8th April 2021 | UPSC Current Affairs
8th April Current Affairs MCQs
Relevance: International Relations
Context: Japan has expressed strong concerns to its Chinese counterpart about the human rights situation of China’s Uighur minority.
About Uighur Community:
- The Uighurs are Turkic-speaking Muslims living in China’s autonomous Xinjiang region, in the country’s northwest.
- The Uighurs are one of several persecuted Muslim minorities in Xinjiang.
International Virtual Election Visitors Programme (IEVP) 2021
Context: Election Commission of India (ECI) hosted IEVP 2021.
About IEVP, 2021:
- IEVP 2021 has provided the participants with an overview of the large canvas of the Indian electoral process, the new initiatives taken by ECI on voter facilitation, transparency and accessibility of the electoral system, ECE’s response to the changing needs of training and capacity building, and the new formats necessitated by COVID-19.
- It provides insights into the elections underway in the states of Assam, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, and the Union Territory of Puducherry.
- The delegates have given a virtual tour of the live snapshot of how elections are conducted at some polling stations including familiarization with the electoral process, polling station arrangements, facilitation of Persons with Disabilities and senior citizens, and interaction with various stakeholders.
- Over 106 delegates from over 26 countries across the world and 3 international organizations viz. International IDEA, International Foundation of Electoral Systems (IFES), and Association of World Election Bodies (A-WEB) had participated in the IEVP 2021.
- The Journal, published by the India A-WEB Centre which was set up at ECI in 2019, highlights research papers, articles, book reviews, etc. from eminent writers, experts, researchers, and practitioners from the A-WEB Community and from across democracies of the world in the area of Elections and Electoral Democracy.
- A-WEB India Journal of Elections is envisaged to be a Journal of the highest international standards and will include peer-reviewed contributions from members of the A-WEB community and beyond.
Pradhan Mantri Awaas Yojana – Gramin (PMAY-G)
Relevance: Government Schemes and Initiatives
Context: 92% target of completion has been achieved in the 1st phase of the PMJAY-G scheme i.e. from 2016-17 to 2018-19.
- PMAY-G scheme has been launched by the Ministry of Rural Development in 2016.
- It was formerly called the Indira Awas Yojana which was launched in
- The main objective of the scheme is affordable housing by the year 2022.
- It is a social welfare program through which the Government provides financial assistance to houseless beneficiaries identified using SECC 2011 data to help them construct a house of respectable quality for their living.
- The Scheme envisaged constructing 2.95 crore PMAY-G houses with all basic amenities by the year 2021-22.
- It envisioned providing other facilities to make it an aspirational home for the beneficiaries through convergence with other schemes like Swachh Bharat Mission, PM Ujjwala Yojana for providing LPG connection, and unskilled wage component of 90-95 days under MGNREGS.
- The beneficiary would be facilitated to avail loan of up to 70, 000/- for construction of the house which is optional.
- Funds will be transferred electronically directly to the account of the beneficiary.
Pradhan Mantri MUDRA Yojana (PMMY)
Relevance: Government Schemes and Initiatives
Context: More than 28.68 crore loans for an amount of Rs 14.96 lakh crore sanctioned by Banks, Non-Banking Financial Companies (NBFCs), and Micro-Finance Institutions (MFIs) since the launch of the PMMY.
- PMMY has been launched by the Ministry of Finance in 2015 for providing loans up to 10 Lakh to non-corporate, non-farm small/micro-enterprises.
- Under PMMY collateral-free loans of up to Rs. 10 Lakh are extended by Member Lending Institutions (MLIs) viz Scheduled Commercial Banks, Regional Rural Banks (RRBs), Small Finance Banks (SFBs), NBFCs, MFIs, etc.
- The loans are given for income-generating activities in manufacturing, trading, and services sectors and activities allied to agriculture.
- Mudra loans are offered in three categories namely, ‘Shishu’, ‘Kishore ‘and ‘Tarun’ which signifies the stage of growth or development and funding needs of the borrowers:-
- Shishu: covering loans up to Rs. 50,000/-
- Kishore: covering loans above 50,000/- and up to Rs. 5 lakh
- Tarun: covering loans above 5 lakh and up to Rs. 10 lakh
- As per a survey conducted by the Ministry of Labour and Employment, PMMY helped in the generation of 12 crore net additional employment from 2015 to 2018. Out of the 1.12 crore of the estimated increase in employment, Women accounted for 69 lakh (62%).
Context: Cyclone Seroja hits East-Timor and Indonesia.
More on News:
- It has killed more than 160 people and leaving thousands more homeless.
