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DAILY NEWS ANALYSIS

25 Apr, 2020

43 Min Read

PM asks Gram Panchayats to use digital platforms for better prices for village produce

GS-II : Governance Decentralized governance

PM asks Gram Panchayats to use digital platforms for better prices for village produce

Part of: GS-II- Governance and Decentralized governance (PT-MAINS-PERSONALITY TEST)

On National Panchayati Raj Day 24th April, the Prime Minister launched the e-Gramswaraj Portal and Mobile app as a portal to prepare and plan Gram Panchayat Development Plans. He said that the portal will ensure real time monitoring and accountability. The portal is a major step towards digitization down to the Gram Panchayat level.

The Swamitva scheme was also launched in pilot mode in 6 states to map rural inhabited lands using drones and latest survey methods. The Prime Minister said that the scheme will ensure streamlined planning, revenue collection and provide clarity over property rights in rural areas. This will open up avenues for applying for loans from financial institutions by the owners. Disputes related to property would also be settled through the title deeds allotted through this scheme.

The interaction was an opportunity to establish direct dialogue between the Prime Minister and the Gram Panchayat representatives. The PM said that the progress of Panchayats will ensure the development of the nation and democracy.

The Prime Minister also interacted with Panchayat representatives from across the country. Speaking to a Panchayat representative from Maharashtra he urged the use digital platforms such as e-NAM and GEM portal to reach out to larger markets for better prices for village produce.

He remembered Mahatma Gandhi's conception of Swaraj as being based on Gram Swaraj. Quoting the Shastras, he reminded the people that the source of all strength is unity.

e-NAM

  • It was launched on 14th April 2016 as a pan-India electronic trade portal linking Agricultural Produce Market Committees (APMCs) across the States.
  • It provides for contactless remote bidding and mobile-based anytime payment for which traders do not need to either visit mandis or banks for the same.
  • Already 585 mandis in 16 States and 2 Union Territories have been integrated on e-NAM portal and will be soon expanded to cover additional 415 mandis, which will take the total number of e-NAM mandis to 1,000.

Negotiable Warehouse Receipt System

  • It was launched in 2011 but the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution.
  • Farmers can seek loans from banks against the warehouse receipts issued to them against their storage.
  • These receipts issued by the warehouses registered with the WDRA would become a fully negotiable instrument backed by a Central legislation.
  • The Electronic Negotiable Warehouse Receipt (e-NWR) System was launched in 2017.

Warehousing Development and Regulatory Authority

  • It was constituted on 26th October 2010 under the Warehousing (Development and Regulation) Act, 2007.
  • It is a statutory authority under the Department of Food and Public Distribution, Government of India.
  • It is headquartered in New Delhi.
  • The Act provides for the establishment of the WDRA to exercise the powers conferred on it and to perform the functions assigned to it under the Act, Rules and Regulations for the development and regulation of warehouses, negotiability of warehouse receipts and promote orderly growth of the warehousing business in the country.

Government e-Marketplace (GeM)

  • GeM is a one-stop National Public Procurement Portal to facilitate online procurement of common use Goods & Services required by various Central and State Government Departments / Organizations /Public Sector Undertakings ( PSUs).
  • It was launched in 2016 to bring transparency and efficiency in the government buying process.
  • It operates under the Ministry of Commerce and Industry.
  • The procurement of goods and services by Ministries and the Central Public Sector Enterprises (CPSEs) is mandatory for goods and services available on GeM.
  • It also provides the tools of e-bidding and reverse e-auction to facilitate the government users achieve the best value for their money.
  • At present, GeM has more than 15 lakh products, around 20,000 services, and more than 40,000 Government buyer organizations.

Source: TH

Supreme Court guidelines regarding reservation in India

GS-II :

Reservation in India -Analysis

The two main aims to provide reservation as per the Consitution of India are:

  1. Advancement of Scheduled Castes (SC) and the Scheduled Tribes (ST) OR any socially and educationally backward classes of citizens (Eg: OBC) OR economically weaker sections (EWS) – Article 15 (4), Article 15 (5), and Article 15 (6),
  2. Adequate representation of any backward class of citizens OR economically weaker sections (EWS) in the services under the State. – Article 16 (4) and Article 16 (6)

In India, reservation is provided in:

  • Government Educational Institutions (like IITs, IIMs etc) – as per Article 15 – (4), (5), and (6)
  • Government Jobs (like IAS, IPS etc) – as per Article 16 – (4) and (6)
  • Legislatures (Parliament, and State Legislature) – as per Article 334

Before 2019, the reservation was provided mainly on the basis of social and educational backwardness (caste). However, after the 103rd constitutional amendment in 2019, economic backwardness is also considered.

