I. POLITY AND CONSTITUTION
JUDGES IN RAJYA SABHA
Recently, the President nominated the former Chief Justice of India, Ranjan Gogoi to the Rajya Sabha. More on news
• The President has used his powers under Article 80 (1)(a) to nominate 12 persons having special knowledge or practical experience in respect of such matters as the following: Literature, science, art and social service.
• Ranjan Gogoi was nominated to the Rajya Sabha within six months of his retirement as the 46th Chief Justice of India
• There has been a number of reactions and counterreactions to it. A public interest litigation has also been filed in the Supreme Court against this move.
• No legal/ constitutional bar- the Article 124(7) provides that a retired Supreme Court judge cannot “plead or act in any court or before any authority within the territory of India”.
- This provision only restricts post-retirement appointments in Judiciary itself, but not in posts of president, governor, member of parliament, etc. o There is no cooling off period before a Judge following his/her retirement.
• Compromises the independence of judiciary- It sends out the message that if a judge gives ruling in favour of the executive, he/she will be rewarded.
- More than being a reward for the retired judge, the offer of a plum post-retirement job, sends a message to judges who are still working.
RIGHT TO PROPERTY
Recently, the Supreme Court has reiterated that forcible dispossession of a person of his private property without due process of law is a human right violation.
Constitutional Amendments related to Right to Property:
• The First amendment added two Articles 31-A & 31B and Ninth schedule to the Constitution.
o Article 31-A included provisions for saving of certain laws providing for acquisition of estates from Articles 14, 19.
o Article 31-B provided that any act or regulation mentioned in Ninth Schedule was immune from judicial review and cannot be nulled on the basis that they might violate any of the fundamental rights.
o Ninth Schedule was added to the constitution so that government could park certain laws which were to be kept immune from judicial review.
o It was mainly done to secure the constitutional validity of zamindari abolition laws.
• The Fourth amendment extended the scope of Article 31-A by adding a few more categories of deprivation of property which were to be immune from litigation under Articles 14, 19 & 31.
• The Seventeenth amendment further elaborated the definition of ‘estate’ in Article 31-A.
• The Twenty Fifth amendment amended Article 31 and added a new Article 31-C
o Article 31-C provided for saving of laws giving effect to certain directive principles (Article 39(b) and 39(c) were given precedence over Articles 14, 19 and 31).
• The Forty Second amendment amended Article 31-C to give precedence to all DPSPs over Articles 14, 19 and 31.
o This was deemed unconstitutional by the judiciary in the Minerva mills v Union of India Case.
Right to Property as a Human Right
• In several cases, the Supreme Court of India has held that the right to property is not just a statutory right but is also a human right.
• Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948 under Section 17(i) and (ii) also recognizes right to property. It states that-
o Everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with others,
o No-one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property.
Recently, the deep political crisis in the state of Madhya Pradesh has once again brought the spotlight on the worrying trend in Indian parliamentary system i.e. Anti-Defection Law.
Anti-defection Law (ADL)
• The Tenth Schedule also known as Anti-defection Law, was inserted in the Constitution in 1985, by the 52nd Amendment Act.
• It lays down the process by which legislators may be disqualified on grounds of defection by the Presiding Officer of a legislature based on a petition by any other member of the House.
• It seeks to provide a stable government by ensuring the legislators do not switch sides. It seeks to prevent such political defections which may be due to reward of office or other similar considerations.
• The law applies to both Parliament and state assemblies.
Disqualification under ADL
o Members: There are two grounds on which a member of a legislature can be disqualified:
✓ If the member voluntarily gives up the membership of the party, he shall be disqualified. Voluntarily giving up the membership is not the same as resigning from a party.
▪ Even without resigning, a legislator can be disqualified if by his conduct the Speaker/Chairman of the concerned House draws a reasonable inference that the member has voluntarily given up the membership of his party.
