Polity & Governance
- Supreme Court upholds constitutional validity of 2018 SC/ST Amendment Act
- CM of Karnataka – SCS not a closed chapter
Issues related to Health & Education
- National Deworming Day
- Reserve Bank of India offers CRR exemption to Banks
- Now a digital flying licence
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
- Cauvery Delta declared as Protected Special Agriculture Zone
- India hosts Conference of Parties (COP) of the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS)
Science & Technology
- Four Indian pilots begin astronaut training in Russia
- Launch of Solar Orbiter mission: an unprecedented look to our sun
Persons in News
- Chindu Bhagavatam breathing its last
- Sardar Sham Singh Attariwala remembered on the occasion of his 174th Martyrdom Day
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Polity & Governance
Supreme Court upholds constitutional validity of 2018 SC/ST Amendment Act
The Supreme Court upheld the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Act of 2018, which nullified its own controversial March 20, 2018 judgment diluting the stringent provisions of the Dalit protection law.
What is the issue?
- The Supreme Court had itself earlier recalled the March 20 judgment on October 1, 2019 in a review petition filed by the government.
- It had said it was wrong on the part of the March 20 judgment to treat all SC/ST community members as “a liar or crook”.
- It was against “basic human dignity”. The March 20 judgment had diluted the original 1989 legislation, saying they were using its provisions to file false criminal complaints against innocent persons.
March 20 Judgements:
- In the March 20, 2018 verdict, the two-judge Supreme Court bench had taken note of the rampant misuse of the stringent SC/ST Act against government servants and private individuals and held that there will be no automatic arrest on a complaint filed under the Act and had also introduced anticipatory bail provision under the Act.
- It had said that in view of the acknowledged abuse of law of arrest in cases under the Atrocities Act, arrest of a public servant can only be after approval of the appointing authority and of a non-public servant after approval by the Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP).
- The original 1989 Act bars anticipatory bail.
- The Supreme Court verdict saw a huge backlash across the country. Several died in ensuing protests and property worth crores of rupees was destroyed.
- The government reacted by filing a review petition in the Supreme Court and subsequently amended the 1989 Act back into its original form.
What is the current status of the law?
- The courts still had the power to grant pre-arrest bail in cases related to atrocities committed against Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes if prima facie there existed no material to warrant arrest.
- The Course could also quash the charges in such circumstances.
- The bench upheld the government amended Act but said it must be interpreted in a manner consistent with its ruling in the Lalita Kumari case which mandated police to file immediate FIRs in all cases involving cognisable offence as soon as it gets information about such a case. A cognisable offence is where a police officer can arrest an accused without warrant.
- However, in a separate but concurring judgment, Justice Ravindra Bhatt of the same bench said courts must use the power to grant pre-arrest bail sparingly to prevent miscarriage of justice or abuse of the process of law.
CM of Karnataka – SCS not a closed chapter
The long-pending and much-sought-after Special Category Status (SCS) to Andhra Pradesh is not a closed chapter and the State government is well within its limits to take its development agenda forward through welfare schemes, says Chief Minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy.
- Mr. Reddy had written to the Prime Minister reminding him of the bifurcation promise and 15th Finance Commission report that stated that ‘grant of SCS lies in the hands of the Centre.
- The SCS was promised to Andhra Pradesh in 2014, at the time of bifurcation which resulted in the formation of Telangana.
- The then Opposition party too agreed to it and even stated that SCS would be extended by five more years if it was voted to power.
- Besides tax breaks and other benefits, the State with SCS will get 90% of all the expenditure on centrally sponsored schemes as Central grant.
- The rest of the 10% will also be given as a loan at zero per cent interest. Usually, the ratio for general category States is 70% loan and 30% grant.
Why Andhra Pradesh wants the SCS?
- When Andhra Pradesh was bifurcated in 2014, it sought Special Category Status on the grounds that it was at a disadvantage, since it would lose a significant amount of revenue as a result of Hyderabad going to Telangana, the new state that came into existence on June 2, 2014.
