CURRENT AFFAIRS – SEPTEMBER 2019

POLITY & CONSTITUTION

NATIONAL POPULATION REGISTER

Recently, government has decided to prepare a National Population Register (NPR) by September 2020 to lay the foundation for rolling out a citizens’ register across the country.

About National Population Register

  • The NPR is a list of “usual residents of the country”.

o According to the Ministry of Home Affairs, a “usual resident of the country” is one who has been residing in a local area for at least the last six months, or intends to stay in a particular location for the next six months.

  • The NPR is being prepared under provisions of the Citizenship Act 1955 and the Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003.
  • NPR will be conducted at the local, sub-district, district, state and national levels.
  • It will be conducted in conjunction with the first phase of the Census 2021, by the Office of the Registrar General of India (RGI) under the Home Ministry.

o Only Assam will not be included, given the recently completed NRC.

  • The exercise is different from the decennial Census and is not linked to the National Register of Citizens (NRC).

ONE NATION ONE LANGUAGE

Basis for promoting Hindi language

  • Article 351: It shall be the duty of the Union-

o to promote the spread of the Hindi language,

o to develop it so that it may serve as a medium of expression for all the elements of the composite culture of India and

o to secure its enrichment by assimilating without interfering with its genius, the forms, style and expressions used in Hindustani and in the other languages of India specified in the Eighth Schedule.

  • Article 120 and 210 regarding language to be used in Parliament and state legislature respectively gives the option of transacting business in Hindi as well in English.
  • Article 343 gives power to parliament to decide by law, the languages to be used for official work.
  • Article 344 provides for constitution of a parliamentary committee every 10 years to recommend to the President regarding progressive use of the Hindi language for the official purposes of the Union and restrictions on the use of English.

TRANSFER OF JUDGES

The unusual transfer of the Chief Justice of the Madras High Court, Justice Vijaya Kamlesh Tahilramani, to Meghalaya High Court has created a controversy around collegium system.

  • Earlier, the collegium, headed by Chief Justice, had recommended transfer of Justice Tahilramani to the Meghalaya High Court.
  • It was seen as a “punitive” transfer. The Madras High Court is the fourth largest high court with a sanctioned strength of 75 judges. The Meghalaya High Court is one of the few small High Courts, with a sanctioned strength of four judges—three permanent judges and one additional judge

Procedure of transfer of judges

  • Constitutional provision: The transfer of Judges from one High Court to another High Court is made by the President after consultations with the Chief Justice of India under Article 222 (1) of the Constitution.

o Art 217 (1) provides that the President shall hold consultation with the Chief Justice of India, the Governor of the State, and in case of appointment of a Judge other than the Chief Justice, the Chief Justice of the High Court.

  • Judicial Interpretation: The Supreme Court derives its power to select, appoint and transfer judges from its verdicts in Three Judges Cases. From the SC decisions on the subject of judges’ transfer, following points emerge:

o Transfer of a judge cannot be a punitive measure.

o Transfer can be ordered only on ‘public interest’ for the ‘better administration of justice’.

o Transfer can be ordered by President only on the basis of concurrence of the CJI after effective consultation.

REGIONAL BENCH OF SUPREME COURT

Vice President of India has suggested setting up of four Regional Benches of the Supreme Court.

Currently, the Supreme Court sits at Delhi.

Need for Regional Benches

  • Constitutional obligation: Article 39-A

directs the State to ensure that the operation of the legal system promotes justice on a basis of equal opportunity to

ensure that opportunities for securing justice are not denied to any citizen by reason of economic or other disabilities.

Thus, it is essential to ensure that the additional transaction cost of litigation for people of north-eastern states or southern states should be minimal.

  • High pendency of cases: More than 65,000 cases are pending in the Supreme Court, and disposal of appeals takes many years.

Constitutional provision

Article 130: According to Article 130, the Supreme Court may sit at place(s) other than Delhi on the order of the Chief Justice of India with the prior approval of the President of India.

  • Under Article 130, the chief justice of India acts as a persona designata and is not required to consult any other authority/person. Only presidential approval is necessary.
  • Also, no constitutional amendment would be required in order to set up such benches.

INTERNET AS BASIC RIGHT

Recently, in Faheema Shirin v. State of Kerala, the Kerala High Court declared the right to Internet access as a fundamental right.

Right to Internet as human right

  • The right to Internet access is the view that all people must be able to access the Internet in order to exercise and enjoy their rights to freedom of expression and opinion and other fundamental human rights.
  • The United Nations Human Rights Commission has passed a non-binding resolution that effectively makes internet access a basic human right.
  • This has been acknowledged in the Sustainable Development Goals. SDG 9 target significant increase in access to information and communications technology and strive to provide universal and affordable access to the Internet in least developed countries by 2020
  • It was in the case of Sabu Mathew George v. Union of India and Ors. (2018) that the Supreme Court declared that the Right to Access Internet is a basic fundamental right, which could not be curtailed at any cost, except for when it “encroaches into the boundary of illegality.”

