Why in News?
- The Halwa ceremony, marking the final stage of the Budget making process for Union Budget 2021-22, was held.
- A customary Halwa ceremony is performed every year before the “lock-in” process of Budget preparation begins.
- In an unprecedented initiative, Union Budget 2021-22 will be delivered in paperless form for the first time. The Union Budget 2021-22 is to be presented on 1st February, 2021.
- On the occasion, Finance Minister also launched the “Union Budget Mobile App” for hassle-free access of Budget documents by Members of Parliament (MPs) and the general public using the simplest form of digital convenience.
- The mobile App facilitates complete access to 14 Union Budget documents, including the Annual Financial Statement (commonly known as Budget), Demand for Grants (DG), Finance Bill etc. as prescribed by the Constitution.
- The App has been developed by the National Informatics Centre (NIC) under the guidance of the Department of Economic Affairs (DEA).
‘Ayushman CAPF’ scheme
Why in News?
- The Union Home Minister launched the ‘Ayushman CAPF’ scheme for personnel and dependents of the Central Armed Police Forces during a function in Guwahati, Assam.
- On this occasion, he presented Ayushman CAPF beneficiary e-health cards to some officers and personnel of the CAPFs.
- The scheme will be fully implemented by 1st May.
- A health card will also be given to all CAPF personnel and their families and all CAPF personnel can receive a medical checkup once every year and their families once in three years.
- The Prime Minister Ayushman scheme has already served around two crore people, and provides free treatment upto Rs. five lakh to the poor and the needy.
- Patients are also given Rs. 250 to commute back to their homes after treatment.
Subhash Chandra Bose Aapda Prabandhan Puraskar 2021
- To recognize and honour the invaluable contribution and selfless service rendered by individuals and organizations in India in the field of Disaster Management, Government of India has instituted an annual award known as Subhash Chandra Bose Aapda Prabandhan Puraskar.
- The award is announced every year on 23rd January, the birth anniversary of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose.
- The award carries a cash prize of Rs. 51 lakh and a certificate in case of an institution and Rs. 5 lakh and a certificate in case of an individual.
For the year 2021,
- Sustainable Environment and Ecological Development Society (in the institutional category) and
- Dr. Rajendra Kumar Bhandari (in the Individual category) have been selected for the Subhash Chandra Bose Aapda Prabandhan Puraskar for their excellent work in Disaster Management.
- For the year 2020, Disaster Mitigation & Management Centre, Uttarakhand (institution category) and Shri Kumar Munnan Singh (Individual category) were selected for this award.
‘Aqua Rejuvenation Plant’
Why in News?
- CSIR-Central Mechanical Engineering Research Institute, Durgapur unveiled the first-ever WasteWater Treatment Technology Model which purifies Waste Water for Irrigation/Farming purposes.
- This technology following the norms of the National Green Tribunal which is the statutory body for handling the expeditious disposal of the cases pertaining to environmental issues in our country.
Aqua Rejuvenation Plant (ARP)
- It is an Integrated Waste Water Rejuvenation Model which has Six-Stage purification profile for comprehensive treatment of Waste Water, based upon diverse purification parameters.
- The approx. 24,000 litres of Water that can be rejuvenated using ARP will be sufficient for almost 4 acres of Agricultural Land (barring seasonal variations in water requirements).
- The treated water which is now being used for irrigation can be used even for drinking purpose also when little more time is given for settling.
- The system has dual benefit as while the treated water is being used for irrigation purpose, the filtered sludge generated is also utilized as manure / fertilizer.
- The bio char prepared from dry leaves falling in autumn season is also used for mixing in soil as it reduces the water requirement for irrigation thus saving precious water.
- The Institute was earlier also using alternate technologies like sprinkle system and others for reduced water requirement for such purpose.
New ant species discovered from Kerala
Why in News?
- Two new species of a rare ant genus have been discovered in India.
- The species of the ant genus Ooceraea found in Kerala, and Tamil Nadu add to the diversity of this rare genus.
- They differ from others of the same genus on the basis of the number of antennal segments.
- One of them found in the Periyar Tiger Reserve of Kerala, has been named Ooceraea joshii, in honour of Prof. Amitabh Joshi, a distinguished evolutionary biologist from Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research (JNCASR).
