CURRENT AFFAIRS APRIL 2020

POLITY & CONSTITUTION

PANCHAYATS AND PANDEMIC

Prime Minister in an interaction with Panchayats on National Panchayati Raj Day lauded the local governments for their proactive approach to fight the crisis.

  • The 73rd Constitutional Amendment mandates the constitution of panchayats at the district, intermediate and village levels as devolved institutions of self-government.

o            It provides for the endowment of powers and responsibilities to plan and implement programmes for social justice and economic development at grassroot level.

  • With more than three million elected representatives, India’s local government, or the Panchayati Raj are in the forefront of the country’s fight against the pandemic.
  • On the occasion of National Panchayati Raj Day 2020 Prime Minister interacted with Sarpanchs of Gram Panchayats throughout the country through Video Conferencing.
  • He launched a unified e-GramSwaraj Portal and Svamitva Scheme.
  • e-GramSwaraj will help prepare and execute Gram Panchayat Development Plans. The portal will ensure real time monitoring and accountability. The portal is a major step towards digitization down to the Gram Panchayat level.
  • Svamitva Scheme provides for an integrated property validation solution for rural India; the demarcation of inhabited land in rural areas would be done by the use of latest surveying methods – Drone’s technology with the collaborated efforts of the Ministry of Panchayati Raj, State Panchayati Raj Department, State Revenue Department and Survey of India.

COVID-19 AND INDIA’S LEGAL FRAMEWORK

The ongoing pandemic of COVID-19 has highlighted glaring gaps in India’s domestic laws and the need for an overarching law to deal with such health emergencies.

  • Public order and health are subjects that lie with the States as per the Indian Constitution thus various states invoked the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897 to pass orders and guidelines on social distancing measures, closure of establishments and limitation on activity.
  • Disaster Management Act, 2005 (DM Act), was then invoked by the Central government to impose a blanket lockdown to ensure “consistency in the application and implementation of various measures across the country”.
  • The Seventh Schedule to the Constitution does not have an explicit entry on disaster management. Hence, Parliament had to resort to Concurrent List Entry 23 on “Social security and social insurance; employment and unemployment” to trigger provisions of the Act.

Indian Penal Code sections used during COVID-19

  • Section 271 of IPC – Whosoever disobeys the quarantine rule shall be punished with imprisonment or fine or both.
  • Section 269 of IPC -Negligent act likely to spread infection of disease.
  • Section 188 of IPC– It is used for defaulters who disobey the orders of the public servants during the lockdown.

ORDINANCE TO PROTECT HEALTH WORKERS

The President promulgated an Epidemic Diseases (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020 to amend the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897 to protect healthcare service personnel and property including their living/working premises against violence during epidemics.

Key features of the ordinance

  • Definition: The Ordinance defines healthcare service personnel as a person who is at risk of contracting the epidemic disease while carrying out duties related to the epidemic.
  • It includes

o            any public and clinical healthcare service providers such as doctors, nurses, paramedical workers and community health workers

o            any other person empowered under the Act to take measures to prevent the outbreak of the disease or spread thereof

o            any person declared as such by the State Government, by notification in the Official Gazette

  • Act of violence: It includes any of the following acts committed against a healthcare service personnel:

o            harassment impacting living or working conditions,

o            harm, injury, hurt, or danger to life,

o            obstruction in discharge of his duties,

o            loss or damage to the property or documents of the healthcare service personnel.

  • Punishment: The violence is punishable with imprisonment between three months and five years, and a fine between Rs 50,000 and two lakh rupees, which can be compounded by the victim with the permission of court.

RESERVATION POLICY

The Supreme Court’s five-judge Constitution bench held that providing 100 per cent reservation for Scheduled Tribes in scheduled areas of a State is not permissible.

  • The erstwhile State of Andhra Pradesh issued an order in 2000 providing 100% reservation to the Scheduled Tribe candidates, out of whom 33% shall be women, for the post of teachers in schools located in the Scheduled Areas of the State.
  • However recently, SC held that 100% reservation is discriminatory and impermissible as it violated Articles 14 (equality before law), 15 (discrimination against citizens) and 16 (equal opportunity) of the Constitution.

o            A 100% reservation to the Scheduled Tribes also deprives General category, Scheduled Castes and Other Backward Classes also of their due representation.

