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Current Affairs April 2022

Current Affairs April – 2022

INDEX

  • INTERNATIONAL ( WORLD)
  • POLITY
  • ECONOMY
  • AGRICULTURE
  • HISTORY , ART & CULTURE
  • APPOINTMENTS
  • SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
  • DEFENCE
  • RANKS AND REPORTS
  • SCHEMES
  • BIODIVERSITY AND ENVIRONMENT
  • AWARDS AND HONOURS
  • BOOKS
  • OBITUARIES / DEATHS
  • SPORTS/ GAMES
  • IMPORTANT DAYS
  • STATE’s News
  • MISCELLANEOUS

INTERNATIONAL / WORLD NEWS 

Ind–Aus ECTA

  • India and Australia have signed the bilateral ‘Economic Cooperation and Trade Agreement (Ind-Aus ECTA)’.
  • This is the first trade agreement of India with a developed country after more than a decade. The last FTA signed by India with a developed country was with Japan in 2011.
  • The trade agreement is expected to double the bilateral trade to US$ 50 billion in five years and ease movement of people, goods and services across borders. Calling the agreement a “watershed moment” for the two countries’ relationship, the Indian Prime Minister said that it would make it easier for both countries to exchange students, professionals and tourists which in turn would strengthen people-to-people ties.Salient Features of IndAus ECTA:
  • The Agreement encompasses cooperation across the entire gamut of bilateral economic and commercial relations between the two countries. It covers areas like Trade in Goods, Trade in Services, Rules of Origin, Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT), Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) measures, Dispute Settlement, Movement of Natural Persons, Customs Procedures, and Cooperation in other Areas.
  • Compulsory Review Mechanism: There will be a special review mechanism for compulsory review after 15 years for certain aspects of the agreement in a time-bound manner. Impact/Benefits:
  • Zero Duty Access: Australia will provide zero-duty access to 96 per cent of India’s exportsincluding shipments from key sectors such as engineering goods, gems and jewellery, textiles, apparel and leather. The agreement will also give about 85 per cent of Australia’s exports zero-duty access to the Indian market, including coal, sheep meat and wool, and lower duty access on Australian wines, almonds, lentils, and certain fruits.
  • Cheaper Raw Materials: Australian exports are more concentrated in raw materials and intermediates. Many industries in India will get cheaper raw materials and make them competitive, in particular for sectors like steel, aluminium, garments among others.
  • Service Sector Benefits: In the services sector, benefits for India include post study work visa of two-four years for Indian students on reciprocal basis.
  • Easier movement of people: Work and holiday visa arrangement for young professionals will be eased.
  • Eliminating Double Taxation: Australia has also agreed to amend its domestic tax law to stop the taxation of offshore income of Indian firms providing technical services in Australia.Note: In February 2022, India signed an FTA with the UAE and is currently working on FTAs with Israel, Canada, UK and the European Union.

India-Turkmenistan relations

  • The Indian President is on a visit to Turkmenistan. This is the first-ever visit of the President of India to independent Turkmenistan.key highlights of the India-Turkmenistan meet
  • Agreements: The two countries signed four agreements, including in financial intelligence and disaster management, and agreed to expand bilateral trade and energy cooperation to further strengthen the multifaceted partnership.
  • INSTC: President of Turkmenistan conveyed his readiness to join the International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC). He proposed that the Kazakhstan-Turkmenistan-Iran railway line could be a linked corridor of the INSTC to streamline the movement of goods between Turkmenistan and India and beyond.
  • India proposed that the Chabahar port built by India in Iran could be used to improve trade between India and Central Asia.
  • TAPI Pipeline: India suggested that issues related to the security of the Turkmenistan -Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipeline may be addressed in Technical and Expert level meetings.
  • UNSC: India thanked Turkmenistan for its support to India’s permanent membership in a reformed and expanded UN Security Council as well as for India’s initiatives as a non-permanent member of UNSC for the period of 2021-22.Importance of Turkmenistan for India
  • Turkmenistan is an important partner for India in the India-Central Asia Summit framework, which India hosted virtually in January 2022. Turkmenistan possesses very large reserves of natural gas.

Prime Minister of Nepal

  • The Prime Minister of Nepal Sher Bahadur Deuba visited India and held a summit meeting with the Indian Prime Minister.Key highlights of meeting between both PMs
  • Launch of Cross-border railway line: India and Nepal launched the 35-km cross-border railway line linking Jaynagar in Bihar to Kurtha in Nepal. This is the first broad-gauge passenger rail link between the two sides and it will be extended to Bardibas in Nepal.
  • Solu Corridor: India handed over the Solu Corridor, a 90-km, 132 kV power transmission line built under an Indian line of credit. The line will help bring electricity to several remote districts in northeastern Nepal by connecting them to the country’s national grid.
  • Launch of RuPay card in Nepal: India launched RuPay card in Nepal. With this, domestic variant of the RuPay card will now work at 1,400 point-of-sale machines in Nepal, and the move is expected to facilitate bilateral tourist flows.
    • Note: Nepal is the fourth country, after Bhutan, Singapore and the UAE, where RuPay has been launched.
  • Nepal as member of International Solar Alliance: Nepal signed a framework agreement to join the India-led International Solar Alliance (becoming the 105th member country).
  • Pancheshwar Multipurpose Dam Project: The two sides agreed to expedite work on the delayed Pancheshwar multipurpose dam project (on Mahakali river) that is considered to be a gamechanger for the development of the region.
  • Border Dispute: Nepalese Prime Minister urged his Indian counterpart to take steps to resolve a boundary dispute. The Indian side made it clear both countries need to address the boundary issue through dialogue and to avoid the politicization of such issues.

4th India- US ‘2+2’ Dialogue

  • The fourth ‘2+2’ dialogue between India and the United States recently took place in Washington, DC.
  • Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and External Affairs Minister Dr S Jaishankar led the Indian delegation. The US delegation was led by Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin.
  • This meeting took place on the sidelines of a virtual meeting between India’s PM and the President of the United States.

Key Points:

  • India and the United States have signed a bilateral space situational awareness arrangement. This provides the groundwork for more advanced cooperation in space.
  • They also agreed to conduct an inaugural Defense Artificial Intelligence Dialogue, as well as expand joint cyber training and exercises.
  • The United States stated that it supports India as an Indo-Pacific defence industry leader and a net provider of security in the region.
  • They decided to maintain close consultations on the ongoing crisis in Ukraine, including humanitarian assistance efforts and expressed support for an independent investigation into the brutal violence deployed against civilians.What is meant by the 2+2 Dialogue?
  • The 2+2 Ministerial is the two countries’ highest-level institutional mechanism. It is a dialogue format in which defence/foreign ministers or secretaries meet with counterparts from other countries. India holds two-plus-two dialogues with four key strategic partners: the United States, Australia, Japan, and Russia.
  • But India’s oldest and most important 2+2 talks partner is the United States as during the Trump administration, the two countries held their first 2+2 dialogue in 2018.

landmark security agreement between China & Solomon Islands

  • Solomon Islands is a country in the southwestern Pacific Ocean. The Solomon Islands is part of the ethnically Melanesian group of islands in the Pacific and lies between Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu.
  • Once a British protectorate, Solomon Islands achieved independence as a republic in 1978. Honiara, on the north coast of Guadalcanal Island, is Solomon Islands’ capital and largest city. There are six big islands – the largest is Guadalcanal.
  • The Solomon Islands has great strategic significance as was evident during the World War II (WW II). During the WW II, it served as a bulwark for Australia against the advancing Japanese.
  • Deal : The Foreign Minister of China & the Solomon Islands signed an inter-governmental framework agreement on security cooperation. The document explicitly enables China to send its “police, armed police, military personnel and other law enforcement and armed forces” to the islands on the latter government’s request, or if the former sees that the safety of its projects and personnel in the islands are at risk. It also provides for China’s naval vessels to utilise the islands for logistics support. This is the first deal of its kind for China in the region (southwestern Pacific Ocean).Concerns raised by western countries
  • Officials from the United States, Australia, Japan and New Zealand expressed concerns about the proposed security framework. They fear that the agreement could open the door to a Chinese naval base in the country and hence pose serious risks to a free and open Indo-Pacific. Experts believe that signing such an agreement could actually increase destabilisation within the Solomon Islands. The Solomon Islands also sits on critical shipping routes, meaning China could potentially control maritime traffic in and around the region.Impact on India
  • The China-Solomon Islands pact does not directly affect India. The islands are at significant distance from mainland India and even the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

Designation as a ‘state sponsor of terrorism’ by the U.S.

  • Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has asked President Joe Biden to designate Russia as a “state sponsor of terrorism”, which would activate perhaps the harshest suite of sanctions available with the United States against the government of President Vladimir Putin.
  • The US Secretary of State (the minister primarily in charge of foreign relations) has the power to designate countries that “have repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism” as “State Sponsors of Terrorism”.
  • The US can place four categories of sanctions on countries that are on this list: restrictions on US foreign assistance; a ban on defence exports and sales; certain controls over exports of dual use items; and miscellaneous financial and other restrictions.
  • Sanctions can also be placed on countries and persons that engage in certain trade with designated countries.
  • As of now, there are four countries on the list of state sponsors of terrorism : The first to be designated among them was Syria (December 29, 1979), followed by Iran (January 19, 1984), and North Korea (November 20, 2017). Cuba was re-designated as a state sponsor of terrorism on January 12, 2021.

India-Finland

  • Recently, Finland’s Minister of Economic Affairs Mika Lintila met India’s Union Minister of State Science & Technology Dr Jitendra Singh.
  • They announced the decision to establish an Indo-Finnish Virtual Network Centre on Quantum Computing.
  • The Indian side has identified three premier institutes viz IIT Madras, IISER Pune and Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC) Pune for Virtual Network Centre on Quantum Computing.

Colombo security conclave

  • The Colombo Security Conclave Virtual Conference on Sharing of experiences in investigation of terrorism cases was organised by the National Investigation Agency of India on 19 April 2022.
  • Panellists and participants from India, Maldives, Mauritius, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh participated in the virtual conference.
  • The fifth meeting of national security advisers of the Colombo Security Conclave was held in the Maldives on March 9 and 10, 2022.
  • Colombo Security Conclave (CSC) : The CSC, was formed in 2011 as a trilateral maritime security grouping of India, Sri Lanka and the Maldives. It welcomed Mauritius as a fourth member at the fifth meeting of national security advisers.

KURIL ISLANDS dispute

  • These are a set of four islands situated between the Sea of Okhotsk and the Pacific Ocean near the north of Japan’s northernmost prefecture Hokkaido. Both Russia and Japan claim sovereignty over them though the islands have been under Russian control since the end of World War II. The Soviet Union had seized the islands at the end of World War II and by 1949 had expelled its Japanese residents. Tokyo claims that the disputed islands have been part of Japan since the early 19th century.
  • Name : These islands are called ‘Northern Territories’ by Japan however Russia calls them as the South Kurils.
  • Why in News: Recently, Japan released its Diplomatic Bluebook for 2022 describing the Kuril Islands as being under Russia’s “illegal occupation”. This is the first time in about two decades that Japan has used this strong phrase (illegal occupation) to describe the dispute over the Kuril Islands otherwise since 2003 Japan had been using softer language to describe the dispute.
  • Diplomatic Bluebook : Issuing since 1957, the Diplomatic Bluebook of Japan is an annual report on Japan’s foreign policy and international diplomacy published by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Japan.

British PM Boris Johnson is on a two-day visit to India

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his UK counterpart Boris Johnson reviewed the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership between the two countries during their bilateral talks in New Delhi.
  • Issues of defence and security cooperation, cyber security and space also figured in the discussion between the two leaders. India and United Kingdom have decided to do their best to conclude the Free Trade Agreement by the end of 2022. Both countries have decided to deepen climate and energy partnerships and invited UK to join India’s National Hydrogen Mission. They welcomed the establishment of a mechanism on maritime electric propulsion.  India and United Kingdom have signed six Memorandums of Understanding.
  • The U.K. is creating an Open General Export Licence (OGEL) for India to “reduce bureaucracy and slashing delivery times” for defence procurement.

European Union Digital Services Act

  • Recently, the European Union (EU) has approved landmark legislation known as the EU’s Digital Services Act (DSA).
  • Issues with social media platforms ( Youtube, Facebook etc) : They are being used for spreading disinformation and hate speech to influence elections, racist violence etc. The major problem lies in revenue models of the social media platforms. They depend on engagement.   Features of EU’s Digital Services Act (DSA) ?
  • The Act makes social media businesses more responsible for content disseminated and amplified on their platforms. In fact, it gives social media users protection against hate speech, disinformation, and other harmful content.
  • It specifies fines of up to 6% of annual global revenues, or outright bans, for non-compliance. This sort of substantial penalties could force platforms to review their business models. The government can ask platforms to take down content that may be deemed illegal. For example, stuff promoting terrorism, child sexual abuse, hate speech, and commercial scams.   The social media platforms like TikTok, Facebook, and Twitter would have to create tools that would allow the users to flag such content in “easy, effective ways”.  Platforms can review content before deciding upon deletion, and must carry out annual reviews and risk assessments of content.  It bans advertisements targeted at minors, as well as advertisements specifically based on gender, ethnicity, or sexual orientation.   It bans the deceptive techniques used to nudge people into online commitments. For example, signing up by default for online services.
  • Way Forward : The new act can help the EU and its nations to safeguards free speech. They rank very high on the Democracy Index The DSA can be used as a model legislation in the US, Canada, and other democracies.   Note : In India, a bill (Data Protection Bill 2019) on similar issue is pending in Parliament.

Global Security Initiative

  • A new Global Security Initiative put forward by Chinese President Xi Jinping will look to counter the U.S. IndoPacific strategy and the Quad — the India, U.S., Australia, Japan grouping — according to Chinese officials.
  • It would oppose unilateralism, and say no to group politics and bloc confrontation.
  • However, China did not provide much clarity or details about the proposed global security initiative.
  • Thus, China held that the Global security initiative is envisaged to uphold the principle of “indivisible security”. The principle of “indivisible security” means that no country can strengthen its own security at the expense of others.

Indonesia’s Palm Oil Export Ban & Its Impact on India

  • Indonesia, the largest producer and exporter of Palm Oil is experiencing domestic shortages of it. Hence it bans its export. Palm oil is among the world’s most-used cooking oils, and India’s dependence on Indonesia is expected to deal a supply-side shock.Impact of ban on India
  • India is the world’s biggest vegetable oils importer. Out of its annual imports of 14-15 mt, the major share is of palm oil (8.3 million tons ), followed by soyabean5 million tons ) and sunflower (2.5 million tons ).
  • The export ban could lead to an increase in food inflation, as India is the largest importer of palm oil from Indonesia.
  • Palm oil accounts for nearly 40% share of India’s overall edible oil consumption So, edible oil prices could surge as much as 100-200% in India if the government fails to find a new source of palm oil.
  • Soyabean and Sunflower oil which are an alternate of Palm oil are also facing shortages : o The production of soybean oil, the second most-produced oil, is expected to take a hit this year due to a poor soybean season in major producer Argentina.
    • Supplies of sunflower oil, 80-90% of which is produced by Russia and Ukraine, has been badly hit by the ongoing conflict.
  • Indonesia and Malaysia together account for almost 90% of the global palm oil production, with Indonesia producing the largest quantity at over 45 million tonnes in 2021.
  • Last year, the Centre also unveiled National Mission on Edible Oil-Oil Palm to boost India’s domestic palm oil production.What should be done
  • Indian farmers should be incentivized to intensify efforts for area expansion under oil palm to enhance palm oil production in the country. For this, the National Mission on Edible Oil-Oil Palm is a step in the right direction.
  • India should diversity its procurement as well requirements. Firstly, India should look to procure more palm oil from other countries. Secondly, Tree Borne Oilseeds (TBOs), like sal, mahua, olive, jatropha, neem, jojoba, wild apricot, walnut, tung etc. can be explored as an alternative.Reasons of Palm oil shortfall in Indonesia
  • Supply disruptions — manmade and natural.
  • The second factor is linked to petroleum, more specifically the use of palm oil as a bio-fuel. The Indonesian government has, since 2020, made 30% blending of diesel with palm oil mandatory as part of a plan to slash fossil fuel imports.

Elon Musk to acquire Twitter

  • Elon Musk (world’s richest person ) clinched a deal to buy Twitter Inc for $44 billion.

India Suspends Tourist Visas For Chinese Citizens:

  • India has suspended tourist visas issued to Chinese nationals. The move appeared to be a response to China’s move which is preventing 22,000 Indian students enrolled in Chinese universities from going back to China to resume their studies. These students had to leave their studies in China and come to India when the COVID-19 pandemic began in the beginning of 2020.

