Polity & Governance
- CJI Ranjan Gogoi names Justice Bobde as successor
Issues related to Health & Education
- Johnson & Johnson recalls 33,000 talcum powder bottles after asbestos traces found
- Over a third processed milk samples fail to meet standards, says FSSAI
- No charges on digital payments made to large business establishments from 1 Nov
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
- Delhi’s air quality drops to ‘poor’ with change in wind direction
Bilateral & International Relations
- Venezuela wins seat on UN Human Rights Council despite opposition
Defence & Security Issues
- Naga peace talks, set to be finalized, hit a roadblock
- Defence of Andaman and Nicobar Islands exercise 2019 (Danx-19)
- IAF begins Joint Exercise with Oman
Art & Culture
- Government offers to give back same site to rebuild Ravidas temple
Key Facts for Prelims
- UAE announces establishment of 1st graduate-level, research-based AI university in world
- World’s first female spacewalking team makes history
- Why Manipur celebrates an annual festival in honour of this rare and unique lily
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Polity & Governance
CJI Ranjan Gogoi names Justice Bobde as successor
Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi has recommended Justice Sharad Arvind Bobde as his successor and the 47th Chief Justice of India in keeping with convention and the seniority norm.
About Chief Justice of India
- The Chief Justice of India (CJI) and the other judges of the highest judiciary are appointed by the President of India under the Article 124 (2) of the Constitution.
- However, the Constitution of India itself does not have any provision for criteria and procedure for appointing the CJI.
- The closest mention is in Article 126, which deals with the appointment of an acting CJI.
- In the absence of a constitutional provision, the procedure relies on custom and convention.
Eligibility to become a Supreme Court judge
- Should be an Indian citizen.
- Should not exceed 65 years of age
- Should serve as a judge of one high court or more (continuously), for at least five years or the person should be an advocate in the High court or the Supreme court for at least 10 years or a distinguished jurist.
Selection procedure of Chief Justice of India
- The senior-most judge of the Supreme court is generally considered for holding the office of the Chief Justice of India.
However, Seniority at the apex court is determined not by age, but by:
- The date a judge was appointed to the Supreme Court.
- If two judges are elevated to the Supreme Court on the same day,
- a) the one who was sworn in first as a judge will be given priority over another;
- b) if both were sworn in as judges on the same day, the one with more years of high court service will be given priority over another.
- c) an appointment from the bench would ‘trump’ in seniority an appointee from the bar.
- When the incumbent CJI is about to retire, the Ministry of Law, Justice and Company affairs use to seek the recommendation of the CJI to appoint the next CJI.
- After receiving the recommendation of the CJI, the Ministry of Law, Justice and Company affairs forward the issue to the Prime Minister who will further move the proposal to the President of India for the final approval.
What is the procedure?
The procedure to appoint the next CJI is laid out in the Memorandum of Procedure (MoP) between the government and the judiciary:
- The procedure is initiated by the Law Minister seeking the recommendation of the outgoing CJI at the ‘appropriate time’, which is near to the date of retirement of the incumbent CJI.
- The CJI sends his recommendation to the Law Ministry; and in the case of any qualms, the CJI can consult the collegium regarding the fitness of an SC judge to be elevated to the post.
- After receiving recommendation from the CJI, the law minister forwards it to the Prime Minister who then advises the President on the same.
- The President administers the oath of office to the new CJI.
Key difference between selection of CJI and other supreme court judges
- In the selection of CJI, the government cannot send the recommendation of the CJI (or the collegium) back to them for reconsideration; while in the selection of other supreme court judges, the government can do so.
Role and composition of the collegium
- The collegium system was commissioned by two judgments of the Supreme Court in the 1990s. It has no mention in the original Constitution of India or its successive amendments.
- The Supreme Court collegium consists of the four senior-most judges and the Chief Justice.
- The collegium of the five judges is responsible for a major role in the Indian judiciary which includes the appointment and transfer of the judges of the High Court and the appointment of the Supreme Court judges.