✓ If a legislator votes in the House against the direction of his party and his action is not condoned by his party, he can be disqualified.
o Independent Members: He becomes disqualified to remain a member of the House if he joins any political party after such election.
o Nominated Members: If he joins any political party after the expiry of six months from the date on which he takes his seat in the House.
Exceptions under the law:
• Legislators may change their party without the risk of disqualification in certain circumstances:
o If there is a merger between two political parties and two-thirds of the members of a legislature party agree to the merger, they will not be disqualified.
- If a person is elected as the speaker of Lok Sabha or the Chairman of Rajya Sabha then he could resign from his party, and re-join the party once he demits that post.
WORLD HAPPINESS REPORT 2020
Recently, eighth edition of World Happiness Report released by Sustainable Development Solutions Network.
Findings of the report
• Finland topped the report as happiest country amongst 156 nations surveyed.
• India dropped to rank 144 from previously at 140 and became new entrant to the bottom-fifteen group.
• India ranked lower than neighbours Nepal at 92, Pakistan at 66, Bangladesh at 107 and Sri Lanka at 130.
• According to the index, the urban-rural difference in India was high and peri-urban population was happier than urban population.
• The happiness study ranks the countries of the world on the basis of questions from the Gallup World Poll. The results are then correlated with other factors, including GDP and social security.
II. INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS
INDIA’S SOFT POWER
Recently, India has ranked 27th, in the Global Soft-Power Index 2020.
What is soft power?
• Soft power is the ability of a country to persuade others to do what it wants without resorting to force or coercion.
• Soft power, lies in a country’s attractiveness and comes from three resources:
o its culture (in places where it is attractive to others),
o its political values (when it lives up to them at home and abroad), and
o its foreign policies (when they are seen as legitimate and having moral authority).
• Though slower to yield results, soft power is a less expensive means than military force or economic inducements to get others to do what a country wants.
• Noted ancient Indian scholars like Kautilya and Kamandak have referred to ‘soft’ diplomacy, including the practice of sandhi (peace).
India’s Strengths as a Soft Power
• India’s long history, culture and civilization: These have attracted both intellectuals and common folk from across the globe to India.
• Presence of all the major religions of the world: Four are homegrown- Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism and four came from outside- Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Christianity and Islam. This adds to the incentives for the religiously minded foreigners to visit India.
✓ The Indian government is using this aspect of soft power in a big way in its outreach to East, Southeast, and Central Asia.
✓ Buddhism is at the heart of its diplomacy here. Among these is the Nalanda University project, a major soft power initiative of the Indian government that envisages the revival of a renowned center of Buddhist learning.
• Yoga and Meditation: Have become household terms in most countries and the health aspects of these are being researched and propagated by well know physicians and doctors.
• Music, dance, art and architecture: Even though the Taj Mahal is the most famous monument of India, foreign tourists are discovering thousands of other historical and archaeological sites all over India.
• Bollywood has been projected as a great Soft Power tool for as Bollywood movies are popular among the people of many countries. o In Afghanistan, for instance, Bollywood and Indian soap operas have a massive following. Bollywood movies are hugely popular in Africa as well.
• Indian Cuisine is a major attraction for foreigners. There may not be a single big city in the world without at least two or three Indian Restaurants.
• Indian Diaspora as NRIs and PIOs play a vital role in projecting its Soft Power. They not only help in disseminating our culture but also have, on occasions, contributed to promoting our Foreign Policy goals.
NUCLEAR NON-PROLIFERATION TREATY AT 50
Recently, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) which came into force in 1970, marked its 50th anniversary.
• Objectives: To prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and weapons technology, to promote cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy and to further the goal of achieving nuclear disarmament and general and complete disarmament.
• It is described as the “cornerstone of global nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament” and it is among the most widely-adhered-to global treaties.
• State funding of elections be considered only after some prerequisites, such as internal democracy in political parties and complete transparency in their financial affairs, are met.
