A) Environment and Biodiversity
Geo-polymer aggregate from fly ash (PIB)
Context: NTPC Ltd, India’s largest power producer and a PSU under Ministry of Power, has successfully developed Geo-polymer coarse aggregate from fly ash.
- The development will help in replacing natural aggregates reducing the impact on the environment which requires quarrying of natural stone.
- The Geo-polymer aggregates find its extensive usage in the construction industry turning the ash eco-friendly.
- These aggregates do not require any cement for application in concrete where the fly ash based Geopolymer mortar acts as the binding agent.
- The Geo-polymer aggregates will help in reducing carbon emission and has great potential for the reduction of water consumption.
- In India, every year, approximately 258 MMT of ash is produced by coal-fired thermal power plants.
- Out of this around 78% of the ash is utilized and the balance remains unutilized which remains in ash dykes.
- This topic was comprehensively covered in 5th Nov and 15th Oct files.
National and State Disaster Response Fund (NDRF) (PIB)
Context: The High-Level Committee (HLC) under the Chairmanship of the Union Home Minister has approved additional Central assistance under the National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF) to six States, which were affected by cyclone/ floods/ landslides during this year.
- For cyclone ‘Amphan’, to West Bengal and Odisha.
- For cyclone ‘Nisarga’, to Maharashtra.
- For floods and landslides during the South-West monsoon, to Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, and Sikkim.
National Disaster Response Fund
- The National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF), constituted under the Disaster Management (DM) Act, 2005, supplements the State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF).
- NDRF acts as a supplementary fund in case of a shortage of funds in the SDRF and when the disaster is of severe nature.
- The financial assistance from NDRF is for providing immediate relief (emergency response, relief and rehabilitation) and is not compensation for loss/damage to properties /crops.
- The provision for disaster preparedness, restoration, reconstruction and mitigation are not a part of NDRF.
- The DM Act specifies that for such activities a separate fund called Disaster Mitigation Fund has to be constituted.
- In the absence of a Disaster Mitigation Fund, such activities have to be borne out of the budget of the state government concerned.
- The NDRF is financed through the levy of a cess on certain items, chargeable to excise and customs duty, and approved annually through the Finance Bill.
- The requirement for funds beyond what is available under the NDRF is met through general budgetary resources.
- The National Calamity Contingency Fund (NCCF) (NCCF has been merged with National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF) with effect from 1 April 2010 and has ceased to exist) is replenished through the National Calamity Contingent Duty imposed on cigarettes, pan masala, beedis, other tobacco products and cellular phones.
- The National Calamity contingent duty (NCCD) which was applied on tobacco products — cigarettes, bidis and smokeless — pre-GST continue to apply post-GST as well.
- A provision also exists in the DM Act to encourage any person or institution to make a contribution to the NDRF. However, this source has not yet been tapped.
- NDRF is located in the “Public Accounts” of Government of India under “Reserve Funds not bearing interest”.
- Department of Agriculture and Cooperation under Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) monitors relief activities for calamities associated with drought, hailstorms, pest attacks and cold wave/frost while rest of the natural calamities are monitored by Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA).
- Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) audits the accounts of NDRF.
- In case of any natural calamity beyond the coping capacity of a State, additional financial assistance, as per norms, is provided by the Central Government from NDRF, in which 100% funding is by the Central Government.
- Based on the recommendations of the successive Finance Commission, the Government of India approves the annual allocation to SDRF.
Structure of Public Account
- There are five major heads of accounts under the Public Account: (i) Small Savings, Provident Fund and Other Accounts (ii) Reserve Funds (iii) Deposits and Advances (iv) Suspense and Miscellaneous and (v) Remittances.
State Disaster Response Fund
- The State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF), constituted under the Disaster Management Act, 2005, is the primary fund available with State Governments for responses to notified disasters.
- The Central Government contributes 75% of SDRF allocation for general category States/UTs and 90% for special category States/UTs (NE States, Sikkim, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir).
- The annual Central contribution is released in two equal installments as per the recommendation of the Finance Commission.
- SDRF shall be used only for meeting the expenditure for providing immediate relief to the victims.
- Disasters covered under SDRF: Cyclone, drought, earthquake, fire, flood, tsunami, hailstorm, landslide, avalanche, cloudburst, pest attack, frost and cold waves.
- Local Disaster: A State Government may use up to 10 percent of the funds available under the SDRF for providing immediate relief to the victims of natural disasters that they consider to be ‘disasters’ within the local context in the State and which are not included in the notified list of disasters of the Ministry of Home Affairs.
