Government Schemes & Policies
- Supreme Court slams government for denying pension to freedom fighter
Issues related to Health & Education
- Prime Minister of India launches ‘Fit India Movement’
- Coal sector gets nod for 100% FDI
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
- Centre releases Rs. 47,436 crores for afforestation to various states
- Cabinet approves Establishment of an International Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure
- Two new eel species discovered
- Draft UN report warns of rising seas, storm surges, melting permafrost
Science & Technology
- Skull discovered in Ethiopia yields new clues on how humans evolved
- Vice President visits SAMEER
Key Facts for Prelims
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Government Schemes & Policies
Supreme Court slams government for denying pension to freedom fighter
The Supreme Court has slammed the Centre for harassing a 90-year-old freedom fighter by filing repeated appeals in higher courts, often at the last minute, to deny him a freedom fighter’s pension.
What is the issue?
- A freedom fighter’s application seeking pension to the freedom fighters under the Swatantra Sainik Samman Pension (SSSP) Scheme was dismissed by the Government in 2010.
- The Delhi High Court, in 2015, allowed his writ petition and directed the Government to pay him pension under the SSSP Scheme.
About Swatantra Sainik Samman Pension Scheme of 1972
- During the Silver Jubilee year of Independence, a Central Scheme for ‘Grant of pension to freedom fighters and their eligible dependents’ (Where freedom fighters have already expired) was introduced by Government of India in 1972.
- In 1980, the Scheme was liberalized and renamed as Swatantrata Sainik Samman Pension Scheme.
- The scheme was introduced with the object of providing pension to freedom fighters and families of martyrs.
Issues related to Health & Education
Prime Minister of India launches ‘Fit India Movement’
Prime Minister launched the ‘Fit India’ Movement’, saying the initiative is the need of the hour and will take the country towards a healthier future.
Aim of the movement
- The campaign is aimed at encouraging people to include physical activity and sports in their everyday lives.
Need for the Fit India Movement
[Ref: Times of India]
Coal sector gets nod for 100% FDI
Global companies can now own coal mines and carry out related operations in India, with the cabinet approving 100% foreign direct investment under the automatic route in mining, processing and sale.
About the 100% FDI in coal
- The FDI has been allowed for coal mining activities subject to provisions of Coal Mines (Special Provisions) Act, 2015 and the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957 and other relevant acts on the subject.
- FDI is also permitted for setting up processing plants like washeries subject to the condition that the company will not do coal mining/sell the washed coal in the open market.
Significance of the move
- Giving 100% FDI in coal sector could help get latest technologies, reduce fuel shortages that have crippled the power sector, and boost economic growth by attracting fresh investment.
- It will result in increased competition after a couple of years when foreign players start investing.
- Power companies can attract larger global operators with lower cost of capital to undertake end to-end coal mining of their allocated blocks to reduce the fuel costs.
What is the current situation?
- Till now, only Coal India Ltd (CIL) could mine and sell coal in the country.
- Along with CIL, private and public sector companies with captive mines were allowed to mine and sell 25 per cent of coal in the open market.
- With the deregulation of the sector, private companies will also be able to mine and sell coal.
Other FDI reforms
- The Cabinet also increased FDI to 100 per cent in contract manufacturing and to 26 per cent in digital media companies.
- On FDI in single-brand retail, the Cabinet expanded the definition of mandatory 30 per cent domestic sourcing norm.
- It also allowed single-brand retailers to start online sales, waiving the previous condition of setting up a brick-and-mortar store.
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
Centre releases Rs. 47,436 crores for afforestation to various states
In a major boost towards promoting afforestation, Union Minister for Environment, Forest and Climate Change handed over Rs. 47,436 crores of Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning (CAMPA) funds to various states for fulfilling Nationally-Determined Contributions (NDCs).
About North East Rural Livelihood Project (NERLP)
- Launched in 2012, the NERLP is a World Bank aided, multi-state project under the Ministry of Development of North Eastern Region (DoNER).
- It is implemented in various districts of Mizoram, Nagaland, Tripura and Sikkim.
- It aims to improve rural livelihoods especially that of women, unemployed youth and the most disadvantaged, in four North Eastern States.
- The project has focussed on five development strategies: i) social empowerment, ii) economic empowerment, iii) partnership development, iv) project management and v) livelihood and value chain developments.
What is CAMPA?
- With the initial experience of the States regarding under-utilisation of the money towards compensatory afforestation, Supreme Court ordered for establishment of Compensatory Afforestation Fund and Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA) in 2001.
- In 2009, Supreme Court permitted release of Rs.1000 crore every year to States/UTs for compensatory afforestation and other activities. It has provisioned that CAMPA funds shall be kept in interest bearing non-lapsable Public Account.
- The notification of CAF Rules was approved by the Supreme Court in 2019 with an amount of Rs. 54,685 Crore from Ad-hoc CAMPA, under the control of Government of India.