- Both the countires are located in South-East Asia.
National Super Computing Mission (NSM)
Relevance: Government Schemes and Initiatives
Context: The second phase of NSM is going to complete by September 2021.
- The NSM was launched to enhance the research capacities and capabilities in the country by connecting them to form a Supercomputing grid, with National Knowledge Network (NKN) as the backbone.
- The NSM is setting up a grid of supercomputing facilities in academic and research institutions across the country. A Part of this is being imported from abroad and partly built indigenously.
- The Mission is being jointly launched by the Department of Science and Technology (DST) and the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY).
- It has been implemented by the Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC), Pune, and the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bengaluru.
- PARAM Shivay, the first supercomputer assembled indigenously, was installed in IIT BHU, followed by PARAM Shakti, PARAM Brahma, PARAM Yukti, and PARAM Sanganak at IIT-Kharagpur IISER, Pune, JNCASR, Bengaluru, and IIT Kanpur respectively.
- India has developed an Indigenous server– Rudra, which can meet the HPC requirements of all governments and PSUs.
- A new dimension has now been added in India’s march towards a leadership position in supercomputing with the convergence of HPC and Artificial Intelligence (AI).
- A 200 AI PF Artificial Intelligence supercomputing system has been created and installed in C-DAC, which can handle incredibly large-scale AI workloads increasing the speed of computing-related to AI several times.
- PARAM Siddhi – AI, the high-performance computing-artificial intelligence (HPC-AI) supercomputer, has achieved a global ranking of 62 in the TOP 500 most powerful supercomputer systems in the world, released on November 2020.
- The mission has also created the next generation of supercomputer experts by training more than 4500 HPC-aware manpower and faculties to date.
- In Phase I, 30 percent value addition is done in India that has been scaled up to 40 percent in Phase II.
- The Completion of Phase II of NSM in September 2021 will take the country’s computing power to 16 Petaflops (PF).
- Phase III, initiated this year, will take the computing speed to around 45 Petaflops. This will include three systems of 3 PF each and one system of 20PF as a national facility.
- The three phases will provide access to High-Performance Computing (HPC) Facilities to around 75 institutions and more than thousands of active researchers, academicians working through Nation Knowledge Network (NKN) – the backbone for supercomputing systems.
Relevance: Government Schemes and Initiatives
Context: Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers has addressed the National Dialogue on Manufacturing Excellence and Innovation for Competitiveness and Sustainability of Chemicals Manufacturing.
More on News:
- The Ministry informed that the Chemicals and Petrochemicals sector will play an important role in achieving the goal of a 5 trillion-dollar economy.
- It informed that the Indian chemicals industry stood at 178 billion dollars in 2019 and is expected to reach 304 billion dollars by 2025 and the demand for chemicals is expected to expand by 9% per annum by 2025.
- The Ministry hoped that United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) will support domestic industry with international best practices and policy & technical assistance.
- The dialogue discussed opportunities and challenges for chemical manufacturing growth and garner momentum among policymakers, the industry sector, and other stakeholders on the need for knowledge and skill-based transformative change to safeguard and future-proof chemical manufacturing in India.
- The event is hosted by the
- UNIDO is a specialized agency of the United Nations that promotes industrial development for poverty reduction, inclusive globalization, and environmental sustainability.
- It acts to mobilize knowledge, information, innovation, skills, and technology to promote competitive industry and productive employment by applying best practices and approaches to common problems of the region, whilst also protecting the environment.
- It has organized a dialogue under ‘Clean Manufacturing in India’ (Swachh Udyog).
Context: In as many as nine laws the Centre has replaced the existing appellate authorities and vested those powers in the High Courts through an ordinance, the Tribunal Reforms (Rationalisation and Conditions of Service) Ordinance 2021
More about the News
- These nine laws are Cinematograph Act; Copyright Act; Customs Act; Patents Act; Airports Authority of India Act; Trade Marks Act; Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act; Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers Rights Act and Control of National Highways (land and traffic) Act.
- For example, in the Cinematograph Act, the appellate body will now be the High Court instead of the tribunal while the commercial court of the commercial divisions of the High Court will be the appellate body in the Copyright Act.
- The tenure of Chairperson of a Tribunal has been fixed for a term of four years or till the age of 70, whichever is earlier. Members of a tribunal will also have a tenure of four years or until they turn 67.
What are Tribunals?
- The original Constitution did not contain provisions for tribunals. The 42nd Amendment Act of 1976 added a new Part XIV-A to the Constitution.
- This part is entitled ‘Tribunals’ and consists of only two Articles—Article 323 A dealing with administrative tribunals and Article 323 B dealing with tribunals for other matters.
