Polity & Governance
- India gets its first national essential diagnostics list
- Madhya Pradesh wants Legislative Council
- How states are split into seats
- Odisha govt. nod to set up maritime board
Government Schemes & Policies
- Supreme Court clears 900km Char Dham highway project
- What the inverted yield curve is panicking markets, and why is there talk of recession?
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
- New species of freshwater fish found
Bilateral & International Relations
- India adheres to ‘no first use’ nuke doctrine, future depends on circumstances
- BASIC 28th ministerial meeting held in Sao Paulo, Brazil
- PM inaugurates Mangdechhu hydroelectric power plant in Bhutan
- New rights for Saudi women: what they are, how they will work
Science & Technology
- What is NASA’s Parker Solar Probe?
Key Facts for Prelims
- Bihar Chief Minister flags off ‘publicity rath’ to create awareness on water
- Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award declared
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Polity & Governance
India gets its first national essential diagnostics list
India has got its first National Essential Diagnostics List (NEDL) finalised by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR)
About National Essential Diagnostics List (NEDL)
- The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) made the India’s first National Essential Diagnostics List (NEDL).
- The diagnostics list mentions general laboratory tests for a broad range of common conditions, disease-specific tests such as for HIV, hepatitis, tuberculosis, and imaging tests including X-rays, CT and MRI scans and ultrasound sonography.
- It recommends that at least 159 tests should be made available for patients in even rudimentary government health facilities.
- The National List of Essential Medicines (NLEM) was first released in 1996 and last updated in 2015.
- It aims to bridge the current regulatory system’s gap that do not cover all the medical devices and in-vitro diagnostic device (IVD).
- It builds upon the Free Diagnostics Service Initiative and other diagnostics initiatives of the Health Ministry to provide an expanded basket of tests at different levels of the public health system.
- The list also encompasses tests relevant for new programmes such as Health and Wellness Centres (HWCs) under the Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana.
- India has become the first country to compile such a list that would provide guidance to the government for deciding the kind of diagnostic tests that different healthcare facilities in villages and remote areas require.
- Implementation of NEDL would enable improved health care services delivery through evidence-based care, improved patient outcomes and reduction in out-of-pocket expenditure; effective utilisation of public health facilities etc.
Key challenges anticipated during implementation of the NEDL
- Adoption by States and harmonisation with local standard diagnostic protocols and treatment guidelines
- Provision of requisite infrastructure, processes and human resources
- Ensuring quality of tests including EQAS and quality control
- Adequate utilisation of Essential Diagnostic List (EDL) tests for making informed decisions for treatment protocols
About the essential diagnostics list
- The first edition of essential diagnostics list (EDL) was launched by the World Health Organization (WHO) in May 2018.
The EDL consists of:
- General laboratory tests that can be used for routine patient care as well as for the detection and diagnosis of communicable and non-communicable diseases.
- The detection, diagnosis and monitoring of WHO priority diseases: HIV infection, tuberculosis (TB), malaria, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, human papillomavirus (HPV) infection and syphilis.
- In India, diagnostics (medical devices and in vitro diagnostics) follow a regulatory framework based on the drug regulations under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940 and Drugs and Cosmetics Rules 1945.
- Diagnostics are regulated under the regulatory provisions of the Medical Device Rules, 2017.
Madhya Pradesh wants Legislative Council
The Madhya Pradesh government has indicated that it plans to initiate steps towards creation of a Legislative Council. Not all states have two Houses.
About Legislative Council
- India has a bicameral system i.e., two Houses of Parliament.
- At the state level, the equivalent of the Lok Sabha is the Vidhan Sabha or Legislative Assembly; that of the Rajya Sabha is the Vidhan Parishad or Legislative Council.
- The Legislative Council of a state is constituted as per Article 168 of Constitution (Constitution of Legislatures in States) while Article 71 of the Constitution provides for the option of a state to have a Legislative Council in addition to its Legislative Assembly.
- Under Article 169 (Abolition/Creation of Legislative Councils), a Legislative Council can be formed if the Legislative Assembly of the State passes a resolution to that effect by a majority of the total membership of the Assembly and by a majority of not less than two-thirds of the members of the Assembly present and voting. Parliament can then pass a law to this effect.
- As in Rajya Sabha, members of a Legislative Council are not directly elected by voters.