- The collegium sends its final recommendation to the President of India for approval.
- The President can either accept it or reject it. In the case it is rejected, the recommendation comes back to the collegium. If the collegium reiterates its recommendation to the President, then he/she is bound by that recommendation.
Issues related to Health & Education
Johnson & Johnson recalls 33,000 talcum powder bottles after asbestos traces found
Johnson and Johnson (J&J) recalled 33,000 bottles of one lot of its talcum powder supplied in the United States (US) on October 18, 2019 as asbestos was found in it.
What is talc, and why is asbestos relevant?
- Talc is a mineral in clay mined from underground deposits. It’s the softest mineral known to man and that makes it useful in a wide range of consumer and industrial products.
- Asbestos is also found underground, and veins of it can often be found in talc deposits, leading to a risk of cross-contamination, geologists say.
- Asbestos is a group of six naturally occurring fibrous minerals (silicate minerals) composed of thin fibres.
- Asbestos are resistant to heat, electricity and corrosion. These qualities make the mineral useful. However, Exposure to asbestos causes several cancers and diseases, including mesothelioma and asbestosis (a type of pneumoconiosis).
Types and associated fibers
- Manufacturers and builders use asbestos for its desirable physical properties. Some of those properties are sound absorption, average tensile strength, affordability, and resistance to fire, heat, and electricity. It was used in such applications as electrical insulation for hotplate wiring and in building insulation.
- When asbestos is used for its resistance to fire or heat, the fibers are often mixed with cement or woven into fabric or mats. These desirable properties led to asbestos being used very widely.
- Inhalation of asbestos fibers can cause serious and fatal illnesses including lung cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestosis (a type of pneumoconiosis).
Alternatives to Asbestos
- Polyurethane foam is cheap and effective for insulation. Construction workers can easily apply spray polyurethane foam to insulate and seal buildings.
- Amorphous silica fabric is a high-quality cloth woven from nearly pure amorphous silica fibers. Like asbestos, the fibers do not rot or burn, and they are highly heat resistant. This fabric is used in the shipbuilding, automotive, electrical, aerospace and metallurgy industries.
- Thermoset plastic flour is made of a mixture of wood fibers and binders such as egg or gelatin, which is hardened and then finely ground. As a filler for moldable plastics and adhesives, it provides similar benefits as asbestos without putting workers at risk.
- Cellulose fiber is typically made from cotton, wood pulp, linen or shredded paper that is
chemically treated to enhance it properties. Cellulose fiber cement is one of the most common asbestos-cement substitutes for high-temperature insulation, roofing and siding.
- Asbestos mining existed more than 4,000 years ago, but large-scale mining began at the end of the 19th century, when manufacturers began using asbestos for its desirable physical properties, such as sound absorption, tensile strength, affordability, and resistance to fire, heat, and electricity.
- When asbestos is used for its resistance to fire or heat, the fibres are often mixed with cement or woven into fabric or mats. These desirable properties made asbestos very widely used.
- Asbestos use continued to grow through most of the 20th century until public knowledge of the health hazards of asbestos dust outlawed asbestos in mainstream construction. The use of asbestos in industrialized nations began its decline in the late 1970s when the public began to see the relationship between asbestos and respiratory problems.
Over a third processed milk samples fail to meet standards, says FSSAI
The National Milk Safety and Quality Survey has declared that three out of four samples tested in Coimbatore district were found to be unsafe for consumption and not up to quality standards.
- The National Milk Safety and Quality Survey, 2018 was conducted by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI). The samples were tested for 13 common adulterants and three contaminants — pesticides, aflatoxin M1 and antibiotics.
Highlights of National Milk Safety and Quality Survey
- Out of the 6,432 total milk samples that were tested, 368 (5.7 %) were found to have aflatoxins beyond permissible limits. Aflatoxin M1 was more widely present in processed milk samples than in raw milk.
