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INSIGHTS DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS + PIB SUMMARY- 15 October 2020

InstaLinks help you think beyond the issue but relevant to the issue from UPSC prelims and Mains exam point of view. These linkages provided in this ‘hint’ format help you frame possible questions in your mind that might arise(or an examiner might imagine) from each current event. InstaLinks also connect every issue to their static or theoretical background. This helps you study a topic holistically and add new dimensions to every current event to help you think analytically.

current affairs, current events, current gk, insights ias current affairs, upsc ias current affairs

Table of Contents:

GS Paper 2:

1. Diminishing role of Parliament.

2. STARS project.

3. Thalassemia Bal Sewa Yojna.

4. What’s behind Thailand’s protests?

5. 75th Anniversary of FAO.

 

GS Paper 3:

1. What is holographic imaging?

2. What is Biofortification?

 

Facts for Prelims:

1. What is New Shephard, the rocket system?

2. ENFUSER (ENvironmental information FUsion SERvice).

3. Pakistan re-elected to UN rights body.

 


GS Paper  : 2


 

Topics Covered: Parliament and State Legislatures – structure, functioning, conduct of business, powers & privileges and issues arising out of these.

Diminishing role of Parliament:


Context:

How the present government’s actions are undermining the role of Parliament today.

Actions that have diminished the role of Parliament:

PM Modi has spoken only 3.6 times a year in Parliament: 22 times in six years.

  • This illustrates the populist style of communication of Modi, who prefers to communicate directly with the people, either on the radio (like Indira Gandhi in the 1970s) or via social media (like the US President Donald Trump).
  • Now the main concern here is that these methods reflect a preference for one-way messaging, which obviates the risk of contradiction, and questioning by the receiver.

Ordinance route: In order to circumvent Parliament, the Modi government has often followed the ordinance route.

  • While ordinances are usually resorted to by minority governments or coalition governments, the Modi government has used it more than any of his predecessors despite the BJP enjoying a majority in the Lok Sabha.
  • The average number of ordinances jumped from six a year under Manmohan Singh to 11 a year under Modi.

No role for Parliamentary Committees:

  • The number of Bills that have been referred to parliamentary committees — the deliberative core of parliamentary work — has shrunk dramatically, from 68 (71 per cent of the total) in the 15th Lok Sabha to 24 (25 per cent of the total) in the 16th Lok Sabha — and zero in 2020.

Resort to money Bill route:

  • Several key pieces of legislation have been passed as Money Bills, despite the fact that they did not fit this category.

Less discussions:

  • Ordinary Bills are not so much discussed, either because their texts are handed over to the MPs at the last minute or because there is little time for debates.

Role and significance of Parliament in deliberations:

By definition, Parliament is the crucible of criticism, deliberation and even consensus-making.

Parliamentarism stands poles apart from populism, not only because it epitomises representative democracy, but also because it treats opponents as adversaries, not as enemies.

So, what’s the main concern now?

Clearly, the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha are ceasing to be places for debates.

InstaLinks:

Prelims Link:

  1. Difference between Parliamentary vs Cabinet committees.
  2. Standing vs select vs finance committees.
  3. Who appoints chairperson and members of these committees?
  4. Committees exclusive to only Lok Sabha.
  5. Committees where Speaker is the chairperson.

Mains Link:

What are Parliamentary Standing committees? Why are they necessary? Discuss their roles and functions to bring out their significance.

Sources: Indian Express.

 

Topics: Issues related to education.

World Bank’s STARS project:


Context:

Cabinet approves Rs. 5718 crore World Bank aided project STARS.

What is it?

STARS stands for Strengthening Teaching-Learning and Results for States Program (STARS).

STARS project would be implemented as a new Centrally Sponsored Scheme under the Department of School Education and Literacy, Ministry of Education.

It is a project to improve the quality and governance of school education in six Indian states.

  • Six states are- Himachal Pradesh, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, and Rajasthan.
  • Some 250 million students (between the age of 6 and 17) in 1.5 million schools, and over 10 million teachers will benefit from the program.

Reform initiatives under the project include:

  1. Focusing more directly on the delivery of education services at the state, district and sub district levels by providing customized local-level solutions towards school improvement.
  2. Addressing demands from stakeholders, especially parents, for greater accountability and inclusion by producing better data to assess the quality of learning; giving special attention to students from vulnerable section.
  3. Equipping teachers to manage this transformation by recognizing that teachers are central to achieving better learning outcomes.
  4. Investing more in developing India’s human capital needs by strengthening foundational learning for children in classes 1 to 3 and preparing them with the cognitive, socio-behavioural and language skills to meet future labour market needs.

Unique components of the project:

Contingency Emergency Response Component (CERC):

The project includes a Contingency Emergency Response Component (CERC) under the National Component which would enable it to be more responsive to any natural, man-made and health disasters.

