Kumbh Mela 2019
The world’s largest religious and cultural human congregation, ‘Kumbh 2019’ began at Prayagraj (erstwhile Allahabad), Uttar Pradesh on January 15, 2019.
About Kumbh Mela:
The Kumbh Mela (the festival of the sacred pitcher) is anchored in Hindu mythology.
It is the largest public gathering and collective act of faith, anywhere in the world.
Crowds gather at the sacred confluence of the Ganga, the Yamuna, and the mystical Sarasvati. Primarily, this congregation includes Ascetics, Saints, Sadhus, Sadhvis, Kalpvasis, and Pilgrims from all walks of life.
The Mela was included in the list of “Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity” by UNESCO in 2017.
Kumbh Mela is celebrated four times over a course of 12 years.
The geographical location of Kumbh Mela spans over four locations in India and the Mela site keeps rotating between one of the four pilgrimage places on four sacred rivers as listed below:
Selection of site:
Each site’s celebration is based on a distinct set of astrological positions of the Sun, the Moon, and the Jupiter. The celebrations occur at the exact moment when these positions are fully occupied, as it is considered to be the holiest time in Hinduism.
Source: The Hindu
World Dynamic City 2019
6th City Momentum Index has been released by JLL.
It measures momentum for 131 of the world’s most commercially active cities.
This is done by tracking a range of socio-economic and commercial real estate indicators over a three-year period to identify the urban economies and real estate markets undergoing the most rapid expansion.
Silicon Valley of India, Bengaluru has emerged as the world’s most dynamic city.
The absence of European and American cities demonstrates a marked East-West growth divide, reflecting Asia’s continued rapid urbanization and economic growth, driven by globalization, innovation and demographic factors.
Overall, Indian and Chinese cities dominate the rankings, accounting for three quarters of the top 20.
Key drivers of growth: Asia continues to show strong momentum, in terms of attracting capital, companies and people. Tech sector is a key driver of both real estate and economic momentum–driven by large technology firms as well as dynamic start-ups.
Challenges: Investing in infrastructure and greater transparency is essential. The cities need to address the environmental and social impacts of rapid growth such as social inequality, congestion and environmental degradation.
Source: The Hindu
Supreme Court gets two new judges
In exercise of the powers conferred by clause (2) of Article 124 of the Constitution of India, the President has appointed Shri Justice Sanjiv Khanna, judge of the Delhi high court and Shri Justice Dinesh Maheshwari, chief justice of the Karnataka high court, to be a judge of the Supreme Court of India. Their names had been recommended by the collegium.
The collegium system was commissioned by two judgments of the Supreme Court in 1990s. It has no mention in the original Constitution of India or its successive amendments.
In the Third Judges case (1998), the Supreme Court opined that the chief justice of India should consult a collegium of four senior most judges of the Supreme Court and even if two judges give an adverse opinion, he should not send the recommendation to the government.
Eligibility to become a Supreme Court judge:
To become a judge of the Supreme court, an individual should be an Indian citizen. The norms relating to the eligibility has been envisaged in the Article 124 of the Indian Constitution. In terms of age, a person should not exceed 65 years of age. The person should serve as a judge of one high court or more (continuously), for at least five years or the person should be an advocate in the High court for at least 10 years or a distinguished jurist.
Is the collegium’s recommendation final and binding?
The collegium sends its final recommendation to the President of India for approval. The President can either accept it or reject it. In the case it is rejected, the recommendation comes back to the collegium. If the collegium reiterates its recommendation to the President, then he/she is bound by that recommendation.
NJAC and other efforts to reform:
The collegium system has come under a fair amount of criticism.
In 2015, the parliament passed a law to replace the collegium with a National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC). This was struck down as unconstitutional by the supreme court, in the Fourth Judges’ Case, as the new system would undermine the independence of the judiciary.
