CURRENT AFFAIRS – AUGUST 2021

 

CONTENT

 

  1. TERMS IN NEWS
  2. EVENTS IN NEWS
  3. PLACES IN NEWS
  4. PEOPLE IN NEWS
  5. INTERNATIONAL FINANCIAL SERVICES CENTRE
  6. GROWTH OF LARGER COMPANIES AT THE EXPENSE OF SMALLER ONES DURING THE PANDEMIC
  7. NATIONAL MONETISATION PIPELINE (NMP)
  8. FOUR MORE INDIAN SITES ADDED TO RAMSAR LIST AS WETLANDS OF INTERNATIONAL IMPORTANCE
  9. CONSERVATION ASSURED TIGER STANDARDS (CATS)
  10. NEW RULES FOR SMALL AND MEDIUM POULTRY FARMS
  11. SIXTH ASSESSMENT REPORT (AR 6) BY THE INTERGOVERNMENTAL PANEL ON CLIMATE CHANGE (IPCC)
  12. RCPs VS  SSPs
  13. EFFECTS OF GLOBAL WARMING ON CLIMATE CHANGE
  14. BIHAR PLANS GPS TRACKERS FOR ENDANGERED GREATER ADJUTANT STORKS
  15. SUNSCREENS AND CORALS
  16. INTERNATIONAL ARMY GAMES
  17. GOVERNOR’S POWER TO PARDON OVERRIDES SECTION 433A
  18. INDIA PLASTICS PACT
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Terms in News

  1. PRAGATI (Pro-Active Governance And Timely Implementation) – It is a public grievance platform launched in 2015 under the Prime Ministers’ Office aimed at addressing common man’s grievances, and simultaneously monitoring and reviewing important programmes and projects of the Government of India as well as projects flagged by state governments.
  2. VATAN PREM YOJANA It is a scheme launched by Gujarat Under this scheme, the  state government encourages NRIs with Gujarati origins to donate funds for development in their native villages.  Such funds donated by NRIs for a specific village would constitute 60  percent of the  total fund, where the remaining 40 percent contribution would come from the state government.
  3. UNITE Aware It is a technology platform to ensure the safety and security of peacekeepers who are operating in an increasingly complex and risky environments across the world. India has developed the technology platform in partnership with the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations and the Department of Operational Support.
  4. E-RUPI – e-RUPI is a pre-paid voucher which can be used to avail specified government services. Under direct benefit transfer regime, the government sends the beneficiaries money through their bank accounts. But many poor people do not have bank accounts. The Jan Dhan Yojana saw many bank accounts opened but the issue of not-so-poor people opening and or operating such accounts came to the fore. Another issue was that the welfare funds sent for buying food could be used for other purposes. e-RUPI hopes to obviate most of these problems. Since it is a QR Code or SMD based e-voucher, it can be delivered to the mobile phone of the intended beneficiary, so the beneficiary need not have a bank account. e-RUPI can ensure the money is spent exactly on what it was given for. Though e-RUPI is not a digital currency, its model can be used to deliver an economic benefit for a specific purpose to a specified beneficiary. In this way, the payer always has visibility over the beneficiary and benefit. It has been developed by National Payments Corporation of India.
  5. REVERSE MERGER – A merger is a corporate action where two companies decide to bring together their assets and liabilities to create a single entity that is bigger and better than either of them. A reverse merger is a merger in which a private company becomes a public company by acquiring it. It saves a private company from the complicated process and expensive compliance of becoming a public company. Instead, it acquires a public company as an investment and converts itself into a public company. However, there is another angle to the concept of a reverse merger. When a weaker or smaller company acquires a bigger company, it is a reverse merger. In addition, when a parent company merges into its subsidiary or a loss-making company acquires a profit-making company, it is also termed as a reverse merger.
  6. LANTANA ELEPHANTS The sculptures of Indian elephants made of Lantana weed by indigenous communities in the Nilgiris hills. Lantana camara, one of the 10 most invasive weeds in the world, the removal of which is highly beneficial to forests, has been used to make the life-size elephants.  These are auctioned to raise funds for conservation.
  7. METAVERSE – The Metaverse is a term used to describe a virtual space/universe within digital environments such as online games, social media, and virtual reality. It is a set of virtual spaces where you can create and explore with other people who aren’t in the same physical space as you.
  8. PHAGOCYTIC CELLS Specialised immune cells that exist in certain varieties of sea corals and anemones, which help these organisms protect themselves from viruses and bacteria in the marine ecosystem.
  9. NANO-ROBOTS – Nanorobotics describes the technology of producing machines or robots at the nanoscale. These are devices ranging in size from 0.1 to 10 micrometres and constructed of nanoscale or molecular components. The practical applications of nano-robots include –
    1. Nanomedicine
      1. to identify and destroy cancer cells.
      2. To repair tissue cells.
      3. to optimise the delivery of pharmaceutical drugs.
    2. Treatment of dental cavities using Root Canal
    3. Detection of toxic chemicals and their concentration in the environment.
  10. PROSOPIS INVASION – Prosopis is a tree species that was introduced into India’s arid landscapes in the late 19th century owing to misplaced beliefs that deserts and grasslands were wastelands and hence needed trees. Fuelwood was another reason for its introduction. As such, Prosopis was introduced in Banni, one of Asia’s largest grasslands in Gujarat, to keep the salt flats of the Rann of Kachchh in check. However, the tree has been found to be harmful to the ecology. It depletes groundwater availability, increases soil salinity, and makes the grassland more susceptible to wildfires.
  11. ZYCOV-D –  India’s first COVID-19 vaccine for those above the age of 12 years. It’s also the only DNA-based vaccine in the world and can be administered without a needle. The three-dose vaccine once administered produces the spike protein of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and elicits an immune response.
  12. IAC-1India’s first indigenous aircraft carrier.
  13. SWEAT EQUITY  Sweat equity is a non-monetary benefit that a company’s stakeholders give in labour and time, rather than a monetary contribution, that benefit the company. Sweat equity is rewarded in the form of sweat equity shares. These are shares given out by a company in exchange for labour and time rather than a monetary amount.
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Events in News