Apart from the reservation quota, additional relaxations like upper-age relaxations, additional attempts, and lower cut-off marks are also provided for various reservation categories.

A vacancy reserved for SCs or STs or OBCs cannot be filled by a candidate other than an SC or ST or OBC candidate, as the case may be.

As seen from the above table, about 60% of seats are reserved in India – for various sections like ST, SC, OBC, and EWS – with respect to Government jobs and Higher Education Institutions. 3% of seats are also reserved for differently-abled persons across all categories.

This also means that only 40% of seats are available under merit. In the merit seats, not only the general category candidates but all other categories like SC, ST, OBC, and EWS can also compete.

SC/ST Reservation

  • The objective of providing reservations to the Scheduled Castes(SCs), Scheduled Tribes (STs) in services is not only to give jobs to some persons belonging to these communities. It basically aims at empowering them and ensuring their participation in the decision-making process of the State.
  • Besides, the state is also keen to end practices such as untouchability.
  • Scheduled Castes (SC) are given 15% quota in jobs/higher educational institutions while Schedule Tribes (ST) are given 7.5% quota in jobs/higher educational institutions.
  • Reservation is provided not only with respect to direct recruitment but also with respect to promotions for SC/ST category (Article 16(4A)).
  • There is no concept of ‘creamy layer’ with respect to SC/ST reservation. This means that irrespective of the income status or the government posts held by the parents, children of SC/ST parents will get SC/ST Reservation.

OBC Reservation

  • Reservation for Other Backwards Classes (OBC) was introduced based on the Mandal Commission Report (1991). The quota for OBCs is 27% in government jobs and higher educational institutions.
  • However, there is a concept of ‘creamy layer’ with respect to the OBC reservation. Only those from OBC who comes under Non-Creamy Layer would get OBC reservation.
  • The creamy layer concept brings income and social status as parameters to exclude some of the privileged members of OBC from the extent of reservation. This concept also keeps a check to ensure that the benefits of reservation do not get extended to subsequent generations.

EWS Reservation

  • The Central Government of India recently introduced EWS Reservation. 10% quota is provided for the Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) among General Category candidates in government jobs and educational institutions. This is done by adding clauses for the same in the Indian Constitution (103rd Constitution Amendment Act, 2019).

History of Reservation System in India :

To an extent, reservation as a policy is pursued by the State to correct the historical injustice done to certain castes by the so-called “upper castes”. The caste system prevailed in India had alienated many “lower castes” from the mainstream – hindering their development. To a great extent, the repercussions are still felt.

Original Constitution of India has provided reservation only for quota in legislatures – that too only for 10 years until 1960 (article 334). Subsequent amendments to the constitution extended the period of reservation for quota in legislatures.

Provisions of reservations in Educational Institutions and Government Jobs – article 15(4) and article 16 (4) – were too created by means of Constitutional Amendments later. No time period is given for the validity of the reservations mentioned in article 15(4) and article 16(4).

The initial reservations were only for SC and ST [article 15(4) and article 16(4)]. OBCs were included in the ambit of reservation in 1991 [article 15(5)]. In 2019, Economically Weaker Sections are also included [article 15(6) and article 16(6)].

Creamy layer chronology:

  • In 1980, the Mandal Commission report recommended to provide 27% reservation to Other Backward Classes (OBCs) in jobs.
  • In 1990, the V P Singh Government declared such reservation of 27% in government jobs for the OBCs.
  • In 1991, the Narasimha Rao Government introduced a change in order to give preference to the poorer sections among the OBCs while granting the 27% quota.
  • In the Indra Sawhney judgment (1992), the Court upheld the government’s move and proclaimed that the advanced sections among the OBCs (i.e, the creamy layer) must be excluded from the list of beneficiaries of reservation. It also held that the concept of creamy layer must be excluded for SCs & STs.

How was the creamy layer made applicable to SC/ST members?

  • In the Nagaraj case (2006) the issue had arisen regarding the validity of the following four Constitutional amendments, claiming that these amendments made by the government were meant to reverse the decisions made by the Court in the Indra Sawhney Case, 1992:
    • 77th Constitutional Amendment Act, 1995: The Indra Sawhney verdict had held there would be reservation only in initial appointments and not promotions. But the government through this amendment introduced Article 16(4A) to the Constitution, empowering the state to make provisions for reservation in matters of promotion to SC/ST employees if the state feels they are not adequately represented.
    • 81st Constitutional Amendment Act, 2000: It introduced Article 16(4B), which says unfilled SC/ST quota of a particular year, when carried forward to the next year, will be treated separately and not clubbed with the regular vacancies of that year. While the Supreme Court in the Indra Sawhney Case capped the reservation quota at 50%, the government by this amendment ensured that 50% ceiling for these carried forward unfilled posts does not apply.
    • 82nd Constitutional Amendment Act, 2000: It inserted a condition at the end of Article 335 that enables the state to make any provision in favour of the members of the SC/STs for relaxation in qualifying marks in any examination or lowering the standards of evaluation, for reservation in matters of promotion to any class or classes of services or posts in connection with the affairs of the Union or of a State.

