Current Affairs Analysis

26th & 27th April 2020 Current Affairs Analysis – IASToppers

Devanahalli Pomelo; Time spending in Rajya Sabha; Kesavananda Bharati case; AarogyaSetu; Marshall Plan; Industrial Relations Code Bill, 2019; Swamitva Yojana; World Malaria Day; Operation Twist;Key Facts on Bats; Zoonoses; One Health; Flogging; Spratly Islands; Paracel Islands; Basaveshwara; merger of two black holes; Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO); Sprinklr deal controversy; Indian Computer Emergency Response Team; UV disinfection trolley; Hydrogen Fuel Cell (FC) based electric buses and electric cars; Doodh Duronto Special; Pitch Black 2020; Panchayati Raj Diwas;
By IASToppers
April 27, 2020

Contents

 

Polity & Governance

  • Rajya Sabha spends only 24% of its time on legislation
  • 47 years of a judgment that upheld basic structure of India’s constitution

Government Schemes & Policies

  • AarogyaSetu app and Privacy concerns
  • A Marshal plan for East India
  • Industrial Relations Code Bill, 2019
  • PM launches Swamitva Yojana to boost rural economy

Issues related to Health & Education

  • World Malaria Day

Social Issues

  • Businesses must reframe their purpose, priorities

Economy

  • Operation Twist

Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management

  • Stop villainising bats, say scientists
  • Why pathogens travel in search of a host

Bilateral & International Relations

  • Saudi Arabia abolishes flogging as punishment
  • Diplomatic tensions in the South China Sea

Art & Culture

  • Basaveshwara 

Science & Technology

  • First merger of two black holes with unequal masses detected
  • CERT-In to conduct security audit of COVID-19 data

Key Facts for Prelims

  • Chemicals and Fertilizers Sector
  • UV disinfection trolley
  • Hydrogen Fuel Cell (FC) based electric buses and electric cars
  • Doodh Duronto Special
  • Pitch Black 2020
  • Panchayati Raj Diwas
  • Devanahalli Pomelo

For IASToppers Current Affairs Analysis Archive, Click Here

Polity & Governance

Rajya Sabha spends only 24% of its time on legislation

The Upper House spends 24% of its time in deliberating and passing laws, an analysis by the Rajya Sabha Secretariat has revealed.

Key Highlights

  • During 1978-2018, the upper house had transacted business for 13,946 hours as against the available 18,132 hours. This comes to 76.91% productivity while 23.09% of the available time was lost due to disruptions.
  • During 1978-2018, the actual functional time excluding disruptions ranged from 139 to 580 hours per year. All instances of working for above 500 hours per year were during 1978-1988 with an evident slide afterwards.

Time spending in Rajya Sabha

  • 40.2% time – in deliberating issues of national importance followed by
  • 32.22% time – in asking questions and holding the government accountable. 
  • 24.05% time – spent on making laws.
  • 3.52% time –  spent on Private members Bills
[Ref: The Hindu]

47 years of a judgment that upheld basic structure of India’s constitution

Exactly 47 years ago, the Supreme Court passed its landmark judgment in Kesavananda Bharati vs State of Kerala, considered among the most significant constitutional cases in India’s judicial history.

Background

  • The Constitution of a country is the fundamental law of the land. It is based on this document that all other laws are made and enforced.
  • Under some Constitutions, certain parts are immune from amendments, and are given a special status compared to other provisions.
  • In the early years of Independence, the Supreme Court gave absolute power to Parliament in amending the Constitution, as was seen in the verdicts in Shankari Prasad (1951) and Sajjan Singh (1965).
  • However, in subsequent years, as the Constitution kept being amended at will to suit the interests of the ruling dispensation, the Supreme Court in Golaknath (1967) held that Parliament’s amending power could not touch Fundamental Rights, and this power would be only with a Constituent Assembly.

Tussle between Parliament and the judiciary

  • In 1970s, the government had enacted major amendments to the Constitution (the 24th, 25th, 26th and 29th) to get over the judgments of the Supreme Court in RC Cooper (1970), Madhavrao Scindia (1970) and the earlier mentioned Golaknath.
  • In RC Cooper, the court had struck down government’s bank nationalisation policy, and in Madhavrao Scindia it had annulled the abolition of privy purses of former rulers.
  • All the four amendments, as well as the Golaknath judgment, came under challenge in the Kesavananda Bharati case– where relief was sought by the religious figure Swami Kesavananda Bharati against the Kerala government vis-à-vis two state land reform laws.