  • It will help the government respond to situations leading to loss of learning such as school closures/infrastructure damage, inadequate facilities and use technology for facilitating remote learning etc.
  • The CERC component would facilitate the rapid re-categorization of financing and the utilization of streamlined financing request procedures.

PARAKH:

A major component of the project is the establishment of PARAKH (Performance Assessment, Review, and Analysis of Knowledge for Holistic Development) as a National Assessment Centre.

  • Included in the National Education Policy 2020, this autonomous institution under the Union Education Ministry will set norms for student assessment and evaluation for all school boards across the country, most of which currently follow norms set by State governments.
  • It will also guide standardised testing to monitor learning outcomes at the State and national levels, according to the NEP.

InstaLinks:

Prelims Link:

  1. States covered under the STARS project.
  2. About World Bank and its funding.
  3. Institutions of World Bank.
  4. World Bank Group.
  5. What is open data initiative?
  6. What is PARAKH?

Mains Link:

Write a note on World Bank’s STARS project.

Sources: PIB.

 

Topics Covered: Issues related to health.

Thalassemia Bal Sewa Yojna:


Context:

Union Health Minister launches 2nd phase of “Thalassemia Bal Sewa Yojna”.

About the scheme:

Launched in 2017, this scheme is a Coal India CSR funded Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation (HSCT) program.

  • It aims to provide a one-time cure opportunity for Haemoglobinopathies like Thalassaemia and Sickle Cell Disease for patients who have a matched family donor.

What is Thalassemia?

It is a chronic blood disorder. It is a genetic disorder due to which a patient cannot make enough hemoglobin found in Red Blood Cells (RBC’s). This leads to anemia and patients also require blood transfusions every two to three weeks to survive.

  • India is the thalassaemia capital of the world with 40 million carriers and over 1,00,000 thalassaemia majors under blood transfusion every month.

thalassemia

InstaLinks:

Prelims Link:

  1. What is Thalaseemia?
  2. How is it caused?
  3. Is it a genetic disorder?

Sources: PIB.

 

Topics Covered: India and its neighbourhood- relations.

What’s behind Thailand’s protests?


Context:

Anti-government protests have escalated in Thailand in the last three months.

What are the demands of protesters?

  1. Removal of present Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha.
  2. A new constitution.
  3. An end to the harassment of activists.
  4. Demands to reform the monarchy

What’s the problem with the present system?

It all started in 2017 when King’s constitutional powers were increased.

  1. Pro-democracy activists say Thailand is backtracking on the constitutional monarchy established when absolute royal rule ended in 1932. They say the monarchy is too close to the army and argue that this has undermined democracy.
  2. Protesters also seek the scrapping of lese majeste laws against insulting the king.
  3. They want the king to relinquish the personal control he took over a palace fortune estimated in the tens of billions of dollars, and some units of the army.

What do the Lese majeste laws mean?

The monarchy is protected by Section 112 of the Penal Code, which says whoever defames, insults or threatens the king, queen, heir-apparent or regent shall be jailed for three to 15 years.

Challenges ahead:

Some conservatives are against reforming the monarchy. They say, monarchy is an institution the constitution says is “enthroned in a position of revered worship”.

thailand

Sources: Indian Express.

 

Topics Covered: Important International institutions, agencies and fora, their structure, mandate.

75th Anniversary of FAO:


Context:

75th Anniversary of Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) on 16th October 2020.

  • India has released a commemorative coin of Rs 75 denomination to mark the occasion.

India and FAO:

India has had a historic association with FAO.

  • Indian Civil Service Officer Dr. Binay Ranjan Sen was the Director General of FAO during 1956-1967.
  • The World Food Programme, which has won the Nobel Peace Prize 2020, was established during his time.
  • India’s proposals for the International Year of Pulses in 2016 and the International Year of Millets 2023 have also been endorsed by FAO.

Basics:

About FAO:

It is a specialized agency of the United Nations that leads international efforts to defeat hunger.

Headquarters: Rome, Italy

Founded: 16 October 1945

Goal of FAO: Their goal is to achieve food security for all and make sure that people have regular access to enough high-quality food to lead active, healthy lives.

Important reports and Programmes (Have a brief overview):

  1. Global Report on Food Crises.
  2. Every two years, FAO publishes the State of the World’s Forests.
  3. FAO and the World Health Organization created the Codex Alimentarius Commission in 1961 to develop food standards, guidelines and texts.
  4. In 1996, FAO organized the World Food Summit. The Summit concluded with the signing of the Rome Declaration, which established the goal of halving the number of people who suffer from hunger by the year 2015.
  5. In 2004 the Right to Food Guidelines were adopted, offering guidance to states on how to implement their obligations on the right to food.
  6. FAO created the International Plant Protection Convention or IPPC in 1952.
  7. FAO is depositary of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, also called Plant Treaty, Seed Treaty or ITPGRFA, entered into force on 29 June 2004.
  8. The Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS) Partnership Initiative was conceptualized in 2002 during World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, South Africa.

