Current Affairs March – 2020
Ajay Bhushan Pandey takes over as India’s new Finance Secretary
Ajay Bhushan Pandey took oath as the administrative head of the Ministry of Finance on 3 March. The seniormost bureaucrat among all secretaries in the ministry is designated as the finance secretary.
The ex-revenue secretary will succeed Rajiv Kumar, who served the position till February this year. The 59-year-old had previously served as the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI). Pandey is an Indian Administrative Service officer of Maharashtra cadre from the 1984 batch. He holds a B.Tech. degree from IIT Kanpur and MS and PhD degrees in Computer Science from University of Minnesota.
Gairsain announced as the summer capital of Uttarakhand
The Chief Minister of Uttarakhand Trivendra Singh Rawat declared Gairsain as the summer capital of Uttarakhand during the budget session on 4 March. While making the major announcement, CM said that Dehradun doesn’t fulfil the status of the state’s permanent capital and with Gairsain, the issue of permanent state capital will be solved.
The name ‘Gairsain’ is derived from Garhwali words Gair, meaning ‘at some depth’ and Sain, meaning ‘rolling plains’. Gairsain is situated at the eastern edge of the Dudhatoli mountain range, at a distance of approximately 250 kilometres from Dehradun. It is accessible from both the Garhwal and the Kumaon divisions and acts as a bridge between the two regions.
Gairsain boasts of several tourist attractions, such as Badrinath and the Valley of Flowers.
Bimal Julka becomes Chief Information Commissioner of India
Information Commissioner Bimal Julka was appointed as the Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) on 6 March. The oath-taking ceremony took place under the administration of President Ram Nath Kovind at the Rashtrapati Bhavan.
The Central Information Commission has been functioning without a chief after the retirement of Sudhir Bhargava on 11 January. Currently, there are six information commissioners (IC) in the team, despite the sanctioned strength of 11 members.
According to rules, the CIC and ICs are appointed by the President on the recommendation of a committee consisting of the Prime Minister as its head, the leader of opposition in Lok Sabha and a Union cabinet minister to be nominated by the PM.
10% reduction in accidental deaths: Government
In response to a question in the Rajya Sabha on 16 March, Minister of Road, Transport and Highways, Nitin Gadkari informed that the country has witnessed a 10% decrease in road accidents. According to the minister, this decrease occurred as a result of the amended Motor Vehicles Act, 2019. Gadkari revealed data from 12 states and union territories, comparing the rate of accidents with that five months before September 2019.
According to the amended act which was implemented throughout the country on 1 September, last year, the penalty was increased 10 times on various violations. The new act introduced heavy fines for drunken driving, driving without licence, overspeeding, etc.
As per the Global Report on Road Safety released by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2018, India accounts for almost 11% of the accident-related deaths in the world.
Nirbhaya case: 4 convicts hanged to death
The four convicts, Pawan Gupta (25), Vinay Sharma (26), Akshay Kumar (31) and Mukesh Kumar (32), in Nirbhaya’s gangrape and murder case were hanged to death in Tihar Jail at 5:30 a.m. on 20 March. The execution got delayed three times previously as the convicts tried their best to get freed from the sentence.
According to an official, the convicts did not express any ‘last wish’ or will to authorities. Their belongings and money that they earnt during their stay in the jail will be handed over to their respective family members.
The gangrape of the 23-year-old victim took place on 16 December 2012. The victim died after a fortnight and a total of six were accused in the horrendous act. Of all of them, one was a juvenile who was kept in a correctional home for three years and later released in 2015. Another accused Ram Singh committed suicide in the jail a few days after the trial began in the court.
Wasim Jaffer retires from all formats of cricket
Legendary batsman of the Indian team Wasim Jaffer announced retirement from all formats of cricket on 7 March.
The 42-year-old made his first-class debut in 1996–97. He played 31 Tests between 2000 and 2008, scoring 1944 runs including five hundreds and 11 fifties. He played 260 first-class games, amassing 19,410 runs. Last year, the Mumbaikar became the first player in Indian cricket to feature in 150 Ranji matches.
