20 May Current Affairs
May 20, 2019
22 May Current Affairs
May 22, 2019
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21 May Current Affairs

Vayoshreshtha Samman

In News:

Nominations for Vayoshreshtha Samman- National Awards for Senior Citizens 2019 for individuals/institutions have been invited.

About Vayoshreshtha Samman:

Vayoshreshtha Samman is a Scheme of National Awards instituted by the Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment (D/o Social Justice & Empowerment) initially in 2005 and was upgraded to the status of National Awards in 2013, for institutions involved in rendering distinguished service for the cause of elderly persons especially indigent senior citizens and to eminent citizens in recognition of their service/achievements.

The awards are presented on 1st of October every year pursuant to the adoption of a resolution by the UN General Assembly to observe the year 1999 as the International Year of Older Persons.

Not all animals migrate by choice campaign launched

In News:

UN Environment India and Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WCCB) of India have launched an awareness campaign ‘Not all animals migrate by choice’.

About the campaign:

The campaign aims at creating awareness and garnering public support for the protection and conservation of wildlife, prevention of smuggling and reduction in demand for wildlife products.

The campaign also complements worldwide action on illegal trade in wildlife through UN Environment’s global campaign, Wild for Life.

In the first phase of the campaign, Tiger, Pangolin, Star Tortoise and Tokay Gecko have been chosen as they are highly endangered due to illegal trading in International markets.

Need:

Illegal wildlife trade is driving species to the brink of extinction. A thriving industry with organized wildlife crime chains spreading across the world, in India, illegal trade in wildlife has seen a sharp rise. Therefore, there is an urgent need for awareness, action and stringent enforcement of laws to put an end to all illegal wildlife trade threatening biodiversity and conservation in the wild.

About WCCB:

Wildlife Crime Control Bureau is a statutory multi-disciplinary body established by the Government of India under the Ministry of Environment and Forests, to combat organized wildlife crime in the country.

Under Section 38 (Z) of the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972, it is mandated:

  • to collect and collate intelligence related to organized wildlife crime activities and to disseminate the same to State and other enforcement agencies for immediate action so as to apprehend the criminals.
  • to establish a centralized wildlife crime data bank.
  • co-ordinate actions by various agencies in connection with the enforcement of the provisions of the Act.
  • assist foreign authorities and international organization concerned to facilitate co-ordination and universal action for wildlife crime control.
  • capacity building of the wildlife crime enforcement agencies for scientific and professional investigation into wildlife crimes and assist State Governments to ensure success in prosecutions related to wildlife crimes.
  • advise the Government of India on issues relating to wildlife crimes having national and international ramifications, relevant policy and laws.

Assist and advise the Customs authorities in inspection of the consignments of flora & fauna as per the provisions of Wild Life Protection Act, CITES and EXIM Policy governing such an item.

Ultima Thule

In News:

NASA has found evidence of a unique mixture of water ice, methanol, and organic molecules on Ultima Thule’s surface. This mixture is very different from most icy objects explored previously by spacecraft till date.

About Ultima Thule:

Located in the Kuiper belt in the outermost regions of the Solar system.

Measures approximately 30 km in diameter, and is irregularly shaped.

It has a reddish color, probably caused by exposure of hydrocarbons to sunlight over billions of years.

It belongs to a class of Kuiper belt objects called the “cold classicals”, which have nearly circular orbits with low inclinations to the solar plane.

About New Horizons:

Launched on January 19, 2006 and conducted a six-month-long reconnaissance flyby study of Pluto and its moons in summer 2015.

The goal of the mission is to understand the formation of the Plutonian system, the Kuiper belt, and the transformation of the early Solar System.

Source: The Hindu

National Register of Citizens (NRC)

In News:

The Supreme Court of India has held that a Foreigner Tribunal’s order declaring a person as an illegal foreigner will be binding and will prevail over government decision to include or exclude name from National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam.

Review:

The persons whose names are not included in NRC in Assam can produce documents including ones related to their family tree and thus seek review of tribunal’s decision.

As per SC it cannot create an appellate forum for those, declared as illegal foreigners by the foreigners tribunal, by using its power under Article 142 of Indian Constitution.

What next?

If the name of a person, included in NRC in Assam is deleted on ground that he was a foreigner, then principle of ‘res-judicata’ (a judicially decided issue cannot be re-agitated) would apply on decision taken by foreigners tribunal. Thus a person who has been declared an illegal immigrant cannot seek re-decision (right of appeal) against exclusion or dropping of his name in normal circumstances.

About foreigners tribunal:

Established as per Foreigners (Tribunal) Order, 1964. The order was passed by Government of India (GoI) under section 3 of foreigners Act, 1946.

The Centre can constitute foreigners tribunals whenever required to look into question of whether a person is or not a foreigner within the meaning of Foreigners Tribunals act, 1946.

Composition: The Foreigners tribunal shall consist of persons having judicial experience as government may think fit to appoint.

Powers: It has powers of a civil court while trying a suit under code of civil procedure, 1908. It includes summoning any person, requiring any document and issuing commissions for examination of any witness.

