasthya Suraksha Nidhi (PMSSN) as a single non-lapsable reserve fund for share of Health from the proceeds of Health and Education Cess levied under Section 136-b of Finance Act, 2007.

        Salient features of the PMSSN

        • A non-lapsable reserve fund for Health in the Public Account;
        • Proceeds of share of health in the Health and Education Cess will be credited into PMSSN;
        • Accruals into the PMSSN will be utilized for the flagship schemes of the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare namely,
          • Ayushman Bharat – Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (AB-PMJAY)
          • Ayushman Bharat – Health and Wellness Centres (AB-HWCs)
          • National Health Mission
          • Pradhan Mantri Swasthya Suraksha Yojana (PMSSY)
          • Emergency & disaster preparedness and responses during health emergencies
          • Any future programme/scheme that targets to achieve progress towards SDGs and the targets set out in the National Health Policy (NHP) 2017.
        • Administration and maintenance of the PMSSN is entrusted to Ministry of Health & Family Welfare; and
        • In any financial year, the expenditure on such schemes of the MoHFW would be initially incurred from the PMSSN and thereafter, from Gross Budgetary Support (GBS).
        • Benefits: The major benefit will be: enhanced access to universal & affordable health care through availability of earmarked resources, while ensuring that the amount does not lapse at the end of financial year.
        • Background: In the budget speech 2018, the Finance Minister while announcing Ayushman Bharat Scheme, also announced replacement of existing 3% Education Cess by 4% Health and Education Cess.

         

        HERATH FESTIVAL

        Prime Minister Narendra Modi greeted people on the occasion of Herath festival.

        About:

        • Herath festival is one of the biggest festivals of Kashmiri Pandits.
        • The festival is marked by a night of praying followed by a day of feasting.
        • Some say Herath means the night of the Lord Shiva.

        QUAD

        PM Modi will attend the first Quad Summit on March 12, 2021.

        About:

        • Prime Minister Narendra Modi will join U.S. President Joseph Biden, Australian PM Scott Morrison and Japanese PM Yoshihide Suga for a virtual summit of the Quadrilateral Framework (Quad)— the first time leaders of the Indo-Pacific grouping are meeting.
        • Access to COVID-19 vaccines, cooperation on technology, and climate change are on the top of the agenda in the summit.
        • The Quad meeting, that China has referred to as an “Indo-Pacific NATO”, will be watched most closely for signals on how the grouping will deal with the challenge from Beijing’s recent moves in the Pacific as well as at the Line of Actual Control in Ladakh.
        • India, the world’s largest manufacturer of vaccines, that has already shipped out more than 48 million doses worldwide, is expected to request Quad investment to scale up its outreach further.

         

        INDIA – JAPAN SPACE TIES

        Indian and Japanese space agencies reviewed cooperation in earth observation, lunar cooperation and satellite navigation, and also agreed to explore opportunities for cooperation in “space situational awareness and professional exchange programme”.

        About:

        • This was agreed during a bilateral meeting between the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) held virtually.
        • Both agencies signed an Implementing Arrangement for collaborative activities on rice crop area and air quality monitoring using satellite data.
        • India and Japan are already working on a joint lunar polar exploration (LUPEX) mission and the two space agencies have been working on the mission that aims to send a lander and rover to the Moon’s south pole around 2024.

        Space collaboration with other countries

        • Early this month, India and Italy decided to explore opportunities in earth observation, space science and robotic and human exploration.
        • Last month, India and Australia signed an amendment to the MoU which will build on the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership. Both countries are also in discussions for Australia to host vital tracking infrastructure to support the Gaganyaan manned space flight mission.

         

        SWAMI CHIDBHAVANANDA

        Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the Kindle version of Swami Chidbhavanandaji’s Bhagavad Gita.

        About:

        • Swami Chidbhavananda (1898 – 1985) was the founder of Sri Ramakrishna Tapovanam Ashram at Thirupparaithurai, Tiruchirapalli, Tamil Nadu.
        • He authored 186 books and all genres of literary composition.
        • His scholarly work on the Gita is one of the most extensive books on the subject. Tamil version of the Gita with his commentaries was published in 1951, followed by the English in 1965. Its translations into Telugu, Oriya, German and Japanese were undertaken by devotees.

         

        BAMIYAN BUDDHAS

        Twenty years after being blasted out of Afghanistan’s rugged central highlands, one of the country’s famed Buddha statues made a brief virtual return as a three-dimensional projection filled the alcove that hosted the statue for centuries.

        About:

        • In March 2001, the Taliban began blowing up two monumental Buddha statues in Afghanistan’s Bamiyan Valley.
        • Now, two decades later, on the anniversary of the annihilation, the Bamiyan Buddhas have been brought back to life in the form of 3D projections in an event called “A Night With Buddha”.

        The legacy of the Bamiyan Buddhas:

        • In their Roman draperies and with two different mudras, the Bamiyan Buddhas were great examples of a confluence of Gupta, Sassanian and Hellenistic artistic styles.
        • They are said to date back to the 5th century AD and were once the tallest standing Buddhas in the world.
        • Salsal and Shamama, as they were called by the locals, rose to heights of 55 and 38 metres respectively, and were said to be male and female. Salsal means “light shines through the universe”; Shamama is “Queen Mother”.
        • The statues were set in niches on either ends of a cliff side and hewn directly from the sandstone cliffs.
        • Following the fall of the Bamiyan Buddhas, UNESCO included the remains in its list of world heritage sites in 2003, with subsequent efforts made to restore and reconstruct the Buddhas in their niches with the pieces available.

        The significance of Bamiyan:

        • Bamiyan is situated in the high mountains of the Hindu Kush in the central highlands of Afghanistan.
        • The valley, which is set along the line of the Bamiyan River, was once integral to the early days of the Silk Roads, providing passage for not just merchants, but also culture, religion and language.

         

        MENSTRUATION TABOO

        In a public interest litigation, the Gujarat High Court passed an order proposing nine guidelines that the state should follow to end menstruation taboo and discriminatory practices pertaining to it.

        About:

        • The guidelines call for Prohibiting social exclusion of women on the basis of their menstrual status at all places, be it private or public, religious or educational.
        • It also list the state government’s role in raising awareness, including the topic in school curriculum and sensitisation drives.

        Judgements in the recent past pertaining to menstruation

        • The Sabarimala temple entry judgment of the Supreme Court in 2019: Regarding menstruation as polluting or impure, and imposing exclusionary disabilities on the basis of menstrual status, is against the dignity of women which is guaranteed by the Constitution.
        • The Delhi High Court in November 2020 had asked government authorities to treat a PIL seeking direction to grant paid period leave to all women employees for four days each month and payment of overtime allowance in case the women opt to work during the menstruation period.

        GENOME MAPPING IN INDIAN OCEAN

        Scientists from the National Institute of Oceanography (NIO) in Panaji onboard its research vessel Sindhu Sadhana will spend the next three months traversing the course of over 10,000 nautical miles in the Indian Ocean on a research project to reveal the internal working of the body of the ocean at a cellular level.

         

        About:

        • The first-of-its-kind research project in the country is aimed at understanding the biochemistry and the response of the ocean to climate change, nutrient stress and increasing pollution.
        • The research project will take three years to complete.
        • Researchers will travel the Indian Ocean from India’s east coast, all the way to Australia, then onward towards Port Louis in Mauritius and up to the border of Pakistan, off India’s west coast, gathering samples for genome mapping of microorganisms in the Indian Ocean.
        • The researchers will collect samples from various stretches of the ocean at an average depth of about 5 km.
        • Just like gene mapping is carried out on blood samples collected from humans, the scientists will map these in the bacteria, microbes found in the ocean. This will help scientists understand the internal working of the ecosystem of the Indian Ocean.
        • At various stages and stretches, samples will be collected by lowering a Kevlar cable of up to 8 km with a set of 24 teflon coated bottles to collect samples.

         

        TRUSTED TELECOM RULES

        The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has amended the licensing conditions for telecom companies to include defence and national security as parameters when purchasing ‘trusted telecom products’ and sourcing equipment from ‘trusted telecom equipment sources’.

        About:

        • Including defence and national security as parameters means the designated authority can, at any time, citing these two aspects, ask telecom companies not to use products which it has deemed unsafe.
        • The new norms will kick in from June 15, following which telecom companies will not be able to use any products that do not appear on the trusted telecom equipment source list or the trusted telecom product list.
        • If a telecom company wishes to expand its network by using any equipment that does not come from a trusted source or is not on the list of trusted telecom products, it will have to take prior permission from the designated authority, which is the National Cyber Security Coordinator.

        Background:

        • In December last year, India’s Cabinet Committee on Security approved the setting up of a new National Security Directive on telecommunication sector with an intent to classify telecom products and their sources under the ‘trusted’ and ‘non-trusted’ categories.
        • The list of products telecom companies will be allowed to use in their network would be approved by the National Cyber Security Coordinator, which in turn will make its decision based on the approval of a committee headed by the deputy National Security Advisor (NSA).
        • The expert committee will also have members from other departments and ministries, independent experts as well as two industry members.

        INNER-LINE PERMIT (ILP) SYSTEM

        The Uttarakhand government, in a recent meeting with Union Home Minister Amit Shah, had sought withdrawal of “inner-line permit” (ILP) system in Niti Valley of Chamoli district and Nelang Valley of Uttarkashi district for better border management and expansion of tourism in villages located there.

        About:

        • The ILP system restricts movement in areas close to the border for everyone other than those with a formal permission.
        • In Uttarakhand, tourists have to obtain ILP for locations near China border, at least in the three districts of Uttarkashi, Pithoragarh and Chamoli.
        • Pithoragarh is strategically more sensitive as it shares boundaries with both China and Nepal.
        • Nelong Valley, Uttarkashi: Nelong valley is an inner line area (India-China border) opened to domestic tourists only during the day. It is approximately 100 km from Uttarkashi headquarters.
        • Niti village, Chamoli: Located at an altitude of around 3600 metres, Niti village in Joshimath in Chamoli district is the last populated village before China border.

         

        TIRATH SINGH RAWAT

        Tirath Singh Rawat has been sworn in as the new Uttarakhand chief minister. The 56-year-old MP from Pauri replaced Trivendra Singh Rawat who stepped down from the post.

        Key constitutional provisions for CMs:

        • Article 163(1): There shall be a Council of Ministers with the Chief Minister at the head to aid and advise the Governor in the exercise of his functions, except in so far as he is by or under the Constitution required to exercise his functions or any of them in his discretion.
        • Article 164(1): The Chief Minister shall be appointed by the Governor and the other Ministers shall be appointed on the advice of the Chief Minister.
        • Article 164(2): The Council of Ministers shall be collectively responsible to the Legislative Assembly of the State.

         

        SHRAMIK KALYAN PORTAL

        Indian Railways ensures 100% compliance of payment of minimum wages to contract workers through e-application Shramik Kalyan Portal.

        About:

        • Indian Railway Shramik Kalyan e-application has been developed and launched on 1st October, 2018.
        • E-Application ensures the compliance of provisions of Minimum Wages Act and also ensures that contractual workers working in Indian Railways get their rightful due by enforcing the contractors to regularly upload wage payment data into e-application.
        • This helps Railways as Principal Employer, in keep vigil over wages disbursed by contractors to contract workers.
        • All PSUs working under Ministry of Railways are also using this e-application.

        GANDHI’S DANDI MARCH

        On the 91st anniversary of the historic salt march led by Mahatma Gandhi from Sabarmati Ashram to Dandi in Gujarat, Prime Minister Narendra Modi flagged off a symbolic 386-kilometre ‘Dandi march’, following the same route.

        About:

        • The 24-day march from March 12 to April 5, 1930 was a tax resistance campaign against the British salt monopoly.
        • The march marked the inauguration of the civil disobedience movement.
        • Gandhi reached Dandi on April 5. The following day, early morning he proceeded along with the other marchers to the sea, where he picked up lumps of natural salt lying in a small pit.
        • The following month Gandhi proceeded to Dharasana salt works from where he was arrested and taken to the Yerawada Central Jail.

