Current Affairs Jul 6

Open Network for Digital Commerce (ONDC)

Why in News?

  • Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT), Ministry of Commerce and Industry has initiated a project on Open Network for Digital Commerce (ONDC).
  • The task has been assigned to Quality Council of India (QCI).
  • ONDC aims at promoting open networks developed on open sourced methodology, using open specifications and open network protocols independent of any specific platform.
  • ONDC is expected to digitize the entire value chain, standardize operations, promote inclusion of suppliers, derive efficiencies in logistics and enhance value for consumers.
  • An advisory council has been constituted to advise the Government on measures needed to design and accelerate adoption of ONDC.




Management of Forest resources

Why in News?

  • Ministry of Tribal Affairs and Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change have jointly decided to give more powers to the tribal communities in managing the forest resources.
  • The Joint Communication, pertains to effective implementation of the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006, which is commonly known as Forest Rights Act (FRA).
  • The Act recognizes and vests the forest rights and occupation in forest land in forest dwelling scheduled tribes (FDSTs) and other traditional forest dwellers (OTFDs) who have been residing in such forests for generations but whose rights could not be recorded and provides a framework for recording the forest rights so vested and the nature of evidence required for such recognition and vesting in respect of forest land.




International Film Festival of India (IFFI)

Why in News?

  • Ministry of Information & Broadcasting released the regulations and poster for the 52nd edition of the International Film Festival of India (IFFI). The festival will be held in Goa from 20th -28th November 2021.


  • The International Film Festival of India (IFFI) is reckoned as one of Asia’s oldest and India’s biggest international film festivals.
  • The Festival is being organized by the Directorate of Film Festivals (DFF), Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India in collaboration with the State Government of Goa and the Indian Film Industry.
  • IFFI is recognized by the International Federation of Film Producers Associations (FIAPF). Every year, the festival celebrates some of the finest cinematic works and showcases a bouquet of the best films from India and around the world.
  • On the occasion of the birth centenary of the maestro of Indian cinema Shri Satyajit Ray, this time the Directorate of Films Festivals, Ministry of I&B, will pay a tribute through a Special Retrospective at the IFFI.
  • Also, in recognition of the auteur’s legacy, the “Satyajit Ray Lifetime Achievement Award for Excellence in Cinema” has been instituted from this year to be given at the IFFI every year starting from this year.




Excess irrigation over northern India

Why in News?

  • Climate researchers have discovered that excess irrigation over northern India shifts the September monsoon rainfall towards the north-western part of the subcontinent increases widespread weather extremes over Central India.
  • These meteorological hazards expose the vulnerable farmers and their crops to risks of failure.
  • The study which establishes that monsoon precipitation is sensitive to the choice of irrigation practices in South Asia can help plan agricultural practices in this region.
  • South Asia is one of the most heavily irrigated regions of the world, largely using groundwater, and its major summer crop is paddy which is cultivated in water flooded fields.
  • The research showed that monsoon precipitation is sensitive to the choice of irrigation practices in South Asia.
  • In another study, research group identified for the first time that risks for rice and wheat have increased in the recent decade, with wheat at a two-fold higher magnitude than rice.
  • Increasing crop risk is predominantly driven by the decreasing number of farmers, and the wheat risk is also attributed to increasing minimum temperatures during the crop growing season.
  • This study provided compelling evidence indicating that the hydro-climatic hazards related to precipitation extremes and drought are specifically alarmingly increasing the crops risk as compared to temperature extremes.
  • Another finding obtained from this study was extreme rainfall in recent decades in Central India has been increasing, and this is also caused by an increase in irrigation and consequent increase in evapotranspiration (the sum of evaporation from the land surface plus transpiration from plants).




India’s services sector activities

Why in News?

  • India’s services sector activities contracted further in June as the intensification of the COVID-19 crisis and reintroduction of containment measures restricted demand, a monthly survey said.
  • The seasonally adjusted India Services Business Activity Index fell from 46.4 in May to 41.2 in June, as new work intakes and output contracted at the fastest rates since July 2020, which prompted companies to reduce employment again.
  • Subdued demand conditions resulted in a second successive monthly drop in new business received by services firms. The pace of contraction was sharp and the quickest since July 2020
  • In Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) parlance, a print above 50 means expansion, while a score below 50 denotes contraction.
  • The Composite PMI Output Index, which measures combined services and manufacturing output, fell from 48.1 in May to 43.1 in June, signalling the sharpest rate of reduction since July 2020.
  • Meanwhile, rising prices of edible oils and protein-rich items pushed the retail inflation to a six-month high of 6.3% in May, breaching the comfort level of the Reserve Bank and thus rendering a reduction in interest rates a difficult proposition in the near term.




