Current Affairs Jul 17

School Innovation Ambassador Training Program

Why in News?

  • Union Education Minister and Tribal Affairs Minister jointly launched the ‘School Innovation Ambassador Training Program’ for 50,000 school teachers.
  • To strengthen the mentoring capacity of teachers, CBSE, in collaboration with the Innovation Cell, AICTE, Ministry of Education, launched the programme to train 50,000 school teachers.
  • These teachers will become mentors and guide these young students to pursue innovation and entrepreneurship in line with the NEP’s emphasis on nurturing young students for problem-solving and critical thinking at the school level.

More than 10,000 schools nominate teachers

  • More than 10,000 schools have nominated 5 teachers each from their schools to participate in this training programme.
  • The training will be provided to the teachers in phased manner. The first batch of training will start from July 20, 2021.

What will the innovation ambassadors do?

  • The trained ‘Innovation Ambassadors’ will perform the following tasks at school level:
  • Creating the culture of innovation in their respective schools
  • Mentor the teachers and students of their respective and nearby schools
  • Provide support to other schools as a resource person
  • Spread the message of innovation and start-ups among the students and faculty
  • Act as an evaluator for Idea competitions conducted at the national level
  • Act as a Mentor for the national level program on Innovation and related activities.




Digital Platform Kisan Sarathi

Why in News?

  • In order to facilitate farmers to get ‘right information at right time’ in their desired language, a digital platform namely ‘KisanSarathi’ was launched jointly by Minister for Agriculture and Farmers Welfare with Minister for Electronics and Information Technology, on the occasion of 93rd ICAR Foundation Day.
  • Farmers can avail personalised advisories on agriculture and allied areas directly from scientists of Krishi Vigyan Kendra through the digital platform.
  • This initiative of Kisan Sarathi will empower farmers with the technological interventions and reach farmers in remote areas.





Jurisdiction of Krishna & Godavari River Management Boards

Why in News?

  • The Ministry of Jal Shakti through Gazette Notification has notified the jurisdiction of Godavari River Management Board and Krishna River Management Board, which provide the required authority and power to the two Boards in terms of administration, regulation, operation and maintenance of listed projects in Godavari and Krishna Rivers in the two States.
  • This step is expected to ensure judicious utilization of water resources in the two states.
  • The Andhra Pradesh Reorganization Act 2014 (APRA) contains provisions for the effective management of river waters in the states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.
  • Constitution of the Godavari and Krishna River Management Boards and the constitution of an Apex Council for the supervision of the functioning of these Boards, is laid down in this Act.
  • The Central Government in exercise of the powers conferred under Section 85 of the APRA, 2014, constituted the two River Management Boards effective from 2nd June, 2014 for the administration, regulation, maintenance and operation of such projects on Godavari and Krishna rivers, as may be notified by the Central Government.




“Aiming for Sustainable Habitat: New Initiatives in Building Energy Efficiency 2021”

Why in News?

  • Union Minister of Power and New & Renewable Energy announced various initiatives being taken by Government of India towards energy efficiency in the building sector, as part of ‘Azadi Ka Amrut Mahotsav’.
  • While inaugurating “Aiming for Sustainable Habitat: New Initiatives in Building Energy Efficiency 2021” launched by Bureau of Energy Efficiency, Union Minister reiterated his commitment to ensure continuous efforts to enhance energy efficiency in the economy, especially in the buildings sector.
  • Building sector is second largest consumer of electricity after industry but it is expected to become the largest energy consuming sector by 2030. Realizing its importance, the Government of India is focusing on improving energy efficiency across residential as well as commercial building establishments.
  • With future-driven initiatives like smart home ecosystems, optimizing energy-efficiency in any given structure will surely be the need in the coming years.

