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Rana Dasgupta bags 2019 Tagore Literary Prize
- The second edition of Rabindranath Tagore Literary Prize was awarded to author Rana Dasgupta for his 2010 novel “Solo”. Solo is a tale of estrangement and the ultimate failure of material existence.
- Rabindranath Tagore Literary Prize is a legacy to Rabindranath Tagore for his outstanding contribution to Indian and international literature as well as to the cultural, educational and humane ideas he pursued throughout his life.
- The award is organised by the Maitreya Publishing Foundation. It is only awarded to Indian poets, playwrights and novelists who are writing either in languages or dialects of the Indian subcontinent or in English.
- The criteria for winning the award are (a) creativity (b) outstanding literary relevance (c) promotion of peace and national, cultural and religious tolerance (d) preserving linguistic and cultural heritage and (e) being socially conscious in character.
SC refuses to interfere with EC order staying release of ‘PM Narendra Modi’ biopic
- The Supreme Court has dismissed the plea seeking the release of ‘PM Narendra Modi’ a biopic on the Prime Minister.
- The EC had deferred the release of the biopic till the elections are over arguing that displaying material that promotes a political figure would go against the core principle of the Model Code of Conduct of creating a level-playing field for elections.
- The producers of the film had challenged the Election Commission’s decision to stop the release despite getting clearance from the Central Board for Film Certification (CBFC). Following the plea, the SC had directed the EC to re-examine its earlier order and take an informed decision on the stay.
- Recently, the Election Commission submitted a report to SC where it stood by its decision to defer the release of the PM Narendra Modi biopic. The EC had contended that the film is a hagiography. The film has treated the subject with undue reverence, and its public screening during poll campaign would tilt the electoral balance.
Scientists track Indian Ocean’s plastic
- Researchers from the University of Western Australia (UWA) have tracked ocean plastic waste in the Indian Ocean. The Indian Ocean is the world’s biggest dumping ground for plastic waste. However, where the plastic waste ends up has been a mystery.
- Researchers have found that the floating plastic wastes are pushed from the southern Indian Ocean towards the western side of the ocean. From there it leaks past South Africa into the South Atlantic Ocean.
- This is because of the Asian Monsoon system. The southeast trade winds in the southern Indian Ocean are stronger than the trade winds in the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. These strong winds push floating plastic material further to the west in the southern Indian Ocean than they do in the other oceans.
- Researchers have further said that there may be an accumulation of plastic waste in the Bay of Bengal. These plastic waste are most likely to end up on beaches, transported by the reversing monsoon winds and currents.
- The researchers have highlighted that annually up to 15 million tonnes of plastic waste make its way into the ocean through coastlines and rivers. Some of these wastes sink into the oceans, some are washed on beaches and other remains floating.
- Some floating plastics accumulate in the centre of subtropical gyres (large systems of circulating ocean currents) in ‘garbage patches’. Example: Great Pacific Garbage Patch– the largest accumulation of ocean plastic in the world which is located between Hawaii and California.
- However, the atmospheric and oceanic attributes of the Indian Ocean which are different to other ocean basins may have not led to formation of concentrated garbage patches.
World’s forests in ‘emergency room’
- A study conducted by Global forest watch has revealed that climate change has destroyed about 12 million hectares of tropical forests in 2018. The research was led by US-based World Resources Institute.
- Global Forest Watch is an online forest monitoring and alert system. It seeks to empower people globally to better manage forests.
- The study has reported that nearly 25% of tropical tree cover loss took place in Brazil alone, while Democratic Republic of Congo and Indonesia accounted for 10% each. High levels of deforestation was also recorded in Malaysia and Madagascar.
- The study has also noted ne deforestation hotspots particularly in Africa, where illegal mining, small-scale forest clearing and the expansion of cocoa farms led to an increase in tree loss. Examples: Ghana and the Ivory Coast.
- For the first time, researchers had also calculate the loss of undisturbed natural rainforest using satellite data. The highest loss has been accounted in Brazil followed by DR> Congo, Indonesia, Colombia and Bolivia.
- However, on a positive note, the study has highlighted that the primary forest loss in Indonesia has slowed down for the second year in running, dropping by 63% compared to 2017. This is primarily after the government has imposed a prohibition on forest clearing.
- The study has highlighted the paramount importance of forest cover- a) help regulate weather patterns, b) prevent flooding and erosion, c) provide food, water and shelter, d) provides oxygen, e) absorbs 30% of global man-made greenhouse gas emissions and f) oceans aside, have the greatest biodiversity on the planet.
