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Prelims Current Affairs UPSC CSE Oct Week 1

 

Current Affairs UPSC CSE

Prelims Current Affairs UPSC CSE -Oct Week 1

NATIONAL

Prompt Corrective Action

  • The Reserve Bank has initiated Prompt Corrective Action (PCA) against Lakshmi Vilas Bank (LVB) due to a high level of bad loans, lack of sufficient capital to manage risks, and negative return on assets for two consecutive years.
  • The RBI move comes at a time when the Delhi Police Economic Offences Wing has registered a complaint against the board of LVB alleging cheating and misappropriation of funds.
  • The regulatory action may cast doubts over the proposed merger of Indiabulls Housing Finance with LVB, which is awaiting RBI nod.
  • PCA was initiated after an on-site inspection, under the risk-based supervision, was carried out for the year ended March 31, 2019.
  • For FY19, the bank’s net NPA stood at 7.49%, capital adequacy ratio was at 7.72% and its return on assets was (-) 2.32%. It had reported a net loss of ₹894.10 crore for 2018-19.
  • PCA is aimed at improving the performance of the bank and will not have any adverse impact on the day-to-day operations, including acceptance/repayment of deposits in the normal course, LVB said.

What is PCA?

  • Prompt Corrective Action or PCA is a framework under which banks with weak financial metrics are put under watch by the RBI. The PCA framework deems banks as risky if they slip below certain norms on three parameters — capital ratios, asset quality and profitability.
  • It has three risk threshold levels (1 being the lowest and 3 the highest) based on where a bank stands on these ratios. Banks with a capital to risk-weighted assets ratio (CRAR) of less than 10.25 per cent but more than 7.75 per cent fall under threshold 1.
  • Those with CRAR of more than 6.25 per cent but less than 7.75 per cent fall in the second threshold. In case a bank’s common equity Tier 1 (the bare minimum capital under CRAR) falls below 3.625 per cent, it gets categorised under the third threshold level.
  • Banks that have a net NPA of 6 per cent or more but less than 9 per cent fall under threshold 1, and those with 12 per cent or more fall under the third threshold level.
  • On profitability, banks with negative return on assets for two, three and four consecutive years fall under threshold 1, threshold 2 and threshold 3, respectively.

Why is it important?

  • As most bank activities are funded by deposits which need to be repaid, it is imperative that a bank carries a sufficient amount of capital to continue its activities. PCA is intended to help alert the regulator as well as investors and depositors if a bank is heading for trouble.
  • The idea is to head off problems before they attain crisis proportions. Essentially PCA helps RBI monitor key performance indicators of banks, and taking corrective measures, to restore the financial health of a bank.
  • On breach of any of the risk thresholds mentioned above, the RBI can invoke a corrective action plan. Depending on the threshold levels, the RBI can place restrictions on dividend distribution, branch expansion, and management compensation.
  • Only in an extreme situation, breach of the third threshold, would identify a bank as a likely candidate for resolution through amalgamation, reconstruction or winding up.
  • Owing to the sharp deterioration in finances of state-owned banks on the back of rising NPAs, 11 public sector banks were put under PCA last year. Based on FY18 financials of the 21 PSBs, 17 can fall under PCA based on net NPA threshold alone and nine on ROA alone (negative for two consecutive years).

Obesity and undernutrition coexist

  • Nearly 10% of children in the age group of 5-9 years and adolescents in the age group of 10-19 years are pre-diabetic, 5% are overweight and another 5% suffer from blood pressure.
  • These are among the key findings of the first-ever national nutrition survey conducted by the Centre, yet to be made public, providing for the first time hard evidence of the coexistence of obesity and undernutrition, among school going children.
  • The Comprehensive National Nutrition Survey conducted by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and UNICEF between February 2016 and October 2018 is the first study undertaken to measure malnutrition, including micronutrient deficiencies through biochemical measures such as blood and urine samples, anthropometric data as well as details of non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, cholesterol and kidney function in children and adolescents.
  • The National Family Health Survey (NFHS), however, collects anthropometric data (weight for age, height for age, weight for height, mid-upper arm circumference) to measure prevalence of stunting, wasting and underweight and household dietary intake to measure deficiencies.
  • Moreover, these are collected for children in the age group of 1-5 years and adults, but not for school going children between the age of 5 and 19 years.Prelims Current Affairs UPSC

Findings:

  • A quarter of 5-9 and 10-19 year-olds were thin for their age, one in five children 5-9 years’ old were stunted.
  • A total of 1.12 lakh children and adolescents (0-19 years) were surveyed for height and weight measurements and 51,029 children (1-19 years) for biological samples.
  • Due to the seriousness of these findings, there has been concern expressed by medical practitioners and nutrition experts on the delay by the government in releasing the study.
  • Health policy experts said the study showed that the government will have to focus on obesity alongside under nutrition as part of its Nutrition Mission.

