Today Current Affairs: 14th February 2022 for UPSC IAS exams, State PSC exams, SSC CGL, State SSC, RRB, Railways, Banking Exam & IBPS, etc
Table of Contents
World Food Programme (WFP):
India signed an agreement with the United Nation’s World Food Programme (WFP) for the distribution of 50,000 tonnes of wheat that it has committed to sending Afghanistan as part of humanitarian assistance
- Diplomatic efforts are under way to begin sending truck convoys through Pakistan by road, and the transport is expected to begin after the Punjab election on February 20.
- According to the MoU, the wheat will be taken through Pakistan to the Afghan border crossing and handed over to WFP officials in Kandahar beginning February 22.
- The wheat will eventually be divided into five batches of 10,000 tonnes, to be distributed across the country on approximately 200 trucks that are run by the WFP.
- The WFP runs its own logistics network inside Afghanistan, partnering with civil society groups, and has launched a global campaign for enough food and aid for the population facing malnutrition — estimated to be half the population or 22 million Afghans.
- The World Food Programme (WFP) is the food-assistance branch of the United Nations and the world’s largest humanitarian organization addressing hunger and promoting food security.
- It is headquartered in Rome.
- The WFP was formally established in 1963 by the FAO and the United Nations General Assembly.
The U.S. says it will open an embassy in the Solomon Islands, laying out in unusually blunt terms a plan to increase its influence in the South Pacific nation before China becomes “strongly embedded.”
- The U.S. previously operated an embassy in the Solomons for five years before closing it in 1993.
- Since then, U.S. diplomats from neighboring Papua New Guinea have been accredited to the Solomons, which has a U.S. consular agency.
- The embassy would be located in the capital, Honiara.
- Solomon Islands is a sovereign country consisting of six major islands and over 900 smaller islands in Oceania, to the east of Papua New Guinea and northwest of Vanuatu.
- Its capital, Honiara, is located on the largest island, Guadalcanal.
- During World War II, the Solomon Islands campaign (1942–1945) saw fierce fighting between the United States, Commonwealth forces and the Empire of Japan, including the Battle of Guadalcanal.
James Webb Space Telescope:
NASA’s new space telescope has captured its first starlight and even taken a selfie of its giant, gold mirror.
- All 18 segments of the primary mirror on the James Webb Space Telescope seem to be working properly a month-and-half into the mission.
- The telescope’s first target was a bright star 258 light years away in the constellation Ursa Major.
- Over the next few months, the hexagonal mirror segments will be aligned and focused as one, allowing science observations to begin by the end of June.
- The $10 billion infrared observatory – considered the successor to the ageing Hubble Space Telescope – will seek light from the first stars and galaxies that formed in the universe nearly 14 billion years ago.
- It will also examine the atmospheres of alien worlds for any possible signs of life.
- Webb’s 6.5-metre, gold-plated mirror is the largest ever launched into space.
- Webb blasted off from South America in December and reached its designated perch 1.6 million kilometres away last month.
A team of scientists at the Institute of Advanced Study in Science and Technology, Guwahati, an autonomous institute of the Department of Science & Technology, have developed a next-generation probiotic that provides hope for longevity and healthy aging.
- A team of Indian Scientists has identified probiotic bacterium Lactobacillus Plantarum JBC5 from a dairy product that showed great promise in promoting healthy aging.
- The team has also developed a yogurt using this probiotic bacterium which can be consumed to derive all these health benefits.
- Probiotics are live microorganisms promoted with claims that they provide health benefits when consumed, generally by improving or restoring the gut flora.
- There is some evidence that probiotics are beneficial for some conditions, but there is little evidence for many of the health benefits claimed for them.
Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission (ABDM):
The National Health Authority (NHA) under its flagship scheme of Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission (ABDM) announced integration with health App – Aarogya Setu.
- This integration takes the benefits of 14-digit unique Ayushman Bharat Health Account-ABHA number to the Aarogya Setu user base and beyond.
- Under the Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission, a user can generate their unique ABHA number.
