01st-03rd August 2021 Daily Current Affairs

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Questions

Consider the following statements with respect to e-RUPI

  1. It is a cashless and contactless digital payments medium, which will be delivered to mobile phones of beneficiaries in form of an SMS-string or a QR code.
  2. It has been developed by the National Payments Corporation of India in collaboration with Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and National Health Authority.

Which of the statement(s) given above is/are correct?

  • a.  1 only
  • b.  2 only
  • c.  Both 1 and 2
  • d.  Neither 1 nor 2

Consider the following statements with respect to Controller General of Accounts (CGA)

  1. The Office of Controller General of Accounts derives mandate from Article 150 of the Indian Constitution.
  2. It works under the Department of Expenditure, Ministry of Finance.

Which of the statement(s) given above is/are correct?

  • a.  1 only
  • b.  2 only
  • c.  Both 1 and 2
  • d.  Neither 1 nor 2

Which of the following statement(s) is/ are correct with respect to All India Quota (AIQ) Scheme

  1. It comprises 20% of UG seats in government engineering colleges and 35% of UG seats in government medical colleges.
  2. In Abhay Nath v University of Delhi and Others, the SC directed that reservation of 15% for Scheduled Castes and 7.5% for Scheduled Tribes be introduced with in the AIQ.

Select the correct answer using the codes given below:

  • a.  1 only
  • b.  2 only
  • c.  Both 1 and 2
  • d.  Neither 1 nor 2

Prelims Specific News Items

  1. DEPwD organises Samajik Adhikarita Shivir for distribution of aids & assistive devices to Divyangjan under the ADIP Scheme :-

What is the News?

Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities(DEPwD) has organized Samajik Adhikarita Shivir’. In this shivir, aids and assistive devices will be distributed among ‘Divyangjan’ under the ADIP Scheme and among Senior Citizens under the ‘Rashtriya Vayoshri Yojana’.

About ADIP Scheme:

  • Launched by: Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities(DEPwD) under the Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment.
  • Aim: To assist the needy disabled persons in procuring durable and scientifically manufactured appliances. It will promote their physical, social, and psychological rehabilitation by reducing the effects of disabilities and enhancing their economic potential.
  • Implementated by: NGOs, National Institutes under the Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment, and ALIMCO (a PSU that manufactures artificial limbs).
  • Eligibility:
    • Indian citizen of any age
    • Has 40% disability or more
    • Monthly income not more than Rs.20,000.
    • In the case of dependents, the income of parents/guardians should not exceed Rs. 20,000/- per month
    • Must not have received assistance during the last 3 years, and for children, it’s the last 1 year.

About Rashtriya Vayoshri Yojana:

  • Rashtriya Vayoshri Yojana is the scheme of the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment. It was launched in 2017.
  • Type: It is a central sector scheme funded by the Senior Citizens’ Welfare Fund.
  • Aim: to provide aids and assistive living devices to senior citizens belonging to Below Poverty Line (BPL) category who suffer from age-related disabilities such as low vision, hearing impairment, loss of teeth, and locomotor disabilities.
    • The aids and assistive devices include walking sticks, elbow crutches, hearing aids, wheelchairs, and spectacles, etc.
  • Implementated by: Artificial Limbs Manufacturing Corporation of India (ALIMCO), which is a public sector undertaking under the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment

2) Clinical trials of ‘Ashwagandha’ soon :-

What is the News?

The Ministry of Ayush has collaborated with the U.K.’s London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) to conduct a study on ‘Ashwagandha’ for promoting recovery from COVID-19.

About the Study:

  • All India Institute of Ayurveda (AIIA) is an autonomous body under the Ministry of Ayush. Under this collaboration, the LSHTM will conduct clinical trials of ‘Ashwagandha’ on 2,000 participants in three U.K. cities.
  • The study will be conducted for a period of three months. Under this, one group of 1,000 participants will be administered ‘Ashwagandha’ [AG] tablets, while the second group of 1,000 participants will be assigned a placebo which is indistinguishable from AG in looks and taste.
  • These patients will then be observed to understand the effects of Ashwagandha’ in promoting recovery from COVID-19.

About ‘Ashwagandha’:

  • Ashwagandha’ (Withania somnifera) is commonly known as ‘Indian winter cherry ’.
  • It is a traditional Indian herb that boosts energy, reduces stress, and makes the immune system stronger.
  • Ashwagandha has also shown success in treating both acute and chronic rheumatoid arthritis.
    • Rheumatoid arthritis(RA) is an autoimmune disease that can cause joint pain and damage throughout your body.