Which states have Legislative Council?
- Currently, six states have Legislative Councils which are Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Telangana and Uttar Pradesh. (Jammu and Kashmir had it until it was bifurcated recently).
Members of Legislative Council
- Under Article 171 of the Constitution, the Legislative Council of a state shall not have more than one-third of the number of MLAs of the state and not less than 40 members.
- One-third of the Members of Legislative Council (MLCs) are elected by the state’s MLAs, another one-third by a special electorate comprising sitting members of local governments such as municipalities and district boards, 1/12th by an electorate of teachers and another 1/12th by registered graduates.
- The remaining members are appointed by the Governor for distinguished services in various fields.
- As with Rajya Sabha MPs, the tenure of a Member of the Legislative Council (MLC) is six years with one-third of members retiring every two years.
Do Rajya Sabha and Vidhan Parishads have similar powers?
- Unlike Rajya Sabha which has substantial powers to shape non-financial legislation, Legislative Councils lack the constitutional mandate to do so.
- Legislative Assemblies have the power to override suggestions/amendments made to a legislation by the Council.
- Also, while Rajya Sabha MPs can vote in the election of the President and Vice-President, members of Legislative Councils can’t. MLCs also can’t vote in the elections of Rajya Sabha members.
Argument in favour of having Legislative Council
- It acts as a check on hasty actions by the popularly elected House
- It enables non-elected individuals (academicians and intellectuals) to contribute to the legislative process.
- It ensures that individuals who might not be cut out for the rough-and-tumble of direct elections too are able to contribute to the legislative process.
Argument against having Legislative Council
- They can be used to park leaders who have not been able to win an election.
- They can be used to delay progressive legislation.
- They would strain state finances.
- Unlike Rajya Sabha which has substantial powers to shape non-financial legislation, Legislative Councils lack the constitutional mandate to do so. Legislative Assemblies have the power to override suggestions/amendments made to a legislation by the Council.
- As regards Money bills, only fourteen days’ delay can be caused by the Council, which is more or less a formality rather than a barrier in the way of Money Bill passed by the Assembly.
- If there was any real benefit in having a Legislative Council, all States in the country would have it.
- With low educational standards, Graduates as a non-elected individual is no guarantee of any real intellectuality.
How states are split into seats
Since the bifurcation of J&K state into the Union Territories of J&K and Ladakh, delimitation of their electoral constituencies has been inevitable.
What is Delimitation?
- Delimitation is the act of changing the boundaries of Lok Sabha and state Assembly seats to represent changes in population.
- In this process, the number of seats allocated to different states in Lok Sabha and the total number seats in a Legislative Assembly may also change.
- The main objective of delimitation is to provide equal representation to equal segments of a population.
- It also aims at a fair division of geographical areas so that one political party doesn’t have an advantage over others in an election.
- Delimitation is carried out by an independent Delimitation Commission.
- The Constitution mandates that its orders are final and cannot be questioned before any court as it would hold up an election indefinitely.
How is delimitation carried out?
- Under Article 82, the Parliament enacts a Delimitation Act after every Census.
- Once the Act is in force, the Union government sets up a Delimitation Commission made up of a retired Supreme Court judge, the Chief Election Commissioner and the respective State Election Commissioners.
- The Commission determines the number and boundaries of constituencies in a way that the population of all seats is the same.
- The Commission is also tasked with identifying seats reserved for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (where their population is large).
- All this is done on the basis of the latest Census and in case of difference of opinion among members of the Commission, the opinion of the majority prevails.
- The draft proposals of the Delimitation Commission are published in the Gazette of India, official gazettes of the states concerned and at least two vernacular papers for public feedback. The Commission also holds public sittings, receiving objections and suggestions.
How often has delimitation been done in the past?
- The first delimitation (1950-51) was carried out by the President (with the help of the Election Commission), as the Constitution at that time did not tell about who should undertake the division of states into Lok Sabha seats.
- This delimitation was temporary as the Constitution mandated redrawing of boundaries after every Census. Hence, another delimitation was due after the 1951 Census.
- The Election Commission advised the government that all future exercises should be carried out by an independent commission.
- This suggestion was accepted and the Delimitation Commission Act was enacted in 1952.
- Delimitation Commissions have been set up four times — 1952, 1963, 1973 and 2002. There was no delimitation after the 1981 and 1991 Censuses.
