Polity & Governance
- 12th meeting of Standing Committee of Inter-State Council convened
- 26th November: Constitution Day or Samvidhan Diwas or National Law Day
Government Schemes & Policies
- PFRDA moves closer to one-crore-account target under Atal scheme
Issues related to Health & Education
- WHO releases guidelines on responding to child sex abuse
- 26 November: National Milk Day
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
- Surge in oxygen levels led to explosion of life: study
- ‘Drought, heatwaves increasing in frequency’
Science & Technology
- India’s first mission to Sun ‘Aditya-L1’ scheduled for 2019
- World’s smallest data recorder made of bacteria
Key Facts for Prelims
- First Indian to win Asian Marathon Championship gold
- Asian Marathon Championships
- SAM: World’s first Artificial Intelligence politician developed
- Golden Temple awarded ‘most visited place of the world’
- International Gita Mahotsava
For IASToppers Current Affairs Analysis Archive, Click Here
Polity & Governance
12th meeting of Standing Committee of Inter-State Council convened
Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh chaired the 12th meeting of the Standing Committee of Inter-State Council (ISC).
- The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the recommendations of the Punchhi Commission on Centre-state relations.
- Finally, all the recommendations of the standing committee on Punchhi Commission’s report will then be placed before the Inter-State Council, headed by the Prime Minister.
About Punchhi commission
- Punchhi commission was constituted by the Central government on April 27, 2007 under the chairmanship of former Chief Justice Madan Mohan Punchhi to look into the new issues of Centre-state relations keeping in view the changes that have taken place in the polity and economy.
- The Punchhi Commission had submitted its report in 2010.
What is the Inter-State Council?
- The Inter-State Council is a constitutional body to facilitate coordination between states and the centre.
- It is a recommendatory body to investigate and discuss subjects, in which some or all of the states or the union government have a common interest.
- It is set up on the basis of provisions in Article 263 of the Constitution of India by a Presidential Order, 1990 based on the recommendation of Sarkaria Commission.
- The Inter-state council is not a permanent constitutional body for coordination between the states and Central government.
- Rather, President can establish it at any time if it appears to him that the public interests would be served by the establishment of such a council.
Composition of the Inter-State Council:
- Prime Minister (Chairman)
- Chief Ministers of all states.
- Chief ministers of UTs with legislative assemblies.
- Administrators of union territories not having legislative assemblies.
- Six central cabinet ministers, including home minister, to be nominated by prime minister.
- Governors of states under president’s rule.
About standing committee of Inter-State Council:
- The standing committee of Interstate council is constituted under the chairmanship of Union Home Minister.
- Apart from Home minister the committee consists of 5 union cabinet ministers and 9 chief Ministers.
The meetings of the Standing Committee of the Inter-State Council are being periodically convened since July, 2016 after a gap of 10 years.
Functions of standing committee:
- The standing committee will have consultation and recommend matters for consideration of the council, process all matters pertaining to Centre-state relations before they are taken up for consideration in the council.
- It will also monitor the implementation of decisions taken on the recommendations of the council and consider any other matter referred to it by the council.
- The standing committee may, if necessary, invite experts and persons eminent in specific fields to have the benefit of their views while deliberating upon the related subjects.
26th November: Constitution Day or Samvidhan Diwas or National Law Day
November 26 is regarded as the second Constitution Day in the modern history of India.
- It is also celebrated as the National Law Day.
- This year, the National Law Day was celebrated jointly by the Law Commission of India and NITI Aayog.
- The Samvidhan Diwas or the Constitution Day of India is being observed on 26th November to spread awareness of Indian Constitution.
- In October 2015, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had declared 26 November as Constitution Day as part of year-long nationwide celebrations of 125th birth Anniversary of Dr. B R Ambedkar, Chairman of the Drafting Committee of Constituent Assembly.
- On this day in 1949, constitution of India was adopted and came into force on January 26, 1950 marking the beginning of a new era in the history of free India.
- The Union Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment (MSJE) is the nodal Ministry for the celebration of Constitution Day.
- This year it is third edition of the Constitution Day.
- The day is celebrated to value and preserve the rich heritage of composite culture and to develop the scientific temper, humanism and the spirit of inquiry and reform.
- The day will also promote to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wild life and to have compassion for living creatures.
