A) Schemes, Policies, Initiatives, Awards and Social Issues
Post-Matric Scholarship for Scheduled Caste Students (PIB)
- Context: The Cabinet has approved major and transformative changes in the Centrally Sponsored Scheme ‘Post Matric Scholarship to students belonging to Scheduled Castes (PMS-SC)’ to benefit more than 4 Crore SC students in the next 5 years so that they can successfully complete their higher education.
- The Central Assistance which was around Rs 1100 crore annually during 2017-18 to 2019-20 would be increased more than 5 times to be around Rs 6000 core annually during 2020-21 to 2025-26.
- The Cabinet has approved a total investment of Rs. 59,048 Cr of which Central Government would spend Rs. 35,534 Cr (60%) and the balance would be spent by the State Govts.
- Under the current formula, the Centre provides only funds above the ‘committed liability’, which in effect translates to about 11 percent of the total cost. This led to many states ending the scheme.
- What is committed liability? The total expenditure incurred in the terminal year of the Five Year Plan under Centrally Sponsored Schemes of Scholarships is the committed liability of the States/UTs for every year of the subsequent Five Year Plan. However, N.E. States are exempted from the concept of committed liability.
- The Post Matric Scholarship Scheme for Scheduled Castes has been in existence since 1944 and has helped students to pursue any post-Matric course starting from class 11 onwards, with the government meeting the cost of education.
- The Central Govt is committed to give a big push and further impetus to this effort so that the GER (Higher Education) of SCs would reach up to the National standards within the 5 year period.
- Post Matric Scholarship is a scheme of the Ministry of Social Justice and implemented through State Government and UT administration.
- These scholarships are available for studies in India only and are awarded by the government of the State/Union Territory to which the applicant actually belongs i.e. permanently settled.
Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER)
- Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) in Higher education in India is calculated for 18-23 years of age group.
- Total enrolment in higher education, regardless of age, expressed as a percentage to the eligible official population (18-23 years) in a given school year.
- The GER is widely used to show the general level of participation in and capacity of higher education.
B) Science and Technology, Defence, Space
2.Successful Maiden Launch of MRSAM (PIB)
- Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) achieved a major milestone with the maiden launch of Medium Range Surface to Air Missile (MRSAM), Army Version.
- Army version of MRSAM is a surface to Air Missile developed jointly by India and Israel.
- MRSAM missile is equipped with an advanced active radio frequency (RF) seeker. The RF seeker, located in the front section of the missile, is used to detect moving targets in all weather conditions.
- MRSAM is a land-based configuration of the long-range surface-to-air missile (LRSAM) or Barak-8 naval air defence system, which is designed to operate from naval vessels.
Noise Pollution and the Environment Protection Act, 2000 (TH)
- Context: To keep check on noise pollution in the city, the Delhi police have procured 150 sound level meters to identify and prosecute people responsible for noise pollution.
- The Environment Protection Act, 2000, specifies the zone-wise limits in decibel for day and night time.
Measuring and Perceiving Loudness
- Sound waves are vibrations of air molecules carried from a noise source to the ear.
- Sound is typically described in terms of the loudness (amplitude) and the pitch (frequency) of the wave.
- Loudness (also called sound pressure level, or SPL) is measured in logarithmic units called decibels (dB).
- The normal human ear can detect sounds that range between 0 dB (hearing threshold) and about 140 dB, with sounds between 120dB and 140 dB causing pain (pain threshold).
- The ambient SPL in a library is about 35 dB, while that inside a moving bus or subway train is roughly 85 dB; building construction activities can generate SPLs as high as 105 dB at the source.
- SPLs decrease with distance from the source.
- The rate at which sound energy is transmitted is called sound intensity.
- Because of the logarithmic nature of the decibel scale, an increase of 10 dB represents a 10-fold increase in sound intensity, an increase of 20 dB represents a 100-fold increase in intensity, a 30-dB increase represents a 1,000-fold increase in intensity, and so on.