Why was there no delimitation then?
- The Constitution mandates that the number of Lok Sabha seats allotted to a state would be such that the ratio between that number and the population of the state is the same for all states.
- This provision implied that states that took little interest in population control could end up with a greater number of seats in Parliament.
- The southern states that promoted family planning faced the possibility of having their seats reduced. To remove these fears, the Constitution was amended during Emergency rule in 1976 to suspend delimitation until 2001.
- Despite the suspension, there were few occasions that called for readjustment in the number of Parliament and Assembly seats allocated to a state. These include statehood attained by Arunachal Pradesh and Mizoram in 1986, the creation of a Legislative Assembly for the Delhi and creation of new states such as Uttarakhand.
- Although the freeze on the number of seats in Lok Sabha and Assemblies should have been lifted after the 2001 Census, another amendment postponed this until 2026.
- This was justified on the ground that a uniform population growth rate would be achieved throughout the country by 2026.
- Hence, the last delimitation exercise, started in 2002 and completed in 2008, was based on the 2001 Census and only readjusted boundaries of existing Lok Sabha and Assembly seats and reworked the number of reserved seats.
Why is delimitation for Jammu and Kashmir in the news now?
- Delimitation of Jammu and Kashmir’s Lok Sabha seats is governed by the Indian Constitution, but delimitation of its Assembly seats (until special status was abrogated recently) was governed separately by the J&K Representation of the People Act, 1957 and its constitution.
- J&K parliamentary seats remain as delimited on the basis of the 1971 Census as the last Delimitation Commission of 2002 was not entrusted with changing the number of seats in J&K.
- For J&K state Assembly seats, although the delimitation provisions of the J&K Constitution are similar to those of the Indian Delimitation Acts, they mandate a separate Delimitation Commission for J&K. However, the central Delimitation Commission of India set up for other states was adopted by J&K in 1963 and 1973.
- While the amendment of 1976 to the Indian Constitution suspended delimitation in the rest of the country till 2001, no corresponding amendment was made to the J&K Constitution. Hence, unlike the rest of the country, the Assembly seats of J&K were delimited based on the 1981 Census, which formed the basis of the state elections in 1996.
- There was no census in J&K in 1991 and no Delimitation Commission was set up by the state government after the 2001 Census as the J&K Assembly passed a law putting a freeze on fresh delimitation until 2026. This freeze was upheld by the Supreme Court.
- Now, as the Union government scrapped the state’s special status and turned J&K into a Union Territory, delimitation of Lok Sabha and Assembly seats in J&K UT will be as per the provisions of the Indian Constitution.
- The Act also states that in the next delimitation exercise, the number of Assembly seats will increase from 107 to 114.
Changes made post abrogation of Article 370 in J&K
Assembly strength up by seven seats
- The total number of assembly seats will be increased by seven seats to 114 from the existing 107 seats.
Council of ministers trimmed
- In the state of J&K, the cabinet had a strength of 24 members.
- Now, the council of ministers in the UT of J&K shall not consist of more than 10% of the total number of members in the legislative assembly.
House of elders abolished
- With the reorganisation of the state, the J&K Legislative Council, also known as Upper House or House of Elders, has been abolished. The House comprised 34 members.
Common high court
- The J&K high court shall be common for both UTs – J&K and Ladakh. The judges of the existing court shall become judges of the common high court.
Central laws made applicable to UTs
- The UT of J&K will be under the Centre’s direct ruling including the National Human Rights Commission Act, Central Information Act, the Enemy Property Act etc.
State law applicable to UTs with amendments
- Under Article 35A of the constitution, which empowered the state legislature to define state subjects and grant exclusive rights to them, only permanent citizens of the state had exclusive rights to own property and apply for government jobs in the state of J&K.
- Under the reorganisation Act, various laws related to owning land and property in the UT of J&K have been amended to omit different provisions.
- Some of these laws include The Transfer of Property Act, The Jammu and Kashmir Alienation of Land Act, The Jammu and Kashmir Land Grants Act and The Jammu and Kashmir Agrarian Reforms Act.
State laws repealed in UTs
- Several state laws have been repealed under the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019 and Governor’s Act.
Odisha govt. nod to set up maritime board
Odisha government has decided to set up a Maritime Board for development of ports and inland water transport in the state.