        Why did Gandhi call for the Dandi March?

        • The 1882 Salt Act gave the British a monopoly in the manufacture and sale of salt.
        • Even though salt was freely available on the coasts of India, Indians were forced to buy it from the colonisers.
        • Gandhi decided that if there was any one product through which the civil disobedience could be inaugurated, then it was salt.

        STATE ELECTION COMMISSIONERS

        The Supreme Court held that independent persons and not bureaucrats should be appointed State Election Commissioners.

        About:

        • It said that giving government employees the additional charge of State Election Commissioners is a “mockery of the Constitution”.
        • The top court directed that the States should appoint independent persons as Election Commissioners all along the length and breadth of the country.
        • The judgment criticised the Goa government for giving its Law Secretary the additional charge of State Election Commissioner.

        Article 243K?

        • Article 243K deals with the Elections to the Panchayats.
        • It states that The superintendence, direction and control of the preparation of electoral rolls for, and the conduct of, all elections to the Panchayats shall be vested in a State Election Commission.
        • It shall consist of a State Election Commissioner to be appointed by the Governor.
        • Subject to the provisions of any law made by the State Legislature, the conditions of service and tenure of office of the State Election Commissioner shall be such as the Governor may by rule determine. However,
          • The State Election Commissioner shall not be removed from his office except in like manner and on the like ground as a Judge of a High Court.
          • The conditions of service of the State Election Commissioner shall not be varied to his disadvantage after his appointment.

        MERA RATION MOBILE APP

        Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution launched Mera Ration Mobile App for the benefit of those ration card holders who move to new places in search of livelihood.

        About:

        • At present 32 States and Union Territories are covered under One Nation One Ration Card (ONORC) and integration of remaining four States and UTs is expected to be completed in next few months.
        • At present, the system covers nearly 69 Crore National Food Security Act- NFSA beneficiaries in the country.
        • The ONORC scheme is being implemented by the Department of Food & Public Distribution under Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution for the nation-wide portability of ration cards under National Food Security Act (NFSA).

         

        AZADI KA AMRIT MAHOTSAV (INDIA@75)

        The Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi flagged off the ‘Padyatra’ (Freedom March) from Sabarmati Ashram, Ahmedabad and inaugurated the curtain raiser activities of the ‘Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav’ (India@75).

        About:

        • The launch of the ‘Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav’ 75 weeks before 15 August 2022 will continue till 15 August, 2023.
        • The Prime Minister reiterated five pillars i.e. Freedom Struggle, Ideas at 75, Achievements at 75, Actions at 75 and Resolves at 75 as guiding force for moving forward keeping dreams and duties as inspiration.
        • The Prime Minister launched the website of India@75 on the occasion.
        • He also launched the ‘Atmanirbhar Incubator’ programme of Ministry of Culture in partnership with Sabarmati Ashram Preservation and Memorial Trust to preserve the skills and arts of artisans/crafts persons on the verge of extinction.
        • A Charkha has been installed near Magan Niwas at Sabarmati Ashram. It will rotate full circle with each Tweet related to Aatmanirbhar Bharat.

         

        LGBTIQ FREEDOM ZONE

        In a resolution adopted, the European Parliament symbolically declared European Union, the entire 27-member bloc as an “LGBTIQ Freedom Zone” – the acronym meaning lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, non-binary, intersex and queer.

        About:

        • The resolution reads, ‘‘LGBTIQ persons everywhere in the EU should enjoy the freedom to live and publicly show their sexual orientation and gender identity without fear of intolerance, discrimination or persecution.
        • The move comes as a response against member state Poland’s controversial move to create more than 100 ‘‘LGBTIQ ideology-free zones” around the country since 2019, and more generally against the backsliding of LGBTIQ rights in some EU countries, particularly in Poland and Hungary.
        • A majority of countries in the EU (23/27) recognises same-sex unions, with 16 of them legally recognising same-sex marriage.
        • Poland is part of the small minority that does not acknowledge such relationships.
        • Like Poland, Hungary has also been pushing forward a conservative Catholic social agenda. In November 2020, the town of Nagykáta adopted a resolution banning the ‘‘dissemination and promotion of LGBTIQ propaganda’’.

         

        2001 FO32

        On March 21, the largest asteroid predicted to pass by Earth in 2021 will be at its closest. It is called 2001 FO32.

        About:

        • It is a near-Earth asteroid classified as a potentially hazardous asteroid of the Apollo group.
        • With an estimated diameter of 440–680 m (1,400–2,200 ft), it was discovered by the Lincoln Near-Earth Asteroid Research at Socorro, New Mexico on 23 March 2001.
        • The asteroid will safely pass by Earth on 21 March 2021.
        • It won’t come closer than 2 million km to Earth, but still, that distance is close in astronomical terms, which is why 2001 FO32 has been designated a “potentially hazardous asteroid”.

        High Speed:

        • During this approach, 2001 FO32 will pass by at about 124,000 kph – faster than the speed at which most asteroids encounter Earth.
        • The reason for the asteroid’s unusually speedy close approach is its highly eccentric orbit around the Sun, an orbit that is tilted 39° to Earth’s orbital plane. This orbit takes the asteroid closer to the Sun than Mercury, and twice as far from the Sun as Mars.

         

        MOBILE INTEGRATED NETWORK TERMINAL (MINT) SYSTEMS

        The Indian Army is in the process of procuring Mobile Integrated Network Terminal (MINT) systems under Make II Category of DAP 2020.

        About:

        • The system is envisaged as a lightweight, portable, state of art integrated communication solution with satellite backhaul and wireless access system to support voice, video and data.
        • Post evaluation of response submitted by the Indian Industry, a total of 11 (eleven) firms have been issued with the Project Sanction Order on 12 March 2021 for development of prototype.
        • The Contract will subsequently be placed with one of the firms on successful development of prototype as per provisions of Buy (Indian-IDDM) of DAP 2020.
        • Development of MINT systems will enhance the operational communication capability of the field army.

         

        BRICS CONTACT GROUP ON ECONOMIC AND TRADE ISSUES (CGETI)

        The BRICS Contact Group on Economic and Trade Issues (CGETI) leads held their first meeting under India’s Chairship from 9-11 March 2021.

        About:

        • The theme of BRICS this year is -“BRICS@15: Intra BRICS Cooperation for Continuity, Consolidation, and Consensus”.
        • India, under its Chairship in 2021, presented the calendar of events for BRICS CGETI 2021.
        • The deliverables proposed are on (i) BRICS Cooperation on Multilateral Trading system including cooperation for the TRIPS Waiver proposal at WTO; (ii) Framework for Consumer Protection in E-Commerce; (iii) Non-Tariff Measures (NTM) Resolution Mechanism; (iv) Sanitary and Phyto-Sanitary (SPS) etc.

        Important Info :

        • BRICS is the acronym coined to associate five major emerging economies: Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa.
        • Originally the first four were grouped as “BRIC” (or “the BRICs”) before the induction of South Africa in 2010.
        • The term “BRIC” is believed to be coined by Goldman Sachs.

         

        AYYA VAIKUNDA SWAMIKAL

        The Prime Minister Narendra Modi paid his respects to Ayya Vaikunda Swamikal – a great thinker and social reformer of the 19th century – on his birth anniversary.

        About:

        • He was the pioneer of the social revolutionaries of south India and Kerala.
        • Research scholars regard Vaikundar as a teacher, healer and also a miracle worker.
        • His teachings also effected many social changes in southern India, resulting in the emergence of a series of social and self-respect movements such as Upper cloth agitation, Temple entry agitation and other movements including those of Narayana Guru, Chattampi Swamikal, Vallalar and Ayyankali.

         

        MENINGITIS

        World Health Assembly endorses the 1st ever resolution on meningitis prevention and control.

        About:

        • Meningitis is a serious infection of the meninges, the membranes covering the brain and spinal cord.
        • The disease can be caused by many different pathogens including bacteria, fungi or viruses, but the highest global burden is seen with bacterial meningitis.
        • Several different bacteria can cause meningitis. Streptococcus pneumoniae, Haemophilus influenzae, Neisseria meningitidis are the most frequent ones. N. meningitidis, causing meningococcal meningitis, is the one with the potential to produce large epidemics.
        • The bacteria that cause meningitis are transmitted from person-to-person through droplets of respiratory or throat secretions from carriers.
        • Despite successful efforts to control meningitis in several regions of the world, meningitis continues to be a major global public health issue causing up to 5 million cases each year.
        • The meningitis belt in Africa is the most vulnerable to recurrent outbreaks, but meningitis kills people of all ages in all countries.
        • The Defeating Meningitis Roadmap addresses all types of meningitis, regardless of the cause, but particularly targets the main causes of acute bacterial meningitis (meningococcus, pneumococcus, Haemophilus influenzae, and group B streptococcus).

        Sri Lanka will soon ban the burkha or face veil, a Cabinet Minister said, as he announced the Rajapaksa administration’s latest policy decision impacting the minority Muslim community.

        About:

        • The authorities would henceforth use the Prevention of Terrorism (PTA) law — that human rights defenders have termed “draconian” — to deal with religious extremism, with wide-ranging powers to detain suspects for up to two years, to “deradicalize” them.
        • According to the minister, the burkha affects their national security as it is a symbol of their religious extremism. This dress came into Sri Lanka only recently.
        • While the Minister had signed documents outlawing the burkha, the move awaits Cabinet approval. Over 1,000 madrasas would be shut.
        • Following the Islamic State-inspired Easter terror bombings in Sri Lanka in April 2019, attributed to a local Islamist radical network, the government temporarily banned the face veil using emergency laws.

        Burial rights

        • The announcement on the burkha ban comes after a year-long controversy over the government’s policy of mandatory cremation of COVID-19 victims, based on unsubstantiated claims that the bodies would contaminate ground water.
        • The government reversed its decision recently, amid persistent calls for burial rights from Muslims, who make up about 10% of the 21-million population, as well as international bodies including the U.N.

        BAMBOOSA BAMBOS

        The “gregarious flowering of bamboo” inside the Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary (WWS) may pose a threat to wildlife in the Nilgiri biosphere, a major tiger and elephant habitat.

        About:

        • Bamboosa bambos is a monocarpic (flowering only once) plant belonging to the Poaceae family (grass family), and its flowering cycle varies from 40 to 60 years.
        • Bamboosa bambos is also known as the giant thorny bamboo, Indian thorny bamboo, spiny bamboo, or thorny bamboo.
        • It is a species of clumping bamboo native to southern Asia.
        • It is a tall, bright-green coloured spiny bamboo species, which grows in thickets consisting of a large number of heavily branched, closely growing culms.

        Recent development

        • The bamboo groves in the Wayanad forest are the mainstay of herbivores in the Nilgiri biosphere during summer.
        • With the advent of the season, migration of wild animals starts from the adjacent sanctuaries in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu to Wayanad due to shortage of fodder and water.
        • The gregarious flowering may adversely affect migration, especially by elephants, wild gaur, and other lower herbivores owing to the mass destruction of bamboo groves after the flowering.

        Important Info :

        • The Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary is an animal sanctuary in Wayanad, Kerala, India.

         

        PLACES OF WORSHIP (SPECIAL PROVISION) ACT, 1991

        The CPI(M) Polit Bureau called the Supreme Court notice to the government seeking a response on the PIL petition filed by advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay challenging the Places of Worship (Special Provision) Act, 1991, “unfortunate”.

        About:

        • The Act mandates that the character of all religious places of worship should be maintained as it was on August 15, 1947, and no suit or proceedings shall lie in a court of law with respect to the character of places of worship.
        • This effectively barred courts from entertaining cases which raise disputes over places of worship that existed as of August 15, 1947.
        • While invoking this exemption, the Supreme Court in the 2019 Ayodhya verdict reaffirmed that similar such cases cannot be entertained with respect to other sites in view of this Act.