• The Treaty represents the only binding commitment in a multilateral treaty to the goal of disarmament by the nuclear-weapon States.
• India is a non-signatory to this treaty and a total of 191 States have joined the Treaty, including the five nuclear-weapon States.
• The treaty defines nuclear-weapon states as those that have built and tested a nuclear explosive device before 1 January 1967; these are the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, France, and China.
o Four other states are known or believed to possess nuclear weapons: India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea.
• All countries except the above four are parties to the NPT.
INDIAN OCEAN COMMISSION
India has become observer of Indian Ocean Commission.
Indian Ocean Commission
• The Indian Ocean Commission (IOC) is an intergovernmental organization created by the Port-Louis Declaration in 1982.
• The IOC was institutionalized in Seychelles in 1984 by the General Agreement for Cooperation, better known as the Victoria Agreement.
• Composition- IOC is the only regional organization in Africa composed exclusively of islands, which brings together five-member states-
o The Union of the Comoros
o Réunion (French overseas territory)
The Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA)
• It is an inter-governmental organisation aimed at strengthening regional cooperation and sustainable development within the Indian Ocean region through its 22 Member States and 9 Dialogue Partners.
• It was formed in 1997 and its secretariat is in Mauritius.
• The members include Australia, Bangladesh, Comoros, India, Indonesia, Iran, Kenya, Madagascar, Malaysia, Mauritius, Mozambique, Oman, Seychelles, Singapore, Somalia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Thailand, United Arab Emirates, Maldives and Yemen.
• The major priorities & focus areas include: Fisheries Management, Blue Economy, Women’s Economic Empowerment, Maritime Safety & Security etc.
ECONOMIC IMPACT OF COVID-19
o Of essentials: Stockpiling of essential commodities like rice, lintels etc. was noticed.
o However, after about 10 days of lockdown, demand for vegetables, fruits dropped by 60% as bulk buyers & restaurants stayed away.
o Electricity, Diesel and Petrol demand fell 9.2%, 26% and 17% respectively in March.
o Of non-essential goods: out-of-home, impulse consumption in sectors like electronics, jewellery etc. is crashing. o Global demand has also weakened
• Supply: Restrictions have affected the supply chains of big companies and only the bare essential is produced and distributed.
o Supply of agri-produce has been affected because of no or little activity in Mandis, reduced labour, transportation problems and farmers’ own reluctance, leading to low wholesale prices.
o E-tailers are struggling to get permits.
• Price: because of rapid changes in market conditions, prices have been very volatile. Overall, there has been a steep drop in commodity prices in emerging markets.
• Balance of payment:
o Current account: Lower crude oil prices, slowdown in gold and other imports can reduce trade deficit. However, overseas remittances (mainly from West Asia) will also reduce. Export sector is facing over 50% cancellation due to global lockdown
o Capital account: Foreign investors pulled out $14-15 billion from Indian debt and equity markets in March. As per RBI data, forex reserves increased during last week (March 21-27), mainly because of increased gold prices (decreased earlier).
• Inflation: The RBI has forecasted inflation to collapse to 2.4% in the fourth quarter of FY21 amid a pronounced slump in demand. Reasons are:
o Fall in demand because of reduced profits and income.
o Distress in rural economy.
• Economic Growth: o IMF has confirmed that world’s economy is in recession that will be worse than 2009.
Government and Regulatory Response
• Economic relief package worth 1.7 lakh crore in the form of PM Garib Kalyan Yojana has been announced. It is likely to induce liquidity and spur demand and reduce distress in both formal and informal sectors.
• Relief to exporters:
o India has urged the countries, with which it has free trade agreements (FTAs), to allow imports of goods without certificate of origin temporarily. An online portal has also been launched recently to ease the process.
o Export promotion schemes: Remission of Duties and Taxes on Exported Products (RoDTEP) has been approved and India has appealed against a WTO ruling that prohibited export related subsidies.
o Export restriction of some pharmaceutical APIs has also been relaxed.
