Joint Air Exercise with Myanmar  

#GS3 #Disaster #Management

News :  

  • A Table Top Exercise between the Indian Air Force (IAF) and the Myanmar Air Force (MAF) was conducted at Prayagraj on the theme of Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR).
  • The objectives of the exercise include planning of HADR operation in a given scenario, learn best practices, executing mission during HADR disasters, understand Search and Rescue Mission procedures etc.
  • The exercise was conducted under the aegis of Headquarters Central Air Command, IAF.

Source : PIB 

APEDA signs MoU with SFAC 

#GS3 #Agriculture  

News :  

APEDA has signed MoU with SFAC on 18th March 2020 

Agri Export Policy announced by Government of India with “Farmers’ Centric Approach” suggests for developing product specific clusters in the country to help improving productivity and quality of the varieties of crops with special involvement of Farm Producer Organizations(FPOs). 

  • FPOs are an institutional innovation to help small holders to reduce cost of produce by procuring necessary inputs in bulk at wholesale rates, aggregation of produce and bulk transport reducing marketing cost etc. and extend their reach to modern technology and distant markets. 
  • The policy also aims at addressing the obstacles faced by FPOs through organisation like Small Farmers Agribusiness Consortium (SFAC) and State level organizations to expand FPO network.
  • APEDA has been in dialog with SFAC for linking of Farmer Producer organizations, farmers’ cooperatives to the export value chain through capacity building, production of the quality produce as per the requirement of importing countries, creation of infrastructure, facilitating primary and secondary processing in the clusters and also by linking them to the exporters.

Areas of cooperation: 

  1. SFAC to share list of all clusters in various states with APEDA for achieving scale and aggregation with export orientation. APEDA and SFAC to jointly work together to link up the FPOs/FPCs with the exporters to achieve the goal and doubling the farmers income as well.
  2. To work towards capacity development, outreach programs, awareness programs and workshops of various stakeholders.
  3. To work together to showcase to the Indian and Global Market, the products, technologies, processes, knowledge and services by the FPO sector stakeholders through variety of modes as may be identified by them from time to time.
  4. APEDA to facilitate certification of organic produce /areas by the FPCs assisted or identified by SFAC.
  5. To take-up an Agri Business Promotion Unit in the North East and to mentor and handhold the FPOs in North East.

About APEDA 

  • Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA), is an authority established under an act of parliament and under the administrative control of Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Government of India.
  • It has been mandated with the responsibility of export promotion and development of the scheduled products viz
  • In addition to this, APEDA has been entrusted with the responsibility to monitor import of sugar.
  • Fruits, Vegetables and their Products,
  • Meat and Meat Products,
  • Poultry and Poultry Products,
  • Dairy Products, Confectionery, Biscuits and Bakery Products,
  • Honey, Jaggery and Sugar Products,
  • Cocoa and its products, chocolates of all kinds,
  • Alcoholic and Non-Alcoholic Beverages,
  • Cereal and Cereal Products,
  • Groundnuts, Peanuts and Walnuts,
  • Pickles, Papads and Chutneys, Guar Gum,
  • Floriculture and Floriculture Products, Herbal and Medicinal Plants.

Small Farmers Agribusiness Consortium (SFAC): 

  • It is pioneer in organising small and marginal farmers as Farmers Interest Groups, Farmers Producers Organisation and Farmers Producers Company for endowing them with bargaining power and economies of scale. 
  • It provides a platform for increased accessibility and cheaper availability of agricultural inputs to small and marginal farmers and in establishing forward and backward linkages in supply chain management.

Source : PIB 

In a big boost to ‘Make in India’, DAC paves way for procurement of 83 indigenous Tejas fighter aircraft for IAF  

#GS3 #Defence #MakeInIndia 

News :  

Defence Acquisition Council paved the way for procurement of 83 of the more advanced Mk1A version of the aircraft from HAL by finalising the contractual and other issues.  

  • The proposal will now be placed for consideration of Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS).
  • This procurement will be a major boost to 'Make in India' as the aircraft is indigenously designed, developed and manufactured with participation of several local vendors apart from HAL.
  • The Defence Acquisition Council also accorded approval for acquisition of indigenous Defence equipment for about Rs 1,300 crore.
  • The proposals were for procurement of Aerial Fuses and Twin-Dome Simulators for Hawk Mk32 aircraft for the Indian Air Force.

The Light Combat Aircraft Tejas indigenously-designed by Aircraft Development Agency (ADA) under the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and manufactured by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) is going to be the backbone of Indian Air Force in future. 