RIGHT TO BE FORGOTTEN

Recently, the Court of Justice of the European Union ruled that EU regulations on the right to be forgotten do not apply beyond its boundaries.

  • In 2015, Commission nationale de l’informatique et des libertés (CNIL), an internet regulating agency in France, ordered Google to delete links from its global database.
  • Google refused to abide by the order, arguing that following the same would impede the free flow of information across the world, after which CNIL imposed fine on Google.
  • Google challenged the CNIL’s order at the European Court of Justice (ECJ), and contended that implementing the online privacy law beyond the EU would hamper access to information in countries around the world, especially those ruled by authoritarian governments.
  • Now, ECJ has now restricted applying the privacy law beyond the EU. It has also observed that the EU cannot enforce the ‘right to be forgotten’ on countries which do not recognise such a right.

About Right to be Forgotten (RTF)

  • It refers to the ability of individuals to limit, de-link, delete, or correct the disclosure of personal information on the internet that is misleading, embarrassing, irrelevant, or outdated.

o Such disclosure, may or may not be a consequence of unlawful processing by the data fiduciary.

  • RTF traces its origin to the ‘right to oblivion’ in the French jurisprudence.

o The right was utilized by former offenders, who had served their sentence, to object to publication of materials regarding their offense and consequent conviction. It was a right seen necessary to provide for easier social integration of erstwhile offenders.

GDPR and Right to be Forgotten

  • GDPR states that individual shall have the right to obtain from the controller the erasure (deletion) of personal data concerning him or her without undue delay and the controller shall have the obligation to erase personal data.
  • It has outlined the circumstances under which EU citizens can exercise this right under six conditions, including withdrawal of consent to use data, or if data is no longer relevant for the purpose it was collected.
  • However, the request may not be entertained in some situations such as if the request contradicts the right of freedom of expression and information, or when it goes against public interest in the area of public health, scientific or historical research or statistical purposes.

NGOS UNDER RTI

Recently, a Supreme Court ruling has brought the non-government organisations (NGOs) receiving funds from the governments under the ambit of Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005.

  • This judgment came while rejecting claims by some colleges and schools which contended that they are not public authority under the RTI Act.
  • Public authority under RTI: Section 2(h) of the RTI Act states that “public authority” means any authority or body or institution of self-government established or constituted

o By or under the Constitution

o By any other law made by Parliament

o By any other law made by state legislature

o By notification issued or order made by the appropriate Government, and includes any

✓ Body owned, controlled or substantially financed

✓ Non-Government organization substantially financed, directly or indirectly by funds provided by the appropriate Government.

  • The RTI Act does not define substantial financing. Supreme Court in its judgement has widened the definition of substantial financing.
  • Currently, the NGOs are regulated under the provisions of Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) and Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA Act).
  • This ruling would mean that NGOs will have to maintain records as provided under the RTI Act, and every citizen will have the right to get information from them.

INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS

DISPUTE SETTLEMENT SYSTEM OF WTO

The Appellate body of the Dispute Settlement System of the WTO is on the verge of becoming dysfunctional due to delay in filling its vacant seats.

About Dispute Settlement System

  • Dispute Settlement System (DSS) is a mechanism to resolve trade disputes between member states. It utilises both political negotiation and adjudication for dispute resolution.
  • The Uruguay Round negotiations (1986-1994) culminated in the creation of the DSS and the adoption of the Dispute Settlement Understanding (DSU) to govern trade disputes between member states.
  • The DSU embodies important principles for the functioning of the DSS:

o to provide stability and predictability to the multilateral trading system

o to establish a fast, efficient, dependable and rule-oriented system to resolve disputes

  • Dispute Settlement Body: The General Council is WTO’s highest decision-making body and it also meets as the DSB.

o It is essentially a political body and it administers rules and procedure of the DSU.

o Decisions are taken here by the reverse consensus method. That is, the decision is adopted unless there is consensus against it.

  • Appellate Body (AB): AB is a seven-member permanent organ that adjudicates appeals within the DSS.

o Members are appointed by the DSB for four-year terms.

o It follows the positive consensus mechanism.

INDIA- ASEAN: REVIEW OF FREE TRADE PACT

Recently, India and Association of South-East Asian nations (ASEAN) agreed to review the Free Trade Agreement (signed in 2009).

India- ASEAN Economic and Trade Relations:

  • In 1992, India became ASEAN’s sectoral dialogue partner, a Full Dialogue Partner in 1995 and a member of the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) in 1996.
  • In 2003, a Framework Agreement – the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) was signed to provide an institutional framework to enable economic cooperation;
  • In 2009, India-ASEAN Free Trade Agreement (AIFTA) was signed in Bangkok.

Under the pact, two trading partners set timelines for eliminating duties on the maximum number of goods traded between the two regions. In addition,

ASEAN-India Free Trade Area entered into force by the ASEAN-India Agreements on Trade in Service and Investments on 1 July 2015.

