22nd January – Prelims Booster

Supreme Court declines to stay poll bond scheme

Chief Justice of India has orally made it clear that if the Supreme Court had found it unnecessary to stay the electoral bond scheme earlier, it might not stay the scheme even now.

What are Electoral Bonds?

Electoral bonds will allow donors to pay political parties using banks as an intermediary.

Features –

  • Although called a bond, the banking instrument resembling promissory notes will not carry any interest. The electoral bond, which will be a bearer instrument, will not carry the name of the payee and can be bought for any value, in multiples of Rs 1,000, Rs 10,000, Rs 1 lakh, Rs 10 lakh or Rs 1 crore.
  • Electoral bonds will be valid for 15 days from the date of purchase.
  • These bonds can be bought from selected branches of State Bank of India only.

Eligibility –

  • As per provisions of the Scheme, electoral bonds may be purchased by a citizen of India, or entities incorporated or established in India. A person being an individual can buy electoral bonds, either singly or jointly with other individuals.
  • Only the registered Political Parties which have secured not less than one per cent of the votes polled in the last Lok Sabha elections or the State Legislative Assembly are eligible to receive the Electoral Bonds.

Tamil Nadu opposes amendment to exempt hydrocarbon projects from consultations

Strongly opposing the recent amendment to the Environment Impact Assessment Notification, 2006, exempting the hydrocarbon project proposed in the Cauvery delta region from public consultations, Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi urging maintenance of status quo ante and asking for the decision to be revoked.

What is the amendment?

Union Ministry for Environment, Forest and Climate Change had amended an earlier notification of 2006 mandating prior environmental clearance for certain projects, of which offshore and onshore oil and gas exploration, development and production projects were categorised under ‘Category A’. The recent amendment provides for the exemption of such consultations.

Objection –

Tamil Nadu State Government says that it is essential to take the people and all stakeholders along while implementing these projects, so that their cooperation and involvement is ensured.

Coronavirus outbreak in China

Tamil Nadu has put in place a screening mechanism for influenza like illnesses in light of the recent outbreak of Coronavirus in China.

What is Coronavirus?

  • Coronaviruses are named for the crown-like spikes on their surface. “Corona” in Latin means “halo” or “crown”.
  • Human coronaviruses were first identified in the mid-1960s. Till date, scientists have identified six coronaviruses that can infect people.
  • There are four common coronaviruses that cause mild to moderate upper-respiratory tract illnesses, like the common cold. These are – 229E (alpha coronavirus); NL63 (alpha coronavirus), OC43 (beta coronavirus); HKU1 (beta coronavirus).
  • While the two other human coronaviruses that have been known to frequently cause severe symptoms are – MERS-CoV (the beta coronavirus that causes Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, or MERS); SARS-CoV (the beta coronavirus that causes Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS).
  • Other coronaviruses can infect animals like cats, dogs, monkeys and rodents.

Transmission –

They can be transmitted from an infected person to another through –

  • the air by coughing and sneezing;
  • close personal contact, such as touching or shaking hands;
  • touching an object or surface with the virus on it, then touching your mouth, nose or eyes before washing your hands;
  • rarely through faecal contamination.

Vaccination –

There are currently no vaccines available against human coronavirus infection.

Thanjavur gets a Sukhoi squadron

The Indian Air Force inducted a squadron of Sukhoi-30 MKI fighter jets armed with BrahMos supersonic cruise missiles, at its Thanjavur Air Force Station.

Need –

  • The deployment is significant given the increased focus on the Indo-Pacific and also the increase in forays by the Chinese Navy into the Indian Ocean over which the Navy has already stated it was keeping a close watch on.
  • Addressing the IAF personnel at the “Tigersharks”  (Sukhoi 222 Squadron) induction ceremony, Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) General Bipin Rawat called upon the Squadron to operate in close coordination with the Navy and Army as the Su-30MKI fighter planes with BrahMos missiles were going to be a game changer for the Indian armed forces.

About BrahMos Missile –

  • BRAHMOS is a joint venture between the Defence Research and Development Organisation of India (DRDO) and the NPOM of Russia.
  • Brahmos is named on the rivers Brahmaputra and Moskva.
  • It is a two-stage (solid propellant engine in the first stage and liquid ramjet in second) air to surface missile with a flight range of around 300 km. However, India’s entry into the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) has extended the range of the BRAHMOS missile to reach 450 km-600km, a shade above its current MTCR capped range of 300 km.
  • Brahmos is the heaviest weapon to be deployed on Su-30 MKI fighter aircraft, with a weight of 2.5 tonnes.
  • Brahmos is a multiplatform i.e it can be launched from land, air, and sea and multi capability missile with pinpoint accuracy that works in both day and night irrespective of the weather conditions.
  • It operates on the “Fire and Forgets” principle i.e it does not require further guidance after launch.
  • Brahmos is one of the fastest cruise missile currently operationally deployed with speed of Mach 2.8, which is 3 times more than the speed of sound.

Manipur tribes call truce after decades of conflict

Umbrella organisations of two tribes have called a truce in Manipur after almost four decades of violence and uneasy existence.

Details –

  • The conflict between the Nagas and the Kukis in 1993 had claimed more than 230 lives and displaced 1,00,000, mostly Kukis.
  • The working committee of the Naga National Political Groups (NNPGs) and the Kuki National Organisation (KNO) have signed a declaration to settle contentious issues and inter-community differences peacefully.

Background –

  • The NNPGs, which has been in talks with New Delhi since 2017, comprises the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Unification), the NSCN (Reformation), the NSCN (Khango), the Naga National Council and two of its factions, and the Federal Government of Nagaland.
  • The KNO, which is seeking a territorial council in Manipur, is the umbrella body of 17 militant outfits now engaged in peace talks with the Centre.

The Naga Issue –

  • The British annexed Assam in 1826, and in 1881, the Naga Hills too became part of British India.
  • The first sign of Naga resistance was seen in the formation of the Naga Club in 1918, which told the Simon Commission in 1929 “to leave us alone to determine for ourselves as in ancient times”.
  • In 1946 came the Naga National Council (NNC), which declared Nagaland an independent state on August 14, 1947.
  • The NNC resolved to establish a “sovereign Naga state” and conducted a “referendum” in 1951, in which “99 per cent” supported an “independent” Nagaland.
  • On March 22, 1952, underground Naga Federal Government (NFG) and the Naga Federal Army (NFA) were formed. The Government of India sent in the Army to crush the insurgency and, in 1958, enacted the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act.

Government told to reply to plea against NIA Act

The Supreme Court has asked the government to respond to a petition challenging the National Investigation Agency (Amendment) Act of 2019 saying the law concentrated police powers in one centralised agency.

About the NIA Amendment Act, 2019 –

  • The original Act (of 2008) provides for the creation of the NIA to investigate and prosecute offences specified in the schedule.
  • The officers of the NIA have the same powers as other police officers in relation to investigation of such offences, across India.
  • The Bill states that in addition, officers of the NIA will have the power to investigate scheduled offences committed outside India, subject to international treaties and domestic laws of other countries.
  • The central government may direct the NIA to investigate such cases, as if the offence has been committed in India.  The Special Court in New Delhi will have jurisdiction over these cases
  • The Act allows the central government to constitute Special Courts for the trial of scheduled offences. The Bill amends this to state that the central government may designate Sessions Courts as Special Courts for the trial of scheduled offences.  The central government is required to consult the Chief Justice of the High Court under which the Sessions Court is functioning, before designating it as a Special Court.
  • The state governments may also designate Sessions Courts as Special Courts for the trial of scheduled offences.

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