About Kesavananda Bharati vs State of Kerala case

  • A 13-judge Constitution Bench ruled that the ‘basic structure’ of the Constitution is inviolable, and could not be amended by Parliament. The basic structure doctrine has since been regarded as a tenet of Indian constitutional law.
  • The court did not define the ‘basic structure’, and only listed a few principles — federalism, secularism, democracy — as being its part. Since then, the court has been adding new features to this concept.

Basic structure since Kesavananda

  • The ‘basic structure’ doctrine has since been interpreted to include the supremacy of the Constitution, the rule of law, Independence of the judiciary, doctrine of separation of powers, federalism, secularism, sovereign democratic republic, welfare state, etc.
  • An example of its application is SR Bommai (1994), when the Supreme Court upheld the dismissal of governments by the President following the demolition of the Babri Masjid, invoking a threat to secularism by these governments.
  • Critics of the doctrine have called it undemocratic, since unelected judges can strike down a constitutional amendment. At the same time, its proponents have hailed the concept as a safety valve against majoritarianism and authoritarianism.
[Ref: Indian Express]

Government Schemes & Policies

AarogyaSetu app and Privacy concerns

Recently, the AarogyaSetu app — for pan-India use and available in 11 languages — was launched as the main contact tracing technology endorsed by the Central government.

About AarogyaSetu

  • It was launched by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology.
  • It help people in identifying the risk of getting affected by the CoronaVirus and calculate risk based on the user’s interaction with others, using cutting edge Bluetooth technology, algorithms and artificial intelligence.
  • Once installed in a smartphone, the app detects other nearby devices with Aarogya Setu installed.
  • It achieves this using the phone’s Bluetooth and GPS capabilities. While registering, the app collects a set of personal information such as name, sex, age, phone number, current location and travel history that is uploaded to government servers, which then generates a unique digital identity for that user.
  • When the Bluetooths of two AarogyaSetu users sniff each other out, this unique digital identity is exchanged along with the time and location of the meeting. When an app user tests positive, all unique digital identities in his or her records get an alert on the risk they face and instructions on self-isolation and next steps.

Concerns

  • The AarogyaSetu app is people dependent. It needs widespread usage and self-reporting to be effective. Given that any number of total users will be a subset of smartphone owners in India, and there are bound to be variations in the levels of self-reporting, the efficacy is not bulletproof. 
  • With no legislation that spells out in detail how the online privacy of Indians is to be protected, AarogyaSetu users have little choice but to accept the privacy policy provided by the government.
  • The policy goes into some detail on where and how long the data will be retained, but it leaves the language around who will have access to it vague. As per the policy, persons carrying out medical and administrative interventions necessary in relation to COVID-19 will have access to the data. This suggests interdepartmental exchanges of people’s personal information.
  • Beyond the legal loopholes, there are technical loopholes as well. The unique digital identity in AarogyaSetu is a static number, which increases the probability of identity breaches.
  • The abundance of data collected is also potentially problematic. AarogyaSetu uses both Bluetooth as well as GPS reference points, which could be seen as an overkill.
  • AarogyaSetu app has no documentation publicly available on the app. The advocacy groups argue that there should be more transparency on the inner workings of an app that is being promoted by the government.
[Ref: Indian Express]

A Marshal plan for East India

India could have lockdowns again if there is a surge in infection. This will surely limit travel and restrict shopping for non-essentials. However, there is one demand that can easily revive — that of food.

Details

  • The NSSO survey of consumption expenditures for 2011-12 revealed that about 45 % of the total expenditure of an Indian household is on food.  For the poor, this figure was about 60 %. 
  • In 2020, about 35-40 %of the expenditure of an Indian household is on food and for a poor household, this figure is around 50 %. Herein, lies the scope to reboot the economy.

What was Marshall Plan?

  • The Marshall Plan was an American initiative passed in 1948 for foreign aid to Western Europe.
  • US transferred over $12 billion in economic recovery programs to Western European economies after the end of World War II.
  • Replacing an earlier proposal for a Morgenthau Plan, it operated for four years beginning on in 1948.
  • The goals were to rebuild war-torn regions, remove trade barriers, modernize industry, improve European prosperity, and prevent the spread of Communism.
  • The Marshall Plan required a reduction of interstate barriers, a dropping of many regulations, and encouraged an increase in productivity, as well as the adoption of modern business procedures.

