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Current Affairs 19 December 2020 for UPSC Exam


  1. Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity List: UNESCO
  2. India mulls E20 fuel
  3. Epidemic Act’s review suggestions
  4. Govt’s National Security Directive


Focus: GS-I Art and Culture

Why in news?

  • UNESCO has recognized Singapore’s hawker culture by adding it to the List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity at the 15th session of the Intergovernmental Committee (IGC), after a nomination was submitted by the Singapore Government.
  • With right incentives, the counterpart of hawkers in India will have the potential to be recognized as well.

Tangible and Intangible Heritage

  • Cultural heritage in general consists of the products and processes of a culture that are preserved and passed on through the generations.
  • Some of that heritage takes the form of cultural property, formed by tangible artefacts such as buildings or works of art.
  • Many parts of culture, however are intangible, including song, music, dance, drama, skills, cuisine, crafts and festivals.
  • Hence, buildings, historic places, monuments, and artifacts are physical intellectual wealth – hence they are “Tangible”.
  • “Intangible” heritage consists of nonphysical intellectual wealth, such as folklore, customs, beliefs, traditions, knowledge, and language.
  • An intangible cultural heritage (ICH) is a practice, representation, expression, knowledge, or skill considered by UNESCO to be part of a place’s cultural heritage.

Definition of Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH)

As the practices, representations, expressions, as well as the knowledge and skills (including instruments, objects, artifacts, cultural spaces), that communities, groups and, in some cases, individuals recognize as part of their cultural heritage. It is sometimes called living cultural heritage.

Intangible Cultural Heritage is manifested in the following domains:

  1. Oral traditions and expressions, including language;
  2. Performing arts;
  3. Social practices, rituals and festive events;
  4. Knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe;
  5. Traditional craftsmanship

Representative list of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity

The Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity contains intangible cultural heritage elements that “help demonstrate the diversity of cultural heritage and raise awareness about its importance”.

Elements in India which are included in the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:

1Koodiyattam: a Sanskrit theatre of Kerala
2Mudiyett: a ritual theatre and dance drama of Kerala
3Vedic chantings: recitation of sacred Hindu texts
4Ramlila: the traditional performance of the Ramayana
5Ramman: a religious festival and ritual theatre of Garhwal, Uttarakhand
6Kalbelia: folk songs and dances of Rajasthan
7Chhau dance: a classical dance form of Odisha and West Bengal
8Ladakh Buddhist chantings: recitation of sacred Buddhist texts in Ladakh
9Manipuri Sankirtana: a ritual singing, drumming and dancing of Manipur
10Thatheras Utensil Making: Traditional brass and copper craft of utensil making among the Thatheras of Jandiala Guru, Punjab   
11Yoga: ancient Indian physical, mental and spiritual practices originating in ancient India
12Kumbh Mela: mass Hindu pilgrimage held at Haridwar of Uttarakhand, Nashik of Maharashtra, Prayagraj of Uttar Pradesh and Ujjain of Madhya Pradesh
13Nowruz: In India, Navroz (New Year) is celebrated by the Parsi community who are followers of the Zoroastrian religion. It is also celebrated by the ‘Bahai’ community and the Kashmiris who call it ‘ Navreh’.
  • The Ministry of Culture has also launched the draft National List of Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) of India.
  • The National ICH List is an attempt to recognize the diversity of Indian culture embedded in its intangible heritage.
  • This initiative is also a part of the Vision 2024 of the Ministry of Culture.

-Source: Indian Express


Focus: GS-III Environment and Ecology

Why in news?

  • The government proposed the adoption of E20 fuel — a blend of 20% of ethanol and gasoline — as an automobile fuel in order to reduce vehicular emissions as well as the country’s oil import bill.
  • The current permissible level of blending is 10% of ethanol though India reached only 5.6% of blending in 2019.
  • The Government has 10% blending target for mixing ethanol with petrol by 2022 & 20% blending target by 2030.

Benefits of using E20 Compliant vehicles

  • Widespread use of E20 fuel provides value addition to agriculture feedstock resulting in increase in farm income, creation of more jobs in rural sector and creating job at local levels.
  • It will help in reducing emissions of carbon dioxide, hydrocarbons, etc.
  • It will help reduce the oil import bill, thereby saving foreign exchange and boosting energy security.
  • Studies show that there will be no measurable impact to vehicle drivability or maintenance in conventional internal combustion engines with use of E20 fuel.
  • On a technical level: E20 fuel has improved anti-knocking properties as it has a higher-octane number and it also undergoes complete combustion due to its higher oxygen content.

What is Ethanol fuel?

  • Ethanol fuel is ethyl alcohol, the same type of alcohol found in alcoholic beverages, used as fuel.
  • It is most often used as a motor fuel, mainly as a biofuel additive for gasoline.
  • Ethanol is commonly made from biomass such as corn or sugarcane.
  • Bioethanol is a form of renewable energy that can be produced from agricultural feedstocks.
  • It can be made from very common crops such as hemp, sugarcane, potato, cassava and corn.
  • There has been considerable debate about how useful bioethanol is in replacing gasoline.
  • Concerns about its production and use relate to increased food prices due to the large amount of arable land required for crops, as well as the energy and pollution balance of the whole cycle of ethanol production, especially from corn.