Constitutional Provision: Article 335 recognises that special measures need to be adopted for considering the claims of SCs and STs to services and posts, in order to bring them at par. It is read as: “The claims of the members of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes shall be taken into consideration, consistently with the maintenance of efficiency of administration, in the making of appointments to services and posts in connection with the affairs of the Union or of a State.”

  • 85th Constitutional Amendment Act, 2001: It provided for the reservation in promotion can be applied with ‘consequential seniority’ for the government servants belonging to the SCs and STs with retrospective effect from June 1995.

M.Nagaraj case judgements:

The Court in this case laid down three conditions for promotion of SCs and STs in public employment:

  • Government cannot introduce quota unless it proves that the particular community is backward,
  • Inadequately represented (based on quantifiable data), and
  • Providing reservation in promotion would not affect the overall efficiency of public administration.

  • The five-judges Bench in Nagaraj case although upheld the constitutional validity of all four amendments, but the following two validations by the Supreme Court in this case became the bone of contention:
    • First: The Court proclaimed that the State is not bound to make reservation for SC/ST in the matter of promotions. However if they wish to exercise their discretion and make such provision, the State has to collect quantifiable data showing backwardness of the class and inadequacy of representation of that class in public employment in addition to compliance of Article 335.
    • Second: Also, it reversed its earlier stance in Mandal case, in which it had excluded the creamy layer concept on SCs/STs (that was applicable on OBCs). The verdict in Nagaraj case made clear that even if the State has compelling reasons (as stated above), the State needs to ensure that its reservation provision does not lead to excessiveness- breaching the ceiling-limit of 50%, or destroying the creamy layer principle, or extending the reservation indefinitely. Therefore, the Court extended the creamy layer principle to SCs and STs too in this verdict.

Present status and demand by the Centre:

  • The Centre asked the Court to review its stance on the above two issues:
    • As collecting quantifiable data showing backwardness is contrary to the Mandal case pronouncement where it was held that Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes are the most backward among backward classes. It is, therefore, presumed that once they are added in the Presidential List under Articles 341 and 342 of the Constitution of India, there is no question of proving backwardness of the SCs and STs all over again.
      • The said List cannot be altered by anybody except Parliament under Articles 341 and 342- defining who will be considered as SCs or STs in any state or Union Territory.
    • And, the creamy layer concept has not been applied in the Indra Sawhney case.
  • The Court clarifying its stance in Jarnail Singh vs Lachhmi Narain Gupta case (2018) refused to refer the above issue to a larger bench.
    • However, it invalidated the requirement of collecting quantifiable data by states on the backwardness of SCs and STs while granting quota in promotions as laid down by the Court in Nagaraj verdict, but states need to back it with appropriate data showing the inadequate representation of SCs & STs in the cadre.
    • On the creamy layer principle for excluding the well-off amongst the SC/ST communities from availing the benefit, the Court followed the Nagaraj verdict.
      • The Court held that socially, educationally, and economically advanced cream of Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes communities must be excluded from the benefits of reservation in government services in order to transfer quota benefits to the weakest of the weaker individuals and not be snatched away by members of the same class who were in the “top creamy layer”.
      • The Court also observed that it will not be possible to uplift the weaker sections if only the creamy layer within that class bags all the coveted jobs in the public sector and perpetuate themselves, leaving the rest of the class as backward as they were.
  • The government is now asking the Supreme Court to reconsider its verdict in Jarnail Singh case with respect to the applicability of creamy layer principle.

Reservation provides appropriate positive discrimination for the benefit of the socially and educationally backward sections of the society. And the creamy layer concept helps in ensuring that only the genuinely deserving and the most downtrodden members of any particular community get those reservation benefits.

Source: TH/WEB

Iran-US tensions rise

GS-II :

Iran-US tensions rise on Trump threat, Iran satellite launch

Part of: GS-II- International Issues (PT-MAINS-PERSONALITY TEST)

Iran's president Hassan Rouhani called on the country's armed forces to maintain vigilance against “provocative actions by foreigners in the region, as a war of words with the US escalated.