- They can use this ABHA number to link their existing and new medical records including doctor prescriptions, lab reports, and hospital records.
- They can also share these records with registered health professionals and health service providers and also access other digital health services while maintaining a common pool of medical history.
- The user can generate their ABHA number using their Aadhaar number and some basic demographic details like Name, Date of Birth, Gender, and address. If the user does not wish to use their Aadhaar, they can use their Driving License or Mobile Number to generate the ABHA number.
- With the integration of Aarogya Setu with ABDM, we will now be able to make the benefits of ABDM available to the users of Aarogya Setu and enable them to join the digital health ecosystem, with their due consent.
Samaj Swami Dayananda Saraswati:
The nation is paying tributes to the social reformer and founder of Arya Samaj Swami Dayananda Saraswati Ji on his 198th birth anniversary.
- Dayananda Saraswati (12 February 1824 – 30 October 1883) was an Indian philosopher, social leader and founder of the Arya Samaj, a reform movement of the Vedic dharma.
- He was the first to give the call for Swaraj as “India for Indians” in 1876, a call later taken up by Lokmanya Tilak.
- Denouncing the idolatry and ritualistic worship, he worked towards reviving Vedic ideologies.
- Subsequently, the philosopher and President of India, S. Radhakrishnan called him one of the “makers of Modern India”, as did Sri Aurobindo.
- Those who were influenced by and followed Dayananda included Madam Cama, Swami Shraddhanand, Shyamji Krishna Varma, Bhagat Singh, Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, Lala Lajpat Rai etc.
- He was a sanyasi (ascetic) from boyhood and a scholar. He believed in the infallible authority of the Vedas. Dayananda advocated the doctrine of Karma and Reincarnation.
- Among Dayananda’s contributions were his promoting of the equal rights for women, such as the right to education and reading of Indian scriptures, and his commentary on the Vedas from Vedic Sanskrit in Sanskrit as well as in Hindi.
Calling for justice for the 26/11 terror attacks in Mumbai (2008) and the Pathankot airbase attack (2016) for the first time since the group was formed, the Foreign Ministers of Australia, India, Japan and the U.S. said the Quad was already cooperating on sharing intelligence on threats in the Indo-Pacific region.
- The group of Ministers, who held their fourth Quad Ministerial meeting in Melbourne, also resolved to speed up delivery of more than a billion COVID-19 vaccines to be manufactured in India, to hold a special meet on climate change this year, and to step up efforts to ensure maritime security in the region.
- The statement also made a veiled reference to China’s actions in the South and East China seas, reaffirming a commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific, “in which states strive to protect the interests of their people, free from coercion”
The Navy is set to hold the 12th President’s Fleet Review (PFR) on February 21 at Visakhapatnam and few days from that it will host the largest multilateral exercise in this region, Milan 2022.
- Milan 2022 will see participation of all major Navies including Quad countries, Russia and from West Asia amid tensions in Ukraine and developments in West Asia.
- This year’s Milan will see the participation of all Quad countries, with the U.S. being invited for the first time.
- Exercise Milan is scheduled to be held from February 25 to March 4 for which 46 countries have been invited. The harbour phase is scheduled from February 25 to 28 and the sea phase from March 1 to 4.
- It has several themes such as ant-submarine warfare among others along with deliberations, including by subject matter experts.
- During the exercise, the Navy will also be showcasing its Deep Submergence Rescue Vessel (DSRV) capabilities meant to rescue submarines in distress.
- India is one of the few countries in the region which possesses this capability.
Central Sector Scheme: SMILE
The Department of Social Justice & Empowerment is launching the Central Sector scheme “SMILE: Support for Marginalised Individuals for Livelihood and Enterprise” at BHIM Auditorium, Dr. Ambedkar International Centre, New Delhi.
- This umbrella scheme is designed to provide welfare measures to the Transgender community and the people engaged in the act of begging.
