Daily Current Affairs - Civil Services - 30-03-2021


Useful compilation of Civil Services oriented - Daily Current Affairs - Civil Services - 30-03-2021


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  1. Science and Technology - COVID-19 passed from bats to humans - A joint WHO-China study report on the origins of COVID-19 says that the virus was probably transmitted from bats to humans through another animal, according to a draft copy. A lab leak was "extremely unlikely" as a cause of transmission, the study said. The team proposed further research in every area except the lab leak hypothesis. China had resisted all attempts at international scrutiny, and the West (including the US) have criticised the WHO for surrendering against Chinese pressure. The WHO meanwhile maintains it has done nothing wrong! The second and third waves of the pandemic, in the meantime, are wreaking havoc in many countries.
  2. World Politics - Indian beamline project - The third phase of the Indian beamline project, a facility for materials research set up under India-Japan Scientific and Technological Cooperation, was initiated on March 23, 2021, with special focus on industrial application research. The phase would increase the number of young researchers from India to be trained in advanced X-ray techniques of material research. Besides, steps will be taken to allocate more beamtime so that more researchers can get access to it. At present, only 50 % of  Indian researchers who apply receive beamtime. The Indian beamline has been constructed and maintained by Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics (SINP), Kolkata and Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research (JNCASR), Bangalore; in Japanese synchrotron light source Photon Factory (PF) of High Energy Accelerator Research Organization (KEK), with support from Nano Mission, Department of Science and Technology (DST). This India-Japan Scientific and Technological Cooperation project was initiated between the DST and the KEK on 24 July 2007. In the first phase (2009-2015) of this project, an X-ray beamline (BL18B) was constructed by SINP in PF, and over the years, this facility has provided substantial amount of quality beamtime for the use of Indian scientists to carry out front-ranking research in advanced materials including nano materials.
  3. Science and Technology - NISAR satellite - The NASA and ISRO are collaborating on developing a satellite called NISAR, which will detect movements of the planet’s surface as small as 0.4 inches over areas about half the size of a tennis court. The satellite will be launched in 2022 from the Satish Dhawan Space Center in Sriharikota, India, into a near-polar orbit and will scan the globe every 12 days over the course of its three-year mission of imaging the Earth’s land, ice sheets and sea ice to give an “unprecedented” view of the planet. NISAR is an all-weather satellite that’s going to give us an unprecedented ability to look at how Earth’s surface is changing. It’s an SUV-sized satellite that is being jointly developed by the space agencies of the US and India. The partnership agreement was signed between NASA and ISRO in September 2014. NASA will provide one of the radars for the sat ellite, a high-rate communication subsystem for science data, GPS receivers and a payload data subsystem. ISRO, on the other hand, will provide the spacecraft bus, the second type of radar (called the S-band radar), the launch vehicle and associated launch services.
  4. Geography - Cape of Good Hope in focus - When the MV Ever Given was stuck in the Suez Canal, more than $200 billion of India’s trade flows with Europe, North America and South America were at risk. Hence, the Department of Commerce had worked out an action plan to cope with the crisis, including possibly re-routing shipments through the Cape of Good Hope. The Cape is a rocky headland on the Atlantic coast of the Cape Peninsula in South Africa. A common misconception is that the Cape of Good Hope is the southern tip of Africa. This misconception was based on the misbelief that the Cape was the dividing point between the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. Actually the southernmost point of Africa is Cape Agulhas, about 150 kilometres to the east-southeast. The currents of the two oceans meet at the point where the warm-water Agulhas current meets the cold-water Benguela current and turns back on itself. That oceanic meeting point fluctuates between Cape Agulhas and Cape Point east of the Cape of Good Hope. When following the western side of the African coastline from the equator, however, the Cape of Good Hope marks the point where a ship begins to travel more eastward than southward.
  5. Foreign Affairs - China and Iran Sign 25-Year ‘Strategic Pact’ - China and Iran signed a 25-year “strategic cooperation pact” recently. It includes “political, strategic and economic” components. This document can be very effective in deepening relations, as it would establish a blueprint for “reciprocal investments in the fields of transport, ports, energy, industry and services”. The agreement came amid a major push from China to back Iran as it deals with the continuing weight of sanctions. China is its largest trading partner. China and Russia called for the U.S. to “unconditionally return to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) as soon as possible and revoke the unilateral sanctions against Iran. In this context, they proposed “the establishment of a regional security dialogue platform to converge a new consensus on resolving the security concerns of countries in the region”.
  6. Governance and Institutions - Bihar Special Armed Police Bill, 2021 - The Bihar legislature witnessed noisy disorder inside and outside the Assembly on March 23-24 as Opposition parties opposed the government’s attempt to pass the Bihar Special Armed Police Bill, 2021. Protesting Opposition lawmakers were forcibly ousted by marshals and additional police forces called in by the Speaker’s office, with many injured in the scuffle that followed. However, the contentious Bill, was passed in both the Houses. The contentious bill proposes to set up a special armed force to maintain public order and combat any threat to security or extremism. It apparently seeks to arm the Bihar Military Police, rename them, and empower it on the lines of the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF). Section 7 of the Bill gives the force the power to arrest people on the basis of mere suspicion of disrupting state government functions, or attempting to conceal their presence with the aim to commit a crime or cognizable offence. The forces wouldn’t need a warrant from a magistrate to carry out an arrest or to search their premises, and the provisions to search under Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 will be applied. The only check in place for this is that it would allow any Special Armed Police Officer, not below the notified rank to carry out an arrest. The officer must take the suspect to a nearby police station to get a report lodged detailing the arrest.
  7. Governance and Institutions - Index Monitoring Cell (IMC) - Independent journalist P. Sainath struck a dissenting note in the report submitted by the Index Monitoring Cell (IMC). He pointed out that the right to dissent should be the central focus of press freedom.  This IMC is set up by the Information and Broadcasting Ministry. Its objective is to improve India’s ranking in the World Press Freedom Index and to evolve an objective yardstick to gauge media freedom. It is a 15-member committee.  It has four journalists and government functionaries. It is chaired by Kuldeep Singh Dhatwalia, Principal Director General of the Press Information Bureau (PIB). India is one of the few countries in the world to criminalise defamation. Consent of the Press Council of India is a prerequisite before filing an FIR against the media or a publication. Sainath has pointed out that the report failed in its objective to analyse the World Press Freedom Index and India’s performance in it with a view to identify areas of strengths and concern related to press freedom in India.
  8. People and Personalities - Donald Trump launches his own website amid social media ban - Former US President Donald Trump has launched an official website www.45office.com. "The Office of Donald J Trump is committed to preserving the magnificent legacy of the Trump Administration, while at the same time advancing the America First agenda," the home page read. Trump was banned from Twitter, Facebook and other social media sites after the January 6 attack on Capitol. He has maintained a strong grip on his followers, and has even mentioned he would run for President again in 2024.
  9. Indian Economy - Covid rises, Markets celebrate - The Indian benchmark indices surged over 2% on Tuesday (30-03-2021) amid positive cues from global markets. The Sensex jumped over 1,000 points to reclaim the 50,000-mark, while the broader Nifty 50 surged 300 points to trade over 14,800. Infosys, PowerGrid, HCL Tech, HDFC Bank and TCS were among the top gainers on Sensex. The metal index was the top sectoral performer. Meanwhile, the shares of Nazara Technologies, the first Indian gaming company to make a market debut, got listed at ₹1,990 on NSE. This is a 80.74% premium over the IPO price of ₹1,101. The company's 583-crore IPO was subscribed 175 times by investors. Upon listing, ace investor Rakesh Jhunjhunwala's 10.82% stake in Nazara was worth ₹656 crore.
  10. World Politics - FB is totalitarian, claims Venezuela - Venezuela has accused Facebook of "digital totalitarianism" after the firm froze President Nicolas Maduro's page for 30 days for promoting a remedy he claims can cure COVID-19. The government said Facebook was going after "content geared toward combating the pandemic". It also accused firms like Facebook of wanting to impose their law on nations. The President of Venezuela has been blamed by the US for his own totalitarian tendencies, and for reducing the country's economy to a mess. Overt attempts to dislodge him from Presidency are being made for at least two years.
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    • 1. ECONOMY (Prelims, GS Paper 3, Essay paper)
Maharashtra GST collections dip in 2020-21
  1. India's most industrialised state: Maharashtra is set to end the Covid-impacted financial year with Goods and Services Tax (GST) collections lower by 11.6% in comparison to the previous year. In 2019-20, the state collected Rs 1.85 lakh crore as GST, which fell to Rs 1.64 lakh crore in the current year—a Rs 21,594 crore shortfall.
  2. The numbers: The Goods and Services Tax is the main revenue earner for Maharashtra, whose collections are the highest in the country. It includes Central-GST, State-GST, Integrated-GST and cess. Although the target for 2020-21 had been set at Rs 1 lakh crore, the state had collected Rs 88,000 crore. The gap was Rs 19,146 crore. The tax collections are not showing the expected buoyancy due to the Covid-19 pandemic and non-receipt of compensation cess from the central government.
  3. Unlocking and recovery: Data also shows that while Goods and Services Tax collections were at their lowest during the peak of the lockdown owing to the lack of economic activity, they recovered once the restrictions were eased. The main recovery came with the onset of the festive season in October 2020. In March, in fact, Goods and Services Tax (GST) collections in the state were 7% higher than they were in 2019-20.
  4. Monthly movement: In March 2019-20, collections were Rs 14,712 crore compared to Rs 15,765 crore in March 2020-21. Data shows that SGST collections were lowest in April and May during the peak of the lockdown—81.3% lower than in 2019 during the month of April and 47.6% lower in the month of May. Collections revived with easing of the restrictions in June, but dipped once again in July and August. The receipts revived in October and by December and SGST collections were 3% higher than they were during the same month last year.
  5. Contraction: The government predicted a contraction in the state’s economic growth with the GSDP growth expected to decline by 7.4% between October-December 2020 and slide further to -16.4% between January-March 2021. Unemployment and job losses would be major hindrances in the revival of the economy.


