1. Gamosas

Why in News?
  • The multipurpose Assamese Gamosa, a ubiquitous, white cotton towel, has been assigned a new function — conservation of rare Freshwater Turtles Recently.
  • Few cultural symbols are as utilitarian as the white handmade cotton Gamosa, with its characteristic red border of woven motifs.
  • It is also valued as a gift for visitors, used as a scarf, anti-dust mask, wrapped around the head as a turban.
  • Conservationists are now banking on this cultural icon to carry forward the message of turtle conservation, with Gamosa woven with turtle images.
  • The 124th Geographical Indications Journal has accepted the application for Assamese Gamosa for GI tag.
  • It is to be noted here that it has not yet approved GI Tag.
  • In India, GI tag is governed by Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection Act), 1999.
  • This Act is administered by Controller General of Patents, Designs and Trade Marks, who is also Registrar of Geographical Indications.

2. Paraquat Dichloride

Why in News?
  • The use of herbicide Paraquat which killed more people in the last two years in Odisha is now under Serious Restrictions.
  • Paraquat is a toxic chemical that is widely used as an herbicide (plant killer), primarily for weed and grass control.
  • It has been banned in 32 countries including Switzerland, where herbicide producing company Sygenta is based.
  • Paraquat also figures on the list of 99 pesticides and herbicides the Supreme Court to ban in an ongoing case.
  • Paraquat dichloride is being used for 25 crops in India, whereas it is approved to be used on only nine crops by the Central Insecticide Board and Registration Committee. This is a violation of the Indian Insecticides Act.
  • So far in India, only Kerala has banned the herbicide.
  • Another violation: since farmers can’t and don’t read the label on paraquat containers, retailers sell paraquat in plastic carry bags and refill bottles.
  • Paraquat poisoning, specifically suicide attempts by consuming the fatal chemical, has emerged as a social tragedy in Odisha.
  • Unlike other pesticides, insecticides or herbicides, there is no antidote to this compound.
  • There are reasons the government has not imposed an outright ban on the herbicide.
  • It has its benefits, like saving farmers money and time as it is cheap and effectively kills weeds quicker than manual de-weeding.
  • Yet, the government could have done more by imposing strict regulations on stock and sale of the herbicide. Unless open availability is curbed, no exercise will be successful in preventing deaths.

3. Bougainville

Why in News?
  • Bougainville people vote for independence in the historic referendum, the world will get its newest and possibly smallest nation.
  • It is the eastern most island of Papua New Guinea, in the Solomon Sea southwester Pacific.
  • Along with Buka Island and several island groups, it forms the autonomous region of Bougainville.Geographically it is the largest of the Solomon Islands.
  • The conflict in Bougainville and its people for independence is rooted in historic plunder of the resource rich island that has large deposits of copper and the un equal distribution of wealth.In between 1988-1998, Bougainville were involved in an armed conflict with the government of Papua New Guinea, in an attempt of force Papua New Guinea to divest control of resource rich island.
  • The Bougainville Peace Agreement, signed in 2001 brought an end to the violent conflict between the people of Bougainville and the government of Papua New Guinea.

4. Global Housing Technology Challenge-India (GHTC-India)

Why in News?
  • MoAs for Light House Projects under GHTC – India Exchanged between the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs and State Governments.
  • Memorandums of Agreement (MoAs) were signed between the Ministry and six state governments for Light House Projects under GHTC-India.
  • Six states: Gujarat, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Tripura and Uttar Pradesh
  • For addressing the housing demand of more than 10 million houses by 2022, the Government of India launched the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana-Urban, in June 2015.
  • To accomplish ‘Housing for All’ mission, the Global Housing Technology Challenge-India (GHTC-India) was launched to get globally acclaimed, alternate and proven construction technologies for speedier and cost-effective construction of affordable housing.
  • The Prime Minister declared 2019-2020 as ‘Construction Technology Year’.
GHTC – India:
  • This is a challenge instituted for all states and UTs to select six sites across the country for constructing lighthouse projects.
  • The challenge has been launched to bring about a paradigm shift in the housing construction technology sector.
  • The states and union territories that score the highest marks were awarded lighthouse projects.
  • The term lighthouse project refers to a model project that aims, besides its original purpose, to have a signal effect for numerous follow-up projects as they look towards it for inspiration and guidance. (Light House – Something that gives guidance or shows the way)
  • It is under this challenge that the 6 states were awarded the projects.
  • The winning states will receive central assistance to construct these projects as per the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (Urban) guidelines.
  • The challenge is intended to foster the development of domestic technological research, and building platforms for knowledge sharing and networking across the sector.
  • The challenge was launched in January 2019.
Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana – Urban (PMAY-U):
  • The PMAY-U was launched in 2015 to provide housing for all by 2022.
  • The scheme provides central assistance to Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) and other implementing agencies through States/UTs.
  • The programme has 4 verticals:
  • Credit Link Subsidy Scheme (CLSS)
  • In-situ rehabilitation of existing slum dwellers using land as a resource through private participation
  • Affordable Housing in Partnership (AHP)
  • Subsidy for beneficiary led individual house construction/enhancement

