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Daily Current Affairs : 18-Nov-2019

Major Topics Covered :

  1. ELECTION COMMISSION TO SET UP VISITING CHAIR IN MEMORY OF FORMER CEC TN SESHAN

  2. GUNTUR RED CHILLI

  3. SURVEILLANCE LAWS IN INDIA

  4. PLACES OF WORSHIP (SPECIAL PROVISIONS) ACT OF 1991

  5. GRAVASTARS

  6. INDIAN OIL LAUNCHES SPECIAL WINTER-GRADE DIESEL FOR UT OF LADAKH

  7. DRUPAD MAESTRO RAMAKANT GUNDECHA DEAD

  8. ASSAMESE BHAONA

  9. GOVARDHAN MUTT

  10. WHO LAUNCHES FIRST-EVER INSULIN PREQUALIFICATION PROGRAMME



ELECTION COMMISSION TO SET UP VISITING CHAIR IN MEMORY OF FORMER CEC TN SESHAN

Part of GS- 2 Polity and Governance


Why in news:

Election Commission will establish a visiting chair on Interdisciplinary Approach to Electoral Studies in memory of former Chief Election Commissioner T N Seshan.


  • Highlights:

  • The visiting chair will be established in the Centre for Curriculum Development at India International Institute of Democracy and Election Management, New Delhi from 2020-2025.

  • The Chair will be mentored by former Chief Election Commissioner N Gopalaswami.

  • Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora announced the decision while delivering his address at the Institute of Law, NIRMA University, in Ahmedabad today.

  • Speaking on the occasion, Mr Arora said that T N Seshan’s enduring contribution to the cause of probity, transparency and integrity in various aspects of the electoral process has made his name synonymous with electoral best practices worldwide.

  • The Visiting Chair programme will be targeted to young academics with a proven track record in fields relatable to electoral studies.


Source: AIR

GUNTUR RED CHILLI

Part of GS- 1 Geography


Why in news:

The upswing in the price of famed Guntur red chilli (Gunturu ‘sannalu’) has come as a pleasant surprise to the stakeholders.


Highlights:

  • ‘Teja,’a special variety, is being sold for ₹20,000 a quintal, even in the August-December low season when chillies are stored in about 100 cold storages in adjoining villages.

  • The soaring demand for Guntur chilli is due to a range of factors, including a spurt in demand from China, Bangladesh, Thailand and Sri Lanka, who prefer it for its pungent character.


About:

  • India is among the world’s leading producers of chilli, along with China, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

  • Andhra Pradesh accounts for more than 65 % of the production of Chilli in the country.

  • Guntur chillies is a group of chilli cultivars from Guntur District, Andhra Pradesh, India.

  • They are renowned globally and exported to Asia, Canada, and Europe.

  • The main trading place for Guntur chilli is called Guntur Mirchi Yard which is Asia's largest dried red chilli market.

  • Guntur Sannam or Capsicum annuum var. longum, is a type of chili pepper that grows in the districts of Guntur (Andhra Pradesh), Warangal (Telangana), and Khammam in India.

  • It is registered as one of the geographical indications of Andhra Pradesh (pursuant to Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999.


Source : The Hindu

SURVEILLANCE LAWS IN INDIA

Part of GS- 2 Polity and Governance


Why in news:

  • On October 30, many publications reported that phones of several dozen Indian journalists, lawyers and human rights activists had been compromised using an invasive Israeli-developed malware called Pegasus.

  • The malware was disseminated through Messaging platform WhatsApp.

  • After the WhatsApp breach, what should the way forward be, and why is a data protection law not in place?


Highlights:


  • Messaging platform WhatsApp, through which the malware was disseminated, has reported that 121 individuals were targeted in India alone.

  • A lawsuit was filed against Israeli cyber intelligence firm NSO by WhatsApp and its parent company Facebook in a U.S. court in California on October 29, accusing it of using their messaging platform to despatch Pegasus for surveillance to approximately 1,400 mobile phones and devices worldwide.

  • The NSO claims that it only sells the software to governments but the Indian government has denied purchasing it and has asked WhatsApp to explain the security breach.