  1. OPERATION DEVI SHAKTI – India’s complex mission to evacuate its citizens and Afghan partners from Kabul after its swift takeover by the Taliban.
  2. EXERCISE TALISMAN SABRE – It is a biennial, multinational military exercise led by Australia and the United States. It is held in Australia. The other countries include Canada, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea and UK. India, China and Pakistan are not part of the exercise.  However, Australia is keen to bring India to join this exercise.
  3. AL-MOHED-AL-HINDIThe first naval exercise between India and Saudi Arabia, recently held in Saudi Arabia.
  4. KAZIND Joint training between armies of Kazakhstan and India.
  5. COLOMBO SECURITY CONCLAVE (CSC)Meeting of the deputy national security advisors (DNSAs) from India, Sri Lanka, and the Maldives discussed security cooperation across “four pillars” including maritime security, human trafficking, counterterrorism, and cybersecurity. This was the first such meeting of the DNSAs of these three countries. Bangladesh, Seychelles and Mauritius participated in the role of observers.
  6. WORLD TRIBAL DAY – World Tribal Day or International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples is observed on 9th August every year. It has been celebrated every year since 1994, in accordance with the declaration by the United Nations. There are over 476 million indigenous peoples living in 90 countries across the world, accounting for 6.2 percent of the global population. India hosts around 1/4th of these. In India, there are 705 ethnic groups that have been formally identified, out of which around 75 are Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs). The largest number of tribal communities (62) are found in Odisha.
  7. INTERNATIONAL YOUTH DAY International Youth Day is observed every  year on  12th August since 2000 by the United Nations to recognise and bring attention to the problems faced by the youth. It is different from National Youth Day, which is held every year on 12th January to  observe the birth anniversary of Swami Vivekananda.
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Places in News

