1)Which of the following correctly defines the term Zero Shot Learning (ZSL)?
A process via which a machine learns how to recognize objects in an image without any labeled training data.
An encryption algorithm to protect high-value crypto transactions over the blockchain.
A new model of higher education teaching resulting in increased learning outcomes.
A neurological mechanism through which a human brain learns to assimilate information.
2)Groundswell Report on climate change is released by which of the following organizations?
3)With reference to PRANA portal, which of the following statements is/ are correct:
It is a portal for monitoring the implementation of the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP)
It is the portal for Indian citizens to access information about all the services offered to them.
It is the portal to grant certificate of disability to disabled people through online mode only
It is a one-stop access of elderly care products and services by credible start-ups.
Explanation :- PRANA stands for Portal for Regulation of Air-pollution in Non-Attainment cities. Developed by: Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) in partnership with Knowledge Lens (a B2B product company) Purpose: It is a portal for monitoring the implementation of the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP). It will support tracking of physical as well as financial status of city air action plan implementation and disseminate information on air quality management efforts under NCAP to the public.
In machine learning, zero-shot learning refers to the process by which a machine learns how to recognize objects in an image without any labeled training data to help in the classification. In other words, ZSL aims to help machines categorize objects that they have never seen before.
4) Consider the following statements regarding Bonn Challenge:
1. It was launched by UNEP and Wetland international.
2. It aims to improve the status of wetlands across the world.
Which of the above statements is/are correct?
Both 1 and 2
Neither 1 nor 2
5)Which of the following countries do not share border with the Caspian Sea?
6)With reference to LEAF Coalition, consider the following statements:
1. It aims to mobilize at least $1 billion for financing countries committed to protecting their tropical forests.
2. This initiative is one of the outcomes of the 2015 Paris agreement.
Which of the statements given above is/are correct?
Both 1 and 2
Neither 1 nor 2
Bonn challenge was launched by IUCN in 2011. Statement 2 is incorrect: It aims to restore 150 million hectares of world’s degraded and deforested land by 2020 and 350 million hectares by 2030
LEAF initiative aims to mobilize at least $1 billion for financing countries committed to protecting their tropical forests. It is supported by corporations like Unilever plc, Amazon, Nestle and Airbnb.
Statement 2 is incorrect: In April 2021, the LEAF (Lowering Emissions by Accelerating Forest Finance) Coalition was announced as a public-private effort led by the US, the UK and Norway.
7) Which of the following statements is true about NISHTHA initiative?
a) It is a portal to help skilled people find sustainable livelihood opportunities.
b) It aims at creating an enabling ecosystem for Entrepreneurship development.
c) It is a capacity building programme for improving the quality of school education through integrated teacher training.
d) It is the scheme is to improve the performance of it is in India.
8)Athikaraya, Kayame, Srihati, and Bhejri sometimes seen in news, these are associated with which of the following?
9)“Democracy Index” is released by which of the following Organizations?
United Nations Environment Programme
Economic Intelligence Unit
Reporters without Borders
10) Children Climate Risk Index (CCRI) was recently seen in the news. Which of these following organisation release this particular index?
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)
United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)
Greenpeace International (GI)
United Nations International Children Emergency Fund (UNICEF)
11)1988 Sanctions Committee sometimes seen in news is associated with?
The sanctions measures imposed by the Security Council against Taliban
To monitor and implement the arms embargo on the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.
To oversee the UN sanctions imposed against the Iranu2019s nuclear and ballistic missile programme.
d.To monitor the implementation of the resolution, which requested countries to implement a wide range of counter-terrorism measures
12)Consider the following pairs of India’s evacuation mission
1. Operation Devi Shakti – Afghanistan
2. Operation Safe Homecoming – Nepal
3. Operation Sukoon – Lebanon
Which of the above pairs is/are matched correctly?
1 and 2 only
2 and 3 only
1 and 3 only
1, 2 and 3
Prelims Specific News Items
What is Havana Syndrome?
Havana Syndrome refers to a set of mental health symptoms that are said to be experienced by US intelligence and embassy officials in various countries.
It typically involves symptoms such as hearing certain sounds without any outside noise being present, nausea, vertigo and headaches, memory loss and issues with balance.
As the name suggests, it traces its roots to Cuba.
In late 2016, US officials in embassy began experiencing sudden bursts of pressure in their brain followed by persistent headaches, feeling of disorientation and insomnia.
Assam will mark World Rhino Day — September 22 — with a special ceremony by burning a stockpile of nearly 2,500 horns of the one-horned rhinoceros.
Rhino Horn Reverification
The public ceremony — scheduled at Bokakhat in Kaziranga National Park (KNP) has been publicized as a “milestone towards rhino conservation” aimed at “busting myths about rhino horns”.
It’s a loud and clear message to the poachers and smugglers that such items have no value.
Thus the case for the destruction of horns — a process that is in compliance with Section 39(3)(c) of the Wildlife (Protection) Act of 1972.
Why are Rhinos poached for horns?
Ground rhino horn is used in traditional Chinese medicine to cure a range of ailments, from cancer to hangovers, and also as an aphrodisiac.
In Vietnam, possessing a rhino horn is considered a status symbol.