Is surveillance of this kind illegal in India?


Yes. First, it’s important to explain that there are legal routes to surveillance that can be conducted by the government.


The laws governing this are the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885, which deals with interception of calls, and the Information Technology (IT) Act, 2000, which deals with interception of data.


How broad are the laws regarding legal surveillance?

  • The framework for understanding the checks and balances built into these laws dates back to 1996. In 1996, the Supreme Court noted that there was a lack of procedural safeguards in the Indian Telegraph Act.

  • It laid down some guidelines that were later codified into rules in 2007.

  • This included a specific rule that orders on interceptions of communication should only be issued by the Secretary in the Ministry of Home Affairs.


What about the Supreme Court verdict on privacy?

  • The Supreme Court in a landmark decision in August, 2017 (Justice K. S. Puttaswamy (Retd.) and Anr. vs Union Of India And Others) unanimously upheld right to privacy as a fundamental right under Articles 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution.

  • In the same year, the government also constituted a Data Protection Committee under retired Justice B.N. Srikrishna.

  • It held public hearings across India and submitted a draft data protection law in 2018 which Parliament is yet to enact.


Do other countries have stricter laws against surveillance?


This continues to be a grey area around the world. Take the U.S. for example.

Electronic surveillance is considered a search under the Fourth Amendment which protects individuals from unreasonable search and seizure.


After the 9/11 attacks in 2001, the USA PATRIOT (Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism) Act was passed.


Under certain provisions in this Act, the U.S. government used phone companies to collect information on millions of citizens and these were part of revelations made by the whistleblower Edward Snowden in 2013.


Many aspects of the PATRIOT Act, particularly those involving surveillance, were to lapse after a certain time period but they were re-authorised by Congress.

In October 2019, the U.K.-based security firm Comparitech did a survey of 47 countries to see where governments are failing to protect privacy or are creating surveillance states.


They found that only five countries had “adequate safeguards” and most are actively conducting surveillance on citizens and sharing information about them.


China and Russia featured as the top two worst offenders on the list.


Number three on the list? India, primarily the report says, because its data protection Bill is yet to take effect and there isn’t a data protection authority in place.


Source: The Hindu

PLACES OF WORSHIP (SPECIAL PROVISIONS) ACT OF 1991

Part of GS- 1 Polity and Governance


Why in news:

In its recent Ayodhya judgment, the Supreme Court commended the enactment of Places Of Worship Act, 1991 as one that preserved the constitutional value of secularism by not permitting the status of a place of worship to be changed.


Highlights:


When the Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi dispute was at its height, in the early 1990s, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and other Hindu organisations also laid claim to two other mosques- the Gyanvapi mosque in Varanasi and the Shahi Idgah in Mathura.


Although the radicals in the Hindu camp often spoke of reclaiming 3,000 mosques across the country, they threatened to start agitations only in respect to these two places of worship.


What is the objective of the Act?

  • The aim of the Act was to freeze the status of any place of worship as it existed on August 15, 1947.

  • It was also to provide for the maintenance of the religious character of such a place of worship as on that day.

  • The country’s tradition of amity and harmony came under severe strain during the pre-Independence period.


What are its main features?

  • The Act declares that the religious character of a place of worship shall continue to be the same as it was on August 15, 1947.

  • It says no person shall convert any place of worship of any religious denomination into one of a different denomination or section.

  • These provisions will not apply to ancient and historical monuments and archaeological sites and remains that are covered by the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958.


Is there any penal provision in the Act?

  • Anyone who defies the bar on conversion of the status of a place of worship is liable to be prosecuted.

  • The Act provides for imprisonment up to three years and a fine for anyone contravening the prohibition.


How did the Opposition react to the law then?


  • The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) registered its strong opposition to the enactment. The BJP leadership denounced the Bill as another example of the “pseudo-secularism” being practised in the country.

  • However, the Union government said it could make use of its residuary power under Entry 97 of the Union List to enact this law.


Did the Supreme Court refer to this Act in its Ayodhya judgment?


  • In its verdict, the Supreme Court commended the enactment as one that preserved the constitutional value of secularism by not permitting the status of a place of worship to be changed.

