Food Procurement and Distribution – PDS & NFSA, Shanta Kumar Committee, FCI restructuring, Buffer stock, etc.

What is Essential Commodities Act?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Essential Commodities Act

Mains level : Not Much

The Centre has invoked the Essential Commodities Act of 1955 to ask States to monitor and verify the stocks of Arhar/Tur Dal available with traders.

Essential Commodities Act

  • The ECA, 1955 was established to ensure the delivery of certain commodities or products, the supply of which, if obstructed due to hoarding or black marketing, would affect the normal life of the people.
  • The list of items under the Act includes drugs, fertilizers, pulses, and edible oils, as well as petroleum and petroleum products.
  • The Centre can include new commodities as and when the need arises, and takes them off the list once the situation improves.
  • Additionally, the government can also fix the maximum retail price (MRP) of any packaged product that it declares an “essential commodity”.

How ECA works?

(1) Centre notifying stock limit holding

  • If the Centre finds that a certain commodity is in short supply and its price is spiking, it can notify stock-holding limits on it for a specified period.
  • The States act on this notification to specify limits and take steps to ensure that these are adhered to.
  • Anybody trading or dealing in the commodity, be it wholesalers, retailers or even importers are prevented from stockpiling it beyond a certain quantity.

(2) States can opt-out

  • A State can, however, choose not to impose any restrictions.
  • But once it does, traders have to immediately sell into the market any stocks held beyond the mandated quantity.

What happens for non-compliance?

  • As not all shopkeepers and traders comply, State agencies conduct raids to get everyone to toe the line and the errant are punished.
  • The excess stocks are auctioned or sold through fair price shops.
  • This improves supplies and brings down prices.

Ex: The Union Government has brought masks and hand-sanitizers under the ECA to make sure that these products, key for preventing the spread of Covid-19 infection, are available to people at the right price and in the right quality. Later this move was reverted.

What about Food Items?

(1) Items covered:

Rice, wheat, atta, gram dal, arhar dal, moong dal, urad dal, masoor, dal, tea, sugar, salt, Vanaspati, groundnut oil, mustard oil, milk, soya oil, palm oil, sunflower oil, gur, potato, onion and tomato.

(2) Price Stabilization Fund (PSF):

The government utilizes the buffer of agri-horticultural commodities like pulses, onion, etc. built under Price Stabilization Fund (PSF) to help moderate the volatility in prices.

Recent amendments to the ECA

In 2020, the EC Act was amended for the stock limit to be imposed only under exceptional circumstances such as famine or other calamities.

  • Exceptional circumstances: It allowed the centre to delist certain commodities as essential, allowing the government to regulate their supply and prices only in cases of war, famine, extraordinary price rises, or natural calamities.
  • Commodities de-regulated: The commodities that have been deregulated are food items, including cereals, pulses, potatoes, onion, edible oilseeds, and oils.

Exceptions provided

  • The government regulation of stocks will be based on rising prices, and can only be imposed if there is
  1. A 100% increase in retail price in the case of horticultural produce and
  2. A 50% increase in retail price in the case of non-perishable agricultural food items
  • These restrictions will not apply to stocks of food held for public distribution in India.

 

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Poverty Eradication – Definition, Debates, etc.

SMILE-75 scheme to rehabilitate Beggars

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : SMILE Scheme

Mains level : Read the attached story

The Social Justice and Empowerment Ministry has launched the ‘SMILE-75’ initiative for comprehensive rehabilitation of persons engaged in begging in 75 identified municipalities as a part of the celebrations of 75 years of Independence.

SMILE Scheme

  • SMILE is an acronym for Support for Marginalised Individuals for Livelihood and Enterprise.
  • This scheme is a sub-scheme under the ‘Central Sector Scheme for Comprehensive Rehabilitation of persons engaged in the act of Begging’.
  • It also focuses on rehabilitation, provision of medical facilities and intervention, counselling, education, skill development, economic linkages to transgender persons.
  • It covers several comprehensive measures including welfare measures for persons who are engaged in the act of begging.
  • The focus of the scheme is extensively on rehabilitation, provision of medical facilities, counselling, basic documentation, education, skill development, economic linkages and so on.

Its implementation

  • The scheme would be implemented with the support of State/UT Governments/Local Urban Bodies, Voluntary Organizations, Community Based Organizations (CBOs), institutions and others.
  • The scheme provides for the use of the existing shelter homes available with the State/UT Governments and Urban local bodies for rehabilitation of the persons engaged in the act of Begging.
  • In case of the non-availability of existing shelter homes, new dedicated shelter homes are to be set up by the implementing agencies.

 

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Animal Husbandry, Dairy & Fisheries Sector – Pashudhan Sanjivani, E- Pashudhan Haat, etc

In news: Ongole Cattle Breed

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Ongole Cattle

Mains level : Indigenous cattle breedss

Ongole breed of cattle had remained indispensable for all farm operations for centuries in Prakasam district of Andhra Pradesh in view of their draught power.

Ongole Cattle

  • Ongole cattle are an indigenous cattle breed that originates from Prakasam District in the state of Andhra Pradesh.
  • The breed derives its name from the place the breed originates from, Ongole.
  • The Ongole breed of cattle Bos Indicus, has a great demand as it is said to possess resistance to both foot and mouth disease and mad cow disease.

What’s so special about this breed?

  • Cattle breeders use the fighting ability of the bulls to choose the right stock for breeding in terms of purity and strength.
  • Ongole cattle are known for their toughness, rapid growth rate, and natural tolerance to tropical heat and disease resistance.
  • It was perhaps the first Indian breed of cattle to gain worldwide recognition.
  • Ongole milk is rich in A2 (allele of Beta Casein).
  • They fetches a premium price of over ₹150 per litre as it enables consumers build immunity against viral and other diseases.

Global Prominence

  • Ongole bulls have gone as far as America, the Netherlands, Malaysia, Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, Mexico, Paraguay, Indonesia, West Indies, Australia, Fiji, Mauritius, Indo-China and Philippines.
  • The Brahmana bull in America is an off-breed of the Ongole.
  • The population of Ongole off-breed in Brazil is said to number several million.
  • The famous Santa Gertrudis breed developed in Texas, USA have Ongole blood.
  • It has gained global prominence, particularly in Brazil which imported barely hundred animals and produced multiple superior breeds like the world famous Zebu.

 

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Banking Sector Reforms

What happens after a Cooperative Bank to shuts down?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Deposit Insurance Programme, Banking License

Mains level : Not Much

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) announced it had cancelled the banking licence of a Pune-based Rupee Cooperative Bank, and directed the Registrar of Cooperative Societies to liquidate the bank.

What is a Banking Licence?

  • Financial institutions wishing to carry out banking operations such as accepting deposits or lending have to obtain a licence from India’s central bank.
  • The RBI issues the licence under the Banking Regulation Act of 1949 after carrying out a series of checks about the financial suitability of the applicant institution.
  • Parameters like capital adequacy ratio (CAR) — the ratio of a bank’s available capital to its risk weighted credit exposure — and loan to deposit ratio (LDR) — the ratio of a bank’s total loans to total deposits in the same period — are checked before the licence is granted.
  • The 1949 Act in particular stresses on adequate capital and protection of the public interest before the licence is granted.
  • No company other than one that has been issued a banking licence is allowed to use the word bank in its name while doing business.