  • 2017 marked 25 years of dialogue partnership between India and ASEAN, and five years of the strategic partnership.
  • India has also engaged with ASEAN at both regional and sub-regional levels by signing economic cooperation agreements with its different members.

About ASEAN

  • ASEAN, is a geo-political and economic organization with 10 member countries, formed in August 1967 by Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand.
  • The membership expanded to include Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Myanmar and Vietnam.

QUAD

  • Recently, the four-way dialogue between the US, Japan, India and Australia – for a free and open Indo-Pacific – was held at the foreign minister’s level for the first time on the side-lines of the UN General Assembly.
  • This meeting is a “significant elevation” of the dialogue efforts by the partners countries to advance cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region as the Quadrilateral has so far met at the level of Joint Secretary-rank officials only.

About QUAD

  • The Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (also known as the Quad) is currently an informal but increasingly being formalised, strategic dialogue between the United States, Japan, Australia and India.

RUSSIAN FAR EAST

Recently, the 20th India-Russia annual summit and the fifth meeting of the Eastern Economic Forum (EEF) was held in Vladivostok, Russia.

  • The focus of the visit was on the development of the Far East for which India has extended a $1 billion line of credit.
  • The Eastern Economic Forum (EEF) established in 2015 aims to support the economic development of Russia’s Far East, and to expand international cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region.

o Among the participants in this fifth Summit are India, Malaysia, Japan, Australia, and South Korea.

o In the last five years, as many as 17 different countries have invested in the Far East.

✓ These include regional and global countries like China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, and Vietnam.

✓ As a result, 20 advanced special economic zones and five free ports have been put in place.

ECONOMY

UREA SUBSIDY

Centre has drawn up a plan to ease the controls on the retail prices of urea.

  • Govt plans to make the release of the ever-rising subsidy on urea far more targeted than now.
  • Now, government is choosing for direct transfer (DBT) of urea subsidy to the beneficiary farmers’ bank accounts instead of DBT to firms based on point of sale.

o The farmer will pay the market price at the time of purchase of urea and promptly receive the subsidy amount in his/her Aadhaar-linked bank account.

o This move will reduce the leakage of fertiliser subsidy and black marketing.

o Ceiling might be put on the subsidised fertiliser so that the alleged overuse of the nitrogenous fertiliser could be curbed.

o The fertilizer subsidy will be directly transferred by the government to the farmer’s e-wallet and an e-wallet will be made available with the Rupay Kisan Card.

Fertilizer industry in India

  • India is second largest consumer of urea fertilizers after China.
  • India also ranks second in the production of nitrogenous

fertilizers and third in phosphatic fertilizers whereas the requirement of potash is met through imports since there are limited reserves of potash in the country.

  • It is one of the eight core industries.
  • There are three fertilizer are classified as Primary, Secondary and Micronutrients.

PRADHAN MANTRI KISAN MANDHAN YOJANA (PM-KMY)

Recently, Prime Minister Narendra Modi dedicated ‘Pradhan Mantri Kisan Mandhan Yojana’ to the nation.

About Pradhan Mantri Kisan Mandhan Yojana (PM-KMY)

PM-KMY is an old age pension scheme for all land holding Small and Marginal Farmers (SMFs) in the country with a view to provide social security net as they have minimal or no savings to provide for old age and to support them in the event of consequent loss of livelihood.

  • Salient features:

o It is a voluntary and contribution-based pension scheme for farmers in the entry age group of 18 to 40 years and a monthly pension of Rs. 3000 will be provided to them on attaining the age of 60 years.

o The beneficiary is required to contribute Rs 100 per month in the pension fund at median entry age of 29 years, with matching contribution of Rs 100 by the Central Government.

o The Life Insurance Corporation of India (LIC) will be the Pension Fund Manager and responsible for Pension pay out.

o In case of death of the farmer before retirement date, the spouse may continue in the scheme by paying the remaining contributions till the remaining age of the deceased farmer.

o If the farmer dies after the retirement date, the spouse will receive 50% of the pension as Family Pension. After the death of both the farmer and the spouse, the accumulated corpus shall be credited back to the Pension Fund

LAND POOLING

Recently, the Central Government notified the Delhi Development Authority’s Policy on Land Polling to enhance economic opportunities and housing development in the city under Master Plan-21.

  • What is land pooling? Also known as land readjustment or land reconstitution – It is a land acquisition strategy where ownership rights of privately held land parcels are transferred to an appointed agency, with these land parcels being pooled as a result.

o The agency uses some of the pooled land for infrastructure development and sale, while the rights to new parcels in the pooled land are transferred back to the original landowners in some proportion to their original property.

  • Why land pooling? A number of flagship urban development projects have been delayed owing to issues with land acquisition, which often stem from problems with compensation, rehabilitation and resettlement for persons affected.

NATIONAL ANIMAL DISEASE CONTROL PROGRAMME (NADCP)

Recently, Prime Minister launched the National Animal Disease Control Programme (NADCP) in Mathura (UP).

