SMALL SAVINGS INSTRUMENTS

The government has sharply slashed the rates on all small savings instruments for the first quarter of 2021-22.

About:

  • It has brought the rate of return on the Public Provident Fund down from 7.1% to 6.4% and effecting cuts ranging from 40 basis points (0.4%) to 110 basis points (1.1%) through a notification.
  • The sharpest cut was seen in the quarterly interest rate paid on one-year term deposits, from 5.5% in the January to March quarter to 4.4% in this quarter.
  • The rate of return on the Senior Citizen Savings’ Scheme was cut from 7.4% to 6.5%, while the Sukanya Samriddhi Account Scheme’s return was reduced from 7.6% to 6.9%.
  • The interest rate paid on National Savings Certificate and Kisan Vikas Patra were also reduced significantly, from 6.8% to 5.9%, and from 6.9% to 6.2%, respectively. Consequently, the Kisan Vikas Patra, which used to mature in 124 months, will now mature in 138 months.
  • While savings deposits earned the lowest rate of 4% till now, that return has now been further slashed to 3.5%. Among time deposits, the return on five year deposits has been reduced from 6.7% to 5.8%.
  • For savers, the option with the highest returns at this point is the Sukanya Samriddhi Account Scheme, followed by the Senior Citizens’ Savings Schemes and the Public Provident Fund.

Important Info :

Comment

  • While the government resets the interest rate on small savings instruments every quarter, this round of rate cuts assumes significance as the government is keen to lower interest rates to make it easier to execute its borrowing plans for the year and spur growth.
  • The government plans to borrow ₹12.05 lakh crore in 2021-22, on the back of a record gross borrowing of ₹13.71 lakh crore in 2020-21.
  • High small savings rates have been cited by the central bank as a major impediment in ensuring policy rate cuts get transmitted into the banking system.

MILITARY FARMS

Indian Army Formally Closes Down Military Farms.

About:

  • Military Farms were set up with sole requirement of supplying hygienic cow’s milk to troops billeted in various garrisons across British India.
  • First Military farm was raised on 01 Feb 1889 at Allahabad.
  • After independence Military Farms flourished with 30,000 heads of cattle in 130 Military Farms all over India. Military Farms were even established in Leh and Kargil in late 1990s, with the role of supply of fresh and hygienic milk to troops at their locations on daily basis.
  • Another major task was management of large tracts of defence land, production and supply of Baled Hay to animal holding units.
  • Military Farms are credited with pioneering the technique of Artificial Insemination of cattle and introduction of organised Dairying in India.
  • In collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture, they established “Project Freiswal”, credited to be the world’s largest cattle cross-breeding program.
  • They also teamed up with DRDO in development of Bio-Fuel.
  • After 132 years of glorious service to the nation, curtains were drawn on this organisation.

 

ARTICLE 244(A) OF THE CONSTITUTION

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi promised to implement Article 244 (A) of the Constitution to safeguard the interests of the people in Assam’s tribal-majority districts.

About:

  • Article 244(A) allows for creation of an ‘autonomous state’ within Assam in certain tribal areas.
  • Inserted into the Constitution in 1969, it also has a provision for a Legislature and a Council of Ministers.

Important Info :

How is it different from the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution?

  • The Sixth Schedule of the Constitution — Articles 244(2) and 275(1) — is a special provision that allows for greater political autonomy and decentralised governance in certain tribal areas of the Northeast through autonomous councils that are administered by elected representatives.
  • In Assam, the hill districts of Dima Hasao, Karbi Anglong and West Karbi and the Bodo Territorial Region are under this provision.
  • Article 244(A) accounts for more autonomous powers to tribal areas. In Autonomous Councils under the Sixth Schedule, they do not have jurisdiction of law and order.

 

AIM-PRIME

Atal Innovation Mission (AIM), NITI Aayog launched AIM-PRIME (Program for Researchers on Innovations, Market-Readiness & Entrepreneurship), an initiative to promote and support science-based deep-tech start-ups & ventures across India.

About:

  • In this regard, AIM has joined hands with Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) to launch this nationwide program which will be implemented by Venture Center – a non-profit technology business incubator.
  • The first cohort of the program is open to technology developers (early-stage deep tech start-ups, and scientists/ engineers/ clinicians) with strong science-based deep tech business ideas.
  • The program is also open to CEOs and Senior incubation managers of AIM Funded Atal Incubation Centers that are supporting deep tech entrepreneurs. Deep technology is an outcome of very intense research and development (R&D) with high knowledge content.
  • The benefits of this program are aimed at addressing specific issues through training and guidance over a period of 12 months.

 

PRIME MINISTER’S YOGA AWARDS (PMYA)

The nomination process for this year’s Prime Minister’s Yoga Awards (PMYA) will begin from 30/03/2021, with the last date for the submission of the entries being 30/04/2021.

About:

  • One of the key initiatives of the Ministry of AYUSH (MoA), the International Day of Yoga (IDY), has gained international recognition.
  • PM Narendra Modi, on the second International Day of Yoga (IDY) 2016,had announced two categories of Yoga awards – one being International and other being National – to be announced on the occasion of the International Day of Yoga (IDY).
  • The purpose of the awards is to recognize and felicitate the individual(s)/organization(s) who/which have made a significant impact on the society, for a sustained period, by the way of promotion and development of Yoga.

 

ECLGS 3.0

In recognition of the continuing adverse impact of COVID-19 pandemic on certain service sectors, the Government has now extended the scope of Emergency Credit Line Guarantee Scheme (ECLGS) through introduction of ECLGS 3.0.

About:

  • ECLGS 3.0 will cover business enterprises in Hospitality, Travel & Tourism, Leisure & Sporting sectors which had, as on 29.02.2020, total credit outstanding not exceeding Rs. 500 crore and overdues, if any, were for 60 days or less, on that date i.e., 29th Feb 2020.
  • ECLGS 3.0 would involve extension of credit of upto 40% of total credit outstanding across all lending institutions as on 29.02.2020. The tenor of loans granted under ECLGS 3.0 shall be 6 years including moratorium period of 2 years.
  • Further, the validity of ECLGS i.e., ECLGS 1.0, ECLGS 2.0 & ECLGS 3.0 have been extended upto 30.06.2021 or till guarantees for an amount of Rs. 3 lakh crore are issued. Last date of disbursement under the scheme has been extended to 30.09.2021.
  • The modifications introduced in the scheme, while providing an incentive to MLIs to enable availability of additional funding facility to the eligible beneficiaries will go a long way in contributing to economic revival.
  • The revised operational guidelines in this regard shall be issued by National Credit Guarantee Trustee Company Ltd (NCGTC).

 

FOREIGN TRADE POLICY 2015-2020

The Union Commerce and Industry Ministry announced extension of the Foreign Trade Policy (FTP) of Government of India.

About:

  • The present Policy which came into force on 1st April 2015, was for 5 years and was extended thereafter upto 31st March, 2021.
  • In view of the persisting COVID-19 pandemic, the Government has decided to continue benefits under various export promotion schemes by extending existing Foreign Trade Policy by another six months i.e., up to 30th September, 2021.
  • Exemption from payment of IGST and Compensation Cess on the imports made under Advance/EPCG Authorisations and by EOUs etc. has also been extended up to 30.09.2021.
  • Similarly, validity period of the Status Holder Certificates is also extended. This will enable the Status Holders to continue to avail the specified facilities/benefits.

 

INDIA-MAURITIUS CECPA

The India-Mauritius CECPA will enter into force on 01 April 2021.

About:

  • India and Mauritius signed the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation and Partnership Agreement (CECPA) on 22 February 2021.
  • The CECPA is the first trade Agreement signed by India with a country in Africa.
  • The India-Mauritius CECPA provides for an institutional mechanism to encourage and improve trade between the two countries.
  • The Agreement is a limited agreement, which will cover Trade in Goods, Rules of Origin, Trade in Services, Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT), Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) measures, Dispute Settlement, Movement of Natural Persons, Telecom, Financial services, Customs Procedures and Cooperation in other Areas.
  • The CECPA between India and Mauritius covers 310 export items for India. Mauritius will benefit from preferential market access into India for its 615 products.

 

JAL JEEVAN MISSION

The Ministry of Jal Shakti has decided to use sensor-based IoT devices to effectively monitor the implementation of Jal Jeevan Mission (JJM) in more than six lakh villages.

About:

  • For this, National Jal Jeevan Mission in collaboration with Tata Community Initiatives Trust (TCIT) and Tata Trusts recently completed pilot projects in several remote villages of five States i.e., Uttarakhand, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra, and Himachal Pradesh.
  • The Internet of Things (IoT) based remote monitoring provides near real-time information without any manual intervention by using sensors.
  • This would not only allow effective monitoring and management on-ground, but also enable real-time visibility to State water supply/ PHED officials, and citizens.
  • Several types of sensors have been deployed including flow meters, ground water level sensors, chlorine analyzers, pressure sensors, pump controller etc. to measure all the relevant aspects of water service delivery.

Important Info :

  • Jal Jeevan Mission (JJM), Union Government’s flagship programme, is implemented in partnership with States/ UTs to provide tap water connection to every rural household by 2024.
  • It envisions creating a Digital Wall and Remote Command & Control Centre for monitoring and managing supply of prescribed quality water in adequate quantity (55 Liters Per Capita per Day – LPCD) every day through household tap connections across all rural villages.

 

PRODUCTION LINKED INCENTIVE SCHEME FOR FOOD PROCESSING INDUSTRY (PLISFPI)

The Union Cabinet has approved the Central Sector Scheme – “Production Linked Incentive Scheme for Food Processing Industry (PLISFPI)” with an outlay of Rs. 10900 crore.

About:

  • The objectives of the Scheme are to support food manufacturing entities with stipulated minimum Sales and willing to make minimum stipulated investment for expansion of processing capacity and Branding abroad to incentivise emergence of strong Indian brands.
  • The scheme will be rolled out on All India basis.
  • The scheme shall be implemented through a Project Management Agency (PMA). The Scheme would be monitored at Centre by the Empowered Group of Secretaries chaired by the Cabinet Secretary.
  • The duration of the scheme will be six years i.e., 2021-22 to 2026-27. The incentive under the scheme would be paid for six years ending 2026-27.
  • The scheme is “fund-limited”, i.e., cost shall be restricted to the approved amount.
  • April 2021

  • March 2021

    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 Employment Survey (AQEES).

    About:

    • ​The signing of the agreement marks the beginning of a new era in the field of IT-enabled surveys.
    • The Ministry in order to implement the newly introduced category of ‘Fixed Term Employment’ (FTE) has decided that the manpower engaged through the IT partner for supporting these surveys will be offered Fixed Term Employment.
    • The Fixed Term Employment is a historic provision in the recent labour codes which will bestow various benefits on the workers engaged for a fixed term by treating them at par with permanent workers.
    • This year Bureau will launch and complete five All India Surveys on Migrant workers, Domestic workers, AQEES, employment generated by professionals and employment generated in transport sector.
    • The Labour Bureau is an attached office of the Ministry of Labour & Employment.
    • Broadcast Engineering Consultants India Limited (BECIL) is a Government of India enterprise under the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.

     

    MILAN-2T

    Acquisition Wing of Ministry of Defence (MoD) signed a contract with Defence Public Sector Undertaking (DPSU) Bharat Dynamics Limited (BDL) for supply of 4,960 MILAN-2T Anti-Tank Guided Missiles (ATGMs) to Indian Army at a cost of Rs 1,188 crore.

    About:

    • The Milan-2T is a Tandem Warhead ATGM with the range of 1,850 metres, produced by BDL under license from MBDA Missile Systems, France.
    • These missiles can be fired from ground as well as vehicle-based launchers and can be deployed in Anti-Tank Role for both offensive & defensive tasks.
    • Induction of these missiles will further enhance the operational preparedness of the Armed Forces. Induction is planned to be completed in three years.
    • This project is a big opportunity for the defence industry to showcase its capability and will be a step in the direction of achieving the goal of ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ in the defence sector.

     

     

    NATIONAL AGRI-FOOD BIOTECHNOLOGY INSTITUTE (NABI)

    Union Minister of Science & technology Dr. Harsh Vardhan inaugurated the new Advanced High Resolution Microscopy Facility at National Agri-Food Biotechnology Institute (NABI).

    About:

    • He also Unveiled the 4 Star GRIHA Certification of Center of Innovative and Applied Bioprocessing (CIAB) Lab and Admin Building at Mohali in Punjab.
    • Both NABI & CIAB are autonomous institutes under Dept. of Biotechnology, Ministry of Science & Technology.
    • National Agri-Food Biotechnology Institute (NABI) is the first Agri-Food Biotechnology Institute, established in India on 18th February 2010. It is located in Mohali, Punjab.

     

    USTAD BISMILLAH KHAN

    The birth anniversary of world-famous shehnai maestro Ustad Bismillah Khan was observed on March 21, 2021.

    About:

    • Khan’s contributions in taking Shehnai to a global stage is unparalleled.
    • Bismillah Khan’s first big break came with the opening of the All India Radio in Lucknow in 1938.
    • It was Ustad ‘Bismillah” Khan Who also played the Shehnai at the first Republic Day celebration in 1950.
    • Bismillah Khan was the first Indian to be invited to perform at the prestigious Lincoln Centre Hall in the United States of America.
    • He was conferred upon national awards like the Padmashri, the Padma Bhushan and the Padma Vibhushan for his immense contribution to the field of music. In 2001, Ustad Bismillah Khan was awarded India’s highest civilian award Bharat Ratna.

     

    WORLD SPARROW DAY

    World Sparrow Day was observed on March 20.

    About:

    • Every year March 20 is observed as World Sparrow Day to raise awareness about the bird.
    • The need for marking this day was felt due to the tremendous decrease in its population. The house sparrow is on the verge of extinction.
    • The initiative was started by Nature Forever Society (NFS) of India, founded by Mohammed Dilawar, an Indian conservationist.
      • He started his work helping the house sparrow in Nashik.
      • He was also named one of the Heroes of the Environment for 2008 by Time magazine for his efforts.

    NATIONAL BANK FOR FINANCING INFRASTRUCTURE AND DEVELOPMENT BILL, 2021

    Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman will introduce the National Bank for Financing Infrastructure and Development Bill, 2021 in the Lok Sabha.

    About:

    • The bill seeks to establish the National Bank for Financing Infrastructure and Development.
    • Its objective is to support the development of long-term non-recourse infrastructure financing in India including development of the bonds and derivatives markets necessary for infrastructure financing and to carry on the business of financing infrastructure.

     

    NEW NAGAR VAN SCHEME

    Union Environment Minister has said that the new Nagar Van Scheme will help in creation of Urban forests in the cities.

    About:

    • The scheme will also fill the gap between the cities and villages in terms of having their own forest cover. He cited India’s age old tradition of developing and caring for village forests in the vicinity of almost every rural patch.
    • Under the Nagar Van Scheme , Urban forests will be developed in 200 cities in its first phase.

     

    WHITSUN REEF

    The Philippines government has claimed that around 220 Chinese boats have been spotted at a reef in the South China Sea waters controlled by Manila.

    About:

    • It urged China to recall the boats saying the presence of the vessels violated Manila’s maritime rights by encroaching into the Philippines’ sovereign territory.
    • The boats are believed to be manned by Chinese maritime militia personnel. The boats were spotted on March 7 at the Whitsun Reef, which Manila calls the Julian Felipe Reef.

     

    INTERNATIONAL DAY OF FORESTS

    The United Nations observes March 21 as the International Day of Forests, commemorating the green cover around the world and reiterating its importance.

    About:

    • The theme of the International Day of Forests for 2021 is “Forest restoration: a path to recovery and well-being”.
    • The United Nations General Assembly proclaimed March 21 as the International Day of Forests (IDF) in 2012.
    • The Day is celebrated by the United Nations Forum on Forests and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), in collaboration with governments, the Collaborative Partnership on Forests and other relevant organisations in the field.

     

    WORLD WATER DAY

    Valuing Water’ is the theme for 2021’s World Water Day.

    About:

    • World Water Day is an annual UN observance day (22 March) that highlights the importance of fresh water.
    • The day is used to advocate for the sustainable management of freshwater resources.
    • The theme of each day focuses on topics relevant to clean water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), which is in line with the targets of Sustainable Development Goal 6.
    • The UN World Water Development Report (WWDR) is released each year around World Water Day.
    • UN-Water is the convener for World Water Day.
    • The idea for a World Water Day was put forward in 1992, at the Rio de Janeiro United Nations Conference on Environment and Development.

     

    Ken Betwa Link Project

    Memorandum of Agreement between the Union Minister of Jal Shakti and the Chief Ministers of Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh to implement the Ken Betwa Link Project, the first project of the National Perspective Plan for interlinking of rivers, will take place on 22nd March 2021.

    About:

    • This project involves transfer of water from the Ken to the Betwa River through the construction of Daudhan Dam and a canal linking the two rivers, the Lower Orr Project, Kotha Barrage and Bina Complex Multipurpose Project.
    • It will provide annual irrigation of 10.62 lakh ha, drinking water supply to about 62 lakh people and also generate 103 MW of hydropower.
    • The Project will be of immense benefit to the water starved region of Bundelkhand, especially to the districts of Panna, Tikamgarh, Chhatarpur, Sagar, Damoh, Datia, Vidisha, Shivpuri and Raisen of Madhya Pradesh and Banda, Mahoba, Jhansi and Lalitpur of Uttar Pradesh.

    Jal Shakti Abhiyan:Catch the Rain

    Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi will launch the ‘Jal Shakti Abhiyan:Catch the Rain’ campaign on World Water Day i.e. on 22nd March 2021.

    About:

    • The Campaign will be undertaken across the country, in both rural and urban areas, with the theme “catch the rain, where it falls, when it falls”.
    • It will be implemented from 22nd March 2021 to 30th November, 2021 – the pre-monsoon and monsoon period in the country.
    • It will be launched as a Jan Andolan to take water conservation at grass-root level through people’s participation.
    • It is intended to nudge all stakeholders to create rainwater harvesting structures suitable to the climatic conditions and subsoil strata, to ensure proper storage of rainwater.
    • After the event, Gram Sabhas will be held in all Gram Panchayats of each district (except in the poll bound states) to discuss issues related to water and water conservation. Gram Sabhas will also take ‘Jal Shapath’ for water conservation.

    COVISHIELD

    The government has decided to increase the interval between the first and second doses of Covishield to up to eight weeks in its ongoing vaccination drive against Covid-19.

    About:

    • Covishield is Serum Institute of India’s version of AZD1222, the vaccine developed by AstraZeneca in collaboration with the University of Oxford.
    • Some data from global trials of AZD122 suggests that extending the duration between doses to 12 weeks increased its efficacy much more.
    • The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare took the decision on the recommendation of two expert groups – the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (NTAGI) and National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for Covid-19 (NEGVAC).
    • The groups, after looking into available scientific evidence from clinical trials of the vaccine, concluded that the protection that it provides against Covid-19 is “enhanced” if the second dose is administered between 6-8 weeks.

     

    NATIONAL FILM AWARDS

    The Jury for the 67th National Film Awards announced the winners for the year 2019. The announcement of the awards was delayed by almost a year because of the pandemic.

    About:

    • Priyadarshan’s Marakkar Arabikadalinte Simham was chosen as the best feature film and Sanjay Puran Singh Chauhan won the best director award for Hindi film Bahattar Hoorain at the 67th National Film Awards.
    • Headlined by Mohanlal, Marakkar Arabikadalinte Simham, or the Lion of Arabian Sea, is a period action drama about a 16th century Malayali naval chieftain who fought the Portuguese invasion.
    • Manoj Bajpayee and Dhanush shared the best actor award. While Manoj was awarded for his measured performance as a retired police constable in Bhonsle, Dhanush won it for depicting a range of emotions in Vetrimaaran’s multi-layered revenge drama Asuran.
    • Kangana Ranaut won the best actress award for her varied performances in Manikarnika: The Queen of Jhansi and Panga.
    • Sikkim has bagged the award for being Most Film Friendly State.

    Important Info :

    • Established in 1954, National Film Awards has been administered by the Indian government’s Directorate of Film Festivals since 1973.

     

    GANDHI PEACE PRIZE

    Gandhi Peace Prize for the Year 2019 and 2020 were announced.

    About:

    • The Gandhi Peace Prize for the year 2019 is being conferred on (Late) His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said Al Said of Oman.
    • The Gandhi Peace Prize for the year 2020 is being conferred on Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

    Important Info :

    • Gandhi Peace Prize is an annual award instituted by Government of India since 1995, the 125th Birth Anniversary commemoration year of Mahatma Gandhi.
    • The award is open to all persons regardless of nationality, race, language, caste, creed or sex.
    • The Jury for Gandhi Peace Prize is chaired by Hon’ble Prime Minister, Sh Narendra Modi ,and comprises of two ex-officio members, namely the Chief Justice of India and  Leader of the single largest Opposition Party in Lok Sabha.
    • Two eminent members are also part of the Jury, namely Shri Om Birla, Speaker of the Lok Sabha, and Shri Bindeshwar Pathak, Founder of Sulabh International Social Service Organisation.
    • The award carries an amount of Rs. 1 crore, a citation, a plaque and an exquisite traditional handicraft/ handloom item.

     

    DRAFT PLAN FOR DISTRICT-WISE EXPORT PROMOTION

    The government has readied a draft district-wise export promotion plan for 451 districts in the country after identifying products and services with export potential in 725 districts, Commerce Secretary said.

    About:

    • Aiming for double-digit export growth from 500 districts over 3-5 years, the Commerce Ministry has asked States to prepare an annual ‘export ranking index’ of districts on export competitiveness with the assistance of the Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT).
    • While foreign trade constitutes 45% of India’s GDP, most export promotion efforts are driven by the Centre.
    • The district-specific approach, that involves the States in identifying potential export sectors and the logistics bottlenecks to be fixed, was taken up after Prime Minister Narendra Modi pushed for each district to aim to be an export hub during his Independence Day address in 2019.
    • In the initial phase, products and services with export potential in each district have been identified and an institutional mechanism of State and District Export Promotion Committees (SEPC) are being created, with an action plan to grow exports from each district.
    • District Export Promotion Committees have been notified in the districts of all the States except West Bengal.

     

    GANGA QUEST

    Ganga Quest 2021, an online competitive quiz was launched.

    About:

    • Ganga Quest is an international bilingual (Hindi and English) online quiz on Ganga.
    • It is being organized by
      • National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG), an authority under Government of India which implements the ‘Namami Gange’ programme and
      • TREE Craze Foundation (TCF), a not for profit organization committed to Ganga, Rivers, and Environment.

    UNITED NATIONS OFFICE FOR PROJECT SERVICES (UNOPS)

    United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) entered into a partnership with the Government of Denmark to support the Union Government’s flagship programme, Jal Jeevan Mission in Uttar Pradesh.

    About:

    • The purpose of partnership between the Government of Denmark and UNOPS is to provide strategic technical support to Jal Jeevan Mission (Water program).
    • UNOPS shall be focussing on instituting scalable delivery models in focused 11 water-scare districts of Uttar Pradesh in Bundelkhand and Vindhya regions.
    • The Jal JeevanMission aims to provide functional household tap connection to every rural household by 2024. This coincides with the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goal-6.

    Important Info :

    United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS)?

    • The United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) is an operational arm of the United Nations, dedicated to implementing projects for the United Nations System, international financial institutions, governments and other partners around the world.
    • The organization’s global headquarters is located on the UN City campus in Copenhagen, Denmark.
    • UNOPS was established in 1973 as part of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). It became an independent, self-financing organization in 1995.

     

    ‘BULDHANA PATTERN’ FOR WATER CONSERVATION

    Minister for Jal Shakti informed Rajya Sabha about the ‘Buldhana Pattern’ for water conservation.

    About:

    • NITI Aayog has prepared draft guidelines for convergence of the activities of (i) sourcing earth for improvement/construction of national highways, state roads and railways and (ii) water conservation works through desiltation/ deepening of water bodies.
    • This two-fold activity has already been successfully implemented as a pilot project in the Buldhana district of Maharashtra state.

     

    BILL NELSON

    US President Joe Biden has nominated former Senator Bill Nelson to serve as the 14th NASA Administrator.

    About:

    • Nelson will serve as NASA’s chief executive officer and will be directly accountable to President Biden.
    • In this role, he will articulate the space agency’s vision, will set its programmatic and budget priorities, internal policies and assess the agency’s performance.
    • A one-time astronaut, Nelson flew aboard the space shuttle Columbia as a payload specialist on the STS-61C mission in 1986.

    Important Info :

    Bhavya Lal?

    • Last month, NASA appointed Indian-American Bhavya Lal as the agency’s acting chief of staff.
    • Lal had previously served as a member of the Biden Presidential Transition Agency Review Team for the agency and oversaw the agency’s transition under the administration of President Joe Biden.

     

    WORLD SUMMIT ON INFORMATION SOCIETY FORUM 2021

    Telecom Minister Sanjay Dhotre represented India at the World Summit on Information Society Forum 2021.

    About:

    • The World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) Forum 2021 represents one of the world’s largest annual gathering of the ‘ICT for development’ community.
    • It is co-organized by International Telecommunications Union (ITU), UNESCO, UNDP and UNCTAD.

    Indian scenario:

    • The telecom minister mentioned that under the flagship program BharatNet, nearly 6,00,000 villages are being connected through laying of more than 4,00,000 Km length of optical fiber cable and use of satellite communication services.
    • Through submarine cable networks small and remote islands of Andaman & Nicobar and Lakshadweep and other inaccessible areas are being connected with funding from Government.
    • Establishment of ITU Area office and Innovation Centre in India with involvement of SMEs, Academia and Startups in the region will go a long way in development of technologies, standards and solutions best suited for rural and remote areas of developing nations.

     

    BAN ON BIKE RALLIES

    The Election Commission ordered a ban on bike rallies 72 hours before polling and on the day of voting itself in the Assam, Kerala, Puducherry, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal Assembly elections, citing instances of “anti-social elements” on bikes intimidating voters.

    About:

    • The EC wrote to the Chief Electoral Officers of the four States and the Union Territory of Puducherry.
    • The EC decided that bike rallies would not be allowed at any place 72 hours before the date of poll and on the poll day in all constituencies where elections are being held.
    • The complaints came up particularly during the EC’s meetings with parties in Kolkata, adding that the ban had been in place during the previous elections as well.

    UNHRC VOTE ON SRI LANKA

    India abstained from a crucial vote on Sri Lanka’s rights record at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva.

    About:

    • The resolution on ‘Promoting reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka’ was, however, adopted after 22 states of the 47-member Council voted in its favour.
    • Sri Lanka, which had earlier deemed the resolution “politically motivated”, was quick to reject the UN move to collect and preserve evidence of war crimes in the country, committed by the armed forces and the LTTE.
    • The Sri Lanka resolution was the first to be voted on using the extraordinary e-voting procedures established for the UNHRC 46th Session, which has been held virtually.

    Important Info :

    UN HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL (UNHRC)?

    • What is it? The Human Rights Council is an inter-governmental body within the United Nations system.
    • Location: It meets at the UN Office at Geneva.
    • Establishment: It was founded in 2006. It replaced the former United Nations Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR) that had been strongly criticised for allowing countries with poor human rights records to be members.
    • Functions: It investigates allegations of breaches of human rights in UN member states.
    • Membership:
      • The Council is made of 47 Member States, which are elected by the UN General Assembly. The Council’s Membership is based on equitable geographical distribution.
      • Members of the Council serve for a period of three years and are not eligible for immediate re-election after serving two consecutive terms.
      • India has been elected to the UNHRC for a period of three years beginning January 1, 2019. India had previously been elected to the UNHRC for the 2011-2014 and 2014-2017 terms.

    PERMANENT INDUS COMMISSION

    After a gap of more than two and half years Indian and Pakistani delegations began the 116th Meeting of the Permanent Indus Commission.

    About:

    • The Permanent Indus Commission (PIC) is a bilateral commission consisting of officials from India and Pakistan.
    • It was created to implement and manage the goals and objectives and outlines of the Indus Waters Treaty (IWT) which was signed in September 1960 with World Bank standing guarantee for any dispute resolution.
    • The last meeting of the Permanent Indus Commission was held on August 29, 2018.

    Recent meeting:

    • The meeting which coincided with the National Day of Pakistan is being viewed as part of the broader process of normalisation of bilateral ties between the two neighbours.
    • The two-day meeting of the Commission is being led on the Indian side by Indus Water Commissioner Pradeep Kumar Saxena. The Pakistani delegation is led by Pakistan’s Commissioner for Indus Waters Syed Mohammad Mehr Ali Shah.

    Important Info :

    National Day of Pakistan?

    • It commemorates the March 23, 1940 Lahore Resolution which paved the way for the creation of Pakistan.

     

    SIXTH SCHEDULE

    The Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) informed the Lok Sabha that “presently, there is no proposal to implement panchayat system in Sixth Schedule areas of Assam”.

    About:

    • The Sixth Schedule of the Constitution protects tribal populations and provides autonomy to the communities through creation of autonomous development councils that can frame laws on land, public health, agriculture and others.
    • As of now, 10 autonomous councils exist in Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram.
    • The specified tribal areas are the North Cachar Hills, Karbi Anglong and the Bodoland Territorial Area in Assam, Khasi Hills, Jaintiya Hills and Garo Hills in Meghalaya, Tribal Areas in Tripura, and Chakma, Mara and Lai districts in Mizoram.

    Important Info :

    Constitution (125th Amendment) Bill, 2019?

    • On January 23, 2019, the Union Cabinet approved amendments to increase the financial and executive powers of the autonomous councils.
    • The Constitution (125th Amendment) Bill, 2019, was subsequently introduced in the Rajya Sabha on February 6, 2019, that provides for elected village municipal councils.
    • The Bill that is still active proposes that the State Election Commissions would hold elections to the autonomous councils, village and municipal councils.
    • The Bill was introduced in the Upper House so that the legislation remains active even as the House was adjourned sine die before the 2019 general election.

     

    HYDERABAD SISTERS

    Eminent Carnatic vocalist and guru Lalitha died due to cardiac arrest. She was 70.

    About:

    • Lalitha, along with her sister Haripriya, was an indomitable force on the classical music scene. The duo, known as Hyderabad Sisters, was known to draw houseful audiences to their concerts.
    • Known for their ‘manodharma’ — the extempore rendition of ragas and sticking to pure traditional style — the sisters often enlightened the audience by presenting rare ragas and kritis.
    • Both sisters have performed in all the leading sabhas of the country and abroad.

     

    #FreedomPineapple CAMPAIGN

    Ties between China and Taiwan, which have historically been rocky over issues such as sovereignty, foreign relations and military build-up, are now being tested by pineapples.

    About:

    • On March 1, China banned the import of pineapples from Taiwan, alleging there was a risk of “harmful creatures” that could threaten its own agriculture.
    • Since then, an angry Taiwan has refuted China’s claims of pests being found in imported pineapples, and has gone on to insist that the move is aimed at increasing political pressure on Taiwan, which China considers its own province.
    • Following this, Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen kicked off a “pineapple challenge” on social media to attract more Taiwanese consumers to buy the fruit and counter China’s move.
    • Taiwan’s foreign minister also urged “like-minded friends around the globe to stand with #Taiwan & rally behind the #FreedomPineapple”.

    Important Info :

    The larger dispute between Taiwan and China

    • Under its “One China” policy, Beijing considers Taiwan a province of China, even though Taiwan is a democratic, self-ruled country.
    • Although the two participate separately in international events, China repeatedly insists that Taiwan should be called “Chinese Taipei”, in efforts to prevent international recognition of Taiwan as a country.
    • Towards the end of the Chinese Civil War in 1949, and before the post-war treaties were to be signed, members of the Kuomintang party (KMT) were driven out of the mainland by the Communists, who would later establish the People’s Republic of China (PRC).
    • The KMT retreated to Taiwan, becoming a government in exile. For some time, Taiwan was internationally recognised as the government of the Republic of China (RoC), and still officially calls itself so.

     

    PAROSMIA

    Some people may experience parosmia as a symptom of COVID-19.

    About:

    • Parosmia is a medical term used to describe a condition in which affected individuals experience “distortions of the sense of smell”.
    • A person with parosmia can detect certain odours, but they might experience the smell of certain things as different and often unpleasant. For instance, to someone with parosmia, coffee may smell like burnt toast.
    • Parosmia is a temporary condition and is not harmful.

    Important Info :

    Causes:

    • This abnormality is typically experienced by those people who are recovering their sense of smell following loss from a virus or an injury.
    • Some common triggers of parosmia include roasted, toasted or grilled foods, coffee, onions, chocolate, garlic and eggs.
    • It is likely that parosmia manifests itself due to the damage caused to the olfactory neurons when “the delicate and complex structure in the nose is attacked by a virus.”

    PRANIT

    Power Grid Corporation of India Limited (POWERGRID), a central PSU under Ministry of Power has established an e-Tendering Portal-PRANIT.

    About:

    • It will lead to less paperwork and ease of operation, making the tendering process more transparent.
    • It has been certified by Standardisation, Testing and Quality Certification Directorate (STQC), Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, Government of India.
    • With this, POWERGRID is now the only organization in India to have an eProcurement solution on SAP Supplier Relationship Management (SRM), complying with all applicable requirements relating to security and transparency as stipulated by STQC.

     

    NATIONAL HEALTH MISSION (NHM)

    The Union Cabinet was apprised on the progress under National Health Mission (NHM) during FY 2019-20.

    The Cabinet noted that NHM has envisaged new Initiatives in 2019-20 as:

    • Social Awareness and Actions to Neutralize Pneumonia Successfully (SAANS) initiative was launched to accelerate action to reduce deaths due to childhood pneumonia.
    • Surakshit Matritva Aashwasan (SUMAN) initiative was launched to provide assured, dignified, respectful and quality healthcare at no cost and zero tolerance for denial of services and all existing Schemes for maternal and neonatal health have been brought under one umbrella.
    • Midwifery Services Initiative aims to create a cadre of Nurse Practitioners in Midwifery who are skilled in accordance to competencies prescribed by the International Confederation of Midwives (ICM) and are knowledgeable and capable of providing compassionate women-centered, reproductive, maternal and new-born health care services.
    • School Health and Wellness Ambassadors Initiative has been launched under the AB-HWCs Programme in partnership with Ministry of Education to promote health and well-being through an active lifestyle amongst school children.

    Important Info :

    Targets under it:

    • Reduce MMR to 1/1000 live births
    • Reduce IMR to 25/1000 live births
    • Reduce TFR to 2.1
    • Reduce prevalence of Leprosy to < 1 /10000 population and incidence to zero in all districts
    • Annual Malaria Incidence to be <I/1000
    • Ending the TB epidemic by 2025 from the country.

     

    WORLD TUBERCULOSIS DAY

    World Tuberculosis Day is being observed on 24th March, 2021 to raise public awareness about TB.

    About:

    • World Tuberculosis Day, which is observed every year on March 24.
    • On this day in the year 1882, Dr. Robert Koch announced the discovery of the bacteria that causes TB. It paved the way for diagnosis and cure of this deadly disease.
    • The theme of World TB Day 2021 – ‘The Clock is Ticking’ –conveys the sense that the world is running out of time to act on the commitments to end TB made by global leaders.

    Important Info :

    • India has committed to end TB by 2025, five years ahead of the global targets.

     

    UIGHURS

    In a coordinated move, the European Union, the US, Britain, and Canada imposed sanctions on Chinese officials and entities, for human rights abuses against Uighurs and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang province. The sanctions from EU, UK and Canada include travel bans and freezing of assets.

    Significance:

    • This is the first time the EU has imposed sanctions on China since an arms embargo after the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown. That embargo is still in place.
    • Although the EU sanctions are not very damaging, they show a hardening of stance against its largest trading partner. Also significant is that the Western powers moved together.
    • China retaliated with sanctions of its own. It has consistently denied all reports of atrocities against Uighurs, maintaining it is only “deradicalizing” elements of its population in the interests of security.

    Important Info :

    Background:

    • Xinjiang has a large number of Uighurs, Muslims of Turkic descent.
    • Over the past few decades, more and more Han Chinese have settled in Xinjinag, which saw violent clashes between them and the Uighurs.
    • China is now accused of putting over a million people in internment camps to “de-Muslimise” them and make them integrate better in the Communist country.
    • Survivors and human rights organisations have alleged physical, psychological and sexual torture.
    • People can be sent to the camps for showing any signs of “extremism” — sporting beards, fasting during Ramzan, dressing differently from the majority, sending Eid greetings, praying “too often” etc.

    CHIEF JUSTICE OF INDIA (CJI)

    Chief Justice of India Sharad A. Bobde has recommended Justice N.V. Ramana, the senior-most judge of the Supreme Court, as the next top judge.

    About:

    • Justice Ramana is now set to take over as the 48th Chief Justice of India from April 24.
    • The Centre had recently asked Chief Justice Bobde, who is retiring on April 23, to initiate the transition process to the top judicial office.
    • Justice Ramana will be the CJI till August 26, 2022.

    Appointment of CJI:

    • Article 124 of the Constitution of India provides for the manner of appointing judges to the Supreme Court (SC). But there is no specific provision in the Constitution for appointing the Chief Justice.
    • CJI should be the senior most judge of the Supreme Court (SC). Law Minister has to seek recommendation of the outgoing CJI for appointment of new CJI at an appropriate time.
    • In case of doubt about the fitness of the senior-most Judge to hold office of CJI consultation with other Judges under Article 124(2) to be made.
    • Law Minister then puts up recommendation to Prime Minister (PM) who will advise the President on appointment.
    • Seniority at the apex court is determined not by age, but by the date a judge was appointed to the SC.
    • If two judges are elevated to the Supreme Court on the same day, (1) the one who was sworn in first as a judge would trump another; (2) if both were sworn in as judges on the same day, the one with more years of high court service would ‘win’ in the seniority stakes; (3) an appointment from the bench would ‘trump’ in seniority an appointee from the bar.
    • Tenure:
      • Once appointed, the Chief Justice remains in office until the age of 65 years.
      • Article 124(4) of Constitution of India provides that a SC Judge including CJI can be moved only through a process of impeachment by Parliament

     

    ‘DOUBLE MUTANT’ CORONAVIRUS VARIANT

    A unique “double mutant” coronavirus variant — with a combination of mutations not seen anywhere else in the world — has been found in India, the Union Health Ministry said.

    About:

    • However, it is still to be established if this has any role to play in increased infectivity or in making COVID-19 more severe.
    • Genome sequencing of a section of virus samples by a consortium of 10 laboratories across the country, called the Indian SARS-CoV-2 Consortium on Genomics (INSACOG), revealed the presence of two mutations, E484Q and L452R together, in at least 200 virus samples.
    • Mutations in the virus per se are not surprising but specific mutations that help the virus evolve to thwart vaccines or the immune system or are linked to a spike in cases or in disease severity are causes of concern.
    • While the two mutations have been individually identified in other variants of SARS-CoV-2 globally and have been associated with a reduction in vaccine efficacy, their combined effect and biological implications have not yet been understood.
    • In the days ahead, the INSACOG will submit details of this variant to a global repository called GISAID and, if it merits, classify it as a “variant of concern” (VOC).
    • So far, only three global VOCs have been identified: the U.K. variant (B.1.1.7), the South African (B.1.351) and the Brazilian (P.1) lineage.
    • After the new double variant has been submitted to GISAID, it will be categorised under a formal lineage, and will have its own name.

     

    ZABARWAN RANGE

    Prime Minister Narendra Modi asked everyone to visit tulip garden, located at the foothills of Zabarwan range in Jammu and Kashmir.

    About:

    • The tulip garden will be thrown open to public on March 25, 2021.
    • The garden will see over 15 lakh flowers of more than 64 varieties in bloom.
    • The Zabarwan Range is a short sub-mountain range between Pir Panjal and Great Himalayan Range in the central part of the Kashmir Valley in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir in India.

     

    NATIONAL COMMISSION FOR ALLIED AND HEALTHCARE PROFESSIONALS BILL, 2021

    The Lok Sabha cleared the National Commission for Allied and Healthcare Professionals Bill, 2021. The Bill was passed by the Rajya Sabha last week.

    About:

    • The Bill seeks to regulate and standardise the education and practice of allied and healthcare professionals.
    • The Bill defines ‘allied health professional’ as an associate, technician, or technologist trained to support the diagnosis and treatment of any illness, disease, injury, or impairment. Such a professional should have obtained a diploma or degree under this Bill.
    • A ‘healthcare professional’ includes a scientist, therapist, or any other professional who studies, advises, research, supervises, or provides preventive, curative, rehabilitative, therapeutic, or promotional health services. Such a professional should have obtained a degree under this Bill.
    • The Bill specifies certain categories of allied and healthcare professions as recognised categories. These include life science professionals, trauma and burn care professionals, surgical and anaesthesia related technology professionals, physiotherapists, and nutrition science professionals.
    • The Bill sets up the National Commission for Allied and Healthcare Professions. It will
      • frame policies and standards for regulating education and practice,
      • create and maintain an online Central Register of all registered professionals, and
      • providing for a uniform entrance and exit examination, among others.
    • The Commission will constitute a Professional Council for every recognised category of allied and healthcare professions.
    • Within six months from the passage of the Bill, state governments will constitute State Allied and Healthcare Councils.

     

    CBSE ROLLS OUT ASSESSMENT FRAMEWORK

    The Central Board of Secondary Education has rolled out a new assessment framework for Classes 6-10 in English, Maths and Science in collaboration with the British Council.

    About:

    • Under the new system, teachers will be trained to create question papers and other assessment methods that test the actual competency of students in these subjects, rather than their ability to memorise chunks of text.
    • The new framework was launched by Education Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank.
    • It is aligned with the National Education Policy’s vision of achieving a global standard in assessments.

    Timeline:

    • In the first phase, the framework will be implemented in select Kendriya Vidyalayas and Navodaya Vidyalayas, CBSE schools in Chandigarh, and a few private schools.
    • By 2024, it will be rolled out to 25,000 CBSE schools across the country, with 1.32 lakh teachers and two crore students.

     

    INDIA TB REPORT

    In 2020, there were 18.05 tuberculosis notifications, which was a fall of 24% from 2019 due to the disruptions caused by the pandemic, according to the India TB report released by the Health Ministry.

    About:

    • Between January and February 2020, the notifications were on an upward trajectory, with 6% more cases reported in the same period in 2019.
    • As a result of the lockdown, notifications in the public sector fell by 38% and 44% in the private sector in April and May.
    • Of the reported 24.04 lakh TB cases in 2019, treatment success was 82%, mortality rate was 4%, 4% patients were lost to follow up and treatment failure and regimen change after initiation of treatment was about 3%.
    • The approved budgets toward the programme have increased substantially, from ₹640 crore in 2016-17 to ₹3,333 crores in 2019-20, however, there was a fall in budget to ₹3,110 crore in 2020-21.
    • Over 95% of all cases reported were initiated on treatment in 2020 and the treatment success rate for patients reported in 2019 was 82% (83% among patients in the public sector and 79% in the private).
    • The report said 20,892 (42%) of patients were initiated on a shorter MDR-TB regimen at the time of diagnosis. This is a significant decline from 2019.

     

    SPECIAL PURPOSE ACQUISITION COMPANIES (SPACs)

    Earlier this month, the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) issued an investor alert, which was the first warning of sorts, when it came to or special purpose acquisition companies (SPACs).

    About:

    • A SPAC, or a blank-cheque company, is an entity specifically set up with the objective of acquiring a firm in a particular sector.
    • The aim of this SPAC is to raise money in an initial public offering (IPO), and at this point in time, it does not have any operations or revenues.
    • Once the money is raised from the public, it is kept in an escrow account, which can be accessed while making the acquisition. If the acquisition is not made within two years of the IPO, the SPAC is delisted, and the money is returned to the investors.
    • Certain market participants believe that, through a SPAC transaction, a private company can become a publicly-traded company “with more certainty as to pricing and control over deal terms as compared to traditional IPOs.

    Important Info :

    Indian scenario:

    • In India, renewable energy producer ReNew Power last month announced an agreement to merge with RMG Acquisition Corp II, a blank-cheque company, in what became the first involving an Indian company during the latest boom in SPAC deals.

     

    SUEZ CANAL

    The Suez Canal, a critical shipping artery that connects the Mediterranean and Red Seas through Egypt, has been blocked after a large cargo ship ran aground while passing through it, bringing traffic on the busy trade route to a halt.

    About:

    • A human-made waterway, the Suez Canal is one of the world’s most heavily used shipping lanes, carrying over 12% of world trade by volume.
    • Built in 1869, it provides a major shortcut for ships moving between Europe and Asia, who before its construction had to sail around Africa to complete the same journey.
    • The 150-year-old canal was controlled by British and French interests in its initial years but was nationalised in 1956 by Egypt’s then leader Gamal Abdel Nasser. Over the years, the canal has been widened and deepened.
    • In 2015, Egypt announced plans to further expand the Suez Canal, aiming to reduce waiting times and double the number of ships that can use the canal daily by 2023.

    Important Info :

    Why is the Suez Canal blocked?

    • The vessel blocking Suez is the Ever Given – a Panama-registered container ship that is on its way to Rotterdam in the Netherlands from China. The 2018-built vessel, which is 400-m long and 59-m wide, got stuck here due to a mishap caused by bad weather.
    • Egypt, which heavily depends on revenues from the canal, is now diverting ships to an older channel to minimise disruption to global trade.

     

    SHIGMO

    With a rise in Covid-19 cases in Goa, questions are being raised over the scale of celebrations for the annual Shigmotsav.

    About:

    • While the Goa Carnival was held with all the pomp in February, ‘Shigmo’ as it is called in Konkani, is another vibrant celebration full of colour, song and dance rooted in Goan culture and traditions.
    • Shigmo is the celebration of a ‘rich, golden harvest of paddy’ by the tribal communities of Goa.
    • Agricultural communities including the Kunbis, Gawdas and Velips celebrate the festival that also marks the onset of spring. Shigmo celebrations last over a fortnight in the months of Phalgun-Chaitra months of the Hindu calendar that correspond with March-April every year.
    • Folk dances like Ghodemodini (a dance of equestrian warriors), Gopha and Phugadi are among the many dances performed by the participating communities.

     

    TIGER RELOCATION PROJECT

    Recently, Sundari — a tigress shifted as part of India’s first inter-state translocation project in 2018 from Madhya Pradesh to Odisha — returned home.

    About:

    • The five-year-old tigress spent 28 months in captivity in Satkosia Tiger Reserve, Odisha as the two states lingered on the process for her relocation.
    • The tiger relocation project was initiated in 2018 wherein two big cats, a male (Mahavir) from Kanha Tiger Reserve and a female (Sundari) from Bandhavgarh from Madhya Pradesh were relocated to Satkosia Tiger Reserve in Odisha, to shore up the tiger population in the state.
    • The project was started under the project of “augmentation and recovery of tiger population in Satkosia tiger reserve”. Six tigers (three pairs) from different reserves of Madhya Pradesh were to be sent to Odisha under the project.
    • The project ran into trouble within weeks of initiation. Subsequently, the project was suspended by National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA).

    JUDICIAL VACANCIES

    The Supreme Court asked the government to clarify on the status of 55 recommendations made by the Collegium for judicial appointments to High Courts six months to nearly a year-and-a-half ago.

    About:

    • Of the pending recommendations, 44 were made to fill vacancies in the Calcutta, Madhya Pradesh, Gauhati, Rajasthan and Punjab High Courts. These recommendations have been pending with the government for over seven months to a year.
    • The total sanctioned strength in the 25 High Courts is 1,080. However, the present working strength is 661 with 419 vacancies as on March 1.
    • The Supreme Court has been repeatedly conveying to the government its growing alarm at the judicial vacancies in High Courts.

    Important Info :

    Appointment of Judges

    • Article 124(2) says that the President of India Shall appoint the judges after consultation with such number of Judges of the SC/HC as he deems necessary. For appointment of any Judge of SC (other than CJI), the CJI must be consulted.
    • The three Judges case of 1981, 1993 & 1998 has formalised the collegium system for the purpose of consultation.
      • The collegium for appointing SC judge consists of the CJI and 4 senior-most judges of SC.
      • Memorandum of Procedure (MoP) was set up after the Third Judge Case of 1998 to provide the process of how the Collegium would recommend names to the Executive.
    • The President of India can either accept the recommendation or send it back for reconsideration. The reconsidered advice must be accepted by the President.

