Daily Current Affairs 22

8th January 2021 : Daily Current Affairs

Daily Current Affairs   Date : 8th January,2021

 (30+ Questions hit in Prelims 2021 from this series)

Covers 4 Most relevant Sources

  • The Hindu
  • Indian Express
  • PIB
    Mint

Index

             A) Indices, Reports, Surveys, Committees and Organisations

  • Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS), ISI and Eco Marks (PIB)
  • B) Schemes, Policies, Initiatives, Awards and Social Issues
  • National Water Awards (PIB)
  • Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS) (PIB)
  • Pilgrimage Rejuvenation and Spiritual, Heritage Augmentation Drive (PRASHAD) (PIB)
  • C) Science and Technology, Defence, Space
  • A Star with a Heartbeat & Without a Magnetic Field Discovered (PIB)
  • D) Polity, Bills, Acts and Judgments
  • Uniform Civil Code (UCC) (TH, pg 3)
  • E) Art, Culture and History
  • Ramakrishna Parmhansa and Vivekananda (TH, pg 1)
  • F) International Relations
  • Australia Japan Reciprocal Access Agreement (RAA) (IE)
  • G) Economic Developments: India and World
  • India’s rank in world economy (TH, pg 12)
  • Sovereign Gold Bond Scheme (TH, pg 12)
  • H) Clever Picks (Miscellaneous)
  • Missionaries of Charity (TH, pg 1)

 

  1. A) Indices, Reports, Surveys, Committees and Organisations
  2. Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS), ISI and Eco Marks (PIB)
  • Context:Bureau of Indian Standards celebrated the 75th foundation day on 6th January 2021.

Analysis

  • The Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) is the National Standards Body of India working under the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution.
  • The organisation was formerly the Indian Standards Institution (ISI) which came into being on the 06 January 1947 and in June 1947 Dr. Lal C. Verman took over as its first Director.
  • By enacting the BIS Act 1986, the ISI was made a statutory body and was renamed as the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS)to promote quality certification of goods, with a clearly defined statutory powers.
  • The Act has now been revised as BIS Act, 2016 and establishes BIS as the National Standards Body.
  • The Bureau is a Body Corporate consisting of 25 members representing both Central and State governments, Members of Parliament, industry, scientific and research institutions, consumer organizations and professional bodies; with Union Minister of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution as its President.
  • The BIS Act 2016, Rules and Regulations framed thereunder authorizes BIS to undertake conformity assessment of products, services, systems and processes.
  • The Product Certification Schemes of BIS aims at providing Third Party assurance of quality, safety and reliability of products to the customer.
  • BIS has been providing traceability and tangibility benefits to the national economy in a number of ways:
  • providing safe reliable quality goods;
  • minimizing health hazards to consumers;
  • promoting exports and imports substitute;
  • control over proliferation of varieties etc. through standardization, certification and testing.

What is the ISI Mark all about?

  • ISI stands for the Indian Standards Institution.
  • Although, the certification programme itself is voluntary in nature, the Government of India, on considerations of public health and safety, security, infrastructure requirements and mass consumption has enforced compulsory certification on various products through Orders issued from time to time under various Acts.

Are there standards for all products? 

  • There are at least 16 broad categories, including textiles, packaged water, food, automobile components, plastic products and electronics, for which BIS has laid down standards.
  • If anyone wants to add a new category to the current list, they can apply for it.

Genuine ISI mark

 

  • The Standard Mark for every product is unique and is notified in the Gazette of India.
  • Licence number helps in identifying the unit which has manufactured the product/marked the product at a specific location.

