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Factly :-News Articles For UPSC Prelims | Mar 25, 2021

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“Double Mutant” COVID Virus Variant Found

What is the News?

Indian SARS-CoV-2 Consortium on Genomics (INSACOG) has been doing genome sequencing of Covid-19 Variants. It has found a unique “double mutant” virus variant in India. This variant has a unique combination of mutations, not seen anywhere else in the world.

What is Double Mutation?

  • When two mutated strains of a virus come together and form a third strain, it is called Double Mutation.
  • The one reported in India is the result of the combination of E484Q and L452R strains. The L452R strain is found in California in the United States and the E484Q strain is indigenous.

Is this double Mutant COVID Variant Harmful?

  • Mutation in the virus is a normal process. But some mutations help the virus in defending itself from vaccines or antibodies or linking to a spike in cases.
  • However, the capability of double mutant coronavirus variant in increased infectivity or in making COVID-19 more severe is still uncertain.
  • Hence, INSACOG will submit details of this variant to a global repository called GISAID. If it qualifies, it will be classified as a “variant of concern”(VOC).
  • Variant of concerns requires appropriate public health actions, such as
    • Notification to WHO under the International Health Regulations,
    • reporting to CDC,
    • local or regional efforts to control spread,
    • increased testing, or research to determine the effectiveness of vaccines and treatments against the variant

Note: So far, only three global Variants of Concern (VOCs) have been identified: the U.K. variant (B.1.1.7), the South African (B.1.351) and the Brazilian (P.1) lineage.

About INSACOG:

  • Indian SARS-CoV-2 Consortium on Genomics(INSACOG) is a grouping of 10 National Laboratories. It was established by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare(MoH&FW).
  • Aim:
    • To monitor the genomic variations in the SARS-CoV-2 on a regular basis through a multi-laboratory network.
    • To ascertain the status of a new variant of SARS-CoV-2 in the country.
    • Furthermore, to establish a surveillance system for early detection of genomic variants and determine the genomic variants in the unusual events/trends.
  • Coordinated by: The group is coordinated by the Department of Biotechnology (DBT) along with MoH&FW, ICMR, and CSIR.
  • Significance: The knowledge generated through this vital research consortium assists in developing diagnostics and potential therapeutics and vaccines in the future.

Global Initiative on Sharing All Influenza Data(GISAID) Initiative

  • The GISAID Initiative was launched on the occasion of the 61st World Health Assembly in 2008.
  • In 2010, Germany became the official host of the GISAID Initiative through a public-private partnership.
  • Aim: It promotes rapid sharing of data of all influenza and COVID virus sequences globally. It helps to understand, how the viruses evolve, spread, and potentially become pandemics.
  • Headquarters: Munich, Germany.

Source: The Hindu


Bihar Assembly Passed the “Bihar Special Armed Police Bill 2021”

What is the News?

Bihar State Assembly has passed the Bihar Special Armed Police Bill, 2021.

About Bihar Special Armed Police Bill, 2021

  • The mandate of the bill is to maintain public order, combat extremism. Further, the bill ensures better protection and security of specific establishments.
  • For this, the Bill proposes setting up a Special Armed Police force. The Special Armed Police will have one or more battalions depending on the requirement for any specified period.
  • Nodal Authority: The command, supervision, and administration of the Special Armed Police shall vest in the Director-General of Police, Bihar.
  • However, the general superintendence of the Special Police shall be exercised by the Government.

Powers of the Special Armed Police force:

  • Power to arrest without a warrant: They will have the power to arrest people even without a warrant. This power will be available to any of the Special Armed Police’s officers.
  • Arrests on suspicion: They have the power to arrest people on the basis of mere suspicion. This includes suspicion like disrupting state government functions or attempting to conceal their presence with the aim to commit a crime or cognizable offence.
  • Search without Warrant: They have the power to conduct a search of a suspect’s premises without obtaining a warrant from a magistrate. The only safeguard is that the search can be conducted by an officer of a notified rank or above.
  • Immunity from Courts: The bill also grants immunity to the officers of the Special Armed Police. It bars courts from taking cognizance of any complaint against the Special Armed Police. The court can take action only when the state government has sanctioned action against the concerned officers.

Source: Indian Express


Justice N.V. Ramana recommended as 48th CJI (Chief Justice of India)

What is the News?

The current Chief Justice of India(CJI) has recommended Justice N.V. Ramana, the senior-most judge of the Supreme Court as the next CJI.

About Chief Justice of India(CJI):

  • Chief Justice of India is the chief judge of the Supreme Court of India. He/she is also the highest-ranking officer of the Indian judiciary.

Constitution on appointment of CJI:

Justice Ramana
Source : The Hindu
  • The Constitution of India does not have any specific provision for criteria and procedure for
  •  appointing the CJI.
  • Article 124(1) and the 2008 amendment of the Indian Constitution states that there shall be a Supreme Court of India consisting of a Chief Justice of India and no. of judges as prescribed by Parliament.
  • Initially, the prescribed no. of judges was 7 excluding CJI. Now the no. is 34 judges including the CJI.
  • The closest mention is in Article 126. It deals with the appointment of an acting CJI.