  • The court referred to the Indira Sawhney judgment, which caps reservation at 50%.

Fifth Schedule of the Constitution

  • The Fifth Schedule under Article 244 of the Constitution contains provisions regarding administration of Scheduled Areas other than in Northeast India.
  • At present, Scheduled Areas have been declared in the States of Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha and Rajasthan.
  • Scheduled Area in a State is notified by order of the President, after consultation with the Governor of that State.
  • Governor submits a report, annually or whenever President requires, regarding administration of such areas.
  • Each state having ‘Scheduled Areas’ must have a Tribal Advisory Council consisting of 20 members.

o            Three-fourths of the members have to be representatives of scheduled tribes in State Legislative Assembly.

  • The Governor is empowered to direct that any particular law of parliament and state assembly is either not applicable or can be applied with certain ‘modifications and exceptions’ to scheduled areas.

Constitutional Provisions regarding Reservation

  • Article 15 (4) allows the State to make any special provision for the advancement of any socially and educationally backward classes of citizens or for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes.

o            This provision was extended to admission in educational institutions by 93rd Amendment Act, 2006 (except minority educational institutions)

  • Article 16 (4) allows State to make any provision for the reservation of appointments or posts in favour of any backward class of citizens which, in the opinion of the State, is not adequately represented in the services under the State.
  • Article 46 states that the State shall promote with special care the educational and economic interests of the weaker sections of the people, and, in particular, of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes, and shall protect them from social injustice and all forms of exploitation.
  • Article 243D provides reservation of seats for SCs and STs in every Panchayat.
  • Article 243T provides reservation of seats for SCs and STs in every Municipality.
  • Article 330 states that seats shall be reserved in the Lok Sabha for the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes.
  • Article 332 of the Constitution of India provides for reservation of seats for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes in the Legislative Assemblies of the States.

Judicial pronouncements regarding Reservation

  • State of Madras vs Champakam Dorairajan (1951)

o            The Supreme Court upheld decision of Madras High Court, which struck down a Government Order of 1927 regarding caste-based reservation in government jobs and educational institutions.

o            This judgement also made basis of adding Article 15(4) by the First Constitutional Amendment Act, 1951.

  • Indra Sawhney vs. Union of India (1992)

o           The 9 Judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court by 6:3 majority held that the decision of the Union Government to reserve 27% Government jobs for backward classes – with elimination of Creamy Layer- is constitutionally valid.

o           The reservation of seats shall only confine to initial appointments and not to promotions, and the total reservations shall not exceed 50 per cent.

  • M. Nagaraj vs. Union of India (2006)

o            A five-judge constitution bench of the Supreme Court validated parliament’s decision to extend reservations for SCs and STs to include promotions with three conditions:

o            State has to provide proof for the backwardness of the class benefitting from the reservation.

o            State has to collect quantifiable data showing inadequacy of representation of that class in public employment.

o            State has to show how reservations in promotions would further administrative efficiency.

  • Jarnail Singh v. Lachhmi Narain Gupta (2018)

o            The Supreme Court held that the government need not collect quantifiable data to demonstrate backwardness of public employees belonging to the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (SC/STs) to provide reservations for them in promotions.

o            Recently the Supreme Court upheld Karnataka Extension of Consequential Seniority to Government Servants Promoted on the Basis of Reservation (to the Posts in the Civil Services of the State) Act, 2018.

o            The enactment provides for consequential seniority to SCs and STs with restrospective effect from 1978.

ONLINE JUSTICE DELIVERY

The Supreme Court recently passed directions for all courts across the country to extensively use videoconferencing for judicial proceedings so that the congregation of lawyers and litigants can be avoided to maintain social distancing amid the coronavirus pandemic.

  • Supreme Court invoked its power under Article 142 of the Constitution to validate all proceedings through video conferencing.

o            Article 142 of the Constitution allows the Supreme Court to pass any order necessary for doing complete justice in any cause or matter pending before it.