- In the survey of ‘raw milk’ samples, about 47% missed one quality parameter or another, while another 4.8% had safety issues.
- In the survey of ‘processed milk’ samples, 10 % had safety issues while another 37 % missed at least one quality standard.
- Only 12 milk samples were adulterated to the extent that it made it unsafe for human consumption. The adulterated samples were from just three States: Telangana (nine), Madhya Pradesh (two) and Kerala (one).
- Maltodextrin, a food additive, was also found in 156 out of 6,432 samples. Although it is not lethal, its presence increases the levels of fat and Solids-not-Fat (SNF). Maltodextrin and Sugar were mainly found in processed milk.
- Aflatoxins are a family of toxins produced by a fungus that are found on agricultural crops such as maize (corn), peanuts, cottonseed, and tree nuts. The main fungi that produce aflatoxins are Aspergillus flavus and Aspergillus parasiticus, which are abundant in warm and humid regions of the world.
- Aflatoxin ingestion over the long term by humans is known to cause multiple health problems like liver damage, edema and indigestion.
- Aflatoxin M1 is a metabolite present in the milk of dairy cattle which is fed with a diet contaminated with Aflatoxin B1. Aflatoxin M1 carcinogenic potency is estimated to be about a one-tenth of aflatoxin B1.
- Aflatoxin M1 in milk and milk products is a public health concern especially in infants and young children as milk constitutes one of the major sources of nutrients.
- Exposure to aflatoxin M1 in milk and milk products is especially high in areas where the grain quality used as animal feed is poor.
According to FSSAI standards, the permissible limit of aflatoxins in milk is 0.5 µg/kg.[Ref: The Hindu, Times of India]
No charges on digital payments made to large business establishments from 1 Nov
No charges or merchant discount rate (MDR)will be levied on either customers or merchants.
- Moreover, businesses with an annual turnover of more than ₹50 crores will have to mandatorily offer electronic mode of payments to their customers from 1 November.
What is Merchant Discount Rate (MDR)?
- Merchant Discount Rate, alternatively referred to as the Transaction Discount Rate or TDR, is the sum total of all the charges and taxes that a digital payment entails.
- For instance, the MDR includes bank charges, which a bank charges customers and merchants for allowing payments to be made digitally. Similarly, MDR also includes the processing charges that a payments aggregator has to pay to online or mobile wallets or indeed to banks for their service.
- MDR charges are usually shared in pre-agreed proportion between the bank and a merchant and is expressed in percentage of transaction amount.
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
Delhi’s air quality drops to ‘poor’ with change in wind direction
The Delhi’s air quality turned poor as wind direction changed to northwesterly, increasing the contribution of smoke from stubble burning in neighbouring States to the pollution in the city.The Air Quality Index (AQI) rose to 258.
Delhi’s air pollution problem
- Westerly and north-westerly winds bring dust from western regions and smoke caused by burning of crop residue in the neighbouring Punjab and Haryana to Delhi-NCR.
- In 2018, Delhi’s Air quality index (AQI) peaked at 449 which is a level of air pollution that is considered a public health emergency. Owing to this, the supreme court ordered a ban on the stubble burning.
- To stop stubble burning, state governments are providing 50 to 80% subsidy to farmers and cooperative societies to buy modern farm equipment for in-situ management of paddy straw and running a massive awareness campaign against stubble burning.
What is Stubble burning?
- Stubble burning is intentionally setting fire to the straw stubble that remains after grains, like paddy, wheat, etc., have been harvested.
- Stubble burning contributes significantly towards the air pollution in north India every winter.
- Open stubble burning emits large amount of toxic pollutants in the atmosphere which contain harmful gases like Methane (CH4), Carbon Monoxide (CO), Volatile organic compound (VOC) and carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.
- Although burning of straw residues emits large amounts of CO2, this component of the smoke is not considered as net Greenhouse gas (GHG)emissions and only concludes the annual carbon cycle that has started with photosynthesis.