         

        HONG KONG

        The National People’s Congress (NPC) of China, the ceremonial legislature in Beijing, on March 11 approved what it called “a decision on improving Hong Kong’s electoral system”.

        How does the new NPC amendment change Hong Kong’s political system?

        • This paves the way for sweeping changes in how Hong Kong, the Special Administrative Region (SAR) that has been ruled under the “one country, two systems” model since its return to China in 1997, chooses its leaders.
        • The NPC amendment essentially gives Beijing-appointed politicians greater power in running the HKSAR’s politics.
        • Now, the size of the Legislative Council will be expanded to 90, with the additional 20 members joining the 35 others who are nominated, thus reducing the share of directly elected representatives.
        • The amendment also bestows greater power on a newly expanded Election Committee of 1,500 nominated members, up from 1,200 previously.
        • The most controversial change is the setting up of a new “candidate qualification review committee”, which “shall be responsible for reviewing and confirming” the qualifications of candidates for Election Committee members, the Chief Executive, and Legislative Council members.

         

        MARTIAN BLUEBERRIES

        According to a recent research paper, Martian ‘blueberries’ find a parallel on Earth.

        About:

        • In 2004, NASA’s Mars exploration rover ‘Opportunity’ found several small spheres on the planet, informally named Martian blueberries.
        • Opportunity’s spectrometers studied the mineralogy and noted they were made of iron oxide compounds called haematites.
        • This caused excitement, as the presence of haematites suggests that there was water present on Mars. Haematite is known to form in oxidising environments.

        Recent development

        • A recent paper by a scientist from the Planetary Sciences Division of Physical Research Laboratory, Ahmedabad which studied haematite concretions in Kutch notes that the ‘blueberries’ in India and Mars share similar characteristics.
        • The team has been studying the Jhuran formation in Gujarat which is between 145 and 201 million years old. Detailed investigations of the haematite concretions in this area revealed that they resemble the ones on Mars.

         

        WATER QUALITY TESTING FRAMEWORK

        Citizens can now get the water quality in their taps tested at reasonable rates, as part of a monitoring framework rolled out by the Centre’s flagship Jal Jeevan Mission.

        About:

        • The “drinking water quality testing, monitoring and surveillance framework and guidelines” released mandate a network of National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories (NABL) accredited labs to be set up in every State, district and block over the next year.
        • At the panchayat level, teams of women in the village water and sanitation committees will be given field testing kits.
        • State governments can include private players as part of the network, but the Centre has capped tariffs to ensure that they remain within the reach of the common man.
        • A package for all the 16 water quality parameters would cost ₹600. Turnaround time for chemical tests should not be more than 24 hours, while testing for the biological contaminants will produce results within 48 hours.
        • All results of testing will be fed into the Water Quality Information Management System (WQMIS), a portal developed with the support of the Indian Council of Medical Research.

         

        ZO PEOPLE

        A Mizoram-based group representing the Zo indigenous people of India, Bangladesh and Myanmar has petitioned President Ram Nath Kovind and Prime Minister Narendra Modi to impose sanctions on military-ruled Myanmar.

        About:

        • The Zo Reunification Organisation (ZORO) comprising the Chin-Kuki-Mizo-Zomi group of people has also asked the Centre not to turn away the Myanmar nationals who crossed over to escape the military regime and provide them shelter on humanitarian grounds.
        • These four States – Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur and Mizoram – share a 1,643 km border with Myanmar and people on either side are ethnically related.
        • The Mizo people of Mizoram and the Kuki-Zomi communities in Manipur have a strong kinship with the Chins across the border.

        Important Info :

        • The Zo people are an ethnic group of India, Bangladesh and Myanmar.
        • Various names have been used for the Zo peoples, but the individual groups generally acknowledge descent from ancestral Zo. Among the more prominent names given to this group are “Chin” and “Zomi “generally in Myanmar, and “Mizo” ,”Zomi “and “Kuki”, generally in India.
        • In north-eastern India, they are present in: Nagaland, Mizoram, Manipur and Assam.

         

        AT1 BONDS

        The Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) has slapped restrictions on mutual fund (MF) investments in additional tier-1 (AT1) bonds.

        What are AT1 bonds?

        • AT1 Bonds stand for additional tier-1 bonds.
        • These are unsecured bonds which have perpetual tenure. In other words, the bonds have no maturity date.
        • They have call option, which can be used by the banks to buy these bonds back from investors.
        • These bonds are typically used by banks to bolster their core or tier-1 capital.
        • AT1 bonds are subordinate to all other debt and only senior to common equity.
        • Mutual funds (MFs) are among the largest investors in perpetual debt instruments, and hold over Rs 35,000 crore of the outstanding additional tier-I bond issuances of Rs 90,000 crore.

        What action has been taken by the Sebi recently?

        • In a recent circular, the Sebi told mutual funds to value these perpetual bonds as a 100-year instrument. This essentially means MFs have to make the assumption that these bonds would be redeemed in 100 years.

        GLOBAL CENTRE FOR TRADITIONAL MEDICINE

        The World Health Organisation announced that it will set up a Global Centre for Traditional Medicine in India.

        About:

        • This new centre will support WHO’s efforts to implement the WHO traditional medicine strategy 2014-2023 which aims to support countries in developing policies and action plans to strengthen the role of traditional medicine as part of their journey to universal health coverage

         

        • The regulator also asked MFs to limit the ownership of the bonds at 10 per cent of the assets of a scheme.

        Reason for SEBI action

        • According to the Sebi, these instruments could be riskier than other debt instruments.
        • The Sebi has probably made this decision after the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) allowed a write-off of Rs 8,400 crore on AT1 bonds issued by Yes Bank Ltd after it was rescued by State Bank of India (SBI).

        AEG12

        A mosquito protein, called AEG12, strongly inhibits the family of viruses that cause yellow fever, dengue, West Nile, and Zika, and also weakly inhibits coronaviruses, according to scientists at the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) and their collaborators.

        About:

        • The researchers found that AEG12 works by destabilising the viral envelope, breaking its protective covering. The protein does not affect viruses that do not have an envelope.
        • At the molecular level, AEG12 rips out the lipids (the fat-like portions of the membrane that hold the virus together).
        • The findings, however, could lead to therapeutics against viruses that affect millions of people around the world.
        • While the researchers demonstrated that AEG12 was most effective against flaviviruses — the family of viruses to which Zika, West Nile, and others belong — they felt it is possible AEG12 could be effective against SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes Covid-19.
        • But, it will take years of bioengineering to make AEG12 a viable therapy for Covid-19.

         

        UK’S TURING SCHEME FOR STUDENTS

        Having left the European Union’s flagship Erasmus scholarship programme after Brexit, the UK launched its own replacement called the Turing scheme to enable UK students to study abroad.

        About:

        • Named after the celebrated English mathematician and codebreaker Alan Turing, the scheme will enable schools, colleges and universities in the UK to apply for government funding to allow students to study and work across the globe, including in India.
        • The scheme, for which the British government has allocated 110 million pounds for the first year, starts in 2021/22, and would enable up to 35,000 students from across the country to study or work across the world from September this year.
        • Under the programme, after schools and universities successfully apply for funding for exchanges, university study and work placements, they can invite their students to apply for individual funding’s.
        • The scheme would be a global programme in which every country in the world will be able to partner with UK institutions. This is in contrast with the Erasmus+ programme, which only included European countries.

         

        INDEX MONITORING CELL (IMC)

        Pointing out that the right to dissent should be the central focus of press freedom, independent journalist P. Sainath struck a dissenting note in the report submitted by the Index Monitoring Cell (IMC).

        About:

        • The Index Monitoring Cell (IMC) was set up by the Information and Broadcasting Ministry with stakeholders to improve India’s ranking in the World Press Freedom Index and to evolve objective yardstick to gauge media freedom.
        • The 15-member committee, which had four meetings between May and December last year, has four journalists and government functionaries.
        • Chaired by Kuldeep Singh Dhatwalia, Principal Director General of the Press Information Bureau, the committee has 10 government employees.

        Recommendations of report

        • Among the key recommendations is the decriminalising of defamation. India is one of the few countries in the world to criminalise defamation.
        • The panel has also recommended that consent of the Press Council of India is a prerequisite before filing an FIR against the media or a publication.

        View of P Sainath

        • Sainath pointed out that the report failed in its objective to analyse the World Press Freedom Index (of Paris-based Reporters Without Borders or RSF), and India’s performance in it with a view to identify areas of strengths and concern related to press freedom in India.

        COMMISSION FOR AIR QUALITY MANAGEMENT

        Center has dissolved the Commission for Air Quality Management.

        About:

        • The commission was headed by M.M. Kutty, a former Secretary in the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas.
        • The dissolution happened despite the nodal Union Environment Ministry submitting the paper work to the Union Cabinet Secretariat, required to give legal backing to the commission.
        • The body came into being in last October on the back of an ordinance — a temporary measure — and the law requires that a formal Bill be presented to Parliament within six weeks of it reconvening — in this case — January 29 when the Budget Session began. Before a Bill is tabled in Parliament it needs to be approved by the Union Cabinet.
        • However in spite of several Cabinet meetings since January, it wasn’t taken up for discussion due to which, the tenure of the body expired, without ever making it to Parliament. It is still technically possible to revive the body during the ongoing Parliament session.

         

        PANEL ON MYTHICAL SARASVATI RIVER

        The Centre has reconstituted an advisory committee to chalk out a plan for studying the mythical Sarasvati river for the next two years, after the earlier panel’s term ended in 2019.

        About:

        • The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) on March 10 issued a notification for “reconstitution of the Advisory Committee for the Multidisciplinary Study of the River Sarasvati”.
        • The ASI had first set up the committee on December 28, 2017 for a period of two years.
        • The committee would continue to be chaired by the Culture Minister.
        • It would include officials from the Culture, Tourism, Water Resources, Environment and Forest, Housing and Urban Affairs Ministries; representatives of the Indian Space Research Organisation; officials from the governments of Gujarat, Haryana and Rajasthan; and an ASI official.
        • The committee would review the work done by the previous panel and then formulate a plan. The committee would advise the Government Departments conducting research.

         

        NewSpace India Limited

        The NewSpace India Limited, a subsidiary company under the Department of Space will own and operate capital intensive space assets of ISRO as part of the space reforms process initiated in June last year.

        About:

        • NewSpace India Limited is in advance stage of discussion with the Department of Space to take ownership of two new communication satellites for commercial purpose.
        • The transponders on these satellites will be leased to the private companies with DTH and Broadband services.

        Key facts

        • NewSpace India Limited (NSIL) is a Public Sector Enterprise (PSE) of Government of India and commercial arm of Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).
        • It was established in 2019 under the administrative control of Department of Space (DoS) and the Company Act 2013. The main objective of NSIL is to scale up industry participation in Indian space programmes.
        • Headquarters: Bengaluru.

         

         

        COMOROS

        Indian Navy Ship Jalashwa arrived at port of Anjouan in Comoros with one thousand metric tonnes of rice. This highlights the exemplary ties between India and Comoros within the framework of PM Modi’s vision of SAGAR ( Security and Growth for all in the Indian Ocean Region).

        About:

        • The Comoros is an island country in the Indian Ocean.
        • The Comoros is formed by Ngazidja (Grande Comore), Mwali (Mohéli) and Ndzuani (Anjouan), three major islands in the Comoros Archipelago, as well as many minor islets.
        • The archipelago is situated in the Indian Ocean, in the Mozambique Channel, between the African coast (nearest to Mozambique and Tanzania) and Madagascar, with no land borders.
        • Its capital and largest city is Moroni.
        • As a member of the Arab League, it is the only country in the Arab world which is entirely in the Southern Hemisphere.
        • It is also a member state of the African Union, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, and the Indian Ocean Commission.