 GOVERNANCE 

Palli in Jammu becomes India’s first carbon-neutral panchayat

  • Palli village in Jammu’s Samba district has become the country’s first panchayat to become carbon neutral, fully powered by solar energy. Prime Minister Narendra Modi dedicated a 500 KV solar plant to the nation in the hamlet of Palli making it the country’s first ‘carbon neutral panchayat ’ (India’s first carbon-neutral solar village).
  • Palli residents have assisted with the project. They’ve also fed those who are working on the project.
  • Under the national government’s ‘Gram Urja Swaraj’ programme, 1,500 solar panels with a total area of 6,408 square metres will provide clean electricity to 340 homes in the model panchayat. The project was finished in record time for a cost of 2.75 crore. The electricity generated will be distributed to the village through the local power grid station.

Merger of 4 government run Film Bodies under National Film Development Corporation (NFDC)

  • The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has announced the merger of its four-film media units– Film Divisions, Directorate of Film Festivals(DFF), National Film Archive of India (NFAI), Children’s Film Society of India(CFSI)– with National Film Development Corporation (NFDC). The decision is in line with Bimal Julka-led expert committee’s (2020) report on rationalisation, closure and merger of film media units.About National Film Development Corporation (NFDC)
  • Established in: 1975 (It is currently headed by Ravinder Bhakar, who is also the chief executive officer of the Central Board of Film Certification).
  • Nodal Ministry: Ministry of Information and Broadcasting
  • Aim: To plan, promote and organize an integrated and efficient development of the Indian Film Industry and foster excellence in cinema.
  • Headquarters: Mumbai, Maharashtra
  • Reason for merger: Bringing all these four film media units under single management will reduce the overlap of various activities and ensure better utilisation of public resources.
  • Significance of this merger: With this merger, the mandate for the production of documentaries and short films; organization of film festivals; and preservation of films have been transferred to the NFDC.
  • Criticism of merger : National Film Development Corporation is already a loss Making Corporation and four publicfunded bodies are being merged with a loss-making corporation raises many question.

FASTER Platform (software) launched by CJI

  • The Chief Justice of India has launched the FASTER (Fast and Secured Transmission of Electronic Records) platform.
  • Purpose: It is a digital platform to communicate interim orders, stay orders, and bail orders of the Supreme Court to authorities concerned through a secured electronic communication channel.
  • Developed by: Registry of the Supreme Court in collaboration with the National Informatics Centre(NIC).
  • Need: The idea of creating this platform came after CJI came across a report about the delay in the release of prisoners owing to the delay in physical orders reaching the prison authorities.Working of  FASTER Platform
  • FASTER Cell: It has been established in the Registry of the Supreme Court. The cell will transmit digitally signed records of proceedings or orders related to bail and release passed by the court to the nodal officers and duty holders concerned through email.
  • Nodal Officers: To reach all districts of India, 73 nodal officers have been nominated at various levels. All nodal officers have been connected through a specific Judicial Communication Network(JCN) by creating a secured pathway.
  • Note : The Supreme Court has also launched other programmes involving technology like Artificial Intelligence (AI) based portal ‘SUPACE’ in the judicial system aimed at assisting judges with legal research.

‘Operation Upalabdh’ against black marketers of Railwat ticket

  • Launched by: Operation Upalabdh is launched Railway Protection Force(RPF)
  • Purpose: It is a pan India drive against activities of touts who use virtual tools to buy railway tickets before genuine passengers do. These tickets are then used by touts for business, such as selling tickets at a premium (commission).
  • Significance of this Operation: The operation has been able to curb the activities of touts substantially and make railway tickets available to the common man.About RPF :  The history of the RPF dates back to 1882 when various railway companies appointed their own guards for protection of railway property. The force was declared as statutory force in the year 1957 by an enactment of Parliament subsequently declared as an Armed Force of the Union of India in the year 1985.
  • Other recent operations launched by RPF : : Earlier, RPF has launched ‘Operation AAHT’ to curb human trafficking. As part of the operation AAHT, special teams to be deployed on all long-distance trains/routes with focus on rescuing victims, particularly women and children, from the clutches of traffickers.

Broadcast Seva Portal

  • Launched by: Ministry of Information and Broadcasting(I&B).
  • Purpose: It is an online portal aimed at improving the ease of doing business in the broadcast industry.
  • Features: The portal can be used by broadcasters for speedy filing and processing of applications, various kinds of licences, permissions, registrations, tracking applications, calculating fees and executing payments.
  • Significance of the Portal: The portal will reduce the turnaround time of applications and at the same time will help applicants track their progress.
  • It will also reduce the human interface that was required earlier and thus add to the capacity building of the Ministry and will be a major step towards ease of doing business.

De-notified  tribes

  • The Standing Committee of Parliament has criticized the functioning of the development programme for denotified, nomadic and semi-nomadic tribes.Who are de-notified, nomadic and semi-nomadic tribes?
  • These are communities that are the most vulnerable and deprived.
  • De-notified Tribes(DNTs): These are communities that were ‘notified’ as being ‘born criminals’ during the British regime under a series of laws starting with the Criminal Tribes Act of 1871. These Acts were repealed by the Independent Indian Government in l952 and these communities were “De-Notified”.
  • A few of these communities which were listed as de-notified were also nomadic. Nomadic and semi-nomadic communities are defined as those who move from one place to another, rather than living in one place all the time.
  • Renke Commission: A National Commission for Denotified, Nomadic and Semi-Nomadic Tribes(NCDNT) was constituted in 2006. It was headed by Balkrishna Sidram Renke. This commission estimated their population at around 10.74 crores based on Census 2001.
  • Issues : A number of DNT tribes are categorized under SC, ST and OBC. However, 269 DNT communities are still not covered under any reserved categories.
  • The scheme for economic empowerment of DNTs communities has total outlays of Rs 200 crore for the period of five years from 2021-22 and the Government could not spend even a single rupee in 2021-22.
  • Budgetary allocation for DNTs has been reduced to Rs 28 crore for 2022-23 against the budgetary allocation of Rs 50 crore for 2021-22.

Draft guidelines on registration of doctors

  • The National Medical Commission(NMC) has released draft guidelines on how the doctors will be registered in order to practise medicine. The guidelines aim to bring uniformity in the registration process of medical practitioners in India.Key Features of the Guidelines
  • Unique ID: The Ethics and Medical Registration Board(EMRB) and NMC will generate a Unique ID Number and thereby accord a license to practice medicine to the practitioner in the respective state or union territory.
    • Note: At present, all doctors have to register with their respective state medical councils, without which they cannot practice medicine.
  • Eligibility for Indian Medical Graduates for getting registration: They have to 1) Complete their MBBS degree from a recognised college, 2) Finish their mandatory 12-month long internship and 3) Pass the yet-to-be-implemented licentiate exam called National Exit Test (NExT) for getting their registration.
  • Eligibility for Foreign medical graduates for getting registration: They have to a) Complete their MBBS-equivalent degree from a medical institute “recognised and listed by the NMC” in other countries, b) Be registerable as a medical practitioner in the said country, c) Complete a 12-month internship in India and d) Pass the same NExT exam.
  • Allowing Foreign Doctors: The guidelines also allow opening the registration to foreign doctors who want to come to India to study in post-graduation courses, fellowships, clinical research, or voluntary clinical services.What is NExT?
  • The National Exit Test(NExT) is a proposed examination for granting a license and registration for practising medicine in India, similar to the USMLE (United States Medical Licensing Examination) for those wishing to practice in the US.
  • The exam will act as a country-wide standardized test for passing MBBS, for granting of the license, as well as a qualification test for post-graduation courses instead of the current NEET-PG that students have to sit for after they have completed their MBBS and one-year internship.

It will not be a theory paper, like MBBS finals or NEET PG test. Instead, It will be held in two parts – one written and one practical exam where the students will be judged on their clinical acumen.

  • Students will have to appear for the first NExT test after completion of MBBS and the second one after completion of the internship. The government expects to conduct the NExT from 2024.

Supreme Court has upheld the constitutional validity of the  FCRA amendment Act 2020

  • In 2020, the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA), 2010 was amended to restrict misuse and diversion of foreign funds, and to infuse more accountability in the functioning of NGOs.
  • A petition was filed in the Supreme Court challenging these amendments in FCRA act.
  • Why in news Now : In a recent verdict, the Supreme Court has upheld the constitutional validity of the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Amendment Act, 2020 or FCRA Act.

2020 Amendment in FCRA Act

  • Prohibition to accept foreign contribution : Under the Act, certain persons are prohibited to accept any foreign contribution. The 2020 amendment added public servants (as defined under the Indian Penal Code) to this list.
  • Transfer of foreign contribution:The 2020 amendment prohibited the transfer of foreign contribution to any other person.
  • Aadhaar for registration: 2020 amendment mandated that any person seeking prior permission, registration or renewal of registration must provide the Aadhaar number.
  • In case of a foreigner, they must provide a copy of the passport or the Overseas Citizen of India card for identification.
  • FCRA account : 2020 amendment stipulated that foreign contribution must be received only in an account designated by the bank as “FCRA account” in such branch of the State Bank of India, New Delhi, as notified by the central government.
  • Renewal of license: The 2020 amendment provides that the government may conduct an inquiry before renewing the certificate.
  • Use of foreign contribution for administrative purposes: Under the Act, a person who receives foreign contribution must not use more than 50% of this for meeting administrative expenses. 2020 amendment reduced this limit to 20%.
  • Suspension of registration : Under the 2010 Act, the government may suspend the registration of a person for a period not exceeding 180 days. 2020 amendment added that such suspension may be extended up to an additional 180 days.

Why these amendments were needed (as argued by Govt)

  • To Prevent Interference: The amendments were necessary to prevent foreign state and non-state actors from interfering with the country’s polity and internal matters.
  • To prevent malpractices by NGOs: The changes are also needed to prevent malpractices by NGOs and the diversion of foreign funds.
  • Monitor Flow of Funds: The provision of having one designated bank for receiving foreign funds is aimed at making it easier to monitor the flow of funds.

Inter-Ministerial Coordination Group (IMCG)

  • The first meeting of Inter-Ministerial Coordination Group (IMCG) on India’s neighbourhood outreach was convened.
  • Inter-Ministerial Coordination Group (IMCG)
  • The IMCG has been set up as a high-level mechanism (secretary-level) towards mainstreaming of India’s ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy. The IMCG is supported by Inter-Ministerial Joint Task Forces (JTF) convened by the concerned joint secretaries in the Ministry of External Affairs.
  • The IMCG will further improve institutional coordination across government and provide comprehensive direction to this whole-of-government approach on India’s relations with its neighbouring countries.

e-DAR portal

  • The Ministry of Roads, Transport and Highways (MoRTH) has developed the portal named ‘e-DAR’ (e-Detailed Accident Report) in consultation with insurance companies which will provide instant information on road accidents and help accelerate accident compensation claims, bringing relief to victims’ families.
  • Digitalised Detailed Accident Reports (DAR) will be uploaded on the portal for easy access.
  • Purpose: The portal can be used by the police to upload the accident reports on it. The portal will alert the concerned insurance company and the details of the vehicles and owners can be fetched as it is linked to the Vaahan portal. Hence, the portal can reduce the paperwork related to the accident claim process.
  • The portal will be linked to the Integrated Road Accident Database(iRAD). It will also be linked to other government portals like Vaahan as it would help get access to information on driving license details and registration of vehicles.

WHO global center for traditional medicine

  • The Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid the foundation stone of WHO Global Centre for Traditional Medicine (GCTM) in Jamnagar, Gujarat. The ceremony was attended by Prime Minister of Mauritius Shri Pravind Kumar Jugnauth and Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus, Director-General, World Health Organization (WHO).
  • The Ministry of Ayush and the World Health Organization (WHO) is establishing world’s first and only Global Centre for Traditional Medicine (WHO GCTM) in Jamnagar, Gujarat.

WHO Global Centre for Traditional Medicine in India at Jamnagar, Gujarat, will have its interim office at the Institute of Training and Research in Ayurveda (ITRA) in Gujarat. This Centre will be supported by an investment of about USD 250 million from the Government of India.

Objective

  • The primary objective of WHO GCTM is to harness the potential of traditional medicine from across the world through modern science and technology and improve overall health of the communities’ world over.
  • The Centre will highlight the potential of traditional medicine and utilize technological advancements to promote its safe and effective use.

National Cyber Security Incident Response Exercise(NCX India)

  • The National Security Advisor Ajit Doval has inaugurated the National Cyber Security Incident Response Exercise (NCX India).
  • Purpose of exercise : It aims to train senior management and technical personnel of Government/Critical Sector organizations and agencies on contemporary cyber threats and handling cyber incidents and response.
  • Areas: The participants will be trained on various key cyber security areas such as Intrusion Detection Techniques, Malware Information Sharing platforms (MISP), Vulnerability Handling & Penetration Testing, Network Protocols & Data Flows among others.
  • Significance: The exercise will help strategic leaders to better understand cyber threats, assess readiness and develop skills for cyber crisis management and cooperation.

Health Start Rating’ (HSR) for Food (Front of the Pack labeling /FoPL))

  • The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) had recently proposed to introduce ‘Health Start Rating’ (HSR) to check how healthy the packaged food items are.
  • This Star Rating System for packaged food products will be the first such in India.
  • Aim: To guide consumers to opt for healthy food. (Under this system, packaged foods will display the number of stars on the front of the pack, indicating how healthy or unhealthy it is depending upon the amount of salt, sugar and fat in it).
  • Exclusion: milk and dairy products will be excluded from this proposed front-of-the-pack labelling.
  • This rating system will be initially voluntary from 2023 with a transition period of four years. After this, it would be made mandatory. (This rating system will be similar to the one that is being used by the Bureau of Energy Efficiency for assessing the energy efficiency in electrical devices).

Need of such Star Rating System for packaged food Products?

  • FSSAI has taken this decision based on a study conducted by IIM Ahmedabad regarding the methodology to be used to display the health ratings of the food items. The study has recommended Front of the Pack labelling(FoPL) for packaged food products as it would be easier for the customer to understand the merits and demerits of the product.
  • Note: At present, countries such as the UK, Chile, New Zealand, Mexico and Australia have Front of the Pack labelling(FoPL) for packaged food Products. Criticism of HSR System:
  • Under the health star rating system, an algorithm assigns a product a certain number of stars based on “positive” components (fibre, protein, and fruit, vegetable, nut and legume content) balanced against other components (energy, sugars, sodium, and saturated fat).
  • Experts argue that this is divorced from science as the presence of high quantities of sugar can’t be offset (compensated) by the so-called positive ingredients. The industry can easily manipulate the system as food products high in sugar or fat that deserve a low rating (1 star) could get a moderate rating (3 or even 4 stars) only because they contain some positive nutrients (for example, fruit and nut chocolates).

Government Order (GO) 111

  • On March 8, 1996, the government of erstwhile (undivided) Andhra Pradesh had issued ‘Government Order (GO) 111’ prohibiting development or construction works in the catchment area of the Osman Sagar and Himayat Sagar lakes up to a radius of 10 km. The GO prohibited the setting up of industries, residential colonies, hotels, etc. which cause pollution. The aim of the restrictions was to protect the catchment area, and to keep the reservoirs pollution-free.
  • The Osman Sagar and Himayat Sagar reservoirs were created by building dams on the Musi (also known as Moosa or Muchkunda) river, a major tributary of the Krishna, to protect Hyderabad from floods. Osman Sagar was completed in 1921, and Himayat Sagar in 1927.
  • Why in News : Environmentalists are criticising the Telangana government for withdrawing an over 25-year-old government order (GO 111) protecting the historic Osman Sagar and Himayat Sagar reservoirs in Hyderabad, which they say will destroy the fragile surrounding ecosystem.

UGC allows 2 degrees at a time in physical mode

  • The University Grants Commission has for the first time decided to allow students to pursue two full-time and same-level degree programmes in physical mode simultaneously either at the same university or from different universities (to be implemented from the academic session 2022-23, ) .

This move is a part of implementation of the National Education Policy 2020 which seeks to provide as much flexibility as possible so that students can receive multidisciplinary education.

  • Applicability of the Programme : The Dual Degree Programme will be allowed for physical degrees, online degrees and even diploma programmes. It will be applicable for all academic programmes (graduation, Post Gradusation and Diplma) other than PhD.
  • According to the guidelines prepared by the UGC, students can pursue two full-time degrees in three ways:
  • They can pursue both academic programmes in physical mode provided that in such cases, class timings for one programme do not overlap with the class timings of the other programme. This means that if a student is pursuing B.Tech from IIT Delhi in the morning or regular session, he can opt for a BA in Sanskrit from Delhi University, provided it is offered in the evening session.
  • They can pursue one programme in physical mode and another in online or distance mode.
  • They can pursue up to two degree programmes in online or distance mode simultaneously. What is the criticism against this decision?
  • Increase Burden on Universities: This decision will increase the load on universities. It also doesn’t increase the number of students enrolling in universities because the same student will study two courses. So, the gross enrolment ratio [GER] in higher education will not go up.
  • Note: According to the All India Survey on Higher Education(AISHE) 2019-20, GER for higher education is at 27.1%. The NEP has set the target of raising this to 50% by 2035.
  • More Demand for Teachers: It will also lead to a demand for more teachers in universities when thousands of vacancies for current needs haven’t been filled.
  • University Grants Commission (UGC) : The University Grants Commission of India came into existence on 28th December, 1953 and became a statutory body under the provisions of UGC Act, 1956. It is responsible for coordination, determination and maintenance of standards of higher education. It provides recognition to universities in India, and disburses funds to such recognized universities and college. The head office of the UGC is located in New Delhi. Nodal Ministry for UGC is Department of Higher Education, Ministry of Education

Anganwadi workers  entitled for Gratuity

  • Recently, the Supreme Court held that anganwadi workers were entitled to gratuity, a basic social security measure. The Court recognized their right to be paid gratuity under the Payment of Gratuity Act, 1972.
  • Note : Anganwadi is a centrally sponsored scheme implemented by the States / UTs which serves as a rural child and maternal care centre in India. It was started by the Government of India in 1975 as part of the ICDS program to combat child hunger and malnutrition.
  • Anganwadi centers provide a package of six services: supplementary nutrition, pre-school non-formal education, immunization, health check-up, nutrition and health education, and referral services.

