Current Affairs 25th February, 2019

PAPER – 1

Topics Covered

1. History - India after Independence

National War Memorial

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What to read?

Prelims – About the memorial and its purpose

The National War Memorial, near India Gate in New Delhi, is a fitting tribute to our soldiers who laid down their lives defending the nation, post-independence.

  • The National War Memorial also commemorates the soldiers who participated and made the supreme sacrifice in Peace Keeping Missions, and Counter Insurgency Operations.


  • In 2014, Prime Minister had spelt out his vision for the National War Memorial as a state-of-the-art world class monument.


  • The layout of the National War Memorial comprises four concentric circles, namely, the ‘Amar Chakra’ or Circle of Immortality,the ‘Veerta Chakra’ or Circle of Bravery, the ‘Tyag Chakra’ or Circle of Sacrifice, and the ‘Rakshak Chakra’ or Circle of Protection.


  • The National War Memorial complex includes a central obelisk, an eternal flame, and six bronze murals depicting famous battles fought by Indian Army, Air Force and Navy.


  • National War Memorial represents of a grateful nation to pay a fitting tribute to the martyrs.



PAPER – 1

Topics Covered

1. Art and Culture

2. Hindu Festivals

Kumbh Global Participation Event

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What to read?

Prelims –  About Kumbha Mela and ICCR

Mains – Significance of the event

The Indian Council for Cultural Relations organized a special event at Pravasi Bharatiya Kendra in Delhi to felicitate delegates from 188 countries, who participated in the Kumbh Mela at Prayagraj.

Kumbha Mela

The Kumbh Mela (the festival of the sacred pitcher) is anchored in Hindu mythology. It is the largest public gathering and collective act of faith, anywhere in the world. The Mela draws tens of millions of pilgrims over the course of approximately 55 auspicious days to bathe at the sacred confluence of the Ganga, the Yamuna, and the mystical Sarasvati. Primarily, this congregation includes Ascetics, Saints, Sadhus, Sadhvis, Kalpvasis, and Pilgrims from all walks of life.

Celebration

Kumbh Mela is a religious pilgrimage that is celebrated four times over a course of 12 years. The geographical location of Kumbh Mela spans over four locations in India and the Mela site keeps rotating between one of the four pilgrimage places on four sacred rivers as listed below:

  • Haridwar on the Ganges in Uttarakhand.

  • Ujjain on the Shipra in Madhya Pradesh.

  • Nashik on the Godavari in Maharashtra.

  • Prayagraj at the confluence of the Ganges, the Yamuna, and the mythical Sarasvati in Uttar Pradesh.

Image result for Celebration Kumbh Mela map

Selection of site

Each site’s celebration is based on a distinct set of astrological positions of the Sun, the Moon, and the Jupiter. The celebrations occur at the exact moment when these positions are fully occupied, as it is considered to be the holiest time in Hinduism.

 Significance of the event

  • Kumbh is as much about social reform as it is about spirituality. Kumbh has been a forum for discussion among spiritual leaders and social reformers, to chart a roadmap for the future, and monitor progress.

  •  The effort is now to blend modernity and technology, with faith, spirituality, and cultural consciousness, at the Kumbh Mela.

  •  The world will recognize India, both for its modernity, and for its rich heritage.

Related Institution

Indian Council for Cultural Relations

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The Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) was founded in 1950 by Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, independent India’s first Education Minister.

Its objectives are

  • to actively participate in the formulation and implementation of policies and programmes pertaining to India’s external cultural relations;

  • to foster and strengthen cultural relations and mutual understanding between India and other countries;

  • to promote cultural exchanges with other countries and people; and

  • to develop relations with nations.


PAPER – 2 AND PAPER – 3

Topics Covered

1. Schemes

2. Agriculture

 Launch of PM-KISAN scheme

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What to read?

Prelims – About the features of the scheme

Mains – How it would benefit the farming community of India

At Gorakhpur, Prime Minister will launch the PM-KISAN scheme on Feb, 25, 2019.

Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi Yojana (PM KISAN)

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  • The Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi Yojana (PM-KISAN) was announced in the interim Budget 2019-20 on February 1, 2019.

  • Under the Scheme, Rs 6,000 will be given per year to small and marginal farmer families having combined land holding/ownership of upto 2 hectares.

