Government Schemes & Policies
- President of India presents National Service Scheme Awards
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
- Initiative launched to guide heavy industries towards low-carbon economy
- Now, a mobile application to monitor holy river’s water and aquatic life
- Army removes 130 tonnes of solid waste from Siachen glacier to protect its eco-system
- Exhibition organized under India Water Week
- Recycle, reuse policy to drive India’s plan to become resource efficient
Bilateral & International Relations
- Google wins landmark right to be forgotten case
Defence & Security Issues
- India joins global initiative to combat extremism online
Science & Technology
- Vaidyaratnam P. S. Varier
- Professor from England bags Sastra award
Key Facts for Prelims
- Agriculture minister launches app based CHC services
- Gandhi Solar Park inaugurated at UN Headquarters
- Dadasaheb Phalke award for Amitabh Bachchan
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Government Schemes & Policies
President of India presents National Service Scheme Awards
The President of India presented the National Service Scheme (NSS) Awards for 2017-18 to universities, NSS units and NSS volunteers.
About National Service Scheme (NSS)
- National Service Scheme (NSS) was launched during 1969, the birth centenary year of Mahatma Gandhi, in 37 universities.
- NSS is an extension dimension to the higher education system to orient the student youth to community service while they are studying in educational institutions.
- It is being implemented by the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, Government of India.
- Motto of NSS is “Not Me But You”.
Aims and objectives of NSS
- To identify the needs and problems of the community and youth them in problem solving process
- To develop among youth a sense of social and civic responsibility
- To utilise their knowledge in finding practical solution to individual and community problems
- To develop competence required for group-living and sharing of responsibilities
- To acquire leadership qualities and democratic attitude
- To develop capacity to meet emergencies and natural disasters
- To practice national integration and social harmony
- NSS is being implemented in Senior Secondary Schools, Colleges and Universities.
- The design of the NSS envisages that each educational institution covered under the Scheme has at least one NSS unit comprising of normally 100 student volunteers, led by a teacher designated as Programme Officer (PO).
- Each NSS unit adopts a village or slum for taking up its activities.
Nature of Activities under NSS
Briefly, the NSS volunteers work on issues of social relevance, which keep evolving in response to the needs of the community, through regular and special camping activities. Such issues include
- Literacy and education
- Health, family welfare and nutrition
- Environment conservation
- Social service programmes
- Programmes for empowerment of women
- Programmes connected with economic development activities
- Rescue and relief during calamities, etc.
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
Initiative launched to guide heavy industries towards low-carbon economy
‘Leadership Group for Industry Transition’ initiative was launched at the UN Climate Action Summit to help guide the world’s heaviest greenhouse gas emitting industries toward the low-carbon economy.
About the new Initiative – Leadership Group for Industry Transition
- The Leadership Group for Industry Transition is a public-private effort to ensure heavy industries and mobility companies can find a workable pathway to deliver on the Paris Agreement.
- This initiative was announced by India and Sweden together with other countries viz. Argentina, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, South Korea and the United Kingdom.
- This Leadership Group will drive transformation in hard-to-decarbonize and energy-intensive sectors.
- It is supported by the World Economic Forum, the Energy Transitions Commission, Mission Innovation, Stockholm Environment Institute, the European Climate Foundation etc.
About The Climate Action Summit 2019
- The United Nations Climate Action Summit 2019 was hosted in New York.
- Having the key focus on accelerating action to implement the Paris Agreement, the Climate Action Summit focuses on nine interdependent tracks, which are led by 19 countries.
- The nine tracks are mitigation, social and political drivers, youth and public mobilization, energy transition, industry transition, infrastructure, cities and local action, nature-based solutions, resilience and adaptation, climate finance and carbon pricing.
Now, a mobile application to monitor holy river’s water and aquatic life
The new application of Ganga Data Collector was launched during the second Endangered Species Recovery Programme organised on the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) campus recently.
About ‘Ganga Data Collector’ app
The Wildlife Institute of India (WII) launched a mobile application named ‘Ganga Data Collector’ as a part of the ‘Biodiversity Conservation and Ganga Rejuvenation’ project.