About National Animal Disease Control Programme (NADCP)

  • The programme aims to control the livestock diseases the foot and mouth disease and brucellosis in livestock by 2025 and eradicate these by 2030.
  • It seeks to vaccinate over 500 million livestock including cattle, buffalo, sheep, goats and pigs against the Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD).
  • It also aims at vaccinating 36 million female bovine calves annually in its fight against the brucellosis disease.
  • Funding: 100% funding from the Central Government, for a period of five years till 2024.
  • The PM also launched the National artificial Insemination Programme and country wide workshop in all Krishi Vigyan Kendra’s (KVK) on vaccination and disease management, artificial insemination and productivity.

MULTI-MODAL TERMINAL

Recently the second riverine multi modal terminal on River Ganga was inaugurated at Sahibganj, Jharkhand.

  • It has been built under the Jal Marg Vikas Project.
  • This is the second riverine multi-modal terminal in the country, the first has been built in Varanasi and was inaugurated in November, 2018. The last Terminals is also being constructed in Haldia.
  • The objective behind the scheme is to promote inland waterways, primarily for cargo movement.
  • Inland Waterways Authority of India is the project Implementing Agency for the project.

About Jal Marg Vikas Project

  • The Government is implementing this project for the capacity augmentation of navigation on the Haldia-Varanasi stretch of National Waterway-1 (Ganga) with the technical and financial assistance of the World Bank.
  • Under this project, construction of three multimodal terminals, two intermodal terminals, one new navigational lock and works for fairway development, River Information System (RIS), vessel repair and maintenance facilities and RoRo terminals are envisaged to be completed.

SARAL INDEX

Karnataka has topped in the State Rooftop Solar Attractiveness Index (SARAL) ranking which was released recently by Ministry of New and Renewable Energy.

  • Cumulative rooftop solar installation as of March 2019 is 4.37 GW. This has to grow ten-fold so as to achieve the target of 40 GW by 2022.
  • Various states have different rooftop solar policies, incentives, metering regulations and rooftop availability. Their electricity tariffs, consumer mix and the robustness of distribution infrastructure also vary.
  • Therefore, a standardized tool that can assess and evaluate various states for their preparedness to support rooftop solar deployment is critical.

ENVIRONMENT

THE OCEAN AND CRYOSPHERE IN A CHANGING CLIMATE

Recently the IPCC Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate (SROCC) was released.

  • The SROCC is the second special report that the IPCC has published this year and the third of the IPCC’s sixth assessment cycle. The report on climate change and land was released in August 2019, while the 1.5°C report was published in October 2018.
  • The global ocean – comprising the Arctic, Pacific, Atlantic, Indian, and Southern oceans, as well as their marginal seas – covers 71% of the Earth surface.

o It contains about 97% of the Earth’s water, supplies 99% of the Earth’s biologically-habitable space, and provides roughly half of the primary production on Earth.

  • The cryosphere refers to frozen components of the Earth system that are at or below the land and ocean surface. These include “snow, glaciers, ice sheets, ice shelves, icebergs, sea ice, lake ice, river ice, permafrost and seasonally frozen ground”.

ATLANTIC MERIDIONAL OVERTURNING CIRCULATION (AMOC)

Recently, a study analysed that warming up of the Indian ocean is likely to boost a system of currents in the Atlantic Ocean (known as AMOC), that plays a key role in determining the weather across the world.

About Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC)

  • It is also known as Atlantic Conveyor Belt.
  • It is part of the Earth’s largest water circulation system known as Thermohaline circulation.
  • In this ocean currents move warm, salty water from the tropics to regions further north, such as western Europe and sends colder water south.
  • It transports a substantial amount of heat from the Tropics and Southern Hemisphere toward the North Atlantic, where the heat is transferred to the atmosphere.
  • It also aids in absorbing and storing atmospheric carbon.
  • It has been observed that since the past 15 years, this circulation has been weakening mainly due to global warming.

Thermohaline circulation

  • These are deep-ocean currents driven by differences in the water’s density, which is controlled by temperature (thermo) and salinity (haline).
  • Thermohaline circulation begins in the Earth’s polar regions. When ocean water in these areas gets very cold, sea ice forms. The surrounding seawater gets saltier, increases in density and sinks.
  • The sinking water spreads around all the oceans.
  • Surface water is pulled in to replace the sinking water, which in turn eventually becomes cold and salty enough to sink. This initiates the deep-ocean currents driving the global conveyer belt.

SINGLE USE PLASTIC

India has held off imposing a blanket ban on single-use plastics to combat pollution.

  • A blanket ban would not take place,contrary to expectations that were raised after the Prime Minister’s mention of single-use plastics on August 15, 2019.
  • Centre proposal to collect and dispose of 10,000 tonnes of single-use plastic items from all over the country was part of a broader campaign to rid India of single-use plastics by 2022.
  • The ban on single use plastic was seen as too disruptive for industry at a time when it is coping with an economic slowdown and job losses, hence this blanket ban was shelved.
  • For now, government will ask states to enforce existing rules against storing, manufacturing and using some single-use plastic products such as polythene bags and Styrofoam.