What is Special Category Status?
- Special Category Status (SCS) is a classification given by Centre to assist in the development of those states that face geographical and socio-economic disadvantages like hilly terrains, strategic international borders, economic and infrastructural backwardness, and non-viable state finances.
- The concept of a special category status was first introduced in 1969 when the fifth Finance Commission sought to provide certain disadvantaged states with preferential treatment in the form of central assistance and tax breaks, establishing special development boards, reservation in local government jobs, educational institutions, etc.
- This formula was named after the then Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission, Dr Gadgil Mukherjee and is related to the transfer of assistance to the states by centre under various schemes.
- Initially, three states; Assam, Nagaland and Jammu & Kashmir were granted special status but from 1974-1979, five more states were added under the special category. These include Himachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Sikkim and Tripura.
- In 1990, with the addition of Arunachal Pradesh and Mizoram, the states increased to 10. The state of Uttarakhand was given special category status in 2001.
- But after the dissolution of the planning commission and the formation of NITI Aayog, the recommendations of the 14th Finance Commission were implemented which meant the discontinuation of the Gadgil formula-based grants.
- The 14th Finance Commission effectively removed the concept of special category status after its recommendations were accepted in 2015.
States demanding the SCS in recent times:
- In March 2018, Andhra Pradesh CM quit NDA after a standoff with the Center over the demand of giving Special Category Status (SCS) to his state.
- Bihar Chief Minister also asked for the SCS saying it will “act as a catalyst for private investment.”
Issues related to Health & Education
National Deworming Day
The National Deworming Day (NDD) is being observed across the country on 10th February.
About National Deworming Day:
- The National Deworming Day is an initiative of Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India to make every child in the country worm free.
- It is held on 10 February and 10 August each year.
- The objective of National Deworming Day is to deworm (albendazole tablets) all preschool and school-age children (enrolled and non-enrolled) between the ages of 1-19 years through the platform of schools and Anganwadi Centers in order to improve their overall health, nutritional status, access to education and quality of life.
- The Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Government of India is the nodal agency for providing all States/UTs with guidelines related to National Deworming Day (NDD) implementation at all levels.
- The programme is being implemented through the combined efforts of Department of School Education and Literacy under Ministry of Human Resource and Development, Ministry of Women and Child Development and Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation.
- Ministry of Panchayati Raj, Ministry of Tribal Affairs, Ministry of Rural Development, Ministry of Urban Development, and Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) also provide support to deworming program.
- To increase programme outreach to private schools and maximize deworming benefits for large number of children various awareness activities (media mix) are involved under the programme.
- The awareness campaign spreads awareness about importance and benefits of deworming, as well as prevention strategies related to improved behaviours and practices for hygiene and sanitation.
- According to World Health Organization 241 million children between the ages of 1 and 14 years are at risk of parasitic intestinal worms in India, also known as Soil Transmitted Helminths.
About Soil Transmitted Helminths:
- Helminths (worms) which are transmitted through soil contaminated with faecal matter are called soil-transmitted helminths (Intestinal parasitic worms).
- Roundworm (Ascaris lumbricoides), whipworm (Trichuris trichiura) and hookworms (Necator americanus and Ancylostoma duodenale) are worms that infect people.
- STH infections can lead to anemia, malnutrition, impaired mental and physical & cognitive development, and reduced school participation.
- Helminths also commonly known as parasitic worms, are large multicellular organisms, which when mature can generally be seen with the naked eye.
- Adult worms live in human intestines for food and survival and produce thousands of eggs each day.
- Eggs are passed in the faeces of infected person.
- Infected people who defecate outdoors spread worm eggs in the soil.
- Eggs contaminate the soil and spread infection in several ways: ─
- Ingested through vegetables that are not carefully cooked, washed or peeled;
- ingested from contaminated water sources;
- ingested by children who play in soil and then put their hands in their mouths without washing them.