Cancelling the licence of a Bank

  • RBI, which issues the licence, has the power to cancel it as well, in case the bank fails to satisfy laid-down conditions.
  • This could mean an increase in bad debts — and if the RBI feels a bank does not have enough capital to cover its exposure and pay its depositors, its licence can be suspended or cancelled.

Why did RBI cancel the licence of Rupee Cooperative Bank?

  • The RBI audits banks every year, and can take action if it notes an increase in bad debts or other suspicious activities in their books.
  • In its press release, the RBI gave the reasons for the cancellation of the bank’s licence:
  1. The bank does not have adequate capital and earning prospects.
  2. The bank has failed to comply with the requirements of certain sections of the Banking Regulation Act, 1949;
  3. The continuance of the bank is prejudicial to the interests of its positions;
  4. The bank with its present financial position would be unable to pay its present depositors in full; and
  5. Public interest would be adversely affected if the bank is allowed to carry on its banking business any further.

Section 22 of the Act deals with “licensing of banking companies”, section 11 is about “requirement as to minimum paid-up capital and reserves”, and section 56 is about the applicability of the Act to cooperative societies, subject to modifications.

Was cancellation of the licence the only option left for RBI?

  • RBI had issued notice to that Cooperative Bank in 2013, and issued directions under the Banking Regulation Act before cancelling its licence.
  • All banking activities like withdrawal were suspended, the then board of directors was superseded.
  • The banker took a number of steps to revive the bank, including filing of criminal cases against defaulting directors, employees, and seizing of their properties.
  • The RBI extended the licence of the bank every three months as these steps were being taken.
  • The administrator also tried to merge the bank with a financially stable bank. But the bad debts scared away most suitors.

What will happen to the depositors’ money in Rupee Cooperative Bank?

  • The limiting of withdrawals by RBI had made things difficult for depositors, especially because cooperative banks are preferred by those from the lower income group.
  • The big question before the over 5.5 lakh depositors now is about the fate of their money.
  • The RBI has said that depositors with Rs 5 lakh or less in the bank, would get back all of their money through the Deposit Insurance and Credit Guarantee Corporation (DICGC).
  • Those who have larger deposits in the bank will not get back their money beyond Rs 5 lakh.
  • In this group are about 4,600 depositors with a total Rs 340 crore in deposits in the bank.
  • These people stand to suffer major losses.

Back2Basics: Deposit Insurance Programme

  • The bank savings are insured under the Deposit Insurance and Credit Guarantee Corporation (DICGC) Act providing full coverage to around 98 per cent of bank accounts.
  • Earlier, account holders had to wait for years till the liquidation or restructuring of a distressed lender to get their deposits that are insured against default.
  • Last year, the government raised the insurance amount to Rs 5 lakh from Rs 1 lakh.
  • Prior to that, the DICGC had revised the deposit insurance cover to Rs 1 lakh on May 1, 1993 — raising it from Rs 30,000, which had been the cover from 1980 onward.

What are new changes?

  • Earlier, out of the amount deposited in the bank, only Rs 50,000 was guaranteed, which was then raised to Rs 1 lakh.
  • Understanding the concern of the poor, understanding the concern of the middle class, we increased this amount to Rs 5 lakh.
  • If a bank is weak or is even about to go bankrupt, depositors will get their money of up to Rs five lakhs within 90 days.

 

 

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Coronavirus – Disease, Medical Sciences Involved & Preventive Measures

What is Langya Virus?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Langya virus

Mains level : Zoonotic Diseases

A new virus, Langya henipavirus, is suspected to have caused infections in 35 people in China’s Shandong and Henan provinces over roughly a two-year period to 2021.

Langya Virus

  • It’s related to Hendra and Nipah viruses, which cause disease in humans.
  • However, there’s much we don’t know about the new virus – known as LayV for short – including whether it spreads from human to human.

How sick are people getting?

  • Symptoms reported appeared to be mostly mild – fever, fatigue, cough, loss of appetite, muscle aches, nausea and headache – although we don’t know how long the patients were unwell.
  • A smaller proportion had potentially more serious complications, including pneumonia, and abnormalities in liver and kidney function.
  • However, the severity of these abnormalities, the need for hospitalization, and whether any cases were fatal were not reported.

Where did this virus come from?

  • The authors also investigated whether domestic or wild animals may have been the source of the virus.
  • Although they found a small number of goats and dogs that may have been infected with the virus in the past, there was more direct evidence a significant proportion of wild shrews were harbouring the virus.
  • This suggests humans may have caught the virus from wild shrews.

Does this virus actually cause this disease?

  • The researchers used a modern technique known as metagenomic analysis to find this new virus.
  • Researchers sequence all genetic material then discard the “known” sequences (for example, human DNA) to look for “unknown” sequences that might represent a new virus.
  • This raises the question about how scientists can tell whether a particular virus causes the disease.
  • Researchers used “Koch’s Postulates” to determine whether a particular micro-organism causes disease:
  1. it must be found in people with the disease and not in well people
  2. it must be able to be isolated from people with the disease
  3. the isolate from people with the disease must cause the disease if given to a healthy person (or animal)
  4. it must be able to be re-isolated from the healthy person after they become ill.

What can we learn from related viruses?

  • This new virus appears to be a close cousin of two other viruses that are significant in humans: Nipah virus and Hendra virus.
  • This family of viruses was the inspiration for the fictional MEV-1 virus in the film Contagion.
  • Hendra virus was first reported in Queensland in 1994, when it caused the deaths of 14 horses and the trainer Vic Rail.
  • Nipah virus is more significant globally, with outbreaks frequently reported in Bangladesh.

What lies ahead?

  • Little is known about this new virus, and the currently reported cases are likely to be the tip of the iceberg.
  • At this stage, there is no indication the virus can spread from human to human.
  • Further work is required to determine how severe the infection can be, how it spreads, and how widespread it might be in China and the region.

 

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Health Sector – UHC, National Health Policy, Family Planning, Health Insurance, etc.

Drugs shortage haunts HIV-positive community

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : ART therapy

Mains level : Not Much

People living with HIV are facing an acute shortage of life-saving drugs, say protesters who have been camping outside the National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) office.

What is NACO?

  • The NACO established in 1992 is a division of India’s Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
  • It provides leadership to HIV/AIDS control programme in India through 35 HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control Societies.
  • It is the nodal organisation for formulation of policy and implementation of programs for prevention and control of HIV/AIDS in India.

Functions of NACO

  • Along with drug control authorities and NACO provides joint surveillance of Blood Bank licensing, Blood Donation activities and Transfusion Transmitted infection testing and reporting.
  • NACO also undertakes HIV estimations biennially (every 2 years) in collaboration with the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) – National Institute of Medical Statistics (NIMS).
  • The first round of HIV estimation in India was done in 1998, while the last round was done in 2017.

Why in news?

  • Activists allege rationing of medicines, arbitrary change in the drug regimen and even complete deprivation of life-saving paediatric drugs.
  • They fear that treatment will be interrupted, leading to drug resistance and deaths from AIDS.

NACO stand

  • The protesters noted that the NACO, in its public communication, had claimed that 95% of the recipients had not faced any shortage.
  • Going by the figure, 5% of 14.5 lakh, or 72,500 people, are being affected by the current shortage and stock-out.
  • The impact is severe and far-reaching.