UAE’s Hope orbiter

Why in News?

  • The UAE’s Hope spacecraft, which is orbiting Mars since February this year, has captured images of glowing atmospheric lights in the Red Planet’s night sky, known as discrete auroras.
  • The beacons of light that stand out against the dark nightside disk are highly structured discrete aurora, which traces out where energetic particles excite the atmosphere after being funneled down by a patchy network of crustal magnetic fields that originate from minerals on the surface of Mars.
  • Unlike auroras on Earth, which are seen only near the north and south poles, discrete auroras on Mars are seen all around the planet at night time.

What causes an aurora on Earth?

  • Auroras are caused when charged particles ejected from the Sun’s surface — called the solar wind — enter the Earth’s atmosphere. These particles are harmful, and our planet is protected by the geomagnetic field, which preserves life by shielding us from the solar wind.
  • However, at the north and south poles, some of these solar wind particles are able to continuously stream down, and interact with different gases in the atmosphere to cause a display of light in the night sky.
  • This display, known as an aurora, is seen from the Earth’s high latitude regions (called the auroral oval), and is active all year round.
  • In the northern part of our globe, the polar lights are called aurora borealis or Northern Lights, and are seen from the US (Alaska), Canada, Iceland, Greenland, Norway, Sweden and Finland.
  • In the south, they are called aurora australis or southern lights, and are visible from high latitudes in Antarctica, Chile, Argentina, New Zealand and Australia.

So, how are Martian auroras different?

  • Unlike Earth, which has a strong magnetic field, the Martian magnetic field has largely died out. This is because the molten iron at the interior of the planet– which produces magnetism– has cooled.
  • However, the Martian crust, which hardened billions of years ago when the magnetic field still existed, retains some magnetism.
  • So, in contrast with Earth, which acts like one single bar magnet, magnetism on Mars is unevenly distributed, with fields strewn across the planet and differing in direction and strength.
  • These disjointed fields channel the solar wind to different parts of the Martian atmosphere, creating “discrete” auroras over the entire surface of the planet as charged particles interact with atoms and molecules in the sky– as they do on Earth.

What is the Hope orbiter studying?

  • The Hope Probe, the Arab world’s first mission to Mars, took off from Earth in July last year, and has been orbiting the Red Planet since February.
  • The primary objective of the mission is to study Martian weather dynamics. By correlating the lower atmosphere and upper atmosphere conditions, the probe will look into how weather changes the escape of hydrogen and oxygen into space.
  • By measuring how much hydrogen and oxygen is spilling into space, scientists will be able to look into why Mars lost so much of its early atmosphere and liquid water.




National Judiciary

Why in News?

  • The Union government appears to be steadfast in its resolve to implement reforms in recruitment and appointment to the subordinate judicial services.
  • In 2019, it spearheaded a consultative process for the creation of the All India Judicial Service (AIJS).
  • Initially, only four States and two High Courts supported the proposal. Eight States rejected it, five suggested changes, and 11 are yet to respond.
  • Recently, the Centre took the ordinance route to effect changes in the appointment of members to various tribunals.
  • In a single stroke, it abolished several tribunals. The manner of appointment of members to the remaining tribunals underwent a sea change.
  • It is likely that the ordinance may not pass judicial scrutiny in light of the Supreme Court’s judgment in Rojer Mathew v. South Indian Bank (2019).