  1. The comment came after the head of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards Tehran would destroy US warships if its security is threatened in the Arabian Gulf.
  2. US President Donald Trump warned Tehran over "harassment" of US vessels. Trump said he had instructed the US Navy to fire on any Iranian ships that harass it at sea, though said later he was not changing the military’s rules of engagement.
  3. Earlier this month, the US military said 11 Revolutionary Guards naval vessels came close to US Navy and Coast Guard ships in the Gulf, calling the moves “dangerous and provocative”.
  4. Tehran blamed its longtime adversary for the incident.
  5. Antagonism between Iran and the United States has sharpened since 2018, when Trump withdrew from Tehran's 2015 nuclear deal with six world powers and reimposed crippling sanctions.
  6. Animosities spiked in early January when top Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani was killed in a US drone strike in Baghdad. Iran retaliated on Jan. 9 by firing missiles at bases in Iraq where US troops were stationed.
  7. Iran’s missile launch is of significant concern as it is against UN RESOLUTION
  8. Iran has carried out a satellite launch using ballistic missile technology are of significant concern and inconsistent with UNSC resolution 2231,”

“The UN has called upon Iran not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons. Iran is not abiding by that.

Source: Web

SAARC ANALYSIS

GS-II :

SAARC AND ITS ANALYSIS

The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) was established with the signing of the SAARC Charter in Dhaka on 8 December 1985. SAARC comprises of eight Member States: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. The Secretariat of the Association was set up in Kathmandu on 17 January 1987.

There are currently nine Observers to SAARC, namely: (i) Australia; (ii) China; (iii) the European Union; (iv) Iran; (v) Japan; (vi) the Republic of Korea; (vii) Mauritius; (viii) Myanmar; and (ix) the United States of America.

Objectives of SAARC:

  • to promote the welfare of the peoples of South Asia and to improve their quality of life;
  • to accelerate economic growth, social progress and cultural development in the region and to provide all individuals the opportunity to live in dignity and to realize their full potentials;
  • to promote and strengthen collective self-reliance among the countries of South Asia;
  • to contribute to mutual trust, understanding and appreciation of one another's problems;
  • to promote active collaboration and mutual assistance in the economic, social, cultural, technical and scientific fields; to strengthen cooperation with other developing countries;
  • to strengthen cooperation among themselves in international forums on matters of common interests; and
  • to cooperate with international and regional organizations with similar aims and purposes.

Decisions at all levels are to be taken on the basis of unanimity; and bilateral and contentious issues are excluded from the deliberations of the Association.

AREAS OF COOPERATION

  • Human Resource Development and Tourism
  • Agriculture and Rural Development
  • Environment, Natural Disasters and Biotechnology
  • Economic, Trade and Finance
  • Social Affairs
  • Information and Poverty Alleviation
  • Energy, Transport, Science and Technology
  • Education, Security and Culture

SAARC Specialized Bodies

SAARC Development Fund (SDF)

  • Its primary objective is funding of project-based collaboration in social sectors such as poverty alleviation, development, etc.
  • SDF is governed by a Board consisting of representatives from the Ministry of Finance of the Member States. The Governing Council of SDF (Finance Ministers of MSs) oversees the functioning of the Board.

South Asian University

  • South Asian University (SAU) is an international university, located in India. Degrees and Certificates awarded by the SAU are at par with the respective Degrees and Certificates awarded by the National Universities/ Institutions.

South Asian Regional Standards Organization

  • South Asian Regional Standards Organization (SARSO) has its Secretariat at Dhaka, Bangladesh.
  • It was established to achieve and enhance coordination and cooperation among SAARC member states in the fields of standardization and conformity assessment and is aimed to develop harmonized Standards for the region to facilitate intra-regional trade and to have access in the global market.

SAARC Arbitration Council

  • It is an inter-governmental body having its office in Pakistan is mandated to provide a legal framework/forum within the region for fair and efficient settlement of commercial, industrial, trade, banking, investment and such other disputes, as may be referred to it by the member states and their people.

SAARC Achievements

  • Free Trade Area (FTA): SAARC is comparatively a new organization in the global arena. The member countries have established a Free Trade Area (FTA) which will increase their internal trade and lessen the trade gap of some states considerably.
  • SAPTA: South Asia Preferential Trading Agreement for promoting trade amongst the member countries came into effect in 1995.
  • SAFTA: A Free Trade Agreement confined to goods, but excluding all services like information technology. Agreement was signed to reduce customs duties of all traded goods to zero by the year 2016.
  • SAARC Agreement on Trade in Services (SATIS): SATIS is following the GATS-plus 'positive list' approach for trade in services liberalization.
  • SAARC University: Establish a SAARC university in India, a food bank and also an energy reserve in Pakistan.

