UMANG goes International
Why in News?
- UMANG’s international version launched during Online Conference organised to mark 3 years of UMANG.
Key partners of UMANG
- Employee Provident Fund Organization, Employee State Insurance Corporation, Ministries of External Affairs, Health, NPPA, DAR&PG, Education, Agriculture, Animal Husbandry, Staff Selection Commission (SSC).
- USA, UK, Canada, Australia, UAE, Netherlands, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand.
- It will help Indian international students, NRIs and Indian tourists abroad, to avail Government of India services, anytime.
- It will also help in taking India to the world through ‘Indian Culture’ services available on UMANG and create interest amongst foreign tourists to visit India.
- For Partner Departments of Centre and States based on the highest number of transactions across services.
- In the Central Department category,
- EPFO was bestowed the Platinum Partner award, followed by
- DigiLocker as the Gold Partner while
- ESIC and Bharat Gas services were declared the Silver Partner;
- The Bronze Partner award was announced for HP Gas, Doordarshan, National Consumer Helpline, CBSE, Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana-Urban, Jeevan Pramaan & Jan Aushadhi Sugam.
- This was based on monthly average transactions.
- For the services of State Governments, the top 3 States based on average monthly transactions were – Gujarat, Haryana and Madhya Pradesh.
The UMANG mobile app (Unified Mobile Application for New-age Governance)
- It is a Government of India all-in-one single, unified, secure, multi-channel, multi-lingual, multi-service mobile app. providing access to high impact services of various Government of India Departments and State Governments.
Mobile COVID-19 RT-PCR Lab
Why in News
- Ministry of Home Affairs inaugurated a mobile COVID-19 RT-PCR Lab at the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).
- SpiceHealth and the ICMR.
- It will help in adding more capacity to COVID-19 testing.
- The lab is accredited by NABL and approved by the ICMR.
- These tests will cost Rs. 499/- and the cost of testing will be borne by the ICMR.
- The test report would be available within 6 to 8 hours from the time of sample collection compared to the average 24 to 48 hours taken by similar test reports.
Why in News
- In the period of turbulence caused by the pandemic, Legal Services Authorities creatively adapted to the new normal and moved Lok Adalat to the virtual platform.
- From June, 2020 to October 2020, 27 E-Lok Adalats have been organized in 15 States.
E -Lok Adalat
- It is one such innovation of Legal Services Institutions where technology has been used to its maximum advantage and has become a platform to deliver justice at the doorstep of people.
- E- Lok Adalats are also cost effective as it eliminates the need for organisational expenses.
- Organised by Legal Services Authorities.
- Lok Adalats (State as well as National) are an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) mode wherein pre-litigation and pending cases in the courts are disposed on the basis of amicable settlement without any expense on the part of litigants.
- It is free of cost and expeditious method of bringing litigating parties on the same side and saving them from the rigours of trial under adversarial system of adjudication which is generally perceived to be time consuming, complex and costly.
- Lok Adalats are also instrumental in reducing the burden on arrears of the court disposal of long pending litigation between the parties.
Why in News?
- The Bay of Bengal will see its second Severe Cyclone of the year, after Super Cyclone Amphan formed in May.
Why are Tamil Nadu and Puducherry on ‘red’ alert?
- The India Meteorological Department (IMD) has forecast the development of a cyclone in the Southwest region of the Bay of Bengal, off Tamil Nadu coast.
- After cyclone Gaja in 2018, this will be the second cyclone to cross Tamil Nadu in the last two years.
- Once intensified, it would acquire its name ‘Nivar’, proposed by Iran.
- Tropical cyclone, also called typhoon or hurricane, an intense circular storm that originates over warm tropical oceans and is characterized by low atmospheric pressure, high winds, and heavy rain.
- Drawing energy from the sea surface and maintaining its strength as long as it remains over warm water, a tropical cyclone generates winds that exceed 119 km (74 miles) per hour.
- In extreme cases winds may exceed 240 km (150 miles) per hour, and gusts may surpass 320 km (200 miles) per hour.
- Accompanying these strong winds are torrential rains and a devastating phenomenon known as the storm surge, an elevation of the sea surface that can reach 6 metres (20 feet) above normal levels.
- Such a combination of high winds and water makes cyclones a serious hazard for coastal areas in tropical and subtropical areas of the world.
Tropical cyclones are known by various names in different parts of the world.
- In the North Atlantic Ocean and the eastern North Pacific they are called hurricanes, and in the western North Pacific around the Philippines, Japan, and China the storms are referred to as typhoons.
- In the western South Pacific and Indian Ocean they are variously referred to as severe tropical cyclones, tropical cyclones, or simply cyclones.
