Daily Current Affairs for 20th August 2021

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Anti-conversion law

Why in News

The Gujarat high court stayed the operation of key sections of the ‘Gujarat Freedom of Religion (Amendment) Act, 2021’, citing its weeping premise that suggested that all interfaith marriages were illegal.

Key Points

  • The court said the law cannot be enforced until there is clear evidence of “force, allurement or fraudulent” for religious conversion and that it appeared to be against inter-religion marriages at the very inception.

Gujarat Freedom of Religion (Amendment) Act, 2021

  • ‘Gujarat Freedom of Religion (Amendment) Act, 2021’ amends the Gujarat Freedom of Religion Act, 2003.
  • The amendment has proposal to impose 3-10 years of imprisonment to those who forcibly or fraudulently convert the religion of person through marriage.
  • The objective of amendment is to reduce the “emerging trend” where women are “lured to marriage” for the purposes of religious conversion.

Issues related to amendment

  • The ‘Gujarat Freedom of Religion (Amendment) Act, 2021’ are against the basic principles of marriage and right to propagate, profess and practice religion as enshrined in the Article 25 of the Constitution.
  • It also allows distant family members to file a criminal complaint.



Why in News

As per the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), BRICS nations signed an agreement on 18th August, 2021 for cooperation in remote sensing satellite data sharing.

Key Points

  • It will help in building a virtual constellation of specified remote sensing satellites of BRICS space agencies and their respective ground stations will receive the data.
  • This will strengthen the multilateral cooperation among BRICS space agencies in meeting the challenges faced by mankind, such as global climate change, major disasters and environmental protection.
  • The BRICS agreement was signed under India’s Chairmanship of the bloc.


  • The agreement will promote cooperation and use space data and applications for development and social objectives outlined in SDGs, providing benefit to citizens.
  • The agreement will help in facing challenges faced by humankind such as climate change and major disasters.
  • It is expected to result in more cooperation between BRICS members and their space agencies.


  • BRICS is the acronym coined to associate five major emerging economies: Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa.
  • The BRICS members are known for their significant influence on regional affairs.
  • Originally, it was established as a group of four economy i.e., “BRIC” in 2006.
  • Later, in 2010, South Africa was inducted as the fifth member and became “BRICS”.
  • Four out of five members are among the world’s ten largest countries by population and by area, except for South Africa, the twenty-fourth in both.
  • They held its first meeting in 2009 and since then, the governments of the BRICS states have met annually at formal summits.
  • Bilateral relations among BRICS states are conducted mainly based on non-interference, equality, and mutual benefit.

India in BRICS

  • India is currently the chair of BRICS and has led efforts to maximize trade over the past year.
  • In July, a 3-day meeting of the BRICS Contact Group on Economic and Trade Issues (CGETI) saw members deliberate on a series of proposals circulated by New Delhi.
  • These focused on non-tariff measures (NTM) resolution mechanism, a sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) working mechanism and more cooperation on the multilateral trading system, among others.


Defence India Start-up Challenge (DISC)

Why in News

Recently, the Ministry of Defence launched the 5th Edition of ‘Defence India Start-up Challenge (DISC)’ I.e., DISC 5.0 under Innovations for Defence Excellence – Defence Innovation Organisation (iDEX-DIO).

Key Points

  • The objective of DISC-5.0 is to achieve self-reliance and foster innovation and technology development in the defence and aerospace sectors.
  • Thirty-five problem statements, 13 from the Services and 22 from Defence Public Sector Undertakings (DPSUs), were unveiled under DISC 5.0.
  • These are in areas such as situational awareness, augmented reality, artificial intelligence, aircraft-trainer, non-lethal devices, 5G network, underwater domain awareness, Drone SWARMS and data capturing.
  • DISC 5.0 as another step towards independence in the defence sector as the launch comes at a time when the country is celebrating ‘Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav’.
  • The launch of DISC 5.0 by iDEX-DIO comes three years after the launch of DISC 1.0.
  • The launch of DISC 5.0 is a massive leap towards leveraging the startup ecosystem to develop India’s defence technologies, equipment design and manufacturing capabilities.
  • It will encourage start-ups to become more attuned to innovative concepts and inculcate the approach of creative thinking in India’s budding entrepreneurs.

