Government Schemes & Policies
- Pradhan Mantri Jan Vikas Karyakram
- Centre cancels BharatNet project in Tamil Nadu
Issues related to Health & Education
- Delhi’s plasma bank
- Eco-friendly Synthesis of Gold Nanoparticles
- United Nations Convention against Torture
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
- Wolf spiders & Globe Andersoni
Bilateral & International Relations
- Kholongchhu hydropower project
- Uganda: first African country to submit REDD+ results
Defence & Security Issues
- Portal to issue NOC for research in EEZ
- Lightning strikes
Key Facts for Prelims
- Section 69A of the IT Act
- Portal for street vendors’ loan scheme
- Sankalp Parva
- Mobile Soil Testing Labs
- FMC initiative
- National Geo-Research Scholars Meet
- Begusarai bridge project
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Government Schemes & Policies
Pradhan Mantri Jan Vikas Karyakram
The Sanskritik Sadbhav Mandap is a community centre being constructed by Union Minority Affairs Ministry under Pradhan Mantri Jan Vikas Karyakram (PMJVK).
- It will be utilized for various socio-economic-cultural activities, skill development training, coaching, relief activities during a disaster such as Corona and different sports activities.
About Pradhan Mantri Jan Vikas Karyakram:
- Multi-sectoral Development Programme (MsDP) was revamped as Pradhan Mantri Jan Vikas Karyakram in May 2018.
- The Centrally sponsored scheme seeks to provide better socio-economic infrastructure facilities to the minority communities particularly in the field of education, health & skill development which would further lead to the lessening of the gap between the national average and the minority communities.
- The restructured scheme is to be implemented by the Ministry of Minority Affairs.
Beneficiaries of PMJVK:
- At present 6 (six) communities namely Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, Buddhists, Zoroastrians (Parsis) and Jains have been notified as Minority Communities under Section 2 (c) of the National Commission for Minorities Act, 1992.
- The Programme aims to address development deficits in the identified minority concentration areas.
- The identification of minority concentration areas has been done based on the presence of a substantial population of notified Minority Communities based on Census, 2011.
- 80% of the resources under the PMJVK would be earmarked for projects related to education, health and skill development.
- 33 to 40% of resources under the PMJVK would be specifically allocated for women-centric projects.
Centre cancels BharatNet project in Tamil Nadu
The Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT) has ordered the scrapping of the tender for the BharatNet project in Tamil Nadu stating the bidding conditions were restrictive and discriminatory.
- DPIIT has asked Tamil Nadu Fibernet Corporation Limited (TAFINET) to immediately scrap the Rs 1,950-crore BharatNet tender and float fresh tenders with non-restrictive qualification criteria.
- The tender got mired in controversy with allegations of corruption and charges that changes in the tender were made to favour a few companies.
- The BharatNet project aims to connect Indian villages with high-speed broadband connections through optical fibre.
- In Tamil Nadu, the plan was to connect all 12,524-gram panchayats.
- To realise the vision of Digital India, BharatNet is an initiative of Government of India to provide broadband services at 100 Mbps to around 2.5 lakh gram panchayats of the country.
- It aims to build highly scalable network infrastructure accessible to provide on-demand, affordable broadband connectivity of 2 Mbps to 20 Mbps for all households and on-demand capacity to all institutions, especially in rural areas.
- The project was originally started in 2011 as National Optical Fibre Network (NOFN) and was renamed as BharatNet in 2015.
- It is the world’s largest rural connectivity scheme to be connected by the Optical Fibre network.
- The government has already connected 1.3 lakh gram panchayats through BharatNet till 2019 and aimed to make 2.5 lakh GPs service ready by March 2020.
Issues related to Health & Education
Delhi’s plasma bank
The Delhi government will set up a plasma bank for coronavirus patients at the Institute of Liver and Biliary Sciences (ILBS).
What is a plasma bank?
- The Plasma bank is like a blood bank where plasma from people who have recovered from COVID-19 is extracted and stored to give it to someone suffering from the disease.
- It will become operational within two days and is likely one of its kind in the country so far.
Need to establish a plasma bank:
- Ever since a few hospitals in the city got permission to administer the plasma therapy, people have been posting messages on social media, asking those who have recovered to donate plasma.
- Many who recover remain unwilling to donate, leading to more demand than supply.
- There have been police complaints against people who were duping others in the pretext of being a plasma donor.
- The bank is being started keeping in mind the experiences of several people who had to run pillar to post to arrange plasma.