Importance of SAARC for India:

  • Neighbourhood first: Primacy to the country’s immediate neighbours.
  • Geostrategic significance: Can counter China (OBOR initiative) through engaging Nepal, Bhutan, the Maldives and Sri Lanka in development process and economic cooperation.
  • Regional stability: SAARC can help in creation of mutual trust and peace within the region.
  • Global leadership role: It offers India a platform to showcase its leadership in the region by taking up extra responsibilities.
  • Game changer for India’s Act East Policy: by linking South Asian economies with South East asian will bring further economic integration and prosperity to India mainly in the Services Sector.

South Asian Satellite:

The GSAT-9(SAARC Satellite) has been launched with an objective to provide different communication applications in Ku-band with coverage over South Asian countries.It is launched by GSLV F09- 49 metres tall and weighing around 450 ton, the GSLV is a three stage rocket. The first stage is fired with solid fuel, the second with liquid fuel and the third is the cryogenic engine. The first stage is fired with solid fuel, the second with liquid fuel and the third is the cryogenic engine.

  • Launched by ISRO
  • It will be used by countries of SAARC except Pakistan
  • Plan for this satellite was announced in 2014 SAARC summit
  • It is launched by GSLV-F09
  • The satellite will provide a full range of applications and services in the fields of telecommunication and broadcasting applications, namely, Television, Direct-to-Home (DTH), Very Small Aperture Terminals (VSATs), Tele-education, Telemedicine and Disaster Management Support.

This is what it means for India and South Asia:

  • Data from GSAT-9 will be shared with Nepal, Bhutan, Maldives, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. It was also offered to Pakistan, which turned it down. India is also working with Afghanistan but a deal has still not be ironed out.
  • At least one transponder of this satellite will be available to the participating countries, which will help them connect with each other. In other words, the satellite will help India gain a footprint that extends all over South Asia. Not just that, this 'gift' is a first such move from any country in this region.
  • The participating nations anticipate a Rs 10,000 crore ($1.5 billion) benefit from the satellite's 12-year lifespan.
  • Each country has to develop its own ground infrastructure though India is willing to extend assistance and know-how.
  • The satellite also has the capability to provide secure hot lines among the participating nations in addition since the region is highly prone to earthquakes, cyclones, floods, tsunamis, it may help in providing critical communication links in times of disasters.
  • The 2230-kg satellite has been fabricated in three years and is purely a communications satellite costing Rs 450 crore. The satellite's main structure is cuboid in shape, built around a central cylinder with a mission life of more than 12 years.
  • The nearly 50-m-tall rocket that weighs about 412 tonnes will carry what is now dubbed as the 'South Asia Satellite' or what the Isro still prefers to call GSAT-9.
  • The mission is part of PM Modi's proposal on June 30, 2014 to Isro, asking them to develop a satellite that can be dedicated to our neighbourhood as a 'gift' from India.
  • Modi's efforts got a jolt when even after participating in the planning meeting on June 22, 2015, Pakistan decided to 'opt out' from the proposed SAARC satellite, suggesting it had its own space program'.
  • The project was renamed to 'South Asia Satellite' but sources say Pakistan was not allowed to veto the development project. Frequency co-ordination activities took longer than expected and the launch got postponed by almost six months.
  • Among India's neighbours, three nations already possess full-fledged communication satellites with Pakistan and Sri Lanka having been helped by China; Afghanistan also has a communication satellite, which is an an old India-made satellite acquired from Europe. Bangladesh is likely to have its first bird in the sky later this year made with help from Thales.
  • Experts say "Pakistan has missed an opportunity" since its own space programme is currently in a primitive stage as compared to India's, this, despite the fact that Islamabad actually launched its first rocket five years ahead of India and its space agency Pakistan Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission (SUPARCO) is older than ISRO.
  • Pakistan has had five satellites in space but today lacks heavy duty launchers and satellite fabrication facilities.
  • The South Asia Satellite is India's plan to counter China's growing influence on its neighbours. But in the 21st-century Asian space race, China already has the first mover advantage.

SAARC’s Resurrection

  • On March 15, India led from the front in hosting the first SAARC meeting in years, following PMModi’s proposal to hold a virtual meet through video to devise a regional strategy in fighting the rapidly spreading coronavirus. He proposed that the “leadership of SAARC nations chalk out a strong strategy to fight coronavirus”.
  • The virtual meeting included leaders of seven countries including Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Sri Lanka and the special health adviser to Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan. They discussed the rising cases of coronavirus in the subcontinent, measures taken to halt the spread of the raging virus, and possible treatment methods.
  • India laid out its ongoing efforts and action plan to limit the outbreak of the coronavirus.

