20th January Current Affairs
January 20, 2021
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January 22, 2021
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21st January Current Affairs

SC to hear plea against confessions to priests

In News:

The Supreme Court on Friday agreed to consider after three weeks a petition filed by a group of women against the compulsory nature of sacred confessions to priests in Christianity.


The court will examine the issues in the petition as they came within the ambit of the questions of faith, rights of women and equality.


Five women have moved the Supreme Court against compulsory practice of sacramental confession in certain Churches in Kerala.

They contended that it violated their fundamental right to freedom of religion under Article 25 of the Constitution.

Petitioner—members of the Church – had alleged that the practice was leading to several problems including sexual exploitation of women and blackmailing of both men and women followers.

Prevalent practices:

Under the religious practice followed by Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church, it’s members are required to undergo ‘Sacramental Confession’ before a priest to relieve themselves of sin.

According to the practice, it’s a condition precedent for fulfilling the temporal and spiritual needs of being a Christian.

The one who doesn’t do that would be denied the benefit of such services from the Church.

 Earlier interventions of SC:

Earlier, The Supreme Court had upheld the validity of the 1934 Constitution of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church to govern the parishes under the church.

The return of bird flu

In News:

New Bird flu (avian influenza) cases have been confirmed in Gujarat recently, in addition to Kerala, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Haryana where the disease has already been confirmed.


Several states, which have been reporting deaths of birds, including crows and migratory species, are scrambling to have samples tested for the virus.

The infection:

Bird flu or avian influenza is the name used to describe a viral infection that is reported mostly in birds, but has the potential to affect humans and other animals.

More than a dozen types of bird flu have been identified, including the two strains that have most recently infected humans — H5N1 and H7N9. When bird flu does strike humans, it can be deadly.

Outbreaks of bird flu have occurred in Asia, Africa, North America and parts of Europe.

The virus was first reported in geese in China in 1996.

In India, Samples from Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, and Kerala have tested positive for the A (H5N8) strain of the virus, while samples from Himachal Pradesh have shown the presence of A (H5N1).

Causes of Bird flu:

Bird flu occurs naturally in wild waterfowl and can spread into domestic poultry, such as chickens, turkeys, ducks and geese.

The disease is transmitted via contact with an infected bird’s feces, or secretions from its nose, mouth or eyes.

Undercooked poultry meat or eggs from infected birds can transmit bird flu.

Human transmission:

The H5N1 virus can jump species and infect humans from the infected bird.

The first case of H5N1 infection in humans was reported in Hong Kong in 1997, when a poultry farm worker caught the infection from infected birds.

In its present form, human-to-human infection is not known — human infections have been reported only among people who have handled infected birds or carcasses.

 Bird flu and consumption of Poultry meat, eggs:

The chances of the H5N1 virus infecting humans is comparatively low in India as compared to South East Asian countries, mainly because of the difference in culinary habits.

The virus dies immediately if exposed to temperatures over 70 degrees Celsius.

Unlike in South East Asian countries, both meat and eggs in India are eaten well cooked, which sees them being exposed to over 100 degrees Celsius.

Thus the chances of humans contracting the virus from eating chicken and eggs is extremely rare.

Institutions of Eminence (IoEs) to set up campuses abroad

In News:

The University Grants Commission (UGC) has amended its regulations, allowing Institutions of Eminence (IoEs) to set up campuses abroad after receiving no objection certificates from the Ministry of External Affairs and Ministry of Home Affairs.


The amendments also permit the IOEs to start new off campus centres, with a maximum of three in five years and not more than one in an academic year.

What are the Institutions of Eminence (IoEs)?

Institutions of Eminence scheme has been launched in order to implement the commitment of the Government to empower the Higher Educational Institutions and to help them become world class teaching and research institutions.

The scheme was announced by the Finance Minister in his budget speech of 2016.

This will enhance affordable access to high quality education for ordinary Indians.

About the IoEs scheme:

Launched in order to empower the Higher Educational Institutions and to help them become world-class teaching and research institutions.


Excellence and Innovation: To provide for higher education leading to excellence and innovations in such branches of knowledge as may be deemed fit at post-graduate, graduate and research degree levels.

Specialization: To engage in areas of specialization to make distinctive contributions to the objectives of the university education system.

Global Rating: To aim to be rated internationally for its teaching and research as a top hundred Institution in the world over time.

Quality teaching and Research: To provide for high quality teaching and research and for the advancement of knowledge and its dissemination.

Incentives of the scheme:

Institutes with IOE tag will be given greater autonomy and freedom to decide fees, course durations and governance structures.

The public institutions under IOE tag will receive a government grant of ₹1,000 crore, while the private institutions will not get any funding under the scheme.

Why is it important?

Academic institutions that can impart highest quality education, generate cutting edge research, and attract the best and the brightest from across the globe can have multiplier beneficial effects for the country. So the idea of elevating the best in a sector to an eminent status by granting autonomy is a good one.