Scientists from the Institute of Nano Science & Technology (INST), Mohali have synthesized a novel inorganic-organic hybrid compound that can inhibit breast, lung, and liver cancer cells, opening up new possibilities for metallodrugs.
- The solid compound based on phosphomolybdate cluster, an inorganic salt of phosphomolybdic acid, belongs to the Polyoxometalates family.
- Polyoxometalates (POMs) have evolved as a promising candidate for future metallodrugs for combating cancer.
- POMs are an evolving class of inorganic metal oxides, which have established promising biological activities by the virtue of their great diversity in structures and properties.
- The results showed that this hybrid solid is less toxic towards normal cells, and its antitumor activity was also found to be comparable with that of a routinely used chemotherapeutic agent, Methotrexate (MTX).
- In the past few decades, POMs have evolved as a promising candidate for future metallodrugs for combating cancer.
- Metallodrugs are the drugs that contain metal as an active ingredient.
Eco-friendly Synthesis of Gold Nanoparticles
The National Centre for Polar and Ocean Research and the Goa University have successfully synthesized gold nanoparticles (GNPs) using psychrotolerant Antarctic bacteria through a non-toxic, low-cost, and eco-friendly way.
- Through a study, NCPOR and GU have established that 20-30-nm-sized spherical-shaped GNPs could be synthesized in a controlled environment.
- These GNPs can be used as a composite therapeutic agent clinical trials, especially in anti-cancer, anti-viral, anti-diabetic, and cholesterol-lowering drugs.
- The study revealed the genotoxic effect of GNPs on a sulphate reducing bacteria (SRB).
- The GNPs displayed enough anti-bacterial properties by inhibiting the growth of SRB and its sulphide production by damaging the genetic information of the DNA of the bacterial cell.
- Genotoxicity describes the property of a chemical agent that is capable of damaging the genetic information of DNA, to cause the mutation of the cell, which can lead to cancer.
What is Nanotechnology and Nanoparticle?
- Nanotechnology is a technology that creates new and novel materials through controlled manipulation at a size range of 1 nm (nanometer) to 100 nm (1 nm equals to 10^-9 m).
- Nanoparticles are those materials that are at least one dimension smaller than 100 nanometres.
- NPs have a wide variety of potential applications in the fields of biomedical, optical and electronics research.
- Metallic NPs have been efficiently exploited for biomedical applications and among them, GNPs are found to be effective in biomedical research.
United Nations Convention against Torture
The alleged torture and killing of two Tamil Nadu traders, a father and son, by police last week pointed towards a broken criminal justice system and highlighted the need for police reforms and the ratification of the United Nations Convention Against Torture (UNCAT).
- A father and son, in Thoothukudi, Tamil Nadu were arrested for allegedly keeping their shops open past the permitted hours during the COVID-19 lockdown.
- The Executive Committee (India) of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative underlined the urgent need for a strong law in fulfilment of legal obligations.
- The custodial violence and torture were rampant in the country and India remain among a handful of countries yet to ratify the UN Convention against Torture (UNCAT).
United Nations Convention against Torture:
- The United Nations Convention against Torture (UNCAT) is an international human rights treaty, under the review of the United Nations, that came into force on 26 June 1987.
- It aims to prevent torture and other acts of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment around the world.
- 26 June is now recognized as the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, in honour of the Convention.
- The Convention requires states to take effective measures to prevent torture in any territory under their jurisdiction and forbids states to transport people to any country where there is reason to believe they will be tortured.
- The Convention defines torture as a criminal offence.
India’s contentions over UNCAT:
- India had signed UNCAT in 1997 but has not ratified it yet.
- India is among the few countries that have not ratified the CAT which has been ratified by 170 countries including Pakistan and China.
- The National Human Rights Commission has been urging the government to recognise torture as a separate crime and codify the punishment in a separate penal law.
- The centre contends some States were not in favour of such a law and the Indian Penal Code and the Criminal Procedure Code were more than sufficient.
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
Wolf spiders & Globe Andersoni
According to a new study, wolf spiders in the Arctic tundra are beginning to reproduce more as a result of the warming climate.
- A team of researchers from a University in Denmark analysed data of wolf spiders captured for 20 years at the Zackenberg Research Station in north-eastern Greenland.
- They found that the wolf spiders produced two egg sacs in which they carry their eggs. This behaviour although observed in warmer latitudes had not been observed this far in the Arctic.
- It raises the concerns regarding the increase in offspring of spiders and their impact on food chains in the region in the future.
- The Globe andersoni is commonly known as Dancing Ladies or Swan Flower.
- The researchers from Pune and Kozhikode discovered the plant in the Sevoke Hill Forest in July 2011. The area is located in northern West Bengal.