Lessons from the 'Ever Given' Suez canal crisis
  1. Pulling a giant free: An armada of Egyptian tugboats, dredgers and salvage crews toiled for days to move the a massive container ship 'Ever Given', that got stuck between the Suez Canal’s banks and stayed stuck for a week. It was finally refloated, but only after some bitter lessons were learnt.
  2. Choked, opened, glory claimed: The mishap had led to the ship choking off the Suez Canal, a man-made strait that sees more than a tenth of all global shipping pass through every year. The blockage cost an estimated $9.6 billion in daily delays and reminded everyone of the fragility of trade, as 70 percent of all international trade moves on the seas! The supply-chain impacts of these disruptions may play out over many months to come. It’s a global story. Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi hailed the freeing of the vessel as a national success for his countrymen. Egypt could be trusted with overseeing the 13 percent of all global trade.
  3. Globalisation in action: The mammoth container ship "MV Ever Given" was owned by a company in Japan, operated by a container shipping firm based in Taiwan, managed by a German company and registered in Panama. The ship’s journey was conveying goods from Asia to Europe, specifically the Dutch port of Rotterdam. It ran aground amid a Middle Eastern sandstorm and was rescued by a multinational coalition that included Japanese and Dutch salvage teams and local Egyptian tugboat operators. The ship’s 25 crew members were all Indian nationals, part of a legion of close to 2 million seafarers.
  4. Fragility of global economy: 150 years ago, the opening of the Suez Canal heralded an era of global fast shipping that has accelerated later. Over the past 50 years, capacity on cargo ships has mushroomed by about 1,500 percent, expanding the range of available consumer goods and lowering prices around the world. That has created a problem: bottlenecks in highly trafficked arteries such as the Suez Canal. The ships are much bigger than they used to be.
  5. Global supply chains: The vulnerabilities of an interdependent world, where one product may be produced and delivered through supply chains threading multiple continents, are also on show. Even shipments that don’t go through Suez will be affected, as factories wait on essential components arriving from elsewhere before they can make products to send off.
  6. Via Africa: This incident also revived talk of alternate routes — from the old, far longer and more costly journey around the southern tip of Africa to the promise of a northern passage in the Arctic as melting ice at the roof of the world opens new pathways. The blockage of the Suez Canal offered a potent reminder of how important a handful of key maritime passages is to the whole global economy, as well as the strategic calculations of regional powers. A crisis there, or the Panama Canal, or the Strait of Malacca, or the Strait of Hormuz would roil global markets.
  7. Oil, China, US: China is dependent on vast imports of oil and iron ore and has arguably structured the bulk of its foreign policy — including its ambitious Belt and Road Initiative — to secure its far-flung trade networks. Unlike the U.S., which is a net exporter of crude these days, China imports nearly three-quarters of the oil it consumes, as well as about four-fifths of the iron ore it uses for infrastructure buildout. That makes it peculiarly vulnerable to maritime blockades. The geography of east Asia means that the straits of Malacca and Singapore, plus the quasi-straits that run through the navigable stretches of the South China Sea and those separating Taiwan from the Philippines, Japan’s Okinawa islands and the Chinese mainland, are all highly vulnerable to interdictions in the event of conflict.