Due to demand in these countries, poaching pressure on rhinos is ever persistent against which one cannot let the guard down.
The international eco-label “Blue Flag”, has accorded the Blue Flag Certification for 2 new beaches this year –Kovalam in Tamil Nadu and Eden in Puducherry beaches.
With this India now has 10 International Blue Flag beaches.
Which are the other 8 beaches?
Kasarkod (Karnataka) [NOT Kasargod which is in Kerala] and
Golden Beach (Odisha) and
Radhanagar (A&N Islands)
Blue Flag Beaches:-
The ‘Blue Flag’ beach is an ‘eco-tourism model’ and marks out beaches as providing tourists and beachgoers clean and hygienic bathing water, facilities/amenities, a safe and healthy environment, and sustainable development of the area.
The certification is accorded by the Denmark-based Foundation for Environment Education.
It started in France in 1985 and has been implemented in Europe since 1987, and in areas outside Europe since 2001 when South Africa joined.
It has 33 stringent criteria under four major heads for the beaches, that is, (i) Environmental Education and Information (ii) Bathing Water Quality (iii) Environment Management and Conservation and (iv) Safety and Services.
4) New Possibly Extinct Species
In the latest edition of the IUCN’s Red List of Threatened Species, a number of animals and plants have been listed as ‘possibly extinct’, including many species from India.
What are the findings of report?
First, among animals, there is the coconut crab, the largest terrestrial arthropod in the world. There are also fish species such as bovany barb, native to the Cauvery River system.
Second, fishes that declared possibly extinct include the Deolali minnow, the Deccan barb and the Nilgiri mystus. They are found in the Deccan.
Third, birds include the Pink-headed duck, the Siberian crane, that once famously drew crowds to Keoladeo National Park as well as the Buffy fish-owl or Malay owl.
Fourth, the Tentacled butterfly ray, a type of ray and the Dwarf sawfish are two other animal species that are feared to be possibly extinct. The Millepora boschmai or fire coral is also possibly extinct.
Fifth, there are also species that have been marked as ‘Extinct Post-1500’. They include Green peafowl, Cheetah, Hairy-nosed Otter, Banteng etc.
Sixth, plants that are possibly extinct include: Corypha taliera, a species of palm, Eriocaulon minutum, a species of pipewort, Ilex gardneriana, that is found in the Nilgiris, Vachellia bolei, a coastal stenoendemic legume of southern India, .phorbia mayurnathanii that is endemic to the Palghat Gap.
Seventh, species whose statuses were changed included the Albacore Tuna that was moved from near threatened to least concern. The Yellowfin Tuna was moved from near threatened to least concern. The Yeracud Day Gecko was moved from least concern to endangered.
Eighth, the Satara Gecko was moved from vulnerable to critically endangered while the Yellow Monitor was moved from least concern to endangered.
5)The Union Minister of Commerce and Industry has launched the National Single Window System (NSWS) for investors and businesses.
What is the National Single Window System (NSWS)?
National Single Window System is a one-stop digital platform that aims at allowing investors to apply for various pre-operations approvals required for commencing a business in the country.
The system aims to make the business registration process easier, allowing the beneficiary to get significant approvals online, without having to run to the government offices for approvals and can avail themselves of services with just a click.
Currently, the platform hosts approvals across 18 Central Departments & 9 States. Another 14 Central depts & 5 states will be added by December 2021.
6) International Hydropower Association (IHA)
NHPC’s 510 MW Teesta-V Power Station located in the Himalayan State of Sikkim has been conferred with the prestigious Blue Planet Prize by International Hydropower Association (IHA).
Teesta-V Power Station
The power station has been built, owned and being operated by NHPC.
The award has been conferred for its sustainability assessment undertaken by Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Protocol (HSAP) of IHA.
IHA is a London based non-profit membership association operating in 120 countries.
The IHA membership includes leading hydropower owners and operators, developers, designers, suppliers and consultants.
The IHA Blue Planet Prize is awarded to hydropower projects that demonstrate excellence in sustainable development.
Teesta River is a 414 km long river that rises in the Pauhunri Mountain of eastern Himalayas, flows through the Indian states of Sikkim and West Bengal through Bangladesh and enters the Bay of Bengal.
It drains an area of 12,540 sq km.
In India, it flows through North Sikkim, East Sikkim, Pakyong District, Kalimpong district, Darjeeling District, Jalpaiguri District, Cooch Behar districts and the cities of Rangpo, Jalpaiguri and Mekhliganj.
It joins River Brahmaputra at Fulchhari in Bangladesh. 315 km portion of the river lies in India and rest in Bangladesh.
Teesta is the largest river of Sikkim and the second largest river of West Bengal after Ganges.
7) The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has published a new report titled “Climate Indicators and Sustainable Development: Demonstrating the Interconnections” on September 22, 2021.
The report highlights seven climate indicators, impacting the SDGs:
- Carbon dioxide concentration
- Ocean acidification
- Ocean heat content
- Sea-ice extent
- Glacier mass balance and
- Sea-level rise.
8) Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) World Giving Index 2021 was published recently, in which India found the place among top-20 generous countries.