- The Fund will be utilized as per the provisions of the Compensatory Afforestation Fund (CAF) Act, 2016. These include catchment area treatment, wildlife management, forest fire prevention, soil and moisture conservation work in the forest etc.
- These fund cannot be used for payment of salary, travelling allowances, making buildings and buying office equipment for forest officers.
Objectives of CAMPA
- Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA) are meant to promote afforestation and regeneration activities as a way of compensating for forest land diverted to non-forest uses.
Its mandate includes:
- Lay down broad guidelines for and assist State CAMPA.
- Make recommendations to State CAMPA based on a review of their plans and programmes.
- Provide a mechanism to State CAMPA to resolve issues of an inter-state or Centre-State character.
Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs)
- NDCs are the documents, must prepared by the country parties to the Paris Agreement, to outline and communicate their post-2020 climate actions
- NDCs embody efforts by each country to reduce national emissions and adapt to the impacts of climate change.
- It aims to fulfil the most ambitious objectives of the Paris Agreement which is to keep the increase in global temperature to well below 2°C with respect to the pre-industrial era and limiting it to 1.5°C.
- NDCs are submitted every five years to the UNFCCC secretariat, with the next round of NDCs being submitted by 2020.
From INDC to NDC
- The acronym, INDC (Intended Nationally Determined Contributions) emerged at Conference of the parties (COP) 19 in Warsaw, Poland.
- Countries were urged to determine independently what contribution they could make to the global effort to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The initiative was so welcome that, most of the countries presented their contributions, detailing GHG reduction goals.
- However, some report revealed that the sum of the contributions of all the nations did not reach the objective of keeping earth well below a 2°C increase in global warming.
- Hence, INDC was converted to mandatory Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC).
Cabinet approves Establishment of an International Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure
The Union Cabinet has given approval for the Establishment of an International Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (CDRI) in New Delhi.
- The CDRI is proposed to be launched at the UN Climate Action Summit in New York, USA in September 2019.
- It would address concerns that are
- Common to developing and developed countries
- Small and large economies
- Countries at early and advanced stages of infrastructure development
- Countries that have moderate or high disaster risk.
- Government of India provided 480 crores to CDRI for a corpus required to fund technical assistance on on-going basis. Government will also cover recurring expenditures over a period of 5 years from 2019-20 to 2023-24.
- The financial resources will be met from the existing allocated budget and existing plan schemes of the National Medicinal Plants Board, Ministry of AYUSH.
- It will serve as a knowledge sharing platform on different aspects of disaster and climate resilience of infrastructure.
- It will create a mechanism to assist countries to upgrade their capacities, with regard to infrastructure development in accordance with their risk context and economic needs.
- Economically weaker sections of society, women and children, are the most vulnerable to the impacts of disasters and hence, will be benefitted from the CDRI.
- It will also benefit all areas with high disaster risk. In India, the north-eastern and Himalayan regions are prone to earthquakes, coastal areas to cyclones and tsunamis and central peninsular region to droughts.
Two new eel species discovered
Two new species of marine eel were discovered recently by Estuarine Biology Regional Centre (EBRC) of the Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) at Gopalpur-on-sea in Odisha.
About the new eel species
- Two specimens of this eel were caught in waters of south Andaman coast.
- One of them is short brown un-patterned moray eel named ‘Gymnothorax andamanensesis’ and other is white-spotted moray eel, named ‘Gymnothorax smithi’
- Till now, 10 species of short brown unpatterned moray eels have been discovered in the world, out of which two were found in Indian waters. With this new discovery, the number has increased to
- With the new discovery, there are total 50 species of moray eel from Indian waters.
What is marine eels?
- Eels have an elongated, snakelike body and vary in size and coloration.
- They are mostly found in shallow waters but some of them live offshore in sandy or clayey bottoms ranging up to 500 metres.
- The moray and conger are common genuses of marine eel.
Draft UN report warns of rising seas, storm surges, melting permafrost
A third to 99% of the world’s permafrost could also melt by 2100 if emissions continue unabated.
Highlights of Draft UN Report
- Earth will likely see more than a 100-fold increase in the damages caused by super storms and 280 million people displaced by rising seas.
- The planet’s ice covered regions, known as the cryosphere, have also been hit by man-made warming, with ice sheets shedding more than 400 billion tonnes in mass each year, and mountain glaciers threatened with local extinction.
- A third to 99% of the world’s permafrost could also melt by 2100 if emissions continue unabated, potentially releasing a carbon bomb of greenhouse gases.
What is permafrost?
- Permafrost is defined as ground (soil or rock and included ice or organic material) that remains at or below 0°C for at least two consecutive years.
- Such a layer of frozen ground is designated exclusively on the basis of temperature. Part or all of its moisture may be unfrozen, depending on the chemical composition of the water or the depression of the freezing point by capillary forces.