Why in News
- Chinese media claimed that a new border village, Pangda, built by China near Bhutan was on Chinese territory, but released images of the village appearing to show its location on territory disputed by the two countries.
- The village of Pangda had been newly built and residents moved there in September.
- An image released placed the village in disputed territory, a couple of kilometres inside what Bhutan sees as its territory.
- The area is east of the India-Bhutan-China trijunction on the Doklam plateau.
Fast Track Environmental Clearances (EC)
Why in News
- The Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) wants to expedite the environment appraisal of industrial projects.
Who conducted these Appraisals?
- As per norms, are conducted by independent panels of experts that have representatives from the government as well as from outside, trained in matters of ecology, wildlife and habitat preservation.
Appraisal Committee Opinion
- The Expert Appraisal Committees (EACs) opine on whether a proposed project beyond a certain size ought to be commissioned and recommend ways to mitigate the potential environmental impact.
- Their advice is critical to the MoEF’s eventual decision to either clear or red flag a project.
Recent Recommendations during review meetings
- Ensuring that EAC meetings are held at least once in 15 days.
- All proposals that were placed for approval 10 days before a meeting ought to be considered (It is 15 days now).
- The queries or issues, which the division may have, should be raised during the EAC meeting only.
- There are separate EAC committees for industrial projects, coal mining, non-coal mining, river and hydroelectric projects, each with its own independent chairperson and committee members.
China’s Chang’e-5 probe to the Moon
Why in News
- China hailed as a success its pre-dawn launch of a robotic spacecraft to bring back rocks from the moon in the first bid by any country to retrieve lunar surface samples since the 1970s.
- The Long March-5, China’s largest carrier rocket, launch from Wenchang Space Launch Center on the southern Chinese island of Hainan carrying the Chang’e-5 spacecraft.
What is the Chang’e-5 mission?
- The Chang’e-5 mission, named after the ancient Chinese goddess of the moon, will seek to collect lunar material to help scientists understand more about the moon’s origins and formation.
- The goal of the mission is to land in the Mons Rumker region of the moon, where it will operate for one lunar day, which is two weeks long and return a 2 kg sample of the lunar rock possibly by digging about 2 metres deep into the surface of the Moon.
- If the mission is completed as planned, it would make China only the third country to have retrieved lunar samples, joining the United States and the Soviet Union.
- The mission comprises a lunar orbiter, a lander and an ascent probe that will lift the lunar samples back into orbit and return them back to Earth.
- Chang’e-5 comprises a robotic arm, a coring drill, a sample chamber and is also equipped with a camera, penetrating radar and a spectrometer.
What do lunar samples tell us?
- The first samples of rocks from the Moon were collected during the Apollo 11 mission.
- In a document from 1984, NASA noted that
- Lunar samples can help to unravel some important questions in lunar science and astronomy,
- Including the Moon’s age, the formation of the Moon, the similarities and differences between the Earth and the Moon’s geologic features and history and
- To see if the Moon can give scientists information about the solar system itself.
- The shape, size, arrangement and composition of individual grains and crystals in a rock can tell scientists about its history, while the radioactive clock can tell them the rock’s age.
- Tiny cracks in rocks can tell them about the radiation history of the Sun in the last 100,000 years.
- The United States, which currently has plans to return astronauts to the moon by 2024, landed 12 astronauts there in its Apollo programme over six flights from 1969 to 1972, and brought back 382 kg (842 pounds) of rocks and soil.
- The Soviet Union deployed three successful robotic lunar sample-return missions in the 1970s. The last, the Luna 24, retrieved about 170 grams (6 ounces) of samples in 1976 from a region called Mare Crisium.
- In 2019, China’s Chang’e-4 probe successfully transmitted images from the far side of the Moon, also referred to as the dark side. This was the first probe to land in this portion of the Moon.
THE HINDU, IE
Why in News
- The Italian Culture Ministry announced the discovery of well-preserved remains of two men, who perished during the volcanic eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD.
- The eruption was a catastrophic event that destroyed the ancient Roman city of Pompeii and killed around 16,000 people.
- Located in southern Italy near the coastal city of Naples, the 4,203-ft (1,281 metres) tall Vesuvius is the only active volcano in mainland Europe.
- Vesuvius has been classified as a complex volcano (also called a compound volcano), one that consists of a complex of two or more vents.
- Vesuvius typically has explosive eruptions and pyroclastic flows –– defined as a high-density mix of hot lava blocks, pumice, ash and volcanic gas.
- It is considered among the most dangerous volcanoes in the world due to its proximity to Naples and surrounding towns.
- Its last serious eruption, lasting two weeks, was in 1944 during World War II.
