Factly :-News Articles For UPSC Prelims | 20 May, 2021

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WWF Report on Snow Leopards

What is the News? The World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF) has released a report. Its title is “Over 100 Years of Snow Leopards Research — A spatially explicit review of the state of knowledge in the snow leopard range”.

About the Report:
  • The report provides a comprehensive overview of research carried out across the snow leopard range.
  • It also identifies gaps that need to be addressed to ensure effective snow leopard conservation.
Key Findings of the Report:
  • The studies on snow leopard started in the 1970s, and it continued to increase exponentially since then.
  • However, just four hotspots of snow leopard have been researched so far (sites with continued multi-year research). It constitutes less than 23% of the snow leopard range.
  • Hence, more than 70% of the habitat of the species spanning over 12 Asian countries remains un-researched.
    • Reason: This species of leopard lives in rugged terrain — some of the harshest landscapes on the planet. Therefore, research poses significant logistical challenges.
  • Nepal, India, and China had conducted the most snow leopard research, followed by Mongolia and Pakistan.
Threats :
  • Globally, there could be as few as 4,000 snow leopards left in Asia’s high mountains. This remaining population also faces continued and emerging threats such as:
    • Increased habitat loss and degradation
    • poaching
    • conflict with communities among others.
About Snow Leopards:
  • IUCN Status: Vulnerable
  • CITES: Appendix I
  • Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972: Schedule I
  • State Animal: It is the State animal of Himachal Pradesh.
  • It lives at high altitudes in the steep mountains of Central and Southern Asia, where the climate is extremely cold.
  • Indicator Species: The Snow Leopard (also known as Ghost of the mountains) acts as an indicator of the health of the mountain ecosystem in which they live. It is because of their position as the top predator in the food web.
  • Range Countries: Further, it is found in 12 range countries namely Afghanistan, Bhutan, China, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.
  • India: In India, it inhabits the higher Himalayan and trans-Himalayan landscape in the states/union territories of Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim, and Arunachal Pradesh.

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Source: Down To Earth

Centre to set up “DD International”- A BBC-like channel to push Indian views

What is the News?

National public broadcaster Prasar Bharati has floated a tender to establish a new channel named DD International on the lines of BBC World.

About DD International:

  • DD International will be the second channel of Doordarshan after DD India.
  • Purpose: The DD International channel will aim to be a truly global channel like BBC World. It will ensure that it is not just watched by the Indian diaspora but also by a global audience.
  • Objectives:
    • To provide India’s point of view globally on contemporary issues of both global and domestic significance. It will also tell India’s story to a global audience.
    • To be the authoritative global media source on India. This will be achieved through a credible, exhaustive and accurate global news service.
  • Prasar Bharati will set up bureaus across the globe for the channel and also identify locations for the bureaus. It would also have 24×7 world service streams with the prioritising of geography-specific streams.
  • Difference: The channel will differ from DD India as it serves a mix of domestic and global news. Further, DD India is targeted mainly at the Indian diaspora settled outside the country.

Source: Indian Express

Finance Ministry grants “infrastructure status for convention centres”

What is the News?

The Finance Ministry has granted Infrastructure status for exhibition and convention centres. This move is expected to ease bank financing for such projects.

What is Infrastructure Status?

  • Infrastructure Status is granted by the Department of Economic Affairs(DAE), Ministry of Finance.
  • Benefits: The status helps projects in such sectors to get easier financing from banks. However, the status no longer involves significant tax breaks.

Infrastructure Status for convention centres:

  • The government included ‘Exhibition-cum-Convention Centre in the Harmonised Master List of Infrastructure. This is done by creating a new category under Social and Commercial Infrastructure.
  • However, The benefits are not available to all convention centres. The benefits will be available only for projects with a minimum built-up floor area of 1,00,000 square metres with exclusive exhibition space or convention space or both combined.
  • These include primary facilities such as exhibition centres, convention halls, auditoriums, plenary halls, business centres, meeting halls among others.

Why this move?

  • India doesn’t have large convention centres or single halls with capacities to hold 7,000 to 10,000 people.
  • On the other hand, countries such as Thailand are a major global MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions) destination.
  • Hence, granting infrastructure status will help the sector to generate significant financing for the projects.

Note: In August 2020, the Government of India had granted ‘Infrastructure’ status for affordable rental housing projects.

Source: The Hindu

Antarctica gives birth to “A-76 Iceberg”(world’s largest iceberg)

What is the News?

The world’s largest existing iceberg has been found in Antarctica. It has been named as A-76 by scientists.

