January 10, 2020 – UPSC Current Affairs: Key Prelims News Topics

Here is the January 10, 2020 IASPOINT Essential Daily Current Affairs News Digest for Civil Services Aspirants as well as competitors in various examinations, ensuring you stay informed and exam-ready.

Curative Petitions in the Supreme Court

Curative petitions serve as the final judicial measure for grievance redressal in the Indian legal system, primarily decided by judges in chambers. This concept originated from the Supreme Court’s decision in Rupa Ashok Hurra vs. Ashok Hurra and Anr. (2002). It’s intended to rectify any gross miscarriages of justice, especially when a review petition is dismissed. To be considered, a curative petition must demonstrate a genuine violation of principles of natural justice and a fear of bias. It should also mention that the grounds stated were part of the review petition. The procedure involves sending the petition to the three senior-most judges and those who passed the original judgment. Only if a majority of these judges agree to hear the case does it proceed, potentially incurring exemplary costs for frivolous petitions. This mechanism is grounded in Article 137 of the Indian Constitution, under the guidelines of Article 145.

Mineral Laws (Amendment) Ordinance 2020

The Union Cabinet approved the Mineral Laws (Amendment) Ordinance 2020, amending the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act 1957 and the Coal Mines (Special Provisions) Act 2015. This ordinance facilitates the allocation of coal/lignite blocks for composite prospecting license cum mining lease and removes the requirement of previous government approval, simplifying the process and promoting ease of doing business. This amendment is significant because it opens the coal mining sector to non-coal companies and removes end-use restrictions. It aims to create a more efficient energy market, encourage competition, reduce coal imports, and end Coal India Ltd’s monopoly. This move aligns with the government’s goal to achieve a mining target of 1 billion tonnes by 2023-24 and is expected to introduce advanced technologies in mining practices.

Pravasi Bharatiya Divas 2020

Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD) is celebrated annually on January 9th to recognize the contributions of the Overseas Indian community to India’s development. This date commemorates Mahatma Gandhi’s return to India from South Africa in 1915. PBD conventions, held since 2003, provide a platform for the overseas Indian community to engage with the Indian government and people, fostering mutually beneficial activities. These events also offer networking opportunities for the diaspora, allowing them to share experiences and contribute to India’s growth. PBD is significant in acknowledging the global Indian community’s role in the country’s socio-economic development.

Nepal’s Seke ‘near-extinct’ Language

The New York Times reported that Nepal’s Seke language is ‘near-extinct’, with only about 700 speakers worldwide. Seke, one of Nepal’s over 100 indigenous languages, is retreating against Nepali, the official language. The migration of Seke speakers to urban areas for better opportunities and the younger generation’s preference for Nepali and English are contributing factors to its decline. UNESCO classifies languages on a six-level endangerment scale, ranging from safe to extinct. Seke could be considered definitely endangered. The International Year of Indigenous Languages in 2019 highlighted the critical status of languages like Seke, emphasizing the need for preservation efforts.

Green Credit Scheme

The Forest Advisory Committee approved the Green Credit scheme, allowing forests to be traded as a commodity. This scheme enables non-government agencies, including private companies and village forest communities, to grow plantations and trade them as compensatory forest land for industrial projects needing forest land. This approach allows the Forest Department to outsource reforestation responsibilities, potentially speeding up project implementation and contributing to environmental conservation. The scheme arises from the need to address inefficiencies in the current system, where industries struggle to find non-forest land for reforestation. This innovative approach aims to rejuvenate forests more effectively and utilize funds collected for forest development.

Zero Budget Natural Farming (ZBNF)

Zero Budget Natural Farming, a method of farming with no financial cost in growing and harvesting crops, has been embraced by the Andhra Pradesh government in partnership with the German firm KfW. ZBNF utilizes natural resources like cow dung, urine, and biological fertilizers, significantly reducing farmers’ reliance on chemical fertilizers and pesticides. This farming technique is environmentally friendly, enhances soil fertility, and reduces water and electricity consumption. ZBNF aligns with sustainable development goals by ensuring ecological balance and offering a sustainable solution for smallholder farmers. The Indian government supports organic and natural farming initiatives through schemes like Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana (PKVY) and Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana (RKVY), underlining its commitment to sustainable agriculture.

