11th and 12th July 2021 Daily Current Affairs

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1) Consider the following statements regarding meaning of term ‘Republic’ used in the Indian constitution

  1. Vesting of political sovereignty in the people and not in a single individual
  2. The absence of any privileged class

Which of the above statements is/are correct?

 a) 1 only

 b) 2 only

 c) Both 1 and 2

 d) Neither 1 nor 2

2)Which of the following is/are stated in the Constitution of India?

  1. The President shall not be a member of either houses of Parliament.
  2. The Parliament shall consist of the President and two houses
  3. Offices of the leader of the House and the leader of the Opposition.

Select the correct answer code:

 a) 1 only

 b) 1, 2

 c) 1, 3

 d) 1, 2, 3.

3)Consider the following statements regarding the pardoning power of the President.

  1. The power of pardon shall be exercised by the President on the advice of Council of Ministers.
  2. The constitution provides for the mechanism to question the legality of decisions of President exercising mercy jurisdiction.

Which of the above statements is/are correct?

 a) 1 only

 b) 2 only

 c) Both 1 and 2

 d) Neither 1 nor 2

MAP of the Day : Italy Map

Prelims Specific Factual News

  1. The India Industrial Land Bank (IILB) is a GIS-based portal – a one-stop repository of all industrial infrastructure-related information – connectivity, infra, natural resources & terrain, plot-level information on vacant plots, line of activity, and contact details

The system has been integrated with industry-based GIS systems of 17 states to have details on the portal updated on a real-time basis and will achieve pan-India integration by December 2021.

Currently, the India Industrial Land Bank has approximately 4,000 industrial parks mapped across an area of 5.5 lakh hectares of land.

2) About NASA’s Icesat – 2 :– ICESat-2, part of NASA’s Earth Observing System, is a satellite mission for measuring ice sheet elevation and sea ice thickness, as well as land topography, vegetation characteristics, and clouds.

Why in News :- American Space Agency, NASA’s ICESat-2 discovered Antarctic Meltwater Lakes recently.

3)Giant pandas no longer endangered but still vulnerable, says China :– The classification was downgraded as their number in the wild has reached 1,800.

Experts say that the country managed to save its iconic animal through its long-term conservation efforts, including the expansion of habitats.

China considers pandas a national treasure, but have also loaned them to other countries as diplomatic tools.

The new classification comes years after the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) had already removed the animal from its endangered species list and re-labelled it as “vulnerable” in 2016.

4)World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and UN Environment Programme (UNEP) recently released its report titled “A future for all – the need for human-wildlife coexistence”.

Key findings of Report:- 

As per report, human-animal conflict is one of the main threats for long-term survival of world’s most iconic species.

Conflict-related deaths affect more than 75 per cent of world’s wild cat species.

It also affects polar bears, Mediterranean monk seals and large herbivores like elephants.

Global wildlife populations have decreased by 68 per cent since 1970 because of conflicts.

What does report highlights about India?:- 

In India, human-elephant conflict resulted into killing of 500 elephants and 2361 people during 2014-2015 and 2018-2019.

India is going to be most-affected by human-wildlife conflict because of having world’s second-largest human population and large populations of tigers, Asiatic Lions, Asian elephants, one-horned rhinos etc.

Sonitpur Model of India:– 

This model was developed by WWF India in Sonitpur district of Assam where, destruction of forests had led elephants to raid crops. This was causing deaths of humans as well as elephants.  To reduce the conflict, ‘Sonitpur Model’ was developed during 2003-2004. Under this model, community members are connected with state forest department. Community members are given training regarding how to work in field and drive elephants away from crop fields safely. WWF India also developed a low-cost, single strand, non-lethal electric fence in a bid to ease guarding of crops from elephants. As a result of this model, crop losses reduced to zero and Human & elephant deaths also reduced.

5) Aims of New Population Policy of Uttar Pradesh :-

Why UP needs such policy?

  • Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state, has a population of around 220 million.
  • In Uttar Pradesh, there are limited ecological and economic resources at hand.
  • It was necessary that the provision of basic necessities of human life, economic/livelihood opportunities and a secure living is accessible to all citizens.