- It is subjected to the condition that the State Government has listed the State specific natural disasters and notified clear and transparent norms and guidelines for such disasters with the approval of the State Authority, i.e., the State Executive Authority (SEC).
- Heatwave-calamities are not included in the guidelines of SDRF and National Calamity Relief Fund (NDRF) but State government can declare it by using the above-mentioned provision.
- International Day for Disaster Reduction is held every year on 13 October.
What is a ‘National Disaster’?
- Despite repeated demands by the state government to declare a disaster as a “National Calamity”, there is no provision, executive or legal, to declare a natural calamity as a national calamity. The existing guidelines of SDRF/NDRF do not contemplate declaring a disaster as a “National Calamity”.
- Given this absence of the term ‘National Calamity’ the government had treated the 2001 Gujarat earthquake and the 1999 super cyclone in Odisha as “a calamity of unprecedented severity”.
What happens if a calamity is so declared?
- When a calamity is declared to be of “rare severity”/”severe nature”, support to the state government is provided at the national level.
- The Centre also considers giving additional assistance from the NDRF.
- A Calamity Relief Fund (CRF) is set up, with the corpus shared 3:1 between Centre and state.
- When resources in the CRF are inadequate, additional assistance is considered from the National Calamity Contingency Fund (NCCF), funded 100% by the Centre.
- Relief in repayment of loans or for grant of fresh loans on concessional terms, to the disaster affected persons, are also considered once a calamity is declared “severe”.
- As per the National Policy on Disaster Management, 2009, the National Crisis Management Committee headed by the Cabinet Secretary deals with major crises that have serious or national ramifications.
National Crisis Management Committee (NCMC)
- For effective implementation of relief measures in the wake of a natural calamity, the Cabinet may set up a committee.
- On the constitution of such a committee of the Cabinet, the Agriculture Secretary shall provide all necessary information to and seek directions if any, of the Cabinet Committee in all matters concerning relief in the wake of natural calamity and take steps for effective implementation of its directions.
- In the absence of such a Cabinet Committee, all matter relating to relief shall be reported to the Cabinet Secretary.
- A National Crisis Management Committee (NCMC) has been constituted in the Cabinet Secretariat under the chairmanship of the Cabinet Secretary.
B) Govt Schemes and Initiatives
- The Science and Engineering Research Board (SERB) has recently launched the scheme ‘SERB–POWER’ (Promoting Opportunities For Women in Exploratory Research) to encourage and support emerging as well as eminent women researchers to undertake R&D activities in frontier areas of science and engineering.
- SERB is a statutory body established through an Act of Parliament.
- Supporting basic research in emerging areas of Science & Engineering are the primary and distinctive mandate of the Board.
- The Board structure, with both financial and administrative powers vested in the Board, enables quicker decisions on research issues.
- The Board also offers JC Bose National Fellowship to scientists and engineers for their outstanding performance and contributions and RAMANUJAN Fellowship for brilliant scientists and engineers from all over the world to take up scientific research positions in India, especially those scientists who want to return to India from abroad.
C) Polity and Governance
4.Scheduled Tribes and Other Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 (TH)
Context: Over 1,200 tribals in Hunsur taluk of Mysuru district stare at an uncertain future as their review petition for recognition of their claims over forest land under the Scheduled Tribes and Other Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006, has been rejected by the local authorities.
- The Forest Rights Act (FRA) is a piece of social legislation that aims to address the historical injustice that our forest-dwelling communities have had to face for nearly 150 years by providing them with the security of tenure over land for cultivation and habitation through individual rights.
- It also provides access to a variety of resources through more than a dozen types of community forest rights.
- The FRA also empowers forest-dwelling communities to protect, regenerate, conserve and manage any community forest resource which they have been traditionally protecting and conserving for sustainable use.
- It has the provision for creating critical wildlife habitats within protected areas which currently is the strongest conservation provision among existing laws of the country.
Significance of the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006:
- For the first time Forest Rights Act recognises and secures Community Rights or rights over common property resources of the communities, in addition to their individual rights;
- Rights in and over disputed land Rights of settlement;
- Conversion of all forest villages, old habitation, un-surveyed villages and other villages in forests into revenue villages;
- Right to protect, regenerate, conserve or manage any community forest resource which the communities have been traditionally protecting and conserving for sustainable use;
- Right to intellectual property and traditional knowledge related to biodiversity and cultural diversity
- Rights of displaced communities
- Rights over developmental activities
The Act is a potential tool:
- To empower and strengthen the local self governance
- To address the livelihood security of the people, leading to poverty alleviation and pro poor growth
- To address the issues of Conservation and management of the Natural Resources and conservation governance of India.