Convention for appointment of CJI

  • When the incumbent CJI retires (all Supreme Court judges retire at the age of 65), the senior-most judge in the SC becomes the CJI.
  • Seniority is not defined by age but by the number of years an individual has been serving as a judge of the apex court.

What is the procedure? The procedure to appoint the next CJI is laid out in the Memorandum of Procedure (MoP) between the government and the judiciary.

  • The procedure is initiated by the Law Minister. He/she shall seek the recommendation of the outgoing CJI at the ‘appropriate time’(near to the date of retirement of the incumbent CJI).
  • The CJI sends his recommendation to the Law Ministry. If there are any doubts, the CJI can consult the collegium as per article 124(2), regarding the fitness of an SC judge to be elevated to the post.
  • After receiving a recommendation from CJI, the law minister forwards it to the Prime Minister. The PM will then advise the same to the President.
  • The President administers the oath of office to the new CJI.

Does the government get a say in the appointment of CJI?

  • Except for the law minister seeking the recommendation from the incumbent CJI and forwarding it to the Prime Minister, the government has no say in the appointment of the CJI.
  • However, the key difference between the appointment of the CJI and the other SC judges are,
    • In the appointment of CJI, the government cannot send the recommendation of the CJI (or the collegium) back for reconsideration.
    • But in the appointment of SC Judges, the government can do so. However, if the collegium reiterates those names then the government cannot object any further.

Are there any exceptions to the above-mentioned procedure?

  • This convention has been broken twice. In 1973, Justice A. N. Ray was appointed superseding 3 senior judges.
  • Also, in 1975 Justice Mirza Hameedullah Beg was appointed as the CJI superseding Justice Hans Raj Khanna.

Source: The Hindu


“Gandhi Peace Prize 2020” awarded to Sheikh Mujibur Rahman

What is the news?

Gandhi Peace Prize for 2020 has awarded to the Sheikh Mujibur Rahman of Bangladesh. Similarly, the Gandhi Peace Prize for 2019 was awarded to the late Sultan of Oman, Qaboos bin Said Al Said.

About Gandhi Peace Prize:

  • Gandhi Peace Prize is an annual award. It was instituted by the Government of India in 1995 during the commemoration of the 125th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.
  • Purpose: The award is given to those involved in social, economic, and political transformation through non-violence.
  • Eligibility:
    • The prize can be given to individuals, associations, institutions, or organizations.
    • It can also be divided between two persons/institutions. If the Jury considered them as equally deserving for recognition in a given year.
    • It is open to all persons regardless of nationality, creed, race, or sex.
  • Rewards: The award carries an amount of Rs.1 crore, a citation in a scroll, a plaque. Further, It also consists of an exquisite traditional handicraft/handloom item.
  • Selection Committee: The jury is chaired by the Prime Minister. The other members of the committee are the Chief Justice of India, the leader of the single largest Opposition party in the Lok Sabha, Lok Sabha Speaker and one other eminent person who decides the awardee each year.

About Sheikh Mujibur Rahman:

  • Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was the first President of Bangladesh. He was also the Prime Minister of Bangladesh from 1971 until his assassination in 1975.
  • He is popularly known with the title of “Bangabandhu”(“Friend of Bengal”) by the people of Bangladesh.
  • Not only that, but he was an important figure in bringing independence to Bangladesh. Thus, he is regarded as “Jatir Janak” or “Jatir Pita” (both meaning “Father of the Nation”) of Bangladesh.

About Qaboos bin Said Al Said:

  • Qaboos bin Said Al Said was the Sultan of Oman from 1970 until his death in 2020.
  • He was the longest-serving leader in the Middle East and the Arab world at the time of his death.

Source: The Hindu


Significance of Tulip Garden in “Zabarwan Range” of J&K

What is the News?

The Prime Minister through a tweet asked everyone to visit a tulip garden in Jammu and Kashmir. The garden is located at the foothills of the Zabarwan range.

About the Tulip garden 

The tulip garden is located at the foothills of the Zabarwan range. It is Asia’s largest tulip garden, spreading over an area of about 30 hectares.

This garden is home to more than 64 varieties of tulips in bloom. It was started in 2007 to boost floriculture and tourism in Kashmir Valley.

About Zabarwan Range:

  • It is a short sub-mountain range between Pir Panjal and Great Himalayan Range. It is located in the central part of the Kashmir Valley.
  • The Highest Peak: The highest peak of this range is Mahadev Peak at 13,013 feet (3,966 m). It forms the distant background of the eastern mountain wall.
  • Temple: The Shankaracharya Temple is built on the edge of the central part of the Zabarwan Range.
  • Significance: On the northern slopes of the central part of the range there are three Mughal gardens built by Emperor Shah Jahan. These include Chashma Shahi, Nishat Bagh, and Shalimar Garden alongside the Pari Mahal.
  • Wildlife: The Zabarwan mountain range possesses great Himalayan features with rich wildlife. The Dachigam National Park is the main feature of the range.
    • The Dachigam National Park holds the last viable population of Kashmir stag (Hangul). Further, the National Park also has the largest population of black bear in Asia.