Steps taken by Govt

  • Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016 (as amended in 2018)

o Defines minimum thickness of plastic carry bags i.e. 50 microns. This would increase the cost and the tendency to provide free carry bags would come down.

o Responsibility of local bodies: Rural areas are brought under the rules since plastic has reached rural areas as well. The gram sabhas have been given responsibility of implementation.

o Extended Producer Responsibility: Producers and brand owners have been made responsible for collecting waste generated from their products.

o Producers are to keep a record of their vendors to whom they have supplied raw materials for manufacturing. This is to curb manufacturing of these products in unorganised sector.

COP 14: UN CONVENTION ON DESERTIFICATION

Recently, the 14th Conference of Parties (CoP14) of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) was convened in New Delhi.

  • This was the first time that India hosted a CoP of UNCCD.

United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD)

o It is one of three Conventions that came out of the historic 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro including UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and Convention on Biological Diversity.

o Established in 1994, it is sole legally binding international agreement that links environment & development to sustainable land management. It addresses specifically arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas.

Important takeaways of the CoP 14

  • Adoption of Delhi Declaration: in which parties expressed commitment for a range of issues, including gender and health, ecosystem restoration, taking action on climate change, private sector engagement, Peace Forest Initiative and recovery of five million hectares of degraded land in India.
  • Drought Toolbox launched: The Drought Toolbox is currently being developed as part of the Drought Initiative through the close partnership among UNCCD, WMO, FAO, GWP, National Drought Mitigation Centre (NDMC) of the University of Nebraska, and UNEP-DHI.

Land Degradation Neutrality

  • Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) has been defined by the Parties to the Convention as a state whereby the amount and quality of land resources, necessary to support ecosystem functions and services and enhance food security, remains stable or increases within specified temporal and spatial scales and ecosystems.
  • LDN represents a paradigm shift in land management policies and practices. It is a unique approach that counterbalances the expected loss of productive land with the recovery of degraded areas.

FOREST-PLUS 2.0

Recently, US Agency for International Development (USAID) and India’s Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) officially launched Forest-PLUS 2.0

About Forest-PLUS 2.0

  • Forest-PLUS 2.0 is five year programme that focuses on developing tools and techniques to bolster ecosystem management and harnessing ecosystem services in forest landscape management.
  • It was initiated in December, 2018 after Forest-PLUS completed its five years in 2017.
  • The Forest-PLUS focused on capacity building to help India participate in Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD+).
  • Under Forest-PLUS, field tests, innovative tools and approaches for Indian forest management were developed. Like promotion of bio- briquettes in Sikkim, introduction of solar heating systems in Rampur and development of an agro-forestry model in Hoshangabad.

REDD+

  • It is climate change mitigation solution developed by parties to UNFCCC to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation.
  • REDD+ incentives developing countries to keep their forests conserved by offering result based payments for actions to reduce and remove forest carbon emissions.

COAL GASIFICATION BASED FERTILISER PLANT

India’s first coal gasification based fertiliser plant to be set up in Talcher, Odisha.

  • The plant will have the capacity of producing 1.27 Million Metric Tonnes per annum of Neem coated urea using coal and pet-coke as feedstock.
  • The steady supply of coal as a feedstock will be ensured by the captive coal mine in nearby Talcher region.

Clean coal technologies

Clean coal technology seeks to reduce harsh environmental effects by using multiple technologies to purify the coal before it burns and contain its emissions.

Some of the common clean coal technologies include:

  • Coal washing, removes unwanted minerals by mixing crushed coal with a liquid and allowing the impurities to separate and settle.
  • Wet scrubbers, or flue gas desulfurisation systems, minimises sulphur dioxide emissions from burning of coal which is a major cause of acid rain.
  • Low-NOx (nitrogen oxide) burners reduce the creation of nitrogen oxides, a cause of ground-level ozone.
  • Electrostatic precipitators remove particulates that aggravate asthma and cause respiratory ailments.
  • Carbon capture and storage capturing carbon dioxide usually from large point sources, such as a cement factory or biomass power plant, transporting it to a storage site, and depositing it where it will not enter the atmosphere, normally an underground eological formation.

BIOREMEDIATION AND BIOMINING

Delhi municipal corporation has started the process of “biomining and bioremediation” of the three landfills in Delhi namely Bhalswa, Okhla and Ghazipur

  • Earlier, National Green Tribunal instructed the three municipal corporations of Delhi to “bioremediate and biomine” Okhla, Bhalswa and Ghazipur Garbage hills based on the reported success of biomining of similar work carried out by the Indore Municipal Corporation.

o The NGT in its order has also directed all municipal corporations in the country to carry out similar projects.