  1. VALMIKI TIGER RESERVEIt is located in Bihar. It is Bihar’s only tiger reserve and is spread over 899 square kilometres near the Indo-Nepal border in the West Champaran district.
  2. KUNO-PALPUR WILDLIFE SANCTUARY It is a national park  in Madhya Pradesh,  established in 1981. In the 1990s, it was selected as a possible site to implement the Asiatic Lion Reintroduction Project, which aimed at establishing a second lion population in India. In 2009, Kuno Wildlife Sanctuary was also proposed as a possible site for Cheetah reintroduction in India.  Cheetahs were declared extinct in India in 1952 after extensive hunting wiped out their populations. As such, it was decided to introduce African Cheetah’s in India to see how well they could  adapt to conditions here.
  3. DHOLAVIRA – Recently,  it became the first Indus Civilisation site in India to receive the World Heritage tag.  Key features –
    1. Located in the state of Gujarat, along the line of tropic of cancer.
    2. Discovered in 1967-68 by JP Joshi of the Archaeological Survey of India.
    3. Dates back to 3,000 BCE to 1,500 BCE, covering nearly 1,500 years of continued habitation.
    4. Excellent example of town planning with a walled city (consisting of a citadel, the middle town and lower town), a ceremonial ground, two seasonal streams, water management system and houses of different categories indicating a social hierarchy.
    5. 5th largest Harappan site after Mohenjo-daro, Harappa, Rakhigarhi and Ganweriwala, or sixth if Lakhanjo-daro is taken into account. While  all other Harappan cities were build of brick, Dholavira was built of stone.
    6. Had trade ties with Mesopotamia and Oman peninsula.
  4. MADRAS LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL – Recently, the President addressed the commemoration of the 100th year of the Tamil Nadu Assembly, formerly known as the Madras Legislative Council (MLC) in Chennai. The Madras Legislative Council was set up in 1921 under the Government of India Act 1919.
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People in News

  1. DHRITI BANERJEE – Recently appointed, first woman director of Zoological Survey of India.
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International Financial Services Centre

  1. An IFSC (International Financial Services Centre) caters to customers outside the jurisdiction of the domestic economy. Such centres deal with flows of finance, financial products and services across borders. At present, the GIFT IFSC in Gujarat is the maiden international financial services centre in India.
  2. IFSCA (International Financial Services Centre Authority) is a statutory authority established in April 2020 by the Government of India. It is a unified authority for the development and regulation of financial products, financial services and financial institutions in the IFSC  (International Financial Services Centre) in India. Prior to the establishment of IFSCA, the domestic financial regulators, namely, RBI, SEBI, PFRDA and IRDAI regulated the business in IFSC.
  3. The recent announcement by the NSE International Exchange and INX (India International Exchange) that they will enable trading in global stocks on their platforms in the International Financial Services Centre is a welcome move. It expands the array of products available to investors in the offshore centre. While the NSE IFSC is planning to make available select US stocks which will be offered in the form of unsponsored depository receipts, India INX plans to offer stocks from other advanced economies as well. Given the uneven growth witnessed across countries during the pandemic, domestic investors can use this facility to diversify risk in their equity portfolios.
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Growth of larger companies at the expense of smaller ones during the pandemic

  1. Contrary to the view that listed companies would have suffered greatly due to demand destruction during the lockdown last year, big companies have made great profits in FY21, at the aggregate earnings level. Many market experts have been making the point that severe economic disruptions such as the demonetisation, GST rollout and the ongoing pandemic have made listed companies gain at the expense of smaller businesses, especially in the unorganised sector.
    1. The companies that list on the stock market are the largest and most profitable in each industry. They have deep pockets to make quick adjustments to alter their supply channels according to changing customer needs during the pandemic.
    2. The big companies took over market of many smaller businesses that remained shut during the lockdown.
    3. Big companies seem to have used the lower demand and greater liquidity and fiscal support during the pandemic to strengthen their balance sheets.
    4. Owing to pandemic induced lockdown, there was a significant decline in capital expenditure of big companies, especially the ones related to white collar (managerial/IT) jobs. Overheads such as electricity, staff welfare, travel, rent and so on have been pruned considerably with employees working from home.
    5. The disruption caused by the pandemic brought about changes in the manner of doing business, which helped  big companies realign strategies for their long-term growth. For instance, many consumer facing businesses have taken to digital route to sell their products, which has expanded their reach considerably, given the proliferation of smartphone usage.
  2. Commodity producers have gained the most from the reduction in global production and shutting down of capacities, which resulted in prices moving higher.
  3. However, reducing leverage (or loan taking capability) of larger borrowers is however not good for banks. With need for loans from larger companies going down during the pandemic, banks’ exposure to better rated large borrowers is declining. With the monetary policy measures incentivising lending to the micro, small and medium enterprises, the banks are feeling  the stress of this pandemic induced disruption.
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National Monetisation Pipeline (NMP)