Cyber security incidents

  • Recently, CERT-In has asked all government and private agencies to mandatorily report cyber security breach incidents to it within six hours of noticing them. CERT-In is empowered under Section 70B of the Information Technology Act to collect, analyse and disseminate information on cyber security incidents.
  • CERT-IN (Computer Emergency Response Team) – India : it is an organisation of the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology with the objective of securing Indian cyberspace. It is the nodal agency which deals with cybersecurity threats like hacking and phishing.

POLITY (Articles, Acts or Sections in News)

Partial withdrawn of  AFSPA from parts of 3 NE states

  • The Ministry of Home Affairs has announced the reduction of “disturbed areas” under the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act in Assam, Manipur and Nagaland with effect from April 1,2022.
  • This decision was based on the recommendations of a committee (five-member committee headed by registrar general of India Vivek Joshi) that was constituted to study the possibility of withdrawing the AFSPA from areas in Nagaland in the wake of public anger against a botched ambush by an elite unit of the Army that led to the killing of 14 civilians. Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 [AFSPA]
  • The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act was enacted in 1958 to bring security situation in control in those areas where the use of armed forces in aid of the civil power is deemed necessary.
  • The Act applies to the Army, the Air Force and the Central paramilitary forces.
  • Both the Central Government as well as the Head of the State/UT are competent to issue declaration of an area as “disturbed” for the purpose of application of AFSPA. How it works:
  • AFSPA comes into operation after a declaration is made under Section 3 that a particular area is “disturbed”, and gives special powers to the Army and other central forces deployed in these areas. Section 3 can be applied to whole of the state, or only parts of it, as deemed necessary.
  • A declaration under Section 3 has to be for a limited duration subject to periodic review before the expiry of six months.
  • Under AFSPA, the armed forces deployed in the “disturbed areas” have been empowered under Section 4 to:
  • open fire; enter and search without warrant, and arrest any person who has committed a cognisable offence. Section 7 of the Act mandates prior executive permission for prosecution of a member of the security forces.

States where AFSPA is in effect

  • The British colonial government had on August 15, 1942, promulgated the Armed Forces Special Powers Ordinance to suppress the Quit India movement.
  • After independence, AFSPA exists essentially in two legislations: o The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 (AFSPA) – originally brought out to handle insurgency in the

North-east India and o The Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Act, 1990 – brought in to handle insurgency and terrorism in Jammu & Kashmir

  • States currently under AFSPA (with varying amount of areas under the Act) include:
  • Jammu and Kashmir , Assam, Nagaland, Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh (only the Tirap, Changlang and Longding districts, plus a some small area bordering Assam in Namsai district) States where AFSPA has been withdrawn completely:
  • AFSPA was completely lifted from Meghalaya in April 2018.
  • It was repealed in Tripura in 2015.
  • The signing of the Mizo Accord simultaneously led to the withdrawal of AFSPA from Mizoram in 1986.

Reason for reducing area under AFSPA:

  • Over the last two decades, various parts of the Northeast have seen a reduction in insurgencies.
  • Assam : security situation is vastly improved. Bodoland is peaceful after inking accord with Bodo outfits. Militants of KarbiAnglong are in talks with the government. In Dima Haso talks with militant outfit Dimasa National Liberation Army (DNLA) are in advanced stage.  The state government is engaged in formal and informal talks with many groups and those are in an advanced stage.
  • Nagaland : all major insurgent groups are at advanced stages of concluding agreements with the government.
  • Manipur : insurgency as well as heavy militarisation have been on the decline.

Impact of withdrawl of AFSPA from certain area in 3 states  :

  • The move is expected to help demilitarise the region, and lift restrictions of movements through check points and frisking of residents. It will restore liberties in these areas at par with the rest of the country. It also enables more developmental activities in these areas as the withdrawal of AFSPA signals that law and order is maintained and these areas are open for investments.

How is the AFSPA Act being viewed by activists ?

  • The AFSPA has often been under the scanner for giving the armed forces personnel the “license to kill”.
  • Rights groups have called the Act as a tool of state for abuse, oppression and discrimination, while the United Nations has often pointed out that it has no place in Indian democracy.

Interim Director of CBI

  • The Supreme Court told the government that interim appointments to the post of CBI Director cannot go on.
  • The remark came during the hearing of a petition filed by Common Cause, represented by advocate Prashant Bhushan, objecting to the appointment of Praveen Sinha as interim CBI Director following the retirement of Rishi Kumar Shukla on February 2.
  • The petition said the government had failed to appoint a regular Director through the high-power selection committee of the Prime Minister, Chief Justice of India and Leader of Opposition. The Common Cause has argued that an interim appointment through an executive order was not envisaged in the statutory scheme of the 1946 Act. The agency should function independently outside the pale of the Executive or political powers. This was exactly why a high-powered committee selects the CBI Director.

Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI)

  • The CBI was set up in 1963 by a resolution of the Ministry of Home Affairs.
  • Now, the CBI comes under the administrative control of the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) of the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions.
  • CBI derives power to investigate from the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, 1946.
  • The establishment of the CBI was recommended by the Santhanam Committee on Prevention of Corruption (1962– 1964). The CBI is the main investigating agency of the Central Government.

It also provides assistance to the Central Vigilance Commission and Lokpal.

  • It is also the nodal police agency in India which coordinates investigations on behalf of Interpol Member countries.
  • Note : One of the major challenges associated with CBI is the excessive political interference in its functioning.

Dispute over Chandigarh

  • Recently, Punjab’s CM moved a resolution in the Assembly, seeking the immediate transfer of Chandigarh to Punjab.

Why Punjab Govt pass such resolution reviving its claim on Chandigarh

  • Earlier in March 2022, Union Home Ministry announced to align service conditions of all employees of the Chandigarh administration with Central civil services (instead of the Punjab Service Rules).
  • Also, the Central Government changed rules for appointments in Bhakra Beas Management Board (BBMB). Earlier, the appointments were done only from the states of Punjab and Haryana but now the board can recruit from anywhere in

India. Political parties in Punjab criticised this and termed it an attempt to ‘snatch’ Chandigarh from Punjab. Historical Background:

  • Before 1947, in undivided India, the capital city of Punjab province was Lahore. In 1947, during partition, the capital of Punjab was temporarily shifted to Shimla. However, the then Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru decided on a modern city as the capital of Punjab. Subsequently, in 1948, the Punjab Government acquired as many as 22 villages from Kharar, a town in Punjab to build a new capital city. The capital of Punjab was officially shifted from Shimla to Chandigarh on September 21, 1953.
  • On November 1, 1966 a new state of Haryana was created, under the Punjab Reorganisation Act, 1966, as a result of dividing the former state of Punjab into two separate states—Punjabi-speaking Punjab and Hindi-speaking Haryana. This was implemented, based on the recommendations of Sardar Hukum Singh Parliamentary Committee.
  • In April 1966, acting on the recommendation of the Hukam Singh Committee, the Indian government set up the Shah Commission under the chairmanship of Justice J. C. Shah, to divide and set up the boundaries of Punjab and Haryana.
  • According to Shah Commission report, Tehsil Kharar (including Chandigarh) should also be a part of Haryana.
  • However, both Punjab and Haryana claimed Chandigarh as their capital. The Central Government declared Chandigarh as a Union Territory, pending a resolution. Subsequently, Chandigarh became a joint capital of both Punjab and Haryana.
  • It was decided that properties in Chandigarh were to be divided in a 60:40 ratio in favour of Punjab. Punjab’s Claim:
  • During the reorganisation of Punjab, the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had announced that, in due course, Haryana would have its own capital and Chandigarh would go to Punjab. The Central Government had offered Rs 10 crore grant to Haryana and an equal amount of loan for setting up the new capital.
  • The Rajiv–Longowal Accord was an accord signed by then Prime MinisterRajiv Gandhi and Akali leader of Punjab Harchand Singh Longowal in July 1985. As per the Rajiv-Longowal Accord, the Central Government agreed that Chandigarh would be transferred to Punjab on January 26, 1986 but the decision was later withdrawn. Haryana’s claim :
  • In Haryana, all parties present a common position asserting their claim on Chandigarh city and have objected to any move which associates Chandigarh solely with Punjab. Himachal’s  Claim:
  • Himachal Pradesh also seek 7.19 per cent share in posts of Chandigarh Administration for the hill state’s officers.
  • In the past, the CM of the state also said that they stake claim for its share over electricity generated from power projects run by Bhakra Beas Management Board (BBMB).

Constitutional provision : 

  • According to Article 3 of the Indian Constitution, the constitutional power to create new states and union territories in India is solely reserved to the Parliament of India. Parliament can do so by announcing new states/union territories, separating territory from an existing state or merging two or more states/union territories or parts of them.
  • Note : The Governor of Punjab is concurrently the Administrator of Chandigarh.

Bill to ban funding of weapons of mass destruction (WMD)

  • External Affairs Minister (EAM) S. Jaishankar introduced the ‘Weapons of Mass Destruction and their Delivery Systems (Prohibition of Unlawful Activities) Amendment Bill’ in the Lok Sabha.
  • It seeks to ban funding of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and empowers the Centre to freeze and seize financial assets of people involved in such activities.
  • It also fulfils India’s international obligations pertaining to weapons of mass destruction.
  • The earlier law of 2005 regarding WMDs and their Delivery Systems (Prohibition of Unlawful Activities) only banned their manufacture.

10.5% Vanniyar quota struck down by Apex Court

  • The Supreme Court has struck down the 10.5% reservation provided to Vanniyars, a Most Backward Community(MBC) in Tamil Nadu, in government jobs and admission to educational institutions.

Background

  • The Tamil Nadu Assembly had passed a Special Reservation Act of 2021 that divided the existing 20% quota for the ‘Most Backward Classes/Denotified Communities’ category into three parts. Among them, the largest share of 10.5% was specified as exclusive to the Vanniyar community and its various sub-castes.  This act was challenged before the Madras High Court. The court declared that the Act was unconstitutional because of a lack of quantifiable data to measure the “extreme backwardness” of the Vanniyars. This High Court verdict was then challenged before the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court upheld the Madras High Court verdict. The Supreme Court said court said that:
  • The caste alone cannot be the exclusive basis to grant quota within a reserved category, 2) The allotment of 10.5% reservation to a single community from total MBC quota of 20% in the State leaving only 9.5% to other communities in the MBC category was without “substantial basis”. It violates the fundamental rights of equality, non-discrimination and equal opportunity of other MBCs. There was no assessment or analysis done prior to the 2021 Act to back the claim that the Vanniyars were relatively more backward than the other MBCs.
  • Note: Reservation in Tamil Nadu comprises 69% under a 1994 Act protected under the Ninth Schedule of the Constitution. Of the 69%, backward classes, including Christians and Muslims, get 30%; MBCs get 20%; Scheduled Castes 18%; and Scheduled Tribes 1%.

Governor’s power in appointing vice-chancellors

  • Recently, the Tamil Nadu Assembly passed two Bills that seek to transfer the Governor’s power in appointing ViceChancellors (VC) of 13 state universities to the state government (currently led by the DMK).
  • Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu MK Stalin said the Bills were required as the Governor was disregarding the state government’s opinion on the appointments of VCs, an argument also made by states such as Maharashtra and West Bengal in the past.
  • Earlier, the Maharashtra and West Bengal Governments have made similar provisions vis-a-vis the governor appointing Vice-Chancellor of the Universities.
  • In West Bengal, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu, the elected governments have repeatedly accused the Governors of acting at the behest of the Centre on various subjects, including education.
  • Note : Education comes under the Concurrent List, but entry 66 of the Union List — “coordination and determination of standards in institutions for higher education or research and scientific and technical institutions” — gives the Centre substantial authority over higher education.

SECTION 144 (CrPC)

  • Recently, the administration of Uttarakhand’s Haridwar district imposed prohibitory orders under Section 144 of the Code Of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), 1973 near the town of Roorkee.
  • In March 2022, Section 144 was imposed in Bodhan town in Telangana after protests turned violent over the installation of a statue of Chhatrapati Shivaji at Ambedkar junction in the town by the Shiv Sena and BJP workers.

About Section 144

  • Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) of 1973 generally prohibits public gathering. It authorises the Executive Magistrate of any state or territory to issue an order to prohibit the assembly of four or more people in an area. According to the law, every member of such ‘unlawful assembly’ can be booked for engaging in rioting. The maximum punishment for such act is three years. Moreover, obstructing police from breaking up an unlawful assembly is a punishable offence as well. Section 144 also restricts carrying any sort of weapon in that area where it has been imposed and people can be detained for violating it.
  • When it is imposed : Section 144 is imposed in urgent cases of nuisance or apprehended danger of some event that has the potential to cause trouble or damage to human life or property.
  • Duration : No order under Section 144 shall remain in force for more than two months but the state government can extent the validity for two months and maximum up to six months. It can be withdrawn at any point of time if situation becomes normal.
  • Background: Section 144 was used for the first time in 1861 by the British Raj, and thereafter became an important tool to stop all nationalist protests during the Freedom Struggle. However, the use of the section in Independent India remains controversial as very little has changed.

Section 144 vs Curfew:

  • Section 144 is generally prohibitory in nature. It restricts from public gathering, but doesn’t bar it all together.
  • A curfew, on the other hand, orders people to stay indoors for a specific period of time. So, the authorities can impose curfew for certain period of time (However, the authorities can also extend the curfew if the need be). One also needs a prior approval from the local police for moving out during curfew.

Delhi Municipal Corporation (Amendment) Bill, 2022

  • President has given a nod to Bill that unifies three Delhi MCDs under Delhi Municipal Corporation (Amendment) Bill, 2022. The Bill seeks to amend the Delhi Municipal Corporation Act, 1957 passed by Parliament. The Act was earlier amended in 2011 by Delhi Legislative Assembly to trifurcate the erstwhile Municipal Corporation of Delhi into : North Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC), South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC), East Delhi Municipal Corporation (EDMC).

About the 2022 Bill ( now becomes Act )

  • The Bill seeks to unify the three corporations created in 2011.
  • Reduction in ward numbers: This means that the number of wards could be reduced to 250 from 272.

The unified body could be dubbed the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) and all the liabilities, employees, revenue sources and power and property of the SDMC, EDMC and NDMC will soon be transferred to the MCD.

  • Constitutionally: This Bill is in accordance with the Constitution. The Centre has the power to enact laws in the Union Territory of Delhi.

What was the need?

  • Increasing financial difficulties of the three Municipal Corporations in Delhi due to the trifurcation.
  • Delay in payment and salaries: These financial constraints had reportedly left the MCDs incapacitated to make timely payment of salaries and retirement benefits to their employees.
  • 2022 MCD election: Now that the MCD bill has received the President’s nod, the delimitation process is expected to begin shortly.

Hattis of Himachal Pradesh want ST status

  • The Union Home Minister has assured the Chief Minister of Himachal Pradesh that the Centre would consider the request for inclusion of the Hatti community in the list of Scheduled Tribes.

What is the Hatti Community?

  • The Hatti community is largely concentrated in the Trans-Giri area of the Sirmaur district in Himachal Pradesh.
  • The community is named after their age-old professional practice of selling their homegrown crops at small markets called ‘Haat’ in nearby cities. The men of Hatti community wear a distinctive white headgear during ceremonies.
  • Hatti community is cut off from Sirmaur by two rivers called Giri and Tons. Tons divides it from the Jaunsar Bawar area of Uttarakhand.
  • The Hattis is governed by a traditional council called Khumbli, which like the khaps of Haryana decides community matters. The Khumbli’s power has remained unchallenged despite the establishment of the Panchayati Raj system. Why should Hatti Community be granted Scheduled Tribe(ST) Status?
  • The Hattis who live in the trans-Giri area of Surmaur, HP and Jaunsar Bawar in Uttarakhand were once part of the royal estate of Sirmaur until Jaunsar Bawar’s separation in 1815. The two clans have similar traditions, and inter-marriages are commonplace. There is a rigid caste system among the Hattis — the Bhat and Khash are the upper castes, while the Badhois are below them. Inter-caste marriages have traditionally forbidden.
  • Incidentally, those who crossed over to the Jaunsar Bawar area which is now in Uttarakhand have enjoyed tribal status since 1967. However, the Hatti community of the Himachal weren’t accorded the ST status. Hence, they are demanding that they should also be granted the Scheduled Tribe(ST) status.

