Current Affairs Analysis

31st May & 1st June 2020 Current Affairs Analysis – IASToppers

PM CARES is not a public authority under RTI Act; National Judicial Authority Commission (NJAC); National AI Portal of India; Responsible AI for Youth; FCI dominates wheat procurement; Rare scorpionfish found in Gulf of Mannar; Gulf of Mannar; G-7 countries; U.K. moots ‘5G club’ to keep out Huawei; India and 5-G; Mahesh Navami; World Milk Day; Impact of climate change on Trees; Small Game; COVID -19 Indian National Supermodel; pH-responsive smart bandage; My Life – My Yoga contest; etc.
By IASToppers
June 01, 2020

Contents

Polity & Governance

  • PM CARES is not a public authority under RTI Act
  • Law Minister rakes up SC verdict quashing NJAC

Government Schemes and Policies

  • National AI Portal of India

Economy

  • FCI dominates wheat procurement

Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management

  • Rare scorpionfish found in Gulf of Mannar

Bilateral & International Relations

  • Trump proposes extension of G7 group
  • U.K. moots ‘5G club’ to keep out Huawei

Key Facts for Prelims

  • Mahesh Navami
  • World Milk Day
  • Impact of climate change on Trees
  • Small Game
  • COVID -19 Indian National Supermodel
  • pH-responsive smart bandage
  • My Life – My Yoga contest

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Polity & Governance

PM CARES is not a public authority under RTI Act

The Prime Minister’s Office told to a Right to Information applicant that the fund is not a public authority under the ambit of the RTI Act, 2005.

Major Highlights:

  • The Prime Minister’s Office has refused to disclose details on the creation and operation of the PM CARES Fund and said that the fund is not a Public Authority under the ambit of Section 2(h) of the RTI Act, 2005.
  • The relevant section of the Act defines a public authority as any authority or body, or institution of self-government established or constituted:

(a) by or under the Constitution.

(b) by any other law made by Parliament.

(c) by any other law made by State Legislature.

(d) by notification issued or order made by the appropriate Government

  • It also includes body owned, controlled or substantially financed; non-governmental organisation substantially financed directly or indirectly by funds provided by the appropriate government.
  • Comptroller and Auditor General’s office had that it wouldn’t audit PM-CARES Fund as it is a charitable organisation and based on donations from individuals and organisations.

Government’s justification:

  • PMO cited a Supreme Court observation that indiscriminate and impractical demands under RTI Act for disclosure of all and sundry information would be counterproductive.

Key fact:

  • There is also ambiguity regarding whether the PMNRF (Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund) is subject to the RTI Act.
[Ref: The Hindu]

Law Minister rakes up SC verdict quashing NJAC

Expressing ‘serious reservation’ on the 2015 Supreme Court ruling that had quashed the National Judicial Appointments Commission in favour of the present Collegium system, Law has asked why the government and the Prime Minister cannot be trusted to appoint a fair and objective judge if he can be trusted with the country’s nuclear button.

Supreme Court’s verdict:

  • The Supreme Court in its 16 October 2015 verdict with a 4-1 majority held that both the Ninety-ninth Constitutional Amendment Act, 2014 and the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) Act, 2014 were unconstitutional.
  • The majority said the two laws undermine the independence of the judiciary, and judicial appointments must be protected from executive control.

National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC):

  • NJAC is a body responsible for the appointment and transfer of judges to the higher judiciary in India.
  • NJAC Bill sought to replace the collegium system of appointing the judges of Supreme Court and High Courts with NJAC wherein the executive will have a say in appointing the judges.
  • The Bill provided for the procedure to be followed by the NJAC for recommending persons for appointment as Chief Justice of India and other Judges of the Supreme Court, and Chief Justice and other Judges of High Courts.
  • However, the Act was scrapped and termed unconstitutional.
[Ref: The Hindu]

Government Schemes and Policies

National AI Portal of India

The Union Minister for Electronics and IT has recently launched India’s national Artificial Intelligence Portal and National program- Responsible AI for Youth.