         

        ALL INDIA TOURIST VEHICLES AUTHORIZATION AND PERMIT RULES, 2021

        The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways has announced a new scheme, under which any tourist vehicle operator may apply for an “All India Tourist Authorization/Permit” through online mode.

        About:

        • It will be issued, after relevant documents are submitted and fees deposited, within 30 days of submission of such applications.
        • The new set of rules, to be known as, “All India Tourist Vehicles Authorization and Permit Rules, 2021” will be applicable from 01 April 2021.
        • The new rules for permits are expected to go a long way in promoting tourism across the States in our country, while simultaneously, growing the revenue of state Governments.
        • The rules come even as the Ministry is in the pursuit of providing seamless movement to tourist passenger vehicles, after the success of goods carriage vehicles under National Permit Regime.

         

        LACHIT BORPHUKAN

        Opposition parties in poll-bound Assam slammed Prime Minister Narendra Modi for referring to 17th century Ahom general Lachit Borphukan as a freedom fighter

        About:

        • Lachit Borphukan (1622 – 1672) was a commander and Borphukan (Phu-Kon-Lung) in the Ahom kingdom, located in present-day Assam.
        • He is known for his leadership in the 1671 Battle of Saraighat that thwarted a drawn-out attempt by Mughal forces under the command of Ramsingh I to take over Ahom kingdom.
        • On 24 November each year Lachit Divas (Lachit Day) is celebrated state-wide in Assam to commemorate the heroism of Lachit Borphukan and the victory of the Assamese army at the Battle of Saraighat.
        • The best passing out cadet of National Defence Academy is conferred the Lachit Borphukan gold medal every year from 1999.

        Criticism by opposition parties of Modi:

        • He died in April 1672, almost two centuries before the freedom movement began.
        • Assam was a sovereign region for more than 600 years from 1228-1826.

         

        OTPRMS CERTIFICATES

        Union Education Minister announced that in order to ensure hassle free access to verified Online Teacher Pupil Registration Management System (OTPRMS) Certificates, the Ministry of Education has decided to link the certificates with DigiLocker.

        About:

        • The issued certificates will automatically be transferred to DigiLocker and the same may be traced at the website of National Council for Teacher Education (NCTE).
        • The registration fee of Rs. 200/-, payable for obtaining OTPRMS Certificates, issued by NCTE has been waived off. This will enable all stakeholders across India to be digitally empowered facilitating ease of doing business.

        OVER 60% OBC, SC POSTS VACANT IN IIMS

        More than half of the faculty positions reserved for the OBCs in Central institutions of higher education are vacant while about 40% of those reserved for the Scheduled Castes and Tribes also remain unfilled, Education Minister told the Lok Sabha.

        About:

        • The situation is particularly acute in the elite Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs), where more than 60% of SC and OBC reserved positions are vacant, while almost 80% of positions reserved for the STs have not been filled.
        • This means that out of 24 positions reserved for the STs, only five have been filled.
        • For the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), data has only been provided for non-faculty positions.
        • Both the IITs and the IIMs have been lobbying for exemption from such faculty quota requirements.
        • Within the Central Universities, vacancies were higher at the level of professors. Less than 1% of the 1,062 professors in Central universities are from the ST communities.
        • Despite the high levels of vacancies, Education Minister claimed that, “After implementation of ‘The Central Educational Institutions (Reservation in Teachers’ Cadre) Act, 2019’, the OBC reservation has been implemented at all levels.”

        GOVERNMENT OF NATIONAL CAPITAL TERRITORY OF DELHI (AMENDMENT) BILL, 2021

        The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) moved a Bill in the Lok Sabha in which it proposed that the “government” in the National Capital Territory of Delhi meant the Lieutenant-Governor of Delhi.

        About:

        • The Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Bill, 2021 proposes to amend Sections 21, 24, 33 and 44 of the 1991 Act.
        • Section 44 of the 1991 Act says that all executive actions of the L-G, whether taken on the advice of his Ministers or otherwise, shall be expressed to be taken in the name of the L-G.
        • The Bill gives discretionary powers to the L-G even in matters where the Legislative Assembly of Delhi is empowered to make laws.
        • The proposed legislation also seeks to ensure that the L-G is “necessarily granted an opportunity” to give her or his opinion before any decision taken by the Council of Ministers (or the Delhi Cabinet) is implemented.

        Do you know?

        • Delhi is a Union Territory with a legislature and it came into being in 1991 under Article 239AA of the Constitution inserted by the Constitution (Sixty-ninth Amendment) Act, 1991.
        • As per the existing Act, the Legislative Assembly has the power to make laws in all matters except public order, police and land.

        GREAT INDIAN BUSTARD

        The Supreme Court intervened on behalf of the critically endangered Great Indian Bustards over the birds falling dead after colliding with power lines running through their dwindling natural habitats in Gujarat and Rajasthan.

        About:

        • Scientific Name: Ardeotis nigriceps.
        • Physical description: Black crown on the forehead contrasting with the pale neck and head. The body is brownish and the wings are marked with black, brown and grey.
        • Diet: They feed on grass seeds, insects like grasshoppers and beetles, and sometimes even small rodents and reptiles.
        • Distribution:
          • India, effectively the only home of the bustards, now harbours less than 150 individuals in five States.
          • Today, its population is confined mostly to Rajasthan and Gujarat. Small population also occur in Maharashtra, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.
          • It is the State bird of Rajasthan.
        • Habitat:
          • Bustards generally favour flat open landscapes with minimal visual obstruction and disturbance, therefore adapt well in grasslands.
          • They avoid grasses taller than themselves and dense scrub like thickets.
        • Conservation status:
          • Listed in Schedule I of the Indian Wildlife (Protection)Act, 1972,
          • Listed in Appendix I of CITES,
          • Listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List.

        Recent development:

        • A Bench led by Chief Justice of India Sharad A. Bobde will examine on a priority basis whether overhead power cables can be replaced with underground ones to save one of the heaviest flying birds on the planet.
        • The court found further that an alternative mechanism — to install flight bird divertors — to guide the birds away from the power lines would be expensive.

        NOTA

        The Supreme Court asked the Centre and the Election Commission of India to respond to a plea that fresh elections should be conducted in constituencies where the highest number of votes polled are NOTA (None Of The Above).

        About:

        • The petition said candidates ‘rejected’ by voters should not be fielded again in the fresh polls.
        • Chief Justice of India Sharad A. Bobde expressed doubts initially about the feasibility of the petition to arm the electorate with the “right to reject” and nudge political parties to present voters with a better choice of candidates to pick from.
        • Chief Justice Bobde said if voters kept rejecting candidates, Parliament/Assembly seats would continue to remain vacant, affecting legislative functioning.
        • But the petition argued that “if voters are given the power to reject, political parties will take care to field worthy candidates in the first place.”

        None of the Above (NOTA)?

        • Supreme Court, in the PUCL v Union of India (2013) directed the ECI to introduce NOTA in direct elections to allow voters to register their protest if none of the candidates is acceptable to them.
        • NOTA has only symbolic value in a direct election. Regardless of NOTA numbers, candidate polling most votes is elected.
        • However, it is a step towards encouraging political parties to field candidates with integrity.

        ARMS IMPORTS

        Arms imports decreased by 33% between 2011–15 and 2016–20 while India continues to remain the second largest arms importer after Saudi Arabia, according to a report from Swedish think tank Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).

        India arms imports

        • The overall drop in arms imports between 2011–15 and 2016–20 was due to complex and lengthy procurement processes, combined with attempts to reduce its dependence on Russian arms by diversifying its network of arms suppliers.
        • Russia was the largest arms supplier in both years. However, Russia’s deliveries dropped by 53% between the two periods and its share of Indian arms imports fell from 70 to 49%.
        • France and Israel were the second and third largest arms suppliers in 2016–20. India’s arms imports from France increased by 709% while those from Israel rose by 82%.
        • The U.S. was the fourth largest supplier in 2016–20.
        • Combat aircraft and associated missiles made up more than 50% of arms imports.

        Pakistan imports?

        • Arms imports by Pakistan between 2011–15 and 2016–20 decreased by 23%.
        • China accounted for 61% of its imports in 2011–15 and for 74% in 2016–20.

        PROJECT RE-HAB

        A pilot project launched in Kodagu, Karnataka entails installing bee boxes along the periphery of the forest and the villages with the belief that the elephants will not venture anywhere close to the bees and thus avoid transgressing into human landscape. This idea stems from the elephants’ proven fear of the bees.

        About:

        • An initiative of the Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC), Project RE-HAB (Reducing Elephant-Human Attacks using Bees) intends to create “bee fences” to thwart elephant attacks in human habitations using honeybees.
        • The pilot project was launched at four locations around Chelur village in Kodagu district by KVIC. These spots are located on the periphery of the Nagarahole National Park and Tiger Reserve, known conflict zone.
        • Project RE-HAB is a sub-mission of the KVIC’s National Honey Mission.
        • Between 2015 and 2020, nearly 2,500 people have lost their lives in elephant attacks across India, of which 170 human fatalities have been reported in Karnataka alone, says the KVIC.

        NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF FOOD TECHNOLOGY ENTREPRENEURSHIP AND MANAGEMENT BILL, 2019

        The Rajya Sabha passed the National Institutes of Food Technology Entrepreneurship and Management Bill, 2019.

        About:

        • The Bill declares certain institutes of food technology, entrepreneurship, and management as institutions of national importance.
        • These institutes are the
          • National Institute of Food Technology Entrepreneurship and Management Kundli, in Haryana
          • Indian Institute of Food Processing Technology, Thanjavur in Tamil Nadu.
        • The Bill declares these institutes as National Institutes of Food Technology, Entrepreneurship and Management.

        BARALACHA

        For the first time ever, the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) has started work on reopening the crucial Baralacha Pass in Himachal Pradesh much before schedule to restore connectivity to Leh in Ladakh.

        About:

        • Bara-lacha la also known as Bara-lacha Pass is a high mountain pass in Zanskar range, connecting Lahaul district in Himachal Pradesh to Leh district in Ladakh, situated along the Leh–Manali Highway.
        • The pass also acts as a water-divide between the Bhaga river and the Yunam river.
        • The Bhaga river, a tributary of the Chenab river, originates from Surya taal lake, which is situated a few of kilometers from the pass towards Manali.

        BHAONA

        The Congress in Assam has tweaked Bhaona for a political statement against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act and National Register of Citizens.

        About:

        • Bhaona is a traditional form of entertainment, with religious messages, prevalent is Assam.
        • It is a creation of Sankardeva, written in the early sixteenth century.
        • The plays of bhaona are popularly known as Ankiya Nats and their staging is known as bhaona.
        • The bhaonas are written in the Assamese and Brajavali languages.

        KUNHIRAMAN NAIR

        Guru Chemancheri Kunhiraman Nair, a recipient of Padma Shri, died at the age of 104.

        About:

        • Chemancheri Kunhiraman Nair, also known as Guru Chemancheri (1916 – 2021) was a noted Indian Kathakali actor. Kathakali is a major form of classical Indian dance from Kerala.
        • He also played a significant role in making Bharatanatyam popular in north Kerala.
        • He established an institution named Bharateeya Natya Kalalayam at Kannur in 1945. Later, he established another school, Cheliya Kathakali Vidyalayam, in 1983, in Cheliya.

        Awards and honors

        • 1999 Kerala Sangeeta Nataka Akademi Fellowship of the Academy
        • 2017 Padma Shri awarded by the Government of India
        • Sangeet Natak Academi Tagore Award for contributions to Kathakali

        AIR POLLUTION

        A report on Global air pollution was released from IQ Air, a Swiss air quality technology company specialising in protection against airborne pollutants, and developing air quality monitoring and air cleaning products.

