Polity & Governance
- Google faces antitrust case in India
- Misuse of defamation law
Issues related to Health and Education
- Study for identification of antivirals against COVID-19
- Loans to MSMEs may get ‘risk-free’ tag
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
- Unusual heat wave in North India
- Invasive mussel spreads in Kerala
- World Dugong Day 2020
Defence & Security Issues
- Second squadron of Tejas fighter inducted into IAF
Science and Technology
- New possibility to improve rice productivity
Key Facts for Prelims
- No WHO bar on India testing HCQ as a preventive drug
- International Day of Action for Women’s Health
- India’s first observatory for the mammals
- Both Koreas violated armistice agreement
- Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope
- 2019 LD2
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Polity & Governance
Google faces antitrust case in India
The Competition Commission of India is looking into allegations that Google is abusing its market position to unfairly promote its mobile payments app in the country.
- The complaint filed with CCI alleges Google prominently showcases its Google Pay app inside its Android app store in India.
- This gives it an unfair advantage over other payment apps of competitors.
- This is Google’s third major antitrust challenge in India.
- In 2018, the CCI fined Google $21 million for search bias, but a company appeal against that is pending.
- Last year, the CCI also started probing Google for allegedly misusing its dominant position to reduce the ability of smartphone manufacturers to opt for alternate versions of its Android mobile operating system.
Competition Commission of India:
- The Competition Act, 2002 was enacted by the Parliament of India and governs Indian competition law and extends to the whole of India.
- Chapter III of the Act provides for the establishment of the Competition Commission of India.
- CCI is a statutory body aimed to prevent the activities that have an adverse effect on competition in India.
- It is a tool to implement and enforce competition policy and to prevent and punish anti-competitive business practices by firms and unnecessary Government interference in the market.
Role of CCI:
- To prevent practices having adverse effects on competition.
- To promote and sustain competition in markets.
- To protect the interests of consumers.
- To ensure freedom of trade carried on by other participants in markets in India.
Misuse of Defamation law
The Madras High Court held that public servants and constitutional functionaries cannot be allowed to misuse the law of criminal defamation by using the State as a tool to initiate defamation proceedings against adversaries.
High Court’s observation:
- The court quashed criminal defamation proceedings launched by the State government against a host of media houses and journalists during Jayalalithaa’s tenure as Chief Minister in 2012 and 2013.
- The court observed that public servants and constitutional functionaries must be able to face criticism since they owed a solemn duty to the people.
- The State cannot use criminal defamation cases to throttle democracy.
What is defamation?
- Defamation is the publication of a statement which reflects on a person’s reputation and tends to lower him in the estimation of right-thinking members of society generally or tends to make them shun or avoid him.
- Anyone who feels he or she has been wrongly accused of something by someone in public, through words or gestures, spoken, written, or by inference can file a defamation suit in a court of law claiming that the accusation levelled deals a blow to his/her reputation.
Types of defamation:
- There are two types of defamation in India: Civil and Criminal.
- In civil defamation a person who is defamed can move either High Court or subordinate courts and seek damages in the form of monetary compensation. There is no punishment in the form of jail sentences.
- In criminal defamation, the person against whom a defamation case is filed might be sentenced to two years’ imprisonment or fined or both.
- IPC Section 499 lays down the definition of defamation and Section 500 lays down the punishment for criminal defamation.
Issues related to Health and Education
Study for identification of antivirals against COVID-19
The Science and Engineering Research Board has recently supported a proposed study for identification of structure-based potential antivirals against SARS-CoV2.
- The study will be funded under Intensification of Research in High Priority areas.
- It will search for small molecule inhibitors targeting some of the most important viral replication enzymes.
Intensification of Research in High Priority areas:
- The IRHPA program of SERB supports proposals in high priority areas where multidisciplinary / multi-institutional expertise is required to put the nation on the international science map in that particular discipline.
- The Scheme is designed to provide major support to few selected areas of research that have high priority from the view point of advances in fundamental science.
- Under the scheme a unit or core group having super specialization in the relevant areas of science will be developed and further nurtured.
- Scientists from Universities, their affiliated Colleges, IITs, IISc., and other Autonomous Research Institutions along with scientists working in the industrial R&D sector in India can submit a proposal under this scheme.
Science & Engineering Research Board (SERB):
- Science and Engineering Research Board is a statutory body under the Department of Science and Technology, established by an Act of the Parliament of India in 2009.
- The Board is chaired by the Secretary to the Government of India in the Department of Science and Technology and shall have other senior government officials and eminent scientists as members.