  • Tejas has a tail-less compound delta-wing configuration with a single dorsal fin. 
  • This provides better high-alpha performance characteristics than conventional wing designs. Its wing root leading edge has a sweep of 50 degrees, the outer wing leading edge has a sweep of 62.5 degrees, and trailing edge has a forward sweep of four degrees. 
  • It integrates technologies such as relaxed static stability, fly-by-wire flight control system, multi-mode radar, integrated digital avionics system and composite material structures. 
  • It is the smallest and lightest in its class of contemporary supersonic combat aircraft.

Source : PIB 


 #GS2 #Bills #Acts 

News : 

Rajya Sabha passed the National Commission for Indian System of Medicine Bill 2019. 


  • The Bill seeks to repeal the Indian Medicine Central Council Act, 1970.
  • The Bill provides for the establishment of the National Commission for Indian System of Medicine (NCISM). The NCISM will consist of 29 members, appointed by the central government.

Functions of the NCISM include: 

  • Framing policies for regulating medical institutions and medical professionals of Indian System of Medicine and 
  • Ensuring coordination among the autonomous boards set up under the Bill.

The Bill sets up following autonomous boards under the supervision of the NCISM: 

  • The Board of Ayurveda and the Board of Unani, Siddha, and Sowa-Rigpa,
  • The Medical Assessment and Rating Board for Indian System of Medicine and the Ethics and Medical Registration Board.
  • The central government will constitute an Advisory Council for Indian System of Medicine, which will be the primary platform through which the states/union territories can put forth their views and concerns before the NCISM.
  • There will be a uniform National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test for admission to under-graduate education in each of the disciplines of the Indian System of Medicine in all medical institutions regulated by the Bill.

Source : PRS India 

SC invokes special powers, removes Manipur Minister 

#GS2 #Constitution #SupremeCourt #Article 142 

News :  

  • The top court rarely invokes its plenary powers under Article 142 of the Constitution to remove a Cabinet minister from any government.
  • Shyamkumar had won the Assembly elections in 2017 as a Congress candidate but later joined the BJP government. The plea of his disqualification is still pending with the Speaker.

Article 142 : 

  • Article 142 of the Constitution empowers the Supreme Court to “pass such decree or make such order as is necessary for doing complete justice in any cause or matter pending before it”. 
  • Any decree so passed or orders so made shall be enforceable throughout the territory of India.
  • The phrase ‘is necessary for doing complete justice’ encompasses a power of equity which is employed when the strict application of the law is inadequate to produce a just outcome.
  • This wide power allows SC to mould any relief in a way that its orders become more effective and it would be in the interest of justice and equity.
  • The philosophy behind Article 142 is that justice should not only be done but it should also appear to be done.
  • Hence the power under Article 142 can be exercised when the SC has to decide difficult cases where adequate laws may not exist, or existing laws may not be adequate, in order to deliver complete justice.
  • Supreme Court in State of Punjab v Rafiq Masih (2014) has opined that, “Article 142 of the Constitution of India is supplementary in nature and cannot supersede the substantive provisions, though they are not limited by the substantive provisions in the statute”.

Earlier instances of invoking Special powers under Article 142 : 

  • Supreme court invoked it’s power under Article 142 recently in Ayodhya verdict.
  • The Supreme Court had used Article 142 in 1989 to provide relief to the thousands of victims affected by the Bhopal gas tragedy by awarding compensation of $470 million to the victims.
  • In 2014, it was used to cancel allocation of coal blocks granted from 1993 onwards, without any specific finding on wrongdoing by those who were allotted these blocks.
  • For banning the sale of alcohol within a distance of 500 metres on national and state highways across the country to curb accidents due to drunken driving.
  • In the release of thousands of undertrials who were in jails for periods exceeding their sentences.
  • For restoring the white marble of the Taj Mahal.
  • For constituting the Justice Mukul Mudgal Committee to probe the 2013 Indian Premier League (IPL) spot-fixing scandal.
  • Recent case where bureaucrats from the state of Punjab, Delhi and Uttar Pradesh were hauled up for not controlling stubble burning and a slew of directions were passed by SC which would otherwise have been in the domain of the executive.

Source : Indian Express 


What is herd immunity?  

#Health #Pandemic #COVID19 #Corona  

News :  

  • UK’s Government Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance hinted at a strategy that would allow the novel coronavirus to infect 60% of the country’s population so that a degree of “herd immunity” could be achieved. 
  • Following widespread criticism, and with Imperial College London projecting a dire scenario if the pandemic remains uncontrolled, the UK has now retracted — and is looking at self-isolation for the elderly.