SBI to have office in Australia’s Victoria

  • The State Bank of India opened its Melbourne office recently, becoming the first Indian bank to have a branch in the Australian state of Victoria.
  • The Melbourne office will assist the growing trade and investment relations between Victoria and India and is the outcome of the state’s 10-year India Strategy – our shared future, according to a press release.
  • According to official figures, the two-way merchandise trade between Victoria and India was to the tune of 1.76 billion Australian dollars in 2018.
  • Victoria already has the presence of leading Indian businesses, including Cipla, Cyient, HCL, Infosys, Ramco, Samvardhana Motherson Group, TCS, Tech Mahindra, Ugam Solutions, Wipro, Zoonga and Zomato.
  • Victoria’s financial sector employs more than 122,000 people and generates around 40 billion Australian dollars every year.

Education ranking

  • Kerala and Rajasthan have emerged as States with the best quality of school education in the country, with scores of 76.6% and 72.9% respectively, in the NITI Aayog’s rankings released recently.
  • Prelims Current Affairs UPSCThe Union Territory of Chandigarh, however, pipped them overall with a score of over 80%.
  • Reflecting the huge differences in quality across the country, Uttar Pradesh scored the lowest among 20 large States, with just 36.4%, although the small State of Arunachal Pradesh and the Union Territory of Lakshadweep had even lower scores.
  • The School Education Quality Index (SEQI) is part of the NITI Aayog’s effort to rank the performance of States in across various indicators, including water, health and the ease of doing business, to encourage data-driven policy reforms.Prelims Current Affairs UPSCPrelims Current Affairs UPSC
  • Prelims Current Affairs UPSCThe Centre plans to collaborate with the World Bank to offer performance-linked grants as incentives for the States with high rankings.
  • The first edition of the SEQI assessed the States on the basis of learning outcomes, access, equity, infrastructure and facilities, and the governance processes which aid such outcomes.
  • The Index is largely based on data from the National Achievement Survey (NAS) of 2017-18 and the Unified District Information on School Education data of 2016-17.
  • The graphs show average scores by students of three classes in 20 “large states” in the National Achievement Survey 2017, and detailed in the NITI Aayog’s report on the School Education Quality Index 2019, released recently.
  • Performance in languages and mathematics was among various indicators chosen to assess the “overall effectiveness, quality and efficiency of the Indian school education system”, and came under the domain of “learning outcomes”.
  • Kerala had the best overall performance at 76.6 percent and Uttar Pradesh had the worst performance, with 36.4 percent.
  • In Class 3, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka have the highest average scores in language and mathematics, while Uttar Pradesh and Punjab have the lowest.
  • For class 5, Karnataka tops the list with the highest scores in both language and mathematics, while Uttar Pradesh and Punjab are again at the bottom. For class 8, Rajasthan has the highest average scores for both language and mathematics, whereas Telangana, Uttar Pradesh and Punjab have the lowest scores.

India declared ODF

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi on October 2, 2019 declared that India was now open-defecation free (ODF) and cited it as a global benchmark.
  • The programme was initiated on the same day four years ago when toilet coverage in the country was 39 per cent. The programme was driven by collaboration and convergence.
  • Construction of toilets improve the socio-economic and health status of people. The impact of SBM was highly visible, Modi claimed.
  • According to him, the first step of toilet construction was achieved ; through constant communication and information, a behavioural change was to be brought about so that people are motivated to ensure usage of the toilets.
  • The next step was to regularise usage and ensure the behavioural change.
  • A total Rs 3.5 lakh crore was allocated under Jal Shakti Mission dedicated for water sustainability. If people adopt the principles of water recycling and water recharge, it would help achieve sustainable water connectivity and availability to toilets ensuring constant usage, Modi added.
  • The focus now has to be on their management of solid and liquid waste, faecal sludge and sustain ODF. The government has already declared a 10-year strategy, focused on access to sanitation through incentives for households and community sanitation complex, standardised pit-emptying, water supply (including cleaning of water bodies) and appropriate sanitation information.