Key findings of the report :-
India has been ranked at the 14th spot.
9) UNICEF released its new report titled “Fed to Fail? The crisis of children’s diets in early life” on September 23, 2021.
Key Findings According to the report:-
Children aged under 2 are not getting the food or nutrients they need to thrive and grow well. This is leading to irreversible developmental harm.
About SAUBHAGYA Scheme
The Saubhagya is a scheme to ensure electrification of all willing households in the country in rural as well as urban areas.
It was launched in September 2017.
The Rural Electrification Corporation Limited (REC) is the nodal agency for the operationalization of the scheme throughout the country.
10) Chang’e-5 Lunar Mission
The Chang’e-5 lunar mission delivered to Earth nearly 2 kg of rocky fragments and dust from the Moon.
It had landed on an area of the Moon (the ‘far side’) not sampled by the American or Soviet missions nearly 50 years ago.
It thus retrieved fragments of the youngest lunar rocks ever brought back for analysis in laboratories on Earth.
The rocks are also different from those returned decades ago.
90% of the materials collected by Chang’e-5 likely derive from the landing site and its immediate surroundings, which are of a type termed ‘mare basalts’.
These volcanic rocks are visible to us as the darker grey areas that spilled over much of the nearside of the Moon as ancient eruptions of lava.
Yet 10% percent of the fragments have distinctly different, ‘exotic’ chemical compositions.
11) Arctic ice is disappearing: How clouds interact with sea ice change
What is the news?
The Earth is warming — some parts more rapidly than others. Temperatures in the Arctic, for example, have been rising much faster than the rest of the planet. Experts, for the longest time, have attributed the crisis to how clouds interact with sea ice, essentially frozen seawater.
Decades of research have pointed that losses in Arctic Sea ice cover allow for the formation of more clouds near the ocean’s surface.
A new research by the NASA has now shown that more heat and moisture is released through a large hole in sea ice called a polynya, which fuels the formation of more clouds. This traps heat in the atmosphere and hinders the refreezing of new sea ice.
The study was conducted over a section of northern Baffin Bay between Greenland and Canada known as the North Water Polynya.
What is polynya?
A polynya is an area of open water surrounded by sea ice. It is a patch of unfrozen seawater within the contiguous pack ice or fast ice.
12) The Department of Pharmaceuticals, Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers has notified the Scheme for “Promotion of Medical Device Parks”.
What is the Scheme for Promotion of Medical Device Parks?
Under the scheme, medical parks will be developed to provide common infrastructure facilities in one place thereby creating a robust ecosystem for medical device manufacturing in the country and also reduce the manufacturing cost significantly.
Objectives of the Scheme
Easy access to standard testing and infrastructure facilities through the creation of world-class common infrastructure facilities for increased competitiveness. This will result in a significant reduction of the cost of production of medical devices, leading to better availability and affordability of medical devices in the domestic market.
Reaping the benefits arising due to optimization of resources and economies of scale.
13)COVID-19: WHO recommends Regeneron antibody therapy for high-risk & seronegative patients
What is the news?
Recently, World Health Organization (WHO) approved the Regeneron antibody combination for treatment of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
What is Regeneron?
Regeneron is a combination of two drugs — casirivimab and imdevimab.
It has reduced mortality in seronegative patients with severe infections. The drug cocktail replicates the natural antibody response of human beings. Last year it was approved by the Food and Drug Administration of the United States.
14)China has said that all crypto currency transactions in China, including transactions using Bitcoin, will be deemed illegal.
China and Cryptocurrency
China has been one of the world’s largest crypto-currency markets.This is despite the fact that trading in crypto-currency has officially been banned in China since 2019.
However, the recent announcement by China’s central bank that all cryptocurrency-related transactions are illegal and must be banned sends the strongest signal yet on its determination to crack down on cryptocurrency.
But for now, it seems that holding Bitcoin or any other cryptocurrency is not illegal in China. Only their use is illegal.
Why is China cracking down on Cryptocurrency?
No Legal Backing: Cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin are not backed by any government or bank. Hence, they cannot be used as legal tender.
Harmful to Environment: China considers crypto-currencies harmful to the environment because bitcoin mining requires a lot of computing resources and that in turn increases power use. There are reports noting that the entire power consumption of computers and server farms used to mine Bitcoin exceeds the power use of a country like Switzerland.
To stop Illegal activities: Cryptocurrencies bypasses official institutions and the anonymity that it offers makes it a flourishing business for illegal activities.
To avoid Financial Risk: Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies cannot be traced by a country’s central bank, making them difficult to regulate. Hence, China has acted on cryptocurrencies to prevent and control financial risks.
To launch its own Digital Currency: China is planning to introduce its own digital currency. Its aim is to allow China to conduct transactions in its own currency around the world reducing dependency on the dollar which remains dominant internationally.
15)One-time Programmable Memory
IIT Bombay researchers have developed a “memory technology” that can, in principle, revolutionise Indian industry and the many applications that need semiconductor chips, such as in the defence sector, automobiles and future aspirations in cell phone manufacturing.
One-time Programmable Memory :-
Hard disks, flash memory, etc, are examples of memory technology.
