Polity & Governance
- Punjab land decision has upset Dalits
- 79th foundation day of the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal (ITAT)
- Sutlej Yamuna Link (SYL) Canal Dispute
Issues related to Health & Education
- Comeback of Polio disease
- NISHTHA initiative
- Establishment of Chairs named after eminent Women in Universities
- 40 buffaloes die of haemorrhagic septicaemia in Odisha’s Kendrapara
Bilateral & International Relations
- Birth Tourism
- Nepal invites Modi, Imran for Sagarmatha Dialogue
Science & Technology
- New archaeon discovered in Sambhar Lake
Key Facts for Prelims
- National Girl Child Day
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Polity & Governance
Punjab land decision has upset Dalits
Various organisations in Punjab have been protesting against a revised land policy relating to village common land, which is known as ‘shamlat’ land.
What is the issue?
- The state Cabinet recently approved an amendment to the Village Common Land (Regulation) Rules, 1964, allowing panchayats to sell shamlat land to industrial houses, entrepreneurs, businessmen, and companies for setting up micro, small and medium industrial units.
- The industrial development will be done by creating rural land banks.
- The recent government move has sparked fears of unemployment.
- Punjab has 1,70,033 acres (68,839 hectares) shamlat land in around 8,000 of the state’s 13,000 villages.
What is Shamlat land?
- Shamlat is one of three categories of common land in Punjab villages.
- ‘Shamlat’ land is owned by the village panchayat.
- Over half of Punjab’s shamlat land is concentrated in the six districts of Patiala (highest at 15.5%), Gurdaspur, Ludhiana, Kapurthala, Fatehgarh Sahib and Amritsar.
- One-third of Punjab’s shamlat lands are reserved for Dalits.
- Shamlat land is mainly used for cultivation, and is allotted for this through an open auction that is conducted by the Rural Development and Panchayat Department every year.
- The auctioning fetches nearly Rs 372 crore annually to 8,000 villages, and the proceeds are used for development work.
The other two lands
- Of the other two categories, ‘Jumla mushtraka malkan’ is land in a common pool made with villagers’ personal contributions, and is managed by the panchayat.
- The third category, ‘Gau charan’, too belongs to the panchayat, and is for cattle grazing.
- Over time, however, all such lands have come to be known as shamlat land.
Rural Land Banks
- Land bank is a large body of land held by a public or private organization for future development or disposal. Land banks act as a legal and financial mechanism to transform vacant, abandoned and tax-foreclosed property back to productive use.
- The Punjab Cabinet on Monday gave in-principle approval to amend the Punjab Village Common Land (Regulation) Rules, 1964 to create land banks in rural areas of Punjab to boost infrastructural development.
- The cabinet cleared the proposal of the Rural Development and Panchayats Department for insertion of Rule 12-B in the ‘Punjab Village Common Lands (Regulation) Rules, 1964’ to provide a special provision for the transfer of Shamlat lands for the development of industrial infrastructure projects by the Industries Department and Punjab Small Industries and Export Corporation (PSIEC).
- The underlying objective of this amendment is to facilitate Gram Panchayats to promote the development of villages by unlocking the value of Shamlat land.
79th foundation day of the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal (ITAT)
The Chief Justice of India (CJI) S.A. Bobde inaugurates 79th Foundation Day Celebrations and All India Members’ Conference of the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal (ITAT). He said that the Tax Invasion is a Social Injustice to follow citizens.
Highlights of CJI speech
- Speedy justice is being one of the important aspects in the civilised world.
- ITAT is playing an important role in dispute resolution in an effective manner.
- Tax Judiciary plays a very important role in resource mobilization of the country and a just and speedy dispute resolution is perceived as a tax incentive by the tax payer.
- Arbitrary or excessive tax is also results in injustice to tax payers
- Artificial Intelligence can play a significant role in judicial functioning and it is very helpful in docket management and decision making. But we should never allow artificial intelligence substitute the human intervention which is a necessary for a just decision making.
Income Tax Appellate Tribunal (ITAT)
- ITAT is a quasi-judicial institution and specializes in dealing with appeals under the Direct Taxes Acts.
- ITAT was constituted in January 1941 by virtue of section 5A of the Income Tax Act, 1922.
- The orders passed by the ITAT are final, an appeal lies to the High Court only if a substantial question of law arises for determination.
- Starting in 1941 with six Members constituting three Benches – one each at Delhi, Kolkata (Calcutta) and Mumbai (Bombay), the numbers of Benches have progressively increased and presently ITAT has 63 Benches at 27 different stations covering almost all the cities having a seat of the High Court.