Eco Mark Scheme

  • Eco-mark is a voluntary labelling scheme for easily identifying environment friendly productswhich are made, used or disposed of in a way that significantly reduces the harm it would otherwise cause the environment.
  • The definition factors in all aspects of the supply chain, which includes raw material extraction, manufacturing and disposal.
  • What sets eco-mark apart from other labels is that not only does the product have to meet strict environmental requirements, but it also has to meet strict quality requirements.
  • The scheme is one of India’s earliest efforts in environmental standards, launched in 1991, even before the 1992 Rio Summit in which India participated.
  • The scheme was launched by the Ministry of Environment and Forests, and is administered by the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS),which also administers the Indian Standards Institute (ISI) mark quality label, a requirement for any product to gain the Eco-mark label.
  • Products certified as eligible for the Eco Mark shall also carry the ISI Mark (except for leather).
  • For this purpose, the Standard Mark of Bureau would be a single mark having a combination of the ISI Mark and the ECO Logo which is illustrated above.

 

  1. B) Schemes, Policies, Initiatives, Awards and Social Issues
  2. National Water Awards (PIB)
  • Context: Department of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation, Ministry of Jal Shakti, organised the 3rd National Water Awards (NWAs).

Analysis

  • In the Best State category, Uttar Pradesh has been awarded first prize, followed by Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu.
  • While India has more than 18% of the world’s population, it has only 4% of world’s renewable water resources.
  • The awards are given to motivate individuals/ organizations who are doing commendable work in the field of water resources conservation and management. in attaining the government’s vision of a ‘Jal Samridh Bharat.’
  • Also, it strives to create awareness among the people about the importance of water and motivate them to adopt the best water usage practices.

 

  1. Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS) (PIB)
  • Context:The Sports Ministry’s Mission Olympic Cell (MOC) has approved the inclusion of Alpine Skiing athlete Md Arif Khan in the Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS) Core group, until the Winter Olympics, scheduled this February in Beijing, China.

Analysis

  • In order to improve India’s performance at Olympics and Paralympics, the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports started the Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS).
  • The scheme has been extending all requisite support to probable athletes(not all athletes) identified for the Tokyo-2021, Paris-2024 and Los Angles-2028 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games including foreign training, monthly stipend etc.
  • High priority category of sports discipline has been identified to put focus on and incentivize those sports disciplines played in the Olympics in which India has won medals in the last conducted Asian Games as well as Commonwealth Games or in which India has good chance of winning medals in the upcoming Olympics of 2024 (Paris) and 2028 (Los Angeles).
  • Presently, nine sports disciplines, (i) Athletics, (ii) Badminton (iii) Hockey (iv)Shooting (v) Tennis (vi) Weightlifting (vii) Wrestling, (viii) Archery and (ix) Boxing have been categorised as ‘High Priority’.
  • Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS) covers the junior and sub-junior athletes also.

 

  1. Pilgrimage Rejuvenation and Spiritual, Heritage Augmentation Drive (PRASHAD) (PIB)
  • Context:Union Tourism Minister virtually inaugurates PRASHAD projects at Govardhan, Mathura, Uttar Pradesh.
  • The ‘National Mission on Pilgrimage Rejuvenation and Spiritual Heritage Augmentation Drive’ (PRASHAD) is a Central Sector Scheme with complete financial assistance by the Government of India.
  • The scheme has been launched by the Ministry of Tourism with the vision of focused infrastructure development to harness pilgrimage and heritage tourism destinations for its direct and multiplier effect upon employment generation and economic development.
  • The total number of sites identified for development under the scheme at present are 24. They are:
  • Amaravati and Srisailam (Andhra Pradesh),
  • Kamakhya (Assam),
  • Patna and Gaya (Bihar),
  • Dwarka and Somnath (Gujarat),
  • Hazratbal and Katra (Jammu & Kashmir),
  • Deogarh (Jharkhand),
  • Guruvayoor (Kerala),
  • Maa Chintpurni, Una (Himachal Pradesh,
  • Omkareshwar (Madhya Pradesh), Trimbakeshwar (Maharashtra),
  • Puri (Odisha),
  • Amritsar (Punjab),
  • Ajmer (Rajasthan),
  • Kanchipuram and Vellankani (Tamil Nadu),
  • Varanasi, and Mathura (Uttar Pradesh),
  • Badrinath and Kedarnath (Uttarakhand) and
  • Belur (West Bengal).