Putting the old system of the collegium back, the court invited suggestions, even from the general public, on how to improve the collegium system, broadly along the lines of – setting up an eligibility criteria for appointments, a permanent secretariat to help the collegium sift through material on potential candidates, infusing more transparency into the selection process, grievance redressal and any other suggestion not in these four categories, like transfer of judges. This resulted in the court asking the government and the collegium to finalize the memorandum of procedure incorporating the above.
Need for reforms:
Collegium system has its concerns as absolute power is not desirable in any branch of the State.
Diversity in consideration such as geography, gender and ethnicity should all “legitimately weigh in the balance” when appointing judges from a pool of potentially meritorious candidates. The Collegium system is unable to cater to this need of diversity in the judicial system.
It is seen as a closed-door affair without a formal and transparent system. Judges, hopeful of going higher, have to please the members of the collegium.
This system overlooks several talented junior judges and advocates.
Sometimes, collegium gets obstructed, when old rivalries between its members see each other’s favourites getting vetoed.
Sometimes collegium meetings become examples of bargaining within the collective, and consensus emerging from a division of the spoils.
The need of the hour is to revisit the existing system through a transparent and participatory procedure, preferably by an independent broad-based constitutional body guaranteeing judicial primacy but not judicial exclusivity.
The new system should ensure independence, reflect diversity, demonstrate professional competence and integrity.
The system needs to establish a body which is independent and objective in the selection process.
Setting up a constitutional body accommodating the federal concept of diversity and independence of judiciary for appointment of judges to the higher judiciary can also be thought of as an alternate measure.
As of now, instead of selecting the number of judges required against a certain number of vacancies, the collegium must provide a panel of possible names to the President to appointment in order of preference and other valid criteria.
Source: The Hindu
SC Dismisses pleas on Appointment of DGPs
The Supreme Court has dismissed the pleas of the states of Punjab, Kerala, West Bengal, Haryana and Bihar which sought implementation of their local laws regarding the selection and appointment of DGPs.
Supreme Court held that the directions of the court on selection and appointment of DGPs were issued in larger public interest and to protect the police officials from political interference.
Directions issued by the Supreme Court in appointing DGPs:
States and Union Territories shall send names of senior police officers to the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) for being considered as probable candidates for the post of DGPs or police commissioners.
The UPSC would then prepare a list of three most suitable candidates out of the list of names sent by states and Union Territories.
The states are free to appoint any one of them as the police chief.
It is mandatory for the states to send the list of senior police officers to the UPSC at least three months prior to the retirement of the incumbent. The UPSC would then form a committee and intimate the state concerned, which in turn will immediately appoint one of the persons from among that list.
Source: The Hindu
National Action Plan for Drug Demand Reduction (2018-2023)
The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment has drafted National Action Plan for Drug Demand Reduction (2018-2023) for addressing the problem of drug and substance abuse in the country, dumping a long-pending draft policy on the matter.
The components of the National Action Plan for Drug Demand Reduction (2018-2023) are:
Aim: employ a multi-pronged strategy involving education, de-addiction and rehabilitation of affected individuals and their families to address the issue.
Focus on preventive education, awareness generation, counselling, treatment and rehabilitation of drug-dependent people, besides training and capacity-building of service providers through the collaborative efforts of the Centre, state and NGOs.
Involvement of stakeholders: Coordination with implementing agencies for controlling the sale of sedatives, painkillers and muscle relaxant drugs, holding awareness generation programmes and checking online sale of drugs by stringent monitoring by the cyber cell are proposed under the Action Plan.
Awareness generation through social, print, digital and online media, and engagement of celebrities, besides strengthening the national toll-free helpline for drug prevention. The Action Plan calls for persuading principals, directors, vice chancellors of educational institutions to ensure that no drugs are sold within/nearby the campus.
Increase community participation and public cooperation in the reduction of demand by involving Panchayati Raj institutions, Urban Local Bodies, Nehru Yuva Kendra Sangathan and other local groups like Mahila Mandals, self-help groups etc to tackle the menace of drugs.
A steering committee would be constituted under the chairmanship of the secretary, Social Justice Ministry, and with representatives from several other Ministries to monitor the implementation of the Action Plan.