Constitutional perspective

  • Article 233(1) of the Constitution lays down that “appointments of persons to be, and the posting and promotion of, district judges in any State shall be made by the Governor of the State in consultation with the High Court exercising jurisdiction in relation to such State”.
  • The 42nd Constitutional amendment in 1976 amended Article 312 (1) empowering Parliament to make laws for the creation of one or more All-India Services, including an AIJS, common to the Union and the States.
  • However, Clause 3 of Article 312 places a restriction that such a service shall not include a post inferior to that of a district judge. The amendment also brought about a significant change in the Seventh Schedule — Entry 3 of List II in its entirety was placed as Entry 11A in List III.
  • This paves the way for Parliament to enact laws with regard to ‘Administration of Justice; constitution and organisation of all courts, except the Supreme Court and the High Courts’.
  • Post-Emergency, amendment to Article 312 (1) has escaped parliamentary scrutiny.
  • A dichotomy exists with regard to Articles 233 and 312. What was essentially intended to be the prerogative of the State will now be the prerogative of the Union.
  • If the fundamental power of the States to make such rules and govern the appointment of district judges is taken away, it may be against the principle of federalism and the basic structure doctrine.
  • The First Law Commission deliberated upon this, but it was only in 1972 that the issue gained momentum. The views of the Chief Justice of India and the Law Commission reports perhaps paved the way to bring in the 42nd constitutional amendment.
  • It was only in 1986 that the Law Commission resurrected the issue and deliberated upon the objections.
  • The primary fear was that promotional avenues of the subordinate judiciary would be severely curtailed. Fifty per cent of the posts of district judges are to be filled by promotion from the subordinate judicial service, thus leaving open the remaining for direct recruitment. Another fundamental concern was the language barrier.
  • The Union Law Minister has extolled AIJS to be an ideal solution for equal representation of the marginalised and deprived sections of society.
  • Most States already have a reservation policy in force.
  • Tamil Nadu provides for a roster-based reservation of 69%, of which 30% is for women. Uttar Pradesh merely provides 20% reservation for women and the AIJS may therefore benefit States like U.P. Arguments that the AIJS will reduce judicial delays do not hold water as the subordinate courts are the crucial point of delays owing to the existence of large vacancies.
  • In the early 1960s, the issue was debated during the Chief Justices Conference and was favoured by the eminent body, but many States and High Courts opposed it.
  • The First National Judicial Pay Commission found that it would be in the interest and the health of the judiciary to form an AIJS. The report supported and reiterated the recommendations of the 14th Law Commission.
  • In the All-India Judges case in 1992 the apex court had opined that the recommendations of the Law Commission should be examined and implemented. The issue was again discussed in All India Judges Association Vs. Union of India (2002). The court accepted most recommendations of the Shetty Commission and directed the government to implement the judgment.



Section 43D(5)

Why in News?

  • A petitioner moved the Bombay High Court challenging Section 43D(5) of the Unlawful Atrocities Prevention Act (UAPA) — a provision petitioner termed “illusory”.
  • The provision makes grant of bail virtually impossible under UAPA since it leaves little room of judicial reasoning.

What the provision says

  • The UAPA, enacted in 1967, was strengthened by the Congress-led UPA government in 2008 and 2012.
  • The test for denying bail under the UAPA is that the court must be satisfied that a “prima facie” case exists against the accused.
  • In 2019, the SC defined prima facie narrowly to mean that the courts must not analyse evidence or circumstances but look at the “totality of the case” presented by the state.
  • Section 43D(5) reads: “Notwithstanding anything contained in the Code, no person accused of an offence punishable under Chapters IV and VI of this Act shall, if in custody, be released on bail or on his own bond unless the Public Prosecutor has been given an opportunity of being heard on the application for such release.
  • “Provided that such accused person shall not be released on bail or on his own bond if the Court, on a perusal of the case diary or the report made under section 173 of the Code is of the opinion that there are reasonable grounds for believing that the accusation against such person is prima facie true.”




OPEC’s output pact proposal

Why in News?

  • The latest round of meetings among the OPEC+ group of oil-exporting countries has stalled as the UAE has pushed back proposals making an increase in crude oil supply conditional on an extension to an output agreement.

What is the background?

  • The OPEC+ group of countries had, in April 2020, entered into a two-year agreement, which entailed steep cuts in crude production to deal with a sharp fall in the price of oil as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • The price of Brent crude hit an 18-year low of under $20 per barrel in April 2020 as economic activity around the world crashed as countries dealt with the pandemic.
  • The initial production cut by OPEC+ was about 10 million barrels per day or about 22 per cent of the reference production of OPEC+ nations.
  • In November 2020, however, the price of Brent crude started climbing consistently and has, now, risen to $76.5 per barrel — up from about $40 per barrel at the end of October — buoyed by the steady rollout of vaccination programmes around the world.
  • OPEC+, however, maintained lower levels of production despite crude oil prices reaching pre-Covid levels, with Saudi Arabia, notably, announcing a further cut in production of 1 million barrels per day for the February-to-April period, which helped boost rising prices even further.
  • The OPEC+ group ran into sharp criticism from developing economies, including India, for deliberately maintaining low supply levels to raise prices.

What is the issue?

  • The UAE agreed that there was a need to increase crude oil production from August, but did not agree to a condition by the OPEC Joint Ministerial Monitoring Committee (JMMC) that the two-year production agreement be extended by six months.
  • The UAE’s key objection to the existing agreement is the reference output used to calculate the total production apportioned to each oil-exporting country.
  • . The UAE noted that the baseline reference production levels were unfair and that it would be open to extending the agreement if baseline production levels were reviews to be fair to all parties.

How will this impact India?

  • If the UAE and other OPEC+ nations do not reach an agreement to increase production in August, expected relief in the form of lower crude oil prices could be delayed.

About Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC)

  • Many of the largest oil-producing countries in the world are part of a cartel known as the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). In 2016, OPEC allied with other top non-OPEC oil-exporting nations to form an even more powerful entity named OPEC+ or OPEC Plus.
  • The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries Plus (OPEC+) is a loosely affiliated entity consisting of the 13 OPEC members and 10 of the world’s major non-OPEC oil-exporting nations.
  • OPEC+ aims to regulate the supply of oil in order to set the price on the world market.
  • OPEC+ came into existence, in part, to counteract other nations’ capacity to produce oil, which could limit OPEC’s ability to control supply and price.
  • OPEC+ controls over 50% of global oil supplies and about 90% of proven oil reserves.




Indian Army Memorial in Italy

Why in News?

  • During his four-day visit to the UK and Italy, Indian Army Chief Manoj Naravane will inaugurate the Indian Army Memorial at Cassino in Italy, about 140 km away from Rome.
  • The memorial commemorates over 3,100 Commonwealth servicemen who took part in the effort to liberate Italy in World War II.
  • Apart from this, 900 Indian soldiers were also commemorated on this memorial.

What was happening in Italy in WWII?

  • Under Benito Mussolini, Italy had joined Nazi Germany in 1936 and in 1940 it entered WWII (1939-1945) against the Allies.
  • But in 1943, Mussolini was overthrown and instead, Italy declared war on Germany. The invasion of Italy by the Allies coincided with an armistice that was made with the Italians.

What was India’s involvement in World War II?

  • In the first half of the 1940s, India was still under the British rule and the Indian Army fought in both the world wars. It comprised both Indian and European soldiers.
  • Apart from this, there was the East India Company Army that also recruited both Indian and European soldiers and the British Army, which was also present in India.
  • In his book “Indian Army in World War II”, Kaushik Roy notes that the Indian Army was the largest volunteer force during WWII, with over 2.5 million (more than 20 lakh) Indians participating. These troops fought the Axis powers (Germany, Italy and Japan) as part of the Allies.
  • Three infantry divisions of the Indian Army took part in the Italian campaign. These were the 4th, 8th and 10th Indian Divisions.
  • The first one to land in the country was the 8 Indian Infantry Division that saw action in Iraq and Iran when the British invaded these countries in 1941.
  • The second one arrived was the 4 Indian Division that came to Italy from North Africa in December 1943. In 1944, it was deployed in Cassino.
  • The third, which is the 10 Indian Division, was formed in 1941 in Ahmednagar and moved to Italy in 1944.




Polar blast

Why in News?

  • New Zealand has experienced its hottest June since records began more than 110 years ago.
  • Despite a polar blast that swept up the country recently, figures from the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research’s (NIWA) show the average temperature for June was 2C warmer than usual, with twenty-four locations around the country hitting their own record highs.
  • The increase in temperatures down to above-normal sea level air pressure to the east of the country, and climate change.
  • North-easterlies are dragging air masses from the sub-tropics, so they are relatively warm.
  • Sea surface temperatures were also warmer than normal and could be a contributing factor.

About Polar Blast or Polar Vortex

  • Polar vortex, is a large region of cold, rotating air that encircles both of Earth’s polar regions. Polar vortices also exist on other rotating, low-obliquity planetary bodies.
  • The term polar vortex can be used to describe two distinct phenomena; the stratospheric polar vortex, and the tropospheric polar vortex.
  • The stratospheric and tropospheric polar vortices both rotate in the direction of the Earth’s spin, but they are distinct phenomena that have different sizes, structures, seasonal cycles, and impacts on weather.

The stratospheric polar vortex

  • It is an area of high-speed, cyclonically rotating winds around 15 km to 50 km high, poleward of 50°, and is strongest in winter.
  • It forms in Autumn when Arctic or Antarctic temperatures cool rapidly as the polar night begins.
  • The increased temperature difference between the pole and the tropics causes strong winds and the Coriolis effect causes the vortex to spin up. The stratospheric polar vortex breaks down in Spring as the polar night ends.

The tropospheric polar vortex

  • It is often defined as the area poleward of the tropospheric jet stream.
  • The equatorward edge is around 40° to 50°, and it extends from the surface up to around 10 km to 15 km.
  • Its yearly cycle differs from the stratospheric vortex because the tropospheric vortex exists all year, but is similar to the stratospheric vortex since it is also strongest in winter when the polar regions are coldest.
  • Ozone depletion occurs within the polar vortices – particularly over the Southern Hemisphere – reaching a maximum depletion in the spring.
  • In Australia, the polar vortex, known there as a “polar blast” or “polar plunge”, is a cold front that drags air from Antarctica which brings rain showers, snow (typically inland, with blizzards occurring in the highlands), gusty icy winds, and hail.