Daily Current Affairs and MCQs for UPSC - August 25, 2020 (The Hindu, Economic Times, PIB)

Appointment of new Election Commissioner

Focus: GS2.

Topic: Appointment to various Constitutional posts, powers, functions and responsibilities of various Constitutional Bodies.


Context

  • The Union Ministry of Law and Justice cleared the appointment of retired IAS officer and former finance secretary Rajiv Kumar as the third election commissioner, alongside Sunil Arora, the chief of the panel, and Sushil Chandra.
  • Kumar has been appointed after election commissioner Ashok Lavasa, who is known to have had a tense relationship with the Narendra Modi government, resigned from his post earlier this week.

Background

Kumar, a 1984 batch IAS officer of the Jharkhand cadre, retired as finance secretary in February this year, and was then picked by the government to head the Public Enterprises Selection Board (PESB), the body that clears names of government officials for various top posts in public sector undertakings.

About the Highlights

  • Rajiv Kumar holds two bachelor’s degrees, one in zoology and the other in law, along with a master’s degree in public policy and sustainability.
  • He is known as a person who manages to find solutions to difficult problems, and is said to enjoy the confidence of the Prime Minister’s Office.
  • He was the man who implemented the controversial 360-degree appraisal system for the promotion of senior IAS officers during his two-year stint in the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT).
  • He spent two-and-a-half years as the financial services secretary in the Ministry of Finance, and personally oversaw the government’s overhaul of the public sector banks, implementing the EASE agenda aimed at improving their functioning.
  • Kumar stressed the need for improving the balance sheets of state-run banks, pushing them to focus on the recovery of bad loans to improve profitability.
  • He also initiated the mega merger of Bank of Baroda with Vijaya Bank and Dena Bank in 2018, followed by another mega round of mergers in which 10 state-run banks were merged into four in 2019.
  • Kumar is also credited with finding a buyer for IDBI Bank in the form of Life Insurance Corporation of India, enabling the government to sell majority stake in the loss-making lender.
  • As a member of the board of Reserve Bank of India, Rajiv Kumar was also at the forefront of the battle between the finance ministry and the central bank under then-governor Urjit Patel, which lasted nearly all of 2018.
  • Kumar is understood to have vehemently opposed the RBI’s decision to place some state-owned banks under its prompt corrective action framework, pointing out that it would adversely impact credit flow to sectors like the micro, small and medium enterprises.

Source: The Print.

‘Mulgaonkar principles’

Focus: GS2.

Topic: Indian Judiciary.


Context

In the criticism against the Supreme Court’s ruling that held advocate Prashant Bhushan guilty of contempt of court, his counsel has invoked the ‘Mulgaonkar principles’, urging the court to show restraint.

Background
  • S Mulgaonkar v Unknown (1978) is a case that led to a landmark ruling on the subject of contempt. By a 2:1 majority, the court held Mulgaonkar, then editor of The Indian Express, not guilty of contempt although the same Bench had initiated the proceedings.
  • Justices P Kailasam and Krishna Iyer formed the majority going against then Chief Justice of India M H Beg.
  • Justice Iyer’s counsel of caution in exercising the contempt jurisdiction came to be called the Mulgaonkar principles.

About the case

  • An article by A G Noorani in the newspaper about certain judicial decisions during the Emergency period, especially the Habeas Corpus case, had displeased then CJI Beg.
  • The Habeas Corpus case, often referred to as the “Supreme Court’s darkest hour” upheld the detention law, citing that even the right to life can be suspended during an emergency.
  • Justices A N Ray, Beg, Y V Chandrachud and P N Bhagwati formed the majority while Justice H R Khanna was the sole dissenter.
  • Initially, the SC Registrar wrote to the editor seeking a retraction and an apology, which did not happen.
  • “Instead of publishing any correction of the mis-statement about the conduct of Judges of this Court, the Editor offered to publish the whole material in his possession, as though there was an issue to be tried between the Editor of the newspaper and this Court and the readers were there to try it and decide it,” Justice Beg wrote in the judgment explaining why contempt proceedings were initiated.
About the ruling
  • Justice Iyer said he agreed to initiating contempt proceedings as CJI Beg was anguished but did not agree with pursuing it.
  • A similar case involving The Times of India was decided just days earlier, in which Justices Kailasam and N Untwalia had disagreed with CJI Beg forming the majority opinion.
  • Underlining his reasons for not exercising the court’s power to punish for contempt, Justice Iyer said the first rule in the branch of power is a “wise economy of use by the Court of this branch of its jurisdiction”.
  • Underlining his reasons for not exercising the court’s power to punish for contempt, Justice Iyer said the first rule in the branch of power is a “wise economy of use by the Court of this branch of its jurisdiction”.
  • “The Court will act with seriousness and severity where justice is jeopardized by a gross and/or unfounded attack on the judges, where the attack is calculated to obstruct or destroy the judicial process. The court is willing to ignore, by a majestic liberalism, trifling and venial offenses-the dogs may bark, the caravan will pass. The court will not be prompted to act as a result of an easy irritability,” he wrote.
  • He argued in favour of harmonising “the constitutional values of free criticism, the fourth estate included, and the need for a fearless curial process and its presiding functionary, the judge”.