Special investment package for India

  • A special investment package — like the Marshall Plan of USA in 1948 — for the eastern belt of India to build better infrastructure, agri-markets and godowns, rural housing etc. will augment the incomes of the migrant workers.
  • Rising incomes will generate more demand for food as well as manufactured products, giving a fillip to the growth engines of agriculture as well as the MSME sector.
  • Building better supply chains for food directly from farm-to-fork, led by the private sector, will enhance the export competitiveness of agriculture.
  • It will also ensure a higher share of farmers in the consumers’ rupee. Such broad-based development in a relatively underdeveloped region of the country will lay the foundations of a long-term, demand-driven, growth of industry in India.
[Ref: Hindustan Times]

Industrial Relations Code Bill, 2019

The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Labour has made suggestions to the Industrial Relations Code.

  • The code proposes to amalgamate The Trade Unions Act, 1926, The Industrial Employment (Standing Orders) Act, 1946, and The Industrial Disputes Act, 1947.

Key suggestions made:

  • Centre should create a formal and conducive industrial relations system by strengthening the various provisions in the Code.
  • In case of natural calamities, payment of wages to the workers until the re-establishment of the industry may be unjustifiable. The law has to be reasonable, in such cases it is for the government to step in and extend a helping hand for the industries.
  • A separate and an exclusive chapter should be created for outlining the rights of both the employee and the employer containing the principles pertaining to the industrial relations based on the ILO conventions.
  • Union Labour Ministry should include scheme workers like Anganwadi, Asha, Mid-day Meal, etc, in the definition of worker on the ground that this is as per the existing provision for the formation of a Trade Union.
  • The Government should give a consolidated and merged definition of worker/employee so that supervisors, managers, etc. could find a place therein.

To know Highlights of the Bill, refer https://www.iastoppers.com/29th-november-2019-current-affairs-analysis-iastoppers/ 

[Ref: PIB]

PM launches Swamitva Yojana to boost rural economy

Prime Minister launched ‘Swamitva Yojana’ or Ownership Scheme.

About the Swamitva Yojana

  • The scheme is piloted by the Panchayati Raj ministry.
  • Objective: To create a record of land ownership in rural areas using modern technology.

Features

  • The residential land in villages will be measured using drones to create a non-disputable record.
  • Property card for every property in the village will be prepared by states using accurate measurements delivered by drone-mapping. These cards will be given to property owners and will be recognised by the land revenue records department.

Benefits of the scheme:

  • The delivery of property rights through an official document will enable villagers to access bank finance using their property as collateral.
  • The property records for a village will also be maintained at the Panchayat level, allowing for the collection of associated taxes from the owners. The money generated from these local taxes will be used to build rural infrastructure and facilities.
  • Freeing the residential properties including land of title disputes and the creation of an official record is likely to result in appreciation in the market value of the properties.
  • The accurate property records can be used for facilitating tax collection, new building and structure plan, issuing of permits and for thwarting attempts at property grabbing.

Need

  • Several villagers in the rural areas don’t have papers proving ownership of their land. In most states, survey and measurement of the populated areas in the villages has not been done for the purpose of attestation/verification of properties.
[Ref: Hindustan Times]

Issues related to Health & Education

World Malaria Day

On World Malaria Day (25 April) 2020, WHO joins the RBM Partnership to End Malaria in promoting “Zero malaria starts with me”, a campaign that to keep malaria high on the political agenda, and empower communities to take ownership of malaria prevention.

  • The theme for World Malaria Day 2020 is ‘Zero Malaria Starts with Me

About Malaria

Spread:

  • Malaria is caused by Plasmodium parasites. The parasites are spread to people through the bites of infected female Anopheles mosquitoes, called “malaria vectors.”
  • There are 5 parasite species that cause malaria in humans, and 2 of these species – P. falciparum and P. vivax – pose the greatest threat.
  • Caused by parasites that are transmitted to people through the bites of infected female Anopheles mosquitoes. It is preventable and curable.
  • Malaria is a leading cause of human morbidity.