There is also another form of memory called the one-time programmable memory (OTP) where the memory is written once, stored for a lifetime, and retrieved and used many times.
This finds varied uses, one of which is in correcting faulty chips that have been mass produced for specific applications.
16)The Goa government’s Feni Policy 2021 has paved the way to take the state’s ‘heritage drink’ forward.
Sounds strange but an alcoholic beverage has been GI tagged!
Goa Cashew Feni
Feni is a spirit produced in Goa, India.
The two most popular types of feni are cashew feni and toddy palm feni, depending on the original ingredient; however, many other varieties are sold.
Feni distilleries are usually family-run affairs, and the history of the drink goes back to at least 1585.
The feni consumed in South Goa is generally of higher alcohol content (43-45% abv) as compared to the feni produced in North Goa.
Commercially packaged feni is available at 42.8% abv.
Cashew feni was awarded Geographical Indication registration in 2009 as a speciality alcoholic beverage from Goa.
It has been described as a colourless, clear liquid that when matured in wooden barrels develops golden brown tint.
17)What is a Cartel?
According to CCI, a “Cartel includes an association of producers, sellers, distributors, traders or service providers who, by agreement amongst themselves, limit, control or attempt to control the production, distribution, sale or price of, or, trade in goods or provision of services”.
The International Competition Network, which is a global body dedicated to enforcing competition law, has a simpler definition.
The three common components of a cartel are:
- an agreement
- between competitors
- to restrict competition
What is Cartelization?
Cartelization is when enterprises collude to fix prices, indulge in bid rigging, or share customers, etc. But when prices are controlled by the government under a law, that is not cartelization.
The Competition Act contains strong provisions against cartels.
It also has the leniency provision to incentivise a party to a cartel to break away and report to the Commission, and thereby expect total or partial leniency.
18) Nuclear Security Contact Group
The NSCG was established in 2016.
The NSCG or “Contact Group” has been established with the aim of facilitating cooperation and sustaining engagement on nuclear security after the conclusion of the Nuclear Security Summit process.
The Contact Group is tasked with:
Convening annually on the margins of the General Conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and, as may be useful, in connection with other related meetings
Discussing a broad range of nuclear security-related issues, including identifying emerging trends that may require more focused attention
19)Nuclear Suppliers Group
NSG is a group of nuclear supplier countries that seeks to contribute to the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons through the implementation of guidelines for nuclear exports and nuclear-related exports.
The NSG was set up as a response to India’s nuclear tests conducted in 1974.
The aim of the NSG is to ensure that nuclear trade for peaceful purposes does not contribute to the proliferation of nuclear weapons.
20) Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty
CTBT was negotiated at the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva and adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1996.
The Treaty intends to ban all nuclear explosions – everywhere, by everyone.
It was opened for signature in 1996 and since then 182 countries have signed the Treaty, most recently Ghana has ratified the treaty in 2011.
The CTBT has an unusual formula for achieving its entry-into-force—44 named States have to sign and ratify. Of these, 36 States have already signed and ratified but 8 States are holding up entry-into-force. China, Egypt, Iran, Israel and the USA have signed but not ratified. India, North Korea and Pakistan have yet to even sign.
21) Fissile material cut-off treaty
FMCT is a proposed international agreement that would prohibit the production of the two main components of nuclear weapons: highly-enriched uranium (HEU) and plutonium.
Discussions on this subject have taken place at the UN Conference on Disarmament (CD), a body of 65 member nations established as the sole multilateral negotiating forum on disarmament.
The CD operates by consensus and is often stagnant, impeding progress on an FMCT.
Those nations that joined the nuclear NPT as non-weapon states are already prohibited from producing or acquiring fissile material for weapons.
An FMCT would provide new restrictions for the five recognized nuclear weapon states (NWS—United States, Russia, United Kingdom, France, and China), and for the four nations that are not NPT members (Israel, India, Pakistan, and North Korea).
22)Union Minister for Science & Technology Dr Jitendra Singh launched a program titled “जनCARE” which is aimed to identify 75 Start-Up innovations in Telemedicine, Digital Health, mHealth with BIG Data, AI, BlockChain and other technologies.
The Amrit Grand Challenge Program is a clarion call for Young Startups and entrepreneurs to come up with innovative ideas and solutions in order to cater to and bridge India’s healthcare challenges. These75 best-chosen startups under this platform will serve as an asset for the country in the coming 25 years
What is the “AmritGrand Challenge Program” titled “जनCARE”?
The challenge aims to identify 75 startup innovations in telemedicine, digital health, mHealth with BIG Data, AI, blockchain and other technologies.
22)The performance of the Indian Overseas Bank, currently under the Prompt Corrective Action Framework (PCAF) of RBI, was reviewed by the Board for Financial Supervision. It was noted that as per its published results for the year ended March 31, 2021, the bank is not in the breach of the PCA parameters.
The bank has provided a written commitment that it would comply with the norms of Minimum Regulatory Capital, Net NPA and Leverage ratio on an ongoing basis and has apprised the RBI of the structural and systemic improvements that it has put in place which would help the bank in continuing to meet these commitments.