The initiatives launched included:

  • Specifying code compliance approaches and minimum energy performance requirements for building services, and verification framework with Eco Niwas Samhita 2021.
  • The web-based platform ‘The Handbook of Replicable Designs for Energy Efficient Residential Buildings’ as a learning tool, which can be used to create a pool of ready-to-use resources of replicable designs to construct energy-efficient homes in India.
  • Creating an Online Directory of Building Materials that would envisage the process of establishing Standards for energy efficient building materials.
  • Announcement of NEERMAN Awards, (National Energy Efficiency Roadmap for Movement towards Affordable & Natural Habitat), with the goal of encouraging exceptionally efficient building designs complying with BEE’s Energy Conservation Building Codes.
  • Online Star Rating tool for Energy Efficient Homes created to improve energy-efficiency and reduce energy consumption in individual homes. It provides performance analysis to help professionals decide the best options to pick for energy-efficiency of their homes.
  • Training of over 15,000 Architects, Engineers and Government officials on Energy Conservation Building Code (ECBC) 2017 and Eco Niwas Samhita (ENS) 2021).

About BEE:

  • The Government of India has set up the Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE) on 1st March 2002 under the provision of the Energy Conservation Act, 2001.
  • The mission of the Bureau of Energy Efficiency is to assist in developing policies and strategies with a thrust on self-regulation and market principles with the primary objective of reducing energy intensity of the Indian economy within the overall framework of the Energy Conservation Act, 2001.
  • This will be achieved with active participation of all stakeholders, resulting in accelerated and sustained adoption of energy efficiency in all sectors.




Automated Train Toilet Sewerage Disposal System

Why in News?

  • An automated technology for collection of toilet waste which is easy to maintain and seven times cheaper alternative to the bio-toilets, developed by an Indian scientist, can be used to maintain the toilet system of the Indian Railways.
  • Existing Bio toilets use anaerobic bacteria for converting human waste to gas, but that bacteria can’t decompose plastic and cloth materials dumped into toilets by passengers. Hence maintenance and removing of such non decomposed materials inside the tank is difficult.
  • The technology developed by Dr. R.V. Krishnaiah from Chebrolu Engineering College is an automated system for collection of toilet waste from running trains and segregation of different materials and processing into usable things.
  • The technology developed with support from the Advanced Manufacturing Technologies programme of the Department of Science & Technology (DST), aligned with the ‘Make in India’ initiative has been granted five National patents and is in the testing phase.

The automated system consists of three simple steps–

      • the septic tank (which is placed under the track, i.e., train line) top cover gets opened when train approaches to the septic tank place by using Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) sensor and
      • reader placed at Engine and septic tank position respectively, sewerage material in toilet tanks is dropped into the septic tank when they are mutually synchronized, and
      • finally the septic tank cover gets closed when train departs away from it.
  • The collected sewerage material from train toilets is segregated such that human waste is stored in one tank, and other materials such as plastic materials, cloth materials, and so on are stored in another tank.
  • This technology has been developed targeting the Indian Railways specifically with the aim of cost reduction and to obviate the necessity of time-consuming anaerobic bacteria generation.
  • In contrast with Bio toilets which cost one lakh per unit, the new technology brings down the cost to Fifteen thousand rupees only.




Appearing and Disappearing Stars

Why in News?

  • An international collaboration of astronomers has identified a curious occurrence of nine stars like objects that appeared and vanished in a small region within half an hour in an old photographic plate.
  • Astronomers collaborating across counties track vanishing and appearing celestial objects by comparing old images of the night sky with new modern one, register unnatural phenomena, and probe deep into such phenomena to record changes in the Universe.
  • Scientists from Sweden, Spain, USA, Ukraine, and India investigated early form of photography that used glass plates to capture images of the night sky from the 12th of April 1950, exposed at Palomar Observatory in California, USA and detected these transient stars which were not to be found in photographs half an hour later and not traced since then.
  • Such a group of objects appearing and disappearing at the same time have been detected for the first time in the history of astronomy.
  • The astronomers have not found any explanation in well-established astrophysical phenomena like gravitational lensing, fast radio bursts, or any variable star that could be responsible for this cluster of fast changes in the sky.
  • The scientists are still exploring the reasons behind the observation of these strange transient stars and are still not sure about what triggered their appearance and disappearance
  • The astronomers are examining the possibility that the photographic plates were contaminated with radioactive particles causing false stars on the plates.
  • But if the observation is proven to be real, another option is solar reflections from reflective, unnatural objects in orbit around Earth several years before the first human satellite was launched.