3) Operation Blue Freedom: Team Of Special Forces Veterans, People With Disabilities To Scale Siachen Glacier :-

What is the News?

The government of India has accorded sanction to Team CLAW to lead a team of people with disabilities to scale Siachen Glacier. It will be a new world record for the largest team of people with disabilities. This expedition is being undertaken as part of ‘Operation Blue Freedom’.

About Operation Blue Freedom:

  • Operation Blue Freedom was launched in 2019 by CLAW Global, a team of former Special Forces Operatives of the Indian Army and the Indian Navy.
  • The Operation is a social impact venture aimed at rehabilitating people with disabilities through adaptive adventure sports.
  • It aims to shatter the common perception of pity, charity, and inability associated with people with disabilities and recreate it to one of dignity, freedom, and ability.
  • Moreover, their focus is also to ‘design and implement sustainable large-scale employment solutions’ for people with disabilities, especially in the ‘Environment conservation and Sustainability’ space.

About Siachen Glacier:

  • Siachen Glacier is the longest glacier in the Karakoram and the second-longest in the world’s non-polar areas.
  • Location: The glacier is located in the Eastern Karakoram range in the Himalayas. It lies just northeast of Point NJ9842, where the Line of Control between India and Pakistan ends.
  • The Siachen Glacier lies immediately south of the great drainage divide that separates the Eurasian Plate from the Indian subcontinent. It lies in the extensively glaciated portion of the Karakoram sometimes called the “Third Pole”.
  • Significance: The Siachen has been an important bone of contention between India and Pakistan since 1984 when the Indian Army launched Operation Meghdoot to take control of the entire Siachen glacier.
  • The glacier’s melting waters are the main source of the Nubra River in the Indian region of Ladakh which drains into the Shyok River. The Shyok in turn joins the Indus River, which flows through Pakistan.

4) PM to launch digital payment solution e-RUPI :-

The Prime Minister has launched a digital Initiative named “e-RUPI”.

 About e-RUPI:

  • e-RUPI is a cashless and contactless instrument for digital payment. It is founded on the Unified Payment Interface(UPI) platform.
  • Purpose: It is designed to be a person and purpose-specific digital payment solution. It seeks to ensure that government schemes reach intended beneficiaries in a targeted and leak-proof manner, with limited touchpoints between the government and the beneficiary.
  • Developed by: National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) in collaboration with the Department of Financial Services (DFS), the Union Health Ministry, and the National Health Authority (NHA).

How does e-RUPI work?

  • The e-RUPI system relies on mobile phones. This e-voucher is intended to be a seamless, one-time payment mechanism.
  • A beneficiary will receive a QR code or SMS string-based e-voucher on her mobile phone. The beneficiary, then, can redeem this e-voucher at the service provider without the need for any card, digital payment app, or internet banking access.

Features of e-RUPI:

  • Firstly, e-RUPI connects the sponsors of the services with the beneficiaries and service providers in a digital manner without any physical interface.
  • Secondly, It ensures that the payment to the service provider is made only after the transaction is completed.
  • Thirdly, being pre-paid in nature, it assures timely payment to the service provider without the involvement of any intermediary.

Significance of e-RUPI:

  • e-RUPI is expected to be a revolutionary initiative in the direction of ensuring a leak-proof delivery of welfare services.
    • It can be used for delivering services under schemes, meant for providing drugs and nutritional support like Ayushman Bharat fertilizer subsidies, etc.
  • Even the private sector can leverage these digital vouchers as part of their employee welfare and corporate social responsibility programs.

5) PM launches SAFAL for CBSE students, Vidya Pravesh for preschoolers :-

What is the News?

The Prime Minister has launched the SAFAL assessment framework and Vidya Pravesh Scheme on the first anniversary of National Education Policy(NEP) 2020.

About SAFAL:

  • SAFAL stands for Structured Assessment For Analysing Learning.
  • Purpose: It is a competency-based assessment for grades 3, 5 and 8 introduced by the Central Board of Secondary Education(CBSE).
  • SAFAL will be used to assess the progress of foundational skills and basic learning outcomes among students.

Benefits of SAFAL:

  • SAFAL, as a diagnostic assessment tool, will provide developmental feedback to schools and teachers to improve teaching-learning without additional examination pressure on students.
  • It has also been designed to help students, parents, and teachers to track learning progress throughout the school years and not just in Grades 10 and 12.