Breaking new ground: Madras High Court upholds marriage between man, transwoman
- The Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court has upheld that the marriage solemnised between a man and a transwoman was valid under the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 and ordered its registration.
- The judgement comes in the backdrop of a case of a couple who sought a direction to the Joint Registrar to register their marriage that was solemnised at a Hindu temple as per Hindu rights and customs.
- The High Court quoted the NALSA v. Union of India (2014) judgement which had established the right of transgender persons to decide on their self-identified gender. The court observed that the bride who was being refused that status had chosen to express her gender as woman, and the State has no right to question it.
- It further added that self-identification was part of her personal autonomy and denying it violated her right to privacy and dignity as guaranteed under Article 21.
- The High Court has held that the expression “bride” occurring in Section 5 of the Hindu Marriage Act cannot have a static or immutable meaning. It quoted Justice G.P. Singh’s Principles of Statutory Interpretation which says that the court is free to apply the current meaning of a statute to present-day conditions.
- The high court has also directed the Health and Family Welfare department to issue an order prohibiting the performance of sex reassignment surgery on inter-sex infants and children. The court highlighted the need to keep them within the family and the mainstream of society by allowing to grow into their own sense of gender.
- Madras High court’s judgment has been highly appreciated by LGBTQI activists. It is a path-breaking judgement for the LGBTQI community, which is denied equal protection of laws with regard to civil rights.
CJI tears into Assam move on detenus
- The Supreme Court has sharply criticised the Assam government for its proposal to conditionally release and monitor declared foreigners who have been kept in dismal condition in the state’s detention centres for over five years. The SC has called for deportation of foreigners at earliest
- The Assam government has proposed to release foreigners who have completed five years in detention centres subject to furnishing a security of Rs. 5 lakh, verification of address and collection of their biometrics. The Supreme Court had directed the Chief Secretary to file an affidavit before April 25 suggesting measures for release of detainees from Assam’s detention centres.
- The Supreme Court has observed that the proposed measure showed the government’s failure to deport declared foreigners. It further added that the court would not be a party to such a move.
- In February, the Centre had told the Supreme Court that 938 people were being held in six detention centres in Assam. Of these, 823 of them have been declared as foreigners by tribunals.
- An illegal foreigner is declared so by Foreigners Tribunals of Assam. Foreigners Tribunal (FT) was set up in Assam in 1964 through the Foreigners Tribunal Order 1964. The tribunals have been mandated with identifying the legal status of suspected foreigners in Assam.
- Supreme Court’s observations come in the backdrop of a plea which raised the issue of dismal living conditions in the detention centres of Assam. Indefinite detention and dismal living conditions is violative of Article 21 of the Indian Constitution which guarantees the right to life and liberty.
Engineers at IIT Bombay develop AJIT; microprocessor ‘Made in India’
- Indian Institute of Technology(Bombay) has indigenously-produced microprocessor named AJIT.
- A microprocessor is an integrated circuit containing a few million transistors (semiconductor-based electronic devices) fused on a semiconductor chip. It is just a few millimeters in size and is a part of almost every electronic device.
- AJIT will be used for systems such as robots, automation systems, appliances and in the future perhaps even servers and workstations. AJIT will also be used in India’s satellites like NAVIC or IRNSS (Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System).
- Further, SAMEER (Society for Applied Microwave Electronics Engineering & Research) which is an independent lab under Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology(MeitY) is also planning to use AJIT in various satellite receivers.
- This project comes under India’s ‘Made in India’ initiative which aims to make India a global manufacturing hub by encouraging both multinational as well as domestic companies to manufacture their products within the country. This innovation will not only reduce the country’s imports but also make India self-reliant in electronics.
India develops first indigenous vaccine to treat bloody dysentery
- India has indigenously developed the first ever vaccine to treat bloody dysentery known as Shigellosis. Shigellosis is an infectious disease caused by a group of bacteria called Shigella.
- The vaccine has been developed by Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and the National Institute of Cholera and Enteric Diseases (NICED).
- Most of those who are infected with Shigella develop diarrhoea, fever and stomach cramps starting a day or two after they are exposed to the bacteria. Shigellosis is recognised as a disease mainly affecting Asian and African nations.
- Further, the disease is currently treated through antibiotics but considering the fact that antibiotic resistance has become a major concern, the vaccine was the need of the hour.
- The developed vaccine is a dead vaccine which means it is a dead germ of the bacteria causing disease which would be introduced in the body so that the immune system develops immunity against it.
Finance Ministry brings in changes in e-way bill system to check GST evasion
- The Finance Ministry has introduced changes in the e-way bill system. The changes were brought in to crack down on Good and Services Tax (GST) evaders.