- The plant was last seen 136 years ago and usually grows on rocky slopes of evergreen forests.
- It was revealed in their paper that was recently published.
Bilateral & International Relations
Kholongchhu hydropower project
India and Bhutan signed the pact for construction of the 600 MW Kholongchhu project, the first hydropower joint venture project in Bhutan’s less developed eastern region of Trashiyangtse.
- The India-Bhutan hydropower project will be constructed as a 50:50 joint venture, not as a government-to-government agreement.
- The Kholongchhu project is one of four projects agreed to in 2008, as a part of India’s commitment to help Bhutan create a total 10,000 MW of installed capacity by 2020.
- The partners of the Joint venture are Sutlej Jal Vidyut Nigam (SJVN), a Himachal Pradesh PSU, and the Bhutanese Druk Green Power Corporation (DGPC).
- The construction for the Kholongchhu Hydro Electric Power (HEP) project will begin soon and be completed in the second half of 2025.
About the project:
- The project is located at the lower course of Kholongchhu just before its confluence with Drangmechu (Gongrichu) in Trashiyangtse District of Bhutan.
- The nearest broad gauge railway station is Rangia (Assam), India about 270 km from the Dam site and the nearest international airport is at Guwahati (India) about 320 km.
- The concession period for the JV project shall be 30 years from the date of commercial operation.
- At the end of the concession period, the entire project shall be transferred and vested in the Royal Government of Bhutan at no cost in good running condition.
[Ref: the Hindu; Khepbhutan]
Uganda: first African country to submit REDD+ results
Uganda has become the first African country to submit results for Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
- REDD+ is a mechanism developed by the parties to the UNFCCC to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation.
- The results submitted by Uganda to the UNFCCC has paved the way for results-based payments to the country.
- Results-based payments comprise the final REDD+ phase. It provides financial incentives to developing countries that prove they stopped deforestation during a certain period.
- Uganda’s forest cover had depleted to 8 per cent from 24 per cent in the 1990s, largely attributed to human encroachment, including for charcoal, timber and agriculture.
Significance for Africa:
- The submission of the results will encourage other African countries to reduce carbon emissions by decreasing deforestation and forest degradation.
- Achieving REDD+ results in the continent is challenging, as there are other development priorities — with agriculture, mining, energy and forestry — driving deforestation.
- Africa had the greatest annual rate of net forest loss, at 3.9 million ha, across the world in this decade.
It is a climate change mitigation solution developed by Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), that incentivizes developing countries to keep their forests standing.
- United Nations Programme on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation is a collaborative programme of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), created in 2008 in response to the UNFCCC decisions on the Bali Action Plan and REDD at COP-13.
- The Programme supports nationally led REDD+ processes and promotes the indigenous peoples and other forest-dependent communities, in national and international REDD+ implementation.
- It releases an annual Programme Progress Report and a Semi-Annual Report in the public domain.
- The overall development goal of the Programme is to reduce forest emissions and enhance carbon stocks in forests while contributing to national sustainable development.
Difference between REDD+ and the UN-REDD Programme:
- REDD refers to reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation while REDD+ refers to the conservation of forest carbon stocks, sustainable management of forests, and enhancement of forest carbon stocks.
- REDD+ is a voluntary climate change mitigation approach that has been developed by Parties to the UNFCCC.
Location of Uganda:
- Uganda is a landlocked country in East-Central Africa.
- It is in the African Great Lakes region. Uganda also lies within the Nile basin, and has a varied but generally a modified equatorial climate.
- It is bordered to the east by Kenya, to the north by South Sudan, to the west by the Democratic Republic of the Congo, to the south-west by Rwanda, and to the south by Tanzania.
- The southern part of the country includes a substantial portion of Lake Victoria, shared with Kenya and Tanzania.
Defence & Security Issues
Portal to issue NOC for research in EEZ
The Defence Minister has launched a web portal for the issue of No Objection Certificate (NOC) for power projects and Research Survey Exploration Exploitation (RSEE) activities in the Indian Territorial Waters (TW) and Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
- To ensure ease of business and transparency in issuing NOC for power projects and Research Survey Exploration Exploitation projects.
- The portal was developed with the assistance of National e-Governance Division (NeGD), Bhaskaracharya Institute for space applications and geo-informatics and National Informatics Centre (NIC).
- The Defence Ministry accords security clearances to private, public sector undertakings and government organisations for power, wind and solar projects in areas nearby defence installations and also RSEE activities in the Indian TW and EEZ for applications received.