  • Kerala High Court also conducted court proceedings through video conferencing and also live streamed the proceedings.
  • Various steps in past have also been taken to ensure online delivery of judicial services such as:

o            e-Courts Mission Mode Project of Department of Justice, Ministry of Law and Justice, Government of India for the District Courts across the country.

o            Providing Video Conference facilities for 488 Court complexes and 342 jails.

 

INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS

MEDICAL DIPLOMACY

India will supply essential drugs, including paracetamol and Hydroxychloroquine (HCQ), to countries which are badly affected by novel Coronavirus including countries in the neighbourhood, thus ensuring India’s important role in Global Medical diplomacy.

  • India had lifted the ban on export of Hydroxychloroquine, nearly two weeks after imposing a ban on its export.
  • Currently, India is supplying anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine to 97 coronavirus-hit countries as grants as well as on commercial basis.

o            India manufactures 70% of the world’s supply of HCQ and it had exported $51 million worth of the drug in FY19.

o            HCQ is an anti-malarial drug that has been identified by the US Food and Drug Administration as a possible treatment for the Covid-19.

  • The list of 97 countries includes: US, Russia, France and UK, besides some 20 countries of Africa and many of India’s immediate neighbours like Nepal, Maldives etc.
  • Apart from supplying HCQ, India has been sending teams of Indian doctors to Nepal to deal with the testing and treatment of Corona Virus patients.

o            India is also working closely with countries in the middle-east during the pandemic.

TRANS-BOUNDARY RIVER WATER MANAGEMENT

A new study highlighting the impact of China’s dams on the Mekong River has raised fresh questions on whether dams being built on other rivers that originate in China, such as the Brahmaputra, may similarly impact countries downstream

River Water Cooperation between India and neighbouring countries

  • Indus Water Treaty (1966): It is an agreement on cooperation between India and Pakistan providing mechanisms to resolve disputes.
  • Indo-Bangladesh Joint Rivers Commission (JRC): It was set up in 1972 by Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Peace. It was established with a view to maintain liaison in order to ensure the most effective joint effort in maximizing the benefits from common river systems between India and Bangladesh.
  • Ganga Treaty between India and Bangladesh, 1996: is an agreement to share surface waters at the Farakka Barrage near their mutual border.
  • Koshi Agreement (1954), Gandak Agreement (1959), Tanakpur Barrage Agreement (1991) and Mahakali Treaty 1996: These treaties have been signed between India and Nepal.

o            These treaties provided for different withdrawal rights and construction and sharing of hydropower energy.

  • India-Bhutan agreements: The cooperation between both countries is one of the major success stories of Trans-boundary river water agreements.

o            India and Bhutan collaborated for the construction of Chuka Dam on Wangchu River. It helped Bhutan use low cost electricity and excess is sold to India which helped it improve its finances.

  • India-China Water Data Sharing – In 2006, India and China had signed a pact under which China would share hydrological data from May 15 to October 15 every year for the Brahmaputra and Sutlej rivers. The two sides renewed the agreement in memorandums of understanding signed in 2013 and 2015.

ECONOMY

REVISED FDI POLICY 

Recently, India’s Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade revised its FDI policy in order to curb the possibility of predatory foreign investment exploiting the financial distress of COVID-19-hit Indian companies.

  • In the last five years, Chinese investment in India has drastically increased from US $1.6 billion in 2014 to at least US $26 billion in 2019 (both current and planned), in particular in technology start-up segment.
  • In the light of this, it was anticipated that Chinese entities would take advantage of the economic slump caused by the COVID-19 outbreak to raise their stakes in Indian entities and companies, exposing them to hostile and opportunistic takeovers.
  • To avoid such a situation, FDI policy has been revised to curb opportunistic takeovers or acquisitions of Indian companies.

Changes in FDI Policy 

  • The present policy states that a non-resident entity can invest in India, subject to the FDI Policy except in those sectors/activities which are prohibited.

o            Additional Provision: A citizen of Bangladesh and Pakistan or an entity registered in both countries can only invest under the government route.

o            Additionally, for Pakistan sectors/activities such as defence, space and atomic energy are prohibited for investment in addition to the sectors/activities already prohibited.