- The E-way bill is an electronic document to be generated online under the GST system when goods of the value of more than Rs. 50,000 are shipped. However, failure to produce an e-way bill can attract a penalty of Rs 10,000 or amount of tax sought to be evaded whichever is higher.
- The E-way bill must be raised before the goods are shipped and should include details of the goods, their consignor, recipient and transporter. The transporter has to carry the invoice and the copy of E-way bill as support documents for the movement of goods.
- The changes brought in the e-way bill system would come with auto-calculation of distance between the source and destination based on the PIN codes. The user would be allowed to enter the actual distance as per the movement of goods which will be limited to 10% more than the auto calculated distance displayed.
- Further, the government has also decided not to permit generation of multiple e-way bills based on one invoice. This means, if the e-way bill is generated once with a particular invoice number then none of the parties can generate another e-way bill with the same invoice number.
Near-normal monsoon may boost foodgrain production
- The government has targeted a modest increase in food grains production for the next crop year of 2019-20 after the Indian Meteorological Department(IMD) has forecast normal monsoon in 2019.
- India Meteorological Department(IMD) had said that monsoon rains are expected to be normal in 2019 which is 96% of the Long Period Average (LPA). The IMD defines normal rainfall as between 96% and 104% of the Long Period Average(LPA). LPA (50-year average) of monsoon rains in India is 89 cm.
- The target of food grains production for 2019-20 crop year has been set at 291.1 million tonnes comprising 147.9 MT in kharif season and 143.2 MT during rabi.
- In India, there are two major cropping seasons: a) Kharif and b) Rabi. There is another cropping season Zaid i.e. summer season (March to June). Examples of Zaid cops are watermelon, bitter gourd etc.
- The kharif cropping season is from July –October during the south-west monsoon. Major Kharif crops include rice, maize, sorghum, groundnut etc.
- Rabi cropping season extends from October-March (winter). Major Rabi crops are wheat, barley, oats etc. Wheat is the main Rabi crop in India. It is sown between late October and December; while the harvesting starts from April onwards.
WHO says one in 10 children did not get vaccinated in 2016
- According to the most recent WHO and UNICEF immunization estimates, globally, 12.9 million infants, nearly 1 in 10, did not receive any vaccinations in 2016.
- WHO has said that the estimates highlight that infants have missed the first dose of diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis (DTP) vaccine. Diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (whooping cough) are three bacterial diseases that can be vaccinated against with a single shot.
- The WHO has observed that the percentage of children who received their full course of routine immunizations of DTP has stalled at 86%. This falls short of the global immunization coverage target of 90% set under Global Vaccine Action Plan (GVAP). GVAP is a framework to prevent millions of deaths by 2020 through more equitable access to existing vaccines for people in all communities.
- WHO has noted that all of the targets elimination of vaccine preventable diseases such as measles, rubella, and maternal and neonatal tetanus are behind schedule. The data points out that 85% of children have been vaccinated with the first dose of measles vaccine and 64% with second dose.
- WHO has repeatedly highlighted the importance of immunisation- it helps prevent illness, disability and death from vaccine-preventable diseases including cervical cancer, diphtheria, hepatitis B, measles, mumps, pneumonia, pertussis, polio, rotavirus diarrhoea, rubella and tetanus.
India Pavilion set up at Abu Dhabi International Book Fair
- India Pavilion has been set up at the 29th edition of the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair (ADIBF). Further, India has also been designated as the Guest of Honour for the Book Fair.
- The India Pavilion lays special focus on the life and philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi. It displays the 100 volume series titled Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi apart from various publications on freedom struggle.
- This annual book fair is being held from April 24 – 30,2019. It has been organised by KITAB which is a joint venture between the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage and the Frankfurt Book Fair since 2007.
- This annual fair is a major event in the publishing sector in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). The book fair has featured 1,000 exhibitors from 50 countries with more than 500,000 titles on display.
Centre to fund research on cell-based meat by two institutes
- The Department of Biotechnology has decided to fund the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) and the National Research Centre on Meat for research on cell-based meat.Further,Mumbai has become the world’s first city to host a research centre dedicated to lab-grown meat.
- Cell based meat or cellular agriculture aims at creating clean meat. Cellular agriculture is a process in which a small sample of cells is taken from an animal painlessly and then used to grow meat in a manufacturing facility.
- This research centre has been setup after several researchers has indicated environmental concerns arising out of livestock industry and meat consumption such as a) increased use of use of water, food and energy to raise livestock b) large-scale animal husbandry contributing to global warming through greenhouse gas emissions and c) antibiotic resistance.