- This scheme includes two sub-schemes:
- Central Sector Scheme for Comprehensive Rehabilitation for Welfare of Transgender Persons’ and
- Central Sector Scheme for Comprehensive Rehabilitation of persons engaged in the act of Begging’.
- The scheme strengthens and expands the reach of the Rights that give the targeted group the necessary legal protection and a promise to a secured life.
- It keeps in mind the social security that is needed through multiple dimensions of identity, medical care, education, occupational opportunities and shelter.
- The Ministry has allocated Rs. 365 Crore for the scheme from 2021-22 to 2025-26.
In an almost 10-fold increase in tax collections from stock markets, the government is expecting to collect Rs 60,000-80,000 crore this financial year as a tax on capital gains in the stock markets as against Rs 6,000-8,000 crore in the previous fiscal.
- Under the Income Tax Act, gains from the sale of capital assets, both movable and immovable, are subject to ‘capital gains tax’. Movable personal assets such as cars, apparel, furniture are excluded from this tax.
- In the Budget for 2018-19, the government had introduced a tax for long term capital gains exceeding Rs 1 lakh at the rate of 10 per cent without allowing the benefit of any indexation but grandfathered gains till January 31, 2018.
- Equity shares or units of equity-oriented mutual funds held for more than 12 months are considered long-term, while house property held for 24 months is considered a long-term capital asset.
- Short-term capital gains are chargeable to tax at normal slab rates applicable to the taxpayer, except where such gain is arising from the sale of equity shares in a company or units of equity-oriented mutual fund or unit of a business trust, which attracts a tax of 15 per cent, while long-term capital gains in excess of Rs 1 lakh for equity is taxed at 10 per cent.
- The Budget for 2022-23 has introduced a capping of surcharge at 15 per cent for long-term capital gains on all types of assets irrespective of the capital gain.
Community Innovator Fellowship (CIF):
Atal Innovation Mission (AIM), NITI Aayog in collaboration with UNDP, India launched the Community Innovator Fellowship (CIF) marking the “International Day of Women & Girls in Science”.
- This is going to be a one-year-long intensive fellowship program which has been designed for an aspiring community innovator irrespective of their socio-economic background.
- During the course of this fellowship, each fellow will be hosted at one of the AIM’s Atal Community Innovation Centres (ACICs) and shall acquire SDG awareness, entrepreneurial skills and life skills while they are working on their idea.
- The ACICs would nurture youth-led innovations by providing suitable resources in terms of operating facilities, co-working space, maker labs and a dynamic business network to the innovator.
- ACICs have been established with a focus to develop the start-up and innovation ecosystem in the underserved regions of the country. Currently, there are 12 ACICs across 9 states in the country and the target is to establish 50 such centres in the country.
Uniform Civil Code:
Amid the row over wearing hijab in schools and colleges, Union Minister and BJP leader Giriraj Singh has said the Uniform Civil Code is the “need of the hour” and it should be discussed both in Parliament and in society.
- The Hijab row started in December end when a few students started coming to a government pre-university college in Udupi wearing Hijab.
- To protest against it, some Hindu students turned up wearing saffron scarves.
- The row spread to other educational institutions in different parts of the State, and the protests took a violent turn at some places earlier this week, prompting the government to declare three-day holiday for the institutions.
- The Hijab ban issue has refused to die down as Muslim girls are adamant on wearing hijab to college.
- Muslim clerics argue that Hijab ban violates right to freedom of religion enshrined in Constitution.
- Whereas the founders of the Constitution in Article 44 in Part IV dealing with the Directive Principles of State Policy had hoped and expected that the State shall endeavour to secure for the citizens a Uniform Civil Code throughout the territories of India, till date no action has been taken in this regard.
- Uniform civil code is A generic set of governing laws for every citizen without taking into consideration the religion.
- Article 44 of the Constitution says that there should be a Uniform Civil Code. According to this article, “The State shall endeavor to secure for the citizens a uniform civil code throughout the territory of India”. Since the Directive Principles are only guidelines, it is not mandatory to use them.