National Deworming Day (NDD) Implementation:
- NDD (first round) is conducted on February 10 each year.
- Bi-annual round of deworming is recommended in the States where prevalence of STH infection is more than 20% and annual round in other (less than 20% prevalence) states.
- Only two States namely Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh have reported less than 20% prevalence and recommended for annual round.
- All the remaining States/UTs are implementing bi-annual round of deworming.
- The first round of NDD was conducted in February 2015 and 8.9 crore children were administered the deworming tablet across 11 states/UTs by achieving 85% coverage.
- Thereafter 88%, 77%, 88% children were covered against the set targets in February 2016, August 2016 and February &August 2017 rounds of NDD respectively.
- 26.68 crores children have been administered albendazole till February 2018, and more than 114 crore doses of albendazole were administered to children 1-19 years, since 2015.
Reserve Bank of India offers CRR exemption to Banks
In a bid to spur credit growth and boost demand, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has offered banks Cash Reserve Ratio (CRR) for five years for incremental credit disbursed to automobiles, residential housing, and micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) between 31 Jan-31 July, 2020.
According to RBI statement:
- The banks are allowed to deduct the equivalent amount of incremental credit disbursed by them as retail loans to automobiles, residential housing, and loans to micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), over and above the outstanding level of credit to these segments as at the end of the fortnight ended January 31, 2020 from their net demand and time liabilities (NDTL) for maintenance of CRR.
- The central bank said banks can claim first such deduction from NDTL of 14 February, 2020 for CRR exemption.
- As per RBI, an amount equivalent to the incremental credit outstanding from the fortnight beginning January 31, 2020 and up to the fortnight ending July 31, 2020 will be eligible for deduction from NDTL for the purpose of computing the CRR for a period of five years from the date of origination of the loan or the tenure of the loan, whichever is earlier.
- RBI said the bank must maintain proper fortnightly records of net incremental credit extended to the select sectors/NDTL exemption claimed, duly certified by the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) or an equivalent level officer, for supervisory review.
What is CRR or cash reserve ratio?
- Cash Reserve Ratio is a certain minimum amount of deposit that the commercial banks have to hold as reserves with the central bank.
- CRR is set according to the guidelines of the central bank of a country.
Cash reserve ratio is:
- It is also referred to as the amount of funds which the banks have to keep with the Reserve Bank of India (RBI)
- It’s a vice-versa process
- If a central bank increases CRR then the available amount with the banks decreases or comes down
- The CRR is used by RBI to wipe out excessive money from the system
- Commercial banks are required to maintain an average cash balance with the RBI, the amount of which shall not be less than 3 per cent of the total Net Demand and Time Liability (NDTL).
When someone deposits Rs 100 with a bank, it increases the deposits of the bank by Rs 100. If the CRR is 9 per cent, then the bank will have to hold additional Rs 9 with the central bank. This means that the commercial bank will be able to use only Rs 91 for investments and/or lending or credit purpose.
How does Cash Reserve Ratio help in times of high inflation?
- At the time of high inflation, the government needs to ensure that excess money is not available in the economy.
- To that extent, RBI increases the Cash Reserve Ratio, and the amount of money that is available with the banks reduces. This curbs excess flow of money in the economy.
- When the government needs to pump funds into the system, it lowers the CRR rate, which in turn, helps the banks provide loans to a large number of businesses and industries for investment purposes. Lower CRR also boosts the growth rate of the economy.
Now a digital flying licence
The aviation regulator was now issuing Commercial Pilots License online after verification of the log-book of the concerned flying training school, while Airline Transport Pilot’s License will go online in May.
- With digitisation process of flying licences underway, Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) undertaken the latest among initiatives. In what might be a befitting tribute to the legend, the digitisation process is being undertaken by Tata Consultancy Services (TCS).