InstaLinks:

Prelims Link:

  1. About FAO, establishment and objectives.
  2. Important reports and Programmes.

Mains Link:

Write a note on the World Food Programme.

Sources: PIB.

 


GS Paper  : 3


 

Topics Covered: Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology and issues relating to intellectual property rights.

What is holographic imaging?


Why in News?

Scientists have developed a method using holographic imaging to detect both viruses and antibodies.

How it is done?

  1. The method uses laser beams to record holograms of their test beads.
  2. The surfaces of the beads are activated with biochemical binding sites that attract either antibodies or virus particles, depending on the intended test.
  3. Binding antibodies or viruses causes the beads to grow by a few billionth parts of a metre.
  4. Scientists then can detect this growth through changes in the beads’ holograms.

Benefits of this method:

  • The test could be done in under 30 minutes.
  • It is highly accurate.
  • It can be performed by minimally trained personnel.

What is holography?

It is a process that creates three-dimensional images called holograms.

  • This is done using laser beams, the properties of interference and diffraction, light intensity recording, and illumination of the recording.

The Hungarian-British physicist Dennis Gabor was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1971 “for his invention and development of the holographic method”.

Uniqueness of holographic images:

The images created so change according to the relative position of the individual viewer as if the objects displayed are actually present.

Potential applications:

  1. Military mapping.
  2. Information storage.
  3. Medical.
  4. Fraud and security: Eg- small silver rectangle of a dove on your credit card.
  5. Art.

holographic_imaging

InstaLinks:

Prelims Link:

  1. What is holography?
  2. What is holographic imaging?
  3. Applications.

Sources: Indian Express.

 

Topics Covered: Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology and issues relating to intellectual property rights.

What is Biofortification?


Why in News?

PM to dedicate to the Nation 17 recently developed biofortified varieties of 8 crops.

Significance:

These varieties, along with other food ingredients, will transform the normal Indian thali into nutri-thali.

  • These crops will have up to 3.0-fold increase in nutritional value.

Basics:

What is biofortification?

It is the process of increasing nutritional value of food crops by increasing the density of vitamins and minerals in a crop through either conventional plant breeding; agronomic practices or biotechnology.

  • Examples of these vitamins and minerals that can be increased through biofortification include provitamin A Carotenoids, zinc and iron.

How are crops fortified?

  1. Conventional crop breeding techniques are used to identify varieties with particularly high concentration of desired nutrients.
  2. These are cross-bred with varieties with other desirable traits from the target areas (such a virus resistance, drought tolerance, high yielding, taste) to develop biofortified varieties that have high levels of micronutrients (for example, vitamin A, iron or zinc), in addition to other traits desired by farmers and consumers.

What is Agronomic biofortification?

It entails application of minerals such as zinc or iron as foliar or soil applications, drawing on plant management, soil factors, and plant characteristics to get enhanced content of key micronutrients into the edible portion of the plant.

How does Biofortification differ from food fortification?

  • Biofortification has the increased nutritional micronutrient content embedded in the crop being grown.
  • Food fortification increases the nutritional value of foods by adding trace amounts of micronutrients to foods during processing.

InstaLinks:

Prelims Link:

  1. Bio fortification vs Genetic modifications.
  2. Micro vs Macronutrients.
  3. Approval for Biofortified and GM crops in India.
  4. GM crops allowed in India.
  5. Biofortification vs food fortification.

Mains Link:

What do you understand by fortification of foods? Discuss its advantages.

Sources: PIB.

 


Facts for Prelims


What is New Shephard, the rocket system?

  • It is a rocket system meant to take tourists to space successfully.
  • It has completed its seventh test launch recently.
  • The system is built by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’s space company called Blue Origin.
  • New Shephard has been named after astronaut Alan Shephard, the first American to go to space.
  • It offers flights to space over 100 km above the Earth and accommodation for payloads.
  • Essentially, it is a rocket system that has been designed to take astronauts and research payloads past the Karman line – the internationally recognised boundary of space.

rocket

ENFUSER (ENvironmental information FUsion SERvice):

  • It is a very high resolution city scale model launched recently for Delhi.
  • It has been operationalized recently by IMD to identify the air pollution hotspots and pollution upto street level.
  • It has been developed in technical collaboration with Finnish Meteorological Institute (FMI).
  • The speciality of the ENFUSER is the high utilization of measurement data such as air quality observations, a detailed description of the road network, buildings, land-use information, high resolution satellite images, ground elevation and population data.

Pakistan re-elected to UN rights body:

Pakistan has been re-elected to the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC).

  • Among the five candidates from the Asia-Pacific region vying for four seats in the UNHRC, Pakistan secured the highest number of votes.
  • Pakistan is currently serving on the HRC since January 1, 2018.
  • With its re-election, Pakistan will continue as a member for another three-year term commencing on January 1, 2021.

Articles to be covered tomorrow:

  1. Outcomes of the recent ISA assembly.
  2. Deen Dayal Antyodaya Rashtriya Aajeevika Mission.

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