Islamophobia in India: OIC
Recently, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) has criticised the Indian government for what it called “growing Islamophobia” in India.
OIC asked the government to take steps to protect Muslim minorities who are being “negatively profiled,” facing “discrimination and violence” amidst the Covid-19 crisis.
OIC urged the government to protect the rights of its minority as per its obligations under international Human Rights law.
It also asked the government to take urgent steps to stop the growing tide of Islamophobia (dislike of or prejudice against Islam or Muslims) in India.
A religious gathering of muslims (Tablighi Jamaat) was held in Delhi in March. The event was linked to many of the Covid-19 positive cases in India.
After this most sections of the media, people on social media blamed the Tablighi jamaat and muslims for deliberately spreading the Covid-19 in India.
Earlier, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has also criticised India of “increased stigmatisation” of its muslim minorities.
It criticized the government for the reports that Covid-19 patients were religiously segregated at a hospital in Ahmedabad.
According to USCIRF, India continues to remain a “tier 2 country of particular concern” since 2009.
Tier 2 countries are those in which “violations engaged in or tolerated by the government are serious and characterized by at least one of the elements of the ‘systematic, ongoing, and egregious” Country of Particular Concern (CPC) standard. CPCs are designated by the US State Department.
The Indian government has denied all the allegations levelled by the USCIRF and accused the USCIRF for spreading misguided reports on the professional medical protocols followed to deal with spread of Covid-19 in India.
Rise in Digital Transactions
According to the recent Reserve Bank of India (RBI) data, the month of March 2020 (when Covid-19 lockdown began) saw a sharp rise in digital financial transactions countrywide.
The total value of Real Time Gross Settlement (RTGS) transactions rose by 34% across banks.
It is the biggest online payment method offered by RBI.
The National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI)-run United Payments Interface (UPI), registered more than 125 crore transactions in March.
The numbers, however, dipped slightly compared to February as there was a dip in economic activity due to lockdown.
Recharges and bill payments as well as retail banking transactions, accounted for the majority of the volume of all the transactions.
NPCI-run Bharat Bill Pay was one of the beneficiaries, as it recorded 1.58 crore transactions in March as against 1.49 crore in February.
According to the data, the usage of cash and other cash-based services dipped during the period.
Cash withdrawals from ATMs as well as usage of various cards (debit, credit) have also gone down significantly.
This could be because people’s requirements for cash have fallen since the spending is mainly on essentials and necessities.
The government’s Aadhaar Enabled Payment System (AePS) also saw a decline of 16.1 % in the number of transactions, in March.
The government uses AePS mostly for direct benefit transfer schemes.
Real Time Gross Settlement:
RTGS is an electronic fund transfer method through which money is sent on a ‘real time’ basis without any delays.
RTGS allows the money sent by the remitter to immediately reach the beneficiary as and when the money transfer transaction is initiated.
‘Gross Settlement’ refers to the processing of transactions on an individual basis and not in a batch wise system.
Minimum amount that can be sent via RTGS mode is Rs.2 lakh and has no maximum limit.
RTGS is not a 24×7 facility and is available only during working hours of banks.
Unified Payments Interface:
It is an advanced version of Immediate Payment Service (IMPS)- round–the-clock funds transfer service to make cashless payments faster, easier and smoother.
UPI is a system that powers multiple bank accounts into a single mobile application (of any participating bank), merging several banking features, seamless fund routing & merchant payments into one hood.
National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) launched UPI with 21 member banks in 2016.
Bharat Bill Payment System:
The Bharat bill payment system is driven by National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI).
It is a one-stop ecosystem for payment of all bills providing an interoperable and accessible “Anytime Anywhere” bill payment service to all customers across India with certainty, reliability and safety of transactions.
Kartarpur Sahib Damage
India has asked Pakistan to attend to repair and reconstruction of parts of Kartarpur Sahib gurudwara that were damaged in a storm on April 18, 2020.
The shrine in Pakistan’s Narowal district, built where founder of the Sikh faith, Guru Nanak Dev, lived the last years of his life, is highly revered by followers of the faith and other worshippers in India and the world.
Kartarpur Sahib is in the midst of year long festivities associated with the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak.
It has emerged as a major centre of Sikh pilgrimage in Pakistan over the last few months, after the corridor from India was operationalised.
The corridor connects the Kartar Sahib Gurdwara in Narowal district of Pakistan with the Dera Baba Nanak shrine in Gurdaspur district in India’s Punjab province.