Bioremediation and Biomining

  • Bioremediation is the treatment of pollutants or waste (as in an oil spill, contaminated groundwater, or an industrial process) by the use of microorganisms (such as bacteria) that break down the undesirable substances.
  • Biomining is the process of using microorganisms (microbes) to extract metals of economic interest from rock ores or mine waste. Biomining techniques may also be used to clean up sites that have been polluted with metals.

SOCIAL ISSUES

THE HEALTHCARE SERVICE PERSONNEL AND CLINICAL ESTABLISHMENTS (PROHIBITION 0F VIOLENCE AND DAMAGE TO PROPERTY) BILL, 2019

Recently government has framed the Healthcare Service Personnel and Clinical Establishments (Prohibition of Violence and Damage to Property) Bill 2019 which aims at prohibiting violence against doctors and other healthcare professionals.

Features of the Bill

  • Definition of violence: Under the draft Bill, violence means any act which may cause: (i) harm, injury or danger to the life of a healthcare service personnel, while discharging their duty, (ii) obstruction or hindrance to healthcare service personnel, while discharging their duty, and (ii) loss or damage to any property or documents in a clinical establishment.
  • Cognizable and a non-bailable offence: The draft bill proposes to make acts of violence against healthcare professionals a cognizable and a non-bailable offence, and investigation by officer not below the rank Deputy Superintendent of Police.
  • Range of coverage for healthcare providers and establishment: From doctors, nurses and paramedics to medical nurses, medical students to ambulance drivers. Property of clinical establishment includes a hospital, a clinic, a dispensary, a sanatorium, an ambulance or even a mobile unit.
  • Punishment and fine: Under the draft Bill, any person who commits violence, or abets such violence may be punished with imprisonment between six months to five years, along with a fine of up to five lakh rupees.

ALL INDIA SURVEY ON HIGHER EDUCATION (AISHE)

Recently, Ministry of Human Resource Development released All India Survey of Higher Education (AISHE) for the year 2018-19.

About the AISHE

  • Ministry of Human Resource Development conducts an annual web-based AISHE since 2010-11.
  • Survey covers all higher education institutions in the country, which are categorised into 3 broad categories: university, college & stand-alone institutions.
  • Following indicators of educational development are also determined through AISHE:

o Institution Density,

o Gross Enrolment Ratio,

o Pupil-Teacher ratio,

o Gender Parity Index and

o Per Student Expenditure

Key Findings of AISHE

  • Enrolment in Higher Education: Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) in higher education in India has risen marginally from 25.8% in 2017-18 to 26.3% in 2018-19, with men constituting 26.3% and women 26.4%.

o Top 6 states in terms of total student enrolment —Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Rajasthan and Karnataka — account for 54.23% of the total enrolment in India.

  • Number of Institutions of Higher Education: Number of universities (from 903 in 2017-18 to 993 in 2018-19) & total higher educational institutions has increased.
  • Narrowing gender gap: Nearly 51.36% of enrolled are male & 48.64% are female, indicating narrowing gender gap in higher education.
  • Popularity of educational streams: While 1/3 rd of undergraduate students are enrolled in humanities, management is preferred stream at postgraduate (PG) level. Science & engineering technology have more enrolment in M. Phil & Ph.D. programmes.

SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY

SCIENTIFIC SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY (SSR)

Department of Science and Technology (DST) released a draft of its proposed Scientific Social Responsibility (SSR) policy.

About Scientific Social Responsibility (SSR)

  • India is going to be possibly the first country in the world to implement a Scientific Social Responsibility (SSR) Policy on the lines of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).
  • It is the confluence of scientific knowledge with visionary leadership and social conscience.
  • SSR is about building synergies among all stakeholders in scientific knowledge community and also about developing linkages between science and society.
  • It aims to encourage science and technology (S&T) institutions and individual scientists in the country to proactively engage in science outreach activities to connect science with the society.
  • The main objective of SSR policy is to harness the voluntary potential that is latent in the country’s scientific community to strengthen science and society linkages so as to make S&T ecosystem vibrant through.

E-CIGARETTES

Recently, the Union Cabinet approved the Promulgation of the Prohibition of Electronic Cigarettes (production, manufacture, import, export, transport, sale, distribution, storage and advertisement) Ordinance, 2019.

  • This decision has come on the back of an advisory issued by the Government in 2018 to all States to consider banning e-cigarettes. 16 States and 1 UT have already banned e cigarettes in their jurisdictions.
  • Unlike traditional cigarettes, e-cigarettes do not contain tobacco and therefore are not regulated under the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act, 2003.

About e-cigarettes

  • They are battery-operated devices that produce aerosol by heating a solution containing nicotine, which is the addictive substance in combustible cigarettes.
  • These include all forms of Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems, Heat Not Burn Products, e-Hookah and the like devices.
  • Smoking e-cigarettes is also called vaping.