  1. It refers to leasing out of government-owned roads, railways, power plants, gas pipelines, airports, ports, warehouses etc for a specified period to non-government entities. The government will receive money for the transfer either in the form of an upfront payment or as a revenue share.
  2. The primary ownership of assets under NMP will continue to be with the government. Private entities will use the asset for a said tenure, at the end of which they will be handed back to the public authority. 
  3. It is based on the idea that while government has created many assets, running these assets efficiently is something that should be left to private sector which specialises in managing such assets. However, this could also mean higher charges to be paid by the public for basic services such as roads, railways, hospitals etc. The  tax payers may argue against such initiatives as they would expect basic services to be delivered free of cost. Therefore, such policy initiative needs to be discussed in detail to ensure it is a win-win situation for all.
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Four more Indian sites added to Ramsar list as wetlands of international importance

  1. Four more Indian sites, two each from Haryana and Gujarat, have been recognised as wetlands of international importance under the Ramsar Convention, taking the number of such sites in the country to 46. The new wetlands are-
    1. Sultanpur National Park in Haryana
    2. Bhindawas Wildlife Sanctuary in Haryana is the largest wetland in Haryana. It is human made freshwater wetland.
    3. Thol Lake Wildlife Sanctuary in Gujarat
    4. Wadhvana Wetland in Gujarat
  2. Some of the species found in these wetlands are –
    1. CRITICALLY ENDANGERED SPECIES
      1. Sociable Lapwing
      2. White-rumped Vulture
    2. ENDANGERED SPECIES
      1. Egyptian Vulture
      2. Saker Falcon
      3. Pallas’s Fish Eagle
      4. Black-bellied Tern
    3. VULNERABLE
      1. Sarus Crane
      2. Common Pochard
      3. Lesser White-fronted Goos
  3. The Ramsar Convention is an international treaty for the conservation and wise use of wetlands. It is named after the Iranian city of Ramsar, on the Caspian Sea, where the treaty was signed in 1971.
  4. The 46 Ramsar sites in India include the Chilika Lake in Odisha, Keoladeo National Park in Rajasthan, Harike Lake in Punjab, Loktak Lake in Manipur and Wular Lake in Jammu and Kashmir.
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Conservation Assured Tiger Standards (CATS)

  1. It is a set of criteria which allows tiger sites to check if their management will lead to successful tiger conservation.  Sites are evaluated through an assessment and independent review process.
  2. Officially launched in 2013, CATS is an important part of Tx2, the global goal to double wild tiger numbers by the year 2022.
  3. India has the highest 94 tiger sites, out of which assessment was completed for 20 tiger reserves this year. Only 14 tiger reserves in India got the CATS tag this year. Well-known reserves like Corbett, Ranthambore and Bandhavgarh did not get the tag.
  4. CONCERNS
    1. Tiger habitats (tiger reserves and tiger corridors) continue to be diverted for infrastructural projects such as roads, railways, pipelines, transmission lines, etc.
    2. Fragmentation of tiger territories, which often leads to patches of isolated tiger reserves. Landscape connectivity plays a significant role in conservation.
    3. Small size of conservation sites which pushes tigers to the periphery of the forests by which they can stray into non-forested areas for prey, and can get involved in human-wildlife conflict.
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New rules for small and medium poultry farms