What does herd immunity mean?

  • Herd immunity refers to preventing an infectious disease from spreading by immunising a certain percentage of the population. 
  • While the concept is most commonly used in the context of vaccination, herd community can also be achieved after enough people have become immune after being infected.
  • The premise is that if a certain percentage of the population is immune, members of that group can no longer infect another person. This breaks the chain of infection through the community (“herd”), and prevents it from reaching those who are the most vulnerable.

How does herd immunity work? 

  • The scientific principle is that the presence of a large number of immune persons in the community, who will interrupt the transmission, provides indirect protection to those who are not immune.
  • To estimate the extent of spread and immunity, epidemiologists use a measure called the ‘basic reproductive number’ (R0). This indicates how many persons will be infected when exposed to an single case; an R0 of more than 1 indicates one person can spread the infection to multiple persons.
  • Scientific evidence shows that a person with measles can infect around 12-18 persons; and a person with influenza can infect around 1.2-4.5 persons, depending on the season. On the basis of the available evidence from China, and according to various experts, R0 COVID-19 ranges between 2 and 3.

When do we know that a population has achieved herd immunity? 

It depends on multiple factors:  

  • How effective the vaccine for a given disease is, how long-lasting immunity is from both vaccination and infection, and which populations form critical links in transmission of the disease. 
  • Mathematically, it is defined on the basis of a number called “herd immunity threshold”, which is the number of immune individuals above which a disease may no longer circulate. 
  • The higher the R0, the higher the percentage of the population that has to be immunised to achieve herd immunity.
  • Polio has a threshold of 80% to 85%, while measles has 95%. With the current data for COVID-19, experts have estimated a threshold of over 60%. That means more than 60% of the population needs to develop immunity to reach the stage of herd immunity.

Why is herd immunity as a strategy against COVID-19 questionable? 

  • It is very risky to seek herd immunity by allowing a large proportion of the population to get infected. 
  • Such a strategy at this stage, experts have underlined, would be based on many unknowns and variables.
  • To begin with, much about the behaviour of the pathogen is still unclear. 
  • There isn’t enough statistically significant data to estimate conclusively how many persons can get the virus from a single infected person.
  • Second, it can take months, or even longer, to build group immunity to COVID-19. During that time, the need is to protect people who are at greater risk; the numbers so far indicate that people above 55, especially those with co-morbidities like cardiovascular disease and hypertension, are the most vulnerable
  • Third, while herd immunity may come about from a pandemic because the people who survive may develop immunity — they also may not — it is important to note that for COVID-19, we still don’t know whether one can become immune to the virus. 
  • Nor is it clear whether a person who develops immunity will remain permanently immune.

The UK’s original strategy to achieve herd immunity would put a huge burden on the healthcare system. Allowing the virus to pass through the population means a surge of patients, putting pressure on existing ICU and emergency beds. The UK was looking at 60% of the population getting infected, which could have happened rapidly. Epidemiologists stress “flattening the curve” — slowing the spread of an infection over a large population — and this cannot be achieved by allowing the virus to pass through the entire population 


Source : Indian Express 


An SC verdict violative of minority rights 

#GS2 #Education #Constitution 

The recent decision by a two-judge bench takes away autonomy of madrasas in W. Bengal 

Protection of minorities is the hallmark of a civilisation. 

  • Lord Acton added another dimension to this when he said: "The most certain test by which we judge whether a country is really free is the amount of security enjoyed by minorities."
  • Special safeguards were guaranteed to the minorities and incorporated under Article 30 with a view to instil in them a sense of confidence and security.
  • However, due to recent developments in Delhi and elsewhere, this confidence stands eroded even though, in the Kesavananda Bharati case (1973), minority rights were held to be the part of basic structure of the Constitution.
  • A two-judge bench of Justice U.U. Lalit and Justice Arun Mishra upheld the West Bengal Board of Madrasah Education Act, 1994, and the West Bengal Madrasah Service Commission Act, 2008, both of which take away the autonomy of madrasas in the State. The appointment of teachers in these theological institutions shall now be made by a board nominated by the government.