        Key findings:

        • Delhi remained the most polluted capital city in the world but India, on the whole, had improved its average annual PM2.5 (particulate matter) levels in 2020 than in 2019,
        • India is the third most polluted country in 2020, unlike in 2019, when its air was the fifth most noxious.
        • Bangladesh and Pakistan were the countries in 2020 with worse average PM2.5 levels than India.
        • China ranked 11th in the latest report, a deterioration from the 14th in the previous edition of the report.
        • When ranked by cities, Hotan in China was the most polluted, with an average concentration of 110.2 μg/m³, followed by Ghaziabad in Uttar Pradesh at 106. Of the 15 most polluted cities, 13 were in India.
        • In the 2020 report, 106 countries were evaluated. The pollution levels are weighted averages, meaning that the population of a country influences the pollution values reported.
        • In 2020, 84% of all monitored countries observed air quality improvements.
        • However, of the 106 monitored countries, only 24 met the World Health Organization annual guidelines for PM 2.5.

         

        RULE CURVE

        The Supreme Court said the Tamil Nadu Chief Secretary will be “personally responsible” and “appropriate action” will be taken on failure to give information on the ‘rule curve’ for the Mullaperiyar dam to the Supreme Court-appointed Supervisory Committee.

        About:

        • The ‘rule curve’ in a dam decides the fluctuating storage levels in a reservoir.
        • The gate opening schedule of a dam is based on the ‘rule curve’.
        • It is part of the “core safety” mechanism in a dam.

        Mullaperiyar Dam?

        • Mullaperiyar Dam is a masonry gravity dam built at the confluence of Mullayar and Periyar rivers.
        • The dam is located in Kerala but is operated and maintained by the neighbouring state of Tamil Nadu.
        • It was constructed between 1887 and 1895 by John Pennycuick and also reached in an agreement to divert water eastwards to the Madras Presidency area (present-day Tamil Nadu).

         

        WORLD ENERGY TRANSITIONS OUTLOOK: 1.5°C PATHWAY

        The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) released the World Energy Transitions Outlook report.

        Key highlights of the report:

        • Previewed at the virtual Berlin Energy Transition Dialogue, which began on March 16, 2021, the report proposes energy transition solutions for the narrow pathway available to contain the rise of temperature to 1.5 degree Celsius.
        • The COVID-19 crisis offers an unexpected opportunity for countries to decouple their economies from fossil fuels and accelerate the shift to renewable energy sources,
        • It estimated that by 2050, 90% of total electricity needs would be supplied by renewables, followed by 6% from natural gas and the remaining from nuclear.
        • The agency has identified 30 innovations for the integration of wind and solar PV in power systems.

        Important Info :

        • The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) is an intergovernmental organisation mandated to facilitate cooperation and promote the adoption and sustainable use of renewable energy.
        • It was founded in 2009 and its statute entered into force in 2010.
        • The agency is headquartered in Masdar City, Abu Dhabi.
        • IRENA is an official United Nations observer.

         

        DEVELOPMENT FINANCE INSTITUTION (DFI)

        The Union Cabinet has cleared a Bill to set up a government-owned development finance institution (DFI) with initial paid-up capital of Rs 20,000 crore.

        About:

        • By setting it up, Government can leverage around Rs 3 trillion from the markets in a few years to provide long-term funds to infrastructure projects as well as for development needs of the country.
        • Besides, the government will give Rs 5,000 crore as grant to the institution. The grant has been provided as tax-saving bonds.
        • The amount will provide for the hedging cost if the DFI borrows from multilateral or bilateral institutions and it will subsidise the guarantee fee.
        • The DFI will be fully government-owned initially and the promoter’s stake will be brought down to 26 per cent in the next few years. At all times, the government will continue to hold 26 per cent in the entity.
        • The government will provide a 10-year tax exemption to funds invested in the DFI to attract long-term players such as insurance and pension funds.

         

        CENSUS

        The provisional data for the latest Census and National Population Register (NPR) will be available before the Lok Sabha election in 2024, according to information provided by the Union Home Ministry to a parliamentary committee.

        About:

        • The previous Census was conducted in 2011 and the NPR, which has a database of 119 crore residents, was last updated in 2015.
        • The first phase of Census House-listing and Housing Census that was to be conducted along with the NPR from April 1, 2020, was indefinitely postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
        • Provisional Census results will be released in the financial year 2023-24 and the primary Census abstracts (PCA) will provide village-level data on important indicators.
        • A mobile application has been developed for collecting the Census details and NPR and residents can also self-enumerate. The mobile app through which Census will be conducted will be available in 16 languages.

        Aadhaar

        • NPR database had been created by collecting family-wise data and it can be strengthened by linking Aadhaar to each member.
        • “Consolidated details of a family” are not available through Aadhaar and based on it “a family structure” cannot be created without visiting each household and collecting information such as relationship among family members.

         

        MEDICAL TERMINATION OF PREGNANCY (AMENDMENT) BILL, 2020

        The Rajya Sabha passed the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill, 2020 that increases the time period within which an abortion may be carried out. The Bill was passed in March last year in the Lok Sabha.

        About:

        • Currently, abortion requires the opinion of one doctor if it is done within 12 weeks of conception, and two doctors if it is done between 12 and 20 weeks.
        • The Bill allows abortion to be done on the advice of one doctor up to 20 weeks, and two doctors in the case of certain categories of women, between 20 and 24 weeks.
        • For a pregnancy to be terminated after 24 weeks in case of substantial foetal abnormalities, the opinion of the State-level medical board is essential.
        • Opposition MPs said the Bill still did not give women the freedom to decide, since they would need a nod from a medical board in the case of pregnancies beyond 24 weeks.
        • The original Bill was framed in 1971.

         

        ORUNUDOI SCHEME

        The Orunudoi scheme, with women as its primary target group, is perhaps the most popular one announced by BJP ahead of the Assam Assembly elections.

        About:

        • In December 2020, when the scheme was launched, Assam Chief Minister described it as the “largest DBT scheme in the history of Assam which will empower women and serve the needy”.
        • Through Orunodoi — announced in the 2020-21 Budget — a monthly assistance of Rs 830 is transferred to women members of marginalised families of Assam.
        • On account of being a Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) scheme, the money is credited directly to the bank account of the woman head of a family because they are “primary caretakers of the household”.

        Who is eligible?

        • The applicant, a woman, has to be a permanent resident of Assam, whose composite household income should be less than Rs 2 lakh per annum.
        • Families without any women members, MPs, MLAs (former and current), members of Panchayati Raj institutions and urban local bodies, government officials and employees of cooperative societies are excluded from the scheme.
        • Families owning four-wheelers, mechanised boats, tractors or refrigerators, ACs and washing machines, or more than 15 bighas of agricultural land, are not eligible either.

         

        THE JHARKHAND STATE EMPLOYMENT OF LOCAL CANDIDATES BILL, 2021

        The Jharkhand government announced 75% reservation in private sector jobs with a salary of up to Rs 30,000 for locals.

        About:

        • The bill will treat shops, establishments, mines, enterprises, industries, companies, societies, trusts, Limited Liability Partnership firms and any person employing ten or more persons as the private sector and an entity.
        • Every employer needs to register employees on a designated portal who are receiving gross monthly salary or wages not more than Rs 30, 000 — or as notified by the government from time to time — within three months of this bill (after turning into an Act) coming into force.
        • No local candidate will be eligible to avail 75 per cent benefit without registering herself in the designated portal.
        • The bill defines a local candidate as a person who belongs to Jharkhand and is registered on the designated portal.
        • the employer may claim exemption where an adequate number of local candidates of the desired skill qualification or proficiency are not available.

         

        RCE OF COMPREHENSIVE SCHEME FOR STRENGTHENING OF TRANSMISSION & DISTRIBUTION IN ARUNACHAL PRADESH AND SIKKIM

        The Union Cabinet has approved the Revised Cost Estimate (RCE) of Comprehensive Scheme for Strengthening of Transmission & Distribution in Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim at an estimated cost of Rs. 9129 crore.

        About:

        • The scheme is being implemented through POWERGRID, a Public Sector Undertaking (PSU) under Ministry of Power in association with Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh.
        • The scheme was initially approved in December, 2014 as a Central Sector Plan Scheme of Ministry of Power and the entire cost of the scheme will be borne by the Government of India through the Plan Scheme of Ministry of Power.
        • It is targeted to be commissioned in phased manner by December 2021. After commissioning, the created transmission and distribution system will be owned and maintained by the respective State Utilities.
        • It is a major step towards economic development of the States of Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim through strengthening of Intra – State Transmission and Distribution systems.

         

        HANDICRAFTS AND HANDLOOMS EXPORT CORPORATION OF INDIA LIMITED (HHEC)

        The Union Cabinet has approved the closure of Handicrafts and Handlooms Export Corporation of India Limited (HHEC), a Government of India undertaking under the administrative control of the Ministry of Textiles.

        About:

        • The Corporation has been continuously incurring losses since financial year 2015-16 and not earning sufficient income to meet its running expenses.
        • There is little scope for its revival, necessitating closure of the Company.
        • The approval will benefit the Government exchequer in reducing recurring expenditure on salary/wages of sick CPSE which is not in operation and earning no income.
        • All the permanent employees and Management Trainees serving in the Corporation will be given an opportunity to avail the benefit of a Voluntary Retirement Scheme (VRS) as per norms laid down by the Department of Public Enterprises.

        STOP TB PARTNERSHIP BOARD

        Dr. Harsh Vardhan, Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare has been appointed Chairman of the Stop TB Partnership Board.

        About:

        • The Union Health Minister will serve a three year term, commencing July 2021, as the Chair of the Board of Stop TB Partnership.
        • Established in the year 2000, the ‘Stop TB Partnership’ is mandated to eliminate Tuberculosis as a public health problem.
        • The organization was conceived following the meeting of the First Session of the Ad Hoc Committee on the Tuberculosis Epidemic held in London in March 1998.
        • In its inaugural year itself, the Stop TB Partnership through the Amsterdam Declaration gave a call for collaborative action from ministerial delegations from 20 countries that bear the highest burden of TB.
        • It has 1500 partner organizations which include international, non-governmental and governmental organizations and patient groups.
        • The Secretariat is based at Geneva, Switzerland.

        Important Info :

        • Harsh Vardhan addressing the 33rd Board Meeting of Stop TB, November, 2020, India has committed to eliminating TB in the country by 2025, five years ahead of the global deadline of 2030.

         

        AMICI CURIAE

        Solicitor General Tushar Mehta made a strong appeal to the Supreme Court to frame guidelines to rein in lawyers appointed as the court’s amici curiae in various cases, especially sensitive ones.

        About:

        • An amicus curiae (literally, “friend of the court”; plural: amici curiae) is someone who is not a party to a case who assists a court by offering information, expertise, or insight that has a bearing on the issues in the case.
        • The decision on whether to consider an amicus brief lies within the discretion of the court.
        • The amicus curiae figure originates in Roman law. Starting in the 9th century, it was incorporated into English law, and it was later extended to most common law systems.

         

        APPROPRIATION BILL

        The Lok Sabha cleared the Appropriation Bill 2021-22, allowing the Central government to draw funds from the Consolidated Fund of India for its operational requirements and implementation of various programmes.

        About

        • Under Article 114(3) of the Constitution, no amount can be withdrawn from the Consolidated Fund without the enactment of such a law by Parliament.
        • After the Demands for Grants are voted by the Lok Sabha, Parliament’s approval to the withdrawal from the Consolidated Fund of the amounts so voted and of the amount required to meet the expenditure charged on the Consolidated Fund is sought through the Appropriation Bill.

        Guillotine

        • The Bill was passed after Speaker Om Birla put it through guillotine, a legislative mechanism to approve the fast-tracking of the passage of outstanding demands for grants without discussion.
        • While guillotine literally is a large, weighted blade used for executing a condemned person, in legislative parlance, to ”guillotine” means to bunch together and fast-track the passage of financial business.
        • It is a fairly common procedural exercise in Lok Sabha during the Budget Session.

