26 August Current Affairs
August 26, 2019
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27 August Current Affairs

Genome India Initiative

In News:

India will launch its first human genome mapping project, a move that will help researchers get closer to developing effective therapies for treating diseases such as cancer.

Details:

In the first phase of the initiative called the Genome India project, the genomic data of 10,000 Indians will be catalogued.

The Department of Biotechnology (DBT) has initiated the project.

A genome is an organism’s complete set of DNA, including all its genes. It contains all the information needed to build and maintain that organism. By sequencing the genome, researchers can discover the functions of genes and identify which of them are critical for life.

The Genome India project will aim to make predictive diagnostic markers available for some priority diseases such as cancer and other rare and genetic disorders.

Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel (WGEEP)

In News:

The Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel (WGEEP), also known as the Gadgil Commission after its chairman Madhav Gadgil, was an environmental research commission appointed by the Ministry of Environment and Forests of India.

Recommendations:

The Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel (WGEEP) designated the entire hill range as an Ecologically Sensitive Area (ESA).

The panel, in its report, has classified the 142 taluks in the Western Ghats boundary into Ecologically Sensitive Zones (ESZ) 1, 2 and 3.

ESZ-1 being of high priority, almost all developmental activities (mining, thermal power plants etc) were restricted in it.

Gadgil report recommended that “no new dams based on large-scale storage be permitted in Ecologically Sensitive Zone 1. Since both the Athirappilly of Kerala and Gundia of Karnataka hydel project sites fall in Ecologically Sensitive Zone 1, these projects should not be accorded environmental clearance,” it said.

Gadgil Committee report specifies that the present system of governance of the environment should be changed. It asked for a bottom to top approach (right from Gram sabhas) rather than a top to bottom approach. It also asked for decentralization and more powers to local authorities.

The commission recommended constitution of a Western Ghats Ecology Authority (WGEA), as a statutory authority under the Ministry of Environment and Forests, with the powers under Section 3 of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.

The Special Protection Group (SPG)

According to several sources, the Government of India is likely to withdraw the SPG from former PM Manmohan Singh’s security. If this happens, then SPG would be tasked with protecting only PM Modi, Congress president Sonia Gandhi and her children Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra.

About: 

What is it? It is an armed force of the Union for providing proximate security to the following  Prime Minister (PM) of India,

Former PM of India and Members of their immediate families wherever they are.

Type:

It was formed in 1985 after the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi as an executive body on the recommendation of Birbal Nath committee.

Later on it became a statutory body under Special Protection Group Act, 1988.

Governance:

It is governed by Cabinet secretariat of India.

SPG chief is an officer of the rank of inspector-general.

Tenure of security cover to former PM:

SPG Security is provided to former PM and the members of his immediate family for a period of one year from the date on which the former PM ceased to hold office and beyond one year based on the level of threat as decided by the Central Government.

However, the security to them can be extended in case the threat is of grave and continuing nature.

Initially, SPG provided security to PM only, but after the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi in 1991, the SPG Act was amended in 1991 to provide security to former PMs and their immediate families.

Former PMs, their immediate family members, and family members of a serving Prime Minister may, if they choose, decline SPG security.

Swatantrata Sainik Samman Yojana

In News:

The Supreme Court has slammed the Centre for harassing Dev Narayan Mishra, a 90-year-old freedom fighter by filing repeated appeals in higher courts to deny him a freedom fighter’s pension under the Swatantrata Sainik Samman Yojana (SSSY).

Timeline:

Government of India introduced the ‘Ex-Andaman Political Prisoners Pension Scheme’ in 1969 to honour the freedom fighters who had been incarcerated in the Cellular Jail at Port Blair.

In 1972, to commemorate the 25th Anniversary of Independence, a regular scheme for grant of freedom fighters’ pension was introduced.

Since 1980, a liberalized scheme, namely the ‘Swatantrata Sainik Samman Pension Scheme, 1980’ is being implemented.