• Ministry of Home Affairs has asked states to allow transportation of all goods without making a distinction of essential and non-essential during lockdown.
• PM CARES Fund launched to raise resources to tackle COVID19.
CONSOLIDATION OF PUBLIC SECTOR BANKS
Government has approved the amalgamation of ten Public Sector Banks (PSBs). At present, India has 18 stateowned banks compared with 27 in 2017. After the merger, the number will further come down to 12.
Benefits of Bank Consolidation
• Cost benefits as larger banks offer better economies of scale, efficiency, cost of funding, risk diversification.
• Revenue benefits (economies and scope for large deals): Banks’ prudential norms limit the size of lending by banks as banks take risks as per banks’ size. Hence to invest in large projects, large banks with huge lending capacity are needed, to meet India’s aspirations of a $5 trillion GDP economy.
• The adoption of technologies across the amalgamating banks, access to a wider talent pool, and a larger database would lead PSB’s to be in a position to gain competitive advantage by leveraging analytics in a rapidly digitalising banking landscape.
BASEL III NORMS
Implementation of Basel-III were deferred by a year to January 2023, due to Covid-19 pandemic.
The Basel III accord
• Basel III accord is a set of financial reforms that was developed by the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision (BCBS), with the aim of strengthening regulation, supervision, and risk management within the banking industry.
• Due to the impact of the 2008 Global Financial Crisis on banks, Basel III was introduced to improve the banks’ ability to handle shocks from financial stress and to strengthen their transparency and disclosure.
• Basel III norms were finalised in 2017. Its implementation date has been postponed several times.
• The guidelines focus on four banking parameters: capital, leverage, funding and liquidity.
o Minimum capital requirements for banks is 4.5% of common equity, as a percentage of the bank’s riskweighted assets. (Currently 2% under Basel II).
o Leverage Ratio: It is ratio of Tier 1 capital by the average total consolidated assets of a bank. Under this, banks are required to hold a leverage ratio in excess of 3%. It was introduced under Basel-III.
o Basel III introduced two liquidity ratios. Liquidity Coverage Ratio and the Net Stable Funding Ratio.
✓ The Liquidity Coverage Ratio requires banks to hold sufficient highly liquid assets that can withstand a 30-day stressed funding scenario as specified by the supervisors.
✓ Net Stable Funding Ratio (NSFR) requires banks to maintain stable funding above the required amount of stable funding for a period of one year of extended stress.
MINERAL LAWS (AMENDMENT) BILL, 2020
Parliament recently passed The Mineral Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2020 for amendments in Mines & Mineral (Development and Regulation) Act 1957 and The Coal Mines (Special Provisions) Act, 2015.
• Composite license for prospecting and mining: A new type of license, called prospecting license-cum-mining lease has been introduced.
o Currently, separate licenses are provided for prospecting and mining of coal and lignite, called prospecting license, and mining lease, respectively. Prospecting includes exploring, locating, or finding mineral deposit.
o The new type of license will be a composite license providing for both prospecting and mining activities.
• Removal of restriction on end-use of coal: Companies will be free to use extracted mineral both for captive use of end use plants (power, steel, cement etc.) and commercial sale in the open market.
• Eligibility criteria for auction of coal and lignite blocks: The companies which do not possess any prior coal mining experience in India but are financially strong and or have mining experience in other minerals or in other countries can now participate in auction of coal/lignite blocks.
Recently, Union Cabinet has approved three schemes for electronics sector namely:
• A production-linked incentive manufacturing scheme.
• Scheme for Promotion of manufacturing of Electronic Components and Semiconductors (SPECS).
• Electronics Manufacturing Clusters (EMC) 2.0.
DIRECT TAX VIVAD SE VISHWAS ACT, 2020
Parliament passed Direct Tax Vivad se Vishwas Act, 2020. Key
Features of the Act
• The Act provides an opportunity to taxpayers to settle direct tax disputes by paying due taxes with complete waiver of interest and penalty till June 30. (Earlier March 31, extended due to Covid-19 lockdown).