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    • 2. ENVIRONMENT AND ECOLOGY (Prelims, GS Paper 3, Essay paper
African Elephants
  • Conservation status: The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has declared African Forest and Savanna (or bush) elephants as ‘critically endangered’ and ‘endangered’ respectively. Earlier, African elephants were treated as a single species, listed as Vulnerable. This is the first time the two species have been assessed separately for the IUCN Red List. (forest elephants and Savanna elephants)
  • Points to note: The African elephants are the largest land animals on Earth, slightly larger than Asian elephants. They have two fingerlike features on the end of their trunk while Asian elephants have just one. Elephants are matriarchal, meaning they live in female-led groups. African elephants are keystone species, playing a critical role in their ecosystem. Also known as “ecosystem engineers,” elephants shape their habitat in many ways.
  • Biology: Elephants have a longer pregnancy than any other mammal—almost 22 months. This compounds the problem of conservation since there are simply not enough calves being born to make up for the losses from poaching. There are two subspecies of African elephants, the Savanna (or bush) elephant and the Forest elephant. Savanna elephants are the larger of two.
  • African Savanna Elephant: Scientific Name: Loxodonta africana; Decline: Dropped by 60% in the last 50 years; IUCN Status: Endangered; Habitat: Plains of sub-Saharan Africa.
  • African Forest Elephant: Scientific Name: Loxodonta cyclotis; Decline: Dropped by 86% in the last 31 years; IUCN Status: Critically Endangered; Habitat: Forests of Central and West Africa. They rarely overlap with the range of the savanna elephant. The forest elephant has a more restricted natural distribution. Therefore, its decline is especially worrying. While savanna elephant populations can bounce back given sufficient protection, the forest elephant is likely to recover much more slowly. Law enforcement is also more problematic in many Central African countries which are home to the forest elephant.
  • Threats: First is poaching for the illegal ivory trade. Regions with high levels of poverty and corruption are more likely to have higher poaching rates. This suggests that helping communities develop sustainable livelihoods could reduce the lure of poaching. Then the habitat loss due to rising human population, and conversion of land for agriculture and development is a key concern.
  • Asian Elephants: There are three subspecies of Asian elephant which are the Indian, Sumatran and Sri Lankan. Global population is estimated at 20,000 to 40,000. The Indian subspecies has the widest range and accounts for the majority of the remaining elephants on the continent. There are around 28,000 elephants in India with around 25% of them in Karnataka. Protection Status: IUCN Red List Status: Endangered. CITES: Appendix I. Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972: Schedule I.
  • Knowledge centre:
  1. Evolution of elephants - Elephants belong to the order Proboscidea—animals with trunks. Proboscidea is Greek for “having a nose.” At various times, proboscideans have lived on each of the continents on earth except Australia and Antarctica. The trunk may have initially evolved to serve as a snorkel, allowing the animal to spend long periods under the water's surface. In modern elephants the trunk serves as extra “arm and hand” for gathering food that would otherwise be hard to reach. Of the many species in this order, only two have survived into recent times. Elephants evolved primarily in the Old World and came to North America during a series of migrations. The immigrant elephants evolved into new North American forms but ultimately all these elephants were extinct by 10,000 years ago. Why did all the other families of the order Proboscidea go extinct? Evidence suggests that North American mammoths and mastodons were hunted to extinction by the first humans to reach the continent. Some scientists also argue that warming climate played a role in their extinction.
  2. Emotions in elephants - Elephants, the largest land animals on the planet, are among the most exuberantly expressive of creatures. Joy, anger, grief, compassion, love; the finest emotions reside within these hulking masses. In the wild, joy is an emotion that elephants have no shame in showing. They express their happiness and joy when they are amongst their loved ones-family and friends. Playing games and greeting friends or family members all elicit displays of joy. The birth of a baby elephant is the source of biggest joy. Another highly emotional occasion in an elephant’s life is an elephant reunion. This joyful meeting between related, but separated, elephants is one of exuberance and drama. The greeting ceremony marks the incredible welcoming of a formerly absent family member. Then, there is no greater love in elephant society than the maternal kind. The calf is so small compared to the adult that it walks under its mother, who, incredibly, does not step on it or trip over it. Mother and child remain in constant touch. One of the most moving displays of elephant emotion is the grieving process. When an elephant walks past a place that a loved one died he or she will stop and take a silent pause that can last several minutes. Researchers have described mother elephants who appear to go through a period of despondency after the death of a calf, dragging behind the herd for days. Terror, rage and stress, unfortunately, are also commonplace in the elephant repertoire of emotions. Terror afflicts baby African elephants who wake up screaming in the middle of the night after they have witnessed their families murdered and poached — a type of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.