  • The meet was important from quite a few perspectives. First, it is a crisis turned opportunity by bringing together countries of the region for the first high-level SAARC meet since 2014 by providing directional leadership with health diplomacy as it core objective- an agenda which none can refuse. Moreover, this was the organisation’s first meeting in four years after India had declined to meet in Islamabad in 2016 citing cross-border terrorism (Uri Attack) as the basis.
  • Then, other countries of SAARC like Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Bhutan had also pulled out leaving SAARC directionless. Second, India’s decision to hold the conference despite its open reservations against talking to Pakistan reflects a befitting attitude of a leader-nation that has risen above bilateral animosity to engage all nations to think of the larger regional good. It shows its mature understanding that global challenges require coordinated response.
  • This was evident when India chose to ignore Pakistan’s use of the SAARC forum to rake up the Kashmir issue, even though the meet had a different and a much more pressing agenda. Major countries of the world including the US and Russia have lauded India’s efforts towards preparing South Asia for a collective response.
  • Although, India’s decision came a day after the World Health Organisation (WHO) floated the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund with the help of corporate bodies, foundations and the UN Foundation and a day prior to a similar videoconference between G7 leaders, bringing the SAARC leaders on a common platform by India has been held as a masterstroke.
  • Among tangible deliverables, the meeting saw India’s proposal of a COVID-19 emergency fund for SAARC countries to fight the pandemic, extending $10 million as India's contribution for the fund.
  • Contributions to the emergency fund have also been committed by Sri Lanka ($5 million), Bangladesh ($1.5 million), Nepal ($1 million), Afghanistan ($1 million), Maldives ($200,000) and Bhutan ($100,000) taking the total amount in the COVID-19 Emergency Fund to $18.3 million. Pakistan’s contribution is still awaited. Since the leaders’ videoconference, the senior health professionals of SAARC countries also met on another video conference on March 26 to exchange experiences of combating the spread of COVID-19 thus far and share best practices.
  • SAARC Disaster Management Centre (SDMC-IU), Gandhinagar has set up a website (http://www.covid19-sdmc.org/) on COVID-19 for shared use of SAARC countries.
  • A ‘special cell’ in the Ministry of External Affairs of India is coordinating and monitoring coordination of regional efforts with SAARC countries.


Source: TH/WEB

Kisan Rath app

GS-III : Economic Issues Agriculture

Context:

Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare had launched “Kisan Rath” App on 17.04.2020 to facilitate Farmers and Traders in identifying right mode of transportation for movement of farm produce ranging from food grain (cereal, coarse cereal, pulses etc), Fruits & Vegetables, oil seeds, spices, fiber crops, flowers, bamboo, log & minor forest produce, coconuts etc. Till date, total of 80,474 farmers and 70,581 traders are registered on this App.

Kisan Rath mobile app:

The Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare has launched ‘Kisan Rath’ mobile application (app) to facilitate transportation of foodgrains and perishable during lockdown

  • The application has been developed by the National Informatics Centre (backed by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology).
  • It will be available in eight languages initially, including english and hindi.

Features of the Kisan Rath app:

  • The app is expected to connect farmers and traders to a network of more than 5 lakh trucks and 20,000 tractors.
  • It is meant to help farmers and traders who are searching for vehicles to move produce. This includes:
    • Primary transport from the farm to the mandis, local warehouses or the collection centres of Farmer Producer Organisations (FPO).
    • Secondary transport from the local mandis to intra-and inter-State mandis, processing units, railway stations, warehouses or wholesalers.
  • The Government has granted relaxation in the nationwide lockdown for activities related to agriculture-farming and allied activities with a view to address problems being faced by the farming community.

Source: PIB

China Mars mission Tianwen-1 and importance of MARS

GS-III :

China Mars mission Tianwen-1

Part of: GS-III- S&T Space (PT-MAINS-PERSONALITY TEST)

Aiming to catch up with India, U.S., Russia and the European Union to reach the red planet, China’s Mars mission plans to complete orbiting, landing and roving in one mission
China named its first Mars exploration mission to be launched later this year as Tianwen-1 as it celebrated Space Day to mark the 50th anniversary of the launch of the country’s first satellite Dong Fang Hong-1 in 1970.

China in recent years has emerged as a major space power with manned space missions and landing a rover in the dark side of the moon. It is currently building a space station of its own.