Transmission

  • Transmission is more intense in places where the mosquito lifespan is longer and where it prefers to bite humans rather than other animals.
  • Children aged under 5 years are the most vulnerable group affected by malaria; in 2018, they accounted for 67% (272 000) of all malaria deaths worldwide.

Vaccine: RTS,S/AS01 (RTS,S) is the first and, to date, the only vaccine to show that it can significantly reduce malaria, and life-threatening severe malaria, in young African children.

Worldwide Burden

  • The WHO African Region carries a high share (93%) of the global malaria burden.
  • Six countries of the Greater Mekong subregion – Cambodia, China (Yunnan Province), Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Myanmar, Thailand and Viet Nam – reduced their malaria caseload by 76% in the period 2010 to 2018.

WHO initiatives: 

WHO has three initiative of global malaria elimination:

  • Global technical strategy for malaria 2016-2030
  • Rapid Access Expansion Programme (RAcE)
  • Mekong Malaria Elimination (MME) programme

India’s efforts

  • At the East Asia Summit in 2015, India pledged to eliminate the disease by 2030.
  • Following this public declaration, India launched the five-year National Strategic Plan for Malaria Elimination. This marked a shift in focus from malaria “control” to “elimination”. The plan provides a roadmap to achieve the target of ending malaria in 571 districts out of India’s 678 districts by 2022.

Durgama Anchalare Malaria Nirakaran (DAMaN) initiative:

  • It is an initiative of Odisha that aims to deliver services to the most inaccessible and hardest hit people of the State.
  • The programme is jointly implemented by Indian Council of Medical Research-National Institute of Malaria Research (ICMR-NIMR), National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme (NVBDCP), Odisha and Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV).
[Ref: The Hindu, Indian Express, WHO]

Social Issues

Businesses must reframe their purpose, priorities

While we are far from overcoming the pandemic at this stage, the examples of China, Taiwan, South Korea and Singapore hold valuable lessons for businesses.

Analysis of some companies at the forefront of taking effective actions

Early and decisive action is imperative.

  • Learning from previous experiences, forecasting the impact on the organisations and taking proactive steps will be critical in handling the crisis.
  • Example: Starbucks China closed 80% of its stores within days of news of virus breaking, prioritising the safety of its partners above business. It also paid full wages and instituted a partner-assistance programme. This helped shore up the confidence of all stakeholders and has allowed Starbucks to reopen these stores rapidly.

An opportunity for companies to refine their purpose.

  • The current crisis is a moment to institute internal rules that help the company take more humane decisions. This is not just ethically right, but economically prudent.
  • Example: Dyson, a global leader in air-flow technology, which is used for its household products, utilised its know-how to design an entirely new ventilator, named CoVent, and committed to supplying 10,000 units, all within ten days of the pandemic.

Corporate leaders should assess their organisational flexibility to address market upheavals.

  • The Covid-19 pandemic can help in contingency planning for future shocks, to ensure that the company is better prepared as opposed to finding itself flat-footed.
  • These actions may be aligned towards business continuance, but importantly they must give the freedom to teams to respond quickly and in line with the company’s purpose.
  • Example: Diageo India their factories to produce 300,000 litres of hand-sanitisers and donated masks to public health departments. Additionally, it created a insurance fund to support bartenders in this time of need.

Businesses should apply a “through-the-cycle” strategy during this critical period.

  • While the initial days of this pandemic crisis will be devoted towards ensuring the safety of teams and partners, the next stage presents the organisation an opportunity to think through-the-cycle and define initiatives that will allow it to come out stronger post the pandemic.
  • Refining the value proposition and business model, defining the online and e-commerce strategy, driving a more efficacious organisational structure and identifying new opportunities of growth can be the areas of focus.

Time for the investor community to rethink its company valuation models.

  • It will become increasingly important to ascertain the resilience of the company rather than just its profitability. In a volatile world, the ability of an organisation to withstand should be treated as a critical aspect that the market will evaluate while ascribing the right value to the company.
[Ref: Hindustan Times]

Economy

Operation Twist

The Reserve bank of India has decided to bring back its bond swapping programmed billed as India’s Operation Twist with an aim to help monetary transmission.

  • The RBI said that it will conduct purchase and sale of government securities under open market operations (OMO) for Rs10,000 crore each on 27 April.