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    • 3. FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Prelims, GS Paper 3, Essay paper)

WHO doesn't agree to Lab leak as source of Covid-19 pandemic
  • WHO's pandemic origin report: The World Health Organization (WHO) report into the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic points to animals as the likely origin of the coronavirus and determines that a leak from a Chinese laboratory would be “extremely unlikely.” The long-awaited report is the most detailed account yet of what international experts know about how the coronavirus first began spreading in central China in late 2019 and then exploded globally in 2020, infecting more than 128 million people and causing the deaths of nearly 2.8 million worldwide.
  • What we learn: The report offers little new evidence on the precise origin of the virus but details researchers’ conclusions on the likeliest theories of how the pandemic first spread. If researchers can gain a better understanding of how COVID-19 first took off, it could help prevent future pandemics. But not everyone sees the WHO report as the final say. China, which initially tried to cover up the spread of the virus within its borders in the critical early weeks of the outbreak, has lashed out at criticism that it is responsible for the pandemic.
  • US reactions: U.S. officials during the Trump administration accused WHO of covering for China, leading former President Donald Trump to formally withdraw the United States from the international body at the height of the pandemic. Other researchers conclude that the United States can’t lay the blame of its pandemic woes squarely at China’s feet. Studies released at a Brookings Institution conference last week concluded that the Trump administration could have avoided as many as 400,000 deaths and saved hundreds of billions of dollars with better public health strategies while it awaited a widespread rollout of vaccines.
  • Biden era: President Joe Biden reversed Trump’s decision and rejoined WHO, but senior Biden officials have also cast doubt on whether the WHO report’s conclusions are objective, alleging that the Chinese government could have tried to alter the conclusions of the report. “We’ve got real concerns about the methodology and the process that went into that report, including the fact that the government in Beijing apparently helped to write it,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said.
  • US versus CCP: U.S. lawmakers also joined in their criticism ahead of the report’s release. “The WHO should never have allowed the Chinese Communist Party [CCP] to have such a heavy hand in drafting this report,” Rep. Michael McCaul, the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said. “A report censored by the CCP is worse than no report at all because it allows the CCP to continue to spread misinformation about the virus and cover up the role they played in allowing it to spread. If we want to prevent the next pandemic, we need an accurate, objective, and trustworthy assessment of the origins of the virus.”
  • Process of making the report: The 28-day study in Wuhan, conducted this year, was led by a multidisciplinary team of scientists including 17 from China, most of whom work for the state, and 17 drawn from a number of WHO member countries. The Chinese scientists conducted much of the initial research, which was then presented to their international counterparts during their visit to Wuhan. During the trip in January and February 2021, Chinese officials refused to share crucial raw data with investigators, leading to tense exchanges that at times descended into shouting matches. Concerns about the integrity of the WHO-led investigation prompted a small group of scientists to issue an open letter calling for a further independent investigation into the pandemic’s origins.
  • Knowledge centre:
  1. Huanan wet markets - The Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market (Huanan = 'South China') was a live animal and seafood market in Jianghan District, Wuhan, Hubei, China. The market became known after being identified as a possible point of origin of COVID-19 and the resulting pandemic. The World Health Organization (WHO) was informed on 31 December 2019 about an outbreak of pneumonia in Wuhan. Of the initial 41 people hospitalized with pneumonia who were officially identified as having laboratory-confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection by 2 January 2020, two-thirds were exposed to the market. The market was opened on 19 June 2002 and was closed on 1 January 2020 for sanitary procedures and disinfection.
  2. Zoonotic diseases - A zoonosis is an infectious disease caused by a pathogen (an infectious agent, such as a bacterium, virus, parasite or prion) that has jumped from an animal to a human. Major diseases such as Ebola virus disease and salmonellosis are zoonoses. HIV was a zoonotic disease transmitted to humans in the early part of the 20th century, though it has now mutated to a separate human-only disease. Zoonoses can be caused by a range of disease pathogens such as emergent viruses, bacteria, fungi and parasites; of 1,415 pathogens known to infect humans, 61% were zoonotic. In direct zoonosis the disease is directly transmitted from animals to humans through media such as air (influenza) or through bites and saliva (rabies). There has been a rise in frequency of appearance of new zoonotic diseases, due to mankind's interference in natural regions and processes.