Why in News
- The India Meteorological Department (IMD) had forecast below normal rainfall over Tamil Nadu and normal rainfall over the southern peninsula for the current season.
What is the Northeast monsoon, and why is it important?
- India receives rainfall during two seasons.
- About 75 per cent of the country’s annual rainfall is received from the Southwest monsoon between June and September.
- The Northeast monsoon, on the other hand, occurs during October to December, and is a comparatively small-scale monsoon, which is confined to the Southern peninsula.
- Also called the winter monsoon, the rainfall associated with the Northeast monsoon is important for Tamil Nadu, Puducherry, Karaikal, Yanam, coastal Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, north interior Karnataka, Mahe and Lakshadweep.
- Some South Asian countries such as Maldives, Sri Lanka and Myanmar, too, record rainfall during October to December.
- After the complete withdrawal of the Southwest monsoon from the country takes place by mid-October, the wind pattern rapidly changes from the south-westerly to the north-easterly direction.
- The period after the Southwest monsoon season, from October to December, is the peak time for cyclonic activity in the North Indian Ocean region — covering the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal.
- The winds associated with the formation of low pressure systems, depressions, or cyclones influence this monsoon, and therefore, the rainfall.
What is the reason for the deficiency of rainfall this season?
- IMD have linked it to the prevailing La Niña conditions in the Pacific Ocean.
- While El Niño (Spanish for ‘little boy’), the expression heard more commonly in India, is the abnormal surface warming observed along the eastern and central regions of the Pacific Ocean (region between Peru and Papua New Guinea).
- La Niña (Spanish for ‘little girl’) is an abnormal cooling of these surface waters.
- Together, the El Niño and La Niña phenomena are termed as El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO).
- These are large-scale ocean phenomena which inflence the global weather — winds, temperature and rainfall.
- They have the ability to trigger extreme weather events like droughts, floods, hot and cold conditions, globally.
- Each cycle can last anywhere between 9 to 12 months, at times extendable to 18 months — and re-occur after every three to five years.
- Meteorologists record the sea surface temperatures for four different regions, known as Niño regions, along this equatorial belt.
- Depending on the temperatures, they forecast either as an El Niño, an ENSO neutral phase, or a La Niña.
But how is La Niña linked with the Northeast monsoon?
- While La Niña conditions enhance the rainfall associated with the Southwest monsoon, it has a negative impact on rainfall associated with the Northeast monsoon.
- During La Niña years, the synoptic systems — low pressure or cyclones — formed in the Bay of Bengal remain significantly to the north of their normal position.
- Besides, instead of moving westwards, these systems recurve. As they lie to the north of their normal position, not much rainfall occurs over southern regions like Tamil Nadu.
- The current position of the Inter Tropical Convective Zone (ITCZ) has also contributed to the poor rainfall during the ongoing monsoon season.
- The ITCZ is a low-pressure belt, whose northward and southward movements along the equator determine the precipitation in the tropics.
- Currently, the ITCZ is located to the north of its normal position.
Why in News?
- Maharashtra announced the setting up of a desalination plant in Mumbai, becoming the fourth state in the country to experiment with the idea.
What are desalination plants?
- A desalination plant turns salt water into water that is fit to drink.
- The most commonly used technology used for the process is reverse osmosis where an external pressure is applied to push solvents from an area of high-solute concentration to an area of low-solute concentration through a membrane.
- The microscopic pores in the membranes allow water molecules through but leave salt and most other impurities behind, releasing clean water from the other side.
- An Indian Coast Guard (ICG) ship has towed away a tanker, from waters close to eco-sensitive Katchall Island in the Nicobar archipelago, towards which it was drifting after a total power failure.
- The Dubai-bound ‘MT Anasthasia-1’, was posing a danger of running aground, risking oil spillage in the island, after experiencing total power failure.
- Katchal Island was previously known as Tihanyu.
- Due to the remote location and lack of exposure with the rest of the world, outsiders economically exploited the innocent islanders for a long time.
Negative Yield Bonds
Why in News?
- China sold negative-yield debt for the first time, and this saw a high demand from investors across Europe.
- As yields in Europe are even lower, there was a huge demand for the 4-billion-euro bonds issued by China.
What are negative-yield bonds?
- These are debt instruments that offer to pay the investor a maturity amount lower than the purchase price of the bond.
- These are generally issued by central banks or governments, and investors pay interest to the borrower to keep their money with them.
Why do investors buy them?
- Negative-yield bonds attract investments during times of stress and uncertainty as investors look to protect their capital from significant erosion.
- At a time when the world is battling the Covid-19 pandemic and interest rates in developed markets across Europe are much lower, investors are looking for relatively better-yielding debt instruments to safeguard their interests.