ECONOMY NEWS

Oil Bonds

  • On the issue of rising retail prices of petroleum products, Union Finance Minister claimed that the current government cannot bring down taxes (and, as a consequence, prices) because it has to pay for the oil bonds issued by the Congressled UPA government.

How much fuel price is taxed?

  • There are two components to the domestic retail price — the price of crude oil itself, and the taxes levied on this basic price. Together, they make up the retail price.
  • The taxes vary from one product to another. For instance, as of now, taxes account for 50% of the total retail price for a litre of petrol, and 44% for a litre of diesel.

What is an Oil Bond?

  • An oil bond is an IOU (I owe you instrument), or a promissory note issued by the government to the oil marketing companies (OMCs), in lieu of cash that the government would have given them so that these companies don’t charge the public the full price of fuel.
  • An oil bond says the government will pay the oil marketing company the sum of, say, Rs 1,000 crore in 10 years. And to compensate the OMC for not having this money straightaway, the government will pay it, say, 8% (or Rs 80 crore) each year until the bond matures.
  • Thus, by issuing such oil bonds, the government of the day is able to protect/ subsidise the consumers without either ruining the profitability of the OMC or running a huge budget deficit itself.
  • Oil bonds were issued by several governments in the past. But the ones in question now are the ones which the UPA government issued.

What is the magnitude of Oil Bonds that needs to be repaid by the current government?

  • In 2014, there were bonds worth Rs 1.34 lakh crore that had to be paid between 2015 and 2026.
  • Between 2015 and 2021, the government has fully paid off four sets of oil bonds — a total of Rs 13,500 crore. Further, between 2014 and 2022, the government had to spend a total of Rs 93,686 crore on interest as well as the principal of oil bonds.

Small Savings Schemes

  • Recently, the government has kept interest rates unchanged on Small savings Schemes, for the first quarter of 2022-23 (April-June) due to an elevated level of inflation.
  • Note : The government notified on reducing the interest rates on National small savings schemes. However, the decision to reduce the interest rates on small savings schemes was reversed within 12 hours of notification.
  • Reducing the interest rate of National small savings schemes will adversely impact middle class, lower middle class, and lower-income groups. As they are already facing the crisis of job losses and higher food prices due to the Pandemic.

What are the Small Saving Schemes/Instruments?

  • They are the major source of household savings in India and comprise 12 instruments. depositors get an assured interest on their money. Collections from all small savings instruments are credited to the National Small Savings Fund (NSSF). Small savings have emerged as a key source of financing the government deficit, especially after the Covid-19 pandemic led to a ballooning of the government deficit, necessitating higher need for borrowings.

Significance of Small Saving schemes;

  • Small savings schemes (SSS) have contributed to overall economic growth. Because money pooled from SSS has been used by center and state governments to fund development programs. They are an important source of household savings. (social security net). They offer a safe and secure source of income to senior citizens.
  • Classification: Small savings instruments can be classified under three heads: o Postal Deposits (comprising savings account, recurring deposits, time deposits of varying maturities and monthly income scheme).
    • Savings Certificates: National Small Savings Certificate (NSC) and Kisan Vikas Patra (KVP).
    • Social Security Schemes: Sukanya Samriddhi Scheme, Public Provident Fund (PPF) and Senior Citizens‘ Savings Scheme (SCSS).

Determination of Interest rate Rates:

  • The rates are reviewed periodically by the Ministry of Finance. Currently, the small savings rates are linked to G-sec yields (the rate at which the government borrows money through sovereign bonds). Further, it is revised quarterly.
  • The rationale for linking small savings rates to G-sec is that money collected through these schemes is invested in central and state government securities.

Various committees associated with small saving schemes :

  • Y V Reddy committee, the Rakesh Mohan committee, Shyamala Gopinath Committee.

RoDTEP : exclusion of iron and steel, chemicals and pharmaceuticals

  • Recently, the government had left out sectors such as iron and steel, chemicals and pharmaceuticals, from the Remission of Duties and Taxes on Export Products (RoDTEP) scheme.
  • Why these sectors have been omitted : Because iron and steel were ‘already booming’ and the pharma industry’s business had also increased during the pandemic.
  • About RoDTEP Scheme: It was started in January 2021 as a replacement for the Merchandise Export from India Scheme (MEIS), which was not compliant with the rules of the World Trade Organisation.
  • The RoDTEP scheme would refund to exporters the embedded central, state and local duties or taxes that were so far not been rebated or refunded and were, therefore, placing India’s exports at a disadvantage. The rebate under the scheme would not be available in respect of duties and taxes already exempted or remitted or credited.

Fincluvation

  • India Post Payments Bank (IPPB), a 100% government owned entity under Department of Posts (DoP) announced the launch of Fincluvation– a joint initiative to collaborate with Fintech Startup community to co-create and innovate solutions for financial inclusion.
  • Fincluvation is an Industry first initiative to create a powerful platform to mobilize the start-up community towards building meaningful financial products aimed at financial inclusion. Fincluvation will be a permanent platform of IPPB to co-create inclusive financial solutions with participating start-ups.
  • About India Post Payments Bank : India Post Payments Bank (IPPB) has been established under the Department of Posts, Ministry of Communication with 100% equity owned by Government of India. IPPB was launched by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi on September 1, 2018.

Household Consumer Expenditure Survey

  • The All-India Household Consumer Expenditure Survey is set to resume this year after a prolonged break.
  • Conducted by: National Statistical Office (NSO) every 5 years.
  • Aim: To collect information on the consumption spending patterns of households across the country, both urban and rural.
  • The data gathered in this exercise reveals the average expenditure on goods (food and non-food) and services. The data helps to generate estimates of household Monthly Per Capita Consumer Expenditure(MPCE) as well as the distribution of households and persons over the MPCE classes.

Significance :  The data from the survey was used to arrive at estimates of poverty levels in different parts of the country and to review economic indicators like the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) since 2011–12.

Why was the Consumer Expenditure Survey stopped?

  • In 2019, the Government had decided not to release the results of the all-India Household Consumer Expenditure Survey conducted during 2017-2018 citing data quality issues.
  • The government had said that it was examining the feasibility of conducting the next Survey after incorporating all data quality refinements in the survey process recommended by an expert panel that examined the discrepancies in the 2017– 18 results. Hence, the next Consumer Expenditure Survey is expected to be completed by 2023.

AGRICULTURE

Parboiled rice

  • Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao staged a dharna at Telangana House, demanding a uniform paddy procurement policy. The protest came after the Centre said it was stopping the purchase of excess parboiled rice, of which Telangana is a major producer.

About:

  • Parboiled rice refers to rice that has been partially boiled at the paddy stage, before milling.
  • Parboiling of rice is not a new practice, and has been followed in India since ancient times.
  • There are several processes for parboiling rice. The Paddy Processing Research Centre (PPRC), Thanjavur follows a method known as the chromate soaking process.
  • All processes generally involve three stages—soaking, steaming and drying. After passing through these stages, the paddy goes for milling.

Benefits of Parboiled rice?

  • Parboiling makes rice tougher. This reduces the chances of the rice kernel breaking during milling.
  • Parboiling also increases the nutrient value of the rice.
  • Third, parboiled rice has a higher resistance to insects and fungi.

Drawbacks of Parboiled rice ?

  • The rice becomes darker and may smell unpleasant due to prolonged soaking.
  • Besides, setting up a parboiling rice milling unit requires a higher investment than a raw rice milling unit.

Seaweed Park

  • Minister of State for Fishing, Animal Husbandry and Dairying Dr L Murugan has said, the Centre would establish a seaweed park with special economic zone status in Tamil Nadu.
  • The project will be the first of its kind in India and will come up under the PM Kisan Sampada Yojana.
  • The state government has been asked to locate the project site and acquire the land, after which the works on the project will start.

About Seaweed :

  • Seaweed, or macroalgae, refers to thousands of species of macroscopic, multicellular, marine algae.
  • Advantage of Seaweed : Large seaweeds form dense underwater forests known as kelp forests, which act as underwater nurseries for fish, snails and sea urchins. Seaweed is a source of vitamins, minerals, and fiber, and can be tasty. Some of them have medicinal value as they contain anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial agents. Some of the Seaweed are effective binding agents (emulsifiers) in commercial goods like toothpaste and fruit jelly, and popular softeners (emollients) in organic cosmetics and skin-care products. Most heavy metals found in marine ecosystems are trapped and removed by seaweeds.

HISTORY, ART AND CULTURE 

‘Temple 360’ website launched by Minister of State for Culture and External Affairs, Meenakshi Lekhi

  • Temple 360 is a digital platform where anyone can visit or do darshan of 12 Jyotirlinga and Char Dham from any location, making everyone’s life convenient while also keeping people connected. The website also allows a devotee to perform e-Darshan, e-Prashad, e-Aarti and several other services. Temple 360 is a website where one can visit a temple of their choice, anytime and from anywhere from India.

‘Hanumanji Char Dham’ project

  • The Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi has unveiled a 108 ft statue of Lord Hanuman ji in Morbi, Gujarat, at the Ashram of Bapu Keshvanand ji, via video conferencing, on the occasion of Hanuman Jayanti. This statue is the second among the four statues being built in the four directions across the country, as part of the ‘Hanumanji Char Dham’ project.
  • The first such grand statue of Hanuman Ji was inaugurated in the North in Shimla (Jakhu), Himachal Pradesh in 2010. The statue at Morbi has been set up in the West. The third statue will be set up in the South at Rameswaram, Tamil Nadu. Similarly, the final statue will be established in East in West Bengal.

Gangaur festival

  • The Gangaur festival is celebrated in Rajasthan and some parts of Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, and West Bengal. It is one of Rajasthan’s most important festivals and is observed with great fervour across the state.
  • The women worship Gauri, the wife of Lord Shiva during the period of this festival which is from March to April. This festival celebrates the harvest, spring, childbearing, and marital fidelity. The unmarried women worship Gauri to seek her blessings for finding a good husband. The married women worship her for health, welfare, happy married life, and long life of their husbands. On the first day of Chaitra, the day following Holi, this festival begins and continues for a period of 16 days.

Prahlad Patel

  • Recently, the Prime Minister recalled the ‘Nation First’ spirit of freedom fighter Prahlad Patel on his 115th birth anniversary.
  • Prahlad Patel hailed from Becharaji in Gujarat and fought for India’s independence from British rule, and later joined the ‘Bhoodan’ movement of social reformer Vinoba Bhave. He donated 200 bighas of land that he owned.
  • The freedom fighter joined the freedom struggle on the call of Mahatma Gandhi and underwent imprisonment in Sabarmati and Yerawada . Shri Patel’s father passed away when he was incarcerated but he did not accept the conditions of apology that were put forward by the colonial rulers for allowing him to perform the last rites. He also supported many freedom fighters who were fighting underground.
  • Prahlad Patel also helped Sardar Patel in the merger of princely states after independence.
  • When Gujarat was formed in 1960, he even contested elections from the Chanasma seat in Patan district and took the entire region on the path of development.

Alluri Sitarama Raju : Leader of Rampa Rebellion of 1922

  • Recently, the Vice President, Shri M. Venkaiah Naidu visited the birthplace of noted freedom fighter and revolutionary, Shri Alluri Sitarama Raju in Pandrangi village near Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh.
  • Alluri Sitarama Raju (1897 – 1924) was an Indian revolutionary who waged an armed campaign against British colonial rule in India. Born in present-day Andhra Pradesh, he became involved in anti-British activities in response to the 1882 Madras Forest Act, which effectively restricted the free movement of Adivasis (tribal communities) in their forest habitats and prevented them from practicing a traditional form of agriculture known as podu.
  • Rising discontent towards the British led to the Rampa Rebellion of 1922, in which he played a major part as a leader. He was nicknamed “Manyam Veerudu” (Hero of the Jungle) by local villagers for his heroic exploits. In 1924, Raju was taken into police custody, tied to a tree, and shot by a public execution, effectively ending the armed rebellion.

Traditional New Year Festivals

  • The President of India has greeted people on the eve of Chaitra Shukladi, Gudi Padwa, Ugadi, Cheti Chand, Vaisakhi, Vishu, Naba Barsha, Vaisakhadi and Puthandu-Pirappu and Bohag Bihu. These festivals of the spring season mark the beginning of the traditional new year in India.
  • Vaishakhi: it is observed by Hindus and Sikhs.
  • Vishu: It is a Hindu festival celebrated in the Indian state of Kerala, Tulu Nadu region in Karnataka, Mahé district of Union Territory of Pondicherry, neighbouring areas of Tamil Nadu and their diaspora communities.
  • Puthandu: Also known as Puthuvarudam or Tamil New Year, is the first day of the year on the Tamil calendar and traditionally celebrated as a festival.
  • Bohag Bihu: Bohag Bihu or Rongali Bihu also called Xaat Bihu (seven Bihus) is a traditional aboriginal ethnic festival celebrated in the state of Assam and other parts of northeastern India by the indigenous ethnic groups of Assam.
  • PoilaBaisakh / Naba Barsha: it is the celebration of the new year in West Bengal as per the Bengali Calendar.

Guru Tegh Bahadur (1621 – 1675)

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed the nation on the 400th Parkash Purab of Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji at the Red Fort in New Delhi on 21st of April, 2022.
  • Birth of Guru Tegh Bahadur: He was born to Mata Nanki and Guru Hargobind (6th Sikh guru) at Amritsar in 1621.
  • Name: He was born as Tyaga Mal. He came to be known by the name Teg Bahadur (Mighty of The Sword), given to him by Guru Hargobind after he shown his valour in a battle against the Mughals.
  • Life and works: He was also an avid traveller and played a key role in setting up preaching centers. During one such mission, he founded the town of Chak-Nanki in Punjab, which later became Part of Anandpur Sahib (in Rupnagar/Ropar district, on the edge of Shivalik Hills, near the Sutlej River, in Punjab). In Anandpur Sahib, his son and tenth Sikh Guru ‘Guru Gobind Singh’ Ji founded the Khalsa Panth in 1699.

His 115 hymns are included in Sri Guru Granth Sahib, the main text of Sikhism.

  • He resisted the forced conversions of Kashmiri Pandits and non-Muslims to Islam. He was often venerated as the ‘Protector of Humanity’ (Srisht-di-Chadar) and also as ‘Shield of India’ (‘Hind di-Chadar’).
  • Martyrdom: He was publicly beheaded in 1675 on the orders of Mughal emperor Aurangzeb in Delhi for himself refusing to convert to Islam. He is remembered for giving up his life for freedom of religion.
  • His martyrdom is remembered as the Shaheedi Divas of Guru Tegh Bahadur every year on 24 November, according to the Nanakshahi calendar released by the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee in 2003.

Memorials in Delhi:

  • Gurudwara Sis Ganj Sahib mark the place of his execution.
  • Gurdwara Rakab Ganj Sahib mark the places of cremation of his body.

Malcha Mahal

  • The Delhi government is about to renovate the 14th-century monument, Malcha Mahal.
  • Malcha Mahal is located in Delhi. It was built in 1325 by the then Sultan Firoz Shah Tughlaq and was used as a hunting lodge for a long time. It later became the residence of the descendants of the Nawab of Awadh.
  • It came to be known as ‘Wilayat Mahal’ after Begum Wilayat Mahal of Awadh who claimed that she was a member of the royal family of Oudh. She was given the palace by the government in 1985. When she died by suicide in 1993, it came into the ownership of her daughter Sakina Mahal, and son Prince Ali Raza (Cyrus), who died in 2017, his sister passed away some years before that.
  • Firoz Shah Tughlaq: born in 1309, he was the third ruler of the Tughlaq dynasty. He was in power from 1351 to 1388 AD. The British called him the ‘father of the irrigation department’ because of the many gardens and canals that he built. He established the Diwan-i-Khairat — office for charity and Diwan-i-Bundagan — department of slaves. He made Sarais (rest houses) for the benefit of merchants and other travellers. He also established four new towns, Firozabad, Fatehabad, Jaunpur and Hissar. Taxes imposed under him were Kharaj, Zakat, Kham and

APPOINTMENTS and RESIGNATIONS

Manoj Soni  :

  • UPSC chairman (He succeed Pradip Kumar Joshi).

Iqbal Singh Lalpura

  • The central government has re-appointed retired Punjab-cadre IPS officer Iqbal Singh Lalpura as the chairperson of the National Commission for Minorities. He was first appointed as chairman in September last year, had to resign from the post in December to contest as the BJP candidate from the Ropar assembly constituency, which he lost.

Vijay Sampla

  • He has been re-appointed as the chairperson of the National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC) for a second time. Sampla had resigned as the NCSC chairman ahead of the Punjab elections and had contested the polls.

Manoj Pande   :

  • He has been appointed as 29th chief of the Indian Army.
  • He succeeds General MM Naravane, who retired on April 30, 2022.
  • Lt Gen Manoj Pande is the first-ever officer from the Corps of Engineers to be appointed as Army Chief.
  • Note : Outgoing army chief Gen MM Naravane is seen as the frontrunner for the Chief of Defence Staff’s (CDS) post, that has been vacant since the death of India’s first CDS Gen Bipin Rawat in an air crash last December.