     

    WOMEN IN ARMED FORCES

    The Supreme Court held that the Army’s “selective” evaluation process discriminates against and disproportionately affects women short service commission officers seeking permanent commission.

    About:

    • The evaluation pattern of women officers has caused them economic and psychological harm, the court said.
    • The court ordered that the cases of women officers who have applied for permanent commission should be reconsidered in a month and the decision on them should be given in two months.
    • They would be considered for permanent commission subject to disciplinary and vigilance clearance. The court said physical standards should be kept at a premium during selection.

    Important Info :

    Supreme court judgement of February 2020

    • The Supreme Court declared that Short Service Commission (SSC) women officers are eligible for permanent commission and command posts in the Army irrespective of their years of service.
    • The Supreme Court dismissed the Union government’s submissions that women are physiologically weaker than men as a “sex stereotype.”
    • The court struck down a part of the government’s 2019 circular that had proposed Permanent Commission to women officers if they had not completed 14 years in service. It commented that there was a “fundamental fallacy” in the centre’s policy of considering only women with less than 14 years for Permanent Commission.
    • The verdict came on a nearly 10-year-old appeal filed by the government against a 2010 decision of the Delhi High Court to grant SSC women officer’s permanent commission.

     

    INTERDISCIPLINARY TEAM TO EXPLORE POTENTIAL OF YOGA

    AYUSH Ministry has set up an interdisciplinary team of experts to explore the potential of Yoga as a productivity enhancing tool for the population.

    About:

    • The committee is chaired by Dr. H. R Nagendra, Chancellor, SVYASA and its members include representatives from AIIMS New Delhi, IIM Bangalore, IIT Bombay, various leading Yoga institutions, the corporate sector and the AYUSH Ministry.
    • One of the primary tasks of the committee was to review evidence that linked Yoga to productivity and analyse the same. The various possible directions of the productivity dimension could then be identified systematically, and along these directions, protocols could be developed.
    • The committee will submit its preliminary recommendations by May 2021.

     

    ‘MICE ROADSHOW – MEET IN INDIA’; CHHATRASAL CONVENTION CENTRE

    Union Minister for Tourism and Culture and Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh will inaugurate the ‘Chhatrasal Convention Centre at Khajuraho developed under Swadesh Darshan Scheme of Ministry of Tourism.

    About:

    • The Ministry of Tourism has framed ‘Development of Iconic Tourist Destinations Scheme’ a Central Sector Scheme for development of nineteen identified iconic destinations in the country following a holistic approach.
    • They will also launch “MICE Roadshow – Meet in India” Brand and Roadmap for the Promotion of India as MICE Destination (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions) in Khajuraho, Madhya Pradesh.

     

    100+ CURRICULUM BASED COMIC BOOKS

    Union Minister of Education launched 100+ comic books created by teachers and students of CBSE schools and curated by NCERT on 24th March 2021.

    About:

    • Department of School Education and Literacy, in its endeavour to provide holistic learning to students and to usher in vision envisaged in New Education Policy 2020 has launched comic books aligned to chapters of NCERT textbooks across grades 3-12.
    • This innovative initiative will help in increasing the cultural and social sensitivity in our children while imparting knowledge.
    • These comics can be accessed online on DIKSHA web portal (diksha.gov.in) or via the DIKSHA app on any android Smartphone.
    • The comics can also be accessed through a new WhatsApp powered Chatbot. The chatbot presents a unique opportunity to expand the scope of digital learning.

     

    CENTRAL SCRUTINY CENTRE (CSC); IEPFA MOBILE APP

    Union Minister for Corporate Affairs launched Central Scrutiny Centre (CSC) and Investor Education and Protection Fund Authority’s (IEPFA) Mobile App — two tech-enabled initiatives by Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA).

    Central Scrutiny Centre (CSC)

    • MCA being one of the key primary sources of corporate data, is required to ensure that the data quality is uncompromised and free from flaws.
    • With this objective in mind, the MCA has established a Central Scrutiny Centre
    • The Central Scrutiny Centre will scrutinize certain Straight Through Process (STP) Forms filed by the corporates on the MCA21 registry and flag the companies for more in-depth scrutiny.

    Important Info :

    Investor Education and Protection Fund Authority’s (IEPFA) Mobile App

    • The IEPFA Mobile App aims at achieving the goal of financial literacy, spreading investors’ awareness, education, and protection among investors.
    • The IEPFA App will have the facility of tracking the status and progress of the IEPF claim refund process. Moreover, it also provides a mechanism for investors and common citizens to report on the suspected fraudulent schemes.

     

    2nd TRANCHE OF COMMERCIAL COAL MINING

    India launched its 2nd Tranche of auction for commercial coal mining offering 67 mines for sale of coal. Union Coal Minister launched the auction process.

    About:

    • This is the highest number of mines on offer in a particular tranche of auction after commencement of the auction regime since 2014.
    • Out of the total 67 mines offered by the Ministry of Coal, 23 mines are under CM(SP) Act and 44 under MMDR Act.
    • The coal mines on offer are spread across 6 States Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh.

    Important Info :

    Rolling auction?

    • Government of India is moving towards adopting a ‘Rolling Auction’ mechanism for conducting future auctions.
    • Coal is the first mineral resource where Rolling Auction mechanism is being implemented in which a pool of coal blocks will always remain available for auctions.

     

    CLIMATE DATA SERVICE PORTAL

    India Meteorological Department celebrated World Meteorological Day on 23rd March, 2021. Dr. M. Rajeevan, Secretary, Ministry of Earth Science inaugurated Climate Data Services Portal of IMD on this occasion.

    About:

    • Climate Data Services Portal has been developed by IMD, Pune with user-friendly platforms for climate data management and supply to the users.
    • The Web Portal will be available through IMD Website (http://www.mausam.imd.gov.in/) and IMD Pune website (http://www.imdpune.gov.in/).
    • It complements fully automated climate data management process from real-time data acquisition to expeditious data dissemination.
    • The major components of the portal are listed below:
      • Real-Time monitoring of weather observations recorded by IMD Observatories.
      • Encapsulated IMD Metadata Portal, other reports and dashboards
      • Online access to meteorological data through Data Supply Portal.
      • Free download facility for Gridded Temperature and Rainfall Data of India.
      • Climatological Tables, Extremes and Normal.
      • Information on Monsoon Rainfall and Cyclone frequencies.
      • Data analytics and info graphics.

     

    YAMUNA INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT

    Bureau of Civil Aviation Security and Yamuna International Airport sign LoA for civil aviation security.

    About:

    • A Letter of Agreement (LoA) was signed between the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS) and Yamuna International Airport Private Limited (YIAPL).
    • The LoA defines provisions for civil aviation security responsibilities and functions at the upcoming international airport at Jewar, Noida.
    • The contract of construction of the airport has been awarded to YIAPL, which is a joint venture of the Airport Authority of India (AAI), the Government of Uttar Pradesh, and Zurich international airport.

     

    UNITAR

    The Prime Minister Narendra Modi has expressed gratitude to UN Institute for Training & Research (UNITAR). UNITAR has commended India’s remarkable progress in reducing the premature mortality from Non-Communicable Diseases.

    About:

    • What is it? The United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) is a dedicated training arm of the United Nations system.
    • Mandate: UNITAR provides training and capacity development activities to assist mainly developing countries with special attention to Least Developed Countries (LDCs), Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and other groups and communities who are most vulnerable.
    • History: UNITAR was founded in 1963, following the recommendation of the UN Economic and Social Council to the General Assembly.
    • Governance: Operated as an autonomous body within the United Nations system, UNITAR is headed by an Executive Director. Present executive director is Nikhil Seth from India who was appointed in 2015.
    • Funding: UNITAR is a project-based organization and does not receive any funds from the regular United Nations budget. The institute is financed entirely from voluntary contributions.
    • Headquarters are based in Geneva (Switzerland).

    RTI REJECTIONS

    The Centre has only rejected 4.3% of all Right to Information (RTI) requests in 2019-20, the lowest ever rate, according to the Central Information Commission’s annual report.

    About:

    • However, almost 40% of these rejections did not include any valid reason, as they did not invoke one of the permissible exemption clauses in the RTI Act, according to an analysis of report data by RTI activist Venkatesh Nayak.
    • This includes 90% of rejections by the Prime Minister’s Office.
    • Public authorities under the Central government received 13.7 lakh RTI requests in 2019-20, out of which 58,634 were rejected for various reasons.
    • Rejection rates have fallen since the 13.9% rate in 2005-06 and have been steadily trending downwards since the 8.4% spike in 2014-15. In 2019-20, they hit their lowest level so far.
    • The Home Ministry had the highest rate of rejections, as it rejected 20% of all RTIs received. The Agriculture Ministry’s rejection rate doubled from 2% in 2018-19 to 4% in 2019-20.
    • The Delhi Police and the Army also saw increases in rejection rates.

    Important Info :

    • The RTI Act allows public authorities to reject RTI requests on a number of grounds, ranging from information which would endanger life and safety to that which involves irrelevant personal information, Cabinet papers, foreign governments, copyrights, or sovereignty, security and intelligence matters.
    • Public authorities are expected to cite the relevant clause of the Act to invoke the exemption.

    CAPE OF GOOD HOPE

    With $200 billion of India’s trade flows with Europe, North America and South America at risk due to the blockage of the Suez Canal, the Department of Commerce is planning re-routing shipments through the Cape of Good Hope.

    About:

    • The Cape of Good Hope is a rocky headland on the Atlantic coast of the Cape Peninsula in South Africa.
    • A common misconception is that the Cape of Good Hope is the southern tip of Africa. Contemporary geographic knowledge instead states the southernmost point of Africa is Cape Agulhas.
    • When following the western side of the African coastline from the equator, however, the Cape of Good Hope marks the point where a ship begins to travel more eastward than southward.

    Cape Agulhas

    • Cape Agulhas is a rocky headland in Western Cape, South Africa.
    • It is the geographic southern tip of the African continent and the beginning of the dividing line between the Atlantic and Indian Oceans.

     

    NISAR

    NASA and ISRO are collaborating on developing a satellite called NISAR, which will detect movements of the planet’s surface as small as 0.4 inches over areas about half the size of a tennis court.

    About:

    • NISAR is an SUV-sized satellite that is being jointly developed by the space agencies of the US and India.
    • The name NISAR is short for NASA-ISRO-SAR. SAR here refers to the synthetic aperture radar that NASA will use to measure changes in the surface of the Earth.
      • Essentially, SAR refers to a technique for producing high-resolution images.
      • Because of the precision, the radar can penetrate clouds and darkness, which means that it can collect data day and night in any weather.
    • The partnership agreement was signed between NASA and ISRO in 2014.
      • NASA will provide one of the radars for the satellite, a high-rate communication subsystem for science data, GPS receivers and a payload data subsystem.
      • ISRO, on the other hand, will provide the spacecraft bus, the second type of radar (called the S-band radar), the launch vehicle and associated launch services.

     

    • The satellite will be launched in 2022 from the Satish Dhawan Space Center in Sriharikota, India, into a near-polar orbit.
    • It will scan the globe every 12 days over the course of its three-year mission of imaging the Earth’s land, ice sheets and sea ice to give an “unprecedented” view of the planet.

     

    TIGRAY

    Eritrea will pull its troops out of Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, winner of the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize, said. It is a potential breakthrough in a drawn-out conflict that has seen atrocities carried out against civilians.

    About:

    • The Tigray Region is the northernmost of the nine regions (kililat) of Ethiopia.
    • Tigray is the homeland of the Tigrayan, Irob and Kunama peoples.
    • Tigray is also known as Region 1 according to the federal constitution.
    • Its capital and largest city is Mekelle.
    • Tigray is bordered by Eritrea to the north, Sudan to the west, the Amhara Region to the south and the Afar Region to the east and south east.

    Recent conflict:

    • The Tigray War is an ongoing armed conflict that began in November 2020 in the Tigray Region of Ethiopia.
    • It is fought between the by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF)-controlled Tigray Regional Government, and the Ethiopian National Defense Forces (ENDF).
    • The conflict escalated in September, when Tigray held local elections in insubordination of the Ethiopian federal government. these elections were considered “illegal” by the federal government, further leading to conflict with Tigray authorities.

     

    MAHARASHTRA BHUSHAN AWARD

    Legendary singer Asha Bhosle will be presented the Maharashtra Bhushan award for the year 2020, the State government’s highest honour.

    About:

    • A committee headed by Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray held a meeting earlier today in this regard.
    • The award, instituted in 1996 by the State government to recognise distinguished work and achievements of eminent persons from the State, representing different walks of life, carries a cash prize of ₹10 lakh and a citation.
    • Born on September 8, 1933, in Maharashtra’s Sangli district, Ms. Bhosle was initiated into music by her father, the renowned Marathi stage actor-singer Dinanath Mangeshkar.
    • Bhosle received the Dadasaheb Phalke Award for 2000.

    Important Info :

    • The first Maharashtra Bhushan awardee was Marathi writer P.L. Deshpande and the last winner of this award was historian Babasaheb Purandare who got it for the year 2015.
    • Her sister Lata Mangeshkar won the award for 1997.

    INDIAN BEAMLINE PROJECT

    The third phase of the Indian beamline project, a facility for materials research set up under India-Japan Scientific and Technological Cooperation, was initiated on March 23, 2021, with special focus on industrial application research.

    About:

    • The phase would increase the number of young researchers from India to be trained in advanced X-ray techniques of material research.
    • Besides, steps will be taken to allocate more beamtime so that more researchers can get access to it. At present, only 50 % of Indian researchers who apply receive beamtime.
    • The Indian beamline has been constructed and maintained by Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics (SINP), Kolkata and Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research (JNCASR), Bangalore; in Japanese synchrotron light source Photon Factory (PF) of High Energy Accelerator Research Organization (KEK), with support from Nano Mission, Department of Science and Technology (DST).
    • This India-Japan Scientific and Technological Cooperation project was initiated between the DST and the KEK on 24 July 2007.
    • In the first phase (2009-2015) of this project, an X-ray beamline (BL18B) was constructed by SINP in PF. In the second phase (2016-2021), JNCASR and SINP jointly developed the beamline further to cater to the need of various users from India.

     

    TRIBAL TB INITIATIVE

    Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan launched ‘Tribal TB Initiative’ in pursuit of TB Mukt Bharat.

    About:

    • A Guidance Note on Joint Action Plan for Tuberculosis (TB) Elimination, a Special Edition of Tribal Ministry’s Publication ‘ALEKH’ on TB, and a document on Tribal Tuberculosis (TB) Initiative was also released.
    • Over 104 million tribal population lives in India, across 705 tribes, accounting for 8.6 % of the country’s population.
    • 177 tribal districts were identified as high priority districts where physical remoteness, malnutrition, poor living conditions and lack of awareness contribute to the vulnerability of the tribal population to TB.
    • Initially, the activities of the joint plan will be focusing on 161 districts across 18 identified States. This would involve periodic TB active case finding drives and provision of TB Preventive Therapy (IPT) to identified vulnerable population and develop long term mechanisms for vulnerability reduction.
    1. the Union Territories of Lakshadweep and district of Badgam in Jammu and Kashmir have been declared TB Free on World TB Day this year.
    2. The government has already increased the Budget allocation for TB in India a four-fold in the last 5 years.

     

    NATIONAL CLEAN AIR PROGRAMME (NCAP)

    In the presence of Union Minister of Environment the MoU was signed by representatives of State Pollution Control Boards, Urban Local Bodies and Institutes of Repute for 132 identified cities for implementation of city specific action plans under National Clean Air Programme (NCAP).

    About:

    • The National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) is a long-term, time-bound, national level strategy to tackle air pollution problem across the country in a comprehensive manner.
    • It targets to achieve 20% to 30% reduction in Particulate Matter concentrations by 2024 (with 2017 as base year).
    • A National Knowledge Network comprising leading air quality specialists has also been constituted as a technical advisory group to support activities under NCAP and guide local Institutes of Repute (IoRs) in conducting air quality researches.

     

    INDO-KOREAN FRIENDSHIP PARK

    India’s First Indo-Korean Friendship Park was jointly inaugurated by Mr Suh Wook, Minister of National Defence, Republic of Korea and Rajnath Singh, Raksha Mantri, at Delhi Cantonment on 26 March 2021.

    About:

    • It is in Delhi Cantonment.
    • The park’s significance is not only because of it being a symbol of strong India-South Korea friendly relations, but also as a monument to India’s contributions as part of 21 countries which participated in Korean war 1950-53, under the aegis of the United Nations.
    • The park has been developed in joint consultation with Ministry of Defence, Government of India, Indian Army, Delhi Cantonment Board, Embassy of Korea and Korean War Veterans Association of India.
    • One of the pillars in the park encompasses Nobel Laureate Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore’s narration of Korea as “The Lamp of the East” which was published in Korean daily “Dong-A-llbo” in 1929.

     

    INDO-KOREAN FRIENDSHIP PARK

    India’s First Indo-Korean Friendship Park was jointly inaugurated by Mr Suh Wook, Minister of National Defence, Republic of Korea and Rajnath Singh, Raksha Mantri, at Delhi Cantonment on 26 March 2021.

    About:

    • It is in Delhi Cantonment.
    • The park’s significance is not only because of it being a symbol of strong India-South Korea friendly relations, but also as a monument to India’s contributions as part of 21 countries which participated in Korean war 1950-53, under the aegis of the United Nations.
    • The park has been developed in joint consultation with Ministry of Defence, Government of India, Indian Army, Delhi Cantonment Board, Embassy of Korea and Korean War Veterans Association of India.
    • One of the pillars in the park encompasses Nobel Laureate Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore’s narration of Korea as “The Lamp of the East” which was published in Korean daily “Dong-A-llbo” in 1929.

     

    EXIT POLL

    Election Commission of India, in exercise of the powers under sub-section(1) of Section 126A of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 has notified the period between 7:00A.M on 27th March, 2021 (Saturday) and 7.30 PM on 29thApril, 2021 (Thursday), as the period during which exit polls are banned.

    About:

    • During this period, conducting any exit poll and publishing or publicizing the result of exit poll by means of the print or electronic media or in any other manner shall be prohibited in the ongoing General Elections to the Legislative Assemblies of Assam, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal & Puducherry.
    • Further, under Section 126(1)(b) of the Representation of the People Act, 1951,displaying any election matter including results of any opinion poll or any other poll survey, in any electronic media, would be prohibited during the period of 48 hours ending with the hour fixed for conclusion of poll.

    Important Info :

    • In multi-phase elections it is prohibited to conduct exit polls from the 1st phase till the last phase of elections to prevent influencing voters’ behaviour. After last phase one can conduct an exit poll and publish result.
    • This was done by bringing amending the Representation of the People Act, 1951 in 2009 which inserted Section 126A was inserted into the RPA.
    • Contravention of Section 126A has been made punishable under Section 126A(3) with imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years or with fine or with both.
    • Additionally, Section 126B has also been inserted to the RP Act, 1951 for punishment to companies who commit any offence under Section 126A.

    UNITED NATIONS PEACEKEEPING

    India delivered on its promise of 2,00,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines for the United Nations Peacekeeping Force (UNPKF) worldwide, sending a shipment bound for Copenhagen.

    UN Peacekeeping:

    • UN peacekeepers provide security and the political and peacebuilding support to help countries make the difficult, early transition from conflict to peace.
    • Principles: UN Peacekeeping is guided by three basic principles:
      • Consent of the parties;
      • Impartiality;
      • Non-use of force except in self-defence and defence of the mandate.

     

    • Role of Security Council: The United Nations Charter gives the United Nations Security Council the responsibility to maintain international peace. For this reason, the international community usually looks to the Security Council to authorize peacekeeping operations through Chapter VII authorizations.
    • Present status: There are currently 12 UN peacekeeping operations deployed.
    • For its services, UN Peacekeeping has also received the Nobel Peace Prize.
    • UN peacekeepers are often referred to as Blue Berets or Blue Helmets because of their light blue berets or helmets.

     

    HYPNEA INDICA; HYPNEA BULLATA

    Two new species of seaweed have been discovered by a group of marine biologists from Central University of Punjab, Bathinda.

    About:

    • Named Hypnea indica (after India) and Hypnea bullata (because of the blisterlike marks on its body – bullate), the seaweeds are part of the genus Hypnea or red seaweeds.
    • While Hypnea indica was discovered Kanyakumari in Tamil Nadu, and Somnath Pathan and Sivrajpur in Gujarat, Hypnea bullata was discovered from Kanyakumari and Diu island of Daman and Diu.
    • They grow in the intertidal regions of the coast, namely the area that is submerged during the high tide and exposed during low tides.
    • The genus Hypnea consists of calcareous, erect, branched red seaweeds. There are 61 species of which 10 were reported in India. With our two new species, the total number of species now would be 63.

     

    CHINA, IRAN SIGN 25-YEAR ‘STRATEGIC PACT’

    China and Iran signed what was described as a 25-year “strategic cooperation pact”.

    About:

    • While details of the new 25-year pact were not immediately available, it includes “political, strategic and economic” components.
    • This document can be very effective in deepening relations and would establish a blueprint for “reciprocal investments in the fields of transport, ports, energy, industry and services”.

    Background: Nuclear Deal and Sanctions

    • The agreement comes amid a major push from China to back Iran, which counts on Beijing, its largest trading partner, as it deals with the continuing weight of sanctions re-instated following then U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Iranian nuclear deal.
    • Earlier this week, China and Russia called for the U.S. to “unconditionally return to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) as soon as possible and revoke the unilateral sanctions against Iran”.
    • In this context, they proposed “the establishment of a regional security dialogue platform to converge a new consensus on resolving the security concerns of countries in the region”.

    Important Info :

    China and West Asia

    • This was signed during Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s ongoing six-nation tour to West Asia. Mr. Wang is visiting Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Iran, the UAE, Bahrain and Oman.
    • Five-point initiative: In Riyadh, Mr. Wang proposed “a five-point initiative on achieving security and stability in the Middle East” advocating “mutual respect, upholding equity and justice, achieving non-proliferation, jointly fostering collective security, and accelerating development cooperation.”

     

    MOITREE

    On the occasion of the birth centenary of the founding father of Bangladesh Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, renowned vocalist Pandit Ajoy Chakrabarty has composed a new Raag named ‘Moitree’ as a tribute to the Bangabandhu.

    About:

    • The new Raag is dedicated to Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman with elements of ‘maitree’ or India Bangladesh friendship.
    • It is a newly composed Raag incorporating the classical rules for the composition of Raag.
    • Three compositions will be presented which are written in Sanskrit, Hindi and Bengali languages.

     

    INDIA-BANGLADESH RELATIONS

    India and Bangladesh signed 5 MoUs in the fields of Disaster Management, trade, NCC, ICT and setting up of sports facilities during the official visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Bangladesh.

    About:

    • Foundation stone was laid for infrastructure development for power evacuation facilities from the Rooppur Nuclear power plant.
    • The Bangladesh leg of the Banagabandhu-Bapu Digital Exhibition was inaugurated by the two Prime Ministers. It will be taken to other parts of the world including the UN.
    • Both the leaders also unveiled the foundation stone for the construction of a memorial at Ashuganj honoring the martyrs of Indian armed forces in the 1971 Liberation War of Bangladesh.
    • India gifted 109 life support ambulances to Bangladesh and also 1.2 million doses of the Covishield vaccine.
    • Three border haats were also opened along the India-Bangladesh border.

    During the visit a number of announcements were made.

    • A direct passenger train named ‘Mitali Express’ will run between Dhaka and New Jalpaiguri.
    • Prime Minister Modi invited 50 young entrepreneurs from Bangladesh to connect with India’s start up ecosystem.
    • 1000 Subarno Jayanti Scholarships were announced for the Bangladeshi students to study in India at the Undergraduate and postgraduate levels.
    • A Bangabandhu Chair will be established at Delhi University to facilitate Bangladesh studies.
    • Both countries agreed to start a new area of cooperation in the Civil nuclear and space sectors.

    Important Info :

    Places visited

    • Prime Minister also visited the birthplace of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman at Tungipara and placed a wreath at his mausoleum to pay tribute to the father of the nation of Bangladesh.
    • Prime Minister Modi visited the Jeshoreshwari temple in Satkhira. He announced that a cyclone shelter cum community hall will be built at the temple for use by the people.
    • He also visited Orakandi where he was given a community reception. He paid respect at Harimandir in Orakandi and addressed the representatives of the Matua community.

    RESOLUTION 46/L1

    India abstained from voting on a resolution in the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) that makes a wide-ranging and damaging commentary on the human rights situation in Sri Lanka.

    About:

    • Resolution 46/L1 has decided, among other things, to “strengthen” the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights to collect evidence and develop possible strategies for future accountability processes for gross violations of human rights in Sri Lanka.
    • It refers to “persistent” lack of accountability for rights abuses committed through the years by “all parties” in Sri Lanka, including the LTTE.
    • Most seriously, it expresses a lack of confidence in the ability of the present government in Colombo to address the shortcomings.
    • Among the 14 countries that abstained were Japan, Indonesia, Bahrain and Nepal. Among the 11 that voted against were China, Cuba, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Russia, and Venezuela.

    Important Info :

    Comment

    • This is the eighth resolution on Sri Lanka at the Human Rights Council since the end of the war against the LTTE in 2009.
    • India’s record of voting on these resolutions shows the ups and downs of New Delhi-Colombo relations, the pressures on coalitions in India, the influence of politics and parties in Tamil Nadu, and the ebb and flow of regional and international geopolitics.


    CRYPTOCURRENCY

    The corporate affairs ministry has announced companies will have to disclose any holding or dealings in cryptocurrencies or virtual currencies in their financial statements filed with the Registrar of Companies (RoC).

    About:

    • All companies will now have to disclose in their statutory financial filings to the RoC
      • any profit or loss on transactions involving cryptocurrency,
      • the amount of cryptocurrency held on the reporting date, and
      • any deposits or advances received from anyone for the purpose of investing in cryptocurrencies or virtual currencies.

     

    • Some experts have said these disclosure requirements indicated the government is open to regulating cryptocurrencies instead of banning them.

    Important Info :

    View of Government on Cryptocurrency

    • The government’s new bill – Cryptocurrency and Regulation of Official Digital Currency Bill, 2021 — aims to prohibit all private cryptocurrencies while setting the stage to roll out the legal framework for an “official digital currency”.
    • However, Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has said the Centre will take a calibrated approach to cryptocurrencies and will not close the window on experimentation with cryptocurrencies.

     

    BIHAR SPECIAL ARMED POLICE BILL, 2021

    The Opposition in Bihar has called a statewide bandh on March 26 to protest the passed of the Bihar Special Armed Police Bill, 2021 by the Bihar Assembly.

    About:

    • The bill aims to develop the Bihar Military Police into a well-trained and fully equipped armed police force with multi-domain expertise to cater to the development needs and the larger interest of the state.
    • At present, the Bihar Military Police is entrusted with the security of the Mahabodhi Temple in Gaya, the Darbhanga airport, and other industrial and commercial establishments.
    • The new Bill renames the Bihar Military Police as the Bihar Special Armed Police, and gives the force more teeth, on the lines of the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF), so it can better secure the commercial and industrial assets of the state.
    • Mandate of the force will be the “maintenance of public order, combating extremism, ensuring the better protection and security of specified establishments in such manner as may be notified and perform such other duties, as may be notified.”
    • It empowers Special Armed Police officers to carry out searches and arrests without warrant, and courts being able to take congnizance of certain offences by the officers only after government sanction.
    • The mahagathbandhan in Bihar has called the Bill “draconian”.

     

    PRODUCTION-LINKED INCENTIVE (PLI) SCHEME FOR MANUFACTURING OF MOBILE PHONES

    The Indian Cellular and Electronics Association (ICEA) has written letters to the NITI Aayog to consider declaring 2020-21 as zero year for production-linked incentive (PLI) scheme for manufacturing of mobile phones.

    About:

    • PLI schemes for all sectors that have been announced since April last year envisage incentives on achievement of a minimum threshold of cumulative incremental investment and incremental sales of manufactured goods net of taxes.
    • Since the government notified the PLI for mobile manufacturing on April 1 last year, FY21 was considered as the base year for the calculation of incremental investments and sales, and therefore the incentives to be given to companies.

    Important Info :

    How does 2020-21 being considered as zero year help cellphone makers?

    • For the purposes of calculation of incremental investment, incremental sales of manufactured goods net of taxes and therefore the incentives, cellphone companies have urged the government that the current financial year be considered as zero year.
    • In essence, they say that for the purposes of calculation of the incentives to be given to under the PLI scheme, the government should consider the incremental investments they will make and sales of products that they achieve from next financial year.
    • The most common claim is that the lockdown in the first three months of this fiscal left them with very little time to get started with the building of or expansion of old units.

     

    INDIAN RHINOCEROS

    With the BJP frequently invoking Assam’s world-famous one-horned rhino to connect with the people of the state, the animal has now become a part of poll rhetoric, with promises to save “the pride of Assam”.

    About:

    • The projection of rhino as the pride of Assam began during the Assam Movement (1979-85).
    • Rhino started emerging as a player in the political narrative of Assam as “its poaching was linked to the control of indigenous people over land, resources and influx of immigrants”.
    • According to the rhino census of 2018, there are 2,413 rhinos in Kaziranga alone.
    • It is common for every party contesting in Bokakhat and Kaliabor, the two constituencies that cover most of Kaziranga (the park spreads over six constituencies), to say that they will protect the rhino.

    Important Info :

    • The Indian rhinoceros (Rhinoceros unicornis) is also called the Indian rhino, greater one-horned rhinoceros or great Indian rhinoceros.
    • It is a rhinoceros species native to the Indian subcontinent.
    • It is listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List.
    • Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary in Assam has the highest density of Indian rhinos in the world.

    JUDICIAL REVIEW

    A public interest litigation has been filed in the Supreme Court by Wasim Rizvi seeking declaration of 26 verses of the Quran as unconstitutional, non-effective and non- functional on the ground that these promote extremism and terrorism.

    Power of judicial review:

    • Under Indian law, only a “law” can be challenged as unconstitutional.
    • Article 13(3) defines law, which includes any ordinance, order, by-law, rule, regulations, notification, custom or usage having in the territory the force of law.
    • “Laws in force” on the commencement of the Constitution include laws enacted by a legislature or other competent authority.
    • This definition certain does not cover any religious scripture including the Quran. Similarly, neither the Vedas nor the Gita, nor the Bible, nor the Guru Granth Sahib can be said to be “law” under Article 13 and thus challenged in a court of law.
    • The divine books can be sources of law but not law in themselves. Thus, Quran in itself is not “law” for the purposes of Article 13.
    • It is the paramount source of Islamic law and Muslim jurists extract laws from it through interpretation and also taking into account other sources of law such as Hadees (Prophet’s sayings), Ijma (juristic consensus), Qiyas (analogical deductions), Urf ( customs), Istihsan (juristic preference) and Istisilah (public interest).

    Important Info :

    Reaction to the petition

    • The petition has led to protests among Muslims, and several clerics have issued fatwas against the petitioner.
    • In Vishwa Lochan Madan (2014), the Supreme Court has already observed that such fatwas have no validity.

    POLLING AGENTS

    The Election Commission’s recent decision to change the rules for appointing polling agents has sparked off a debate in West Bengal.

    Who is a polling agent?

    • A polling agent is a person appointed as a representative of a political party as it is not possible for a candidate to be physically present at every polling booth on the day of the elections.
    • Therefore, the Election Commission allows a candidate to appoint a polling agent who keeps an eye on the voting process.

    What is the role of a polling agent?

    • As per the Election Commission’s rules, a polling agent should be familiar with the rules and procedures to conduct elections using EVMs and VVPATs, and with the working of these machines.
    • Towards this end, a polling agent attends the demonstrations arranged by the Returning Officer, where the functioning and operation of these machines are explained.

    Important Info :

    New regulations:

    • As per the new regulations, a political party can now nominate a polling agent for any booth within the assembly segment he/she is a voter from.
    • Earlier, the polling agent had to be a voter of the booth or an adjoining booth that he/she is working at.
    • The Trinamool has been opposing the change in rules, calling it “arbitrary, motivated and biased” and has also written to the Election Commission seeking withdrawal of the order.

     

    UNIFORM CIVIL CODE (UCC)

    Chief Justice of India (CJI) S A Bobde lauded Goa’s Uniform Civil Code, and encouraged “intellectuals” indulging in “academic talk” to visit the state to learn more about it. Earlier in September 2019, the Supreme Court had described Goa as a “shining example” with a Uniform Civil Code.

    About:

    • A Uniform Civil Code is one that would provide for one law for the entire country, applicable to all religious communities in their personal matters such as marriage, divorce, inheritance, adoption etc.
    • Article 44 of the Constitution lays down that the state shall endeavour to secure a Uniform Civil Code for the citizens throughout the territory of India.

    Directive Principles of State Policy

    • Article 44 is one of the Directive Principles of State Policy.
    • These, as defined in Article 37, are not justiciable (not enforceable by any court) but the principles laid down therein are fundamental in governance.
    • While Article 44 uses the words “state shall endeavour”, other Articles in the ‘Directive Principles’ chapter use words such as “in particular strive”; “shall in particular direct its policy”; “shall be obligation of the state” etc.

    Important Info :

    Does India not already have a uniform code in civil matters?

    • Indian laws do follow a uniform code in most civil matters — Indian Contract Act, Civil Procedure Code, Sale of Goods Act, Transfer of Property Act, Partnership Act, Evidence Act, etc.
    • States, however, have made hundreds of amendments and, therefore, in certain matters, there is diversity even under these secular civil laws. Recently, several states refused to be governed by the uniform Motor Vehicles Act, 2019.

     

    HEART OF ASIA – ISTANBUL PROCESS (HoA-IP)

    External Affairs Minister Dr S Jaishankar reached Dushanbe on a three-day visit to Tajikistan. He will attend the 9th Ministerial Conference of Heart of Asia – Istanbul Process on Afghanistan.

    About:

    • The Heart of Asia – Istanbul Process (HoA-IP) is an initiative of Afghanistan and Turkey, which was officially launched at a conference hosted by Turkey in Istanbul on 2 November 2011.
    • Since then, Afghanistan supported by fourteen Participating Countries of the Heart of Asia Region and 16 Supporting Countries beyond the region as well as 12 Regional and International Organizations is leading and coordinating this Process.
    • It is a platform for promoting regional security, economic and political cooperation centred on Afghanistan through dialogue and a set of Confidence Building Measures (CBMs).
    • The Directorate General for Regional Cooperation of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Afghanistan is acting as the de facto Secretariat of the Process.
    • The Heart of Asia Region: The geographical area covering the 15 Participating Countries of the HoA-IP is defined as the Heart of Asia Region. It is one of the biggest regions in the world with a collective geographical area of more than 40 million km2 covering around 27% of the land area of the Earth.

    Important Info :

    Recent conference

    • As the lead country for Trade, Commerce and Investment Confidence Building Measure under Heart of Asia – Istanbul Process, India has made concerted efforts for strengthening regional connectivity for the greater economic integration of Afghanistan with the region.
    • A dedicated Air Freight Corridor between cities of India and Afghanistan and operationalisation of Chabahar Port in Iran are steps in that direction.
    • After arriving in Dushanbe today, Dr Jaishankar visited the Dushanbe-Chortut Highway Project He lauded the Good work being done by Border Roads Organisation BRO under Indian grant assistance. The 8-lane highway will decongest Dushanbe.

     

    ROLE OF MICRO FORESTS IN DISASTER MANAGEMENT

    Prime Minister Narendra Modi has underlined the role of micro forests in minimising the havoc caused by cyclones in coastal areas.

    About:

    • Through his Mann ki Baat program, the Prime Minister, commended two odia activists- one, Mr. Vijay Kumar Kabi of Kendrapara and the other Mr. Amaresh Samanta of Paradeep, for their individual efforts in raising micro forests to fend coastal villages from the wrath of high tides.
    • Prime Minister’s emphasis on creating micro forests in coastal villages assumes greater significance for a state like Odisha, which has been witnessing cyclones almost on a regular basis, be it Phailin in 2013, Hudhud in 2014 down to Titli 2018, Fani 2019 or for that matter, Amphan only last year.

     

    INTERNATIONAL RANGER AWARD

    Union Minister for Environment has congratulated Mahinder Giri, range officer of Rajaji Tiger Reserve for being the only ranger from Asia to win the prestigious International Ranger Award for his contribution towards conservation.

    About:

    • The award has been announced for 10 professionals across the world by the International Union for Conservation of Nature IUCN and World Commission on Protected Areas WCPA.
    • Developed through a collaboration between the IUCN WCPA, the International Ranger Federation, Global Wildlife Conservation, and Conservation Allies, these awards, created in 2020, aim to highlight and felicitate the extraordinary work that rangers do in protected and conserved areas worldwide.

     

    PROROGATION

    President Ram Nath Kovind has prorogued the fifth session of 17th Lok Sabha. The session had commenced on 29th January. President also prorogued the Rajya Sabha. The House was adjourned sine die on 25th of this month.

    About:

    • Termination of a session of the House by an order made by the President under article 85(2) is called ‘prorogation’.
    • The President in exercising the power to prorogue the House acts on the advice of the Prime Minister.
    • Usually, prorogation follows the adjournment of the sitting of the House sine die.
    • The time-lag between the adjournment of a House sine die and its prorogation is generally two to four days, although there are instances when a House was prorogued on the same day on which it was adjourned sine die.
    • It is not necessary that both the Houses should be prorogued simultaneously.

    Important Info :

    Effects of prorogation on different categories of business pending before the House

    • Article 107(3) of the Constitution of India expressly provides that a Bill pending in Parliament shall not lapse by reason of the prorogation of the House. This also covers Bills pending before a Select or Joint Committee of the House(s).
    • Notices of intention to move for leave to introduce Bills also do not lapse on prorogation and no fresh notice is necessary in the next session for that purpose except where any sanction or recommendation granted under the Constitution in respect of a Bill has ceased to be operative.
    • On the prorogation, all pending notices of Motions and Resolutions except those relating to introduction of Bills as mentioned above, lapse and fresh notices must be given for the next session.
    • Any business pending before a committee shall not lapse by reason only of the prorogation of the House and the committee shall continue to function notwithstanding such prorogation.
    • On prorogation of either House of Parliament, the President has the power to issue Ordinances under article 123.

     

    EXAM WARRIORS

    PM Modi unveils new version of ‘Exam Warriors’ to make them stress free before examinations.

    About:

    • The new version of Exam Warriors written by Prime Minister Narendra Modi is now available with many new mantras for students as well as parents.
    • It is available at retail stores as well as online. The Exam Warriors module is also available on the NaMo App.
    • The new edition of the book has been enriched with valuable inputs from students, parents and teachers. Substantive new parts have been added that would especially interest the parents and teachers.

     

    SABARMATI RIVER FRONT DEVELOPMENT PROJECT

    The Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation, in its draft budget for 2021-22, has set aside Rs 1,050 crore for the Sabarmati River Front Development phase 2, work on which is to begin soon.

    About:

    • Sabarmati Riverfront is a waterfront being developed along the banks of Sabarmati river in Ahmedabad.
    • Proposed in the 1960s, the construction began in 2005.
    • The major objectives of project are environment improvement, social infrastructure and sustainable development.
    • By channelling the river to a constant width of 263 m along the part that passes Ahmedabad city, 204 hectares have been reclaimed along the 11-km stretch of the Sabarmati Riverfront in the first phase of the project, on both the banks.

    Important Info :

    Sabarmati river?

    • The Sabarmati river is one of the major west-flowing rivers in India.
    • It originates in the Aravalli Range of the Udaipur District of Rajasthan and meets the Gulf of Khambhat of Arabian Sea after travelling 371 km in a south-westerly direction across Rajasthan and Gujarat.

    NACADUBA SINHALA RAMASWAMII SADASIVAN

    A group of lepidopterists have found a new butterfly species in India.

    About:

    • The discovery of the species Nacaduba sinhala ramaswamii Sadasivan, 2021 in the Agasthyamalais in the Western Ghats a decade ago has now found place in the Journal of Threatened Taxa.
    • The new taxon of Lycaenid butterflies belongs to the Nacaduba genus.
    • Line Blues are small butterflies belonging to the subfamily Lycaenidae and their distribution ranges from India and Sri Lanka to the whole of south-eastern Asia, Australia and Samoa.
    • It is the first time that a butterfly species was discovered by an all-Indian research team from the Western Ghats.

    Important Info :

    • Lepidopterology is a branch of entomology concerning the scientific study of moths and the three superfamilies of butterflies.
    • Someone who studies in this field is a lepidopterist or, archaically, an aurelian.

     

    CULEX MOSQUITOES

    With the change in season and rise in temperature, culex or common house mosquitoes have made a reappearance across Delhi.

    About:

    • Warmer temperatures are the main reason for the appearance of these mosquitoes.
    • Their presence is especially felt more in areas around floodplains in East and South Delhi as it is an ideal condition of breeding.
    • Culex mosquitoes are known carriers of Japanese encephalitis, a potentially life-threatening but rare viral disease that causes “acute inflammation” of the brain. They breed in dirty, stagnant water.
    • They can fly up to a distance of 1-1.5 km.
    • Unlike Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, which spread dengue and chikungunya and breed in clean water, culex mosquitoes breed in unclean stagnant water.

     

    DUST WINDS

    Dust-laden winds swept Delhi on Tuesday, pushing the air quality into the poor category and increasing the concentration of coarse particles in the air.

    About:

    • According to forecasts, strong winds that are carrying dust to Delhi from Rajasthan are expected to continue until Thursday.
    • The concentration of particulate matter of 10 micrometres (PM10) — coarse particles suspended in the air — was 341 micrograms per cubic metre air (µg/m3) as of 5pm, against the 24-hour acceptable limit of 100 µg/m3.
    • The concentration of PM2.5 — particles that are smaller in size and are released from combustion activities — was about 105 µg/m3, a little higher than the 24-hour acceptable limit of 60 µg/m3.
    • The spike in PM10 concentration shows the impact of dust-laden winds on air quality, which, according to the Centre’s Early Warning System for Delhi, is expected to largely remain in poor category for the next five days.

    Reason for Dust Winds in Delhi

    • Weather and environmental experts said a cyclonic circulation over Rajasthan and high temperatures over the past few days in northwest India is contributing to this phenomenon.
    • Delhi witnesses long-range transport of dust nearly every year from Rajasthan, and even from Afghanistan, during summer months.

     

    INVESTMENT OPPORTUNITIES IN INDIA’S HEALTHCARE SECTOR

    NITI Aayog Releases Report ‘Investment Opportunities in India’s Healthcare Sector’.

    About:

    • The report outlines the range of investment opportunities in various segments of India’s healthcare sector, including hospitals, medical devices and equipment, health insurance, telemedicine, home healthcare and medical value travel.
    • India’s healthcare industry has been growing at a Compound Annual Growth Rate of around 22% since 2016. At this rate, it is expected to reach USD 372 billion in 2022.
    • In the hospital segment, the expansion of private players to tier-2 and tier-3 locations, beyond metropolitan cities, offers an attractive investment opportunity.

     

    DIGHA & KANKARBAGH SEWAGE PROJECTS

    Financing agreements for developing STPs and Sewerage network for Digha and Kankarbagh zones of Patna were signed between DK Sewage Project Pvt Ltd (a subsidiary of VA Tech Wahagh) and PFS.

    About:

    • The scope of the project includes development of Sewage Treatment Plants of 150 MLD capacity along with sewerage network of over 453 km in the Digha and Kankarbagh zones of Patna, one of the most populous cities on the banks of the river Ganga.
    • This is the first of its kind project which comprises of a mix of Design, Build, Operate and Transfer (‘DBOT’) scope and Hybrid Annuity Model (HAM) scope.
    • With the implementation of Digha and Kankarbagh sewerage projects all the sewage zones of Patna city will be covered with sewerage network and sewage treatment capacity to achieve the objective of the Namami Gange program of preventing any untreated waste water entering the river Ganga.

     

    WORLD IMMUNISATION AND LOGISTICS SUMMIT

    Dr. Harsh Vardhan, Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare digitally participated in a panel discussion on vaccine production and distribution across Asia at the “World Immunisation and Logistics Summit”.

    About:

    • The HOPE Consortium’s World Immunisation & Logistics Summit opened on March 30, 2021 to enhance collaboration in the world’s approach to tackle COVID-19 and ensure a healthier future for all.
    • The two-day virtual Summit, hosted in by Abu Dhabi, kicked off under the patronage of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, with the participation of acclaimed global healthcare and philanthropic leaders, decision-makers, experts and senior government officials, to explore a unified global approach to fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.

    HOPE Consortium?

    • Spearheaded by the Department of Health – Abu Dhabi, who has led the formation of the emirate-wide consortium, the HOPE Consortium brings together leading brands to deliver an end-to-end solution to distribute COVID-19 vaccines globally.

     

    ĀNANDAM: THE CENTER FOR HAPPINESS

    Union Education Minister inaugurates Ānandam: The Center for Happiness in IIM Jammu, to help students live a stress-free life.

    About:

    • Incorporating happiness in the academic curriculum of students is a very crucial step towards empowering our nation. This step will take our education system to newer heights, similar to the times of ancient Indian universities like Nalanda and Takshashila.
    • Anandam: The Center for happiness aligns with the National Education Policy 2020 that aims to transform India’s education system by 2021.
    • Prime activities envisaged under the concept of ‘Ānandam: The Center for Happiness’ will be divided into five broad categories, namely, Counselling, Holistic wellness, Elective courses on Happiness Development, Research and Leadership & Faculty Development.
    • The Center for Happiness acquires its name ‘Ānandam’ from the Indian wisdom tradition where the pure consciousness is being as “anandam”. “Ānandam” doesn’t aim for only happiness but knowing the truth, doing good and enjoying the beauty around.
    • The tagline for “Ānandam” further reinforces its ideology that it will work for the well-being of all. The tagline “Sarvabhūtahiteratāḥ” stands for being always engaged for the well-being of all.

     

    VAJRA PRAHAR 2021

    The 11th edition of Indo-US Joint Special Forces Exercise VAJRA PRAHAR was conducted at Special Forces Training School located at Bakloh, HP in March 2021.

    About:

    • The joint exercise by the Special Forces of both the countries is conducted alternatively between India and the United States.
    • Objective is to share the best practices and experiences in areas such as joint mission planning and operational tactics as also to improve interoperability between the Special Forces of both nations.

     

    PHALTAN-PUNE DEMU TRAIN

    Union Minister Prakash Javadekar flagged off DEMU train from Phaltan to Pune via Lonand on 30.3.2021 through video conferencing.

    About:

    • Phaltan is a town, a taluka and a municipal council in Satara district in the Indian state of Maharashtra. The town is about 59 kilometres northeast of the city of Satara and about 110 km from Pune.
    • Introduction of trains between Phaltan and Pune via Lonand will help the people of this region in general and agriculturists to reach new markets, students to reach educational institutions of their choice & workers to seek more green pastures in particular.

    Important Info :

    DEMU trains?

    • A diesel multiple unit or DMU is a multiple-unit train powered by on-board diesel engines.
    • Diesel-powered units may be further classified by their transmission type: diesel–mechanical DMMU, diesel–hydraulic DHMU, or diesel–electric DEMU.
  • February 2021

    LIGHT UTILITY HELICOPTER (LUH)

    The Light Utility Helicopter (LUH) received the Initial Operational Clearance (IOC) for the Indian Army from Centre for Military Airworthiness and Certification (CEMILAC).

    About:

    • The LUH is a three-ton class new generation single engine helicopter indigenously designed and developed by Rotary Wing Research and Design Centre of Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL)  with features suitable for operations in the diverse operating conditions unique to India.
    • The LUH will replace the ageing fleet of Cheetah/Chetak helicopters operated by the Services.
    • The LUH is powered by a single turbo shaft engine Ardiden 1U from M/s. Safran Helicopter Engine (SHE), France with adequate power margins to accomplish high altitude missions in Himalayas with ease.
    • LUH is equipped with Smart Cockpit Display System (Glass Cockpit), state-of-the-art HUMS (Health & Usage Monitoring System) and is designed for various utility and armed roles.

     

    JAMTARA

    A library movement developed in a short span of time in Jharkhand’s Jamtara district is receiving a steady flow of students.