How New Species be Named?
- New species are typically named after some distinguishing attribute or location but are often named after scientists as a means of honouring their research contributions to biology, especially in the fields of evolutionary and organismal biology, ecology or systematics.
- The two new species, the first ones spotted with ten-segmented antennae among this rare genus.
- The genus is currently represented by 14 species of which eight possess nine-segmented antennae, while five possess eleven- segmented antennae and one species has recently been reported with eight-segmented antennae.
- In India, the genus was so far represented by two species with nine- and eleven-segmented antennae respectively.
- The newly discovered ant species with ten segmented antennae discovered, establish an old world lineage that contains a species emerging as the only model organism among the ant subfamily.
Fund for Improvement of S & T Advisory Board (FISTAB) Meeting
- The necessity for focusing on supporting interdisciplinary problems, solution-centric and translational research, and increasing the scope for participation of industries and startups and new ideas, aiming towards Atmanirbhar Bharat’ was underlined at the Fund for Improvement of S & T Advisory Board (FISTAB) Meeting.
- The scientific institutions are critical cradle of innovation and knowledge creation, and the development of scientific infrastructure is crucial for advancement of a nation with ease of access and greater emphasis for their optimal utilization.
- Discussed the need to create an ecosystem towards exploring academia-industry link-ups, involvement of start-ups in utilization of FIST facilities, and promotion of avenues for theoretical Sciences.
- During the meeting, a logo of FIST was launched designed by Ms. Nikita Malhotra of Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar, to represent the face of FIST in a new avatar. Besides, the National Report on FIST Impact Evaluation Study and Report on Activities of FIST Program was released.
About FIST Program
- The FIST programme was launched in the year 2000 to strengthen S&T infrastructure with adequate funding and associated flexibility.
- The 24th FISTAB Meeting that was held on 12th October 2020 highlighted that the FIST Program has played a pivotal role in the strengthening of both the teaching and research infrastructure in different academic and research institutions.
- However, with the shift in priorities and the S&T needs of the country, restructuring of the program was necessary in the context of the current National interests, National Missions, Sustainable Development Goals, and its scope to strengthen the vibrant economy towards building up of a self-reliant India.
Beti Bachao Beti Padhao Scheme
- The Beti Bachao Beti Padhao (BBBP) Scheme, launched by the Hon’ble Prime Minister on 22nd January, 2015 at Panipat in Haryana with the objective of bringing behavioural change in the society towards birth and rights of a girl child, has resulted in increased awareness and sensitization of the masses regarding prevalence of gender bias and role of community in eradicating it.
- During the last 6 years the Sex Ratio at Birth (SRB) has improved by 16 points from 918 in 2014-15 to 934 in 2019-20. Gross Enrolment Ratio of girls in the schools at secondary level has improved from 77.45 to 81.32.
Progress in terms of monitorable targets:
- Sex Ratio at Birth:
- Promising trends of improvement in Sex Ratio at Birth (SRB) have been observed at National level. SRB has improved by 16 points from 918 (2014-15) to 934 (2019-20), as per the HMIS data of MoH&FW.
- Out of 640 districts covered under BBBP 422 districts have shown improvement in SRB from 2014-15 to 2018-2019.
- Some Districts which had very low SRB in 2014-15 have shown huge improvement after implementation of the Scheme such as Mau (Uttar Pradesh) from 694 (2014-15) to 951 (2019-20), Karnal (Haryana) from 758 (2014-15) to 898 (2019-20), Mahendergarh (Haryana) from 791 (2014-15) to 919 (2019-20), Rewari (Haryana) from 803 (2014-15) to 924 (2019-20), and Patiala (Punjab) from 847 (2014-15) to 933 (2019-20),
- Health :
- Percentage of 1st Trimester ANC Registration has shown an improving trend from 61% in 2014-15 to 71% in 2019-20.
- Percentage of Institutional Deliveries has shown an improving trend from 87% in 2014-15 to 94% in 2019-20.
- Education :
- Gross Enrolment Ratio of girls in the schools at secondary level has improved from 77.45 (2014-15) to 81.32 (2018-19-provisional figures).