ODF status will mean nothing without faecal sludge & septage management

  • As per above India has been declared open-defecation free (ODF), the government has shifted attention to sustaining the status by managing waste – solid and liquid. Faecal sludge and septage management (FSSM) is currently poor in India.Prelims Current Affairs UPSC
  • Roughly, a person generates around 250 gramme excreta a day. Multiplied with India’s population it comes to around 33.5 crore kilogramme of faecal sludge generated every day.
  • Only a third of India’s urban houses are connected to a sewer system. In the absence of proper sewerage networks in most cities, Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM) recommended on-site sanitation systems, such as septic tanks and pit latrines, which requires effective FSSM.
  • Most houses thus use toilets either connected to septic tanks or pits. The containment structures, to which toilets are connected to, generate two types of byproducts: faecal sludge and effluent – the semi-treated liquid component, which ideally should infiltrate into the ground through a soak-pit or undergo further treatment.
  • For rural India, SBM guidelines stated that all new toilets being made should have a twin-pit system, where dried sludge can be taken out after a few years and used as compost. While most rural India now depends on pit toilets, many have a single pit, where sludge needs emptying out, while some twin pits have faulty designs.
  • The same is true for poorly constructed septic tanks in urban areas, where these tanks do not treat faecal sludge effectively and in most cases there is no system for its disposal. In such cases, the sewage is often emptied out and disposed of untreated in storm-water drains, nullahs, canals vacant plots, and agricultural fields.
  • According to estimates by Delhi bases non-profit Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), the country currently has 10,000 honey sucker machines in use. These machines, which suck faecal sludge from septic tanks, should ideally take them to a faecal sludge treatment plant (FSTP) or a sewage treatment plant (STP).
  • Often that does not happen. India, for now, has only 20 FSTPs in operation. The number is too small to treat the huge quantity of sewage being produced and taken out.
  • The operators of these machines simply dump it into water bodies. This then ends up in into lakes and rivers of the country, polluting them, and thus defeating SBM’s very purpose of safe sanitation by controlling open defecation.
  • In the past five years, over 10 crore toilets were built under SBM. With faecal sludge treatment still in nascent stage in India, these toilets will further add to the load of untreated sewage being disposed in water bodies.
  • Aware of the problems, the government in February 2017 notified a national policy on FSSM, according to which each state in India – and eventually cities – is supposed to come out with an FSSM action plan/strategy/operative guidelines.
  • The massive toilet construction activity will reap the desired benefits only if central government and authorities at the local level take FSSM on priority and start acting on it from now onwards.

Rupee Derivatives and incentives to NRIs

  • The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has accepted the Usha Thorat task force’s recommendations for providing incentives for non-resident Indians to access India’s on-shore foreign exchange market. RBI is also looking at ways to increase the acceptance of the rupee in cross-border transactions to reduce exchange risks.

    Derivatives

    ·         Derivatives are financial contracts whose value is dependent on an underlying asset or group of assets.

    ·         The commonly used assets are stocks, bonds, currencies, commodities and market indices. The value of the underlying assets keeps changing according to market conditions.

    ·         The basic principle behind entering into derivative contracts is to earn profits by speculating on the value of the underlying asset in future.

    ·         Imagine that the market price of an equity share may go up or down. You may suffer a loss owing to a fall in the stock value.

    ·         In this situation, you may enter a derivative contract either to make gains by placing accurate bet.

    ·          Or simply cushion yourself from the losses in the spot market where the stock is being traded.

    In the statement on development and regulatory policies, issued along with today’s fourth bi-monthly monetary policy, RBI said it had accepted the panel’s suggestions to allow domestic banks to freely offer foreign exchange prices to non-residents at all times.

  • This can be done either by the banks’ domestic sales team or through their overseas branches.
  • RBI has also allowed rupee derivatives to be traded in the international financial services centres (IFSCs), with the settlement done in foreign currency.
  • However, the central bank’s statement is silent about whether it will also follow the two-stage process advocated by the task force:
    • First, introducing exchange-traded currency derivatives involving the rupee and, then, after gaining experience, graduating to non-deliverable, over-the-counter currency derivatives involving the rupee.
    • RBI is expected to issue detailed directions, after consulting with the government and other regulators, on the process to be followed for implementing the two recommendations.
  • RBI is also working to widen the use of the rupee in cross-border transactions, especially in external commercial borrowings (ECBs), trade credits and payment for export and import.
  • In continuation of its past efforts, RBI recently allowed non-residents to open special non-resident rupee (SNRR) accounts for investing in ECBs, trade credit and trade invoicing.
  • It has also proposed to remove the 7-year tenure restriction on SNRR accounts.