- India got its first pilot in Jehangir R.D. Tata, who qualified with number 1 on his flying license, giving birth to Indian aviation on February 10, 1929.
- J.R.D’s license, then called an ‘aviators certificate’, was issued by The Aero Club of India and Burma.
- It was an associate of the Royal Aero Club of Great Britain, which was authorised to issue licences by the British Empire’s Federation Aeronautique Internationale.
- The Aero Club of India and Burma was recognised by Federation Aeronautique Internationale as a sporting authority.
- The certificate in itself was a beginning of Indian aviation. Though not the first to register, J.R.D was the first Indian to pass out with ‘No. 1’ endorsed on his flying licence.
- Purushottam Meghji Kabali is considered to be the first Indian pilot.
- India’s first airmail service in 1932 was launched by J.R.D. when he flew into Mumbai in a De Havilland Puss Moth from Karachi’s Drigh Road Aerodrome to the Juhu Airstrip via Ahmedabad on the basis of this flying license. This later became the country’s national carrier, Air India.
- It was delayed by a month to October 15, 1932.
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
Cauvery Delta declared as Protected Special Agriculture Zone
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi Palanisamy’s announcement making the Cauvery Delta region a Protected Special Agriculture Zone (PSAZ) has brought much joy to the delta farmers.
- His decision comes weeks after he protested the Centre’s unilateral amendment of the Environment Impact Assessment Notification 2006, exempting prior environmental clearance public consultations for oil and gas explorations.
About the decision:
- The protected zone will include Thanjavur, Tiruvarur, Nagapattinam districts and delta regions of Trichy, Ariyalur, Cuddalore and Pudukkottai.
- By announcing the Cauvery region as Delta, Tamil Nadu’s rice bowl comprising eight districts will be declared as ‘Protected Special Agricultural Zone (PSAZ)’.
What is the need of such decision?
- The Cauvery delta region is an important agriculture region in Tamil Nadu and farmers continue to do agriculture, despite climate challenges.
- Since the delta region is close to the sea, there is a need to safeguard the region.
- The delta, which produces 33 lakh tonnes of grains in 28 lakh acres, has seen multiple protests for a decade over methane, hydrocarbon, oil and natural gas projects, which required acquisition of fertile lands and well drilling — proposals which triggered fears of groundwater contamination.
About the Cauvery Delta:
- The Cauvery River Delta is an area of Tamil villages, lush green paddy fields, fruit orchards, and a history going back to the 2nd century C.E.
- The largest town in the Delta is Tiruchirapalli that stands in the plains between the Palani and Shevaroy Hills, just under 100kms north of Madurai.
- The Cauvery delta was dominated by Chola Kingdom.
- Some of the other important cities are Tanjore, Gangaikondacholapuram.
India hosts Conference of Parties (COP) of the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS)
The 13th Conference of Parties (COP) of the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS), an environmental treaty under the aegis of United Nations Environment Programme, is going to be hosted by India.
About CMS COP13:
- The COP is scheduled to be organised from February 17 to 22 in Gandhinagar, Gujarat.
- Theme of CMS COP13 in India is, “Migratory species connect the planet and we welcome them home”.
- The logo for CMS COP 13 is inspired by ‘Kolam’, a traditional art form from southern India. It depicts key migratory species in India like Amur falcon, humpback whale and marine turtles.
- Mascot for CMS COP13 is “Gibi – The Great Indian Bustard”. Gibi is a critically endangered species which has been accorded the highest protection status under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.
India’s role in Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals:
- India has been designated the President of the COP for the next three years. Hosting CMS COP-13 is a significant step towards wildlife conservation in India.
- The government of India has been taking necessary actions to protect and conserve migratory marine species.
- Seven species that include Dugong, Whale Shark, Marine Turtle (two species), have been identified for preparation of Conservation and Recovery Action Plan.
- India has also signed non-legally binding MOU with CMS on the conservation and management of Siberian Cranes (1998), Marine Turtles (2007), Dugongs (2008) and Raptors (2016).