India is vulnerable to narcotic drug trafficking as it is located between two largest Opium producing regions of the world i.e. Golden Crescent in the west and Golden Triangle in the east. Drug trafficking and abuse also pose serious threat to our societies.
Estimates suggest that there are 40 lakh drug addicts in the country. The most common drugs of abuse are ‘ganja’, ‘hashish’, ‘opium’ and ‘heroin’. The abuse of pharmaceutical preparations like ‘buprenorphine’, codeine based cough syrups and painkillers like ‘proxivon’ has also assumed serious proportions. In certain regions of the country, drug abuse has already become a severe social-economic problem affecting the vulnerable age groups.
What has the government done in this regard?
The Government has taken several policy and other initiatives to deal with drug trafficking problem.
It constituted Narco-Coordination Centre (NCORD) in November, 2016 and revived the scheme of “Financial Assistance to States for Narcotics Control”.
In 2017, the government approved new Reward Guidelines with increased quantum of reward for interdiction or seizure of different illicit drugs.
For effective coordination with foreign countries, India has signed 37 Bilateral Agreements/Memoranda of Understanding.
Narcotics Control Bureau has been provided funds for developing a new software i.e. Seizure Information Management System (SIMS) which will create a complete online database of drug offences and offenders.
The government has constituted a fund called “National Fund for Control of Drug Abuse” to meet the expenditure incurred in connection with combating illicit traffic in Narcotic Drugs; rehabilitating addicts, and educating public against drug abuse, etc.
The government is also conducting National Drug Abuse Survey to measure trends of drug abuse in India through Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment with the help of National Drug Dependence Treatment Centre of AIIMS.
Source: The Hindu
Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (Amendment) Act, 2019
The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (Amendment) Act, 2019 has received the assent of the President of India. The bill mainly seeks to do away with the no-detention policy in schools.
Significance: The legislation is significant as it brings accountability in the elementary education system. The proposal received the support of a majority of state governments.
RTE amendment Bill- Key features:
The Bill seeks to amend the Right to Education (RTE) Act to abolish the “no-detention” policy in schools. Under the current provisions of the Act, no student can be detained up to class VIII.
As per the amendment, it would be left to the states to decide whether to continue the no-detention policy.
The bill provides for regular examination in classes V and VIII, and if a child fails, the amendment bill grants a provision to give her or him additional opportunity to take a re-examination within two months. Such children will be provided with two-month remedial teaching to perform better in the re-examinations. If the students still do not pass the exam, the state government may decide to detain them.
Right to Education (RTE) Act:
The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 (the Act) provides for free and compulsory education to all children of the age of six to fourteen years.
What is no detention policy?
According to this provision “no child admitted in a school shall be held back in any class”. This translates into automatic promotions to the next class every year until Class VII. Instead of exams, schools are supposed to hold Continuous and Comprehensive Evaluations (CCE) for every child.
Need for removal of this clause:
The provision had attracted criticism with several states and schools complaining that it compromised on academic rigour and learning levels and quality at schools.
The TSR Subramanian committee for formulation of the National Policy on Education has also suggested that ‘no detention’ policy should be discontinued after Class V. It had recommended restoration of detention provision, remedial coaching and two extra chances to each student such to move to a higher class.
A sub-committee of the Central Advisory Board of Education also studied the issue closely and recommended a provisional detention clause at Classes V and VIII. In 2013, a parliamentary panel had also asked the ministry to ‘rethink’ on its “policy of automatic promotion up to Class VIII”.
Source: The Hindu
Kyasanur Forest Disease
Karnataka is currently reeling under an outbreak of monkey fever or Kyasanur forest disease (KFD). Authorities are taking measures, including vaccination to combat the disease and spread of it in the state.
About the Disease:
KFD is caused by the Kyasanur Forest Disease Virus (KFDV). The virus was identified in 1957 when it was isolated from a sick monkey from the Kyasanur Forest. Since then, between 400-500 humans cases per year have been reported.