What drugs are protestors talking about?

  • Protestors are for a stock-out of ART (antiretroviral) drugs such as Dolutegravir 50 mg, Lopinavir/Ritonavir (adult and child doses), and Abacavir in several states.

What is ART?

  • The medicines that treat HIV are called antiretroviral drugs.
  • There are more than two dozen of them, and they fall into seven main types.
  • Each drug fights the virus in your body in a slightly different way.
  • Research shows that a combination, or “cocktail,” of drugs is the best way to control HIV and lower the chances that the virus will become resistant to treatment.

Back2Basics: HIV/AIDS

  • HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is a virus that attacks cells that help the body fight infection, making a person more vulnerable to other infections and diseases.
  • First identified in 1981, HIV is the cause of one of humanity’s deadliest and most persistent epidemics.
  • It is spread by contact with certain bodily fluids of a person with HIV, most commonly during unprotected sex, or through sharing injection drug equipment.
  • If left untreated, HIV can lead to the disease AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome).
  • The human body can’t get rid of HIV and no effective HIV cure exists.

Treating HIV

  • However, by taking HIV medicine (called antiretroviral therapy or ART), people with HIV can live long and healthy lives and prevent transmitting HIV to their sexual partners.
  • In addition, there are effective methods to prevent getting HIV through sex or drug use, including pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP).

 

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Judicial Appointments Conundrum Post-NJAC Verdict

Justice Lalit appointed 49th CJI

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Appointment of CJI

Mains level : Not Much

Justice Uday Umesh Lalit was appointed the 49th Chief Justice of India (CJI) after President Droupadi Murmu signed his warrant of appointment.

How is CJI selected?

  • Justice U.U. Lalit is the senior-most judge in the Supreme Court now.
  • The ‘Memorandum of Procedure of Appointment of Supreme Court Judges’ says “appointment to the office of the CJI should be of the seniormost Judge of the SC considered fit to hold the office”.
  • The process begins with the Union Law Minister seeking the recommendation of the outgoing CJI about the next appointment.

What is the time frame?

  • The Minister has to seek the CJI’s recommendation at the “appropriate time”.
  • The Memorandum does NOT elaborate or specify a timeline.

Making final appointment

The Memorandum says:

  1. Receipt of the recommendation of the CJI
  2. The Union Minister of Law, Justice and Company Affairs will put up the recommendation to the PM
  3. PM will advise the President in the matter of appointment
  4. President of India appoints the CJI

Chief Justice of India: A brief background

  • The CJI is the chief judge of the Supreme Court of India as well as the highest-ranking officer of the Indian federal judiciary.

Appointment

  • The Constitution of India grants power to the President to nominate, and with the advice and consent of the Parliament, appoint a chief justice, who serves until they reach the age of 65 or until removed by impeachment.
  • Earlier, it was a convention to appoint seniormost judges.
  • However, this has been broken twice. In 1973, Justice A. N. Ray was appointed superseding 3 senior judges.
  • Also, in 1977 Justice Mirza Hameedullah Beg was appointed as the chief justice superseding Justice Hans Raj Khanna.

Qualifications

The Indian Constitution says in Article 124 (3) that in order to be appointed as a judge in the Supreme Court of India, the person has to fit in the following criteria:

  • He/She is a citizen of India and
  • has been for at least five years a Judge of a High Court or of two or more such Courts in succession; or
  • has been for at least ten years an advocate of a High Court or of two or more such Courts in succession; or
  • is, in the opinion of the President, a distinguished jurist

Functions

  • As head of the Supreme Court, the CJI is responsible for the allocation of cases and appointment of constitutional benches which deal with important matters of law.
  • In accordance with Article 145 of the Constitution and the Supreme Court Rules of Procedure of 1966, the chief justice allocates all work to the other judges.

On the administrative side, the CJI carries out the following functions:

  • maintenance of the roster; appointment of court officials and general and miscellaneous matters relating to the supervision and functioning of the Supreme Court

Removal

  • Article 124(4) of the Constitution lays down the procedure for removal of a judge of the Supreme Court which is applicable to chief justices as well.
  • Once appointed, the chief justice remains in the office until the age of 65 years. He can be removed only through a process of removal by Parliament as follows:
  • He/She can be removed by an order of the President passed after an address by each House of Parliament supported by a majority of the total membership of that House and by a majority of not less than two-thirds of the members of that House present.
  • The voting has been presented to the President in the same session for such removal on the ground of proven misbehavior or incapacity.

 

 

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Foreign Policy Watch: India-United States

In news: Commission of Global Notables

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Commission of Global Notables

Mains level : NA

Mexican President has proposed the setting up of a commission called ‘Commission of Global Notables’ comprising Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Commission of Global Notables

  • Apart from Mr. Modi, the proposed “commission of global notables” includes Pope Francis and the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.
  • This is yet a proposal in writing presented to the UN
  • It is understood that the list will find mention during the annual session of the UN General Assembly that will convene in September.
  • PM Modi and other leaders of the Member States are expected to participate in the session when the global body will discuss the crises in Ukraine, Gaza Strip and the regional tension over Taiwan.

Significance for India

  • This shows significance of India under the present regime under PM Modi. We have to admit that India’s soft power is ever increasing.
  • PM Modi has also received high honours from the United Arab Emirates, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Bhutan and several other countries since since the beginning of his first stint in May 2014.
  • That apart, he has also received awards from international non-government organisations.

 

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History- Important places, persons in news

History of popular slogans raised during Freedom Struggle

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Famous slogans in news

Mains level : Not Much

Inspiring and controversial, this article explains the history of slogans that have endured in India’s politics.

(1) ‘Jai Hind’ by Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose

  • Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose popularised ‘Jai Hind’ as a salutation for soldiers of his Indian National Army (INA), which fought alongside Netaji’s ally Japan in the Second World War.
  • But according to some accounts, Netaji did not actually coin the slogan.
  • A book says the term was coined by Zain-ul Abideen Hasan, the son of a collector from Hyderabad, who had gone to Germany to study.
  • There, he met Bose and eventually left his studies to join the INA.
  • Khan was tasked by Bose to look for a military greeting or salutation for the INA’s soldiers, a slogan which was not caste or community-specific, given the all-India basis of the INA.
  • The idea for ‘Jai Hind’ came to Hasan when he was at the Konigsbruck camp in Germany.

(2) ‘Tum mujhe khoon do, main tumhe aazadi doonga’ by Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose

  • This slogan had origins in a speech Netaji made in Myanmar, then called Burma, on July 4, 1944.
  • Underlining his core philosophy of violence being necessary to achieve independence, he said, “Friends! My comrades in the War of Liberation! Today I demand of you one thing, above all.
  • He ended the speech saying “Tum mujhe khoon do, main tumhe aazadi doonga” (Give me blood and I promise you freedom).

(3) ‘Vande Mataram’ by Bankim Chandra Chatterji

  • The term refers to a sense of respect expressed to the motherland.
  • In 1870, Bengali novelist Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay wrote a song which would go on to assume a national stature, but would also be seen as communally divisive by some.
  • Written in Bengali, the song titled ‘Vande Mataram’ was not introduced into the public sphere until the publishing of the novel Anandamath in 1882, of which the song is a part.
  • Vande Mataram soon became the forefront of sentiments expressed during the freedom movement.
  • The novel, set in the early 1770s came against the backdrop of the Fakir-Sannyasi Rebellion against the British in Bengal.