Source: Indian Express.

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China's clean plate campaign

Focus: GS2.

Topic: Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India's interests, Indian diaspora.


Context

  • A Chinese restaurant has apologised to its customers for its controversial policy of asking customers to weigh themselves before entering the restaurant as part of the national campaign against food waste.
  • The beef restaurant in the central city of Changsha has received heavily criticism on social media after it implemented the policy.

Background

  • The beef restaurant in the central city of Changsha followed these strict norms in response to a new national campaign against food wastage.
  • Customers were asked to stand on scales and scan their data into an app that recommended food choices based on their weight and the dishes' calorific value, according to a report by the state-run China News Service.

About the Highlights

  • Two days ago, Chinese President Xi Jinping launched the "Clean Plate Campaign" to reduce food waste.
  • He urged his countrymen to stop wasting food as the coronavirus pandemic and floods have led to a rise in food prices in the country.
  • Following Xi's message, the Wuhan Catering Industry Association urged restaurants in the city to limit the number of dishes served to diners.
  • The Association asked restaurants to implement a system where groups must order one dish less than the number of diners.
  • This system dubbed "N-1", a group of 10 people can only order 9 dishes.
  • Consequently, the beef restaurant displayed sign boards like "be thrifty and diligent, promote empty plates" and "operation empty plate", with reference to the nationwide anti-waste campaign.
  • However, the beef restaurant received backlash on the internet.
  • Over 300 million users condemned the restaurant's policy on social platform Weibo.
  • Later, the restaurant said it was "deeply sorry" for its interpretation of the anti-waste campaign.
  • In an apology, the restaurant wrote, "Our original intentions were to advocate stopping waste and ordering food in a healthy way. We never forced customers to weigh themselves".

Source: Business Today.

National Sports Awards 2020 announced

Focus: GS2.

Topic: Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources, issues relating to poverty and hunger.


Context

  • Cricketer Rohit Sharma, Para-Athlete Mariyappan Thangavelu, Table Tennis player Manika Batra, Wrestler Vinesh Phogat and Indian Women's Hockey team captain Rani Rampal will receive the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award.
  • The Award is conferred  on sportspersons for spectacular and most outstanding performance in the field of sports for over a period of four years.

Background

  • This year 27 sportspersons have been selected for the Arjuna Award for consistent outstanding performance for four years.
  • They are Archer Atanu Das, Athlete Dutee Chand, Shuttlers Satwik Sairaj Rankireddy and Chirag C Shetty, Basketball player Vishesh Bhriguvanshi, Boxers Subedar Manish Kaushik and Lovlina Borgohain, Cricketer Ishant Sharma and Deepti Sharma, Equestrian player Sawant Ajay Anant, Footballer Sandesh Jhingan, Golfer Aditi Ashok, Hockey players Akashdeep Singh and Deepika, Kabaddi player Deepak, Kho Kho player Kale Sarika Sudhakar, Rower Dattu Baban Bhokanal, Shooter Manu Bhaker and Saurabh Chaudhary, Table Tennis player Madhurika Suhas Patkar, Tennis player Divij Sharan, Winter Sports player Shiva Keshavan, Wrestlers Divya Kakran and Rahul Aware, Para Swimmer Suyash Narayan Jadhav, Para Athlete Sandeep and Para Shooter Manish Narwal. 