However, China’s attempts to send an exploratory probe to Mars called Yinghuo-1, in a Russian spacecraft in 2011 failed as shortly after the launch and it was declared lost and later burnt during re-entry.

The U.S., Russia, the EU besides India so far succeeded in sending missions to Mars regarded as the most complex space mission.

India became the first Asian country to have successfully launched its Mars orbiter mission, Mangalyaan which has entered the orbit of the red planet in 2014.
India also became the first country to have entered the Martian orbit in its first attempt.

About MARS (PT SHOT)

Mars is the fourth planet from the Sun and the second-smallest planet in the Solar System after Mercury. In English, Mars carries the name of the Roman god of war and is often referred to as the 'Red Planet'. The latter refers to the effect of the iron oxide prevalent on Mars' surface, which gives it a reddish appearance distinctive among the astronomical bodies visible to the naked eye. Mars is a terrestrial planet with a thin atmosphere, having surface features reminiscent both of the impact craters of the Moon and the valleys, deserts, and polar ice caps of Earth.

Facts:

  1. The days and seasons are likewise comparable to those of Earth, because the rotational period as well as the tilt of the rotational axis relative to the ecliptic plane are very similar.
  2. Mars is the site of Olympus Mons, the largest volcano and highest known mountain on any planet in the Solar System.
  3. Valles Marineris, one of the largest canyons in the Solar System.
  4. The smooth Borealis basin in the northern hemisphere covers 40% of the planet and may be a giant impact feature.
  5. Mars has two moons, Phobos and Deimos, which are small and irregularly shaped. These may be captured asteroids,similar to 5261 Eureka, a Mars trojan.

Explorations

  1. Mariner 4, launched by NASA on November 28, 1964, was the first spacecraft to visit Mars, making its closest approach to the planet on July 15, 1965. Mariner 4 detected the weak Martian radiation belt, measured at about 0.1% that of Earth’s, and captured the first images of another planet from deep space.
  2. On July 20, 1976, Viking 1 performed the first successful landing on the Martian surface.
  3. Although the Soviet Mars 3 spacecraft achieved a soft landing in December 1971, contact was lost with its lander seconds after touchdown.
  4. On July 4, 1997, the Mars Pathfinder spacecraft landed on Mars, and on July 5 released its rover, Sojourner, the first robotic rover to operate on Mars.
  5. Pathfinder was followed by the Mars Exploration Rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, which landed on Mars in January 2004 and operated until March 22, 2010 and June 10, 2018, respectively.
  6. The Mars Express orbiter, the first European Space Agency spacecraft to visit Mars, arrived in orbit on December 25, 2003.
  7. On September 24, 2014, the Indian Space Research Organization became the fourth space agency to visit Mars, when its maiden interplanetary mission, the Mars Orbiter Mission spacecraft, successfully arrived in orbit.

There are ongoing investigations assessing the past habitability potential of Mars, as well as the possibility of extant life. Future astrobiology missions are planned, including the Perseverance and Rosalind Franklin rovers. Liquid water cannot exist on the surface of Mars due to low atmospheric pressure, which is less than 1% of the Earth's, except at the lowest elevations for short periods. The two polar ice caps appear to be made largely of water. The volume of water ice in the south polar ice cap, if melted, would be sufficient to cover the entire planetary surface to a depth of 11 meters (36 ft). In November 2016, NASA reported finding a large amount of underground ice in the Utopia Planitia region of Mars. The volume of water detected has been estimated to be equivalent to the volume of water in Lake Superior.

India’s Mission

Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) or Mission Mangalyaan is the first interplanetary space mission of Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). It was successfully launched on 5th November 2013. The space probe of this mission has been orbiting the Mars since 24th September 2014. Some of the highlights of this successful mission was

  1. ISRO is the 4th space agency to reach the orbit of Mars after Roscosmos, NASA, European Space Agency (ESA).
  2. India is the first nation to reach the orbit of Mars on the very first attempt.
  3. India is the first Asian country to reach the orbit of Mars.

Which was the Launch Vehicle used for Mars Orbiter Mission?

Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) was launched using Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV XL – C25) from Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Sriharikota, Nellore District of Andhra Pradesh. It took 298 days for the Mars probe to reach the orbit of Mars. The probe is being tracked from ISRO centres located in Bangalore.

What were the Objectives of Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM)?

The primary objective was to develop the necessary technologies for interplanetary space missions. The other objectives were

  1. Explore the surface features of Mars planet.
  2. Morphology
  3. Mineralogy
  4. Atmosphere of Mars.

What were the Scientific Instruments Carried on the MOM mission?

Payload in the Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) was made of 5 scientific instruments.