 

  1. C) Science and Technology, Defence, Space
  2. A Star with a Heartbeat & Without a Magnetic Field Discovered (PIB)
  • Context:A group of Indian and international scientists have spotted a peculiar binary star (a system of two stars in which one star revolves round the other or both revolve round a common centre) that shows heartbeat but no pulsations contrary to the norm of binary stars of sporting both heartbeats as well as pulsations.

Analysis

  • This star is called HD73619 in Praesepe (M44), located in the Cancer constellation, one of the closest open star clusters to the Earth.
  • The name ‘Heartbeat’ stems from the resemblance of the path of the star to an electrocardiogram of the human heart.
  • These are the binary star systems where each star travels in a highly elliptical orbit around the common centre of mass, and the distance between the two stars varies drastically as they orbit each other.
  • When the stars are at closest passage of binary systems, a sudden increase in integrated brightness with amplitude of the order of several parts-per-thousand (ppt) is observed.
  • As the components move apart, the light variation falls and finally becomes flat, indicating that combined flux is reduced, resulting in alternating peaks and troughs in their light curves.
  • The pulsational activity of such stars is due to the oscillations in the component stars when they are at their closest approach.
  • HD73619 is the first member of heartbeat systems in binary chemically peculiar stars that does not show any pulsational/vibrational activity at their closest approach.
  • Chemically peculiar stars are those stars which have an unusual abundance of elements heavier than hydrogen and helium on the surface.
  • Their data also revealed that the newly discovered heartbeat star exhibits either very weak or no magnetic field.
  • Absence of weak magnetic field means that any dark spots on the HD73619 may have different and hitherto unknown origin as compared to sunspots which are created by strong magnetic field.

 

  1. D) Polity, Bills, Acts and Judgments
  2. Uniform Civil Code (UCC) (TH, pg 3)
  • Context:“Citizens belonging to different religious and denominations follow different property and matrimonial laws which are an affront to the nation’s unity,” the Centre has informed the Delhi High Court while responding to a plea seeking direction to the government to draft a Uniform Civil Code, as provided under Article 44 of the Constitution.
  • The expression ‘Uniform Civil Code’ denotes the field of personal law relating to marriage, divorce, maintenance, custody and guardianship of children, inheritance and succession and adoption.
  • Article 44 of the Constitution creates an obligation upon the State to endeavour to secure for citizens a Uniform Civil Code throughout the country.
  • The purpose behind Article 44 is to strengthen the object of “Secular Democratic Republic” as enshrined in the Preamble of the Constitution.

Analysis

Uniform Civil Code

  • Article 44 of the Directive Principles in the Constitution says the “State shall endeavour to provide for its citizens a uniform civil code (UCC) throughout the territory of India.”
  • The objective of this endeavour is to address the discrimination against vulnerable groups and harmonise diverse cultural practices.
  • Ambedkar had said a UCC is desirable but for the moment should remain voluntary.

How did it come about?

  • The Constituent Assembly lacked the consensus on what a potential uniform civil code would entail.
  • While many thought the UCC would coexist alongside the personal law systems, others thought that it was to replace the personal law.
  • There were yet others who believed that the UCC would deny the freedom of religion.
  • It was this uncertainty that led it to be included in the Directive Principles of State Policy rather than the chapter on Fundamental Rights in the Constitution.

Why does it matter?

  • The codification of personal laws has historically generated protests. The Hindu Code Bill, one of the foremost pieces of social legislation, had triggered enormous opposition.
  • The debate on the UCC is centred on the argument to replace individual personal customs and practices of marriage, divorce, adoption and successions with a common code.
  • Those in favour of one code argue that it will end discrimination in religions.
  • Detractors contend that it will rob the nation of its religious diversity and violate the fundamental right to practise religion enshrined in Article 25 of the Constitution.
  • In fact, they hold that a state action to introduce the UCC is against the quintessence of democracy.
  • The secular state is, after all, an enabler of rights rather than an inhibitor in sensitive matters of religion and personal laws.