  • The amount will be given in three installments of Rs.2000 each.

  • The amount will be transferred directly to the bank account of beneficiaries through Direct Benefit Transfer.

  • PM KISAN is a Central Sector scheme with 100% funding from Government of India. The Scheme becomes effective from 1.12.2018 for transfer of benefit to eligible beneficiaries.

  • State Government and UT Administration will identify the farmer families which are eligible for support as per scheme guidelines.

Benefits to the farming community in India

  • PM KISAN is a revolutionary scheme which aims to transform the lives of small and marginal farmers in India, by providing them assured monetary support in three instalments every year. 

  • The PM-KISAN scheme aims to supplement the financial needs of the SMFs in procuring various inputs to ensure proper crop health and appropriate yields, commensurate with the anticipated farm income at the end of the each crop cycle. This would also protect them from falling in the clutches of moneylenders for meeting such expenses and ensure their continuance in the farming activities.

  • The scheme implemented through DBT, will transfer the amount directly to the bank account of the beneficiary, thereby eliminating middlemen and corruption.

  • As against the onetime loan waivers, PM KISAN is truly an empowering project designed for ensuring dignified life for small scale farmers. In the long run, the scheme is expected to address farmer migration and improve crop intensity.


PAPER – 2

Topics Covered

1. Elections

2. Polity

EVM is ‘information’ under Right to Information Act

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What to read?

Prelims – EVMs, Why EVM is meant as Information?

Mains – Right to Information Act – its Scope and the Chief Information Commission

An Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) is “information” under the Right to Information Act, the Central Information Commission has ruled. The CIC in a hearing said, “the EVM which is available with the respondent [ECI] in a material form and also as samples, is an information under the RTI Act.”

What does RTI Act define as ‘Information’?

Definition of information under Section 2(f) of the RTI Act includesany material in any form, including records, documents, memos, e-mails, opinions, advices, press releases, circulars, orders, logbooks, contracts, reports, papers, samples, models, data material held in any electronic form”

Election Commission’s Stand on the issue

Elecetion Commission of India said that models/samples of EVM are available with the ECI, but the same are only kept for training purpose by the ECI, and not saleable to the general public.

 The information was exempted from disclosure under Section 8(1)(d) of the RTI Act as “the software installed in the machines is an intellectual property of a third party, the disclosure of which would harm the competitive position of the third party concerned.

RTI  Act – an Overview

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The Act extends to the whole of India except the State of Jammu and Kashmir. Following are the important details.The meaning of right to information is - the right to

  • inspect works, documents, records.

  • take notes, extracts or certified copies old documents or records.

  • take certified samples of material.

  • obtain information in form of printouts, diskettes, floppies, tapes, video cassettes or in any other electronic mode or through printouts.

The definition of information

Any material in any form including records, documents, memos, e-mails, opinions, advices, press releases, circulars, orders, logbooks, contracts, reports, papers, samples, models, data material held in any electronic form and information relating to any private body which can be accessed by a public authority under any other law other of the time being in force but does not include “file noting.”

  • Reasons for seeking information are hot required to be given. Only a citizen of India can request of India can request for information.

  • Under RTI law, “public authority” means the following:

any authority or body set up under the Constitution or Parliamentary law or law made by the State Legislature or Government order or any body owned, controlled or substantially financed by the government or non-Government organization substantially financed directly or indirectly by the Government.

  • This definition does not include private bodies which perform public services or which receive funds or concession from the Government. That is private bodies are not within the Act’s scope directly. However, information that can be accessed, regarding a private body, under any other law in force by a public authority can also be requested for. Central Information Commission ruled that privatised public utility companies continue to be within the RTI Act their privatisation notwithstanding.

The following are excluded from the purview:

  • Central Intelligence and Security agencies specified in the Second Schedule like

  • Agencies specified by the State Governments through a Notification will also be excluded. It is only a conditional and partial exclusion. The above organizations have an obligation to provide information pertaining to allegations of corruption and human rights violations. Further, information relating to allegations of human rights valuations could be given but only with the approval of the Central or State Information Commission, as the case may be.


PAPER –2 AND PAPER -3

Topics Covered

1. Conservation of Environment

2. Governance

DNA forensics a vital tool in cracking wildlife crimes

Image result for DNA forensics a vital tool in cracking wildlife crimes Image result for DNA forensics a vital tool in cracking wildlife crimes

What to read?

