7th January 2021

Index

A) Indices, Reports, Surveys, Committees and Organisations

1. New Development Bank (NDB) (PIB)

2. International Solar Alliance (ISA) (PIB)

B) Economy

3. National Infrastructure Pipeline (NIP) (PIB, TH)

4. OPEC Vs OPEC + and the Two Most Popular Grades of Crude Oil (TH)

C) Agriculture, Geography, Environment and Biodiversity

5. Govt. approves advisory for management of Human-Wildlife Conflict across the country (PIB)

D) Polity, Bills, Acts and Judgments

6. What are Bypolls? (TH)

7. SC examines constitutional validity of laws enacted by States (TH)

E) Science and Technology, Defence, Space

8. Explained: Bird flu and its spread to other animals including humans (IE)

F) Miscellaneous

8. Longitudinal Ageing Study of India (LASI) Wave-1 (PIB)

A) Indices, Reports, Surveys, Committees and Organisations

1. New Development Bank (NDB) (PIB)

Context: The Government of India, the Government of Andhra Pradesh, and the New Development Bank (NDB) signed loan agreements of up to USD 323 million each for two projects. 

  • The NDB was established based on the Inter-Governmental agreement among the BRICS countries (Brazil, the Russian Federation, India, China, and South Africa) signed on July 15, 2014.
  • The Bank’s purpose is to mobilize resources for infrastructure and sustainable development projects in BRICS and other emerging market economies and developing countries.
  • For details, refer to 17th Dec file.

2. International Solar Alliance (ISA) (PIB)

Context: India welcomed Germany’s decision to join the International Solar Alliance (ISA), and expressed its desire to further strengthen cooperation with Germany under the platform of Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (CDRI).

  • For details, refer to 8th Sep file.

B) Economy

3. National Infrastructure Pipeline (NIP) (PIB, TH)

  • Context: Finance Minister chaired review meeting of the National Infrastructure Pipeline.
  • The NIP is a part of the Government of India’s initiative to provide world-class infrastructure to its citizens and enhance the ease of living.
  • For details, refer to 23rd Dec file.

4. OPEC Vs OPEC + and the Two Most Popular Grades of Crude Oil (TH)

Context: Brent crude oil prices rose to their highest since February 2020 after Saudi Arabia agreed to reduce output more than expected in the meeting with the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and other major producers that form the group known as OPEC+.

  • Reductions agreed to by Saudi Arabia were included in a deal to persuade other producers in the OPEC+ group to hold output steady.
  • With coronavirus infections spreading rapidly in many parts of the world, producers are trying to support prices as demand takes a hit from new lockdowns.

Analysis

The Two Most Popular Grades of Crude Oil

  • When it comes to physical oil, there are different grades.
  • The most popular traded grades are Brent North Sea Crude (commonly known as Brent Crude) and West Texas Intermediate(commonly known as WTI).
  • WTI is the benchmark crude for North America.
  • Brent refers to oil that is produced in the Brent oil fields and other sites in the North Sea.
  • Brent Crude’s price is the benchmark for African, European, and Middle Eastern crude oil.
  • The pricing mechanism for Brent dictates the value of roughly two-thirds of the world’s crude oil production.
  • The supply of this crude Brent Oil is waterborne, it’s easy to transport to distant locations.
  • Since both types of oil are used as benchmarks, different countries will use them in different manners. Asian countries tend to use a mixture of Brent and WTI benchmark prices to value their crude oil.

Sulphur in Oil

  • Oil contains sulfur, and the percentage of sulfur in crude oil dictates the amount of processing needed to refine the oil into energy products.
  • “Sweet crude” is a term that refers to crude oil that has less than 1% sulfur.2?
  • The sulfur content of both Brent and WTI is well under 1%, making them both “sweet.”
  • They are also less dense (“lighter”) than many of the crude oils extracted elsewhere.
  • Both of these characteristics make them easier to refine and more attractive to petroleum product producers.
  • One Barrel is the unit of volume for crude oil and petroleum products. One barrel equals approximately 159 liters.

OPEC Vs OPEC+ (TH)

  • For details, refer to 10th Nov file.

C) Agriculture, Geography, Environment and Biodiversity

5. Govt. approves advisory for management of Human-Wildlife Conflict across the country (PIB)

Context: The Standing Committee of National Board of Wildlife (SC-NBWL) in its 60th meeting approved the advisory for management of Human-Wildlife Conflict (HWC) in the country.