Guru Nanak Dev travelled through many countries spreading the message of universal peace, harmony and love before finally arriving in Kartarpur in 1521.
The then-governor of the region, Duni Chand, donated 100 acres of land on the bank of river Ravi to him.
Kartarpur became a religious site after he settled there.
The foundation stone of the gurdwara in Kartarpur was laid in 1572 and Maharaja Ranjit Singh covered its dome with gold.
The present structure was built by Bhupinder Singh, the Maharaja of Patiala in 1925.
Temporary Ration Cards to Access PDS Foodgrain
Recently, the Pune Zilla Parishad has decided to provide temporary ‘ration cards’ to more than 80,000 undocumented people in the district, so they can receive foodgrains under the Public Distribution System (PDS).
The delivery of benefits including PDS grain to migrants trapped by the lockdown, and to those who are unable to provide documents, has been a major concern across states.
Earlier, Nobel Laureates Amartya Sen and Abhijit Banerjee, and former RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan had suggested that temporary ration cards should be issued to enable the undocumented to draw rations through the PDS system.
It is a first innovation of its kind to help larger numbers of people access government benefits during the Covid-19 lockdown.
Use of Aadhaar: The Pune scheme will use one-time Aadhaar authentication to open accounts for the people with the India Post Payments Bank.
Once the biometric Aadhaar-based link is established and the account is opened, this would serve as the only authentication that will be needed for these undocumented people to draw rations from the PDS system.
Home Delivery: It will enable the home delivery of grains at the gram panchayat level to avoid crowds and maintain physical distancing.
Coverage: It will also include individuals belonging to the Primitive Tribes and the transgender community who are often left out of the ambit of such benefits.
Identification: The job of identifying the beneficiaries has been given to the village police patil, who maintains records of outsiders in a register.
Under the National Food Security Act (NFSA), 2013, the gram sabha has the right to identify beneficiaries — however, in the current situation when the gram sabha is not functional, a committee of three viz., the gram panchayat’s sarpanch, a member of the gram sabha, and the local police patil will identify them.
Verification: The only verification that will be carried out is that of the kitchen of the beneficiary to prove that they qualify for the scheme.
Boost to Sharad Bhojan Yojana: The scheme will widen and deepen the scope and reach of the Sharad Bhojan Yojana, under which cooked meals are provided to people in Pune district at concessional rates.
The Sharad Bhojan Yojana is modelled after the Maharashtra government’s flagship Shiv Bhojan Yojana, which serves subsidised meals to the poor.
Involvement of a Corporate: he Janakidevi Bajaj Gram Vikas Sansthan, the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) wing of the Bajaj Group, will be the corporate CSR partner of the Pune Zilla Parishad for the scheme.
Gamma-ray Flux Variability of Blazars
Researchers from the Indian Institute of Astrophysics (IIA), Bangalore have conducted the first systematic study on the gamma-ray flux variability nature of different types of blazars.
The research work based on characterizing the flux variability nature on month-like time scales in the high energy gamma-ray (100 MeV to 300 GeV) band for different types of blazars has been published in the journal Astronomy and Astrophysics.
IIA is an autonomous institute of the Department of Science and Technology, Government of India.
Blazars are active galactic nuclei (AGN), whose jets are aligned with the observer’s line of sight. Some blazars are thought to host binary black holes in them and could be potential targets for future gravitational-wave searches.
Active Galactic Nuclei:
At the center of most galaxies, there’s a massive black hole with a huge mass accumulating gas, dust, and stellar debris around it. AGN is formed when the gravitational energy of these materials, being pulled towards the black hole, is converted into light.
A minority of AGN (~15%) emits collimated charged particles called jets travelling at speeds close to the speed of light.
Quasar and Radio-Galaxies are also AGN.
The difference between Quasar, radio galaxy and a Blazar is the angle of the stream/jet. If the stream is straight up, it is a radio galaxy and the observer is not in the firing line. If the stream is angled slightly towards the observer, then it is a Quasar and if the stream is angled directly towards the observer, it is a Blazar.
Blazars are the most luminous and energetic objects in the known universe and they were found to be emitters of gamma-rays in the 1990s.
The flux variability characteristics of blazars on a range of time scales was found out with the help of Fermi Gamma-ray space telescope (launched in 2008) which is capable of scanning the entire sky once in three hours.