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22nd July Current Affairs

SMILE Scheme

(GS-I: Society, GS-II: Social Justice)

In News:

The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment has formulated this scheme for Support for Marginalized Individuals.

About the scheme:

“SMILE stands for Support for Marginalized Individuals for Livelihood and Enterprise”.

Focus of the scheme is on rehabilitation, provision of medical facilities, counseling, basic documentation, education, skill development, economic linkages etc.

It includes sub scheme – ‘Central Sector Scheme for Comprehensive Rehabilitation of persons engaged in the act of Begging’.

The scheme would be implemented with the support of State/UT Governments/Local Urban Bodies, Voluntary Organizations, Community Based Organizations (CBOs) , institutions and others.

Beggars In India:

According to the Census 2011 total number of beggars in India is 4,13,670 (including 2,21,673 males and 1,91,997 females) and the number has increased from the last census.

West Bengal tops the chart followed by Uttar Pradesh and Bihar at number two and three respectively. Lakshadweep merely has two vagrants according to the 2011 census.

Among the union territories, New Delhi had the largest number of beggars 2,187 followed by 121 in Chandigarh.

Among the northeastern states, Asam topped the chart with 22,116 beggars, while Mizoram ranked low with 53 beggars.

H5N1 avian influenza

(GS-II: Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources)

In News:

India has recorded first death due to H5N1 avian influenza this year.

What is bird flu?

Also called avian influenza.

It is a disease caused by avian influenza Type A viruses found naturally in wild birds worldwide.

The virus can infect domestic poultry and there have been reports of H5N1 infection among pigs, cats, and even tigers in Thailand zoos.

Symptoms have ranged from mild to severe influenza-like illness.

Classification:

Avian Influenza type A viruses are classified based on two proteins on their surfaces – Hemagglutinin(HA) and Neuraminidase(NA).

There are about 18 HA subtypes and 11 NA subtypes.

Several combinations of these two proteins are possible e.g., H5N1, H7N2, H9N6, H17N10, etc.

Spread:

There have been reports of avian and swine influenza infections in humans.

The infection is deadly as it has a high mortality rate of about 60%.

The most common route of virus transmission is direct contact. They can also be affected if they come in contact with contaminated surfaces or air near the infected poultry.

Adarsh Smarak Scheme

(GS-I: Art and Culture)

In News:

Monuments at Nagarjunakonda, Budhhist remains at Salihundam and Veerabhadra Temple at Lepakshi are identified as ‘Adarsh Smarak’ in Andhra Pradesh for providing additional facilities.

About the Adarsh Smarak scheme:

Launched in 2014 for providing improved visitor amenities, especially for the physically challenged.

Implemented by the Ministry of Culture.

The civic amenities are being augmented at the protected sites under the scheme.

Archaeological Survey of India had identified 100 monuments as “Adarsh Smarak” for upgradation.

Objectives of the Scheme:

  • To make the monument visitor friendly.
  • To provide interpretation and audio-video centers.
  • To make the monument accessible to differently-abled people.
  • To implement Swachh Bharat Abhiyan.

Geospatial Technologies for the Water Sector in India

(GS-III: Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life)

In News:

Recently, the Association of Geospatial Industries released a report titled “Potential of Geospatial Technologies for the Water Sector in India”. The report mentions opportunities in the Water sector that can benefit from the use of Geospatial technologies.

Details:

As the severity of the water crisis in India increases every year, central and state government agencies are using a variety of resources to tackle the water crisis. One among them is the adoption of Geospatial technologies.

Overview of Water Sector in India:

Demand-Supply Mismatch: India has about 17% of the world population, but only about 4% of the world’s freshwater reserves, and is currently facing a severe water challenge.

Further, total capacity of India’s reservoirs stands at 250 billion cubic meters (bcm), while its total water bearing capacity over the surface is around 320 bcm.