• It is applicable to all the appeals/petitions filed by taxpayers or the income tax department, with the following forums: Commissioner of Income-tax (Appeals); Income-tax Appellate Tribunal; High Court; or Supreme Court as on the 31st day of January, 2020 irrespective of whether demand in such cases is pending or has been paid.
o Also, Income tax cases being arbitrated abroad are eligible under the Act.
• Punjab and Haryana High Court recently declared that Sukhna Lake in Chandigarh is a “living entity” or “legal person” with rights, duties and liabilities of a living person.
• The court observed that Sukhna Lake is required to be declared as a legal entity for its survival, preservation and conservation.
• It also declared all citizens of Chandigarh as loco parentis (in the place of a parent) to save the lake from extinction.
• The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) declared the National Chambal Sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh as eco-sensitive zone (ESZ).
• The MoEF&CC notified an area to an extent of zero to two kilometres around the boundary of National Chambal Sanctuary as the National Chambal Sanctuary ESZ.
DRAFT ENVIRONMENT IMPACT ASSESSMENT NOTIFICATION 2020
The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) has proposed a draft Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) notification to replace the current EIA notification 2006. Background
• All projects that fall under the purview of the Environment Protection Act (EPA), 1986, require an environmental clearance (EC) for running its operations. They are usually given before a project commences.
• EIA notification 2006 issued under EPA regulates EC given by government for projects such as dams, mining, thermal power plants, infrastructure projects like highways, ports, airport and big construction projects etc.
• The new notification is being brought in order to make the process more transparent and expedient by implementation of an online system, further delegation, rationalisation and standardisation of the EIA process.
• The notification incorporates several scattered amendments that the government made from time to time since the 2006 notification for streamlining the process, decentralization and implementation of the directions of Courts and National Green Tribunal (NGT).
V. SOCIAL ISSUES
POCSO RULES 2020
Central government has notified the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Rules, 2020 which gives effect to amendments made to POCSO Act in 2019.
Key Provisions of The Rules
• Mandatory police verification of staff in any institution housing children or coming in regular contact with children like schools, care homes, sports academies etc.
• State Governments to formulate a child protection policy based on the principle of zero-tolerance to violence against children, which shall be adopted by all institutions, organizations, or any other agency working with, or coming in contact with children.
POCSO Amendment Act 2019
POCSO Act was brought in 2012 to address the heinous crimes of sexual abuse and sexual exploitation of children through less ambiguous and more stringent legal provisions. Following amendments were made in 2019.
• Increases the minimum punishment (including death penalty) for penetrative sexual assault, aggravated penetrative sexual assault.
• Adds assault resulting in death of child, and assault committed during a natural calamity, or in any similar situations of violence into Aggravated penetrative sexual assault.
• Pornographic purposes: Defines child pornography as any visual depiction of sexually explicit conduct involving a child including photograph, video, digital or computergenerated image indistinguishable from an actual child.
• Storage of pornographic material: Includes two other offences (i) failing to destroy, or delete, or report pornographic material involving a child (ii) transmitting, displaying, distributing such material except for the purpose of reporting it.
TECH FOR TRIBALS
TRIFED launched ‘Tech for Tribals’ program to develop Tribal entrepreneurship.
About ‘Tech for Tribals’
• It is an initiative of TRIFED supported by Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises.
• It aims at capacity building and imparting entrepreneurship skills to tribal forest produce gatherers enrolled under the Pradhan Mantri Van Dhan Yojana (PMVDY).
• It was launched in collaboration with IIT-Kanpur, IITRoorkee, IIM Indore, Kalinga Institute of Social Science, Bhubaneshwar etc.