 Source: The Hindu


Government Criticises “Oxfam Inequality index”

What is the news?

The Oxfam’s Commitment to Reducing Inequality (CRI) Index, 2020 ranked India at 129 overall out of 158 countries. But the Minister of Labour and Employment has said that the index lacked clarity. Further, he also mentions that the report did not take into account various initiatives taken by the government.

About Oxfam inequality index or Commitment to Reducing Inequality (CRI) Index

  • Released by: Oxfam International.
  • Parameters: The index ranks 158 countries. The Index measures the policies and actions in three areas directly related to reducing inequality. The three areas are:
    1. Public services(health, education and social protection)
    2. Taxation and
    3. Worker’s rights

Commitment to Reducing Inequality Index Findings Related to India:

  • Overall: India has been ranked 129 overall in the index out of 158 countries.
  • Ranking based on Parameters:
    • Public Services: India has ranked 141 in terms of its public services such as health, education and social protection.
    • Taxation: India has ranked 19th in the index, in terms of taxation.
    • Workers Rights: India has fared poorly in protecting labour rights and has slipped to rank 151.

Other Key Findings of Commitment to Reducing Inequality Index:

  • Topped by: The index has been topped by Norway followed by Denmark and Germany.

What were the objections raised by the Indian Government?

  • The rank assigned to India and the methodology adopted is not clear. The index does not take into account the provisions of the four new labour codes which protects labour rights.
  • India is not a signatory to two International Labour Organisation (ILO) conventions. But the principles of the conventions were available to Indian workers. The Index does not take account of this. The two conventions are,
    1. Freedom of association and protection of the right to organise convention(C87).
    2. The right to organise and collective bargaining(C98).

Source: The Hindu


What is “Shigmotsav Festival” of Goa?

What is the news?

There is a rise in Covid-19 cases across a number of states in the country. However, the Goa government permitted the celebrations of the Shigmotsav Festival. Questions are being raised over the scale of celebrations of the festival in Goa.

About Shigmotsav Festival:

  • Shigmotsav festival also known as Shigmo is a spring festival celebrated in the state of Goa.
  • The festival is the celebration of a rich, golden harvest of paddy by the tribal communities of Goa.
  • Communities: Agricultural communities including the Kunbis, Gawdas and Velips celebrate the festival.

Key Features of the Shigmotsav Festival:

  • The festival begins with ‘Naman’. It means the invocation of the local folk deities on the village stage or the village ‘maand’.
  • Instruments used: The percussion instruments like the Ghumat, Dhol, Mhadle and Tashe are used by the male folk. This is called the ‘romta mell’.
  • Folk Dances: Many dances performed by the participating communities. This includes Folk dances like Ghode Modni (a dance of equestrian(horse riding) warriors), Gopha and Phugadi, etc.
  • During the festival, the Goa government organize float parades. This draw both domestic and international tourists.

Source: Indian Express


“Indian Coast Guard Ship Vajra” commissioned

What is the News?

Indian Coast Guard ship ’Vajra’ commissioned formally into service. It is the 6th offshore patrol vessel to enhance coastal security.

About ICGS Vajra:

  • Indian Coast Guard Ship Vessel “Vajra” is indigenously designed and built by Larsen and Toubro Shipbuilding Ltd.
  • ICGS Vajra is the sixth in the series of seven Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPVs).

Key Features of ICGS Vajra:

  • It is a 98-meter ship equipped with state-of-the-art facilities. It is designed to carry one twin-engine helicopter and four high-speed boats.
  • The vessel can also be used in Search and Rescue, Law Enforcement, and Maritime Patrol.
  • The vessel is also capable of carrying Pollution Response Equipment for oil spill response at Sea.

What are Offshore Patrol Vehicles(OPVs)?

  • Offshore Patrol Vehicles(OPVs) are long-range surface ships. They are capable of operation in maritime zones of India including island territories with helicopter operation capabilities.
  • Their roles include coastal and offshore patrolling, policing maritime zones of India, control and surveillance, anti-smuggling and anti-piracy operations with limited wartime roles.

About Vikram Class offshore patrol vessel(OPV)

  • Vikram Class offshore patrol vessel (OPV) is a series of seven offshore patrol vessels (OPV). L&T Shipbuilding for the Indian Coast Guard(ICG) is building them.
  • The seven OPVs are: 1) ICGS Vikram 2) ICGS Vijaya 3) ICGS Veera 4) ICGS Varaha 5) ICGS Varad 6) ICGS Vajra and 7) ICGS Vigraha.

Source: AIR

9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – March 25, 2021

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