Jaffer also got the opportunity to play 2 ODIs for the Indian team, but he could not leave a mark in those.
ICC Women’s T20 World Cup Final 2020: Australia beats India to lift the trophy for a record fifth time
The Australian women’s cricket team lifted the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup for a record fifth time at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on 8 March. The team won the match by 85 runs after beating India in the final. This was the first time that the Indian women’s team had reached the finals.
After winning the toss, Australian captain Meg Lanning chose to bat first. Her team scored a total of 184 runs for a loss of four wickets in 20 overs. Beth Mooney became the top scorer of the match with 78 runs, followed by Alyssa Healy who scored 75 runs in 39 balls. On the other hand, under pressure, the Indian team crumbled to 99 runs in 19.1 overs.
The player of the match title was given to Healy, while Mooney was named the player of the tournament.
The 2020 ICC Women’s T20 World Cup began on 21 February and was played between 10 teams who were split into two pools. The game was played in a round-robin format, wherein every team plays every other team and the top two teams from each pool face each other in the semi-finals.
Saurashtra wins Ranji Trophy title after 70 years
Saurashtra team won the Ranji Trophy 2019–20 title after defeating Bengal in the final match at the Saurashtra Cricket Association Stadium in Rajkot on 13 March. They last won the title 70 years ago in 1943–44.
The match was played in an empty stadium due to the threat of Coronavirus. After winning the toss, the captain of Saurashtra team Jaydev Unadkat opted for batting.
The Ranji Trophy is India’s domestic cricket competition in which regional and state cricket associations of the country participate. The first edition of Ranji Trophy was organised in 1934. Since then, Mumbai has won the title for maximum number of times, i.e. 41.
FIH Rankings released
In the recently released FIH (Fédération Internationale de Hockey) Men’s Rankings, Belgium holds the top position with 2481.34 points, followed by Australia with 2389.98 points and the Netherlands with 2237.61 points.
In a first, India attained their all-time highest spot in the rankings ever since its inception in 2003. The team climbed to fourth position with 2064.14 points, leaving Argentina behind at the fifth spot with 1968.26 points.
In the FIH Women’s Rankings, the Netherlands secured the top position with 2626.03 points, followed by Argentina with 2174.61 points and Australia with 2012.89 points.
The match-based world ranking model came into effect on 1 January, this year. Unlike the tournament-based ranking system, the new system includes an exchange of points between the teams playing each match. The number of points exchanged depends on the result of the match, the relative ranking of the teams and the importance of the match.
Big ozone hole opens over the Arctic
A new, unusually large and deep ozone hole formed over the North Pole, close to the United States. This extraordinary atmospheric hole doesn’t seem to threaten people’s health and is expected to break apart in the coming weeks.
The formation of an ozone hole is quite common in the Antarctic region due to regular plummeting of the winter temperatures in the region. Such temperatures allow the depletion of the ozone layer in the stratosphere, also referred to as the ozone hole. But in the Arctic, these conditions are quite rare as the region has more variable temperatures and doesn’t facilitate ozone depletion.
However, in a rare incident this year, powerful westerly winds flowed around the North Pole and trapped cold air within a polar vortex. Such temperatures lead to the depletion of ozone, or formation of ozone holes. According to Markus Rex, an atmospheric scientist at the Alfred Wegener Institute in Potsdam, Germany, there was more cold air above the Arctic than in any winter recorded since 1979.
Science & Technology
NASA’s rover for Mars 2020 mission gets a name
The name of NASA’s rover for Mars 2020 mission – Perseverance – was announced by the associate administrator of the Science Mission Directorate, Thomas Zurbuchen during a celebration at Lake Braddock Secondary School in Burke, Virginia, on 5 March. ‘Perseverance’ was suggested by a seventh-grader Alex Mather from Springfield, Virginia.
NASA had announced a ‘Name the Rover’ essay contest on 28 August 2019 in which students of grades kindergarten to twelfth attending a public, private, or home school in the United States were allowed to participate. Alex’s essay was selected by NASA from over 28,000 entries sent by K–12 students in all the states in the US.
