Prelims Booster

17th September – Prelims Booster

Kosi Rail Mahasetu

The Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has dedicated to the nation the historic Kosi Rail Mahasetu (mega bridge) to the nation.

Details –

  • The dedication of the Kosi Rail Mahasetu is a watershed moment in the history of Bihar and the entire region connecting to the North East.
  • In 1887, a meter gauge link was built in between Nirmali and Bhaptiahi (Saraigarh). During the heavy flood and severe Indo Nepal earthquake in 1934, the rail link was washed away and thereafter due to meandering nature of river Kosi no attempt was made to restore this Rail link for long period.
  • The Kosi Mega Bridge line project was sanctioned by Government of India during 2003-04. The Kosi Rail Mahasetu is 1.9 KM long and its construction cost is Rs. 516 Crore. This bridge is of strategic importance along the India-Nepal border.
  • The dedication of this project will fulfil the 86 year old dream and the long wait of the people of the region.

Institute of Teaching and Research in Ayurveda Bill, 2020

The Institute of Teaching and Research in Ayurveda Bill 2020 has been passed by Rajya Sabha recently. This paves the way to establish a state-of-the-art Ayurvedic institution called the Institute of Teaching and Research in Ayurveda (ITRA) at Jamnagar, Gujarat, and to confer the status of Institution of National Importance (INI) to it.

What does the bill seek to achieve?

  • The ITRA is sought to be established by conglomerating the presently existing Ayurveda institutes at Gujarat Ayurved University campus Jamnagar.
  • This is a cluster of highly reputed institutions, namely, (a) Institute for Post Graduate Teaching and Research in Ayurveda, (b) Shree GulabKunverba Ayurveda Mahavidyalaya, and (c) Institute of Ayurvedic Pharmaceutical sciences, (d) MaharshiPatanjali Institute for Yoga Naturopathy Education & Research (to be made part of the Department of Swasthvritta of the proposed ITRA). These institutions had come up over the past many decades, and together made a unique family of Ayurveda institutions existing in close proximity.

Significance –

  • It is expected that the enactment of the proposal will further provide autonomy to the institute to develop patterns of teaching in undergraduate and postgraduate education in Ayurveda and Pharmacy.
  • The synergies among the different constituent institutions will help ITRA to demonstrate high standards of such education and to emerge as a lighthouse institution to the entire AYUSH Sector.
  • It is expected to provide the highest level of training of personnel in all important branches of Ayurveda including Pharmacy, and to take up in-depth study and research in the field of Ayurveda.
  • ITRA will be the first institution with INI status in the AYUSH Sector, and this will enable the institution to be independent and innovative in the matter deciding course content and pedagogy.

Draft Electricity (Rights of Consumers) Rules, 2020

Union Power Ministry has drafted Rules providing for Rights of Electricity Consumers for the First Time.

Features of draft Electricity (Rights of Consumers) Rules, 2020 –

The main features are –

  • Reliability of service – SERCs to fix average number and duration of outages per consumer per year for DISCOMs.
  • Timely and simplified procedure for connection – Only two documents for connection up to load of 10 kw and no estimation of demand charges for loads up to 150 kw to expedite giving connection.
  • Time period of not more than 7 days in metro cities, 15 days in other municipal areas and 30 days in rural areas, to provide new connection and modify existing connection.
  • 2 to 5% rebate on serving bills with delay of sixty days or more.
  • Option to pay bills in cash, cheque, debit cards, net banking etc but bills of Rs. 1000 or more to be paid online.
  • Provisions related to disconnection, reconnection, meter replacement, billing, payment, etc.
  • Recognition to the emerging category of consumers known as “Prosumers”. Persons who are consumers and have also set up a rooftop units or solarised their irrigation pumps. They will have right to produce electricity for self-use and inject excess in the grid using same point of connection up to limits prescribed by the SERC.
  • Compensation/penalties for delay in service by DISCOMs; compensation to be automatic as far as possible, to be passed on in the bill.
  • 24×7 toll free call centre, web-based and mobile applications for common services like new connection, disconnection, reconnection, shifting of connection, change in name and particulars, load change, replacement of meter, no supply, etc with facilities for sms/email alerts, online status tracking and auto escalation.
  • Consumer Grievance Redressal Forum with 2-3 representatives of consumers at various levels starting from Sub-division for ease of consumer grievance redressal.