Tamil Nadu has rejected the idea for an exclusive discussion by the Cauvery Water Management Authority (CWMA) on the Mekedatu Balancing Reservoir-cum-Drinking Water Project proposed by Karnataka.
- Tamil Nadu reiterated its position that there should be no discussion on the subject, which was sub judice.
- Tamil Nadu has protested against Karnataka’s move to build a reservoir on river Cauvery at Mekedatu.
- It is “not acceptable” to the state that Karnataka wants to utilise 4.75 tmc as drinking water from a reservoir with a storage capacity of 67tmc ft.
- However, the Karnataka Government has asserted that there is no “compromise” on the Mekedatu project and the state wants to undertake the project.
- Karnataka is supposed to release Cauvery water from three sources:
- One being the water flowing in the areas downstream River Kabini, catchment areas of Krishnarajasagar reservoir, the sub-basins of Shimsha, Arkavathi, and Suvarnavathi rivers, and the water from minor rivers.
- Secondly, water is released from Kabini dam.
- The third source is water that is released from Krishnarajasagar dam.
- In the case of the second and third sources, which are under the control of Karnataka, water is released to TN only after storing sufficient water for their use.
- Since there is no dam in the first source, water from these areas have been freely flowing into TN without a hitch.
- But now, TN state government felt that Karnataka was “conspiring” to block this source as well through the Mekedatu dam.
- Mekedatu zone represented the last free point from where Cauvery water flowed unrestricted into the downstream state of TN from the upstream Karnataka.
- Mekedatu is a multipurpose (drinking and power) project.
- It involves building a balancing reservoir, near Kanakapura in Ramanagara district in Karnataka.
- The project once completed is aimed at ensuring drinking water to Bengaluru and neighboring areas (4.75 TMC) and also can generate 400 MW power.
- The estimated cost of the project is Rs 9,000 crore
Veteran environmentalist Ravi Chopra has resigned as chairman of the Supreme Court’s High Powered Committee (HPC) on the Char Dham project, saying that his “belief that the HPC could protect this fragile (Himalayan) ecology has been shattered”.
- In his resignation letter to the secretary general of the Supreme Court on January 27, Chopra referred to the apex court’s December 2021 order that accepted the wider road configuration to meet defence needs, instead of what the HPC had recommended and the SC accepted in its earlier order in September 2020.
- In 2018, the project was challenged by an NGO for its potential impact on the Himalayan ecology due to felling trees, cutting hills and dumping excavated material.
- In 2019, the SC formed the HPC Chopra to examine the issues, and in September 2020, accepted his recommendation on road width etc.
- In November 2020, the ministry of Defence sought wider roads to meet the requirement of the Army.
- In December 2021, the SC modified its September 2020 order on the ground that the court could not “interrogate the policy choice of the establishment which is entrusted by law with the defence of the nation”.
About Chardham project:
- The project involves developing and widening nearly 900-km of national highways connecting the holy Hindu pilgrimage sites of; Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri, and Yamunotri at an estimated cost of Rs.12,000 crores.
- The highway will be called Char Dham Mahamarg(Char Dham Highway) and the highway construction project will be called Char Dham Mahamarg Vikas Pariyojana(Char Dham Highway Development Project).
Society For Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT):
As tensions exacerbate between Washington and Moscow over Ukraine, political commentators say that the United States could, as a last resort, exclude Russia from the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT).
- If a country is excluded from the most participatory financial facilitating platform, its foreign funding would take a hit, making it entirely reliant on domestic investors.
- This is particularly troublesome when institutional investors are constantly seeking new markets in newer territories.
- It is a messaging network that financial institutions use to securely transmit information and instructions through a standardized system of codes. Under SWIFT, each financial organization has a unique code which is used to send and receive payments.
- SWIFT does not facilitate funds transfer: rather, it sends payment orders, which must be settled by correspondent accounts that the institutions have with each other.
- The SWIFT is a secure financial message carrier — in other words, it transports messages from one bank to its intended bank recipient.
