23 April Current Affairs
April 23, 2020
25 April Current Affairs
April 25, 2020
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24 April Current Affairs

Centre Cuts Non-urea Fertiliser Subsidy

In News:

Recently, the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) has cut the subsidy for non-urea fertilizers.

That is about 3% lower than the estimated expenditure on the nutrient based subsidies in 2019-20.

Key Points:

Reduced Prices:

1) Nitrogen (N) based fertilizers- Reduced to ₹18.78 per kg from ₹18.90 per kg.

2) Phosphorus (P) based fertilizers- Reduced to ₹14.88 per kg from ₹15.21 per kg.

3) Potash (K) based fertilizers- Reduced to ₹10.11 per kg from ₹11.12 per kg.

4) Sulphur (S) based fertilisers- Reduced to ₹2.37 per kg from ₹3.56 per kg.

The CCEA has also approved the inclusion of ammonium phosphate [(NH₄)₃PO₄] (a complex fertiliser) under the nutrient-based subsidy (NBS) scheme.

Nutrient Based Subsidy Scheme:

It is being implemented from April 2010 by the Department of Fertilizers, Ministry of Chemicals & Fertilizers.

Under NBS, a fixed amount of subsidy decided on an annual basis, is provided on each grade of subsidized Phosphatic & Potassic (P&K) fertilizers, except for Urea, based on the nutrient content present in them.

It is largely for secondary nutrients like N, P, K and S which are very important for crop growth and development..

It aims to ensure the availability of fertilizers to farmers at an affordable price, as the retail prices of such non-urea fertilisers are decontrolled and set by manufacturers.

World Press Freedom Index 2020: Reporters Sans Frontieres

In News:

India has dropped to two places on the World Press Freedom Index, 2020 to be ranked 142nd out of 180 countries.

Key Points:

Norway is ranked first in the Index for the fourth year running.

South Asia in general features poorly on the index, with Pakistan dropping three places to 145, and Bangladesh dropping one place to 151.

China at 177th position is just three places above North Korea, which is at 180th.

Impact of Covid-19 on Journalism: The coming decade will be decisive for the future of journalism, with the Covid-19 pandemic highlighting and amplifying the many crises that threaten the right to freely reported, independent, diverse and reliable information.

India’s Performance Analysis:

Reasons Behind Decline in India’s Performance:

Pressure on the media to accept the nationalist government’s Hindu line.

The “coordinated hate campaigns” waged on social networks against journalists who dare to speak or write about subjects that annoy Hindutva followers. The campaigns are particularly severe when the targets are women.

Improved Security of Journalists: With no murders of journalists in India in 2019, as against six in 2018, the security situation for the country’s media might seem, on the face of it, to have improved.

Press Freedom Violations: There have been constant press freedom violations that include police violence against journalists, ambushes by political activists, and attacks instigated by criminal groups or corrupt local officials.

CovidIndiaSeva Launched

In News:

The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has launched the “CovidIndiaSeva”, an interactive platform to establish a direct channel of communication during the covid-19 pandemic.

Key Points:

It is a Twitter Seva solution where people can raise their queries  @CovidIndiaSeva, enabling transparent e-governance.

The @CovidIndiaSeva works off a dashboard at the backend that helps process large volumes of tweets, converts them into resolvable tickets and assigns them to the relevant authority for real-time resolution.

Trained experts will share authoritative public health information swiftly at scale, helping to build a direct channel for communication with citizens.

The dedicated account will be accessible to people be it local or national in their scope.

Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act

In News:

Recently, many activists, journalists and students have been booked under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) in different cases across the country.

Details:

UAPA was passed in 1967. It aims at effective prevention of unlawful activities associations in India.

Unlawful activity refers to any action taken by an individual or association intended to disrupt the territorial integrity and sovereignty of India.

The Act assigns absolute power to the central government, by way of which if the Centre deems an activity as unlawful then it may, by way of an Official Gazette, declare it so.

It has death penalty and life imprisonment as highest punishments.

Under UAPA, both Indian and foreign nationals can be charged. It will be applicable to the offenders in the same manner, even if crime is committed on a foreign land, outside India.

Under the UAPA, the investigating agency can file a charge sheet in maximum 180 days after the arrests and the duration can be extended further after intimating the court.

The 2004 amendment, added “terrorist act” to the list of offences to ban organisations for terrorist activities, under which 34 outfits were banned.

