Daily Current Affairs : 30th June 2020

Daily Current Affairs for UPSC CSE

  1. STARS Project
  2. India-Bhutan Hydro Project
  3. UNCAT
  4. Ban on Chinese Application
  5. West Asia Peace Plan
  6. Operation Twist
  7. Black Hole
  8. Facts for Prelims

1 . STARS Project

Context: The World Bank board has recently approved a project worth $500 million to improve the learning outcome and governance of government schools through the project STARS.

About STARS Project:

  • Scheme for Transformational and Advanced Research in Sciences (STARS) for promoting translational, India-centric research in Sciences, to be implemented and managed by Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore.
  • The project will be implemented through the Samagra Shiksha Abhiyan, the flagship central scheme of India
  • With the key objective of supporting socially relevant research, the following 6 basic thrust areas have been identified: Physics, Chemistry, Biological Sciences, Nanosciences, Data Sciences & Mathematics and Earth Sciences.
  • Six states included in the project are Himachal Pradesh, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, and Rajasthan.
  • More than 52% of children in government-run schools in the six project states belong to vulnerable sections, such as Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, and minority communities.

Key Objectives

  • To fund science projects which are translational, i.e. which have direct implications for the progress of the country, through a competitive process in an open and transparent manner.
  • Basic thrust would be to take stock of an existing problem and work backwards towards conducting research for a solution.
  • Promoting an inter-disciplinary & translational approach in research for synergy, de-duplication and greater comprehensiveness & relevance of research activity.
  • Orient science towards addressing needs & issues of the country in key sectors like health, agriculture, energy, environment, security etc.

Samagra Shiksha Abhiyan

  • It is an overarching programme for the school education sector extending from pre-school to class 12
  • It subsumes the three erstwhile Schemes of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA), and Teacher Education (TE).
  • It was launched in 2018-19.
  • The Scheme will be implemented as a Centrally Sponsored Scheme through a single State Implementation Society (SIS) at the State/UT level.
  • At the National level, there would be a Governing Council headed by Minister of Human Resource Development and a Project Approval Board (PAB) headed by Secretary, Department of School Education and Literacy.
  • The Governing Council will be empowered to modify financial and programmatic norms and approve the detailed guidelines for implementation within the overall framework of the scheme.
  • Fund sharing pattern for the scheme between Centre and States 90:10 – Centre-State ratio for the 8 North-Eastern States and 3 Himalayan States viz. Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand. 60:40 – For all other States and Union Territories with the Legislature.
  • It is 100% centrally sponsored for Union Territories without the Legislature.


  • Provision of quality education and enhancing learning outcomes of students
  • Bridging Social and Gender Gaps in School Education
  • Ensuring equity and inclusion at all levels of school education
  • Ensuring minimum standards in schooling provisions;
  • Promoting Vocationalisation of education
  • Support States in implementation of Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, 2009
  • Strengthening and up-gradation of SCERTs/State Institutes of Education and DIET as a nodal agencies for teacher training.

2 . India, Bhutan sign pact for first joint hydel project

Context: India and Bhutan took a major step forward for the construction of the 600 MW Kholongchhu project, their first hydropower joint venture project in Bhutan’s less developed eastern region of Trashiyangtse. The agreement was signed between JV Partners Sutlej Jal Vidyut Nigam (SJVN), a Himachal Pradesh PSU, and the Bhutanese Druk Green Power Corporation (DGPC)

India and Bhutan partnership in hydropower projects: 

  • India is commited to help Bhutan create a total 10,000 MW of installed capacity by 2020.
  • Under this 4 hydropower projects were built in the last 30 years totalling a capacity of 2,100 MW. Another two are under construction.
  • The Kholongchhu project is one of four additional projects agreed to in 2008. The inter-governmental agreement for the Kholongchhu project was signed in 2014 and construction will be completed in the second half of 2025.

Significance of the project:

  • It is the first time an India-Bhutan hydropower project will be constructed as a 50:50 joint venture, not as a government-to-government agreement.

3 . United Nations Convention Against Torture (UNCAT)

Context: According to the Executive Committee (India) of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) the alleged torture and killing of a father and son, both traders, in custody in Tamil Nadu last week points to a broken criminal justice system, and highlights the need for police reforms and the ratification of the United Nations Convention Against Torture (UNCAT).