- The mobile app is designed to provide a complete data entry solution to the field researchers, helping them to monitor the water quality and aquatic population in the Ganga river.
- The application will be used by the scientists of WII, Ganga Prahri volunteers and staff of the forest department in the 11 states of the Ganga Basin.
- This 11 states which are part of ganga basin are Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Bihar, West Bengal and Delhi.
About ‘Biodiversity Conservation and Ganga Rejuvenation’ Project
- It was initiated by the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) under the Union Ministry of Jal Shakti.
- The main aim of this project is to develop a science-based aquatic species restoration plan for Ganga River.
The project has the following six components:
About Ganga river
- The Ganga River is among the largest rivers in Asia, flowing from Goumukh in Uttarakhand to the Bay of Bengal at Ganga Sagar in West Bengal.
- It covers 26% of India’s landmass.
- It is a trans-boundary river forming the world’s largest delta, Sunderbans.
Aquatic life of Ganga
- The Ganga Basin is home to a wide variety of relic, rare and threatened species.
- These include the Gangetic dolphin, three species of otters (Smooth-coated otter, Eurasian otter and Small clawed otter), the Critically Endangered Gharial, Mugger (Indian marsh crocodile), Estuarine crocodile and at least 12 species of freshwater turtles, including the Critically Endangered Batagur kachuga.
- Within the Ganga River system, 143 different freshwater fish species have been reported including the Critically Endangered Ganges shark, Gangetic stingray, Golden mahseer and Hilsa.
- The increasing demand for development in ganga basin has resulted in water scarcity and water quality degradation. Nearly all of the sewage, rarely treated, from these settlements enters the basin’s waterways.
- In addition to these domestic and industrial pollutants, hundreds of human corpses and animal carcasses are released in to the river each day as spiritual rites.
- The aquatic wildlife of the Ganga basin is in peril due to reduction in water level, pollution and over exploitation of riverine resources, leading to habitat degradation.
- Additionally, aquatic species like waterbirds and island nesting birds are greatly impacted due to the change in the system.
- The Government of India established the National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA) address the issue of Ganga at the basin level to maintain its water quality, ecological flows and sustained ecosystem services.
- National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) is the implementation wing of National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA).
Army removes 130 tonnes of solid waste from Siachen glacier to protect its eco-system
The Indian Army plans to dispose of about 100 tons of waste every year from Siachen glacier to reduce garbage and increase its disposal.
About the Siachen waster cleaning
- The army has disposed of 130 tons of waste, including biodegradable and non-biodegradable, collected from January last year as part of its ‘Siachen Swachh Abhiyan’.
- This is the first institutionalised effort by the army to collect and dispose waste.
- However, the biggest challenge of collecting waste in Siachen is the altitude as military posts are located at altitudes ranging from 18,000 to 21,000 feet. Also, nothing degrades at the sub-zero temperature hence waste can only be brought down to the base camp via helicopters or on foot.
- Every year about 236 tons of waste is generated in Siachen. This would amount to about 8,000 tons since 1984, when the army began being deployed there.
About Siachen Glacier
- The Siachen Glacier is known as the highest battlefield of the world.
- Siachen Glacier lies in Northern Ladakh in the Karakorams, a mountain range originating from the Pamirs. Its position is located near Indo-Pak Line of Control.
- Siachen is the 5th largest glacier of the Karakoram Range and second largest glacier in the world.
- Siachen is the source of the Nubra River that eventually feeds the Indus river.
- The average elevation of Siachen Glacier from sea level is approximately 17770 feet. Most of the Siachen Glacier is the LoC, a disputed territory between India and Pakistan.
- The area of “Aksai Chin” is also located in this area. It is very important for India to deploy its troops in this area to monitor the activities of the Pakistan and China in this area.
- Prior to 1984, neither India nor Pakistan had any permanent presence in the area.
Exhibition organized under India Water Week
The Ministry of Jal Shakti organised an exhibition as part of the sixth edition of India Water Week in New Delhi.
About India Water Week – 2019
- The India Water Week -2019 is being organized in Delhi to bring upon new ideas of mutual cooperation for sustainable water management.
- The theme of the India Water Week – 2019 is “Water cooperation to cope with 21st-century challenges“.