India: home to migratory species:
- India is home to several migratory species of wildlife including snow leopard, Amur falcons, bar headed Geese, black necked cranes, marine turtles, dugongs, humpbacked whales, etc.
- The Indian sub-continent is also part of the major bird flyway network, i.e, the Central Asian Flyway (CAF) that covers areas between the Arctic and Indian Oceans, which covers at least 279 populations of 182 migratory water bird species, including 29 globally threatened species.
Appeal for Inclusion in global conservation list:
- India expect the COP to clear the inclusion of the Great Indian Bustard and the elephant as it has been vetted by technical experts and reflects the consensus of several countries.
- The elephant faces risks particularly in neighbouring countries like Bangladesh and Nepal.
- Having the elephant and the Great Indian Bustard in the list (Appendix 1) would coax these countries, where wild animals such as tigers and elephant foray into, to direct more resources and attention to protecting them.
- There are now 173 species in the Appendix 1.
Convention on Conservation of Migratory Species (CMS):
- In order to protect the migratory species throughout their range countries, a Convention on Conservation of Migratory Species (CMS), has been in force, under the aegis of United Nations Environment Programme.
- It provides a global platform for the conservation and sustainable use of migratory animals and their habitats.
- It also brings together the States through which migratory animals pass, the Range States, and lays the legal foundation for internationally coordinated conservation measures throughout a migratory range.
- It is referred to as the Bonn Convention also.
- Migratory species threatened with extinction are listed on Appendix I of the Convention.
- CMS Parties strive towards strictly protecting these animals, conserving or restoring the places where they live, mitigating obstacles to migration and controlling other factors that might endanger them.
- The agreements of CMS may range from legally binding treaties to less formal instruments, such as Memoranda of Understanding, and can be adapted to the requirements of particular regions.
- There are 130 parties to the convention and India has been a member since 1983.
- Migratory species are those animals that move from one habitat to another during different times of the year, due to various factors such as food, sunlight, temperature, climate, etc.
- The movement between habitats, can sometimes exceed thousands of miles/kilometres for some migratory birds and mammals.
- A migratory route can involve nesting and also requires the availability of habitats before and after each migration.
Science & Technology
Four Indian pilots begin astronaut training in Russia
The four Indian pilots chosen as candidate-astronauts at the Gagarin Research and Test Cosmonaut Training Centre (GCTC) in Moscow and they began their 12-month training.
The announcement was done by Russian space business company Glavkosmos.
About the pilots:
- The four candidates are fighter pilots from the Indian Air Force.
- At the end of all training modules in India and Russia, one or two of the four will be finally named to circle the earth in the first crewed Gaganyaan, which is planned around 2022.
- A contract for the training was signed between the Human Space Flight Centre of the Indian Space Research Organisation and the Russian government-owned Glavkosmos.
- The 12-month training programme includes comprehensive and biomedical training of the Indian candidates, combined with regular physical practices.
- They will study in detail the systems of the Soyuz manned spaceship, as well as be trained in short-term weightlessness mode aboard the Il-76MDK aircraft. The Il-76MDK is an Ilyushin-78 military transport plane specially re-designed for parabolic flights of trainee astronauts and space tourists.
- The candidates will also be trained to take appropriate actions during emergencies.
- The training will be followed by activities specific to the first Indian human space mission, Gaganyaan.
Launch of Solar Orbiter mission: an unprecedented look to our sun
The Solar Orbiter launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida aboard an Atlas V 411 rocket provided by NASA and began its journey to get a close, unprecedented look at the Sun.
Solar Orbiter Mission:
- The mission is a joint collaboration between NASA and the European Space Agency.
- Solar Orbiter is a mission dedicated to solar and heliospheric physics. It was selected as the first medium-class mission of ESA’s Cosmic Vision 2015-2025 Programme.