- The Board was set up for promoting basic research in science and engineering.
- To provide financial assistance to scientists, academic institutions, R&D laboratories, industrial concerns and other agencies for such research.
Loans to MSMEs may get ‘risk-free’ tag
The RBI is likely to allow banks to assign zero risk weight for loans that will be extended to MSMEs under the ₹20 lakh crore economic package announced by the government.
- As a part of Atma Nirbhar Bharat Abhiyan package, a ₹3 lakh crore loan for the MSME sector was announced.
- The Finance Ministry had requested the central bank to make these loans risk free, following an interaction with banks.
- This will be guaranteed by the National Credit Guarantee Trustee Company Limited (NCGTC) in the form of a Guaranteed Emergency Credit Line (GECL) facility.
- Such loans would attract a risk weight of a minimum 20% since these don’t come with direct government guarantee.
- This facility is similar to the loans that are guaranteed by the Credit Guarantee Fund Trust for Micro and Small Enterprises (CGTMSE).
- The tenure of loan under this scheme will be four years, with a moratorium period of one year on the principal amount.
- Though primarily meant for the MSME sector, other small borrowers including non-banking financial companies can also avail themselves of the scheme.
- Zero risk would mean that banks will not have to set aside additional capital for these loans.
Credit Guarantee Fund Trust for Micro and Small Enterprises:
- TheMinistry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) and Small Industries Development Bank of India (SIDBI), established a Trust named CGTMSE to implement the Credit Guarantee Fund Scheme for Micro and Small Enterprises.
- The scheme was launched to make available collateral-free credit to the micro and small enterprise sector.
- It came into effect from August 2000 and covers both existing and the new enterprises.
- CGTMSE has facilitated easy access to credit from the organized banking sector to first generation entrepreneurs in the Micro and Small Enterprises (MSE) sector.
- CGTMSE provides guarantee to its registered Member Lending Institutions (MLIs) against the loans / credit facilities upto Rs. 100 lakh extended by them without taking any collateral security and / or third party guarantee.
National Credit Guarantee Trustee Company Limited:
- NCGTC was set up by the Ministry of Finance to act as a common trustee company to manage and operate various credit guarantee trust funds.
- Credit guarantee programmes are designed to share the lending risk of the lenders and in turn facilitate access to finance for the prospective borrowers.
- The intent of NCGTC is to manage multiple guarantee schemes as part of a larger financial inclusion programme of the government.
- It covers various segments of the economy like students, micro entrepreneurs, women entrepreneurs, SMEs, skill and vocational training needs, etc.
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
Unusual heat wave in North India
The unusual heat wave in North India has pushed the day temperatures significantly above normal.
What is a heatwave and when is it declared?
- Heat Waves occur over India between March and June.
- Meteorologists declare a heatwave event when the maximum day temperature for a location in the plains crosses 40 degrees Celsius.
- Over the hills, the threshold temperature is 30 degrees Celsius.
- When the day temperature jumps by 4 to 5 degrees above the normal maximum temperature of a location, it is declared as a heatwave.
How long can a heatwave spell last?
- A heatwave spell generally lasts for a minimum of four days.
- On some occasions, it can extend up to seven or ten days.
- The current heatwave spell commenced on May 22 and is likely to continue till May 29.
- Heatwave conditions occurring in May have been observed to last longer, as the season reaches its peak this month.
- Whereas those reported in June often die down sooner, often due to the onset of Southwest monsoon over the location or in its neighbourhood.
Does all of India experience heatwave conditions?
- Heat Waves are common over the Core Heatwave Zone (CHZ) — Rajasthan, Punjab, Haryana, Chandigarh, Delhi, West Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Vidarbha in Maharashtra, parts of Gangetic West Bengal, Coastal Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.
- CHZ experiences more than six heatwave days per year during these four months.
- However, the regions in the extreme north, northeast and southwestern India are less prone to heatwaves.
Unusual summer heatwaves:
- Summer season reaches its peak by May 15 in India, when the day temperatures across north, west, and central India cross 40 degrees and hover close to 45 degrees then on.
- This year, north India did not experience such temperatures till May 21.
- It was mainly because of the continuous inflow of Western Disturbances that influenced the weather in the north till as late as April.
- Originating in the Mediterranean Sea, Western Disturbances are eastward-moving winds that blow in lower atmospheric levels.
- They affect the local weather of a region during its onward journey.
- When Western Disturbances interact with weather systems heading from the two southern seas i.e. warm winds blowing in from the Bay of Bengal or the Arabian Sea, they cause snowfall or rainfall over the north.