     About:

    • The district now has 45 functional public libraries. Unused government buildings have been renovated and converted into public libraries.
    • The district’s love for books assumes huge significance as it has the dubious distinction of being the “phishing capital of India”.
    • Many youth, mostly drop-outs in the 15-35 age group, have been turning to cybercrime to earn a few quick bucks.
    • Police personnel from 22 out of 28 Indian States have visited the tiny district in search of cyber fraudsters in the past few years. It is said that the majority of online fraud calls received by people across the country emanate from the district.
    • Netflix’s 2020 crime drama, Jamtara, was based on this.
    • As many as 93 cyber criminals are languishing in Jamtara’s jails, while 156 online fraudsters were arrested in 74 different cases in 2020.

    GUIDELINES FOR FLOATING STRUCTURES

    Ministry of Ports, Shipping and Waterways has issued the guidelines for floating structures with a vision to set up world-class floating infrastructure all along the coastline in the upcoming projects.

    About:

    • The guidelines sets out technical aspects for implementation of Floating Jetties or Platforms for Marinas, Minor Harbors, Fishing Harbours or Fish landing centers, Waterdomes and such other similar facilities in coastal areas, estuaries, waterways, rivers and reservoirs.
    • These guidelines may also be suitably utilized for floating pontoons or platforms in various waterborne systems and floating wave attenuators or breakwaters for Minor Harbors or Fish Landing facilities.

    Significance:

    • Floating structure because of its inherent advantages is an attractive solution and it is being promoted by the Ministry of Ports, Shipping and Waterways.
    • The benefits of floating jetties or structures over the conventional quay and fixed concrete structures include its cost-effectiveness, faster implementation, easily expandable and re-locatable and having minimal environmental impacts.

    INDIA-BAHRAIN JOINT WORKING GROUP ON RENEWABLE ENERGY

    The 1st meeting of the Joint Working Group in the field of Renewable Energy between India and the Kingdom of Bahrain was held in virtual format.

    About:

    • A MoU between India and Bahrain was signed in 2018 for promoting bilateral cooperation in the field of Renewable Energy.
    • Both sides agreed to forging deeper engagement in capacity building and focused cooperation between concerned agencies as well as private sector of the two countries in this sector, particularly in the field of solar, wind and clean hydrogen.

    MK III ADVANCED LIGHT HELICOPTERS (ALH)

    The Indian Navy received three “made in India” Advanced Light Helicopters (ALH) from the state-run Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL). The helicopters are customised for coastal security.

    About:

    • The naval version of ALH is fitted with an array of advanced sensors that can detect Mumbai terror attacks like intrusions on Indian waters.
    • These helicopters have latest generation avionics, indigenous low frequency dunking sonar, full glass cockpit with integrated architecture display system and the powerful Shakti engines.
    • It also has a nose mounted surveillance radar with 270 degree coverage that can detect and track multiple marine targets. Its synthetic aperture radar and inverse synthetic aperture radar can detect targets on sea.

    GOVERNMENT SECURITIES

    The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) said that it will give small investors direct access to its government securities trading platform.

    About:

    • Retail investors can directly open their gilt accounts with RBI, and trade in government securities. The RBI Governor described this as a “major structural reform.”
    • Government Securities (or g-secs) are debt instruments issued by the government to borrow money.
    • The two key categories are
      • treasury bills – short-term instruments which mature in 91 days, 182 days, or 364 days, and
      • dated securities – long-term instruments, which mature anywhere between 5 years and 40 years.

    ROHINI COMMISSION

    The Centre has 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 now has until July 31 to submit its report.

    About:

    • OBCs are granted 27% reservation in jobs and education under the central government.
    • In September last year, a Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court reopened the legal debate on sub-categorisation of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes for reservations.
    • 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 this 27% reservation.
    • The argument for sub-categorisation — or creating categories within OBCs for reservation — is that it would ensure “equitable distribution” of representation among all OBC communities.
    • To examine this, the Rohini Commission was constituted on October 2, 2017.

    \

    DENMARK’S ARTIFICIAL ENERGY ISLAND PROJECT

    The Danish government approved a plan to build an artificial island in the North Sea as part of its effort to switch to green energy.

    About:

    • The project is being called the largest construction project to be undertaken in Denmark’s history with an estimated cost of DKK 210 billion.
    • An energy island is based on a platform that serves as a hub for electricity generation from surrounding offshore wind farms.
    • The artificial island will be located about 80 km into the North Sea and the majority of it will be owned by the Danish government. Its primary purpose is to provide large-scale offshore wind power.
    • The idea is to connect and distribute power between Denmark and neighbouring countries.
    • The move has come after the EU announced its plans to transform its electricity system to rely mostly on renewables within a decade and to increase its offshore wind energy capacity by over 25-fold by the year 2050.

    PROUD BOYS

    Canada has announced that it will be designating the US-based far-right group ‘Proud Boys’ as a terrorist entity in an attempt to crack down on “ideologically motivated violent extremism” in the country.

    About:

    • With this, the all-male neo-fascist group will be added to a lengthy list of international terrorist organisations, that includes ISIS, Al Qaeda and al-Shabab.
    • The all-male neo-fascist group was founded in 2016 by Vice Media co-founder and Canadian-British right-wing activist Gavin McInnes.
    • The Proud Boys are known for their “anti-Muslim and misogynistic rhetoric”. The group is also known for anti-transgender, anti-immigration and anti-Semitic views.
    • Members usually don a fixed uniform of red ‘Make America Great Again’ caps from Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and black and yellow polo shirts.

    SQUARE KILOMETRE ARRAY OBSERVATORY (SKAO) PROJECT

    A global collaboration for the world’s largest radio telescope took formal shape with the constitution of an Intergovernmental Council.

    About:

    • The Square Kilometre Array Observatory (SKAO) project, spanning two continents and involving the participation of 20 countries, is expected to be ready for carrying out observations towards the end of this decade.
    • Its goals are: studying the universe and its evolution, the origin and evolution of cosmic magnetism, and dark energy and evolution of galaxies.
    • It is proposed to be built in two phases, with an estimated 1.8 billion euros required for phase-I, planned over the next ten years.

    The NITI Aayog has commissioned a study that seeks to examine the “unintended economic consequences” of judicial decisions that have hindered and stalled big-ticket projects on environmental grounds

    .

    About:

    • The document appears to suggest that judgments that negatively impact major infrastructure projects don’t adequately consider the economic fallout — in terms of loss of jobs and revenue.
    • Doing so, would contribute to public discourse among policymakers for promoting an “economically responsible approach by judiciary” in its decisions.
    • The project brief says that it intends to examine five major projects that have been “impacted” by judicial decisions of the Supreme Court or the National Green Tribunal.
    • It plans to do this by interviewing people who have been affected by the closure of the projects, environmental campaigners, experts and assessing the business impact of closure.
    • Projects to be analysed include the construction of an airport in Mopa, Goa; cessation of iron ore mining in Goa, and the shutting down of the Sterlite copper plant in Thoothukudi, Tamil Nadu. The others are decisions by the NGT involving sand mining, and construction activities in the National Capital Region.
    • The study is to be undertaken by the Jaipur-headquartered CUTS (Consumer Unity and Trust Society) Centre for Competition, Investment and Economic Regulation, that also has an international presence.

     

    TRANS FATS

    The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has amended its rules to cap trans-fatty acids (TFAs) in food products, just weeks after it tightened the norms for oils and fats.

    About:

    • Food products in which edible oils and fats are used as an ingredient shall not contain industrial trans-fatty acids more than 2% by mass of the total oils/fats present in the product, on and from 1st January, 2022.
    • The 2% cap is considered to be elimination of trans-fatty acids, which India will achieve by 2022.
    • In December 2020, the FSSAI had capped TFAs in oils and fats to 3% by 2021, and 2% by 2022 from the current levels of 5%.

    Background:

    • Trans-fatty acids are created in an industrial process that adds hydrogen to liquid vegetable oils to make them more solid, increase shelf life of food items and for use as an adulterant as they are cheap.
    • They are present in baked, fried and processed foods as well as adulterated ghee, which becomes solid at room temperature.
    • They are the most harmful form of fats as they clog arteries and cause hypertension, heart attacks and other cardiovascular diseases.
    • The WHO has called for the elimination of industrially produced trans-fatty acids from the global food supply by 2023.

     

    GOVERNMENT REGULATIONS AND TECH PLATFORMS

    The Centre has issued notice to Twitter after the micro-blogging site restored more than 250 accounts that had been suspended earlier on the government’s ‘legal demand’.

    Indian Law:

    • In India, the Information Technology 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 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.

    ONE-PERSON COMPANIES (OPCs)

    In her Budget speech, Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced measures to ease norms on setting up one-person companies (OPCs).

    About:

    • As the name suggests, a one-person company is a company that can be formed by just one person as a shareholder.
    • In India, the concept was introduced in the Companies Act of 2013. Its introduction was based on the suggestions of the J.J. Irani Committee Report on Company Law, which submitted its recommendations in 2005.

    Budget 2021 proposals:

    • The 2014 rule, which stated that a one-person company would cease to have that status once its paid-up share capital exceeds ₹50 lakh or its average turnover for the preceding three years exceeds ₹2 crore, has been lifted.
    • The proposals also include, “reducing the residency limit for an Indian citizen to set up an OPC from 182 days to 120 days and also allow non-resident Indians (NRIs) to incorporate OPCs in India.” Earlier, only an Indian citizen and an Indian resident could start a single-person company.
    • The step would directly benefit start-ups and innovators.

     

    KA-226T UTILITY HELICOPTERS

    The total indigenous content of the Ka-226T utility helicopters, to be jointly manufactured locally by India and Russia with Transfer of Technology (ToT), is between 27%-33%, said Chairman and MD of Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) R. Madhavan.

    About:

    • The final deal is held up as the Russian proposal of 62% indigenous content in assembled helicopters falls short of the tender requirement of 70%.
    • The Ka-226T is meant to replace the ageing and obsolete Cheetah and Chetak fleet of the Army and Air Force and the total technical life of these will start finishing from 2023 onwards.
    • The helicopters would be manufactured by India Russia Helicopters Limited (IRHL) — a joint venture between HAL and Russian Helicopters.

    GENERAL K.S. THIMAYYA

    President Ram Nath Kovind inaugurated Gen. Thimayya Museum at Madikeri in Karnataka’s Kodagu district.

    About:

    • General Kodendera Subayya Thimayya (1906-1965), was a distinguished soldier of the Indian Army who served as Chief of Army Staff from 1957 to 1961 in the crucial years leading up to the conflict with China in 1962.
    • He was the only Indian to command an Infantry brigade in battle during the Second World War
    • After the Korean War, Thimayya headed a United Nations unit dealing with the repatriation of prisoners of war.
    • After his retirement from the Army, he was appointed Commander of the United Nations Peace Keeping Force in Cyprus from July 1964 to December 1965 and died in Cyprus while on active duty on 18 December 1965.
    • In 1954, he was awarded the Padma Bhushan for Civil Service.
    • His ancestral house ‘Sunny Side’ has been renovated and converted into a museum.

     

    THE PREVENTION OF INSULTS TO NATIONAL HONOUR ACT, 1971

    Police in Uttar Pradesh’s Pilibhit district have booked the mother and brother of a farmer who had died during the farmers’ agitation in Delhi, under The Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act, 1971, after his body was allegedly draped in the national flag.

    About:

    • The law, enacted on December 23, 1971, penalises the desecration of or insult to Indian national symbols, such as the National Flag, the Constitution, the National Anthem, and the Indian map, as well as contempt of the Constitution of India.
    • Section 2 of the Act says that whoever disrespects the Indian National Flag or the Constitution of India shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both.
    • As per the Act, disrespect to the Indian National Flag includes using the Indian National Flag as a drapery in any form whatsoever except in State funerals or armed forces or other para-military forces funerals”.
    • Section 3.22 of The Flag Code of India, 2002 reads: “The Flag shall not be used as a drapery in any form whatsoever except in State/Military/Central Paramilitary Forces funerals hereinafter provided.”
    • The flag can only be used during a funeral if it is accorded the status of a state funeral. Apart from police and armed forces, state funerals are held when people who are holding or have held office of President, Vice-President, Prime Minister, Cabinet Minister, Chief Minister pass away.

     

    CURRENCY SWAP

    The Central Bank of Sri Lanka (CBSL) settled a $400 million currency swap facility from the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), meeting the terms that the two countries had agreed upon.

    About:

    • The update sparked speculation in local media that India may have “abruptly terminated” the agreement, following Colombo’s decision to pull out of a 2019 agreement to develop a Colombo Port terminal jointly with India and Japan.
    • However, both countries clarified that the developments were not linked.
    • The CBSL obtained the swap facility on July 31, 2020, for an initial period of three months, to cope with the severe economic impact of the pandemic. Subsequently, the RBI provided a three-month rollover at CBSL’s request, until February 1, 2021.
    • Further extension would require Sri Lanka having a successfully negotiated staff level agreement for an IMF programme, which Sri Lanka does not have at present.

    1st INDIA-EU HIGH LEVEL DIALOGUE ON TRADE AND INVESTMENT

    The 1st High Level Dialogue (HLD), co-chaired by the Minister of Commerce and Industry Piyush Goyal and the European Union Executive Vice-President & Trade Commissioner Mr. Valdis Dombrovskis, was held on 5th February 2021. 

    About:

    • Commitment to the establishment of this Dialogue was a major outcome of the 15th India-EU Leader’s Summit held in July 2020, with an objective for a Ministerial level guidance towards the bilateral trade and investment relations.
    • The Ministers also agreed to meet within the next three months, with an objective for reaching consensus on a host of bilateral trade & investment cooperation issues viz. a bilateral Regulatory Dialogue; an India-EU Multilateral Dialogue to explore further possibilities of cooperation; etc.

    STARTUP INDIA SEED FUND SCHEME (SISFS)

    Startup India Seed Fund Scheme (SISFS) has been approved for the period of next four years starting from 2021-22.

    About:

    • It will be implemented with effect from 1st April 2021.
    • The Scheme aims to provide financial assistance to startups for proof of concept, prototype development, product trials, market entry and commercialization.
    • 945 Crore corpus will be divided over the next 4 years for providing seed funding to eligible startups through eligible incubators across India.
    • The scheme is expected to support about 3600 startups.

     

    JOSHIMATH

    Glacier breaks off at Joshimath in Uttarakhand’s Chamoli district on 7 February 2021, causing flash flood in Dhauliganga River, devastating the Dhauliganga Dam and endangering people.

    About:

    • Joshimath is also known as Jyotirmath.
    • It is a city and a municipal board in Chamoli District in Uttarakhand.
    • Located at a height of 6150 feet, it is a gateway to several Himalayan mountain climbing expeditions, trekking trails and pilgrim centres like Badrinath.
    • Jyotirmath is the uttarāmnāya matha, or northern monastery, one of the four cardinal institutions established by Adi Shankara, the others being those at Shringeri, Puri and Dwarka.

     

    “Nai Roshni”, a scheme for Leadership Development of Minority Women by Ministry of Minority affairs is being implemented across India.

    About:

    • Its aims is to empower and instill confidence in women by providing knowledge, tools and techniques for interacting with Government systems, banks and other institutions at all levels.
    • This includes empowerment of the trainee women so that they become independent and confident members of the society.
    • The scheme provides for six days training programme followed by handholding for a period of one year.
    • The training covers issues relating to women viz. Leadership of Women through participation in decision making, Educational Programmes for women, Health and Hygiene, Legal rights of women, Financial Literacy, Digital Literacy, Swachh Bharat, Life Skills, and Advocacy for Social and Behavioural change.
    • The Scheme is being implemented through Non-Governmental Organisations empanelled under the NaiRoshni Scheme as per scheme guidelines in force.

    MEASURES FOR POPULATION CONTROL

    The Government has been implementing the National Family Planning Program which provides voluntary and informed choices to the beneficiaries through a target free approach with the objective of checking population increase in the country.

    About:

    • A National Population Policy has been formulated in the year 2000 with the long-term objective of attaining population stabilisation by 2045.
    • New Contraceptive Choices: The current contraceptive basket has been expanded with inclusion of two new contraceptives- Injectable contraceptive (Antara programme) and Centchroman (Chhaya).
    • Post-partum Intrauterine contraceptive device(PPIUCD) incentive scheme under which PPIUCD services are provided post-delivery.
    • Compensation scheme for sterilization acceptors which provides compensation for loss of wages to the beneficiary and also to the service provider and team for conducting sterilisation.
    • National Family Planning Indemnity Scheme (NFPIS) under which clients are compensated in the eventualities of death, complication and failure following sterilization operations.
    • Family Planning Logistics Management Information System (FP-LMIS): dedicated software has been launched to ensure smooth forecasting, procurement and distribution of family planning commodities across all the levels of health facilities.
    • Mission Parivar Vikas has been introduced for substantially increasing access to contraceptives and family planning services in seven high focus states having TFR of more than 3 namely Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Assam.
    • Scheme for Home Delivery of contraceptives by ASHAs at doorstep of beneficiaries has been taken up.
    • Scheme for provision of Pregnancy Testing Kits in the drug kits of ASHA for use in communities.

     

     

    The Prime Minister Modi visited Haldia, West Bengal and dedicated to the nation the LPG import terminal, 348 km Dobhi – Durgapur Natural Gas Pipeline section, which is part of the Pradhan Mantri Urja Ganga project.

    About:

    • He also laid the foundation stone of the second Catalytic-Isodewaxing unit of Haldia Refinery and dedicated to the nation the 4 Lane ROB-cum-Flyover at Ranichak, Haldia on NH 41.
    • These projects will also help Haldia to grow into a major hub of export-import.
    • 350 km Dobhi-Durgapur Pipeline will directly benefit not only West Bengal but also 10 districts of Bihar and Jharkhand.
    • This second Catalytic Dewaxing Unit will reduce our dependence on import with regard to lube-based oils.

     

    CENTRAL RESEARCH INSTITUTE IN KALAHANDI FOR SOYABEAN

    The Union Minister of Agriculture informed Rajya Sabha about the setting up a Central Research Institute in Kalahandi for Soyabean.

     

    About:

    • The Kalahandi district of Odisha produces Soybean on a very limited scale.
    • The ICAR has established a national level research Institute on Soybean in 1987 namely, ICAR-Indian Institute of Soybean Research, Indore (Madhya Pradesh) to conduct basic and strategic research on the crop.
    • Besides this, ICAR is also implementing an All India Coordinated Research Project (AICRP) on Soybean since 1967 in association with the State Agricultural Universities (SAUs) to develop location-specific high yielding varieties and production technologies required to increase Soybean production in the country.
    • The ICAR-AICRP on Soybean has one voluntary center at Regional Research & Technology Transfer Station, Bhawanipatna (Kalahandi) under the Odisha University of Agriculture & Technology, Bhubaneswar.
    • This station is undertaking need-based and location-specific research on Soybean for hot & moist sub-humid climate of Odisha comprising of Kalahandi, Bolangir and Koraput.

     

    MEDICINAL PLANTS

     

    Ministry of AYUSH informed Parliament about Medicinal plants.

     

    Ministry of AYUSH is presently implementing following schemes:

    • Centrally Sponsored Scheme of National AYUSH Mission (NAM): Under ‘Medicinal Plants’ component of the NAM scheme supporting market driven cultivation of 140 prioritized medicinal lants in identified cluster/ zones with in the selected districts of States and implemented in a mission mode.
    • Central Sector Scheme on “Conservation, Development and Sustainable Management of Medicinal Plants” wherein following activities are supported:
      • In-situ conservation/ Ex-situ conservation
      • Livelihood linkages with Joint Forest Management Committees (JFMCs)/Panchayats/ Van Panchayats/ Biodiversity Management Committees (BMCs)/ Self Help Groups (SHGs).
      • IEC activities like Training/ Workshops/ Seminars/ Conference etc.
      • Research & Development.
      • Promotion, marketing and trade of medicinal plants produce.

     

    NETAJI SUBHAS CHANDRA BOSE RESIDENTIAL SCHOOLS/HOSTELS

    The Ministry of Education has decided to name residential schools/ hostels funded under Samagra Shiksha of MoE, as “Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose residential schools/hostels”.

    About:

    • The association of these schools with Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose will act as an inspiration to the children and also motivate the teachers, staff and administration to enable them to achieve high standards of excellence.
    • This will also help create awareness about the facility of these Residential Schools and Hostels in difficult areas and inspire these schools to achieve high standards of quality education.
    • The Ministry of Education under Samagra Shiksha provides financial assistance to states and UTs for opening and running of Residential Schools and Hostels in hilly terrain, small and sparsely populated areas for children who are in need of shelter and care.
    • The residential facilities are also provided to child labour rescued, migrant children who belong to poor landless families, children without adult protection, separated from their families, internally displaced persons
    • Preference is given to EBBs, LWE affected districts, SFDs and the Aspirational districts identified by NITI Aayog.
    • A total of 1063 residential facilities (383 residential Schools and 680 Hostels) have been sanctioned to States and UTs so far.

     

    PRADHAN MANTRI FASAL BIMA YOJANA (PMFBY)

    To boost the safety of farmers’ crops and ensure maximum benefit of crop insurance reaches to farmers, the Government of India has allocated Rs 16000 crores for Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY) for the fiscal year 2021-22.

    About:

    • This is a budgetary increase of around Rs 305 crore as against the previous fiscal year 2020-21.
    • The scheme extends coverage for the entire cropping cycle from pre-sowing to post-harvest including coverage for losses arising out of prevented sowing and mid-season adversities.
    • 5 years ago, on 13th January 2016, the Government of India approved this flagship crop insurance scheme.
    • Today, PMFBY is globally the largest crop insurance scheme in terms of farmer participation and 3rd largest in terms of premium. Over 5.5 crore farmer applications are received on year-on-year basis.
    • The Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare implements this scheme which was made voluntary for farmers post its revamp in 2020.
    • As of now. out of total farmers enrolled under PMFBY, 84% are small and marginal farmers. Thus, financial assistance is provided to most vulnerable farmers.

     

    INDUSTRIAL PARKS

    Ministry of Commerce and Industry informed Rajya Sabha about Industrial parks and industries in the country.

     

    About:

    • Industrial Park Scheme-2002, applicable for any undertaking which develops and operates, or, maintains and operates, an Industrial Park for the period beginning 1st day of April, 1997 and ending 31st day of March, 2006, was notified by the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade on 1st April, 2002.
    • Data on Industrial Parks that have been established and functional in different States of the country during the last three years is not centrally maintained.
    • During the last three years, Department for Promotion of Industry & InternalTrade has accorded final approval for setting up of one National Investment & Manufacturing Zone (NIMZ) namely Hyderabad Pharma City NIMZ in Rangareddy district of Telangana.
    • Setting up of Industrial Park and Industries in different States comes under the purview of the concerned State Government itself.
    • However, Central Government provides support to the States through its scheme/programmes, once the proposal to develop the parks/clusters/industries in a particular region is received from the concerned State Government.

    EINSTEINIUM

    A team of scientists at the Berkeley Lab has reported some of the properties of element 99 in the periodic table called “Einsteinium”, named after Albert Einstein.

    About:

    • With this new study published in the journal Nature last week, for the first time researchers have been able to characterise some of the properties of the element.
    • It was discovered in 1952 in the debris of the first hydrogen bomb (the detonation of a thermonuclear device called “Ivy Mike” in the Pacific Ocean).
    • The most common isotope of the element, einsteinium 253 has a half-life of 20 days.

     

    WORLD’S SMALLEST REPTILE

    A chameleon discovered in the island country of Madagascar by scientists from Germany and Madagascar may be the world’s smallest adult reptile. The discovery has been reported in the journal Scientific Reports.

    About:

    • The team found one male and one female of the species, named Brookesia nana, during an expedition in 2012. The male has a length (snout to vent) of 13.5 mm and a total length of 21.6 mm when the tail is included.
    • Previously, the chameleon species Brookesia micra was thought to be the smallest. The average length of adults of this species is 16 mm (29 mm with tail), while the smallest adult male has been recorded at 15.3 mm.
    • Reptiles come in a wide size range. The longest, the reticulated python, at 6.25 m is almost as long as 289 Brookesia nanas.

     

    AGRICULTURAL MECHANIZATION

    Government of India informed Parliament about the initiatives to Promote Farm Mechanization.

    About:

    • A special dedicated scheme ‘Sub Mission on Agricultural Mechanization (SMAM)’ has been introduced by Government of India in 2014-15.
    • The scheme aims at making farm machines accessible and affordable for the small and marginal farmers (SMFs) through establishment of Custom Hiring Centers(CHCs) , creating Hubs for hi-tech & high value farm equipment and Farm Machinery Banks.
    • Distribution of various subsidized agricultural equipment and machines to individual farmer is also one of the activities under the scheme.
    • For 2021-22 Rs. 1050 crore budget has been allocated for SMAM which is more than the previous year.

     

    NORD STREAM 2 PIPELINE

    In a development that could ratchet up tensions between the United States and Germany, the consortium building the Nord Stream 2 pipeline has said that it has resumed work on the controversial project.

    About:

    • In 2015, Gazprom and 5 other European energy firms decided to build Nord Stream 2, valued at around $11 billion.
    • The 1,200 km pipeline will run from Ust-Luga in Russia to Greifswald in Germany, and will carry 55 billion cubic metres of gas per year.
    • The under-construction pipeline will run along the already-completed Nord Stream 1 system, and the two together will supply an aggregate of 110 billion cubic metres of gas to Germany per year.
    • The pipeline falls in German and Danish territory, and all but 150 km of pipes for the project have already been laid.

     

    DHEKIAJULI

    Prime Minister Narendra Modi paid a visit to the historic “martyr” town of Dhekiajuli in Assam, to lay the foundation stone for two medical colleges and launch a road and highway project.

    About:

    • Dhekiajuli is associated with the Quit India Movement of 1942
    • Dhekiajuli was home to possibly the youngest martyr of the Indian freedom struggle.
    • On September 20, 1942, as part of the Quit India movement, processions of freedom fighters marched to various police stations across several towns in Assam.
    • These squads, which were known as ‘Mrityu Bahini’, or death squads, had wide participation — including women and children — and set out to unfurl the tricolour atop police stations, seen as symbols of colonial power.
    • The British administration came down heavily on them. In Dhekiajuli, at least 15 people were shot dead, three of them women, including the 12-year-old Tileswari Barua.

     

    WORLD SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT SUMMIT 2021

    Prime Minister Narendra Modi will inaugurate the World Sustainable Development Summit 2021 on 10th February.

    About:

    • The theme of the Summit is ‘Redefining our common future: Safe and secure environment for all’.
    • It is the 20th edition of The Energy and Resources Institute’s (TERI) flagship event
    • The Summit will bring together a wide number of governments, business leaders, academicians, climate scientists, youth, and the civil society in the fight against climate change.
    • India’s Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, Ministry of New and Renewable Energy and Ministry of Earth Sciences are key partners of the Summit.

     

    UNITED NATIONS HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL

    The U.S. announced plans to reengage with the much-maligned UN Human Rights Council that former President Donald Trump withdrew from almost three years ago.

    About:

    • What is it? The Human Rights Council is an inter-governmental body within the United Nations system.
    • Location: It meets at the UN Office at Geneva.
    • Establishment: It was founded in 2006. It replaced the former United Nations Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR) that had been strongly criticised for allowing countries with poor human rights records to be members.

    Functions:

    • It investigates allegations of breaches of human rights in UN member states.
    • It also addresses important thematic human rights issues such as freedom of expression, women’s rights, LGBT rights, and the rights of racial and ethnic minorities.
    • The UNHRC works closely with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

     

    CULTURAL HERITAGE OF INDIA

    Minister of Culture and Tourism informed Parliament about the Measures taken by Government to preserving and promoting the traditional cultural heritage of India.

    About:

    • The Ministry of Culture formulated a scheme titled “Scheme for Safeguarding the Intangible Heritage and Diverse Cultural Traditions of India” , with the objective of promoting the rich Intangible Cultural Heritage of India.
    • India has successfully inscribed 13 Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) elements in the UNESCO Representative list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity under the 2003 Convention.
    • As the first step towards the making of a National Inventory of ICH, the Ministry of Culture (MoC) has put up a list in April,2020 on its website called “National list for ICH”.
    • The National list of Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) of India is an attempt to recognize the diversity of Indian Culture embedded in its Intangible Heritage.

     

    ATP–CENTER OF EXCELLENCE (JATP – CoE)

    DRDO signed a MoU with Indian Institute of Science (IISc) Bengaluru for creation of JATP–Center of Excellence (JATP – CoE) in the premises of IISc to expand the scope and objective of existing Joint Advanced Technology Program.

    About:

    • The JATP-CoE located in the campus of IISc, Bengaluru will enable Directed Basic & Applied Research and engage with premier research institutes through multi-disciplinary & multi-institutional collaboration.
    • The focused research efforts at the centre will lead to realization of indigenous technologies in the critical areas to develop state of art technologies.
    • As per the MoU, DRDO will support JATP in equipping it with advanced and unique research facilities that will enable the faculty and scholars to conduct advanced research. DRDO will facilitate for advanced research to utilize technology outcome in the futuristic applications.

     

    GLACIAL LAKE OUTBURST FLOODS (GLOFs)

    A glacier break is suspected to have caused the flash floods in Uttarakhand’s Chamoli.

    About:

    • When glaciers melt, the water in glacial lakes accumulates behind loose, natural “glacial/moraine dams” made of ice, sand, pebbles and ice residue.
    • A GLOF refers to the flooding that occurs when the water dammed by a glacier or a moraine is released suddenly.
    • Unlike earthen dams, the weak structure of the moraine dam leads to the abrupt failure of the dam on top of the glacial lake, which holds large volume of water.
    • A failure of the dam has the potential of releasing millions of cubic metres of water in a short period, causing catastrophic flooding downstream.

    LALANDAR [SHATOOT] DAM

    A signing ceremony of the Memorandum of Understanding [MoU] for the construction of the Lalandar [Shatoot] Dam in Afghanistan took place over VTC on 9 February 2021.

    About:

    • The MoU was signed by EAM Dr. Jaishankar and Foreign Minister Mr. Hanif Atmar, in the presence of Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi and President of Afghanistan H.E. Dr. Mohammad Ashraf Ghani.
    • The project is a part of the New Development Partnership between India and Afghanistan.
    • The Lalander [Shatoot] Dam would meet the safe drinking water needs of Kabul City, provide irrigation water to nearby areas, rehabilitate the existing irrigation and drainage network, aid in flood protection and management efforts in the area, and also provide electricity to the region.
    • This is the second major dam being built by India in Afghanistan, after the India- Afghanistan Friendship Dam [Salma Dam], which was inaugurated by the Prime Minister and the President in June 2016.

    GUJARAT’S TWO-CHILD POLICY

    Three candidates from the Municipal Corporations of Vadodara and Rajkot were disqualified on Monday under the two-child policy in place in the state for candidates. The nominations were challenged because each candidate had three children.

     

    About:

    • In 2005, the Gujarat government amended the Gujarat Local Authorities Act to “prevent a person having more than two children to be a member of panchayat, or the councillor of a municipality or municipal corporation”.
    • The amendment also added the clause to the other Acts governing elections to local administrative bodies such as the Gujarat Provincial Municipal Corporations Act, 1949, and the Gujarat Panchayats Act.
    • The rationale behind the two-child policy was said to be the need to “order and stabilise” the growing population of the count.

     

    INCREASING GLACIAL LAKES

    Recent flash flood incident in Uttarakhand is another warning of the dangers that a Himalayan state like Uttarakhand faces from natural processes like landslides, snow avalanches cloudbursts or lake bursts.

    About:

    • Glaciers are the largest source of freshwater outside of the polar regions. Glaciers and snow melt in the Himalayan ecosystem are the source of water for several rivers across the subcontinent, and are responsible for maintaining the perennial supply of water in the river systems like the Indus, Ganges, and Brahmaputra to over a billion people.
    • But these glaciers have reduced considerably in mass and surface area since the little ice age period.
    • Some models predict that an increase in global temperatures by 2°C from 1850 by 2070 would result in 45% of the medium and large glaciers (10 sq km or more) disappearing completely. Nearly 70% smaller glaciers are likely to melt away.
    • Shrinking glaciers have led to the formation of a large number of glacial lakes all across the Himalayas. Many of these high-altitude lakes are potentially dangerous, because of their potential to cause flash floods in the event of a breach.
    • A 2005 study by Kathmandu-based ICIMOD (International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development) had listed 127 such lakes in Uttarakhand. More recent studies put the number of such lakes in the state at around 400.

     

    PRE AND POST MATRIC SCHOLARSHIP SCHEMES

    Department of Social Justice & Empowerment informed Lok Sabha about the Modifications in Pre and Post Matric Scholarship Schemes.

    The scheme wise important changes introduced are as follows:

    • Pre-Matric Scholarship for SC students:
      • The funding pattern under the scheme was revised from the concept of committed liability to a fixed sharing pattern of 60:40 between Centre and the States (90:10 in case of North Eastern States) or Notional Allocation whichever is lower.
      • The Annual Family Income limit was increased from Rs. 2.00 lakh to Rs 2.5 lakh in 2018 and rates of maintenance allowances were also increased.
    • Post-Matric Scholarship for Scheduled Castes (SC) students: During the year 2020-21, the Union Cabinet has approved the revision and continuation of the scheme from the year 2020-21 to 2025-26 which includes, inter-alia, revision of funding pattern to a sharing ratio of 60:40 between the Centre and the States (90:10 in case of NE States)
    • Pre-Matric Scholarship for Other Backward Classes (OBCs) and Post Matric Scholarship for OBCs: The income limit has been changed under Pre Matric Scholarship of OBC and Post Matric Scholarship for OBCs as per details given below:
      • Pre-Matric Scholarship for OBC: increased from Rs.1.00 lakh to Rs. 2.50lakh per annum.
      • Post Matric Scholarship for OBC: increased from Rs.1.50 lakh to Rs.2.50lakh per annum.

     

    ROAD ACCIDENTS

    Union Minister for Road Transport has called for all-round efforts by all stakeholders to ensure that deaths due to road accidents are reduced by 50% by 2025.

    About:

    • Terming the situation as alarming, the Minister said India stands at number one position in road accidents in the world, ahead of US and China.
    • Some 1.5 lakh people die, and more than 4.5 lakh people are injured in road accidents every year in the country – 415 deaths per day in road accidents.
    • 14 per cent of national GDP is the socio-economic loss from these accidents, and 70% of the deaths are in the age group of 18 to 45 years old.

     

    NATIONAL MONSOON MISSION

    Minister of Earth Science informed Rajya Sabha about National Monsoon Mission.

    About:

    • Under the Monsoon Mission, Ministry has developed the state-of-the-art weather and climate prediction models, which are now in operational use.
    • These models include models for short range to medium range (1-10 days), extended range (10days to 30 days) and seasonal (up to one season).

    Following are the targets of Monsoon Mission:

    • Development of a seamless prediction system using monsoon mission model, on different time scales, like Seasonal (for whole Monsoon season), Extended range (up-to 4 weeks), Short range prediction (up-to 5days).
    • Initiate and coordinate working partnership between Indian and foreign institutes to develop a system for prediction of extremes and climate applications
    • Develop and implement system for climate applications having social impacts (such as agriculture, flood forecast, extreme events forecast, wind energy, etc.)
    • Advanced data assimilation system for preparing high quality data for model predictions.

     

    NATIONAL RESEARCH CENTRE FOR MAKHANA

    Union Minister of Agriculture informed Lok Sabha about National Research Centre for Makhana.

    About:

    • ICAR-National Research Centre (NRC) for Makhana, Darbhanga (Bihar) was sanctioned by the Department of Agricultural Research & Education, Govt. of India, as a new scheme during the IX Five Year Plan period (1997–2002) for Conservation, Research & Development of the Makhana crop.
    • However during Xth plan period (2002-2007), the NRC for Makhana was merged and brought under the administrative control of ICAR-Research Complex for Eastern Region (RCER), Patna, without changing the mandate.
    • Darbhanga in particular and Mithila in general is major Makhana producing region in the country.

     

    LITHIUM

    Atomic Minerals Directorate issues a clarification on media reports about Lithium Reserves in Karnataka.

    About:

    • Atomic Minerals Directorate for Exploration and Research (AMD), a constituent unit of Department of Atomic Energy and Geological Survey of India are two agencies which are involved in mineral exploration.
    • Lithium is a key element for new technologies and finds its use in ceramics, glass, telecommunication and aerospace industries.
    • The thermonuclear application makes Lithium as “Prescribed substance” under the Atomic Energy Act, 1962 which permits AMD for exploration of Lithium in various geological domains of the country.
    • Recently, news items on Lithium exploration and resource of Allapatna – Marlagalla sector in Srirangapatna Taluk, Mandya district, Karnataka have been published in various media.
    • Reports have been circulated in some media, wherein the estimates of lithium metal have been quoted to be as high as 14,100 tonnes in a small patch of surveyed area in Mandya district of Southern Karnataka.
    • AMD would like to clarify that exploration efforts have so far established ~1600 tonnes lithium in inferred category (low level of confidence) in Allapatna – Marlagalla sector in Srirangapatna taluk, Mandya district, Karnataka.

     

    NATIONAL AYUSH MISSION (NAM)

    Central Government is implementing Centrally Sponsored Scheme of National AYUSH Mission (NAM) through States/UTs for development and promotion of AYUSH systems of medicine including Ayurvedic system.

    About:

    The Mission inter-alia makes following provisions for promotion of AYUSH systems including Ayurvedic system:

    1. Co-location of AYUSH facilities at Primary Health Centers (PHCs), Community Health Centers (CHCs) and Districts Hospitals (DHs).
    2. Up gradation of exclusive State Government AYUSH Hospitals and Dispensaries.
    3. Setting up of upto 50 bedded integrated AYUSH Hospital.
    4. Upgradation of State Government Under-Graduate and Post-Graduate Educational Institutions.
    5. Setting up of new State Government AYUSH Educational Institutions in the States where it is not available in Government Sector.
    6. Strengthening of State Government/State Government Co-operatives/Public Sector Undertakings for manufacturing of quality medicines in AYUSH Systems.
    7. Strengthening of State Drug Testing Laboratories for ASU &H Drugs for stringent quality control.
    8. Support for cultivation of Medicinal Plant including processing and post-harvest management to ensure supply of quality raw material for AYUSH medicine and other products.

    MAJOR PORT AUTHORITIES BILL, 2020

    Parliament passed the Major Port Authorities Bill, 2020. Now the Bill will go to the President of India for his assent.

    The salient features of the Major Port Authorities Bill 2020 are as under:

    • The Bill is more compact in comparison to the Major Port Trusts Act, 1963 as the number of sections has been reduced to 76 from 134 by eliminating overlapping and obsolete Sections.
    • The new Bill has proposed a simplified composition of the Board of Port Authority which will comprise of 11 to 13 Members from the present 17 to 19 Members representing various interests.
    • The role of Tariff Authority for Major Ports (TAMP) has been redefined. Port Authority has now been given powers to fix tariff which will act as a reference tariff for purposes of bidding for PPP projects. PPP operators will be free to fix tariff- based on market conditions.
    • The Board of Port Authority has been delegated the power to fix the scale of rates for other port services and assets including land.
    • An Adjudicatory Board has been proposed to be created to carry out the residual function of the erstwhile TAMP for Major Ports, to look into disputes between ports and PPP concessionaires
    • The Boards of Port Authority have been delegated full powers to enter into contracts, planning and development, fixing of tariff except in national interest, security and emergency arising out of inaction and default. In the present MPT Act, 1963 prior approval of the Central Government was required in 22 instances.
    • The Board of each Major Port shall be entitled to create specific master plan in respect of any development or infrastructure.
    • Provisions of CSR & development of infrastructure by Port Authority have been introduced.
    • Provision has been made for safeguarding the pay & allowances and service conditions including pensionary benefits of the employees of major ports

     

    AMBEDKAR SOCIAL INNOVATION AND INCUBATION MISSION

    The Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment, Government of India has launched Ambedkar Social Innovation and Incubation Mission (ASIIM) under Venture Capital Fund for Scheduled Castes (VCF-SC) on 30th September 2020.

    About:

    • Objective is to boost entrepreneurship and innovation among the SC students/SC Divyang youth.
    • The companies/entrepreneurs owned by Scheduled Castes enrolled /registered with Technology Business Incubators (TBIs) are eligible to get maximum capital of Rs.30 lakhs over a period of years i.e. Rs.10 lakhs every year.
    • Financial support of up to Rs.10 lakhs per year for a period of 3 years aggregating to Rs.30 Lakhs shall be provided to eligible applicants as equity funding.

     

    MIGRANT LABOUR

    NITI Aayog has constituted a sub-group to prepare a National Action Plan for Migrant Workers.

    About:

    • The sub-group comprises the members from various Ministries of Govt. of India, subject experts, NGOs and civil society organisations, to prepare a tangible action plan to address issues related to migrant workers.
    • In order 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.

     

    WORLD PULSES DAY

    Union Agriculture Minister graces the occasion as chief guest on World Pulses Day.

    About:

    • The UN General Assembly in 2019 decided to dedicate a day to Pulses to increase awareness and access to pulses globally known as World Pulses Day.
    • The World Pulses Day falls on February 10 every year and recognised Pulses as a global food.
    • On World Pulses Day, people make efforts in creating awareness about the importance of Pulses in sustainable food production.
    • The UN General Assembly after recognizing the value of pulses in 2013, adopted 2016 as the International Year of Pulses (IYP).
    • World Pulses Day 2021 theme is #LovePulses.

     

    BRAHMAPUTRA VALLEY FERTILIZERS CORPORATION LIMITED (BVFCL)

    The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs accorded approval to the proposal of the Department of Fertilizers for Grant-in-aid of Rs.100 crore to Brahmaputra Valley Fertilizers Corporation Limited (BVFCL), Namrup (Assam) to sustain operations of it’s urea manufacturing units.

    About:

    • BVFCL, Namrup is a Public Sector Undertaking formed as per Companies Act, under the administrative control of the Department of Fertilizers (DoF), Government of India.
    • At present, the Company is operating its two vintage plants viz. Namrup-ll and Namrup-lll in the premises of BVFCL in Namrup, Assam.
    • The grant in aid of Rs. 100 crore to BVFCL will restore the urea production capacity of 3.90 Lac MT per annum and ensure timely availability of Urea to Tea Industry & Farming Sector in the entire North Eastern region specially Assam.

     

    KOO APP

    Days After the Centre asked Twitter to “suspend or block” nearly 1,200 accounts, citing “misinformation and provocative content” on the farmers’ protest, several ministers and departments of the Union government have started flocking on Koo App — a homemade version of the social networking platform.

    About:

    • The microblogging site was co-founded by entrepreneurs Aprameya Radhakrishna and Mayank Bidwatka. Radhakrishna had founded online cab booking service TaxiForSure, which was subsequently sold to Ola Cabs.
    • While the app was launched in early 2020, its participation and the subsequent winning of the government’s Atmanirbhar App Innovation Challenge brought it under the limelight.
    • The app, along with other India-made apps like Zoho and Chingari — the local version of TikTok, won the challenge, which was launched by the Centre close on the heels of banning scores of apps with Chinese links citing national security concerns.
    • Following the outcome of the Atmanirbhar App Innovation Challenge, the app was also mentioned by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his Mann Ki Baat address.

     

    UAE HOPE MISSION

    The United Arab Emirates’ first mission to Mars entered the orbit of the red planet, seven months after the Emirati-built ‘Hope Probe’ was launched from Tanegashima in Japan.

    About:

    • With this, the UAE has become the fifth country after the US, Russia, China, the EU, and India, to reach the Martian orbit.
    • The unmanned spacecraft is called ‘Al-Amal’ — the Arabic word for hope. The historic event was timed to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the unification of the UAE’s seven emirates.
    • First announced in July 2014, the Emirates Mars Mission was developed and operated by the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre in collaboration with the University California, Berkeley, Arizona State University and the University of Colorado-Boulder in the United States.
    • In July 2020, it was launched from the Tanegashima Space Centre in Japan aboard a Mitsubishi Heavy Industries’ H-II A rocket.
    • Carrying three instruments, including a high-resolution camera and a spectrometer, the spacecraft is on an orbital mission to collect data on Martian climate dynamics and help scientists understand why Mars’s atmosphere is decaying into space.
    • Hope is the UAE’s fourth space mission and first interplanetary one. The previous three were all Earth-observation satellites.
    • Its overall mission life is one Martian year, which is about 687 days on Earth.

     

    PRIVATISATION OF BANKS

    The Union Budget has announced the privatisation of two public sector banks (in addition to IDBI Bank) and one general insurance company in the upcoming fiscal.

    About:

    • It also announced a strategic sale/disinvestment policy for four strategic sectors — including banking, insurance and financial services — in which it will have a “bare minimum presence”.
    • In 2015, the government had suggested privatisation but the then RBI Governor did not favour the idea.

     

    KOCH RAJBANGSHIS

    Union Home Minister Amit Shah will visit Assam and West Bengal, where he will address a community vital to upcoming Assembly elections in both states — the Koch Rajbongshis.

    About:

    • They are a community that traces its roots to the Kamata kingdom, which comprised parts of Assam, West Bengal and adjoining territories.
    • In the medieval period, the community was dominant and ruled their territory of Kamatapur, which comprised a large part of Bangladesh, West Bengal, Bihar and India’s north-east.
    • After Independence, the princely state of Cooch Behar became part of West Bengal.
    • Today, Koch Rajbongshis are found in Assam, Meghalaya, West Bengal and Bihar, and in Bangladesh, Nepal and some parts of Bhutan.
    • They are estimated to number over 33 lakh in West Bengal, mostly the northern districts, and have a large presence in Assam.

     

    Capital market regulator Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) imposed a penalty of Rs 1 crore on the National Stock Exchange (NSE) in connection with its three-year investigation in the co-location case.

    About:

    • The NSE is facing allegations that some brokers got preferential access through the co-location facility at the stock exchange, early login, and ‘dark fiber’, which can allow a trader a split-second faster access to the data feed of an exchange.
    • Even this infinitesimally sooner access is considered to result in huge gains for a trader.
    • Few brokers were able to log into the NSE systems with better hardware specifications while engaged in algorithmic trading, which allowed them unfair access and advantage.
    • The unfair access issue pertains to 2012-14 when NSE used to disseminate price information through a unicast system. In such a system information is disseminated to one member after another.

    TAPOVAN DAM

    Rescue operations resumed at the NTPC’s Tapovan hydel project tunnel in Uttarakhand’s Chamoli district, where about 35 workers were trapped after a snow avalanche triggered flash floods.

    About:

    • The Tapovan Vishnugad Hydropower Plant is a 520 MW run-of-river hydroelectric project being constructed on Dhauliganga River in Chamoli District of Uttarakhand.
    • The plant is expected to generate over 2.5 TWh of electricity annually.
    • Tapovan Vishnugad is NTPC’s second hydro power project since its foray into the sector.
    • Currently, it is in advanced stage of construction. It was severely damaged on 7th February 2021 due to flash flood caused by Uttarakhand glacier burst.

    VIJAYANAGARA DISTRICT

    The Karnataka government issued a notification demarcating boundaries of the newly-formed Vijayanagara district.

    About:

    • With Vijayanagara, the state now has 31 districts.
    • Named after the capital of the Vijayanagar Empire, the new district was carved out from Ballari under the Karnataka Land Revenue Act, 1964.
    • Vijayanagara, located in Hyderabad-Karnataka region, is famous for its UNESCO World Heritage sites – Hampi and Virupaksha Temple.
    • With Hosapete as its headquarters, Vijayanagara has six taluks – Hosapete, Kudligi, Hagaribommanahalli, Kotturu, Hoovina Hadagali, and Harapanahalli.

    INDIA-AUSTRALIA CIRCULAR ECONOMY (I-ACE) HACKATHON, 2021

    With the goal to enable talented innovative students and start-ups from Australia and India to address common national issues through innovative technology solutions, About Atal Innovation Mission (AIM) and Australia’s national science agency (CSIRO) kick started the India-Australia Circular Economy (I-ACE) Hackathon, 2021.

    About:

    • I-ACE is supported by the Australian Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources (DISER), AIM Atal Incubation Centre network, and various domain experts.
    • A ‘circular economy’ model, which employs not only waste management, but reuse, recycling and responsible manufacture can support the development of new industries and jobs, reducing emissions and increasing efficient use of natural resources.

    The four key themes for the hackathon are as follows:

    • Innovation in packaging reducing packaging waste
    • Innovation in food supply chains avoiding waste
    • Creating opportunities for plastic waste reduction
    • Recycling critical energy metals and e-waste

    SEAWEEDS MISSION

    Technology Information, Forecasting and Assessment Council (TIFAC) has launched a Seaweed Mission for commercial farming of seaweeds and its processing for value addition towards boosting national economy.