From the financial year 2017-18 onwards, the nomenclature of the Scheme has been changed as ‘Swatantrata Sainik Samman Yojana’.

Overview:

The scheme provides for a monthly Samman Pension to freedom fighters, as a token of respect for their contribution in the national freedom struggle.

On their demise, pension is provided to their eligible dependents viz. spouses and thereafter, unmarried and unemployed daughters and dependent parents, as per prescribed eligibility norms and procedure.

As of March 2019, a total 1.7 lakh freedom fighters and their eligible dependents have been sanctioned the central samman pension so far.

It is implemented by Ministry of Home Affairs (Freedom Fighters Division).

Air Quality Monitoring Sensors

In News:

The Union Environment Ministry has tasked the Council of Scientific & Industrial Research –National Physical Laboratory (CSIR-NPL) with certifying air quality monitoring instruments.

About:

The Central Government has designated the CSIR-NPL as national verification agency for certifying instruments and equipments for monitoring emissions and ambient air.

CSIR-NPL shall develop necessary infrastructure, management system, testing and certification facilities conforming to international standards.

This step is in anticipation of a rising demand by States — against the backdrop of the National Clean Air Campaign — for low cost air quality monitoring instruments that can monitor levels of nitrous oxides, ozone and particulate matter.

National Clean Air Campaign?

The Centre in January 2019 launched a National Clean Air Campaign to reduce particulate matter (PM) pollution by 20%-30% in at least 102 cities by 2024.

This calls for a vast monitoring network of sensors that can capture the rapid fluctuations of pollutants, necessary to ascertain how these gases and particles affected health.

Currently, Delhi leads the numbers of cities, with around 35 air quality sensors.

Advisory Board For Banking Frauds (ABBF)

In News:

The Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) has constituted Advisory Board for Banking Frauds (ABBF) to examine bank fraud of over 50 crore rupees and recommend action.

About: 

The four-member board will be headed by former Vigilance Commissioner T M Bhasin.

It will function as the first level of examination of all large fraud cases before recommendations or references are made to the investigative agencies by the respective Public Sector Banks.

It’s jurisdiction will be confined to those cases involving officers of General Manager level and above in the PSBs in respect of an allegation of a fraud in a borrowal account.

The banks will refer all large fraud cases above 50 crore rupees to ABBF and on receipt of its recommendation, they concerned will take further action in such matter.

The panel in its previous avatar was called the Advisory Board on Bank, Commercial and Financial Frauds.

Gravitational Lensing

In News:

Using NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope as a sort of time machine, researchers plan to investigate how new stars are born. For this, they will take the help of “gravitational lensing” phenomenon.

About: 

Gravitational Lensing is a natural phenomenon that magnifies light around galaxies.

The phenomenon occurs when a huge amount of matter, such as a massive galaxy or cluster of galaxies, creates a gravitational field that distorts and magnifies the light from objects behind it, but in the same line of sight.

This makes dim, faraway objects that otherwise would be undetectable, like an individual star, visible. The effect allows researchers to study the details of early galaxies too far away to be seen otherwise with even the most powerful space telescopes.

TEMPLATES? 

The NASA program aimed at using gravitational lensing via its Webb telescope is called “Targeting Extremely Magnified Panchromatic Lensed Arcs and Their Extended Star Formation (TEMPLATES)”.

Under it, researchers want to measure how many new stars are forming, to determine how rapidly galaxies form stars.

The James Webb Space Telescope is set to launch in 2021.

India – UAE Relations

In News:

Prime Minister Narendra Modi paid a state visit to United Arab Emirates (UAE) on 23-24 August 2019.

Order of Zayed: 

PM Modi was honoured with the ‘Order of Zayed’, the UAE’s highest civilian award, as a mark of appreciation for his efforts to boost bilateral ties between the two nations.

The award is in the name of Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the founding father of the UAE.