- Percentage of schools with functional separate toilets for girls has shown improvement from 92.1% in 2014-15 to 95.1% in 2018-19 (2018-19 provisional figure).
- The BBBP scheme has been able to bring the focus on important issue of female infanticide, lack of education amongst girls and deprivation of their rights on a life cycle continuum.
- The scheme has successfully engaged with Community to defy the age old biases against the girl child and introduce innovative practices to celebrate the girl child.\
National Girl Child Day: 24th January
- National Girl Child Day in India is celebrated on January 24 every year.
- The day was an initiative of the Ministry of Women and Child Development in 2008.
- To provide support and opportunities to the girls of India.
- It also aims towards promoting awareness about the rights of the girl child and to increase awareness on the importance of girl education, and their health and nutrition.
- The main objective behind this is to highlight the inequalities faced by girls, to promote awareness including the rights of a girl child, the importance of education, health, and nutrition.
- National Girl Child day 2021 is being celebrated across the country with the objective of raising awareness on the issue of declining Child Sex Ratio (CSR). The celebrations will also mark the anniversary of Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao (BBBP) scheme.
- Punjab has announced January 2021 to be the “month of the girl child”. The scheme Dheeiyan Di Lohri has also been launched.
- The Odisha government will honour individuals and organisations who have worked towards mitigating child marriage on the National Girl Child Day.
- Madhya Pradesh will celebrate National Girl Child Day with the theme of “Aware girl child, Able Madhya Pradesh” under the scheme Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao. From January 24 to 30, the state will also observe the National Girl Child week.
National Education Policy (NEP)-2020
- It has introduced “Gender Inclusion Fund for targeting the development of girl child.
- The GOI will constitute a “Gender Inclusion Fund” to provide quality and equitable education for all girls.
- The fund will focus on ensuring 100% enrollment of girls in schooling and a record participation rate in higher education, decrease gender gaps at all levels, practice gender equity and inclusion in society, and improve the leadership capacity of girls through positive civil dialogues.
- Funds will also enable States to support and scale effective community-based interventions that address local context-specific barriers to girls and transgender students.
- NEP 2020 will focus on the safety and security of school-going girls both inside and outside of the campus.
- The schools have to ensure harassment, discrimination, and domineer free campus before enlisting for yearly accreditation. T
- This will increase the attendance number of girl children in the class.
- The policy will identify social mores and gender stereotypes that prevent girls from accessing education and causing regular dropouts.
- Department of School Education and Literacy, Ministry of Education (MoE) is implementing Samagra Shiksha – an Integrated Scheme for School Education (ISSE) under which various interventions have been targeted for Girls’ Education.
- Bridging gender and social category gaps at all levels of school education is one of the major objectives of the Samagra Shiksha.
In order to ensure greater participation of girls in education, various interventions under Samagra Shiksha have been targeted. These interventions include:
- Opening of schools in the neighbourhood as defined by the State,
- Provision of free text-books to girls up to Class VIII,
- Uniforms to all girls, SC, ST children and Below Poverty Line (BPL) children up to class VIII,
- Provision of gender segregated toilets in all schools,
- Teachers’ sensitization programmes to promote girls’ participation,
- Provision for Self-Defence training for the girls from classes VI to XII,
- Stipend to CWSN girls from class I to Class XII,
- Residential Schools/Hostels,
- Construction of residential quarters for teachers in remote/hilly areas/in areas with difficult terrain.
In addition to this, to reduce gender gaps at all levels of school education and for providing quality education to girls from disadvantaged groups, Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalayas (KGBVs) have been sanctioned in Educationally Backward Blocks (EBBs) under Samagra Shiksha.
- The Department of Science and Technology (DST) has launched ‘Knowledge Involvement in Research Advancement through Nurturing (KIRAN)’ Scheme to provide various career opportunities to women scientists and technologists.
- It is primarily aimed to bring gender parity in Science & Technology sector by inducting more women talent in the research & development domain through various programmes.
- In the National Apprenticeship Promotion Scheme (NAPS), the percentage of female apprentices has increased from 4% in August, 2016 to 12% in December, 2020.