  • P Jayaraj and his son Fenix, arrested for violating lockdown norms over business hours of their shop, died at a hospital in Kovilpatti, with the relatives alleging that they were severely thrashed at a police station by Tamil Nadu Police personnel.

Custodial Killing in India

  • According to the National Campaign Against Torture’s June 26 report 1,731 people had died in custody in 2019.
  • This shows the gravity of the situation and need of the hour is to bring a draft law on torture before Parliament as a top priority and also announce its commitment to the UNCAT.

What is the UNCAT?

  • The United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (UNCAT or the Convention) was adopted and opened for signature, ratification and accession by General Assembly resolution 39/46 of 10 December 1984 and entered into force on 26 June 1987, in accordance with article 27(1)
  • The Convention is an international human rights treaty which mandates a global prohibition on torture and other acts of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment and creates an instrument to monitor governments and hold them to account.
  • The absolute prohibition on torture and other acts of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment is also accepted as a principle of customary international law.
  • 166 States have ratified the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (Convention, or UNCAT)
  • India had signed in 1997 but remains among 25 other nations which have not ratified countries yet to ratify the UNCAT.

Common Human Rights Initiative (CHRI)

  • It is an independent, non-profit, non-partisan, international non-governmental organisation working in the area of human rights.
  • In 1987, several Commonwealth professional associations founded CHRI, since there was little focus on human rights within the association of 53 nations although the Commonwealth provided member countries the basis of shared common legal system.
  • Through its reports, research and advocacy, CHRI draws attention to the progress and setbacks to human rights in Commonwealth countries.
  • CHRI promotes adherence to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Commonwealth Harare Principles and other internationally recognised human rights instruments, including domestic legislation supporting human rights in Commonwealth countries.
  • It is headquartered in New Delhi, India, with offices in London, UK and Accra, Ghana.
  • CHRI’s work is split into two core themes: Access to Information and Access to Justice, which includes Prison Reform, Police Reform, and advocacy on media rights and the South Asia Media Defenders Network (SAMDEN). CHRI additionally monitors the human rights situation across the Commonwealth through its International Advocacy and Programming (IAP) unit. CHRI has also begun work on strengthening institutional response to issues of discrimination on grounds of skin colour and appearance.

4 . Ban on Chinese Applications

Context: The Government of India has banned 59 applications, most of them popular Chinese applications such as TikTok, Shareit, Mi Video Call, Club Factory and Cam Scanner, citing threat to national security and sovereignty.

About the News

  • The Ministry invoked its power under Section 69A of the Information Technology Act read with the relevant provisions of the Information Technology (Procedure and Safeguards for Blocking of Access of Information by Public) Rules, 2009.
  • The ban comes amid continuing tensions on the border between India and China and covers a variety of applications from e-commerce to gaming, social media, browsers, instant messaging and file sharing.

Reasons for the ban

  • According to the govt recent credible inputs have been provided that such apps pose threat to sovereignty and integrity of India hence government of India has decided to disallow the usage both [on] mobile and non-mobile Internet-enabled devices
  • The Ministry of Information Technology has received many complaints from various sources including several reports about misuse of some mobile apps available on Android and iOS platforms for stealing and surreptitiously transmitting users’ data in an unauthorized manner to servers which have locations outside India.
  • The compilation of these data, its mining and profiling by elements hostile to national security and defence of India, which ultimately impinges upon the sovereignty and integrity of India

 Section 69A in The Information Technology Act, 2000

  • Section 69A of the IT Act, empowers the Central Government to order that access to certain websites and computer resources) be blocked in the interest of the defense of the country, its sovereignty and integrity, the security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States, public order or for preventing incitement to the commission of an offence.
  • The details of the procedural safeguards that had to be followed while blocking access were set out in in more detail in the Information Technology (Procedure and Safeguards for Blocking for Access of Information by Public) Rules, 2009
  • Blocking can be carried out only when the Central Government is satisfied that it is necessary and the restrictions sought to be imposed fall squarely within the reasonable restrictions to freedom of speech and expression under Article 19(2).
  • It cannot be carried out without the approval of a committee that, at least, theoretically would take into account the views of all affected parties. 
  • The intermediary who fails to comply shall be punished with an imprisonment for a term which may extend to seven year and also be liable to fine.