VI. SCIENCE & TECH.
Coronavirus and its origin
• Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that circulate among a range of animals, such as bats, cats, and birds. Sometimes these viruses make a jump over from animals to humans (known as Spill over) causing diseases known as Zoonotic diseases.
o This spill over happens due to factors such as mutations in the virus or increased contact between humans and animals.
• The virus causes respiratory and gastrointestinal symptoms in humans with infectious diseases ranging from common cold to more severe diseases such as severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) and CoVID-19.
Structure and physiology of the virus
• Coronaviruses are spherical shaped and consist of a core of genetic material (RNA) surrounded by an envelope with mushroom shaped protein spikes. These spikes binds and fuses to human cells allowing the virus to gain entry and replicate itself inside the body.
• The protein spikes gives the appearance of a crown or a halo around the Sun. Crown in Latin is called as “Corona” and this is how the virus also got its name.
• COVID-19 is caused by SARS-CoV-2 also known as novel coronavirus (n-CoV), as it is very similar to the one that caused SARS in 2002.
SUN SPOT CYCLE
Researchers from IISER Kolkata identified Sunspots that herald the start of a new Sun Spot cycle.
What are Sun Spots?
• Sunspots are areas that appear dark on the surface of the Sun and are cooler than other parts of the Sun’s surface.
• They form at areas where magnetic fields are so strong that they keep some of the heat within the Sun from reaching the surface.
What is Sun Spot cycle?
• Sun Spot’s number waxes and wanes as the amount of magnetic flux that rises up to the Sun’s surface varies with time in a cycle called the solar cycle. This cycle which lasts 11 years on average is referred to as the sunspot cycle.
• So far, astronomers have documented 24 such cycles, the last one ended in 2019. Recent observations point to the signs that 25th cycle has just begun.
• Solar activities affect space weather, which can have an impact on space-based satellites, GPS, power grids and so on.
Union government recently issued a notification to announce that all airlines operating in India can now provide in-flight wi-fi services to its passengers.
• The term Wi-Fi stands for wireless fidelity.
• It is a radio transmission technology and is built upon a set of standards that allow high-speed and secure communications between a wide variety of digital devices, access points, and hardware.
• The typical range of a standard Wi-Fi network can reach up to 100 meters in the open air.
• They transmit at frequencies of 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz.
SUPREME COURT LIFTS CURBS ON CRYPTOCURRENCIES
Recently, Supreme Court has set aside an RBI’s April 2018 circular banning regulated financial institutions such as Banks and NBFCs from trading in virtual currency/cryptocurrency.
What is Cryptocurrency?
• Cryptocurrency is a type of digital currency that uses cryptography for security and anticounterfeiting measures.
• It is normally not issued by any central authority, making it immune to government interference or manipulation.
• The control of each cryptocurrency works through distributed ledger technology called blockchain.
• Examples include Bitcoin, Ethereum, Ripple etc.
• In March, 2020 WHO publicly characterized COVID-19 as a pandemic.
• According to the World Health Organization, a pandemic is declared when a new disease for which people do not have immunity spreads around the world and between people sustainably beyond expectations.
• COVID-19 is the first pandemic known to be caused by the emergence of a new coronavirus. In the past century, there have been four pandemics caused by the emergence of novel influenza viruses. As a result, most research and guidance around pandemics is specific to influenza.
• The last pandemic declared was in 2009 during the outbreak of H1N1 flu, commonly known as the swine flu which killed up to 575,000 people in the past decade.
Natural herd immunity was advocated for some time by the UK government as a strategy to contain the COVID19 pandemic in their country.
About the concept
• It is the indirect protection from a contagious infectious disease that happens when a population is immune either through vaccination or immunity developed through previous infection.
• Vaccinated or immune people act as a buffer between the infected persons and people who aren’t vaccinated, or in whom the vaccine doesn’t trigger immunity.
• Once herd immunity has been established for a while, and the ability of the disease to spread is hindered, and can eventually be eliminated.