About the Maritime Board of Odisha
- The Board will function as a single window facilitator for the overall maritime development of the State.
- Odisha’s Chief Secretary will be the chairperson of the proposed 12-member board comprising stakeholders, representatives from the related state departments and the centre.
- The board will develop 14 non-major ports.
- Provide guidelines for the integrated development of ports and inland water transport keeping in view of the country’s security and defence related concerns.
- Provide construction, maintenance and operation of all non-major ports in the State directly or through PPP mode.
- The requirement of the Odisha Maritime Board was felt in the wake of development in mines, mineral, metal, oil, refinery and other sectors in the state.
- Moreover, Odisha is endowed with a vast coastline of 480 km, having rich, unique and natural port locations and perennial rivers.
Other Decisions taken by Odisha government
- The Odisha also approved a proposal for financial restructuring of the Odisha State Road Transport Corporation (OSRTC), enabling it to approach financial institutions for taking up commercially viable projects for better passenger amenities.
- The Odisha cabinet decided to implement the recommendations of Justice BP Das Commission for the safety and security of pilgrims at Puri’s Jagannath temple under which all structures within 75-metre radius of the temple will be cleared to facilitate free movement of visitors.
Government Schemes & Policies
Supreme Court clears 900km Char Dham highway project
The Supreme Court has cleared the decks for Char Dham highway project, which will connect four holy places in Uttarakhand through a 900-km all-weather road.
What is the issue?
- Environmentalist groups had filed petitions in the National Green Tribunal (NGT) saying that the Char Dham highway project was proceeding without environmental clearances.
- They argue that the fragile Himalayan hills slopes were being cut open indiscriminately and the project posed an environmental threat.
- However, on September 26, the NGT ruled that an environmental clearance wasn’t required and allowed the project to proceed, but with seven-member committee of experts to ensure that an environmental management plan would be in place.
- Subsequently, the NGT’s approval for the project was stayed by the Supreme Court on technical grounds. But recently, Supreme court allowed the project to continue, with assessment by a committee looking into environmental concerns.
About Char Dham highway project
- Char Dham All Weather Road Project is a two-lane expressway project currently being executed in Uttarakhand.
- The aim of the project is to improve the accessibility to Char Dham (shrines) namely Yamunotri, Gangotri, Badrinath and Kedar Nath.
- The project proposes widening of single lane roads into double lane by upto 10 meters and proposes creation of 890 km long national highways to connect whole of Uttarakhand state.
- The total cost is ₹11,700 crores.
Impact of the project
- The first major impact of the project is happening on trees and resultantly on dwindling forest cover of the state.
- Various reports claim that from about 33,000 to 43,000 trees would be cut across 8 districts to make way for the roads.
- In the last 2 years, Uttarakhand have not reported even 1 percent increase in its forest cover.
- The latest Forest Survey of India (FSI) 2017 report finds only a marginal increase of 23 sq km forest cover since 2015.
Soil Erosion and Landslides
- For widening of the roads precarious mountain slopes are being cut in a haphazard manner with the use of heavy machines. The process has removed the vegetation cover on slopes downhill and exposed underneath soil and rocks to erosion along the slopes.
- There have been many reports showing how hasty widening of roads has destabilised the slopes and ensued multiple landslides.
- As per experts, mountain’s slopes should not be cut at 80 degree or 90-degree angle but in a hurry to meet deadline the proponent are ignoring all such precautions.
Muck Being Dumped in Rivers, Streams
- The debris, rubble and muck generated in massive amount from slope cutting is being dumped directly in the rivers.
- This has disturbed aquatic life and water quality of the stream. The Government has made some dumping zones but most of them are also located close to rivers. The government is thus adversely affecting its own Ganga rejuvenation objective.
- There are reports revealing that at many places dumping of muck has been damaging the farm land thus affecting the livelihood of people.
What the inverted yield curve is panicking markets, and why is there talk of recession?
Apart from US declaring about imposing new tariffs on China which shaken the global equity markets, another factor particularly spooking the markets in recent days has been the “inversion of the yield curve” in the United States.
What is yield curve?
- The yield curve is a graph showing the relationship between interest rates earned on lending money for different durations.