- The female enrollment percentage in STRIVE-assisted ITIs has increased from 15.5% to 19.1%.
National Voters’ Day: 25th January
- The Election Commission of India will observe the 11th National Voters Day on January 25 centred on the theme of ‘Making Our Voters Empowered, Vigilant, Safe and Informed.’
Why is National Voters’ Day observed?
- The day has been observed on January 25 every year since 2011 all across the country to mark the foundation day of the Election Commission of India on January 25, 1950.
- The main purpose of the NVD celebration is to encourage, facilitate and maximise enrolment, especially for the new voters.
How is NVD observed?
- Dedicated to the voters of the country, the day is utilised to spread awareness among voters and for promoting informed participation in the electoral process.
- New voters are felicitated and handed over their Elector Photo Identity Card (EPIC) in the NVD functions.
What’s new this year?
- The President will also launch ECI’s Web Radio:‘Hello Voters.’
- This digital radio service will stream voter awareness programmes.
- It will provide information and education on electoral processes through songs, drama, discussions, sports, stories of elections etc. in Hindi, English and regional languages from all over the country.
- Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad will launch the e-EPIC programme and distribute e-EPICs and Elector Photo Identity Cards to five new voters.
- e-EPIC, a digital version of the Elector Photo Identity Card can be accessed through the Voter Helpline App and websites.
Golden Peacock Award
Why in News?
- The epic World War II film Into the Darkness (De forbandede år,) which portrays the story of a Danish electronics factory owner who is forced to produce for the occupying Nazi forces, has won the coveted Golden Peacock Award at the just-concluded 51st edition of the International Film Festival of India.
- The Golden Peacock Award consists of a cash prize of Rs. 40 lakhs (Rs. 4 million) to be shared equally between Director Anders Refn and Producer Lene Børglum, both of whom have also been presented with a certificate each as well.
The Silver Peacock
- For the Best Director goes to Taiwanese Director, writer and producer Chen-Nien Ko, for her 2020 Mandarin drama film The Silent Forest. The Silver Peacock for Best Director carries a certificate and cash award of 15 lakh rupees (Rs. 1.5 million).
- For Best Actor – Male too has been awarded to 17-year-old Tzu-Chuan Liu.
- For Best Actor – Female has been awarded to Polish actor Zofia Stafiej, for her role in Piotr Domalewski’s I Never Cry / Jak najdalej stad.
The IFFI 51 Special Jury Award for a film
- Goes to Bulgarian Director Kamin Kalev for his 2020 film February, which tells the life story of a man at three different ages of eight, eighteen and eighty-two.
- Kalev receives a Silver Peacock, a certificate and cash award of 15 lakh rupees (Rs. 1.5 million).
The IFFI 51 Special Mention Award
- Presented to Indian director Kripal Kalita for his Assamese film Bridge, which reflects life amidst hardships caused by annual floods in rural Assam.
The Award for Best Debut Director
- Presented to Brazilian Director Cássio Pereira dos Santos, for his 2020 Portugese film Valentina, an eponymous film which tells the story of a 17-year-old transgender Brazilian girl, whose sole aim is to lead a normal life with her mother.
ICFT UNESCO Gandhi Award
- The prestigious ICFT UNESCO Gandhi Award, given to a film that best reflects Mahatma Gandhi’s ideals of peace, tolerance and non-violence, has been awarded to Ameen Nayfeh’s 2020 Arabic film 200 Meters.
- The Award consists of a certificate and a medal and is given as part of IFFI’s collaboration with the International Council for Film, Television and Audiovisual Communication (ICFT) Paris.
Pradhan Mantri Rashtriya Bal Puraskar
Why in News?
- 32 children have been awarded the Pradhan Mantri Rashtriya Bal Puraskar, 2021.
- The Government of India has been awarding the Pradhan Mantri Rashtriya Bal Puraskar to the children with exceptional abilities and outstanding accomplishments, in the fields of innovation, scholastics, sports, arts & culture, social service and bravery.
National Health Mission
Why in News?
- Tamil Nadu’s mentoring concept in which obstetricians and gynaecologists (OGs) were roped in for management of antenatal mothers was selected by the National Health Mission (NHM) as one of the best practices.