  1. Animal agriculture is highly polluting yet has remained comprehensively unregulated in India. Gaseous emissions and waste are a major problem in poultry farming. The faeces of poultry birds emit gaseous ammonia, hydrogen sulphide and methane, all of which produce odours. Furthermore, intensive poultry production may be responsible for greenhouse gasses, acidification and eutrophication.
  2. Poultry, hatchery and piggery were considered ‘green’ by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) in its guidelines of 2015. This meant they were exempt from air, water and environmental protection laws.
  3. According to new guidelines for poultry farmers, those who have 5,000-25,000 birds are small farmers, those who have more than 25,000 and less than 100,000 birds are medium farmers, and those who have more than 100,000 birds are large farmers. The new guidelines provide that
    1. Small and marginal poultry farmers in India will now have to take measures similar to their bigger counterparts to prevent environmental pollution. Care should be taken so that poultry faeces do not mix with running water.
    2. For establishing and operating a medium-sized poultry farm of 25,000-100,000 birds, a farmer will have to obtain a certificate of Consent to Establishment or Consent to Operate. This will have to be taken from the State Pollution Control Board or Committee under the Water Act, 1974 and the Air Act, 1981. Permission will be valid for 15 years.
    3. A farm should be set up 500 metres away from a residential area, 100 metres from rivers, lakes, canals and drinking water sources, 100 metres from national highways and 10-15 metres from village footpaths and rural roads.
  4. According to the 20th Livestock Census, there are 851.8 million poultry birds in India. Tamil Nadu has the highest poultry population.
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Sixth Assessment Report (AR-6) by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)

  1. The dominant cause of the observed decrease of south and southeast Asian monsoon precipitation since mid-20th century is anthropogenic aerosol.
  2. Anthropogenic aerosol is a suspension of fine solid particles or liquid droplets in air created mostly by air pollutant like particulate and smoke emitted from vehicles, industries and other sources. Aerosol acts in diverse ways
    1. At a macro scale, these act as a barrier to heat radiations falling on earth, that get reflected by these suspended aerosols, leading to cooling effect, and relatively lesser monsoon.
    2. At a micro scale, especially in urban centres, it contributes to intense bursts of downpour. High intensity of heat released in the major cities, coupled with locally generated air pollution, triggers aerosol load that contributes in cloud formation. Urban structure often trap the wind and act together to bring bursts of intense rainfalls.
  3. The level of air pollution, particularly toxic particulate like particulate matter 2.5, has been found to be the highest in Indian sub-continent with Bangladesh, Pakistan and India occupying top three positions respective at global benchmark. This has reduced the intensity as well as frequency of monsoon rains in India and the rest of south Asia.
  4. AR-6 forms the base for climate change negotiations to be held as part of upcoming Conference of Parties (COP-26) to be held in Glasgow, in Scotland.
  5. It is to be noted that India is among four South Asian countries where children are most at risk of the impacts of climate change threatening their health, education, and protection, according to a new UNICEF report.
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Representative Concentration Pathways (RCPs) vs Shared Socio Economic Pathways (SSPs)

  1. These are the pathways (possible scenarios) researchers use to predict future climate change. The two efforts were designed to be complementary. 
  2. RCPs describe different levels of greenhouse gases and other radiative forcings that might occur in the future.
  3. SSPs describe different ways in which the world might evolve in the absence of climate policy. It assumes that underlying factors, such as population, technological, and economic growth, could lead to very different future emissions and warming outcomes, irrespective of any climate policy. SSPs are based on five different narratives on how the world would evolve.
    1. a world of sustainability-focused growth and equality (SSP1)
    2. a ‘middle of the road’ world where trends broadly follow their historical patterns (SSP2)
    3. a fragmented world of ‘resurgent nationalism’ (SSP3)
    4. a world of ever-increasing inequality (SSP4)
    5. a world of rapid and unconstrained growth in economic output and energy use (SSP5)
  4. SSP1 and SSP5 envision relatively optimistic trends for human development. Both envision low levels of population rise. However, SSP5 envisions the highest GDP growth. They differ in that SSP5 assumes this will be driven by an energy-intensive, fossil fuel-based economy, while in SSP1 there is an increasing shift toward sustainable practices. SSP3 and SSP4 are more pessimistic in their future economic and social development. SSP2 represents a ‘middle of the road’ scenario historical patterns of development are continued throughout the 21st century.
  5. While AR-5 was based on RCPs, AR-6 is based on both RCPs as well as SSPs. The AR-6 report highlights that even  if assume a middle of the road scenario, that poses a medium challenge to mitigation and adaptation, we would still breach the ambitious limits to restrict global warming to 1.5 degrees between 2030-40, and to  2.0 degrees between 2050-60.
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Effects of Global Warming induced Climate Change