Ethanol Blended Petrol Programme (EBP)

  • Ethanol Blended Petrol (EBP) programme was launched in 2003- and this initiative is pursued aggressively in the last 4 to 5 years to reduce import dependence of crude oil as well as mitigate environmental pollution.
  • The Ethanol Blending Programme (EBP) seeks to achieve blending of Ethanol with motor sprit with a view to reducing pollution, conserve foreign exchange and increase value addition in the sugar industry enabling them to clear cane price arrears of farmers.

National Policy on Biofuels 2018

  • The National Policy on Biofuels expands the scope of raw material for ethanol production by allowing use of Sugarcane Juice, Sugar containing materials like Sugar Beet, Sweet Sorghum, Starch containing materials like Corn, Cassava, Damaged food grains like wheat, broken rice, Rotten Potatoes, unfit for human consumption for ethanol production.
  • The Policy allows use of surplus food grains for production of ethanol for blending with petrol with the approval of National Biofuel Coordination Committee.
  • The Policy encourages setting up of supply chain mechanisms for biodiesel production from non-edible oilseeds, Used Cooking Oil, short gestation crops.
  • Among other things, the policy expands the scope of feedstock for ethanol production and has provided for incentives for production of advanced biofuels.
  • The policy has the objective of reaching 20% ethanol-blending and 5% biodiesel-blending by the year 2030.

-Source: The Hindu


Focus: GS-II Governance

Why in news?

  • The Parliamentary panel on Home Affairs, in its deliberations on the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic in the country, said there is need to revisit the provisions of the Epidemic Act, 1897.
  • The panel also advised prudence in the approval of vaccine and admitted that micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) have been among the businesses hit the hardest by the pandemic and the lockdown.


  • The Committee observes that the provisions of the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897, have helped in managing Covid-19, but this Act is outdated as it was framed in the colonial-era, well before the Spanish flu of 1918.
  • There are parts of the Epidemic Act that can suppress civil liberty and lead to invasion of a person’s privacy.
  • There is also the concern that the government may not be held accountable for actions done under the guise of this Act.
  • The panel also weighed in on the large-scale exodus of migrant workers to their homes in the hinterland after the businesses they were employed in downed shutters during the lockdown. It has recommended a revision of the Inter-State Migrant Workmen (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Services) Act to address the deficiencies and lapses that came to the fore during the exodus. It has also advised the creation of a migrant workers database to enable the extension of relief measures and delivery of rations to such workers.

Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897

  • The Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897 is a law which was first enacted to tackle bubonic plague in Bombay state in former British India.
  • The law is meant for containment of epidemics by providing special powers that are required for the implementation of containment measures to control the spread of the disease.
  • The Act has been routinely used to contain various diseases in India such as swine flu, cholera, malaria and dengue.

How did the Epidemic Diseases come to be?

  • Epidemic Diseases Bill 1897, was tabled during an outbreak of bubonic plague. Plague had taken root in Bombay has been gradually extending to other parts of the country.
  • The Bill called for special powers for governments of Indian provinces and local bodies, including to check passengers of trains and sea routes.
  • The British government was particularly worried about Calcutta, then the Indian capital, hence, the Bill was being tabled and passed hurriedly.
  • Woodburn was told that “many of the (Indians) would rather die of the plague than allow themselves to be segregated or removed”.

Provisions of the 1897 Epidemic Diseases Act:

  1. It empowers state governments/UTs to take special measures and formulate regulations for containing the outbreak.
  2. It also empowers state to prescribe such temporary regulations to be observed by the public or by any person or class of persons as it shall deem necessary to prevent the outbreak of such disease or the spread thereof.
  3. The state may determine in what manner and by whom any expenses incurred (including compensation if any) shall be defrayed.
  4. It also provides penalties for disobeying any regulation or order made under the Act. These are according to section 188 of the Indian Penal Code (Disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant).
  5. It also gives legal protection to the implementing officers acting under the Act.

-Source: The Hindu


Focus: GS-II Internal Security Challenges

Why in news?

  • In a bid to tighten security of communications network, the Cabinet Committee on Security announced the National Security Directive on Telecommunication Sector, which will mandate service providers to purchase equipment from trusted sources.
  • Under the provisions of this directive, the government will declare a list of trusted sources and trusted products for installation in the country’s telecom network.
  • Earlier in 2020, reports said that India will likely cut Huawei gear from telecom network.

National Security Directive

  • National Security Directive aims to classify telecom products and their sources under the ‘trusted’ and ‘non-trusted’ categories.
  • It will make its decision based on approval of the National Security Committee on Telecom.
  • It will be headed by the deputy National Security Advisor (NSA) and have members from other departments and ministries, and independent experts as well as two members from the industry.
  • The National Cyber Security Coordinator is the designated authority and will devise the methodology to designate trusted products.
  • From among the sources declared as trusted sources by the designated authority, those which meet the criteria of the Department of Telecom’s preferential market access policy will be certified as India trusted sources.
  • The policy provides opportunities to local manufacturers of equipment and handsets in the “sensitive” telecom sector to counter dumping of products by other countries.
  • However, the directive will not ask TSPs to mandatorily replace the old and existing equipment and does not impact the ongoing annual maintenance contracts or upgrades to old equipment either.

-Source: India Today

June 2024