Concept of Leverage Ratio:- The term ‘leverage ratio’ refers to a set of ratios that highlight a business’s financial leverage in terms of its assets, liabilities, and equity. They show how much of an organization’s capital comes from debt — a solid indication of whether a business can make good on its financial obligations.
A higher financial leverage ratio indicates that a company is using debt to finance its assets and operations — often a telltale sign of a business that could be a risky bet for potential investors.
23)Govt approves continuation of NEIA scheme, infusion of Rs 1,650 cr Grant-in-Aid over 5 years :- The Cabinet has also approved continuation of the National Export Insurance Account (NEIA) scheme and infusion of 1,650 crore Grant-in-Aid over five years.
Capital infusion in NEIA Trust will help tap the huge potential of project exports in focus market.
NEIA will be able to support project exports worth up to 33,000 Crore rupees. It will help create 2.6 lakh new jobs, including around 12,000 in formal sector.
This decision is part of a series export related schemes and initiatives taken by the Government over the last few years.
24) Najla Bouden named as Tunisia’s first woman PM
25) Mid-day meal scheme is now ‘PM Poshan’, pre-primary children will be covered
Under the scheme, 24 lakh more children in pre-primary classes, currently covered under the ICDS, will also be brought in. Last year, the government had opened pre-schools called Balvatikas attached to angandwadis.
The mid-day meal scheme will now be known as PM POSHAN, with the Centre initiating a major political push pivoted around ‘child nutrition’, and announcing that around 24 lakh students receiving pre-primary education at government and government-aided schools will also be brought under the ambit of the scheme from next year.
Under the mid-day meal scheme, hot cooked food is provided currently to students from Classes 1 to 8 — around 11.80 crore children in all, in 11.20 lakh government and government-aided schools. Under PM Poshan Shakti Nirman or PM POSHAN scheme, 24 lakh more children in pre-primary classes, currently covered under the ICDS, will also be brought in. Last year, the government had opened pre-schools called Balvatikas attached to angandwadis.
PM POSHAN has been launched for an initial period of five years (2021-22 to 2025-26).
While the NEP also proposes breakfast in schools, the government has not taken any decision on that yet.
26) Defence Ministry issues order for OFB dissolution
The Defence Ministry has issued an order for the dissolution of the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) with effect from October 1.
Ordnance Factory Board (OFB)
- OFB consisting of the Indian Ordnance Factories is a government agency under the control of the department of defence production (DDP).
- It is engaged in research, development, production, testing, marketing and logistics of a product range in the areas of air, land and sea systems.
- OFB comprises 41 ordnance factories, nine training institutes, three regional marketing centres and four regional controllers of safety, which are spread all across the country.
Take a look at this timeline
1712 – Establishment of the Dutch Ostend Company’s Gun Powder Factory at Ichhapur
1775 – Establishment of the Board of Ordnance at Fort William, Kolkata.
1787 – Establishment of the Gun Powder Factory at Ishapore.
1935 – Indian Ordnance Service was introduced to administer the whole Defence Production Industry of India.
1954 – Indian Ordnance Service (IOS) renamed to Indian Ordnance Factories Service (IOFS).
1979 – Ordnance Factory Board is established on 2 April.
Why are OFBs significant?
- OFB is the world’s largest government-operated production organization and the oldest organization in India.
- It has a total workforce of about 80,000.
- It is often called the “Fourth Arm of Defence” and the “Force Behind the Armed Forces” of India.
- OFB is the 35th largest defence equipment manufacturer in the world, 2nd largest in Asia, and the largest in India.
- It is a major decision in terms of national security and also make the country self-sufficient in defence manufacturing as repeatedly emphasized by PM.
- This move would allow these companies autonomy and help improve accountability and efficiency.
- This restructuring is aimed at transforming the ordnance factories into productive and profitable assets, deepening specialization in the product range, enhancing competitiveness, improving quality and achieving cost efficiency.
What about employees?
- All employees of the OFB (Group A, B and C) belonging to the production units would be transferred to the corporate entities on deemed deputation.
- The pension liabilities of the retirees and existing employees would continue to be borne by the government.
Significance of the move
- With OFB dissolution, its assets, employees and management would be transferred to seven newly constituted defence public sector undertakings (DPSUs).
- This would mean the end of the OFB, the establishment of which was accepted by the British in 1775.
27) Right to Govt. Aid is not a Fundamental Right: SC
The right of an institution, whether run by a majority or minority community, to get government aid is not a fundamental right. Both have to equally follow the rules and conditions of the aid, the Supreme Court held in a judgment.
What is the case about?
- The judgment came in an appeal filed by Uttar Pradesh against a decision of the Allahabad High Court to declare a provision of the Intermediate Education Act of 1921 unconstitutional.
Key takeaways from the Judgment
- The SC has clarified that if the government made a policy call to withdraw aid, an institution cannot question the decision as a “matter of right”.
- Whether it is an institution run by the majority or the minority, all conditions that have relevance to the proper utilisation of the grant-in-aid by an educational institution can be imposed.
- All that Article 30(2) states is that on the ground that an institution is under the management of a minority, whether based on religion or language.
- The grant of aid to that educational institution cannot be discriminated against, if other educational institutions are entitled to receive aid.