Why do farmers burn the stubble?
- Stubble burning usually required in areas that use the combine harvesting methodwhich leaves crop residue behind.
- Combines are machines that harvest, separate the grain, and also clean the separated grain, all at once.
- The problem, however, is that the machine doesn’t cut close enough to the ground, leaving stubble behind that the farmer has no use for.
- There is pressure on the farmer to sow the next crop in time for it to achieve a full yield. The quickest and cheapest solution, therefore, is to clear the field by burning the stubble.
National Air Quality Index (AQI)
- Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change launched National Air Quality Index (AQI) under Swachh Bharat Mission based on the recommendations of IIT Kanpur and the Expert Group formed in this regard.
- AQI transforms complex air quality data of eight pollutants into a single number (index value), nomenclature and color.
Eight pollutants are:
- Particulate Matter (size less than 10 µm) or (PM10),
- Particulate Matter (size less than 2.5 µm) or (PM5),
- Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2),
- Sulphur Dioxide (SO2),
- Carbon Monoxide (CO),
- Ozone (O3),
- Ammonia (NH3), and
- Lead (Pb)
- AQI is considered as ‘One Number- One Colour-One Description’ for the common man to judge the air quality within his vicinity.
- AQI has six categories of air quality. These are: Good, Satisfactory, Moderately Polluted, Poor, Very Poor and Severe.
[Ref: The Hindu]
Bilateral & International Relations
Venezuela wins seat on UN Human Rights Council despite opposition
Venezuela won a contested election for a seat on the UN Human Rights Council despite a campaign by over 50 organisations and many countries opposed to Nicolas Maduro’s government and its rights record.
What is the Venezuelan crisis?
In 2013, Nicolás Maduro became the president of Venezuela. During his rule, his party has managed to gain control of many key institutions including much of the judiciary, the electoral council and the supreme court.
- When opposition parties gained a majority in the legislature, he created a rival body, the powers of which supersede those of the National Assembly. During his time in office, Venezuela’s economy collapsed and shortages of food and medicines became widespread. In May 2018, He was re-elected to a second term in elections.
- In January 2019, the head of the National Assembly, Juan Guaidó, declared himself interim president. Hence, presidency is therefore vacant, in which case the constitution calls for the head of the National Assembly to step in.
- The US and more than 50 other countries have recognised Guaidó as the president while Russia and China recognize Nicolás Maduro as the president.
About United Nations Human Rights Council
- The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) is an inter-governmental body within the United Nations established by the UN General Assembly in 2006, to replace the UN Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR).
- It aims to promote and protect human rights around the world.
- UNHRC has 47 members elected for staggered three-year terms on a regional group basis.
- The headquarters of UNHRC is in Geneva, Switzerland.
- UNHRC investigates allegations of breaches of human rights such as freedom of association and assembly, freedom of expression, freedom of belief and religion, women’s rights, LGBT rights, Criminals, drug lords in Philippines and the rights of racial and ethnic minorities.
- The UNHRC works closely with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and engages the UN’s special procedures.
- Members meet around three times a year to debate human rights issues and pass non-binding resolutions and recommendations by majority vote.
- Members serve for a period of three years and are not eligible for immediate re-election after serving two consecutive terms.
- The council also carries out the Universal Periodic Review of all UN member states, which allows civil society groups to bring accusations of human rights violations in member states to the attention of the UN.
There are subsidiary bodies that directly report to the Human Rights Council:
- Universal Periodic Review Working Group
- Advisory Committee
- Complaint Procedure
Defence & Security Issues
Naga peace talks, set to be finalized, hit a roadblock
The Centre has ruled out a separate flag and Constitution for the Nagas as demanded by the NSCN-IM, and made it clear that the endless negotiations with the insurgent group under the shadow of guns is not acceptable.
What’s in peace accord?
- NSCN – IM has been derecognized as a militant organization and talks have been initiated with the government.