Key Provisions of the Ordinance

  • Prohibition on e-cigarettes- It would make production, manufacture, import, export, transport, sale, distribution or advertisements of e-cigarettes a cognizable offence.
  • Punishment- The first offence will attract an imprisonment of up to one year or fine up to Rs. 1 lakh or both.

o The subsequent offence will attract an imprisonment of up to three years and fine up to Rs. 5 lakh.

o Storage of electronic-cigarettes shall also be punishable with an imprisonment up to 6 months or fine up to Rs 50,000 or both.

  • Duties of the producer- The owners of existing stocks of e-cigarettes on the date of commencement of the Ordinance will have to suo-moto declare and deposit these stocks with the nearest police station.
  • Relevant Authorities- The Sub-Inspector of Police has been designated as the Authorized Officer to take action under the Ordinance. The Central or State Governments may also designate any other equivalent officer(s) as Authorized Officer for enforcement of the provisions of the Ordinance.

NAVIC

Global standards body 3GPP, which develops protocols for mobi le telephony, has approved India’s regional navigation system NaVIC.

  • The specification approval will boost commercial use of NaVIC by international and domestic mobile device makers.

o The manufacturers can now mass-produce navigation devices compatible with NaVIC so that users of these devices can easily access NaVIC signals.

  • Acceptance of NaVIC by 3GPP would also bring NaVIC technology to the commercial market for its use in 4G, 5G and Internet of Things (IOT).
  • Indian Companies and Startups will have an opportunity to develop Integrated circuits and products based on NaVIC.

QUANTUM COMPUTING

Recent paper from Google’s quantum computing lab announced that the company had achieved quantum supremacy.

  • Quantum supremacy means that researchers have been able to use a quantum computer to perform a single calculation that no conventional computer, even the biggest supercomputer, can perform in a reasonable amount of time.
  • Google’s quantum computer, named Sycamore, claimed ‘supremacy’ because it reportedly did the task in 200 seconds that would have apparently taken a supercomputer 10,000 years to complete.

Quantum computing and India

  • There are no quantum computers in India yet.
  • In 2018, the Department of Science & Technology unveiled a programme called Quantum-Enabled Science & Technology (QuST) to accelerate research on Quantum computing.

INDIGENOUS FUEL CELL

Recently, India’s first indigenous fuel cell system was unveiled.

More about the news

  • It is developed by Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) in partnership with Thermax Ltd, a Pune-based engineering firm.
  • It is developed under the flagship program named ‘New Millennium Indian Technology Leadership Initiative (NMITLI).
  • It will be a 5 kW fuel cell system and will use methanol/bio-methane to generate power with 70% more efficiency than other sources.

About Fuel cell technology

  • A fuel cell is like a battery that generates electricity from an electrochemical reaction.
  • It uses a source of hydrogen as fuel but involves no combustion.
  • With the help of oxygen present in the air, oxidation of hydrogen atoms occur and in the process, electrons are released which flow through an external circuit as an electric current.
  • The byproducts of fuel cell include heat and water.

SHANTI SWARUP BHATNAGAR PRIZE FOR 2019

Recently, twelve scientists have been awarded the prestigious Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar award for science and technology for 2019.

About Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar prize

  • Awarded by: Council of Scientific and Industrial Research. It was first awarded in 1958.
  • Purpose: It awarded annually for notable and outstanding research, applied or fundamental, in the

disciplines namely:

o Physical Sciences,

o Chemical Sciences,

o Biological Sciences,

o Medical Sciences,

o Mathematical Sciences,

o Engineering Sciences and

o Earth, Atmosphere, Ocean and Planetary Science.

  • Eligibility: Any citizen of India engaged in research in any field of science and technology up to the age of 45 years. Overseas citizen of India (OCI) working in India are also eligible.
  • Prize: The prize carries a cash component of Rs 5 lakh each.

CULTURE

SANGAM AGE

Recently, excavations at Keeladi in Tamil Nadu have pointed that the time period of Sangam Age could be between 6th century BCE and 1st century AD (earlier believed to be 3rd BCE and 3rd AD).

About Sangam Age

Sangam age Polity

  • The Tamil country was ruled by three dynasties namely the Chera, Chola and Pandyas, with royal emblem bow, tiger and carp (fish) respectively.
  • Hereditary monarchy was the form of government during the Sangam period.
  • The military administration was also efficiently organized during the Sangam Age and each ruler had a regular army.

Sangam age Society

  • Tolkappiyam refers to the fivefold division of lands Kurinji (hilly tracks), Mullai (pastoral), Marudam (agricultural), Neydal (coastal) and Palai (desert). The people living in these five divisions had their respective chief occupations as well as gods for worship.
  • Tolkappiyam also refers to four castes namely arasar (ruling class), anthanar (priests), vanigar (traders), and vellalar (agriculturalists).
  • The courage of women was also appreciated in many poems, but life of widows was miserable and practice of Sati was also prevalent.
  • Ancient primitive tribes like Thodas, Irulas, Nagas and Vedars lived in this period.