5 . West Asia Peace Plan

Context: UN’s human rights chief has warned Israel that the aim to annex parts of the occupied West Bank was “illegal” and can lead to disastrous consequences. Israel is to take the first step towards implementing part of West Asia Peace Plan from July 1 which paved the way for annexing key parts of the West Bank.

Creation of Israel and Palestine

  • After World War I, both West Bank and the Gaza Strip became part of British-mandated Palestine.
  • But by the end of Word War II, there was a strong demand from Jews fleeing Nazi Europe for a homeland within Palestine, an Arab-dominated region.
  • When the British mandate ended in 1947, the United Nations (UN) proposed an Arab-Jewish partition of Palestine — between Palestine and the new state of Israel. This partition plan mandated 53 per cent of the land to the Jewish-majority state (Israel) and 47 per cent to the Palestinian-majority state (Palestine).
  • But the idea of creating a new-Jewish majority state didn’t bode well for the Arab countries in the Middle East.
  • Jewish paramilitary groups, however, formed the state of Israel by force in 1948. This prompted a deadly war with its Arab neighbours — Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan in 1948. This was the first Arab-Israeli war.
  • At the end of the war Israel won and ended up occupying more land than previously envisaged in the 1947 UN partition plan.
  • By the end of the war in 1949, Israel had taken up 78 per cent of the historical Palestine.
  • Palestinian territory shrank to 22 per cent of what it had earlier been. Meanwhile, the West Bank and East Jerusalem came under Jordan’s rule while West Jerusalem to Israel. The Gaza Strip was under Egyptian military rule after the 1949 war.

Six-Day War of 1967

  • The Six-Day War was a brief but bloody conflict fought in June 1967 between Israel and the Arab states of Egypt, Syria and Jordan.
  • Israel won this war too and seized the Sinai Peninsula and the Gaza Strip from Egypt, the West Bank and East Jerusalem from Jordan, and the Golan Heights from Syria. The brief war ended with a U.N.-brokered ceasefire, but it significantly altered the map of the Mideast and gave rise to lingering geopolitical friction.
  • With the exception of the Sinai Peninsula, all other parts remain occupied by Israel till date.
  • Since 1967, a large part of the Palestinian population had been living under Israeli-occupied territories in both West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

What is the current situation?

  • Both the West Bank and Gaza Strip are home to a large number of Palestinian populations.
  • It is in West Bank that 160-odd Israeli settlements and outposts now exist.
  • Palestine has staked claim to both territories — West Bank and Gaza Strip and Israel’s objective has been to keep expanding Jewish settlements in these regions.
  • There are approximately 2 million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and 3 million in the West Bank, according to the Palestinian Authority’s Population Registry.
  • Both Israel and the Palestinian authority have staked claim over Jerusalem as their capital city.
  • But the international community has broadly rejected both claims and argues that the matter should be resolved through peaceful negotiations.

Oslo Accord

  • The Oslo Accords were a landmark moment in the pursuit of peace in the Middle East. Actually a set of two separate agreements signed by the government of Israel and the leadership of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO)—the militant organization established in 1964 to create a Palestinian state in the region—the Oslo Accords were ratified in Washington, D.C., in 1993 (Oslo I) and in Taba, Egypt, in 1995 (Oslo II).
  • The agreement set out the scope of Palestinian autonomy in the West Bank and Gaza.
  • Under the Oslo Accords, both Israel and the Palestinians agreed that the status of settlements would be decided by negotiations.
  • But the negotiations process has been all but dead for several years now.
  • Israel walked into East Jerusalem in 1967 (Six-Day War), and subsequently annexed it.
  • For Israel, Jerusalem is non-negotiable. The Palestinians want East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state. Most of the world’s nations look at it as occupied territory.
  • Following the Oslo Accords between the Israeli government and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) during the 1990s, part of the West Bank came under the control of the Palestinian Authority. With varying levels of autonomy, the Palestinian Authority controls close to 40 per cent of West Bank today, while the rest is controlled by Israel.