    The Mission envisages the following activities:

    • Establishing model demonstration farms over one hectare for cultivation of economically important seaweeds in nearshore and onshore along the Indian coast
    • Establishment of seaweed nurseries for supplying seed material for large scale farming of economically important seaweeds in the country
    • Onshore cultivation for (i) Seedling supply facility (ii) Seaweed cultivation for processing
    • Setting up of processing plant for integrated production of plant growth stimulants (sap) along with industrially important cell wall polysaccharides (phycocolloids) such as agar, agarose, carrageenan and alginates from fresh seaweeds

    SAKSHAM (SHRAMIK SHAKTI MANCH)

    Technology Information, Forecasting and Assessment Council (TIFAC) has launched SAKSHAM (Shramik Shakti Manch).

    About:

    • It is a dynamic job portal for mapping the skills of Shramiks vis-à-vis requirements of MSMEs to directly connect Shramiks with MSMEs and facilitate placement of 10 lakh blue-collar jobs.
    • The SAKSHAM job portal will help eliminate middlemen/ labour contractor as well as help identification of skill proficiency level and development of Skill Cards for Shramiks.
    • The portal with the demand and supply data uses algorithm and Artificial Intelligence (AI) tools, for geo spatial information on demand and availability of Shramiks, and also provide analysis on skill training programmes of Shramiks.
    • The pilot portal originally initiated with two districts is now being launched as an all India portal.

    INDIA’S FIRST CNG TRACTOR

    India’s first-ever diesel Tractor, converted to CNG, will be formally launched by the Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways on February 12, 2021.

    About:

    The conversion, carried out jointly by Rawmatt Techno Solutions & Tomasetto Achille India, will help farmers increase their income, by lowering costs, and help to create job opportunities in rural India.

    The more specific benefits of converting the Tractor to CNG for a farmer are :  

    • The test reports indicates that the retrofitted tractor produces more power/equal in comparison to Diesel-run engine.
    • Overall emissions are reduced by 70% as compared to Diesel.
    • It will help farmers to save up to 50% on the fuel cost as the current Diesel prices are Rs.77.43/L whereas CNG is only Rs.42/kg.

    MOVCDNER SCHEME

    Prime Minister Modi initiated a scheme for development of commercial organic farming in the region during 2015 which later became to be known as “Mission Organic Value Chain Development for North Eastern Region” (MOVCDNER).

    About:

    • The scheme started with an average annual allocation of Rs. 134 crore during last five years has so far covered 74,880 ha area.
    • To double the impact the allocation has now increased to Rs. 200 crore per year with a target to cover additional 1.00 lakh ha area under 200 new FPOs over a period of 3 year period.
    • The scheme besides growing and value adding the traditional crops is also aiming to bring in high-value crops under contract farming models.
    • Transformation of farmer clusters into Farmer Producer Companies (FPCs) ensures emergence of new breed of organic agri-enterprises

    WORLD UNANI DAY

    World Unani Day was celebrated on February 11, 2021 to spread awareness about health care delivery through Unani system of medicine through its preventive and curative philosophy.

    Hakim Ajmal Khan:

    • World Unani Day is celebrated every year to mark the birth anniversary of Hakim Ajmal Khan.
    • He was an eminent Indian Unani physician who was a versatile genius, a great scholar, a social reformer, a noted freedom fighter, a Unani medical educationist and founder of scientific research in Unani System of Medicine.
    • He was one of the founders of the Jamia Millia Islamia in New Delhi.

    Important Info :

    • Principles of Unani System: The Unani system postulates the presence of four humours in the body: dam (blood), balgham (phlegm), safra (yellow bile) and sauda (black bile), a parallel to kapha, vata and pitta, the three doshas in ayurveda. The quality and quantity of four humors affect the state of health and disease in the body.
    • Origin: Unani system originated in Greece. The theoretical framework of Unani medicine is based on the work of Hippocrates (460-377 BC).
    • Role of Arabs: The system owes its present form to the Arabs who not only saved much of the Greek literature by rendering it into Arabic but also enriched it with their own contributions.
    • Indian scenario: In India, it was introduced by Arabs and Persians sometime around the eleventh century.

     

    UDYANOTSAV

    The President of India, Shri Ram Nath Kovind, will open the annual “Udyanotsav” of Rashtrapati Bhavan on February 12, 2021. The Mughal Gardens will remain open for the general public from February 13, 2021 to March 21, 2021.

    About:

    The Rashtrapati Bhavan, the official residence of the President of India, is flanked by the iconic Mughal gardens — spread over 15 acres.

    • The gardens are a blend of the Mughal and English style of gardening and is inspired by the Persian Charbagh style. It is replete with canals, fountains, elaborate flower beds, well-trimmed shrubs, and a near endless variety of flowers.
    • A part of the gardens — comprising the Herbal Garden, the Bonsai Garden, the main Mughal Garden, the Spiritual Garden — is open to the public every year in February-March under the event called the Udyanotsav (translates to ‘Garden Festival’).

     

    INTERNATIONAL DAY OF WOMEN & YOUNG GIRLS IN SCIENCE

    On the International Day of Women & Young Girls in Science, Ministry of Women & Child Development in association with Ministry of Education and MyGov, Ministry of Electronics and Information technology launched an online campaign.

    About:

    • Objective of the campaign is to celebrate women who have carved a niche for themselves in the field of STEM and also encourage young girls who aspire to excel in STEM and contribute towards nation building.
    • The International Day of Women and Girls in Science is the 11th day of February, by resolution of the United Nations General Assembly on 22 December 2015.
    • The day recognises the critical role women and girls play in science and technology. The day’s purpose is to promote full and equal access to participation in science for women and girls.

    THOLPAVAKOOTHU

    For the first time, Tholpavakkoothu, the famous shadow leather puppets will tell stories of the epic Ramayana with the help of robots.

    About:

    • Tholpavakoothu is a form of shadow puppetry that is practiced in Kerala, India.
    • It is performed using leather puppets as a ritual dedicated to Bhadrakali and is performed in Devi temples in specially built theatres called koothumadams.
    • This art form is especially popular in the Palakkad, Thrissur and Malappuram districts of Kerala.
    • It is believed to have originated in the ninth century AD and uses Kamba Ramayana as its basic text.
    • The puppets used in Tholpavakoothu used to be made out of deerskin but are now typically made from goatskin.
    • The puppets are painted in vegetable dyes, as these dyes last long.

     

    INTER-CASTE MARRIAGES

    Educated youngsters are showing the way forward to reduce caste and community tensions in India by tying the knot in inter-marriages, the Supreme Court said in a recent judgment.

    About:

    • Educated younger boys and girls are choosing their life partners, which, in turn, is a departure from the earlier norms of society where caste and community play a major role.
    • Possibly, this is the way forward where caste and community tensions will reduce by such inter-marriages
    • Justice Kaul quoted B.R. Ambedkar’s Annihilation of Caste, in which the Father of the Constitution said, “I am convinced that the real remedy is intermarriage. Fusion of blood can alone create the feeling of being kith and kin and will vanish the separatist feeling created by caste.
    • Consent of the family or community or clan is not necessary once the two adult individuals agree to enter into a wedlock and that their consent has to be piously given primacy.

     

    EXCESSIVE ALCOHOL CAUSES IRREVERSIBLE CHANGES TO DNA

    A study by the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences (NIMHANS) in Bengaluru has debunked the assumption that damage to health from excessive consumption of alcohol can be reversed if one stops drinking.

    About:

    • Excessive alcohol consumption can cause irreversible changes to the DNA and these can persist even when alcohol is no longer consumed, revealed a study conducted by a team of researchers at NIMHANS.
    • The study has been published online in the American Journal of Medical Genetics.
    • The study tracked patients at NIMHANS’ Centre for Addiction Medicine outpatient clinic from March 2015 to April 2016.
    • Although we inherit genes from our parents, their expression is regulated in a unique manner in each person, and may be influenced by their lifestyle. Exposure to alcohol affects the pattern of gene expression, and may explain some of the systemic complications.
    • Researchers analysed the DNA chemistry of individuals who had been drinking on an average of 10 drinks/day.

     

    ARBITRATION AND CONCILIATION (AMENDMENT) BILL 2021

    Lok Sabha today gave its nod to Arbitration and Conciliation (Amendment) Bill 2021.

    ABout:

    • The Arbitration and Conciliation (Amendment) Bill, 2021 was introduced in Lok Sabha on February 4, 2021.
    • It 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 Bill replaces an Ordinance with same provisions promulgated on November 4, 2020.
    • Automatic stay on awards: The Bill specifies that a stay on the arbitral award can be provided (even during the pendency of the setting aside of the application) if the court is satisfied that:
      • the relevant arbitration agreement or contract, or
      • the making of the award, was induced, or effected by fraud or corruption.
      • This change will be effective from October 23, 2015.

     

    HILSA

    It has been reported that an old project to facilitate the movement of hilsa upstream along the Ganga to its spawning grounds of yore may come to fruition this year.

    About:

    • In scientific parlance, the hilsa (Tenualosa ilisha) is an anadromous fish.
    • That is, it lives most of its life in the ocean, but during the rainy season, when it is time to spawn, the hilsa moves towards the estuary, where the rivers of India and Bangladesh meet the Bay of Bengal.
    • A large part of the shoal travels upstream in the Padma and the Ganga — some are known to move towards the Godavari, and there are records of hilsa migration to the Cauvery.

    Farakka Barrage Lock

    • Historical records also show that until the 1970s, the hilsa would swim the Ganga upstream to Allahabad — and even to Agra.
    • But the Farakka Barrage, which became operational on the Ganga in 1975, disrupted the westward movement of the hilsa.
    • The barrage had a navigation lock that stopped the fish from swimming upstream beyond Farakka. In Buxar on the border of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, the last recorded catch of the hilsa was made 32 years ago.

    ALPINE STYLE MOUNTAINEERING

    The disappearance of three established international mountaineers while attempting to scale the world’s second highest peak, K2, in winter has spotlighted the extreme version of the sport – winter climbing.

    About:

    • ‘Alpine style’ mountaineering involves ascending with only the minimum number of breaks, and without the assistance of porters.
    • The mountaineer carries all of his/her load, including food, equipment, tents, etc. There is no scope for acclimatisation – which may take several days at high altitudes – as climbers make a dash for the summit.
    • The alpine style contrasts with the ‘expedition’ or ‘siege’ style of climbing, in which climbers go from one camp to another to acclimatise.
    • Winter climbing is always tougher than pre-monsoon, post-monsoon and summer climbing.
    • Many consider alpine style to be the most aesthetically “pure” form of mountaineering.
    • The benefits of alpine style include spending much less time on the route, thereby reducing objective dangers such as avalanches or blizzards.
    • The problems encountered while alpine style climbing are related to lack of support and potentially the lack of acclimatization associated with spending less time at very high altitudes.

    AC-III ECONOMY CLASS

    Earlier this week, the prototype of a new rail travel class, AC-III Economy, was finalised for oscillation trails at the Indian Railways’ Research Designs and Standards Organisation (RDSO) in Lucknow.

    About:

    • This class is meant to be an affordable, air-conditioned version of the non-AC Sleeper class.
    • The job of creating this was given last year to state-owned Rail Coach Factory (RCF), Kapurthala, the maker of the Linke Hoffmann Busche coaches in India.
    • The design philosophy was to take a non-AC Sleeper coach as reference and try and turn that into an AC coach.
    • AC-III tier is the only travel class that makes a clear profit for Railways, and is also said to be the most popular. AC-III Economy is expected to maintain that — and provide AC travel to the masses while keeping it affordable.

     

    CHILD BEGGARS

    Union Minister of Women and Child Development informed Lok Sabha about the steps related to Child Beggars.

    About:

    • The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 (JJ Act) is the primary law for children in the country.
      • As per Section 2 (14) (ii) of the JJ Act,2015, a child who is found working in contravention of labour laws or is found begging is included as a “child in need of care and protection”, among others.
      • As per Section 76 of JJ Act, whoever employs any child for the purpose of begging shall be punishable with imprisonment upto five years and fine of one lakh rupees.
    • The Ministry implements a centrally sponsored scheme i.e. Child Protection Services (CPS) under the umbrella Integrated Child Development Services scheme, for supporting the children in difficult circumstances including child beggars and destitute children.
      • Under the scheme, institutional care is provided through Child Care Institutions (CCIs), as a rehabilitative measure.
      • The scheme supports 24×7 emergency outreach/ helpline service for children in distress conditions. The service is accessible through a dedicated toll free number, 1098 from anywhere in India.
    • The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, has undertaken a pilot project for Comprehensive Rehabilitation of Persons engaged in the act of begging in ten (10) cities. It includes education of children engaged in begging/children of persons engaged in the begging.

     

    SWAMI DAYANAND SARASWATI

    Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar paid tributes to Swami Dayanand Saraswati on his birth anniversary on February 12, 2021.

    About:

    • Dayananda Saraswati (12 February 1824 – 30 October 1883) was an Indian philosopher, social leader and founder of the Arya Samaj, a reform movement of the Vedic dharma.
    • He was the first to give the call for Swaraj as “India for Indians” in 1876, a call later taken up by Lokmanya Tilak.
    • Denouncing the idolatry and ritualistic worship, he worked towards reviving Vedic ideologies.
    • Subsequently, the philosopher and President of India, S. Radhakrishnan called him one of the “makers of Modern India”, as did Sri Aurobindo.
    • Those who were influenced by and followed Dayananda included Madam Cama, Swami Shraddhanand, Shyamji Krishna Varma, Bhagat Singh, Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, Lala Lajpat Rai etc.
    • He was a sanyasi (ascetic) from boyhood and a scholar. He believed in the infallible authority of the Vedas. Dayananda advocated the doctrine of Karma and Reincarnation.
    • Among Dayananda’s contributions were his promoting of the equal rights for women, such as the right to education and reading of Indian scriptures, and his commentary on the Vedas from Vedic Sanskrit in Sanskrit as well as in Hindi.

     

    WORLD RADIO DAY (WRD)

    World Radio Day (WRD) is being observed on February 13.

    About:

    • The day was proclaimed by the member states of UNESCO in 2011 and subsequently adopted by the United Nations General Assembly as an International Day.
    • According to UNESCO, radio is a powerful medium for celebrating humanity and constitutes a platform for democratic discourse.
    • According to UNESCO, On the occasion of World Radio Day 2021 (WRD 2021), UNESCO calls on radio stations to celebrate this event’s 10th anniversary and the more than 110 years of radio.
    • The theme of World Radio Day 2021, “New World, New Radio”, will highlight the services rendered by the radio medium throughout the crisis.

    NETWIRE

    Activist Rona Wilson, who has been imprisoned since June 2018 in connection with the Bhima Koregaon violence case, filed a petition in the Bombay High Court seeking a stay on proceedings against him.

    About:

    • His petition referred to a report brought out by Arsenal Consulting, a digital forensics consulting company based in Massachusetts, which was hired by Mr. Wilson’s defence team.
    • The Arsenal Consulting report states that for 22 months, Mr. Wilson’s computer was controlled by an attacker whose goal was to deliver incriminating documents onto his computer, which formed the basis of the case against him.

    What is NetWire?

    • NetWire, which first surfaced in 2012, is a well-known malware. It is also one of the most active ones around.
    • It is a remote access trojan, or RAT, which gives control of the infected system to an attacker.
    • Such malware can log keystrokes and compromise passwords.
    • Malware essentially do two things.
      • One is data exfiltration, which means stealing data. Most anti-virus software are equipped to prevent this.
      • The other involves infiltrating a system, and this has proven to be far more challenging for anti-virus software.
    • NetWire is described as an off-the-shelf malware, while something like Pegasus, which used a bug in WhatsApp to infiltrate users’ phones in 2019, is custom-made and sold to nations.

     

    VEMBANAD LAKE

    Authorities have initiated preliminary steps to demolish the illegally constructed villas of Kapico Kerala Resorts Private Limited on Nediyathuruthu island in Vembanad Lake.

    About:

    • Vembanad (Vembanad Kayal or Vembanad Kol) is the longest lake in India and the largest lake in the state of Kerala.
    • With an area of 2033 square kilometres, it is the second largest Ramsar site in India only after the Sundarbans in West Bengal.
    • Spanning several districts in Kerala, it is known as Vembanadu Lake in Kottayam, Punnamada Lake in Alappuzha and Kochi Lake in Kochi.
    • Several groups of small islands including Vypin, Mulavukad, Vallarpadam, Willingdon Island are located in the Kochi Lake portion. Kochi Port is built around the Willingdon Island and the Vallarpadam island.
    • The Nehru Trophy Boat Race is conducted in a portion of the lake.
    • The Government of India has identified the Vembanad wetland under the National Wetlands Conservation Programme.

     

    MARIO DRAGHI

    Former European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi known as “Super Mario” was formally sworn in as Italy’s new Prime Minister, against the backdrop of the deadly coronavirus pandemic and a crippling recession.

    About:

    • Mario Draghi (born 1947) is an Italian economist, central banker and politician, who is serving as Prime Minister of Italy since 13 February 2021.
    • He previously served as President of the European Central Bank from 2011 until 2019.
    • He presided over the institution throughout the Eurozone crisis, and became famous throughout Europe for saying that he would be prepared to do “whatever it takes” to prevent the Euro from failing.
    • Draghi was also the Chair of the Financial Stability Board from 2009 to 2011 and Governor of the Bank of Italy from 2005 to 2011.

     

    DETAILED GENOME MAP OF MALARIA VECTOR

    Scientists have unveiled the detailed genome of the malaria mosquito vector, revealing thousands of new genes vital for the development of genetic control strategies of disease transmission.

     

    About:

    • In order to engineer advanced forms of defence against malaria transmission, including targeted CRISPR and gene drive–based strategies, scientists require intricate knowledge of the genomes of vector mosquitoes.
    • CRISPR technology is a gene-editing tool which allows researchers to easily alter DNA sequences and modify gene function.
    • They produced a new reference genome for the Asian malaria vector mosquito Anopheles stephensi.
    • With the newly upgraded Anopheles stephensi genome, the team unearthed more than 3,000 genes that previously evaded scrutiny and which offer fresh gene-drive targets, play key roles in blood feeding and the metabolism of ingested blood meal, reproduction and immunity against microbial parasites.
    • This reference genome should help malaria biologists in India, particularly in view of the national goal of malaria elimination in India by 2030.

    SEXUAL HARASSMENT AT THE WORKPLACE

    The Union Minister of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship launched the “Skill training on Gender Sensitisation and Prevention of Sexual Harassment (POSH) at the workplace”.

     

    About:

    • This was launched in partnership with Management and Entrepreneurship and Professional Skill Council (MEPSC) as the Implementation Agency for the project.
    • The six-month project will be implemented in 15 districts across 3 states of Rajasthan, Haryana and Punjab to train 1800 trainees and 240 training professionals.

     

    MAHATMA GANDHI NATIONAL FELLOWSHIP (MGNF)

    The Union Minister of Skill Development rolled out the Mahatma Gandhi National Fellowship (MGNF).

    About:

    • The fellows under MGNF will acquire academic expertise and technical competency in understanding the overall skill ecosystem along with being attached to District Skill Committees (DSCs).
    • It will help them manage the skill development planning at district level through the mechanism of formulating District Skill Development Plans (DSDPs).
    • With the successful launch of MGNF in the first pilot (MGNF) which had 69 fellows working across 69 districts, the Ministry is now expanding MGNF to all remaining districts in the country.
    • For retaining the standard of academic excellence and reputation in MGNF, the Ministry is seeking academic partnership with only the IIMs and have roped in nine IIMs for the national roll out of MGNF.

     

    SANKALP (SKILLS ACQUISITION AND KNOWLEDGE AWARENESS FOR LIVELIHOOD PROMOTION)

    The Union Minister of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship chaired a function ‘Transforming skilling through strategic partnerships under SANKALP’.

    About:

    • SANKALP (Skills Acquisition and Knowledge Awareness for Livelihood Promotion) is a World Bank loan assisted programme to strengthen the district skill administration and the District Skill Committees (DSCs).
    • The two-year academic programme comes with an in-built component of on-ground practical experience with the district administration.
    • To further bolster the trainer ecosystem, the SANKALP programme will also support in Training of Trainer (ToT) system in Public Private Partnership (PPP) mode that a collaborative approach between industry and the technical and vocational education and training (TVET) ecosystem.
    • MSDE has instituted the “Awards for Excellence in District Skill Development Planning (DSDP Awards)” under SANKALP in 2018.

     

    MUSHAIRA

    Union Ministry of Minority Affairs will organise “Mushaira” on the theme of “Ek Bharat, Shreshtha Bharat” in New Delhi on 20th February 2021 where renowned poets of the country will present their couplet.

    About:

    • Mushaira is a poetic symposium. It is an event (called mehfil, mushairi) where poets gather to recite their work so that they may enjoy, criticise, and ultimately appreciate what was recited.
    • it is a part of the culture of Pakistan, North India and the Deccan esp. among the Hyderabadi Muslims.
    • Urdu Mushaira reach its final, decisive form in 18th century and was popularised by Bahadur Shah Zafar, the last Mughal Emperor of India.

     

    RASHTRIYA SANSKRITI MAHOTSAV

    11th edition of ‘Rashtriya Sanskriti Mahotsav’ to be inaugurated on 14th February, 2021 at Cooch Behar Palace at Cooch Behar in West Bengal.

    About:

    • Rashtriya Sanskriti Mahotsav is the flagship festival of this Ministry of culture.
    • It is organized since 2015 with the active participation of Seven Zonal Culture Centres has been playing a pivotal role to take the vibrant culture of India out to the masses instead of confining to auditoria and galleries.
    • It has been instrumental in showcasing, folk and tribal art, dance, music, cuisines & culture of one state in other states.
    • Ten editions of RSM have been held till date since November, 2015 in various states and cities such as Delhi, Varanasi, Bengaluru, Tawang, Gujarat, Karnataka, Tehri and Madhya Pradesh.
    • The eleventh edition of Rashtriya Sanskriti Mahotsav is being held between 14th to 28th February, 2021 in West Bengal at Cooch Behar (14th to 16th February, 2021), Darjeeling (22nd to 24th February, 2021) and Murshidabad (27th to 28th February, 2021).

     

    BL Lacertae

    Indian Astronomers have reported one of the strongest flares from a feeding supermassive black hole or blazar called BL Lacertae.

    About:

    • Blazars or feeding supermassive black holes in the heart of distant galaxies receive a lot of attention from the astronomical community because of their complicated emission mechanism.
    • They emit jets of charged particles traveling nearly at the speed of light and are one of the most luminous and energetic objects in the Universe.
    • BL Lacertae blazar is 10 million light-years away and is among the 50 most prominent blazars that can be observed with the help of a relatively small telescope.
    • It was among the 3 to 4 blazars that was predicted to be experiencing flares by the Whole Earth Blazar Telescope (WEBT), an international consortium of astronomers.

    MANDARIN DUCK

    Floating in the Maguri – Motapung beel (or wetland) in Assam’s Tinsukia district for over a week is the spectacular and rare Mandarin duck. First spotted on February 8 by Madhab Gogoi, the duck has since become the star of the wetland.

    About:

    • Considered the most beautiful duck in the world, the Mandarin duck, or the (Aix galericulata) was first identified by Swedish botanist, physician and zoologist Carl Linnaeus in 1758.
    • It is a “small-exotic looking bird” native to East Asia.
    • The migratory duck breeds in Russia, Korea, Japan and north-eastern parts of China, explained Gogoi. It now has established populations in Western Europe and America too.
    • The duck, however, rarely visits India as it does not fall in its usual migratory route.
    • Its IUCN Status is Least Concern.
    • While the duck is not a globally threatened species, spotting one is always considered significant because they only make “rare appearances.”

     

    ARJUN MAIN BATTLE TANK (MK-1A)

    Prime Minister Modi handed over the indigenously developed Arjun Main Battle Tank (MK-1A) to the Indian Army at a ceremony in Chennai. The army will get 118 units of the Main Battle Tank, indigenously designed, developed and manufactured by CVRDE and DRDO along with 15 academic institutions, eight labs and several MSMEs.

    Timeline:

    • The Arjun Main Battle Tank project was initiated by DRDO in 1972 with the Combat Vehicles Research and Development Establishment (CVRDE) as its lead laboratory.
    • Mass production began in 1996 at the Indian Ordnance Factory’s production facility in Avadi, Tamil Nadu.
    • The Indian Army received the first batch of 16 tanks in 2004 and they were inducted as a squadron of the 43 Armoured Regiment. In 2009, the first Arjun regiment of the Indian Army had 45 tanks.

    Features:

    • The Arjun tanks stand out for their ‘Fin Stabilised Armour Piercing Discarding Sabot (FSAPDS)’ ammunition and 120-mm calibre rifled gun.
    • It also has a computer-controlled integrated fire control system with stabilised sighting that works in all lighting conditions. The secondary weapons include a co-axial 7.62-mm machine gun for anti-personnel and a 12.7-mm machine gun for anti-aircraft and ground targets.

     

    STEEL IN HIGHWAY CONSTRUCTION

    The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways has issued orders that all steel – whether produced from ore, billets, pellets or melting of scrap – would be allowed to be used for National Highway construction, as long as it meets the standards required for specific grades of steel.

    About:

    • The steel proposed to be used would be tested in NABL-accredited laboratories as a third party check before approval.
    • Earlier, the contract provisions required use of steel produced by primary/integrated steel producers only.
    • In view of the increase in steel prices, which can impact the cost of building national highways, Union Minister for Road Transport & Highways had suggested the need to re-look at all conditions which could be restrictive.
    • With this step, the supplier base for steel used in the construction of national highways would increase, leading to more competition and better price discovery by the markets.
    • This is also part of the continuous effort by the Minister to reduce costs through use of new technology, reducing restrictions on suppliers and making the procurement system transparent.

     

    KOTIA CLUSTER

    Andhra Pradesh held panchayat elections in three villages in the Kotia cluster, which is at the centre of a dispute between Andhra Pradesh and Odisha. This is the first time Andhra has held panchayat polls in any of these villages.

    About:

    • These villages, with a population of nearly 5,000, are located on a remote hilltop on the inter-state border and are inhabited by Kondh tribals.
    • The region is also rich in mineral resources like gold, platinum, manganese, bauxite, graphite and limestone.
    • In the early 1980s, Odisha filed a case in the Supreme Court demanding right and possession of jurisdiction over the 21 villages.
    • In 2006 however, the court ruled that since disputes belonging to the state boundaries are not within the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court, the matter can only be resolved by Parliament and passed a permanent injunction on the disputed area.

     

    CATALONIA

    Spain’s Catalonia voted in an election overshadowed by the pandemic and which Madrid hopes will unseat the region’s ruling separatists more than three years after a failed bid to break away from Spain. The vote in the wealthy north-eastern region could see a high level of abstentions as Spain battles a third wave of coronavirus infections.

    About:

    • Catalonia is an autonomous community in the north-eastern corner of Spain.
    • Catalonia consists of four provinces: Barcelona, Girona, Lleida, and Tarragona.
    • It is bordered by France (Occitanie) and Andorra to the north, the Mediterranean Sea to the east, and the Spanish autonomous communities of Aragon to the west and Valencia to the south.
    • Since the 2010s there has been growing support for Catalan independence. On 27 October 2017, the Catalan Parliament declared unilaterally independence following a disputed referendum.

     

    CHITTAURA LAKE

    Prime Minister Modi will lay the foundation stone of development work of Chittaura Lake on 16th February 2021.

     

    About:

    • Chittaura Jheel, also known as Ashtwarka jheel is a lake in Uttar Pradesh.
    • It is situated about 8 km from Bahraich city, on Gonda road, near Jittora or Chittaura village.
    • A small river, Teri Nadi, flows from this lake.
    • Chittaura Jheel is a Hindu pilgrimage site. According to local legends, Ashtwarka Muni, the Guru of Maharaja Janak used to live here in his ashram.
    • The area beside the lake is also the site of an 11th-century battle between the Hindu king Suhaldev and the Muslim invader Ghazi Saiyyad Salar Masud.

     

    MAHARAJA SUHELDEV

    Prime Minister Modi will lay the foundation stone of Maharaja Suheldev Memorial on 16th February 2021.

    About:

    • The event in Bahraich, Uttar Pradesh marks the birth anniversary of Maharaja Suheldev.
    • Suhaldev or Suheldev was an Indian king from Shravasti, popularly known to have defeated and killed the Ghaznavid general Ghazi Saiyyad Salar Masud at Bahraich in 1034 CE.
    • He is mentioned in the 17th century Persian-language historical romance Mirat-i-Masudi written by Abd-ur-Rahman Chishti during the reign of the Mughal emperor Jahangir.
    • Since the 20th century, various Hindu nationalist groups have characterized him as a Hindu King who defeated a Muslim invader.

     

    PM VISIT TO TAMIL NADU

    The Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated and laid the foundation stones for several key projects at Chennai.

     About:

    • The Prime Minister inaugurated the Chennai Metro Rail Phase-I extension, fourth Railway line between Chennai Beach and Attipattu, Railway Electrification of single line section in Villupuram – Cuddalore – Mayiladuthurai – Thanjavur and Mayiladuthurai-Thiruvarur.
    • Prime Minister laid the foundation stone for the extension, renovation and modernization of the Grand Anicut Canal System and Discovery Campus of IIT Madras.
    • The Central Government has accepted the long-standing demand of DevendrakulaVelalar community to be known officially as DevendrakulaVelalar. They will now be known by their heritage name and not the six to seven names listed in the Schedule to the Constitution.
    • Government has always taken care of the welfare of Tamils in Sri Lanka. PM Modi is the only Indian Prime Minister to visit Jaffna. To boost connectivity, the railway network to Jaffna and to Mannar is being re-built. India has built the Jaffna Cultural Centre which will open soon

     

    SAGARIKA

    Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated and laid foundation stone of various projects in Kochi, Kerala

    About:

    • The inauguration of Sagarika, the International Cruise Terminal in Kochi will cater to over a lakh cruise guests. It is the country’s first full-fledged international cruise terminal.
    • He also inaugurated the Marine Engineering Training Institute of Cochin Shipyard Ltd. Vigyan Sagar, the new knowledge campus of Cochin Shipyard would particularly help those wanting to study marine engineering.
    • South Coal Berth would bring down logistics costs and improve cargo capacities.
    • Propylene Derivative Petrochemical Project (PDPP) will help strengthen India’s journey towards being Aatmanirbhar as it will save foreign exchange.
    • With Ro-Ro Vessels, a distance of almost thirty kilometres on road will become 3.5 kilometres through waterways leading to less congestion and more convenience, commerce and capacity-building.

     

    SKILL DEVELOPMENT SCHEMES

    The Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship (MSDE) informed Rajya Sabha about the Status of Skilled Youths in India.

    About:

    • MSDE is implementing its flagship demand-driven Centrally Sponsored Scheme, Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY), for imparting short duration skill development training through Short-Term Training (STT) and Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) to youth across all States/UTs.
    • Jan Shikshan Sansthan (JSS) Scheme aims at providing vocational skills to non-literates, neo-literates as well as school dropouts by identifying skills that have a market in the region of their establishment.
    • National Apprenticeship Promotion Scheme (NAPS) is for promoting apprenticeship training and increasing the engagement of apprentices by providing financial support to industrial establishments undertaking apprenticeship programme under The Apprentices Act, 1961.
    • Craftsmen Training Scheme (CTS): Long term training programme in 137 trades are provided through 14,788 ITIs in the country.

    LEATHERBACK SEA TURTLE

    Proposals for tourism and port development in the Andaman and Nicobar (A&N) Islands have conservationists worried over the fate of some of the most important nesting populations of the Giant Leatherback turtle in this part of the Indian Ocean.

    About:

    • Leatherback sea turtle (Dermochelys coriacea) is largest of the seven species of sea turtles on the planet and also the most long-ranging, being found in all oceans except the Arctic and the Antarctic.
    • Within the Indian Ocean, they nest only in Indonesia, Sri Lanka and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
    • It is the only living species in the genus Dermochelys and family Dermochelyidae.
    • It can easily be differentiated from other modern sea turtles by its lack of a bony shell, hence the name. Instead, its carapace is covered by skin and oily flesh.
    • They are listed in Schedule I of India’s Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, according it the highest legal protection.

    Budget 2021:

    • The A&N Islands are prominent in the National Marine Turtle Action Plan released on February 1, 2021, by the Ministry of Environment.
    • The plan notes that “India has identified all its important sea turtle nesting habitats as ‘Important Coastal and Marine Biodiversity Areas’ and included them in the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) – 1”.
    • South Bay and West Bay on Little Andaman and Galathea on Great Nicobar, along with other nesting beaches in the islands, find a specific mention here as “Important Marine Turtle Habitats in India” and the largest Leatherback nesting grounds in India.

     

    NGOZI OKONJO-IWEALA

    The World Trade Organization (WTO) has chosen Nigeria’s former finance minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as its first female and first African leader, handing her the task of restoring trust in a rules-based global trading system.

    About:

    • The WTO’s 164 members unanimously selected the 66-year-old development economist to serve a four-year term as director general.
    • The appointment came after new United States President Joe Biden endorsed her candidacy, which had been blocked by former President Donald Trump.
    • Okonjo-Iweala, formerly Nigeria’s finance minister, had a 25-year career at the World Bank, where she rose to the number-two position of managing director. She holds both US and Nigerian citizenship.
    • The World Trade Organization is an international body that deals with the rules of trade between nations. At its heart are the WTO agreements, negotiated among the bulk of the world’s nations and ratified in their legislatures.

     

    GEO-SPATIAL SECTOR IN INDIA

    The Ministry of Science and Technology Monday released new guidelines for the Geo-spatial sector in India, which deregulates existing protocol and liberalises the sector to a more competitive field.

    About:

    • Geospatial data is data about objects, events, or phenomena that have a location on the surface of the earth.
    • The location may be static in the short-term, like the location of a road, an earthquake event, malnutrition among children, or dynamic like a moving vehicle or pedestrian, the spread of an infectious disease.
    • Geospatial data combines location information, attribute information (the characteristics of the object, event, or phenomena concerned), and often also temporal information or the time at which the location and attributes exist.
    • Geo-spatial data usually involves information of public interest such as roads, localities, rail lines, water bodies, and public amenities.
    • The past decade has seen an increase in the use of geo-spatial data in daily life with various apps such as food delivery apps like Swiggy or Zomato, e-commerce like Amazon or even weather apps.

     

    DIESEL AND PETROL PRICES

    Diesel and petrol prices have hit record highs across the country, with petrol touching Rs 89 per litre in Delhi, and diesel reaching a new high of Rs 86.30 per litre in Mumbai.

    About:

    • The government reasons that global crude oil prices have risen by more than 50 per cent to over $63.3 per barrel since October, forcing oil retailers to increase pump prices.
    • Retail petrol and diesel prices are in theory decontrolled — or linked to global crude oil prices. Which means that if crude prices fall, as has largely been the trend since February, retails prices should come down too, and vice versa.
    • But this does not happen in practice, largely because oil price decontrol is a one-way street in India. So, when global prices go up, the resultant increase is passed on to the consumer, who has to cough up more for every litre of fuel consumed.
    • But when the reverse happens and prices slide, the government, almost by default, slaps fresh taxes and levies to ensure that it rakes in extra revenues.
    • The main beneficiary in this subversion of price decontrol is the government. The consumer is a clear loser, as are the fuel retailing companies.
    • Brent crude, which was trading at about $40 per barrel between June and October, started rising in November, and has gone past the $60 per barrel mark as the global rollout of Covid-19 vaccines gathers pace.
    • The controlled production of crude amid rising demand has been another key factor in boosting oil prices, with Saudi Arabia voluntarily cutting its daily output by 1 million barrels per day to 8.125 million barrels per day through February and March.

     

    BASANT PANCHAMI / SARASWATI PUJA

    Basant Panchami and Saraswati Puja are being celebrated in different parts of the country.

    About:

    • Basant Panchami or Vasant Panchami marks the beginning of the spring season – Basant means spring and Panchami means “the fifth day” (or Panchmi of Shukla Paksha in Magh Maas).
    • The day is also celebrated as Saraswati Puja and the Hindu goddess of wisdom and knowledge, Saraswati, is worshipped on this day.
    • Regions: Saraswati Puja on Vasant Panchami is more popular in Bengal, Odisha and North Indian states like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh.

     

    SANDES

    The National Informatics Centre has launched an instant messaging platform called Sandes on the lines of WhatsApp.

    About:

    • Like WhatsApp, the new NIC platform can be used for all kinds of communications by anyone with a mobile number or email id.
    • The instant messaging app, called Sandes, has an interface similar to many other apps currently available in the market.
    • Although there is no option to transfer the chat history between two platforms, the chats on government instant messaging systems (GIMS) can be backed up to a users’ email.
    • GIMS, like other instant messaging apps in the market, uses a valid mobile number or email id to register the user for the first time. It also offers features such as group making, broadcast message, message forwarding and emojis.

     

    DEVENDRA KULA VELLALAR COMMUNITY

    The Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment has said that the reports appearing in media about delisting of Devendra Kula Vellalar community from SC soon are completely misinformed.

    About:

    • The Ministry has clarified that the news is misleading and does not reflect the actual position.
    • It has stated that the Cabinet has approved for categorising (7) SC communities into Devendra Kula Vellalar which would also be a part of the Scheduled Castes list of Tamil Nadu.
    • Therefore, the statement that they will be delisted from SCs and would be made OBCs is completely incorrect and it may be clarified that the statement does not reflect the correct position.
    • The Ministry has further clarified that a Bill for categorising (7) SC communities into Devendra Kula Vellalar under SC list to Tamil Nadu is already introduced in the Lok Sabha.

     

    OIL & GAS PROJECTS IN TAMIL NADU

    Prime Minister Narendra Modi will dedicate to the nation and lay the foundation of key projects of the oil & gas sector in Tamil Nadu on 17th February 2021.

    About:

    • Prime Minister will dedicate to the nation the Ramanathapuram – Thoothukudi natural gas pipeline.
      • The Ramanathapuram – Thoothukudi section (143 km) of the Ennore- Thiruvallur- Bengaluru- Puducherry- Nagapattinam- Madurai- Tuticorin Natural Gas Pipeline has been laid at the cost of about Rs. 700 crores.
      • It will help utilise gas from ONGC Gas fields and deliver natural gas as feedstock to industries and other commercial customers.
    • He will also dedicate the Gasoline Desulphurisation Unit at Chennai Petroleum Corporation Limited, Manali. It will produce low sulphur (less than 8 ppm) environment-friendly gasoline, help reduce emission and contribute towards a cleaner environment.
    • He will also lay the foundation stone of Cauvery Basin Refinery at Nagapattinam.
      • It will have a capacity of 9 million metric tonnes per annum. It will be set up through a Joint Venture of IOCL and CPCL at an estimated project cost of Rs. 31,500 crore.
      • It will produce Motor Spirit and Diesel meeting BS-VI specifications, and Polypropylene as a value-added product.

    AJMER SHARIF DARGAH

    The Prime Minister Modi has handed over a Chadar that would be offered at the Ajmer Sharif Dargah on the 809th Urs of Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti.

     About:

    • Ajmer Sharif Dargah is a sufi shrine (dargah) of the revered sufi saint, Moinuddin Chishti, located at Ajmer, Rajasthan. The shrine has Chisti’s grave (Maqbara).
    • The Urs festival is an annual festival held at Ajmer, Rajasthan which commemorates the anniversary of the death of Sufi saint Moinuddin Chishti, (founder of the Chishtiya Sufi order in India).
      • It is held over six days and features night-long dhikr (zikr) qawwali singing.
      • The anniversary is celebrated in the seventh month of the Islamic lunar calendar.

     

    AJAY MATHUR

    International Solar Alliance (ISA) has announced Dr. Ajay Mathur as its new Director General following his election at the first special assembly of ISA members.

    About:

    • Dr Mathur replaces Mr Upendra Tripathy, who has served as Director General since the inception of the ISA.
    • A coalition of 73 member countries, ISA was established in 2015 to accelerate the demand for and use of safe, sustainable, and affordable solar energy for all.
    • It aims to mobilize over one trillion dollars of investment into solar projects by 2030 through focused advocacy, policy and regulatory support, capacity building, and by overcoming perceived investment barriers.

    ARTICLE 153 IN THE CONSTITUTION OF INDIA

    Dr. Kiran Bedi has been removed from the post of Puducherry Lieutenant Governor. Telangana Governor Dr. Tamilisai Soundararajan has been given additional charge as Lieutenant Governor of Puducherry.

    About:

    • Article 153 of the Indian constitution states that here shall be Governor for each State.
    • Nothing in this article shall prevent the appointment of the same person as Governor for two or more States

     

    E-CHHAWANI

    Raksha Mantri Rajnath Singh launched E-Chhawani portal and mobile app in New Delhi on February 16, 2021.

    About:

    • The portal (https://echhawani.gov.in/) has been created to provide online civic services to over 20 lakh residents of 62 Cantonment Boards across the country.
    • Through the portal, the residents of cantonment areas will be able to avail basic services like renewal of leases, application for birth & death certificates, water & sewerage connections, trade licences with just a click of a button.
    • The portal is jointly developed by eGov Foundation, Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL), Directorate General Defence Estates (DGDE) and National Informatics Centre (NIC).

     

    MARS MISSIONS

    Two more rovers — NASA’s Perseverance and China’s Tianwen-1 — are set to land on Mars on February 18 and in May 2021 respectively.

    NASA’s Perseverance Rover

    • The most sophisticated mission from an engineering standpoint, NASA’s Perseverance Rover, is en route to Mars, and is set to land on Thursday at Jezero Crater, which was likely filled with water in the past.
    • Perseverance is NASA’s 4th generation Mars Rover
    • The goal is to look for biosignatures in the dried up lake bed at Jezero Crater.

    Tianwen-1

    • Tianwen-1, the first mission to Mars from China, successfully underwent orbital insertion on February 10. Tianwen-1 carries an orbiter, a lander, and a rover. China’s approach for landing a rover is somewhat different. Unlike NASA rovers, Tianwen-1 will orbit Mars for a few months before attempting to land in May this year.

     

     

    TECHNOGRAHIS

    An Enrolment Module for TECHNOGRAHIS, has been launched by The Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA).

    About:

    • TECHNOGRAHIS are students from IITs, NITs, engineering, planning and architecture colleges, faculty members, academicians, and stakeholders.
    • The Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA) is promoting six Light House Projects (LHPs) as Live Laboratories for transfer of technology to the field.
    • The LHPs are model housing projects. About 1,000 houses at each location are being built with allied infrastructure facilities.
    • Interested candidates can register themselves to visit these Live Laboratories at six LHP sites for learning, consultation, generation of ideas and solutions, experimentation, innovation, and technical awareness.
    • Till the completion of the LHPs within a period of 12 months, the ‘Technograhis’ will get regular updates from the sites for information dissemination.

     

    PILOT PEY JAL SURVEKSHAN

    Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs has launched a Pilot Pey Jal Survekshan under Jal Jeevan Mission- Urban, JJM-U.

    About:

    • It will be conducted in cities to ascertain equitable distribution of water, reuse of wastewater and mapping of water bodies with respect to quantity and quality of water through a challenge process.
    • As a first step, the Ministry has decided to launch the Survekshan in 10 cities- Agra, Badlapur, Bhubaneswar, Churu, Kochi, Madurai, Patiala, Rohtak, Surat and Tumkur.
    • Jal Jeevan Mission Urban is designed to provide universal coverage of water supply to all households through functional taps in all 4,378 statutory towns in accordance with Sustainable Development Goal – 6.
    • The total outlay proposed for JJM (U) is 2 lakh 87 thousand crore rupees which includes 10 thousand crore rupees  for continuing financial support to AMRUT Mission.

     

    SAHAJ MARG

    The Prime Minister addressed the event organized to commemorate 75 years of Shri Ram Chandra Mission.

    About:

    • Sahaj Marg (The Natural Path), a form of Raja Yoga, is a meditation system involving meditation, cleaning, and prayer.
    • The cleaning of impressions (called samskaras) is claimed to be unique to this method.
    • The organizational body Shri Ram Chandra Mission (SRCM), was formally registered in 1945 by Ram Chandra (1899-1983). As part of the Sahaj Marg spiritual practice, Ram Chandra adopted a technique called ‘pranahuti’ as taught by his spiritual master, ‘Lalaji’.

     

    RASHTRAPATI BHAVAN KRIDA STHAL

    The President of India inaugurated the Rashtrapati Bhavan Krida Sthal (renovated Football Ground and Basketball Court) in the President’s Estate on February 16, 2021.

    About:

    • These state-of-art sports facilities are developed with the aim to cater to the needs of the employees of Rashtrapati Bhavan and their families.
    • An inter-departmental football tournament with five teams namely – President’s Secretariat Heroes, Household Youngs, PBG Warriors, Army Guard Daredevils and Delhi Police Stalwarts also started to encourage the employees and their family members to take part in the sports activities.

     

    BRIDGES IN ASSAM

    Prime Minister Modi will lay the foundation stone of Dhubri Phulbari Bridge and perform Bhumi Pujan for construction of Majuli Bridge Assam on 18th February 2021.

    Dhubri Phulbari Bridge

    • Prime Minister will lay the foundation stone for the four lane bridge over the Brahmaputra between Dhubri (on North Bank) and Phulbari (on South Bank).
    • The proposed Bridge will be located on NH-127B, originating from Srirampur on NH-27 (East-West Corridor), and terminating at Nongstoin on NH-106 in the State of Meghalaya.
    • It will connect Dhubri in Assam to Phulbari, Tura, Rongram and Rongjeng in Meghalaya.

    Majuli Bridge

    • Prime Minister will perform Bhumi Pujan for the two-lane Bridge on the Brahmaputra between Majuli (North Bank) and Jorhat (South Bank).
    • The bridge will be located on NH-715K and will connect Neematighat (on Jorhat side) and Kamalabari (on Majuli side).

     

    MAHABAHU-BRAHMAPUTRA

    Prime Minister Modi will launch the ‘Mahabahu-Brahmaputra’ in Assam on 18th February 2021.

    About:

    • The launch of Mahabahu-Brahmaputra will be marked by the inauguration of the Ro-Pax vessel operations between Neamati-Majuli Island, North Guwahati-South Guwahati and Dhubri-Hatsingimari; Shilanyas of Inland Water Transport (IWT) Terminal at Jogighopa and various tourist jetties on River Brahmaputra and launch of digital solutions for Ease-of-Doing-Business.
    • The program is aimed at providing seamless connectivity to the Eastern parts of India and includes various development activities for the people living around River Brahmaputra and River Barak.

    COMPREHENSIVE ECONOMIC COOPERATION AND PARTNERSHIP AGREEMENT (CECPA)

    The Union Cabinet has approved signing of the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation and Partnership Agreement (CECPA) between India and Mauritius.

    The salient features of India-Mauritius CECPA are as follows:

    • The India-Mauritius CECPA will be the first trade Agreement to be signed by India with a country in Africa.
    • The Agreement is a limited agreement, which will cover Trade in Goods, Rules of Origin, Trade in Services, Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT), Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) measures, Dispute Settlement, Movement of Natural Persons, Telecom, Financial services, Customs Procedures and Cooperation in other Areas
    • CECPA provides for an institutional mechanism to encourage and improve trade between the two countries.
    • Both sides have also agreed to negotiate an Automatic Trigger Safeguard Mechanism (ATSM) for a limited number of highly sensitive products within two years of the Signing of the Agreement.

     

    BAIL

    The Bombay High Court on Tuesday granted transit anticipatory bail to Shantanu Shivlal Muluk in the Greta Thunberg toolkit case registered by the Delhi Police in connection with the ongoing protests against the three farm laws.

    About:

    • According to Article 22 of the Constitution of India, every person who is “arrested and detained in custody” has to be produced before the nearest magistrate within a period of 24 hours of the arrest — the period excludes the time necessary for the journey from the place of arrest to the court.
    • No person can be kept in custody beyond the period of 24 hours without an order of a magistrate. Section 56 of the CrPC states that the person arrested has to be taken before the magistrate without unnecessary delay.
    • When does a person apply for anticipatory transit bail? When a person is apprehending arrest by the police of a state other than where they are at present, they approach the nearest competent court for a transit anticipatory or pre-arrest bail.