Innovations for Defence Excellence (iDEX)

  • An innovation ecosystem for Defence has been launched by the Prime Minister of India, titled ‘Innovations for Defence Excellence (iDEX)’ in April 2018.
  • It is aimed at creation of an ecosystem to foster innovation and technology development in Defence and Aerospace by engaging Industries including MSMEs, Start-ups, Individual Innovators, R&D institutes and Academia and provide them grants/funding and other support to carry out R&D which has good potential for future adoption for Indian defence and aerospace needs.


  • iDEX4Fauji is first of its kind initiative, launched to support innovations identified by members of the Indian Armed Forces and will bolster frugal innovation ideas from soldiers/ field formations.
  • There are more than 13 Lakh service personnel working in the field and on borders, handling extreme conditions and equipment and would be having many ideas and innovations to improve such equipment.
  • There was no mechanism to support such innovations.
  • iDEX4Fauji would open this window and allow Indian Faujis to become part of the innovation process and get recognised and rewarded.

Defence India Start-up Challenge

  • ‘Defence India Start-up Challenge’ has been launched by the Ministry of Defence in collaboration with Atal Innovation Mission.
  • It aimed at supporting Start-ups/MSMEs/Innovators to create prototypes and/or commercialize products/solutions in the area of National Defence and Security.
  • The vision of the Challenge is two-fold:
  • Help create functional prototypes of products/technologies relevant for national security (prototyping), and spur fast-moving innovation in the India defence sector;
  • Help new tech products/technologies find a market and early customer (commercialization) in the form of the Indian Defence Establishment.


Kigali Amendment

Why in News

India has decided to ratify the Kigali amendment to the 1989 Ozone saving Montreal Protocol negotiated five years ago.

Key Points

  • The Kigali Amendment, negotiated in the Rwandan capital in October 2016, enables the gradual phase-down of hydro-fluorocarbons, or HFCs, a family of chemicals used extensively in the air-conditioning, refrigeration and furnishing foam industry.
  • HFCs are known to be much worse than carbon dioxide in causing global warming.
  • According to the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), the average global warming potential of 22 of the most used HFCs is about 2,500 times that of carbon dioxide.
  • India’s decision to ratify the amendment was widely anticipated after the United States and China, the world’s top producers and consumers of HFCs took similar decisions in the last few months.
  • The amendment has already come into force from the start of 2019. But the decision to ratify it does create the right atmospherics ahead of the annual climate change conference in Glasgow this November.

Ozone and climate

  • The 1989 Montreal Protocol is meant to protect the ozone layer of the upper atmosphere.
  • A set of chemicals, mainly the chlorofluorocarbons or CFCs, which were being used in the air-conditioning and refrigeration industry earlier, were found to be damaging the ozone layer of the upper atmosphere.
  • Their extensive use had led to depletion of the ozone layer, and formation of an “ozone hole” over the Antarctic region.
  • The Montreal Protocol mandated the complete phase-out of CFCs and other ozone-depleting substances (ODS), which it has successfully managed to do in the last three decades.
  • CFCs were gradually replaced, first by HCFCs, or hydrochlorofluorocarbons, and eventually by HFCs which have minimal impact on the ozone layer.
  • The transition from HCFCs to HFCs is still happening, particularly in the developing world.
  • HFCs were powerful greenhouse gases. With global warming emerging as one of the biggest global challenges in the new millennium, the use of HFCs came under the scanner.
  • HFCs still form a small part of the total greenhouse gas emissions, but with air-conditioning demand showing a significant increase, especially in countries like India, their use is rising at about 8% every year.
  • Because HFCs were not ozone-depleting, they were not controlled substances under the Montreal Protocol. They were part of the problematic greenhouse gases whose emissions are sought to be curtailed through climate change instruments such as the Kyoto Protocol of 1997 and the 2015 Paris Agreement.
  • Montreal Protocol has already resulted in the phase-out of 98.6% of ozone-depleting substances. The remaining 1.4% are the HCFCs that are in the process of being transitioned.
  • Accordingly, it was decided to use the Montreal Protocol to phase out HFCs as well, rather than leave them at the mercy of climate change agreements. For that to happen, an amendment to the Montreal Protocol was required.