Aircraft (Amendment) Bill, 2020

The Aircraft (Amendment) Bill, 2020 has been passed by the Parliament recently.

Provisions in the amendment bill –

  • The Bill gives statutory powers to the Directorate General of Civil Aviation, the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security and the Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau.
  • The Bill empowers the DGCA to levy enhanced penalties of upto ₹1 crore, from the existing ₹10 lakh, on airlines, airports and other aviation entities.
  • The amendments also address several regulatory shortcomings that were highlighted by aviation watchdogs of the United Nations and the U.S. — the International Civil Aviation Organisation and the Federal Aviation Authority — during their audits on safety and security in the Indian aviation ecosystem.
  • The changes include recognising regulatory bodies such as the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security and the Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau, which were set up through various government notifications but did not have a defined role under the parent Act, as well as air navigation services.

Need for amendments –

  • The ICAO, under its Universal Safety Oversight Audit Programme and the Universal Security Audit Programme, regularly conducts safety and security audits of all countries which are signatory to the Chicago Convention to ensure they are carrying out their safety and security oversight functions.
  • The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) of the United States also conducts safety audits of countries whose airlines operate to the US under its International Aviation Safety Assessment Programme.
  • India, as a signatory, is also subjected to periodic audits by ICAO and the FAA. According to government sources, the audits conducted by the ICAO in 2012 and 2015 indicated a need to amend the Aircraft Act to give proper recognition to the regulators under the Act, to enhance the maximum quantum of fines and to empower the departmental officers to impose financial penalties on individuals or organisations involved in violations of the legal provisions and to include certain areas of air navigation services for rule-making purposes under Section 5 of the Act.

About the Aircraft Act, 1934 –

  • The Aircraft Act of 1934 was enacted to make provisions for the control of the manufacture, possession, use, operation, sale, import and export of aircraft.
  • It makes provisions for securing the safety of aircraft operations in India, and for carrying out civil aviation operations as per internationally accepted standards, procedures and practices as laid down by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).

Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, 1967

Delhi Police has arrested Umar Khalid under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act for his alleged involvement in the Delhi riots of February 2020.

What is an ‘unlawful’ activity as per the act?

The Act defines unlawful activity as any action — spoken or written words, signs, or visible representation — which is intended or supports any claim to bring about secession of any part of India or which incites anyone towards secession; disclaims, questions, disrupts or intends to disrupt the sovereignty and territorial integrity of India; and “which causes or is intended to cause disaffection against India”. The word “disaffection” has not been defined in the law, and finds mention only once.

About UAPA –

  • It is a law which is aimed at effective prevention of unlawful activities associations in India.
  • Its main objective was to make powers available for dealing with activities directed against the integrity and sovereignty of India.
  • It empowered appropriate authorities to declare any association as ‘unlawful’ if it is carrying out ‘unlawful activities’.
  • This law was comprehensively amended by the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Act, 2004 to deal with terrorist activities. Like POTA, it defines a ‘terrorist act’ and also defines a “terrorist organisation” as an organisation listed in the Schedule or an organisation operating under the same name as an organisation so listed.
  • It further provides a mechanism for forfeiture of the proceeds of terrorism apart from providing stringent punishments for terrorism related offences.
  • Further, it is amended in by Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Act, 2019. Thus, at present the only Union Legislation dealing specifically with terrorism is the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 2019.
  • Following the last amendment in 2019, an individual can be designated a terrorist; only organisations could be designated earlier. UAPA cases are tried by special courts.

Uttar Pradesh’s New Special Security Force

Amid controversy over the provisions of the Uttar Pradesh Special Security Force (UPSSF) that allow arrests “without warrant” or the “order of the magistrate”, the state government has claimed that the force, which was notified on August 31, is no different from special forces like the CISF at the Centre, or those in states like Odisha or Maharashtra.

What is the UPSSF?

  • The force was announced on June 26, 2020, after Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath asked for the setting up of a CISF-like force to guard important institutions and persons. The proposed force was envisaged as having “high-level professional skills”, which would reduce the burden on the Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC), which could then focus on law and order.
  • The new “state vital installation force” would protect courts, airports, banks, the Metro, industrial units, places of worship, as well as individuals, the government said. It claimed that Maharashtra and Odisha had similar forces.
  • The UPSSF will be led by an Additional Director General-level officer, followed by an Inspector General, Deputy Inspector General, Commandant, and Deputy Commandant.