About Operation Twist

  • Operation Twist is the name given to a US Federal Reserve monetary policy operation, which involves the purchase and sale of government securities to boost the economy by bringing down long-term interest rates.
  • Operation Twist normally leads to lower longer-term yields, which will help boost the economy by making loans less expensive, while saving becomes less desirable because it doesn’t pay as much interest.

Functioning of Operation Twist by RBI

  • This operation involves buying and selling government securities simultaneously in order to bring down long-term interest rates and bolster short-term rates.
  • There is an inverse relationship between the bond prices and their yields. As the central bank buys long-term securities (bonds), their demand rise which in turn pushes up their prices.
  • However, the bond yield comes down with an increase in prices. Yield is the return an investor gets on his (bond) holding/investment.
  • The interest rate in an economy is determined by yield. Thus, lower long-term interest rates mean people can avail long-term loans (such as buying houses, cars or financing projects) at lower rates.
  • This also results in a dip in the expected returns from long-term savings which tilts the balance from saving towards spending. Hence, cheaper retail loans can help encourage consumption spending which is the largest GDP component in the economy.
[Ref: The Hindu]

Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management

Stop villainising bats, say scientists

Unverified news linking bats to the COVID-19 outbreak have led to increasing incidents of the public destroying bat roosts and smoking them out.

  • To raise awareness, chiropterologists (those who study bats) from six South Asian countries have released a document clarifying myths about bats and strongly affirming that bats do not spread COVID-19.
  • They clarify that the bat coronaviruses (BtCoV) found in two species of Indian bats are not the same as SARS-CoV-2 and cannot cause COVID-19.

Key Facts on Bats

  • India has 128 species of bats, belonging to nine families. However, only 2 species –  Salim Ali’s fruit bat and Wroughton’s free-tailed bat are protected by law in India.
  • India has an incredible diversity of bats; this includes one of the largest in the world, the Indian flying fox (Pteropus giganteus); one of the most colorful, the orange and black painted bat (Kerivoula picta); and one of the rarest, Salim Alis fruit bat (Latidens salimalii).
  • Meghalaya is home to about half of the recorded bat species in India.
  • Bats perform vital ecosystem services. In India, they pollinate the flowers of mangroves and create our strong coastal shield to natural barriers. They also act as pest controllers in rice and tea plantations.
[Ref: The Hindu]

Why pathogens travel in search of a host

The first possible source heard of in relation to the COVID-19 epidemic was the wet market in Huanan, Wuhan, China. While subsequent studies cast doubts on the link, it is quite possible that an animal source was present at this location.

What are zoonoses?

  • A zoonosis is any disease or infection that is naturally transmissible from vertebrate animals to humans.
  • Zoonoses may be bacterial, viral, or parasitic, or may involve unconventional agents.
  • According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), 60% of all infectious diseases in humans are zoonotic, and about 75% of all emerging infectious diseases are zoonotic in nature. 

Why are zoonotic diseases prevalent?

  • For many zoonotic disease, livestock serve as an epidemiological bridge between wildlife and human infections. Among zoonoses that emerged or re-emerged recently, the UNEP counts Ebola, bird flu, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), Rift Valley fever, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), West Nile virus, Zika virus disease, and COVID-19.
  •  Drivers of zoonotic disease emergence are:
    • Changes in the environment as a result of human activities ranging from land use change;
    • Changes in animals or human hosts; and
    • Changes in pathogens, which are programmed to survive, and in the process exploit multiple hosts. 
  • For instance, bat-associated viruses emerged due to the loss of habitats. The Ebola was the result of forest losses; the emergence of avian influenza was linked to intensive poultry farming; and the Nipah virus was linked to the intensification of pig farming and fruit production in Malaysia.

What is ‘One Health’?

  • According to the World Health Organisation, ‘One Health’ is an approach to designing and implementing programmes, policies, legislation and research in which multiple sectors communicate and work together to achieve better public health outcomes.
  • The areas of work in which a ‘One Health’ approach is particularly relevant include food safety, the control of zoonoses, and combating antibiotic resistance (when bacteria change after being exposed to antibiotics and become more difficult to treat).

 [Ref: The Hindu]

Bilateral & International Relations

Saudi Arabia abolishes flogging as punishment

Saudi Arabia has abolished flogging as a punishment, hailing a “major step forward” in the reform programme launched by the King and his powerful son.

  • The abolition comes just days following news of the death from a stroke in custody of leading activist.

What is flogging?