NCW signs MoU with BPR&D for Nation-Wide

Why in News?

  • The National Commission for Women (NCW) has signed an MoU with Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPR&D) for gender sensitization of police personnel across the country.


  • The objective of the programme is to ensure gender sensitization of police personnel with respect to legislation and policies concerning women and bringing attitudinal and behavioural changes in police officers while dealing with crimes against women.
  • The Commission has been regularly organising gender sensitization programs for police officers to achieve the objective of building trust of women complainants in police.
  • It is with this objective that NCW has decided to launch a programme across the country to sensitize officials on gender related issues and empower them to perform their duties effectively, without prejudice and bias especially in cases of gender-based crimes.
  • The training will be conducted for a duration of three-five days, preferably in residential mode as a short intense course with an expected training of 18-24 hours in total.
  • It will have special focus on gender issues, women related laws, role of implementing agencies along with sharing of best practices.
  • National Commission for Women is the apex national level organization with the mandate of protecting and promoting the interests of women under the aegis of Ministry of Women and Child Development, Govt. of India.




Law Ministry clears rules for vintage cars

Why in News?

  • For the first time, India is set to have rules regulating the registration process for vintage cars.
  • The Law Ministry has given its nod to an amendment to the Central Motor Vehicle Rules, 1989, that are expected to be notified by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways soon.
  • According to the rules, all two-wheelers and four-wheelers, which have not undergone any substantial overhaul, will be defined as Vintage Motor Vehicles 50 years after the date of first registration.
  • Vehicles that already carry a registration number will be allowed to retain it. However, classics that are registered afresh, such as those that are imported into the country, will be assigned an identifier “VA” in the registration number.
  • Vintage vehicles will neither be permitted on roads for regular purposes, nor will they be used for commercial purposes. They will be allowed only during exhibitions.
  • The fees for a new registration will be ₹20,000, and subsequent re-registration will cost ₹5,000.
  • All such antique vehicles will be exempted from the provisions of High Security Registration Plate, recently made mandatory by the government.
  • The sale and purchase of such registered vehicles is permissible, provided the buyer and seller inform the respective State Transport Authorities.





Why in News?

  • An Artificial Intelligence-powered COVID-19 test that can be performed at an affordable cost at home has been developed by researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology-Hyderabad (IITH).


  • This test kit can produce results within 30 minutes for both symptomatic and asymptomatic patients.
  • The major benefit of this testing kit is that it does not require RT-PCR (Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction), an expert human resource, and a BSL-2 lab facility for the extraction of RNA, so it has potential for one to take the test at home without expert supervision.
  • CSIR-Centre for Cellular & Molecular Biology (CCMB) has performed the validation of the rapid RNA electronic diagnostic device for detection of SARS-Cov-2 virus in the swab samples independently with the in-house samples and hospital samples as advised by Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).
  • These samples were confirmed for their positivity or negativity by the RT-PCR method.
  • The validation report confirmed the kit’s efficiency 94.2%, sensitivity 91.3%, and specificity 98.2%.




Curbs on foreign card firms

Why in News?

  • The Reserve Bank of India has so far barred three foreign card payment network companies — Mastercard, American Express and Diners Club — from taking new customers on board over the issue of storing data in India.

Why have these companies been barred from enrolling new customers?

  • Recently, the RBI imposed restrictions on Mastercard Asia Pacific Pte Ltd from onboarding new domestic customers (debit, credit or prepaid) in India from July 22, citing non-compliance with guidelines for storage of data in India.
  • The RBI said it had given almost three years for Mastercard to comply with the regulatory directions, but it was unable to complete the process.
  • In April this year, the RBI had imposed restrictions on American Express Banking Corp and Diners Club International Ltd from enrolling new domestic customers onto their card networks from May 1, 2021, also citing non-compliance of storage of data.