Hard ticks (Hemaphysalis spinigera) are the reservoir of the KFD virus and once infected, remain so for life.
Rodents, shrews, and monkeys are common hosts for KFDV after being bitten by an infected tick. KFDV can cause epizootics with high fatality in primates.
Transmission to humans may occur after a tick bite or contact with an infected animal, most importantly a sick or recently dead monkey. No person-to-person transmission has been described.
The disease as of now is stated to be transmitted through monkeys. Large animals such as goats, cows, and sheep may become infected with KFD but play a limited role in the transmission of the disease.
These animals provide the blood meals for ticks and it is possible for infected animals with viremia to infect other ticks, but transmission of KFDV to humans from these larger animals is extremely rare. Furthermore, there is no evidence of disease transmission via the unpasteurised milk of any of these animals.
After an incubation period of 3-8 days, the symptoms of KFD begin suddenly with chills, fever, and headache. Severe muscle pain with vomiting, gastrointestinal symptoms and bleeding problems may occur 3-4 days after initial symptom onset. Patients may experience abnormally low blood pressure, and low platelet, red blood cell, and white blood cell counts.
After 1-2 weeks of symptoms, some patients recover without complication. However, the illness is biphasic for a subset of patients (10-20 %) who experience a second wave of symptoms at the beginning of the third week. These symptoms include fever and signs of neurological manifestations, such as severe headache, mental disturbances, tremors, and vision deficits.
People with recreational or occupational exposure to rural or outdoor settings (e.g., hunters, herders, forest workers, farmers) are potentially at risk for infection by contact with infected ticks.
Seasonality is another important risk factor as more cases are reported during the dry season, from November through June.
Diagnosis can be made in the early stage of illness by molecular detection by PCR or virus isolation from blood. Later, serologic testing using enzyme-linked immunosorbent serologic assay (ELISA) can be performed.
Doctors say there is no specific treatment for KFD, but early hospitalisation and supportive therapy is important. Supportive therapy includes the maintenance of hydration and the usual precautions for patients with bleeding disorders.
A vaccine does exist for KFD and is used in endemic areas of India. Additional preventative measures include insect repellents and wearing protective clothing in areas where ticks are endemic.
Source: The Hindu
Saksham (Sanrakshan Kshamta Mahotsav) is an annual flagship event of Petroleum Conservation Research Association (PCRA) under the aegis of Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas, Government of India.
Saksham actively involves the Oil & Gas PSUs along with other stakeholders like State Governments,
About PCRA (established in 1978)–
Petroleum Conservation Research Association (PCRA) is a registered society set up under the aegis of Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas, Government of India.
As a non-profit organization, PCRA is a national government agency engaged in promoting energy efficiency in various sectors of economy.
PCRA aims at making oil conservation a national movement. As part of its mandate, PCRA is entrusted with the task of creating awareness amongst the masses about the importance, methods and benefits of conserving petroleum products & emission reduction.
It sponsors R&D activities for the development of fuel-efficient equipment / devices and organizes multi-media campaigns for creating mass awareness for the conservation of petroleum products.
To take the message to the people, PCRA uses all possible and effective media for mass communication.
To give impetus to the oil conservation movement, PCRA utilizes various platforms like the World environment day, World energy day, various festivals etc.
It functions as a Think Tank to the Govt. of India for proposing policies and strategies on petroleum conservation and environment protection aimed at reducing excessive dependence on oil.
For the benefit of various target groups of petroleum products, PCRA has developed literature containing simple ready to implement conservation tips and techniques.
Special low cost green leaflets have also been developed to educate the masses on the ill effects of pollution caused due to incomplete combustion and its impact on health.
‘SANJHI – MUJH MEIN KALAKAR’
Sangeet Natak Akademi launches second phase of the Web Campaign ‘SANJHI – MUJH MEIN KALAKAR’.
Sangeet Natak Akademi (SNA) the National Academy of Music, Dance and Drama will launch the second phase of the Web Campaign ‘SANJHI-MUJH MEIN KALAKAR’.