Need –

  • According to the UPSSF Act, the force has been constituted to provide “better protection and security of a body or a person, or the residential premises” notified by the state government, and vital installations including courts, “administrative offices, shrines, Metro rail, airports, banks, other financial institutions, industrial undertaking,” etc.
  • The Act lays down its purpose as “to maintain the smooth and strong security arrangements of the vital establishments and of notified persons, as at the Centre and in other states, there is no special security force established in the state of Uttar Pradesh.
  • It has also cited a direction of the High Court while taking suo motu cognisance of the security situation at all court premises across Uttar Pradesh.

Concerns –

  • Subsection (1) of Section 10 (“Power to arrest without warrant”) of the UPSSF Act says: “Any member of the force may, without any order from a Magistrate and without a warrant, arrest any person, who voluntarily causes hurt…”, or a person against whom there is a “reasonable suspicion”, or any person, who attempts to “commit a cognizable offence”.
  • The force will also have the right to remove trespassers on the premises under its protection.
  • Sections 15 and 16 of the UPSSF Act, 2020, offer “protection of action taken in good faith” and “cognisance of offence”. This is a sweeping protection – no court will be able to take cognisance of the offence against any member of the force without prior sanction from the state government.
  • Also, Section 15 of the Act says: “No suit or prosecution shall lie against any officer or member of the force or against any person on acting under the order or the direction of any officer or member of the force for anything, which is done or intended to be done in good faith”.
  • Section 16 says: “No court shall take cognisance of an offence against any member of the force” for action taken in the discharge of his duties.

Solar Cycle 25

Recently, the scientists from NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced their predictions about the new solar cycle, called Solar Cycle 25, which they believe has begun. Solar cycles have implications for life and technology on Earth as well as astronauts in space.

What is a solar cycle?

  • Since the Sun’s surface is a very active space, electrically charged gases on its surface generate areas of powerful magnetic forces, which are called magnetic fields.
  • Since the gases on the Sun’s surface are constantly moving, these magnetic fields can get stretched, twisted and tangled creating motion on the surface, which is referred to as solar activity.
  • Solar activity varied with the stages of the solar cycle, which lasts on average for a period of 11 years.

How do scientists track solar activity?

Scientists track a solar cycle by using sunspots, which are the dark blotches on the Sun that are associated with solar activity. Sunspots are associated as the origins for giant explosions such as solar flares that can spew light, energy and solar material into space.

Serial Interval

A recent research paper published in the journal Science, written by Benjamin Cowling and other researchers at the University of Hong Kong, said China, which has now gone over a month without any locally transmitted Covid-19 cases, was able to contain Covid-19 due to its ability to manage the serial interval.

What is ‘serial interval’?

The serial interval is the duration between symptom onset of a primary case and symptom onset of secondary cases (contacts) generated by the primary case. In simple terms, the serial interval is the gap between the onset of Covid-19 symptoms in Person A and Person B, who is infected by Person A.

What does changes in serial interval indicate?

  • The serial interval helps to gauge the effectiveness of infection control interventions besides indicating rising population immunity and forecast future incidence.
  • Thus, the more quickly persons who contracted Covid-19 are identified and isolated, the shorter the serial interval becomes and cuts down opportunities for transmission of the virus.
  • To manage serial interval, a robust system of contact tracing, quarantine, and isolation protocols should be in place.

How did China and South Korea manage the serial interval?

  • In the paper, the researchers found that the serial interval in Wuhan came down from 7.8 days to 2.6 days between early January and early February. Quarantining contacts within 1 day from symptom onset helped reduce Covid-19 transmission by 60 per cent, the researchers said.
  • This, the researchers suggest, was made possible due to aggressive contact tracing, quarantine, and isolation, thereby ensuring that infected patients, because they were isolated, could not infect any more people later in the infection cycle.
  • The report also mentioned that interventions such as suspension of intra- and intercity travel, and different forms of social distancing widely implemented in different Chinese cities kept the serial interval low.
  • Similarly, a separate study by researchers in Zurich and Seoul, published in the International Journal of Infectious Diseases, found that the serial interval in South Korea, another country whose Covid-19 response has been touted as a success story, was estimated to be 3.63 days, crediting the effectiveness of the country’s intensive contact tracing efforts.

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