- The exhibition showcased latest developments and available solutions to take on the challenge of burgeoning competition for river and ground waters among domestic, agriculture, industry and environmental needs.
About India Water Week
- The India Water Week is a forum where the Ministry of Water Resources, River Development & Ganga Rejuvenation discusses with stakeholders to build public awareness, to get support to implement key strategies for conservation and optimum use of available water.
- It was organized for the ﬁrst time in 2012.
Recycle, reuse policy to drive India’s plan to become resource efficient
Recently, the Union Ministry of Environment, Forests & Climate Change has drafted a National Resource Efficiency Policy, in order to double the recycling rate of key materials and enable the upcycling of waste.
- In the backdrop of the concerns over depleting resources in India because of rising factory output, urbanization, and increasing population, the pressure on existing resources has significantly increased.
About the Draft National Resource Efficiency Policy (NERP), 2019
- It was developed with the recommendations from the Indian Resource Efficiency Programme (IREP), launched by the Indian Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change and Indian Resource Panel in 2017.
- The work on Resource Efficiency Strategy was supported by the European Union (EU) funded Resource Efficiency Initiative (EU-REI)in the consortium with The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) and Confederation of Indian Industry (CII).
Highlights of NERP 2019
- NERP 2019 seeks to create a regulatory environment to mainstream resource efficiencyacross all sectors including both biotic and abiotic
- It will create a ‘National Resource Efficiency Authority(NREA)’ under Environment (Protection) 24 Act, 1986, to provide for the regulatory provisions of this policy.
- An inter-ministerial National Resource Efficiency Board (NREAB) will provide necessary guidance on the aspects critical to the implementation of resource efficiency.
- It also plans to offer tax benefits on recycled materials, green loans to small and medium Enterprises (SMEs) and soft loans to construct waste disposal facilities, apart from setting up Material Recovery Facilities (MRF).
- Manufacturers and service providers would also be required to use more recycled or renewable materials and awareness would be created among consumers to indicate the shift.
- Idea of the national policy is to drive the country towards circular economy through efficient use of available material resources, based on principle of 6R and ‘green public procurement’.
- The 6Rstands for reduce, reuse, recycle, redesign, re-manufacture and refurbish while the very premise of ‘green public procurement’ is to procure products with lower environmental footprints such as secondary raw materials and locally sourced materials.
- It also pitches for moving towards ‘zero landfill’ approach in the country, hinting at possibility of imposing ‘landfill taxes’ and ‘high tipping fees’ for bulk generators of waste so that they can move towards optimal use of materials and better waste management.
Principles of NERP 2019
- Reduction in primary resource consumption to ‘sustainable’ levels
- Creation of higher value with less material through resource efficient and circular approaches
- Waste minimization
- Material security, creation of employment opportunities and business models beneficial to the cause of environment protection
What is Resource Efficiency (RE) and Resource Productivity?
- Resource efficiency (RE) implies judicious use of earth’s limited resources to achieve maximum benefit while minimizing the adverse impacts on environment.
- It is the ratio between a given benefit or result and the natural resources use required for it.
- While the term ‘resource efficiency’ is predominantly used in business, product or material context; term ‘resource productivity’ is used in context of regional or national economy.
- Resource efficiency reduces waste, drives greater resource productivity, delivers a more competitive economy, addresses emerging resource security/scarcity issues, and helps reduce the environmental impacts associated with both production and consumption.
- Resource Efficiency and Circular Economy are important goals and central principles for achieving sustainable development. Sustainability is a global priority and SDGs commitment and 11th Five year plan also clearly enunciate importance of Resource efficiency (RE).
Benefits of Resource Efficiency
- Resource efficiency brings multiple benefits along the three dimensions of sustainable development – economic, social and environmental.
- India’s large population, rapid urbanization and expanding industrial production have led to exploitation of available limited natural resources with concerns regarding resource depletion and future availability becoming more pronounced.
- Therefore, enhancing resource efficiency (RE) and promoting the use of secondary raw materials (SRM) is a pertinent strategy to address these challenges and reduce dependence on primary resource.
Current Status of India’s resources
- Resource extraction of 1580 tonnes/acre is much higher than the world average of 450 tonnes/acre.