- It was in 1979, when the first proposal was mooted to celebrate November 26 as an anniversary of the adoption of Constitution and assess the state of law in the country as envisaged by the framers of the legal document.
- Noted jurist and former parliamentarian LM Singhvi proposed to in the Supreme Court Bar Association that National Law Day should be celebrated to mark the adoption of Constitution on November 26. A resolution was passed by the Supreme Court Bar Association in 1979. The National Law Day was celebrated thereafter till 2015.
Some unique facts about Constitution of India:
- The Constitution was prepared over 2 years, 11 months and 17 days. The session of the Constituent Assembly was held on December 9, 1946.
- A total of 11 sessions of the Constituent Assembly was held including those by the drafting committee under the chairmanship of BR Ambedkar. The drafting committee was one of the 17 such bodied set up under the Constituent Assembly.
- Dr Rajendra Prasad, who went on to become the first President of India, was the chairman of the Constituent Assembly. The Constitution making committees held meetings on 165 days to hold deliberations and debate provisions to be incorporated.
- There were 299 members, including 15 women, of the Constituent Assembly. Of them 284 members finally signed the Constitution, when it was adopted in 1949.
Government Schemes & Policies
PFRDA moves closer to one-crore-account target under Atal scheme
The Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority (PFRDA) is stepping up its initiative to achieve the target of one crore accounts under the Atal Pension Yojana (APY) by the fiscal-end.
- Focused on the workers in the unorganised sector, PFRDA has already been able to open 73 lakh such accounts so far.
- The regulator is going all out to promote pension scheme in the rural areas with the help of regional rural banks.
About Atal Pension Yojana:
Atal Pension Yojana (APY) is a pension scheme for citizens of India focussed on the unorganised sector workers.
- Under the APY, guaranteed minimum pension of Rs. 1,000/-, 2,000/-, 3,000/-, 4,000 and 5,000/- per month will be given at the age of 60 years in turn for the contribution varying from Rs 42 to Rs 210 per month.
- The Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority (PFRDA) is the nodal agency for APY and is working out plans to improve reach and information dissemination.
- Any Citizen of India between 18 – 40 years of age can join APY scheme.
- Government co-contribution is available for 5 years, i.e., from 2015-16 to 2019-20 for the subscribers who join the scheme during the period from 1st June, 2015 to 31st December, 2015 and who are not covered by any Statutory Social Security Schemes and are not income tax payers.
The Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority (PFRDA) is a pension regulatory authority which was established in 2003.
- It is authorized by Ministry of Finance, Department of Financial Services.
- It promotes old age income security by establishing, developing and regulating pension funds and protects the interests of subscribers to schemes of pension funds and related matters.
- It is also responsible for appointment of various intermediate agencies such as Central Record Keeping Agency (CRA), Pension Fund Managers, Custodian, NPS Trustee Bank, etc.
Issues related to Health & Education
WHO releases guidelines on responding to child sex abuse
For the first time, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has formulated clinical guidelines on responding to children and adolescents who have been sexually abused.
- The guidelines are grounded in human rights standards and ethical principles.
- They will assist frontline health care providers — general practitioners, gynaecologists, nurses and others — who may directly receive victim of sexual abuse or may identify sexual abuse during course of diagnosis and treatment.
Background: Child sex abuse
- Girls and boys who experience abuse often face a number of short and long term negative consequences for their mental, physical, sexual, and reproductive health and well-being.
- Boys and girls who are sexually abused face higher risks of lifetime diagnoses of post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression, externalizing symptoms, sleep disorders, and having thoughts of suicide and self-harm.
- They are more likely to engage in unsafe-sex, abuse of drugs and misuse of alcohol, placing them at higher risk for STIs and HIV and for other negative health outcomes that last into adulthood. For girls there is also increased risk of pregnancy and gynaecological disorders.
About WHO guidelines:
WHO’s first of kind gender sensitive guidelines provide first line support to child or adolescent in response to the disclosure of sexual abuse.
- It offers HIV post-exposure prophylaxis and adherence support to those who have been raped and who present within 72 hours.
- It offers emergency contraception to girl child who has been raped and who present within 120 hours (5 days).
- It takes into consideration STI (sexually transmitted infections) presumptive treatment or prophylaxis in settings where laboratory testing is not feasible.