- Through this initiative, over 2.8 lakh high risk pregnant women were identified during the COVID-19 pandemic in the State.
Management of High Risk Antenatal (AN) Mothers
- The mentoring concept – Management of High Risk Antenatal (AN) Mothers during COVID-19 pandemic – introduced by NHM, Tamil Nadu was presented at the 7th National Summit on Good Replicable Practices and Innovations in Public Health Care Systems in India recently.
- Under this, a line list of all AN mothers were obtained from Pregnancy and Infant Cohort Monitoring and Evaluation (PICME) and categorised as low risk, moderate risk and high risk antenatal care women.
- District-wise line list of 7.29 lakh mothers with Expected Date of Delivery (EDD) for the period March 24 to December 31, 2020 was obtained from PICME software and shared to districts/Chief District Obstetrician for ready reference.
- Microplan was worked out at all levels for tracking of the women.
- This concept enabled to provide proper interventional services at the right time to ensure safe delivery.
- Picking up high risk mothers early enabling admission 10 days before EDD.
- This will help in further reduction of both maternal and infant mortality which was one of the main objectives.
- It will also help in bridging the disconnect that existed between the field and institutional care for high risk pregnant women
Flash Droughts in India
Why in News?
- A new study has pointed out that India could experience more such flash droughts by the end of this century.
- In 1979, India faced a severe flash drought, affecting about 40% of the country and taking a toll on agriculture. An article published that year noted that the big granaries of Uttar Pradesh and Andhra were affected, and the country suffered a loss of about ₹5,000 crores.
- Flash droughts are those that occur very quickly, with soil moisture depleting rapidly. Normally, developing drought conditions take months, but these happen within a week or in two weeks’ time.
- Several factors including atmospheric anomalies, anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions play an important role.
- The ongoing climate change has caused a significant increase in global temperature and this can lead to more and more flash droughts in the coming years.
- If we can meet the ‘Paris Agreement’ goals and limit global warming to well below 2 degrees C, the numbers and frequency of the projected flash droughts may go down.
About the Latest Study
- The team analysed the major flash droughts that occurred from 1951 to 2016 in India.
- They simulated the soil moisture using the meteorological data obtained from the India meteorological department.
- The top five flash droughts based on the overall severity score occurred in 1979 followed by 2009, 1951, 1986 and 2005.
- To predict the future flash droughts the team used a Community Earth System Model which simulates the summer monsoon precipitation, sea surface temperature, role of El Nino Southern Oscillation, and air temperature over India.
- The analysis showed a considerable rise in the frequency of extremely dry and hot years in the coming three decades.
- They also examined the role of greenhouse gas emissions, industrial aerosols, and land-use/land-cover change.
- The frequency of concurrent hot and dry extremes is projected to rise by about five-fold, causing an approximately seven-fold increase in flash droughts like 1979 by the end of the 21st century.
- They conclude that this increased frequency of flash droughts can have deleterious implications for crop production, irrigation demands and groundwater abstraction in India.
- The team has planned future studies that will consider the flash-drought prediction ahead of time using operational meteorological forecasts from India Meteorological Department.
- They explain that this will help manage irrigation water demands and avoid considerable losses in agriculture.
Why in News?
- Indian Sunderbans, which is part of the largest mangrove forest in the world, is home to 428 species of birds, a recent publication of the Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) States.
- The Indian Sunderbans, which covers 4,200 sq km, comprises of the Sunderban Tiger Reserve of 2,585 sq km — home to about 96 Royal Bengal Tigers (as per last census in 2020 ) — is also a world heritage site and a Ramsar Site.
- Of the 428 birds listed, some, like the Masked Finfoot and Buffy fish owl, are recorded only from the Sunderbans.
- The area is home to nine out of 12 species of kingfishers found in the country as well rare species such as the Goliath heron and Spoon-billed Sandpiper.
- Sunderbans are the most diverse of natural landscapes and accounts to 60 % of all mangrove forests in the country.
- The mudflats exposed in the low tides, rich in microorganism deposited during tidal activity are ideal feeding for migratory birds.
- These mudflats and wetlands of Sunderbans act as a stopover site for migratory flight south (south wards) and back
Estonia to get first woman Prime Minister
Why in News?