Vinay Mohan Kwatra :

  • appointed as new Foreign Secretary of India who will replace outging Harsh Vardhan Shringla.

Dr S Raju :

  • Director-General of the Geological Survey of India (GSI).

Ms Aprajita Sharma

  • An Indian official, who has been selected as vice-chairperson of the International Telecommunication Union’s (ITU) Council Standing Committee on Administration and Management.

Ajay Kumar Sood :

  • Principal Scientific Advisor to GoI Rajiv Kumar :
  • NITI Aayog’s Vice Chairperson, Rajiv Kumar resigned due to a government order.  Suman Bery :
  • Appointed as new Vice Chairperson of the NITI Aayog ( succeeding Rajiv Kumar). Shehbaz Sharif   :
  • 23rd Prime Minister of Pakistan.
  • He belongs to Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) and is the brother of former Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. He succeed Imran Khan ( Political party : Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf), who has been removed by a no-trust vote recently in the National Assembly.

Viktor Orban :

  • Wins Fourth term as Prime Minister of Hungary. Navyveteran Shanti Sethi   :
  • Indian-American Navyveteran Shanti Sethi has been appointed as USA Vice President Kamala Harris’s Defence Adviser. Shanti Sethi is also the first Indian-American commander of a major US Navy combat ship (USS Decatur, from December 2010 to May 2012).

Krishnan Ramanujam  :

  • He has been appointed as Chairperson of  Nasscom succeeding Rekha M. Menon..

SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY

Government has allowed genome-edited (SDN 1 and SDN 2) plants without appraisal from GEAC

  • The central government has paved the way for easy introduction of genome edited crops. The government has clearly distinguished genome edited crops from genetically modified crops and has prescribed relatively easier norms for their introduction

What is genome editing?

  • Genome is the complete genetic information of an organism and genome editing is a type of genetic engineering in which DNA is inserted, deleted, modified or replaced in the genome of a living organism. Genome editing targets the insertions to site specific locations.
  • Note : CRISPR-Cas9 is a unique technology that enables geneticists and medical researchers to edit parts of the genome by removing, adding or altering sections of the DNA sequence. Cas9 protein is a molecular scissor used in targeted gene editing.
  • Categories : Depending on the nature of the edit that is carried out using site directed nuclease (SDN), the process is divided into three categories: SDN 1, SDN 2 and SDN 3.
  • Both SDN1 and SDN2, does not involve foreign genetic material (genetic material of other species) and the end result is indistinguishable from conventionally bred crop varieties but the SDN 3involves the larger DNA elements or full length genes of foreign origin which makes it similar to Genetically modified organisms (GMO) development.
Genetically modified organisms   (GMO) Genome editing crops
  • Genetically modified organisms(GMO) involve modification of the genetic material of the host by introduction of a foreign genetic material.
  • In the case of agriculture, soil bacteria is the best mining source for such genes which are then inserted into the host genome using genetic engineering.
  • For example, in case of cotton, introduction of genes cry1Ac and cry2Ab mined from the soil bacterium Bacillus Thuringiensis (BT) allow the native cotton plant to generate endotoxins to fight pink bollworm naturally.
  • BT Cotton uses this advantage to help farmers naturally fight pink bollworm which is the most common pest for cotton farmers.
  • GMO crops requires the appraisal from GEAC ( Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee)  under Ministry of Environment , Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC).
  • The basic difference between genome editing and genetic modification in that the Genome editing  does not involve the introduction of foreign genetic material, but the GMO does.
  • Since  SDN 1 and SDN 2  ( as explained above)  types of gene editing do not use  foreign genes hence  the Environment Ministry has exempted genome edited crops through SDN 1 and SDN 2 process from stringent regulatory processes that are applied for GM crops.
  • For SDN1 and SDN2 processes, the government will instead rely on reports of Institutional Biosafety Committee to exclude exogenous genetic material.
  • This will allow such genome-edited plants without the need for GMO regulation at the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC). This would be a less cumbersome and time consuming process for commercial release of such genome edited crops.

Note : In the case of agriculture, both the techniques (GMO as well as Genome editing) aim to generate variants which are better yielding and more resistant to biotic and abiotic stress.

What is the recent decision of Govt :

  • The government has exempted Site Directed Nuclease (SDN) 1 and 2 genomes from Rules 7-11 of the Environment Protection Act, thus allowing it to avoid a long process for approval of GM crops through the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC).
  • The Institutional BioSafety Committee (IBSC) under the Environment Protection Act would now be entrusted to certify that the genome edited crop is without use of any foreign DNA (as happens in SDN1 and SDN2).

Genetically Modified Mosquitoes

  • Recently, the US conducted an open-air study of genetically engineered mosquitoes which shows promising results. The aim of the study is to reduce the population of wild Aedes aegypti mosquitoes that are a vector for viruses such as chikungunya, dengue, zika and yellow fever. The mosquitoes had already been field-tested in Brazil, Panama, the Cayman Islands, and Malaysia, but no such study was conducted in the United States.

About Genetically Modified Mosquitoes

  • GM mosquitoes are mass-produced in a laboratory to carry two types of genes: A self-limiting gene that prevents female mosquito offspring from surviving to adulthood and a fluorescent marker gene that glows under a special red light. This allows researchers to identify GM mosquitoes in the wild.
  • GM mosquitoes produced in the laboratory lay eggs. These eggs carry the self-limiting and fluorescent marker genes.
  • GM mosquito eggs that carry the self-limiting gene are released into an area. Once they have hatched and develop through to the adult stage, they are available to mate with wild females. The genes are passed on to offspring.
  • The male mosquitoes have a protein (the tTAV-OX5034 protein) that prevents female offspring from surviving when male OX5034 mosquitoes mate with wild female mosquitoes. The female offspring die before they become adults. The expected result is that the number of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes in the area decreases.

Related Concerns

  • Genetically modifying insects to control their population to curb the spread of a disease is not a novel idea. Similar efforts began a decade ago, with scientists now attempting to engineer ticks to prevent diseases. The concerns ranged from the modified mosquitoes harming people, its impact on mosquito-eating species and other unintended consequences such as the emergence of a deadly virus.

Human Genome

  • In 2003, Scientists of Human Genome Project (1990-2003) had published the map of the human genome for the first time. It contained information from a region of the human genome known as the euchromatin. This chromosome is rich in genes, and the DNA encodes for protein.
  • However, this was incomplete as about 8% of the human DNA was left unsequenced. The remaining 8% that was left out was in the area called heterochromatin. This is a smaller portion of the genome and does not produce protein. This Heterochromatin was given lower priorityThis part of the genome was thought to be “junk DNA”, because it had no clear function.
  • Why in news : Now, a large global collaboration called the Telomere-2-Telomere(T2T) project has accounted for the remaining 8% and completing the picture of the human genome for the first time.

What is Genome and why Human Genome matter?

  • A genome refers to all of the genetic material in an organism. The Human genome is mostly the same in all people, but a very small part of the DNA does vary between one individual and another.
  • By constructing a complete human genome, scientists can use it for reference while studying the genome of various individuals, which would help them understand which variations if any, might be responsible for the disease.

NFC technology

  • Google Pay has launched a new feature in India called ‘Tap to pay for UPI’ in collaboration with Pine Labs.
  • This feature will allow users with NFC-enabled Android smartphones and UPI accounts linked to Google Pay to carry out transactions just by tapping their phones on any Pine Labs Android point-of-sale (POS) terminal across the country.
  • Note : In February 2022, Apple introduced Tap to Pay on the iPhone.
  • Near Field Communication(NFC) Technology : NFC is a short-range wireless connectivity technology that allows NFC-enabled devices to communicate with each other and transfer information quickly and easily with a single touch — whether to pay bills, exchange business cards, download coupons or share a document.
  • NFC transmits data through electromagnetic radio fields to enable communication between two devices.
  • Both devices must contain NFC chips as transactions take place within a very short distance. NFC-enabled devices must be either physically touching or within a few centimetres from each other for data transfer to occur.

Nipah virus Infection (NiV)

  • Scientists at Pune’s Indian Council of Medical Research – National Institute of Virology were able to detect the presence of IgG antibodies against Nipah virus infection (NiV) in 51 bats that were captured from Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry.
  • About Nipah Virus: It is a zoonotic virus (it is transmitted from animals to humans). It is an RNA or Ribonucleic acid virus of the family Paramyxoviridae, genus Henipavirus, and is closely related to Hendra virus.
  • It first broke out in Malaysia and Singapore in 1998 and 1999. It first appeared in domestic pigs and has been found among several species of domestic animals including dogs, cats, goats, horses and sheep.
  • Transmission : The disease spreads through fruit bats or ‘flying foxes,’ of the genus Pteropus, who are natural reservoir hosts of the Nipah and Hendra viruses. The virus is present in bat urine and potentially, bat faeces, saliva, and birthing fluids.
  • The virus can also cause severe disease in animals such as pigs, resulting in significant economic losses for farmers.
  • Symptoms: The human infection presents as an encephalitic syndrome marked by fever, headache, drowsiness, disorientation, mental confusion, coma, and potentially death.

Prevention: Currently, there are no vaccines for both humans and animals. Intensive supportive care is given to humans infected by Nipah virus.

  • WHO has identified Nipah as a priority disease for the WHO Research and Development Blueprint.
  • Other fact imp for prelims :
    • H1N1 virus cause Swine Flu. o H5N1 virus cause Bid flu ( Avian influenza).

‘XE’ variant of the coronavirus

  • Recently, a 50-year-old woman in Mumbai, may have been infected with the newly-discovered ‘XE’ variant of the coronavirus.
  • XE, a sub-variant of Omicron, which caused the third wave of Covid-19 this winter. This was first discovered in the United Kingdom in January 2022, and so far more than 600 samples of XE have been found in different countries. The

XE variant is a ‘recombinant’. This means it contains the mutations found in BA.1 as well as BA.2 varieties of Omicron.

Microbots/Microswimmers for Drug Delivery

  • A Recent research aims at moving microbots into the bloodstream to deliver drugs.
  • It is possible to use light as a fuel to move microbots in real-body conditions with intelligent drug-delivery that is selectively sensitive to cancer cells. The research is led by MPI-IS and Max Planck Institute for Solid State Research (MPI-FKF), Stuttgart, Germany.
  • Microbots : made from the two-dimensional compound poly (heptazine imide) carbon nitride (aka PHI carbon nitride), these microbots are nothing like the miniaturised humans. They range from 1-10 micrometre (a micrometre is onemillionth of a metre) in size, and can self-propel when energised by shining light.
  • How they swim : The PHI carbon nitride microparticles are photocatalytic. Like in a solar cell, the incident light is converted into electrons and holes. These charges drive reactions in the surrounding liquid. The charges react with the fluid surrounding them. This reaction, combined with the particle’s electric field, makes the microbots (micro-swimmers) swim.
  • Significance : This development has shown that it is possible to have microrobots streaming through blood or through other fluids in the human body, which are driven by light and can carry drugs to cancer cells and drop off the medication on the spot.

Colour blindness

  • The Supreme Court has directed the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) not to exclude candidates suffering from colour blindness from its courses on film making and editing and asked it to make changes to its curriculum instead.
  • Colour blindness, also known as colour deficiency, is the inability to see colours in the normal way. Colour blind individuals often cannot distinguish between certain colours — usually greens and reds, and sometimes blues as well.
  • Two types of cells in the retina detect light — the “rods”, which distinguish between light and dark, and the “cones” that detect colour. There are three types of cones that see colour — red, green, and blue — and our brains use the information from these cells to perceive colour.
  • Colour blindness can be the result of the absence of one or more of these cone cells, or their failure to work properly.
  • In some people colour blind may be Congenital (by birth) and in some it is acquired later in the life mainly due to trauma, or any disease etc. Congenital colour vision deficiencies are usually passed on genetically. There is no treatment of Colour blindness. Men suffer from a higher incidence of colour blindness than women.

Bernardinelli-Bernstein comet

  • The NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has confirmed that the huge Bernardinelli-Bernstein comet is indeed the largest icy comet nucleus ever seen by astronomers. It is also called the C/2014 UN271. It has an estimated diameter of almost 129 km. The nucleus of the comet is around 50 times larger than that of most known comets, and its mass is estimated to be around 500 trillion tonnes. (Comets are cosmic snowballs of frozen gases, rock and dust that orbit the Sun).
  • It was discovered by astronomers Pedro Bernardinelli and Gary Bernstein in 2010 and has been intensively studied since then. The comet has been travelling towards the sun for over a million years, and it is believed to have originated in the Oort Cloud. (Note: Oort Cloud is a distant region of the solar system that is predicted to be the source of most comets. However, the Oort Cloud is still only a theoretical concept).

Mysterious Liver Disease

  • Recently, some Cases of a Mysterious Liver Disease have been reported in Spain, Denmark and the Netherlands, besides the US and UK. Children between the age of 1 to 6 years old have been the target of the disease.
  • According to reports, the disease might be related to virus usually associated with colds. Probable cause maybe a group of viruses called adenoviruses, which cause common respiratory illnesses such as the common cold.
  • The disease has been reported to be severe so far. Though no children died so far in the US, UK, six children needed liver transplants.

Europa

  • Europa is a moon (natural satellite) of planet Jupiter. Europa is slightly smaller than Earth’s moon and its diameter is about one-quarter that of the Earth.
  • Why in News : A team of researchers from Stanford University have found the possibility of water on Europa.

Blue Straggler stars

  • Blue stragglers, is a particular type of star seen in clusters and also, sometimes, alone.
  • Indian Institute of Astrophysics, Bengaluru conducted a study on their aberrant behaviour.
  • For this, the researchers also made use of the observations by the UVIT instrument (Ultra Violet Imaging Telescope) of ASTROSAT, India’s first science observatory in space.
  • A blue straggler is a main-sequence star in an open or globular cluster that is more luminous and bluer than stars at the main sequence turnoff point for the cluster.
  • Blue stragglers were first discovered by Allan Sandage in 1953 while performing photometry of the stars in the globular cluster M3.

China has recorded the first human infection with the H3N8 strain of bird flu

  • A four-year-old boy from central Henan province was found to have been infected with the variant after developing a fever and other symptoms.
  • The H3N8 variant has previously been detected elsewhere in the world in horses, dogs, birds and seals but no human cases of H3N8 have been reported. It’s the first time the virus has jumped from animals to humans

DEFENCE 

Khanjar 2022

  • The 9th Edition of the India-Kyrgyzstan Joint Special Forces Exercise was held in March-April, 2022 at Special Forces Training School, Bakloh (HP).

“Exercise Milan 2022  (11th edition)

  • It is Indian Navy’s nine-day multilateral exercises held from 25 February to 4 March.
  • The exercise is being held in Visakhapatnam for the first time instead of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. The theme of the exercise is ‘Camaraderie Cohesion Collaboration’.
  • The exercise saw the participation from around 40 countries such as the US, Russia, Australia, UK, Japan, South Korea, France and Israel, Saudi Arabia among others.
  • The exercise is divided into two phases: The harbour phase (February 26-28), and the sea phase (March 1-4).
  • The sea phase saw the participation of 26 ships, one submarine and 21 aircraft. Among others, U.S.’ P-8A aircraft also participated in the sea phase.
  • Note : The exercise, held amid tensions between the West and Russia and the crisis in Ukraine, saw the warships of the Quad countries; France; Myanmar; South Korea and Vietnam and among others practice completing drills. Russia, Iran, Israel and Saudi Arabia among others are participating in the exercise without ships.
  • Exercise Milan is a biennial multilateral naval exercise conducted by the Indian Navy. It was first held in the year 1995 in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands with the participation of Indonesia, Singapore, Sri Lanka and Thailand at the triservices Andaman and Nicobar Command. It has since grown in terms of number of participants and complexity of exercises.
  • Note : 2020 edition of MILAN was postponed to 2022 due to Covid-19. 

Exercise VARUNA 2022

  • About : It is 20th edition of the Indian and French Navy bilateral exercise
  • Venue : Arabian Sea.

Natpolrex-VIII

  • Defence Secretary Dr Ajay Kumar inaugurated, on April 19, 2022, the 8th edition of two-day National Level Pollution Response Exercise, ‘NATPOLREX-VIII’, being conducted by Indian Coast Guard (ICG) off Mormugao harbour, Goa.
  • Objective of NATPOLREX-VIII : to enhance the preparedness and response capability of all the stakeholders in combating marine spills.
  • It aims at validating the procedures and guidelines as contained in the National Oil Spill Disaster Contingency Plan (NOSDCP) at the national and regional levels under the aegis of SACEP ((South Asian Cooperative for Environment Protection), MoU to which India is a member state.
  • The event is being attended by more than 85 participants from 50 agencies, including 29 observers from 22 friendly foreign countries & International Organisations and two Coast Guard ships from Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.