In addition to the honour of naming the rover, Alex and his family have been invited to watch its July 2020 launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
Scientists found a way to develop a therapy for tongue cancer
According to a research published on 13 March, a team of scientists from the Centre for DNA Fingerprinting and Diagnostics found a new mechanism which shows that an anti-cancer protein helps in the development of cancer when it mutates.
The scientists collected tongue cancer samples from post-surgery patients and screened them for modifications in a gene called TP53. This gene is a sequence of nucleotides in the DNA that help in the preparation of p53 (a type of protein found in human cells that controls several fundamental processes, such as cell division and repair of damaged DNA). This enabled them to identify that on mutation, the ability of p53 to prevent cancer gets compromised. Moreover, some specific and commonly mutated p53 forms even activate cancer growth.
Dr M.D. Bashyam of the Laboratory of Molecular Oncology at the Centre, who is the leader of the research team, said ‘The observations made in this study assume significance since they reveal a new and probable mechanism by which mutant p53 proteins encourage cancer development. The results of the study can be employed to develop therapies to treat tongue cancer, a common debilitating cancer in India.’
ISRO develops NavIC messaging system
According to a press release on 17 March, Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has designed an Independent Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS), with an operational name of NavIC (Navigation with Indian Constellation).
IRNSS is being used by the Indian National Centre for Ocean Information System (INCOIS) to broadcast emergency warning messages to fishermen, such as cyclone, tsunami and high waves, and also broadcast information of Potential Fishing Zone (PFZ). The system is capable of providing accurate position-related services to the users, which extends to about 1,500 km from its primary service area or boundary.
IRNSS mainly provides two types of services: Standard Positioning Service (SPS), which is provided to all the users, and Restricted Service (RS), which is an encrypted service provided only to authorised users.
NASA selects a mission to learn more about the Sun
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) selected a new mission, called the Sun Radio Interferometer Space Experiment (SunRISE), on 30 March. The mission aims at providing an insight into how the Sun generates and releases giant space weather storms, known as solar particle storms, into planetary space.
This information will enable us to understand how our solar system works. In addition, it will provide details about how the Sun’s radiation affects the space environment the astronauts travel through.
Explaining the mission, Nicky Fox, director of NASA’s Heliophysics Division, said ‘We are so pleased to add a new mission to our fleet of spacecraft that help us better understand the Sun, as well as how our star influences the space environment between planets.’
He further added, ‘The more we know about how the Sun erupts with space weather events, the more we can mitigate their effects on spacecraft and astronauts.’
One in every three children under 5 is undernourished: UNICEF
According to a recent report The State of the World’s Children 2019 published by UNICEF, one in every three children under the age of five years is undernourished or overweight.
Listed below are a few major findings from the report:
a. Globally, at least 1 in 2 children under 5 suffers from hidden hunger due to deficiencies of vitamins and other essential nutrients.
b. Every 2 in 3 children are not fed the minimum recommended diverse diet for healthy growth and development.
c. 44% children aged 6 to 23 months are not fed fruits or vegetables and 59% are not fed eggs, dairy, fish or meat.
d. In 2018, almost 200 million children under 5 suffered from stunting or wasting while at least 340 million suffered from hidden hunger.
COVID-19: Know all about it
A new strain of coronavirus, novel coronavirus or COVID-19, was discovered in the city of Wuhan in China in December 2019. The COVID-19 virus is a new virus linked to the same family of viruses as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and some types of common cold. Unfortunately, till date, there is no vaccine to treat the disease, which has infected lakhs of people worldwide.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), over 12 lakh cases have been tested positive for COVID-19 globally with almost 70,000 deaths till March end.
How does COVID-19 spread?
The virus is transmitted through direct contact with respiratory droplets of an infected person (spread through coughing and sneezing) and/or by touching surfaces contaminated with the virus.
Symptoms of COVID-19
Symptoms can include fever, fatigue, runny nose, cough, diarrhoea and shortness of breath. In complicated cases, the patient might have pneumonia and multiple organ failure.