Major Highlights:

  • This portal has been jointly developed by the Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology and IT Industry.
  • National e-Governance Division of Ministry of Electronics and IT and NASSCOM from the IT industry will jointly run this portal.
  • This portal shall work as a one stop digital platform for AI related developments in India, sharing of resources such as articles, start-ups, investment funds in AI, resources, companies and educational institutions related to AI in India.
  • The portal will also share documents, case studies, research reports etc. and has section about learning and new job roles related to AI.

Responsible AI for Youth:

  • The minister also launched a National Program for the youth, “Responsible AI for Youth”.
  • The aim of this Program is to give the young students of our country a platform and empower them with appropriate new age tech mind-set, relevant AI skill-sets and access to required AI tool-sets to make them digitally ready for the future.
  • The Program has been created and launched by the National e-Governance Division, Ministry of Electronics & IT in collaboration with Intel India, with support from Department of School Education and Literacy (DoSE&L), Ministry of Human Resource Development.
  • DoSE&L will help the State Education Departments to nominate teachers as per eligibility criteria.

Objective:

  • To bring about a change in the thought process and create a bridge for the digital divide.

Key Features:

  • The National Programme is open to students of classes 8 – 12 from Central and State government-run schools (including KVS, NVS, JNV) from across the country.
  • The Program will be implemented in a phase-wise manner and in its first phase, each of the State Education Department will nominate 10 teachers as per the eligibility criteria.
  • Teachers may also self-nominate themselves by fulfilling the eligibility criteria.
  • These teachers will be provided orientation sessions aimed to help them understand the premise and identify 25-50 potential students for the Program.
  • The identified students will attend online training sessions on AI and understand how to identify social impact ideas/projects that may be created using AI and submit their ideas.
  • From the submitted ideas in the form of videos, top 100 ideas will be shortlisted, and these students will be invited to attend residential boot camps or online sessions (subject to COVID-19 situation); to take them through AI journey.
  • Post the boot-camps/ online sessions, these students will be asked to create real time projects and submit their final project in a video format on the website.

Significance:

  • Responsible AI for Youth will empower the youth to become AI ready and help reduce the skill gap, while enabling youth to create meaningful social impact solutions.
  • The Program is designed to reach out to students from Government schools pan India and provide them with an opportunity to become part of the skilled workforce in an inclusive manner.
[Ref: PIB]

Economy

FCI dominates wheat procurement

The latest procurement figures of wheat show that India’s private sector has nearly exited the country’s food grain markets and resulted in a virtual monopoly of state-run Food Corporation of India.

Major Highlights:

  • According to official figures as on May 24, procurement of wheat by government agencies has touched 34.1 million tonnes, which is slightly more than last year’s levels.
  • FCI, India’s main grain handling agency, is burdened with mountains of wheat and rice stocks, often beyond its capacity.
  • High taxes and extra bonuses in some states, offered as a top-up to federally determined minimum support prices are the main reasons for the private sector being “crowded out”, leaving FCI as the only buyer in the grain bowls of Punjab, Madhya Pradesh and Haryana.
  • This leaves farmers with little incentive to grow crops other than rice and wheat in food bowl states like Punjab, Madhya Pradesh and Haryana.
  • Private buyers have almost completely withdrawn from Punjab. One reason is taxes and Arhatiya commission of about 8.5% on the wheat purchase.

Shanta Kumar Committee:

  • The Narendra Modi government formed the Shanta Kumar Committee in 2015 to overhaul the 50-year-old FCI.
  • It was a high-level committee headed by former food minister Shanta Kumar which highlighted the exit of the private sector from grain markets.
  • The HLC also notes that private sector has been crowded out not only in states that give extra bonus but also those that charge very high statutory levies and commissions, which vary from 3.6 percent in Rajasthan to 14.5 percent in Punjab in case of wheat in 2012-13.
  • Crowding out refers to a situation where increased government involvement in a sector affects other players, including the private sector.
  • To get private companies back to grain markets, the committee recommended that state-level bonuses [some states declare bonus over and above the MSP declared by the central government] must be contained.
  • Further the taxes and statutory levies should be made uniform at 3% of MSP, levies on rice millers abolished and quality of grain be adhered to through mechanical and transparent processes.
  • However, the recommendations were never implemented.
[Ref: Hindustan Times]

Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management

Rare scorpionfish found in Gulf of Mannar

Researchers at the Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute have found a rare fish from Sethukarai coast in the Gulf of Mannar.