‘Tour of Duty’ scheme

  • The Department of Military Affairs is moving towards finalizing the “Tour of Duty(ToD)” scheme. This Scheme involves hiring youth in the armed forces for a short span of 3-5 years. This scheme was being suggested by the late Chief Of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat.
  • The scheme will be known as the Agnipath entry scheme. It will be launched on an experimental basis first.
  • As per the proposal, around 25% of them would serve in the Army for three years and 25% of troops would serve for five The remaining 50% would continue to serve in the Army for the full term till they reach their retirement age. benefits to soldiers :
  • Included in National Pension Scheme: Proposal states that 50% of soldiers released at the end of three and five years will be included in the National Pension Scheme. Such soldiers will be given certain medical benefits, applicable to Armed Forces veterans for a fixed period.
  • Priority in certain Government Jobs: The soldiers would also be given priority in recruitment to certain government jobs, including the central armed police forces.

benefits to the Government :

  • It will reduce the burden of pay rises and pensions. The cumulative money saved in pay and gratuity payouts can consequently be used for the much-needed military modernization.
  • The defence establishment is hoping that the ToD scheme will help in resolving the issue of lack of manpower in the Indian Army.

Defense Minister has released the ‘third Positive Indigenisation List’

  • The positive indigenisation list essentially means that the Armed Forces—Army, Navy, and Air Force—will only procure the listed items from domestic manufacturers. The manufacturers could be private sector players or Defense Public Sector Undertakings(DPSUs).
  • The third positive indigenisation contains 101 equipment and platforms, which the Services can procure only from the domestic industry. The third list includes items such as naval utility helicopters, light tanks, small Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, and anti-ship missiles among others. These weapons and platforms are planned to be indigenised progressively with effect from December 2022 to December 2027.
  • Note : Earlier, first list (101 items) and second list (108 items) were issued in 2020 and 2021 respectively.
  • Significance of this Positive Indigenisation List : it is likely to stimulate the potential of indigenous Research & Development (R&D) by attracting fresh investment into technology and manufacturing capabilities. It will provide ample opportunities to the domestic industry for understanding the trends and future needs of the Armed Forces.

Solid Fuel Ducted Ramjet (SFDR) Booster

  • Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) successfully flight tested Solid Fuel Ducted Ramjet (SFDR) booster at the Integrated Test Range (ITR), Chandipur off the coast of Odisha on April 08, 2022.
  • SFDR is a missile propulsion system being developed by the DRDO. The SFDR has been developed by Defence Research and Development Laboratory, Hyderabad in collaboration with other DRDO laboratories such as Research Centre Imarat, Hyderabad and High Energy Materials Research Laboratory, Pune.
  • The SFDR-based propulsion enables the missile to intercept aerial threats at very long range at supersonic speeds.
  • Technology: The system is based on a solid fuelled air-breathing ramjet engine. Unlike the other solid-propellant rockets, the Ramjet takes up oxygen from the atmosphere during flight without the need for cylinders. Due to this, it is light in weight and can carry more fuel, making it more efficient.
  • Significance : it enables the missiles to intercept aerial threats at very long range at supersonic speeds. It has provided DRDO with a technological advantage that will enable it to develop long-range air-to-air missiles. At present, such technology is available only with a handful of countries in the world.
  • The major difference between this missile and the regular air-to-air missiles is the air-breathing ramjet propulsion technology, which helps propel the missile at high supersonic speeds (above Mach 2) for engaging targets at long ranges.
  • Note : Solid Fuel Ducted Ramjet (SFDR) is a missile propulsion technology jointly developed by India and Russia

PINAKA ROCKET SYSTEMS

  • Pinaka Mk-I (Enhanced) Rocket System (EPRS) and Pinaka Area Denial Munition (ADM) rocket systems have been successfully flight-tested by Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and Indian Army at Pokhran Firing Ranges.
  • Note : The Pinaka rocket system is a multi-barrel rocket system, which is named after Lord Shiva’s bow.

What is the Pinaka Mk-I (Enhanced) Rocket System(EPRS)?

  • Developed by: Pune-based DRDO laboratories – Armament Research and Development Establishment (ARDE) and High Energy Materials Research Laboratory (HEMRL).
  • EPRS is the upgraded version of the Pinaka variant that has been in service with the Indian Army for the last decades.  Purpose: It is a long-range artillery system used for attacking the enemy before close battles.
  • Range: It can destroy targets at distances up to 45 km.

What are Pinaka Area Denial Munition (ADM) rocket systems?

  • Developed by: Designed by Armament Research and Development Establishment (ARDE) and manufactured by the industry partners under technology transfer.
  • Purpose: ADMs are a category of ammunition used to prohibit the adversary from occupying or passing through a particular area.

HELINA flight tested

  • India has successfully flight-tested Helina, an Anti-Tank Guided Missile (ATGM), in Pokhran.
  • The trial was carried out jointly by a Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) team, along with the Indian Army and Air Force.
  • HELINA : Helina is a third-generation fire-and-forget class anti-tank guided missile system mounted on the Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH). It has been developed by the Defence Research and Development Laboratory (DRDL), Hyderabad under the Missiles and Strategic Systems (MSS) cluster of the DRDO.
  • HELINA weapon systems have been designed for the Indian Army.
  • A version has also been crafted for the Indian Air Force (IAF) with the name ‘Dhruvastra’.

Key Features:

  • The Helina system has all-weather day and night capability and can knock out enemy tanks with conventional and explosive reactive armour. The missile can engage targets both in direct-hit mode as well as the top-attack mode.
  • The missile has a maximum range of about 7 km.
  • Top Attack Mode: In this mode, the missile is required to climb sharply after launch and travel at a certain altitude, and then plunge on the top of the target.
  • Direct Hit Mode: The missile travels at a lower altitude, directly striking the target.

Anti-Tank Missiles developed by DRDO:

  • Nag and Helina are the existing anti-tank missiles developed by DRDO.
  • The Nag missile is an anti-tank missile launched from a modified infantry combat vehicle, called the Nag missile carrier or Namica. On the other hand, Helina is a helicopter-launched version of anti-tank missile, which can be launched from India’s indigenous Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH).

CALM Systems

  • Recently, the Indian Army has issued a Request for Information (RFI) for the Canister Launched Anti-Armour Loiter Ammunition (CALM) System of its mechanised forces.
  • CALM System is a preloaded canister with loitering ammunition or a drone. Once fired it can remain aloft for a period of time over the area of operation and when a target is sighted it can be guided down to destroy the target with the explosive payload that it carries. Usually, loiter ammunition carries a camera that is nose-mounted and which can be used by the operator to see the area of operation and choose targets.  These munitions also have variants that can be recovered and reused in case they are not used for any strike.
  • Advantages of this CALM System : The top-down attack capability of the CALM System gives it a big advantage over targets such as tanks, which are vulnerable to any attack on the top where the armour protection is weak.
  • Where to be deployed : The Army wants to deploy the CALM System in the plains and deserts along the western borders, as well as in high altitude areas up to 16,500 feet along the northern frontier.

Has it been Used by Any Country ?

  • In Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict ( 2021), the Azerbaijan forces made extensive use of Israeli systems to destroy Armenian tanks, radar systems, communication hubs and other military targets.
  • The Russian military is also using their ZALA KYB loiter ammunition in Ukraine while some reports say that the US has also provided Ukraine with its Switchblade loiter munitions that could target Russian armour 10 km away.

Neptune cruise missile

  • Ukraine claimed to have severely damaged the Russian Black Sea Fleet Flagship ‘Moskva’ off the coast of Odessa via a missile strike on the ship.
  • The Ukrainians claim that the Moskva was hit by two anti-ship cruise missiles called the Neptune. Ironically, the design of this missile is based on a Russian Kh-35 cruise missile which goes by the NATO name of AS-20 Kayak.
  • the Neptune is a coastal anti-ship cruise missile which is capable of destruction of naval vessels in a range of 300 km.
  • Moskva is a guided missile cruiser of the Russian Navy named after the city of Moscow. It has a displacement of 12,490 tons. It is the flagship of the Black Sea Fleet of the Russian Navy and carries a crew of around 500 personnel.

Submarines VAGSHEER

  • The Defence Secretary has launched INS Vagsheer. It is the last (sixth) of the Scorpene-class submarines made under Project 75 and can join the Navy fleet within 12-18 months after sea trials.
  • Manufactured by: Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Limited(MDL) in collaboration with Naval Group, France.
  • Named After: Vagsheer is named after the sandfish, a deep-sea predator of the Indian Ocean. It is also named after the first submarine Vagsheer from Russia which was commissioned into the Indian Navy in 1974 and was decommissioned in 1997.
  • Features : The Scorpene class submarine is a diesel-electric attack submarine which can reach a top speed of 20 knots when submerged and a top speed of 11 knots when it surfaces. It is enabled with a C303 anti-torpedo countermeasure system. It can carry up to 18 torpedoes or Exocet anti-ship missiles, or 30 mines in place of torpedoes. The state-of-theart technology used in Scorpene-class has superior stealth features such as advanced acoustic silencing techniques, low radiated noise levels and ability to launch crippling attacks with precision-guided weapons on board. This submarine can attack through launching the torpedoes and anti-ship missiles while underwater or on the surface. This will enhance Indian Navy’s capacity to address the threats both above and under water.
  • Project 75 : The contract for six submarines under P75 was given to Mazgaon dock in October 2005 and delivery was to start from 2012, but the project has faced delays. Four submarines of scorpene class- INS Kalvari, INS Khanderi, INS Karanj and INS Vela have already been commissioned while the fifth submarine INS Vagir is still undergoing sea trials.

Anti-Ship Version of Brahmos Missile

  • Recently, an anti-ship version of the BrahMos supersonic cruise missile was successfully test-fired jointly by the Indian Navy and the Andaman and Nicobar Command.
  • The Andaman and Nicobar Command is the only tri-services command of the Indian armed forces.

60 years of  Chetak

  • The Indian Air Force organised a conclave at Air Force Station, Hakimpet (Secundarabad,Telangana) to commemorate 60 years of glorious service by Chetak Helicopter in IAF.
  • The Chetak helicopter is the oldest operational flying machine with the Indian Air Force. It has been made by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) under the licence agreement. The Chetak Helicopter was inducted into the Indian Air force in 1962.

Iron Beam

  • Israel successfully tested a new laser missile-defence system ‘Iron Beam’ which can destroy any airborne object including drones. Iron Beam is the world’s first energy-based weapons system that uses a laser beam to shoot down incoming UAVs, rockets, mortars, long-range missiles, anti-tank missiles etc. The Iron Beam which is developed by the Rafael Advanced Defense Systems (an Israeli company) is using a directed-energy weapon system and can go a long way in providing aerial defence.

Urja Pravaha:

  • Indian Coast Guard Inducts New Vessel ‘Urja Pravaha’. It was inducted at Gujarat’s Bharuch.

RANKING AND REPORTS 

State Energy and Climate Index (SECI)

  • Recently, the NITI Aayog launched the State Energy and Climate Index (SECI). It is the first index that aims to track the efforts made by states and UTs in the climate and energy sector. The parameters of the index have been devised keeping in mind India’s goals for climate change and clean energy transition.
  • Main Objective of index : Ranking the States based on their efforts towards improving energy access, energy consumption, energy efficiency, and safeguarding the environment.
  • The state performance is evaluated on the basis of 27 key performing indicators (KPI) covered under 6 broad parameters.
PARAMETERS (6) WEIGHTAGE (100%) INDICATORS (27)
Discoms Performance 40 % 9
Access Affordability And Reliability Of Energy, 15 % 5
Clean Energy Initiatives, 15% 3
Energy Efficiency, 6 % 3
Environmental Sustainability, 12 % 4
New Initiatives. 12 % 3
  • NOTE : Since DISCOMS (Power Distribution Companies) are the important link in the entire energy value chain, their performance has been assigned with higher weightage (40%) in the overall index.

Classification of States:

  • For better comparison, the states have been classified as Larger States, Smaller States and Union Territories.
  • They were categorised based on Reference Year (2019-20).
  • Based on the composite SECI Round I score, the states and UTs are categorized as per larger states, smaller states, and UTs.

 

Category Top 3 Performers ( 1–2-3) Bottom 3 Performers ( 3rd last- 2nd last – last)
LARGER STATES Gujarat- Kerala – Punjab Jharkhand-MP-Chhatisgarh
SMALLER STATES Goa-Tripura-Manipur Meghalaya-Nagaland-Arunachal
Union Territories Chandigarh-Delhi- D&D and D&D Andaman &Nicobar – J&K- Lakshadeep

45th edition of “2020 Human Rights Report”   The US State Department released the 45th edition of “2020 Human Rights Report” or the “2020 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices”. Each year the US State Department submits the report to the US Congress.  It is a retrospective report that contains a country-wise discussion on the state of human rights. The report is based on the rights listed under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights(UDHR) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights(ICCPR).

  • The 2020 Human Rights report severely criticised the state of Human Rights in India. Similarly, the report also mentions several human rights issues in India. This includes issues such as harassment and Restrictions on freedom of expression and the press , detention of journalists, government request for user data from internet companies, Widespread corruption at all levels in the government, Low tolerance of violations of religious freedom etc. In this article, we will analyze the situation of Human Rights in India.
  • It mentioned some improvement in the situation of human rights in Jammu and Kashmir.

International Religious Freedom Report 2022

  • In its 2022 Annual report, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) for second time in a row has recommended that India be designated a ‘Country of Particular Concern’ (CPC),e., the category of governments performing most poorly on religious freedom criteria.
  • It has also called for “targeted sanctions” on individuals and entities responsible for severe violations of religious freedom by freezing those individuals’ or entities’ assets and/or barring their entry” into the U.S.
  • About USCIRF : The USCIRF is an independent, bipartisan body created by the International Religious Freedom Act,

1998 (IRFA) with a mandate to monitor religious freedom violations globally and make policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State, and the Congress. It is a congressionally created entity and not an NGO or advocacy organisation. It is led by nine part-time commissioners appointed by the US President and the leadership of both political parties in the House and the Senate.

SIPRI  report on global military spending

  • Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) has released a report on global military spending in 2021.
  • Largest Military Spenders: The five largest military spenders in 2021 were the United States, China, India, the United Kingdom and Russia. These countries together account for 62% of expenditure (US and China alone accounted for 52%.).
  • Military Expenditure: World military spending continued to grow in 2021, reaching an all-time high of USD 2.1 trillion despite the economic fallout of the pandemic.
  • India: India was the third-highest military spender in the world behind the US and China.
    • India’s military spending amounting to $76.6 billion in 2021 grew by 0.9% from 2020 and by 33% from 2012.
  • Reason for increase in India’s military spending: Amid ongoing tensions and border disputes with China and Pakistan that occasionally spill over into armed clashes. Similarly, India has prioritized the modernisation of its armed forces and self-reliance in arms production
    • For instance, in a push to strengthen the indigenous arms industry, 64% of capital outlays in India’s defence budget for 2021 were earmarked for acquisitions of domestically produced arms.

World Economic Outlook report

  • Released by :IMF The International Monetary Fund’s (IMF)
  • Key points : It recent edition of this report, IMF has projected India’s GDP growth as 8.2% for 2022-23, which is 8 % less than its previous forecast (9%).
  • Note : China’s GDP growth projection for 2022-23 is 4.4 %.
  • In 2021, India registered a growth rate of 8.9 %. In 2023-24, India is estimated to grow at 6.9 %.
  • Other report issued by IMF : Global Financial Stability Report.

RBI’s Report

  • According to recent Reserve Bank of India’s (RBI) Report on Currency and Finance (RCF), the Indian economy may take more than a decade to overcome the losses caused by the outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic.

The theme of the report is “Revive and Reconstruct” in the context of nurturing a durable recovery post-Covid19 and rising trend growth in the medium-term.

Forbes billionaires 2022 list

  • Elon Musk, the Tesla and SpaceX founder topped Forbes’ list followed by Amazon chief Jeff Bezos.
  • Mukesh Ambani ranked at the 10th position on the global list, followed narrowly by fellow industrialist and Adani Group founder Gautam Adani.
  • Savitri Jindal, the chairperson of the Jindal Group, is the richest woman in India.

SCHEMES and Programmes in News

RAMP

  • The Union Cabinet has approved USD 808 million for the “Raising and Accelerating MSME Performance” (RAMP) Programme.
  • Nodal Ministry for RAMP: Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises(MSME)
  • Type: RAMP is a Central Sector Scheme
  • Funding: It is a World Bank assisted programme
  • Committees: The RAMP programme was formulated based on the recommendations made by U K Sinha Committee, KV Kamath Committee and Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister (PM-EAC).
  • Aim: To provide support to the MSMEs by improving access to market and credit, strengthening institutions and governance at the Centre and State, improving Centre-State linkages and partnerships, addressing issues of delayed payments and greening MSMEs.

What is the difference between Central sector schemes and Centrally Sponsored Scheme

  • Central sector schemes are 100% funded by the Union government and implemented by the Central Government machinery. In Centrally Sponsored Scheme (CSS) a certain percentage of the funding is borne by the States and the implementation is by the State Governments.