Indian Territorial Waters:
- As per the international regulations, zone up to 12 nautical miles towards the sea from the coastline is considered as territorial waters.
- It is like the land of that nation and they have every right on it as they have on their land.
Exclusive Economic Zone:
- An EEZ is a sea zone prescribed by the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) over which a sovereign state has special rights regarding the exploration and use of marine resources, including energy production from water and wind.
- It stretches from the baseline out to 200 nautical miles (nmi) from its coast.
- The term does not include either the territorial sea or the continental shelf beyond the 200 nmi limit.
- The territorial sea confers full sovereignty over the waters, whereas the EEZ is merely a sovereign right which refers to the coastal state’s rights below the surface of the sea.
The World Meteorological Organization declared recently that Brazil recorded a lightning strike that travelled a distance of 709 kilometres, while Argentina recorded a strike that lasted for 16.73 seconds.
- Brazil has the highest incidence of lightning in the world — an average of 77.8 million strikes per year.
- These lightning flashes are known as Megaflashes in scientific parlance and defined as horizontal mesoscale lightning discharges that reach hundreds of kilometres in length.
- Uttar Pradesh, India witnesses the maximum number of deaths due to lightning, with Bihar at second place.
- According to WMO: If the time between a lightning flash and thunder is less than 30 seconds, people should stay indoors and wait 30 minutes after the last observed flash to resume outdoor activities.
What is lightning?
- Lightning is a very rapid and massive discharge of electricity in the atmosphere, some of which is directed towards the Earth’s surface.
- These discharges are generated in giant moisture-bearing clouds that are 10-12 km tall.
How dangerous is lightning?
- Lightning is the biggest contributor to accidental deaths due to natural causes, but the least Studied atmospheric phenomena in the country.
- Several thousand thunderstorms occur over India every year and each can involve several — sometimes more than a hundred — lightning strikes.
- Indian Institute of Tropical Management (IITM) Pune, works full-time on thunderstorms and lightning.
How does a Lightning strike?
- The moisture-bearing clouds where lightning generates are 10-12 km tall. The base of these clouds lies within 1-2 km of the Earth’s surface while their top is 12-13 km away.
- Temperatures towards the top of these clouds are in the range of minus 35 to minus 45 degrees Celsius.
- As water vapour moves upward in the cloud, the falling temperature causes it to condense and heat is generated in the process, which pushes the molecules of water further up.
- As the water vapour moves to temperatures below zero degrees celsius, the water droplets change into small ice crystals.
- The water vapours continue to move up, gathering mass — until they are so heavy that they start to fall to Earth.
- This leads to a system in which, simultaneously, smaller ice crystals are moving up and bigger crystals are coming down.
- Thus as a result of collisions, the electrons are released, the moving free electrons cause more collisions and more electrons, and a chain reaction starts.
Formation of an Electrical Potential Difference:
- As a result of the process, the top layer of the cloud gets positively charged, while the middle layer is negatively charged.
- The electrical potential difference between the two layers is huge — of the order of a billion to 10 billion volts.
- In very little time, a massive current, of the order of 100,000 to a million amperes, starts to flow between the layers.
- An enormous amount of heat is produced, and this leads to the heating of the air column between the two layers of the cloud.
- As the heated air column expands, it produces shock waves that result in thunder.
How does this current reach the Earth from the cloud?
- The Earth is a good conductor of electricity but is electrically neutral.
- However, in comparison to the middle layer of the cloud, it becomes positively charged.
- As a result, about 15%-20% of the current gets directed towards the Earth as well.
- It is this flow of current that results in damage to life and property on Earth.
Why there is a probability of lightning striking tall objects?
- Tall objects such as trees, towers or buildings face a greater threat of being strike by lightning.
- Once it is about 80-100 m from the surface, lightning tends to change course towards these taller objects.
- This happens because air is a poor conductor of electricity, and electrons that are travelling through air seek both a better conductor and the shortest route to the Earth’s surface.
- Tall objects provide the shortest route to the relatively positively charged Earth’s surface.
Key Facts for Prelims:
Section 69A of the IT Act
- The Ministry of Information Technology, invoking its power under section 69A of the Information Technology Act, has banned 59 Chinese apps.
- Section 69A of the IT (Amendment) Act, 2008, allows the Central Government to block content where it believes that this content threatens the security of the State; the sovereignty, integrity or defence of India; friendly relations with foreign States; public order; or to prevent incitement for the commission of a cognisable offence relating to any of the above.
- The details of the procedural safeguards that had to be followed while blocking access were set out in more detail in the Information Technology (Procedure and Safeguards for Blocking for Access of Information by Public) Rules, 2009 (Blocking Rules).