Low Rate of Collection: India receives 3,000 billion cubic metres of water every year through rainfall or other sources such as glaciers; of this, only 8% is collected.

Over-extraction & Over-reliance on Groundwater: India fills groundwater aquifers at the rate of 458 bcm per year, while it extracts around 650 bcm of water from the earth.

89% of India’s water resources are used for agriculture, out of which 65% is withdrawn from under the ground.

Thus, one of India’s biggest challenges is to conserve groundwater.

Water Stress: As per a NITI Aayog report, currently nearly 820 million people in 12 major river basins of India face extreme water stress.

Qualitative Issue: Adding to the issue of lack of water availability is the issue of water quality.

Groundwater in one-third of India’s 600 districts is contaminated mainly through fluoride and arsenic.

Further, there has been a 136% increase in the number of grossly polluting industries between 2011- 2018, according to the State of India’s Environment report, 2019.

Need to Conserve Water:

Given the population density and requirement of water for agriculture, India is heavily dependent on groundwater and is one of the worst hit countries as far as the water crisis is concerned.

Availability of clean water to all for personal, industrial, and agricultural use will not only ensure India reaches its vision of becoming a USD 5 Trillion economy but will also enable it to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

About Geospatial Technologies:

Geospatial technologies is a term used to describe the range of modern tools contributing to the geographic mapping and analysis of the Earth and human societies.

The term ‘geospatial’ refers not to one single technology, but a collection of technologies that help to collect, analyse, store, manage, distribute, integrate, and present geographic information.

Broadly speaking, it consists of the following technologies:

  • Remote Sensing
  • GIS (Geographic Information System)
  • GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite System)
  • Survey
  • 3D modelling

Benefits: Geospatial technology enables better measurement, management, and maintenance of assets, monitoring of resources and even providing predictive and prescriptive analysis for forecasting and planned interventions.

Geospatial Technology for Water Sector:

Geospatial and digital technologies like Satellite Based Remote Sensing, GPS Based Equipment and Sensors, Artificial Intelligence, Big Data Analytics, Internet of Things, 5G, Robotics and Digital Twin, can be effectively used to combat the water crisis.

Director of Inquiry for Lokpal

(GS-II: Polity; Judiciary)

In News:

More than two years after the Lokpal came into being, the Centre is yet to appoint a director of inquiry.

Who is a director of inquiry?

According to the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013:

There shall be a director of inquiry, not below the rank of Joint Secretary to the Government of India.

He/she shall be appointed by the Central government for conducting preliminary inquiries referred to the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) by the Lokpal.

What’s the issue?

Though Director of Inquiry has not been appointed by Govt. of India, cases are being received in the commission for conducting preliminary inquiries.

Forty-one cases have been received for preliminary inquiry as of March 2021.

Highlights of the Lokpal Act of 2013:

The Act allows setting up of anti-corruption ombudsman called Lokpal at the Centre and Lokayukta at the State-level.

The Lokpal will consist of a chairperson and a maximum of eight members.

The Lokpal will cover all categories of public servants, including the Prime Minister. But the armed forces do not come under the ambit of Lokpal.

The Act also incorporates provisions for attachment and confiscation of property acquired by corrupt means, even while the prosecution is pending.

The States will have to institute Lokayukta within one year of the commencement of the Act.

The Act also ensures that public servants who act as whistleblowers are protected.

Powers:

The Lokpal will have the power of superintendence and direction over any investigation agency including CBI for cases referred to them by the ombudsman.

As per the Act, the Lokpal can summon or question any public servant if there exists a prima facie case against the person, even before an investigation agency (such as vigilance or CBI) has begun the probe. Any officer of the CBI investigating a case referred to it by the Lokpal, shall not be transferred without the approval of the Lokpal.

An investigation must be completed within six months. However, the Lokpal or Lokayukta may allow extensions of six months at a time provided the reasons for the need of such extensions are given in writing.

Special courts will be instituted to conduct trials on cases referred by Lokpal.