- GOI is open to discuss the Naga territorial issue within the existing boundaries of the neighboring states of Manipur, Assasm etc which are being claimed as part of Greater Nagalism.
- Key issues that have been put under consideration includes AFSPA, demographic changes due to cross border migrations and other tribals like Meitei who are diluting the local populations in the Naga areas.
- The British annexed Assam in 1826, and in 1881, the Naga Hills too became part of British India. The first sign of Naga resistance was seen in the formation of the Naga Club in 1918, which opposed the Simon Commission.
- In 1946, the Naga National Council (NNC) declared Nagaland an independent state on August 14, 1947. It resolved to establish a sovereign Naga state and conducted a referendum in 1951, in which 99 % supported an independent Nagaland (Greater Nagalim).
- These ‘Greater Nagalim’ comprises all contiguous Naga-inhabited areas along with Nagaland including several districts of Assam, Arunachal and Manipur.
Naga-Akbar Hydari Agreement (1947):
- It was Signed by the Naga National Convention and the Governor of Assam (Akbar Hydari).
- Agreement: The right of the Nagas to develop themselves according to their freely expressed wishes. The Governor of Assam was given a special responsibility for a period of 10 years to ensure the observance of the agreement.
Sixteen-point Agreement with the Naga People’s Convention (1960)
- Nagaland formed as a state, under the charge of the Ministry of External Affairs
- Agreement: Any Act or law passed by the Union Parliament affecting the Religious or Social Practices, Customary Laws etc. will not have any legal force.
- The Naga leaders also expressed the view that other Nagas inhabiting contiguous areas should be enabled to join the new state.
Ceasefire Agreement (1964)
- Agreement: The Government of India made ceasefire agreement with Naga underground leaders for 1 month from the signing of agreement.
Shillong Agreement (1975)
- It was signed between Nagaland Governor and Naga underground leaders.
- Agreement: The representatives of the underground organisations conveyed their decision to accept, without condition, the Constitution of India. The underground leaders will give up their arms.
- The Government of India signed a ceasefire agreement with NSCN (IM) in 1997, which came into effect on August 1, 1997.
Defence of Andaman and Nicobar Islands exercise 2019 (Danx-19)
Andaman and Nicobar Command (ANC) has conducted the second edition of Defence of Andaman & Nicobar Islands 2019 (DANX-19), a large scale joint services exercise from 14 Oct to 18 Oct 19.
- In this exercise, components of the Indian Army, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard carried out mobilisation and field manoeuvres to validate defensive plans of Headquarters ANC to ensure territorial integrity of the A&N Islands.
IAF begins Joint Exercise with Oman
Indian Air Force is participating in a Bilateral Joint Exercise with Royal Air Force of Oman (RAFO), named EX-EASTERN BRIDGE-V at Air Force Base Masirah in Oman.
- In this exercise, for the first time, MiG-29 fighter aircraft will be participating in an International Exercise outside India.
About Eastern Bridge Exercise
- It is a military exercise between India and Oman.
- It was started in 2009. The last exercise, EX-EASTERN BRIDGE-IV was held in 2017 at Jamnagar.
Art & Culture
Government offers to give back same site to rebuild Ravidas temple
Yielding to the protests against the Supreme Court-directed demolition of a Guru Ravidas temple in south Delhi, the Centre has agreed to allot the same site to the devotees to construct a new temple.
What is the issue?
- In April 2019, The Delhi Development Authority had demolished the temple of Ravidas on the orders of the supreme court as the temple was built on Tughlaqabad forest area. The demolition triggered widespread protests from a section of Dalits.
- However, amid protest from the community, the supreme court agreed to allot the same site to construct a new temple.
Who was Guru Ravidas?
- He was the founder of the Ravidassia religion.
- While the exact year of his birth is not known, it is believed that the saint was born in 1377 C.E.
- The saint born in the village of Seer Goverdhanpur located near Varanasi.