Revised Norms for Data-led Probes

The Union Home Ministry’s revised guidelines for legal assistance in criminal matters involving foreign countries emphasize data preservation and privacy.

Before accessing e-mail data hosted on foreign servers, investigating agencies must establish a crime link.

The guidelines mandate fair and lawful data processing, stipulating the time frame and conditions for data use.

The concept of ‘data preservation’ is crucial for investigating cyber-offences.

The G-8 24/7 Network facilitates urgent preservation requests, reflecting the increasing significance of digital evidence in criminal investigations.

These guidelines align with the Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019, ensuring that data handling in cross-border legal matters is conducted responsibly and ethically.

Sea Guardians 2020

“Sea Guardians 2020” is a joint naval exercise between Pakistan and China, with the latest edition held in Karachi.

This drill, the sixth in the bilateral series, focuses on augmenting interoperability and strategic cooperation between the two navies.

The exercise is a significant display of the growing military partnership between Pakistan and China, reflecting their shared strategic interests, particularly in the Indian Ocean region.

These exercises are crucial for enhancing mutual understanding and naval capabilities, demonstrating a commitment to regional security and stability.

The collaboration also signifies China’s expanding influence in South Asia and its strategic ambitions in maritime domains.

Operation Sankalp

Operation Sankalp is a maritime security operation initiated by India to ensure the safe passage of Indian-flagged vessels in the Middle East region. This operation was launched in response to the heightened maritime security risks and geopolitical tensions in the Strait of Hormuz, a crucial global oil trade route. The operation underlines India’s commitment to protecting its maritime interests and safeguarding its citizens and commercial vessels abroad.

It also demonstrates India’s naval capability and readiness to respond promptly to emerging security challenges in vital international waterways, reinforcing India’s role as a responsible maritime power.

MILAN 2020

MILAN 2020, standing for Multilateral Naval Exercise, is a significant naval exercise hosted by India, scheduled to be held in Visakhapatnam. This exercise aims to enhance professional interaction and cooperation between friendly foreign navies. MILAN 2020, with over 30 participating navies, serves as a platform for sharing best practices and learning from each other’s strengths in maritime operations.

It underscores India’s commitment to fostering regional and global maritime security cooperation.

The exercise is instrumental in strengthening mutual understanding and interoperability among navies, addressing common maritime challenges, and promoting peace and stability in the region.

Fast Track Courts to Dispose of Rape and POCSO Cases

The Indian government is setting up 1,023 Fast Track Special Courts (FTSCs) across 24 states to speedily try cases of rape of children and women. This is part of the National Mission for Safety of Women. 216 courts have already become operational. The FTSCs will dispose 41-42 cases per quarter, with the aim to complete trials within a year. This follows the Criminal Law Amendment Act 2018 which mandated fast completion of such sensitive cases.

Indian Airports Recognized for Reducing Carbon Emissions

The Airports Authority of India has announced that 4 airports – Kolkata, Bhubaneswar, Varanasi and Thiruvananthapuram – have received international recognition from Airports Council International for reducing carbon emissions. This was achieved by adopting a Carbon Management Plan to cut emissions as per the Airport Carbon Accreditation program. The reduction also helps lower the airports’ carbon footprint significantly. This is a positive step as India aims to source 1000MW solar power and 200MW wind power for railways by 2021-22.

India’s First Solar Railway Section in Andhra Pradesh

Indian Railways has declared the Nandyal-Yerraguntla section in Andhra Pradesh’s Guntakal Division as the first solar section in South Central Railway. Solar panels installed at the 8 stations in this section will meet all the power needs, saving around Rs 5 lakh annually. This also reduces carbon footprint by 49 metric tonnes yearly. By harnessing solar power, the project will set an example for sustainable transport.