Pre-arrest bail in SC/ST Act to be retained

  • Supreme court recently said the amendment to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act which kept out prearrest bail for an accused was superfluous, and it may strike it down.
  • A bench of Justices Arun Mishra, Vineet Saran and S Ravindra Bhat made it clear it would not allow operation of Section 18A(2) — inserted in the Act along with other provisions in the aftermath of the SC order in March 2018 — as this would amount to a uniform prescription with no exceptions.
  • It said all old provisions of the Act would hold “field” in future and added it would pass a small order on this.
  • It also said it would clarify its order on the issue of holding preliminary enquiry under the Act.
  • The apex court had, on October 1, recalled its controversial order of March last year which had sparked protests by Dalits, some of them violent, forcing the Centre to bring the amendment which shut out the possibility of pre-arrest bail for those booked under the anti-atrocities Act.
  • Reserving its order on a batch of petitions challenging the validity of the amendment, the bench said the apex court in various orders, including a verdict passed by a constitution bench, had held that there could not be a blanket prohibition of anticipatory bail provision under the Act.
  • Stating that these orders had been followed over the years, the court said, “Bail is being granted in appropriate cases and we have to read the provisions in light of earlier verdicts passed by this court, including in the Lalita Kumari case.”
  • The amendment notified in August last year was on three issues —
    • preliminary enquiry shall not be required for registration of an FIR,
    • the investigating officer shall not require approval for arrest of an accused and provisions of Section 438 of Criminal Procedure Code (anticipatory bail) shall not apply,
    • notwithstanding any judgment or order or direction of any court.
  • As the apex court has already dealt with the first two issues in favour of the government by recalling its order, it will pass order on validity of the third issue pertaining to pre-arrest bail.
  • The parties supporting the amendment tried to convince the court that denial of pre-arrest bail to an accused was the need of the hour in light of incidents in different parts of the country against Dalits.
  • But the bench rejected their plea and said it could not open a “Pandora’s box”.

India’s first sports university

  • The Delhi Cabinet recently approved a Bill to set up “India’s first” sports university in Delhi, which will offer graduation, post graduation and doctorate degrees in cricket, football, and hockey among other sports.
  • Making the announcement, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said that the university will come up in 90 acres of land in Mundka and there will also be sports schools.

Affiliated to CBSE

  • The Delhi Sports University (DSU) is proposed to be set up as a State university and it will have a full-fledged Delhi Sports School, affiliated to the CBSE, for imparting education with emphasis on sports and to groom the students for a career in sports.
  • ‘The Delhi Sports University Bill’ approved by the Cabinet, grants the university the right to establish constituent schools and colleges.
  • But the Chief Minister said that the curriculum of the university and the subjects are in the ideation process and will be developed after deliberations with experts.
  • The Chancellor of the Delhi Sports University will be the Lt. Governor. The Vice-Chancellor would be a sportsperson of inter-national eminence with administrative experience in a national-level institution.

Israeli Spike missiles

  • Indian infantry soldiers now finally have a new weapon to destroy advancing enemy tanks on the western front with Pakistan.
  • The Army has begun to induct a limited number of Israeli Spike antitank guided missiles (ATGMs) to meet immediate operational requirements till the indigenous man-portable “tank killers” being developed by DRDO are ready for induction.
  • The Army moved to buy the initial amount of the fire-and-forget Spike ATGMs, which have a strike range of up to 4-km, for around Rs 280 crore after the Jaish-e-Muhammed training facility at Balakot in Pakistan was bombed by Indian Mirage-2000 fighters on February 26.Prelims Current Affairs UPSC
  • DRDO, however, is quite confident about offering its MP-ATGM for “user trials” in 2020 after having conducted three successful trials of the weapon system at the Kurnool range in Andhra Pradesh early last month.
  • Whether it’s indigenous or Israeli man-portable “tank killers”, the fact remains the 13-lakh strong Army has an alarming over 50% shortage in its “authorised holding” of different kinds of shoulder, vehicle and helicopter-launched ATGMs, which are crucial to halt advancing enemy tanks in the plains as well as “bunker bursting” across the volatile Line of Control with Pakistan.
  • The Army’s existing second generation Milan-2T (2-km range) and Konkurs (4-km) ATGMs, produced by defence PSU Bharat Dynamics under licence from French and Russian companies, do not have night-fighting capabilities.
  • The Army for well over a decade has been clamouring to upgrade from these wire-guided ATGMs to third and fourth-generation ones that are top-attack, fire-and-forget and night-capable.