- His birthplace has now been named Shri Guru Ravidas Janam Asthanand has become a major place of pilgrimage for the followers of Guru Ravidas.
- As he belonged to an untouchable caste and suffered a lot of atrocities, however, the saint chose to focus on spiritual pursuits and penned several devotional songs which made a huge impact in the Bhakti movement during the 14th to 16th century CE.
- One of his famous disciples was the saint, Mirabai.
- Ravidas’ devotional songs were included in the Sikh scriptures, Guru Granth Sahib.
- Among Ravidas’s moral and intellectual achievements were the conception of “Begampura”, a city that knows no sorrow; and a society where caste and class have ceased to matter.
Guru Ravidas Teachings:
- Guru Ravidas spoke against the caste divisionsand spoke of removing them to promote unity.
- The Adi Granth of Sikhs and Panchvaniare the two of the oldest documented sources of the literary works of Guru Ravidas.
- His teachings resonated with the people, leading to a religion being born called the Ravidassia religion, or Ravidassia Dharam based on his teachings.
- He taught about the omnipresence of God.
- He believed that a human soul is a particle of God and hence rejected the idea that people considered lower caste cannot meet God.
- He believed that the only way to meet God was to free the mind from the duality.
- Ravidas taught removal of social divisions of caste and gender, and promoted unity in the pursuit of personal spiritual freedoms.
Key Facts for Prelims
UAE announces establishment of 1st graduate-level, research-based AI university in world
PICUAE announced the establishment of the Mohamed bin Zayed University of Artificial Intelligence( MBZUAI), the first graduate-level, research-based AI university in the world.
About Mohamed bin Zayed University of Artificial Intelligence (MBZUAI)
- MBZUAI will enable graduate students, businesses and governments to advance the artificial intelligence field and give access to some of the world’s most advanced AI systems to unleash its potential for economic and societal development.
- The University is named after Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces.
World’s first female spacewalking team makes history
- The world’s first female spacewalking team made history high above Earth, floating out of the International Space Station to fix a broken part of the power network.
- The team included astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir.
- This marked the first time in a half-century of spacewalking that a woman floated out without a male crewmate.
Why Manipur celebrates an annual festival in honour of this rare and unique lily
While the four-day Shirui Lily features dance, food, music, traditional games and much fanfare, at its heart, is the beautiful Shirui Lily, a unique species of ground lily that it is found only in Manipur.
About Shirui Lily
- Shirui Lily, or Lilium mackliniae, is the State Flower of Manipur found only in the upper ranges of Shirui Hills in Ukhrul district of Manipur. In other words, it cannot be transplanted anywhere else in the world.
- It was first discovered by English botanist Kingdon Ward in 1946 and named it Lilium mackliniae. He was given prestigious merit prize in the 1948 Royal Horticultural Society Flower for his discovery.
- Today, Shirui Lily is considered endangered owing to intense tourist activities and invasion of bamboo species. Another factor that is hampering the conservation efforts is the delay in declaring the Shirui Hills as a national park.
About Shirui Lily Festival
- Shirui Lily Festival is an annual five-day State festival celebrated in Ukhrul district to spread awareness about the endangered state flower ‘Shirui Lily’ as well as to promote Ukhrul district as a potential tourist destination in Manipur.
- The festival was celebrated by the locals in their own level till 2016, when the State Government in 2017 declared that Shirui Lily festival would be celebrated in state level. Hence, since 2017, this festival is organized by the Department of Tourism, Manipur.
- Shirui Festival is celebrated during the peak blooming season of Shirui Lily.
- ShiRock, the musical extravaganza of live music performances and competition, is also one of the biggest highlights of the festival.
About Ukhrul District
- Ukhrul is the highest hill station of Manipur. The district is inhabited by the Tangkhul Nagas, the Kukis and the Angamis. The Tangkhul Nagas are considered one of the oldest major tribes of Manipur.