  • The amended policy states that an entity of a country, which shares a land border with India or where the beneficial owner of investment into India is situated in or is a citizen of any such country, can invest only under the Government route.

o            This implies that the scope of the above-mentioned additional provision has been expanded to all our neighbours (including China). The government has refrained from explicitly mentioning China.

FDI in Automatic vs. Government Route 

  • Under the government route, foreign investor has to take prior approval of respective ministry/department.
  • Through automatic route, the investor just has to inform the RBI after the investment is made.
  • Also, Proposals involving FDI exceeding Rs 50 billion are placed before the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs irrespective of sector or country.

Sectors in which FDI is prohibited

  • Lottery businesses.
  • Gambling and betting.
  • Chit funds.
  • Nidhi Company.
  • Trading in Transferable Development Rights (TDRs).
  • Real estate business excluding construction and REITs
  • Manufacturing of cigars, cheroots, cigarillos and cigarettes etc.
  • Sectors not open to private sector investment such as atomic energy, railway operations etc.

NEGATIVE OIL PRICES 

  • US oil markets created history on 22nd April 2020 when prices of West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude fell to “minus” $40.32 a barrel in New York which is lowest crude oil price ever known.

How global oil prices are determined? 

  • Crude oil prices like any other commodity are determined by global supply and demand.
  • Growing economies are engines which generate demand for oil in general and especially for transporting goods and materials from producers to consumers.
  • On the other hand, supply of crude oil in majorly controlled by a selected countries or groupings such as OPEC (Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries).
  • In the recent past, the OPEC has been working with 10 other countries (including Russia), as OPEC+, to fix the global prices and supply.
  • Thus, the stability of oil prices and its seamless operations depends on-

o            Predictability of the global demand of oil.

o            The ability of the oil-producing countries to act in consort for maintenance of supplies.

How did oil price go in negative territory? 

  • The plunge in the negative territory can be attributed to both supply and demand factors:

o            Supply factor: The breakdown of the OPEC+ agreement between Russia and Saudi Arabia meant the production of oil kept increasing unchecked and subsequently lowering prices.

o            Demand factor: Shutting down of travel routes and global lockdown due to Covid-19 has drastically decreased the demand for oil which has compounded the problem.

  • The continuous supply of oil accompanied with the huge demand slump has created a situation where there is a worldwide shortage of storage space for oil.
  • Trains and ships, which were typically used to transport oil, are being used up just for storing oil.

WTO PEACE CLAUSE 

  • India has invoked the peace clause of WTO for exceeding the ceiling on support it can offer farmers for rice, marking the first time any country that has used this clause.
  • India informed WTO that the value of its rice production was $43.67 billion in 2018-19 and it gave subsidies worth $5 billion which is 11.46% of the value of production.
  • However, the Agreement on Agriculture (AoA) under WTO has a limit pegged at 10% for developing countries, which is a de-minimis level.

o            De minimis level is minimal amount of domestic support that is allowed even though they distort trade.

  • Hence, India used peace clause and reasoned that:

o            The government does not undertake exports on a commercial basis from public stockholdings.

o            Further, the stocks under the programme are acquired and released in order to meet the domestic food security needs of India’s poor and vulnerable population, and not to impede commercial trade or food security of others.

MINOR FOREST PRODUCE

  • Recently, Centre revised the minimum support price (MSP) for minor forest produce, offering much needed support to tribal gatherers in view of the “exceptional and very difficult” circumstances prevailing in the country due to the coronavirus pandemic
  • Ministry of Tribal Affairs increased the MSP of 49 products which are collected by tribals from forests.

What is Minor Forest Produce (MFP)?

  • MFP is defined under The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006, popularly known as the Forests Rights Act (FRA).
  • Minor Forest Produce (MFP) includes all non-timber forest produce of plant origin and includes bamboo, canes, fodder, leaves, gums, waxes, dyes, resins and many forms of food including nuts, wild fruits, Honey, Lac, Tusser etc.
  • The definition of MFP includes bamboo and cane, thereby changing the categorization of bamboo and cane as “trees” under the Indian Forest Act 1927.
  • PESA, 1996 and Recognition of Forest Rights Act, 2006 conferred ownership of MFP to forest dwellers.
  • Forest Rights Act also recognizes and vests individual forest-dwellers with forest rights to own and dispose minor forest products from forests where they had traditional access.