- It also takes in considerations cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) with trauma focus for those have PTSD symptoms and diagnosis. It also offers Hepatitis B and HPV vaccination.
- It also calls upon health care providers about informing obligation on victims and their non-offending caregivers to report abuse and limits of confidentiality before interviewing them.
The new guidelines recommend that health care providers:
- Provide first line support that is child or adolescent-centred and gender sensitive in response to disclosure of sexual abuse.
- Minimize additional trauma and distress while taking medical history, conducting the examination and documenting the findings.
- Offer post-rape care that includes HIV post-exposure prophylaxis and adherence support, emergency contraception, STI presumptive treatment where testing is not feasible and Hepatitis B and HPV vaccinations as per national guidance.
- Consider cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) with a trauma focus to those who have PTSD symptoms and diagnosis, and where safe and appropriate to do so, involve at least one non-offending caregiver.
- Where required to report child sexual abuse to designated authorities, health care providers should inform the child or adolescent and their non-offending caregivers about the obligation to report the abuse and the limits of confidentiality before interviewing them.
Significance of the guidelines:
- The guidelines put best interests of children first by ensuring confidentiality and privacy, respecting their autonomy and wishes and addressing needs with vulnerabilities such as LGBT adolescents.
- They will assist WHO member states to ensure health and well-being of children and adolescents.
- It will also strengthen implementation of Global Plan of Action on strengthening health systems in response to violence against women and girls and against children that was endorsed by World Health Assembly in 2016.
26 November: National Milk Day
The National Milk Day (NMD) was observed on 26 November is to mark birth anniversary Dr.Verghese Kurien, father of the White Revolution in India.
- This year it was 96th birth anniversary of Dr.Verghese Kurien and third edition of observance of the day since it was established in 2014.
- The idea of observing National Milk Day was first mooted by Indian Dairy Association (IDA) in 2014 on the lines of World Milk Day (observed every year on June 1) under the aegis of UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
- The first NMD was observed on 26 November 2014 by all Indian diary sector majors including National Dairy Development Board (NDDB), IDA along with around 22 state level milk federations.
About Verghese Kurien:
- Verghese Kurien had dedicated his entire life for a cooperative movement which boosted the production of milk in India.
- Dr Kurien was an Indian social entrepreneur known as the ‘Father of the White Revolution’ for launching Operation flood — the world’s largest agricultural development programme.
- He was the winner of Ramon Magsaysay Award, World Food Prize, Padma Shri, Padma Bhushan, Padma Vibhushan etc.
- Known as the ‘milkman of India’, Dr Kurien was the founder-Chairman of the National Dairy Development Board (NDDB) from 1965 to 1998, Gujarat Co-operative Milk Marketing Federation Ltd (GCMMF) from 1973 to 2006 and the Institute of Rural Management (IRMA) from 1979 to 2006, which are owned and managed by farmers and run by professionals.
Dairying in India:
- Since last 15 years, India continues to be the largest producer of milk in the world, accounting for 18.5 % of world production.
- India achieved an annual output of 146.3 million tonnes during 2014-15 as compared to 137.69 million tonnes during 2013-14 recording a growth of 6.26 %. Whereas, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has reported a 3.1 % increase in world milk production in 2014.
- The per capita availability of milk in India has increased from 176 grams per day in 1990-91 to 322 grams per day by 2014-15. It is more than the world average of 294 grams per day during 2013.
- About 70 million rural households are engaged in dairying in India with 80% of total cow population.
- The strength of women in Dairy has reached to the 70% of the total work force (about 44 lakh) of which 3,60,000 women are in leadership roles in village dairy cooperatives and 380 women on the boards of Union and State Federations.
Government efforts in Dairying sector:
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
Surge in oxygen levels led to explosion of life: study
A recent study found that a rapid rise in the oxygen levels over 400 million years ago may have provided a three-fold increase in biodiversity.
- This explosion of diversity was recognised as the “Great Ordovician Biodiversification Event”.
- The explosion of diversity brought about the rise of various marine life, tremendous change across species families and types, as well as changes to the earth, starting at the bottom of the ocean floors.
- The research found that this high oxygen level was one of the major factor which affected the rise of various marine lives.