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    • 4. GOVERNMENT SCHEMES (Prelims, GS Paper 2, Essay paper)

Judicial pendency issue
  • Tackling pendency: The Supreme Court of India has pushed for the appointment of retired judges to battle the pendency of cases in High Courts.
  • Supreme Court's suggestions:
  1. Guidelines for appointment of an Ad-hoc Judge - The court orally outlined prospective guidelines for the appointment and functioning of an ad-hoc judge.
  2. Pendency beyond a certain limit - If in a particular jurisdiction, the pendency goes beyond a certain limit, say eight or 10 years, the Chief Justice may appoint a certain [retired] judge with expertise in those fields of laws as an ad hoc judge. The term of such a judge could be extendable.
  3. Position - The appointment of ad-hoc judges would not be a threat to the services of other judges as the Ad-hoc judges will be treated as the junior most.
  4. Selection - The retired judges would be chosen on the basis of their expertise in a particular field of dispute and allowed to retire once the pendency in that zone of law was over.
  5. Arguments for appointing Retired Judges - The retired judges who had handled certain disputes and fields of law for over 15 years could deal with them faster if brought back into harness as ad-hoc judges.
  • Related constitutional provisions: The appointment of retired judges was provided for in the Constitution under Article 224A (appointment of retired judges at sittings of High Courts). Under the Article, the Chief Justice of a High Court for any State may at any time, with the previous consent of the President, request any person who has held the office of judge of that court or of any other High Court to sit and act as a judge of the High Court for that State.
  • Reasons for pendency: The Government of India is the biggest litigant. According to the Economic Survey 2018-19, poorly drafted orders have resulted in contested tax revenues equal to 4.7% of the GDP and it is rising.
  1. Less budgetary allocation - The budget allocated to the judiciary is between 0.08 and 0.09% of the GDP. Only four countries — Japan, Norway, Australia and Iceland — have a lesser budget allocation and they do not have problems of pendency like India.
  2. Practice of seeking adjournments - Usually the lower courts seek adjournment ad infinitum.
  3. Lack of assessment - When a new legislation is formed, there is no judicial impact assessment done by the government on how much burden is going to be casted on the judiciary. The probabilities of generating more litigations or requirement of more judges is not taken into account.
  4. Delay in judicial appointment - Collegium recommendations have been pending with the government for over seven months to a year to get approval in order to fill vacancies in High Courts. The total sanctioned judicial strength in the 25 High Courts is 1,080. However, the present working strength is 661 with 419 vacancies as of March 2021. The government has countered that it's the fault of the Collegium and the High Court for delaying the process.
  • Summary: Streamlining the Appointment System is crucial. The vacancies must be filled without any unnecessary delay. A proper time frame for the appointment of judges must be laid down and the recommendations must be given in advance. The Constitution of the All India Judicial Services is also an important factor which can definitely help India establish a better judicial system. People are becoming aware of their rights and number of cases filed in courts are proportionately increasing. To deal with that, judicial officers need to be trained, vacancies for the judges must be filled up expeditiously and in addition the use of technology particularly artificial intelligence must be encouraged. Resolving every case within the court premises is not mandatory; other possible systems (ADR - alternate dispute resolution) must also be accessed. There is also a need to promote the alternate dispute resolution mechanism for which the arbitration and conciliation act has been amended three times to ensure that people go for commercial litigation mode and sort it out either by mediation, conciliation or arbitration.


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    • 5. POLITY AND CONSTITUTION (Prelims, GS Paper 2, GS Paper 3)
Hate crimes
  • Hate speech: The Supreme Court (SC) in 2021 quashed Hate Crime proceedings initiated against a senior journalist for a Facebook post. The SC ruled that petitioners' social media post was only an expression of truth in the face of persecution.
  • Points to note: The decision came in Petitioners appeal against the Meghalaya High Court’s refusal to quash the proceedings against her under Sections 153a (hate), 500 (defamation) and 505(c) (incite a community or caste to commit an offence against another) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
  1. Section 153a - Promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc., and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony. It shall be punished with imprisonment which may extend to five years and shall also be liable to fine.
  2. Section 505c - With intent to incite, or which is likely to incite, any class or community of persons to commit any offence against any other class or community. It shall be punished with imprisonment which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both.
  • Hate crimes: These refer to criminal acts which are motivated by bias against an individual or social group because of certain differences, majorly in their religious practices and customs. In contemporary times its meaning has proliferated beyond lynching, discrimination and offensive speeches and now encompasses speech that is insulting, derogatory or incites and violence. In totality, 'Hate Crimes' could be defined as an attack on a person’s rights entrusted to him thereby affecting not only him but the social structure as a whole which in many ways makes it more heinous than many other Criminal Offences. Most common grounds of hate speech are race, ethnicity, religion or class.
  • Hate crime in India: It is defined in terms of the harm done to a community at large rather than an individual’s right to freedom of speech and expression and the harm done as a result of hate speech. In India, hate speech is prohibited which is based upon religion, ethnicity, culture or race.
  • Indian laws: Though the term is nowhere mentioned in any statute, its different forms are identified across the laws. The IPC under Sections 153A, 153B, 295A, 298, 505(1) and 505(2)25 declares that word, spoken or written, that promotes disharmony, hatred, or insults on basis of religion, ethnicity, culture, language, region, caste, community, race etc., is punishable under law. Some other laws which contain provisions concerning hate speech and its prevention are:
  1. The Representation of People Act, 1951
  2. Information Technology Act 2000
  3. Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967
  • Knowledge centre:
  1. German hate crime law - Volksverhetzung ("incitement to hatred") is a concept in German criminal law that refers to incitement to hatred against segments of the population and refers to calls for violent or arbitrary measures against them, including assaults against the human dignity of others by insulting, maliciously maligning, or defaming segments of the population. It is often applied to, though not limited to, trials relating to Holocaust denial in Germany. The criminal code (Strafgesetzbuch) Chapter 7 (Offences against public order), Paragraph 130 (Incitement to hatred) of the Federal Republic of Germany defines when a person is guilty of Volksverhetzung.
  2. Global hate crime laws - In Austria, Verhetzung is a criminal offense with similar legal elements under section 283 of the Penal Code. In the UK, incitement to ethnic or racial hatred is a criminal offense under Sections 17–29 of the Public Order Act 1986. In Ireland, the corresponding law is the Prohibition of Incitement to Hatred Act. A similar law exists in Sweden as "hets mot folkgrupp" ("agitation against a population group"), second section 16th chapter 8§ of the criminal code. The Finnish criminal code includes a similar law, which calls the crime "kiihottaminen kansanryhmää vastaan" ("incitement against ethnic groups") in the Finnish version, "hets mot folkgrupp" in the Swedish version: 11th chapter ("On War Crimes and Crimes against Humanity"). The Russian Criminal Code such a law called the "incitement of ethnic hatred", which refers to actions aimed at inciting ethnic or racial hatred (Article 282 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation). Article 29 of the Constitution states that: Propaganda or campaigning inciting social, racial, national or religious hatred or enmity. The propaganda of social, racial, national, religious or linguistic superiority.