Legal rights of deities

  • Among the parties in the Ayodhya title suit appeals now being heard by the Supreme Court is Lord Ram himself — Ramlalla Virajman — represented by His “next friend”, the late Deoki Nandan Agrawal, a former judge of Allahabad High Court.
  • The other ‘Hindu’ party in the case is the Nirmohi Akhara which, after initially arguing for the dismissal of the Lord’s plea, told the court on August 27 that it would not “press the issue of maintainability of Suit Number 5 of 1989 (filed by the deity through Agarwal) provided they (lawyers for Ramlalla) do not dispute the ‘shebait’ right of the Akhara”.

God as a juristic person

  • A juristic person, as opposed to a “natural person” (that is, a human being), is an entity whom the law vests with a personality. In Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee vs Som Nath Dass and Others (2000), the Supreme Court said: “The very words Juristic Person connote recognition of an entity to be in law a person which otherwise it is not. In other words, it is not an individual natural person but an artificially created person which is to be recognised to be in law as such.”
  • Gods, corporations, rivers, and animals, have all been treated as juristic persons by courts.
  • The treatment of deities as juristic persons started under the British. Temples owned huge land and resources, and British administrators held that the legal owner of the wealth was the deity, with a shebait or manager acting as trustee.
  • In 1887, the Bombay High Court held in the Dakor Temple case: “Hindu idol is a juridical subject and the pious idea that it embodies is given the status of a legal person.” This was reinforced in the 1921 order in Vidya Varuthi Thirtha vs Balusami Ayyar, where the court said, “under the Hindu law, the image of a deity… (is) a ‘juristic entity’, vested with the capacity of receiving gifts and holding property”.
  • This idea is now established in Indian law. “A juristic entity or person is one in whom the law reposes rights or duties in its own name.
  • However, not every deity is a legal person. This status is given to an idol only after its public consecration, or pran pratishtha.
  • In Yogendra Nath Naskar vs Commissioner Of Income-Tax (1969), the Supreme Court ruled: “It is not all idols that will qualify for being ‘juristic person’ but only when it is consecrated and installed at a public place for the public at large.”

The rights deities have

  • In the Sabarimala case (Indian Young Lawyers Association & Ors. vs The State of Kerala & Ors, 2018), one of the arguments presented against allowing women of menstruating age entry into the temple was that this would violate the right to privacy of Lord Ayyappa, who is eternally celibate.
  • A lawyer who worked on the Sabarimala case said: “Deities have property rights, but not fundamental rights or other constitutional rights.”
  • This was upheld by Justice D Y Chandrachud in the Sabarimala judgment: “Merely because a deity has been granted limited rights as juristic persons under statutory law does not mean that the deity necessarily has constitutional rights.”

Representative of God

  • Generally, the shebait is the temple priest, or the trust or individuals managing the temple.
  • In the 2010 Allahabad HC judgment in the Ayodhya title suit, Justice D V Sharma had said: “As in the case of minor a guardian is appointed, so in the case of idol, a Shebait or manager is appointed to act on its behalf.”
  • What if some parties feel that the shebait is not acting in the interest of the deity? In Bishwanath And Anr vs Shri Thakur Radhaballabhji & Ors (1967), the Supreme Court allowed a “suit filed by the idol represented by a worshipper” in a case where the shebait was found “alienating the idol’s property”.
  • The court held that if a shebait does not discharge their duties properly, a devotee can move court as “friend of the deity”.
  • In the Ayodhya case, the Nirmohi Akhara argued against the plea filed by Deoki Nandan Agrawal on the ground that “no one has ever accused them of not discharging their duties as shebait properly”, advocate Fuzail Ayyubi, who is representing the Sunni Waqf Board, said.