        Important Info :

        Finance Bill

        • The Lok Sabha will now discuss the Finance Bill, which essentially contains the government’s tax proposals. Once the Finance Bill is passed, the budget exercise is complete.
        • Both appropriation and finance bills are classified as money bills which do not require the explicit consent of the Rajya Sabha. The upper house only discusses them and returns the bills.
        • After passing the Finance Bill, it enters the statute as the Finance Act. Thus, the final Budget gets approved.

         

        DE-NOTIFIED TRIBES (DNT)

        Minister of for Social Justice and Empowerment informed Rajya Sabha about initiatives for development of Nomadic Tribes.

        About:

        • To promote the socio-economic development of De-notified, Nomadic and Semi-Nomadic Communities, the Development and Welfare Board for De-notified, Nomadic and Semi-Nomadic Communities (DWBDNCs) has been constituted on 21.02.2019 for a period of three years extendable up to 5 years.
        • In addition, the following schemes are being implemented by the Central Government through State Government/UT Administrations for the DNTs:-
          • Ambedkar Pre-Matric and Post-Matric Scholarship for DNT Boys and Girls.
          • Nanaji Deshmukh Scheme of Construction of Hostels for DNT Boys and Girls.
        • As per the Cabinet decision, a Committee under the Chairmanship of Vice Chairman NITI Aayog is in place, which has taken up the task of identification of DNT communities which are yet to be formally classified.
        • NITI Aayog has assigned the task of ethnographic survey of 62 tribes to the Anthropological Survey of India (AnSI) to conduct the studies of these communities in different parts of the country.

         

        ILO REPORT ON INDIAN WORKERS

        The ILO report titled ‘Global Wage Report 2020-21: Wages and minimum wages in the time of COVID-19’ was recently released.

        About:

        • The Report inter-alia, comments on various issues including on Indian workers having low average wages, longer hours as well as that the workers in Asia and the Pacific enjoyed the highest real wage growth among all regions over the period 2006–19.
        • Further, while comparing average wage, the report has taken into account the National Floor Level Minimum Wage which is Rs.176/- per day. However, actual wages are far higher.
        • If the median of the minimum wages in different states is drawn, it would be Rs.269/- per day in the country.

        Important Info :

        Code on Wages, 2019

        • The Code on Wages, 2019 which has been notified on 8th August, 2019 universalises and creates a statutory right of minimum wages for all workers whether in organized or unorganised sector.
        • A new concept of statutory floor wage has also been introduced in the Code on Wages.
        • The Code also provides that the minimum wages are to be ordinarily reviewed and revised by the appropriate Governments in intervals not exceeding five years.

         

        INTER-STATE MIGRANT WORKERS

        Minister for Labour & Employment informed Rajya Sabha about initiatives for Safety of Inter-State Migrant Workers.

        About:

        • To safeguard the interest of the migrant workers, the Central Government had enacted the Inter-state Migrant Workmen (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1979.
          • This Act has now been subsumed in the Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code, 2020 and the Code has been notified on 29.09.2020.
          • This Code, provides for decent working conditions, minimum wages, grievances redressal mechanisms, protection from abuse and exploitation, enhancement of the skills and social security to all category of workers including Migrant workers.
        • The Ministry of Labour and employment proposes to develop National Database of Unorganised Workers (NDUW), which will be a comprehensive data base of the Unorganised Workers including the Building and other Construction Workers and Migrant workers, seeded with Aadhaar.
        • Schemes/programme implemented by Government for welfare of migrant labourers includes: Garib Kalyan Rojgar Abhiyan, Pradhan Mantri SVANIDHI Scheme, Aatm Nirbhar Bharat, Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana, One Nation One Ration Card, financial assistance to Building and Other Construction workers etc.
        • Labour Bureau, an attached office of the Ministry of Labour& Employment, has been entrusted with the task of conducting the All India Survey on Migrant Workers.
        • An Expert Group has been constituted by the Government of India on 9th September, 2020 to examine and finalize the schedules, sampling design and other technical details of the aforesaid survey being conducted by the Labour Bureau.

         

        TELEMEDICINE

        Govt. of India’s National Telemedicine Service – eSanjeevani has crossed another milestone by completing 3 million (30 lakh) consultations.

        About:

        • Currently, the National Telemedicine Service is operational in 31 States/Union Territories and daily over 35,000 patients across the country are using this innovative digital medium – eSanjeevani, to seek health services.
        • The National Telemedicine Service, set up by the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare comprises of two variants of eSanjeevani namely –
          • doctor to doctor (eSanjeevani AB-HWC) telemedicine platform that is based on hub and spoke model and
          • patient to doctor telemedicine platform (eSanjeevani OPD) which provides outpatient services to the citizens in the confines of their homes.
        • eSanjeevani AB-HWC is being implemented at Health & Wellness Centres under Ayushman Bharat Scheme, and by December 2022 it will be made operational at 1,55,000 Health & Wellness Centres across India.
        • It was rolled out in November 2019 and Andhra Pradesh was the first State to roll out eSanjeevani AB-HWC services.
        • eSanjeevani OPD was rolled out on 13th of April 2020 during the first lockdown in the country when all the OPDs were closed. So far, over 21,00,000 patients have been served through eSanjeevani OPD.

         

        KASHMIRI PANDITS

        Ministry for Home Affairs informed Rajya Sabha about the Return of Kashmiri Pandits to Kashmir Valley.

        About:

        • As per the report of Relief Office setup in 1990 by the Government of Jammu and Kashmir, 44,167 Kashmiri Migrant families are registered who had to move from the valley since 1990 due to security concerns. Out of these, the count of registered Hindu Migrant families is 39,782.
        • The Government has devised policies for Return and Rehabilitation of Kashmiri Migrants, under the Prime Minister’s Packages in 2008 and 2015 for Return and Rehabilitation of Kashmiri Migrants to Kashmir Valley.
        • Various components of these policies are: Housing; Cash assistance; Employment and Construction of Transit Accommodation.
        • A total of nearly 3800 migrant candidates have returned to Kashmir in the last few years to take up the PM package jobs.
        • Post abrogation of Article 370, as many as 520 migrant candidates have returned to Kashmir for taking up the jobs that have been provided to them under the rehabilitation package.

         

        FIRST VIRTUAL TRADE FAIR (VTF) BY APEDA

        First Virtual Trade Fair (VTF) organised by APEDA to boost exports potential of India’s agricultural and processed food products during COVID19 pandemic drew huge response from participants, exporters and buyers from countries.

        About:

        • The VTF was organised during March 10-12, 2021.
        • The fair with a theme ‘India Rice and Agro Commodity’, focussed on showcasing the exports potential of various agricultural commodities.
        • Because of COVID19 related restrictions on physical travel and trade, APEDA has initiated the concept of VTF for sustaining India’s agricultural and processed food products exports and also exploring new markets for expanding export footprints.

        Important Info :

        Do you know?

        • Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA) is an Apex-Export Trade Promotion Active government body set up by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry.
        • It was formed in 1986 under the Agriculture and Processed Food products Export Development Authority Act, 1985.

        BALANCE SHEETS OF POLITICAL PARTIES

        According to a report released by the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), BJP tops in declared assets.

        About:

        • Over 54% of the assets declared by seven national parties for 2018-2019 belonged to the Bharatiya Janata Party, while the Congress accounted for 58% of all liabilities reported by the parties.
        • The ADR’s analysis of the balance sheets of the national parties at that time — the BJP, the Congress, the Bahujan Samaj Party, the Communist Party of India, the Communist Party of India-Marxist and the All-India Trinamool Congress — showed assets of ₹5,349.25 crore.
        • Forty-one regional parties declared assets of ₹2,023.71 crore that year. Of the national parties, the BJP declared assets of ₹2,904.18 crore or 54.29% of the total assets of the national parties.

         

        BIHAR LOKAYUKTA (AMENDMENT) BILL, 2021

        The Bihar Assembly passed the Bihar Lokayukta (Amendment) Bill, 2021 that proposes to punish people filing false cases before the anti- corruption ombudsman body to prevent any waste of time or misuse of the institution.

        Background:

        • Lokayukta carries out expeditious investigation and prosecution relating to allegations involving corruption against public servants of all grades.
        • The proposed legislation has been brought keeping in view the misuse of the Lokayukta institution in false cases.
        • It was proposed by the Lokayukta itself that there should be a provision for punishing people filing false cases before it. The Lokayukta acts of other States have the provision of punitive action against such erring persons.

        Salient features:

        • The Bill proposes that a case against a person filing a false case can be filed in the district court.
        • If the person is found guilty of it or for giving false testimony or filed wrong affidavit, he/she will be sentenced to a jail term of upto three years besides a provision for fine.

        Important Info :

        Criticism:

        • It will dissuade people from approaching the Lokayukta and will work against whistle blowers who expose corruption.

         

        JOHN MAGUFULI

        Tanzania was in mourning over the sudden death of President John Magufuli, an authoritarian leader and COVID-19 sceptic.

        About:

        • John Pombe Joseph Magufuli (1959 – 2021) was a Tanzanian politician who served as the fifth President of Tanzania from 2015 until his death in 2021.
        • Magufuli was known for promoting misinformation about COVID-19 during his leadership over the pandemic in Tanzania.
        • His death on 17 March 2021 was attributed to a long-standing heart issue by the government.

        Important Info :

        Tanzania?

        • Tanzania is a country in East Africa within the African Great Lakes region.
        • It borders Uganda to the north; Kenya to the northeast; Comoro Islands and the Indian Ocean to the east; Mozambique and Malawi to the south; Zambia to the southwest; and Rwanda, Burundi, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the west.
        • Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain, is located in Tanzania.
        • Dodoma is the capital of the country.

         

        PRITZKER ARCHITECTURE PRIZE

        Social housing architects Anne Lacaton and Jean-Philippe Vassal, founders of French studio Lacaton & Vassal, have been named the 2021 winners of the Pritzker Architecture Prize.

        About:

        • French architects Lacaton and Vassal were named the winners of the award for their body of work that “reflects architecture’s democratic spirit” and their “commitment to a restorative architecture”.
        • Their recognition marks the first time a French female architect has won the prize, with Lacaton becoming the sixth woman to receive the award since it was established in 1979.

        Important Info :

        Pritzker Architecture Prize:

        • The Pritzker Architecture Prize is awarded annually to honor a living architect
        • Founded in 1979 by Jay A. Pritzker and his wife Cindy, the award is funded by the Pritzker family and sponsored by the Hyatt Foundation.
        • It is considered to be one of the world’s premier architecture prizes, and is often referred to as the Nobel Prize of architecture.

         

        TEACHERS CONTESTING ELECTIONS

        The Supreme Court stayed a Kerala High Court decision barring aided school teachers and non-teaching staff from contesting Assembly elections or engaging in political activities.

        About:

        • It issued notice to the Kerala government while staying the High Court verdict in February.
        • The High Court had declared Section 2 (IV) of the Legislative Assembly (Removal of Disqualifications) Act of 1951, which allowed aided school teachers to become legislators, as unconstitutional.
        • Petitioners in the High Court had challenged the 1951 law, saying their participation in politics would affect the quality of education.
        • They had argued in the HC that since Kerala Government Servants Conduct Rules prohibits government school teachers from taking part in political activities, the rule should extend to school teachers also.
        • The government had however contended in the High Court that as per a government order issued in 1967, the teachers of aided schools had political rights. There were no rules or Act prohibiting them from participating in political activities or contesting polls.

        TEACHER EDUCATION INSTITUTIONS (TEIs)

        Azim Premji University released the First volume on teachers & teacher education. It explore the landscape of Teacher Education Institutions (TEIs) in the country, corruption in private TEIs, the support system needed for teachers and the problem of those who are on contract.