     

    NATIONAL HYDROGEN MISSION

    India has announced a National Hydrogen Mission. The proposal in the Budget will be followed up with a mission draft over the next couple of months.

    About:

    • And while proposed end-use sectors include steel and chemicals, the major industry that hydrogen has the potential of transforming is transportation — which contributes a third of all greenhouse gas emissions.
    • In October, Delhi became the first Indian city to operate buses running on hydrogen spiked compressed natural gas (H-CNG) in a six-month pilot project.
    • The buses will run on a new technology patented by Indian Oil Corp for producing H-CNG — 18 per cent hydrogen in CNG — directly from natural gas, without resorting to conventional blending.
    • IOC is also planning to set up a dedicated unit to produce hydrogen to run buses at its R&D centre in Faridabad.
    • As a supporting regulatory framework, the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways late last year issued a notification proposing amendments to the Central Motor Vehicles Rules, 1989, to include safety evaluation standards for hydrogen fuel cell-based vehicles.

     

    PLI SCHEME FOR TELECOM AND NETWORKING PRODUCTS

    The Union Cabinet has approved Production Linked Incentive (PLI) Scheme for Telecom and Networking Products with a budgetary outlay of Rs. 12,195 crore.

    About:

    • The Production Linked Incentive (PLI) Scheme intends to promote manufacture of Telecom and Networking Products in India and proposes a financial incentive to boost domestic manufacturing and attract investments in the target segments of telecom and networking products in order to encourage Make in India.
    • The scheme will also encourage exports of telecom and networking products ‘Made in India’.
    • Support under the Scheme will be provided to companies/entities engaged in manufacturing of specified telecom and networking products in India.
    • Eligibility will be further subject to achievement of a minimum threshold of cumulative incremental investment over a period of four years and incremental sales of manufactured goods net of taxes (as distinct from traded goods) over the Base Year 2019-2020.
    • There will be a minimum investment threshold of Rs.10 crore for MSME with incentives from 7% to 4 % and Rs. 100 crore for others with incentives from 6% to 4 % over 5 year above Base Year.
    • The applicants with higher investments than specified threshold under MSME and Non MSME categories will be selected through transparent process.

     

    JUVENILE JUSTICE

    The Union Cabinet has approved the proposal of the Ministry of Women and Child Development to amend the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 to introduce measures for strengthening Child Protection set-up to ensure best interest of children.

    About:

    • 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
    • The District Magistrates have been further empowered under the Act, to ensure its smooth implementation, as well as garner synergized efforts in favour of children in distress conditions.
    • Defining eligibility parameters for appointment of CWC members, and categorizing previously undefined offences as ‘serious offence’ are some of the other aspects of the proposal.
    • Several difficulties faced in implementation of various provisions of the Act have also been addressed.

     

    WATER TREATMENT PLANT AT ARUVIKKARA

    Prime Minister will inaugurate the 75 MLD (million litres per day) Water Treatment Plant at Aruvikkara in Kerala.

    About:

    • It is being built under the AMRUT Mission.
    • It will boost supply of drinking water to people of Thiruvananthapuram and help avoid disruption of drinking water supply to the city in the event of maintenance work in the existing treatment plants in Aruvikkara.
    • Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) was launched in 2015 with the aim of providing basic civic amenities like water supply, sewerage, urban transport, parks as to improve the quality of life for all especially the poor and the disadvantaged.

     

    SMART ROADS PROJECT

    Prime Minister will lay the foundation stone of the Smart Roads Project in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala.

    About:

    • The project, to be undertaken at an estimated cost of Rs 427 crores, envisages converting 37 Kms of existing roads in Thiruvananthapuram to world class smart roads by bringing all overhead utilities underneath and undertaking road and junction improvements.
    • The project envisages development of urban roads as smart roads. It will have features like pedestrian footpath/safe pathways, junction improvements, storm water drains, utility conduits and underground ducts for electrical, KWA and communication lines.
    • Besides landscaping, street scaping, provision of smart street furniture, creating and developing basic conveniences along the roads are also included under scope of work.

     

    INTEGRATED COMMAND AND CONTROL CENTRE

    Prime Minister will lay the foundation stone of the Integrated Command and Control Centre at Thiruvananthapuram, kerala.

    About:

    • Projected to be built at a cost of Rs 94 crores, it is being set up to host Smart Solutions for Thiruvananthapuram Municipal Corporation, and will act as a common point of action during emergency situations to facilitate coordinated action.
    • The control rooms or War Room at the ICCC would act as a single point of coordinated action and decision making among various agencies like police, civil supplies, revenue, health and fire fighting.

     

    KASARAGOD SOLAR POWER PROJECT

    Prime Minister will dedicate to the nation the 50 MW Kasaragod Solar Power Project in kerala.

    About:

    • It has been developed under the National Solar Energy Mission.
    • Set up over 250 acres of land spread across Paivalike, Meenja and Chippar villages of Kasaragod district, it has been built with Central Government’s investment of around Rs. 280 crores.

     

    PUGALUR – THRISSUR POWER TRANSMISSION PROJECT

    Prime Minister will inaugurate the 320 KV Pugalur (Tamil Nadu) – Thrissur (Kerala) power transmission project.

    About:

    • It is a Voltage Source Convertor (VSC) based High Voltage Direct Current (HVDC) Project and has India’s first HVDC link featuring state-of-the-art VSC technology.
    • Built at a cost of Rs 5070 crores, it will facilitate transfer of 2000 MW power from the western region and help meet the growth in load for the people of Kerala.
    • This VSC based system features integration of HVDC XLPE (cross-linked polyethylene) cable with overhead lines which saves right-of-way as well as has 35-40% less land footprint compared to conventional HVDC system.

    GREENPEACE ANALYSIS OF COST TO THE ECONOMY DUE TO AIR POLLUTION

    Air pollution claimed approximately 54,000 lives in Delhi in 2020, according to a Greenpeace Southeast Asia analysis of cost to the economy due to air pollution.

    About:

    • Six Indian cities — Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Chennai, Hyderabad and Lucknow — feature in the global analysis.
    • Globally, approximately 1,60,000 deaths have been attributed to PM (particulate matter) 2.5 air pollution in the five most populous cities — Delhi, Mexico City, Sao Paulo, Shanghai and Tokyo.

    Cost Estimator

    • The ‘Cost Estimator’ is an online tool that estimates the real-time health impact and economic cost from fine particulate matter (PM 2.5) air pollution in major world cities,
    • According to the report, this tool was deployed in a collaboration between Greenpeace Southeast Asia, IQAir and the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA).
    • Using real-time ground-level PM 2.5 measurements collated in IQAir’s database, the algorithm applies scientific risk models in combination with population and public health data to estimate the health and economic costs of air pollution exposure.

    HUMAN CHALLENGE TRIALS

    The UK is set to conduct the first COVID-19 human challenge trials (HCT) within a month from now.

    About:

    • The UK government is spending £33.6 million for the trials, being conducted jointly by the government’s Vaccines Taskforce, Imperial College London, the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust and the clinical company called hVIVO. The trial was first announced in October 2020.
    • In this study, over 90 healthy volunteers between the ages of 18-30 will be deliberately exposed to small amounts of the virus in controlled settings, in order to test treatments and vaccines.
    • In this way, the participants are “challenged” by the virus.
    • This is not the same as standard vaccine clinical trials, where the vaccine is given to participants who have acquired the infection naturally.

    LIC IPO

    Decks are being cleared systematically for the mega listing of Life Insurance Corporation of India (LIC), India’s largest financial institution with assets of over Rs 32 lakh crore.

    What has SEBI done to smoothen the LIC IPO process?

    • Market regulator SEBI has relaxed the norms to make the listing process easier and smooth.
    • Currently, issuers with a post-issue market capitalisation of Rs 4,000 crore are required to offer at least 10 per cent of the post-issue capital to the public and achieve a minimum public holding of 25 per cent within three years.
    • SEBI has now said the issuer with a post-issue market capitalisation needs to make an offer of Rs 10,000 crore and five per cent of the incremental amount beyond the Rs one lakh crore. The size will ultimately depend on the valuation.

    MSP GUIDELINES FOR SUGAR MILLS

    The Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution issued separate guidelines for sugar mills and cane commissioners in regards to sale of sugar below the Minimum Selling Price (MSP) of Rs 3,100/- per quintal.

    About:

    • To control the constant slide in ex-mill prices of sugar, the central government had in June 2018 specified the concept of MSP for sugar.
    • Back then the MSP was fixed at Rs 2,850/- per quintal which was subsequently raised to Rs 3,100/- per quintal.
    • Along with MSP, the centre had also fixed mill wise sales quota.
    • Mills who breached either of the conditions were liable for action under the Essential Commodities Act, 1955 which would include fine as well as a jail term(ranging from 3 months to 7 years) or both.
    • These out of box measures were brought in to arrest the constant slide of sugar and to keep the demand supply ratio to a safe limit.
    • It was reasoned that both these measures would help mills generate enough revenue to pay their farmers the Fair and Remunerative Price (FRP) for cane purchased from farmers

    DELIMITATION COMMISSION

    Delimitation Commission chaired by Retd. Justice Ranjana Prakash Desai held a meeting in New Delhi with the Associate Members from Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir, for seeking their suggestion on the process of delimitation in respect of Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir.

    About:

    • An overview on the process of delimitation based on the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganization Act, 2019 and Delimitation Act, 2002 was presented before the Members detailing various Sections of these Acts related to the delimitation exercise.
    • Meaning: Delimitation is the act of redrawing boundaries of Lok Sabha and state Assembly seats to represent changes in population so that the population of all seats, so far as practicable, is the same.
    • The main objective of delimitation is: To provide equal representation to equal segments of a population; fair division of geographical areas so that one political party doesn’t have an advantage over others in an election.
    • Constitutional provisions: Under Article 82, the Parliament enacts a Delimitation Act after every Census.
    • Delimitation is carried out by an independent Delimitation Commission. Delimitation Commissions have been set up four times — 1952, 1963, 1973 and 2002 under the Acts of 1952, 1962, 1972 and 2002. There was no delimitation after the 1981 and 1991 Censuses.

    ALL INDIA SURVEYS

    Labour and Employment Minister Santosh Kumar Gangwar launched Software Applications and instruction manuals with questionnaires for five All India Surveys on Labour.

    About:

    • The five All India Surveys are being conducted by Labour Bureau in Chandigarh.
    • These five surveys being undertaken by Labour Bureau are
      • All India Survey on Migrant workers,
      • All India survey on Domestic Workers,
      • All India survey on employment generated by Professionals,
      • All India survey on employment generated in Transport Sector and
      • All-India Quarterly Establishment based Employment Survey (to assess the employment situation in establishments with more than 10 workers and also less than 10 workers).
    • Labour Bureau, an attached office of Ministry of Labour& Employment, has been at the forefront in fulfilling the data needs of various stakeholders in the field of labour and employment since 1920.

    ASIA ENVIRONMENTAL ENFORCEMENT AWARD-2020

    The Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WCCB) has received the Asia Environmental Enforcement Award-2020 awarded by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

    About:

    • WCCB got the award twice in three years. Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WCCB) has been awarded this year under the Innovation category.
    • Earlier, the Bureau had received the award in 2018 under the same category.

    Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WCCB):

    • Parent Agency: Ministry of Environment and Forests.
    • Status: A statutory body constituted under the WildLife (Protection) Act, 1972.
    • Mandate: To combat organized wildlife crime in the country.
    • Location: The Bureau has its headquarter in New Delhi and five regional offices at Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, Chennai and Jabalpur.
    • WCCB has developed an online Wildlife Crime Database Management System to get real time data to analyse trends in wildlife crimes across India.
    • This system has been successfully used for carrying out operations such as Operation Save Kurma, Thunderbird, Wildnet, Lesknow, Birbil, Thunderstorm, Lesknow-II etc resulting in huge seizures of Tiger/Leopard Skin/bones, Rhino Horn, Elephant Ivory etc.

    PARIKSHA PE CHARCHA 2021

    The Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi will interact online with students, teachers and parents all over the world during ‘Pariksha Pe Charcha 2021’.

    About:

    • Pariksha pe Charcha is a programme in which Prime Minister interacts with the cross section of Students and Teachers from India and abroad to beat exam stress.
    • It is a unique interaction where students, teachers, parents and the Prime Minister will come together to discuss issues related to exams esp. stress-free examination.
    • The First three editions were held at Talkatora Stadium, New Delhi in 2018, 2019 and 2020.

    GOVERNING COUNCIL MEETING OF NITI AAYOG

    Prime Minister Narendra Modi will chair the sixth meeting of the Governing Council of NITI Aayog on 20th February 2021.

    About:

    • The agenda of the meeting includes deliberations on agriculture, infrastructure, manufacturing, human resource development, service delivery at grassroots level and health & nutrition.
    • The Governing Council presents a platform to discuss inter-sectoral, inter-departmental and federal issues.
    • It comprises the Prime Minister, Chief Ministers of States and Union Territories (UTs), with Legislatures and Lt Governors of other UTs.
    • The sixth meeting will witness the entry of Ladakh for the first time, in addition to the participation of Jammu and Kashmir as a UT. This time, other UTs headed by administrators have also been invited to join.
    • The meeting will also be attended by the ex-officio members of the Governing Council, Union Ministers, Vice Chairman, Members and CEO of NITI Aayog, and other senior officials of Government of India.

    TREE CITIES OF THE WORLD

    Hyderabad has won a green contest among cities in India, and emerged one of the ‘Tree Cities of the World’.

    About:

    • That title has been bestowed by the Arbor Day Foundation and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
    • Hyderabad has been selected for its commitment to growing and maintaining urban forestry under the State government’s Haritha Haram programme and its Urban Forest Parks plan.
    • With the recognition, the city joins 120 others from 23 countries, including the U.S., the U.K., Canada, and Australia.
    • The city was evaluated on five metrics: ‘Establish Responsibility’, ‘Set the Rules’, ‘Know What You Have’, ‘Allocate the Resources’, and ‘Celebrate the Achievements’.

    PERSEVERANCE ROVER

    The shadow of NASA’s Perseverance rover was seen on the surface of Mars as it landed on the planet. With this, NASA is set to become the first space agency to fly a drone in the atmosphere of another planet.

    About:

    • Mission Name: Mars 2020
    • Rover Name: Perseverance
    • Main Job: Seek signs of ancient life and collect samples of rock and regolith (broken rock and soil) for possible return to Earth.
    • Launch: July 30, 2020
    • Landing: 18, 2021
    • Landing Site: Jezero Crater, Mars

    ANASTASIA

    After 15 months, Anand Fernandes, a Mumbai sailor returned home. He was a crew member on the cargo ship Anastasia, which was stranded at a Chinese port due to the coronavirus pandemic.

    About:

    • Fernandes started his journey on Anastasia before the pandemic in November 2019 and the ship travelled to the U.S., Netherlands, South Africa, India, China, and Australia.
    • However, the second trip to China resulted in the ship being stranded in Chinese waters as the pandemic scare prevented unloading of Australian coal. China also had new regulations on imports.
    • After the successful negotiations with Chinese officials, the ship was then taken to Japan from where the crew flew to Dubai and then to the respective cities of residence.

    SHINNYU VILLAGE

    Mon District Administration in collaboration with Global Himalayan Expedition (GHE) completed the electrification of Shinnyu village under Mon district in Nagaland using solar power.

    About:

    • A total of 60 households, Churches and community hall was electrified using solar power. The entire cost for the project which stood at Rs. 23 Lacs was borne through CSR funding and executed by the GHE.
    • Global Himalayan Expedition (GHE) works towards providing clean energy access through solar power to remote communities and has also won the United Nation Global Climate Action Award 2020.
    • Shinnyu was set up in 1977 and recognised by the State government in 2002 but it has virtually remained cut off in the absence of proper road infrastructure. The Power Department tried to electrify the village in 2013-14 but the project was abandoned due to logistical problems.

    RAILWAY PROJECTS IN WEST BENGAL

    Union Minister of Railways, dedicated to the Nation series of Projects for development of Railway Infrastructure in West Bengal.

    About:

    • He inaugurated 2nd Foot Over Bridge at Santragachi, Freight Terminal at Sankrail (Phase-I) & Vivekananda Meditation Centre at Howrah and dedicated to the Nation an Executive Lounge at Sealdah station, 2 Escalators at Sealdah station and 2 lifts at Sealdah station.
    • Santragachi station is one of the busiest stations over Howrah-Kharagpur section. It is being developed with all modern amenities.
    • Sankrail Freight Terminal (Phase-I) has been developed with modern facilities for freight rake handling. This Freight Terminal will serve around 40 sq.km. industrial belt spreading over Kolkata and Howrah in West Bengal.
    • Executive Lounge at Sealdah Station is another novel initiative of Railways to provide more comfort for passengers.
    • In order to augment security of passengers & railway property, an Integrated Security System has been commissioned at Barddhaman station.

    ‘GO ELECTRIC’ CAMPAIGN

    Union Minister for Road Transport & Highways launched the “Go Electric” Campaign to spread awareness on the benefits of e-mobility and EV Charging Infrastructure as well as electric cooking in India.

    About:

    • Go Electric Campaign is an important initiative that would help in reducing the import dependence of our country in the coming years and would be an important step towards a cleaner and greener future.
    • The campaign is aimed at creating awareness at PAN-India level and is expected to boost the confidence of Electric Vehicle manufacturers.
    • To implement the ‘Go Electric’ campaign at National and State level, Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE) will extend technical support to the State Designated Agencies (SDAs).
    • As a Central Nodal Agency, BEE will provide content and details to State Designated Agencies and other partners to ensure uniformity of information.

    SHAURYANJALI’ PROGRAMME

    The Union Home Minister attended the ‘Shauryanjali’ programme, organized to commemorate the 125th birth anniversary of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose.

    About:

    • He also flagged off a cycle rally.
    • Three teams, namely Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, Rasbehari Bose and Khudiram Bose, are participating in the rally which will create awareness in different parts of West Bengal about the great sacrifices made by the revolutionaries of Bengal in the freedom movement.

    Rash Behari Bose:

    • Rash Behari Bose (1886 – 1945) was an Indian revolutionary leader against the British Raj.
    • He was born in West Bengal.
    • Following the attempt to assassinate Lord Hardinge on 23 December 1912 in Delhi, Rash Behari was forced to go into hiding.
    • He was one of the key organisers of the Ghadar Mutiny, and later the Indian National Army.
    • Rash Behari Bose handed over Indian National Army to Subhas Chandra Bose.

    HELINA; DHRUVASTRA

    Joint User Trials for the helicopter-launched version of the Nag anti-tank guided missile, ‘Helina’, and its Air Force variant ‘Dhruvastra’ have been carried out from Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) platform in desert ranges.

    About:

    • Helina, which is the helicopter-launched version of the Nag missile system, is a third-generation, Lock on Before Launch (LOBL) fire and forget class anti-tank guided missile (ATGM) system mounted on the ALH.
    • The system has all- weather day and night operational capabilities and can defeat battle tanks with conventional armour as well as explosive reactive armour (ERA). The Helina missile can engage targets both in direct hit mode as well as top attack mode.
    • While the Helina weapon systems has been developed for the Indian Army, its IAF variant Dhruvastra has also been developed by the DRDO and now both variants are ready for induction into services.

    INS PRALAYA

    Indian Naval Ship Pralaya arrived at Abu Dhabi, UAE to participate in the NAVDEX 21 (Naval Defence Exhibition) and IDEX 21 (International Defence Exhibition), scheduled from 20 to 25 February 2021.

    About:

    • INS Pralaya, the second ship of the indigenously built Prabal Class Missile Vessels, was commissioned in the Indian Navy on 18 December 2002.
    • The 56 m long ship, displacing about 560 T is capable of speeds in excess of 35 knots and is fitted with an impressive array of weapons and sensors.
    • These include a 76.2 mm medium range gun, 30 mm close range guns, chaff launchers and long range surface to surface missiles.
    • The ship was built indigenously at Goa Shipyard Limited.

    TROPEX 21

    Admiral Karambir Singh, Chief of the Naval Staff presided over the debrief of TROPEX-21 (Theatre Level Operational Readiness Exercise) at Kochi.

    About:

    • The exercise had commenced in January 2021 involving all three Commands of the Indian Navy, the Tri-Services Command at Port Blair, and elements of Indian Army, Indian Air Force and Coast Guard.
    • The Biennial exercise is the largest exercise conducted by Indian Navy aimed to validate its concepts of war-fighting across the entire spectrum of warfare.
    • The exercise was spread over the vast geographical expanse of Indian Ocean and its adjunct waters, with exercise scenarios centred around the extant geopolitical situation in IOR.

    Background:

    • As a prelude to this Theatre Level exercise, a coastal defence exercise – Sea Vigil was conducted in mid Jan 2021 which witnessed all stakeholder Ministries of Govt of India, State Governments of all coastal states and UTs, the Coast Guard, Port Authorities, shipping and fishing communities, with the Indian Navy as the lead agency.
    • This was followed by an amphibious exercise (AMPHEX- 21) in which Indian naval amphibious ships, units of the Indian Army and Indian Air Force undertook joint exercise in the Bay of Bengal and Andaman Sea, with an aim to validate India’s capabilities to safeguard the territorial integrity of its Island territories.

    DRONES FOR AGRICULTURE

    The Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) and Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has granted conditional exemption for Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS) usage to the Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare (MoAFW).

    About:

    • The permission allows drone deployment by the MoAFW for remote sensing data collection in agricultural areas of 100 districts of the country, for Gram Panchayat level yield estimation, under Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY).
    • The exemption shall be valid from the one year from the date of issue of the permission letter or until the operationalisation of the Digital Sky Platform, whichever is earlier.
    • However, this exemption shall be valid only if all conditions and limitations are strictly adhered to.
    • In case of violation of any condition, this exemption shall become null & void and action may be initiated as per Para 18 of the above mentioned CAR.

    GOVERNING COUNCIL

    The sixth meeting of the Governing Council of NITI Aayog was held today under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Narendra Modi via video conferencing.

    About:

    • It was attended by 26 Chief Ministers, 3 Lieutenant Governors and 2 Administrators, apart from Union Ministers, who are Ex-Officio Members, and Special Invitees.
    • NITI Aayog Vice Chairman, Members and CEO, Principal Secretary to the PM & other senior officers from PMO; Cabinet Secretary; and Chief Secretaries of States/ Union Territories also attended the meeting.

     

    AYESHA AZIZ

    Ayesha Aziz is emerging as a role model for Kashmir women.

    About:

    • Ayesha Aziz became the nation’s youngest pilot when she acquired her student flying licence at the age of 16. At 25 now, she flies GoAir planes.
    • Aziz was given the First Ladies’ Award by the President of India in 2018.

     

    CENTRE FOR DNA FINGERPRINTING AND DIAGNOSTICS (CDFD)

    Vice President of India paid a visit to Centre for DNA Fingerprinting and Diagnostics (CDFD) in Hyderabad. He also inaugurated a Paediatric Rare Genetic Disorders Laboratory.

    About:

    • The Centre for DNA Fingerprinting and Diagnostics (CDFD) is an autonomous organization funded by the Department of Biotechnology (DBT), Ministry of Science and Technology, Government of India.
    • Established in 1990.
    • Location: Hyderabad, Telangana.

     

    TWIN OTTER-300 AIRCRAFT

    The Ahmedabad-Kevadia seaplane returned from the Maldives on February 16 after a two-week maintenance tour at its home country. This was the third major suspension since its launch on October 31, 2020.

    Why does the aircraft fly to Maldives?

    • A thorough maintenance check is part of the operation manual of the seaplane, which is a Twin Otter-300 aircraft. The plane will keep going back to the Maldives — its home country — every time it completes 124 flying hours.
    • This is because the infrastructure to carry out the maintenance is not available in India.
    • Moreover, the maintenance is not just about physical servicing but requires certification at various levels. The flight is registered in the Maldives and the aviation bodies there need to check the flight and certify that it is fit for flying. It is the property of that country.

     

    GIG ECONOMY WORKERS

    The UK Supreme Court ruled that Uber drivers were to be considered workers and not freelance contractors, thereby making them eligible for all employment related benefits such as minimum wage, annual leaves, and insurance.

    About:

    • With this ruling, Uber and other service providing platforms could also potentially face legal and regulatory challenges in India, as big tech companies from across the globe are under government scrutiny for the differential terms of service and engagement in geographies such as the EU and in locations such as India.
    • The increased focus on big tech aside, the central government has already put in place some legal protection for gig economy workers.
    • The budget for the 2021-22 has already mandated that the law on minimum wages would now apply to workers of all categories including those associated with platforms such as Uber.
    • Such workers would now be covered by the Employees State Insurance Corporation (ESIC), which mandates employers depositing a certain amount of money with the state insurer, the rest of which is paid by the government.
    • November last year, the central government had come out with specific norms for ride hailing apps such as Uber and Ola.
      • Under the new rules, ride hailing apps could charge a maximum of 20 per cent commission per ride from driver partners, while also capping the total number of working hours per day at 12.
      • The new regulations also provided for the maximum fare that these platforms could charge customers even during high demand peak hours, and that they would have to provide drivers with insurance.

     

    DEATH PENALTY

    On February 18, the 12-year-old son of Shabnam, a death row convict from Uttar Pradesh’s Amroha, appealed to President Ram Nath Kovind to “forgive” his mother.

    About:

    • The same day, Shabman filed a second mercy petition with the Governor of Uttar Pradesh and the President of India, both of whom have earlier rejected her plea.
    • If executed, Shabnam will be the first woman in independent India to be hanged for a crime.

     

    Legal options still available with Shabnam

    • These include the right to challenge the rejection of her mercy petition before the Allahabad High Court and the Supreme Court on various grounds and also the right to file a curative petition in the Supreme Court against the decision on the review petition.”
    • The curative petition can challenge the Supreme Court decision of January 2020, which upheld her death sentence.
    • Also, under the law, if multiple people have been sentenced to death in the same case, they have to be executed together. So, Shabnam and Saleem can be hanged only after both of them exhaust all their legal recourses.

     

    SPUTNIK V

    Dr Reddy’s Laboratories has approached India’s apex drug regulatory body for emergency approval of Sputnik V.

    About:

    • This is a vaccine that uses two different human common cold viruses (adenovirus) that have been modified so that the gene causing the cold infection is removed and instead replaced with a code to make SARS-CoV-2’s ‘spike protein’ (the spikes seen on the surface of the virus, which allows it to penetrate the cells and replicate).
    • The human adenoviruses then act as a vehicle to transport this code to the cells when a person is vaccinated, so that the body can develop an immune response in the form of antibodies to protect it in the event the real virus tries to infect.
    • The vaccine, named after the first Soviet space satellite, was developed by Moscow’s Gamaleya National Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology.

     

    FOOTWEAR SIZING SYSTEM

    By next year, India could have its own ‘Footwear Sizing System’, which will hopefully remove some of the confusion involved in buying shoes of ‘EU’, ‘UK’ or ‘US’ sizes, especially online.

    About:

    • CSIR-Central Leather Research Institute (CLRI) will lead a pan India feet scanning survey, data from which will be used to define Indian footwear size standards – and which will be included by shoe manufacturers in their size charts.
    • The project, which is scheduled to begin later this year and continue for 14 months, is supported by the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT) of the Union Ministry of Commerce.

     

    SAKA NANKANA SAHIB

    The centenary of Sri Nankana Sahib massacre, which is popularly known as Saka Nankana Sahib, is being marked in an event there on February 21 this year.

    About:

    • Nankana Sahib, the birth place of first Sikh guru, Guru Nanak Dev, was also the site of the first big agitation by the SGPC to take back control of gurdwaras from mahants backed by the British.
    • The SGPC came to existence in November 1920, a month after Sikhs removed partial restrictions on Dalit rights inside Golden Temple in Amritsar.
    • It started gurdwara reform movement which was aimed at taking possession of historical Sikh Gurdwaras, which had turned personal property of the priests, who were called mahants. These mahants were also accused of running practices from gurdwaras which were not approved in Sikhism.

     

    ‘POPULATION VERSUS PLANET’ CONFERENCE

    Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare participated in WION and Zee Media’s ‘Population versus Planet’ Conference which is a part of its year-long campaign called ‘Mission Sustainability: Population Vs Planet’.

    Key highlights:

    • World population has witnessed an increase from 1 billion in the year 1800 to 7.8 billion today.
    • Even though India’s population has increased from 36 crore in 1951 to 121.02 crore in 2011, the country has witnessed significant decline in both fertility and mortality;
      • the crude birth rate which was recorded at 40.8 per 1000 in 1951 has declined to 20.0 in 2018;
      • Total Fertility Rate (TFR) has declined from 6.0 in 1951 to 2.2 in 2015-16;
      • death rate in India has declined from 7 in 2012 to 6.2 in 2018.
    • Population projection for India and States 2011-2036, released in July 2020, indicates that the Total Fertility Rate is expected to decline from 2.37 during 2011-2015 to 1.73 during 2031-35.
    • The youth population in the age group of 15-24 years is projected to decline from 233 million in 2011 to 227 million in 2036.
    • However, the proportion of the working age population is expected to increase from 61% in 2011 to 65% in 2036. India is adding 12 million people to the working age population each year.

     

    CARBON WATCH

    Chandigarh became the first state or Union Territory in India to launch Carbon Watch, a mobile application to assess the carbon footprint of an individual.

    About:

    • Although the app can be accessed by everyone, it has specific options for the residents of Chandigarh to compile a detail study.
    • The application can be downloaded through a QR code in Android supported smart cell phones.
    • As a person downloads the application, they will need to fill details in four parts- Water, Energy, Waste Generation and Transport (Vehicular movement).
    • With the mentioned information, the mobile application will automatically calculate the carbon footprint of the individual. The application will also provide information such as the national and world average of the emission, and the individual’s level of emission generation.
    • The mobile application will suggest methods to reduce the carbon footprints. The application will suggest ways as per the information furnished by the individuals.

    Important Info :

    • Carbon footprint is the amount of greenhouse gases-especially carbon dioxide-released into the atmosphere by a particular human activity.

     

    UNEMPLOYMENT

    One of the top Twitter trends over the past few hours has been “#modi_rojgar_do”. The hashtag essentially asks Prime Minister Narendra Modi to provide more employment.

    About:

    • Just before the Covid crisis at the end of 2019-20 financial year, India had (according to the data provided by Mahesh Vyas of Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy) around 403.5 million employed people and around 35 million (or 3.5 crore) openly unemployed people in the country.
    • To this existing pool, each year India adds roughly 10 million (or 1 crore) new job seekers.
    • But over the past year, several million have lost their jobs. As a result, as of January 2021, India had only about 400 million employed.
    • If we look at Vyas/CMIE data, which is being compiled since 2016, the total number of employed people in India has been steadily coming down. It was 407.3 million in 2016-17 and then fell to 405.9 million in 2017-18, and to 400.9 million at the end of 2018-19.
    • India has an labour force participation rate (LFPR) of just about 40%. In other words, in India just 40% of the 20 million joining the working-age group each year actually come forward looking for a job.

    INDIA-MALDIVES RELATION

    India and Maldives signed agreements on wide range of domains including fish processing, public broadcasting, sustainable urban development, road infrastructure and housing.

    About:

    • The agreement in the field of broadcasting is for cooperation between Prasar Bharati and PSM, the official State Media of Maldives. The MoU intends to facilitate collaboration and capacity building in the field of public broadcasting.
    • Dr Jaishankar also handed over one lakh additional doses of COVID vaccine to Mr Shahid and Maldivian Health Minister Ahmed Naseem.
    • India has signed a 50 million dollar Line of Credit agreement in defence sector with the Maldives. The agreement will facilitate capability building in the maritime domain.
    • Dr Jaishankar also co-signed the UTF Harbour Project agreement with Maldives Defence Minister Mariya Didi. He said that the project agreement will strengthen Maldivian Coast Guard capability and facilitate regional Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief efforts.
    • India also extended a new line of credit of US dollar 40 million for the development of new sports infrastructure in the Maldives.

     

    RBI OMBUDSMAN SCHEMES

    The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) released the Annual Report of the Ombudsman Schemes for the year 2019-20.

    About:

    • RBI has three Ombudsmen- Banking, Non-Banking Finance Company (i.e. NBFC) and digital transactions. A common man can approach these Ombudsmen for their grievances.
    • As announced in the recent Monetary Policy Statement, the three Ombudsman Schemes are being merged and integrated into a single scheme which will be rolled out starting from June this year.

    Key highlights of the report:

    • There was an increase of around 65 per cent in the receipt of complaints out of which almost 92 per cent have been disposed of.
    • Banking Ombudsman received major complaints regarding ATM & Debit Cards, Mobile & Electronic Banking while NBFC’s Ombudsmen received most complaints about non-observance of regulatory guidelines, lack of transparency in contract/ loan agreement and levy of charges without notice.
    • Digital Transactions Ombudsmen received most complaints about fund transfer. RBI has taken various measures for creating awareness among various stakeholders to minimise the grievances.

     

    LAXMI VILAS PALACE

    Hearing arguments on the preservation of Laxmi Vilas Palace in Vadodara, a Gaekwadi heritage structure, the Gujarat High Court Chief Justice recalled a similar judgment by Allahabad High Court.

    About:

    • The Lakshmi Vilas Palace is located in Vadodara, Gujarat.
    • It was constructed by the Gaekwad family, a prominent Maratha family, who ruled the Baroda State. It was built by Maharaja Sayajirao Gaekwad III in 1890.
    • Major Charles Mant was credited to be the main architect of the palace.
    • Lakshmi Vilas Palace was styled on the Indo-Saracenic Revival architecture.

     

    JB EKKA COMMITTEE

    The Assam government announced that the wage of tea garden workers will be increased from Rs 167 to Rs 217 per day. Although the tea garden managements pay the wages, the government fixes it.

    About:

    • Moreover, for equal wages of small tea workers, a one-man committee under Principal Secretary Dr JB Ekka will be formed.
    • Coming ahead of the state elections, the announcement is important because the tea tribe community — comprising 17% of the state’s population — is a deciding factor in almost 40 Assam Assembly seats out of the 126.
    • The community is spread over in 800 tea gardens plus several unorganised small gardens of Assam. It is marked by exploitation, economic backwardness, poor health conditions and low literacy rates.
    • Last Sunday, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said in a rally in the state that the party will ensure a Rs 365 per day wage to tea garden workers of Assam if elected to power.

    Important Info :

    • In the Union Budget presented by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on February 1, Rs 1,000 crore was announced for the welfare of tea workers in Assam and West Bengal.

     

    RAILWAY PROJECTS IN WEST BENGAL

    The Union Minister of Railways dedicated to the Nation various infrastructure development and passenger amenity related works in North Bengal area.

    About:

    • 126 Route Kilometer newly electrified section from New Jalpaiguri to New Coochbehar dedicated is part of the Railway electrification work which is going on to achieve 100% electrification of Indian Railways’ network.
    • The Haldibari station bordering Bangladesh has been constructed. PM Modi and PM of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina inaugurated the railway link between Haldibari in India and Chilahati in Bangladesh during the PM level virtual bilateral summit on 17.12.2020.
    • Gangarampur is an important town in the South Dinajpur district of West Bengal. The station here has been converted to a crossing station with provision of High level platform and modern Electronic Interlocking.
    • With an aim to provide better amenities and convenience to passenger, the Alipurduar Jn station has been re-developed to meet the operational requirement.
    • Madarihat station falling in the Dooars section of North Bengal is an important tourist place. The provision of a new Foot Over Bridge in between PF No. 1 & 2 which has been provided.

     

    INTERNATIONAL MOTHER LANGUAGE DAY

    The Vice President Venkaiah Naidu celebrated the International Mother Language Day.

    About:

    • When: The day is observed on the 21st of February every year to preserve and promote linguistic diversity and promoting mother tongue-based multilingual education.
    • Background: The declaration came up in tribute to the Language Movement done by the Bangladeshis (the then East Pakistanis). In Bangladesh the 21 February is the anniversary of the day when Bangladeshis fought for recognition for the Bangla language.
    • Bodies involved: UNESCO has been celebrating International Mother Language Day since 2000.

    Important Info :

    Need to preserve indigenous languages:

    • At least 43 % of the estimated 6000 languages spoken in the world are endangered. According to UN data, a language disappears every two weeks taking with it an entire cultural and intellectual heritage.
    • Only a few hundred languages have genuinely been given a place in education systems and the public domain.

     

    SYAMA PRASAD MOOKERJEE INSTITUTE OF MEDICAL SCIENCES AND RESEARCH

    Prime Minister Narendra Modi will inaugurate Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee Institute of Medical Sciences and Research at IIT Kharagpur on 23rd February 2021.

    About:

    • The super speciality hospital has been set up by the Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur with support from the Ministry of Education.
    • The hospital will focus on robust Biomedical, Clinical and Translational Research, development of remote diagnostics, telemedicine, teleradiology along with research in drug design and delivery.
    • The MBBS programme is expected to start from the academic year 2021-22 in addition to Postgraduate and doctoral programmes.

     

    GURU RAVIDAS

    President Ram Nath Kovind said India’s constitutional values of social justice, freedom, equality and fraternity are in line with Guru Ravidas’s philosophy of life. He said this while addressing ‘Shri Guru Ravidas Vishva Mahapeeth Rashtriya Adhiveshan in New Delhi.

    About:

    • He was a Dalit-poet saint from the Bhakti movement era in northern India who probably lived during the 14th to 16th He belonged to a leather-working Chamar community, whose profession involved processing dead animals and their skins.
    • The 41 hymns of Guru Ravidas have been included in the Guru Granth Sahib.
    • The famous saint poetess, Mirabai was a disciple of Guru Ravidas.

    Important Info :

    Key teachings:

    • Everybody is equal in all respects, irrespective of caste, color or a belief in any form of God; Emphasised on universal brotherhood and tolerance.
    • God created man and not man created God;
    • He abandoned saguna (with attributes, image) forms of supreme beings, and focussed on the nirguna (without attributes, abstract) form of supreme beings.

    IIT COUNCIL

    The IIT Council has set up committees to look at greater autonomy for the elite institutions, in line with the National Education Policy recommendations, as well as reform of the academic Senate, grooming faculty to head the IITs, and innovative funding mechanisms.

    About:

    • The Council also recommended cutting IIT staff strength to lower levels.
    • The IIT Council is headed by the Education Minister and includes the directors of all IITs, and the chairs of each IIT’s Board of Governors.
    • It is meant to advise on admission standards, duration of courses, degrees and other academic distinctions, and also lays down policy regarding cadre, methods of recruitment and conditions of service of employees.

    NON-ALCOHOLIC FATTY LIVER DISEASE (NAFLD)

    Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said that India has become the first country in the world to identify the need for action for Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease.

    About:

    • He said this while launching the operational guidelines for integration of Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease with the National Programme for Prevention & Control of Cancer, Diabetes, Cardiovascular Diseases and Stroke.
    • Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is an umbrella term for a range of liver conditions affecting people who drink little to no alcohol. As the name implies, the main characteristic of NAFLD is too much fat stored in liver cells.
    • NAFLD is increasingly common around the world, especially in Western nations.
    • Some individuals with NAFLD can develop non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), an aggressive form of fatty liver disease, which is marked by liver inflammation and may progress to advanced scarring (cirrhosis) and liver failure.
    • This damage is similar to the damage caused by heavy alcohol use.

    VERTICAL LAUNCH SHORT RANGE SURFACE TO AIR MISSILE (VL-SRSAM)

    Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO) conducted two successful launches of Vertical Launch Short Range Surface to Air Missile (VL-SRSAM).

    About:

    • The launches were carried out from a static vertical launcher from Integrated Test Range (ITR), Chandipur off the coast of Odisha.
    • Indigenously designed and developed by DRDO for Indian Navy, VL-SRSAM is meant for neutralizing various aerial threats at close ranges including sea-skimming targets.
    • The current launches were carried out for demonstration of vertical launch capability as part of its maiden launch campaign.

    DUTCH INDIAN WATER ALLIANCE FOR LEADERSHIP INITIATIVE (DIWALI)

    In order to find solutions for water related challenges a platform called DIWALI has been developed in which India and Netherlands could participate for designing solution for water challenges.

    About:

    • The consortium of experts from the two counties would explore the potential and sustainability of Dutch Solutions to resolve challenges in specific water challenged sites in India which are scalable, sustainable and affordable.
    • It is being led by
      • Dutch consortia titled “Water for Change. Integrative and Fit-for-Purpose Water Sensitive Design Framework for Fast Growing Livable Cities” and
      • IIT Roorkee as lead along with other consortia member named MANIT, Bhopal; CEPT University, Ahmedabad; IIT Gandhinagar; CWRDM, Calicut.

    CENTRAL ELECTRICITY REGULATORY COMMISSION (CERC)

    Pravas Kumar Singh took oath as Member of Central Electricity Regulatory Commission (CERC).

    About:

    • The Central Electricity Regulatory Commission (CERC) had been established by the Government of India under the provisions of the Electricity Regulatory Commissions Act, 1998.
    • CERC is the Central Commission for the purposes of the Electricity Act, 2003 which has repealed the ERC Act, 1998.
    • The Commission consists of a Chairperson and four other Members including Chairperson, Central Electricity Authority who is the ex-officio Member of the Commission.
    • Major functions of CERC under the Act are
      • to regulate the tariff of generating companies owned or controlled by the Central Government,
      • to regulate the inter-State transmission of electricity and to determine tariff for such transmission of electricity, etc.
    • Under the Act, CERC shall also advise the Central Government on formulation of National Electricity Policy and Tariff Policy.

    BIMA JYOTI

    Life Insurance Corporation of India has introduced LIC’s Bima Jyoti a Non-Linked, Non-Participating, Individual, Savings Plan, which offers an attractive combination of protection and savings.

    About:

    • This plan provides guaranteed lumpsum payment at maturity and financial support to the family in case of the unfortunate death of the policyholder during policy term.
    • Guaranteed Additions at the rate of Rs.50 per thousand Basic Sum Assured will be added to the policy at the end of each policy year.
    • On death during the policy term after the date of commencement of risk, “Sum Assured on Death” and Accrued Guaranteed Additions as per policy conditions is payable.
    • The Minimum Basic Sum Assured is Rs 1,00,000/- with no upper limit. The Policy can be taken for a term of 15 to 20 years with premium paying term calculated as Policy term minus 5 years.
    • The minimum age at entry is 90 days completed and maximum age at entry is 60 yrs.

    SFURTI CLUSTERS

    Union Minister for MSME inaugurated 50 artisan – based SFURTI clusters, spread over 18 States.

    About:

    • In the 50 clusters inaugurated, over 42,000 artisans have been supported in the traditional segments of muslin, khadi, coir, handicraft, handlooms, wood craft, leather, pottery, carpet weaving, bamboo, agro processing, tea, etc.
    • The Ministry of MSME has funded an amount of around Rs.85 crore for development of these 50 clusters.
    • The Ministry of MSME is implementing a Scheme of Fund for Regeneration of Traditional Industries (SFURTI) with a view to organize traditional industries and artisans into clusters to make them competitive and increase their income.
    • SFURTI clusters are of two types i.e.,
      • Regular Cluster (500 artisans) with Government assistance of up to Rs.2.5 crore and
      • Major Cluster (more than 500 artisans) with Government assistance up to Rs.5 crore.
    • The artisans are organized into SPVs which can be
      • a Society registered under Societies (Registration) Act, 1860,
      • a Co-operative Society under an appropriate statute,
      • a Producer Company under Section 465 (1) of Companies Act, 2013 (18 of 2013),
      • a Section 8 Company under the Companies Act, 2013 (18 of 2013) or (v) a Trust.

    PROJECTS IN ASSAM

    PM Modi inaugurated important Oil & Gas projects and Engineering Colleges in Assam.

    About:

    • Prime Minister Narendra Modi dedicated to the nation
      • INDMAX Unit at Indian Oil’s Bongaigaon Refinery,
      • Oil India Limited’s Secondary Tank Farm at Madhuban, Dibrugarh and
      • a Gas Compressor Station at Hebeda Village, Makum, Tinsukia.
    • He also
      • inaugurated the Dhemaji Engineering College and
      • laid the foundation stone for Sualkuchi Engineering College in Assam.

    DEVASTHAL TELESCOPE

    The world-class 3.6 meter optical telescope set up at Devasthal has assumed global importance for observing a number of time-critical cosmic explosive events such as Gamma Ray Bursts and Supernovae.

    About:

    • Devasthal is a mountain peak in Uttarakhand.
    • The world-class 3.6 meter optical telescope set up at Devasthal is the Asia’s largest fully steerable optical telescope, an international facility for and people from different parts of the world compete for observation and machine time by submitting research proposals.
    • It was set up in year 2016 by Aryabhatta Research Institute of Observational Sciences (ARIES), an autonomous research institute of DST with support from Belgian government and established India’s role as a global player in astronomy research.
    • The technological know-how gained from the development of this telescope and back-end instruments are beneficial for optical facilities planned for future such as the Thirty Meter Telescope – one of the mega projects in which the country is participating.

    PAGRI SAMBHAAL MOVEMENT

    As part of the ongoing farmers’ protest, the Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM) is celebrating February 23 as ‘Pagri Sambhal Diwas’, where it has asked supporters across the globe to wear a green pagri/dupatta and post their pictures on social media, with the hashtag ‘Go green for farmers’.

    About:

    • The farmers are also honouring the memory of Ajit Singh, uncle of freedom fighter Bhagat Singh and founder of the Pagri Sambhaal movement of 1907.
    • Pagrhi Sambhaal Jatta was a successful farm agitation that forced the British government to repeal three laws related to agriculture back in 1907. Bhagat Singh’s uncle Ajit Singh was the force behind this agitation, and he wanted to channel people’s anger over the farm laws to topple the colonial government.
    • The three farm-related acts at the centre of the storm in 1907 were the Punjab Land Alienation Act 1900, the Punjab Land Colonisation Act 1906 and the Doab Bari Act.
    • These acts would reduce farmers from owners to contractors of land, and gave the British government the right to take back the allotted land if the farmer even touched a tree in his field without permission.

     

    SMARTCODE PLATFORM

    Housing and Urban Affairs Minister Hardeep Singh Puri launched SmartCode Platform.

    About:

    • SmartCode is a platform that enables all ecosystem stakeholders to contribute to a repository of open-source code for various solutions and applications for urban governance.
    • It is designed to address the challenges that urban local bodies (ULBs) face in the development and deployment of digital applications to address urban challenges, by enabling cities to take advantage of existing codes and customising them to suit local needs, rather than having to develop new solutions from scratch.
    • As a repository of open-source software, the source code available on the platform will be free to use without any licensing or subscription fees, thus limiting costs to those involved with customising the code and developing a locally-relevant solution.

     

    Cadmium (Cd) doped Silver Antimony Telluride (AgSbTe2)

    Scientists have found a new Lead (Pb) free material which can efficiently convert waste heat to power our small home equipment and automobiles.

    About:

    • Most efficient thermoelectric materials developed by scientists so far use Lead (Pb) as a major constituent element, restricting their use for mass-market applications.
    • Scientists from Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research (JNCASR), Bengaluru, an autonomous institution of the Department of Science & Technology (DST), Government of have now identified a lead-free material called Cadmium (Cd) doped Silver Antimony Telluride (AgSbTe2).
    • This material which can efficiently allow recovery of electricity from ‘waste heat’ marking a paradigm shift in the thermoelectric puzzle.
    • This work is supported by Swarna-Jayanti fellowship and project fund from Science and Engineering Research Board (SERB) and Department of Science & Technology (DST), India

     

    NATIONAL AWARDS FOR TECHNOLOGY INNOVATION IN PETROCHEMICALS & DOWNSTREAM PLASTICS PROCESSING INDUSTRY

    Union Minister of Chemicals & Fertilizers presented the 10th National Awards for Technology Innovation in Petrochemicals & Downstream Plastics Processing Industry to the Awardees.

    About:

    • In line with the National Policy on Petrochemicals announced in April 2007, the Department of Chemicals & Petrochemicals (DCPC), Government of India has set up an Award Scheme to incentivize meritorious innovations and inventions in the field of polymeric materials, products, process areas of national and social importance.
    • The ultimate objective is to develop and maintain the petrochemical industry as a globally competitive industry using eco-friendly processes & technologies.
    • Central Institute of Petrochemicals Engineering and Technology (CIPET), an autonomous organization under DCPC has been entrusted with the responsibility of implementing the scheme of the National Awards for Technology Innovation.

    KHELA HOBE

    Over the last few days, Trinamool Congress as well as BJP leaders across the West Bengal ahead of the Assembly polls, have been raising the ‘khela hobe’ slogan.