About West Asia Peace Plan

  • It seeks to revive the stalled two-state talks between the Israelis and the Palestinians.
  • It will give Israel an expansive state with Jerusalem as its “undivided capital” and tight security control over a future Palestinian state. The plan was unveiled by US President Donald Trump.
  • The plan has been praised by Israel’s Prime Minister as a realistic path to durable peace, but rejected by President of the Palestinian Authority as a conspiracy deal.

What’s the plan?

  • It seeks to address most of the contentious issues in the conflict such as- the border of Israel, status of Palestinian refugees, Jewish settlements on the West Bank, land swap between Israel and Palestine, Israel’s security concerns and the status of the city of Jerusalem.
  • The Palestinian refugees, who were forced out from their homes during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war that followed the declaration of the state of Israel in the historic Palestine, would not be allowed to return.
  • They could move to the future Palestinian state, be integrated into the host countries or settled in other regional countries.
  • Status of Jerusalem : Jerusalem would be “the undivided capital” of Israel. Israel would in return freeze further settlement activities on the West Bank for four years (the time for negotiations).
  • Land Swap : The plan proposes some land swap for the Israeli annexation of the West Bank Jewish settlements. This will enlarge Gaza and connect the strip with the West Bank through a tunnel and the Arab towns in the southeast of Israel, which are close to Gaza, could become part of a future Palestinian state. Palestine would get control over more land than what it currently controls. US has also proposed $50 billion in investment over 10 years should Palestine accept the proposals.

Palestinian Authority

  • During this period, the Palestinian Authority should dismiss its current complaints at the International Criminal Court against Israel and refrain itself from taking further actions.
  • It should also crack down on “terrorist” groups such as Hamas and the Islamic Jihad.
  • Even to achieve statehood under the proposed conditions, the Palestinian Authority (PA) is required to stop supporting families of those jailed or killed by Israel.
  • The PA is also required to stop challenging Israeli actions on international fora.

Palestine’s Position:

  • The Palestine position is backed by most of the world powers is the formation of an independent, sovereign Palestinian state based on the 1967 border.
  • Issues like the right of return of the Palestinian refugees are to be settled in final negotiations but US has effectively rejected the Palestinian claims outright and asked them to make more compromises.

India’s Response

  • India has urged both countries to engage with each other, including on the recent proposals put forward by the United States, and find an acceptable two-state solution for peaceful coexistence.

Issues with the plan

  • The solutions to the issues that the plan would be addressing are all in  favour of the Israeli positions. For example, Israel would be allowed to annex the Jewish settlements on the West Bank as well as the Jordan Valley.

Map Marking

  • West Bank : The West Bank is located to the west of the Jordan River. It is a landlocked territory, bordered by Jordan to the east and Israel to the south, west and north.
  • Gaza Strip : The Gaza Strip is a small boot-shaped territory along the Mediterranean coast between Egypt and Israel. The Gaza Strip is densely populated with Palestinians and has been under Israeli occupation since 1967, until Israel decided to “disengage” from the territory in 2005. In 2007, Hamas, an anti-Israel military group, took over Gaza Strip.

6 . Operation Twist

Context: The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) will simultaneously buy and sell government bonds, along the lines of the Federal Reserve’s Operation Twist, in a bid to lower interest rates on long-term government bonds. The Reserve Bank last used this tool in April to accelerate the monetary transmission in the system.


  • Operation Twist is the name given to a US Federal Reserve monetary policy operation, which involves the purchase and sale of government securities to boost the economy by bringing down long-term interest rates.
  • It is primarily aimed at managing yields.
  • It first appeared in 1961 as a way to strengthen the U.S. dollar and stimulate cash flow into the economy
  • It was also used by U.S. Federal Reserve in 2011-12 to make long-term borrowing cheaper.

What is RBI’s Operation Twist?

  • The central bank will conduct the bond-swapping programme under open market operations (OMOs) for ₹10,000 crore each on 2 July.
  • The RBI will purchase longer tenure government bonds, that are maturing in 2027, 2029, 2031 and 2033, while selling four securities of shorter maturity, two of them maturing this year and two next year.


  • This simultaneous purchase and sale will bring down interest on long term loans which can lead to increase in economic spending.
  • It may also become a driving factor for long-term economic activity and the addition of new investment stock.