What next?

  • Legal experts say that the Supreme Court missed an opportunity to decide on the issue in 2017 when it outlawed triple talaq without addressing the core issue: whether personal law practices should prevail over the fundamental rights of life, dignity and non-discrimination.
  • In the Shah Bano case, the court lamented that Article 44 remained a “dead letter.” Chances are that it may continue to remain so.

Brief History of UCC in India

  • In Jose Paulo Coutinho v. Maria Luiza Valentina Pereira (2019),the Supreme Court yet again revived the debate on a uniform civil code (UCC) and referred to Goa as “a shining example of an Indian State which has a uniform civil code applicable to all…”.
  • While all Congress leaders including Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Patel and Mahatma Gandhi voted for Pakistan, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad stood his ground and voted against it; overlooked V.D. Savarkar’s two-nation theory; and also overlooked the history of the Hindu Right’s resistance to the Hindu Code Bill.
  • As far as Muslims are concerned, the Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Application Act of 1937 has not been extended to Goa. Muslims of Goa are governed by Portuguese law as well as Shastric Hindu law.
  • The majority in Shayara Bano v. Union of India(2017) did hold freedom of religion subject to restrictions under Articles 25 and 26 of the Constitution as absolute.
  • Even the right to follow personal law had been elevated to the highest status of fundamental right. UCC is only one of the directive principles.
  • The Supreme Court rightly held in Minerva Mills Ltd. v. Union Of India(1980) that “to destroy the guarantees given by Part III [fundamental rights] in order purportedly to achieve the goals of Part IV [directive principles] is plainly to subvert the Constitution by destroying its basic structure.”
  • Since personal laws are in the Concurrent List, they may differ from State to State.
  • The framers of the Constitution did not intend total uniformity or one law for the whole country.
  • States have made more than a hundred amendments to the Code of Criminal Procedure and the Indian Penal Code.

The way forward

  • In one of its consultation papers, the Law Commission chose codification of personal laws over the UCC as a way to end discrimination within religions.
  • Codification of various practices and customs would make them ‘law’ under Article 13 of the Constitution.
  • Any ‘law’ that comes under Article 13 should be consistent with the fundamental rights, the Law Commission has reasoned.
  • This would protect the plurality of religions, too, and may be the way forward for the near future.
  • In fact, the Law Commission has suggested in no uncertain terms that the UCC is “neither necessary nor desirable at this stage in the country.”
  • It said a unified nation does not necessarily need to have “uniformity.”

 

  1. E) Art, Culture and History
  2. Ramakrishna Parmhansa and Vivekananda (TH, pg 1)
  • Context: The Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission said in a statement on Friday that none of its applications for renewal of Foreign Contribution (FC) registration had been denied either in the past or at present.

Analysis

  • Ramakrishna Parmhansa (1834-1886) was a saintly person who sought religious salvation in the traditional ways of renunciation, meditation, and devotion.
  • In his search for religious truth or the realisation of God he lived with mystics of other faiths, Muslims and Christians.
  • He again and again emphasised that there were many roads to God and salvation and that service of man was service of God, for man was the embodiment of God.
  • It was his great disciple, Swami Vivekananda (1863-1902), who popularised his religious message and who tried to put it in a form that would suit the needs of contemporary Indian society.
  • Above all, Vivekananda stressed social action. He too, like his guru, proclaimed the essential oneness of all religions and condemned any narrowness in religious matters.
  • Thus, he wrote in 1898, “For our own motherland a junction of the two great systems, Hinduism and Islam… is the only hope.”
  • At the same time, he was convinced of the superior approach of the Indian philosophical tradition.
  • He himself‟ subscribed to Vedanta Philosophywhich he declared to be a fully rational system.
  • Vivekananda criticised Indians for having lost touch with the rest of the world and become stagnant and mummified.
  • Vivekananda condemned the caste system and the current Hindu emphasis on rituals, ceremonies, and superstitions, and urged the people to imbibe the spirit of liberty, equality, and free-thinking.
  • In 1896, Vivekananda founded the Ramakrishana Mission to carry on humanitarian relief and social work.
  • The Mission had many branches in different parts of the country and carried on social service by opening schools, hospitals and dispensaries, orphanages, libraries, etc.
  • It thus laid emphasis not on personal salvation but on social good or social service.
  • The monastic order does not consider itself to be a sect of Hinduism.
  • Unlike the Arya Samaj, the Mission recognises the utility and value of image worship in developing spiritual fervour and worship of the eternal omnipotent God, although it emphasises on the essential spirit and not the symbols or rituals.
  • 2018 was the 125th anniversary of Swami Vivekananda’s address at Parliament of the World’s Religions in 1893 held in Chicago.
  • Regarding liberty of thought, hesaid:Liberty in thought and action is the only condition of life, growth and well being: Where it does not exist, the man, the race, and the nation must go down.