- Estonia’s two biggest political parties say they have clinched a deal to form a new government to be led by a female prime minister for the first time in the Baltic country’s history, replacing the previous Cabinet that collapsed into a corruption scandal earlier this month.
- First woman Prime Minister Kaja Kallas.
- It regained its independence amid the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.
- Estonia has been a member of the European Union and NATO since 2004.
Dams in India, U.S. & other Nations
Why in News?
- Over a thousand large dams in India will be roughly 50-years-old in 2025 and such aging structures across the world pose a growing threat, according to a United Nations (UN) report which notes that by 2050, most people on Earth will live downstream of tens of thousands of dams built in the 20th century.
- The report, titled ‘Ageing water infrastructure: An emerging global risk’ and compiled by United Nations University’s Canadian-based Institute for Water, Environment and Health, says most of the 58,700 large dams worldwide were constructed between 1930 and 1970 with a design life of 50 to 100 years.
- Ageing signs include increasing cases of dam failures, progressively increasing costs of dam repair and maintenance, increasing reservoir sedimentation, and loss of a dam’s functionality and effectiveness, “strongly interconnected” manifestations.
- The analysis includes dam decommissioning or ageing case studies from the U.S., France, Canada, India, Japan, and Zambia and Zimbabwe.
- The report said that 32,716 large dams (55% of the world’s total) are found in just four Asian countries: China, India, Japan, and South Korea – a majority of which will reach the 50-year threshold relatively soon.
- The same is true of many large dams in Africa, South America, and Eastern Europe.
How do butterflies fly with such small bodies and large wings?
- Unlike any other flying animal, butterflies have unusually short, broad and large wings relative to their body size.
- By studying the aerodynamics of butterflies in a wind tunnel, researchers have now answered this question which has confused lepidopterologists (who study moths and butterflies) for years.
- The results suggested that butterflies use a clap technique which helps them take off rapidly.
- “When the wings clap together, the air between the wings is pressed out, creating a jet, pushing the animal in the opposite direction”.
- The flexible butterfly wings form a cupped shape during the upstroke and a clap that thrusts the butterfly forwards, while the downstroke is used for weight support.
- Though butterflies exhibit a fluttery flight, they also perform highly directed and sustained flights during migration and take-off.
- Butterflies need high force and control for fast take-off flights.
- The team kept six individuals of silver-washed fritillaries (Argynnis paphia) in a wind tunnel and studied the behaviour and aerodynamics.
Why should one study butterflies and their flight?
- The shape and flexibility of butterfly wings could inspire improved performance and flight technology in small drones.
Bhima Koregaon activists
Why in News?
- The top human rights body of the United Nations has urged the Indian government to release the activists who are in prison for the 2018 Bhima Koregaon case, “at the very least on bail”.
- Several prominent activists like Varavara Rao and Fr. Stan Swamy were arrested and remain in custody even as the case is being investigated.
The Bhima Koregaon case
- Dates back to January 1, 2018, which marked the 200th anniversary of the battle of Bhima Koregaon. The event was organised to celebrate the victory of the British, which included a large number of Mahars, against Peshwa Baji Rao II’s army. A person was killed and several others were injured during the 2018 event.
- The case is currently with the National Investigation Agency (NIA).
- India’s recent human rights record has repeatedly come in focus in its exchanges with the OHCHR as well as with the members of the U.S. Congress.
Ocean Cools at the Surface But Warms Up At Depth
- Scientists have provided a comprehensive analysis on the evolution of Southern Ocean temperatures over the last 25 years.
- The research team has concluded that the slight cooling observed at the surface hides a rapid and marked warming of the waters, to a depth of up to 800 meters.
- The study points to major changes around the polar ice cap where temperatures are increasing by 0.04°C per decade, which could have serious consequences for Antarctic ice.
- Warm water is also rising rapidly to the surface, at a rate of 39 meters per decade, i.e. between three and ten times more than previously estimated.
- These results were obtained thanks to unique data acquired over the past 25 years on board the French Antarctic resupply vessel L’Astrolabe.
- This is the longest series of temperature records in the Southern Ocean covering north to south.