Integrated Biorefineries Mission

  • The Union Minister of Science and Technology has announced the launch of the Integrated Biorefineries Mission.
  • Integrated Biorefineries Mission is launched under Mission Innovation. It is Co-Led by India and Netherlands.
  • Aim: Develop and demonstrate innovative solutions to accelerate the commercialization of integrated biorefineries, with a target of replacing 10% of fossil-based fuels, chemicals and materials with bio-based alternatives by 2030.
  • The mission is a PPP (Public Private Participation) mode initiative that unites countries, international organizations, the corporate sector, academic institutions and civil society to accelerate innovation for renewable fuels, chemicals, and materials for a low-carbon future.
  • Other Countries Involved in the Mission: The other countries involved are Brazil and Canada as core members and the European Commission and the United Kingdom as supporting members.

Funding to CTRC extended

  • The Union government has extended the scheme to provide 40 crore grants-in-aid to the Dalai Lama’s Central Tibetan Relief Committee (CTRC) for another five years, up to the fiscal year 2025-26.
  • Scheme to provide grants-in-aid to the Central Tibetan Relief Committee(CTRC) was launched in 2015. Its Purpose is to provide an annual grant of Rs.8 crore to CTRC to meet the administrative expenses of Settlement Offices and social welfare expenses for Tibetan refugees staying in Tibetan settlements spread across 12 States/UTs in the country.
  • Note: TPiE (Tibetan Parliament in Exile) is the unicameral and highest legislative organ of the Central Tibetan Administration, the government-in-exile of the Tibet Autonomous Region of China. It is headquartered in Dharamsala, in the Kangra district of Himachal Pradesh. According to TPiE, over 1 lakh Tibetans are settled across India.

‘SVANidhi se Samriddhi’ launched in additional 126 cities

  • The Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs(MoHUA) has launched ‘SVANidhi se Samriddhi’ program in additional 126 cities across 14 States/ UTs.

What is SVANidhi se Samriddhi Program?

  • Launched by: Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs(MoHUA) in 2021  It is an additional program of the PM SVANidhi Scheme.
  • Aim: To provide social security benefits to street vendors for their holistic development and socio-economic upliftment.
  • Implementing Partner: Quality Council of India (QCI) Key Features of the Scheme
  • Under the program, socio-economic profiling of PM SVANidhi beneficiaries and their families is conducted to assess their eligibility for Eight Government of India’s welfare schemes and facilitate sanctions of eligible schemes.
  • These Eight schemes include: 1) Pradhan Mantri Jeevan Jyoti Bima Yojana, 2) PM Suraksha Bima Yojana, 3) Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana, 4) Building and other Constructions Workers (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act (BOCW), 5) Pradhan Mantri Shram Yogi Maandhan Yojana, 6) National Food Security Act (NFSA)portability benefit – One Nation One Ration Card (ONORC), 7) Janani Suraksha Yojana and 8) Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana.
  • The socio-economic profiling will also help States if they deem fit to extend their State-specific welfare schemes & benefits to the eligible PM SVANidhi beneficiaries and their families.
  • PM SVANidhi Scheme : Prime Minister Street Vendors AtmaNirbhar Nidhi (PM SVANidhi) was announced as a part of the Economic Stimulus-II under the Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan. It has been implemented since 1st June 2020, for providing affordable working capital loans to street vendors to resume their livelihoods that have been adversely affected due to Covid-19 lockdowns, with a sanctioned budget of Rs. 700 crore.

Continuation of RGSA

  • The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs has approved continuation of the revamped Centrally Sponsored Scheme of Rashtriya Gram Swaraj Abhiyan (RGSA) for implementation during the period from 1st April 2022 to 31st March 2026 .
  • This is a centrally sponsored scheme started in 2018-2019.
  • Ministry of Panchayati Raj is the implementing Agency of this scheme.
  • The CCEA approved the extension of the scheme that ended on March 31 at a total financial outlay of ₹5,911 crore, of which ₹3,700 crore would be the Centre’s share and ₹2,211 crore the share of States.
  • The scheme would work towards “poverty-free and enhanced livelihood in villages; healthy villages, child-friendly villages; water-sufficient villages; clean and green villages; self-sufficient infrastructure in villages; socially-secure villages; villages with good governance and engendered development in villages.”  Panchayats would be strengthened and a spirit of healthy competition inculcated.
  • The funding pattern for State Components will be in the ratio of 60:40 among Centre and States respectively, except North Eastern states, Hilly States and Union Territory (UT) of J&K where Central and State share will be 90:10.
  • However, for other UTs, Central share will be 100%.

Midday meal (PM Poshan)

  • From the next academic session, Karnataka is likely to become the 13th state to provide eggs under the midday meal scheme, which is among the largest initiatives in the world to enhance nutrition levels of school-going children through hot cooked meals.
  • The current version of the programme, renamed PM Poshan Shakti Nirman or PM Poshan in 2021.
  • The scheme traces its roots to 15 August 1995 when it was launched as a centrally sponsored scheme across 2,408 blocks for students up to Class 5. In 2007, the UPA government expanded it to Class 8.
  • The scheme covers 11.80 crore children across Classes 1 to 8 (age group 6 to 14) in11.20 lakh government and government-aided schools and those run by local bodies such as the municipal corporations in Delhi under the provisions of the National Food Security Act, 2013 (NFSA).
  • Expenses : Under the rules, the allocation of Rs 4.97 per child per day (primary classes) and Rs 7.45 (upper primary) are shared in 60:40 ratio with states and UTs with a legislature, and 90:10 with the Northeastern states, Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand, while the Centre bears 100% of the costs in UTs without legislature.

Modernisation of Prisons Project

  • The Ministry of Home Affairs has released guidelines for the implementation of the Modernisation of Prisons Project.
  • Note: ‘Prisons’ is a State subject under the State List of the Seventh Schedule to the Constitution of India. Hence, the management and administration of Prisons falls exclusively in the domain of the State Governments. What is the Modernisation of Prisons Project?Launched by: Ministry of Home Affairs  Objectives of the Project:

– Filling the existing gaps in the security infrastructure of jails,  Providing new security equipments to jails in line with modern-day technologies, Strengthening the jail security system through security equipment like Door frames/ Metal Detectors/ Security Poles, Baggage Scanners/Search/Jamming Solutions,  Focus on correctional administration which includes bringing attitudinal change in the mindset of prison officials handling inmates through extensive training and by introducing appropriate programs for inmates for their skill development and rehabilitation.

  • Duration of the Project: 5 Years (2021-22 to 2025-26).

Museum Grant Scheme

  • Launched by: Ministry of Culture in 2013.
  • Aim: To strengthen and modernize the existing museums at the Regional, State and District levels.

Under the scheme, financial assistance is provided to State Governments and Societies, Autonomous bodies, Local Bodies and Trusts registered under the Societies Act 1860 for setting up new Museums.

Why in News recently  : The Ministry of Culture has granted Rs 3.75 crore under the ‘Upgradation of Museums Scheme’ as part of the Museums Grant Scheme for the Rs 5-crore project in Eluru town, Andhra Pradesh.

BIODIVERSITY , ENVIRONMENT & GEOGRAPHY 

2 new Geological Heritage Sites identified by GSI

  • The Geological Survey of India(GSI) has identified two geological heritage sites in the Indian Himalayan Region of India. With inclusion of these two sites, there are 34 Geological Heritage Sites in India.The two sites identified by GSI in the Himalayan Region are:
  • Siwalik Fossil Park/ Suketi fossil park
    • Location: Sirmaur district, Himachal Pradesh.
    • The Siwalik Fossil park displays a rich collection of vertebrate fossils recovered from the Siwalik rocks of the area of the Plio-Pleistocene age. The deposition of Siwalik sediments took place in the narrow linear depression, called the ‘fore deep‘, which started developing in front of the Himalayas since the inception of its uplift in the middle Miocene.
  • Stromatolite bearing Dolomite / Limestone of Buxa Formation
    • Location: Sikkim
    • The Geoheritage site at Mamley exposes litho units of Buxa Formation, Daling Group of Proterozoic age. The dolostones are profusely stromatolitic (Precambrian algal structures). This site provides one of the rare examples of early life in Sikkim Himalaya. What are Geo-heritage Sites?
  • Geo-heritage refers to the geological features which are inherently or culturally significant offering insight to earth’s evolution or history to earth science or that can be utilized for education. The Geological Survey of India (GSI) declares geo-heritage sites/ national geological monuments for protection and maintenance.

Annual Dolphin Census : Odisha

  • The Odisha Government has conducted the Annual Dolphin Census recently.
  • The Census was carried out in Chilika lake, Rajnagar Mangrove wildlife division , Baleswar wildlife division, Bhadrak wildlife division, Puri wildlife division and Berhampur forest division.

key findings

  • The Dolphin population recorded along Odisha’s coast and in its water bodies has increased overall. It has gone up from 544 in 2021 to 726 in 2022. A total of six species of dolphins — Irrawaddy, bottlenose, humpback, striped, finless and Spinner dolphins have been found in this census.
  • The increase in the dolphin population in Odisha is largely due to high sightings in the Mangrove Wildlife Division of the Rajnagar jurisdiction, where 540 dolphins were found in 2022 compared with 342 in 2021.
  • Concern : decline of Irrawaddy dolphins in Chilika lake from 162 in 2021 to 151 in 2022.

 ‘The Indian Antarctic Bill, 2022’

  • Recently, the Union Minister of Earth Sciences tabled ‘ The Indian Antarctic Bill, 2022’ in the Lok Sabha.
  • The draft bill is India’s first domestic legislation with regard to Antarctic in India . Already, 27 countries have domestic legislations on Antarctic.
  • Need for such Legislation: The government said an Indian law is necessary to give effect to the Antarctic Treaty (which India signed in 1983), the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources System (which India ratified in 1985) and the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty (which India signed in 1998).

Major Provisions of the Draft Bill:

  • The Bill is a comprehensive document of regulations, particularly keeping in mind environmental protection and the fragile nature of the region.
  • Requirement of Permit: No person in an Indian expedition shall enter or remain in Antarctic without a permit or the written authorisation of another party to the Protocol.
  • Commercial Fishing: Every country has an allotted quota for commercial fishing in Antarctic. However, India does not carry out commercial fishing in the area. The Bill, in accordance to the Antarctic Treaty, now permits commercial fishing activity for Indians in Antarctic.
  • Tourism Activity: Like fishing, while India does not carry out any tourism activity in the region, and very few Indian tourists visit Antarctic, when they do, they do so through foreign tour operators. The Bill now enables Indian tour operators to operate in Antarctic, although, like for commercial fishing, this is circumscribed by strict regulations.
  • Environmental Protection: The Bill prohibits drilling, dredging, excavation or collection of mineral resources or even doing anything to identify where such mineral deposits occur — the only exception is for scientific research with a granted permit. The introduction of animals, birds, plants or microscopic organisms that are not native to Antarctica are also prohibited.
  • Penal Provisions: A law officer would be appointed to ensure that no unlawful activity takes place in territories occupied by Indian research stations. The draft Bill proposes the setting up of a separate designated court to try crimes committed

in Antarctic. The Bill further sets high penal provisions — the lowest penalty comprising an imprisonment between onetwo years and a penalty of Rs 10-50 lakh. Antarctic Treaty :

  • The Antarctic Treaty was signed in Washington D.C. in 1959 and came into force in June, 1961.
  • Headquarters: Buenos Aires, Argentina.
  • Objective: To ensure “in the interests of all mankind that Antarctic shall continue forever to be used exclusively for peaceful purposes and shall not become the scene or object of international discord.”
  • In order to achieve this goal, the Antarctic Treaty: Prohibits military activity except in support of science, Prohibits nuclear explosions and the disposal of nuclear waste, Promotes scientific research and the exchange of data, Holds all territorial claims in abeyance.
  • The Antarctic Treaty is a legally binding agreement. The Treaty applies to the area south of 60° South Latitude, including all ice shelves and islands.
  • Membership: The original signatories were only 12 countries but currently 54 member states are signatories to the Antarctic Treaty. India signed the treaty in 1983. The Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting (ATCM) is held annually.

Madrid Protocol :

  • The Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty was signed in Madrid and came into force in 1998. It harmonised and expanded on a range of earlier provisions relating to protection of the Antarctic environment. 42 member states (including India) are parties to the Madrid Protocol to the Antarctic Treaty.

India in Antarctic:

  • The Indian Antarctic Programme is a multi-disciplinary, multi-institutional programme under the control of the National Centre for Polar and Ocean Research, Ministry of Earth Sciences.
  • India’s first research station in Antarctic, named Dakshin Gangotri, was commissioned in 1983. It was decommissioned in 1990 after half of it got buried under the ice.
  • India currently has two active research stations in Antarctic:
  • Maitri (commissioned in 1989), Bharati (commissioned in 2012)

Mascot ‘Prakriti’

  • Union Environment Minister has launched Awareness Mascot ‘Prakriti’& other Green Initiatives for Effective Plastic Waste Management.
  • Prakriti is a mascot to spread greater awareness among the masses about the small changes that can be sustainably adopted in our lifestyle for a better environment.

Magical Mushroom (Ganoderma lucidum)

It is a medicinal mushroom in use for centuries. It is globally known as “red reishi mushroom”. The history of consumption of this mushroom can be traced back to 5,000 years ago in China.  It has also earned several nicknames such as “mushroom of immortality”, “celestial herb” and “auspicious herb”. Unlike other mushrooms, the magical mushroom  grows on wood or wood-based substrate only.  It thrives well in warm and humid climates and grows preferably in mixed forests of subtropical to temperate regions.

  • Uses : It is used to heal diseases like diabetes, cancer, inflammation, ulcer as well as bacterial and skin infections.
  • Its mass production is restricted to countries like China, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Thailand and the United States of America. In India, the mushroom is mostly restricted to laboratory research at present. Some successful attempts for its cultivation, however, have been made by various Indian organizations.
  • Worldwide, attempts are being made to popularize Ganoderma lucidum (Magical Mushroom) for business and livelihood, by cultivating it on wood logs and sawdust.

Nanar oil refinery : Maharashtra

  • Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan has indicated that the Nanar oil refinery project in Konkan region may be revived as the Maharashtra government was reconsidering its decision about stalling the project.
  • The project was mooted (debated) by the Centre and the Maharashtra government in 2014 and it was aimed at bringing development to the backward Konkan region. The project was however scrapped ahead of the 2019 Assembly and Lok Sabha elections on the ground that the oil refinery would be detrimental for the environment of Konkan region.
  • It was supposed to be a joint venture between Indian Oil, Bharat Petroleum and Hindustan Petroleum, and Saudi Arabiaowned Aramco and United Arab Emirates’ National Oil Company. It was estimated that the project would bring in investment to the tune of Rs 3 lakh crore and generate employment for at least one lakh local residents.
  • It would also create new job generating avenues by setting up ancillary units.

Palmking

The rare butterfly Palmking (Amathusia phidippus) was sighted for the first time in Tamil Nadu.

Palmking is a butterfly species that belongs to the Nymphalidae sub-family. It was first recorded in South India by British scientist H.S.Ferguson in 1891. More than a century later, it was rediscovered in 2007. It is the 321st species of butterfly found in Tamil Nadu among the 1,500 species in India.

Characteristics: This butterfly is characterized by its brown colour and dark bands. It is not easy to spot a Palmking because its wood colour makes for easy camouflage, and it rarely spreads its wings. 

Vaquita porpoise : threat of Extinction

  • According to the United States Commission for Environmental Cooperation(CEC), Vaquita Porpoise is nearing extinction and immediate measures are needed to save the remaining population.
  • Note: Porpoises are among the smallest members of the cetacean family (whales, porpoises and dolphins). They are only distant relatives of dolphins (they last had a common ancestor roughly 15 million years ago).
  • Vanquita Porpoise is the world’s smallest cetacean. Its name means “little cow” in Spanish.
  • Conservation status: IUCN Red List: Critically Endangered, CITES: Appendix I
  • Habitat: Found only in the northern Gulf of California (Sea of Cortez) in Mexico. Most commonly seen in shallow waters up to 50 meters deep. It is unique among the porpoises as it is the only species of that family found in warm waters.

Blue Bob

  • It is a cold patch located south of Iceland and Greenland and little is known about it. It is simply a region of cooling water in the North Atlantic Ocean near Iceland,
  • The cold patch was most prominent during the winter of 2014-2015 when the sea surface temperature was about 1.4 degrees Celsius colder than normal.
  • Between 1995 and 2010, the Arctic region was reportedly warming four times faster than the global average and

Iceland’s glaciers steadily shrank losing an average of 11 billion tons of ice per year. However, starting in 2011, the speed of Iceland’s melting slowed resulting in about half as much ice loss annually. Blue Blob has been linked to this temporary stall in the melting of Arctic sea ice.