What do the RBI guidelines stipulate?

  • By the RBI circular on Storage of Payment System Data dated April 6, 2018, all system providers were directed to ensure that within six months the entire data (full end-to-end transaction details, information collected or carried or processed as part of the message or payment instruction) relating to payment systems operated by them is stored in a system only in India.
  • They were also required to report compliance to the RBI and submit a board-approved system audit report conducted by a CERT-In empanelled auditor within the timelines specified.
  • However, credit and card firms with global operations have been resisting the move, citing costs, security risk, lack of clarity, timeline, and the possibility of data localisation demand from other countries.

What’s the role of card networks?

  • Firms such as Mastercard, Visa and National Payment Corporation of India (NPCI) are Payment System Operators authorised to operate a card network in India under the Payment and Settlement Systems (PSS) Act, 2007.
  • Under the Act, the RBI is the authority for the regulation and supervision of payment systems in India.
  • The RBI’s payment system enables payments to be effected between a payer and a beneficiary and involves the process of clearing, payment or settlement, or all of them.
  • Funds transferred using debit or credit cards are routed through platforms such as Mastercard, Visa and NPCI.
  • The RBI has decided to allow non-bank entities — Prepaid Payment Instrument (PPI) issuers, card networks, White Label ATM (WLA) operators, Trade Receivables Discounting System (TReDS) platforms – to become members of the centralised payment system (CPS) and effect fund transfer through RTGS and NEFT.




Shreya Singhal case

Why in News?

  • Six years after it struck down Section 66A of the Information Technology Act, 2000, the Supreme Court earlier this month termed its continued use by law enforcement agencies of various states as “a shocking state of affairs” and sought a response from the Centre.
  • The Centre has now written to states, asking them not to register cases under the repealed provision and withdraw any such case that may have been filed.
  • In 2015, the apex court struck down the law in the landmark case Shreya Singhal v. Union of India, calling it “open-ended and unconstitutionally vague”, and thus expanded the contours of free speech to the Internet.

What did Section 66A do?

  • Introduced by the UPA government in 2008, the amendment to the IT Act, 2000, gave the government power to arrest and imprison an individual for allegedly “offensive and menacing” online posts, and was passed without discussion in Parliament.
  • Section 66A empowered police to make arrests over what policemen, in terms of their subjective discretion, could construe as “offensive” or “menacing” or for the purposes of causing annoyance, inconvenience, etc.
  • It prescribed the punishment for sending messages through a computer or any other communication device like a mobile phone or a tablet, and a conviction could fetch a maximum of three years in jail.

Why was the law criticised?

  • The problem was with the vagueness about what is “offensive”.
  • The word having a very wide connotation, was open to distinctive, varied interpretations. It was seen as subjective, and what might have been innocuous for one person, could lead to a complaint from someone else and, consequently, an arrest under Section 66A if the police prima facie accepted the latter person’s view.

So, how did 66A come under the Supreme Court’s scrutiny?

  • The first petition came up in the court following the arrest of two girls in Maharashtra by Thane Police in November 2012 over a Facebook post.
  • The girls had made comments on the shutdown of Mumbai for the funeral of Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray. The arrests triggered outrage from all quarters over the manner in which the cyber law was used.
  • The petition was filed by Shreya Singhal, then a 21-year-old law student.

What were the grounds for the challenge?

  • While the objective behind the 2008 amendment was to prevent the misuse of information technology, particularly through social media, the petitioners argued that Section 66A came with extremely wide parameters, which allowed whimsical interpretations by law enforcement agencies.
  • Most of the terms used in the section had not been specifically defined under the Act, and the petitions argued that the law was a potential tool to gag legitimate free speech online, and to curtail freedom of speech and expression guaranteed under the Constitution, going far beyond the ambit of “reasonable restrictions” on that freedom.

What did the Supreme Court decide?