Basis of the Judgment
- A grant of government aid comes with accompanying conditions.
- An institution is free to choose to accept the grant with the conditions or go its own way.
- If an institution does not want to accept and comply with the conditions accompanying such aid, it is well open to it to decline the grant and move in its own way.
- On the contrary, an institution can never be allowed to say that the grant of aid should be on its own terms, the Bench observed.
Various grounds discussed
The court explained why institutions cannot view government aid as a “matter of right”.
- Government aid is a policy decision: It depends on various factors including the interests of the institution itself and the ability of the government to understand the exercise. Therefore, even in a case where a policy decision is made to withdraw the aid, an institution cannot question it as a matter of right.
- Financial constraints and deficiencies: These are the factors which are considered relevant in taking any decision qua aid, including both the decision to grant aid and the manner of disbursement of an aid.
- Not arbitrary decision: The bench said that a policy decision is presumed to be in public interest, and such a decision once made is not amenable to challenge, until and unless there is manifest or extreme arbitrariness, a Constitutional court is expected to keep its hands off.
28)PM launches Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission
The PM has launched the Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission to provide a digital Health ID to people which will contain their health records.
Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission
- The pilot project of the National Digital Health Mission was announced by PM Modi during his Independence Day speech from the Red Fort on August 15, 2020.
- The mission will enable access and exchange of longitudinal health records of citizens with their consent.
- This will ensure ease of doing business for doctors and hospitals and healthcare service providers.
The key components of the project include
- Health ID for every citizen that will also work as their health account, to which personal health records can be linked and viewed with the help of a mobile application,
- Healthcare Professionals Registry (HPR)
- Healthcare Facilities Registries (HFR) that will act as a repository of all healthcare providers across both modern and traditional systems of medicine
What makes this special?
- The mission will create integration within the digital health ecosystem, similar to the role played by the Unified Payments Interface (UPI) in revolutionising payments.
- Citizens will only be a click-away from accessing healthcare facilities.
29) Iceland elects Europe’s first women majority Parliament
Iceland has elected a female-majority parliament, a landmark for gender equality in the North Atlantic island nation, in a vote that saw centrist parties make the biggest gains.
Nordic Countries :-
- The Nordic Countries are a group of countries in northern Europe.
- There are 5 Nordic countries, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland, and Iceland.
- Denmark, Sweden, and Norway are constitutional monarchies and parliamentary democracies. Finland and Iceland are democratic republics.
- Iceland’s parliament, the Althing, is the oldest parliament in the world.
- Sweden is the largest and most populous of the Nordic countries. Iceland is the least populous. Denmark is the smallest.
30) National Mission on Cultural Mapping
Having made little progress since its launch in 2017, the National Mission on Cultural Mapping has now been handed over to the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA).
About the National Mission on Cultural Mapping
- The NMCM is a mission mode project of the Ministry of Culture. It was incepted in 2015.
- It is aimed to address the necessity of preserving the threads of rich Indian Art and Cultural Heritage, convert vast and widespread cultural canvas of India into an objective Cultural Mapping while creating a strong “Cultural Vibrancy” throughout the nation.
- It will identify, collect and record cultural assets and resources. It correlates this to planning and strategizing.
- A portal and a database listing organisations, spaces, facilities, festivals and events will be created.
- This database can be used to preserve culture and provide or ameliorate livelihoods.
Objectives of the Mission
Under this Mission, at broad-level, there are three important objectives as follows:
- National Cultural Awareness Abhiyan: Hamari Sanskriti Hamari Pahchan Abhiyan (Our Culture Our Identity)
- Nationwide Artist Talent Hunt/Scouting Programme: Sanskritik Pratibha Khoj Abhiyan
- National Cultural Workplace: Centralised Transactional Web Portal with database and demography of cultural assets and resources including all art forms and artists.
Significance of the mission
- Revival and safeguarding of oral traditions
- Fostering Cultural Awareness
- Cultural Preservation
- Sustainable Employment to creative industries
- Optimal Resource Allocation and Utilization:
- Creation of objective Database for inclusive growth of cultural heritage
31) All about Periyar River :-
The Periyar River is the longest river in the state of Kerala with a length of 244 km.
It is also known as ‘Lifeline of Kerala’ as it is one of the few perennial rivers in the state.
A perennial river is a channel that has continuous flow in parts of its stream bed all year round.
Periyar River originates from Sivagiri hills of Western Ghats and flows through the Periyar National Park.
The main tributaries of Periyar are Muthirapuzha, Mullayar, Cheruthoni, Perinjankutti.
32) SC introduces FASTER system to send records
The Supreme Court has given its nod for e-transfer of orders to jails through the FASTER system for quick prisoner release.
What is the FASTER system?
- FASTER is an acronym form Fast and Secured Transmission of Electronic Records.
- The system is meant to ensure that undertrials are not made to wait for days on end behind bars to be released because the certified hard copies of their bail orders took time to reach the prison.
- It is conceived for delivery of orders to concerned prisons, District Courts, High Courts, as the case may be, for instantaneous delivery of orders passed by apex court through a secure communication channel.
- The process to develop the FASTER system began with the CJI’s observations in court on July 16 this year.