Till 2004, “unlawful” activities referred to actions related to secession and cession of territory.

In August, Parliament cleared the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Bill, 2019 to designate individuals as terrorists on certain grounds provided in the Act.

The Act empowers the Director General of National Investigation Agency (NIA) to grant approval of seizure or attachment of property when the case is investigated by the said agency.

The Act empowers the officers of the NIA, of the rank of Inspector or above, to investigate cases of terrorism in addition to those conducted by the DSP or ACP or above rank officer in the state.

Noor: Iran’s First Military Satellite

In News:

Iran has launched its first military satellite called Noor (meaning light) into orbit.

The satellite reached an orbit of 425km after being carried by a three-stage Ghased launcher.

This was a successful launch after months of failures. However, there was no immediate independent confirmation of the launch of the satellite.

Key Points:

  1. a) Launch by the Paramilitary Force

The Satellite was launched by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). The IRGC, which operates its own military infrastructure in parallel to Iran’s regular armed forces, is a hard-line force answerable only to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Previously unheard ‘Ghased’ or “Messenger” satellite launcher was used to put the device into space. It described the system as using both liquid and solid fuel.

  1. b) Concern: Despite the fact that Iran has been one of the worst-affected in terms of the Covid-19 cases, it has been engaged in serious strategic competition heightening the tensions in the region.
  2. c) Iran-US Tensions: The launch comes amid tensions between Iran and the US over the collapsed nuclear deal and after a U.S. drone strike in Iraq killed Iran’s most powerful military commander Gen. Qassem Soleimani in January, 2020.

In 2015, Iran agreed a long-term deal on its nuclear programme with a group of world powers known as the P5+1 – the US, UK, France, China, Russia and Germany – Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

Global Report on Food Crises

In News:

A new edition of the annual Global Report on Food Crises has been released by the Global Network Against Food Crises.

The report reveals scope of food crises as COVID-19 poses new risks to vulnerable countries.

Key findings:

At the close of 2019, 135 million people across 55 countries and territories experienced acute food insecurity.

Additionally, in 2019, 183 million people were classified in Stressed condition — at the cusp of acute hunger and at risk of slipping into Crisis or worse if faced with a shock or stressor, such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

Worst hit areas: More than half (73 million) of the 135 million people covered by the report live in Africa; 43 million live in the Middle East and Asia; 18.5 million live in Latin America and the Caribbean.

The key drivers behind the trends analysed in the report were: conflict, (the key factor that pushed 77 million people into acute food insecurity), weather extremes (34 million people) and economic turbulence (24 million).

What is Acute food insecurity?

Acute food insecurity is when a person’s inability to consume adequate food puts their lives or livelihoods in immediate danger.

It is more severe than / not the same as chronic hunger, as reported on each year by the UN’s annual State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World report.

Chronic hunger is when a person is unable to consume enough food over an extended period to maintain a normal, active lifestyle.

About the Global Network against Food Crises:

It was launched by the European Union, FAO and WFP during the 2016 World Humanitarian Summit (WHS) to respond to the WHS’s call for new approaches to tackle protracted crises and recurrent disasters, reduce vulnerability, and manage risk, by bridging the divide between development and humanitarian partners.

No 100% quota for tribal teachers: SC

In News:

The Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court has held it unconstitutional to provide 100% reservation for tribal teachers in schools located in Scheduled Areas across the country.

Details:

The case stemmed from a legal challenge to a January 10, 2000 order issued by the erstwhile State of Andhra Pradesh Bench providing 100% reservation to the Scheduled Tribe candidates, out of whom 33.1/3% shall be women, for the post of teachers in schools located in the Scheduled Areas of the State.

What has the Court said?

100% reservation is not permissible under the Constitution as the outer limit is 50% as specified in Indra Sawhney case, 1992.

The citizens have equal rights and the total exclusion of others by creating an opportunity for one class is not contemplated by the Constitution.

It also deprives SCs and OBCs of their due representation.

The opportunity of public employment cannot be denied unjustly to the incumbents and it is not the prerogative of few.

 Which rights are affected?

Equality of opportunity and pursuit of choice under Article 51­A cannot be deprived of unjustly and arbitrarily.

It is arbitrary and violative of provisions of Articles 14 (equality before law), 15(1) (discrimination against citizens) and 16 (equal opportunity) of the Constitution.

It also impinges upon the right of open categorybecause only STs will fill all the vacant posts leaving SCs and OBCs far behind.