Provisions of UP Population Policy

The provision of this legislation shall apply to a married couple where the boy is not less than 21 years of age and the girl is not less than 18.

[A] Contraception and Abortion

  • The state population policy will focus on efforts to increase the accessibility of contraceptive measures issued under the Family Planning Programme.
  • It would provide a proper system for safe abortion
  • Focus area to include reducing the newborns and maternal mortality rate.
  • Care of the elderly, and better management of education, health, and nutrition of adolescents between 11 to 19 years has also been ensured in the policy, according to the state government

[B] Two-child policy

Perks

  • The state government will give promotions, increments, concessions in housing schemes and others perks to employees who adhere to population control norms, and have two or less children
  • “Public servants who adopt the two-child norm will get two additional increments during the entire service, maternity or as the case may be.

Paternity leaves

  •  There shall be paternity leave of 12 months, with full salary and allowances and three percent increase in the employer’s contribution fund under the National Pension Scheme.
  • Those who aren’t government employees and still adhere to two-child policy will get benefits in rebates in taxes on water, housing, home loans etc.
  • It also states that maternity centres will be set up at all primary health centres.

Incentives for sterilization

  • As per the draft, several incentives have been provided to people, including public servants, if they adopt the norm by undergoing voluntary sterilization.
  • The incentives include a 3% increase in the employer’s contribution fund under national pension; two additional increments during the entire service; subsidy towards purchase of plot or house site or build house etc.
  • A couple living below the poverty line who have only one child and undergoes voluntary sterilisation, shall be eligible for payment of a one-time ₹80,000 if the single child is a boy and ₹1 lakh if it is a girl.

Who will not benefit from the law?

  • According to the bill, people having more than two children in UP will be debarred from benefits of all government-sponsored welfare schemes, cannot contest local polls.
  • They shall be ineligible to apply for government jobs under the state or receiving any kind of subsidy, cannot get a promotion in a government job and his or her ration card would be limited to four members.

How will the state implement measures?

  • The UP government plans to set up a state population fund to implement the measures.
  • The draft bill also asks the state government to introduce population control as a compulsory subject in all secondary schools.

6) Mobile theatre groups in Assam face a bleak future :- The majority of the 30 mobile theatre groups in Assam may find it difficult to stage a comeback after almost two years of closure due to the two phases of the COVID19 lockdown preceded by the unrest associated with the anti-Citizenship (Amendment) Act protests.

Who started Mobile Theatre Culture in Assam : Achyut Lahkar, who started the mobile theatre revolution by forming the Nataraj Theatre group in 1963.

7) Scheme for widows in Assam :- The Assam government on Sunday launched a scheme entailing a onetime financial assistance of ₹ 2.5 lakh to women who lost their husbands to COVID-19 since MarchApril 2020.
The Chief Minister’s COVID19 Widows Support Scheme is for women from low income families with a total annual income of up to ₹5 lakh.

8) EAM hands over relics of 17th century Georgian Queen St. Ketevan to Georgia :-

After a long-standing request of Georgia, External Affairs Minister handed over the holy relics of 17th century Georgian Queen St. Ketevan nearly 16 years after they were found in Goa.

Who was St. Ketevan?

  • Queen Ketevan was a 17th century Georgian Queen.
  • From Kakheti, a kingdom in eastern Georgia, she was tortured and killed in 1624 in Shiraz during the rule of the Safavid dynasty.
  • Portuguese missionaries were said to have carried the relics to Goa in 1627.
  • In 2005, after years of research and study of medieval Portuguese records, the relics were found at the St. Augustine Church in Old Goa.

Importance of Georgia for India

  • Georgia a strategically important country situated at the intersection of Eastern Europe and Western Asia.
  • Relations between Georgia and India date back to ancient times.
  • The Panchatantra influenced Georgian folk legends. During the medieval period, Georgian missionaries, travelers, and traders visited India.
  • Some Georgians served in the courts of Mughal emperors, and a few rose to the rank of governor.
  • India was among the first countries to officially recognize Georgia, doing so on 26 December 1991.
  • India is a net exporter to Georgia.
  • The main commodities exported by India to Georgia are cereals, nuclear reactors, boilers, machinery and mechanical appliances, pharmaceuticals, electrical machinery and equipment, aluminium and aluminium articles.