- ITAT draws inspiration from its motto ‘Nishpaksh Sulabh Satvar Nyay’, which means impartial, easy and speedy justice.
- ITAT is referred to as ‘Mother Tribunal’ being the oldest Tribunal in the country.
- The first President of the Tribunal was Mr. Mohammed Munir Dar.
- The tribunal is divided in various zones. The headquarter being at originally at New Delhi but since 1952 at Mumbai.
- At the top there is a President, followed by a Senior Vice-President, Vice-Presidents and members in the judicial functioning and thereafter the supporting staff.
- A sitting or retired judge of a High Court is appointed as President.
- The success of the ITAT prompted the government to constitute similar Appellate Tribunals for indirect taxes i.e. Customs, Excise, Service Tax Appellate Tribunal (CESTAT), Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT), Railway Claims Tribunal, Foreign Exchange Appellate Board, etc.
Functioning of ITAT
- The Finance Department of the Government of India (the Central Board of Revenue) was initially in-charge of the Tribunal. But form 1942, the Tribunal was put in the charge of the Legislative Department, the predecessor of the present Ministry of Law and Justice.
Sutlej Yamuna Link (SYL) Canal Dispute
An all-party meeting chaired by Punjab Chief Minister demanded reassessment of water availability in the state and said the Centre should ensure that the state’s river water is not transferred from basin to non-basin areas.
- Other demand included suitable amendments be made to the proposed Inter State River Water Disputes Act to set up a new tribunal, to ensure that Punjab gets adequate water.
What is Sutlej Yamuna Link (SYL) Canal?
- The Sutlej Yamuna Link Canal is a proposed 214-kilometer long canal to connect the Sutlej and Yamuna rivers.
- However, the proposal met obstacles and was referred to the Supreme Court. It defines river water sharing between Punjab and Haryana.
What is the controversy over it?
- The creation of Haryana from the old (undivided) Punjab in 1966 threw up the problem of giving Haryana its share of river waters.
- Punjab was opposed to sharing waters of the Ravi and Beas with Haryana, citing riparian principles, and arguing that it had no water to spare.
- However, Centre, in 1976, issued a notification allocating to Haryana 3.5 million acre feet (MAF) out of undivided Punjab’s 7.2 MAF.
- The Eradi Tribunal headed by Supreme Court Judge V Balakrishna Eradi was set up to reassess availability and sharing of water. The Tribunal, in 1987, recommended an increase in the shares of Punjab and Haryana to 5 MAF and 3.83 MAF, respectively.
- To enable Haryana to use its share of the waters of the Sutlej and its tributary Beas, a canal linking the Sutlej with the Yamuna, cutting across the state, was planned.
- A tripartite agreement was also negotiated between Punjab, Haryana, and Rajasthan in this regard.
- However, following the protests in Punjab, the Punjab Assembly passed The Punjab Termination of Agreements Act, 2004, terminating its water-sharing agreements, and thus jeopardizing the construction of SYL in Punjab.
What is Haryana’s claim?
- Haryana has been staking claim on Ravi-Beas waters through SYL canal on the plea that providing water for irrigation was a tough task for the state. In southern parts, where the underground water had depleted up to 1700 feet, there was a problem of drinking water.
- Haryana has been invoking its contribution to the central food bowl and lamenting that justice had been denied to the state by not providing it its rightful share in the water as assessed by a tribunal.
Supreme Court had asked the Punjab and Haryana governments to build the SYL canal by finding an amicable solution with mutual understanding, but the dispute lies unresolved.[Ref: The Hindu, IASToppers]
Issues related to Health & Education
Comeback of Polio disease
The cases of comeback of polio has alarmed the countries throughout the globe, which require a high level of preparedness for preventing the polio influx, especially from countries where it is not eradicated.
What is polio?
- Polio (also known as poliomyelitis) is a highly contagious disease caused by a virus that attacks the nervous system. Children younger than 5 years old are more likely to contract the virus than any other group.
- Polio is transmitted through contaminated water or food, or contact with an infected person.
- There are three variants of the polio virus, numbered 1 to 3.
- For a country to be declared polio-free, wild transmission of all three kinds has to be stopped.
- For eradication, cases of both wild and vaccine-derived polio infection to be reduced to zero.
- Polio is still persistent in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Nigeria.
Comeback of Polio:
- The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published a list of Asian countries where polio outbreaks have been reported.