Why is there a huge demand?
- The fact that the 10-year and 15-year bonds are offering positive returns is a big attraction at a time when interest rates in Europe have dropped significantly.
- As against minus —0.15% yield on the 5-year bond issued by China, the yields offered in safe European bonds are much lower, between –0.5% and —0.75%.
- Also, it is important to note that while the majority of the large economies are facing a contraction in their GDP for 2020-21, China is one country that is set to witness positive growth in these challenging times: its GDP expanded by 4.9% in the third quarter of 2020.
National Commission for Minorities (NCM)
Why in News?
- THE SEVEN-MEMBER National Commission for Minorities (NCM) is down to just one member. While five posts were lying vacant since May.
- The NCM is mandated to have seven members, including a chairperson and vice-chairperson, with a member each from the Muslim, Christian, Sikh, Buddhist, Parsi and Jain communities.
- The NCM is in charge of ensuring that the Prime Minister’s 15-point programme is implemented and the programmes for minority communities are actually functioning.
- Section 13 of the NCM Act mandates that the annual report, “together with the memorandum of action taken on the recommendations contained therein’’, as well as the reasons for non-acceptance of the recommendations, if any, be tabled before Parliament annually.
- The Commission is meant to act on complaints that it receives.
15 point Programme for minorities
- Equitable availability of the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) – Aims at development of children and pregnant/lactating mothers from minorities and those living below the Below Poverty Line (India), by providing services such as better supplementary nutrition, immunization, health check-up and free education.
- Improving access to School Education — Implement various Government schemes like Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya scheme and other similar schemes in villages/localities having a substantial minority communities population.
- Greater resources for teaching Urdu – Assistance in recruitment and posting of Urdu language teachers in primary and upper primary schools in villages/localities where at least one-fourth belong to that language group.
- Modernizing Madarsa Education — Provide basis educational infrastructure and resources for the modernization of Madarsa education.
- Scholarships for meritorious students from minority communities
- Improving educational infrastructure through the Maulana Azad Education Foundation.
- Self-Employment and Wage Employment for the poor — Earmark certain percentage of Swarnajayanti Gram Swarozgar Yojana scheme for minorities.
- Upgradation of skill through technical training — Open new ITIs in areas predominantly inhabited by minority communities and upgrade some ITIs to ‘Centres of Excellence’.
- Enhanced credit support for economic activities
- Recruitment to State and Central Services
- Equitable share in rural housing scheme — Earmark certain percentage in Indira Awaas Yojana for minorities.
- Improvement in condition of slums inhabited by minority communities — Implement Integrated Housing & Slum Development Programme and Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission in minority populated regions.
- Prevention of communal incidents
- Prosecution for communal offences
- Rehabilitation of victims of communal riots.
Global Meet on Criminal Finances
Why in News?
- Over 2,000 representatives from 132 countries attended the virtual 4th Global Conference on Criminal Finances and Cryptocurrencies organised by the Interpol, Europol and the Basel Institute on Governance.
- The conference is an initiative of the Working Group on Cryptocurrencies and Money Laundering established in 2016 by the three organisations,
- Launched with an objective of strengthening knowledge, expertise and best practices for investigations into financial crimes and intelligence on virtual assets and cryptocurrencies.
- It underlined the need to expand capabilities on ways to probe virtual assets and regulate virtual asset service providers to prevent money laundering.
The Conference’s Agenda
- Trends and investigations on cryptocurrency related offences, exploring criminal flows and operations in the dark markets, ransomware and sextortion case studies, money laundering involving virtual assets, and the transfer of drug proceeds using cryptocurrencies.
International Award, TX2
Why in News?
- The Pilibhit Tiger Reserve (PTR) and the Uttar Pradesh Forest department have bagged the first-ever international award, TX2, for doubling the number of tigers in four years against a target of 10 years.
- PTR was the first to receive the award among 13 tiger range countries.
- It achieved this goal in just four years from 2014, when it had 25 tigers which went up to 65 in 2018.
- The global target of doubling the tiger population was set in 2010 by the partners in TX2 award — UNDP, Global Tiger Forum, International Union for Conservation of Nature, World Wide Fund for Nature, Conservation Assured/Tiger Standards and the Lion’s Share.
- Rigorous patrolling with constant use of M-STrIPE monitoring system for tigers, stringent action against wildlife criminals and poachers and forest and grassland management.
Que- Which Indian TV Series , helmed by Indian-Canadian director Richie Mehta, has recently bagged the best drama series honour at the 48th International Emmy Awards.
a) Four More Shots
b) Delhi Crime
c) Made in Heaven