- With FASTER, crucial decisions, including orders on bail and stay of arrest, can be communicated electronically to prison authorities and investigating agencies through a secure channel.
- The system would also prevent unnecessary arrests and custody of people even after the court had already granted them its protection.
- It may even communicate a stay on an execution ordered by the final court on time.
33) Kasturirangan panel for National Curriculum Framework
The Centre has started the process to revise school textbooks by appointing former Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) chairman K. Kasturirangan as the head of a 12-member steering committee responsible for developing a new National Curriculum Framework (NCF).
National Curriculum Framework (NCF)
- The new NCF is in line with the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020.
- The committee will be headed by K Kasturirangan, who had also led the NEP 2020 drafting committee.
- The national curriculum framework serves as a guideline for syllabus, textbooks, teaching and learning practices in the country.
- India is currently following its fourth national curriculum framework that was published by the NCERT in 2005.
What was the last NCF?
- The last such framework was developed in 2005.
- It is meant to be a guiding document for the development of textbooks, syllabi and teaching practices in schools across the country.
Why revamp NCF?
- The subsequent revision of textbooks by the National Council of Educational Research and Training will draw from the new NCF.
- In fact, the steering committee will develop four such frameworks, one each to guide the curriculum of school education, teacher education, early childhood education, and adult education.
Editorial – Important Articles
Bureaucracy’s digital challenge
The article highlights the good use of social media in bureaucracy to make it more effective and public-friendly.
Why using social media by civil servants is considered wrong?
Indian Bureaucracy is characterized by hierarchy, formal relationships and standard procedures, while social media is identified by openness, transparency and flexibility. Some fear that Indian Bureaucracy would be compromised in that process.
Creates selective accountability: In India, the role of social media in bureaucracy has taken a different direction. Social media is getting used by civil servants for self-promotion through their selective posts. Using this, civil servants create a narrative of their performance.
There is a wrong notion getting created in the public consciousness that social media is the way to access civil servants and make them accountable. But we should remember that this creates only selective accountability and cannot substitute institutional accountability.
Why is social media to be used by civil servants?
People: It helps to make people aware of government policies and programmes. It also creates a positive outlook towards the bureaucracy, which is still considered opaque and inaccessible.
Bureaucracy: It helps bureaucrats to engage with the public, serves them transparently while being politically neutral. Anonymity is the hallmark of bureaucracy, including in India. But in contemporary governance where the public is the centre and values are more important than facts, bureaucracy cannot afford to remain completely anonymous.
The use of social media is gradually getting institutionalized in many Westminster system-based countries. For Eg During the Brexit debate in the U.K., many civil servants shaped public debate through the use of social media even while remaining politically neutral. In India, civil servants haven’t reflected on this aspect of digital bureaucracy.
So, bureaucrats should use social media to improve public policies, not for self-promotion. This will set a good precedent for digital bureaucracy.
Editorial 02 :- How to grease the wheels of justice
Recently, in an event, the Chief Justice of India raised his concern over the pendency of cases. He made a plea to “Indianise” courts to make courts more responsive towards the needs of people. He said people do not seek the court to be modern, instead, they want early resolution of their cases in a cheaper way.
What is the present status?
In India, more than 40% of cases are decided after three years. While in many other countries less than 1% of cases are decided after three years.
Present status impacts more to the poor and marginalized, while benefits the rich and powerful section. They tend to delay their cases according to their wish. Moreover, an increase in corruption and crime also affects justice delivery. Data shows that about 70% of prisoners in India are undertrials and are mostly poor citizens.
What should the government/judiciary do?
Filling vacancies: There is a need to reduce the pendency of cases by filling sanctioned judicial positions. Analysis shows that between 2006 and 2019, the average increase in pendency was less than 2% per year. Whereas, the average vacancy in sanctioned judicial positions was about 21%. If the sanctioned positions had been filled, the pendency of cases would have gone down each year.
Technology: e-Committee of the Supreme Court provides the following recommendations. These need to implement in the system:
Firstly, computer algorithms should decide on case listing, case allocation and adjournments with only a 5% override given to judges. Under this rational reason and limits should be put on adjournments; case listing should give the main weightage to ‘first in, first out’; and case allocation should take into account logical criteria.
Secondly, Courts should focus on e-filing. The e-Committee gave guidelines on how petitions and affidavits can be filed. It also talks about payment of fees should be done electronically, without lawyers or litigants having to travel to the courts or use paper.
Thirdly, Courts should focus on Virtual Hearing. There is a need to adopt the hybrid virtual hearing model. In pre-COVID-19 years, the increase in the pendency of cases in all courts is about 5.7 lakh cases a year. In 2020 alone, it increased to 51 lakh. It is assumed that if a hybrid virtual hearing model is not adopted, the backlog of cases could cross 5 crores in 2022.
If all the above recommendations are adopted by the system, there are chances that India’s judicial system can rank among the 10 top countries of the world. These changes would make India the preferred nation for international investments and also fulfil the fundamental right to speedy justice of citizens.
Source: This post is based on the article “How to grease the wheels of justice” published in The Hindu on 29th September 2021.