- These are Afghanistan, Myanmar, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea and the Philippines. Except for Afghanistan and Pakistan, all these countries are new entrants into the list.
- The last case due to wild poliovirus in the country was detected on January 13, 2011.
- In January 2014, India was declared polio-free after three years on zero cases, an achievement that is widely believed to have been spurred by the successful pulse polio campaign.
Pulse Polio Abhiyan:
- India launched the Pulse Polio immunisation programme in 1995, after a resolution for a global initiative of polio eradication was adopted by the World Health Assembly (WHA) in 1988.
- Ever since India is running an oral immunisation drive by providing oral polio vaccine (OPV) which has a weakened poliovirus in children aged 0-5 years.
- Since, some years India has introduced the injectable polio vaccine in the Universal Immunisation Programme. This was to reduce chances of vaccine-derived polio infection, which continues to happen in the country.
What is vaccine-derived polio?
- Oral polio vaccine (OPV) contains an attenuated (weakened) vaccine-virus, activating an immune response in the body.
- When a child is immunized with OPV, the weakened vaccine-virus replicates in the intestine for a limited period, thereby developing immunity by building up antibodies.
- In very rare instances, the vaccine-virus can genetically change into a form that behaves more like the wild or naturally occurring virus.
- This means it can be spread more easily to people who are unvaccinated against polio and who come in contact with it and hence can paralyse humans– this is what is known as a circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus (cVDPV).
[Ref: Indian express, WHO]
Union Minister for Human Resources Development (MHRD) said the central government will bring about major reforms to revamp the education sector of Jammu and Kashmir.
- The National Initiative for School Heads & Teachers’ Holistic Advancement, NISHTHA, was inaugurated in Srinagar recently, besides an e-inauguration of 45 projects under the education sector at a cost of 180 crore rupees was done.
- The projects include Indian Institute of Management (IIM) Srinagar, 25 Smart Model Schools, and Sheikh-ul-Alam Chair at Centre for Sheikh-ul-Alam Studies (Markaz-i Noor) and Laboratory Block (PEB) at University of Kashmir, besides Government College of Engineering, Safapora and Government Degree College, Zakura.
- The Smart Model Schools project is aimed at transforming government schools on modern lines.
- National Initiative for School Heads’ and Teachers’ Holistic Advancement is an initiative to build capacities of teachers and school principals at the elementary stage.
- The initiative is an Integrated Teacher Training Programme of the Department of School Education and Literacy, MHRD as part of its National Mission to improve learning outcomes at the Elementary level under the Centrally Sponsored Scheme of Samagra Shiksha during 2019-20.
- To train 672 Key Resource Persons (KRPs) and State Resources Persons, besides training 86,769 Teachers and Head Teachers at elementary level, to bring educational sector reforms.
- Capacity building and training of all teachers and Heads of Schools at the elementary level in all Government schools, faculty members of State Councils of Educational Research and Training (SCERTs), District Institutes of Education and Training (DIETs) as well as Block Resource Coordinators and Cluster Resource Coordinators in all States and UTs.
- Improvement in learning outcomes of the students.
- Creation of an enabling and enriching inclusive classroom environment
- Teachers become alert and responsive to the social, emotional and psychological needs of students as first level counsellors.
- Teachers are trained to use Art as pedagogy leading to increased creativity and innovation among students.
- Teachers are trained to develop and strengthen personal-social qualities of students for their holistic development.
- Creation of healthy and safe school environment.
- Integration of ICT in teaching learning and assessment.
- Developing stress free School Based Assessment focused on development of learning competencies.
- Teachers adopt Activity Based Learning and move away from rote learning to competency based learning.
- Teachers and School heads become aware of new initiatives in school education.
- Transformation of the Heads of Schools into providing academic and administrative leadership for the schools for fostering new initiatives.
Establishment of Chairs named after eminent Women in Universities
On the occasion of National Girl Child (24 Jan), the Ministry of Women and Child Development is going to set up 10 Chairs in different fields with an aim to carry out research activities to encourage women.
- The initiative called Establishment of Chairs in the Universities in the name of eminent women administrators, artists, scientists and social reformers is being launched with the assistance of University Grants Commission (UGC).
- The main objective is to inspire women to pursue higher education and to achieve excellence in their area of work.
- This initiative of highlighting and celebrating women achievers of the country will motivate young girls and women towards higher studies.
- The financial implications of the proposal are Rs. 50 lakhs per Chair per year and the total expenditure for establishing ten Chairs will be approximately Rs. 5 crores per annum.