9) Mekedatu Dam Project :-

Karnataka and Tamil Nadu are again at the crossroads against the Mekedatu dam project in the Cauvery River Basin.

What is the Mekedatu Project?

  • Mekedatu, meaning goat’s leap, is a deep gorge situated at the confluence of the rivers Cauvery and Arkavathi, about 100 km from Bengaluru, at the Kanakapura taluk in Karnataka’s Ramanagara district.
  • In 2013, then Karnataka announced the construction of a multi-purpose balancing reservoir project.
  • The project aimed to alleviate the drinking water problems of the Bengaluru and Ramanagara districts.
  • It was also expected to generate hydroelectricity to meet the power needs of the state.

Issues with the project

  • Soon after the project was announced TN has objected over granting of permission or environmental clearance.
  • Explaining the potential for damage to the lower riparian state of TN, it said that the project was in violation of the final award of the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal.
  • It stated that the project will affect the natural flow of the river Cauvery considerably and will severely affect the irrigation in TN.

What do the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal and the Supreme Court say?

  • The Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal, in its final order on February 2007, made allocations to all the riparian States — Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu, apart from the Union Territory of Puducherry.
  • It also stipulated “tentative monthly deliveries during a normal year” to be made available by Karnataka to Tamil Nadu.
  • Aggrieved over the final order for different reasons, the States had appealed to the Supreme Court.
  • In February 2018, the court, in its judgment, revised the water allocation and increased the share of Karnataka by 14.75 thousand million cubic feet (tmc ft) at the cost of Tamil Nadu.
  • The enhanced quantum comprised 4.75 tmc ft for meeting drinking water and domestic requirements of Bengaluru and surrounding areas.

What is Karnataka planning?

  • Encouraged by the Supreme Court verdict, Karnataka, which sees the order as an endorsement of its stand, has set out to pursue the Mekedatu project.
  • Originally proposed as a hydropower project, the revised Mekedatu dam project has more than one purpose to serve.
  • A hydropower plant of nearly 400 MW has also been proposed.
  • The Karnataka government has argued that the proposed reservoir will regulate the flow to Tamil Nadu on a monthly basis, as stipulated by the Tribunal and the Supreme Court.
  • This is why Karnataka has contended that the project will not affect the interests of Tamil Nadu farmers.

10) 2020 Millennium Technology Prize :-

The 2020 Millennium Technology Prize has been awarded to Shankar Balasubramanian and David Klenerman, for their development of revolutionary Next-generation DNA sequencing techniques.

About Millennium Technology Prize

  • The Millennium Technology Prize is one of the world’s largest technology prizes.
  • It is awarded once every two years by Technology Academy Finland, an independent fund established by Finnish industry and the Finnish state in partnership.

What is next-generation DNA sequencing?

  • Next-generation sequencing (NGS) is a massively parallel sequencing technology that offers ultra-high throughput, scalability, and speed.
  • The technology is used to determine the order of nucleotides in entire genomes or targeted regions of DNA or RNA.
  • These technologies allow for sequencing of DNA and RNA much more quickly and cheaply than the previously used sequencing.
  • NGS has revolutionized the biological sciences, allowing labs to perform a wide variety of applications and study biological systems at a level never before possible.
  • More than a million base pairs can be sequenced, which translates to hundreds of genes or even the whole genome of an organism.
  • This is made possible by simultaneously sequencing hundreds of pieces of DNA at the same time.

What is sequencing, btw?