  • It said the Places of Worship Act “imposes a non-derogable obligation towards enforcing our commitment to secularism.”

  • The court observed that “non-retrogression is a foundational feature of the fundamental constitutional principles, of which secularism is a core component.”


Was there a reference to this Act in the Allahabad High Court judgment on Ayodhya in 2010?

Justice Dharam Veer Sharma, one of the three judges on the Bench that decided the Ayodhya case in the High Court, referred to it with the following observation: “The Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991 does not debar those cases where declaration is sought for a period prior to the Act came into force or for enforcement of right which was recognized before coming into force of the Act.”

The conclusion of Justice Sharma is directly contrary to Section 4(2) of the Act, it noted, and rejected it as “erroneous.”


What is the present status of Gyanvapi and Idgah?


A district court in Varanasi had entertained a civil suit by a temple trust claiming the site of the Gyanvapi Mosque in the holy city, but the order has been challenged in the Allahabad High Court, citing the statutory bar on such suits that seek to alter the places of worship. The matter is still pending.


The Shahi Idgah in proximity to the Krishna temple in Mathura is the subject of an agreement between the Krishna Janmabhumi Sanstha and the Idgah Committee, under which the land belongs to the former and the management is with the latter.


Source: The hindu

GRAVASTARS

Part of GS- 3 S&T


Why in news:

According to some scientists, the universe contains not just black holes but many exotic objects, such as gravastars and boson stars which are black hole mimickers.


Highlights:

  • A gravastar is an object hypothesized in astrophysics as an alternative to the black hole theory by Pawel O. Mazur and Emil Mottola.

  • There are no observational evidences for their existence till date.

  • The term "gravastar" is a portmanteau of the words "gravitational vacuum star".

  • A gravastar is a hypothetical star-ish astronomical body that’s basically composed of a ball of exotic matter, thought to be much like dark energy, with a shell of normal star matter surrounding it on all sides.

  • The exotic core in this hybrid body would prevent the collapse of the normal matter into a traditional black hole, essentially keeping the whole thing inflated.

  • From the outside it would look quite similar to a black hole, but gravastars do not have an event horizon, so photons can technically get stuck in a near-infinite orbit around the outside called a “light ring.”


Source : The Hindu

INDIAN OIL LAUNCHES SPECIAL WINTER-GRADE DIESEL FOR UT OF LADAKH

Part of GS- 3 Economy


Why in news:

  • State-run Indian Oil Corporation Ltd (IOC) launched a special winter-grade diesel.

  • This fuel will remain unfrozen at minus 33 degree Celsius

  • The transportation fuel would help provide year-round access to snow-capped border regions, and is part of India’s efforts to speed up strategic road connectivity


Highlights:

  • The fuel would help provide year-round access to snow-capped border regions, and is part of India’s efforts to speed up strategic road connectivity.

  • This new fuel will help Indian security forces to stock up on crucial supplies and ammunition that gets cut off due to bad weather in winters.

  • “Motorists in high-altitude sectors like Ladakh, Kargil, Kaza and Keylong face the problem of freezing of diesel in their vehicles when winter temperatures drop to as low as -30o Celsius.

  • Indian Oil has come up with an innovative solution to this problem by introducing a special winter-grade diesel with a low pour-point of -33o Celsius, which does not lose its fluidity function even in extreme winter conditions,".

  • This Winter-Grade Diesel will not only smoothen the travel and transportation during peak tourist season in extreme cold, but will also help in giving a boost to tourism and supply needs of the people of the region and helping in the overall economic development.


Source: Live Mint

DRUPAD MAESTRO RAMAKANT GUNDECHA DEAD

Part of GS- 1 A&C


Why in news?

Drupad maestro and Padma Shri awardee Ramakant Gundecha passed away in Bhopal on 15th November 2019. He was the younger one among the Gundecha brothers.


Highlights:

  • The Gundecha Brothers are Indian classical singers of the dhrupad genre of the Dagarvani. They are also the founders of the Gurukul Dhrupad Sansthan in Bhopal.

  • From 1985 to 2019 the duo consisted of brothers UmakantGundecha and Ramakant Gundecha.