- Article 323 A empowers the Parliament to provide for the establishment of administrative tribunals for the adjudication of disputes relating to recruitment and conditions of service of persons appointed to public services of the Centre, the states, local bodies, public corporations, and other public authorities.
- In pursuance of Article 323 A, the Parliament has passed the Administrative Tribunals Act in 1985. The act authorizes the Central government to establish one central administrative tribunal (CAT) and the state administrative tribunals.
- The CAT exercises original jurisdiction concerning recruitment and all service matters of public servants covered by it. Its jurisdiction extends to the all-India services, the Central civil services, civil posts under the Centre, and civilian employees of defense services.
- However, the members of the defense forces, officers and servants of the Supreme Court, and the secretarial staff of the Parliament are not covered by it.
- The CAT is not bound by the procedure laid down in the Civil Procedure Code of 1908. It is guided by the principles of natural justice.
- The Administrative Tribunals Act of 1985 empowers the Central government to establish the State Administrative Tribunals (SATs) at the specific request of the concerned state governments.
- Under Article 323 B, the Parliament and the state legislatures are authorized to provide for the establishment of tribunals for any other purpose that is not covered under Article 323A.
- Articles 323 A and 323 B differs in the following three aspects:
- While Article 323 A contemplates the establishment of tribunals for public service matters only, Article 323 B contemplates the establishment of tribunals for certain other matters.
- While tribunals under Article 323 A can be established only by Parliament, tribunals under Article 323 B can be established both by Parliament and state legislatures concerning matters falling within their legislative competence.
- Under Article 323 A, only one tribunal for the Centre and one for each state or two or more states may be established. There is no question of the hierarchy of tribunals, whereas under Article 323 B a hierarchy of tribunals may be created.
- Chandra Kumar v. Union of India, (1997).
- Originally, appeals against the orders of the CAT could be made only in the Supreme Court and not in the high courts.
- However, in this case, the Supreme Court declared this restriction on the jurisdiction of the high courts as unconstitutional, holding that judicial review is a part of the basic structure of the Constitution.
- It laid down that appeals against the orders of the CAT shall lie before the division bench of the concerned high court.
Integrated Coastal Zone Management Plan
Context: The ministry of environment forest and climate change (MoEFCC) has approved the preliminary project report to implement the Integrated Coastal Zone Management Plan (ICZMP) funded by the World Bank in the next five years.
More about ICZMP
- ICZM is a process for the management of the coast using an integrated approach, regarding all aspects of the coastal zone, including geographical and political boundaries, in an attempt to achieve sustainability.
- The concept was born in 1992 during the Earth Summit of Rio de Janeiro.
- The specifics regarding ICZM are set out in the proceedings of the summit within Agenda 21.
- It is a World Bank-assisted project and is being implemented by the Department of Forests and Environment with assistance from the Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC).
- The National Centre for Sustainable Coastal Management (NCSCM), Chennai, is providing scientific and technical inputs.
- Funding for the projects would be shared between the World Bank (50%), the central government (30%) as grants, and the state government (20%).
- Till now three coastal states namely West Bengal, Gujarat, and Orissa have been selected under the ICZM plan.
- Four main components of the plan include National Coastal Zone Management Programme, ICZM-West Bengal, ICZM-Orissa, and ICZM-Gujarat:
- National Coastal Zone Management Programme: The national component will include mapping, delineation, and demarcation of the hazard lines, and delineation of coastal sediment cells all along the mainland coast of India.
- ICZM approaches in Gujarat, Orissa, and West Bengal: will support capacity building of the state-level agencies and institutions, including preparation of an ICZM plan for the coastal sediment cell, regional coastal process study, and pilot investments.
Relevance: Government schemes
Context: Centre has sanctioned an amount of Rs 25,586 crore under the ‘Stand-Up India’ scheme to over 1.14 lakh accounts.
More about the scheme
- The scheme is anchored by the Department of Financial Services (DFS), Ministry of Finance.
- It was launched on April 5, 2016, to promote entrepreneurship at the grassroots level focusing on economic empowerment and job creation. This scheme has been extended up to 2025.
- This Scheme facilitates bank loans between Rs 10 lakh and Rs 1 Crore to at least one Scheduled Caste (SC) or Scheduled Tribe (ST) borrower and at least one woman borrower per bank branch for setting up a greenfield
- In the case of non-individual enterprises, at least 51% of the shareholding and controlling stake should be held by either an SC/ST or a woman entrepreneur.
- SC/ST and/or woman entrepreneurs, above 18 years of age.