  • DNA (or RNA, in some viruses), the genetic material of life forms, is made of four bases (A, T, G and C; with U replacing T in the case of RNA).
  • A chromosome is the duplex of a long linear chain of these – and in the DNA sequence is information – the blueprint of life.
  • Life famously can replicate, and DNA replicates when an enzyme, DNA polymerase, synthesises a complementary strand using an existing DNA strand as the template.
  • The breakthrough idea of Balasubramanian and Klenerman was to sequence DNA (or RNA) using this process of strand synthesis.
  • They cleverly modified their ATGC bases so that each shone with a different colour.
  • When copied, the “coloured” copy of DNA could be deciphered from the colours alone, using miniature optical and electronic devices.

What about the cost of all this sequencing?

  • When the Human Genome Project delivered the first, near-complete sequence of our genome, the cost was estimated to have been 3 billion dollars.
  • As all our chromosomes together have 3 billion base pairs, it becomes an easy calculation – One dollar per sequenced base.
  • By the year 2020, NGS technologies has pushed the price for sequencing to a few thousands of rupees.

11) Sikkim is home to 27% of India’s flowering plants :-

Sikkim, the smallest State with less than 1% of India’s landmass, is home to 27% of all flowering plants found in the country, reveals a recent publication by the Botanical Survey of India (BSI).

Flora of Sikkim

  • Flora of Sikkim – A Pictorial Guide lists 4,912 naturally occurring flowering plants in the tiny Himalayan State.
  • The total number of naturally occurring flowering plants in the country is about 18,004 species, and with 4,912 species, the diversity of flowering plants in Sikkim, spread over an area of 7,096 sq. km. is very unique.

Why is Sikkim a host to such large biodiversity?

  • Sikkim is a part of the Kanchenjunga biosphere landscape, has different altitudinal ecosystems, which provide opportunities for herbs and trees to grow and thrive.
  • The State also borders China, Bhutan and Nepal, and the Darjeeling Hills of West Bengal.
  • From subalpine vegetation to the temperate to the tropical, the State has different kinds of vegetation, and that is the reason for such a diversity of flora.
  • The elevation also varies between 300 to 8,598 metres above mean sea level, the apex being the top of Mt. Kanchenjunga (8,586 metres).

Contribution by the Public

  • The people of Sikkim have a unique bond with nature and trees.
  • As per the Sikkim Forest Tree (Amity & Reverence) Rules, 2017 the State government allows any person to associate with trees standing on his or her private land or on any public land by entering into a Mith/Mit or Mitini relationship.
  • The notification encouraged people to adopt a tree “as if it was his or her own child in which case the tree shall be called an adopted tree”.

12) Lemru Elephant Reserve :-

The proposed Lemru Elephant Reserve in Chhattisgarh, in the pipeline for 20 years, has become the subject of yet another controversy over the reduction of its size.

Lemru Elephant Reserve

  • The proposal for the reserve, in Korba district, was passed unanimously by the Assembly in 2005 and got central approval in 2007.
  • Lemru is one of two elephant reserves planned to prevent human-animal conflict in the region, with elephants moving into Chhattisgarh from Odisha and Jharkhand.
  • Its area was then proposed to be 450 sq km.

Why does the government want to reduce the size of the reserve?

  • The area proposed under the reserve is part of the Hasdeo Aranya forests, a very diverse biozone that is also rich in coal deposits.
  • Of 22 coal blocks in the area, seven have already been allotted with mines running in three, and in the process of being established in the other four.
  • Under the ‘No-Go Area’ policy from the UPA area, the entire area was considered out of bounds for mines, but in 2020, five coal blocks from the region were put on the auction list.

Why is the reserve important?

  • North Chhattisgarh alone is home to over 240 elephants.
  • Elephants in Chhattisgarh are relatively new; they started moving into undivided Madhya Pradesh in 1990.
  • Since these animals were relatively new, the human-animal conflict started once elephants started straying into inhabited areas, looking for food.

13) “Unity 22” mission:

“Unity 22” will be Virgin Galactic’s next rocket-powered test flight of its SpaceShip- VSS Unity.

About the mission:

As part of the mission, the crew will be flying to the edge of space on July 11 on board the ‘Unity’ rocket ship developed by Virgin Galactic.

This will be the 22nd mission for VSS Unity.