(4) ‘Inquilab Zindabad’ by Maulana Hasrat Mohani

  • ‘Inquilab Zindabad’ (Long live the revolution) was first used by Maulana Hasrat Mohani in 1921.
  • Hasrat was his pen name (takhallus) as a revolutionary Urdu poet, which also became his identity as a political leader.
  • Hasrat Mohani was a labour leader, scholar, poet and also one of the founders of the Communist Party of India in 1925.
  • Along with Swami Kumaranand — also involved in the Indian Communist movement — Mohani first raised the demand for complete independence or ‘Poorna Swaraj’, at the Ahmedabad session of the Congress in 1921.
  • His stress on Inquilab was inspired by his urge to fight against social and economic inequality, along with colonialism.
  • Before Mohani coined this slogan, the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia made the idea of revolution symbolic of the struggle for oppressed nationalities globally.
  • It was from the mid-1920s that this slogan became a war cry of Bhagat Singh and his Naujawan Bharat Sabha, as well as his Hindustan Socialist Republican Association (HSRA).

(5) ‘Sarfaroshi ki Tamanna’ by Bismil Azimabadi

  • This is the first line of a poem written by Bismil Azimabadi (and NOT Ramprasad Bismil), a freedom fighter and poet from Bihar, after the Jallianwalah Bagh Massacre of 1921 in Amritsar, Punjab.
  • The lines were popularised by Ram Prasad Bismil, another revolutionary.
  • He was a part of the Kakori train robbery, a successful and ambitious operation in which a train filled with British goods and money was robbed for Indian fighters to purchase arms.

(6) ‘Do or Die’ by Gandhi Ji

  • In 1942, the Second World War commencing and the failure of Stafford Cripps Missions – which only promised India a ‘dominion status’ where it would still have to bear allegiance to the King of England .
  • This made Gandhi Ji realise that the movement for freedom needed to be intensified.
  • On August 8, 1942, the All-India Congress Committee met in Gowalia Tank Maidan (August Kranti Maidan) in Bombay.
  • Gandhi addressed thousands after the meeting to spell out the way forward.

(7) ‘Quit India’ by Yusuf Meherally

  • While Gandhi gave the clarion call of ‘Quit India’, the slogan was coined by Yusuf Meherally, a socialist and trade unionist who also served as Mayor of Mumbai.
  • A few years ago, in 1928, Meherally had also coined the slogan “Simon Go Back” to protest the Simon Commission – that although was meant to work on Indian constitutional reform, but lacked any Indians.
  • Meherally was a Congress Socialist Party member who was actively involved in anti-government protests.

 

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Foreign Policy Watch: India-Australia

India, Australia to sign film treaty

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NA

Mains level : India-Australia relations

The Union Cabinet has approved the signing of an Audio Visual Co-production Treaty between India and Australia, which is aimed at facilitating joint production of films between the two countries.

Why in news?

  • This is a great achievement for cultural cooperation between India and Australia.

Audio Visual Co-production Treaty

  • Audio visual co-production treaties are enabling documents which facilitate co-production of films between both countries/
  • Under such umbrella agreements, private, quasi-government or governmental agencies enter into contracts to produce films together.
  • India has so far signed 15 audio visual co-production treaties with other countries.
  • According to the co-production treaty, the respective contributions of the producers of the two countries may vary from 20% to 80% of the final total cost of the jointly produced work.

Need for such treaty

  • Australia has emerged as a preferred destination for shooting of Indian films.
  • India is fast emerging as a major content hub for film-makers looking for new projects.
  • India has abundance of exotic locations, talent pool and relatively cheaper cost of production, making India a favoured destination of foreign film-makers.

Significance of the treaty

  • The proposed agreement will boost ties with Australia, lead to exchange of art and culture, showcase the soft power of our country.
  • This will generate employment among artistic, technical as well as non-technical personnel engaged in audio visual co-production, including production and post-production work.
  • The use of Indian locations would increase the prospects of the country becoming a preferred film-shooting destination and also lead to inflow of foreign exchange.

 

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Solar Energy – JNNSM, Solar Cities, Solar Pumps, etc.

What it will take to fulfill India’s Solar Power Dream?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Solar energy targets of India

Mains level : Read the attached story

From less than 10 MW in 2010, India has added significant PV capacity over the past decade, achieving over 50 GW by 2022.

Solar energy in India

  • Solar photovoltaics (PV) has driven India’s push towards the adoption of cleaner energy generation technologies.
  • India is targeting about 500 GW by 2030, of renewable energy deployment, out of which ~280 GW is expected from solar PV.
  • This necessitates the deployment of nearly 30 GW of solar capacity every year until 2030.

Key components

  • A typical solar PV value chain consists of first fabricating polysilicon ingots which need to be transformed into thin Silicon wafers that are needed to manufacture the PV mini-modules.
  • The mini-modules are then assembled into market-ready and field-deployable modules.

Various challenges

There are challenges that need to be overcome for the sustainability of the PV economy.

(1) PV Modules

  • Indian solar deployment or installation companies depend heavily on imports.
  • It currently imports 100% of silicon wafers and around 80% of cells even at the current deployment levels.
  • India currently does not have enough module and cell manufacturing capacity.
  • India’s current solar module manufacturing capacity is limited to ~15 GW per year.
  • The demand-supply gap widens as we move up the value chain — for example, India only produces ~3.5 GW of cells currently.
  • India has no manufacturing capacity for solar wafers and polysilicon ingots.

(2) Field deployment

  • Also, out of the 15 GW of module manufacturing capacity, only 3-4 GW of modules are technologically competitive and worthy of deployment in grid-based projects.
  • India remains dependent on the import of solar modules for field deployment.

(3) Size and technology

  • Most of the Indian industry is currently tuned to handling M2 wafer size, which is roughly 156 x 156 mm2, while the global industry is already moving towards M10 and M12 sizes, which are 182 x 182 mm2 and 210 x 210 mm2 respectively.
  • The bigger size has an advantage in terms of silicon cost per wafer, as this effectively means lower loss of silicon during ingot to wafer processing.
  • In terms of cell technology, most of the manufacturing still uses Al-BSF technology, which can typically give efficiencies of ~18-19% at the cell level and ~16-17% at the module level.
  • By contrast, cell manufacturing worldwide has moved to PERC (22-23%), HJT(~24%), TOPCON (23-24%) and other newer technologies, yielding module efficiency of >21%.

(4) Land issue

  • Producing more solar power for the same module size means more solar power from the same land area.
  • Land, the most expensive part of solar projects, is scarce in India — and Indian industry has no choice but to move towards newer and superior technologies as part of expansion plans.

(5) Raw materials supply

  • There is a huge gap on the raw material supply chain side as well.
  • Silicon wafer, the most expensive raw material, is not manufactured in India.
  • India will have to work on technology tie-ups to make the right grade of silicon for solar cell manufacturing — and since >90% of the world’s solar wafer manufacturing currently happens in China.
  • It is not clear how and where India will get the technology.
  • Other key raw materials such as metallic pastes of silver and aluminium to form the electrical contacts too, are almost 100% imported.
  • Thus, India is more of an assembly hub than a manufacturing

(6) Lack of investment

  • India has hardly invested in this sector which can help the industry to try and test the technologies in a cost-effective manner.