  1. LAP (Lyman-Alpha Photometer)
  2. MSM (Methane Sensor for Mars)
  3. MENCA (Mars Exospheric Neutral Composition Analyser)
  4. TIS (Thermal Infrared Imaging Spectrometer)
  5. MCC (Mars Colour Camera)

Jai Hind Jai Bharat yes

Source: World new web

Central Zoo Authority

GS-III :

Context:

  • The death of Kalpana, a white tigress in Delhi zoo, on Wednesday had set alarm bells ringing. However, the Ministry for Environment, Forests and Climate Change clarified late on Friday evening that the tigress died of renal failure and other complications related to old age.
  • With nine big cats in New York's Bronx zoo having tested positive for COVID-19, forestry and zoo authorities across India have been extra cautious about keeping the infection away from fauna.
  • Elsewhere in the world, domestic animals like cats and dogs, too, have tested positive for the virus. However, there is still not enough information on whether the infection can spread back to humans through animals.

Precautionary Measures to protect tigers in Zoo:

  • A letter from the NTCA to all tiger ranging States that owing to the communicable and zoonotic nature of the coronavirus, certain actions need to taken to avert the disease in wild tigers in India.
  • Tigers may be observed for symptoms cosset with COVID-19 such as respiratory signs of nasal discharge, coughing and laboured breathing through direct observation to the extent possible besides through camera trap images for visible symptoms,” the NTCA letter to tiger ranging States.
  • Earlier in the day, the CZA wrote to all zoos in the country to take precautionary measures in the wake of confirmation of the presence of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that leads to the COVID-19 disease, in a tiger housed in the Bronx Zoo
  • Zoos in the country are, therefore, advised to remain on the highest alertness, watch animals on 24x7 basis, including CCTV for any abnormal behaviour/symptoms, keepers handlers not to be allowed in the vicinity, without safety gear preferably PPE (personal protective equipment), isolate and quarantine sick animals and have least contact while providing feed to animals.

Central Zoo Authority

  • Central Zoo Authority is an autonomous statutory body
  • It regulates the functioning of zoos
  • It has been constituted under the Wild Life (Protection) Act,1972
  • Organisation: The Authority consists of a Chairman, ten members and a Member Secretary
  • Main objective: To complement the national effort in conservation of wild life

Recognition of Zoo Rules, 1992:

  • Standards and norms for housing, upkeep, health care and overall management of animals in zoos
  • Every zoo in the country is required to obtain recognition from the Authority for its operation
  • The Authority evaluates the zoos with reference to the parameters prescribed under the Rules and grants recognition accordingly
  • Zoos which have no potential to come up to the prescribed standards and norms may be refused recognition and asked to close down

Roles & Functions:

  • The Authority’s role is more of a facilitator than a regulator
  • It, therefore, provides technical and financial assistance to such zoos which have the potential to attain the desired standard in animal management
  • Primary function– grant of recognition and release of financial assistance
  • It also regulates the exchange of animals of endangered category Listed under Schedule-I and II of the Wildlife (Protection) Act among zoos
  • Exchange of animals between Indian and foreign zoos is also approved by the Authority before the requisite clearances under EXIM Policy and the CITES permits are issued by the competent authority
  • The Authority also coordinates and implements programmes on capacity building of zoo personnel, planned breeding programmes and ex-situ research including biotechnological intervention for conservation of species for complementing in-situ conservation efforts in the country

Some major initiatives:

  • Establishment of Laboratory for Conservation of Endangered Species at Hyderabad for carrying out research in biotechnology, planned breeding of Red Panda and its restocking into the wild
  • Upgradation of diagnostic facilities for disease diagnosis at selected veterinary institutions and their networking with zoos on regional basis for better health care of animals.

National Board for Wild Life

  • National Board for Wild Life is a “Statutory Organization” constituted under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. Theoretically, the board is “advisory” in nature and advises the Central Government on framing policies and measures for conservation of wildlife in the country. However, it is a very important body because it serves as apex body to review all wildlife-related matters and approve projects in and around national parks and sanctuaries.
  • Primary function of the Board is to promote the conservation and development of wildlife and forests. It has power to review all wildlife-related matters and approve projects in and around national parks and sanctuaries. No alternation of boundaries in national parks and wildlife sanctuaries can be done without approval of the NBWL.
  • The NBWL is chaired by the Prime Minister. It has 47 members including the Prime Minister. Among these, 19 members are ex-officio members. Other members include three Members of Parliament (two from Lok Sabha and one from Rajya Sabha), five NGOs and 10 eminent ecologists, conservationists and environmentalists.

Source: WEB/TH

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