Other than Hinduism

  • A mosque has never been held as a juristic person, because it’s a place where people gather to worship; it is not an object of worship itself. Neither has a church.
  • In Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee vs Som Nath Dass and Others (2000), the SC ruled that the “Guru Granth Sahib… cannot be equated with other sacred books… Guru Granth Sahib is revered like a Guru… (and) is the very heart and spirit of gurudwara. The reverence of Guru Granth on the one hand and other sacred books on the other hand is based on different conceptual faith, belief and application.”
  • However, the court clarified that “every Guru Granth Sahib cannot be a juristic person unless it takes juristic role through its installation in a gurudwara or at such other recognised public place.”

Not just deities

  • In May, the Punjab and Haryana High Court held that the “entire animal kingdom” has a “distinct legal persona with corresponding rights, duties, and liabilities of a living person”.
  • On March 20, 2017, the Uttarakhand High Court declared that the Ganga and Yamuna would be legally treated as “living people,” and enjoy “all corresponding rights, duties and liabilities of a living person”.
  • The order was stayed by the Supreme Court in July that year because it “raised several legal questions and administrative issues”.

India’s first e-waste clinic

  • The Municipal Corporation (BMC) and the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) have joined hands to set up the country’s first e-waste clinic UP, that would enable segregation, processing and disposal of waste from both household and commercial units.
  • After inspecting the garbage and plastic recovery centres in Bhanpur here, CPCB officials discussed the clinic with BMC officials.
  • A three-month pilot project, the clinic, if successful, would be replicated elsewhere in the country.
  • Electronic waste will be collected door-to-door or could be deposited directly at the clinic in exchange for a fee. The CPCB will provide technical support at the unit.
  • At present, there was no estimate of the quantity of electronic waste generated in the city.
  • Door-to-door collection will happen in two ways. Either separate carts for the collection of e-waste will be designed, or separate bins will be attached to existing ones meant for solid and wet waste.
  • The clinic is being conceived in compliance with the Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016.
  • In the absence of a safe disposal mechanism, electronic waste at present is being disposed of along with other waste.

India’s first private train : Tejas Express

  • India’s first private train Lucknow-Delhi Tejas Express started its commercial run recently.
  • With a host of new facilities, the Delhi-Lucknow Tejas Express becomes the first train in the country to be entirely run by Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC).
  • The newly inaugurated Tejas Express will run six days a week, except Tuesdays.
  • Touted as the fastest train in the New Delhi-Lucknow route, the Tejas Express cover the distance between two cities in six hours 15 minutes.
  • IRCTC’s first private train will follow the dynamic fare scheme. The fare for Lucknow to New Delhi Tejas Express will be ₹1,125 for AC chair car and ₹2,310 for executive chair car.
  • The New Delhi to Lucknow Tejas Express ticket will be priced at ₹1,280 for AC chair car passengers and ₹2,450 for executive chair car.
  • With the Lucknow-Delhi Tejas Express, IRCTC starts an unique refund scheme if your train gets delayed. If the Lucknow-Delhi Tejas Express delays for over an hour, passengers will get a compensation of ₹ For delay of two hours and more, the passengers will receive ₹250, IRCTC said.
  • For the first time, IRCTC is offering a free insurance of ₹25 lakh to the passengers travelling in Lucknow-Delhi Tejas Express.
  • The insurance cover includes ₹1 lakh insurance against theft or robbery during the travel. IRCTC will also extend taxi hiring and hotel bookings facilities to passengers on demand.
  • Passengers can book tickets in Delhi-Lucknow Tejas Express via IRCTC website or its mobile app.
  • There will be no booking at railway reservation counters. Delhi-Lucknow Tejas Express will have advance reservation period of 60 days.
  • There will be no facility of ‘tatkal’ ticket in the Tejas Express.

INTERNATIONAL

First women-only hotel in Spain

  • The first women-only hotel in Spain has opened in Mallorca.
  • Som Dona Hotel, near Porto Cristo, exclusively caters for women aged 14 years and above.
  • With 39 rooms, a pool, spa, library and a roof-top terrace, the four star establishment aims to offer “a new space for women who are looking to disconnect from the stress of daily life”.
  • The wellness services on offer, such as massages, treatments, a whirlpool tub and solarium, are a major focus for the hotel, along with locally sourced food, “flexitarian gastronomy” and healthy and sustainable cuisine.
  • According to the website, guests can also participate in excursions around the island and cultural activities. Som Dona claims to welcome women of all sexual orientations, solo travellers, couples, mothers and daughters and larger groups.
  • It’s worth noting that the nomen policy also applies to visitors, meaning that late-night gentleman callers are not welcome.
  • While the hotel employs men, in keeping with Spanish gender discrimination laws, the establishment is reported to prioritise women when it comes to staff recruitment.