- 3rd largest material demand (in year 2010)
- Low material productivity compared to global average
- 3rd highest CO2 emitter, responsible for 6.9% of global CO2 emissions.
- Highest water withdrawal globally for agriculture.
- 30% of land undergoing degradation.
- High import dependency of many critical raw materials.
- Water is fast becoming scarce while deteriorating air quality has emerged as a major threat to human life.
- There has been massive soil degradation, with 147 million hectares (Mha) of a total of 329 Mha land area hit.
- Import dependency is nearly 100% for the majority of the ‘most critical’ materials -cobalt, copper and lithium that find extensive application in high-end technology industry.
- Over 80% of crude oil that is processed in the economy is imported, along with 85% of its coking coal demand.
- Extraction of non-metallic minerals is crippled with challenges.
- To add to the problems, India’s recycling rate is just about 20-25% compared with 70% in developing countries in Europe.
- The situation will only aggravate as India is likely to double its material consumption by 2030.
- In scenario with continuing current dynamics (8% growth in GDP p.a. until 2030, thereafter 5%), total material consumption in 2030 is projected to be 14.2 BT (billion tonnes).
- This means tripling of demand for primary materials compared to 2010, particularly the demand for energy carriers, metals and non-metal minerals.
Bilateral & International Relations
Google wins landmark right to be forgotten case
Google won its fight against tougher “right to be forgotten” rules after Europe’s top court said it does not have to remove links to sensitive personal data worldwide, rejecting a French demand.
What is the issue?
- In 2015, CNIL, an independent French administrative regulatory body, ordered the Google Inc. to globally remove search pages containing damaging or false information about a person.
- As a result, in 2016, Google introduced a geoblocking feature that prevents European users from being able to see delisted links.
- However, google resisted censoring search results for people in other parts of the world and challenged a fine that CNIL had tried to impose on Google.
- Google, giving reason why it did not censor search results for the people outside EU, argued that the obligation could be abused by authoritarian governments trying to cover up human rights abuses.
- Currently, there is no obligation under EU law, for a search engine operator to delist (remove) the sensitive information of a person outside EU region. Hence, Google can deny the request to remove sensitive information on their search pages outside EU region.
What is the right to be forgotten?
- Also known as the “right to erasure“, right to be forgotten gives European Union (EU) citizens the power to demand data about them be deleted.
- In the case of search engines (i.e. Google), Europeans have had the right to request links to pages containing sensitive personal information about them be removed since 2014.
- The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which came into force in 2018, added further obligations. It added that public can make a request to any organisation and the recipient (such as Google) has one month to respond and GDRP rules will decide whether they are compelled to comply or not.
- Google has applied the right to be forgotten since 2014, when the European court first said that under some circumstances, European citizens could force search firms to delist webpages containing sensitive information, such the fact a person once committed a criminal offence or had an extra-marital affair, about them.
Defence & Security Issues
India joins global initiative to combat extremism online
Recently, members of the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism (GIFCT) met with government leaders, led by Presidents of New Zealand and France at the United Nations General Assembly to share progress on the steps taken to implement the Christchurch Call to Action.
About ‘Christchurch call to action’ initiative
- The Christchurch Call to Action Summit was a political summit of Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism (GIFCT) initiated by New Zealand Prime Minister in May 2019 in Paris, France.
- It was launched during the “Online Extremism Summit” in Paris.
- ‘Christchurch call to action’ was named after the New Zealand Christchurch city where 51 people were killed in an attack on mosques.
- This initiative aims to eliminate terrorist and violent extremist content online.
- It rests on the conviction that a free, open and secure internet offers extraordinary benefits to society.
- Total of 48 have countries shave signed this initiative.
- Formally established in July 2017 as a group of companies, GIFCT is dedicated to disrupting terrorist abuse of members’ digital platforms.
- The original Forum was led by a rotating chair drawn from the founding four companies—Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter and YouTube—and managed a program of knowledge-sharing, technical collaboration and shared research.
- GIFCT as an independent organization was formally established in 2017.