5. Sabka Vishwas (Legacy Dispute Resolution) Scheme, 2019

  • The aim of Sabka Vishwas (Legacy Dispute Resolution) Scheme, 2019 is to help taxpayers, including small taxpayers, in clearing the baggage of disputes under legacy taxes (Service Tax and Central Excise), which are subsumed in Goods and Service Tax.
  • The scheme is for taxpayers who wish to close their pending disputes, with a substantial relief provided by the government.
  • This scheme is effective from 1st September 2019 to 31st December 2019.
  • The two main components of the Scheme are dispute resolution and amnesty.
  • The dispute resolution component is aimed at liquidating the legacy cases of Central Excise and Service Tax that are subsumed in GST and are pending in litigation at various forums.
  • The amnesty component of the Scheme offers an opportunity to the taxpayers to pay the outstanding tax and be free of any other consequence under the law.
  • For all the cases pending in adjudication or appeal – in any forum – this Scheme offers a relief of 70% from the duty demand if it is Rs.50 lakhs or less and 50% if it is more than Rs.50 lakhs.
  • As the objective of the Scheme is to free as large a segment of the taxpayers from the legacy taxes as possible, the relief given thereunder is substantial.
  • The Scheme is especially tailored to free the large number of small taxpayers of their pending disputes with the Tax Administration.
Benefits of this Scheme:
  • Taxpayers can pay the outstanding tax amounts due and be free from any other consequences under the law.
  • Taxpayers will get substantial relief in the form of full waivers of interest, penalties and fines.
  • There will be complete amnesty from prosecution proceedings.

6. Golden Rice

Why in News?
  • Bangladesh is set to becoming the first country to approve plantation of Golden Rice variety to counter Vitamin A deficiency.
Golden Rice:
  • In the late 1990s, German scientists developed a genetically modified variety of rice called Golden Rice.
  • It is a variety of rice (Oryza sativa) produced through genetic engineering to biosynthesize beta-carotene, a precursor of vitamin A, in the edible parts of rice.
  • It differs from its parental strain by the addition of three beta-carotene biosynthesis genes.
  • The parental strain can naturally produce beta-carotene in its leaves, where it is involved in photosynthesis.
Why Golden Rice?
  • Golden Rice is intended to produce a fortified food to be grown and consumed in areas with a shortage of dietary vitamin A.
  • It was claimed to be able to fight Vitamin A deficiency, which is the leading cause of blindness among children and can also lead to death due to infectious diseases such as measles.
  • Rice is naturally low in the pigment beta-carotene, which the body uses to make Vitamin A. Golden rice contains this, which is the reason for its golden colour.
  • The claim has sometimes been contested over the years, with a 2016 study from Washington University in St Louis reporting that the variety may fall short of what it is supposed to achieve.
Why in Bangladesh?
  • Advocates of the variety stress how it can help countries where Vitamin A deficiencies leave millions at high risk.
  • In Bangladesh, over 21 per cent of the children have vitamin A deficiency.
  • The Golden Rice that is being reviewed in Bangladesh is developed by the Philippines-based International Rice Research Institute.
  • According to the institute, this rice variety will not be more expensive than the conventional variety.

7. Bill on protecting mediapersons

Why in News?
  • President has given assent to a legislation passed by the Maharashtra Assembly in 2017 that makes violent attacks on mediapersons a non-bailable offence.
  • Maharashtra is the first State to pass such legislation.
Maharashtra Mediapersons and Media Institutions Act, 2017:
  • The Maharashtra Media Persons and Media Institutions (Prevention of Violence and Damage or Loss to Property) Act, 2017, also has a provision of imprisonment and a fine of ₹50,000.
  • It was passed by the Assembly in 2017, but received the President’s assent in October after the Union Home Ministry scrutinized the legislation and consulted all concerned Ministries.
  • The MHA had returned the Bill to the Maharashtra government last year to seek clarification.
  • The Bill has a provision that any offence against a mediapersons will be investigated by a police officer above the rank of a Deputy Superintendent of Police.
Why need such Law?
  • There are rampant instances of violence and attacks against mediapersons and damage or loss to the property of media institutions.
  • There is strong demand to prevent such violence against mediapersons or damage or loss to the property belonging to mediapersons or media institutions and check the recurrence of such incidents in the State.
  • In 2017, the MHA also issued an advisory to all States to ensure the “safety and security of journalists”.
  • The advisory was issued days after Bengaluru-based journalist Gauri Lankesh was shot dead near her home.
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