- A significant influence of Western Disturbances is experienced during December to February. However, this year, its influence persisted till early May.
- The recent Western Disturbances got support from easterly winds blowing over from the Bay of Bengal.
- It resulted in rainfall and thunderstorm activities over North India keeping atmospheric conditions cooler than normal for summer standards.
- As per IMD, the All India average temperature in 2020 recorded fell below normal and a similar trend is expected even in May.
Role of cyclone Amphan:
- Cyclone Amphan, which was a massive Superstorm covering 700 kms, managed to drag maximum moisture from over the Bay of Bengal, entire South Peninsula, parts of Central India and to some extent, even from the Arabian Sea.
- All the moisture built over these areas got gradually depleted as the storm advanced towards West Bengal and Bangladesh.
- It has now triggered dry north-westerly winds to blow over Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra causing severe heatwave.
Invasive mussel spreads in Kerala
An invasive mussel native to the South and Central American coasts is spreading quickly in the backwaters of Kerala.
- According to a study, the rapid spread of the Charru mussel may have been triggered by Cyclone Ockhi which struck the region in 2017.
- The invasive species is wiping out the native mussel and threatening the livelihoods of fishermen engaged in molluscan fisheries.
- Surveys show the presence of the Charru mussel in the Kadinamkulam, Paravur, Edava-Nadayara, Ashtamudi, Kayamkulam, Vembanad, Chettuva and Ponnani estuaries/backwaters of Kerala.
- Ashtamudi Lake, a Ramsar site in Kollam district is the worst-hit.
- The species has replaced the Asian green mussel (Perna viridis) and the edible oyster Magallana bilineata (known locally as muringa).
- The Charru mussel is native to the South and Central American coasts.
- It resembles the green and brown mussels, but is much smaller in size.
- Its colour varies from black to brown, purple or dark green.
- In many areas, this invasive species has smothered beds of the short-neck clam fisheries of Kerala.
- The potential of the species to outcompete the lucrative clam fishery is a serious concern.
- Though this smaller mussel is edible, the overall economic loss and impact on biodiversity is much bigger.
World Dugong Day 2020
The World Dugong Day is observed on May 28, 2020.
- The dugong or sea cow is a herbivores mammal or marine species.
- Dugongs are mammals, which means they give birth to live young and then produce milk and nurse them.
- Dugongs are an endangered marine species like sea turtles, seahorses, sea cucumbers and others.
- They are protected in India under Schedule I of the Wild (Life) Protection Act, 1972.
- There were just 250 dugongs in the Gulf of Mannar in Tamil Nadu, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and the Gulf of Kutch in Gujarat according to the 2013 survey report of the Zoological Survey of India.
Threats to dugongs:
- Dugongs are an important part of the marine ecosystem and their depletion will have effects all the way up the food chain.
- It is fighting for its survival in Indian waters and unless conserved, could one day become extinct.
- Dugongs graze on seagrass, especially young shoots and roots in shallow coastal waters.
- Human activities such as the destruction and modification of habitat, pollution, rampant illegal fishing activities, vessel strikes, unsustainable hunting or poaching and unplanned tourism are the main threats to dugongs.
- The loss of seagrass beds due to ocean floor trawling is the most important factor behind dwindling dugong populations in many parts of the world.
- India has signed non-legally binding Memorandums of Understanding with Conservation of Migratory Species on the conservation and management of Siberian Cranes (1998), Marine Turtles (2007), Dugongs (2008) and Raptors (2016).
Defence & Security Issues
Second squadron of Tejas fighter inducted into IAF
The second squadron of the indigenous Tejas Mk-1 FOC (Final Operations Clearance) fighter aircraft has been operationalised at Sulur Air Force Station in Coimbatore recently.
- The Tejas Mk-1 FOC aircraft has more clearance to carry different types of weapons when compared to the earlier version of Tejas.
- One of the main features is that the aircraft can perform air-to-air refuelling.
- Tejas is an indigenous fourth generation tailless compound delta-wing aircraft.
- It is equipped with a fly-by-wire flight control system, integrated digital avionics and multimode radar and its structure is made out of composite material.
- It is the lightest and smallest in its group of fourth-generation supersonic combat aircraft.
- Tejas is the first advanced Fly-by-wire fighter aircraft designed, developed and manufactured in India.
- It is a single-seat, single-jet engine, multirole light fighter.
- It is also the smallest and lightest multi-role supersonic fighter aircraft in the Indian Air Force.
- Conceived as a MiG-21 replacement, the aircraft has been designed and developed by Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) and produced by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).