- Its core role is to provide a secure transmission channel so that Bank A knows that its message to Bank B goes to Bank B and no one else. Bank B, in turn, knows that Bank A, and no one other than Bank A, sent, read or altered the message en route.
- The Belgium-headquartered SWIFT connects more than 11,000 banking and securities organizations in over 200 countries and territories.
Collegium System For The Appointment Of Judges:
The Supreme Court Collegium has recommended appointing Justice Munishwar Nath Bhandari as Chief Justice of Madras High Court.
- It is the system of appointment and transfer of judges that has evolved through judgments of the Supreme Court (SC), and not by an Act of Parliament or by a provision of the Constitution.
- The SC collegium is headed by the CJI (Chief Justice of India) and comprises four other senior most judges of the court.
A HC collegium is led by its Chief Justice and four other senior most judges of that court.
- Names recommended for appointment by a HC collegium reaches the government only after approval by the CJI and the SC collegium.
- Judges of the higher judiciary are appointed only through the collegium system and the government has a role only after names have been decided by the collegium.
National Single Window System:
Jammu & Kashmir became the first Union Territory to be onboard the National Single Window System (NSWS).
- This marks a major leap in Ease of Doing Business (EoDB) in the Union Territory.
- NSWS is linked with India Industrial Land Bank (IILB) which hosts 45 industrial parks of J&K. This will help Investors to discover available land parcels in J&K.
- National Single Window System is The platform was soft launched in September 2021 by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry.
- It is a one-stop digital platform that aims at allowing investors to apply for various pre-operations approvals required for commencing a business in the country.
- It makes the business registration process easier, allowing the beneficiary to get significant approvals online, without having to run to the government offices for approvals and can avail themselves of services with just a click.
- It would become a “one stop shop” for state and Central government compliances and bring transparency, accountability and responsiveness in the ecosystem.
- It will also offer a Know Your Approvals service to inform businesses of the details of all the approvals they need to obtain as well as a common registration form, document repository and e-communication module.
- It will provide strength to other schemes e.g. Make in India, Startup India, PLI scheme etc.
The central government requested state governments/union territory administrations to explore the possibility of introducing millets under the PM POSHAN Scheme preferably in the districts where eating millets is a culturally accepted food habit.
- NITI Aayog has also been advocating the need to introduce millets in the mid-day meal programme (now PM POSHAN Scheme), moving away from rice and wheat.
- In September 2021, the Union Cabinet approved the Pradhan Mantri Poshan Shakti Nirman or PM-POSHAN for providing one hot cooked meal in Government and Government-aided schools with the financial outlay of Rs 1.31 trillion.
- The scheme replaced the national programme for mid-day meal in schools or Mid-day Meal Scheme.
- It has been launched for an initial period of five years (2021-22 to 2025-26).
- Primary (1-5) and upper primary (6-8) schoolchildren are currently entitled to 100 grams and 150 grams of food grains per working day each, to ensure a minimum of 700 calories.
- It also covers students of balvatikas (children in the 3-5 year age group) from pre-primary classes.
- Use of locally-grown nutritional food items will be encouraged from “school nutrition gardens” for boosting the local economic growth, and will also include involvement of Farmers Producer Organizations (FPO) and Women Self Help Groups in the implementation of the scheme.
- The scheme has a provision for supplementary nutrition for children in aspirational districts and those with high prevalence of anaemia.
- It does away with the restriction on the part of the Centre to provide funds only for wheat, rice, pulses and vegetables.
- Currently, if a state decides to add any component like milk or eggs to the menu, the Centre does not bear the additional cost. Now that restriction has been lifted.
- The Centre has directed the states and the UTs to switch to Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) system for providing compensation to the cooks and helpers working under the scheme.
- A nutrition expert is to be appointed in each school whose responsibility is to ensure that health aspects such as Body Mass Index (BMI), weight and haemoglobin levels are addressed.
- A social audit of the scheme has also been mandated for each school in each state to study the implementation of the scheme, which was so far not being done by all states.