Do you know?
- India is amongst the few countries of the world where forests are growing in spite of exponentially rising population and livestock pressures.
- India has set a target of raising its existing 21.54% forest cover to 33% of the total geographical area through aggressive forestation drives.
Ministry seeks feedback on draft social security rules (TH)
Context: The Union Labour and Employment Ministry has notified the draft rules under the Code on Social Security, 2020, which propose to provide the unorganized sector, gig and platform workers access to social security benefits through a government portal.
The Ministry has notified the draft rules and sought suggestions and objections within 45 days.
- In a statement on Sunday, the Ministry said the rules had been framed for the implementation of the provisions of the Code on Social Security, 2020, passed by Parliament in September, relating to the Employees’ Provident Fund, Employees’ State Insurance Corporation, gratuity, maternity benefit, social security and cess in respect of building and other construction workers (BOCW).
- The draft rules also provide for Aadhaar-based registration, including self-registration by unorganized workers, gig workers and platform workers on the portal of the Central government.
- The rules also provide for the Aadhaar-based registration of BOCW on a portal of the Centre, State government or the BOCW welfare board of the State.
- Where a building worker migrates from one State to another he shall be entitled to get benefits in the State where he is currently working and it shall be the responsibility of the Building Workers Welfare Board of that State to provide benefits to such a worker.
- The BOCW cess would be calculated by the employer on the basis of the cost of construction according to the rates of the State Public Works Department or the Central PWD or the documents submitted to the Real Estate Regulatory Authority.
Code on Social Security 2020
- This is the first occasion that gig and platform workers have been defined and incorporated within the ambit of labour laws.
- While it is a great initiative by the government, there are issues about overlapping definitions and how to make the registration as inclusive as possible.
- Under this Code, a gig worker is defined as a person who participates in a work arrangement and earns from such activities outside of a traditional employer-employee relationship.
- Platform work means a work arrangement outside of a traditional employer-employee relationship in which organizations or individuals use an online platform to access other organizations or individuals to solve specific problems or to provide specific services or any such other activities which may be notified by the Central Government, in exchange for payment.”
- An unorganized worker is defined as a home-based, self-employed or wage worker in the unorganized sector.
- This includes a worker in the organized sector who is not covered by the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947.
- Although unorganized workers, gig workers and platform workers have been separately defined under the new code, unorganized workers are the whole set, and gig and platform workers are subsets.
- While the long-overdue move to recognize platform work has been made, the Code has drawn criticism from platform workers’ associations for failing to delineate it from gig work and unorganized work.
- A categorical clarification could ensure that social security measures are provided to workers without compromising the touted qualities of platform work: flexibility and a sense of ownership.
- The Code states the provision of basic welfare measures as a joint responsibility of the Central government, platform aggregators, and workers.
- However, it does not state which stakeholder is responsible for delivering what quantum of welfare.
Accused can get bail if probe is not over in time (TH)
- An accused, irrespective of the merits of the case against him, should be granted “default” or “complusive” bail if the investigating agency does not complete the probe within a prescribed time limit, the Supreme Court has held in a judgment.
- The court held that an accused has an “indefeasible right” to default bail under Section 167(2) of the Code of Criminal Procedure if the probe agency failed to complete the investigation on time.
- Under Section 167, an accused can be detained in custody for a maximum of 90 days for a crime punishable with death, life imprisonment or a sentence of over 10 years.
- It is 60 days of detention if the probe relates to any other offence.
- These time-limits were set to ensure that agencies do not use the ruse of an ongoing probe to keep people behind bars indefinitely.
- Magistrates have to mandatorily inform the accused, especially those from the poor sections, of their statutory right to apply for default bail, the court said.
7.Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) (TH)
- The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), a mega trade bloc comprising 15 countries led by China, that came into existence recently said India would have to write expressing “intention” to join the organization to restart negotiations for membership.
- The RCEP comprises the 10 ASEAN members and Australia, China, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand.
- The China-backed group is expected to represent at least 30% of the global GDP and will emerge as the largest free trade agreement in the world.
- The agreement means a lot for China as it will give it access to Japanese and South Korean markets in a big way, as the three countries haven’t yet agreed on their FTA.
- Note: RCEP was comprehensively covered in 13th Nov file.