It is an initiative to document and promote the Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) and diverse cultural traditions of the country by direct public-participation.
The literal meaning of the term SANJHI is “to share” and “to partner”.
The Second Phase:
The second phase of this campaign has its main focus area like the folk, traditional, customary, socially events and ritualistic art forms – woven as a cultural fabric around the harvest festival season of January.
It is widely celebrated as various nomenclatures like Makar Sankranti, Pongal, Lohri, Bhogali Bihu, Torgya, Uttarayan, Attukkal Pongal, etc.
It intends to bring forth such forms that are aligned with the domains of intangible cultural heritage as per the Convention of Safeguarding the ICH under UNESCO:
About The Sangeet Natak Akademi (SNA) –
Founded in 31st May 1952 [HQ: New Delhi]
The Sangeet Natak Akademi – India’s national academy for music, dance and drama – is the first National Academy of the arts set-up by the Republic of India.
It is presently an Autonomous Body of the Ministry of Culture, and is fully funded by the Government for implementation of its schemes and programmes.
It is the nodal agency of the Ministry of Culture, Govt. of India to coordinate the matters related to Intangible Cultural Heritage and various UNESCO Conventions addressing Cultural Diversity and promotion and dissemination of multifarious cultural traditions and expressions of the country.
What is Intangible Cultural Heritage?
The term ‘cultural heritage’ has changed content considerably in recent decades, partially owing to the instruments developed by UNESCO. Cultural heritage does not end at monuments and collections of objects. It also includes traditions or living expressions inherited from our ancestors and passed on to our descendants, such as oral traditions, performing arts, social practices, rituals, festive events, knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe or the knowledge and skills to produce traditional crafts.
Cabinet approves ₹6,000 crore capital infusion in Exim Bank and an increase in the Exim Bank authorised capital from ₹10,000 crore to ₹20,000 crore.
About EXIM bank:
Export–Import Bank of India was established in 1982 under the Export-Import Bank of India Act 1981.
It provides direct financial assistance to exporters of plant, machinery and related service in the form of medium-term credit.
Underwriting the issue of shares, stocks, bonds, debentures of any company engaged in exports.
It provides rediscount of export bills for a period not exceeding 90 days against short-term usance export bills discounted by commercial banks.
The bank gives overseas buyers credit to foreign importers for import of Indian capital goods and related services.
Developing and financing export oriented industries.
First human rights TV channel Launched
The world’s first television channel dedicated to human rights has been launched in London by the International Observatory of Human Rights (IOHR).
It would be a web-based channel and would deliver human rights issues to audiences in over 20 countries across Europe, Latin America and the Middle East.
The Human Rights Channel aims to deliver hidden stories ignored by mainstream media into people’s living rooms.
Gandhi Peace Prize announced for years 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018
The Gandhi Peace Prize for the years 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018 has been announced by the Union Ministry of Culture. The awardees were selected by the jury under the Chairmanship of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The 2018 Gandhi Peace Prize was conferred on Yohei Sasakawa.
About the Gandhi Peace Prize:
The Gandhi Peace Prize was instituted in the year 1995 on the occasion of the 125th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.
This annual award is given to individuals and institutions for their contributions towards social, economic and political transformation through non-violence and other Gandhian methods.
The award carries a cash prize of Rs 1 crore, a citation and a Plaque as well as an exquisite traditional handicraft/handloom item.
The Award for every year is selected by a Jury under the Chairmanship of the Prime Minister.
Global Aviation Summit 2019
Global Aviation Summit 2019 is being held in Mumbai, Maharashtra.
The theme of the Global Aviation Summit 2019 is ‘Flying for all-especially the next 6 Billion’.
The summit is being organised by the Union Ministry of Civil Aviation, Airport Authority of India (AAI) in association with the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI).
The objective of the Summit is to provide a platform to the aviation industry to discuss the challenges faced in the newly developing growth spots and understand how technology-driven innovations will change air travel in the future.