About A-76 Iceberg:

  • A-76 Iceber has been spotted in the satellite images captured by the European Space Agency’s Copernicus Sentinel-1 mission.
  • Formation: The iceberg has been formed after it broke away from Antarctica’s Ronne Ice Shelf. It is now floating freely in the Weddell Sea, a large bay in western Antarctica.
  • Features: The iceberg is shaped like a giant ironing board. It is measured around 170 km in length and 25 km in width. This makes the A-76 to become slightly larger than the Spanish island of Majorca.
  • The Largest Existing Iceberg: A-76 is now designated as the largest existing iceberg on the planet. It surpassed the A-23A (It is also floating in the Weddell Sea).
  • Significance: Once this iceberg melts, it will not lead to a sea-level rise because it was part of a floating ice shelf. It is just like a melting ice cube doesn’t increase the level of the water in the glass.
    • This makes the icebergs like this different from glaciers or ice sheets. Glaciers or ice sheets found on land, and they raise global sea levels when they break off into the ocean and melt.

Source: TOI

Six sites added to the “tentative list of UNESCO” world heritage sites

What is the News?

UNESCO has accepted six of the nine sites submitted by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) for inclusion in the tentative list.

Which are those six sites? The six Indian sites included in the UNESCO Tentative list are:

  • Ganga ghats in Varanasi,UP
  • Temples of Kanchipuram in Tamil Nadu.
  • Satpura Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh,
  • Maratha military architecture in Maharashtra
  • Hire Bengal megalithic site in Karnataka and
  • Bhedaghat-Lameta Ghat of Narmada Valley in Madhya Pradesh.

 What is the tentative list of UNESCO world heritage sites?

  • Firstly, If a state considers a monument/site has cultural and/or natural heritage of outstanding universal value and therefore suitable for inscription on the World Heritage List. Then the state prepares a list of such sites and sends it to UNESCO. The UNESCO after preliminary inspection accepts/rejects the monument and form a tentative list.
  • Secondly, a position on a country’s tentative list does not automatically tender that site with world heritage status.
  • Thirdly, it is mandatory to put any monument/site on the Tentative List (TL) before it is considered for the final nomination dossier.
  • Fourthly, the sites will remain on the tentative list for a year, after which the government will decide which one of them to push for in their final dossier to UNESCO.
  • Lastly, the tentative list is extremely important. This is because the World Heritage Committee cannot consider a nomination for the World Heritage List unless the property has already been included on the State party’s tentative list.

What is a World Heritage Site?

  • A World Heritage site is classified as a natural or man-made area or a structure that is of international importance and requires special protection.
  • These sites are officially recognised by the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation also known as UNESCO.
  • At present, India has 38 World Heritage Sites. These include 30 Cultural properties, 7 Natural properties and 1 mixed site.

Source: The Hindu

How “Legislative Councils” are Set-up in States?

What is the News?

The West Bengal government has decided to set up a Legislative Council (Vidhan Parishad).

Note: West Bengal had a Legislative Council in existence till 1969 after which it was abolished.

History of legislative councils in India:

  • Legislatures with two Houses (bicameral) have a long history in India.
  • The Montagu-Chelmsford reforms led to the formation of the Council of State at the national level in 1919.
  • Then the Government of India Act of 1935 set up bicameral legislatures in Indian provinces. It was under this law that a Legislative Council first started functioning in Bengal in 1937.

About Legislative Council:

  • India has a bicameral system i.e two Houses of Parliament namely Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha.
  • Similarly, at the state level, the equivalent of the Lok Sabha is the Vidhan Sabha or Legislative Assembly.
  • Further, the states can also have a Legislative Council in addition to the Legislative Assembly under Article 169 of the Constitution.
  • Article 169 of the Constitution allows Parliament to create or abolish the council in a state with the following conditions.
    • If the legislative assembly of that state passes a resolution for the purpose by
      • a special majority of the total membership of the assembly and
      • a majority of not less than two-thirds of the members of the assembly present and voting.
  • Currently, six states — Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, and Karnataka — have a Legislative Council.

Members: Article 171 states that a legislative council cannot have more than 1/3rd of the total number of members in the legislative assembly. Also, it cannot have fewer than 40 members.

Election of Legislative Council:

  • 1/3rd of members are elected by the members of the Assembly.
  • 1/3rd by electorates consisting of members of municipalities, district boards, and other local authorities in the state.
  • 1/12th by an electorate consisting of teachers.
  • 1/12th by registered graduates.
  • The remaining members are nominated by the Governor from among those who have distinguished themselves in literature, science, art, the cooperative movement, and social service.


  • Legislative Council is a permanent House like the Rajya Sabha. Hence, it cannot be dissolved.
  • The tenure of a Member of the Legislative Council(MLC) is six years, with one-third of the members retiring every two years.