Source: The Hindu

Seven mega missions by ISRO

In News:

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has announced its planned seven mega missions which will be conducted over a period of next 10 years.

The seven mega missions include:

Chandrayaan-2.

XPoSat (to study cosmic radiation in 2020) and Aditya-L1(to the Sun in 2021).

Undefined Missions – which include missions which are still in planning stage namely Mangalyaan-2 (or Mars Orbiter Mission-2 in 2022), Lunar Polar Exploration (or Chandrayaan-3 in 2024), Venus mission (in 2023), Exoworlds (exploration outside the solar system in 2028).

About Xposat:

The X-ray Polarimeter Satellite (or Xposat), is ISRO’s dedicated mission to study polarization. It will be launched launch in year 2020.

It will be a five-year mission and will study cosmic radiation.

It will be carrying a payload named ‘polarimeter instrument in X-rays’ (POLIX) made by Raman Research Institute. POLIX will study degree and angle of polarisation of bright X-ray sources in energy range 5-30 keV.

The spacecraft will be placed in a circular 500-700km orbit.

About Aditya- L1 mission:

It is India’s first solar mission.

Objectives: It will study the sun’s outer most layers, the corona and the chromospheres and collect data about coronal mass ejection, which will also yield information for space weather prediction.

Significance of the mission: The data from Aditya mission will be immensely helpful in discriminating between different models for the origin of solar storms and also for constraining how the storms evolve and what path they take through the interplanetary space from the Sun to the Earth.

Position of the satellite: In order to get the best science from the sun, continuous viewing of the sun is preferred without any occultation/ eclipses and hence, Aditya- L1 satellite will be placed in the halo orbit around the Lagrangian point 1 (L1) of the sun-earth system.

Source: The Hindu

Exit Polls in India

In News:

An election exit poll is a poll of voters taken soon after a voter walks out after casting his or her vote. It is considered as an indicator to which party forms the government.

Details:

Unlike an opinion poll, which asks for whom the voter plans to vote, an exit poll asks for whom the voter actually voted.

How are they regulated?

In February 2010, restrictions were imposed on exit polls through the introduction of Section 126(A) in the Act. The EC advises electronic and print media not to publish or publicise any article or programme related to the dissemination of results of exit polls during the prohibited period.

What does ECI advisory say about rules for predicting results?

The ECI is of the view that prediction of results of elections in any form or manner by way of predictions etc by astrologers, political analysts or by any persons during the prohibited period is violation of the spirit of Section 126A (of the RP Act).

It aims to prevent the electors of constituencies still going to polls from being influenced in their voting by such predictions about the prospects of the various political parties.

Why is the Election Commission (EC) opposed to media coverage of opinion polls and exit polls during a multi-phase election?

Both kinds of polls can be controversial if the agency conducting them is perceived to be biased. Critics say the projections of these surveys can be influenced by the choice, wording and timing of the questions, and by the nature of the sample drawn. Political parties often allege that many opinion and exit polls are motivated and sponsored by their rivals, and could have a distorting effect on the choices voters make in a protracted election, rather than simply reflecting public sentiment or views.

Why are exit polls criticised?

Critics and political parties say the agencies that conduct the exit polls could be biased in terms of the choice, words, timing of the questions, the methodology they use, and kind of sample they draw.

The sample group’s demographic behaviour, its economic status and various other factors used in tabulating the survey are also questioned.

Political parties also allege that exit polls are funded by their rivals and may not reflect the sentiment or views of the people accurately.

Source: The Hindu

Mohalla Clinics

In News:

Delhi’s Mohalla clinic initiative is set to be extended to several states, with Telangana, Karnataka, Jharkhand and J&K expressing interest in adopting the flagship project.

About Mohalla clinics:

Started in 2015, they are primary health centres in New Delhi, that offer a basic package of essential health services including medicines, diagnostics, and consultation free of cost.

Mohalla in Hindi means neighborhood or community.

These clinics serve as the first point of contact for the population, offer timely services, and reduce the load of referrals to secondary and tertiary health facilities in the state.

Every such clinic has a doctor, a technician for uploading patients’ Aadhaar card details and a lab assistant for collecting blood samples and disbursing medicines.

The clinics run from 8 am to 2 pm and doctors are paid on the basis of the number of patients they treat — each doctor gets Rs 30 per patient per day.

Each clinic is ideally supposed to cater to a 5-km radius with a population of 10,000-15,000.

Source: The Hindu

UN Human Rights Council

In News:

Reacting angrily to a submission from the Geneva-based Human Rights Council (HRC) on alleged violations in Jammu and Kashmir, India has informed the United Nations body that it will no longer entertain any communication with the HRC’s Special Rapporteurs on its report.

Details:

A report from two NGOs in Jammu and Kashmir on alleged cases of torture, was released in Srinagar, which was endorsed by a former UN Special Rapporteur.