    About:

    • The slogan was first used by Bangladesh’s Awami League MP Shamim Osman more than four years ago.
    • But it was popularised in West Bengal by Trinamool Congress president of Birbhum district, Anubrata Mondal, who at a local political event said, “Khela hobe. Bhoyonkor khela hobe. Ei mati te khela hobe.” (The game is on. It will be a dangerous game. But the game is on and this will be the playground.)
    • The slogan, through which leaders are challenging their opponents now, likens the political battlefield to a playground. It means this electoral battle has not been decided yet — there is a lot to fight for in these Assembly polls and only time will tell who has the last laugh.

     

    LEH AS EXAM CENTRE FOR CIVIL SERVICES CANDIDATES

    In a first of its kind the Union Public Service Commission UPSC has opened a new centre for the Civil Services Examination, in Leh for the candidates from Union Territory Ladakh.

    About:

    • Sanctioning of a new centre for Civil Services examination in Leh is a great relief for the aspiring candidates. Leh will be the 73rd centre in the country to hold the preliminary exam for Civil Services on 27th of June this year.
    • Leh Deputy Commissioner will be the Coordinating Supervisor for the Leh centre. At least 800 candidates are expected to attend the civils preliminary exam from the Union Territory Ladakh.

     

    CENTRAL EMPLOYMENT GUARANTEE COUNCIL

    The 22nd Meeting of the Central Employment Guarantee Council was held on 23.02.2021 under the Chairmanship of Union Minister of Rural Development.

    About:

    • The Central Employment Guarantee Council has been constituted under Section 10 of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (Mahatma Gandhi NREGA), 2005.
    • In this current financial year 2020-21 under the shadow of COVID-19 pandemic, Mahatma Gandhi NREGS has played its critical role in providing wage employment to the wage seekers.
    • A total of 344 crore persondays employment has been generated so far, which is the highest ever persondays generated so far and around 44% higher than that of last year during the same period.
    • 69 crore new job cards were issued this year as compared to usual about 69 lacs in previous years reflecting the succor it provided to the migrant workers going back to their villages.

     

    DRAFT NATIONAL MIGRANT LABOUR POLICY

    NITI Aayog has prepared a draft national migrant labour policy.

    About:

    • The draft describes two approaches to policy design:
      • one focussed on cash transfers, special quotas, and reservations;
      • the other which “enhances the agency and capability of the community and thereby remove aspects that come in the way of an individual’s own natural ability to thrive”.
    • The policy rejects a handout approach, opting instead for a rights-based framework.
    • The draft asks the Ministries of Panchayati Raj, Rural Development, and Housing and Urban Affairs to use Tribal Affairs migration data to help create migration resource centres in high migration zones.
    • It asks the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship to focus on skill-building at these centres.
    • The Ministry of Education should take measures under the Right to Education Act to mainstream migrant children’s education, to map migrant children, and to provide local-language teachers in migrant destinations.
    • The Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs should address issues of night shelters, short-stay homes, and seasonal accommodation for migrants in cities.
    • The National Legal Services authority (NALSA) and Ministry of Labour should set up grievance handling cells and fast track legal responses for trafficking, minimum wage violations, and workplace abuses and accidents for migrant workers.

     

    NATIONAL URBAN DIGITAL MISSION (NUDM)

    The National Urban Digital Mission (NUDM) has been launched by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs along with the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology.

    About:

    • The National Urban Digital Mission (NUDM) will create a shared digital infrastructure for urban India, working across the three pillars of people, process, and platform to provide holistic support to cities and towns.
    • It will institutionalise a citizen-centric and ecosystem-driven approach to urban governance and service delivery in 2022 cities by 2022, and across all cities and towns in India by 2024.
    • NUDM has articulated a set of governing principles, and inherits the technology design principles of the National Urban Innovation Stack (NUIS), whose strategy and approach was released by MoHUA in February, 2019.
    • The principles in turn give rise to standards, specifications, and certifications, across the three pillars of people, process, and platforms.

     

    INDIA URBAN DATA EXCHANGE (IUDX)

    Housing and Urban Affairs Minister Hardeep Singh Puri launched India Urban Data Exchange (IUDX).

    About:

    • The India Urban Data Exchange has been developed in partnership between the Smart Cities Mission and the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bengaluru.
    • IUDX serves as a seamless interface for data providers and data users, including ULBs, to share, request, and access datasets related to cities, urban governance, and urban service delivery.
    • IUDX is an open-source software platform which facilitates the secure, authenticated, and managed exchange of data amongst various data platforms, 3rd party authenticated and authorised applications, and other sources.

    PRODUCTION LINKED INCENTIVE SCHEME FOR PHARMACEUTICALS

    The Union Cabinet has approved Production Linked Incentive (PLI) Scheme for Pharmaceuticals over a period of Financial Year 2020-21 to 2028-29.

    About:

    • Total incremental sales of Rs.2,94,000 crore and total incremental exports of Rs.1,96,000 crore are estimated during six years from 2022-23 to 2027-28.
    • The Scheme is also expected to bring in investment of Rs.15,000 crore in the pharmaceutical sector.
    • The scheme will be part of the umbrella scheme for the Development of Pharmaceutical Industry.
    • The objective of the scheme is to enhance India’s manufacturing capabilities by increasing investment and production in the sector and contributing to product diversification to high value goods in the pharmaceutical sector.
    • Target Groups: The manufacturers of pharmaceutical goods registered in India will be grouped based on their Global Manufacturing Revenue (GMR) to ensure wider applicability of the scheme across the pharmaceutical industry and at the same time meet the objectives of the scheme.
    • Quantum of Incentive: The total quantum of incentive (inclusive of administrative expenditure) under the scheme is about Rs 15,000 crore.

    Category of Goods:

    The scheme shall cover pharmaceutical goods under three  categories as mentioned below:

    • Category 1: Biopharmaceuticals; Complex generic drugs; Patented drugs or drugs nearing patent expiry; Cell based or gene therapy drugs; Orphan drugs; Special empty capsules like HPMC, Pullulan, enteric etc.; Complex excipients; Phyto-pharmaceuticals: Other drugs as approved.
    • Category 2: Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients / Key Starting Materials / Drug Intermediates.
    • Category 3: Drugs not covered under Category 1 and Category 2.

    PRODUCTION LINKED INCENTIVE SCHEME FOR IT HARDWARE

    The Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister has approved the Production Linked Incentive (PLI) Scheme for IT Hardware.

    About:

    • The scheme proposes production linked incentive to boost domestic manufacturing and attract large investments in the value chain of IT Hardware.
    • The Scheme shall, extend an incentive of 4% to 2% / 1% on net incremental sales (over base year i.e. 2019-20) of goods manufactured in India and covered under the target segment, to eligible companies, for a period of four (4) years.
    • The scheme is likely to benefit 5 major global players and 10 domestic champions in the field of IT Hardware manufacturing including Laptops, Tablets, All-in-One PCs, and Servers.
    • Financial Implications: The total cost of the proposed scheme is approximately Rs.7,350 crore over 4 years, which includes an incentive outlay of Rs.7,325 crore and administrative charges of Rs.25 crore.

    EMBARGO LIFTED ON GRANT OF GOVERNMENT BUSINESS TO PRIVATE BANKS

    The Government has lifted the embargo on private sector banks (only a few were permitted earlier) for the conduct of Government-related banking transactions such as taxes and other revenue payment facilities, pension payments, small savings schemes, etc.

    About:

    • With the lifting of the embargo, there is now no bar on RBI for authorization of private sector banks (in addition to public sector banks) for Government business, including Government agency business.
    • Government-related banking transactions include taxes and other revenue payments, pension payments, and small savings schemes.
    • In 2012, the finance ministry had not allowed private banks, barring some, to undertake government business for three years.
    • In 2015, the government had continued with the embargo, and allowed the private sector with existing government agency business to continue without any fresh authorisation to private banks.
    • For undertaking government agency business, the RBI pays a commission to banks. The central bank carries out the general banking business of the central and state governments through agency banks appointed under Section 45 of the RBI Act, 1934.

    CONSPIRACY

    In granting bail to 22-year-old climate change activist Disha Ravi on Tuesday, the trial court in Delhi rejected the Delhi Police charge that she was part of a “larger conspiracy” to incite violence in the national capital on January 26.

    About:

    • Section 120A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) defines criminal conspiracy; Section 120B prescribes the punishment for it.
    • An “agreement” between two or more persons to commit a criminal offence constitutes the offence of criminal conspiracy.
    • Only an agreement is necessary and sufficient to establish the charge of conspiracy, even if the actual criminal offence itself has not been committed. Criminal conspiracy is a substantive offence in itself.
    • The law in its current form was added in 1913, nearly four decades after the IPC was first enacted. The provision was designed by the British to deal with the rising nationalist sentiment in India.

    KODOKUSHI, KAROSHI AND HIKIKOMORI

    Earlier this month, Japan appointed a Minister of Loneliness after the country’s suicide rate went up for tHe first time in 11 years.

    About:

    • Japan’s suicide rate rose in 2020, with 20,919 people taking their lives according to data by the National Police Agency. Most experts believe that the problem of escalating suicides in Japan is tied to the country’s culture of loneliness.
    • Japan’s ageing population — over 20% of the country’s population is more than 65 years old, which is the highest proportion for that category in the world — has created a huge section of middle-aged and older people who feel they have no one to turn to for help and company.
    • Since most ageing people do not socialise much, many of them die alone, with their bodies being discovered a long time after their death. The phenomenon is known as ‘kodokushi’, which means ‘lonely death’.
    • The country also has some of the longest working hours in the world, which leaves people with little opportunity to spend time with their friends or be engaged in hobbies they are interested in. In fact, Japan has a term for sudden occupational mortality — ‘karoshi’, which means death due to overwork.
    • The culture of self-isolation has spiralled to such extremes in the country that there are about one million people who live in absolute self-imposed confinement for many years with no contact with the outside world. These modern-day hermits are called ‘hikikomori’.

    COURT ETIQUETTE

    The debate around court etiquette in India was triggered again on February 23 after a Supreme Court Bench headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) S A Bobde objected to a petitioner addressing judges as “Your Honour”.

    About:

    • “When you call us Your Honour, you either have the Supreme Court of United States or the Magistrate in mind. We are neither,” the CJI told the petitioner, a law student.
    • For years, there have been efforts to purge from courtroom protocol salutations such as “My Lord” and “Your Lordship” — a practice inherited from British rule.
    • The Advocates Act of 1961, under section 49(1)(c), empowers the Bar Council of India to make rules on professional and etiquette standards to be observed by advocates.
    • To address this issue, a Resolution by the Bar Council of India in 2006 added Chapter IIIA to Part VI of the BCI Rules.
    • Interestingly, while the 2006 notification discouraged the use of “My Lord” and “Your Lordship”, it prescribed “Your Honour” or “Hon’ble Court” as an acceptable way for addressing the Supreme Court & High Courts, and “Sir” in Subordinate Courts and Tribunals.

    JAWS OF LIFE

    Golfing legend Tiger Woods was involved in a major car accident in Southern California with multiple injuries.

    About:

    • Initially it was reported that paramedics used a tool called the ‘jaws of life’ to extricate the athlete from his vehicle. However, they later retracted their statement and clarified that Woods was removed from the wreckage using other tools.
    • While the ‘jaws of life’ were not used for Woods’ rescue, the initial post resulted in a lot of curiosity about the tool.
    • The ‘jaws of life’ are a hydraulic-extrication rescue tool used in a number of difficult emergency situations, particularly car crashes.
    • It is most often used to pull drivers and passengers out of damaged vehicles after severe traffic collisions.
    • The tool, also known as the hydraulic spreader-cutter, was invented by George Hurst in 1961
    • It consists of four main components — cutters, spreaders, rams, and the power source.

    KARBI INSURGENCY

    Over 1,000 militants of five militant groups of Karbi Anglong district ceremonially laid down arms at an event in Guwahati in the presence of Assam Chief Minister.

    About:

    • The surrendered militants comprised cadres from five outfits — Karbi People’s Liberation Tiger (KPLT), People’s Democratic Council of Karbi Longri (PDCK), Karbi Longri NC Hills Liberation Front (KLNLF), Kuki Liberation Front (KLF) and United People’s Liberation Army (UPLA).
    • Insurgency by Karbi — a major ethnic community of Assam — has had a long history in Assam since the late 1980s.
    • These outfits originated from a core demand of forming a separate state.
    • Today, the Karbi Anglong Autonomous Council (KAAC) is an autonomous district council, protected under the Sixth Schedule of the Indian Constitution.
    • The entire political discourse in this constituency — comprising three districts of Karbi Anglong, West Karbi Anglong (split from the former in 2016) and Dima Hasao — revolves around the demand for
      • granting of “Autonomous State” status to the region and
      • more autonomy and power to the KAAC and the North Cachar Hills Autonomous Council (which administers over Dima Hasao district).

    HOUSEWORK COMPENSATION

    In a landmark judgment delivered weeks after China enforced its new civil code, a divorce court in Beijing has ordered a man to compensate his ex-wife for the housework she did during five years of marriage.

    About:

    • The court has split their joint property equally, and ordered the man to pay around $7,700 to his former wife as “housework compensation”.
    • On January 1, the Chinese government brought into force a new civil code, which legal experts have described as offering greater protection for individual rights.
    • Before the new law came into force, such compensation could be demanded only in cases where a prenuptial agreement had been signed– in itself an uncommon practice.

    Comment over the ruling

    • Many have commented that 50,000 yuan is too small an amount for five years of household work, and have expressed that men should take up a greater role in managing domestic duties. Others have described the verdict as recognition of unpaid labour at home.

    NARENDRA MODI STADIUM

    Motera cricket stadium, the world’s largest cricket stadium, has been renamed from Sardar Patel Stadium to Narendra Modi Stadium.

    About:

    • Motera Stadium, is a cricket stadium in Ahmedabad, Gujarat.
    • India’s Test against England is the first match at the brand new Motera, the name of the place, after it was refurbished and converted into a 110,000-seater facility, making it the biggest cricket ground in the world in terms of capacity.

    INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY (INTERMEDIARY GUIDELINES AND DIGITAL MEDIA ETHICS CODE) RULES 2021

    Government has notified Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 2021.

    About:

    • The Rules have been framed in exercise of powers under section 87 (2) of the Information Technology Act, 2000 and in supersession of the earlier Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines) Rules 2011.
    • Part- II of these Rules shall be administered by Ministry of Electronics and IT, while Part-III relating to Code of Ethics and procedure and safeguards in relation to digital media shall be administered by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.

    Salient features

    • Due diligence must be followed by intermediaries, including social media intermediaries. In case, due diligence is not followed by the intermediary, safe harbour provisions will not apply to them.
    • The Rules make a distinction between social media intermediaries and significant social media intermediaries to encourage innovations and enable growth of new social media intermediaries without subjecting smaller platforms to significant compliance requirement,
    • Significant Social Media Intermediary should appoint a Chief Compliance Officer, Nodal Contact Person and Resident Grievance Officer who shall be a resident in India.
    • Code of Ethics for online news, OTT platforms and digital media: This Code of Ethics prescribe the guidelines to be followed by OTT platforms and online news and digital media entities.
    • Self-Classification of Content:
      • The OTT platforms, called as the publishers of online curated content in the rules, would self-classify the content into five age based categories- U (Universal), U/A 7+, U/A 13+, U/A 16+, and A (Adult).
      • Platforms would be required to implement parental locks for content classified as U/A 13+ or higher, and reliable age verification mechanisms for content classified as “A”.

     

    DEVELOPMENT PROJECTS IN COIMBATORE

    PM Modi inaugurated and laid foundation stone of various development projects in Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu.

    About:

    • He dedicated to the nation the 1000 MW Neyveli New Thermal Power Project and 709 MW Solar Power Project of NLC India Limited (NLCIL) (formerly Neyveli Lignite Corporation Limited).
    • He laid the foundation stone for design, supply, installation and commissioning of a 5MW grid connected ground based solar power plant at V.O.Chidambaranar Port and for the extension, renovation and modernisation of Lower Bhavani Project System.
    • He also laid the foundation stone for development of Integrated Command and Control Centers (ICCC) in nine Smart Cities including Coimbatore, Madurai, Salem, Thanjavur, Vellore, Tiruchirappalli, Tiruppur, Tirunelveli and Thoothukudi.
    • He inaugurated the 8-laning of Korampallam Bridge and Rail Over Bridge (ROB) at V.O.Chidambaranar Port and the tenements constructed under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (Urban) scheme.

     

    LPG TRANSPORTATION THROUGH INLAND WATERWAYS

    Now LPG can be transported through Inland Waterways. Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) signed an MoU with MOL (Asia Oceania) Pte. Ltd for transportation of LPG through barges on National Waterways-1 and National Waterways-2.

    About:

    • The world’s largest gas carrier company, MOL Group will invest for construction and operation of dedicated LPG barges under Make-in-India initiative, the Ministry of Ports, Shipping and Waterways said in a statement.
    • Handling LPG by inland waterways will help reduce the carbon footprints, lowering the overall logistics cost, which in India stands approx. 13 to 14% of GDP, compared to global average of 8% and contributing to Government social schemes like “UJJAWLA” for LPG supply.

    Significance Of Project

    • Currently, 60 per cent of the LPG is moved through road to the various locations with a cost of ₹5-6 per tonne per kilometre, which the oil companies are interested in reducing.
    • At times, strikes by transporters, road blockages also cause delay in transportation.
    • Also, there are some areas which are difficult to approach through rail or road especially in the North-East region where IWT sector may provide usable solutions.

     

    GLOBAL BIO-INDIA 2021

    To showcase the strength and opportunities of the India’s biotechnology sector at national level and to the global community, the second edition of Global Bio-India will be organised from 1-3 March 2021 on digital platform.

    About:

    • The theme for this year is “Transforming lives” and tag line “Biosciences to Bioeconomy”
    • Global Bio-India 2021 is expected to have representatives from 50+ countries with Switzerland being the partner country and Karnataka as its state partner
    • Global Bio-India is being co-organised by the Department of Biotechnology along with its Public Sector Undertaking, Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC) in partnership with Invest India.
    • The first edition of Global Bio-India 2019 was organized at New Delhi.

     

    SWACHH ICONIC PLACES

    The Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation (DDWS), Ministry of Jal Shakti has announced the selection of the 12 iconic sites under Phase IV of Swachh Iconic Places (SIP).

    About:

    • Under Swachh Iconic Places (SIP) initiative of Swachh Bharat Mission Grameen (SBM-G), aim is to transform the iconic heritage, spiritual and cultural places in the country as ‘Swachh Tourist Destinations’.
    • The objective of SIP is to achieve a distinctly higher level of Sanitation/Cleanliness at these places, especially on the peripheries and in approach areas.
    • This project is being coordinated by the Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation (DDWS), Ministry of Jal Shakti in association with the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA), Ministry of Tourism, Ministry of Culture and the concerned State/UT governments.

    The places are:

    1. Ajanta Caves, Maharashtra
    2. Sanchi Stupa, Madhya Pradesh
    3. Kumbhalgarh Fort, Rajasthan
    4. Jaisalmer Fort, Rajasthan
    5. Ramdevra, Jaisalmer, Rajasthan
    6. Golconda Fort, Hyderabad, Telangana
    7. Sun Temple, Konark, Odisha
    8. Rock Garden, Chandigarh
    9. Dal Lake, Srinagar, Jammu & Kashmir
    10. Banke Bihari Temple, Mathura, Uttar Pradesh
    11. Agra Fort, Agra, Uttar Pradesh
    12. Kalighat Temple, West Bengal

     

    CITY INNOVATION EXCHANGE (CiX) PLATFORM

    The City Innovation Exchange (CiX) platform was launched by Secretary, Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs.

    About:

    • The City Innovation Exchange (CiX) will connect cities to innovators across the national ecosystem to design innovative solutions for their pressing challenges.
    • Designed on the philosophy of ‘everyone is an innovator’, the platform will bring together Citizen Organisations-Academia- Businesses- Government to co-create for the future of Urban India in a transparent and sustainable manner.
    • The platform will ease the discovery, design& validation of solutions through a robust, transparent and user centric process that will reduce barriers for innovators and cities to discover fitting solutions.
    • The Platform has more than 400 start-ups, 100 smart cities, more than 150 challenges statements and over 215 solutions at the time of launch.

     

    MAHAMRITYUNJAYA TEMPLE

    Union Home Minister Amit Shah attended the consecration ceremony of Mahamrityunjaya temple in Naugaon, Assam.

    About:

    • He participated in the consecration ceremony of the world’s tallest 126 feet high Shivling in the Mahamrityunjaya temple.
    • He also visited Borodua pilgrimage, the birthplace of Mahapurush Shrimant Shankardev. He started the new Vaishnav tradition from this holy land and made the Vaishnavite tradition vibrant.
    • The Mahamrityunjaya Mantra also known as the Rudra Mantra or Tryambakam Mantra, is a verse of the Rigveda.
    • The sūkta is addressed to Tryambaka, “The Three-eyed One”, an epithet of Rudra who is identified with Shiva in Shaivism. The verse also recurs in the Yajurveda.

     

    INTEGRATED BAMBOO TREATMENT PLANT

    Union Minister of Development of North Eastern Region (DoNER) inaugurated the latest technology Integrated Bamboo Treatment Plant in the premises of North East Cane and Bamboo Development Council (NECBDC) in Byrnihat near Guwahati.

    About:

    • The plant is based on vacuum-pressure-impregnation technique and is funded by the National Bamboo Mission (NBM) and North Eastern Council (NEC).
    • This is an initiative of the central government to make India self-reliant in bamboo industry and create employment in this sector.

    Other initiatives in the field of Bamboo

    • The Union Territory of Jammu & Kashmir will set up three Bamboo Clusters through collaboration from North East Cane and Bamboo Development Council (NECBDC). Each of the three clusters will be devoted to the production of Agarbatti, baskets and charcoal respectively.
    • Home grown bamboo is exempt from the purview of the 100 year old Indian Forest Act. This will help in bringing ease of doing business in the bamboo sector for the young entrepreneurs.
    • During the COVID-pandemic, the import duty on Agarbatti coming from other countries has been hiked to nearly 35%. This will discourage import of bamboo made Aggarbatties and encourage domestic production.

     

    NDIA TOY FAIR

    Prime Minister Modi will inaugurate The India Toy Fair 2021 on 27th February.

    About:

    • In his Mann ki Baat address in August 2020, the Prime Minister had said that toys not only augment activity, but also give flight to aspirations. He also emphasized boosting toy manufacturing in India.
    • The India Toy Fair 2021 is being organized in line with this vision of the Prime Minister.
    • The Fair will be held from 27th February to 2nd March 2021.
    • It aims to bring together all stakeholders including buyers, sellers, students, teachers, designers etc. on a virtual platform to create sustainable linkages and encourage dialogue for the overall development of the industry.

     

    2nd KHELO INDIA NATIONAL WINTER GAMES

    Prime Minister Modi will deliver the inaugural address at the 2nd Khelo India National Winter Games on 26th February 2021.

    About:

    • The Games will be held from 26th February to 2nd March, 2021.
    • The event has been organised by the Union Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, in collaboration with the J&K Sports Council and the Winter Games Association of J&K.
    • The sports activities will include alpine skiing, nordic ski, snowboarding, ski mountaineering, ice hockey, ice skating, ice stock etc.
    • 27 States, Union Territories and Boards are sending their teams to participate in the games.

    CAUVERY-VELLARU-VAIGAI-GUNDAR LINK SCHEME

    Terming Tamil Nadu’s decision to utilise surplus water in the Cauvery basin ‘illegal’, Karnataka would approach the Supreme Court for a legal recourse.

    About:

    • The decision follows Tamil Nadu’s move to lay foundation to the Cauvery-Vellaru-Vaigai-Gundar link scheme last Sunday. The link scheme proposes to utilise the surplus water in the Cauvery basin and transfer it to its Southern region.
    • According to Karnataka, It is not right on the part of Tamil Nadu to utilise surplus water before it is allocated. Under the provisions of The Inter State Water Disputes Act, it is illegal and cannot happen without proper allocation.

     

    SECOND ADVANCE ESTIMATES OF NATIONAL INCOME, 2020-21

    The National Statistical Office (NSO), Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation has released the Second Advance Estimates of National Income, 2020-21 at Constant (2011-12) and Current Prices.

    About:

    • The growth in GDP during 2020-21 is estimated at -8.0 percent as compared to 4.0 percent in 2019-20.
    • GDP at Current Prices in the year 2020-21 is estimated to grow at rate of -3.8 percent.
    • The Per Capita Income in real terms (at 2011-12 Prices) during 2020-21 is estimated to attain a level of ₹ 85,929 as compared to ₹ 94,566 in the year 2019-20, giving a growth of -9.1 percent during 2019-20.
    • The Per Capita Income at current prices during 2020-21 is estimated to be ₹ 127,768, showing a decline of 4.8 percent.
    • Agriculture sector is estimated to see a growth of 3 per cent in 2020-21. However, it will be lower than 4.3 per cent growth recorded in 2019-20.
    • Manufacturing sector is estimated to contract 8.4 per cent during FY21, while electricity is likely to grow at 1.8 per cent. Among services sectors, trade, hotel, transport are projected to contract 18 per cent.

    PURNAGIRI TEMPLE

    Railway Minister flagged off Tanakpur (Uttarakhand)-Delhi Junction Special train. The train will connect Tanakpur with the national capital and bring socio-economic development in the region while pilgrims visiting Purnagiri temple will be benefitted with improved connectivity.

    About:

    • On the Annapurna range, the temple of Shri Purnagiri organises the Purnagiri Mela in Uttarakhand on Navratri.
    • The temple is situated at a distance of 20 kilometer from Tanakpur, on the right bank of the river Kali in the district of Champawat in Uttarakhand.
    • On the Annapurna range, the temple of Shri Purnagiri organises the Purnagiri Mela in Uttarakhand on Navratri. These ranges offer exceptional scenic beauty. The temple is situated at a distance of 20 kilometer from Tanakpur, on the right bank of the river Kali in the district of Champawat.
    • Purnagiri Devi temple is one of the 108 Siddha Peeths.

     

    COMPETITION COMMISSION OF INDIA (CCI)

    Union Minister for Finance and Corporate Affairs inaugurated the Competition Commission of India’s (CCI) Regional Office (South) in Chennai.

    About:

    • Status: A statutory body established under the provisions of The Competition Act, 2002.
    • Established in: 2003.
    • Composition: A Chairperson and 6 Members appointed by the Central Government.
    • Headquarters: New Delhi.
    • Preceding agency: Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices Commission.
    • Mandate: To implement provisions of The Competition Act, 2002 which –
      • prohibits anti-competitive agreements and abuse of dominant position by enterprises
      • regulates mergers and acquisition (M&A) which can have an adverse effect on competition within India. Thus, deals beyond a certain threshold are required to get clearance from CCI.

     

    E-DAAKHIL PORTAL

    E-Daakhil portal for Consumer grievance redressal is now operational in 15 States/UTs. Department of Consumer Affairs is now proactively following up with the states to launch e-filing portal at their ends.

    About:

    • E-filing was launched by National Consumer Dispute Redressal Commission (NCDRC) on 7th September, 2020. Delhi was the first state to implement it on 8th September, 2020.
    • The Consumer Protection Act, 2019, which has come into force from 20th July, 2020, has provision for e-filing of consumer complaints in the Consumer Commissions and online payment of the fees for filing a complaint.
    • A web application for E-filing of consumer complaints named “edaakhil.nic.in” has been developed by NIC for the purpose.
    • This digital software for filing consumer complaints has the many features like e-Notice, case document download link & VC hearing link, filing written response by opposite party, fling rejoinder by complainant and alerts via SMS/Email.

     

    BOND YIELD

    Rising yields on government securities or bonds in the United States and India have triggered concern over the negative impact on other asset classes, especially stock markets, and even gold.

    About:

    • Bond yield is the return an investor gets on that bond or on a particular government security.
    • The major factors affecting the yield is the monetary policy of the Reserve Bank of India, especially the course of interest rates, the fiscal position of the government and its borrowing programme, global markets, economy, and inflation.
    • A fall in interest rates makes bond prices rise, and bond yields fall — and rising interest rates cause bond prices to fall, and bond yields to rise.
    • In short, a rise in bond yields means interest rates in the monetary system have fallen, and the returns for investors (those who invested in bonds and govt securities) have declined.
    • The yield on 10-year bonds in India moved up from the recent low of 5.76% to 6.20% in line with the rise in US yields, sending jitters through the stock market, where the benchmark Sensex fell 2,300 points last week.

     

    COVAX

    Ghana has become the first country in the world to receive a shipment of coronavirus vaccines under the COVAX program.

    About:

    • The COVAX program is led by the vaccine alliance GAVI, the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) in partnership with UNICEF, vaccine manufacturers and the World Bank, among others.
    • The aim is to ensure equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines globally in what is being called the largest vaccine procurement and supply operation in history.
    • The program wants to vaccinate roughly 20 per cent of the population in the 92 Advance Market Commitment (AMC) countries, which include middle and lower-income nations that cannot afford to pay for COVID-19 vaccines. This means countries with a Gross National Income (GNI) per capita of less than US $4000 and some other countries which are eligible under the World Bank International Development Association (IDA).

     

    CHURMOSQUAGOGUE

    In the heart of Berlin, a new sacred building is coming up with the aim of bringing Christians, Jews and Muslims to a single place of worship.

    About:

    • Called the House of One or, colloquially, Churmosquagogue, it incorporates a church, a mosque and a synagogue.
    • The foundation stone will be laid on May 27 by people of these faiths.
    • A meeting space at the center of the building will be open to people of other faiths and world views as well as the secular urban society.
    • The House of One is coming up on the site of the old St Peter’s Church, which was damaged in World War II and completely demolished by the government of East Germany in 1964.

     

    CARACAL

    The National Board for Wildlife and Union Ministry of Environment included the caracal, a medium-sized wildcat found in parts of Rajasthan and Gujarat, in the list of critically endangered species.

    About:

    • Though not under grave threat in its other habitats, the animal is on the verge of extinction in India, some experts believe. The recovery programme for critically endangered species in India now includes 22 wildlife species.
    • Besides India, the caracal is found in several dozen countries across Africa, the Middle East, Central and South Asia. While it flourishes in parts of Africa, its numbers in Asia are declining.
    • The wildcat has long legs, a short face, long canine teeth, and distinctive ears — long and pointy, with tufts of black hair at their tips.
    • The iconic ears are what give the animal its name — caracal comes from the Turkish karakulak, meaning ‘black ears’.
    • In India, it is called siya gosh, a Persian name that translates as ‘black Ear’. A Sanskrit fable exists about a small wild cat named deergha-karn or ‘long-eared’.

     

    SARAS AAJEEVIKA MELA

    Minister of Rural development inaugurated Saras Aajeevika Mela 2021 at Noida Haat.

    About:

    • Ministry of Rural Development is working to include more women in Self Help Groups (SHGs). He said these SHGs played a vital role in increasing family income and improving quality of life.
    • The Saras Aajeevika Mela 2021 is being organized from 26th February to 14th March 2021 by the Ministry of Rural Development.
    • More than 300 rural self-help groups and craftsman from 27 states are participating in the Mela.

    CHANNAPATTANA TOY MAKERS

    The Channapattana toy makers thanked Prime Minister Modi for his support to the Indian toy makers.

    About:

    • Channapatana is a city and taluk headquarter in Ramanagara District, Karnataka, India.
    • Channapatana is also called as Channpatna by locals.
    • The city is famous for its wooden toys and lacquerware. Channapatna is also called Town of toys (“Gombegala nagara”).
    • The origin of these toys is dated back to the reign of Tipu Sultan who invited the artisans from Persia in order to train the local artisans in the art of wooden toy making.
    • These toys have been given Geographical Indication tag by Government of India.

     

    LEAST DEVELOPED COUNTRY (LDC)

    The United Nations Committee for Development Policy (CDP) has recommended graduation of Bangladesh from the category of Least Developed Country (LDC) as it fulfilled the eligibility criteria in terms of per capita income, human assets and economic and environmental vulnerability.

    About:

    • This is the second consecutive time since 2018 that the CDP has made recommendation for Bangladesh for graduation from LDC category.
    • The CDP decides on the LDC status of a country based on three criteria-
      • per capita income,
      • human assets index and
      • economic vulnerability index.
    • A country must achieve at least two of the three criteria at two consecutive triennial reviews to be considered for graduation.
    • The proposal will be sent to the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) for endorsement in June to be finally approved by the UN General Assembly (UNGA) in September this year.
    • Bangladesh will get time upto 2026 to prepare for the transition to the status of a developing country. Usually countries are given three years for transition but this year due to the Corona pandemic, Bangladesh has been given five years for the process.

    Impact: 

    • Graduation from LDC has double edged impact on countries.
    • On the one hand certain preferential provisions in export, provision of subsidy to agriculture and infant industries and access to climate finance are likely to cease after transition from LDC.
    • On the other hand, enhanced confidence of international financial bodies, improved credit rating and higher FDI are expected to benefit Bangladesh after the transition period is completed.

     

    BIR CHILARAY

    Shukladhwaja (1510–1571 AD), or more popularly Bir Chilaray, was the younger brother of Nara Narayan, the king of the Kamata Kingdom in present day assam in the 16th century.

    • He was Nara Narayan’s commander-in-chief and got his name Chilarai because, as a general, he executed troop movements that were as fast as a chila (kite/Eagle).

     

    PAKISTAN TO REMAIN ON FATF ‘GREY LIST’

    Global money laundering watchdog the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) decided to keep Pakistan on its terrorism financing “grey list”.

    About:

    • FATF President Marcus Pleyer said Pakistan must demonstrate in taking action against UN-designated terrorists and their associates. It also said once Pakistan completes three unfulfilled tasks, the FATF will verify and take decision on Islamabad’s present status in June plenary.
    • In its plenary held in October last year, the FATF had kept Pakistan on the grey list citing its failure to fulfill six out of 27 obligations of the global money laundering and terrorist financing watchdog.
    • The FATF is an inter-governmental body set up in 1989 to combat money laundering, terror financing and other related threats to the international financial system.
    • Currently, it has 39 members. Pakistan has been on the grey list since June 2018.

    Important Info :

    • The FATF is an inter-governmental body set up in 1989 to combat money laundering, terror financing and other related threats to the international financial system.
    • Currently, it has 39 members. Pakistan has been on the grey list since June 2018.

     

    SWATI MOHAN

    The world witnessed the historic landing of NASA’s Perseverance Rover, the most advanced astrobiology laboratory ever sent to another world.

    About:

    • Among the scientists who are part of this historic mission, Indian-American Dr Swati Mohan spearheaded the development of attitude control and the landing system for the rover.
    • Besides that she was the lead systems engineer throughout the development.
    • She is the key communicator between the GN&C subsystem and the rest of the project’s teams.
    • Dr Mohan had emigrated from India to the United States at the age of One. She has worked on Mars-2020 since almost the beginning of the project in 2013 and is currently working at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena.

     

    BLOCKING OF CONTENT

    Union Government clarified that no new provision has been made with regard to Blocking of Content in the recently issued Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules.

    About:

    • It said that certain misgivings are being raised regarding Rule 16 of the new guidelines which mention that in case of emergency nature, interim blocking directions may be issued by the Secretary, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.
    • In a statement, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting said that the same rule was being exercised by the Secretary, Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology since the past eleven years under the Information Technology (Procedure and Safeguards for Blocking for Access of Information by Public) Rules, 2009.
    • Now, under the new rule, this provison will be exercised by the I & B Secretary in place of IT Secretary.

     

    AMAZONIA-1 SATELLITE

    The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) will launch Amazonia-1 satellite of Brazil and 18 Co-passenger satellites through PSLVC51 rocket from the Sathish Dhawan Space Centre at Sriharikota on February 28, 2021.

    About:

    • PSLV-C51, which is the 53rd mission of PSLV, will launch Amazonia-1 of Brazil as primary satellite and 18 Co-passenger satellites from Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC) SHAR, Sriharikota.
    • PSLV-C51/Amazonia-1 is the first dedicated commercial mission of NewSpace India Limited (NSIL), a Government of India company under Department of Space. NSIL is undertaking this mission under a commercial arrangement with Spaceflight Inc. USA.
    • Amazonia-1 is the optical earth observation satellite of National Institute for Space Research (INPE).
    • This satellite would further strengthen the existing structure by providing remote sensing data to users for monitoring deforestation in the Amazon region and analysis of diversified agriculture across the Brazilian territory.
    • The 18 co-passenger satellites include four from IN-SPACe (three UNITYsats from consortium of three Indian academic institutes and One Satish Dhawan Sat from Space Kidz India) and 14 from NSIL.

     

    NATIONAL SCIENCE DAY

    National Science Day is being observed on 28th of February.

    About:

    • The day is celebrated every year on 28th of February to commemorate the discovery of the ‘Raman Effect’.
    • On this day, Physicist CV Raman announced the discovery of the ‘Raman Effect’ for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1930.
    • The day is aimed at spreading the message of the importance of science and its application in human life.
    • The theme for National Science Day 2021 is ‘Future of Science and Technology and Innovation: Impact on Education Skills and Work’.
    • With a view to promote science and innovation, the government presents the National Science Communication Awards on this day. It was instituted in 1987.

     

    MAGHA PURNIMA

    Prime Minister Narendra Modi has greeted the people on the occasion of Magh Purnima.

    About:

    • Maghi Purnima is also known by the name of Magha Purnima.
    • It is known to be a day of the full moon that occurs during the Hindu calendar month of Magh.
    • This day falls during the Gregorian calendar month of January or February.
    • During this time period, the auspicious Kumbh Mela is held every twelve years, and the Magha Mela is held on an annual basis at the confluence of three rivers or Triveni Sangam all around north India, such as in cities like Allahabad or Prayag.

     

    SAHITYA AKADEMI FELLOWSHIP

    A distinguished scholar, writer, translator and critic, Professor Velcheru Narayana Rao has been elected honorary fellow of Sahitya Akademi.

    About:

    • The election of Narayana Rao has been made based on his contribution to the Telugu literature.
    • His publications include Girls for Sale: Kanyashulkam and A play from Colonial India.

    Do you know?

    • The Sahitya Akademi Fellowship is a literary honour in India bestowed by the Sahitya Akademi, India’s National Academy of Letters.
    • It is the highest honour conferred by the Akademi on a living writer, the number of fellows at no time exceeding 21.
    • Elected from among writers thought by the Akademi to be of acknowledged merit, the fellows are sometimes described as the “immortals of Indian literature.”
    • Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan was the first writer elected to the Fellowship; Mulk Raj Anand was the first Indian English writer to be inducted in 1989.

DADASAHEB PHALKE AWARD

The Prime Minister Narendra Modi has congratulated Rajinikanth after he has been conferred with the Dadasaheb Phalke Award for the year 2019.

About:

  • Dadasaheb Phalke award is India’s highest award in cinema.
  • It is presented annually at the National Film Awards ceremony by the Directorate of Film Festivals (an organisation set up by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting).
  • The award prize consists of a golden lotus, a cash prize of ₹10 lakh and a shawl.
  • The award is given to people for their “outstanding contribution to the growth and development of Indian cinema”.
  • It was first presented in 1969. The first recipient of the award was actress Devika Rani, “the first lady of Indian cinema.”

Important Info :

Dadasaheb Phalke?

  • Dadasaheb Phalke (1870–1944), was an Indian film-maker who directed India’s first full-length feature film, Raja Harishchandra (1913).
  • He is regarded as “the father of Indian cinema.”

 

LIGHT WEIGHT BULLET PROOF JACKET

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh has congratulated DRDO and DMSRDE Kanpur for developing a Light Weight Bullet Proof Jacket.

About:

  • Defence Materials and Stores Research and Development Establishment (DMSRDE), Kanpur, a DRDO laboratory has developed a Light Weight Bullet Proof Jacket weighing 9 kg meeting the qualitative requirements of Indian Army.
  • The Front Hard Armour Panel jacket was tested successfully at TBRL Chandigarh and met relevant BIS standards.

 

KARGIL ZANSKAR ROAD

Union Minister for Road Transport & Highways has approved a 780 Crore rupees project for upgradation of Kargil Zanskar road.

About:

  • The 2 lane Kargil Zanskar NH 301 road is sanctioned under Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPC) mode.
  • Zanskar- Kargil road was declared National Highway in 2017 by the Centre.
  • This road from Zanskar valley, also connects Suru valley, Sankoo valley of Kargil Ladakh with the Highway.
  • The road will be a key for economic development of the remote region of Ladakh.

 

HARYANA’S AMENDED RULES OF PROCEDURE, CONDUCT OF BUSINESS OF LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY

Haryana has amended several provisions under its Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the Legislative Assembly of the state.

About:

  • Several new provisions have also been added in order to maintain the decorum of the House and to ensure that prompt action is taken on recommendations made by the committees constituted by the Speaker.
  • In Rule 76, a new provision has been added, according to which during every sitting of the House, presence of at least two ministers is a must, which was not maintained at times during discussion on certain Calling Attention Motions or other Business of the House.
  • To maintain decorum of the House, another new provision has been added, according to which the members “shall not tear off documents in the House in protest”.
  • The new Sub-Rule 46(11) reads: “The question shall not contain more than 150 words in any case either typed or handwritten on one side of the page.” Officials say it has been done to have better clarity for the Ministers to give a specific reply to the query raised by the Member.
  • As per the new definition, Leader of Opposition means Leader of a Legislative Party having the largest number of members other than the party/parties that has formed the government and having the strength at least equal to the strength of the quorum of the House

 

BAIKAL-GVD

Russian scientists launched one of the world’s biggest underwater neutrino telescopes called the Baikal-GVD (Gigaton Volume Detector) in the waters of Lake Baikail, the world’s deepest lake situated in Siberia.

About:

  • The construction of this telescope, which started in 2016, is motivated by the mission to study in detail the elusive fundamental particles called neutrinos and to possibly determine their sources.
  • The Baikal-GVD is one of the three largest neutrino detectors in the world along with the IceCube at the South Pole and ANTARES in the Mediterranean Sea.

Important Info :

Lake Baikal

  • Lake Baikal is a rift lake located in southern Siberia, Russia.
  • Lake Baikal is the largest freshwater lake by volume in the world, containing 22 to 23% of the world’s fresh surface water.
  • With a maximum depth of 1,642 m (5,387 ft), Baikal is the world’s deepest lake.
  • It is the world’s oldest lake at 25–30 million years.
  • It is the seventh-largest lake in the world by surface area.
  • Lake Baikal formed as an ancient rift valley and has a long, crescent shape.
  • The region to the east of Lake Baikal is referred to as Transbaikalia or as the Transbaikal, and the loosely defined region around the lake itself is sometimes known as Baikalia.
  • UNESCO declared Lake Baikal a World Heritage Site in 1996.

 

MyNEP2020

Union Education Minister launched the “MyNEP2020” Platform of NCTE Web Portal.

About:

  • The platform seeks to invite suggestions from the stakeholders for preparing draft for development of National Professional Standards for Teachers (NPST) and National Mission for Mentoring Program membership (NMM).
  • The “MyNEP2020” platform will be operational from 1st April 2021 to 15th May 2021.
  • For preparing the documents on above two major recommendations of NEP 2020, NCTE will work in close consultation with individuals/organizations.
  • Expert committee will extensively review the inputs collected during the consultation period and will finally formulate the Drafts for public review. Comments by the reviewers from the stakeholders will then be used to prepare a final Draft for notification.

Important Info :

  • National Council for Teacher Education (NCTE) is a statutory body of Indian government set up under the National Council for Teacher Education Act, 1993 in 1995 to formally oversee standards, procedures and processes in the Indian education system.

 

JOINT LOGISTICS NODE (JLN)

Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat operationalised and dedicated to the Armed forces the 3rd Joint Logistics Node (JLN) in Mumbai.

About:

  • These JLNs will provide integrated logistics cover to the Armed Forces for their small arms ammunition, rations, fuel, general stores, civil hired transport, aviation clothing, spares and also engineering support in an effort to synergise their operational efforts.
  • Establishment and operationalisation of JLNs is a very important first step in the direction of logistics integration of our three Services. The JLN would enhance joint inter-operability between the Services.
  • The Joint Operations Division (JOD) under the aegis of Headquarters Integrated Defence Staff (Hq IDS) enabled establishment of the JLNs
  • Government Sanction Letter for establishment of JLNs in Mumbai, Guwahati and Port Blair was signed on October 12, 2020.
  • The JLNs in Guwahati and Tri-Services, Andaman and Nicobar Command, Port Blair were operationalised on January 01, 2021.

VIGILANCE OFFICERS

Central Vigilance Commission officers will be transferred every 3 years from now onwards.

About:

  • The Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) has modified the guidelines pertaining to the transfer and posting of officials in the vigilance units of government organisations, restricting their tenure to three years at one place.
  • The tenure may be extended to three more years, albeit at a different place of posting.
  • According to the CVC, undue long stay of an official in a vigilance department had the potential of developing vested interests, apart from giving rise to unnecessary complaints or allegations.
  • In order to emphasis on the importance of the issue and to ensure transparency, objectivity and uniformity in approach, the Commission has decided to modify its earlier guidelines
  • The first phase of transfer/posting has to be completed by May 31. The exercise of transferring all the personnel in question should be completed by June 30
  • The order said after transfer from the vigilance unit, there would be a compulsory cooling off period of three years before anyone could be considered again for posting in the unit.

 

JUSTICE NUTHALAPATI VENKATA RAMANA

In exercise of the powers conferred by clause (2) of Article 124 of the Constitution, President Ram Nath Kovind has appointed Justice N V Ramana as the 48th Chief Justice of India with effect from April 24, 2021, accepting the recommendation made by the outgoing CJI SA Bobde.

About:

  • He was Additional Advocate General for Andhra Pradesh before being called to the State High Court Bench in 2001.
  • Justice Ramana was the Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court, before his elevation to the Supreme Court on February 17th, 2014.
  • As Executive Chairman of National Legal Services Authority, Justice Ramana was responsible for making India’s legal aid programme the largest in the world with aid provided on the basis of a ‘means test’ rather than on basis of fixed categories.
  • As CJI, Justice Ramana will have a tenure of 16 months till August 26th next year.
  • Justice Ramana has said one of his primary objectives would be to improve the judicial infrastructure through a special purpose vehicle called the ‘National Judicial Infrastructure Corporation’ to act as a nodal agency.

 

VLADIMIR PUTIN

Russian President Vladimir Putin signed the legislation that may be able to keep him in power until 2036, when he will be 83 years old.

About:

  • Putin, a former KGB officer who is now 68, completes his ongoing six-year tenure — his fourth as President — in 2024.
  • He has already run the country either as President or as Prime Minister for more than 20 years.
  • This is the longest period a leader has been in power since Joseph Stalin, who was Secretary General of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (1922-1953) and the premier of the Soviet Union from 1941-1953.
  • Some critics have likened Putin’s move to a power grab while others have called them a “constitutional coup”.

What’s the change?

  • Before the new legislation was signed, a President could serve a maximum of two consecutive six-year terms. That term limit remains even in the new legislation.
  • What has changed is that Putin’s previous terms will not be counted once the new legislation comes into effect. These will be “zeroed out”, giving him the option of serving two more consecutive terms after the current one ends in 2024.

Important Info :

Example of US President Franklin D Roosevelt

  • Putin cited the example of US President Franklin D Roosevelt, who served four terms — starting 1932, 1936, 1940 and 1944.
  • Roosevelt’s four-term presidency paved the way for the 22nd Amendment to the US Constitution, ratified in 1951, that limited the Presidential term to two four-year terms.
  • Putin said Roosevelt had to serve four terms because of the problems the US was facing at the time (Great Depression, World War II) and that, therefore, putting limits on Presidential terms was sometimes superfluous.

 

NATIONAL SUPER COMPUTING MISSION (NSM)

India is fast emerging a leader in high power computing with the National Super Computing Mission (NSM).

About:

  • The National Supercomputing Mission was launched to enhance the research capacities and capabilities in the country by connecting them to form a Supercomputing grid, with National Knowledge Network (NKN) as the backbone.
  • The Mission is being jointly steered by the Department of Science and Technology (DST) and the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) and implemented by the Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC), Pune, and the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bengaluru.