- The Chairs are to be established for a period of 5 years initially as per the guidelines.
- The University will review the progress of the Chair annually and submit a final report on the activities and outcome of the Chair to the UGC after five years. However, the UGC may undertake the exercise of reviewing the Chair for its continuance, at any stage.
Academic functions of the Chairs will be to engage in research and contribute to the following areas:
- Advancement of knowledge in the area of the study.
- Strengthen the role of university/academics in public policy making.
- To design and execute short-term capacity-building programmes for teachers in higher education focused towards the designated discipline of the Chair.
- To provide a forum for inter-university/ inter- collegiate Post Graduate and Research level dialogues, discussion meetings, seminars/summer & winter schools
- To publish articles/research papers/reports/books/ monograms
- To participate in teaching and Ph.D programme of the Department or School in which it is located.
The chairs proposed by UGC and approved by the Ministry are as under:
Proposed name of chair
Devi Ahilyabai Holkar
Freedom Fighter (North East)
Medicine & Health
Anandibai Gopalrao Joshi
Madurai Shanmukhavadivu Subbulakshmi
Amrita Devi (Beniwal)
Poetry & Mysticism
40 buffaloes die of haemorrhagic septicaemia in Odisha’s Kendrapara
Around 40 buffaloes have died within four days due to suspected Sahana disease (hemorrhagic septicemia) in a number of villages located in the Garadapur block of Odisha’s Kendrapara.
What is Sahana disease?
- Sahana disease or Hemorrhagic septicemia is a severe bacterial disease of cattle and buffaloes caused by Pasteurella multocida serotypes B2 and E2.
- The disease is also spread through contact with infected animals, contaminated clothing, equipment, and through ingestion or inhalation of the bacteria.
- Cattle and buffalo become infected when they ingest or inhale the causative organism, which probably originates in the nasopharynx of infected animals.
- Primary symptoms include swishing tails, reduced cudding, undigested food in faeces and reduced milk yield.
- Cattle and water buffaloes are the principal hosts of hemorrhagic septicemia, and it is widely considered that buffaloes are the more susceptible.
- In many Asian countries HS disease outbreaks mostly occur during the climatic conditions typical of monsoon (high humidity and high temperatures).
- It is an important disease in Asia, Africa, some countries in southern Europe, and the Middle East.
- There are no confirmed reports of human infections with P. multocida serotypes B2 and E2.
- Vaccination is routinely practiced in endemic areas.
- Avoiding crowding, especially during wet conditions, will also reduce the incidence of disease.
Bilateral & International Relations
U.S. State Department announced new visa rules aimed at restricting “birth tourism” — trips foreigners take with the purpose of obtaining U.S. citizenship for their children.
What is Birth tourism?
- All children born in the US get automatic citizenship.
- It is a practice to obtain U.S. citizenship for the children by giving birth in the United States, and thereby entitle their children to the benefits of U.S. citizenship,
What is B non-immigrant visa?
- B non-immigrant visa is a classification for a person who wants to enter the United States temporarily for business and tourism.
What are the new rules?
- The rule establishes that travel to the United States with the primary purpose of obtaining U.S. citizenship for a child by giving birth in the United States is an impermissible basis for the issuance of a B non-immigrant visa.
- The pregnant women applying for US visitor visas may need to prove they have a specific reason for travel other than giving birth on US soil.
- Visa applicants must now prove they have “the means and intent” to pay for their medical expenses, and convince a consular officer that they have arranged for a doctor willing to provide their treatment.
- Consequently, a consular officer shall deny a B non-immigrant visa to an alien who he or she has reason to believe intends to travel for this primary purpose.
- The rules are framed to address concerns to national security and law enforcement, including criminal activity associated with the birth tourism industry.
Nepal invites Modi, Imran for Sagarmatha Dialogue
Nepal has invited the Prime Ministers of India and Pakistan along with several other heads of government for the Sagarmatha Sambaad.
Sagarmatha (Sagar) Sambaad
- The first ever multi-stakeholder dialogue ‘Saagar Sambaad’ event is expected to be the biggest diplomatic initiative in Nepal’s recent history.
- The Sambaad was established in 2019 as a permanent global forum is headquartered in Kathmandu.
- It is scheduled to be held biennially in Nepal.
- The first edition of Sagarmatha Sambaad will be held in Kathmandu from 2 to 4 April 2020 featuring the theme ‘Climate Change, Mountains and the Future of the Humanity’.