About Vidya Pravesh scheme:

  • Vidya Pravesh is a preschool preparation programme for young children.
  • It will prepare young students for school and help them learn basics like numbers, colours and alphabets.

6) Intel partners with CBSE to launch ‘AI For All’ initiative :=

What is the News?

The Prime Minister has launched the “AI For All’ initiative.

About AI For All Initiative:

  • The AI For All Initiative has been launched by the Central Board of Secondary Education(CBSE) in collaboration with Intel.
  • Aim: To create a basic understanding of artificial intelligence (AI) for every citizen in the country.

Key Features of the Initiative:

  • Under the Initiative, a 4-hour, self-paced learning program has been prepared that demystifies AI in an inclusive manner.
  • The program can be used by a student, a stay-at-home parent, professional in any field or even a senior citizen.
  • With this, the initiative aims to introduce AI to 1 million citizens in its first year.
  • Moreover, to ensure inclusive access, the program is available in 11 vernacular languages for anyone with digital access.
  • The content is also compatible with various talkback applications to make it accessible for visually impaired people.

7) About Section 66A:

  • Section 66A defines the punishment for sending “offensive” messages through a computer or any other communication device like a mobile phone or a tablet.
  • A conviction can fetch a maximum of three years in jail and a fine.
What were the issues with the Act?
  • The vagueness about what is “offensive”. The word has a very wide connotation and is open to distinctive, varied interpretations.
  • Hence, it was subjective and what may be fine for one person, may lead to a complaint from someone else. Consequently, an arrest under Section 66A if the police prima facie accepts the latter person’s view.

Shreya SInghal vs UOI

Introduction: Supreme Court in a landmark judgment struck down section 66A of the Information Technology Act, 2000 which provided provisions for the arrest of those who posted allegedly offensive content on the internet upholding freedom of expression.

The act was violative of Article 19(1)(a) and not saved under Article 19(2).

Article 19(1)(a) gives people the right to speech and expression, whereas 19(2) accords the state the power to impose reasonable restrictions on the exercise of this right.

In quashing Section 66A, in Shreya Singhal, the Supreme Court has not only given a fresh lease of life to free speech in India but has also performed its role as a constitutional court for Indians.)

8)Preventive detention only to forestall public disorder: SC :=

What is the News?

The Supreme Court has ruled that the provision for preventive detention cannot be invoked over apprehension of law and order problems. Furthermore, it said a person can be detained only in cases where public order is directly affected.

What was the case?
  • The judgment came on an appeal filed by the wife of a man placed under preventive detention under the Telangana Prevention of Dangerous Activities Act, shortly after he was granted bail in a cheating case.
  • The man was alleged to have cheated people by claiming he is a High Court advocate and convinced them to invest money, promising good returns from the stock market.
  • Hence, the detention order stated that he was engaged in a white-collar offense and his free movement would hinder public order.
What did the Supreme Court say?
  • The detention of an individual under preventive detention law should be based on apprehensions that the concerned person is a threat to “public order” affecting the community at large. Mere ‘law and order’ problems such as indulging in cheating or criminal breach of trust would not be sufficient.
  • The state should not arbitrarily use preventive detention to deal with all “law and order” problems, which could be dealt with by ordinary law.
  • In all such cases, the court must ask one question in deciding its legality, i.e. was the ordinary law of the land sufficient to deal with the situation? If the answer is in the affirmative, the detention order will be illegal.
  • Moreover, preventive detention must fall within the four corners of Article 21 (due process of law). It must be read with Article 22 (safeguards against arbitrary arrest and detention) and the statute in question.

Hence, the court canceled the preventive detention order and said that the State should have contested the bail order in a higher court rather than slapping an executive order of preventive detention on him on the ground that, if set free, he would cheat more people.

9) Ozone levels exceeding permitted levels: study :-

What is the News?

A Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) study has found that ozone levels are exceeding the permitted levels even during winter in Delhi-NCR. It is making the smog more “toxic”.