Current govt policy

  • The government has identified this gap, and is rolling out various policy initiatives to push and motivate the industry to work towards self-reliance in solar manufacturing, both for cells and modules.
  • Key initiatives include:
  1. 40% duty on the import of modules and
  2. 25% duty on the import of cells, and
  3. Production Linked Incentive (PLI) scheme to support manufacturing capex
  4. Compulsion to procure modules only from an approved list of manufacturers (ALMM) for projects that are connected to state/ central government grids
  5. Only India-based manufacturers have been approved

Way forward

  • India’s path to become a manufacturing hub for the same requires more than just putting some tax barriers and commercial incentives in the form of PLI schemes, etc.
  • It will warrant strong industry-academia collaboration in an innovative manner to start developing home-grown technologies which could, in the short-term.
  • It needs to work with the industry to provide them with trained human resource, process learnings, root-cause analysis through right testing and, in the long term, develop India’s own technologies.
  • High-end technology development requires substantial investment in several clusters which operate in industry-like working and management conditions, appropriate emoluments, and clear deliverables.

 

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Child Rights – POSCO, Child Labour Laws, NAPC, etc.

Panel bats for Equality in Child’s Guardianship

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Guardianship in India

Mains level : Not Much

A mother and father should have equal rights as guardians of their children and the Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act (HMGA), 1956 should be amended as it discriminates against women, a parliamentary panel has recommended in its report.

Why in news now?

  • The said Act does NOT provide for joint guardianship.
  • NOR does it recognise the mother as the guardian of the minor legitimate child unless the father is deceased or is found unfit.
  • The Act gives preference to father over mother.
  • Thus it goes against the right to equality and right against discrimination envisaged under Articles 14 and 15 of the Constitution.

What is Guardianship?

  • A guardian is a person appointed to look after another person or his property in India, as per the personal laws of the religion into which the minor was born.
  • He or she takes on the responsibility of caring for and protecting the person for whom he or she has been appointed guardian.
  • On behalf of the ward’s person and property, the guardian makes all legal decisions.

Guardianship under the Hindu law

  • The Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act, 1956, regulates guardianship of minor children in Hindu law (covers Hindus, Sikhs, Jains and Buddhists in India).
  • A minor is described as anyone under the age of eighteen, according to Section 4(a) of the Act.
  • A guardian, according to Section 4(b) of the Act, is an individual who is responsible for the child’s care, property, or both.
  • The various forms of guardianship in India include:
  1. Natural guardian: Only three people are considered natural guardians, according to Section 6 of the 1956 Act: the mother, father, and husband.
  2. Testamentary guardian: A testamentary guardian is a guardian appointed in a will by the natural guardian. A father has the testamentary right to appoint a guardian for his legitimate children or property or both. If the mother is alive after the father’s death, she will be the guardian of the children, and the fathers will be restored only if the mother dies without appointing a guardian.
  3. Guardian appointed by the court: The court can appoint a guardian to a child under the Guardians and Wards Act, 1890 who would be called a certified guardian. The powers of the certified guardian are also stated in the Act. The Act confers power to district courts.
  4. De facto guardian: A de facto guardian is someone who has consistently shown an interest in caring for, handling, or managing the infant, his or her property, or both. A de facto guardian is not a legal guardian, and therefore, has no legal authority over the child or the child’s property, but he has assumed responsibility for the child and the property.
  5. Guardians by affinity: The guardianship of a minor widow by a relative within the degree of sapinda (generation of ancestors) is known as affinity guardianship.

Guardianship under Muslim law

The law of guardianship in Muslims came from certain verses in the religious texts.

  1. Natural guardian: The only father is considered the natural guardian of a child under Muslim law, and the mother is not considered a natural or other guardian even after the father’s death.
  2. Testamentary guardian: The term wali, guardian, amin, or kaim-mukam refers to a testamentary guardian.
  3. Guardian appointed by the court: When natural and testamentary guardians fail, the court has the right to appoint a guardian for the child. The Guardians and Wards Act of 1890 governs the appointment of a guardian for a child from any group.

 

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Panchayati Raj Institutions: Issues and Challenges

What is PESA Act?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : PESA Act

Mains level : Not Much

A Political Party has declared a six-point “guarantee” for tribals in Gujarat’s Chhota Udepur district, including the “strict implementation” of The Panchayats (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act (PESA Act).

What is PESA Act?

  • The PESA Act was enacted in 1996 to provide for the extension of the provisions of Part IX of the Constitution relating to the Panchayats to the Scheduled Areas.
  • Other than Panchayats, Part IX, comprising Articles 243-243ZT of the Constitution, contains provisions relating to Municipalities and Cooperative Societies.
  • Under the PESA Act, Scheduled Areas are those referred to in Article 244(1), which says that the provisions of the Fifth Schedule shall apply to the Scheduled Areas and Scheduled Tribes in states other than Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura, and Mizoram.
  • The Fifth Schedule provides for a range of special provisions for these areas.

How is the PESA Act, 1996 supposed to work?

  • The PESA Act was enacted to ensure self-governance through Gram Sabhas (village assemblies) for people living in the Scheduled Areas.
  • It recognises the right of tribal communities to govern themselves through their own systems of self-government, and also acknowledges their traditional rights over natural resources.
  • In pursuance of this objective, the Act empowers Gram Sabhas to play a key role in approving development plans and controlling all social sectors.

Special powers accorded by PESA Act includes the:

  1. Processes and personnel who implement policies
  2. Exercising control over minor (non-timber) forest resources
  3. Minor water bodies and minor minerals
  4. Managing local markets
  5. Preventing land alienation and
  6. Regulating intoxicants among other things

States and PESA Act

  • State governments are expected to amend their respective Panchayati Raj Acts without making any law that would be inconsistent with the mandate of PESA.
  • Ten states — Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Rajasthan, and Telangana — have notified Fifth Schedule areas that cover partially or fully several districts in each of these states.
  • After the PESA Act was enacted, the central Ministry of Panchayati Raj circulated model PESA Rules.
  • So far, six states have notified these Rules, including Gujarat.

What is the issue in Gujarat?

  • Gujarat notified the State PESA Rules in January 2017, and made them applicable in 4,503 gram sabhas under 2,584 village panchayats in 50 tribal talukas in eight districts of the state.
  • The provisions of the law deem the Gram Sabhas as “most competent”.
  • However, the Act has not been enforced in letter and spirit.
  • The Act lays down that the state must conduct elections in such a way that the tribal representation is to be dominant in the Gram Sabha Committees.
  • Yet again, there has been no attempt to proportionally increase the representation.

Try this PYQ:

Q.The Government enacted the Panchayat Extension to Scheduled Areas (PESA) Act in 1996. Which one of the following is not identified as its objective?

(a) To provide self-governance

(b) To recognize traditional rights

(c) To create autonomous regions in tribal areas

(d) To free tribal people from exploitation

 

Post your answers here.

 

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ISRO Missions and Discoveries

Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV) launched into wrong Orbit

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : SSLV, PSLV, GSLV

Mains level : Not Much

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has said that the satellite onboard its’ maiden Small Satellite Launch Vehicle “are no longer usable” after the SSLV-D1 placed them in an elliptical orbit instead of a circular one.

What is SSLV?