E) Indicies and Organisation
8.Vital statistics of India based on the Civil Registration System (TH)
Context: Arunachal Pradesh recorded the best sex ratio in the country, while Manipur recorded the worst, according to the 2018 report on “Vital statistics of India based on the Civil Registration System” published by the Registrar-General of India.
- Sex ratio at birth is the number of females born per 1,000 males.
- Arunachal Pradesh recorded 1,084 females born per thousand males, followed by Nagaland (965) Mizoram (964), Kerala (963) and Karnataka (957).
- The worst was reported in Manipur (757), Lakshadweep (839) and Daman & Diu (877), Punjab (896) and Gujarat (897).
- Delhi recorded a sex ratio of 929, Haryana 914 and Jammu and Kashmir 952.
- The ratio was determined on the basis of data provided by 30 States and Union Territories as the “requisite information from six States namely Bihar, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Sikkim, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal is not available.”
- The number of registered births increased to 2.33 crore in 2018 from 2.21 crore registered births the previous year.
- The level of registration of births has increased to 89.3% in 2018 from 81.3% in 2009.
- The prescribed time limit for registration of birth or death is 21 days.
- Some States, however, register the births and deaths even after a year.
- The birth or death certificate is issued free of charge by the Registrar concerned if reported within 21 days.
- If reported within 21-30 days, it can be registered on payment of the prescribed fee.
- If the duration is more than 30 days but within a year, it can be registered with the written permission of the prescribed authority and on production of an affidavit made before a notary public or any other officer authorised by the State government and on payment of a fee.
- Births and deaths reported after one year of occurrence shall be registered only on an order of the Magistrate of the First Class after verifying the correctness and on payment of the prescribed fee.
F) International Relations
9.25,000 Ethiopians flee to Sudan (TH)
- Around 25,000 Ethiopians fleeing conflict in the Tigray region have crossed into neighboring Sudan’ Gadaref and Kassala states.
- Sudan has already said it would shelter thousands of Ethiopians fleeing the conflict at the Um Raquba camp, which in the 1980s hosted thousands of Ethiopian fleeing famine.
- Note: This topic was comprehensively covered in 7th Nov file.
United Nations Peacekeeping (TH)
Context: In 2016, India and the U.S. began a joint annual initiative “UN Peacekeeping Course for African Partners” to build and enhance the capacity of African troop and police-contributing countries to participate in the U.N. and regional peacekeeping operations.
- International armed forces were first used in 1948 to observe cease-fires in Kashmir and Palestine.
- The practice of peacekeeping was formalized in 1956 during the Suez Crisis between Egypt, Israel, France, and the United Kingdom.
- UN peacekeeping brings together the General Assembly, the Security Council, the Secretariat, troop and police contributors and the host governments in a combined effort to maintain international peace and security.
- United Nations Peacekeeping is a joint effort between the Department of Peace Operations and the Department of Operational Support.
- UN Peacekeeping is guided by three basic principles:
- Consent of the parties;
- Non-use of force except in self-defense and defense of the mandate.
- Today’s multidimensional peacekeeping operations are called upon not only to maintain peace and security, but also to,
- facilitate the political process,
- protect civilians,
- assist in the disarmament,
- demobilization and reintegration of former combatants,
- support the organization of elections,
- protect and promote human rights,
- lead states or territories through a transition to stable government, based on democratic principles, good governance and economic development, and
- assist in restoring the rule of law.
- UN Peacekeeping has also won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1988.
- Troops in peacekeeping missions, the so-called “Blue Helmets,” were allowed to use force only in self-defense.
Role of the Security Council
- The Security Council has primary responsibility, under the United Nations Charter, for the maintenance of international peace and security.
- It is for the Security Council to determine when and where a UN peace operation should be deployed.
- Peacekeeping, although not explicitly provided for in the Charter, has evolved into one of the main tools used by the United Nations to maintain international peace and security.
- The Security Council establishes a peace operation by adopting a Security Council resolution.
- The resolution sets out that mission’s mandate and size.
- The Security Council monitors the work of UN peace operations on an ongoing basis.
- The Security Council can vote to extend, amend or end mission mandates as it deems appropriate.
- Under the United Nations Charter, all UN members agree to accept and carry out the decisions of the Security Council.
- While other organs of the UN make recommendations to the Member States, the Council alone has the power to take decisions which the Member States are obligated to implement.
Role of the General Assembly
- While not normally directly involved in political decisions on establishing or terminating UN peace operations, the General Assembly does play a key role in peace operation financing.
- As all UN Member States share the costs of peacekeeping, the Assembly apportions these expenses based on a special scale of assessments, taking into account the relative economic wealth of Member States, with the permanent members of the Security Council required to pay a larger share because of their special responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security.