Key Findings of the Study:
  • Ozone is becoming more widespread in Delhi and the National Capital Region (NCR) across all seasons. It is contrary to the notion that ozone is a summer phenomenon and is produced photochemically from the interaction between gases in the presence of sunlight.
  • Increasing Ozone Standards: The number of days not meeting the ozone standards has begun to increase. The city-wide average largely remains within the standard. But the ‘good’ category days have fallen to 115 days in 2020 which is 24 days less than in 2019 in Delhi.
  • Pandemic effect: Despite the pandemic and lockdowns, more days and locations witnessed a higher and longer duration of ozone spells.
  • Night-time ozone is higher during the pandemic lockdown and night curfews: Ozone generally disintegrates after sunset. It is because, in the absence of sunlight, NOx further reacts with ozone to neutralize it. But elevated ozone levels have been noticed during nighttime.
About Ozone:
  • Ozone is a gas composed of three atoms of oxygen. Ozone occurs both in the Earth’s upper atmosphere and at ground level. It can be good or bad, depending on where it is found.
  • The stratospheric ozone also called Good Ozone occurs naturally in the upper atmosphere. There, it forms a protective layer that shields us from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays.
  • On the other hand, Ozone at ground level is a harmful air pollutant, because of its effects on people and the environment, and it is the main ingredient in “smog”.

10) India set to take over as President of the UNSC :-

India will take over the Presidency of the UN Security Council on August 1 and is set to host signature events in three major areas of maritime security, peacekeeping, and counterterrorism during the month.

Key agendas on the table

During its Presidency, India will be organizing high-level signature events in three major areas:

  • Maritime security
  • Peacekeeping and
  • Counterterrorism

About United Nations Security Council

  • The UNSC is one of the six principal organs of the United Nations and is charged with the maintenance of international peace and security.
  • Its powers include the establishment of peacekeeping operations, the establishment of international sanctions, and the authorization of military action through Security Council resolutions.
  • It is the only UN body with the authority to issue binding resolutions to member states.
  • The Security Council consists of fifteen members. Russia, the United Kingdom, France, China, and the United States—serve as the body’s five permanent members (P5).
  • These permanent members can veto any substantive Security Council resolution, including those on the admission of new member states or candidates for Secretary-General.
  • The Security Council also has 10 non-permanent members, elected on a regional basis to serve two-year terms. The body’s presidency rotates monthly among its members.

Issues with UNSC

(1) Non-representative

  • UNSC in its current form is not representative of the developing world and global needs — with the primacy of policy being a political tool in hands of P5.
  • By 1992, India, Brazil, Germany, and Japan (referred as G4) had put up their claims and logic for demanding inclusion as permanent members.
  • India has been part of UN since its inception and has contributed maximum peacekeepers to UN so far, has a strong case.
  • Brazil is the largest country in Latin America (unrepresented continent) and fifth-largest in the world. Japan and Germany are one of the largest financial donors to UN.

(2) Rivalry with G4

  • The pitch for reforms of G4 was lowered by their regional rivals like Italy, Pakistan, Mexico and Egypt.
  • They started formulation of another interest group, known to be “Uniting for Consensus” opposing G4 becoming permanent members with veto power.

(3) Rigid framework

  • Reforms in the UNSC also require an amendment to the UN charter, in accordance with Article 108.
  • This highlights that any reform of the Security Council not only requires the support of at least two-thirds of UN member states but also all the permanent members.

(4) Veto power

  • The stance of P5 members to expansion has been varying as per their national interest, like most P5 members agree to Indian inclusion, except China.
  • It becomes obvious that even if one member of P5 doesn’t agree to any reform, the UNSC cannot be reformed.
  • There have been many proposals since its inception from totally abolishing veto power to selectively using it for vital national security issues.

(5) No consensus

  • It has been seen in past that the UNSC, in some of the major global security issues, could not arrive at a consensus and interventions that happened by countries mainly from P5 without UNSC resolution.
  • US entry in Iraq war or Warsaw Pact war in Afghanistan are few cases in point.
  • The UNSC has thus become an organization, which can pass strong resolutions against weak countries, weak resolutions against strong countries and no resolution against P5 countries.

Suggested reforms

  • Expansion: Besides the existing P5 members, an expansion of UNSC from five to 10 permanent members, with the addition of G4 and South Africa. This will provide equitable regional representation besides balancing the developing and developed world to meet the aspirations of humanity.
  • Abolition of veto: The expansion of P5 without veto power makes very little impact on the problems, because of which the reforms are required. Ideally the veto power should be abolished.

11) Tamil Nadu legislature turns 100 :-

The Assembly chambers at Fort St. George, the 17th-century vestige of the colonial era, and Tamil Nadu’s seat of power have completed 100 years of existence.

Do you know?

Fort St. George is the first English fortress in India, founded in 1639 at the coastal city of Madras, the modern city of Chennai. The construction of the fort provided the impetus for further settlements and trading activity, in what was originally an uninhabited land.