- Normally, someone who lent to the government or a corporation for one year (by buying a one-year government or corporate bond) would expect to get a lower interest rate than someone who lent for five or ten years, making the yield curve upward-sloping.
- In other words, longer the lending period, higher the compensation.
What is inverted yield curve?
- An inverted curve is when long-term yields fall below short-term yields. An inverted yield curve occurs due to the perception of long-term investors that yields will decline in the future.
- This can happen for a number of reasons, but one of the main reasons is the expectation of a decline in inflation.
- When the yield curve starts to shift towards an inverted shape, it is perceived as a leading indicator of an economic downturn.
- In the US in recent days, the ten-year bond rate has fallen to the point at which the ten-year rate is below the two-year rate. Hence, the yield curve is inverted.
Importance of the Yield Curve
Forecasting Interest Rates
- The shape of the curve helps investors get a sense about the future course of interest rates. A normal upward sloping curve means that long-term securities have a higher yield. Whereas an inverted curve shows short-term securities have a higher yield.
- Banks and other financial intermediaries borrow most of their funds by selling short-term deposits and lend by using long-term loans.
- The steeper the upward sloping curve is, the wider is the difference between lending and borrowing rates, and the higher is their profit. A downward sloping curve translates to a decrease in the profits of the financial intermediaries.
The Tradeoff between Maturity and Yield
- Yield curve helps indicate the tradeoff between maturity and yield. If the yield curve is upward sloping, then to increase his yield, the investor must invest in long-term securities, which will mean more risk.
Overpriced or Underpriced Securities
- Yield curve can tell investors if a security is temporarily overpriced or underpriced.
- If a security’s rate of return lies above the yield curve, this means that the security is underpriced and if the rate of return lies below the yield curve, it means that the security is overpriced.
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
New species of freshwater fish found
Scientists of the Zoological Survey of India have discovered two new species of freshwater fish from the north-eastern and northern parts of the country.
About the new fish species
Two new fishes are:
Glyptothorax gopii – a catfish found from Mizoram’s Kaladan river
Garra simbalbaraensis – found in Himachal Pradesh’s Simbalbara river
- Both fish are founded in remote areas of hill stream and have special morphological features for living in fast running water flow.
About Glyptothorax gopii
- Glyptothorax gopii is dark brown on its dorsal surface and its ventral surface is of a yellowish-light brown.
- It has been named to celebrate the contribution of taxonomist K.C. Gopi.
- It was discovered from the remote area of Champai district in Mizoram near the India-Myanmar border.
- It has an axe-shaped anterior nuchal plate (bone below dorsal fin), which makes it distinct from other species of the genus Glyptothorax.
About Garra simbalbaraensis
- Garra simbalbaraensis has a yellowish-grey colour fading ventrally.
- The fish takes its name from the Simbalbara river of Himachal Pradesh.
- It has a prominent rounded proboscis (elongated appendage from the head) that help the fish in manoeuvrability.
- The scientists has earlier discovered four species of Gara including Garra compressa , G. elongata G. tamangi, and G. chindwinensis.
- Among catfish, the scientist earlier discovered Myersglanis jayarami, Glyptothorax senapatiensis and Olya parviocula , all from north-eastern India.
- Experts suggest that the evolution of the fishes in the Himalayas and north-eastern parts of India must have been the consequence or after-effects of geological movement at various stages in the Himalayas’ uplift.
Bilateral & International Relations
India adheres to ‘no first use’ nuke doctrine, future depends on circumstances
In a short comment during a visit to the Pokharan ranges where India tested its nuclear weapons in 1998, the senior leader said that India has been committed to the doctrine that it would use nuclear weapons only if attacked first but hinted that it could be changed in the future.
What is no first use nuclear doctrine?
- It refers to a pledge or a policy by a nuclear power not to use nuclear weapons as a means of warfare unless first attacked by an adversary using nuclear weapons.
Earlier, the concept had also been applied to chemical and biological warfare.
What is ‘No first use’ policy of India?
- India first adopted a ‘No first use’ policy after its second nuclear tests, Pokhran-II, in 1998.
- Under this policy, India would not be the first to launch a nuclear weapon, but retained the right to retaliate in response to an atomic strike.
- India conducted five nuclear tests and became a nuclear weapons state in 1998. Pakistan, in response, conducted six nuclear tests.