World’s Highest Rail Bridge to Connect Kashmir by 2021

The Indian Railways has set a deadline of December 2021 to complete construction of the Chenab bridge, which at 359 meters above the river bed will be 35 meters higher than the Eiffel Tower. The engineering marvel will connect Baramulla to Katra (J&K) as part of the Udhampur-Srinagar-Baramulla rail link project declared a national project in 2002. Once completed, it will surpass China’s record for the world’s highest rail bridge.

Green Credit Scheme to Allow Trading of Forest Land

The Forest Advisory Committee has approved a Green Credit Scheme which will enable agencies to identify and develop lands for compensatory afforestation. After 3 years of forest cover, these lands would be considered as forest area as per standards. Industries needing forest land could then approach such agencies and pay them to transfer part of this forested land, avoiding the need to find equivalent non-forest land elsewhere.

The Pulses Conclave 2020 to be Held in Maharashtra

The India Pulses and Grains Association (IPGA) will host The Pulses Conclave 2020, a major conference of the pulses trade, from February 12-14 in Maharashtra. The biennial event aims to boost domestic output and consumption of pulses through focus on processing, exports, value addition and crop management. Over 1,000 delegates from major pulses producing countries are expected to participate. As the world’s largest producer and consumer, the initiatives will help India achieve the goal of doubling farmer incomes by 2022.

State Energy Efficiency Index 2019 Released

The State Energy Efficiency Index 2019 was released by the Power Minister, tracking progress of 36 states and UTs on 97 energy efficiency parameters. The index grouped states into 4 categories. Haryana, Kerala, Karnataka and Maharashtra were termed as ‘progressive’. Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Puducherry and Chandigarh were also commended. The index will promote healthy competition to save energy and lower emissions. But no state made it to the ‘frontrunner’ group, indicating more efforts needed.

Uttar Pradesh to Build Zoo Named After Ashfaqullah Khan

The Uttar Pradesh government has allotted ₹234 crore to set up a 121-acre zoological park in Gorakhpur, to be named after revolutionary leader Ashfaqullah Khan. This will boost tourism and employment in the state which already has zoos in Lucknow and Kanpur. Ashfaqullah Khan was a prominent freedom fighter who co-founded the Hindustan Socialist Republican Association with a vision to liberate India from British rule. The zoo will honor his remarkable contribution.

Andhra Pradesh Launches Amma Vodi Scheme for Mothers

Andhra Pradesh has launched the Amma Vodi scheme, a flagship project of the YSR Congress Party government, that will provide ₹15,000 yearly to support economically backward mothers in educating their children. Under the scheme, the amount will be directly credited into bank accounts of eligible mothers every year ahead of the reopening of schools. This first-of-its-kind initiative aims to bring historical changes in the education system and enable better literacy.

RBI Introduces Video-Based KYC Process

The RBI has introduced a video-based customer identification process as an alternate method for banks and other entities to complete KYC verification. The video KYC will capture a live photo of the customer along with officially valid ID proof, location coordinates, and be supervised by the authorized officer. This is in line with amended anti-money laundering rules and expands the scope of digital KYC for financial services. It will make customer onboarding easier.

MS Swaminathan and Dr. Gutta Honoured with Venkaiah Naidu Awards

Eminent agricultural scientist Dr. M S Swaminathan was selected as the first recipient of the Muppavarapu Venkaiah Naidu National Award for Excellence for his contribution to agriculture. The award under social service category was given to Dr. Gutta Muniratnam for his work for disabled persons. Instituted by the Muppavarapu Foundation and Swarna Bharat Trust, the awards were announced at a function in Hyderabad to mark the 10th anniversary of the foundation. Each award comprises a citation and prize money of ₹5 lakhs.

Chandra Pal Singh Yadav Re-Elected KRIBHCO Chairman

Rajya Sabha MP Chandra Pal Singh Yadav has been unanimously re-elected as Chairman of Krishak Bharati Cooperative Limited (KRIBHCO) for another term. KRIBHCO is a major cooperative society engaged in manufacturing and selling fertilizers across India. A special board meeting also elected Sudhakar Chowdhary as the new Vice Chairman. Eight directors were also unanimously elected at the meeting held at the National Cooperative Union of India in New Delhi.