        Key findings of report:

        • With as many as nine million teachers in around 1.5 million schools in India, the quality of education imparted to aspiring teachers is equally important.
        • Of the 17,503 TEIs in India, more than 90% are privately owned, stand-alone institutions, offering single programmes localised in certain geographies. Four States, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu, account for 54% of all TEIs in the country. Only 12 States/UTs have at least one TEI in each district.
        • Equally worrying is the level of corruption. There are many substandard, dysfunctional TEIs functioning as ‘commercial shops’.
        • TEIs deliberately neglected basic curricular requirements. Classes are neither conducted seriously nor taken seriously by students. Almost all private TEIs allowed students with shortage of attendance to appear for examinations.
        • There is increasing prevalence of contract teachers, who are recruited for short periods on inadequate salaries with little or no benefits. This had caused long-term damage to not just the teaching profession, but has also affected student learning.

         

        SUPPLEMENTARY DEMAND FOR GRANTS

        The Lok Sabha on Thursday passed the supplementary demand for grants (second batch for 2020-21).

        What happens if the government needs to spend additional money during the year?

        • During the year, if the government needs to spend any money which has not been approved by Parliament or needs to incur additional expenditure, it can introduce Supplementary Demands for Grants.
        • Typically, Supplementary Demands for Grants are passed in every Parliament session.
        • Article 115 of the constitution provides for Supplementary, additional or excess grants.
        • Note that, unlike the Demands for Grants presented with the budget, these supplementary demands have never been scrutinised by Standing Committees.

        THE INSURANCE (AMENDMENT) BILL, 2021

        The Rajya Sabha passed the Insurance Amendment Bill, 2021 which increases the maximum foreign investment allowed in an insurance company from 49% to 74%.

        About:

        • The Bill amends the Insurance Act, 1938 to increase the maximum foreign investment allowed in an Indian insurance company.
        • The Act provides the framework for functioning of insurance businesses and regulates the relationship between an insurer, its policyholders, its shareholders, and the regulator (the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India).

        Foreign investment: 

        • The Act allows foreign investors to hold up to 49% of the capital in an Indian insurance company, which must be owned and controlled by an Indian entity.
        • The Bill increases the limit on foreign investment in an Indian insurance company from 49% to 74%, and removes restrictions on ownership and control.
        • However, such foreign investment may be subject to additional conditions as prescribed by the central government.

        Investment of assets:

        • The Act requires insurers to hold a minimum investment in assets which would be sufficient to clear their insurance claim liabilities.
        • If the insurer is incorporated or domiciled outside India, such assets must be held in India in a trust and vested with trustees who must be residents of India.
        • The Act specifies in an explanation that this will also apply to an insurer incorporated in India, in which at least: (i) 33% capital is owned by investors domiciled outside India, or (ii) 33% of the members of the governing body are domiciled outside India.
        • The Bill removes this explanation.

         

         

        ROAD TRANSPORT

        India will implement a GPS-based toll collection system and do away with all toll booths within a year, Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari informed the Lok Sabha.

        GPS-based toll collection system:

        • It means that toll collection will happen via GPS. The money will be collected based on GPS imaging of vehicles.
        • He said 93% of the vehicles were paying toll using FASTag — a system that facilitates electronic payment of fee at toll plazas seamlessly — but the remaining 7% had still not adopted it despite paying double the toll.

        Vehicle Scrapping Policy:

        • He also shared details of the vehicle scrapping policy, first announced in the Union Budget for 2021-22, according to which the automobile industry in India will see a jump in turnover to ₹10 lakh crore from ₹4.5 lakh crore.
        • The new policy provides for fitness tests after the completion of 20 years in the case of privately owned vehicles and 15 years in the case of commercial vehicles.
        • Any vehicle that fails the fitness test or does not manage renewal of its registration certificate may be declared as an End of Life Vehicle.
        • The policy will kick in for government vehicles from April 1, 2022. Mandatory fitness testing for heavy commercial vehicles will start from April 1, 2023, and for all other categories of vehicles, including personal vehicles, it will start in phases from June 1, 2024.

         

        ELECTORAL BONDS

        Chief Justice of India agreed to urgently hear a plea by NGO Association for Democratic Reforms to stay the sale of a new set of electoral bonds on April 1, before the Assembly elections in crucial States such as West Bengal and Tamil Nadu.

        Arguments by petition:

        • The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and the Election Commission had both said that the sale of electoral bonds had become an avenue for shell corporations and entities to park illicit money and even proceeds of bribes with political parties.
        • Data obtained through RTI has shown that illegal sale windows have been opened in the past to benefit certain political parties.
        • There is a serious apprehension that any further sale of electoral bonds before the upcoming State elections in West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Assam would further increase illegal and illicit funding of political parties through shell companies.
        • The scheme had “opened doors to unlimited political donations, even from foreign companies, thereby legitimising electoral corruption at a huge scale, while at the same time ensuring complete non-transparency in political funding”.

        Important Info :

        Arguments by Government:

        • The government notified the scheme on January 2, 2018.
        • It defended the scheme in court, saying it allowed anonymity to political donors to protect them from “political victimisation”.
        • The Ministry of Finance had dismissed the Election Commission’s version that the invisibility afforded to benefactors was a “retrograde step” and would wreck transparency in political funding.
        • It said the earlier system of cash donations had raised a “concern among the donors that, with their identity revealed, there would be competitive pressure from different political parties receiving donation”.

        SAAMAR CAMPAIGN

        The Jharkhand government announced the launch of SAAMAR (Strategic Action for Alleviation of Malnutrition and Anemia Reduction) campaign to tackle malnutrition in the state.

        About:

        • The campaign aims to identify anaemic women and malnourished children and converge various departments to effectively deal with the problem in a state where malnutrition has been a major problem.
        • AAMAR has been launched with a 1000 days target, under which annual surveys will be conducted to track the progress.
        • To tackle severe acute malnutrition children, every Anganwadi Centres will be engaged to identify these children and subsequently will be treated at the Malnutrition Treatment Centres.
        • In the same process the anaemic women will also be listed and will be referred to health centres in serious cases.
        • All of these will be done through measuring Mid-Upper Arm Circumference (MUAC) of women and children through MUAC tapes and Edema levels, swelling in a small area or the entire body—malnutrition is one of the reasons attributed to this disease.
        • Angawadi’s Sahayia and Sevika will take them to the nearest Health Centre where they will be checked again and then registered on the portal of State Nutrition Mission.

         

        DIATOM TEST

        The Maharashtra (ATS) relied on a forensic test known as diatom tests for leads in the alleged murder case of Mansukh Hiran.

        About:

        • Diagnosis of death by drowning is deemed as a difficult task in forensic pathology.
        • A number of tests have been developed to confirm the cause of such deaths with the diatom test emerging as one of the most important tests.
        • The test entails findings if there are diatoms in the body being tested. Diatoms are photosynthesizing algae which are found in almost every aquatic environment including fresh and marine waters, soils, in fact, almost anywhere moist.

        Important Info :

        Science behind the diatom test

        • A body recovered from a water body does not necessarily imply that the death was due to drowning.
        • If the person is alive when he enters the water, the diatoms will enter the lungs when the person inhales water while drowning. These diatoms then get carried to various parts of the body, including the brain, kidneys, lungs and bone marrow by blood circulation.
        • If a person is dead when is thrown in the water, then there is no circulation and there is no transport of diatom cells to various organs.

         

        ALUMINIUM-AIR BATTERY

        State-owned Indian Oil Corporation Ltd. has entered into a joint venture with Israel-based battery technology startup Phinergy to develop aluminium-air technology based battery systems for electric vehicles and stationary storage, as well as hydrogen storage solutions.

        About:

        • Top automakers, including Maruti Suzuki and Ashok Leyland, have already signed letters of intent with the newly formed joint venture to commercially deploy the battery solutions produced by IOC Phinergy.
        • Aluminium-air batteries are said to be a lower cost and more energy-dense alternative to lithium-ion batteries which are currently in widespread use for electric vehicles in India.
        • Aluminium-air batteries utilise oxygen in the air which reacts with an aluminium hydroxide solution to oxidise the aluminium and produce electricity.

        Benefits

        • Aluminium-air battery-based electric vehicles are expected to offer much greater range of 400 km or more per battery compared to lithium-ion batteries which currently offer a range of 150-200 kilometres per full charge.
        • The aluminium plate in an aluminium-air battery is converted into aluminium trihydroxide over time and that aluminium can be reclaimed from aluminium trihydroxide or even traded directly for industrial uses.
        • Aluminium-air based batteries are also expected to be significantly cheaper than lithium-ion batteries, thereby reducing the cost of electric vehicle.

        Important Info :

        Concerns

        • One of the key downsides of aluminium-air batteries is that they cannot be recharged like lithium-ion batteries.
        • Therefore, large scale use of aluminium-air battery based vehicles would require the wide availability of battery swapping stations.

         

        IMPACT OF COVID ON POVERTY

        India’s middle class may have shrunk by a third due to 2020’s pandemic-driven recession, while the number of poor people — earning less than 150 per day  more than doubled, according to an analysis by the Pew Research Center.

        About:

        • In comparison, Chinese incomes remained relatively unshaken, with just a 2% drop in the middle class population, it found.
        • The report uses World Bank projections of economic growth to estimate the impact of COVID-19 on Indian incomes. The lockdown triggered by the pandemic resulted in shut businesses, lost jobs and falling incomes, plunging the Indian economy into a deep recession.
        • The middle class in India is estimated to have shrunk by 3.2 crore in 2020 as a consequence of the downturn, compared with the number it may have reached absent the pandemic, defining the middle class as people with incomes of approximately ₹700-1,500 or $10-20 per day.
        • Meanwhile, the number of people who are poor in India (with incomes of $2 or less a day) is estimated to have increased by 7.5 crore because of the COVID-19 recession. This accounts for nearly 60% of the global increase in poverty
        • It also noted the record spike in MGNREGA participants as proof that the poor were struggling to find work.

         

        GĀYATRĪ MANTRA

        The Department of Science and Technology (DST) has funded a clinical trial at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Rishikesh, to determine if the chanting of the Gayatri Mantra, a religious hymn, and performing the Yoga practice of pranayama, can aid the quality of recovery as well as cure COVID-19 quicker in a subset of patients.

        About:

        • The latest study, however, will not test the effect of the intervention on severely ill patients. It will evaluate whether there are differences in the groups on the time taken to test negative, and the length of hospital stay.
        • They will also be evaluated on whether they have reduced fatigue and anxiety disorder.

        Important Info :

        Gāyatrī Mantra?

        • The Gāyatrī Mantra is also known as the Sāvitri Mantra.
        • It is a highly revered mantra from the Rig Veda, dedicated to Savitr also known as Vedmata.
        • Maharshi Vishvamitra had created the Gayatri mantra.
        • The mantra is an important part of the upanayana ceremony for young males in Hinduism, and has long been recited by dvija men as part of their daily rituals.
        • Modern Hindu reform movements spread the practice of the mantra to include women and all castes and its use is now very widespread.

         

        TIGER

        Six tigers — four adults and two sub-adults — have been unaccounted for since March 2020 in the Ranthambore tiger sanctuary, Rajasthan. However, State forest officials are not willing to label them “missing” and denied reports that they may have been poached.

        About:

        • The National Tiger Conservation Authority, a wing of the Union Environment Ministry, has constituted a committee to ascertain the disappearance of the tigers.
        • The Ranthambore Reserve is the only source of tigers in the territory with about 53 tigers constituting over 90% of the population in this block, as per the latest census made public last year.
        • India has 2,967 tigers, a third more than in 2014, according to results of a census made public on July 29 last year. Ranthambore, according to this exercise, had 55 tigers.
        • Madhya Pradesh has the highest number of tigers at 526, closely followed by Karnataka (524) and Uttarakhand (442).
        • Chhattisgarh and Mizoram saw a decline in tiger population and all other States saw an increase.