  • The intention behind this exercise is to manage the yields. This will address the issue of liquidity.
  • Liquidity was abundant at the shorter end but not so much at the longer end. But by making liquidity available at the long end, the move will help in monetary transmission

Open Market Operations

  • Open market operations is the sale and purchase of government securities and treasury bills by RBI or the central bank of the country.
  • The objective of OMO is to regulate the money supply in the economy. The central bank carries out the OMO through commercial banks and does not directly deal with the public.
  • When the RBI wants to increase the money supply in the economy, it purchases the government securities from the market and it sells government securities to out liquidity from the system.

7 . Black hole

Context: The LIGO Scientific and VIRGO Collaborations (LSC) have detected an unusual object whose mass falls in between that of a typical black hole and a neutron star.


  • The first ever detection by LIGO and VIRGO detectors had observed gravitational wave signals emerging from the coalescing of binary black holes was in 2015.
  • Since then they have detected mergers of pairs of black holes, pairs of neutron stars and black hole-neutron star duo.

Details of the Findings

  • The primary object in this merger had a mass of about 23.2 times that of the Sun and the smaller, secondary object had a mass of about 2.6 times the solar mass.
  • The pair combined to form a large black hole of mass 25.6 times the Sun’s mass and having radiated 0.2 solar masses.
  • The mass ratio was 1:9 for the pair. This is the largest disparity in masses that has been observed till now between members of the combining pair of objects.
  • With the mass of 23.2 solar masses, the primary object qualifies the criteria for a black hole but the calculated mass of the secondary is too light to be a black hole and too heavy to be a neutron star.

LIGO and VIRGO detectors

  • LIGO stands for “Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory”. It is the world’s largest gravitational wave observatory and a marvel of precision engineering. Comprising two enormous laser interferometers located 3000 kilometers apart, LIGO exploits the physical properties of light and of space itself to detect and understand the origins of gravitational waves (GW).
  • The Virgo interferometer is a large interferometer designed to detect gravitational waves predicted by the general theory of relativity. It consists of two 3-kilometre-long arms, which house the various machinery required to form a laser interferometer. It is designed, built and operated by a collaboration made up of 20 laboratories in 6 countries: Italy and France, the Netherlands, Poland, Hungary and Spain. Other interferometers similar to Virgo have the same goal of detecting gravitational waves, including the two LIGO interferometers in the United States (at the Hanford Site and in Livingston, Louisiana).

What Is a Black Hole?

  • A black hole is a place in space where gravity pulls so much that even light can not get out. The gravity is so strong because matter has been squeezed into a tiny space. This can happen when a star is dying.
  • Because no light can get out, people can’t see black holes. They are invisible. Space telescopes with special tools can help find black holes. The special tools can see how stars that are very close to black holes act differently than other stars.

How Do Black Holes Form?

  • Massive nuclear reactions at the centre of a star are what hold it up, preventing it from collapsing in on itself due to the mass of the material it is made of.
  • When those reactions come to an end, the star will collapse and become a smaller, denser object. Stars the size of our Sun, which is a relatively small one, will collapse to about one-hundredth of its original size, forming what is known as a white dwarf.
  • However, when stars about five times bigger than the Sun collapse, there will be a supernova — the ejection of some outer material into space.
  • What is left will be a highly dense, but exponentially smaller object in which the atoms of the matter the star was made of gets completely crushed. Such an object is called a neutron star.
  • But if a collapsing star is bigger still, then the result of the collapse will likely be a black hole. A black hole is unimaginably dense and the gravitational pull of it will be so strong that not even light will be able to escape it.

8 . Facts for Prelims

DCGI gives nod for human trials of ‘Covaxin’

  • The Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) has permitted human clinical trials of ‘Covaxin’, the country’s first vaccine candidate for COVID-19.
  • The vaccine has been developed by Hyderabad-based vaccine makers Bharat Biotech in collaboration with the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR)-National Institute of Virology.

PM SVANidhi Portal

  • The portal will provide an integrated end-to-end IT interface to users for availing benefits under the scheme.
  • The portal will help in managing loan applications, collection of documents, integration with Aadhaar etc.

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