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    • 6. SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY (Prelims, Various GS Papers)
 A new world of RNA medicines
  • RNA, DNA, Proteins: The ribonucleic acid (RNA) is widely seen as a helpmeet molecule. It is said that production of RNA is the DNA’s main purpose; and production of proteins is RNA's main work. In 2021, however, vaccines made of RNA started giving protection against Covid-19 to millions of people around the world every day.
  • A new revolution: Not only are RNA vaccines being considered for all sorts of other diseases, some of which have yielded to no other approach; other pharmaceutical uses of RNA look set to come into their own, as well.
  • Links between DNA, RNA, Proteins: First came the discovery of DNA’s double-helix structure, and then an understanding of the way in which shapes and sequences were linked.
  1. The shape of a protein depends on the intricate way in which the chain of amino acids of which it consists is folded up.
  2. That depends in turn on the order in which amino acids of different types are strung together on that chain.
  3. And the order of the amino acids is a crucial part of the genetic information stored in the DNA sequences of the cell’s genome.
  4. The transfer of information from the genome to its active physical form in cell depends on RNA, a molecule in which both sequence and shape play crucial roles.
  5. The gene sequence is first copied from DNA to RNA, and that RNA transcript is then edited to form a molecule called a messenger RNA, or mRNA
  • Ribosome: The end of the mRNA molecule is formatted into a distinctive shape which is recognised by ribosomes, complex pieces of machinery composed of dozens of proteins draped around another set of RNA molecules. With the help of yet more RNA molecules—little ones called tRNAs which stick to the mRNA sequence three letters at a time—the ribosome translates the genetic message into the protein it refers to by creating a chain of amino acids as it moves along the message.
  • Vaccines for humans: This is the mechanism exploited by the RNA vaccines developed by BioNTech, a German biotechnology company, and Moderna, an American one from Massachusetts, against SARS-CoV-2, the virus which causes Covid-19. The companies mass produce the RN sequence describing the distinctive “spike” protein, which studs the outer membrane of the virus, formatted so as to look like a natural mRNA. These RNA molecules, wrapped in little fatty bubbles called liposomes are injected into patients, where the liposomes smuggle the mrna into cells. Ribosomes pick up on the mRNA format and read the sequence, thus producing the spike protein. The immune system learns to recognise the spike which the vaccinated cells are producing and stores away the memory of how to do so. This allows it to mount a swift response if it later comes across the same protein on the surfaces of viral particles and infected cells.
  • A new era beings: This ability to get cells to churn out proteins for which their DNA contains no genes is, in itself, enough to open up a new world of medicine. But it is not the whole story. Cells make vast amounts of RNA that does not describe proteins. Its ability to recognise specific genetic sequences makes it useful for all sorts of processes, including turning the translation of genes on and off. Its ability to fold itself into particular forms—hairpins, loops and the like—makes it good at interacting with proteins. This alphabet soup of RNAs is a bit like a computer’s operating system, mediating the relationship between the cell’s hardware and its software.
  • Many more diseases on target: Both the firms with mRNA vaccines on sale had other vaccines in the pipeline before Covid-19 struck. Now they are both getting on with what they had planned beforehand. Moderna is looking at vaccines to fend off infection by cytomegalovirus (a herpes virus which causes neurological problems in newborns), three lung viruses which cause respiratory disease in young children and Zika, a mosquito-borne virus found mainly in the tropics. BioNTech is focusing more on developing vaccines, and other treatments, with which to treat a wide range of cancers.
  • Not just vaccines: Vaccination is not the only way that mRNA injection might fight viruses and tumours. The technique could also be used to get cells to produce therapeutic proteins that are currently administered through injection or infusion: interleukins and antibodies. Designer antibodies are a massive faff to make in industrial quantities; getting patients’ cells to take on the manufacturing duties instead would be a great step forward if it proved practical.
  • A whole new approach: The application of RNA has met many obstacles over past decades, and the fact that it has proved itself in vaccines does not mean it will not meet more in the future. But it does seem that medicine now has a way to target drugs not just at proteins, but at the processes that make them, and that opens up new realms of possibility. The next RNA world awaits.