Editorial 03 : In pursuit of Happiness
The great degree of unhappiness in Indian society has a lot to do with the way the law and its institutions operate.
The article talks about Happiness as an important factor to measure the quality of governance. Until the beginning of the publication of the United Nations World Happiness Report in 2012, happiness was not considered an objective of governance. But now, countries are giving it the importance it deserves.
What does the United Nations World Happiness Report signify?
The report shows that countries with a higher GDP and higher per capita income are not necessarily the happiest. This year, the reports also measured the impact of COVID-19 on the people and their evaluation of the performance of governance systems. It was found that Covid has impacted happiness, as sharing and community life was hugely affected during this period.
The great degree of unhappiness in Indian society has a lot to do with the way the law and its institutions operate.
India and Happiness: India has been ranked 139 out of 149 countries in the World Happiness Report 2021. Happiness, in India, has never been considered as an explicit goal of public policy. The main reason behind unhappiness in Indian society is the way the law and its institutions operate. People remain unhappy as their legitimate grievances remain unaddressed by the legal system.
Law: According to the World Justice Report, 40% of people live outside the protection of the law in the world. More than 5 billion people fall into this ‘justice gap’. India’s rule of law rank was 69 as per the World Justice report 2021. The pendency of 3.5 crore cases justifies this ranking. It has a chilling effect on the right to life, liberty, economic justice, dignity and national integration.
Crime Rate: Data highlights crime as a major source of unhappiness. It shows that happy countries have lower crime rates. It means that individuals living in nations with high crime rates are less happy and satisfied than individuals living in nations with comparatively lower crime rates.
Socio-Demographic Factors: Happiness is also determined by various socio-demographic factors like health, education, crime rate, criminal victimization and fear of crime.
What measures have been adopted by countries to address the happiness gap?
United Arab Emirates: It was the first country in the world to have set up a Ministry of Happiness. The Ministry monitors the impact of policies through a happiness meter and takes measures to ensure a better life.
Bhutan: It introduced Gross National Happiness as a measure of good governance.
What should India do?
Honest and effective governance can create more socio-economic equality. This would create a greater sense of happiness amongst the population. India should work on these parameters.
Editorial 04 :- When global firms disengage, employment suffers
Permanency of large foreign firms operating for decades is slowly on the decline. That is why, domestic capital formation and private investments should step in.
The most recent labour statistics, for August 2021, released by the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) shows that the unemployment rate has increased from around 7% in July to 8.3% for August 2021.
What does the analysis of CMIE data says?
Sectoral analysis shows that most of the jobs lost were farm jobs, while non-farm jobs did increase to absorb some of these. However, the quality of new jobs generated is a matter of concern.
Non-farm jobs increased by 6.8 million, mainly in business and small trade, but the manufacturing sector shed 0.94 million jobs. Thus, much of the labour shed by agriculture has been absorbed in low-end service activities.
Employment sustainability: The non-availability of sufficient jobs in manufacturing and higher end services could be the dampener for economic recovery in the subsequent quarters of the current fiscal year.
Driver of the manufacturing sector’s output and employment growth is the auto sector. The automobile sector employs 19.1 million workers, directly and indirectly.
Why there is difficulty in expansion of auto sector?
Aggregate demand in the economy is low due to pandemic.
The shortage of semiconductors continues to impact production even when customer sentiments are slowly turning positive.
What are some important issues/concerns associated with foreign investment?
Global corporate restructuring: the uncertainties of global corporate restructuring and changes in the economic environment in the lead firm’s home economy are factors to consider. For example, experience of Nokia was one of the world’s largest mobile phone plant, with 8,000 permanent employees working three shifts and exporting products to over 80 countries. But in 2014, Nokia halted its production operations from this location, disrupting the livelihoods of thousands of workers.
More frequent global production re-arrangements: these are becoming a part of the strategy of big firms in this phase of globalisation, as markets tend to be more volatile due to repeated demand fluctuations.
Recently, Citibank announced that it would shut India retail banking business as part of a global decision to exit 13 markets.
Creating a massive disruption in the local economy: Ford’s exit from India will affect about 4,000 direct employees. Estimates show that another 35,000 indirect employees would also be lost at various levels.
Emergence of modern transnational corporations (TNC): When TNCs emerge as key players in an industry, a proliferation of mergers and consolidations across national and international borders might be frequent.
How exit of high-profile firms’ impact job generation?
Creates apprehensions among potential investors: it generally lead to a ‘wait and watch’ approach, affecting private investments even if an economy claims to have the tag of investor friendliness. A downturn in private investments leads to slower employment growth.
Mismatch in labour supply: The process of the ‘destruction’ of jobs through exits creates mismatches in the labour market. There is a sudden release of high skilled workers which could block possible new entrants who have already invested in their skills. This leads to a levelling down of wages which occurs when high-end services firms exit.
Rise in unemployment: When large assembly firms exit there would be a big influx of low-skilled workers to other sectors as the same sector might not be able to absorb the workforce released. This churn in the labour market aggravates an existing unemployment problem.
What is the way forward?
First, raising the level of public investments which is the key to output and employment growth.
Second, attract domestic private investment. the economy has been waiting for private investments to flow in for quite some time, but their levels have been very low.