Elections in Tamil Nadu

  • Tamil Nadu witnessed elections in November 1920 as a result of the Montagu-Chelmsford Report and the Government of India Act of 1919.
  • The electors included only men, accounting for just 3% of the population.
  • The concept of dyarchy came into being with Ministers, who were Indians, gaining limited control over certain subjects, such as local self-government and education.
  • It was then that the office of the Chief Minister, also called Premier, got instituted.

Key works accomplished

  • Reservations in public employment: For the first time, caste became the basis for appointment to public services. It took over 70 years for the Central government to follow the principle in its institutions for education and employment.
  • Above 50% cap in reservation: In December 1993, the scheme of 69% reservation for Backward Classes, Most Backward Classes, SCs and STs got legal safeguard. The law was subsequently included in the IX Schedule of the Constitution, through an amendment passed in Parliament, so that its validity could not be challenged.

12) Govt approves two More Strategic Petroleum Reserves :-

Under Phase II of the petroleum reserve program, the Government has approved two additional commercial-cum-strategic facilities at Chandikhol (Odisha) and Padur (TN) on Public-Private Partnership (PPP) model.

Strategic Petroleum Reserves Programme

  • To ensure energy security, the govt had decided to set up 5 million metric tons (MMT) of strategic crude oil storage at three locations namely, Visakhapatnam, Mangalore, and Padur (near Udupi).
  • These strategic storages would be in addition to the existing storage of crude oil and petroleum products with the oil companies and would serve as a cushion during any supply disruptions.
  • The petroleum reserves established are strategic, and the crude oil stored in these reserves will be used during an oil shortage event, as and when declared so by the Government of India.
  • The construction of the Strategic Crude Oil Storage facilities is being managed by Indian Strategic Petroleum Reserves Limited (ISPRL), a Special Purpose Vehicle.

Why need SPR?

  • The Gulf War in 1990 caused a sharp rise in oil prices and a massive increase to India’s imports.
  • During the subsequent 1991 Indian economic crisis, foreign exchange reserves could barely finance three weeks’ worth of imports while the government came close to defaulting on its financial obligations.
  • India was able to resolve the crisis through policies that liberalized the economy. However, India continued to be impacted by the volatility of oil prices.
  • In 1998, the AB Vajpayee administration proposed building petroleum reserves as a long-term solution to managing the oil market.
  • Three storage facilities were built in underground locations in Mangalore, Visakhapatnam and Padur.

Construction of ISPR

  • The crude oil storages are constructed in underground rock caverns and are located on the East and West coasts of India.
  • Crude oil from these caverns can be supplied to the Indian Refineries either through pipelines or through a combination of pipelines and coastal movement.
  • Underground rock caverns are considered the safest means of storing hydrocarbons.

12) Stellar Mid-life Crisis: What ails the middle-aged Sun? :-

Stars like our Sun can go through a mid-life crisis, according to new research carried out by scientists from IISER Kolkata.

Stellar Middle Age

  • At about 4.6 billion years of age, the sun is middle-aged, that is, it will continue to live for roughly the same period.
  • There are accurate methods for estimating the age of the Sun, such as by using radioactive dating of very old meteorites that have fallen on the Earth.
  • However, for more distant stars which are similar in mass and age to the Sun, such methods are not possible.
  • One of the methods used is called gyrochronology.
  • There is a relationship between rotation rate and age, that is the rotation rate of a star slows down with age.

How does it occur?

  • When the stellar wind escapes from the star, it carries away with it a part of the angular momentum of the star, which results in its slowing down.
  • The stellar wind has two drivers: one is the high temperature of the outer atmosphere of stars – the corona – which results in an outward expansion and hence plasma winds that emanate out.
  • The other is the magnetic field.
  • The magnetic field actually heats the corona and so when magnetic activity is strong the winds are strong and since wind carries away the internal (rotational) angular momentum of the star, it slows down its rotation.
  • This is called magnetic braking.
  • As the star ages, due to this mechanism, its rotation slows down and this relationship is used in gyrochronology to estimate the age of the star.

Impact

  • This can lead to dramatic changes in their activity and rotation rates.
  • The study also provides an explanation for the breakdown of the long-established relation between rotation rate and age in middle-aged sunlike stars.
  • However, there is a breakdown of the gyrochronology relationship, because, after midlife, a star’s rate of spin does not slow down with age as fast as it was slowing down earlier.
  • Another intriguing fact is that the Sun’s activity level has been observed to be much lower than other stars of similar age.

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