Analysis

  • The advisory makes important prescriptions for the States/ Union Territories for dealing with Human-Wildlife conflict situations and seeks expedited inter-departmental coordinated and effective actions.
  • Some of the important approvals took place during the meeting are:
  1. Empowering gram panchayats in dealing with the problematic wild animals as per the section 11 (1) (b) of Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972;
  2. Utilising add-on coverage under the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojna for crop compensation against crop damage due to HWC;
  3. Augmenting fodder and water sources within the forest areas;
  4. Payment of a portion of ex-gratia as interim relief within 24 hours of the incident to the victim/family.
  5. Formulation and implementation of special plans for improved stall-fed farm animal etc.
  • Some of the other important approvals took place during the meeting are, inclusion of Caracal, a medium size wild cat found in some parts of Rajasthan and Gujarat, into the list of critically endangered species for taking up conservation efforts with financial support under Centrally sponsored Scheme-Development of Wildlife Habitat.
  • Now, there are 22 wildlife species under recovery programme for critically endangered species.

National Board for Wildlife

  • The Indian Board for Wildlife was constituted under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.
  • Amendment of the Act in 2002, incorporated a provision for the constitution of the National Board for Wildlife, replacing the Indian Board for Wildlife.
  • It is an apex body to review all wildlife-related matters and approves projects in and around national parks and sanctuaries.
  • The National Board for Wild Life is chaired by the Prime Minister, Union Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change is the vice-chairman of the Board.
  • The Board is responsible for promotion of conservation and development of wildlife and forests.
  • In September 2013, the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL), the apex advisory body to the central government on all wildlife-related matters, said no to new roads through protected forests, but was open to the widening of existing roads with adequate mitigation measures irrespective of the cost, only if alternative alignments were not available.
  • The government accepted this as policy in December 2014. In February 2018, the NBWL made it mandatory for every road/rail project proposal to include a wildlife passage plan as per guidelines framed by Wildlife Institute of India, an autonomous wildlife research body under the Environment Ministry.
  • However, features like underpasses are unlikely to suffice in dense wildlife-rich forests where too many animals compete for space.
  • Natural Gas would soon be extracted from Trishna Wildlife Sanctuary in Tripura following National Wildlife Board’s clearance.

D) Polity, Bills, Acts and Judgments

6. What are Bypolls? (TH)

Context: Bye Election to the Andhra Pradesh Legislative Council and other States. 

Analysis

  • By-elections or bypolls are used to fill elected offices that have become vacant between general elections.
  • Under the following circumstances, bypolls can occur for a seat:
  1. When the incumbent dies or resigns.
  2. When the incumbent becomes ineligible to continue in office.
  3. When a constituency election is invalidated by voting irregularities.
  • When a candidate wins a seat after the bypolls he or she will remain in office till the Lok Sabha/Assembly dissolves.
  • A person cannot be a member of both Houses of Parliament at the same time under the Representation of People Act (1951).
  1. If a person is elected to both the Houses of Parliament, he must intimate within 10 days in which House he desires to serve.
  2. If a sitting member of one House is also elected to the other House, his seat in the first House becomes vacant.
  3. If a person is elected to two seats in a House, he should exercise his option for one, otherwise, both seats become vacant.

7. SC examines constitutional validity of laws enacted by States (TH)

Context: The Supreme Court agreed to examine the constitutional validity of laws enacted by States, such as Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand, that criminalise religious conversion via marriage and mandate prior official clearance before marrying into another faith.

  • The laws under question Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance, 2020 and the Uttarakhand Freedom of Religion Act, 2018 are in violation of the fundamental rights of dignity and liberty enshrined under Article 21.
  • They had been enacted despite a series of judgments by the Supreme Court, including in the Hadiya case, that right to marry a person of one’s choice was part of an adult’s privacy
  • Under these laws, a person marrying into another faith should give a month’s prior notice to the authorities, then there will be an inquiry. All these provisions are oppressive.
  • Petitioners have approached SC under Article 32 of the Constitution

Analysis

Writ Jurisdiction of the SC

  • The Constitution has constituted the Supreme Court as the guarantor and defender of the fundamental rights of the citizens.
  • The Supreme Court is empowered to issue writs including habeas corpus, mandamus, prohibition, quo warranto and certiorari for the enforcement of the fundamental rights of an aggrieved citizen.
  • In this regard, the Supreme Court has original jurisdiction in the sense that an aggrieved citizen can directly go to the Supreme Court, not necessarily by way of appeal.
  • However, the writ jurisdiction of the Supreme Court is not exclusive. The high courts are also empowered to issue writs for the enforcement of the Fundamental Rights.
  • It means, when the Fundamental Rights of a citizen are violated, the aggrieved party has the option of moving either the high court or the Supreme Court directly.
  • There is also a difference between the writ jurisdiction of the Supreme Court and that of the high court. The Supreme Court can issue writs only for the enforcement of the Fundamental Rights and not for other purposes.
  1. The high court, on the other hand, can issue writs not only for the enforcement of the fundamental rights but also for other purposes.
  2. It means that the writ jurisdiction of the high court is wider than that of the Supreme Court.
  • Parliament can confer on the Supreme Court, the power to issue writs for other purposes also.