- It will be attended by many global figures apart from the leaders of the member countries of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC).
- The event will focus on the threat of climate change to the modern world.
- The Sambaad (dialogue) is named after the world’s tallest mountain Sagarmatha (Mount Everest).
India – Pakistan hostility
- India had accused Pakistan of cross border terrorism while boycotting the Islamabad summit leading to its cancellation in 2016.
- Some other members also boycotted the summit.
- It prevented the Pakistan from hosting the SAARC Summit of the same year i.e. 2016.
- Recently, the Ministry of External Affairs had announced that India has invited all heads of government of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation member countries, including Prime Minister Imran Khan for the heads of government council of the SCO that will be hosted by New Delhi later in 2020.
Science & Technology
New archaeon discovered in Sambhar Lake
Scientists at the National Centre for Microbial Resource — National Centre for Cell Science (NCMR-NCCS) in Pune have reported a new archaeon (a kind of microorganism), which they discovered in Sambhar Salt Lake in Rajasthan.
- It has been named Natrialba swarupiae, after Dr Renu Swarup, secretary, Department of Biotechnology.
What are Archaea?
- Archaea (singular archaeon) are a primitive group of microorganisms that thrive in extreme habitats such as hot springs, cold deserts and hypersaline lakes.
- These slow-growing organisms are also present in the human gut, and have a potential relationship with human health.
- Known for producing antimicrobial molecules, or anti-oxidant activity with applications in eco-friendly waste-water treatment and are extremely difficult to culture in laboratory settings.
- Sambhar Lake has been poorly studied for microbial ecology studies.
- With a salt production of 0.2 million tonnes per annum, it is a hypersaline ecosystem which provides an opportunity for microbial ecologists to understand organisms that thrive in such concentrations.
- Based on a mandatory genome analysis, researchers found that the organism has potential gene clusters that helps maintain the metabolism of the archaea to survive in extreme harsh conditions.
- This particular organism also harbours specific pathways for DNA replication, recombination and repair.
- As archaea are relatively poorly studied, very little is known about how archaea behave in the human body.
- It is India’s largest inland saltwater body located near Jaipur in Rajasthan.
- Sambhar has been recognized wetland of international importance or a Ramsar site.
- The lake is surrounded on all sides by the Aravalli hills and is the major source of Rajasthan’s salt production.
Key Facts for Prelims
National Girl Child Day
The National Girl Child Day is celebrated in India every year on January 24. The Ministry of Women and Child Development, Government of India initiated this celebration in 2008.
- Highlight the inequalities faced by girls in the country,
- Promote awareness about the rights of a girl child,
- Generate awareness on importance of girl education, health and nutrition.
- The NGCD is being celebrated with objectives of generating awareness on the issue of declining Child Sex Ratio (CSR) and create a positive environment around valuing the girl child.
- The celebrations also mark the anniversary of Beti Bachao Beti Padhao (BBBP) Scheme.
- As part of the celebrations, several states organise BBBP awareness week, organise competitions, release IEC materials on addressing issues related to Girl child.
Beti Bachao Beti Padhao (BBBP) Scheme:
- Government launched the Beti Bachao Beti Padhao (BBBP) on 22nd January, 2015 at Panipat in Haryana.
- It is a tri-ministerial effort of Ministries of Women and Child Development, Health & Family Welfare and Human Resource Development for coordinated and convergent efforts needed to ensure survival, protection and empowerment of the girl child,
- To prevent gender biased sex selective elimination
- To ensure survival and protection of the girl child
- To ensure education and participation of the girl child.
- The Pan India Expansion of the scheme covering all 640 districts (as per census 2011) of the country was launched on 8th March 2018.
- Implement a sustained Social Mobilization and Communication Campaign to create equal value for the girl child & promote her education.
- Place the issue of decline in Child Sex Ratio (CSR) /Sex Ratio at Birth (SRB) in public discourse, improvement of which would be an indicator for good governance.
- Focus on Gender Critical Districts and Cities low on CSR for intensive & integrated action.
- Adopt Innovative Interventions/Actions by the districts as per their local needs, context and sensibilities.
- Mobilize & Train Panchayati Raj Institutions/Urban local bodies/ Grassroots workers as catalysts for social change, in partnership with local community/women’s/youth groups.
- Engage with Communities to challenge gender stereotypes and social norms.
- Ensure service delivery structures/schemes & programmes are sufficiently responsive to issues of gender and children’s rights.
- Enable Inter-sectoral and inter-institutional convergence at District/Block/grassroots levels.