Sangam age Economy

  • Agriculture was the chief occupation and Rice was the common with crops like Ragi, sugarcane, cotton, pepper, ginger, turmeric, cinnamon and a variety of fruits.
  • Land revenue was the chief source of state’s income while custom duty was also imposed on foreign trade.
  • The handicrafts of the Sangam period were popular and include weaving, metal works and carpentry. Also ship building and ornaments making was prominent.
  • The main exports were cotton fabrics, spices, ivory products, pearls and precious stones. While gold, horses and sweet wine were the chief imports.

NEWS IN SHORT

JEEVAN KAUSHAL

  • Recently, the Ministry of Human Resource Development launched the Curriculum for Life Skills (Jeevan Kaushal) designed by University Grants Commission (UGC), for the development of life skills in every individual, as an essential part of wholesome learning.
  • The curriculum covers the set of human talents acquired by an individual via classroom learning or life experience that can help them to deal with problems encountered in day to day life.

GST: AADHAR VERIFICATION TO BE MANDATORY

  • The GST Network has decided to make Aadhaar authentication or physical verification mandatory for new dealers from January 2020 to check malpractices in Goods and Services Tax.

o Those who do not want to give their Aadhar numbers would have to undergo physical verification.

o In both cases, GST number will be given within three working days of Aadhaar authentication and physical verification.

FIRST GLOBAL TRADE CENTRE FOR WOMEN

  • Kerala will set up the country’s first International Women’s Trade Centre (iWTC), in consonance with

the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), in Kozhikode.

  • It is a key project of the state’s Gender Park “Vision 2020” under the Department of Social Justice. The first phase is scheduled to be completed by 2021.

SAMUDRAYAAN PROJECT

  • National Institute of Ocean Technology (an autonomous society under the Ministry of Earth Sciences) has undertaken the Samudryaan project.

o The project proposes to send a submersible vehicle with three persons to a depth of about 6000 metres to carry out deep underwater studies.

o The indigenously developed vehicle is capable of crawling on the sea bed at a depth of six kilometre for 72 hours (Submarines go only about 200 metres).

o It will be a part of the ₹6000 crore ‘Deep Ocean Mission’. It is expected to be undertaken by 2021-22.

APACHE HELICOPTERS

  • Recently, eight US made Apache helicopters (AH- 64E) were inducted into the Indian Air Force.
  • India had signed a deal for 22 Apache helicopters with US Company, Boeing in September 2015 to replace Russian-built Mi-25 and Mi-35 helicopters.
  • It is the most advanced multi-role heavy attack helicopter in the world and are also known as ‘Flying Tank’. It is all weather helicopter.
  • It has a vertical rate of climb of over 2,000 feet per second and a maximum speed of 279km per hour, making it useful for swift deployment.

ASTRA MISSILE

  • Recently India successfully test-fired its first indigenous air-to-air missile ‘Astra’.
  • It is designed and developed by DRDO.
  • It works on beyond visual range air to air missile (BVRAAM) technology that enables fighter-pilots to shoot precisely at the enemy targets which are beyond their visual range.
  • It was launched from Sukhoi-30 MKI fighter jet and will be further integrated with other jets such as Mirage 2000, the MiG-29 and Tejas.
  • With this India joined the league of other countries having this technology such as France, Germany, UK, South Africa etc.

MILITARY EXERCISES IN NEWS

  • Indo–Thai CORPAT: It is 28th edition of India-Thailand Coordinated Patrol (Indo-Thai CORPAT) conducted between the Indian Navy and the Royal Thai Navy.
  • MAITREE-2019: It is joint military exercise between India and Thailand.
  • Yudh Abhyas 2019: It is a joint military exercise between Indian and US armies.
  • TSENTR 2019: It is part of the annual series of large scale exercises that form part of the Russian Armed Forces’ annual training cycle. Apart from host Russia, military contingents from China, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Pakistan and Uzbekistan will also take part in this mega event.
  • SLINEX 2019: It is the bilateral maritime exercise between India and Sri Lanka.
  • SITMEX 2019: It is five-day exercise is aimed at bolstering the maritime inter-relationships amongst Singapore, Thailand and India.
  • Malabar 2019: It is 23rd edition of trilateral maritime exercise between naval forces of India, Japan and the United States which is being conducted off the coast of Japan.

MAHABALESHWAR WETTEST PLACE IN INDIA

  • Mahabaleshwar in Maharashtra received 7,175.4 mm rain as against Mawsynram’s 6,218.4 mm, Cherrapunji received around 6,082.7 mm rainfall as per the India Meteorological Department (IMD).
  • The heavy rain in and around Mahabaleshwar was because of the low pressure that had formed over West Bengal, Odisha and the movement of this system towards Central India strengthened South-West monsoon.
  • Five rivers originate from Mahabaleshwar, including east flowing river Krishna its tributaries Koyna, Venna, and Gayatri and west flowing Savitri which empties in Arabian Sea.