The Kigali Amendment

  • In 2016, countries agreed to include HFCs in the list of controlled substances under Montreal Protocol and decided on a schedule for its phase-down.
  • Before the middle of this century, current HFC use has to be curtailed by at least 85%.
  • India has to achieve this target by 2047 while the developed countries have to do it by 2036. China and some other countries have a target of 2045.
  • While the reductions for the rich countries have to begin immediately, India, and some other countries, have to begin cutting their HFC use only from 2031.
  • The Kigali Amendment is expected to prevent about 0.5°C rise in global warming by the end of this century.
  • It is thus considered crucial to achieving the Paris Agreement target of restricting temperature rise to within 2°C from pre-industrial times.
  • And the Montreal Protocol has a fairly good track record on ensuring climate benefits as well.
  • CFCs, the predecessors to HFCs, were also greenhouse gases, apart from being ozone-depleting.
  • Their phase-out has already avoided an estimated 135 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions between 1990 and 2010. This is three times the current annual greenhouse gas emissions.
  • The UNEP estimates that, with Kigali Amendment, the avoided emissions could touch 420 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent by the end of the century.

Efforts of India

  • India had played a key role in negotiating the Kigali Amendment.
  • It had fought hard to get an extended timeline for itself, and some other countries, for the reduction of HFC use.
  • This was considered important for the domestic industry which was still in the process of transitioning from HCFCs to HFCs.
  • The climate-friendly alternatives to HFCs are not yet widely available at low cost.
  • Despite being one of the main architects of the Kigali Amendment, India was the last major country to announce its decision to ratify it.
  • In the meanwhile, however, India had unveiled an ambitious action plan for the cooling industry which accounts for the phase-out of HFCs.
  • The 20-year ‘India Cooling Action Plan’, or ICAP, released in 2019, describes cooling as a “developmental need” and seeks to address the rising demand in cooling, from buildings to transport to cold-chains, through sustainable actions.
  • The plan estimates that the national cooling demand would grow eight times in the next 20 years, which would result in a corresponding five to eight-fold rise in the demand for refrigerants that involve the use of HFCs.
  • The ICAP aims to bring down the refrigerant demand by 25 to 30 per cent in the next 20 years.
  • As part of the ICAP, the government has also announced targeted R&D efforts aimed at developing low-cost alternatives to HFCs.
  • India said that existing domestic laws that govern the implementation of the Montreal Protocol would be amended by the middle of 2024 to facilitate the HFC phase-down.
  • India’s reductions have to begin only after 2028.


Small Business Loans Initiative

Why in news

Facebook India recently announced a new programme called the “Small Business Loans Initiative”, in partnership with online lending platform Indifi.

Key Points

  • It is launched to help small and medium businesses (SMBs) that advertise on Facebook to get quick access to credit through independent lending partners.
  • India is the first country where Facebook is rolling out this programme.
  • It is open to businesses registered across 200 towns and cities of India.
  • The initiative was announced at a virtual event “Enabling MSME Growth through Financial Inclusion,” hosted by Facebook India in partnership with Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FICCI).
  • FICCI lauds Facebook efforts of empowering the MSME sector with the right opportunities, skills, and solutions.


  • Indifi is the first lending partner that Facebook has tied up with and the programme is built with the potential to bring more partners on board.
  • The goal of the initiative is to make business loans more easily accessible to small businesses, and reduce the credit gap within India’s MSME sector.
  • According to the “Future of Business” survey conducted by Facebook in collaboration with OECD and the World Bank in 2020, almost a third of operational SMBs on Facebook in 2020 stated that they expected cash flow to be one of their primary challenges.


  • Through Facebook’s partnership with Indifi, small businesses that advertise with Facebook can get loans at a predefined interest rate of 17-20 per cent per annum.
  • The programme will also enable small businesses to apply for loans without collateral through a quick online application.
  • Facebook is deeply committed to creating economic opportunities for India’s small businesses.
  • Small businesses applying under this programme will not be charged a processing fee by Indifi, which will also disburse the loan amount within five working days of the borrower completing all documentation formalities after acceptance of the offer made by the lending firm.


  • In the last one year, Facebook has taken steps to support the economic recovery of small businesses.
  • Some of these include offering grants to small businesses, and expanding the company’s industry-leading skilling initiatives to support the offline to online journeys of small businesses.


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