It is important to note that almost 80% of people recover from the virus; One out of every five–six people infected with the virus becomes seriously ill and faces difficulty in breathing.
a. Wash your hands frequently using soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub.
b. Cover your mouth and nose with flexed elbow or tissue when coughing or sneezing. Dispose the used tissue immediately. In case you have any respiratory symptom, use a mask to prevent others from being infected.
c. Maintain social distancing at all costs. Unless there is a medical emergency or a need to fetch essentials, stay indoors. While going outside in emergency situations, wear a mask and maintain approx. 2 metre distance from other people.
d. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
Several countries, such as India, China, France, Italy, New Zealand, Poland and the UK, have implemented mass quarantines and nationwide lockdown. Therefore, not only has COVID affected public health but also induced recession in the global economy.
Despite the world going through a difficult phase, it seems like the earth is healing. Many countries have reported a significant improvement in their air quality; canals and beaches have become cleaner, and skies have cleared up.
With so much happening around the world, it is important for us to understand the seriousness of the issue and keep ourselves updated and aware. However, one should not fall prey to misleading fake news and refrain from panicking.
Maharaja Ranjit Singh voted the greatest leader in world history
In a recent poll conducted by BBC World Histories magazine, Maharaja Ranjit Singh, the leader of Sikh empire during the early 19th century, was voted the greatest leader in world history. Over 5,000 magazine readers participated in the poll, out of which 38% votes were cast in favour of Singh.
Next on the list is Africa’s one of the foremost anti-colonial leaders and independence fighter Amílcar Cabral, with 25% votes. The third position has been attained by Britain’s war-time PM Winston Churchill, followed by America’s 16th president Abraham Lincoln and British Monarch Elizabeth I.
Other leaders in the top 20 included Mughal Emperor Akbar, Russian Empress Catherine the Great and French military leader Joan of Arc.
BBC had asked its readers to choose a leader who exercised power and had a positive impact on humanity and to explore their achievements and legacy.
President Ram Nath Kovind confers 61st Lalit Kala Akademi awards on 15 artists
The winners of the 61st annual Lalit Kala Akademi awards were felicitated by President Ram Nath Kovind at a function held at the Rashtrapati Bhavan on 4 March.
The awardees are Anoop Kumar Manzukhi Gopi, David Malakar, Devendra Kumar Khare, Dinesh Pandya, Faruque Ahmed Halder, Hari Ram Kumbhawat, Keshari Nandan Prasad, Mohan Kumar T, Ratan Krishna Saha, Sagar Vasant Kamble, Satwinder Kaur, Sunil Thiruvayur, Tejaswi Narayan Sonawane, Yashpal Singh and Yashwant Singh.
‘Artwork of these artists will be on display till March 22, 2020, at the 61st National Exhibition of Art at the Lalit Kala Akademi galleries in New Delhi’, the statement issued by the Rashtrapati Bhavan said.
Lalit Kala Akademi organises art exhibitions and award ceremonies every year to promote art and provide recognition to talented artists.
Nari Shakti Puraskar 2019 announced
President Ram Nath Kovind conferred Nari Shakti Puraskar 2019 on 15 eminent women at a special ceremony held at Rashtrapati Bhavan, New Delhi, on 8 March. The awards were presented in recognition of the efforts made by these women in providing distinguished services towards other women, especially vulnerable and marginalised ones.
The winners of the award this year are Padala Bhudevi, Bina Devi, Arifa Jan, Chami Murmu, Nilza Wangmo, Rashmi Urdhwareshe, Sardarni Mann Kaur, Kalavati Devi, Tashi and Nungshi Malik, Kaushiki Chakroborty, Bhageerathi Amma, Karthyayini Amma, Avani Chaturvedi, Bhawna Kanth and Mohana Singh.
Nari Shakti Puraskar, an initiative of the Ministry of Women and Child Development, acknowledges the efforts made by individuals and institutions to celebrate women as game changers.