About the species:

  • It is a band-tail scorpionfish well-known for its stinging venomous spines and ability to change colour.
  • The fish has the ability to change colour and blend with its surrounding environment to escape from predators and while preying.
  • The fish is called ‘scorpionfish’ because its spines contain neurotoxic venom.
  •  This was the first time that the particular species was found alive in Indian waters.

Gulf of Mannar:

  • The Gulf of Mannar is a large shallow bay forming part of the Laccadive Sea in the Indian Ocean.
  • It lies between the west coast of Sri Lanka and the south-eastern tip of India, in the Coromandel Coast region.
  • The estuaries of Thamirabarani River and Vaipar River of South India drain into the Gulf.
  • The Gulf of Mannar is known to harbour over 3,600 species of flora and fauna and coral reefs, making it one of the richest coastal regions in Asia. .
[Ref: The Hindu]

Bilateral & International Relations

Trump proposes extension of G7 group

Calling the existing Group of Seven group outdated US President Donald Trump said that he wanted to include India, Russia, South Korea, and Australia in the group.

  • Trump has deferred 2020’s G-7 summit scheduled to be held on June in US.

The Group of 7:

  • The G-7 countries are Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
  • It is an intergovernmental organisation that was formed in 1975 by the top economies of the time as an informal forum to discuss pressing world issues.
  • Canada joined the group in 1976, and the European Union began attending in 1977.
  • Initially formed as an effort by the US and its allies to discuss economic issues, the G-7 forum has deliberated about several challenges over the decades, such as the oil crashes of the 1970s, and many pressing issues such as financial crises, terrorism, arms control, and drug trafficking.
  • The G-7 was known as the ‘G-8’ for several years after the original seven were joined by Russia in 1997.
  • The Group returned to being called G-7 after Russia was expelled as a member in 2014 following the latter’s annexation of the Crimea region of Ukraine.
  • The G-7 does not have a formal constitution or a fixed headquarters.
  • The decisions taken by leaders during annual summits are non-binding.
  • The rise of India, China, and Brazil over the past few decades has reduced the G-7’s relevance, whose share in global GDP has now fallen to around 40%.

G-7 and G-20:

  • The G-20 is a larger group of countries, which also includes G7 members.
  • The G-20 was formed in 1999, in response to a felt need to bring more countries on board to address global economic concerns.
  • Apart from the G-7 countries, the G-20 comprises Argentina, Australia, Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, and Turkey.
  • Together, the G-20 countries make up around 80% of the world’s economy.
  • As opposed to the G-7, which discusses a broad range of issues, deliberations at the G-20 are confined to those concerning the global economy and financial markets.
  • India is slated to host a G-20 summit in 2022.
[Ref: Indian Express]

U.K. moots ‘5G club’ to keep out Huawei

Britain has recently said that it was pushing the U.S. to form a club of 10 nations that could develop its own 5G technology and reduce dependence on Huawei.

Major Highlights:

  • Britain is proposing a “D10” club of democratic partners that groups the G7 nations with Australia and the Asian technology leaders South Korea and India.
  • It said one of the options involves channelling investments into existing telecommunication companies within the 10 member states.
  • The move is aimed to search for an alternative to Huawei.

India and 5-G:

  • The evolution of 5G is based on multiple pillars — it starts with enhanced Mobile Broadband (eMBB) to provide the much-needed capacity for delivery of high-speed data to the masses.
  • eMBB is the most important building block of 5G as it also solves the basic need of capacity.
  • When compared to 4G, 5G offers much higher capacity, ultra-low latency, very high speeds and better security.
  • In fact, 5G can even offer fibre-like speeds, wirelessly, on millimetre wave frequency.
  • India’s is the second biggest smartphone market in the world, leading to a meteoritic rise of data consumption — from 20 million terabytes in 2017 to 55 million terabytes in 2019.
  • India consumes more than 11 GB/user/month — the highest in the world.
  • Existing LTE infrastructure will struggle to address the growing demand for data, leading to perpetually choked networks and resulting in poor customer experience.
  • New macro cell-site rollout is virtually impossible. As such, network resources are strained with significant impact on consumer experience since the 4G spectrum and infrastructure can do only so much.