The Special Rapporteurs on Extrajudicial Executions had referred to a previous June 2018 report of the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights (OHCHR) and written to the government in March 2019, asking about steps taken by New Delhi to address alleged human rights violations listed in the report.

In addition, the Special Rapporteurs had listed “13 cases of concern” from the year 2018 alone in which “four children were among eight civilians killed by members of the security forces.”

Rejecting all the claims, the Indian Permanent Mission to the United Nations in Geneva replied to the OHCHR on April 23, saying that “India does not intend to engage further with these mandate holders or any other mandate holders on the issue,” whom it accused of “individual prejudice”.

About UNHRC:

The UN body was established in 2006 with the aim of promoting and protecting human rights around the globe, as well as investigating alleged human rights violations.

It is made up of 47 member states, which are selected by the UN General Assembly on a staggered basis each year for three-year-long terms.

Members meet around three times a year to debate human rights issues and pass non-binding resolutions and recommendations by majority vote.

The council also carries out the Universal Periodic Review of all UN member states, which allows civil society groups to bring accusations of human rights violations in member states to the attention of the UN.

Source: The Hindu

New definition of kilogram

In News:

The CSIR-NPL, which is India’s official reference keeper of units of measurements has released a set of recommendations requiring that school textbooks, engineering-education books, and course curriculum update the definition of the kilogram.

Details:

The institute is also in the process of making its own ‘Kibble Balance’, a device that was used to measure the Planck Constant and thereby reboot the kilogram.

Background:

Scientists, last year, have changed the way the kilogram is defined. The decision was made at the General Conference on Weights and Measures. The new definitions came into force on 20 May 2019.

Why kill off the kilogram?

Currently, it is defined by the weight of a platinum-based ingot called “Le Grand K” which is locked away in a safe in Paris.

Le Grand K has been at the forefront of the international system of measuring weights since 1889. Several close replicas were made and distributed around the globe. But the master kilogram and its copies were seen to change – ever so slightly – as they deteriorated.

In a world where accurate measurement is now critical in many areas, such as in drug development, nanotechnology and precision engineering – those responsible for maintaining the international system had no option but to move beyond Le Grand K to a more robust definition.

How wrong is Le Grand K?

The fluctuation is about 50 parts in a billion, less than the weight of a single eyelash. But although it is tiny, the change can have important consequences.

How does the new system work?

Electromagnets generate a force. Scrap-yards use them on cranes to lift and move large metal objects, such as old cars. The pull of the electromagnet, the force it exerts, is directly related to the amount of electrical current going through its coils. There is, therefore, a direct relationship between electricity and weight.

So, in principle, scientists can define a kilogram, or any other weight, in terms of the amount of electricity needed to counteract the weight (gravitational force acting on a mass).

Planck’s constant:

There is a quantity that relates weight to electrical current, called Planck’s constant – named after the German physicist Max Planck and denoted by the symbol h.

But h is an incredibly small number and to measure it, the research scientist Dr Bryan Kibble built a super-accurate set of scales. The Kibble balance, as it has become known, has an electromagnet that pulls down on one side of the scales and a weight – say, a kilogram – on the other. The electrical current going through the electromagnet is increased until the two sides are perfectly balanced.

By measuring the current running through the electromagnet to incredible precision, the researchers are able to calculate h to an accuracy of 0.000001%. This breakthrough has paved the way for Le Grand K to be deposed by “die kleine h”.

Facts for Prelims:

General Conference on Weights and Measures (CGPM) is the highest international body of the world for accurate and precise measurements and comprises of 60 countries including India and 42 Associate Members.

Source: The Hindu

Issues related to stubble burning

In News:

The Punjab Pollution Control Board (PPCB) data shows that the State had from April 15 to May 16 witnessed 5,981 incidents of stubble burning as against 9,900 cases reported during the corresponding period in 2018. The incidents of burning dipped compared to last year.

Details:

Stubble burning is a common practice followed by farmers in the neighboring states Haryana and Punjab to prepare fields for sowing of wheat in November as there is little time left between the harvesting of paddy and sowing of wheat.

Concerns: Stubble burning results in emission of harmful gases such carbon diaoxide, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide along with particulate matter.

Advantages of stubble burning:

  • It quickly clears the field and is the cheapest alternative.
  • Kills weeds, including those resistant to herbicide.
  • Kills slugs and other pests.
  • Can reduce nitrogen tie-up.

What’s the issue?

Stubble burning is adversely affecting environment and public health. The problem has not been fully tackled and the adverse impacts on the air quality and consequent impacts on the citizens’ health and lives are undisputed.

What needs to be done- Supreme Court’s observations?

The problem is required to be resolved by taking all such measures as are possible in the interest of public health and environment protection.

Incentives could be provided to those who are not burning the stubble and disincentives for those who continue the practice.

The existing Minimum Support Price (MSP) Scheme must be so interpreted as to enable the States concerned to wholly or partly deny the benefit of MSP to those who continue to burn the crop residue.

Secretary, Union Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare has also been directed to be present to “find a lasting solution.”

The Central government should convene a meeting with the States.

Source: The Hindu

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