- According to study, this oxygenation is supported by two approaches that are mostly independent from each other. Other changes — such as ocean cooling, increased nutrient supply to oceans and predation pressures – also worked together to allow animal life to diversify for millions of years.
- It was found that nearly 80% increase in oxygen levels where oxygen constituted about 14% of atmosphere during Darriwilian Stage and increased to as high as 24% of atmosphere by mid-Katian stage.
How study was made?
- The study was conducted using geochemical proxies, high-resolution data and chemical signatures preserved in carbonate rocks formed from seawater.
- Using it, researchers were able to identify oxygen increase during Middle (or Darriwilian Stage- 460-465 million years ago) and Late Ordovician periods (mid-Katian stage- 450-455 million years ago).
Significance of the study:
- This study suggests that atmospheric oxygen levels did not reach and maintain modern levels for millions of years after the Cambrian explosion, which is traditionally viewed as the time when the ocean-atmosphere was oxygenated.
- The oxygenation of the atmosphere and shallow ocean took millions of years, and only when shallow seas became progressively oxygenated were the major pulses of diversification able to take place.
‘Drought, heatwaves increasing in frequency’
Analysing rainfall and temperature data of 50 years, researchers from Indian Institute of Science (IISc) have found that the frequency of heatwaves accompanied by drought has increased not only in magnitude but in area too over the past three decades – particularly in Gujarat and Central India.
- Researchers calculated the Heatwave Magnitude Index daily (HWMId) — which combines duration and magnitude of heatwaves — and the Standardized Precipitation Index (SPI), which defines meteorological drought from 1951 to 1981.
- Using that as the base, they compared it with the HWMId and SPI between 1981 and 2010.
- In all combinations of drought (moderate or severe) and heatwaves (3.5 and 10-day events) that were analysed during this period.
- Heatwaves (a prolonged period when temperatures approach record extremes) and droughts are destructive even when occurring in separate events, but their concurrence is far more serious.
- It was found that, percentage increase in frequency was most significant in parts of Maharashtra and Southern Gujarat, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. The increase may be due to intricate relationship of land surface processes, soil moisture, evapo-transpiration and local climate.
- The area affected by the ‘extreme of extreme’ incident has gone from almost nothing in 1951, to nearly 4% by 2010.
- Nearly 18% of country’s area on average has been facing at least three days of temperatures above 85th percentile.
- Both phenomena have a serious bearing on water resources, affecting agriculture and human settlements.
Science & Technology
India’s first mission to Sun ‘Aditya-L1’ scheduled for 2019
The India Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is planning to launch Aditya-L1, India’s maiden mission to the Sun, in 2019.
- It will be India’s first dedicated scientific mission to study sun.
About Aditya- L1 mission:
Aim of Aditya- L1 mission:
- The mission aims to put 1,500-kg heavy class Aditya-L1 satellite into halo orbit around Lagrangian point L1, a point between Sun and Earth. This point is at a distance of about 1.5 million km from earth.
Objectives of mission
- Study dynamic nature of sun’s outer most layers, the corona and the chromosphere, and collect data about Coronal Mass Ejections (CME).
- Study on origin of solar storms and their path through the interplanetary space from the Sun to the Earth.
- The studies will also focus on collection of information for space weather prediction.
Position of the satellite:
- In order to get the best science from the sun, continuous viewing of the sun is preferred without any occultation/ eclipses and hence, Aditya- L1 satellite will be placed in the halo orbit around the Lagrangian point 1 (L1) of the sun-earth system.
The Aditya-L1 mission will carry seven payloads
- Visible Emission Line Coronagraph (VELC)
- Solar Low Energy X-ray Spectrometer (SoLEXS)
- High Energy L1 Orbiting X-ray Spectrometer (HEL1OS)
- Solar Ultraviolet Image Telescope (SUIT)
- Plasma Analyser Package for Aditya (PAPA)
- Aditya Solar Wind Particle Experiment (ASPEX)
Significance of the mission:
- The data from Aditya mission will be immensely helpful in discriminating between different models for the origin of solar storms and also for constraining how the storms evolve and what path they take through the interplanetary space from the Sun to the Earth.
What are Lagrangian points and halo orbit?
- Lagrangian points are the locations in space where the combined gravitational pull of two large masses roughly balance each other.