Powers of Legislative Council:

  • Unlike Rajya Sabha which has substantial powers to shape non-financial legislation, Legislative Councils lack the constitutional mandate to do so.
  • Legislative Assemblies also have the power to override suggestions/ amendments made to legislation by the Council.
  • While Rajya Sabha MPs can vote in the election of the President and Vice-President, members of Legislative Councils can’t.
  • Further, MLCs also can’t vote in the elections of Rajya Sabha members.

Source: Indian Express

“Black Fungus” or Mucormycosis Declared an Epidemic by Rajasthan

What is the News?

The Rajasthan government has declared Mucormycosis or black fungus as an epidemic and a notifiable disease.

What is Mucormycosis?

  • Mucormycosis or Black Fungus is a rare fungal infection. A group of molds called mucormycetes is the reason behind it, which is abundant in the environment.
  • Transmission: It occurs through inhalation, inoculation, or ingestion of fungal spores from the environment. However, it does not spread between people or between people and animals.
  • Symptoms: Mucormycosis can affect different parts of the body, with different sets of symptoms. Some common symptoms are face numbness, nose obstructions on one side, swelling in the eyes, or pain.
  • Vulnerable People: It mainly affects people who have health problems or take medicines that lower the body’s ability to fight germs and sickness.
  • Treatment: The infection is often treated with antifungal medicine, usually amphotericin B. However, the patients may eventually require surgery.

What is Epidemic, Pandemic, and Endemic?

  • Epidemic is a disease that affects a large number of people within a community, population, or region.
  • Pandemic is an epidemic that’s spread over multiple countries or continents.
  • Endemic is something that belongs to a particular people or country.

What is Notifiable Disease?

  • Notifiable Disease is any disease that is required by law to be reported to government authorities.
  • This will allow authorities to gather information to monitor the disease, and provides early warning of possible outbreaks.
  • The process will also help the government to keep track and formulate a plan for elimination and control. In less infectious conditions, it improves information about the burden and distribution of disease.
  • The Government of India has notified several diseases as Notifiable such as cholera, diphtheria, encephalitis, leprosy, meningitis, pertussis (whooping cough), plague, tuberculosis, AIDS, hepatitis, measles among others.

Source: The Hindu

“SWAMIH Fund” Completes First Residential Project

What is the News?

The government of India’s SWAMIH (Special Window for Affordable & Mid-Income Housing) Fund has completed its first residential project in Mumbai.

About SWAMIH Fund:

  • SWAMIH Fund is a government-backed investment fund set up in the year 2019.
  • Purpose: The fund was formed to provide relief to developers that require funding to complete a set of unfinished projects. Consequently, it will also ensure the delivery of homes to the home-buyers.
  • Type: The fund has been set up as a Category-II AIF (Alternate Investment Fund) debt fund registered with SEBI.
  • Investment manager: The Investment Manager of the Fund is SBICAP Ventures, a wholly-owned subsidiary of SBI Capital Markets. This in turn is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the State Bank of India.
  • Sponsor: The Sponsor of the Fund is the Secretary, Department of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance, on behalf of the Government of India.
  • Criteria for Funding of Projects: The funding shall be provided to the projects that meet the following criteria:
    • Stalled for lack of adequate funds
    • Affordable and Middle-Income Category
    • Net worth positive projects (including NPAs and projects undergoing NCLT proceedings)
    • RERA registered
    • Priority for projects very close to completion.

What is an Alternative Investment Fund(AIF)?

  • Alternate investment funds(AIFs) are defined under the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Alternative Investment Funds) Regulations, 2012.
  • It refers to any privately pooled investment fund(whether from Indian or foreign sources) established or incorporated in India for investing it in accordance with a defined investment policy.
    • An alternative investment is a financial asset that does not fall into one of the conventional equity/income/cash categories.
    • For example, private equity or venture capital, hedge funds, commodities, and tangible assets
  • AIF does not include funds covered under the SEBI (Mutual Funds) Regulations, 1996, SEBI (Collective Investment Schemes) Regulations, 1999 or any other regulations of the Board to regulate fund management activities.

Categories of AIF:

 Category I:

  • Under this, the funds are mainly invested in start-ups, SMEs or any other sector which Govt. considers economically and socially viable.
  • Examples include venture capital funds, social venture funds, infrastructure funds and other Alternative Investment Funds as may be specified.

Category II:

  • Under this category, funds that are invested in equity securities and debt securities are included.
  • These funds do not fall in Category I and III. They also do not undertake leverage or borrowing other than to meet day-to-day operational requirements.
  • Examples include real estate funds, private equity funds (PE funds), and funds for distressed assets.

Category III:

  • Under this category, funds are invested with a view to make short term return. The companies employ diverse or complex trading strategies and may also employ leverage including through investment in listed or unlisted derivatives.
  • Examples include hedge funds, PIPE Funds.

Source: PIB


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