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    • 7. SOCIAL ISSUES (Prelims, GS Paper 2)
World Development Report 2021: World Bank
  • In March, the World Bank published the World Development Report 2021:Data for Better Lives. The World Development Report 2021 provides a blueprint on how to harness the power of data for development, to ensure no one is left behind.
  • Points to note: To get more value out of data while protecting people against harm and ensuring access and representation. Different data-creating and data-using parties need to safely collaborate.
  1. The three elements of a social contract for data: Value, Equity and Trust
  2. Data As a Force For Public Good - Public intent data - data collected with the intent of serving the public good by informing the design, execution, monitoring, and evaluation of public programs and policies - are a prerequisite for many government functions. Public intent data can bring value to development through several pathways, such as holding governments accountable and empowering individuals, improving service delivery, and prioritizing scarce resources.Infinite Possibilities - Repurposing and integrating public- and private-intent data can help provide real-time and finer-scale insights, fill data gaps, and overcome limitations associated with each data type. Data Infrastructure is a key part of ensuring equitable access to data for poor people and poor countries. Data is a tradable asset, but sending them across borders requires adequate data protection.
  3. Governing Data - The role of data governance is two fold: First, to control risks by ensuring the security, integrity, and protection of data and systems; and Second, to capture value by establishing rules and technical standards to enable data to be more effectively transferred, combined, and exchanged.
  4. Improving Data Systems - Fully harnessing the value of data requires building an Integrated National Data System (INDS). INDS is a way of countries realizing the potential of data for development, using the principles of the social contract as a blueprint. The INDS framework allows a country to share data between national participants safely while maximizing the benefit equitably.
  • Issues flagged by the Report:
  1. Not a leveling playing field - An explosion of data platform businesses is raising concern about competition and posing new challenges for regulation.
  2. Data platform - It is an integrated technology solution that allows data located in databases to be governed, accessed, and delivered to users, data applications, or other technologies for strategic business purposes.
  3. Lack of open data - Only 11% low-income countries make their data open (Not Accessible To General Public or research institution), the report flagged. The comparable rate for lower-middle-income countries was 19%, for upper-middle-income countries 22% and high-income countries 44%.
  4. Underinvestment in public intent data systems - Only half the countries had a national statistical plan that was fully funded as of 2019. While 93% of high-income countries had a fully funded national statistical plan, not a single low-income country had one.
  5. Issue related to lower-income countries - Unable to harness the potential of data due to a lack of institutions, decision-making autonomy, and financial resources, all of which hold back their effective implementation and effectiveness of data systems and governance frameworks.
  6. Gaps in data on women and girls particularly severe: Only 10 of the 54 gender-specific indicators (19%) in the United Nations-mandated sustainable development goals (SDGs) were widely available.
  • Data gaps In India: Echoed concerns on assessment of global poverty by the World Bank, which has been skewed due to absence of data on poverty from India. India monitors 54 out of the 130 SDG indicators. While the overall number of monitored indicators has gone up, the country has dropped four indicators from its tracking list. The report called for strategic repurposing of existing data.
  • Steps taken by India:
  1. National Data Sharing & Accessibility Policy (NDSAP) - The National Policy is expected to increase the accessibility and easier sharing of non-sensitive data amongst the registered users and their availability for scientific, economic and social developmental purposes.
  2. Open Government Data (OGD) Platform - To provision an enabling Platform to provide proactive and open access to the data generated. To increase Transparency, Accountability, Citizen Engagement, Collaboration, Better Governance, Decision making & Innovation.
  3. Paradigm shift in governance – Direct Delivery of Services to Citizens, Setting up a Platform for Collaboration, Innovation in delivery of Services to Citizens.
  • Way forward: Data offers tremendous potential to create value by improving programs and policies, driving economies, and empowering citizens. The perspective of poor people has largely been absent from the global debate on data governance and urgently needs to be heard. The Report called for International cooperation to harmonise regulations and coordinate policies so that the value of data can be harnessed to benefit all, and to inform efforts toward a green, resilient and inclusive recovery.


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    • 8. MISCELLANEOUS (Prelims, GS Paper 1, GS Paper 2)

Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Act, 2021 gets Presidential Assent
  1. The story: On March 28th 2021, the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Act, 2021, which gives primacy to the Lieutenant Governor over the elected Government, got assent from President Ramnath Kovind.
  2. What the Act does: The Act has amended sections (21, 24, 33 and 44) of previous act of 1991. In summary, it says that the ‘Government’ in NCT of Delhi means the Lieutenant Governor (LG) of Delhi. The Bill says that the opinion of LG should be obtained before making any executive decision based on decisions taken by the Cabinet or any minister. The Act also empowers the LG with discretionary powers in matters where the Legislative Assembly make laws. It prohibits the Assembly and its committees from making rules to commence matters concerning everyday administration or to have inquiries in relation to administrative decisions.
  3. Present Delhi administration: The Existing Act of 1991 allows the Legislative Assembly to make laws in every matter except the Public order, Police and Land. Under Article 239AA of the Constitution given by the 69th Amendment Act, 1991, Delhi is a Union territory with a legislative assembly.
  4. Changes after the President Assent: Earlier, elected government was not sending the files of any executive decisions to L-G before implementation. It has been keeping the L-G alongside in administrative developments, but it was not always before implementing or executing any decision. After the assent, the elected government is bound to take the L-G’s advice before taking any decision.
  5. Why state government is unhappy: The continuous tussle between the centre and elected government was mostly regarding the decision making policy and the L-G’s powers. In 2018, the Supreme Court judgment gave the Delhi Government an upper hand in policy decisions. The Elected government sources always said that due to the SC’s judgments, the Delhi government is able to clear policies easily. As per the state government, the amendment will substantially take away the government’s autonomy and the desire of full statehood to Delhi.
New assessment by IUCN on African elephants
  1. The story: The Red List by International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) recently showed that, African elephants living in forests and savannas are increasingly threatened with extinction. Following which, conservationists have called for an urgent end to poaching.
  2. Key points: New assessments by IUCN underscore the persistent pressures that two species of elephants in Africa faces due to poaching for ivory and human encroachment. The survey also highlights that, savanna elephant was “endangered” while the smaller, lighter forest elephant was “critically endangered” as highest category before they got extinct from wild. Earlier, IUCN had treated both the species of elephants as “Vulnerable”. But later it separated them on the basis of genetic evidences which highlighted the difference between both the species.
  3. Population of Savanna Elephants: Data from IUCN cited that populations of savanna elephants from Africa are found in a variety of habitats which had decreased by around 60% over last 50 years. Number of forest elephants found in Central Africa had also fallen by 86% in 31 years. Presently, number of both the species of elephant’s accounts for 415,000. However, populations of some forest elephants were rebounding because of successful conservation measures like, measures taken by Gabon and Republic of Congo. As per IUCN, in Kavango–Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area of South Africa, numbers of savanna were also stable or growing.
PM Modi invited for US-hosted Virtual Climate Summit
  1. The story: President of United States, Joe Biden, has invited 40 world leaders including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, for a US-hosted virtual summit on climate in April 2021. Summit will be organised to underline the urgency and economic benefits of stronger climate action.
  2. Key points: President Joe Biden will host a two-day climate summit of world leaders. It will start on the occasion of Earth Day on April 22, 2021. In the summit, President will underline US goal to reduce carbon emissions by 2030. the summit is known as “nationally determined contribution” under Paris accord. Apart from Narendra Modi, Chinese President Xi Jinping and President of Russia Vladimir Putin were invited for the conference. Summit will be a key milestone towards United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) in November, 2021 in Glasgow. Biden has also invited the heads of other countries which are demonstrating strong climate leadership. Small number of business and leaders of civil will also participate in the summit.
  3. Objective of the Summit: According to White House, the Leaders’ Summit and the COP26 summit will be organised with the objective of catalysing efforts in order to keep the goal of limiting the global temperature at 1.5 degree Celsius. Summit will also underline the examples of how enhanced climate ambition will create good paying jobs, help vulnerable countries to adapt to climate change impacts and to advance innovative technologies. United States will also announce an ambitious 2030 emissions target as “new Nationally Determined Contribution” under the Paris Agreement.  US-hosted summit will reconvene US-led Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate. This forum will bring together 17 countries which are responsible for 80 per cent of global emissions and GDP.
UK, US call for alternative to China’s BRI
  1. The story: President of United States, Joe Biden and British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson have asked the democratic countries to provide an alternative to China’s infrastructure strategy called Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
  2. Key pointS: Both the leaders held the discussions over phone. They discussed the issues including COVID-19 and global health security, China, Iran, climate change, and preservation of political stability in Northern Ireland.
  3. History: United States and its Quad partners namely Australia, India, and Japan had committed in initial days of March, 2021 to launch another initiative between democratic states to provide up to one billion vaccines across South East Asia and Pacific to cover the vaccine shortages. Trump administration in 2019, had also launched an infrastructure scheme called “Blue Dot Network” to vet projects and boost private-sector led infrastructure development in Indo Pacific region. However, this scheme is not set up to directly finance the projects on its own.
  4. China's BRI: It is a global infrastructure development strategy by Chinese government.  Adopted in 2013, with the objective of investing across 70 countries and international organizations. BRI is a centrepiece of Chinese Communist Party general secretary and Xi Jinping’s foreign policy. This initiative was originally announced by Xi Jinping as “Silk Road Economic Belt” in September 2013 during official visit to Kazakhstan. Belt refers to the proposed overland routes for road and rail transportation passing through landlocked Central Asia along the historical trade routes of Western Regions. While, road refers to the “21st Century Maritime Silk Road” or the Indo-Pacific sea routes passing through Southeast Asia, South Asia, Middle East and Africa. This infrastructure project include ports, railroads, roads, skyscrapers, airports, dams and railroad tunnels.

Shaheen 1-A : Pakistan test fires Nuclear-Capable Ballistic Missile
  1. The story: Pakistan has successfully test-fired a nuclear-capable surface-to-surface ballistic missile on March 26, 2021. It has a range of 900 kilometres.
  2. Key points: Pakistan test-fired Shaheen-1A surface to surface ballistic missile with the aim of re-validating various design and technical parameters of weapon system including the advanced navigation system. According to Army’s media wing, missile has a range of 900 kilometres. Missile comprise of a sophisticated and advanced guidance system which makes it a highly accurate missile system. Launch of the missile was witnessed by senior officials from Strategic Plans Division, scientists & engineers of strategic organisations and strategic forces.
  3. History: Pakistan had successfully test-fired a nuclear-capable surface-to-surface ballistic missile in February 2021 which can strike targets up to 290 kilometres. Launch of Ghaznavi missile was “culmination of Annual Field Training Exercise of Army Strategic Forces Command”.
  4. Shaheen-I: It is a land-based supersonic and short-to-medium range surface-to-surface guided ballistic missile of Pakistan. It was jointly designed and developed by joint venture of NESCOM and National Defence Complex (NDC). Missile has been dedicated and named after a species of Falcon inhabitant of mountains of Pakistan. It is also designated Hatf IV. It has an optimal range of 750 km which is propelled by two-stage solid-fuel rocket motor. It can deliver conventional as well as nuclear payload much faster than liquid fuelled missiles like Ghauri. Missile is believed to be very accurate.


9.1 Today's best editorials to read
  • We offer you 7 excellent editorials from across 10 newspapers we have scanned. 

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    • SECTION 3 - MCQs (Multiple Choice Questions)

Solve the online quiz given, right now. Check scores, and relative performance!



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PT's IAS Academy: Daily Current Affairs - Civil Services - 30-03-2021
Daily Current Affairs - Civil Services - 30-03-2021
Useful compilation of Civil Services oriented - Daily Current Affairs - Civil Services - 30-03-2021
PT's IAS Academy
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