About the Highlights

  • In  Life-Time Category, Dronacharya Award will be given to Dharmendra Tiwary for Archery, Purushotham Rai for Athletics, Shiv Singh for Boxing, Romesh Pathania for Hockey, Krishan Kumar Hooda for Kabaddi, Vijay Bhalchandra Munishwar for Para Powerlifting, Naresh Kumar for Tennis and Om Parkash Dahiya for Wrestling.
  • In Regular Category, Dronacharya Award will be given to Jude Felix Sebastian for Hockey, Yogesh Malviya for Mallakhamb, Jaspal Rana for Shooting, Kuldeep Kumar Handoo for Wushu and Gaurav Khanna for Para Badminton.
  • Dronacharya Award goes to the coaches for producing medal winners at prestigious international sports events.
  • Dhyan Chand Award will be given to Kuldip Singh Bhullar and Jincy Philips for Athletics, Pradeep Shrikrishna Gandhe and Trupti Murgunde for Badminton, N. Usha and Lakha Singh for Boxing, Sukhvinder Singh Sandhu for Football, Ajit Singh for Hockey, Manpreet Singh for Kabaddi, J. Ranjith Kumar for Para Athletics, Satyaprakash Tiwari for Para Badminton, Manjeet Singh for Rowing, Nandan P Bal for Tennis, and Netarpal Hooda for Wrestling. Late Sachin Nag will be confered the award for swimming.
  • Dhyan Chand Award is given for life time contribution to sports development.
  • Tenzing Norgay National Adventure Award will be given to Anita Devi,  Col. Sarfraz Singh, Taka Tamut, Narender Singh and Keval Hiren Kakka in Land Adventure category.
  • Satendra Singh will get the award in Water Adventure categoty and  Gajanand Yadava will get it in the Air Adventure category. 
  • Late Magan Bissa will be confered the award in Life Time Achievement category.
  • Rashtriya Khel Protsahan Puraskar is given to the corporate entities both in private and public sector and individuals who have played a visible role in the area of sports promotion and development.
  • Panjab University, Chandigarh will get Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, MAKA Trophy for overall top performing university in inter-university tournaments.
  • A large number of applications were received for Sports Awards this year, which were considered by the Selection Committee headed by former Judge of Supreme Court Justice (Retd.) Mukundakam Sharma and other members comprising of eminent sportspersons, persons having experience in sports journalism and sports administration, etc.
  • The awardees will receive their awards from the President Ram Nath Kovind at a specially organized function through virtual mode from Rashtrapati Bhawan on 29th of this month which is National Sports Day.
  • It coincides with the birthday of legendary hockey Olympian, Dhyan Chand.

Source: PIB.

Happenings in Belarus

Focus: GS2.

Topic: Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India's interests, Indian diaspora.


Context

  • The eastern European country of Belarus has been plunged into chaos following a highly controversial election in which President Alexander Lukashenko claimed a landslide victory despite widespread allegations of electoral fraud.
  • Riots broke out in the capital Minsk on Sunday night after the country’s election commission earlier announced that Lukashenko, who has run the country since 1994, won an improbable 80% of the vote, extending his authoritarian 26-year rule for another five years.

Background

  • Belarus, a former republic of the Soviet Union which gained its independence in 1991, is frequently described as Europe’s “last dictatorship”, aping many of the ultra-authoritarian policies used to surpress political dissent in the USSR. 
  • “Lukashenko came to power in 1994 and has remained in office ever since,” Al Jazeera reports.
  • “His government has seen human rights activists imprisoned, political dissidents silenced, and protests violently dispersed.”
  • European election monitors, including the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, have not recognised a single election as free and fair since the strongman, 65, came to power.

About Belarus

  • Belarus is a landlocked country in Eastern Europe.
  • It is bordered by Russia to the northeast, Ukraine to the south, Poland to the west, and Lithuania and Latvia to the northwest.
  • Its capital is Minsk.
  • After the disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1991, Belarus became a sovereign nation, and its first presidential elections were held in 1994. 
  • Alexander Lukashenko has served as the country's first president since 1994.
  • Belarus has been labelled "Europe's last dictatorship" by some Western journalists, on account of the country's poor human rights record and Lukashenko's self-described authoritarian style of government.

Source: Indian Express.

RLF-100 or Aviptadil

Focus: GS3.