 

  1. F) International Relations
  2. Australia Japan Reciprocal Access Agreement (RAA) (IE)
  • Context: Japan has signed ‘Reciprocal Access Agreement’ (RAA), a defence pact with Australia, to “contribute to a secure and stable Indo-Pacific” as China expands its military and economic clout in the region.

Analysis

  • It is Japan’s second defence pact (Its only other military pact is with the United States) and comes amid global concern over China’s growing economic and military might.
  • The signing of the Australia-Japan treaty comes months after Canberra announced forming a new alliance with the US and the United Kingdom – the AUKUS.
  • The Pact will “underpin greater and more complex engagement in operability between the Australia Defence Force and Japan Self-Defense Forces.
  • It also provides for shared military training and military operations.

 

  1. G) Economic Developments: India and World
  2. India’s rank in world economy (TH, pg 12)
  • Context: India to emerge as world’s third largest economy in 2031.
  • This rapid pace of economic expansion would result in the size of Indian GDP exceeding Japanese GDP by 2030, making India the second-largest economy in the Asia-Pacific region.
  • Currently, India is the sixth-largest economy in the world, behind the US, China, Japan, Germany and the United Kingdom.
  • The large increase in FDI inflows to India that has been evident over the past five years will be a major contributor to its economic growth.

Analysis

  • Currently, India is the world’s sixth-largest economy by nominal GDP and the third-largest by purchasing power parity (PPP).
  • High GDP growth will be based on three drivers – a coming demographic dividend; growing financial maturity; and the emergence of mass markets.

What is GDP?

  • Gross domestic product (GDP) is the standard measure of the value added created through the production of goods and services in a country during a certain period.
  • As such, it also measures the income earned from that production, or the total amount spent on final goods and services (less imports).
  • While GDP is the single most important indicator to capture economic activity, it falls short of providing a suitable measure of people’s material well-being for which alternative indicators may be more appropriate.
  • This indicator is based on nominal GDP (also called GDP at current prices or GDP in value) and is available in different measures: US dollars and US dollars per capita (current PPPs).

GDP (Nominal) Vs GDP (PPP)

  • GDP (Gross Domestic Product) is the total market value of all final goods and services produced in a country in a given period.
  • Each country reports its data in its own currency.
  • To compare the data, each country’s statistics must be converted into a common currency.
  • The two most common methods to convert GDP into a common currency are nominal and purchasing power parity (PPP).

GDP (nominal)

  • Nominal GDP estimates are commonly used to determine the economic performance of a whole country or region, and to make international comparisons.
  • It is the original concept of GDP.
  • In Nominal method, market exchange rates are used for conversion.
  • It does not take into account differences in the cost of living in different countries.
  • Fluctuations in the exchange rates of the country’s currency may change a country’s ranking from one year to the next, even though they often make little or no difference to the standard of living of its population.