- Any small mass placed at that location will remains at constant distances relative to the large masses. There are five such points in Sun-Earth system and they are denoted as L1, L2, L3, L4 and L5.
- A halo orbit is a periodic three-dimensional orbit near the L1, L2 or L3.
- These points are named after Joseph-Louis Lagrange, an 18th-century mathematician.
- Few space agencies that have successfully placed their satellites at this location are Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO), a NASA-ESA collaboration involving America and Europe and NASA’s Advanced Composition Explorer (ACE) to exclusively study the sun and space weather, respectively.
World’s smallest data recorder made of bacteria
Researchers from Columbia University Medical Centre (CUMC) in US have converted natural bacterial immune system into the world’s smallest data recorder.
- The researchers modified an ordinary laboratory strain of ubiquitous human gut microbe (bacteria) Escherichia coli (E Coli) which enabled it to record their interactions with environment and also time-stamp events.
How was this data recorder created?
- The microscopic data recorder was created by taking advantage of CRISPR-Cas, an immune system in many species of bacteria. CRISPR-Cas copies snippets of DNA from invading viruses so that subsequent generations of bacteria can repel these pathogens more effectively.
- To build this microscopic recorder, researchers had modified piece of DNA called plasmid, giving it ability to create more copies of itself in the bacterial cell in response to an external signal.
- This discovery has formed the groundwork for a new class of technologies that use bacterial cells for everything from disease diagnosis to environmental monitoring. Such bacteria, swallowed by a patient, might be able to record the changes they experience through the whole digestive tract, yielding an unprecedented view of previously inaccessible phenomena.
- Other applications could include environmental sensing and basic studies in ecology and microbiology, where bacteria could monitor otherwise invisible changes without disrupting their surroundings.
What is CRISPR gene-editing technique?
- CRISPR (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats) allows to selectively edit genome parts and replace them with new DNA stretches.
- Cas9 is an enzyme that can edit DNA, allowing the alteration of genetic patterns by genome modification.
- CRISPR is a collection of DNA sequences that direct Cas9 where to cut and paste.
- CRISPR-Cas9 technology has the potential to revolutionise the treatment of blood diseases, tumours and other genetic diseases.
- It was named “2015 Breakthrough of the Year” by the U.S. journal Science.
- Its many potential applications include correcting genetic defects, treating and preventing the spread of diseases and improving crops. However, its promise also raises ethical concerns.
Key Facts for Prelims
First Indian to win Asian Marathon Championship gold
- Gopi Thonakal became the first Indian man to win Asian Marathon Championship after he achieved the feat in the 16th edition of the prestigious event in Dongguan, China.
- Gopi became the first Indian man to win the title after the formation of separate Asian Marathon championships.
- Earlier Asha Agarwal won the women’s title when it was part of the biennial Asian Track & Field Championships.
- Later in 1992, India’s Sunita Godara also had gold medal.
Asian Marathon Championships
- It is a biennial international competition in marathon road running for Asian athletes.
- It is organised by the Asian Athletics Association.
- It was established in 1988 after 42.195-kilometre race was dropped from programme of events at Asian Athletics Championships.
SAM: World’s first Artificial Intelligence politician developed
- Scientists from New Zealand have developed world’s first artificial intelligence politician named SAM.
- It was created by Nick Gerritsen, entrepreneur in New Zealand.
- SAM can answer person’s queries regarding local issues such as policies around housing, education and immigration.
- It constantly learns to respond to people through Facebook Messenger as well as a survey on its homepage.
- It may help to bridge the growing political and cultural divide in many countries
Golden Temple awarded ‘most visited place of the world’
- The Golden Temple has been awarded the ‘most visited place of the world’ by ‘World Book of Records’ (WBR), a London-based organisation that catalogues and verifies world records.
- More than one lakh devotees visit the Golden Temple every day.
- Other than the Golden Temple, Shirdi Sai Baba, Vaishno Devi and Mount Abu have also received this award.
International Gita Mahotsava
- President Ram Nath Kovind inaugurated the International Gita Mahotsava-2017 in Kurukshetra, Haryana.
- The Mahotsava is organised in partnership with Mauritius (Partner country) and Uttar Pradesh (Partner state).
- The aim of the Utsav is to spread the message of Bhagavad Gita to all sections of the society.