The ‘right to be forgotten’

  • Recently, the European Union’s highest court ruled that an online privacy rule known as the ‘right to be forgotten’ under European law would not apply beyond the borders of EU member states. The European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled in favour of the search engine giant Google, which was contesting a French regulatory authority’s order to have web addresses removed from its global database.
  • The ruling comes as an important victory for Google, and lays down that the online privacy law cannot be used to regulate the internet in countries such as India, which are outside the European Union.

What is the ‘right to be forgotten’ under European law?

  • The right to be forgotten empowers individuals to ask organisations to delete their personal data. It is provided by the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), a law passed by the 28-member bloc in 2018.
  • According to the EU GDPR’s website, the right to be forgotten appears in Recitals 65 and 66 and in Article 17 of the regulation, which states: “The data subject shall have the right to obtain from the controller the erasure of personal data concerning him or her without undue delay and the controller shall have the obligation to erase personal data without undue delay” (if one of a number of conditions applies).
  • Under Article 2 of the GDPR, “personal data” means “any information relating to an identified or identifiable natural person (“data subject”)”, and “controller” means “the natural or legal person, public authority, agency or any other body which… determines the purposes and means of the processing of personal data”. According to the GDPR website, “undue delay” is considered to be about a month.
  • After a search engine company like Google gets requests under the privacy law to get information deleted, it first reviews and then removes links on country-specific sites within the European Union, such Google’s ‘google.de’ for Germany.
  • According to the New York Times, Google has so far received more than 8.45 lakh requests to take down 33 lakh internet links, and 45% of the latter have been delisted.

The Case and its ruling

  • Prelims Current Affairs UPSCIn 2015, the Commission nationale de l’informatique et des libertés (CNIL), an internet regulating agency in France, required that Google go beyond its practice of region-specific delinking, and ordered the search engine company to delete links from its global database.
  • Google refused to abide by the order, arguing that following the same would impede the free flow of information across the world. This led to the CNIL slapping a fine of EUR 100,000 (around INR 77 lakh) on Google in 2016.
  • Google challenged the CNIL’s order at the ECJ, and contended that implementing the online privacy law beyond the EU would hamper access to information in countries around the world, especially those ruled by authoritarian governments.
  • Arriving at a landmark ruling, the ECJ has now restricted applying the privacy law beyond the EU. It has also observed that the EU cannot enforce the ‘right to be forgotten’ on countries which do not recognise such a right.

China and India lead global urbanisation shift

  • Two-thirds of the nearly 1.5.billion additional city dwellers in Developing Asia belong to China and India.
  • The economic outlook update released by the Asian Development Bank recently highlighted that, according to World Urbanization Prospects data, “the number of urban inhabitants in developing Asia has increased almost five-fold since 1970”.Prelims Current Affairs UPSC
  • “Developing Asia” refers to a group of 45 countries that are members of the ADB. As such, between 1970 to 2017, the urban population in this group of countries grew from 375 million to 1.84 billion.
  • The region led the global increase in urban population in this period and accounted for 53% of it.
  • Two-thirds of the nearly 1.5.billion additional city dwellers in Developing Asia belong to China and India.
  • Developing Asia urbanised faster than the rest of the world not only in terms of absolute growth, but also in terms of growth rate.
  • The urban population in this region increased at an average 3.4% per annum from 1970 to 2017.
  • This was much faster than the 2.6% in the rest of the developing world — mainly Africa and Latin America — and 1.0% in the developed world.
  • Within the Developing Asia region, East Asia, at 3.7%, had the highest annual growth rate. It was followed by Southeast Asia at 3.6%, and South Asia at 3.3%.
  • The Pacific saw an annual growth rate of 2.9% in the urban population, and Central Asia witnessed a 1.6% annual growth.

World’s strongest silver created

  • Scientists claim to have developed the strongest silver ever — 42% sturdier than the previous world record.
  • This “fundamental breakthrough” promises a new category of materials that can overcome a traditional trade-off in industrial and commercial materials between strength and ability to carry electrical current, according to the research published in the journal Nature Materials.
  • “We’ve discovered a new mechanism at work at the nanoscale that allows us to make metals that are much stronger— while not losing any electrical conductivity,” said Frederic Sansoz, a professor at the University of Vermont.
  • All metals have defects. Often these defects lead to brittleness or softening.
  • By mixing a trace amount of copper into the silver, the team transformed two types of inherent nanoscale defects into a powerful internal structure.