- Following the Nuclear tests in Pokhran desert in Rajasthan, India became the sixth country having nuclear powers.
Significance of ‘No first use’ policy for India:
- It was also felt that Islamabad was taking advantage of New Delhi’s restraint in using nuclear weapons first to promote proxy wars in India. Adopting a no-first use policy enables New Delhi to keep the nuclear threshold high, especially as Pakistan tries to lower the threshold by developing tactical nuclear weapons, the Hatf-9 with 60km range.
- It must also be noted that New Delhi is not bordered by just one nuclear weapon state. China adopts a no-first use policy and, in spite of calls for Beijing to revise its no-first use doctrine, it is unlikely to do so. Hence, if New Delhi gave up its no-first use doctrine, it could give Beijing a chance to adopt a first strike policy and shift blame on India.
- In fact, India’s adoption of a first strike policy would be an easy excuse for Beijing to give up its no-first use doctrine against the United States and Russia as well.
- Moreover, India has always promoted herself as a responsible nuclear weapon state. Hence, a first strike policy would severely damage India’s reputation as a responsible nuclear weapon state.
- Also, it is India’s no first use doctrine that has enabled both Pakistan and India to keep their nuclear arsenal in a de-mated posture rather than a ready deterrent posture. This means nuclear warheads are not mated with the delivery systems. This reduces the chances of nuclear terrorism in Pakistan and also reduces the likelihood of an accidental launch of a nuclear weapon. A first strike policy by India may not have allowed Pakistan to keep their nuclear arsenal in a de-mated posture.
- A first-strike policy, coupled with a ballistic missile defense system, could provoke Pakistan to launch a nuclear pre-emptive strike against India.
- By adopting a no-first use doctrine, New Delhi has also made it evident that nuclear weapons are indeed the weapons of last resort. Abandoning this doctrine would make it evident that India considers the option of using nuclear weapons in the initial phases of the conflict.
BASIC 28th ministerial meeting held in Sao Paulo, Brazil
In the run-up to the United Nations Framework for Climate Change (UNFCC) Conference of Parties (COP-25) meet to be held in December, the BASIC countries held its 28th Ministerial meeting on Climate Change in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Highlights of BASIC 28th ministerial meeting
The BASIC Ministers,
- reaffirmed their commitment to the successful implementation of Kyoto Protocol and its Paris Agreement, based on the principles of Equity and Common But Differentiated Responsibilities and Respective Capabilities (CBDR-RC).
- urged countries that have not yet ratify the Doha Amendment to the Kyoto Protocol to ratify it.
- noted with concern the trend of developing countries being denied their right to support in different fora, including the Green Climate Fund (GCF) and the Global Environment Facility (GEF).
- urged developed countries to fulfill their climate finance commitments of mobilizing USD 100 billion annually by 2020 for developing countries on a grant basis.
- reiterated their commitment to support the Palestine as the Chair of the Group of 77.
About BASIC countries
- The BASIC is a grouping of four large newly industrialized countries – Brazil, South Africa, India and C
- The BASIC group was formed as the result of an agreement signed by the four countries in 2009.
- The four countries committed to act jointly at the United Nations Climate Change Conference 2009, known as Copenhagen climate summit. This alliance then brokered the final Copenhagen Accord with the United States.
- Subsequently, the grouping is working to define a common position on emission reductions and climate aid money, and to try to convince other countries to sign up to the Copenhagen Accord.
- However, in January 2010, the grouping described the Accord as merely a political agreement and not legally binding.
Significance of BASIC countries
- China, India, and Brazil are the world’s second, fifth, and ninth-largest economies.
- BASIC countries put together has one-third of world’s geographical area and nearly 40% of the world’s population.
- BASIC is one of several groups of nations working together to fight climate change and carry out negotiations within the UNFCCC.
- Other than BASIC, there are other organizations such as the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), the group of countries of Central Asia, Caucasus, Albania and Moldova (CACAM), the Cartagena Dialogue, the Independent Alliance of Latin America and the Caribbean (AILAC), and the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of our America (ALBA in Spanish), etc.
- There are also the Group of 77 developing countries, the African Group, the Arab States, the Environmental Integrity Group, the Least Developed Countries the Small Island Developing States, etc.
BASIC countries & Climate change:
- In light of the IPCC Special Report on 1.5°C released in October last year, the group took note of its findings that highlight the “high vulnerability of developing countries to climate change effects and high resultant costs of adaptation”.