Phases:

  • Computing infrastructure has already been installed in four premier institutions and installation work is in rapid progress in 9 more.
  • Completion in of Phase II of NSM in September 2021 will take the country’s computing power to 16 Petaflops (PF).
  • Phase III, initiated this year, will take the computing speed to around 45 Petaflops. This will include three systems of 3 PF each and one system of 20PF as a national facility.

Important Info :

List of supercomputers:

  • PARAM Shivay, the first supercomputer assembled indigenously, was installed in IIT (BHU), followed by PARAM Shakti, PARAM Brahma, PARAM Yukti, PARAM Sanganak at IIT-Kharagpur IISER, Pune, JNCASR, Bengaluru and IIT Kanpur respectively.
  • PARAM Siddhi – AI, the high-performance computing-artificial intelligence (HPC-AI) supercomputer, has achieved global ranking of 62 in TOP 500 most powerful supercomputer systems in the world, released on 16th November 2020.

 

WORLD HEALTH DAY

World Health Day being celebrated on April 07, 2021.

About:

  • The World Health Day is a global health awareness day celebrated every year on 7 April, under the sponsorship of the World Health Organization (WHO).
  • Since 1950, the World Health Day is held annually on April 7.
  • The date of April 7 marks the anniversary of the founding of WHO in 1948.
  • The theme of this year is Building a fairer, healthier world for everyone.

 

SHITALAKSHYA RIVER

A Bangladesh ferry carrying around 50 passengers collided with a cargo vessel and sank in the Shitalakhsya River in Narayanganj in Bangladesh, leaving at least 26 people dead.

About:

  • Shitalakshya River (also known as Lakhya River) is a distributary of the Brahmaputra.
  • In its initial stages it flows in a southwest direction and then east of the city of Narayanganj in central Bangladesh until it merges with the Dhaleswari near Kalagachhiya.
  • A portion of its upper course is known as Banar River.

 

CRAFT INSTRUCTOR TRAINING SCHEME (CITS)

The Directorate General of Training (DGT), under the aegis of Ministry of Skill Development & Entrepreneurship (MSDE), announced results of the All India Trade Test (AITT) for CITS Academic session 2019-2020.

About:

  • DGT offers Crafts Instructor Training programmes under Crafts Instructor Training Scheme (CITS) to ITI trainees who aspire to pursue a career in skill training.
  • Comprehensive training both in skills and training methodology is imparted to the instructor trainees to make them conversant with techniques of transferring hands-on skills, to train skilled manpower.
  • At the end of year-long CITS training, an All India Trade Test (AITT) for each of the 34 trades is conducted online by DGT.
  • On successful completion of the training, trainees are awarded National Craft Instructor Certificate (NCIC).

 

CENTRAL WAREHOUSE CORPORATION (CWC)

Union Minister of Food & Public Distribution reviewed the modernization plan of Central Warehouse Corporation (CWC).

About:

  • While reviewing, the Minister said that CWC should double its warehouse storage capacity by end of year 2023 and achieve a turnover of Rs 10000 crore by the Financial Year 2024-25. At present, CWC warehouse storage capacity is 125 LMT.
  • The Minister suggested that CWC should prepare a masterplan for upgradation of its all 423 warehouses.

Important Info :

  • Central Warehousing Corporation is a statutory body which was established under ‘The Warehousing Corporations Act, 1962.
  • It is a public warehouse operator established by the Government of India in 1956.
  • Headquarters: New Delhi.

 

CHINTAN VAISHNAV

Noted socio-technologist Dr Chintan Vaishnav has been appointed the mission director of Atal Innovation Mission (AIM), the government’s flagship initiative under NITI Aayog.

About:

  • Vaishnav will take over from Ramanathan Ramanan later this month. Ramanan has been leading AIM as its first mission director since June 2017.
  • Vaishnav is currently at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), US. He holds a PhD in technology, management, and policy from MIT.
  • Vaishnav is an engineer trained to understand and build large-scale systems, with both human as well as technological complexities.

Important Info :

  • AIM’s mission is to create and promote a vibrant ecosystem of innovation and entrepreneurship across the country.
  • So far, AIM has established 72,59 Atal Tinkering Labs in schools across 650 districts, providing over 3.5 million students access to emerging technologies.

 

ELECTRONIC VOTING MACHINE (EVM)

Last week, in Assembly elections in Assam, an Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) was found in a private vehicle belonging to a BJP candidate’s spouse.

What is the Election Commissions protocol for the transportation of EVMs?

  • The Commission’s transport protocol for polled and reserve EVMs dictates that the voting machines, under no circumstances, should be taken in private custody or a private place.
  • And also, that all EVMs, after voting is complete, should be under cover of armed police at all times.
  • So, the polling party’s decision to hitch a ride in a private vehicle amounted to taking the EVM (used in Polling Station 149 of Ratabari seat) and hence was a violation of the EC’s rules.
  • While saying that the seal of the EVM was intact, the EC ordered repoll for polling station 149.

 

MATERNAL DEATHS

The failure of the health system to cope with COVID-19 pandemic resulted in an increase in maternal deaths and stillbirths, according to a study published in The Lancet Global Health journal.

About:

  • Overall, there was a 28% increase in the odds of stillbirth, and the risk of mothers dying during pregnancy or childbirth increased by about one-third.
  • There was also a rise in maternal depression.
  • COVID-19 impact on pregnancy outcomes was disproportionately high on poorer countries.
  • The report is an analysis of 40 studies across 17 countries including Brazil, Mexico, the U.S., Canada, the U.K., Denmark, Netherlands, Italy, India, China and Nepal.
  • The study attributes the worsening trend to the failure of the “inefficiency of the healthcare system and their inability to cope with the pandemic” instead of strict lockdown measures. This resulted in reduced access to care.
  • In India, during the months of national lockdown last year between April and June, compared to the same period in 2019, there was a 27% drop in pregnant women receiving four or more ante-natal check-ups, a 28% decline in institutional deliveries and 22% decline in prenatal services.

JOINT COMPREHENSIVE PLAN OF ACTION (JCPOA)

The U.S. and Iran said that they would begin negotiations through intermediaries next week to try to get both countries back into an accord limiting Iran’s nuclear programme, nearly three years after President Donald Trump pulled the U.S. out of the deal.

About:

  • The announcement marked the first major progress in efforts to return both countries to the 2015 accord, which bound Iran to restrictions on its nuclear programmes in return for relief from U.S. and international sanctions.
  • Trump pulled the U.S. out of the accord in 2018, opting for a “maximum pressure” campaign of stepped-up U.S. sanctions and other tough actions.
  • Iran responded by intensifying its enrichment of uranium and building of centrifuges, while maintaining its insistence that its nuclear development was for civilian and not military purposes.
  • Iran’s moves increased pressure on major world powers over the Trump administration’s sanctions and raised tensions among U.S. allies and strategic partners in West Asia.
  • Agreement on the start of indirect talks came after the EU helped broker a virtual meeting of officials from Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and Iran, which have remained in the accord, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

NEW EMISSION NORMS FOR COAL-FIRED POWER PLANTS

The government has pushed back deadlines for coal-fired power plants to adopt new emission norms by up to three years, and allowed utilities that miss the new target to continue operating after paying a penalty, according to a notice.

About:

  • India had initially set a 2017 deadline for thermal power plants to install Flue Gas Desulphurization (FGD) units that cut emissions of sulphur dioxides. But that was postponed to varying deadlines for different regions, ending in 2022.
  • The new order dated April 1 from the environment Ministry said plants near populous regions and the capital New Delhi will have to comply by 2022, while utilities in less polluting areas have up to 2025 to comply or retire units.
  • Operators of coal-fired utilities have long been lobbying for dilution of the pollution standards, citing high compliance costs.
  • A task force will be constituted by the Central Pollution Control Board to categorise plants in three categories “on the basis of their location to comply with the emission norms”.
  • In case of non-compliance, a penalty of up to ₹0.20 will be levied for every unit of electricity produced.

WATERGATE SCANDAL

G Gordon Liddy, the former FBI agent and Republican adviser who was widely considered the mastermind behind the 1972 Watergate break-in, died at the age of 90.

About:

  • The Watergate scandal was a political scandal in the United States involving the administration of U.S. President Richard Nixon from 1971 to 1974 that led to Nixon’s resignation.
  • The scandal stemmed from the Nixon administration’s continuous attempts to cover up its involvement in the June 17, 1972 break-in of the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Washington, D.C. Watergate Office Building.
  • After the five perpetrators were arrested, the press and the U.S. Justice Department connected the cash found on them at the time to the Nixon re-election campaign committee.
  • It led to the country’s first and only presidential resignation.

BIMSETC

External Affairs Minister Dr S Jaishankar has said that India remains committed to further building the momentum of regional cooperation under the BIMSTEC framework. He said this while delivering a statement at the 17th BIMSTEC Ministerial Meeting held virtually.

About:

  • He expressed happiness that BIMSTEC Convention on Cooperation in Combating International Terrorism, Transnational Organized Crime and illicit Drug Trafficking has come into force last month.
  • Also, BIMSTEC Convention on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters has been finalized for signing at the fifth BIMSTEC Summit. These Conventions will provide a robust legal basis to further strengthen our cooperation in this sector.
  • BIMSTEC Centre for Weather and Climate, being hosted in India, is fully functional with state of the art facilities to provide Disaster Early Warning.

Important Info :

  • The Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) is a regional organization comprising seven Member States lying in the areas of the Bay of Bengal.
  • This organization came into being in 1997 through the Bangkok Declaration.
  • It constitutes seven Member States: five deriving from South Asia, including Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and two from Southeast Asia, including Myanmar and Thailand.

HARMONISED SYSTEM OF NOMENCLATURE (HSN) CODE

Government has made mandatory that a GST taxpayer having turnover of more than 5 crore rupees in the preceding financial year will have to furnish 6 digits Harmonised System of Nomenclature HSN Code, or Service Accounting Code, SAC from April 1, 2021 on the invoices issued for supplies of taxable goods and services.

About:

  • A taxpayer having turnover of upto Rs 5 crore in the preceding financial year is required to mandatorily furnish 4 digits HSN code on B2B invoices. Earlier, the requirement was 4 digits and 2 digits.
  • HSN codes for goods at 6 digits are universally common. Therefore, common HSN codes apply to Customs and GST. HSN search facility is available on the GST portal.
  • Manufacturers and importers or exporters have been commonly using HSN Codes.
  • A large number of GST taxpayers are already furnishing HS codes or SAC at 6 or 8 digits on voluntary basis on the invoices, e -way bills and GSTR 1 returns.

COMMITTEES ON OCCUPATIONAL SAFETY

Central Government has constituted three expert committees to review the existing rules and regulations on safety, health and working conditions standards, pertaining to factories, docks and construction work.

About:

  • One committee will look into the safety parameters of industries, docks and ports while the other two committees have been asked to study and suggest rules for the building and other construction works and the fire safety.
  • The committees include experts from industry as well as subject matter, from both public and private sector across the country.
  • A separate committee on fire safety standards has been formed to have a comprehensive and holistic approach for fire safety provisions, in view of recent spurt in fire accidents at workplaces.
  • This process will pave the way for establishing uniform and updated standards of safety and health of workers throughout the country.

ALL-INDIA SURVEY OF MIGRANT WORKERS

Government of India launched the All-India Survey of Migrant Workers and All-India Quarterly Establishment-based Employment Survey.

About:

  • Labour and Employment Ministry said, the objective of the All-India Survey of Migrant Workers is to study the kind of employment-related migration undertaken by workers.
  • The survey will provide the details of working and living conditions faced by Migrant Workers and impact of COVID 19 on their world of work.

All-India Quarterly Establishment-based Employment Survey

  • All-India Quarterly Establishment-based Employment Survey will provide the employment estimates for establishments employing ten or more workers as well as those with employing nine or less workers.
  • The survey will provide crucial data on the changes in employment situation across the selected sectors on a quarterly basis.
  • These surveys will plug-in the data gap on various aspects of labour and employment and will aide evidence-based policy making processes.

ARMY WAR COLLEGE

The Army War College (AWC), Mhow celebrated its Golden Jubilee today to mark 50 glorious years of its inception as the premier training institute of Indian Army.

About:

  • The Army War College, Mhow (A.W.C.) is a tactical training and research institution of the Indian Army located in Mhow, Madhya Pradesh.
  • It develops and evaluates concepts and doctrines for tactics and logistics for the army.
  • The college trains about 1,200 officers of the Indian Army, as well as paramilitary forces each year.
  • History: The college was originally established as the College of Combat at Mhow on 1 April 1971. It was spun out of the Infantry School, Mhow. In 2003, the college was renamed as the Army War College, Mhow.

GOOD FRIDAY

Good Friday was observed on April 2, 2021.

About:

  • Names: Good Friday is also known as Holy Friday, Great Friday, Black Friday and Easter Friday.
  • When observed? It is observed on the Friday before Easter Sunday, that marks the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
  • Why observed? Good Friday marks the crucifixion of Jesus Christ and his death at Calvary.
    • Christ was betrayed by Judas and sentenced to death.
    • Christians believe Jesus was crucified on Good Friday and rose again three days later – which is marked as Easter.
    • The three days are known as the Easter Triduum.
  • How is it observed?
    • Christians observe Good Friday with fasting and church services.
    • Special masses and processions take place in all major churches. Bands playing sombre music accompany the procession to create an atmosphere of mourning.
    • The ceremony of the Way of the Cross takes place as a re-enactment of scenes from the Crucifixion.
  • Meaning of Good? The word ”good” in the Good Friday stands for pious or holy. The death of Jesus symbolises the death and forgiveness for all of mankind’s sins, with Jesus taking the ultimate sacrifice for the good of all humans.

NAXALISM

Five security personnel were killed and more than 12 injured in an encounter with Maoists in Sukma district of Chhattisgarh.

About:

  • Two of the dead were from the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF). One of them belonged to the elite Commando Battalion for Resolute Action (CoBRA) of the CRPF, a unit specially trained for operations in areas affected by left-wing extremism.
  • a 400-strong team of security forces came under attack by a People’s Liberation Guerilla Army (PLGA) platoon in the Tarrem area near the Sukma-Bijapur border.
  • The attack comes close on the heels of the March 23 incident when five DRG personnel were killed as Maoists blew up a bus carrying security personnel with an IED in Narayanpur district.

Important Info :

Sukma district?

  • Sukma district is the southernmost district in Chhattisgarh.
  • It is located in the Bastar region, known for its tribal culture. It is mainly inhabited by Gonds and other tribals.
  • The district was carved out of Dantewada in 2012.
  • Sukma district borders with Odisha (Malkangiri district), Telangana (Bhadradri Kothagudem district) and Andhra Pradesh (East Godavari district).
  • One major river that flows through the district is Sabari.
  • The district is one of the least developed districts of India and is severely affected by Naxalism or Maoism.

 

DECISION REVIEW SYSTEM (DRS)

The International Cricket Council’s (ICC) cricket committee has made changes to the way lbws will be decided under the Decision Review System (DRS).

About:

  • The “wicket zone”, the area of the stumps a ball must hit for an on-field not-out decision to be overturned, which previously ended below the bails, will now extend all the way up to the top.
  • The committee also decided to retain the umpire’s call, an element that allows the on-field decision to stand when there is no conclusive evidence to overturn it.
  • A player can also ask the umpire whether an attempt was made to play the ball before deciding to review an lbw call.

Important Info :

What necessitated the review?

  • Under DRS, 50% of the ball should predictively hit the “wicket zone” for an on-field not-out decision to be reversed.
  • Earlier, if the ball-tracking simulation showed the ball to be clipping the bails, the on-field verdict, even if it was not out, stood because the “wicket zone” ended below the bails.
  • This left both players and supporters exasperated because two balls, both predictively shown to be hitting the stumps, can both be out and not out depending on the on-field umpire’s call.
  • The 50% test is also applied for balls projected to hit the outside of the off-stump or leg-stump.

DIGITAL RMB

China in February 2021 launched the latest round of pilot trials of its new digital currency, with reported plans of a major roll-out by the end of the year and ahead of the Winter Olympics in Beijing in February 2022.

About:

  • Officially titled the Digital Currency Electronic Payment (DCEP), the digital RMB (or Renminbi, China’s currency) is, as its name suggests, a digital version of China’s currency.
  • It can be downloaded and exchanged via an application authorised by the People’s Bank of China (PBOC), China’s central bank.
  • China is among a small group of countries that have begun pilot trials; others include Sweden, South Korea and Thailand.

How is it different from an e-wallet?

  • Unlike an e-wallet such as Paytm in India, or Alipay or WeChat Pay, which are the two dominant apps in China, the Digital RMB does not involve a third party. For users, the experience may broadly feel the same.
  • But from a “legal perspective”, the digital currency is “very, very different”. This is legal tender guaranteed by the central bank, not a payment guaranteed by a third-party operator. There is no third-party transaction, and hence, no transaction fee.
  • Unlike e-wallets, the digital currency does not require Internet connectivity. The payment is made through Near-field Communication (NFC) technology.
  • Also, unlike non-bank payment platforms that require users to link bank accounts, this can be opened with a personal identification number.

Important Info :

Significance

  • While several countries have been experimenting with digital currencies, China’s recent trials in several cities have placed it ahead of the curve.
  • The central bank-issued digital RMB will turn the logic of decentralised cryptocurrencies on its head, without the privacy and anonymity they offer, by giving regulators complete control over transactions. There are global motivations as well.

 

H-1B VISA RULE

USA President Joe Biden has allowed a Trump-era H-1B visa rule to expire.

About:

  • Last June, the administration of former President Donald Trump, a Republican, halted the issuance of non-immigrant work visas of several types, including the skilled worker visa, or H-1B.
  • At the time, the White House had stated that the aim of the policy was to stop foreign workers from cornering American jobs during the economic distress and consequent shortage of economic opportunities brought on by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
  • While the original order was valid until December 31, 2020, it was extended by the Trump administration to be valid until March 31, 2021.
  • Now, the 46th and current U.S. President, Democrat Joe Biden, has allowed the ban on H-1B visa issuance to expire, potentially bringing relief to a large number of Indian nationals, especially IT workers who are prospective applicants for the visa.

Important Info :

Statistics

  • Until now, the U.S. issued 85,000 H-1B visas annually, of which 20,000 went to graduate students and 65,000 to private sector applicants, and Indian nationals would garner approximately 70% of these.

INFLATION TARGETING

On the last day of the financial year 2020-21, the Finance Ministry announced that the inflation target for the five years between April 2021 and March 2026 will remain unchanged at 4%, with an upper tolerance level of 6% and a lower tolerance level of 2%.

About:

  • This is the retail inflation target that will drive the country’s monetary policy framework and influence its decision to raise, hold or lower interest rates.
  • India had switched to an inflation target-based monetary policy framework in 2015, with the 4% target kicking in from 2016-17.
  • Many developed countries had adopted an inflation-rate focus as an anchor for policy formulation for interest rates rather than past fixations with metrics like the currency exchange rate or controlling money supply growth. Emerging economies have also been gradually adopting this approach.
  • In adopting a target for a period of five years, the central bank has the visibility and the time to smoothly alter and adjust its policies in order to attain the targeted inflation levels over the medium term, rather than seek to achieve it every month.

 

SOFT SIGNAL PROTOCOL

The soft signal protocol for outfield catches, which was in the news during the India-England series, was not adjudicated on in the recent meeting of the International Cricket Council’s (ICC) cricket committee.

About:

  • According to the International Cricket Council’s rules, a ‘soft signal’ is a “visual communication by the bowler’s end umpire to the third umpire (accompanied by additional information via two-way radio where necessary) of his/her initial on-field decision prior to initiating an Umpire Review.”
  • In most cases, the third umpire upholds the ‘soft signal’ (out or not out) of the on-field umpire if there is no conclusive evidence to overturn the first verdict.

 

NATIONAL POLICY FOR RARE DISEASES, 2021

Union Health Minister approved the “National Policy for Rare Diseases 2021” on 30th March 2021.

About:

  • The Rare Diseases Policy aims to lower the high cost of treatment for rare diseases with increased focus on indigenous research with the help of a National Consortium to be set up with Department of Health Research, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare as convenor.
  • Increased focus of research and development and local production of medicines will lower the cost of treatment for rare diseases.
  • The policy also envisages creation of a national hospital based registry of rare diseases so that adequate data is available for definition of rare diseases and for research and development related to rare diseases within the country.
  • The Policy also focuses on early screening and prevention through primary and secondary health care infrastructure such as Health and Wellness Centres and District Early Intervention Centres (DEICs) and through counselling for the high-risk parents. Screening will also be supported by Nidan Kendras set up by Department of Biotechnology.
  • Policy also aims to strengthen tertiary health care facilities for prevention and treatment of rare diseases through designating 8 health facilities as Centre of Excellence and these CoEs will also be provided one-time financial support of up to Rs 5 crores for upgradation of diagnostics facilities.
  • A provision for financial support up to Rs. 20 lakhs under the Umbrella Scheme of Rastriya Arogya Nidhi is proposed for treatment, of those rare diseases that require a one-time treatment (diseases listed under Group 1 in the rare disease policy).

Important Info :

  • In India, Haemophilia, Thalassemia, Sickle cell anaemia and Primary Immuno Deficiency in children, auto-immune diseases, Lysosomal storage disorders such as Pompe disease and Gaucher’s disease are in the rare diseases list.

 

ROAD CONSTRUCTION

Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari has said that India has achieved a landmark milestone in road construction by building more highways than any other countries in the last financial year.

About:

  • He said, 37 kilometres of roads have been constructed every day in the year 2020-21.
  • Over thirteen thousand kilometres roads have been constructed in the last financial year.
  • The length of National Highways has gone up by 50 percent from more than 91 thousand kilometres to more than one lakh 37 thousand kilometres in the last seven years.
  • India now holds world record for fastest road construction. India made it to Guinness World Records by building a 2.5 km 4-lane concrete road within 24 hours.

 

BE THE BRAND AMBASSADOR OF TRIBES INDIA; BE A ‘FRIEND’ OF TRIBES INDIA CONTEST

Tribal Cooperative Marketing Development Federation Ltd (TRIFED) has launched two interesting competitions, Be the Brand Ambassador of Tribes India and Be a ‘Friend’ of TRIBES INDIA Contest in association with MyGov.in, the citizen-government engagement platform.

About:

  • “Be the Brand Ambassador of Tribes India” is inviting stories featuring any tribal product (s) from customers across the country. The stories should highlight his/ her experience in using the product and provide details of the product and the place/ shop from where it was purchased.
  • Following the success of its first Quiz contest on Indian culture which was organised in association with MyGov in February, TRIFED has launched the second edition of the Quiz. Called “Be A Friend of Tribes India”, the quiz went live on MyGov on April 2, 2021 and will be on till May 14, 2021.

Important Info :

  • TRIFED, as the nodal agency under Ministry of Tribal Affairs, has been working to improve the income and livelihoods of the tribal people, while preserving their way of life and traditions.
  • It was formed in 1987.
  • It is headquartered in New Delhi.

 

DALIT POLITICS IN TAMIL NADU

Mainstream political parties in Tamil Nadu are going the extra mile to accommodate Dalit icons, and are receptive to Dalit concerns. These parties are wary of an independent Dalit political identity, and would prefer to subsume them using a mixture of co-option, corruption and at times coercion.

About:

  • In Tamil Nadu, there are three major Dalit castes.
  • Firstly, the Parayar caste is predominantly in the northern and central parts of the state, and is represented by the Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi, the VCK led by Thirumavalavan.
  • Pallars and associated castes who are now termed as Devendra Kula Vellalar are in the south and in the coastal delta districts of the state and is partly represented by Puthiya Tamilagam (PT) led by Dr Krishnaswamy.
  • The Arundhathiyars are much smaller in number compared to the other two and lack an established political outfit representing them.

Important Info :

  • Estimates put Tamil Nadu’s total Dalit population at around 20 per cent, while tribals form around one per cent of the population in the state.

 

 

JORDAN

In a marked flare-up in tensions within Jordan’s royal household, Prince Hamzah bin Al Hussein, the former crown prince and half-brother of ruling monarch Abdullah, has reportedly been placed under house arrest as part of a crackdown on critics.

About:

  • Jordan is an Arab country in the Levant region of Western Asia, on the East Bank of the Jordan River.
  • Jordan is bordered by Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Syria, Israel and Palestine (West Bank).
  • The Dead Sea is located along its western borders and the country has a 26-kilometre coastline on the Red Sea in its extreme south-west.
  • Its capital city is Amman.
  • The sovereign state is a constitutional monarchy, but the king holds wide executive and legislative powers.
  • Sunni Islam, practised by around 95% of the population, is the dominant religion and coexists with an indigenous Christian minority.

 

RAFALE

India will receive another 8 to 9 Rafale jets from France by mid-May, with some expected later this month, completing the first squadron of the fighters in the Indian Air Force (IAF), according to a defence official.

About:

  • With the inductions this month set to complete the first squadron, which currently has 14 jets, the IAF is all set to operationalise the second Rafale squadron at Hasimara in West Bengal later this month.
  • Last September, the IAF inducted the batch of five Rafales, of the 36 contracted from France under a €7.87 billion Inter-Governmental Agreement signed in September 2016 with 13 India Specific Enhancements (ISE).
  • The first batch of five jets, three single-seat and two twin-seater trainers, were formally inducted into the No. 17 ‘Golden Arrows’ squadron of the IAF last September at the Ambala Air Force station.
  • The second batch of three Rafales arrived in India last November. The third batch of three Rafales arrived in India in January. The fourth batch of three jets arrived on March 31.
  • Last December, IAF Chief Air Chief Marshal R.K.S. Bhadauria said the Force would get three to four Rafales every two to three months till all 36 jets are delivered and added that the first squadron would be fully ready by the end of 2021 and the second squadron by 2023.

 

NAXALISM

Since the 2010 Chintalnar massacre, the Dantewada-Sukma-Bijapur axis has claimed the lives of more than 175 security force personnel, besides several civilians.

About:

  • While the Chintalnar encounter saw 76 CRPF men killed, the latest encounter in Bijapur led to the death of 22 security personnel.
  • A look at the data on Maoist violence in Chhattisgarh shows that most attacks and casualties have happened between March and July.
  • Sources say this is because the CPI (Maoist) usually launches its tactical counter-offensive campaign between February and the end of June. This campaign involves aggressive military operations against security forces before the monsoons—that make movement difficult—hit the region.
  • The key concern is that security forces are still struggling in this region, known as Bastar, despite the campaign against the Left-wing extremists starting around 15 years ago.
  • Bastar is a district in Chhattisgarh. Jagdalpur is the district headquarters.
  • A host of factors—remoteness, jungle terrain, absence of administration and lack of political will—have been blamed for the slow progress there.
  • The eradication of the movement in neighbouring Andhra Pradesh and Odisha has led to a concentration of cadre and leaders in the Bastar region—which provides easy movement for the rebels across borders because of its proximity to other states.
  • Most, however, point to absence of roads, communication and proper administration as the main reason for Maoists continuing to hold the area.

 

DIGVIJAYSINH ZALA

Former Union Environment Minister and MLA from Gujarat’s Wankaner Digvijaysinh Zala passed away at the age of 88.

About:

  • The head of the erstwhile princely state of Wankaner in Saurashtra expired following a brief period of illness.
  • Zala was an MLA from Wankaner for the years 1962-67 as an independent candidate and as a member of the Swatantra Party from 1967-71.
  • He, then, joined the Congress and became a Member of Parliament from Surendranagar for two terms from 1979 to 1989.
  • Establishing the Environment ministry under Prime minister Indira Gandhi, he became the first Environment Minister of the country from 1982 to 1984.
  • Credited with declaring many national parks in India to conserve wildlife and nature, he made some of the major reforms such as coordinating with the Indian Railways to replace the wooden sleepers under railway tracks with cement ones to help save India’s trees.

 

SANKALP SE SIDDH

TRIFED under Ministry of Tribal Affairs has now launched “Sankalp se Siddhi” – Village and Digital Connect Drive.

About:

  • It is a 100 day drive which was stared from April 1, 2021.
  • The drive will entail 150 teams visiting ten villages each of which 10 in each region from TRIFED and State Implementation Agencies, visiting ten villages each.
  • The main aim of this drive is to activate the Van Dhan Vikas Kendras in these villages.
  • The visiting teams will also identify locations and shortlist potential Van Dhan Vikas Kendras for clustering as TRIFOOD, and Scheme of Fund for Regeneration of Traditional Industries- SFURTI units as larger enterprises.
  • TRIFOOD aims to enhance the income of tribals through better utilization of and value addition to the Minor Forest Produce collected by the tribal forest gatherers.

 

E-COURTS PROJECT

The eCommittee Supreme Court has prepared the draft vision document for Phase III of the eCourts Project under the auspices of the Supreme court of India.

About:

  • E-Courts Project is a mission mode project undertaken by the Department of Justice, Government of India.
  • The Chairperson of eCommittee is Dr Justice Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud, Judge, Supreme Court of India.
  • The eCommittee of the Supreme Court has been overseeing the implementation of the eCourts Project, conceptualized under the “National Policy and Action Plan for Implementation of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in the Indian Judiciary-2005”.
  • Phase III of the eCourts Project in India is rooted in two central facets—access and inclusion.
  • Phase III of the eCourts Project envisions a judicial system that is more easily accessible irrespective of geographical distances, efficient and equitable for every individual who seeks justice, makes more efficient use of human and other resources, and absorbs the latest technology for a positive environmental impact.

 

URANUS

Uranus, the seventh planet from the sun is reflecting X-rays, says a new study by scientists.

About:

  • This is the first time astronomers have detected X-rays from Uranus, which is also known as the ‘sideways planet’ because it rotates on its side, unlike any other planet in our solar system.
  • As part of this new study, scientists compared observations of the Chandra Space Telescope dating back to 2002 and 2017.
  • The Chandra program is managed by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center and is a vital source of information for scientists examining the solar system, along with the Hubble Space Telescope.
  • NASA said the Sun could cause Uranus to emit X-rays. This is not entirely uncommon since scientists have already established that both Jupiter and Saturn scatter X-ray light given off by the sun.

Important Info :

Do you know?

  • Uranus has the third-largest planetary radius and fourth-largest planetary mass in the Solar System. Uranus is similar in composition to Neptune, and both have bulk chemical compositions which differ from that of the larger gas giants Jupiter and Saturn. For this reason, scientists often classify Uranus and Neptune as “ice giants” to distinguish them from the other gas giants.
  • It has the coldest planetary atmosphere in the Solar System.
  • Like the other giant planets, Uranus has a ring system, a magnetosphere, and numerous moons.
  • Voyager 2 remains the only spacecraft to visit the planet.

 

INGENUITY (HELICOPTER)

In another major success for the US space agency NASA, its Mars helicopter Ingenuity has been dropped on the surface of the Red Planet ahead of its historic first flight scheduled for April 11.

About:

  • Ingenuity is a small robotic helicopter located on Mars since February 18, 2021 that is intended to make the first powered atmospheric flight on a planet beyond Earth.
  • Part of NASA’s Mars 2020 mission, the small coaxial, drone rotorcraft will serve as a technology demonstrator for the potential use of flying probes on other worlds, with the potential to scout locations of interest and support the future planning of driving routes for Mars rovers.
  • Ingenuity, now on the Martian surface, was attached to the underside of the Perseverance rover.

 

FOREST FIRES

Uttarakhand has witnessed over 1,000 incidents of forest fire over the last six months, including 45 in the last 24 hours alone, and has reached out to the Centre for helicopters and personnel from the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF).

About:

  • Since the start of 2021, there has been a series of forest fires in Himachal Pradesh, Nagaland-Manipur border, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, and Gujarat, including in wildlife sanctuaries.
  • April-May is the season when forest fires take place in various parts of the country.
  • But forest fires have been more frequent than usual in Uttarakhand and have also taken place during winter; dry soil caused by a weak monsoon is being seen as one of the causes.
  • Forest fires can be caused by a number of natural causes, but officials say many major fires in India are triggered mainly by human activities.

Important Info :

How prone to fire are India’s forests?

  • As of 2019, about 21.67% (7,12,249 sq km) of the country’s geographical area is identified as forest, according to the India State of Forest Report 2019 (ISFR) released by the Forest Survey of India (FSI), Dehradun. Tree cover makes up another 2.89% (95, 027 sq km).
  • Based on previous fire incidents and recorded events, forests of the Northeast and central India regions are the most vulnerable areas to forest fires, the FSI has said. Forests in Assam, Mizoram and Tripura have been identified as ‘extremely prone’ to forest fire.
  • Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh are the two states that witness the most frequent forest fires annually.

 

SANATANA DHARMA

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has expressed grief over the passing away of Geeta Press President Radheshyam Khemka. Mr. Modi said Radheshyam Khemka took Sanatan literature to the masses.

About:

  • Sanātanī is a term used to describe Hindu movements that incorporate various teachings from the Vedas, Upanishads, and other Hindu texts such as the Ramayana and Bhagavad Gita.
  • Sanatana Dharma (meaning “eternal dharma”) denotes duties (righteousness) performed according to one’s spiritual identity as Ātman. Sanatana Dharma is presently a large facet of the collective synthesis of beliefs known as Hinduism.

 

INS VIRAAT

INS Viraat, the Navy’s decommissioned aircraft carrier, has become the “private property” of a ship-breaker who has already torn down 40% of its body, chiefly for scrap, the Supreme Court told a private company, that wants to turn the vessel into a maritime museum-cum-adventure centre.

About:

  • On February 10, the court had ordered a stay on the process of dismantling the ship.
  • The carrier was bought by the Gujarat-based Shree Ram Group, a ship-breaking firm, in a bid. The 67-year-old iconic warship was towed to the breaking yard after over three decades’ service in the Navy.

Important Info :

Do you know?

  • INS Viraat was a Centaur-class aircraft carrier of the Indian Navy.
  • INS Viraat was the flagship of the Indian Navy before INS Vikramaditya was commissioned in 2013.
  • The ship was completed and commissioned in 1959 as the Royal Navy’s HMS Hermes, and decommissioned in 1984. It was sold to India in 1987. INS Viraat was commissioned into the Indian Navy in 1987 served till 2016 when it was decommissioned.

 

CHENAB BRIDGE

The Prime Minister has lauded the completion of Arch closure of the Chenab Bridge, World’s highest Railway Bridge in Jammu & Kashmir by Indian Railways.

About:

  • The length of the Chenab bridge will be 1,315 metres with 17 spans, of which the span of the main arch across Chenab river will be 467m.
  • The bridge is part of an ambitious 272-km rail link project and is being constructed by the Northern Railway at an estimated cost of ₹28,000 crore.
  • The bridge will be able to withstand earthquakes with a magnitude of up to eight and high-intensity blasts.
  • The bridge, which will include a 14-metre dual carriageway and a 1.2-metre-wide central verge, will have a design speed of around 100 kilometres per hour with a lifespan of 120 years.

 

TRIBUNALS REFORMS (RATIONALISATION AND CONDITIONS OF SERVICE) ORDINANCE, 2021

The President of India has promulgated the Tribunals Reforms (Rationalisation and Conditions of Service) Ordinance, 2021, by which the appellate authorities under nine Acts have been done away with and the right to hear appeals under the statute has been conferred to High Courts.

About:

  • Section 184 of the Finance Act, 2017 has been amended to empower the Central Government to make rules for qualifications, appointment, term of office, salaries and allowances, resignation, removal and other terms and conditions of service of Members of Tribunals.
  • The Ordinance omits following Tribunals/ Appellate Authorities from the purview of Finance Act:
    • Airport Appellate Tribunal established under the Airport Authority of India Act, 1994
    • Appellate Board established under the Trade Marks Act, 1999
    • Authority for Advance Ruling established under the Income Tax Act, 1961
    • Film Certification Appellate Tribunal established under the Cinematograph Act, 1952
  • Further, it substitutes the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission established under the erstwhile Consumer Protection Act, 1986 with a National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission established under the Consumer Protection Act, 2019.

 

CENTRAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION (CBI)

The Supreme Court told the government that interim appointments to the post of CBI Director cannot go on.

About:

  • The remark came during the hearing of a petition filed by Common Cause, represented by advocate Prashant Bhushan, objecting to the appointment of Praveen Sinha as interim CBI Director following the retirement of Rishi Kumar Shukla on February 2.
  • The petition said the government had failed to appoint a regular Director through the high-power selection committee of the Prime Minister, Chief Justice of India and Leader of Opposition.
  • The Common Cause has argued that an interim appointment through an executive order was not envisaged in the statutory scheme of the 1946 Act.
  • The agency should function independently outside the pale of the Executive or political powers. This was exactly why a high-powered committee selects the CBI Director.

Important Info :

Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI)?

  • The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is the premier investigating agency of India.
  • It operates under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions.
  • (India), Originally set up to investigate bribery and governmental corruption, in 1965 it received expanded jurisdiction to investigate breaches of central laws enforceable by the Government of India, multi-state organised crime, multi-agency or international cases.
  • The CBI headquarter is located in New Delhi.

 

SADABAHAR

Shrikishan Suman (55 years), a farmer from Kota, Rajasthan, has developed an innovative mango variety which is a regular and round-the-year dwarf variety of mango called Sadabahar, which is resistant to most major diseases and common mango disorders.

About:

  • The fruit is sweeter in taste, comparable to langra and being a dwarf variety, is suitable for kitchen gardening, high-density plantation, and can be grown in pots for some years too.
  • Besides, the flesh of the fruits, which is bourn round the year, is deep orange with sweet taste, and the pulp has very less fiber content which differentiates it from other varieties.
  • The innovative attributes of the variety have been verified by the National Innovation Foundation (NIF), India, an autonomous institution of the Department of Science & Technology, Government of India.
  • NIF has also facilitated the plantation of Sadabahar mango variety in the Mughal Garden at Rashtrapati Bhawan in New Delhi.

 

INTEGRATED HEALTH INFORMATION PLATFORM (IHIP)

The Union Minister of Health, Harsh Vardhan launched the Integrated Health Information Platform (IHIP).

About:

  • The Integrated Health Information Platform (IHIP) is the next generation highly refined version of the presently used Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme (IDSP).
  • According to the minister, India is the first country in the world to adopt such an advanced disease surveillance system.
  • The new version of IHIP will house the data entry and management for India’s disease surveillance program.
  • In addition to tracking 33 diseases now as compared to the earlier 18 diseases, it shall ensure near-real-time data in digital mode, having done away with the paper-mode of working.
  • Terming this as the world’s biggest online disease surveillance platform, he stated that it is in sync with the National Digital Health Mission.

 

CHAFF TECHNOLOGY

Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has developed an Advanced Chaff Technology to safeguard the naval ships against enemy missile attack.

About:

  • Defence Laboratory Jodhpur (DLJ), a DRDO laboratory, has indigenously developed three variants of this technology namely Short Range Chaff Rocket (SRCR), Medium Range Chaff Rocket (MRCR) and Long Range Chaff Rocket (LRCR) meeting Indian Navy’s requirements.
  • Chaff is a passive expendable electronic countermeasure technology used worldwide to protect naval ships from enemy’s radar and Radio Frequency (RF) missile seekers.
  • The importance of this development lies in the fact that very less quantity of chaff material deployed in the air acts as decoy to deflect enemy’s missiles for safety of the ships.

 

LA PEROUSE

Indian Navy Ships INS Satpura and INS Kiltan along with P8I Long Range Maritime Patrol Aircraft are participating, for the first time; in multi-lateral maritime exercise La Pérouse, being conducted in the Eastern Indian Ocean Region from 05 to 07 April 2021.

About:

  • The Indian Navy ships and aircraft will exercise at sea with ships and aircraft of French Navy (FN), Royal Australian Navy (RAN), Japan Maritime Self Defence Force (JMSDF) and United States Navy (USN) during the three day exercise at sea.
  • The exercise La Pérouse is led by French Navy.
  • Exercise La Pérouse will witness complex and advanced naval operations including surface warfare, anti-air warfare and air defence exercises, weapon firing exercises, cross deck flying operations, tactical manoeuvres and seamanship evolutions such as replenishment at sea.

 

SPICES BOARD INDIA

Spices Board India and UNDP India’s Accelerator Lab signed a MoU, with the aim to build a blockchain based traceability interface for Indian spices to enhance transparency in supply chain and trade.

About:

  • The project will be piloted with over 3,000 farmers engaged in chilli and turmeric farming in select Districts of Andhra Pradesh.
  • Blockchain is a decentralized process of recording transactions on an open and shared electronic ledger. This allows for ease and transparency in data management across a complex network, including, farmers, brokers, distributors, retailers and consumers, thus simplifying the supply chain.

Important Info :

About Spices Board?

  • Spices Board is one of the five Commodity Boards functioning under the Ministry of Commerce &Industry.
  • It is an autonomous body responsible for the export promotion of the 52 scheduled spices and development of Cardamom (Small & Large).

 

GLOBAL GENDER GAP REPORT

India has fallen 28 places in the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2021, and is now one of the worst performers in South Asia, trailing behind neighbours Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka and Myanmar.

About:

  • India is now ranked 140 among 156 countries.
  • South Asia incidentally is one of the worst performing regions, followed only by the Middle East and northern Africa.
  • many countries have fared worse in this year’s rankings compared to last year’s, on account of economic performance.
  • On its current trajectory, it will now take 135.6 years to close the gender gap worldwide.
  • The gender gap in political empowerment remains the largest: women represent only 26.1 per cent of some 35,500 parliament seats and just 22.6 per cent of over 3,400 ministers worldwide, according to the report.
  • In 81 countries, there has never been a woman head of state, as of January 15, 2021.

 

INS VIRAAT

INS Viraat, the Navy’s decommissioned aircraft carrier, has become the “private property” of a ship-breaker who has already torn down 40% of its body, chiefly for scrap, the Supreme Court told a private company, that wants to turn the vessel into a maritime museum-cum-adventure centre.

About:

  • On February 10, the court had ordered a stay on the process of dismantling the ship.
  • The carrier was bought by the Gujarat-based Shree Ram Group, a ship-breaking firm, in a bid. The 67-year-old iconic warship was towed to the breaking yard after over three decades’ service in the Navy.

Important Info :

Do you know?

  • INS Viraat was a Centaur-class aircraft carrier of the Indian Navy.
  • INS Viraat was the flagship of the Indian Navy before INS Vikramaditya was commissioned in 2013.
  • The ship was completed and commissioned in 1959 as the Royal Navy’s HMS Hermes, and decommissioned in 1984. It was sold to India in 1987. INS Viraat was commissioned into the Indian Navy in 1987 served till 2016 when it was decommissioned.

 

CHENAB BRIDGE

The Prime Minister has lauded the completion of Arch closure of the Chenab Bridge, World’s highest Railway Bridge in Jammu & Kashmir by Indian Railways.

About:

  • The length of the Chenab bridge will be 1,315 metres with 17 spans, of which the span of the main arch across Chenab river will be 467m.
  • The bridge is part of an ambitious 272-km rail link project and is being constructed by the Northern Railway at an estimated cost of ₹28,000 crore.
  • The bridge will be able to withstand earthquakes with a magnitude of up to eight and high-intensity blasts.
  • The bridge, which will include a 14-metre dual carriageway and a 1.2-metre-wide central verge, will have a design speed of around 100 kilometres per hour with a lifespan of 120 years.

 

TRIBUNALS REFORMS (RATIONALISATION AND CONDITIONS OF SERVICE) ORDINANCE, 2021

The President of India has promulgated the Tribunals Reforms (Rationalisation and Conditions of Service) Ordinance, 2021, by which the appellate authorities under nine Acts have been done away with and the right to hear appeals under the statute has been conferred to High Courts.

About:

  • Section 184 of the Finance Act, 2017 has been amended to empower the Central Government to make rules for qualifications, appointment, term of office, salaries and allowances, resignation, removal and other terms and conditions of service of Members of Tribunals.
  • The Ordinance omits following Tribunals/ Appellate Authorities from the purview of Finance Act:
    • Airport Appellate Tribunal established under the Airport Authority of India Act, 1994
    • Appellate Board established under the Trade Marks Act, 1999
    • Authority for Advance Ruling established under the Income Tax Act, 1961
    • Film Certification Appellate Tribunal established under the Cinematograph Act, 1952
  • Further, it substitutes the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission established under the erstwhile Consumer Protection Act, 1986 with a National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission established under the Consumer Protection Act, 2019.

 

CENTRAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION (CBI)

The Supreme Court told the government that interim appointments to the post of CBI Director cannot go on.

About:

  • The remark came during the hearing of a petition filed by Common Cause, represented by advocate Prashant Bhushan, objecting to the appointment of Praveen Sinha as interim CBI Director following the retirement of Rishi Kumar Shukla on February 2.
  • The petition said the government had failed to appoint a regular Director through the high-power selection committee of the Prime Minister, Chief Justice of India and Leader of Opposition.
  • The Common Cause has argued that an interim appointment through an executive order was not envisaged in the statutory scheme of the 1946 Act.
  • The agency should function independently outside the pale of the Executive or political powers. This was exactly why a high-powered committee selects the CBI Director.

Important Info :

Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI)?

  • The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is the premier investigating agency of India.
  • It operates under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions.
  • (India), Originally set up to investigate bribery and governmental corruption, in 1965 it received expanded jurisdiction to investigate breaches of central laws enforceable by the Government of India, multi-state organised crime, multi-agency or international cases.
  • The CBI headquarter is located in New Delhi.

 

SADABAHAR

Shrikishan Suman (55 years), a farmer from Kota, Rajasthan, has developed an innovative mango variety which is a regular and round-the-year dwarf variety of mango called Sadabahar, which is resistant to most major diseases and common mango disorders.

About:

  • The fruit is sweeter in taste, comparable to langra and being a dwarf variety, is suitable for kitchen gardening, high-density plantation, and can be grown in pots for some years too.
  • Besides, the flesh of the fruits, which is bourn round the year, is deep orange with sweet taste, and the pulp has very less fiber content which differentiates it from other varieties.
  • The innovative attributes of the variety have been verified by the National Innovation Foundation (NIF), India, an autonomous institution of the Department of Science & Technology, Government of India.
  • NIF has also facilitated the plantation of Sadabahar mango variety in the Mughal Garden at Rashtrapati Bhawan in New Delhi.

 

INTEGRATED HEALTH INFORMATION PLATFORM (IHIP)

The Union Minister of Health, Harsh Vardhan launched the Integrated Health Information Platform (IHIP).

About:

  • The Integrated Health Information Platform (IHIP) is the next generation highly refined version of the presently used Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme (IDSP).
  • According to the minister, India is the first country in the world to adopt such an advanced disease surveillance system.
  • The new version of IHIP will house the data entry and management for India’s disease surveillance program.
  • In addition to tracking 33 diseases now as compared to the earlier 18 diseases, it shall ensure near-real-time data in digital mode, having done away with the paper-mode of working.
  • Terming this as the world’s biggest online disease surveillance platform, he stated that it is in sync with the National Digital Health Mission.

 

CHAFF TECHNOLOGY

Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has developed an Advanced Chaff Technology to safeguard the naval ships against enemy missile attack.

About:

  • Defence Laboratory Jodhpur (DLJ), a DRDO laboratory, has indigenously developed three variants of this technology namely Short Range Chaff Rocket (SRCR), Medium Range Chaff Rocket (MRCR) and Long Range Chaff Rocket (LRCR) meeting Indian Navy’s requirements.
  • Chaff is a passive expendable electronic countermeasure technology used worldwide to protect naval ships from enemy’s radar and Radio Frequency (RF) missile seekers.
  • The importance of this development lies in the fact that very less quantity of chaff material deployed in the air acts as decoy to deflect enemy’s missiles for safety of the ships.

 

LA PEROUSE

Indian Navy Ships INS Satpura and INS Kiltan along with P8I Long Range Maritime Patrol Aircraft are participating, for the first time; in multi-lateral maritime exercise La Pérouse, being conducted in the Eastern Indian Ocean Region from 05 to 07 April 2021.

About:

  • The Indian Navy ships and aircraft will exercise at sea with ships and aircraft of French Navy (FN), Royal Australian Navy (RAN), Japan Maritime Self Defence Force (JMSDF) and United States Navy (USN) during the three day exercise at sea.
  • The exercise La Pérouse is led by French Navy.
  • Exercise La Pérouse will witness complex and advanced naval operations including surface warfare, anti-air warfare and air defence exercises, weapon firing exercises, cross deck flying operations, tactical manoeuvres and seamanship evolutions such as replenishment at sea.

 

SPICES BOARD INDIA

Spices Board India and UNDP India’s Accelerator Lab signed a MoU, with the aim to build a blockchain based traceability interface for Indian spices to enhance transparency in supply chain and trade.