On what grounds can SC examine any Law/rules made by the central and the state governments?

  • Legislative Competence: A law must be challenged in the Court if it is in excess of the legislative competence of the framing authority. Competence can be checked by checking the subject matter of the law forms part of which of the three Lists and has the competent authority framed the law on that matter.
  • Violation of Rights: The Court can check whether a particular law violates which kind of rights- whether Fundamental or Constitutional rights?
  • Violation of the Constitution: The Court can test a law if it is ultra-vires the Constitution. In this regard, there are following Doctrines which have been evolved by the SC over a period of time:

    These are as under:
  1. Doctrine of Basic Structure: The Doctrine of Basic Structure signifies the basic features of the Constitution, which cannot be changed/amended, as they form the foundation of the Constitution on which its core principles/existence stands.
  2. Doctrine of Pith & Substance: Pith means ‘true nature’ or ‘essence of something’ and Substance means ‘the most important or essential part of something’. Doctrine of Pith and Substance says that where the question arises of determining whether a particular law relates to a particular subject (mentioned in one List or another), the Court looks for the substance (i.e., the essential feature) of the matter. Thus, if the substance falls within Union List, then the incidental encroachment by the Central law on the subject mentioned in the State List does not make it invalid.
  3. Doctrine of Colorable Legislation: The literal meaning of Colorable Legislation is that under the ‘color’ or ‘appearance’ of the power conferred for one particular purpose, the legislature cannot seek to achieve some other purpose which it is otherwise not competent to legislate on. It comes into play when a Legislature does not possess the power to make laws upon a particular subject but it indirectly makes law on it.

E) Science and Technology, Defence, Space

8. Explained: Bird flu and its spread to other animals including humans (IE)

Context: Bird flu has been reported among wild geese in Himachal Pradesh, crows in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh and ducks in Kerala. In Haryana, around one lakh poultry birds have died mysteriously in the last few days.

  • In Himachal Pradesh’s Pong Dam Lake, around 1,800 migratory birds have been found dead.

Analysis

What is avian influenza?

  • It is a highly contagious viral disease caused by Influenza Type A viruses which generally affects poultry birds such as chickens and turkeys.
  • There are many strains of the virus – some of them are mild and may merely cause a low egg production or other mild symptoms among chickens, while others are severe and lethal.

How does the bird flu spread?

  • Wild aquatic birds such as ducks and geese are the natural reservoir of Influenza A viruses and the central players in the ecology of these viruses.
  • Many birds carry the flu without developing sickness, and shed it in their droppings.
  • Since birds excrete even while flying, they provide “a nice aerosol of influenza virus, shedding it all over the world”.
  • From water birds, many of whom migrate and travel long distances, the viruses are thus
  • further spread to poultry and terrestrial birds.
  • Sometimes, the virus jumps over to mammals such as pigs, horses, cats and dogs.

When and how did the bird flu start infecting humans?

  • Bird flu outbreaks have been affecting poultry around the globe for decades, and culling of infected birds has been a common measure to contain the spread.
  • But it was in 1997 when humans are first known to have contracted bird flu following an outbreak in a live bird market of Hong Kong. It was the H5N1 strain of the virus.
  • Movement of infected poultry and migratory birds, and an illegal bird trade are believed to be the causes of the spread. Some mammals such as cats and lions were also infected.
  • Subsequently, several other strains of the virus such as H5N2 and H5N8 jumped from animals to humans, thus becoming a global public health concern.

Does it spread easily to humans?

  • Generally, people coming in close contact with infected alive or dead birds have contracted the H5N1 bird flu.
  • As per the WHO, H5N1 bird flu does not usually spread from person to person.
  • There is also no evidence, the WHO says, that the disease can be spread to people through properly prepared and cooked poultry food. The virus is sensitive to heat, and dies in cooking temperatures.
  • H5N1 is severe and deadly – If the virus mutates and becomes easily transmissible from person to person, say by altering its shape to grab human cells much more effectively, it can potentially cause a pandemic.
  • Also, flu viruses are more prone to mutation because they have a segmented genome.
  • All known strains of flu – including the seasonal flu and the pandemic flu (including SARS Cov-2)– have jumped from birds to humans in this way.
  • In birds, virus generally infects the gut.
  • However, in Humans the avian influenza attacks the respiratory tract and may cause severe respiratory illnesses such as pneumonia or Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS).
  • For more details, refer to 5th Jan file.

F) Miscellaneous

9. Longitudinal Ageing Study of India (LASI) Wave-1 (PIB)

  • Union Minister for Health & Family Welfare released INDIA REPORT on Longitudinal Ageing Study of India (LASI) Wave-1 today on the virtual platform.
  • LASI is a full–scale national survey of scientific investigation of the health, economic, and social determinants and consequences of population ageing in India.

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