HDFC Acquires Apollo Munich Health Insurance

HDFC has completed the acquisition of a majority 50.8% stake in Apollo Munich Health Insurance Company for ₹1,495.81 crore after receiving all regulatory approvals. The insurer has been renamed HDFC ERGO Health Insurance and will operate as a subsidiary of HDFC ERGO General Insurance. Anuj Tyagi, currently Chief Business Officer of HDFC ERGO, will head the health insurance firm as MD and CEO. HDFC also plans to subsequently merge the two insurance units.

LIGO Detects 2nd Neutron Star Collision

The LIGO gravitational wave detectors have observed the merger of two neutron stars for the second time, after the first such detection in 2017. The cosmic collision, occurring at a distance of 520 million light years from Earth, has been named GW190425. With mass 3.3-3.7 times that of the Sun, it is the most massive neutron star pair observed. Analysis of gravitational waves from such events allows deeper understanding of astrophysics and the expansion of the universe.

Government to Encourage Indian Pompano Fish Cultivation

The Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (CMFRI) has successfully cultured Indian pompano fish in brackishwater ponds on India’s east coast. With high market demand, Indian pompano fetches double the price of other species. The experiment yielded 3 tonnes per acre with 25-30% profit margin against input cost, proving its commercial viability. The result was shared with the fisheries minister of Andhra Pradesh. The achievement will enable the government to promote more pompano fish farming.

Kohli Retains ICC Test Rankings Top Spot

Indian skipper Virat Kohli has retained his number one position in the latest ICC Test rankings for batsmen released in January 2020. With 928 points, he leads by 17 points over second-placed Steve Smith. Meanwhile, other Indian batsmen including Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane have slipped in the rankings to 6th and 9th position respectively. This comes as India gears up to take on Australia in a home ODI series. Kohli will be looking to hold on to his pole position across formats.

Fouaad Mirza Qualifies for Tokyo Olympics

Indian equestrian Fouaad Mirza has secured a Tokyo Olympics quota, becoming the first Indian rider to qualify for the Summer Games after two decades. He sealed his historic spot after finishing top in the Asian qualifiers event. The Arjuna Award winner had earlier won Asian Games silver medals in 2018 and ended India’s 36-year wait for an equestrian medal. His Olympic qualification is a huge boost for the niche sport in India ahead of the 2024 Paris Olympics where the target will be a medal finish.

Former MP Gopinath Gajapati Narayan Deo Passes Away

Odisha’s titular king and former parliamentarian Gopinath Gajapati Narayan Deo passed away at age 76 in Bhubaneswar. He was the elder son of the last King of the princely state of Paralakhemundi in Odisha. Beginning his political career with the Congress party, he later represented Berhampur constituency and also served as MP from the BJP and BJD at different times. He actively worked for the development of the tribal-dominated Gajapati district which was carved out of Paralakhemundi.

Arunachal Pradesh Adopts New State Logo

The Arunachal Pradesh Legislative Assembly has unveiled a new official logo for the state in a bid to project its distinct identity. The logo features the national emblem denoting shared federal values, the state flower foxtail orchid representing indigenous culture, and the color blue signifying autonomy of the assembly. It aims to create a separate brand identity for the frontier state. Arunachal is known for its picturesque landscape, diverse tribes and vibrant art and craft tradition.

TN Universities Named After Jayalalithaa

The Tamil Nadu Assembly passed bills to rename the state Fisheries University and Music and Fine Arts University after former Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa, in recognition of her services to the state. The universities will now be called Dr J Jayalalithaa Fisheries University and Dr J Jayalalithaa Music and Fine Arts University. Along with the Amma name for various welfare schemes, the move memorializes Jayalalithaa’s legacy of social schemes focused especially on women and students  .

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