• Facebook Pragati is a Corporate Social responsibility (CSR) initiative by Facebook India in collaboration with Nudge Centre for Social Innovation by awarding four grants of up to Rs 50 lakh for each non-profit to scale their work.
• The initiative will incubate and accelerate earlystage women-led non-profits that are working to drive women entrepreneurship and to spread awareness and adoption of technology among women in India.
KISAN RAIL SCHEME
• Centre has formed a panel, to look into the implementation of the Kisan Rail scheme.
• Kisan Rail is proposed under Union budget 20202021 to build seamless national cold supply chain for perish-able goods like milk, meat and fish.
• Indian Railways will set up a “Kisan Rail” through PPP arrangements.
• There shall be refrigerated coaches in Express and Freight trains
JEEVAN KAUSHAL CURRICULUM TO UPGRADE LIFE SKILLS
• The University Grants Commission (UGC) has developed life skills (Jeevan Kaushal) curriculum for undergraduate students at Universities and Colleges.
• Objectives of the Jeevan Kaushal curriculum are:
o to enhance self-awareness o to increase emotional competency at place of study/work
o to provide opportunity for realising one’s potential through practical experience
GENDER SOCIAL NORMS INDEX (GSNI)
• Recently, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has released the Gender Social Norms Index (GSNI).
• GSNI is a social norms index which captures how social beliefs can obstruct gender equality along four dimensions: political, educational, economic and physical integrity.
• Overall, the GSNI reflects how prevalent are biases from social norms in these dimensions as well as how are they evolving.
GRAND ETHIOPIAN RENAISSANCE DAM (GERD)
• Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan have disputes over The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD).
• GERD is a 6,450 MW hydropower project nearing completion on the Blue Nile River in Ethiopia.
• White Nile River and Blue Nile River two major tributaries of the Nile. The Blue Nile supplies about 80% of the water in the Nile during the rainy season.
SVALBARD SEED VAULT
• Recently, Cherokee Nation, a US based tribe deposited culturally important crop seeds in the Global Seed Vault in Svalbard.
• The Seed Vault is a long-term seed storage facility located inside a frozen mountain under the Norwegian permafrost.
• It is located at the Norwegian island of Spitsbergen in the Arctic Svalbard archipelago.
• The hope for this cold storage facility is that, if there is a global emergency, like a nuclear war, a pandemic or a natural catastrophe that leaves future generations without food supplies, these seeds could grow new food crops.
• For this reason, this seed bank is often referred to as the ‘Doomsday Seed Bank’.
• It represents the world’s largest collection of crop diversity.
BIOLOGICAL WEAPONS CONVENTION
• March 26 marked the 45th anniversary of the Biological Weapons Convention coming into force.
• It was the first multilateral disarmament treaty banning the development, production and stockpiling of an entire category of weapons of mass destruction.
• It entered into force on March 26, 1975.
• It currently has 183 states-parties. India signed the convention in 1973 and ratified it in 1974.
• Government launched a Mission on Nano Science and Technology (Nano Mission) in May 2007 as an “umbrella capacity-building programme”.
• The Department of Science and Technology is the nodal agency for implementing the Nano Mission and steered by a Nano Mission Council chaired by an eminent scientist.
• The Mission’s programmes target all scientists, institutions and industry in the country.
• Recently, a man from China’s Yunnan province died from Hantavirus.
• Hantaviruses are a family of viruses spread mainly by rodents and can cause varied disease syndromes in people.
• Hantaviruses in the Americas are known as “New World” hantaviruses and may cause hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS).
• While restoring internet connectivity in Jammu and Kashmir rules specified that Internet connectivity will be made available “with mac-binding”.
• Every device has a Media Access Control (MAC) address, a hardware identification number that is unique to it. While accessing the Internet, every device is assigned an Internet Protocol (IP) address.
• Mac-binding means binding together the MAC and IP addresses, so that all requests from that IP address are served only by the computer having that particular MAC address.