  • On March 24, 2015, a bench of Justices ruled in Shreya Singhal v. Union of India declared Section 66A unconstitutional for “being violative of Article 19(1)(a) and not saved under Article 19(2).”
  • Article 19(1)(a) gives people the right to speech and expression whereas 19(2) accords the state the power to impose “reasonable restrictions” on the exercise of this right.
  • The decision was considered a landmark judicial pushback against state encroachment on the freedom of speech and expression. “Section 66A is cast so widely that virtually any opinion on any subject would be covered by it …and if it is to withstand the test of constitutionality, the chilling effect on free speech would be total,” the court said.
  • The bench also read down Section 79– now at the centre of the ongoing “intermediary liability” battle between the Centre and micro-blogging platform Twitter– defining key rules for the relationship between governments and commercial internet platforms.
  • Section 79 says that any intermediary shall not be held legally or otherwise liable for any third party information, data, or communication link made available or hosted on its platform.




Tilak and Gandhi tried under the sedition law

Why in News?

  • Recently, while hearing a petition filed by Major General (retired) SG Vombatkere who has challenged Section 124A of the IPC which deals with the offence of sedition, Chief Justice of India N V Ramana observed that the “colonial law” was used by the British to silence Mahatma Gandhi and Bal Gangadhar Tilak.
  • In his plea, Vombatkere has challenged the constitutional validity of the sedition law on the grounds that it has a “chilling effect” on speech and poses an unreasonable restriction on the fundamental right of free expression.
  • Therefore, his plea wants that the law be struck down. Article 19 (1) (a) of the Constitution guarantees Indian citizens’ freedom of speech and expression.
  • In the landmark case of 1962, Kedar Nath versus Union of India, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutional validity of the sedition law while trying to curtail its misuse.
  • The court said at the time that unless accompanied by an incitement or call for violence, criticism of the government cannot be labelled sedition.

When was the sedition law introduced in India?

  • The sedition law which is enshrined in Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code (IPS) was introduced by the British government in 1870 to tackle dissent against colonial rule. The original draft of the IPC, which was enacted in 1860, did not consist of this law.
  • Section 124A states the following, “Whoever, by words, either spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation, or otherwise, brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards, the Government established by law in India, shall be punished with imprisonment for life, to which a fine may be added; or, with imprisonment which may extend to three years, to which a fine may be added; or, with fine.”

When was sedition law used against Gandhi and Tilak?

  • The first known instance of the application of the law was the trial of newspaper editor Jogendra Chandra Bose in 1891.
  • Other prominent examples of the application of the law include the trials of Tilak and Gandhi. Apart from this, Jawaharlal Nehru, Abul Kalam Azad and Vinayak Damodar Savarkar were also charged with sedition.
  • In 1922, Gandhi was arrested on charges of sedition in Bombay for taking part in protests against the colonial government. He was sentenced to six years in prison but was released after two years because of medical reasons.
  • Before Gandhi, Tilak faced three trials in cases related to sedition and was imprisoned twice. He was charged with sedition in 1897 for writing an article in his weekly publication called Kesari and was sentenced to 12 months imprisonment.
  • He was tried again in 1908 and was represented by MA Jinnah. But his application for bail was rejected and he was sentenced to six years.




Hubble Telescope

Why in News?

  • NASA plans to fix a glitch that has stopped the Hubble space telescope from being used for science work for more than a month.
  • The safe mode was activated after an onboard computer halted on 13 June, leading to all non-essential systems being shut down – essentially meaning the telescope is not being used for astronomy observations.
  • The Hubble, launched in 1990, is considered by many to be the most important scientific tool ever to be built.

Why is the Hubble telescope famous?

  • Named after the astronomer Edwin Hubble, the observatory is the first major optical telescope to be placed in space and has made groundbreaking discoveries in the field of astronomy since its launch.
  • It is larger than a school bus in size, has a 7.9 feet mirror, and captures stunning images of deep space playing a major role in helping astronomers understand the universe by observing the most distant stars, galaxies and planets.
  • NASA also allows anyone from the public to search the Hubble database for which new galaxy it captured, what unusual did it notice about our stars, solar system and planets and what patterns of ionised gases it observed, on any specific day.