Significance of 5-G:

  • 5G powers the technology driving smart cities.
  • As India moves ahead with its Smart City vision, it must leverage 5G to ensure that the underlying technology remains relevant for a longer time.
  • As such, the case for immediate roll out of 5G networks in India is compelling.
  • It is no longer a choice but a pre-requisite for the country’s growth and development.
[Ref: The Hindu, The Hindu Business Line]

Key Facts for Prelims

Mahesh Navami

  • Mahesh Navami is the biggest festival of the Maheshwari community.
  • According to the Hindu calendar, every year, the Navami of the Shukla Paksha of the month of Jyeshtha is celebrated with the celebration of “Mahesh Navami”.
  • This festival is mainly dedicated to the worship of Lord Mahesha (Shiva) and the Goddess Parvati.

World Milk Day

  • The World Milk Day is observed on 1 June every year since 2001.
  • The Day provides an opportunity to focus attention on milk and to publicise activities connected with milk and the milk industry.
  • The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations proposed the specific day on which all aspects of milk could be celebrated.
  • World Milk Day theme 2020 in India is all about “Raise a Glass”.
  • The intention of celebrating this day is to make people aware of the health benefits of milk.

Impact of climate change on Trees

  • Rising temperatures and carbon dioxide have been altering the world’s forests, resulting in shorter and younger trees, according to a new study.
  • The changes in trees happen due to increased stress and carbon dioxide fertilisation and because of the increasing frequency and severity of disturbances such as wildfire, drought and wind damage.
  • Trees are growing shorter and younger because of a reduction in their ability to store carbon and potentially large shifts in the mix of species that compose and inhabit these forests.

Small Game

  • The President of Botswana announced it would allow farmers in the country to keep small game on their farms to encourage locals’ participation in agro-tourism.
  • Small game are smaller animals hunted for sport or meat.

COVID -19 Indian National Supermodel

PTI07-03-2020_000061B
  • The Department of Science and Technology has initiated a COVID -19 Indian National Supermodel to help monitor the future transmission of infection, thus aiding decisions involving health system readiness and other mitigation measures.
  • As part of this initiative, Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research (JNCASR) and IISc, Bangalore will co-ordinate to connect and work with all COVID-19 modelling projects and programs in the country.

pH-responsive smart bandage

  • Scientists from Institute of Advanced Study in Science and Technology have developed a pH-responsive smart bandage that can deliver the medicine applied in the wound at the pH that is suitable for the wound.
  • The scientists have developed the delivery system by fabricating a nanotechnology-based cotton patch that uses cheap and sustainable materials like cotton and jute.
  • A nanocomposite hydrogel bound compact cotton patch incorporated with jute carbon dots was fabricated to carry out the drug release. Jute has been used for the first time as a precursor in synthesizing fluorescent carbon dots, and water was used as the dispersion medium.
  • Herbal formulation Neem leaf extract was taken as the model drug to exemplify the release study.
  • Need: Around any wound, pH changes due to bacterial infections. Hence, they developed a pH-responsive drug delivery system with the cotton patch.
  • Carbon dots which are zero-dimensional nanomaterials, due to their unique carbon core can be designed to exhibit different behaviour towards different pH.
  • They are also known for their low toxicity and great biocompatibility.

My Life – My Yoga contest

  • Prime Minister of India launched “My Life – My Yoga” contest (also called “Jeevan Yoga”) Video Blogging Contest, a joint effort by the Ministry of AYUSH and the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR).
  • Objective: to raise awareness about Yoga and to inspire people to prepare for and become active participants in the observation of sixth International Day of Yoga (21st June 2020).
  • The contest will run in two legs. First leg consisting of an international video blogging contest, wherein the winners will be picked within a country. This will be followed by global prize winners who will be selected from winners from different countries.
  • To enter into the contest the participants are required to upload a 3 minutes duration video of 3 Yogic practices (kriya, asana, pranayama, bandha or mudra), including a short video message/ description on how the said Yogic practices influenced their life.
  • This contest is open to all participants across the world. 
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