Goals of GIFCT:
As an independent organization, GIFCT will adopt a new mission statement: “Prevent terrorists and violent extremists from exploiting digital platforms” to guide its work across four foundational goals:
- Empower a broad range of technology companies, independently and collectively, with processes and tools to prevent and respond to abuse of their platforms by terrorists and violent extremists.
- Enable multi-stakeholder engagement around terrorist and violent extremist misuse of the Internet and encourage stakeholders to meet key commitments consistent with the GIFCT mission.
- Promote civil dialogue online and empower efforts to direct positive alternatives to the messages of terrorists and violent extremists.
- Advance broad understanding of terrorist and violent extremist operations and their evolution, including the intersection of online and offline activities.
Science & Technology
Vaidyaratnam P. S. Varier
The Vice President of India has called for making India a thriving hub for natural healing and wellness in the world on the 150th Birth Anniversary of Vaidyaratnam P.S. Varier at Arya Vaidya Sala (AVS), Kottakkal.
About Vaidyaratnam P. S. Varier
- Vaidyaratnam P. S. Varier was an Ayurvedic physician from Kerala.
- He is well-regarded as the founder of Kottakkal Arya Vaidyasala, a major Ayurvedic treatment centre in Malappuram district of Kerala.
- An Ayurveda Pathasala was established by him in 1917 at Calicut as a formal education institution. This Padhasala later became the Vaidyaratnam P.S. Varier Ayurveda College affiliated to The Kerala University of Health Sciences.
- He founded a drama troupe which was developed to be the famous Kathakali troupe, P.S.V. Natyasangham.
- In 1933, in recognition of his services to humanity, P. S. Varier was conferred the title of ‘Vaidyaratna’ by the Viceroy and Governor General of India. The Government of India has issued a postage stamp in his honour bearing his image.
Why India has the capability to become the wellness capital of the world?
- The Atharva Veda, lauded as the earliest source of medical information in India, is a treasure trove of knowledge and wisdom in the field of medicine.
- Despite, the non-supportive political environment created by foreign rulers, Ayurveda survived and earned global recognition as a benign healthcare science.
- Comprehensive approach adopted by Ayurveda could play an important role in treating chronic and lifestyle diseases.
- Given the disturbing trend of increasing incidence of non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, in India, there is an urgent need to shift focus from the treatment of these diseases to their prevention and general wellness.
- There is also need for integrating traditional systems like Ayurveda with the modern allopathic system for enhancing the efficacy of treatments.
- As a practicing science, the system of Ayurveda needs to be strengthened through research.
Professor from England bags Sastra award
The prestigious 2019 Sastra-Ramanujan Prize will be awarded to number theorist Dr Adam Harper of the University of Warwick, England.
- Dr Harper was chosen for the 2019 prize for his outstanding contributions to analytic and probabilistic number theory.
About Sastra-Ramanujan Award
- It is an annual prize given for outstanding contributions by individuals below 32 years in areas of mathematics inﬂuenced by Ramanujan.
- It is given by SASTRA (Shanmugha Arts, Science, Technology & Research Academy) University, Tamil Nadu.
- Every year, this prize is awarded by SASTRA University on its campus near Kumbakonam in Tamil Nadu, on Ramanujan’s birth anniversary, December 22.
- The prize carries a citation and an award of $10,000 and is conferred annually on mathematicians from across the world who are less than 32 years of age, working in an area influenced by the genius Srinivasa Ramanujan.
About Srinivasa Ramanujan
- Srinivasa Ramanujan was one of India’s greatest mathematician.
- He made substantial contributions to the mathematical analysis, number theory, and continued fractions. His work led to the development of a new method for finding asymptotic formulae, called the circle method.
- What made his achievements extraordinary was the fact that he received almost no formal training in mathematics and started working on his own mathematical research in isolation.
- His mathematical studies impressed Ramaswamy Aiyer who was the founder of the Indian Mathematical Society.
- In 1918, he was elected as one of the youngest Fellows in the history of Royal Society for his investigation in Elliptic functions and the Theory of Numbers. In the same year, he became the first Indian to be honoured by being elected as a Fellow of Trinity College.
- In memory of Ramanujan, the Government of India declared 22 December as National Mathematics Day since 2011.
- The number 1729 is called Hardy-Ramanujan number in his honor following an incident regarding a taxi with this number.