  1. Both hydrological/Ecological droughts and floods occurring simultaneously in various parts of the country, and sometimes happening over the same  region, have become quite common. Hydrological drought refers to a lack of water in the hydrological system, manifesting itself in abnormally low streamflow in rivers and abnormally low levels in lakes, reservoirs, and groundwater. Ecological drought is an episodic deficit in water availability that drives ecosystems beyond thresholds of vulnerability, and impacts ecosystem services.
  2. Global warming leads to extreme land and sea surface temperatures.  A warmer atmosphere holds more water vapour ( Every 1oC rise in temperature increases water vapour holding capacity of air by approximately 7 percent). As such, global warming has been leading to more moisture in the air, which in turns leads to more intense rain spells. Heavy rain is not good for any reason as it leads to river run offs causing mass destruction, and also leads to washing away of nutrients in the soil. At the same time, it leads to increased droughts in areas where moisture content in land is already very low. AR-6 report says that central and western India would witness chronic drought conditions, due to global warming.
  3. Glaciers melt at unprecedented levels has been resulting in flood like situations during summers, and dry outs during winter, in Himalayan rivers. River runs off and landslide disasters have been happening more frequently over past few years in Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh regions of India.
  4. Oceans have been absorbing 20-30 percent of CO2 released in atmosphere. Increased sea surface temperatures lead to more vaporisation of sea surface water, which instead increases the concentration of CO2 in sea water leading to its acidification, which is detrimental to marine ecosystem. According to AR-6, Arabian Sea has witnessed more acidification than Bay of Bengal.
  5. The increase in sea surface temperatures makes coastal areas susceptible to intense tropical cyclones. AR-6 report has attributed increased tropical cyclones over Arabian sea in recent years to increased anthropogenic (human induced) activities. Increase in sea level poses threat to coastal regions. Since 1901, sea level has risen so far by  0.2m, and is expected to rise by as much as 0.77m by the year 2100.
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Bihar plans GPS trackers for endangered Greater Adjutant Storks

  1. The greater adjutant stork (known as Garuda in India) is classified as ‘Endangered ‘on the IUCN’s Red List 2004 of threatened species and listed under Schedule IV of the Indian Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972.
  2. The global population of the Greater Adjutant Stork is estimated to be roughly not more than 1500 now. 
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Sunscreens and Corals

  1. 3 O’s (Oxybenzone, Octinoxate, Octocrylene(which degrades to carcinogenic benzophenone)) commonly found in sun creams have been shown to kill coral larvae, impede coral reproduction and cause reef bleaching.
  2. When released into the ocean water, it forms a layer on surface of the corals and directly impacts the growth and photosynthesis process of the reefs.
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International Army Games

  1. The International Army Games is an annual Russian military sports event organiSed by the Ministry of Defence of Russia (MoD). The event, which was first staged in 2015, involves close to 30 countries taking part in dozens of competitions over two weeks to prove which is the most skilled. As such, these games have been also referred to as the War Olympics.
  2. India has been one of the participants in the games.
  3. Although the event is organised by Russia, it is not necessarily held in Russia and has been held in other countries as well.
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Governor’s Power to Pardon Overrides Section 433A

  1. Section 433A states that where a sentence of imprisonment for life is imposed on conviction of a person for an offence for which death is one of the punishments provided by law, or where a sentence of death imposed on a person has been commuted under section 433 into one of imprisonment for life, such person shall not be released from prison unless he had served at least fourteen years of imprisonment.
  2. Recently, the Supreme Court (SC) held that the Governor’s power to pardon overrides Section 433A of Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC).
  3. The court also noted that the sovereign power of a Governor to pardon a prisoner under Article 161 is actually exercised by the state government and not the Governor on his own.
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India Plastics Pact 

  1. The India Plastics Pact, the first in Asia, is a collaboration between Confederation of Indian Industries (CII) and World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).
  2. It seeks to bring together businesses, governments and NGOs across the whole value chain to set time-bound commitments to reduce plastics from their value chains.
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