About:

  • The project will be piloted with over 3,000 farmers engaged in chilli and turmeric farming in select Districts of Andhra Pradesh.
  • Blockchain is a decentralized process of recording transactions on an open and shared electronic ledger. This allows for ease and transparency in data management across a complex network, including, farmers, brokers, distributors, retailers and consumers, thus simplifying the supply chain.

Important Info :

About Spices Board?

  • Spices Board is one of the five Commodity Boards functioning under the Ministry of Commerce &Industry.
  • It is an autonomous body responsible for the export promotion of the 52 scheduled spices and development of Cardamom (Small & Large).

 

GLOBAL GENDER GAP REPORT

India has fallen 28 places in the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2021, and is now one of the worst performers in South Asia, trailing behind neighbours Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka and Myanmar.

About:

  • India is now ranked 140 among 156 countries.
  • South Asia incidentally is one of the worst performing regions, followed only by the Middle East and northern Africa.
  • many countries have fared worse in this year’s rankings compared to last year’s, on account of economic performance.
  • On its current trajectory, it will now take 135.6 years to close the gender gap worldwide.
  • The gender gap in political empowerment remains the largest: women represent only 26.1 per cent of some 35,500 parliament seats and just 22.6 per cent of over 3,400 ministers worldwide, according to the report.
  • In 81 countries, there has never been a woman head of state, as of January 15, 2021.

 

MONETARY POLICY

The Reserve Bank of India’s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) has decided to keep its short term lending rate or the repo rate unchanged at 4 per cent, in line with market expectations.

About:

  • Announcing the monetary policy, RBI Governor said the central bank will maintain its ‘accommodative stance’ as long as required to sustain growth on a durable basis.
  • The RBI maintained its GDP growth forecast at 10.5 per cent for 2021-22.

Measures for liquidity announced

  • RBI also announced a series of measures to inject liquidity in the government securities market and the financial system.
  • RBI will ensure orderly conduct of government borrowing programme. In this respect, the central bank announced a secondary market government securities (G-sec) acquisition plan worth Rs 1 lakh crore for April-June.
  • Amid the government plans to support a new asset reconstruction company being set up by banks, the RBI has decided to set up a committee to review the working of ARCs to ensure how better these entities can support the financial sector.
  • In the policy review, the RBI decided to extend the RTGS and NEFT payments platforms to prepaid payment instruments, white label ATMs as well.

 

PLI SCHEME ‘NATIONAL PROGRAMME ON HIGH EFFICIENCY SOLAR PV MODULES’

The Union Cabinet has approved the Ministry of New & Renewable Energy’s proposal for implementation of the Production Linked Incentive (PLI) Scheme ‘National Programme on High Efficiency Solar PV (Photo Voltic) Modules’ for achieving manufacturing capacity of Giga Watt (GW) scale in high efficiency solar PV modules with an outlay of Rs.4,500 crore.

About:

  • Solar PV manufacturers will be selected through a transparent competitive bidding process.
  • PLI will be disbursed for 5 years post commissioning of solar PV manufacturing plants, on sales of high efficiency solar PV modules.

The outcomes/ benefits expected from the scheme are as follows:

  • Additional 10,000 MW capacity of integrated solar PV manufacturing plants,
  • Direct investment of around Rs.17,200 crore in solar PV manufacturing projects
  • Demand of Rs.17,500 crore over 5 years for ‘Balance of Materials’,
  • Direct employment of about 30,000 and Indirect employment of about1,20,000 persons,
  • Import substitution of around Rs.17,500 crore every year, and
  • Impetus to Research & Development to achieve higher efficiency in solar PV modules.

E9 PARTNERSHIP

Minister for Education (India) addressed the consultation meeting of Education Ministers of E9 countries on E9 initiative: Scaling up digital learning to accelerate progress towards Sustainable Development Goal 4 – Quality Education.

About:

  • Spearheaded by the United Nations (UN), the E9 Partnership was first established in 1993.
  • E9 Countries include Bangladesh, Brazil, China, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Nigeria, and Pakistan.
  • The initiative aims to advance the Sustainable Development Goal 4 agenda by driving rapid change in education systems in three of the 2020 Global Education Meeting priorities: (i) support to teachers; (ii) investment in skills; and (iii) narrowing of the digital divide.

 

 

PLI SCHEME FOR WHITE GOODS (AIR CONDITIONERS AND LED LIGHTS)

The Union Cabinet approved the Production Linked Incentive (PLI) Scheme for White Goods (Air Conditioners and LED Lights) with a budgetary outlay of Rs. 6,238 crore.

About:

  • The PLI Scheme for White Goods shall extend an incentive of 4% to 6% on incremental sales of goods manufactured in India for a period of five years to companies engaged in manufacturing of Air Conditioners and LED Lights.
  • An entity availing benefits under any other PLI Scheme of Govt. India will not be eligible under this scheme for the same products but the entity may take benefits under other applicable schemes of Govt. of India or schemes of State governments.
  • The Scheme will be implemented as a pan India scheme and is not specific to any location, area or segment of population. A number of global and domestic companies, including a number of MSMEs are likely to benefit from the Scheme.
  • Benefits: It is estimated that over the period of five years, the PLI Scheme will lead to incremental investment of Rs. 7,920 Crore, incremental Production worth Rs. 1,68,000 Crore, exports worth Rs 64,400 Crore, earn direct and indirect revenues of Rs 49,300 crore and create additional four lakh direct and indirect employment opportunities.

Important Info :

White goods?

  • A major appliance, also known as a large domestic appliance or large electric appliance is a non-portable or semi-portable machine used for routine housekeeping tasks such as cooking, washing laundry, or food preservation.
  • Such appliances are sometimes collectively known as white goods, as the products were traditionally white in colour, although a variety of colours are now available.

 

HAREKRUSHNA MAHTAB

Prime Minister Modi will release the Hindi translation of the book ‘Odisha Itihaas’ written by ‘Utkal Keshari’ Dr. Harekrushna Mahtab on 9th April 2021.

About:

  • The book, available in Odia and English so far, has been translated into Hindi by Shri. Shankarlal Purohit.
  • The event marking the release of the Hindi version has been organised by Harekrushna Mahtab Foundation.

Important Info :

About the Author

  • Harekrushna Mahtab was a notable figure in the Indian Independence Movement.
  • He also served as Chief Minister of Odisha from 1946 to 1950 and from 1956 to 1961.
  • He wrote the book ‘Odisha Itihaas’ in Ahmednagar Fort Jail, where he was imprisoned for more than two years during 1942-1945.

 

NATIONAL INVESTIGATION AGENCY (NIA)

Former police officer and “encounter specialist” Pradeep Sharma was called by NIA for questioning in connection with the Mukesh Ambani terror scare case.

About:

  • National Investigation Agency (NIA) is the Central Counter Terrorism Law Enforcement Agency of India.
  • Parent agency: Union Ministry of Home Affairs.
  • Establishment: NIA was created after the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks with the enactment of the National Investigation Agency Act 2008.
  • Jurisdiction:
    • The agency is empowered to deal with terror related crimes across states without special permission from the states.
    • A State Government may request the Central Government to hand over the investigation of a case to the NIA, provided the case has been registered for the offences as contained in the schedule to the NIA Act.
  • NIA special courts:
    • Various Special Courts have been notified by the Govt. of India for trial of the cases arising out of offences committed in various states of the Union.
    • These are presided over by a judge appointed by the Central Government on the recommendation of the Chief Justice of the High Court with jurisdiction in that region.
  • Offices: it is headquartered in Delhi and has branch offices in 8 locations.

Important Info :

National Investigative Agency (Amendment) Bill, 2019

  • In 2019, the Parliament passed the National Investigation Agency (Amendment) Bill, 2019.
  • The amendment strengthens the National Investigation Agency (NIA) to speed up trials in terrorism-related cases. By designating special courts, the cases would be expedited and transfers or delay in appointments of judges would not delay them.
  • The agency will be able to investigate terrorist acts against Indian embassies and assets abroad and take up cases of drug, arms and women trafficking apart from cyber-terrorism.

‘LAB ON WHEELS’ PROGRAMME

Delhi Education Minister Manish Sisodia has inaugurated Delhi Technological University’s ‘Lab on Wheels’ programme.

About:

  • It will have students of the university travelling in a bus across Delhi to teach government school students and underprivileged children.
  • The idea is to impart education in the fields of Mathematics and Science to those students who come from marginalised and poor economic backgrounds, in order to pique their interests in these subjects while pursuing higher education.
  • In the end, the hope is that it becomes mutually beneficial, if some of these students decide to take admission in DTU once they finish schooling.
  • The ‘Lab on Wheels’ will comprise 16 computers, two televisions, one 3D printer, one laptop, cameras and one printer. It will be Wi-Fi enabled, with 100 per cent power back up and fully air-conditioned.

 

VACCINES FOR ANIMALS

The ICAR-Indian Veterinary Research Institute, Izatnagar, Bareilly, Uttar Pradesh transferred the Technology – CSF and Sheep Pox Vaccines to M/s Hester Biosciences through Agrinnovate India Limited.

Live Attenuated Indigenous CSF Cell Culture Vaccine (IVRI-CSF-BS):

  • The Classical Swine Fever (CSF) is an important disease of pigs that causes 100% mortality.
  • In India, the disease is controlled by a lapinized CSF vaccine (Weybridge Strain, U.K.) produced by killing large numbers of rabbits.
  • To avoid this, the ICAR-IVRI developed a Cell Culture CSF Vaccine using the Lapinized Vaccine Virus from foreign strain.

Important Info :

Indigenous Live Attenuated Sheep Pox Vaccine [SPPV Srin 38/00]:

  • Sheep pox is a severe viral disease in sheep.
  • A live attenuated Sheep Pox Vaccine using indigenous strain was developed by the Institute for preventive vaccination in the sheep population.
  • The developed Vaccine uses indigenous Sheep Pox Virus Strain [SPPV Srin 38/00] and is adapted to grow in the Vero cell line which makes the Vaccine production to be easily scalable.

 

INS SARVEKSHAK

INS Sarvekshak, a hydrographic survey ship, is on a deployment to Mauritius for undertaking joint hydrographic surveys along with their Mauritian counterparts.

About:

  • During the deployment, training of Mauritian personnel on advanced hydrographic equipment and practices will also be undertaken. The ship visited Port Louis, Mauritius and commenced the hydrographic survey of ‘Deep sea area off Port Louis’.
  • INS Sarvekshak, a specialised survey ship is fitted with state-of-the-art survey equipment like Deep Sea Multi-Beam Echo Sounder, Side Scan Sonars and a fully automated digital surveying and processing system.
  • In addition, the ship carries an integral Chetak helicopter, which would be extensively deployed during the survey.
  • INS Sarvekshak has undertaken various foreign cooperation surveys over the last few years in Mauritius, Seychelles, Tanzania and Kenya.

 

INDIA – JAPAN RELATIONS

The Union Cabinet is apprised of a MoU signed between National Atmospheric Research Laboratory (NARL), Dept of Space, Government of India and Research Institute for Sustainable Humanosphere (RISH), Kyoto University, Kyoto, Japan for Academic and Research Cooperation and Exchange in November, 2020.

Objectives

  • This MoU shall enable NARL and RISH to continue their cooperation in areas of atmospheric science and technology.
  • This MoU would lead to mutual utilization of facilities such as the Middle and Upper atmosphere (MU) radar in Shigaraki, Japan, the Equatorial Atmosphere Radar (EAR) in Kototabang, Indonesia etc.

Background

  • NARL and RISH have been collaborating in the area of atmospheric science and technology as well as exchange of scientists.
  • This arrangement was formalised in 2008 through an MoU which was renewed in the year 2013.
  • A fresh MOU to promote collaborative research, as per the new guidelines, was signed in November 2020 by both sides and exchanged.

 

INDIA – JAPAN RELATIONS

The Union Cabinet is apprised of a MoU signed between National Atmospheric Research Laboratory (NARL), Dept of Space, Government of India and Research Institute for Sustainable Humanosphere (RISH), Kyoto University, Kyoto, Japan for Academic and Research Cooperation and Exchange in November, 2020.

Objectives

  • This MoU shall enable NARL and RISH to continue their cooperation in areas of atmospheric science and technology.
  • This MoU would lead to mutual utilization of facilities such as the Middle and Upper atmosphere (MU) radar in Shigaraki, Japan, the Equatorial Atmosphere Radar (EAR) in Kototabang, Indonesia etc.

Background

  • NARL and RISH have been collaborating in the area of atmospheric science and technology as well as exchange of scientists.
  • This arrangement was formalised in 2008 through an MoU which was renewed in the year 2013.
  • A fresh MOU to promote collaborative research, as per the new guidelines, was signed in November 2020 by both sides and exchanged.

 

B.1.617

The “double mutant” virus that scientists had flagged last month as having a bearing on the spread of the pandemic in India, has a formal scientific classification: B.1.617.

About:

  • The variant is common in India and has a couple of defining mutations, E484Q and L425R, that enable it to become more infectious and evade antibodies.
  • Though these mutations have individually been found in several other coronavirus variants, the presence of both mutations together were first found in some coronavirus genomes from India.
  • Certain variants of the coronavirus, for instance, B.1.1.7 and B.1.351 — have been termed the “United Kingdom” and “South Africa” variant, respectively, because they have mutations associated with large spikes in these countries or reduce the efficacy of vaccines and are termed “variants of concern (VOC)”.
  • So far, only three global VOCs have been identified: the U.K. variant, the South African and the Brazilian (P.1) lineage.

 

Muon g–2

Newly published results of an international experiment hint at the possibility of new physics governing the laws of nature.

About:

  • The results of the experiment, which studied a subatomic particle called the muon, do not match the predictions of the Standard Model, on which all particle physics is based, and instead reconfirm a discrepancy that had been detected in an experiment 20 years previously.
  • The experiment, called Muon g–2 (g minus two), was conducted at the US Department of Energy’s Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab).

What is the Standard Model?

  • The Standard Model is a rigorous theory that predicts the behaviour of the building blocks of the universe.
  • It lays out the rules for six types of quarks, six leptons, the Higgs boson, three fundamental forces, and how the subatomic particles behave under the influence of electromagnetic forces.
  • The muon is one of the leptons. It is similar to the electron, but 200 times larger, and much more unstable, surviving for a fraction of a second.

Muon g–2 experiment

  • It measured a quantity relating to the muon, following up a previous experiment at Brookhaven National Laboratory, under the US Department of Energy.
  • Concluded in 2001, the Brookhaven experiment came up with results that did not identically match predictions by the Standard Model.
  • The Muon g–2 experiment measured this quantity with greater accuracy.

What quantity was measured?

  • It is called the g–factor, a measure that derives from the magnetic properties of the muon.
  • The rate at which the muon wobbles is described by the g-factor, the quantity that was measured.
  • This value is known to be close to 2, so scientists measure the deviation from 2. Hence the name g–2.
  • The new experimental results (combined from the Brookhaven and Fermilab results) announced are:
    • g-factor: 00233184122
    • anomalous magnetic moment: 00116592061.

 

TRIBUNALS REFORMS (RATIONALISATION AND CONDITIONS OF SERVICE) ORDINANCE, 2021

The Government of India by an ordinance abolished the Film Certificate Appellate Tribunal (FCAT), which heard appeals by filmmakers seeking certification for their films.

About:

  • The Tribunals Reforms (Rationalisation and Conditions of Service) Ordinance, 2021, which came into effect on April 4, amends the Cinematograph Act, 1952 by omitting some sections and replacing the word “Tribunal” with “High Court” in other sections.
  • The abolition of FCAT means filmmakers will now have to approach the High Court whenever they want to challenge a CBFC certification, or lack of it. The sudden move has upset many filmmakers.

Important Info :

Film Certificate Appellate Tribunal (FCAT)

  • FCAT was a statutory body constituted set up by the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting in 1983, under Section 5D of the Cinematograph Act, 1952.
  • Its main job was to hear appeals filed under Section 5C of the Cinematograph Act, by applicants for certification aggrieved by the decision of the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC).
  • The tribunal was headed by a chairperson and had four other members, including a Secretary appointed by the Government of India to handle.
  • The Tribunal was headquartered in New Delhi.

 

GOVERNMENT SECURITIES ACQUISITION PROGRAMME (G-SAP)

RBI Governor has announced Government Securities Acquisition Programme (G-SAP), through which it will purchase government securities worth Rs 1 lakh crore in the first quarter of FY22.

Benefits of this Programme:

  • In the backdrop of the government’s elevated borrowing for this year, which the RBI has to ensure goes through without causing disruption, G-SAP aims to provide more comfort to the bond market.
  • Market participants always wanted to know the RBI’s Open Market Operations (OMO) purchase calendar, and the RBI has now provided that to the market through this announcement on GSAP.
  • it will provide certainty to the bond market participants with regard to RBI’s commitment of support to the bond market in FY22.
  • The announcement of this structured programme will help reduce the spread between the repo rate and the 10-year government bond yield. That, in turn, will help to reduce the aggregate cost of borrowing for the Centre and states in FY22.

 

NET-ZERO GOAL

John Kerry, the US President’s Special Envoy on Climate, is currently on a three-day visit to India. One of the objectives of Kerry’s visit is to explore whether India can agree to the possibility of pledging itself to a 2050 net-zero goal.

About:

  • Net-zero, which is also referred to as carbon-neutrality, does not mean that a country would bring down its emissions to zero.
  • Rather, net-zero is a state in which a country’s emissions are compensated by absorption and removal of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.
  • Absorption of the emissions can be increased by creating more carbon sinks such as forests, while removal of gases from the atmosphere requires futuristic technologies such as carbon capture and storage.
  • This way, it is even possible for a country to have negative emissions, if the absorption and removal exceed the actual emissions. A good example is Bhutan which is often described as carbon-negative because it absorbs more than it emits.

Significance of net-zero goal by 2050

  • A very active campaign has been going on for the last two years to get every country to sign on to a net-zero goal for 2050.
  • It is being argued that global carbon neutrality by 2050 is the only way to achieve the Paris Agreement target of keeping the planet’s temperature from rising beyond 2°C compared to pre-industrial times.
  • Current policies and actions being taken to reduce emissions would not even be able to prevent a 3–4°C rise by the turn of the century.

Important Info :

India’s objections

  • India, the world’s third biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, after the US and China, is the only one opposing this target because it is likely to be the most impacted by it.
  • Over the next two to three decades, India’s emissions are likely to grow at the fastest pace in the world, as it presses for higher growth to pull hundreds of millions of people out of poverty.
  • No amount of afforestation or reforestation would be able to compensate for the increased emissions. Most of the carbon removal technologies right now are either unreliable or very expensive.
  • India also argues that the net-zero goal does not figure in the 2015 Paris Agreement, the new global architecture to fight climate change. The Paris Agreement only requires every signatory to take the best climate action it can.

 

CIVIL DEFENCE VOLUNTEERS

From being lauded for their work during the pandemic to facing allegations of high-handedness, the role of the civil defence volunteers in the national capital has come under intense scrutiny in the recent past.

About:

  • Due to their identical khaki uniform, it often becomes difficult for people to distinguish between police and civil defence personnel, leading to arguments.
  • The Delhi Police also issued a statement, pointing out that civil defence personnel, also known as Delhi Civil Defence (DCD) volunteers, have no power to stop people using police barricades and prosecute them for violation of Covid-19 appropriate behaviour such as not wearing masks.

Important Info :

Who are civil defence volunteers?

  • In Delhi, these are men and women who work under the command of the district magistrates.
  • The overall command lies with the divisional commissioner, to which the DMs report.
  • These volunteers are governed by the Civil Defence Act, 1968 which was last amended in 2010, when disaster management was added as one of their roles.
  • With the Centre invoking the Disaster Management Act in the wake of the Covid-19 outbreak in 2020, the role of these volunteers came under the spotlight.
  • According to the Civil Defence Act, 1968, civil defence is defined as any measure “not amounting to actual combat, that protects persons, property and places in India from hostile attack”. The 2010 amendment expanded the definition by including disaster management as one of the responsibilities.

INDIA – SEYCHELLES RELATIONS

PM Modi and Seychelles President jointly inaugurate several Indian projects in Seychelles.

About:

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said that Seychelles is central to India’s vision of ‘SAGAR’ – ‘Security and Growth for All in the Region’.
  • During times of need, India was able to supply essential medicines and 50,000 doses of Made in India vaccines to Seychelles. Seychelles was the First African country to receive the Made in India COVID-19 vaccines.
  • India has contributed towards the construction of the new Magistrates’ Court Building in Seychelles.
  • For strengthening the maritime security of Seychelles, India has handed over a Made-in-India Fast Patrol Vessel to the Seychelles Coast Guard.
  • India handed over a One Mega Watt solar power plant in the Seychelles built with India’s assistance.
  • The virtual Summit between the two sides also saw the handing over of 10 High Impact Community Development Projects, HICDPs implemented by the High Commission of India in collaboration with local bodies, educational and vocational institutions.

Important Info :

Do you know?

  • Present President of Seychelles, Wavel Ramkalawan is a Person of Indian origin (PIO) with his roots in Gopalganj, Bihar.

 

COPYRIGHT (AMENDMENT) RULES, 2021

The Government of India has notified Copyright (Amendment) Rules, 2021.

About:

  • In India, the copyright regime is governed by the Copyright Act, 1957 and the Copyright Rules, 2013. The Copyright Rules, 2013 were last amended in the year 2016.
  • Objective of the amendments is to bring the existing rules in parity with other relevant legislations.
  • A new provision regarding publication of a copyrights journal has been incorporated, thereby eliminating the requirement of publication in the Official Gazette. The said journal would be available at the website of the Copyright Office.
  • In order to encourage accountability and transparency, new provisions have been introduced, to deal with the undistributed royalty amounts and use of electronic and traceable payment methods while collection and distribution of royalties.
  • To reinforce transparency in working of copyright societies a new rule has been introduced, whereby the copyright societies will be required to draw up and make public an Annual Transparency Report for each financial year.
  • The amendments have harmonised the Copyright Rules with the provisions of Finance Act, 2017 whereby the Copyright Board has been merged with Appellate Board.
  • The compliance requirements for registration of software works have been largely reduced, as now the applicant has the liberty to file the first 10 and last 10 pages of source code, or the entire source code if less than 20 pages, with no blocked out or redacted portions.
  • The time limit for the Central Government to respond to an application made before it for registration as a copyright society is extended to 180 days, so that the application can be more comprehensively examined.

 

INDIAN NATIONAL YOUNG ACADEMY OF SCIENCES (INYAS)

INYAS has launched a multipronged nationwide mass awareness campaign to bust myths about Covid 19 vaccination programme. The campaign will be carried out through COVACNEWS android-based mobile app.

About:

  • Indian National Young Academy of Sciences (INYAS) in the first and only recognized young scientist academy of India.
  • INYAS was founded by the Indian National Science Academy (INSA) council in 2014 with a vision to promote Science education and networking among young scientists at National as well as International level.

 

DRONES

Drone use permission granted to Central Mine Planning and Design Institute for coalfield survey.

About:

  • Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) and Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) have granted conditional exemption to Central Mine Planning and Design Institute (CMPDI) for surveying in coalfield areas of Coal India Ltd.
  • As per the permission, the drones will be deployed for acquisition of data for monitoring of Mapping and Surveying activity using UAV Based Optical, LiDAR and Thermal Payloads, volumetric measurement, and, inspections in coalfield areas of Coal India Limited.
  • The conditional exemption is valid till 04 April 2022 from the date of issue of the letter or until the full operationalization of Digital Sky Platform (Phase-1), whichever is earlier.
  • Exemption from Ministry of Civil Aviation must be obtained from UAS Rules, 2021 before operation.

 

RELIGIOUS CONVERSIONS

The Supreme Court said that people are free to choose their religion, even as it lashed out at a petition claiming there is mass religious conversion happening “by hook or by crook” across the country.

About:

  • The supreme court said that people have a right under the Constitution to profess, practise and propagate religion.
  • Article 25 of the Constitution grants Fundamental right to freely profess, practise and propagate religion, subject to public order, morality and health.
  • Every person is the final judge of his/her choice of religion or who their life partner should be. Courts cannot sit in judgment of a person’s choice of religion or life partner.
  • Religious faith is a part of the fundamental right to privacy. The Constitution Bench judgment had earlier upheld inviolability of the right to privacy, equating it with the rights to life, of dignity and liberty.

 

FREEDOM OF NAVIGATION OPERATION (FONOP)

India has protested the U.S. decision to conduct a patrol in the Indian Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in the western Indian Ocean, rejecting the U.S.’s claim that its domestic maritime law was in violation of international law.

About:

  • In a rare and unusual public statement, the U.S. Navy announced that its ship, USS John Paul Jones, had carried out Freedom of Navigation Operation (FONOP) in the Indian EEZ, adding that its operations had “challenged” what the U.S. called India’s “excessive maritime claims”.
  • USS John Paul Jones asserted navigational rights and freedoms approximately 130 nautical miles west of the Lakshadweep Islands, inside India’s exclusive economic zone, without requesting India’s prior consent, consistent with international law, the U.S. Navy’s 7th fleet said
  • The Government of India’s stated position on the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) is that the Convention “does not authorise other States to carry out in the EEZ and on the continental shelf, military exercises or manoeuvres, in particular those involving the use of weapons or explosives, without the consent of the coastal state.
  • While India ratified UNCLOS in 1995, the U.S. has failed to do it so far.

 

2001 MARS ODYSSEY

NASA’s Mars Odyssey spacecraft marks 20 years of mapping red planet.

About:

  • NASA’s Mars Odyssey spacecraft launched 20 years ago on April 7, has made it the oldest spacecraft still working at the Red Planet.
  • The orbiter, which takes its name from Arthur C. Clarke’s classic sci-fi novel “2001: A Space Odyssey”, was sent to map the composition of the Martian surface in 2001 .
  • Project Scientist Jeffrey Plaut of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California said that before Odyssey, we didn’t know where water was stored on the planet.
  • The feasibility of humans traveling to Mars was also the focus of an instrument aboard Odyssey that measured how much space radiation astronauts would have to contend with before it stopped working in 2003.
  • The most complete global maps of Mars were made using Odyssey’s infrared camera, called the Thermal Emission Imaging System, or THEMIS.

 

IMPACT OF CLIMATE CHANGE ON BIODIVERSITY

Many animals and plants unique to the world’s most scenic natural places face extinction if greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise, according to a new study published in the journal Biological Conservation.

Key findings:

  • if the planet heats by over 3°C, then a third of endemic species living on land, and about half of endemic species living in the sea, face extinction. On mountains, 84% of endemic animals and plants face extinction at these temperatures, while on islands that number rises to 100%.
  • Endemic species threatened by climate change include lemurs, which are unique to Madagascar, and the snow leopard, one of the most charismatic animals of the Himalayas.
  • They also include important medical plants such as the lichen Lobaria pindarensis, used to alleviate arthritis.
  • However, remaining within the climate goals of the Paris Agreement — which aims to keep global heating well below 2°C, ideally at 1.5°C, compared to a baseline — would save the majority of species.

 

ONLINE DISPUTE RESOLUTION (ODR)

NITI Aayog—in association with Agami and Omidyar Network India and with the support of ICICI Bank, Ashoka Innovators for the Public, Trilegal, Dalberg, Dvara, NIPFP—will launch the first-of-its kind Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) handbook in India.

About:

  • The handbook is an invitation to business leaders to adopt ODR in India. It highlights the need for such a mechanism, the models of ODR that businesses can adopt and an actionable pathway for them.
  • ODR is the resolution of disputes outside courts, particularly of small and medium-value cases, using digital technology and techniques of alternate dispute resolution (ADR), such as negotiation, mediation, and arbitration.
  • While courts are becoming digitized through the efforts of the judiciary, more effective, scalable, and collaborative mechanisms of containment and resolution are urgently needed.
  • ODR can help resolve disputes efficiently and affordably.

 

POST MATRIC SCHOLARSHIP SCHEME FOR SCHEDULED CASTES

Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment reviewed the progress of the Post Matric Scholarship Scheme for Scheduled Castes in the last financial year.

About:

  • The government had completely revamped the Post Matric Scholarship scheme for Scheduled Castes to provide universal access to the SC youth for higher education.
  • The funding pattern under the Scheme was changed from the committed liability formula to a fixed sharing pattern of 60:40 between the Centre and the States (90:10 for the North EasternStates), thus increasing the commitment of the Government in the scheme by almost four times.
  • An amount of Rs.35,534 crore was committed by Central Govt. for this scheme till 2025-26 and it is estimated that about 4 crore youth from the SC community will be benefitted during this period.
  • Apart from increasing the central share in the scheme, the Government has brought in several process improvements to avoid delays in payment of scholarships using the DBT system.

 

NanoSniffer

Union Education Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’ launched NanoSniffer, the world’s first Microsensor based Explosive Trace Detector (ETD).

About:

  • This home-grown Explosive trace detector device (ETD) – NanoSniffer can detect explosives in less than 10 seconds and it also identifies and categorizes explosives into different classes.
  • It detects all classes of military, conventional and homemade explosives. It gives visible & audible alerts with sunlight-readable color display.
  • NanoSniffer is a 100% Made in India product in terms of R&D and manufacturing. It has been developed by NanoSniff Technologies, an IIT Bombay incubated startup and has been marketed by Vehant Technologies, a spin-off from a former IIT Delhi incubated startup Kritikal Solutions.
  • This affordable device will reduce India’s dependence on imported explosive trace detector devices.

 

PRE-PACKAGED INSOLVENCY RESOLUTION PROCESS (PPIRP)

The Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (Amendment) Ordinance, 2021 promulgated on 4th April, 2021 provides for pre-packaged insolvency resolution process (PPIRP) for corporate debtors classified as micro, small and medium enterprises.

About:

  • The Insolvency and Bankruptcy Board of India notified the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Board of India (Pre-packaged Insolvency Resolution Process) Regulations, 2021 (PPIRP Regulations) to enable operationalisation of PPIRP.
  • The PPIRP Regulations detail the Forms that stakeholders are required to use, and the manner of carrying out various tasks by them as part of the PPIRP.
  • These provide details and manner relating to:
    • Eligibility to act as resolution professional, and his terms of appointment;
    • Eligibility of registered valuers and other professionals;
    • Identification and selection of authorised representative;
    • Public announcement and claims of stakeholders;
    • Information memorandum;
    • Meetings of the creditors and committee of creditors;
    • Invitation for resolution plans;
    • Competition between the base resolution plan and the best resolution plan;
    • Evaluation and consideration of resolution plans;
    • Vesting management of corporate debtor with resolution professional;
    • Termination of PPIRP.

 

HARICHAND THAKUR

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has paid homage to Harichand Thakur on his Jayanti.

About:

  • Harichand Thakur (1812 – 1878), worked among the untouchable people of Bengal Presidency.
  • He formed the Matua sect of Hindus.

Important Info :

Matua?

  • Matua Mahasangha (MMS) is a religious reformation movement that originated, around 1860 AD, in Bengal with a considerable number of adherents both in Bangladesh and in West Bengal.
  • Matua is a sect of Vaisnavite Hinduism who are Namasudras, a Scheduled Caste group.

 

INDIA-NETHERLANDS VIRTUAL SUMMIT

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Mark Rutte, Prime Minister of the Netherlands held a Virtual Summit.

About:

  • It was the first high level Summit attended by PM Rutte after the general elections held in March 2021. Prime Minister Modi congratulated PM Rutte on his election victory and on becoming the Prime Minister of the Netherlands for the fourth consecutive term.
  • During the Summit, the two leaders exchanged views on further expanding the relationship in trade and economy, water management, agriculture sector, smart cities, science & technology, healthcare and space.
  • The two Prime Ministers also agreed on instituting a ‘Strategic Partnership on Water’ to further deepen the Indo-Dutch cooperation in the water related sector, and upgrading the Joint Working Group on water to Ministerial-level.
  • Prime Minister Modi thanked the Netherlands for their support to International Solar Alliance (ISA) and Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (CDRI). PM Modi also welcomed the Netherlands’ Indo-Pacific Policy.

DOLPHINS

The population of dolphins in Chilika, India’s largest brackish water lake, and along the Odisha coast has doubled this year compared with last year.

About:

  • The State Environment Department released the final data on the dolphin census conducted in January and February this year, indicating a spectacular growth in numbers.
  • Three species were recorded during the census, with 544 Irrawaddy, bottle-nose and humpback dolphins sighted this year, compared with 233 last year.
  • The endangered Irrawaddy dolphins is mostly found in Chilika lake. Few were also sighted in the Rajnagar mangrove division.
  • The highest growth has been noticed in the case of humpback dolphins with a population of 281.
  • These humpback dolphins were not part of any riverine systems, so they cannot be identified as residential mammals. They were spotted travelling along the Odisha coast and the number is likely to fluctuate in the next census.

 

OPEC

The price of Brent crude has fallen under $63 per barrel from a high of $70 per barrel in early March. A recent resurgence in Covid-19 infections coupled with a decision by OPEC+ (a keep producers’ block) to increase crude oil production has contributed to a fall in crude oil prices.

About:

  • The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) is an intergovernmental organization of 13 countries. It was founded in 1960 in Baghdad by the first five members (Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Venezuela).
  • Since 1965, it is headquartered in Vienna, Austria, although Austria is not an OPEC member state.
  • The current OPEC members are the following: Algeria, Angola, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya, Nigeria, the Republic of the Congo, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Venezuela.
  • A larger group called OPEC+ was formed in late 2016 to have more control on the global crude oil market.
  • The stated mission of the organization is to “coordinate and unify the petroleum policies of its member countries and ensure the stabilization of oil markets”.

 

MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD

Cairo’s Criminal Court (in Egypt) sentenced Mahmoud Ezzat to life imprisonment for murder and terrorism charges. Ezzat is the senior leader of the now outlawed organisation called the Muslim Brotherhood.

About:

  • Muslim Brotherhood is a movement that was founded in Egypt in 1928 by a schoolteacher named Hassan al-Banna.
  • He preached that an Islamic religious revival would help Muslim nations improve their situation and defeat their colonial masters.
  • While Hassan al-Banna was not specific about the kind of Muslim revivalist government he was advocating, his ideas travelled all over the world, and inspired a large number of Islamist groups and movements — not just political movements and parties, but also powerful missionary and charitable initiatives.
  • Jordan, Iraq, Kuwait, Bahrain, Morocco, Turkey and Tunisia are among the countries that have large parties that trace their origins to the Brotherhood. Not all of today’s movements and organisations call themselves the Muslim Brotherhood, however.

 

LITHIUM-ION BATTERIES

Researchers from IIT Guwahati have developed a technique to improve the performance of rechargeable lithium-ion batteries, which power most of the portable devices used today.

About:

  • The 2019 Nobel Prize in Chemistry was jointly awarded to Stanley Whittingham, John Goodenough and Akira Yoshino for work that led to the development of lithium-ion batteries.
  • These batteries are used in most mobile phones, smartphones, tablets, laptops and power banks, among other devices.
  • Today, most Electrical Vehicles (EV) use Li-ion batteries as well, but are slowly reaching their theoretical limits of being able to provide roughly up to 300-watt hour per kilogram of energy.
  • These batteries can also be used to store solar and wind power, which means that with their widespread use it may even be possible to live in a fuel free society.

Disadvantages

  • Some of the disadvantages of Li-ion batteries include their susceptibility to overheating and their being prone to damage at high voltages since they are made with flammable and combustible materials.
  • Such batteries also start losing their capacity over time — for instance, a laptop battery in use for a few years does not function as well as a new one.

Important Info :

Alternatives to Li-ion batteries

  • In January 2020, researchers from Australia claimed that they developed the world’s most efficient lithium-sulfur (Li-S) battery, capable of powering a smartphone for five continuous days — the equivalent of an electric car being able to drive a distance of over 1,000 km.
  • Li-S batteries are generally considered the successors of Li-ion batteries because of their lower cost of production, energy efficiency and improved safety. Their cost of production is lower because sulfur is abundantly available.

 

ADVANCED ANTIQUITIES MANAGEMENT SYSTEM (AAMS)

The Directorate of Archives and Archaeology (DAA) of the Goa government inaugurated the Advanced Antiquities Management System on March 30 that it claimed was the first such system in the country for storage of antiquities.

About:

  • The system that catalogues 83 antiquities at present is aimed at providing quick information about an antiquity linked to the software, saving storage space and ensuring improved preservation of the objects of historical significance.
  • The Advanced Antiquities Management System (AAMS) is a software-driven automated storage used for the storage of various objects.
  • So far it has been used for storage of industrial equipment but the decision of Goa’s DAA to use it for storing valuable antiquities is the first such in the country.
  • The AAMS will ensure safety of antiquities, clean storage space, access control and data management and also enhance utilisation of space.
  • The AAMS is placed at Goa’s DAA in Panaji.

 

NORTHERN IRELAND

Young people have hurled bricks, fireworks and gasoline bombs at police and set hijacked cars and a bus on fire during a week of violence on the streets of Northern Ireland.

About:

  • The chaotic scenes have stirred memories of decades of Catholic-Protestant conflict, known as “The Troubles”. A 1998 peace deal ended large-scale violence but did not resolve Northern Ireland’s deep-rooted tensions.
  • Geographically, Northern Ireland is part of Ireland. Politically, it’s part of the United Kingdom.
  • Ireland, long dominated by its bigger neighbour, broke free about 100 years ago after centuries of colonisation and an uneasy union. Twenty-six of its 32 counties became an independent, Roman Catholic-majority country. Six counties in the north, which have a Protestant majority, stayed British.
  • Northern Ireland’s Catholic minority experienced discrimination in jobs, housing and other areas in the Protestant-run state. In the 1960s, a Catholic civil rights movement demanded change, but faced a harsh response from the government and police.
  • The 1998 Good Friday accord saw the paramilitaries lay down their arms and established a Catholic-Protestant power-sharing government for Northern Ireland.
  • The question of Northern Ireland’s ultimate status was deferred: it would remain British as long as that was the majority’s wish, but a future referendum on reunification was not ruled out.

 

KHELO INDIA STATE CENTRE OF EXCELLENCE FOR ROWING DISCIPLINE

Union Minister for Sports & Youth Affairs inaugurated Khelo India State Centre of Excellence for Rowing discipline at the Jammu & Kashmir Sports Council Water Sports Academy in Srinagar.

About:

  • This is one of the two KISCEs from Jammu & Kashmir itself, with the Maulana Azad Stadium for Fencing discipline in Jammu being the other.
  • There are currently 24 KISCEs across 23 States and Union Territories and each of them focuses on Olympics sports discipline.
  • This is an ongoing endeavour to scale-up existing centres from the States and Union Territories to the world standard level keeping in mind the big picture of getting India excelled at the Olympics.

 

WORLD HOMOEOPATHY DAY (WHD)

A two-day convention on ‘Homoeopathy – Roadmap for Integrative Medicine’ was inaugurated at New Delhi.

About:

  • The Convention was organized by the Central Council for Research in Homoeopathy (CCRH), an autonomous apex research organization under Ministry of AYUSH to celebrate the occasion of the World Homoeopathy Day.
  • The World Homoeopathy Day (WHD) is observed every year on April 10 to commemorate the birth anniversary of the founder of Homoeopathy, Dr. Christian Fredrich Samuel Hahnemann.
  • A unique digital initiative of CCRH, the Homoeopathic Clinical Case Repository (HCCR) portal aimed at providing homoeopathic clinicians, researchers, medical students etc. a user platform for entering homoeopathic clinical cases through a predefined standardized template was launched on the occasion.

 

FOOD CORPORATION OF INDIA (FCI)

Farmers under the banner of the Samyukt Kisan Morcha recently opened a front against the FCI by staging protests outside the agency’s godowns and offices calling it ‘FCI Bachao Diwas’.

About:

  • The Food Corporation of India (FCI) is an organization under the ownership of Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, Government of India.
  • It is a statutory body formed by the enactment of Food Corporation Act, 1964.
  • It was set up in 1965 with its initial headquarters at Chennai. Later this was moved to New Delhi.
  • The Food Corporation of India procures rice and wheat from farmers through many routes like paddy purchase centres/mill levy/custom milling and stores them in depots.

 

THWAITES GLACIER

Researchers at Sweden’s University of Gothenburg are now saying that fears related to the melting of Antarctica’s Thwaites Glacier are worse than previously thought, owing to the supply of warm water flowing underneath at a rate underestimated in the past.

About:

  • The Thwaites Glacier is 120 km wide at its broadest, fast-moving, and melting fast over the years.
  • Because of its size (1.9 lakh square km), it contains enough water to raise the world sea level by more than half a metre. Studies have found the amount of ice flowing out of it has nearly doubled over the past 30 years.
  • Today, Thwaites’s melting already contributes 4% to global sea level rise each year. It is estimated that it would collapse into the sea in 200-900 years.
  • Thwaites is important for Antarctica as it slows the ice behind it from freely flowing into the ocean. Because of the risk it faces — and poses — Thwaites is often called the Doomsday Glacier.

Important Info :

  • The grounding line is the place below a glacier at which the ice transitions between resting fully on bedrock and floating on the ocean as an ice shelf. The location of the line is a pointer to the rate of retreat of a glacier.

‘LOST GOLDEN CITY’ IN EGYPT

Egypt announced the discovery of what is being touted as the most important find since the unearthing of King Tutankhamun’s tomb almost 100 years ago.

About:

  • A three-millennia-old “lost golden city” from the era of 18th-dynasty king Amenhotep III, who ruled ancient Egypt from 1391 to 1353 B.C., was found in the southern province of Luxor, near some of the country’s best-known monuments.
  • The newly discovered city is located on the west bank of the Nile river, close to the Colossi of Memnon, Medinet Habu and the Ramesseum, or mortuary temple of King Ramses II, all of which are popular tourist destinations.
  • With mud-brick houses, artefacts, and tools discovered from the reign of the Pharaohs, some are even calling the find an “ancient Egyptian Pompeii”.

NOURA AL-MATROUSHI

The United Arab Emirates named the next two astronauts for its space programme, including the country’s first woman astronaut.

About:

  • Noura al-Matroushi has been identified as the UAE’s first woman astronaut, with her male counterpart as Mohammed al-Mulla.
  • The two will undergo training at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.
  • If al-Matroushi ends up going on a mission, she could become the first Arab woman in space.

UAE space programme

  • In February 2021, the UAE put its Amal, or Hope, satellite in orbit around Mars, a first for the Arab world.
  • In 2024, the country hopes to put an unmanned spacecraft on the moon.
  • The UAE also has set the ambitious goal of building a human colony on Mars by 2117.

Important Info :

Another notable Personalities

  • Anousheh Raissyan, an Iranian-American telecommunications entrepreneur and millionaire from Dallas, became the first Muslim woman and first Iranian in space when she travelled as a self-funded civilian to the International Space Station in 2006.
  • The first Muslim in space was Saudi Prince Sultan bin Salman, who joined the crew of the shuttle Discovery in 1985.
  • In 2019, Maj. Hazzaa al-Mansoori became the UAE’s first astronaut in space, spending an eight-day mission aboard the International Space Station.

LILAVATI AWARDS

Union Minister of Education Shri Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’ presented the AICTE Lilavati Awards 2020 on women empowerment to the winners.

About:

  • With women empowerment as the theme, the objective of the award is to create awareness about issues like sanitation, hygiene, health, nutrition, literacy, employment, technology, credit, marketing, innovation, skill development, natural resources and rights among women.
  • All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) has established the Lilavati Award.
  • The award covers multidisciplinary areas such as women’s health, self-defence, sanitation, literacy, entrepreneurship and legal awareness.
  • The program will ensure the participation of women and enable them to hold higher positions in educational institutions.

Important Info :

Background

  • It is named after the 12th-century mathematical treatise “Lilavati” devoted to arithmetic and algebra written by the Indian mathematician Bhāskara II.
  • In the book the author posed, in verse form, a series of problems in (elementary) arithmetic to Lilavati (perhaps his daughter) and followed them up with hints to solutions.

UMNGOT RIVER

Stiff resistance from at least 12 villages in Meghalaya has cast a cloud on a 210 MW hydroelectric project on Umngot, considered India’s clearest river.

About:

  • Umngot flows through Dawki, a town in West Jaintia Hills district, Meghalaya.
  • The river is the natural boundary between Ri Pnar (of Jaintia Hills) with Hima Khyrim (of Khasi Hills).
  • Dawki Bridge, is a suspension bridge over the Umngot River.

Important Info :

Recent protests

  • The villages are near the border with Bangladesh in East Khasi Hills district but the dam is proposed upstream in the adjoining West Jaintia Hills district.
  • The project is to be executed by the Meghalaya Energy Corporation Limited. People of 13 villages along the Umngot are likely to lose 296 hectares of land due to submergence if the dam comes up.

BEGGING

The Supreme Court has asked the Centre and four States to file their response within three weeks on a plea seeking a direction to repeal the provisions criminalising begging.

About:

  • The plea has referred to the August 2018 verdict of the Delhi High Court which had decriminalised begging in the national capital and said provisions of the Bombay Prevention of Begging Act, 1959, which treats begging as an offence cannot sustain constitutional scrutiny.
  • The provisions of the statutes criminalising the act of begging put people in a situation to make an unreasonable choice between committing a crime or not committing one and starving, which goes against the very spirit of the Constitution and violates Article 21 i.e. Right to Life.
  • Referring to the Census 2011, the plea has said the total number of beggars in India is 4,13,670 and the number has increased from the last census.
  • It said the government had the mandate to provide social security to everyone and ensure that all had basic facilities, as embedded in the Directive Principles of State Policy in the Constitution.
  • However, the presence of beggars is evidence that the state has failed to provide these basic facilities to all its citizens.

IRAN NUCLEAR PROGRAMME

Iran has started up advanced uranium enrichment centrifuges in a breach of its undertakings under a troubled 2015 nuclear deal, days after the start of talks on rescuing the accord.

About:

  • President Hassan Rouhani inaugurated the three cascades of 164 IR-6 centrifuges, 30 IR-5 and another 30 IR-6 devices at Iran’s Natanz uranium enrichment plant.
  • Iran’s latest move to step up uranium enrichment follows an opening round of talks in Vienna (Austria’s capital) with representatives of the remaining parties to the nuclear deal on bringing the U.S. back into it.
  • Former President Donald Trump withdrew from the deal in 2018 but his successor Joe Biden has said he is ready to return, arguing the deal had been successful in dramatically scaling back Iran’s nuclear activities.

Important Info :

Vienna Talks

  • The Vienna talks are focused not only on lifting crippling economic sanctions Trump reimposed, but also on bringing Iran back into compliance after it responded by suspending several of its own commitments.
  • Iran has demanded that the U.S. first lift all sanctions imposed by Trump, which include a sweeping unilateral ban on its oil exports, before it falls back in line with obligations it suspended. USA has demanded movement from Tehran in return.

NATIONAL ENVIRONMENT ENGINEERING AND RESEARCH INSTITUTE (NEERI)

The Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) has divested Rakesh Kumar, Director, National Environment Engineering and Research Institute (NEERI) in Nagpur of his post and transferred him to its headquarters in Delhi after allegations of corruption surfaced against him.

About:

  • Established in: 1958.
  • Headquarters: Nagpur.
  • Parent body: NEERI is a part of Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and falls under the Union Ministry of Science and Technology.

Functions:

  • NEERI is a pioneer laboratory in the field of environmental science and engineering with special focus on water supply, sewage disposal, communicable diseases and to some extent on industrial pollution.
  • The NEERI is an important partner organisation in India’s POPs national implementation plan (NIP).
  • The Institute is operating a nation-wide air quality monitoring network since 1978. The programme sponsored by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB).
  • It also works in technology developments such as making “green firecrackers”, under the directives of the Supreme Court to improve Delhi’s air quality, and specialised air purifiers.

TERROR FINANCING

Extortion money paid to a terrorist organisation to protect one’s business is not terror funding, the Supreme Court has said in a judgment.

About:

  • With this, Supreme Court granted bail to a Jharkhand coal transporter who had paid huge amounts to the Tritiya Prastuti Committee (TPC), a breakaway faction of the CPI (Maoist).
  • The Financial Action Task Force on Money Laundering (FATF) has made recommendations to members relating to counter terrorism financing (CTF). It has created a Blacklist and Greylist of countries that have not taken adequate CTF action.
  • FATF is an intergovernmental organisation founded in 1989 on the initiative of the G7 to develop policies to combat money laundering. In 2001, its mandate was expanded to include terrorism financing.