- When sound intensity is doubled, on the other hand, the SPL increases by only 3 dB.
- For example, if a construction drill causes a noise level of about 90 dB, then two identical drills operating side by side will cause a noise level of 93 dB.
- On the other hand, when two sounds that differ by more than 15 dB in SPL are combined, the weaker sound is masked (or drowned out) by the louder sound.
- For example, if an 80-dB drill is operating next to a 95-dB dozer at a construction site, the combined SPL of those two sources will be measured as 95 dB; the less intense sound from the compressor will not be noticeable.
- Frequency of a sound wave is expressed in hertz (Hz).
- The human eardrum is a very sensitive organ with a large dynamic range, being able to detect sounds at frequencies as low as 20 Hz (a very low pitch) up to about 20,000 Hz (a very high pitch).
- The pitch of a human voice in normal conversation occurs at frequencies between 250 Hz and 2,000 Hz.
Effects on Humans and Wildlife
- There are many sounds in the environment, from rustling leaves (20 to 30 decibels) to a thunderclap (120 decibels) to the wail of a siren (120 to 140 decibels).
- Sounds that reach 85 decibels or higher can harm a person’s ears.
- Noise pollution also impacts the health and well-being of wildlife.
- Studies have shown that loud noises cause caterpillars’ hearts to beat faster and bluebirds to have fewer chicks.
- Animals use sound for a variety of reasons, including to navigate, find food, attract mates, and avoid predators.
- Noise pollution makes it difficult for them to accomplish these tasks, which affects their ability survive.
- Increasing noise is not only affecting animals on land, it is also a growing problem for those that live in the ocean.
- Some of the loudest underwater noise comes from naval sonar devices. Sonar, like echolocation, works by sending pulses of sound down into the depths of the ocean to bounce off an object and return an echo to the ship, which indicates a location for object.
- Sonar sounds can be as loud as 235 decibels and travel hundreds of miles underwater, interfering with whales’ ability to use echolocation.
- Research has shown that sonar can cause mass strandings of whales on beaches and alter the feeding behavior of endangered blue whales.
C) Art, Culture and History
4.Jallitkattu and Kambala (TH)
- Context: The Tamil Nadu government has permitted jallikattu to be held across the State during the coming Pongal season. But the bull-taming sport would be subject to fresh restrictions in view of the COVID-19 pandemic.
What is Jallitkattu?
- It is a traditional bull-taming sport organised in Tamil Nadu during Pongal.
- The sport involves a natively reared stud that is set free inside an arena filled with young participants.
- The challenge lies in taming the bull with bare hands.
- In 2011, the Environment Ministry added bulls to its 1991 notification banning the training and exhibition of bears, monkeys, tigers, panthers and dogs. The notification was challenged in the Supreme Court and was upheld in 2014.
- The ministry in 2016 modified its earlier notification and declared that the sport could continue despite the existing ban.
- Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra have amended the central law, the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, and allowed jallikattu and bullock cart racing, respectively. The state laws have been challenged in the apex court.
- Kambala is an annual buffalo race.
- It is mainly celebrated in Karnataka.
- In Kambala, the contest takes place between two pairs of buffaloes, each pair raced in wet rice fields, controlled by a whip-lashing farmer.
D) Polity, Bills, Acts and Judgments
5.The concept of ‘office of profit’ (TH)
- Context: Congress leaders have appealed to the Election Commission to decide the matter of disqualification of 12 Manipur legislators in the office of profit case at the earliest. A delegation from the State unit recently met the Election Commission.
What is the concept of ‘office of profit’?
- It is a position in the government which cannot be held by an MLA or an MP.
- MPs and MLAs, as members of the legislature, hold the government accountable for its work.
- The essence of disqualification under the office of profit law is if legislators holds an ‘office of profit’ under the government, they might be susceptible to government influence, and may not discharge their constitutional mandate fairly.
- The intent is that there should be no conflict between the duties and interests of an elected member.