GDP (PPP)

  • PPP basis arguably more useful when comparing differences in living standards between nations.
  • PPP is an exchange rate at which the currency of one country is converted into that of the second country in order to purchase the same volume of goods and services in both countries.
  • If a hamburger is selling in London for £2 and in New York for $4, this would imply a PPP exchange rate of 1 pound to 2 U.S. dollars.
  • PPP exchange rates are relatively stable over time.
  • Drawbacks of PPP is that PPP is harder to measure than nominal.
  • Out of 192 countries/economies, about 178 have higher GDP in PPP basis and 13 have higher in nominal.
  • Nominal and PPP are identical in the US, because USD is used as the benchmark.

 

  1. Sovereign Gold Bond Scheme (TH, pg 12)
  • Context: The Government of India, in consultation with the Reserve Bank of India, has decided to issue Sovereign Gold Bonds.

Analysis

What is a sovereign gold bond (SGB)?

  • Sovereign gold bond is a substitute for holding physical gold. The bonds are issued by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) on behalf of the government and is a bond denominated in gold.
  • The government issues such bonds in tranches at a fixed price that investors can buy through banks, post offices and also in the secondary markets through the stock exchange platform.
  • The Gold Bonds will be issued as Government of India Stocks under Government Security Act, 2006.
  • The investors will be issued a Holding Certificate for the same. The Bonds are eligible for conversion into Demat form.
  • The tenor of the Bond will be for a period of 8 years with exit option in 5th, 6th and 7th year, to be exercised on the interest payment dates.

What are the benefits of buying SGB?

  • These bonds are backed by a sovereign guarantee and can also be held in demat form.
  • They are priced as per the underlying spot gold prices.
  • Hence, investors who want to invest in gold can buy the bonds without worrying about safekeeping of physical gold along with locker charges, making charges or purity issues.
  • These bonds offer an interest at the rate of 2.5% per annum on the principal investment amount.
  • While the interest on the bonds are taxable, the capital gains at the time of redemption are exempt from tax.
  • These bonds can also be used as collateral for availing loans from banks and NBFCs.

How are the bonds structured?

  • SGB has a fixed tenure of eight years, though early redemption is allowed after the fifth year from issuance.
  • Since the bonds are listed on the exchange, these can be transferred to other investors as well.
  • The bonds are priced in rupees based on the simple average of closing price of gold of 999 purity, published by the India Bullion and Jewellers Association for the last three business days of the week preceding the subscription period.
  • At the time of redemption, cash equivalent to the number of units multiplied by the then prevailing price would be credited to the bank account of the investor.
  • Those who apply online for the latest tranche are eligible for a discount of ₹50 per gram.
  • Everyone except for non-resident Indians (NRIs) can invest.
  • The maximum limit of subscription shall be 4 KG for individual, 4 Kg for HUF and 20 Kg for trusts and similar entities per fiscal (April-March). Minimum permissible investment will be 1 gram of gold.
  • Investment in these bonds can be made through cash (up to ₹20,000), cheque or demand draft.
  • The bonds are issued in denominations of one gram and in multiples thereof.
  • The RBI fixes the price of the bond.
  • Bonds can be used as collateral for loans.
  • Bonds will be tradable on stock exchanges within a fortnight of the issuance on a date as notified by the RBI.

Are there any risks in investing in SGB?

  • Capital loss is a risk since the bond prices would reflect any change in gold prices. If gold prices fall, the principal investment would fall proportionately.

 

  1. H) Clever Picks (Miscellaneous)
  2. Missionaries of Charity (TH, pg 1)
  • The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) restored the FCRA registration of Missionaries of Charity (MoC), the Catholic religious congregation set up by Nobel laureate Mother Teresa.
  • The Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) registration is mandatory to receive foreign donations.

Mother Teresa

  • The Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Mother Teresa in 1979.

Having become an Indian citizen, Mother Teresa served the cause of dying destitutes, lepers and drug

  • addicts, through Nirmal Hriday (meaning Pure Heart), the main centre of her activity.
  • Her selfless service and unique devotion, not only to helpless fellow-Indians but also to the cause of world peace, earned her and India the first Nobel Peace Prize.