- Loans under the scheme are available for an only greenfield projects. Greenfield signifies, in this context, the first-time venture of the beneficiary in the manufacturing or services or trading sector.
- In the case of non-individual enterprises, 51% of the shareholding and controlling stake should be held by either SC/ST and/or Women Entrepreneur.
- A borrower should not be in default to any bank/financial institution.
Helium Crisis to India
Relevance: Science and Technology
Context: India imports helium for its needs, and with the U.S. appearing set to cut off exports of helium since 2021, the Indian industry stands to lose out heavily.
More about Helium gas
- Helium is a chemical element with the symbol He and atomic number 2.
- It is a colorless, odorless, tasteless, non-toxic, inert, monatomic gas, the first in the noble gas group in the periodic table. Its boiling point is the lowest among all the elements.
- Yet, it finds many applications, mainly in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans, in rockets and nuclear reactors.
- Helium is the second lightest and second most abundant element in the observable universe (hydrogen is the lightest and most abundant).
- Its boiling point is the lowest among all the elements.
- Helium was discovered in the gaseous atmosphere surrounding the Sun by the French astronomer Pierre Janssen, who detected a bright yellow line in the spectrum of the solar chromosphere during an eclipse in India in the year 1868.
- The British chemist Sir William Ramsay discovered the existence of helium on Earth in 1895.
Helium in India:
- In 1906 a young Englishman by the name of Morris Travers extracted helium in small quantities by heating monazite sand abundantly available in Kerala beach, in a pioneering effort.
- India’s Rajmahal volcanic basin is the storehouse of helium trapped for billions of years, since the very birth of our Earth from the Sun.
- Every year, India imports helium worth Rs 55,000 crores from the U.S. to meet its needs.
Why the USA has a monopoly?
- After discovering that helium was concentrated in large quantities under the American Great Plains. The USA became the most important exporter of helium across the world.
- It was soon realized that the USA was also the biggest storehouse of helium.
What is the alternative for India?
- Qatar is a possible exporter but acute political and diplomatic wrangles have made Qatar unreliable.
- India needs to diversify its energy needs to meet our energy demands.
Similipal Biosphere Reserve
Context: A massive fire coupled with soaring temperatures in and around Similipal Biosphere Reserve in Odisha is likely to affect the honey output, jeopardizing the livelihoods of tribal people.
More about Similipal Biosphere Reserve
- Similipal National Park derives its name from the abundance of red silk cotton trees growing in the area. It was formally designated a tiger reserve in 1956 and brought under Project Tiger in the year 1973.
- It is the 7th largest national park in India.
- It was declared a biosphere reserve by the Government of India in June 1994. It has been part of the UNESCO World Network of Biosphere Reserve since 2009.
- It is part of the Similipal-Kuldiha-Hadgarh Elephant Reserve popularly known as Mayurbhanj Elephant Reserve, which includes 3 protected areas i.e., Similipal Tiger Reserve, Hadagarh Wildlife sanctuary, and Kuldiha wildlife sanctuary. Sal is a dominant tree species.
- It is situated in the northern part of Odisha’s Mayurbhanj district. Geographically, it lies in the eastern end of the eastern ghat.
Tamil Nadu, Haryana institutes get status of national importance
Context: The Rajya Sabha on Monday passed the National Institutes of Food Technology Entrepreneurship and Management Bill, 2019 that confers the status of national importance on two food technology institutes at Kundli in Haryana and Thanjavur in Tamil Nadu.
What is the Institute of National Importance(INI)?
- INI is a status that may be conferred on a premier public higher education institution in India by an act of Parliament.
- According to the Ministry of Education, an institute of national importance is an institute that “serves as a pivotal player in developing highly skilled personnel within the specified region of the country/state”. Institutes of National Importance receive special recognition and funding from the Government of India.
- Such institutes get special funding and recognition from the Government of India.
- Section 22 of the University Grants Commission Act, 1956 gives ‘Degree-Granting Status’ to such INIs established by an Act of Parliament for conferring or granting degrees.
- It is observed that generally, such INIs operate outside the University Grants Commission’s ambit and enjoy certain advantages related to taxes.
- They are also largely supervised and funded by the Government of India through the Education Ministry.
- As of 2020, there are 159 institutes, declared as Institutes of National Importance under a distinct Act of Parliament. These INIs include 23 IITs; 15 AIIMSs; 20 IIMs; 31 NITs; 25 IIITs; 7 IISERs, 7 NIPERs; 5 NIDs; 3 SPAs; 5 central universities; 4 medical research institutes, and 14 other specialized institutes.
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