- Permafrost with saline soil moisture, for example, may be colder than 0 °C for several years but contain no ice and thus not be firmly cemented. Most permafrost, however, is consolidated by ice.
- A typical classification recognizes continuous permafrost (underlying 90-100% of the landscape); discontinuous permafrost (50-90%); and sporadic permafrost (0-50%).
- Permafrost accounts for 0.022% of total water on Earth and exists in 24% of exposed land in the Northern Hemisphere.
Where do we find Permafrost?
- Permafrost forms and exists in a climate where the mean annual air temperature is 0 °C or colder. Such a climate is generally characterized by long, cold winters with little snow and short, relatively dry, cool summers.
- Permafrost, therefore, is widespread in the Arctic, sub-Arctic, and Antarctica.
Science & Technology
Skull discovered in Ethiopia yields new clues on how humans evolved
A remarkably complete 3.8-million-year-old skull of an early human has been unearthed in Ethiopia, that has the potential to alter understanding of human evolution.
About the new discovery
- The skull, known as MRD, is one of the most complete fossils of hominids more than 3 million years old.
- The new skull, MRD, belongs to the species of hominins called Australopithecus anamensis. MRD was discovered near the excavation site of Lucy fossils in Ethiopia.
- Lucy is a several hundred pieces of bone fossils representing 40 percent of the skeleton of a female. It belonged to a species of hominins (which include humans and their ancestors) called Australopithecus afarensis.
- Scientists found that the two species (Lucy and MRD) co-existed for about 100,000 years.
Significance of the study
- The finding helps bridge a big gap between the earliest-known human ancestors (about 6 million years old) and species like Lucy (2-3 million years old).
Other human fossils
- Toumai (of the species Sahelanthropus tchadensis), discovered in Chad in 2001, is around 7 million years old and is considered by some palaeontologists (study of fossils) to be the first representative of the human lineage.
- Ardi (for Ardipithecus ramidus, another species of hominid) was found in Ethiopia in 1994 and is believed to be around 4.5 million years old.
- Lucy, the Australopithecus afarensis, was discovered in Ethiopia in 1974 and is 3.2 million years old. Australopithecus afarensis is one of the longest-lived and most studied early human species.
Vice President visits SAMEER
The Vice President of India, at the Applied Microwave Electronics Engineering and Research (SAMEER) in Andhra Pradesh, said that India must always be wary of threats to national security as the country makes giant strides towards development with a booming economy.
Highlights of the speech
- Human-made or naturally occurring Electromagnetic Pulse (EMPs) can affect large geographic areas, disrupting elements critical to the nation’s security and could adversely affect global commerce.
- Hence, India needs to develops futuristic defence mechanisms and create EMP- resistant infrastructure to avert threats such as an Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) attack.
- Initiatives such as National Initiative for Developing and Harnessing Innovations (NIDHI – an umbrella programme for nurturing innovations into successful start-ups) and Atal Innovation Mission fortify India’s science ecosystem.
- Aryabhatta wrote ‘Aryabhattiyam’ (contains astronomical treatise and is the only known surviving work of the Aryabhata)
- Varahamihira wrote Panchasidhhantika (Five schools of Astronomy)
- Charaka and Sushruta are known as Fathers of Surgery.
- Rishi Kanad first spoke of “anu’’ (atom) as an indestructible particle of matter in Kanada Sutra.
- Patanjali is considered as Father of Yoga.
- Gaganyaan, India’s first human space mission is to be realized by the 75th anniversary of independence by 2022.
- The Solar Mission, Aditya L1 is also set to be launched in 2022.
- India has installed capacity of 78 GW in renewable energy in 2019.
- As a major producer and exporter of software technology, India has announced the National Policy on Software Products 2019.
- It was set up as an autonomous R & D laboratory at Mumbai under the then Department of Electronics.
- It aims to undertake R & D work in the areas of Microwave Engineering and Electromagnetic Engineering Technology.
- It was set up with a mandate to achieve excellence in application -oriented research in the areas of Electromagnetic Environmental Effects (E3).
- It is an offshoot of the special microwave products unit (SMPU) set up in 1977 at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR), Mumbai.
- It has 3 R&D centres at Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata.
It has developed,
- India’s first MST(mesosphere–stratosphere–troposphere) Radar at Tirupati which is also the 2nd largest in the world.
- India’s first indigenously developed Linear Accelerator for Cancer treatment.
- India’s first center for design and engineering facility for Opto Electronic devices.
Key Facts for Prelims
- Pakistan has successfully test-fired surface-to-surface ballistic missile ‘Ghaznavi’, capable of delivering multiple warheads up to 290 kms.
- The missile was launched amid Pakistan’s efforts to internationalise the Kashmir issue after India abrogated provisions of Article 370 of the Constitution to withdraw Jammu and Kashmir’s special status and bifurcated it into two Union Territories.