- Considered to be a mathematical genius he is regarded at par with the likes of Leonhard Euler and Carl Jacobi.
Key Facts for Prelims
Agriculture minister launches app based CHC services
The Agriculture minister launched multilingual app based service – CHC Farm Machinery for Custom Hiring Centres (CHCs).
- He also launched another app Krishi Kisan, which will provide farmers the information of best demonstration of high-yielding crops and seeds in their nearby area.
About the App
- Through this app, farmers will be able to hire farm machineries including tractors at an affordable price from the Custom Hiring Centers (CHC) located in the radius of 50 Kms.
- Farmers, especially small and marginal farmers, will have easy access to high value and technical agricultural equipments which will not only increase the income of the farmers, but will also take mechanization to maximum farm holdings in a short time frame.
What are Custom hiring centres (CHCs) for farm machinery?
- Custom hiring centres (CHCs) for farm implements were established in 100 NICRA (National Initiative on Climate Resilient Agriculture) villages which could successfully empower farmers to tide over the shortage of labour and improve efficiency of agricultural operations.
Objectives of CHCs
- To make available various farm machinery / equipments to small and marginal farmers
- To offset the adverse economies of scale due to high cost of individual ownership
- To improve mechanization in places with low farm power availability
- To provide hiring services for various agricultural machinery
Need for CHCs
- In India, there is a strong need for taking farm mechanization. However, the farm power distribution is quite uneven across the States, wherein the highest use of mechanical power is in the order of 3.5 kw/ha in Punjab and less than 1kw/ha in States like Bihar, Orissa, Jharkhand etc.
- Mechanical power is largely consumed in big land holdings and is still beyond the reach of small/marginal holdings which constitutes around 80% of the total land holdings.
- This is due to the fact that the small/marginal farmers, by virtue of their economic condition are unable to own farm machinery on their own or through institutional credit.
- Hence, in order to bring farm machinery available within the reach of small/marginal holdings, Custom Hiring Centres were created.
About Sub-Mission On Agricultural Mechanization
- Introduced in 2014, this scheme is being implemented to promote the usage of farm mechanization and increase the ratio of farm power to cultivable unit area up to 2 kW/ha.
- The Central Sector schemes of ‘Promotion and Strengthening of Agricultural Mechanization through Training, Testing and Demonstration’ and ‘Post Harvest Technology & Management’ have been merged with this Sub-Mission.
- Increasing the reach of farm mechanization to small and marginal farmers and to the region where availability of farm power is low
- Promoting ‘Custom Hiring Centres’ to offset the adverse economies of scale arising due to small landholding and high cost of individual ownership
- Creating hubs for hi-tech & high value farm equipments
- Ensuring performance testing and certification at designated testing centers.
- Demonstration, training and distribution of the Post-Harvest Technology and Management (PHTM)
- It is being implemented under the National Mission on Agricultural Extension and Technology.
- Farm Mechanization programmes are implemented through other missions/schemes such as Remunerative Approach for Agriculture and Allied sector Rejuvenation (RKVY), Mission for Integrated Development of Horticulture (MIDH), National Mission on Oilseeds and Oil Palm (NMOOP) and Sub Mission on Agricultural Mechanization (SMAM).
Gandhi Solar Park inaugurated at UN Headquarters
- Indian Prime Minister inaugurated the Gandhi Solar Park at the UN headquarters and released a commemorative stamp issued by the UN on the occasion of Gandhi’s 150th birth anniversary.
- At a contribution of about $1 million, India has gifted solar panels for this park.
- It is a 50 kilowatt Solar Park at the Headquarters of the United Nations.
Dadasaheb Phalke award for Amitabh Bachchan
The Dadasaheb Phalke award will be presented this year to Amitabh Bachchan.
About Dadasaheb Phalke award
- It is India’s highest film honour conferred for outstanding contribution for the growth and development of Indian cinema.
- It was introduced by the government in 1969 to commemorate the Dadasaheb Phalke who is known as ‘father of Indian cinema’ and directed India’s first feature film Raja Harischandra.
- It was awarded for the first time to Devika Rani who is known as the ‘first lady of Indian cinema’.