• It means that if the IP address or the MAC address changes, the device can no longer access the Internet.
• Also, monitoring authorities can trace the specific system from which a particular online activity was carried out.
ASTEROID 2020 AV2
• The 2020 AV2 asteroid is the first discovered asteroid entirely inside the orbit of Venus, with help of the Virtual Telescope Project.
• Asteroid 2020 AV2 has the shortest orbital period known so far in the asteroid population.
• Out of hundreds of thousands of known asteroids, only 21 asteroids are entirely inside of the Earth’s orbit called Interior-Earth objects (IEOs) i.e. their orbit has an aphelion (farthest point from the Sun) smaller than Earth’s perihelion (nearest point to the Sun), which is 0.983 astronomical units (AU).
LALIT KALA AKADEMI AWARDS 2020
• Recently President of India conferred the 61st Annual Lalit Kala Akademi Awards to 15 meritorious artists.
About Lalit Kala Akademi (National Academy of Art)
• It was inaugurated in New Delhi in 1954, by the then Minister for Education, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad.
• The Akademi was given statutory authority in 1957 under the Societies Registration Act 1860.
• It is the youngest of the three Academies founded by the Government of India (other two being Sahitya Akademi and Sangeet Natak Akademi) and was established in pursuance of a cultural and national identity.
PYRAMID OF DJOSER REOPENED
• Recently, Egypt reopened the Pyramid of Djoser, the first pyramid ever built, after a 14-year restoration.
• Pyramid of Djoser is located at the Saqqara archaeological site near Cairo.
• The structure is believed to be designed by Imhotep, described by some as the first architect of the world and constructed during Pharaoh Djoser, the second king of Ancient Egypt’s Third Dynasty (2650 BC– 2575 BC).
• The structure is designated as UNESCO World Heritage Site.
• Recently, Navroz festival was celebrated by the Parsi community in India.
• Navroz (‘New Day’) is the Parsi New Year, Iranian New Year or the Persian New Year.
• It is a holy festival for the Zoroastrians and is also celebrated among some Muslim and Iranian communities.
• It marks the first day of spring, and it usually takes place on March 21.
Recently Chapchar Kut, festival of Mizos, was celebrated across Mizoram.
About Chapchar Kut
• Chapchar Kut is a festival held during the period when the bamboos and trees that have been cut down are being awaited to dry to be burnt for jhumming.
o Jhum cultivation, also known as the slash and burn agriculture, is the process of growing crops by first clearing the land of trees and vegetation and burning them thereafter.
WORLD HERITAGE LIST FOR THE YEAR 2020
Government of India has submitted two nomination dossiers namely ‘Dholavira: A Harappan City’ and ‘Monuments and Forts of Deccan Sultanate’ for inclusion in the World Heritage List for the year 2020.
- Dholavira: A Harappan City Location: Khadir Island of the Rann of Kutchch, Gujarat.
- Monuments and Forts of Deccan Sultanate It includes Indo Islamic monuments at 4 sites in Gulbarga, Bidar, Bijapur and Hyderabad
RAJKUMARI AMRIT KAUR
Rajkumari Amrit Kaur was mentioned in TIME magazine’s list of the 100 most powerful women who defined the last century.
• She was a champion to the cause of women’s rights and worked towards eradication of the purdah system, child marriage, child illiteracy, and the devadasi system.
• In 1927, she helped in founding All India Woman’s Conference along with Margaret Cousins.
• She took an active part in the salt campaign and was arrested for her participation in the Dandi March.
• She became a secretary to Mahatma Gandhi in 1930, serving him for 16 years, and moved to Gandhiji’s ashram in 1934.
• She was elected to the Constituent Assembly from Central Provinces and Berar and was one of the 15 women Constituent Assembly Members.
• She was the only woman in the Independent India’s first Cabinet, thus becoming the first woman to hold a cabinet rank in free India.
o She was appointed as the Health Minister and remained in that position for 10 years.