- The findings of the IPCC Special Report on Global Warming make it incredibly clear that the impacts of an already warming world are significant, and that impacts at 2°C are catastrophic compared to those of 1.5°C. Yet, the BASIC ministers recalled the Paris goal of limiting the temperature rise to well under 2°C, and aspiring to limit it to 1.5°C, suggesting their continued pursuit of 2°C as the target temperature limit.
- The BASIC countries also contend that their nationally determined contributions (NDCs)— voluntary pledges of national efforts to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions—have demonstrated “a high level of ambition in the context of poverty and sustainable development”.
PM inaugurates Mangdechhu hydroelectric power plant in Bhutan
Prime Minister inaugurated the Mangdechhu hydroelectric power plant, one of the major projects under Bhutan’s initiative to generate 10,000 MW hydropower by 2020 with the Indian government’s support.
About the Mangdechhu Hydro project
- Mangdechhu hydroelectric project is a 720 MW run-of-river power plant on the Mangdechhu River in Trongsa Dzongkhag District of central Bhutan.
- It is being developed by Mangdechhu Hydroelectric Project Authority (MHPA) constituted jointly by Governments of India and Bhutan.
- Initiated in 2010, it is one of the major projects under Bhutan’s initiative to generate 10,000 MW hydropower by 2020 with Indian support.
- Government of India has funded over INR 3,000 crore for the project with 70 percent of that as loan and 30 per cent as grant.
- The project is estimated to generate 2,923 GWh of electricity.
- Most of the electricity generated by the project will meet the energy requirements of Bhutan and the surplus electricity will be exported to India.
- Bhutan has four major rivers, named Drangme Chhu (largest), Mo Chhu, Wang Chhu and Torsa Chhu.
- The Drangme Chhu river originates from Arunachal Pradesh and is divided into three rivers in Bhutan, namely Mangde Chhu, Bumthang Chhu and Drangme Chhu.
New rights for Saudi women: what they are, how they will work
Women in Saudi Arabia scored a significant victory recently, after they were allowed to travel abroad without obtaining permission from a male guardian, apply for passports, and register their marriages and divorces.
What are the new laws for Saudi women?
Under the new rules, Saudi women
- would be able to travel abroad without needing to seek approval from their male guardians.
- able to apply for a passport by themselves upon turning 21 which is on a par with the men with regard to the freedom to travel.
- able to register their marriage, divorce, or the birth of their children, as well as obtain family documents.
- can register as the co-head of a household with the husband, which will make it easier for them to secure Saudi national identity cards.
- can also be the legal guardian of their children, a position hitherto reserved for men.
The reforms bar employers from discrimination based on gender, disability, or age.
Wilayah’ system of Kuran
- The ‘Wilayah’ system of the Koran describes men as the protectors and maintainers of women.
- The Wali is generally the husband, father, or son, and has the power to make decisions that critically affect a woman’s life. These included matters such as health, finances, children, and travel.
- This interpretation of the system by the Saudi Arabian led to the creation of the guardianship system which places women in the custody of a male guardian.
- The new reforms are intended to dismantle the Wilayah system to some extent, although it is still unclear when the reforms would be implemented, given their strong disapproval by Saudi Arabia’s powerful conservationists.
- Several other rules which are part of the guardianship system remain in force, such as requiring a male guardian’s permission to marry, leave prison, or start a business. Saudi women still cannot bequeath citizenship to their children.
Science & Technology
What is NASA’s Parker Solar Probe?
Recently, NASA’s Parker Solar Probe completed a year in service.
About Parker Solar Probe
- Parker Solar Probe is a National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) robotic spacecraft launched in 2018.
- It is part of NASA’s ‘Living with a Star’ programme that explores different aspects of the Sun-Earth system.
- The Parker Solar Probe will be the first spacecraft to fly into the low solar corona (outermost part of the Sun’s atmosphere), a closest human-made object has ever gone to the Sun. It will be also the fastest spacecraft ever built.
- In May 2017, the spacecraft was renamed Parker Solar Probe in honor of astrophysicist Eugene Parker who coined the coiner term ‘solar wind’.
- The mission is likely to last for seven years.
- Trace the flow of energy that heats and accelerates the solar corona and solar wind.