Topic: Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life Achievements of Indians in science & technology; indigenization of technology and developing new technology.


Context

  • An old drug formulation — RLF-100 — is being probed to treat Covid-19 patients after initial studies have shown that the drug is able to halt SARS-CoV-2 virus replication in lungs.
  • In Mumbai, doctors have begun prescribing this drug although it is not available in India.
About RLF-100
  • RLF-100, also called Aviptadil, is a formulation of synthetic human Vasoactive Intestinal Polypeptide (VIP). VIP is released throughout the body, but remains mostly concentrated in lungs.
  • It is produced by immune cells and nerve endings and acts as a neurotransmitter.
  • It helps improve muscle activity and blood flow in gastrointestinal tract.
  • But it also plays another important function.
  • Studies have shown VIP has anti-inflammatory and anti-cytokine activity properties.
  • Preliminary studies have shown this protects alveolar type II cells that are responsible for oxygen exchange in lungs.
  • Since coronavirus attacks lungs and the alveolar cells, the drug may be helpful in preventing SARS-CoV-2 onslaught in alveolar cell and limit damage in lung.

About the clinical trial

  • RLF-100 has been granted “Orphan Drug Designation” by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome and chronic lung diseases, drug maker NeuroRx said.
  • On June 8, NeuroRx and Relief Therapeutics announced a phase 2/3 clinical trial to treat critical Covid-19 patients.
  • The trial will have 144 participants.
  • The drug will be targeted on those requiring high flow nasal oxygen, and those on non-invasive or invasive ventilator support.
  • Doses for three successive days will be given to patients.
  • RLF-100 is not a new finding. It was discovered in 1970 by Dr Sami Said, a pulmonary medicine specialist.
  • In 2001, US FDA gave RLF-100 an orphan drug designation to treat acute respiratory distress syndrome, and in 2006 for acute lung injury.
  • US FDA also granted investigational new drug (IND) licenses for human trials of Aviptadil.
  • But it has not shown significant progress in those trials in treating lung diseases.

Source: Indian Express.

Govt proposes stricter safety norms for construction machinery

Focus: GS2.

Topic: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.


Context

  • To ensure greater safety on highways, the government has proposed stricter norms that include features like machine-mounted audible travel alarms, non-metallic fuel tank and wider operator visibility for construction equipment machinery.
  • The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH) has come out with a draft notification for construction equipment vehicles that addresses issues of safety requirements, safety of the operator besides ensuring safety while such machines are running on public roads along with other vehicles.

Background

  • Currently, certain safety requirements are already mandated for such vehicles in Central Motor Vehicles Rules but the proposed notification aims to introduce AIS (Automotive Industry Standard) 160 to introduce several safety requirements like machine mounted audible travel alarms, visual display requirements, requirements for operator station and maintenance areas, non-metallic fuel tanks and Minimum Access Dimensions.
  • Construction equipment vehicles are extensively used for carrying out various infrastructure projects.

About the Highlights

  • To provide for safety of operator and to ensure safety while such machines are running on public roads along with other vehicles, the government has invited suggestion from stakeholders and people on the proposed safety norms.
  • Construction equipment vehicle means a self-propelled machine with rubber tyred, rubber padded or steel drum wheel mounted compactor, wheeled hydraulic excavator, wheel loader, backhoe loader, skid-steer loader, dumper, motor grader, mobile crane, dozer and pavers among others, the notification said.

Source: LiveMint.

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Test your Knowledge

  1. Consider the following statements wrt International Day of Remembrance and Tribute to the Victims of Terrorism:
  1. International Day of Remembrance and Tribute to the Victims of Terrorism was observed on 21 August.
  2. The General Assembly, in its resolution 72/165 (2017), established 21 August as the International Day of Remembrance of and Tribute to the Victims of Terrorism.
  3. It was proclaimed to honour and support the victims and survivors of terrorism and to promote and protect the full enjoyment of their human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Select the correct answer using the codes given below:

      A. 1 and 2 only
      B. 2 and 3 only
      C. 1 and 3 only
      D. AOTA

Solution: D

  1. International Day Commemorating the Victims of Acts of Violence Based on Religion or Belief was observed on:

       A. 20th August
       B. 21st August
       C.22nd August
       D.23rd August

Solution: C

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