Coral bleaching

  • Heat is not the only factor that determines the bleaching of corals, a study conducted by scientists has found.
  • Rather, many other factors could be responsible, including the location of the coral reef, according to a press statement.
  • ‘Bleaching’ is a process in which corals, on getting stressed due to higher sea temperatures, get stressed and expel the very algae that produce food for them and give them their vibrant colours.
  • In the new study Temperature patterns and mechanisms influencing coral bleaching during the 2016 El Niño published in the journal Nature Climate Change, scientists studied how coral in the Indian and Pacific Oceans was affected by the El Niño of 2016, one of the warmest years on record.
  • The study was conducted in 226 reefs, stretching from east Africa to Fiji. It found that coral bleaching did not exactly depend on excess temperature or the distance the corals were from the equator. Rather, bleached corals did or did not suffer the impact of temperature rise, with some reefs bleached up to 60 per cent and the others showing no impact.
  • The researchers also found that the geographical location of the coral reef between east Africa and Fiji played a major role in determining whether they would be bleached or not.
  • With the strongest bleaching being observed in east Africa, reefs there were found to be more stressed than reefs in Indonesia and Fiji.
  • Indian reefs suffered strong to moderate bleaching in the 2016 event depending on where they were. Thus, Lakshadweep reefs, which were closer to east Africa, bleached very badly while bleaching in the Andamans and Nicobars was slightly less intense.

Different stress-tolerances

  • The researchers also found that since different coral reefs were composed of different species of coral and were exposed to varying levels of heat and stress, they had developed different tolerances to these factors, leading them to react differently to bleaching events.
  • Their past histories influenced how they responded to bleaching events.
  • For instance although Lakshadweep reefs bleached as badly as they did, the amount of subsequent mortality was actually lower than in previous El Niño events.
  • This was most likely because these reefs had been subject to multiple events in the past two decades. The corals that made it through these events are likely to be relatively well adapted to heat stress.

PERSON IN NEWS

Pandit Jasraj

  • The International Astronomical Union (IAU) has named an asteroid, discovered in 2006, after Indian classical singer Pandit Jasraj.
  • The asteroid, or more formally known as a minor planet, is located between Mars and Jupiter, and was discovered on November 11, 2006, by the Cataline Sky Survey, whose telescopes are based in Arizona in the United States. The privilege of naming a planet is first given to discoverers, who have 10 years to propose a name.
  • All names proposed are judged by the 15-member Working Group for Small Body Nomenclature (CSBN) of the IAU, comprising professional astronomers with research interests in minor planets and/or comets from around the world.
  • “Sangeet Martand Pandit Jasraj (b. 1930) is an exponent of Indian classical vocal music. Jasraj is the recipient of numerous awards, honours, and titles, including the prestigious Padma Vibhushan and the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award.
  • His distinctive voice traverses a remarkable four-and-a-half octaves,” reads an IAU citation available on the California Institute of Technology’s database on small planetary bodies.

Mikhail Kalashnikov

  • Dozens of cadets and youngsters from Russia’s Youth Army have been getting up close and personal with perhaps the world’s most iconic firearm as their country prepares to mark the centenary of the birth of Mikhail Kalashnikov, maker of the legendary rifle.
  • Kalashnikov, who died in 2013 at the age of 94, is seen in Russia as a national hero and symbol of the country’s proud military past.
  • His AK-47 has become a weapon of choice for both guerrillas and governments the world over.
  • Kalashnikov was showered with every possible major prize in the Soviet Union, and the Kremlin in 2009 gave him the highest honour — Hero of Russia.
  • In 2017, authorities unveiled a monument to Kalashnikov holding his weapon in central Moscow.
  • Born in a Siberian village on November 10, 1919, Kalashnikov had a tragic childhood during which his father was deported as a “kulak” (prosperous peasant) in 1930.
  • Wounded during a bloody battle with Nazi forces in 1941, Kalashnikov was given a leave during which he thought up the first versions of the rifle.
  • In 1945, a prototype was entered into a competition and the design was eventually recommended for use in the Soviet army.
  • It quickly became prized for its simplicity, cheapness and sturdy reliability.
  • AK-47’s name stands for “Kalashnikov’s Automatic” and the year its final version was designed, 1947.

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