- Tejas is a 4th Plus generation aircraft with a glass cockpit and is equipped with state of the art Satellite aided Inertial Navigation System.
- It has a digital computer based attack system and an autopilot.
- It can fire Air to Air Missiles, Bombs as well as Precision Guided Munitions.
Science and Technology
New possibility to improve rice productivity
Researchers from major Agricultural institutes of India have identified a region in the genome of rice which seems to have the potential for improving productivity.
- To develop superior rice varieties with heavier grains, which can give higher yield and better nutrition.
- The researchers from National Institute of Plant Genome Research (DBT-NIPGR), ICAR-Indian Agricultural Research Institute (ICAR-IARI), ICAR-National Rice Research Institute (ICAR-NRRI), Cuttack and University of Delhi South Campus (UDSC) conducted their study on rice.
- They sequenced the genomes of four Indian genotypes (LGR, PB 1121, Sonasal & Bindli) that show contrasting phenotypes in seed size/weight.
- After analyzing their genomic variations, they found that the Indian rice germplasms had much more genomic diversity than that estimated so far.
- They identified one genomic region, which had an unusually suppressed nucleotide diversity region & named it as `low diversity region’ or LDR.
- The LDR region contained one Quantitative Trait Locus region that was significantly associated with grain size/weight trait.
- In future efforts, this LDR region could be utilized for improving rice production by targeting various traits including the seed size QTL identified.
- Rice is one of the main staple foods across the world since it has very high carbohydrate content and provides instant energy.
- India has the largest area under rice crop cultivation: almost all States grow rice.
- It is considered to be a crop of tropical humid areas; it has about 3,000 varieties which are grown in different agro-climatic regions.
- These are successfully grown from sea level to about 2,000 m altitude and from humid areas in eastern India to dry but irrigated areas of Punjab, Haryana, western U.P. and northern Rajasthan.
- In the Himalayan and north-western parts of the country, it is grown as a kharif crop during southwest Monsoon season.
- West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Punjab and Tamil Nadu are leading producers of rice in India.
- However, rice suffers from a problem of low productivity.
- In order to meet the demand of the growing population of India and the world, production of rice needs to increase significantly by about 50% of current productivity.
Key Facts for Prelims
No WHO bar on India testing HCQ as a preventive drug
- The World Health Organisation has put a moratorium on testing hydroxychloroquine (HCQ), the controversial anti-malarial drug, for treating COVID-19.
- The organisation has clarified that it doesn’t imply that India should pause testing the drug as a preventive.
- However India ought to be doing stricter trials to test the drug’s efficacy in staving off infection in asymptomatic people at high-risk of contracting the virus.
- HCQ was one of four drug-combinations being tested in a global clinical trial called Solidarity Trial, coordinated by the WHO.
- While these studies are in progress, a spate of studies have shown that HCQ shows no benefit — in fact, it puts patients at greater harm.
International Day of Action for Women’s Health
- The International Day of Action for Women’s Health is an international observance celebrated on May 28 every year since 1987.
- The main goal is to raise awareness on the issues related to women’s health and well being, including Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights.
- The day is being coordinated by the Women’s Global Network for Reproductive Rights (WGNRR).
India’s first observatory for the mammals
- The Bihar government is setting up India’s first observatory for the mammals in Bhagalpur district at the Vikramshila Gangetic Dolphin Sanctuary.
- The structural design of the observatory is such that it will promote eco-tourism.
- The observatory is being built on the Sultanganj-Aguwani Ghat bridge over the Ganga.
Both Koreas violated armistice agreement
- As per the United National Command both Koreas breached their armistice agreement when they exchanged gunfire at the border on May 3, 2020.
- The UN Command administers the demilitarized zone separating both Koreas (North and South Korea) and enforces the armistice that halted the 1950-53 Korean War.
Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope
- NASA has renamed its WFIRST telescope in honor of Nancy Grace Roman, the US space agency’s first chief astronomer, who paved the way for space telescopes focused on the broader universe.
- Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope is a next-generation space telescope set to launch in 2025.
- It will investigate long-standing astronomical mysteries, such as the force behind the universe’s expansion, and search for distant planets beyond our solar system.
- A rare kind of space object, something between an asteroid and a comet, has been discovered by astronomers.
- The newly discovered asteroid named 2019 LD2 has an orbit like an asteroid but the tail of a comet.
- It shares Jupiter’s orbit in an asteroid swarm known as the Jupiter Trojans.
- This is the first asteroid in Jupiter Trojan that is seen spewing out gas as a comet would.