  • Flagellation or lashing is the act of beating the human body with special implements such as whips, lashes, rods etc.
  • Flogging has been applied to punish a variety of crimes in Saudi Arabia including public intoxication, harassment and extramarital sex, breach of the peace, murder eyc.

Significance

  • This decision guarantees that convicts who would previously have been sentenced to the lash will from now on receive fines or prison terms instead.

Criticism of flogging

  • Court-ordered floggings in Saudi Arabia, sometimes extending to hundreds of lashes, have long drawn condemnation from human rights groups.
  • Without a codified system of law to go with the texts making up sharia (Islamic law), individual judges have the latitude to interpret religious texts and come up with their own sentences.
  • The most high-profile instance of flogging in recent years was the case of Saudi blogger Raif Badawi who was sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes in 2014 on charges of “insulting” Islam. He was awarded the European Parliament’s Sakharov human rights prize the following year.

Criticism on Saudi Arabia’s human right violation  

  • The Saudi authorities put a record 184 people to death last year. Saudi Arabia’s growing use of the death penalty, including as a weapon against political dissidents, is an alarming development.
  • Criticism of Saudi Arabia’s human rights record has grown since King Salman named his son Prince Mohammed the Crown Prince and heir to the throne in June 2017. The murder of journalist inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in 2018 and the increased repression of dissidents at home have overshadowed the Prince’s pledge to modernise the economy and society.
  • Other forms of corporal and capital punishment, such as amputation for theft or beheading for murder and terrorism offences, have not yet been outlawed.
  • Critics have accused Saudi Arabia of “sports washing”. Sportswashing is the hosting of a sporting event, or owning of a team as a means for a country to improve its reputation, particularly if it has a poor record on human rights.
[Ref: The Hindu]

Diplomatic tensions in the South China Sea

Recently, China unilaterally renamed 80 islands and other geographical features in South China Sea, drawing criticism from neighbouring countries who have also laid claim to the same territory.

What is the Spratly Islands dispute about?

  • There has been an ongoing territorial dispute between China, Taiwan, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Malaysia concerning the ownership of the Spratly Islands archipelago and nearby geographical features like corals reefs etc.
  • Since 1968, these nations have engaged in varying kinds of military occupation of the islands and the surrounding waters, with the exception of Brunei, that has contained its objections to the use of its maritime waters for commercial fishing.
  • Although the Spratly Islands are largely uninhabited, there is a possibility that they may have large reserves of untapped natural resources. However, due to the ongoing dispute, there have been few initiatives to explore the scale of these reserves.
  • In the 1970s, oil was discovered in neighbouring islands, specifically off the coast of Palawan. This discovery ramped up territorial claims by these countries. Over the years, US government agencies have claimed that there is little to no oil and natural gas in these islands, but these reports have done little to reduce the territorial dispute.

What is the Paracel Islands dispute about?

  • The Paracel Islands is a collection of 130 islands and coral reefs.
  • It located in the South China Sea, almost equidistant from China and Vietnam. 
  • China says that references to the Paracel Islands as a part of China sovereign territory can be found in 14th century writings from the Song Dynasty. Vietnam says that historical texts from at least the 15th century show that the islands were a part of its territory.
  • These islands also find mention in records starting from the 16th century by explorers who led expeditions to the East.
  • In 1974, China and Vietnam fought over their territorial disputes after which China took over control of the islands. In retaliation, in 1982, Vietnam said it had extended its administrative powers over these islands. In 1999, Taiwan jumped into the fray laying its claim over the entire archipelago.
  • Since 2012, China, Taiwan and Vietnam have attempted to reinforce their claims on the territory by engaging in construction of government administrative buildings, tourism and expanding military presence on the archipelago.

What was the most recent dispute about?

  • Following the recent establishment of new administrative districts on both Spratly and Paracel Islands, China jointly announced that it had named 80 islands, reefs and other geographical features around the two archipelagos with Chinese names.
  • Following China’s renaming of the islands, the US sent in an assault ship into the waters near Spratly and Paracel Islands, off the coast of Malaysia. The US has no territorial claims in the South China Sea, but is known to send its naval force into the waters each time there are provocative developments in the waters, particularly angering China.
[Ref: Indian Express]

Art & Culture

Basaveshwara 

Prime Minister paid homage to Lord Basaveshwara on the occasion of Basava Jayanthi, the Birth anniversary of Lord Basaveshwara.