  • The SSLV is a small-lift launch vehicle being developed by the ISRO with payload capacity to deliver:
  1. 600 kg to Low Earth Orbit (500 km) or
  2. 300 kg to Sun-synchronous Orbit (500 km)
  • It would help launching small satellites, with the capability to support multiple orbital drop-offs.
  • In future a dedicated launch pad in Sriharikota called Small Satellite Launch Complex (SSLC) will be set up.
  • A new spaceport, under development, near Kulasekharapatnam in Tamil Nadu will handle SSLV launches when complete.
  • After entering the operational phase, the vehicle’s production and launch operations will be done by a consortium of Indian firms along with NewSpace India Limited (NSIL).

Vehicle details

(A) Dimensions

  • Height: 34 meters
  • Diameter: 2 meters
  • Mass: 120 tonnes

(B) Propulsion

  • It will be a four stage launching vehicle.
  • The first three stages will use Hydroxyl-terminated polybutadiene (HTPB) based solid propellant, with a fourth terminal stage being a Velocity-Trimming Module (VTM).

SSLV vs. PSLV: A comparison

  • The SSLV was developed with the aim of launching small satellites commercially at drastically reduced price and higher launch rate as compared to Polar SLV (PSLV).
  • The projected high launch rate relies on largely autonomous launch operation and on overall simple logistics.
  • To compare, a PSLV launch involves 600 officials while SSLV launch operations would be managed by a small team of about six people.
  • The launch readiness period of the SSLV is expected to be less than a week instead of months.
  • The SSLV can carry satellites weighing up to 500 kg to a low earth orbit while the tried and tested PSLV can launch satellites weighing in the range of 1000 kg.
  • The entire job will be done in a very short time and the cost will be only around Rs 30 crore for SSLV.

Significance of SSLV

  • SSLV is perfectly suited for launching multiple microsatellites at a time and supports multiple orbital drop-offs.
  • The development and manufacture of the SSLV are expected to create greater synergy between the space sector and private Indian industries – a key aim of the space ministry.

Back2Basics: Various Orbits of Satellites

[1] Geostationary orbit (GEO)

  • Satellites in geostationary orbit (GEO) circle Earth above the equator from west to east following Earth’s rotation – taking 23 hours 56 minutes and 4 seconds – by travelling at exactly the same rate as Earth.
  • This makes satellites in GEO appear to be ‘stationary’ over a fixed position.
  • In order to perfectly match Earth’s rotation, the speed of GEO satellites should be about 3 km per second at an altitude of 35 786 km.
  • This is much farther from Earth’s surface compared to many satellites.
  • GEO is used by satellites that need to stay constantly above one particular place over Earth, such as telecommunication satellites.
  • Satellites in GEO cover a large range of Earth so as few as three equally-spaced satellites can provide near-global coverage.

[2] Low Earth orbit (LEO)

  • A low Earth orbit (LEO) is, as the name suggests, an orbit that is relatively close to Earth’s surface.
  • It is normally at an altitude of less than 1000 km but could be as low as 160 km above Earth – which is low compared to other orbits, but still very far above Earth’s surface.
  • Unlike satellites in GEO that must always orbit along Earth’s equator, LEO satellites do not always have to follow a particular path around Earth in the same way – their plane can be tilted.
  • This means there are more available routes for satellites in LEO, which is one of the reasons why LEO is a very commonly used orbit.
  • It is most commonly used for satellite imaging, as being near the surface allows it to take images of higher resolution.
  • Satellites in this orbit travel at a speed of around 7.8 km per second; at this speed, a satellite takes approximately 90 minutes to circle Earth.

[3] Medium Earth orbit (MEO)

  • Medium Earth orbit comprises a wide range of orbits anywhere between LEO and GEO.
  • It is similar to LEO in that it also does not need to take specific paths around Earth, and it is used by a variety of satellites with many different applications.
  • It is very commonly used by navigation satellites, like the European Galileo system of Europe.
  • It uses a constellation of multiple satellites to provide coverage across large parts of the world all at once.

[4] Polar Orbit

  • Satellites in polar orbits usually travel past Earth from north to south rather than from west to east, passing roughly over Earth’s poles.
  • Satellites in a polar orbit do not have to pass the North and South Pole precisely; even a deviation within 20 to 30 degrees is still classed as a polar orbit.
  • Polar orbits are a type of low Earth orbit, as they are at low altitudes between 200 to 1000 km.

[5] Sun-synchronous orbit (SSO)

  • SSO is a particular kind of polar orbit. Satellites in SSO, travelling over the polar regions, are synchronous with the Sun.
  • This means they are synchronised to always be in the same ‘fixed’ position relative to the Sun.
  • This means that the satellite always visits the same spot at the same local time.
  • Often, satellites in SSO are synchronised so that they are in constant dawn or dusk – this is because by constantly riding a sunset or sunrise, they will never have the Sun at an angle where the Earth shadows them.
  • A satellite in a Sun-synchronous orbit would usually be at an altitude of between 600 to 800 km. At 800 km, it will be travelling at a speed of approximately 7.5 km per second.

[6] Transfer orbits and geostationary transfer orbit (GTO)

  • Transfer orbits are a special kind of orbit used to get from one orbit to another.
  • Often, the satellites are instead placed on a transfer orbit: an orbit where, by using relatively little energy from built-in motors, the satellite or spacecraft can move from one orbit to another.
  • This allows a satellite to reach, for example, a high-altitude orbit like GEO without actually needing the launch vehicle.
  • Reaching GEO in this way is an example of one of the most common transfer orbits, called the geostationary transfer orbit (GTO).

 

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Judicial Appointments Conundrum Post-NJAC Verdict

Working of the Supreme Court Collegium

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Collegium system, NJAC

Mains level : Collegium system, NJAC

The Chief Justice of India (CJI) N.V. Ramana’s tenure is drawing to an end in a few days. This will mark the end of his Collegium.

Why in news?

  • The Ramana Collegium has been particularly successful.
  • Meeting frequently and working quickly, they took the perennial problem of judicial vacancies by its horns and turned it around.

Success of Ramana Collegium

  • The collegium was able to recommend numerous judicial appointments and scripted history by getting nine Supreme Court judges appointed in one go.
  • Of the nine, Justice B.V. Nagarathna, is in line to be the first woman CJI in 2027.

What exactly is the Collegium System?

  • The collegium system was born out of years of friction between the judiciary and the executive.
  • The hostility was further accentuated by instances of court-packing (the practice of changing the composition of judges in a court), mass transfer of HC judges and two supersessions to the office of the CJI in the 1970s.
  • The Three Judges cases saw the evolution of the collegium system.

Evolution: The Judges Cases

  • First Judges Case (1981) ruled that the “consultation” with the CJI in the matter of appointments must be full and effective.
  • However, it rejected the idea that the CJI’s opinion, albeit carrying great weight, should have primacy.
  • Second Judges Case (1993) introduced the Collegium system, holding that “consultation” really meant “concurrence”.
  • It added that it was not the CJI’s individual opinion, but an institutional opinion formed in consultation with the two senior-most judges in the Supreme Court.
  • Third Judges Case (1998): On a Presidential Reference for its opinion, the Supreme Court, in the Third Judges Case (1998) expanded the Collegium to a five-member body, comprising the CJI and four of his senior-most colleagues.

How does the collegium system work?