Rights under Article 30 

  • As per Section 10 of the West Bengal Madrasah Service Commission Act, 2008, all appointments of teachers to the religious schools are to be recommended by the commission and the management committee shall be bound by such recommendations. Section 11 says that anyone appointed in contravention of this Act shall not be considered a teacher and such an appointment shall be invalid. Section 12 empowers the government to deny grants to the schools that refuse to make appointments in accordance with such recommendations.
  • A single judge of Calcutta High Court in March 2014 struck down the above provisions as violative of Article 30 that guarantees religious and linguistic minorities the right to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice. In December 2015, a Division Bench of the High Court upheld that decision.
  • Framers of the Constitution in their wisdom did not include any restrictions under Article 30 (unlike in the case of other fundamental rights). Hence, the Article 30 right is absolute though minority institutions are very much subject to health, sanitary and municipal regulations.
  • The expression ‘administer’ in Article 30 has been interpreted by the larger benches of the court such as those of judges in Ahmedabad St. Xaviers College (1974) and 11 judges in T.M.A. Pai Foundation (2003). 
  • The apex court has been consistent in holding that the term includes rights of minority institutions to select their governing bodies, teachers and staff and exercise disciplinary control over them and a right to fix reasonable fees and admit students in a fair and transparent manner.
  • The dual test criterion
  • In Rev. Sidharjbhai (1963), a six-judge bench of the Supreme Court observed that every government regulation in respect of a minority institution shall be valid only when it satisfies the dual test, i.e., it is regulative and not destructive of the organisation’s minority character and it makes the minority institution an effective vehicle of minority education.Every minority community can thus make a choice in respect of its relationship with the government, the courses taught and the day today administration, including the right to select its teachers. The government, under reasonable restrictions, can certainly prescribe the minimum qualifications.
  • In Ahmedabad St. Xaviers (1974), Section 33A(1) (b) of Gujarat University Act, 1949 that required that a nominee of the affiliating university must be part of the selection committee of principal and teachers was also struck down.

The management of minority institutions should have freedom in day-to-day affairs of the institutions, for example, in appointment of teaching and non-teaching staff and administrative control. However, minimum qualifications, experience and other conditions may be fixed by the government. 

The Chief Justice of India has now referred this judgment to a larger bench and one hopes that the apex court will restore the confidence of the minorities. 

L&T Technology Services and IIT-Kanpur Sign MoU for Research in Cybersecurity Programs 

#GS3 #Economy 

On 18th March 2020, L&T Technology Services(LTTS) signed a multi-year Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur (IIT) to collaborate on research industrial and infrastructure cybersecurity. 

Key Points: 

  • The MoU is signed between Dr. Keshab Panda, Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director of LTTS and Professor Manindra Agarwal, Padma Shri Awardee, Deputy Director at IIT-Kanpur.
  • The Centre of Excellence (CoE) will be set up by LTTS and IIT in the IIT-Kanpur campus to conduct research in Honeypot, intrusion detection systems, malware analysis, block chain, vulnerability assessment and penetration testing and provide cybersecurity awareness and training programs. The CoE will be a part of C3i research centre.

C3i (Cyber Security and Cyber Defense of Critical Infrastructures): 

C3i is a Central government-funded cyber security research centre. Its aim is to do research, education and generate start-ups to create technological safeguards and to protect critical 


Rooftop solar power plants in India installed at 1,922 MW 

#GS3 #Economy 

On March 17, 2020 Minister of State Independent Charge (IC) of, New & Renewable Energy, (MNRE) and Power, Minister of State of Skill Development & Entrepreneurship Raj Kumar(RK) Singh stated till March 13, 2020, the rooftop solar plants having an aggregate capacity of 1,922 MW are installed in the country. 

Key Points:  

  • Out of the total capacity, 346 MW is installed in the residential sector. 
  • Central Financial Assistance (CFA)/ incentives (including residential sector) of over Rs 1874.39 crore are released towards different implementing agencies namely- State Nodal Agencies, Solar Energy Corporation of India (SCI) Limited, Power Distribution Companies (DISCOM), Public Sector Enterprises (PSUs), Government Departments etc.
  • Major measures are taken by the government to install residential solar rooftop system- incentives for DISCOMs to achieve additional capacity & provide assistance to states to create an online portal and mobilize requirements for rooftop solar projects. 
  • Under Phase II of the Grid Connected Roof (GCRT) Solar Project the government provides CFA of 20% of benchmark cost or tender cost, whichever is lower, for group housing societies/resident welfare associations to provide power for common facilities.

Banihal to Katra railway link to be completed by 2022 

#GS2 #Governance 

Union Railway Minister Piyush Goyal announced that Banihal to Katra railway link to be completed by 2022 which is part of the Udhampur- Srinagar-Baramulla rail link project. 

  • It is to be completed before the 75th Independence day of India.
  • This completion will pave the way for the creation of Indian rail from Kanyakumari to Baramulla.
  • The Katra-Banihal railway track is a 111-km long stretch which will link Kashmir Valley with the rest of the country by train.
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