SECURITY

ORGANISATION FOR THE PROHIBITION OF CHEMICAL WEAPONS

  • Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) for the first time explicitly blamed Syria for toxic attacks.
  • OPCW’s Investigation and Identification Team (IIT) in its report said that Syrian Arab Air Force used the nerve gas sarin and chlorine three times in Ltamenah, Syria in 2017.
  • IIT was established in 2018 for identifying the perpetrators of the use of chemical weapons in the Syrian Arab Republic.
  • Until then OPCW had only been authorized to say whether chemical attacks occurred, not who perpetrated them.
  • OPCW was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2013 for its extensive efforts to eliminate chemical weapons.

About Sarin

  • Sarin is a clear, colorless, and tasteless liquid that has no odor in its pure form. However, sarin can evaporate into a vapor (gas) and spread into the environment.
  • It is a human-made chemical warfare agent classified as a nerve agent.
  • Sarin originally was developed in 1938 in Germany as a pesticide.

ENVIRONMENT

SUPREME COURT RELAXES BS-IV DEADLINE

Supreme Court (SC) extended the March 31, 2020 deadline for the sale and registration of BS-IV emission normcompliant vehicles.

  • The roadmap in the proposed draft Auto Fuel Policy 2025 envisaged implementation of BS IV norms across the country by April 2017 in a phased manner and BS V emission norms in 2020/2021 and BS VI from 2024.

o            However due to drastic rise in air pollution specially in Delhi and other parts of North India, the Centre in 2016 announced that India would skip the BS-V norms altogether and adopt BS-VI norms by 2020 shifting from BS IV norms.

  • Further in 2018, SC had ruled that no BS-IV vehicle would be sold or registered in India from April 1, 2020.

o            It ruled that any extension of time in introducing new emission norms would adversely impact the health of citizens as the pollution has reached an “alarming and critical” level.

  • However, recently SC extended the deadline because of the “extraordinary” situation arising out of lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • SC allowed sale of 10% of the unsold stock of BS IV vehicles within few days after the end of the lockdown due to COVID-19, except in Delhi and the National Capital Region.
  • BS VI requires both automobile manufacturers as well as oil marketing companies to tweak their respective products.

o            For optimal results, BSVI-compliant engines will have to run on BS VI fuel, as new-generation engines running on lower quality fuel will emit a quantum of toxic gases comparable to that generated by BS IV engines.

MISCELLANEOUS

VIDYADAAN 2.0

  • Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) e-launched VidyaDaan 2.0 program for inviting e-learning content contributions. VidyaDaan
  • VidyaDaan is national program, in which individuals (teachers, educationists, subject experts etc.) & organizations (schools etc.) can contribute to e-learning in the education domain.
  • These contributions can be of different types such as teaching videos, practice questions, competency-based items, lesson plans etc. for grade from 1 to 12 and subject specified by the states/UTs under their respective projects.

NATIONAL LIST FOR INTANGIBLE CULTURAL HERITAGE (ICH)

Ministry of Culture launched the National List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in New Delhi.

  • It is an attempt to recognize the diversity of Indian culture embedded in its intangible heritage.
  • It aims to raise awareness about the various intangible cultural heritage elements from different states of India at national and international level and ensure their protection.

o            Intangible Cultural Heritage refers to the practices, representations, expressions, knowledge, transmitted from generation to generation within communities, created and transformed continuously by them, depending on the environment and their interaction with nature and history.

o            It is also vital for maintaining cultural diversity in the face of globalization.

  • This initiative is also a part of the Vision 2024 of the Ministry of Culture.

o            Vision 2024 has fixed timeline for completing work of enlisting, preserving and showcasing deep and o invaluable heritage and culture of country’s monuments and traditions.

QISSA KHWANI BAZAAR MASSACRE

Qissa Khwani Bazaar massacre in Peshawar has completed 90 years.

  • Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan was arrested during protests arising out of the Salt Satyagraha in 1930s. A crowd of Khudai Khidmatgars gathered in Peshawar’s Qissa Khwani (Storytellers) Bazaar.
  • In order to bring the situation under control, the British troops opened fire on the unarmed crowd, killing over 400 people.
  • Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan founded the Pashto language monthly political journal ‘Pashtun’ in 1928. His autobiography My Life and Struggle, was made public in 1969.
  • In 1987 he was awarded the Bharat Ratna Prize, and was the first non-Indian to receive this honour. o Another non-Indian to receive Bharat Ratna is Nelson Mandela (1990).

BODOLAND TERRITORIAL AREA DISTRICTS (BTAD)

  • Assam’s Bodoland Territorial Area Districts (BTAD) governed by Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) came under Governor’s Rule after the after expiry of five-year term of BTC.
  • The elections to the council, were deferred because of the COVID-19 pandemic and guidelines for maintaining social distancing.
  • The governor decided to assume control of BTAD in exercise of powers vested in him under Sixth Schedule of the Constitution.

PRESS FREEDOM INDEX

  • India has dropped to rank 142, two points below its 2019 rank, in the 2020 World Press Freedom Index.
  • It is released by a non-profit Paris-based organization named Reporters Without Borders (RSF).
  • The Index ranks 180 countries and regions according to the level of freedom available to journalists.

INDIA REMAINS ON U.S. PRIORITY WATCH LIST

  • Office of USTR released its annual Special 301 Report on adequacy and effectiveness of trading partners’ protection of intellectual property (IP) rights.
  • Trading partners that currently present the most significant concerns regarding IP rights are placed on the Priority Watch List.
  • India continues to be on the ‘Priority Watch List’ for lack of adequate IP rights protection.

RARE SNOW LEOPARDS SPOTTED IN UTTARAKHAND

  • A pair of snow leopards has been sighted in Nanda Devi National Park in Uttarakhand.

About Snow Leopards ((Panthera uncia)

  • It is classified as Vulnerable by IUCN and is under Schedule I of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972.
  • They are listed in Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS).
  • In India, Snow Leopards are found in the Himalayan and trans-Himalayan landscape at an elevation between 3,000 meters and 5,400 m, spanning over 100,000 square km across Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh.

GREAT BARRIER REEF’S MASS BLEACHING 

  • A massive bleaching occurred in 2020 in all three sections of the Great Barrier reef – northern, central and southern – the first time this has happened since mass bleaching was first seen in 1998.
  • The Great Barrier Reef, the world’s largest coral reef ecosystem located in Australia, recently experienced its third major bleaching event in five years.
  • It is considered to be the most widespread coral bleaching event on record, owing to the rise in temperatures due to climate change.

DAPORIJO BRIDGE OVER SUBANSIRI RIVER

  • It is strategic bridge in Arunachal Pradesh, as it will allow the speedier movement of men and logistics material towards the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China.

o            Subansiri river is a right bank tributary of Brahmaputra river.

  • It was constructed by Border Roads Organisation (BRO), amid Covid-19 lockdown following social distancing norms.

o            BRO, under Ministry of Defence develops and maintains road networks in India border areas and friendly neighbouring countries.

 

ANAK KRAKATAU 

  • It is a volcanic island in the Sunda Strait between the Java and Sumatra islands in Indonesia.
  • Anak Krakatau, meaning child of Krakatau, is the offspring of the famous Krakatau volcano, whose eruption in 1883 triggered a massive tsunami and a period of global cooling.
  • Recently, it witnessed a volcanic eruption.

BHARAT PADHE ONLINE

  • Recently, Ministry of Human Resource Development, MHRD, launched a week-long ‘Bharat Padhe Online’ campaign for Crowd sourcing of Ideas for Improving Online Education ecosystem of India.
  • It aimed to invite all the best brains in the country to share suggestions and solutions directly with HRD Ministry to overcome any constraints found in the online education system.

o            The educators and teachers across the country can also come forward to contribute with their expertise and experience in their field through this platform.