- This is the first mission that will provide images of the sun’s north and south poles using a suite of six instruments on board that will capture the spacecraft’s view.
- The visual understanding of the sun’s poles is important because it can provide more insight about the sun’s powerful magnetic field and how it affects Earth.
- Solar Orbiter will take about two years to reach its highly elliptical orbit around the sun by using gravity assist manoeuvres (GAMs) at Earth and Venus.
- The orbiter will measure the sun’s magnetic fields and solar wind, or theenergized stream of particles emitted by the sun that reach across the solar system.
- Solar Orbiter has a seven-year mission and will come within 26 million miles of the sun.
- Solar Orbiter’s suite of instruments combines two different modes of study: In-situ, which will measure the environment around the spacecraft; and remote-sensing, which will image the sun from a distance.
- It will be able to brave the heat of the sun because it has a custom titanium heat shield coated in calcium phosphate so that it can endure temperatures up to 970 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Ulysses spacecraft was another collaboration between ESA and NASA that was launched in 1990 and also flew over the sun’s poles. It completed three passes of the sun before its mission ended in 2009 but its view was limited to what it could see from the sun’s equator.
Persons in News
Chindu Bhagavatam breathing its last
An age-old art form, Chindu Bhagavatam is close to extinction because of digital media taking over the entertainment world. So as the artists who have kept the art form alive live a wretched life, as they lack patronage either from people and the government.
About Chindu Bhagavatam:
- This art form dates back to second century BC.
- Chindu is derived from the artistes’ caste Chindu Madiga, a sub-caste of Madiga among SCs.
- The Chindu Bhagavatam is also called Chindu Yakshaganam as it is similar to Yakshaganam, a traditional theatre form particular to Karnataka State.
- It’s popular in north Telangana and in Armur, Bodhan, Nizamabad, Makloor, Balkonda and Morthad areas in the district.
- In this art form, the artists skilfully depicting classic tales from the epics and entertaining the masses.
- The word ‘chindu’ means dance and because the performers dance and tell the story, the word has been associated with it.
Condition of ‘Chindu Bhagavatam’ artists:
- The community who performs this art form has traditionally been a nomadic community, hence the low literacy rate among them.
- They are always on the move staging plays for which they camp in a particular place for about eight months.
- During rainy season, they work as agricultural labourers.
- There are different troupes that are into Chindu Bhagavatam and they strictly follow the jurisdictional limits, as they avoid entering the villages earmarked for other troupes. The district has as many as 36 cultural groups.
- They have no agriculture land or a permanent source of income.
- The advent of cinema and other advanced forms of entertainment affected badly and the younger generation audiences don’t find this as interesting. The survival of the art form and as well as the artistes who are dependent on it has become difficult.
- The State government is trying to help the performers by organising Chindu Yakshaganam shows in eminent places like Ravindra Bharathi.
- There is a pension scheme that the State government has in place for aged, retired performers but the lack of awareness has resulted in continued poverty.
Sardar Sham Singh Attariwala remembered on the occasion of his 174th Martyrdom Day
A state-level function to pay tributes to Sikh general and martyr Sardar Sham Singh Attariwala was organised at India Gate in Amritsar.
Sardar Sham Singh Attariwala:
- Sardar Sham Singh was a general of the Sikh Empire. He was born in the town of Attari, Amritsar, in the Majha region of Panjab, India.
- Attariwala participated in many campaigns, including the Battles of Multan, Kashmir and the Frontier Province.
- Owing to his courage and influence over the Khalsa army, Sham Singh was nominated to the Council of Regency set up by Maharani Jind Kaur for the minor sovereign Maharaja Duleep Singh.
- Vowing to lay down his life rather than return in defeat, he crossed the Sutlej during the first Anglo-Sikh war. Following his death in the Battle, Attariwala was cremated at his village Attari.
- Examples of valour which Attariwala displayed in the Battle of Sabrawan are rare in the history.