  • The collegium of the CJI and four senior-most judges of the Supreme Court make recommendations for appointments to the apex court and High Courts.
  • The collegium can veto the government if the names are sent back by the latter for reconsideration.
  • The basic tenet behind the collegium system is that the judiciary should have primacy over the government in matters of appointments and transfers in order to remain independent.

The procedure followed by the Collegium

Appointment of CJI

  • The President of India appoints the CJI and the other SC judges.
  • As far as the CJI is concerned, the outgoing CJI recommends his successor.
  • In practice, it has been strictly by seniority ever since the supersession controversy of the 1970s.
  • The Union Law Minister forwards the recommendation to the PM who, in turn, advises the President.

Other SC Judges

  • For other judges of the top court, the proposal is initiated by the CJI.
  • The CJI consults the rest of the Collegium members, as well as the senior-most judge of the court hailing from the High Court to which the recommended person belongs.
  • The consultees must record their opinions in writing and it should form part of the file.
  • The Collegium sends the recommendation to the Law Minister, who forwards it to the Prime Minister to advise the President.

For High Courts

  • The CJs of High Courts are appointed as per the policy of having Chief Justices from outside the respective States. The Collegium takes the call on the elevation.
  • High Court judges are recommended by a Collegium comprising the CJI and two senior-most judges.
  • The proposal, however, is initiated by the Chief Justice of the High Court concerned in consultation with two senior-most colleagues.
  • The recommendation is sent to the Chief Minister, who advises the Governor to send the proposal to the Union Law Minister.

Does the Collegium recommend transfers too?

  • Yes, the Collegium also recommends the transfer of Chief Justices and other judges.
  • Article 222 of the Constitution provides for the transfer of a judge from one High Court to another.
  • When a CJ is transferred, a replacement must also be simultaneously found for the High Court concerned. There can be an acting CJ in a High Court for not more than a month.
  • In matters of transfers, the opinion of the CJI “is determinative”, and the consent of the judge concerned is not required.
  • However, the CJI should take into account the views of the CJ of the High Court concerned and the views of one or more SC judges who are in a position to do so.
  • All transfers must be made in the public interest, that is, “for the betterment of the administration of justice”.

Loopholes in the Collegium system

  • Lack of Transparency: Opaqueness and a lack of transparency, and the scope for nepotism are cited often.
  • Judges appointing Judge: The attempt made to replace it with a ‘National Judicial Appointments Commission’ was struck down by the court in 2015 on the ground that it posed a threat to the independence of the judiciary.
  • Criteria: Some do not believe in full disclosure of reasons for transfers, as it may make lawyers in the destination court chary of the transferred judge. It has even been accused of nepotism.

Way ahead

  • In respect of appointments, there has been an acknowledgment that the “zone of consideration” must be expanded to avoid criticism that many appointees hail from families of retired judges.
  • The status of a proposed new memorandum of procedure, to infuse greater accountability, is also unclear.
  • Even the majority opinions admitted the need for transparency, now Collegiums’ resolutions are now posted online, but reasons are not given.

Back2Basics:

 

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Promoting Science and Technology – Missions,Policies & Schemes

Indian Virtual Herbarium, biggest database of country’s flora, is a global hit

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Herbaria

Mains level : Not Much

With details of about one lakh plant specimens, the Indian Virtual Herbarium, the biggest virtual database of flora in the country, is generating a lot of interest and turning out to be an eye-catching endeavour.

Indian Virtual Herbarium

  • A herbarium specimen is consists of dried plant parts with labelled information on Scientific name and collection data.
  • It has immense use in plant identification, systematics studies and ecological studies.
  • The Botanical Survey of India has more than 30,00,000 herbarium specimens persevered in different herbaria located in different parts of the country.
  • Developed by scientists of the Botanical Survey of India (BSI), the herbarium was inaugurated by Union Minister of Environment Forest and Climate Change in Kolkata last month.

Why in news?

  • Since launch, the portal ivh.bsi.gov.in has had nearly two lakh hits from 55 countries.
  • The portal includes about one lakh images of herbarium specimens.
  • Each record in the digital herbarium includes an image of the preserved plant specimen, scientific name, collection locality, and collection date, collector name, and barcode number.
  • The digital herbarium includes features to extract the data State-wise, and users can search plants of their own States, which will help them identify regional plants and in building regional checklists.

Significance of the herbaria

  • Scientists say that there are approximately three million plant specimens in the country which are with different herbaria located at zonal centres of the BSI.
  • About 52% of our type specimens are from foreign nations and collected from 82 countries of the world during the British-era.
  • The herbarium is also deeply linked with the botanical history of the country.
  • The portal provides most valuable historical collections of botanists like William Roxburgh, Nathaniel Wallich and Joseph Dalton Hooker, considered the founding fathers of botany in India.
  • The digital herbarium has some of the oldest botanical specimens dating as early as 1696.

 

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Citizenship and Related Issues

Manipur House gives nod to National Register of Citizens (NRC)

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NRC, NPR

Mains level : Read the attached story

 

Bowing to demands from tribal groups, the Manipur Assembly has resolved to implement the National Register of Citizens (NRC) and establish a State Population Commission (SPC).

To date, Assam is the only northeastern State to have implemented the NRC.

What is National Register of Citizens (NRC)?

  • The National Register of Citizens (NRC) is a register of all Indian citizens whose creation is mandated by the 2003 amendment of the Citizenship Act, 1955.
  • The register was first prepared after the 1951 Census of India.
  • Its purpose is to document all the legal citizens of India so that the illegal immigrants can be identified and deported.
  • It has been implemented for the state of Assam starting in 2013–2014.
  • The GoI announced plans to implement it for the rest of the country in 2021, but it has not yet been implemented.

NRC and Assam

  • Assam, being a border state with unique problems of illegal immigration, had a register of citizens created for it in 1951 based on the 1951 census data.
  • However, it was not maintained afterwards.
  • For decades, the presence of migrants, often called “bahiragat” or outsiders, has been a loaded issue here.
  • The Illegal Migrants (Determination by Tribunal) Act, 1983 was then passed by the Parliament, creating a separate tribunal process for identifying illegal migrants in Assam.
  • The Supreme Court struck it down as unconstitutional in 2005, after which the Centre agreed to update the Assam NRC.

Who is a Foreigner in Assam?

  • The National Register of Citizens now takes its definition of illegal immigrants from the Assam Accord – anyone who cannot prove that they or their ancestors entered the country before the midnight of March 24, 1971, would be declared a foreigner and face deportation.
  • Those who entered on or after March 25, 1971, the eve of the Bangladesh War, would be declared foreigners and deported.
  • This means you could be born in India in 1971 to parents who crossed the border in that year, and still be termed an illegal immigrant at the age of 48.

CAA and NRC protests

  • These were a series of protests in India against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 which was enacted into law on December 12, 2019, and against the nationwide implementation of the NRC.
  • Protesters in all regions are concerned that the upcoming compilation of the National Register of Citizens might be used to deprive a community of its Indian citizenship.