Portal for street vendors’ loan scheme
- The Union Housing and Urban Affairs Ministry have launched the portal for the loan scheme for street vendors that was started on June 1.
- The Pradhan Mantri Street Vendors Atma Nirbhar Nidhi (PMSVANidhi) scheme, which is a part of the economic package for sectors affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown, provides small loans for street vendors to restart their operations.
- The portal – pmsvanidhi.mohua.gov.in – provides an integrated end-to-end IT interface to users for availing benefits under the scheme.
- The portal will help in managing loan applications by street vendors, collection of documents of applicants, integration with Aadhaar etc.
- The Ministry of Culture has decided to celebrate Sankalp Parva from 28 June to 12th July 2020 to plant trees.
- The Ministry has recommended people to plant five trees Bargad, Awla, Pepal, Ashok and Bel, which represent the herbal heritage of our country.
- If the saplings of these trees are not available, then people may plant any other sapling of their choice.
- The organizations must ensure that each employee plants at least one tree of his or her choice over and above five such trees.
- The Institutions must also ensure that the employee takes care of the tree planted by them during the year so that it survives and flourishes.
Mobile Soil Testing Labs
- National Fertilizers Limited has launched five Mobile Soil Testing Labs for testing the soil samples at the doorstep of farmers free of cost.
- It aims to give a further boost to the Soil Testing facility in the country for promoting appropriate use of fertilizers.
- These Mobile Labs shall be used for macro and micro-nutrient analysis of soil and are equipped with Audio-Video system to educate farmers on various agricultural topics.
- NFL is a Schedule ‘A’ & a Mini Ratna (Category-I) Company, incorporated in 1974.
- Coming under the administrative control of Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers, it is the second-largest producer of the key fertiliser Urea in India.
- NFL is engaged in manufacturing and marketing of Neem Coated Urea, four strains of Bio-Fertilizers (solid & liquid), Bentonite Sulphur and other allied Industrial products.
- The brand name of the company is popularly known in the market as ‘KISAN’.
- It has also started production of certified seeds under its Seeds Multiplication Program for sale under its brand name as Kisan Beej.
- After zeroing in on 35 projects to create for transporting coal, Coal India (CIL) has identified 14 additional projects under its first-mile connectivity (FMC) initiative.
- The FMC initiative is the system of transportation that will replace the road mode over to seamless mechanised transportation through conveyor belts.
- Conveyor belts will be covered coal movement from pitheads to despatch points enabling reducing dust and pollution.
- It will also have the added benefit of computer-aided loading of railway wagons.
- As per the recent notification of Ministry of MSME, a Micro, small and medium enterprise (MSME) will now be known as Udyam.
- Any person who intends to establish a micro, small or medium enterprise may file Udyam Registration online in the Udyam Registration portal, based on self-declaration with no requirement to upload documents, papers, certificates or proof.
- An e-certificate or Udyam Registration Certificate shall be issued on completion of the registration process.
- In a significant breakthrough in the battle against antibiotic resistance, a research team from the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) has synthesized new nanozymes.
- Nanozymes are nanomaterial that mimics an enzyme and can disintegrate the cell membranes of a range of disease-causing bacteria.
- Nanozymes directly target the chemical integrity of the phospholipids (the main component of the cell membrane) to destroy the cell membrane, bacteria are less likely to be able to develop resistance against them.
- Drug Controller General of India has cleared the Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin vaccine for its product for human clinical trials.
- Covaxin was India’s first vaccine candidate for COVID-19.
- The collaboration with the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR)-National Institute of Virology (NIV) was instrumental in the development of the vaccine.
- Bharat Biotech is also involved in the development of CoroFlu, a nasal vaccine for COVID-19.
National Geo-Research Scholars Meet
- Geo-research scholars met to discuss Geosciences for Society at the 4th National Geo-Research Scholars Meet (NGRSM) organised by the Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology (WIHG), Dehradun, recently.
- WIHG is an autonomous institute under the Department of Science & Technology (DST).
- The NGRSM started in 2016 as a regular event of WIHG to encourage young researchers and students to improve their research interests.
Begusarai bridge project
- The Central government has given clearance for the construction of Begusarai bridge in Bihar that would reduce the travel distance between Begusarai in north Bihar and the south Bihar towns of Munger and Bhagalpur by at least 70 km.
- As per rule, within 50 km of a bridge, upstream or downstream, a new bridge cannot be considered.
- But in this case, National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) gave permission considering the shortening of travel distance and potential benefits to the rural economy.