  • This will be Virgin Galactic’s fourth crewed spaceflight.
  • It will also be the first to carry a full crew of two pilots and four mission specialists in the cabin, including Virgin Group Founder Richard Branson, who will be testing out the private astronaut experience.

Objectives of the mission:

  • Unity 22 will focus on testing the cabin and customer experience.

Currently, two additional test flights remain before the Virgin Galactic plans to commence commercial service in 2022.

Significance for India:

Sirisha Bandla, an astronaut born in India, will be a part of the crew.

  • This is significant as she will be the third woman of Indian origin to go to space after Kalpana Chawla and Sunita Williams.
  • Rakesh Sharma is another Indian who went into space prior to Bandla.

Uniqueness of VSS Unity Spaceship:

Virgin Galactic’s suborbital spacecraft are air-launched from beneath a carrier aircraft ‘White Knight Two’. The space vehicle can climb to an altitude of around 90 kilometres, enough to give passengers a few minutes of weightlessness and a view of Earth’s curvature from the edge of space.

This mission included Sirisha Bandla who is the third Indian Origin women to reach Space.

Mr. Bezos’ Blue Origin company intends to send tourists past the so called Karman line 100 kilometres above earth, which is recognised by international aviation and aerospace federations as the threshold of space. But NASA, the Air Force, the Federal Aviation Administration and some astrophysicists consider the boundary between the atmosphere and space to begin 80 kilometres up.

Editorials of the Day

Strategic cooperation between India, Italy and Japan can ensure a free Indo-Pacific

Context

Recently, Mr. Draghi, Italy’s Prime Minister described Chinese competitive practices as “unfair” and invited the EU to be franker and more courageous in confronting Beijing on various issues. Against this backdrop, a trilateral partnership between India-Japan-Italy could play important role in the Indo-Pacific region.

India’s growing centrality in Indo-Pacific strategic architecture

  • Countries that share similar values and face similar challenges are coming together to create purpose-oriented partnerships.
  • In the context of the Indo-Pacific, the challenges posed by China’s assertive initiatives clash with a region lacking multilateral organisations capable of solving problems effectively.
  • But as a new pushback against China takes shape and as Indian foreign policy becomes strategically clearer, there is new momentum to initiatives such as the Quad.

India-Italy-Japan trilateral partnership

  • Recently, Italy has also begun to signal its intention to enter the Indo-Pacific geography.
  • It has done so by seeking to join India and Japan in a trilateral partnership.
  • Italy has become more vocal on the risks emanating from China’s strategic competitive initiatives.
  • On the Indian side, there is great interest in forging new partnerships with like-minded countries interested in preserving peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific.
  • The responsibility of keeping the Indo-Pacific free and open, and working for the welfare of its inhabitants falls on like-minded countries within and beyond the region.

Potential of trilateral partnership

  • Their compatible economic systems can contribute to the reorganisation of the global supply chains that is now being reviewed by many players as a natural result of the Chinese mismanagement of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  •  At the security level, the well-defined India-Japan Indo-Pacific partnership can easily be complemented by Italy.
  • At the multilateral level, the three countries share the same values and the same rules-based world view.

The way forward for trilateral cooperation

  • The Italian government must formulate a clear Indo-Pacific strategy that must indicate its objectives.
  • But Rome must go beyond that in defining and implementing, at the margins of the EU’s common initiatives, its own policy with respect to the Indo-Pacific.
  • The India, Italy and Japan trilateral initiative can be a forum to foster and consolidate a strategic relationship between these three countries, and specifically expand India-Italy bilateral relations.
  • A trilateral cooperation can be the right forum for India and Italy to learn more from each other’s practices and interests and consolidate a strategic dialogue that should include the economic, the security and the political dimensions.
  •  To consolidate the trilateral cooperation in this field, the three countries need to define a common economic and strategic agenda.

Conclusion

A clear political will is needed from all sides, and Italy, in particular, should recognise its interests in playing a larger role towards the maintenance of a free and open Indo-Pacific. Robust India-Italy strategic ties can be the first step towards the realisation of this goal.

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