         

        GLOBAL HUNGER INDEX

        Union Minister for Agriculture questioned in the Rajya Sabha the methodology and data accuracy of the Global Hunger Index (GHI) report, which has placed India at 94th among 107 countries in 2020.

        About:

        • The Minister said the government had written to the NGO, Welthungerhilfe, which compiles the report, expressing concerns about their methodology, data accuracy and sample size.
        • India’s ranking had improved from 102 in 2019 to 94 in 2020. But still, India was ranked below countries such as Nepal, Bangladesh and Myanmar.

        NFHS-4 vs CNNS of 2017-18

        • According to the National Family Health Survey (NFHS)-4, the percentage of wasted, stunted and malnourished children in 2015-16 stood at 21, 38.4 and 35.7, respectively.
        • Compared to NFHS-4 data, the Comprehensive National Nutrition Survey (CNNS) of 2017-18 showed an improvement of 4%, 3.7% and 2.3% in wasted, stunted and malnourished children respectively.
        • The first-ever CNNS was commissioned by the government in 2016 and was conducted from 2016-18, led by the Union Health Ministry, in collaboration with the UNICEF. The findings were published in 2019.
        • CNNS includes only nutrition data, whereas NFHS encompasses overall health indicators.

         

         

        MMDR AMENDMENT BILL

        Lok Sabha passed the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2021 to streamline the renewal of the auction process for minerals and coal mining rights.

        About:

        • The amendment proposes to allow captive miners of both coal and other minerals to sell up to 50 per cent of their production after meeting the requirements of the end-use plant and on paying additional royalty to the state government.
        • Operators are currently only allowed to use coal and minerals extracted from captive mines for their own industrial use. This increased flexibility would allow miners to maximise output from captive mines as they would be able to sell output in excess of their own requirements.
        • The amendment also proposes to fix additional royalty payments to states for the extension of mining leases for central public sector enterprises.
        • The Bill also proposes to empower the central government to conduct auctions or re-auction processes for the grant of a mining lease if a state government fails to complete the auction process in a specified period, decided after consultations between the Centre and state.

         

        THE CONSTITUTION (SCHEDULED CASTES) ORDER (AMENDMENT) BILL, 2021

        The Lok Sabha passed The Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order (Amendment) Bill, 2021 that seeks to put seven castes under one nomenclature of “Devendrakula Vellalars” with some exceptions for some of the castes in certain districts of Tamil Nadu.

        About:

        • The castes include Devendrakulathan, Kadaiyan, Kalladi, Kudumban, Pallan, Pannadi and Vathiriyan.
        • The State government had earlier accepted a recommendation of a committee to reclassify the seven sub sects under the generic name ‘Devendrakula Velalar’ and forwarded it to the Centre.
        • The change in nomenclature was a long pending demand of the community and did not involve either the deletion or addition of any community in its ambit.
        • The reason why a whole new addition was not made to the Scheduled Castes list was to ensure that old caste certificates issued to these communities under the old name not be rejected.

        GREAT NICOBAR ISLAND

        More than 150 sq. km. of land is being made available for Phase I of a NITI Aayog-piloted ‘holistic’ and ‘sustainable’ vision for Great Nicobar Island, the southernmost in the Andaman and Nicobar group.

        About:

        • This amounts to nearly 18% of the 910 sq. km. island, and will cover nearly a quarter of its coastline. The overall plan envisages the use of about 244 sq. km. — a major portion being pristine forest and coastal systems.
        • Projects to be executed in Phase I include a 22 sq. km. airport complex, a transshipment port (TSP) at South Bay at an estimated cost of ₹12,000 crore, a parallel-to-the-coast mass rapid transport system and a free trade zone and warehousing complex on the south western coast.
        • In mid-2020 the Andaman and Nicobar Islands Integrated Development Corporation (ANIIDCO) was designated as the nodal agency for the process.
        • In January, 2021, the Standing Committee of the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) denotified the entire Galathea Bay Wildlife Sanctuary to allow for the port there.
        • Nicobar megapode is the globally endangered bird unique to the Nicobars.
        • Threat to Shompen community: The proposed project areas are important foraging grounds for this hunter-gatherer nomadic community.

         

        HELIUM

        India imports helium for its needs, and with the U.S. appearing set to cut off exports of helium since 2021, Indian industry stands to lose out heavily.

        About:

        • Helium is colourless, odourless, tasteless, inert and a noble gas.
        • Yet, it finds many applications, mainly in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans, in rockets and in nuclear reactors.
        • Dutch physicist Kamerlingh Onnes liquefied Helium by cooling the gas to -270 degrees Celsius.
        • India’s Rajmahal volcanic basin in Jharkhand is the store house of helium trapped for billions years. At present, India is mapping the Rajmahal basin extensively for future exploration and harnessing of helium.

        U.S. and Helium

        • From the oil drilling operation in Dexter, Kansas, in the U.S., chemists Hamilton Cady and David McFarland discovered the presence of helium in natural gas. They further went on to discover that despite its overall rarity, helium was concentrated in large quantities under the American Great Plains.
        • The U.S. became the most important exporter of helium across the world. It was soon realised that U.S. was also the biggest store house of helium.
        • The U.S., now, is planning to switch off export of helium from 2021. Qatar is a possible exporter but acute political and diplomatic wrangles have made Qatar unreliable.

         

        JAAPI, XORAI AND GAMOSA

        As the polling date draws closer, decorative jaapis (field hats), hand-woven gamosas and bell-metal xorais are making frequent appearances in Assam.

        About:

        • Jaapi: The jaapi is a conical hat made of bamboo and covered with dried tokou (a palm tree found in rainforests of Upper Assam) leaves. Today, the bulk of Assam’s jaapis are made by artisans based in a cluster of villages in Nalbari district.
        • Gamosa: The Gamosa, which literally translates to a cloth to wipe one’s body, is omnipresent in Assam, with wide-ranging uses. It can be used at home as a towel (uka gamosa) or in public functions (phulam/floral gamosa) to felicitate dignitaries or celebrities.
        • Xorai: Made of bell-metal, the xorai — essentially a tray with a stand at the bottom, with or without a cover — can be found in every Assamese household.

         

        ANANGPAL II

        The government has recently formed a committee to popularise the legacy of 11th-century Tomar king, Anangpal II.

        About:

        • Anangpal II, popularly known as Anangpal Tomar, belonged to the Tomar dynasty that ruled parts of present-day Delhi and Haryana between the 8th and 12th centuries.
        • Anangpal II is credited to have established and populated Delhi during his reign in the 11th century. Anangpal II was instrumental in populating Indraprastha and giving it its present name, Delhi. It was he who built Lal Kot fort and Anangtal Baoli.
        • Anangpal Tomar II was succeeded by his grandson Prithviraj Chauhan, who was defeated by the Ghurid forces in the Battle of Tarain (present-day Haryana) after which the Delhi Sultanate was established in 1192.

        Important Info :

        Maharaja Anangpal II Memorial Committee

        • The aim of the Committee, headed by BJP MP from UP’s Gonda, Brij Bhushan Singh, is to establish Anangpal II as the founder of Delhi.
        • Its proposals include building a statue of Anangpal II at the Delhi airport and building a museum dedicated to his legacy in Delhi.
        • There is also a proposal to make Lal Kot an ASI-protected monument.

         

        KHADI MUJIB JACKETS

        Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC) has supplied 100 custom-designed “Mujib Jackets” that will be the attire of dignitaries during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s two-day visit to Bangladesh on March 26 & 27.

        About:

        • “Mujib Jacket” is famed as the signature garment worn by Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, who is called Bangladesh’s Father of the Nation.
        • As Bangladesh celebrates “Mujib Borsho”, the birth centenary of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, Indira Gandhi Cultural Centre of the Indian High Commission in Dhaka, had placed an order for 100 Mujib Jackets, ahead of the PM’s visit.
        • The specially designed Mujib Jackets have been made of high quality handcrafted Poly Khadi fabric. These jackets will be carried in specially designed plastic-mixed handmade paper carry bags made at KVIC’s Kumarappa National Handmade Paper Institute (KNHPI) in Jaipur.

         

        MEDICINE PRICE CONTROL

        National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) has fixed the price of 81 medicines, including off-patent anti-diabetic drugs, helping to pass on the benefits of patent expiry to patients.

        About:

        • NPPA has fixed the retail price of ‘insulin human injection, 200IU/ml’ and ‘70% isophane insulin human suspension + 30% insulin human injection 200IU/ml’ produced by Wockhardt Ltd at ₹106.65 per ml each (excluding GST) and Prasugrel Hydrochloride 10 mg + Aspirin 75 mg capsule by Torrent Pharmaceuticals Ltd at ₹20.16 per capsule (excluding GST).
        • The decision was taken because the five-year price exemption given to these medicines on account of indigenous R&D got over recently.
        • Revision in existing ceiling prices of scheduled formulations based on the Wholesale Price Index (WPI) was also approved by the Authority. The revised prices will be effective from April, 2021.
        • It also decided to retain the revised ceiling price of Heparin injection up to September this year. Last year, the NPPA had hiked the price of the essential blood thinner on account of rising raw material costs from China. The ceiling price was fixed till March 31 this year.

        Important Info :

        • The National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) is a government regulatory agency that controls the prices of pharmaceutical drugs in India.
        • It was constituted in 1997 as an attached office of the Department of Pharmaceuticals (DoP), Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers.

         

        INAS 310

        Indian Naval Air Squadron (INAS) 310, The Cobras, a maritime reconnaissance squadron of the Indian Navy based at Goa is celebrating its Diamond Jubilee on 21 March 2021.

        About:

        • Commissioned at Hyéres, France on 21 Mar 61, the squadron holds the distinction of being the most decorated unit of the Indian Navy.
        • INAS 310 continues to carry out daily surveillance operations over the coastline.
        • The squadron operated the carrier borne Alize aircraft until 1991 and subsequently migrated to the shore based Dornier-228 aircraft.
        • In the last one year, amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, the aircraft of the squadron have delivered critical medical supplies, COVID test kits and transported medical teams and samples, clocking close to 1000 sorties.

         

         

        GRAM UJALA

        Union Minister of Power launched the GRAM UJALA programme in Arrah, Bihar.

        About:

        • Under the programme, 7 watt and 12-Watt LED bulbs with 3 years warranty will be given to rural consumers against submission of working Incandescent bulbs.
        • LEDs will be available for only Rs 10 each for each household, in exchange for working condition old incandescent lamps. Each household will get up to 5 LEDs.
        • In the first phase of this programme, 15 million (1.5 crore) LED bulbs will be distributed across villages of Aarah (Bihar), Varanasi (Uttar Pradesh), Vijaywada (Andhra Pradesh), Nagpur (Maharashtra), and village in western Gujarat.
        • The Gram Ujala programme will be implemented in villages of the 5 districts only.
        • These rural households will also have metres installed in their houses to account for usage.

        Carbon Credit

        • Gram Ujala programme will be financed entirely through carbon credits and will be the first such programme in India.
        • carbon credit documentation will be sent to UN accredited validators for inclusion into the Shine Program of activities.
        • Carbon credits will be prepared under the Shine Program of Activities with an option for verifying under the Voluntary Carbon Standard, depending on the needs of buyers.
        • Carbon Credit Buyers will also be sought through an open process based on initial discussions with the market. The balance cost and margin on the LED cost will be recouped through the carbon credits earned.

        Significance

        • The GRAM UJALA programme will have a significant impact on India’s climate change action.
        • If all 300 million lights in India were replaced, the total energy savings would be 40,743 million kWh/year, avoided peak demand of 22,743MW/year and CO2 reductions of 37 million tons per year.

         

        LABOUR SURVEYS

        The Labour Bureau and Broadcast Engineering Consultants India Limited (BECIL) signed a service level agreement for providing technical and manpower support to Labour Bureau in the conduct of All India Surveys on Migrant Workers & All India Quarterly Establishment based Empl