TIANWEN-1

  • Tianwen-1 is China’s first Mars exploration mission to be launched later this year.
  • Mission includes an orbiting spacecraft, landing craft and a detachable rover to roam the Martian surface.
  • China’s earlier attempted an exploratory probe to Mars called Yinghuo-1, in a Russian spacecraft in 2011.

o            This has failed as it was declared lost and later burnt during re-entry.

  • US, Russia, EU and India have so far succeeded in sending missions to Mars.
  • India is also first country to have entered the Martian orbit in its first attempt.

SUNRISE MISSION 

  • Recently, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) announced SunRISE Mission.
  • The Sun Radio Interferometer Space Experiment (SunRISE) will explore how Sun generates and releases the giant weather storms, known as the solar particle storms, into space.
  • Solar storms are a variety of eruptions of mass and energy from the solar surface such as flares, coronal mass ejections etc.
  • They all involve sudden releases of stored magnetic energy, which accelerates the hot gases near the surface or in the corona of the Sun.

MAZE RANSOMWARE

  • Recently, IT services provider Cognizant had faced Maze ransomware attack.
  • A ransomware attack infects computers in a network and encrypts files on these computers and then demands a ransom to recover the files.
  • Maze ransomware transfers the data onto its server and holds until a ransom is paid to recover it. If the ransom is not paid, the attackers publish the data online.

EXERCISE NCC YOGDAN

  • Under Exercise NCC Yogdan, National Cadet Corps (NCC) is extending the services of cadets to help civilian authorities in fight against COVID-19.
  • For this, NCC has issued guidelines for temporary employment of its cadets.

o            Tasks envisaged for NCC cadets: Manning of call centers; distribution of relief materials/ medicines/food/essential commodities; community assistance; data management and queue & traffic management.

o            Cadets should not be employed in handling of law and order situation or for active military duties or at hot spots.

STRANDED IN INDIA PORTAL

  • The Ministry of Tourism has come up with a portal titled ‘Stranded in India’.
  • It aims to disseminate information regarding the services that can be availed by foreign tourists who are stuck far away from their home land.
  • It will also act as a support network for foreign tourists stuck in various parts of the country.

FESTIVALS IN NEWS

Rongali Bihu

  • It is celebrated in Assam. It is also called Bohag Bihu.
  • It marks the beginning of Assamese New Year.
  • Assamese celebrate Bihu thrice a year, which signify the distinct cycles of farming – Bhogali/Magh Bihu (January), Bohag/Rongali Bihu (April), and Kongali Bihu (October).

Baisakhi 

  • It is a harvest festival celebrated in Punjab.
  • It also has historical significance for the Sikhs as in 1699, Guru Gobind Singh (10th spiritual guru of Sikhs) chose the festival as the moment to establish Khalsa.

Naba Barsha

  • It is celebrated in West Bengal. It is also called Poila Baisakh.
  • People decorate their houses with rangoli in their courtyards made with a paste of rice and water called Alpona.

Puthandu

  • It is celebrated in Tamil Nadu.
  • It is also mentioned in Sangam literature.

Vishu

  • It is celebrated in Kerala.
  • This festival involves worship of Lord Vishnu and Lord Krishna by the devotees.

Maha Vishuva Sankranti

  • It is start of Odia New Year.
  • Special pujas are conducted at Sri Jagannath Temple, Puri.

Jude Sheetal

  • It is celebrated in Bihar. It is also called Maithili New Year.
  • In this festival people donate earthen pitcher containing water to temple priests.

Meru Jatra

  • It is celebrated in South Odisha (specially in Ganjam district).
  • It marks the end of a 21-day long festival named ‘Danda Nata’.

Chaitra Jatra

  • It is celebrated at Tara Tarini hill shrine in Odisha.
  • The shrine is located at a hilltop on banks of Rushikulya river.

Ambubachi Mela

  • It is a festival marking the annual menstruation of the presiding Goddess at Guwahati’s Kamakhya temple. It is also called ‘Mahakumbh of the East’
  • It is closely associated with Tantric Shakti cult prevalent in eastern parts of India and also known as Ameti or Tantric fertility festival.
  • The Kamakhya temple is atop the Nilachal Hills, facing Brahmaputra River.