- In 2018,the Atal Incubation Centre at CCMB had partnered with Humane Society International/India(HSI/India),one of the largest animal protection organisations in the country to promote and develop the clean meat sector.
- Atal Incubation Centres(AICs) were established with the support of Atal innovation mission(AIM).These centres has been established to nurture innovative start-ups in their pursuit to become scalable and sustainable business enterprises.
Low pressure area formation likely over Bay of Bengal, T.N. may witness rainfall on Sunday, Monday
- The India Meteorological Department has said that a low pressure area is likely to develop over central parts of south Bay of Bengal and it is expected to intensify into a cyclonic storm. Bangladesh has named the prospective tropical cyclone “Fani”.
- Tropical cyclone is a system of low pressure occurring in tropical latitudes. The cyclone activity is at its maximum in late summer and early autumn.
- In April and May, tropical cyclones form in the South and adjoining Central Bay of Bengal and move initially northwest, north and then recurve to the northeast striking the Arakan coasts in April and Andhra-Orissa-West Bengal-Bangladesh coasts in May.
- For quick identification of storms in warning messages, naming of cyclones are done. The tradition of naming cyclones started with hurricanes in the Atlantic Ocean, where
- The process of naming cyclones involves several countries in the region and is done under the aegis of the World Meteorological Organization. For the Indian Ocean region, deliberations for naming cyclones began in 2000. A formula was adopted in 2004
Tea board discusses ways to boost consumption
- The Tea Board has had organized a ‘Young Entrepreneurs’ Meet’ .The meeting discussed ways on how to (a)enhance the quality of Indian tea (b)restrict marketing of low quality products and (c)the steps needed to be taken to bring good tea to the market.
- The Tea Board of India has also decided to revive the Tea Council to ensure that teas produced adhere to quality parameters as mandated by food safety standards authority FSSAI. This is keeping in mind the export markets as better-quality teas will command better prices.
- The Tea Council was set up in 2010 by the Tea Board to ensure quality compliance of teas produced. However, it had soon turned inactive. The Council will comprise of retired experts and officials from the tea industry who will be responsible for random sampling of teas to ensure they adhere to quality.
- The Tea Board of India is a state agency of the Government of India established to promote the cultivation, processing and domestic trade as well as export of tea from India. It was established by the enactment of the Tea Act in 1953 with its headquarters in Kolkata.
Donald Trump cracks down on overstay by visa holders
- The US President has decided to sign a memorandum which recommends severe sanctions on countries with high rates of visa overstays in the United States.
- The memorandum recommends placing travel restrictions on citizens of the 20 countries who have higher than 10% visa overstay rate. Under such a plan, the US would put countries on notice if a significant number of their citizens are overstaying their visas in the U.S. If the rates do not change, future visas would be harder to obtain and more limited in scope.
- Further, the development which may hit Indian students is the direction by US President to impose admission bonds as a means of improving compliance with the terms and conditions of non-immigrant visas.
- However, it does not imposes any immediate restrictions but it calls upon US agencies to provide recommendations or status reports to US President within 120 days.
- In 2013, UK had also contemplated a security bond of GBP 3,000 for visa applicants from six countries including India. After protests including from the Indian government this plan was dropped.
Genetically modified brinjal illegally cultivated in Haryana
- Anti-GMO groups has alleged that Bt brinjal which is a genetically modified variety of brinjal is being cultivated illegally in Haryana.
- The farmer group has demanded that the government immediately ascertain the extent of illegal Bt brinjal cultivation. It should also take deterrent action against seed suppliers involved and destroy all Bt brinjal plots to prevent contamination.
- The Bt brinjal refers to a group of transgenic brinjals created by inserting a crystal protein gene(Cry1Ac) from the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis into the genome of various brinjal cultivars. This was developed to give resistance against lepidopteran insects in particular the Brinjal Fruit and Shoot Borer.
- It was developed by Mahyco (Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Company) in collaboration with the Dharwad University of Agricultural Sciences and the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University. In 2010, the government had placed an indefinite moratorium on commercial release of Bt brinjal.
- Government had said that the moratorium will last till independent scientific studies establish the safety of Bt brinjal from the point of view of its long term impact on human health and environment. However, the same Bt brinjal variety was subsequently approved for commercial cultivation in Bangladesh in 2013.
- GM Crops are plants used in agriculture, the DNA of which has been modified using genetic engineering.GM is a technology that involves inserting DNA into the genome of an organism. To produce a GM plant, new DNA is transferred into plant cells. Usually, the cells are then grown in tissue culture where they develop into plants. The seeds produced by these plants inherit the new DNA.