- Hence, the office of profit law simply seeks to enforce a basic feature of the Constitution- the principle of separation of power between the legislature and the executive.
- In India, the office of profit disqualifying the holder was imported from Britain and made its appearance for the first time in the Act of 1909 which embodied the Morley- Minto Reforms
According to the definition, what constitutes an ‘office of profit’?
- The law does not clearly define what constitutes an office of profit but the definition has evolved over the years with interpretations made in various court judgments.
- An office of profit has been interpreted to be a position that brings to the office-holder some financial gain, or advantage, or benefit.
- The amount of such profit is immaterial.
- In 1964, the Supreme Court ruled that the test for determining whether a person holds an office of profit is the test of appointment.
What does the Constitution say about holding an ‘office of profit’? Can exemptions be granted under the law?
- The expression “office of profit” has not been defined in the Constitution or in the Representation of People Act 1951.
- Its ambit has to be inferred only from the pronouncement of the courts and other competent authorities like the Election Commission and the president.
- Under the provisions of Article 102 (1) and Article 191 (1) of the Constitution, an MP or an MLA (or an MLC) is barred from holding any office of profit under the central or state government.
- Provisions of Articles 102 and 191 of the Indian Constitution also protect a legislator occupying a government position if the office in question has been made immune to disqualification by law.
- In the recent past, several state legislatures have enacted laws exempting certain offices from the purview of office of profit.
- Parliament has also enacted the Parliament (Prevention of Disqualification) Act, 1959, which has been amended several times to expand the exempted list.
- There is no bar on how many offices can be exempted from the purview of the law.
What do parliamentary secretaries do?
- A parliamentary secretary is a Member of Parliament who assists a Minister in their duties.
- Prime Ministers and Chief Ministers usually appoint parliamentary secretaries from their own parties.
- Since the position may confer the rank of a junior minister on the legislator, the appointment of MLAs as parliamentary secretaries was an attempt by state governments to bypass the constitutional ceiling on the number of ministers.
- The Constitution specifies that the number of ministers including the Prime Minister/Chief Minister has to be within 15% of the total number of members of the House of the People/Legislative Assembly of that State (10% in the case of Delhi, which is a union territory with legislature) (91st Amendment).
E) Agriculture, Geography, Environment and Biodiversity
6.‘Fireflies’ to shine a light for Great Indian Bustards (TH)
- Context: The Ministry of Environment Forest and Climate Change, along with the Wildlife Conservation Society, India, has come up with a unique initiative — a “firefly bird diverter” for overhead power lines in areas where Great Indian Bustard (GIB) populations are found in the wild.
- A report by the Ministry, submitted to the National Green Tribunal in 2019, pointed out that power lines, especially high-voltage transmission lines with multiple overhead wires, are the most important current threat for GIBs in the Thar region, and are causing unsustainably high mortality in about 15% of their population.
- Firefly bird diverters are flaps installed on power lines. They work as reflectors for bird species like the GIB. Birds can spot them from a distance of about 50 metres and change their path of flight to avoid collision with power lines.
- Smaller birds can change their direction [swiftly] but for larger bird species, it is difficult because of their body weight and other factors.
- GIBs are one of the heaviest flying birds in India. Therefore, when they encounter these wires, they are unable to change the direction of their flight. Death in most cases is due to impact with the wires and not due to electrocution.
- The diverters are called fireflies because they look like fireflies from a distance, shining on power lines in the night.
- The selected stretch is opposite the Pokhran Field Firing Range, which offers a safe habitat to a breeding population of GIBs outside the Desert National Park Sanctuary in Jaisalmer.
Great Indian Bustard
- It is listed in Schedule I of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.
- It is covered by the Convention on Migratory Species.
- It is covered in Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
- It is listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List.
- It has also been identified as one of the species for the recovery programme under the Integrated Development of Wildlife Habitats of the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India and the National Wildlife Action Plan (2002-2016).
- Today, its population is confined mostly to Rajasthan and Gujarat.
- Small population occur in Maharashtra, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.