The award has earlier been bestowed on several world leaders, including Russian President Vladimir Putin, Queen Elizabeth II and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

RuPay card: 

Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the RuPay card in UAE, making the UAE the first country in West Asia to initiate the RuPay card scheme. India has already launched the RuPay card in Singapore and Bhutan.

The UAE receives about three million Indian tourists annually. Acceptance of Rupay card in UAE will lower the charges as tourists will save on exchange rate.

RuPay, an Indian indigenous system of electronic payment, is a highly secure network that protects against cyberhacks and is India’s version of Master Card and Visa. RuPay card scheme was launched in 2012. There are close to 500 million RuPay cards in circulation in India.

List of awards PM Modi has been conferred with by Muslim-majority countries:

  • The King Hamad Order of the Renaissance, Bahrain – August 2019
  • Order of Zayed, UAE’s highest civilian award – August 2019
  • Grand Collar of the State of Palestine – February 2018
  • Amir Amanullah Khan Award, Afghanistan – June 2016
  • King Abdulaziz Sash Award, Saudi Arabia – April 2016
  • Rule of Nishan Izzuddeen, Maldives – June 2019

India – Bahrain Ties

In News:

Prime Minister Narendra Modi paid a state visit to Bahrain on 24-25 August 2019. This was the first ever Prime Ministerial visit from India to Bahrain.

About:

PM Modi was honoured with “The King Hamad Order of the Renaissance.

The two countries signed Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) in the fields culture, space, solar energy and RuPay card.

PM Modi also launched the renovation of Shreenathji (Shree Krishna) temple in Manama, the oldest in the Gulf region.

The visit strengthens India’s close connect with the six-nation powerful Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).

Do you know?

India-Bahrain bilateral trade has been on the rise for the last few years, reaching about US$ 1.3 billion in 2018-19. Bahrain’s investment in India amounts to 173 billion dollars through FDI.

Further about 3.5 million Indian nationals, the largest expatriate community in Bahrain has been contributing to the development of Bahrain.

The presence of over 3000 Indian-owned/Joint Ventures in Bahrain indicates the intense economic engagement between the two countries.

Bahrain launched Little India in Bahrain project in 2015 to acknowledge and mark the contribution of the Indian community to the history and progress of Bahrain.

Lie Detector Tests

In News:

Gokulnath Shetty – the retired deputy manager of PNB involved in PNB scam – refused to give his consent to CBI to conduct polygraph and narcoanalysis tests on him by citing a Supreme Court judgment that makes it mandatory to obtain the consent of the accused for such tests.

About: 

In ‘Lie Detector Tests’, several instruments are used in the course of these examinations to put a person in a hypnotic state to ‘reduce’ their ability to lie or manipulate.

Polygraph Test:

A polygraph test is based on the assumption that physiological responses that are triggered when a person is lying are different from what they would be otherwise.

Sensitive electrodes are attached to the person, and variables such as blood pressure, pulse, respiration etc., are measured as questions are put to them.

Narcoanalysis: Narcoanalysis, by contrast, involves the injection of a drug, sodium pentothal, which induces a hypnotic or sedated state in which the subject’s imagination is neutralised, and they are expected to divulge true information.

Are the tests effective?

Investigating agencies are employing these tests in investigation, and are sometimes seen as being a “softer alternative” to torture or ‘third degree’ to extract the truth from suspects.

However, neither method has been proven scientifically to have a 100% success rate, and remain contentious in the medical field as well.

Supreme Court Judgement:

In Selvi & Ors vs State of Karnataka & Anr (2010), a Supreme Court Bench ruled that no lie detector tests should be administered “except on the basis of consent of the accused”.

It said that the ‘Guidelines for the Administration of Polygraph Test on an Accused’ published by the National Human Rights Commission in 2000, must be strictly followed.

The Bench took into consideration international norms on human rights, the right to a fair trial, and the right against self-incrimination under Article 20(3) of the Constitution.

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