- Determine the structure of the plasma and magnetic fields at the sources of the solar wind.
- Explore mechanisms that accelerate and transport energetic particles.
How is it protected from extreme heat of sun?
- High temperature does not always mean heating another object. Temperature is the measure of how fast the particles are moving but heat measures the amount of energy that has been transferred.
- Particles might be moving fast (high temperature) but what if there are very fewer particles to interact with an object. It would mean that the temperature of the object doesn’t increase to a high extent.
- Think of this difference by imagining your hand in a hot oven versus in a boiling pot of water. You will find that your hand can withstand a significantly larger amount of temperature in the oven than in the boiling water because there are very fewer particles interacting with your hand and thus cannot effectively transfer heat.
- The corona through which the Solar Parker Probe flies has an extremely high temperature but very low density, so even though the surrounding temperature across the sun would be several million degrees, the surface of the spacecraft that faces the sun will only get heated up to around 2500 C.
How does it overcome the strong gravitational pull of sun?
- To compensate for strong gravitational pull from the sun, the probe passed Venus seven times for gravitational assist a manoeuvre which is also called as “slingshot”.
- Space missions usually orbit several times around a planet to get acceleration toward far space destinations by flying in the same direction as a planet.
- However, the parker probe uses this trick differently. It’s using Venus’s gravity to slow down by flying in front of Venus. As the probe loses speed due to Venus’s gravity, the Sun will automatically pull it closer with its gravitational force.
Key Facts for Prelims
Bihar Chief Minister flags off ‘publicity rath’ to create awareness on water
Bihar Chief Minister flagged off a vehicle to be used for creating awareness about the state government’s water resources schemes and steps to save and conserve water.
About the Vehicle
- The vehicle is named ‘Publicity Rath’.
- It will create awareness on the ‘Jal-Jeevan-Hariyali’ (water- life-greenery) campaign via the audio-visual medium.
- The Publicity Rath will make people aware on constructing blotter besides giving information on using quality seeds, organic manure etc.
Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award declared
The selection committee for sports awards 2019 nominated the names of various sportspersons for Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award, Arjuna Award, Dhyanchand Award, Dronacharya Award.
About the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award
- Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award is given for the most outstanding performance by a sportsperson over a period of four years immediately preceding the year during which award is to be given.
- It is the highest sporting honour of India.
- It is named after Rajiv Gandhi, former Prime Minister of India.
- It is given for the spectacular performance in various games at international levele. Olympic/ Commonwealth/World Cup and equivalent recognized international tournaments.
- When instituted in 1991–92, the award was given for the performance by a sportsperson in a year.
- Based on the suggestions provided by 2014 award selection committee headed by Kapil Dev, the Ministry revised the criteria in 2015 to consider the performance over a period of four years.
Nomination and Selection
- The nominations for the award are received from all government recognised National Sports Federations, the Indian Olympic Association etc. with not more than two eligible sportspersons nominated for each sports discipline.
- The previous award recipients can also nominate one sportsperson for the discipline for which they themselves were awarded.
- All the received nominations are sent to Sports Authority of India (SAI) and National Anti-Doping Agency for doping clearance. Any sportsperson who is either penalised or being enquired for usage of drugs or substances is not eligible for the award.
- The valid nominations are placed before the twelve-member committee constituted by the Government.
- The medals won in various International competitions are given 80% weightage while the remaining 20% weightage is given to the profile and standard of the events.
About Arjuna Award
- Arjuna Award is an honour bestowed by the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports in order to recognise the outstanding achievements of sportspersons in the field of sports at international level.
- It is the oldest National sports award of India, instituted in year 1961.
About Dhyanchand award
- Dhyanchand award is presented to sportspersons for their lifetime achievements and contribution to sport during both their active career and following retirement.
- It is the highest sports awards for lifetime achievement.
- The award is conferred in the memory of Hockey legend Dhayn Chand.
- This award was started in year 2002.
About Dronacharya award
- Started in 1985, the Dronacharya honour is given for excellence in sports coaching.
Rashtriya Khel Protsahan Puruskar
- It is given to the corporate entities (both in private and public sector) and individuals who have played a visible role in the area of sports promotion and development.
- Overall top performing university in inter-university tournaments is given Maulana Abul Kalam Azad (MAKA) Trophy.