- The Great Indian Bustard, one of the heaviest flying birds, can weigh up to 15 kg and grow up to one metre in height.
- Less than 200 birds are left now, of which about 100 are in Rajasthan and if it is not protected, it would become the first mega species to disappear from India after Cheetah in recent times.
- Alarmed by this, the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) prepared a species recovery programme for the Great Indian Bustard, the Lesser Florican and the Bengal Florican, three of the four bustard species found in India.
- All the three birds have been endemic to the grasslands of India and are on the brink of extinction. The fourth one, Houbara, is a migratory species.
- They breed mostly during the monsoon season when females lay a single egg on open ground.
- Males have a gular pouch around their neck, which helps produce a resonant booming mating call to attract females and can be heard up to a distance of 500 metres.
- Males play no role in the incubation and care of the young, which remain with the mother till the next breeding season.
- Rajasthan forest department, finally announced its own Project Great Indian Bustard. The bird also happens to be the state bird of Rajasthan.
- The Plan involves constituting enclosures and securing inviolate areas to ensure successful breeding of birds in the Desert National Park.
- A good number of birds are also found outside protected areas in Ajmer and Jaisalmer districts.
- Habitat loss and degradation appear to be the primary causes of decline.
Integrated Development of Wildlife Habitats (IDWH)
- The National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) recently added four species- the Northern River Terrapin (Critically Endangered), Clouded Leopard (Vulnerable), Arabian Sea Humpback Whale (Endangered), Red Panda (Endangered) – to a Recovery Programme for Critically Endangered Species.
- It should be noted that all the animals listed under this programme are actually not critically endangered as per IUCN Red List.
- The progamme is one of the three components of the centrally funded scheme, Integrated Development of Wildlife Habitats (IDWH).
- Started in 2008-09, IDWH is meant for:
- providing support to protected areas (national parks, wildlife sanctuaries, conservation reserves and community reserves except tiger reserves),
- protection of wildlife outside protected areas and
- recovery programmes for saving critically endangered species and habitats.
- So far, 17 (now 21) species have been identified under the recovery programme.
- These are the Snow Leopard (Vulnerable), Bustard (including Floricans – both Critically Endangered), Dolphin (Endangered), Hangul (Critically Endangered), Nilgiri Tahr (Endangered), Marine Turtles, Dugongs (Vulnerable), Edible Nest Swiftlet (Least Concern), Asian Wild Buffalo (Endangered), Nicobar Megapode (Vulnerable), Manipur Brow-antlered Deer (Endangered), Vultures, Malabar Civet (Critically Endangered), Indian Rhinoceros (Vulnerable), Asiatic Lion (Endangered), Swamp Deer (Barasingha – Vulnerable), and Jerdon’s Courser (Critically Endangered).
- Both Irrawaddy Dolphin and Ganges River Dolphin are Endangered.
- Protected Areas, viz., National Parks, Sanctuaries, Conservation Reserves and Community Reserves covering important wildlife habitats have been created all over the country under the provisions of the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972 to conserve wild animals and their habitats.
7.Kisan Diwas or National Farmers’ Day (PIB)
- National Farmers’ Day, or Kisan Diwas, is celebrated across the country on December 23 to honour India’s farmers and mark the birth anniversary of the nation’s fifth prime minister, Choudhary Charan Singh.
- Charan Singh was behind several major farmer-forward Bills, including the Land Utilisation Bill of 1939 and the Debt Redemption Bill in 1939.
COVID Vaccine Intelligence Network (CoWIN) (PIB)
- Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) along with Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) has announced the launching of “CoWIN”, a Grand Challenge for strengthening the COVID Vaccine Intelligence Network (CoWIN) system, a digitalised platform to be used to effectively roll out and scale up the mechanism for COVID Vaccine Distribution System, nationally.
Click here to get Current Affairs Booster Course
Click here to get our all Courses
Click here to follow our latest updates
If you find this post helpful, then do share your thoughts with us by commenting