About Lord Basaveshwara

  • Born in Bagevadi (in Karnataka) during 1131 AD, Basavanna was a 12th-century philosopher, Kannada poet and a social reformer during the reign of the Kalachuri-dynasty king Bijjala I in Karnataka.
  • He spread social awareness through his poetry, popularly known as Vachanaas. The main aim of Vachana movement was “Sakala jeevatmarige lesu”(welfare of all).
  • He rejected gender or social discrimination, superstitions and rituals.
  • He introduced new public institutions such as the Anubhava Mantapa (or, the “hall of spiritual experience”), which welcomed men and women from all socio-economic backgrounds to discuss spiritual and mundane questions of life, in open.
  • As a leader, he developed a new devotional movement named Virashaivas, (or “ardent, heroic worshippers of Shiva”). This movement shared its roots in the ongoing Tamil Bhakti movement, particularly the Shaiva Nayanars traditions, over the 7th- to 11th-century.
  • Basava championed devotional worship that rejected temple worship and rituals led by Brahmins, and replaced it with personalized direct worship of Shiva through practices such as individually worn icons and symbols like a small linga.
  •  Basaveshwara  gave  two more very important socio-economic principles. They are- “Kayaka” (Work-Divine work) and “Dasoha” (Distrubution-Equal distribution). According to this, every individual of the society should take up the job of his choice and perform it with all sincerity. There is no discrimination in vocations. All members of the society are labourers (Kayakajeevigalu).
  • The worker (Kayakajeevi) may lead his day-today life by his hard earned income and must utilise the surplus money for the society and poors. This concept is called –“Dasoha”.
  • In November 2015, the Prime Minister of India inaugurated the statue of Basaveshwara along the bank of the river Thames at Lambeth in London.
[Ref: PIB]

Science & Technology

First merger of two black holes with unequal masses detected

For the first time since it started functioning, the gravitational wave observatories at LIGO scientific collaboration have detected a merger of two unequal-mass black holes. 

About the merger of two black holes

  • The event, dubbed GW190412, involved two black holes of unequal masses coalescing, one of which was some 30 times the mass of the Sun and the other which had a mass nearly 8 times the solar mass.
  • The actual merger took place at a distance of 2.5 billion light years away.
  • The merger event was detected nearly a year ago. This event was detected almost five years after the first ever detection of gravitational wave signals by these powerful detectors.

How were they detected?

Two Properties of black hole which are important to detect them

1. Bending of space-time fabric due to mass of black holes

2. Swirling of nearby space-time fabric due to the spin or angular momentum of this black holes

  • The detected signal’s waveform has special extra features in it when it corresponds to the merger of two unequal-sized black holes as compared with a merger of equal-sized black holes.
  • These features make it possible to infer things such as accurate determination of the distance from the event, the spin or angular momentum of black hole and the orientation of the whole event with respect to viewers on Earth.

Difference in detection of binary black holes with equal masses and with different masses

  • In cases of black holes with equal mass, the emission of gravitational waves happens at twice the orbital frequency of the binary.
  • While for black holes with unequal mass, emission occurs at a frequency that is three times the orbital frequency. This emission is negligible when binaries contain equal masses and when the orbit is face-on.
  • Also, in the case of the merger of unequal masses of black holes, the spin of the more massive black hole can be determined from the extra features in the signal waveform. Hence, it leaves a stronger imprint on the waveform, making it easy to measure.

LIGO

  • The Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) is the world’s largest gravitational wave observatory.
  • LIGO utilises the physical properties of light and of space itself to detect and understand the origins of gravitational waves and hence understand the mysteries like origin of the universe.
  • The project has three gravitational-wave (GW) detectors.

LIGO- India project:

  • Indian Scientists are testing the suitability of land in Maharashtra’s Hingoli district to host the ambitious LIGO-India project after getting nod from the Ministry of environment.
  • The project involves constructing a network of L-shaped arms, which can detect even the faintest ripples from cosmic explosions millions of light years away.
  • The project is piloted by the Department of Atomic Energy and Department of Science and Technology and is expected to be ready by 2025.