Uniting for Peace resolution
- Under the UN Charter, the General Assembly cannot discuss and make recommendations on peace and security matters which are at that time being addressed by the Security Council.
- However, in accordance with the General Assembly’s “Uniting for Peace” resolution, if the Security Council fails to act, owing to the negative vote of a permanent member, then the General Assembly may act.
- This would happen in the case where there appears to be a threat to the peace, breach of the peace or act of aggression.
- This resolution was invoked only once in UN peacekeeping history, when in 1956 the General Assembly established the First UN Emergency Force (UNEF I) in the Middle East.
Contributions to UN’s peacekeeping forces
- The UN’s peacekeeping force is dominated by troops from developing nations, while the UN Security Council’s permanent members contribute small numbers.
- India is the third-highest contributor to UN peacekeeping missions.
- Bangladesh, Ethiopia, India, Pakistan and Rwanda, in decreasing order, currently contribute the largest number of peacekeepers.
- As of August 2017, India has participated in about 50 out of 71 UN peacekeeping operations undertaken in countries like Korea (1950, when undivided), Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Congo, Cyprus, Liberia, Lebanon and Sudan.
G) Art and Culture
11.Birsa Munda (PIB)
Context: PM pays tributes to Bhagwan Birsa Munda on his Jayanti
- Birsa Munda was an Indian freedom fighter, religious leader and folk hero.
- His spirit of activism is remembered as a strong mark of protest against British rule in India.
- He spearheaded the Millenarian movement that arose in the Bengal Presidency (Present-day Jharkhand)
- In recognition of his impact on the nationalist movement, the state of Jharkhand was created on his birth anniversary in 2000.
- Born on November 15, 1875, Birsa spent much of his childhood moving from one village to another with his parents.
- He belonged to the Munda tribe in the Chhotanagpur Plateau area.
- Munda spent his childhood surrounded by Christian missionaries, whose main mission was to convert as many tribal people as possible.
- He received his early education at Salga under the guidance of his teacher Jaipal Nag. On the recommendation of Jaipal Nag, Birsa converted to Christianity in order to join the German Mission school.
- The impact of Christianity was felt in the way he came to relate to religion later.
- Having gained awareness of the British colonial ruler and the efforts of the missionaries to convert tribals to Christianity, Birsa started the faith of ‘Birsait’. Soon members of the Munda and Oraon community started joining the Birsait sect and it turned into a challenge to British conversion activities.
- During the period, 1886 to 1890, Birsa Munda spent a large amount of time in Chaibasa which was close to the centre of the Sardars agitation.
- The activities of the Sardars had a strong impact on the mind of the young Birsa, who soon became a part of the anti-missionary and anti-government program between 1886 – 1890 in Chaibasa, and started a movement called ‘Ulgulan’, or ‘The Great Tumult’.
- By the time he left Chaibasa in 1890, Birsa was strongly entrenched in the movement against the British oppression of the tribal communities.
- From a Vaishnav monk, Birsa learned about Hindu religious teachings and studied ancient scriptures along with the Ramayana and Mahabharata.
- Birsa wanted to reform the tribal society and so, he urged them to let go of beliefs in witchcraft and instead, stressed on the importance of prayer, staying away from alcohol, having faith in God and observing a code of conduct.
- Birsa Munda then founded a new religion called Birsait. The religion believed in One God and encouraged them to revert to their original religious beliefs.
- People belonging to Oraon and Munda became convinced Birsaites, and many started referring him ‘Dharti Abba or Father of Earth’.
- Through his religion, Munda also preached a strong Anti – British sentiment and mobilized thousands of tribal folk to form guerrilla armies to attack the Raj.
- He was arrested by the British police on March 3, 1900, and died in Ranchi on June 9 that year. He was only 25.
- His slogan threatening the British Raj is still remembered today in the states of Odisha, Bihar, West Bengal and Madhya Pradesh. The Slogan was ‘ Raj setar Jana, Maharani raj tundu jana’ which means ‘Let the Kingdom of the Queen be ended and our kingdom will be established’.
- As his awareness of British atrocities grew, eight years after his death, the colonial government introduced the Chotanagpur Tenancy Act in 1908, which prohibits the transfer of tribal land to non-tribals.
- Though he lived a short span of life and the fact that the movement died out soon after his death, Birsa Munda is known to have mobilised the tribal community against the British and had also forced the colonial officials to introduce laws protecting the land rights of the tribals.
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