Prelims – Zoological Survey of India

Mains – Significance of the DNA forensics in tackling wildlife crimes

Analysis by the Zoological Survey of India can identify species and number of individuals killed. The ZSI is now developing protocols to identify the number of individuals killed in a seizure from the DNA analyses

Instances of narrowing down the investigation

 A forensic DNA analysis in West Bengal showed that the meat was that of the Asian Palm Civet (Paradoxurus hermaphroditus), a Schedule II species protected under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972

Difficulties in Illegal wildlife crime and need for forensic analysis

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  • Illegal wildlife crime is not confined to a region or to a country but it is an organized crime where several people are involved — from local hunters to the end buyers.

  • Scientists at the ZSI, however, pointed out that in most cases the samples they receive from investigating agencies in cases of wildlife crime are disfigured and have lost characters of morphological identity, which poses a major challenge.

  • This calls for an urgent need to employ techniques of DNA forensics to improve conviction rate which at present remains very low

Significance of DNA forensics in tackling wildlife crimes

With investigating agencies facing increased challenges of collecting evidence to ensure convictions in wildlife crimes, DNA forensics are providing a major headway.

Future steps of ZSI

ZSI is not just confining its efforts up to species identification but the scientists are also involved in creating a reference database to assign the seizures to the source of origin, identifying sexes from seizures to understand poaching/ hunting pressure on the species which might impact the species demography in coming years.

ZSI and Wildlife Crime

  • At the ZSI, where we can identify samples at the molecular level using DNA forensics. This new tool is helping in solving a number of wildlife crimes.

  • The ZSI has also formulated a standard operating procedure in the investigation of wildlife crime.

  • The ZSI also organised a workshop for law enforcement agencies titled ‘Wildlife Forensics and Crime Control', where the participants were informed on using new technological tools to combat wildlife crime.

  • The ZSI is one of four organisations authorised by the Government of India to submit species identification reports from the confiscated materials.

Zoological Survey of India

  • It is India’s apex organization on animal taxonomy.

  • Its objective is to promote survey, exploration, research and documentation on various aspects of animal taxonomy in Indian subcontinent.

  • It also seeks advancement of knowledge on animal taxonomy.

  • It was established in 1916 and headquartered in Kolkata.

  • It has been declared as designated repository for National Zoological Collection as per section 39 of the National Biodiversity Act, 2002.


 PAPER – 3

Topics Covered

1. Defence

IAF’s first Aerial Surveillance

Image result for IAF’s first Aerial Surveillance

What to read?

Prelims – Hyper Spectral imagery programme

Mains – Significance of the programme for India’s defence

The Indian Air Force (IAF) has commissioned the development of an aerial surveillance system for monitoring suspicious moments under dense foliage cover along the international border and some parts within the country

Hyper spectral imagery

  • Hyperspectral imaging, like other spectral imaging, collects and processes information from across the electromagnetic spectrum.

  • The goal of hyperspectral imaging is to obtain the spectrum for each pixel in the image of a scene, with the purpose of finding objects, identifying materials, or detecting processes

Hyper Spectral imagery programme

In a first, IAF commissions aerial surveillance

  • This hyper spectral imagery programme, a first for the country, seeks to locate and identify suspicious movements and is expected to be operational in the next two years.

  • The IAF is spending ₹13 crore for the programme in which human resources from premier research and education institutions across the country are being put together, and has roped in a senior researcher and lead technologist of Indian origin from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) as the chief technologist for the programme.

  • The IAF has roped Houston-based senior scientist Kumar Krishen’s  for nearly three years after he quit NASA in September 2018

  • This is a unique patent application, which will help detect or identify the presence of a human below trees, dense foliage, shrubs or inside a structure, whether it is day or night. It can detect human presence from air even if there a cloud cover, dense fog or snow cover.

Significance of the programme

  • The programme would mean is that the data gathered from aerial sources would be processed within minutes, and researchers would be able to tell security forces on the ground of “unwanted” human presence in the area, their numbers and locations, among other inputs.

For the first time, we will be having multi-sensor data fusion that will help identify an adversary. We have a mandate to change the way we fight the war.