  • Following the death of Ramakant Gundecha in 2019, his son Anant began to perform with Umakant in the Gundechabandhu.

  • They have been awarded Padma Shri by Government of India in 2012 and Sangeet NatakAkademi Award in 2017. Dhrupad:

  • Dhrupad is the oldest surviving classical style of Hindustani vocal music.

  • Its name is derived from dhruva-pada, simply meaning "refrain," and today denotes both a form of poetry and a style of music in which the poetry is sung.

  • Dhrupad music traditionally has three major parts - alap, jor-jhala, and composition. A dhrupad is introduced by a slow tempo-ed, rather somber and controlled, recurrent set of syllables (non-words) known as an alap.


Source: The Hindu


ASSAMESE BHAONA

Part of GS- 1 A&C


Why in news?

Almost 500 years after saint-reformer SrimantaSankardeva experimented with the literary language of Brajavali, Assam’s Bhaona has now reached foreign shores in an English avatar.


Highlights:

  • Entertainment played a major role in the neo-Vaishnavite movement that Sankardeva started in Assam. He wrote his prose in Sanskrit but used Assamese and Brajavali to develop Borgeet, a new form of spiritual music, and Bhaona, a mythology-based theatrical performance, and monastic dances that evolved into the classical Sattriya.

  • Linguistic researchers say Sankardeva needed to connect with his Assamese masses, who did not expect the divine characters of his plays to speak in the common man’s language. So, he created the Brajavali, a literary language limited to theatrical usage.

  • The bhaonas are written in the Assamese and Brajavali languages.

  • “The Bhaonas would be performed by members of PrajanmaUnmesh, a socio-cultural organisation, at the BRS Auditorium in Mohammed Bin Zayed City. Assam’s Department of Culture has supported our initiative to take Bhaona to the world in a language many are familiar with.

  • A Bhaona, involving dialogues, songs and dances by performers in costumes and ornaments, usually involves 40-50 people, including those playing heavy drums and cymbals.


Source: The Hindu

GOVARDHAN MUTT

Why in news?

The Govardhan Mutt of Puri, one of the four key mutts established by Adi Shankara, the prominent Hindu saint, is all set to be kept out of the Odisha government’s administrative purview.


Highlights:

The Govardhan mutt is the only such mutt currently controlled by a State Act.


The three others — Sharada Mutt (at Sringeri in Karnataka), Dwarka Mutt (in Gujarat) and Jyotir Mutt (at Joshimath in Uttarakhand) — function autonomously. The management of these mutts has been vested with the respective Shankaracharyas.


The Odisha Hindu Religious Endowment (Amendment) Bill, 2019 was passed in the ongoing winter session of the Odisha State Assembly. The bill excludes the Govardhan Mutt from the purview of the Odisha Hindu Religious Endowment Act, 1951.


Source: The Hindu

WHO LAUNCHES FIRST-EVER INSULIN PREQUALIFICATION PROGRAMME

Part of GS- 3 S&T, Health


Why in news?

The World Health Organization (WHO) on 13th November, 2019 announced the start of a pilot programme to prequalify human insulin to increase treatment for diabetes in low- and middle-income countries.


Highlights:

The decision is part of a series of steps WHO will take to address the growing diabetes burden in all regions. WHO prequalification of insulin is expected to boost access by increasing the flow of quality-assured products on the international market.


About 65 million people with type 2 diabetes need insulin, but only half of them are able to access it, largely due to high prices. All people with type 1 diabetes need insulin to survive.


Insulin was discovered as a treatment for diabetes almost 100 years ago and has been on WHO’s List of Essential Medicines since it was published in 1977.


WHO Prequalification of Medicines Programme?


The WHO Prequalification of Medicines Programme contributes to increasing access to critical medical products in low- and middle-income countries.


The programme does this by evaluating medical products developed by manufacturers to ensure their quality, in turn expanding the pool of available quality medicines.


Evaluating and prequalifying health products then guides international procurement agencies, such as the Global Fund, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, and UNICEF, and increasingly countries to make bulk purchases of medicines vaccines at lower prices.


Source: WHO

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