Gravitational waves:

  • Gravitational waves are disturbances in the curvature of space-time, generated by accelerated masses, which moves forward as waves in outward direction from their source with the speed of light.
  • They are extremely weak so are very difficult to detect and hence LIGO is being used by scientists to identify Gravitational waves.
[Ref: The Hindu]

CERT-In to conduct security audit of COVID-19 data

In the wake of the controversy surrounding the Sprinklr deal, Kerala has decided to carry out a security audit by CERT-In of the various data collected by the government departments and agencies related to COVID-19.

What is Sprinklr deal controversy?

  • Sprinklr deal is a data deal between the government of Kerala and America-based firm Sprinklr collate and manage the COVID-19 data of people. This deal was signed by the IT department of the government of Kerala.
  • Recently, the leader of the opposition in Kerala alleged that the government had given the personal data of 175,000 people, including the COVID-19 patients and those under home isolation in the state without their consent or knowledge.

About Indian Computer Emergency Response Team

  • Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In) is the national nodal agency for responding to computer security incidents as and when they occur.
  • It comes under Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology.
  • It is operational since January 2004.

Functions

After Information Technology Amendment Act 2008, CERT-In has been designated to serve as the national agency to perform the following functions in the area of cyber security:

  • Collection, analysis and dissemination of information on cyber incidents.
  • Forecast and alerts of cyber security incidents
  • Emergency measures for handling cyber security incidents
  • Coordination of cyber incident response activities.
  • Issue guidelines and whitepapers relating to information security practices and reporting of cyber incidents.
  • Such other functions relating to cyber security as may be prescribed
[Ref: Indian Express]

Key Facts for Prelims

Chemicals and Fertilizers Sector

  • Union Minister of Chemicals and Fertilizers has congratulated the chemicals and petrochemicals industry on becoming the top exporting sector of the country for the first time. 
  • April 2019-January 2020, the export of chemicals grew by 7.43% over previous corresponding period. Total export of chemicals during 2019-2020 reached Rs 2.68 Lakh Crore. This constitutes 14.35% of the total exports.

UV disinfection trolley

  • International Advanced Research Centre for Powder Metallurgy and New Materials (ARCI) have developed a UVC based disinfection trolley to fight against COVID-19.
  • UV (Ultraviolet) light in the range of wavelengths between 200 and 300 nm is capable of inactivating microorganisms, such as bacteria and viruses, thus disinfecting both air and solid surfaces. 
  • The germicidal effects of UVC irradiation with a peak intensity at 254 nm (nanometer) results in cellular damage of the coronavirus, thereby inhibiting cellular replication.

Hydrogen Fuel Cell (FC) based electric buses and electric cars

  • NTPC (National Thermal Power Corporation) Ltd, India’s largest power producer and a central PSU under Ministry of Power, has invited Global Expression of Interest (EoI) to provide 10 Hydrogen Fuel Cell (FC) based electric buses and electric cars in Leh and Delhi.  The EoI has been issued by NTPC’s wholly owned subsidiary, NTPC Vidyut Vyapar Nigam (NVVN) Limited.
  • The move to procure Hydrogen Fuel Cell based vehicles is first of its kind project in the country, wherein a complete solution from green energy to the fuel cell vehicle would be developed.

Doodh Duronto Special

  • Scheduled to run between Renigunta and Hazrat Nizamuddin to meet the milk requirements of Delhi, the first of the proposed two ‘Doodh Duronto Special’ trains (railway milk tankers) started.

Pitch Black 2020 

  • Australia has informed India that their premier multilateral air combat training exercise Pitch Black 2020  has been cancelled due to the COVID-19 situation.

Panchayati Raj Diwas

  • National Panchayati Raj Day is the national day of India celebrated by Ministry of Panchayati Raj on 24th April annually.
  • The Constitution (73rd Amendment) Act, 1992 came into force with effect from 24th April, 1993. It has institutionalized Panchayati Raj through the village, Intermediate and District level Panchayats.

Devanahalli Pomelo

  • In a bid to revive and conserve ‘Devanahalli Pomelo’, an endangered citrus fruit, the operators of Kempegowda International Airport in Bengaluru have started a plantation drive in the region as part of their flagship CSR Programme ‘Namma Ooru’.
  • Devanahalli Pomelo has a Geographical Indication (GI) tag as it is known for its sweet taste.
  • Also known by its scientific name Citrus Maxima, the tree’s fruit is rich in Vitamin C. While each pomelo tree grows 24 inches per season, it can live from 50-150 years and reach a height of 25 feet.

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