AWARDS NEWS

INS Valsura got President’s Colour

  • President Ram Nath Kovind presented the President’s Colour to INS Valsura, the Navy’s premier technological training establishment.
  • INS Valsura, is a premier technological training institution, of the Indian Navy based in Jamnagar, Gujarat. It trains officers and men on operation and maintenance of sophisticated and technologically advanced equipment on board warships.
  • The President’s Colour: it is bestowed on a military unit in recognition of the exceptional service rendered to the nation, both in peace and in war. It is the highest award bestowed on a military unit in India in recognition of its exceptional services to the nation. The Navy was the first Indian armed force to be awarded the President’s Colour by Dr Rajendra Prasad on May 27, 1951. INS Valsura, started on 30 acres of land as a torpedo school in 1942 under the British, has today grown into one of the foremost technological training institutions of the country spread over 600 acres.
  • In 2018 a medium voltage laboratory was set up by Siemens, Germany, at INS Valsura to familiarise and train naval engineers in the nuances of medium voltage power generation, protection and distribution. Prime Minister’s Award for Excellence in Public Administration 2020
  • Recently, the UDAN (UdeDeshkaAamNagrik) Scheme has been selected for Prime Minister’s Award for Excellence in Public Administration 2020 under the category “Innovation (General) – Central”.
  • The Ministry of Civil Aviation will receive the award on 21st April,i.e. Civil Service Day.

Narendra Modi gets first Lata Deenanath Mangeshkar Award

  • Recently, Prime Minister Narendra Modi received the first Lata Deenanath Mangeshkar Award.
  • He got the award for his selfless service to the country and society at the 80th annual Master Deenanath Mangeshkar Awards ceremony held in Mumbai.
  • About Award : The Lata Deenanath Mangeshkar Award was instituted in the memory and honor of legendary singer Lata Mangeshkar, who had passed away at the age of 92 in February 2022.
  • The award will be given every year to only one individual who has made path-breaking, spectacular and exemplary contributions to the nation, its people, and the society, by the Master Deenanath Mangeshkar Smruti Pratishthan Charitable Trust.

Saraswati Samman, 2021

  • Noted poet and litterateur Prof Ramdarash Mishra will be awarded the prestigious Saraswati Samman, 2021, for his collection of poems ‘Mein to Yahan Hun’.
  • About Award : Instituted in 1991, Saraswati Samman is one of the most prestigious literary awards in the country. It is given every year to an outstanding literary work written in any Indian language by an Indian citizen and published within the last 10 years.

The Saraswati Samman was instituted in 1991 by the K. K. Birla Foundation. It consists of Rs 15 lakhs, a citation and a plaque.The recipient is chosen by a selection committee, whose current head is Dr Subhash C Kashyap, former secretary-general of the Lok Sabha Secretariat.

International Gandhi Awards for Leprosy, 2021

  • Individual category  : Dr Bhushan Kumar of Chandigarh
  • Institutional category  : Sahyog Kushtha Yagna Trust, Gujarat.
  • Note : The annual award has been instituted by Gandhi Memorial Leprosy Foundation to recognise the work of individuals and organisations who have worked tirelessly to fight leprosy disease and the prejudices associated with it.

David Attenborough

  • United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has named Sir David Attenborough, English natural history broadcaster and naturalist, as the recipient of the Champions of the Earth Award 2021 under the Lifetime Achievement category. Falguni Shah
  • Indian-American singer Falguni Shah won a Grammy Award for ‘A Colorful World’ in the Best Children’s Album category. Amar Mitra
  • Veteran Bengali author Amar Mitra was awarded this year’s Henry prize for a short story he wrote 45 years back. He bagged the award for his short story titled ‘Gaonburo’– a Bengali short fiction, which was translated into English (The Old Man Of Kusumpur) earlier.

BOOKS  and Auhors

Book Author
 “Crunch Time: Narendra Modi’s National Security Crises”. Dr Sreeram Chauliahas
 “Queen of Fire”,( explores the story of Rani Lakshmibai of Jhansi) Devika Rangachari
‘’Decoding Indian Babudom’’ (It highlights India’s administrative system and functioning of governance) Ashwini Shrivastava
“Birsa Munda – Janjatiya Nayak”. Prof. Alok Chakrawal
‘Hear Yourself’ Prem Rawat
“Not Just A Nightwatchman: My Innings in the BCCI” Vinod Rai, former(11th) Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) India

 OBITUARY / DEATHS

Elvera Britto Former Indian women’s hockey team captain
Prafulla Kar Padma Shri awardee Odia singer and music director
Binapani Mohanty Eminent writer of Odisha and Padma Shri awardee (2020)
James Dringwell Rymbai former Chief Minister of Meghalaya
Richard Howard Pulitzer Prize-winning American poet

 SPORTS

  • Rajasthan Royals all-rounder, Ravichandran Ashwin became the first player in IPL history to get retired out during the high-octane clash against Lucknow Super Giants. During the second last over, he made a sacrificing call of getting himself retired out to make way for Riyan Parag in the middle who has a slightly better ability to clear the boundary rope in the final overs.
  • The Netherlands has lifted their fourth title of FIH Junior Women’s Hockey World Cup 2022 after beating Germany at Potchefstroom, South Africa.
  • 16-year-old Indian chess player R Pragganandhaa has won the prestigious Reykjavik Open chess tournament in Reykjavik, Iceland.

Australia wins ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup 2022

  • Australia beat England by 71 runs in the finals to claim their seventh Women’s World Cup at Hagley Oval in Christchurch, New Zealand.

Alyssa Healy of Australia scored 170 runs in the match, the highest individual score made by any cricketer, male or female, in the World Cup Final. She was also the leading run-scorer in the tournament with 509 runs.

  • The Player of the Tournament went to Alyssa Healy. Sophie Ecclestone of England was the leading wicket-taker in the tournament, with 21 dismissals. The 2022 ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup was the 12th edition of the Women’s Cricket World Cup. The tournament was held in New Zealand from 4 March to 3 April 2022.

37th edition  of Miami Open tennis tournament : 2022

  • Venue : Miami Gardens, Florida, U.S.A.
Award Winner Runner-Up
Men’s Single Carlos Alcaraz (Spain) Casper Ruud (Norway)
Women’s Single Iga Świątek  (Poland) Naomi Osaka (Japan)

IMPORTANT DAYS

2 April : World Autism Awareness Day

  • It is observed annually by the member states of the United Nations to raise awareness among its citizens about people with Autism Spectrum Disorder throughout the world.
  • Theme 2022’ is : “Inclusive Quality Education for All”.

7 April : International Day of Reflection on the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda

  • The day commemorates the beginning of the genocide perpetrated against members of the Tutsi minority by the Hutu extremist-led government. Within just over 100 days, more than 1 million Tutsi were systematically murdered. 7 April : World Health Day
  • Theme for 2022: Our Planet, Our Health
  • Note: World Mental Health Day is observed on 10th October every year.

13 April : 38th Siachen day

  • The day is observed to commemorate the courage of the Indian Army under “Operation Meghdoot” (13 April 1984). The Day also honours Siachen Warriors serving their motherland successfully from the enemy.

17th April  : World Haemophilia day

  • It aims to increase awareness about haemophilia and other inherited bleeding disorders.
  • The day is celebrated in the honour of Frank Schnabel, founder of the World Federation of Haemophilia (WHF).
  • Theme 2022 : “Access for All: Partnership. Policy. Progress. Engaging your government, integrating inherited bleeding disorders into national policy”
  • Note : India has highest (19,000) number of people suffering from haemophilia.
  • What is Haemophilia : It is a medical condition, mostly inherited, in which the ability of blood to clot is severely reduced, so that even a minor injury can cause severe bleeding. Hemophilia is an X-linked recessive hereditary disorder that mainly affects Men. Types of Hemophilia  are :
Haemophilia A

  • It is most common type of Haemophilia.
  • The affected person does not have enough clotting factor VIII (factor eight).
  • It occurs in about 1 in 5,000 births.
Haemophilia B

  • It is less common.
  • The affected person does not have enough clotting factor IX (factor nine).
  • It occurs in about 1 in about 20,000 births.

18 April : International Day for Monuments and Sites, also known as ‘World Heritage Day’.

Theme 2022 :  “Heritage and Climate”.

21 April : National Civil Services Day

On 21 April 1947, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, the first Home Minister of Independent India addressed probationers of Administrative Services Officers at Delhi’s Metcalf House. In his address, he called Civil Servants, the ‘Steel Frame of India’.

22 April : Earth Day

  • On 22nd April 2022, the 52nd anniversary of Earth Day was celebrated. Earth Day is an international event celebrated around the world to pledge support for environmental protection.
  • Theme 2022 : “Invest In our Planet”.
  • Note : Earth day is different from Earth Hour which is celebrated on the last Saturday of March.

24 April, 2021 : 12th National Panchayati Raj day

  • 24th April, 1993 marks a defining moment in the history of decentralization of power to the grassroots, with the institutionalization of Panchayati Raj, through the Constitution (73rd Amendment) Act, 1992 which came into force with effect from that day. Ministry of Panchayati Raj commemorates 24th April of every year as the National Panchayati Raj Day (NPRD), as the 73rd Constitutional Amendment came into force on this date.
  • The first National Panchayati Raj Day was celebrated in 2010. Since then, the National Panchayati Raj Day is celebrated on 24th April every year in India.

The Prime Minister has launched the distribution of e-property cards under the SWAMITVA (Survey of Villages and Mapping with Improvised Technology in Village Areas) scheme on the Day.

25 April : World Malaria Day

  • Theme 2022 : “Harness innovation to reduce the malaria disease burden and save lives.”
  • Malaria is a life-threatening mosquito borne blood disease caused by plasmodium The parasites spread through the bites of infected female Anopheles mosquitoes. After entering the human body, parasites initially multiply within the liver cells and then attack the Red Blood Cells (RBCs) resulting in their rupture. There are 5 parasite species that cause malaria in humans, and 2 of these species – Plasmodium falciparum and Plasmodium vivax – pose the greatest threat.

24th  to 30th  April 2022 : World Immunization Week 2022

  • Theme 2022 : Long Life for All

STATE’S NEWS 

Himachal Pradesh

  • Himachal Pradesh’s Kangra Tea will soon get a European Commission Geographical Indication Tag (GI Tag); this tag helps Kangra tea to get an opportunity to enter the European market. Kangra tea received the Indian GI tag in 2005. Since 1999, the cultivation and development of tea have improved constantly in the Kangra region of Himachal Pradesh.
  • Under ‘Mission Yojak’, Border Roads Organisation will build the world’s highest tunnel at Shinku La Pass, at 16,580 feet, to connect Himachal Pradesh and Zanskar Valley in Ladakh. The construction of the tunnel would begin by July 2022. The tunnel is expected to be completed by 2025.

Northeastern states

  • Recently, the Government of India provided that Hindi would be made compulsory up to Class 10 in the eight northeastern states. However, the move has been met with protests from various organisations in the Northeast. Also, several south Indian states have criticised the central government decision.
  • Recently, Archaeologists have identified 65 large sandstone jars (Megaliths) believed to be used for ritual burials across four sites in Hasao district, Assam.
  • India’s first 99.999% pure Green Hydrogen pilot plant has been commissioned by the Oil India Limited (OIL) at its Jorhat Pump Station in Assam. The plant has an installed capacity of 10 kg per day.

Maharashtra

  • The Maharashtra government has introduced a scheme that allows prisoners to obtain personal loans from banks of up to Rs. 50,000 to help their families improve their living conditions and meet expenses related to their legal matters. It will be a first of its kind initiative in our country. The Maharashtra State Co-operative Bank would provide loans up to 50,000 under the scheme at a 7% interest rate. The scheme would be implemented in Yerawada Central Jail in Pune, Maharashtra, on a pilot basis. This type of loan is called a “khavti” loan, and benefits approximately 1,055 prisoners.
  • The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and Arbor Day Foundation have jointly recognised Mumbai and Hyderabad as the ‘2021 Tree City of the World. The two Indian cities have won the recognition for their “commitment to growing and maintaining urban trees and greenery in building healthy, resilient and happy cities”.
  • Recently, the 40th edition of the ‘Hunar Haat’ was inaugurated in Mumbai. In this edition, more than a thousand craftsmen and artisans coming from 31 states and Union Territories participated. (Theme: Vocal for Local and “Best from Waste”). Karnataka
  • Karnataka establishes cooperative bank (Nandini Ksheera Samridhi Cooperative Bank’) for milk producers. It is the only state in the country to set up an exclusive bank for milk producers.
  • Karnataka Govt has launched the SAANS Campaign to ensure early detection and greater awareness of pneumonia in children under the age of five.
  • The government of Karnataka (CM- Basavaraj Bommai ) has introduced the Vinaya Samarasya initiative . It is a public awareness campaign against caste prejudice in the state’s gramme panchayats. It will be formally launched on April 14, the birth anniversary of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar. The initiative was named after Vinay, a three-year-old Dalit kid who strayed into a temple in Miyapur hamlet in Karnataka’s Koppal district to seek shelter from the rain in September 2021. His family has faced even greater hostility since being fined Rs 25,000 by village elders.

Jharkhand

  • Sarhul is the festival of the New Year celebrated in the state of Jharkhand by the tribal communities as part of the local Sarna religion. The word ”Sarhul” is connected with tree worship. It is celebrated in the Hindu month of Chaitra.
  • Jamtara in Jharkhand has become the only district in the country where all gram panchayats have community libraries. Uttarakhand
  • Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami has launched an anti-corruption mobile app named 1064 AntiCorruption Mobile App. This mobile application has been developed by the vigilance department, Uttarakhand. It helps the citizens to lodge corruption-related complaints directly with the authorities.

The Government of Uttarakhand is set to implement the ‘Him Prahari’ Scheme which is meant for ex-servicemen and youngsters.  The scheme is aimed at stopping the migration of people from Uttarakhand and will focus on areas where migration occurs at a rapid phase so that people stay put, and not move out.

Jammu and Kashmir

  • The UT of Jammu and Kashmir, under the e-governance initiative has launched an app ‘Jan Nigrani’, intended to help people lodge their complaints related to various schemes online.
  • In the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir, the Samba district of the Jammu division has become the first district in India to cover 100% of households under the Ayushman Bharat Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (ABPMJAY)- SEHAT scheme.
  • The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) has approved the 540-megawatt Kwar hydroelectric project on the Chenab in Kishtwar district of Jammu and Kashmir.

Uttar Pradesh

  • Uttar Pradesh has again become the top producer of vegetables demoting West Bengal to the second position.
  • U.P. Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath begins the ‘School Chalo Abhiyan’ in order to secure 100 per cent enrollment in elementary and upper primary schools in Uttar Pradesh.

Delhi

The Delhi government has set up Hobby Hubs for government schools in Delhi after school hours to promote extracurricular activities. This project will implement in the single shift government school.

Andhra Pradesh

YS Jagan Mohan Reddy, the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, inaugurated 13 new districts. As a result, there will be a total of 26 districts in the state.

Ladakh

  • In Ladakh, a community museum opened in the Gya – Sasoma villages of the Leh district to preserve and promote the region’s rich cultural history.

Tamil Nadu   

  • Tamil Nadu Chief Minister, M K Stalin has launched the ‘Kaaval Uthavi’ app which helps citizens to seek police assistance during any emergency.

Gujarat 

  • India’s first portable solar rooftop system has now been installed in Gandhinagar, Gujarat. The new 10 PV Port system is designed to be highly cost-effective, requires low maintenance, and can be installed by a single person.

Bihar

According to the Ministry of Culture, India entered the Guinness Book of World Records by simultaneously waving 78,220 flags at the ‘Veer Kunwar Singh Vijayotsav’ programme in Bhojpur, Bihar.

MISCELLANEOUS (in News) 

Rashtriya Garima Abhiyaan is a national campaign for dignity and eradication of manual scavenging launched by Jan Sahas in 2001.

Recently, an agreement has been signed between CSIR (Council of Scientific and Industrial Research) and iCreate to harness the country’s technological strength. (iCreate is an autonomous centre of excellence of the Gujarat government and is India’s largest institution for transforming start-ups based on tech innovation into businesses).

Recently, NASA’s Perseverance Rover has captured a solar eclipse on Mars (featuring Phobos, one of Mars’ two moons).

Swachh Bharat Mission-Urban 2.0 (SBM-U 2.0), has launched the ‘National Behaviour Change Communication (BCC) Framework for Garbage Free Cities’ to strengthen the ongoing jan andolan for ‘Garbage Free Cities’.

Data from the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) shows that India’s labour force participation rate (LFPR) has fallen to just 40% from an already low 47% in 2016. According to the CMIE, the labour force consists of persons who are of age 15 years or older.

Falguni Nayar, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Nykaa, is ranked 10th in the list of ‘Hurun Richest Self-Made Women in the World 2022’ released by the Hurun Research Institute.  She is the only Indian among the top 10. (Falguni Nayar has also been named as the EY Entrepreneur of the Year 2021).

China successfully launches new satellite Gaofen-3 03 for Earth Observation.

IndiGo becomes the first airline in Asia to land its aircraft using the indigenous navigation system GAGAN. This is a huge leap for Indian Civil Aviation and a firm step towards Aatmanirbhar Bharat, as India becomes the third country in the world to have their own SBAS system after the USA and Japan.

Deepika Padukone is named as a member of the jury at 75th edition  of Cannes Film Festival.

Indian stalwarts who served in the same role in the past  : Sharmila Tagore, Nandita Das, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, and Vidya Balan.

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