Back2Basics: National Population Register (NPR)

  • The NPR is a database containing a list of all usual residents of the country.
  • Its objective is to have a comprehensive identity database of people residing in the country.
  • It is generated through house-to-house enumeration during the “house-listing” phase of the census, which is held once in 10 years.
  • A usual resident for the purposes of NPR is a person who has resided in a place for six months or more, and intends to reside there for another six months or more.
  • Once the basic details of the head of the family are taken by the enumerator, an acknowledgement slip will be issued. This slip may be required for enrolment in NPR, whenever that process begins.
  • And, once the details are recorded in every local (village or ward), sub-district (tehsil or taluk), district and State level, there will be a population register at each of these levels.
  • Together, they constitute the National Population Register.

 

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Parliament – Sessions, Procedures, Motions, Committees etc

Jagdeep Dhankhar is new Vice-President

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Vice President of India

Mains level : Not Much

National Democratic Alliance candidate and former West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar will be the 14th Vice-President of the country.

About Vice President of India

  • The VP is the deputy to the head of state of the Republic of India, the President of India.
  • His/her office is the second-highest constitutional office after the president and ranks second in the order of precedence and first in the line of succession to the presidency.

Qualifications

  • As in the case of the president, to be qualified to be elected as vice president, a person must:
  1. Be a citizen of India
  2. Be at least 35 years of age
  3. Not hold any office of profit
  • Unlike in the case of the president, where a person must be qualified for election as a member of the Lok Sabha, the vice president must be qualified for election as a member of the Rajya Sabha.
  • This difference is because the vice president is to act as the ex officio Chairman of the Rajya Sabha.

Roles and responsibilities

  • When a bill is introduced in the Rajya Sabha, the vice president decides whether it is a money bill or not.
  • If he is of the opinion that a bill introduced in the Rajya Sabha is a money bill, he shall refer it to the Speaker of the Lok Sabha.
  • The vice president also acts as the chancellor of the central universities of India.

Election procedure

  • Article 66 of the Constitution of India states the manner of election of the vice president.
  • The vice president is elected indirectly by members of an electoral college consisting of the members of both Houses of Parliament and NOT the members of state legislative assembly.
  • The election is held as per the system of proportional representation using single transferable votes.
  • The voting is conducted by Election Commission of India via secret ballot.
  • The Electoral College for the poll will comprise 233 Rajya Sabha members, 12 nominated Rajya Sabha members and 543 Lok Sabha members.
  • The Lok Sabha Secretary-General would be appointed the Returning Officer.
  • Political parties CANNOT issue any whip to their MPs in the matter of voting in the Vice-Presidential election.

Removal

  • The Constitution states that the vice president can be removed by a resolution of the Rajya Sabha passed by an Effective majority (majority of all the then members) and agreed by the Lok Sabha with a simple majority( Article 67(b)).
  • But no such resolution may be moved unless at least 14 days’ notice in advance has been given.
  • Notably, the Constitution does not list grounds for removal.
  • No Vice President has ever faced removal or the deputy chairman in the Rajya Sabha cannot be challenged in any court of law per Article 122.

 

 

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Innovations in Biotechnology and Medical Sciences

What is Genome Sequencing?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Genome sequencing, APOBEC3 protein

Mains level : NA

Researchers from across the world have made available over 650 complete genome sequences of monkeypox isolates to date in public domain databases including GISAID and GenBank.

What is Genome Sequencing?

  • Genome sequence is the unique code of genetic material of any organism, and determines the characteristic of any organism.
  • Whole genome sequencing is the process of determining the complete DNA sequence of an organism’s genome at a single time.
  • The gene composition of novel coronavirus, for instance, is different from that of the influenza virus. Every organism has a unique genome sequence.
  • Laboratories in various countries have been isolating and sharing the genome sequences of the virus on an international platform.

Why are so many genome sequences being isolated?

  • When viruses multiply, or reproduce, there is a copying mechanism that transfers the gene information to the next generation.
  • However, no copying mechanism is perfect. When the virus multiplies, there will be small changes, which are called mutations.
  • These mutations accumulate over time, and after prolonged periods, are responsible for evolution into new organisms.
  • Within a single reproduction, the changes are extremely minor. More than 95 per cent of the gene structure remains the same.

How does it help scientists?

  • However, the small changes that occur are crucial to understanding the nature and behaviour of the organism.
  • In this case, for example, the small changes could provide scientists with information about the origin, transmission, and impact of the virus on the patient.
  • It could also hold clues to the differing effects the virus could have on patients with different health parameters.

Accelerated evolution of Monkeypox

  • The monkeypox virus has a DNA genome of around 2,00,000 base pairs, roughly six times larger than that of SARS-CoV-2.
  • Like other viruses, the monkeypox virus evolves by the accumulation of genetic errors, or mutations, in its genome when it replicates inside a host.
  • Being a DNA virus, the monkeypox virus like other poxviruses was believed to have a small rate of accumulating genetic changes compared to viruses with an RNA genome like SARS-CoV-2, which have a much larger rate of mutations.
  • For poxviruses, this rate is estimated to be as low as a couple of genetic changes every year.
  • A recent study, however, revealed that the observed rate of genetic changes in the virus was higher than expected — average of around 50 genetic changes.

Key findings

Ans. APOBEC3 protein

  • The study also suggests that several mutations that have been identified in the new sequences of the monkeypox virus.
  • This may have emerged due to interaction between the virus genome and an important family of proteins coded by the human genome known as the Apolipoprotein B Editing Complex (or APOBEC3).
  • These proteins offer protection against certain viral infections by editing the genome sequence of the virus while it replicates in the cell.
  • Some researchers suggest that many of the genetic mutations in the monkeypox genomes from the current outbreak are relics of the effect of APOBEC3.

Conclusion

  • Genomic surveillance of pathogens provides interesting insights by following a molecular approach for contact tracing and understanding the transmission of the virus across the world.
  • As cases of monkeypox continue to rise, it is therefore important to strengthen the genomic surveillance for the monkeypox virus.
  • Since data from the present outbreak suggest a sustained human-to-human transmission, continuous genomic surveillance is important to understand the evolution and adaptation of the virus, apart from providing useful data to epidemiologists.
  • With COVID-19 continuing unabated and monkeypox around the corner, the time has never been better, and the need never more acute, to build a sustainable system for genomic surveillance in India.

 

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Economic Indicators and Various Reports On It- GDP, FD, EODB, WIR etc

States holding up results of Economic Census: Centre

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Economic Censis

Mains level : Not Much

The Centre has blamed the States for a prolonged delay in releasing the findings of the Seventh Economic Census, a critical compendium of formal and informal non-farm enterprises operating across the country, in a submission to the Parliament.

What is National Economic Census?

  • In 1976, GoI launched a planning scheme called Economic Census and Surveys.
  • It is the census of the Indian economy through counting all entrepreneurial units in the country which involved in any economic activities of either agricultural or non-agricultural sector which are engaged in production and/or distribution of goods and/or services not for the sole purpose of own consumption.
  • It provides detailed information on operational and other characteristics such as number of establishments, number of persons employed, source of finance, type of ownership etc.
  • This information used for micro level/ decentralized planning and to assess contribution of various sectors of the economy in the GDP.

Censuses till date

  • Total Six Economic Censuses (EC) has been conducted till date.
  • In 1977 CSO conducted First economic census in collaboration with the Directorate of Economics & Statistics (DES) in the States/UTs.
  • The Second EC was carried out in 1980 followed by the Third EC in 1990. The fourth edition took place in 1998 while the fifth EC was held in 2005.
  • The Sixth edition of the Economic Census was conducted in 2013.

 

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