Current Affairs for NDA, CDS, AFCAT, Airforce X&Y Groups – News Analysis from THE HINDU (January 08, 2019)
1. Centre plans 10% quota for the poor
The Union Cabinet on Monday approved a Constitution Amendment Bill to provide 10% reservation to the economically backward sections in the general category, a senior government official said. The Bill will also cover those from the Muslim, Sikh, Christian, Buddhist and other minority communities. The quota will be over and above the existing 50% reservation to the Scheduled Castes, the Scheduled Tribes and the Other Backward Classes (OBC).
The decision, which comes ahead of the general election in April-May, was taken at a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The specific details of the Bill were not available as there was no word from the government after the meeting. A press briefing scheduled for the evening was cancelled. The reservation is for those castes that now do not avail themselves of quota in any category.
A nine-judge Constitutional Bench of the Supreme Court had, in the Indira Sawhney case, capped reservation at 50%. The court had ruled on November 16, 1992, that “clause (4) of Article 16 of the Constitution speaks of adequate representation and not proportionate representation” and “relaxation can be done in extraordinary situations and while doing so, extreme caution has to be exercised and a special case made out.”
According to the 2011 Census, the population of the country was 1.21 billion. The population of the Scheduled Castes was 201.4 million and that of the Scheduled Tribes stood at 104.3 million.
2. Navy to set up new air base in Port Blair
Later this month, the Navy will commission a new airbase 100 miles north of Port Blair in the strategically located Andaman and Nicobar islands.
“The base, INS Kohassa, will be commissioned by Navy chief Admiral Sunil Lanba on January 24,” spokesperson Capt. D.K. Sharma said.
This will be India’s fourth air base and the third naval air facility in the archipelago, which are more closer to Southeast Asia than to the Indian mainland, overlooking key sea lanes of communication and strategic choke points.
The base will initially operate choppers and Dornier short-range surveillance aircraft, Capt. Sharma said.
It will initially have a runway of about 3,000 m which will in phases be extended to 9000 m to support all kinds of aircraft including fighter jets.
As part of the upgrade, the base will feature staging facilities, a fuel dump and maintenance and repair facilities. A complement of personnel would be positioned there.
3. The Meghalaya government must urgently ensure that all illegal mines are shut down
The tardy response of the Centre and the State of Meghalaya to the plight of at least 15 workers trapped in a rat-hole coal mine since mid-December has exposed the extraordinary indifference in government to labour welfare and the law. Two workers have been found dead in a second mine in the East Jaintia Hills district. The primary responsibility for the operation of illegal mines lies with the State government, and it should be called to account for ignoring the directions of the National Green Tribunal to close them and levy punitive royalties on those that extracted the coal. Several appeals are before the Supreme Court in connection with a ban ordered by the Tribunal on rat-hole mining and the transport of already mined coal. It should be possible at least now to put an end to it. The Meghalaya government has been evasive on the issue of the continued operation of the illegal mines, in spite of the adverse findings of the Justice B.P. Katoki committee appointed by the NGT. It avoided taking action even after a similar mine-flooding accident that claimed 15 lives in 2012 in South Garo Hills, and the subsequent ban. Although the NGT has ordered the State to deposit ₹100 crore with the Central Pollution Control Board for environmental restoration in the wake of the recent disaster at Ksan in East Jaintia Hills, the first-order priority is to close the rat-hole mines. It is the responsibility of the Centre and the State to rehabilitate the workers from impoverished communities, reportedly including some child labourers, who are ready to undertake the risky labour because of the higher-than-average wages paid. This should not be difficult, considering that the value of extracted coal stored in Meghalaya was officially estimated at over ₹3,078 crore four years ago, and mineral resources should be treated as state property.
The scale is high: as interpreted from satellite images and reported by the Katoki panel, it could be of the order of 24,000 mines, many of them illegal. If illegal mines continue to operate in flagrant violation of rules under the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, the responsibility lies with the State government. Chief Minister Conrad Sangma has said a ban on coal mining is not the solution, given the economic conditions in the region. Yet, the State government has done little to implement reforms and diversify employment away from dirty mining under primitive conditions over the years, in spite of judicial orders. In fact, authorities in Shillong continue to ignore such directions, as the accident at the Lumthari mine in East Jaintia Hills shows. As recently as in December, Parliament was informed that 22 States had constituted a task force to review illegal mining and act on it, but Meghalaya does not figure in that list.
4. Primordial soup
This refers to a hypothesis regarding the origin of life on earth. It states that life on the planet originated around 4 billion years ago through the combination of abiogenic material on the earth’s surface and some form of external energy. This natural reaction led to the birth of the most primitive cells that are the building blocks of life. It is believed that, over time, these primitive cells gradually evolved into a huge variety of complex living organisms. The hypothesis was first proposed by Soviet biologist Alexander Oparin in 1924 and later independently by English geneticist John Haldane in 1929.
5. Centre okays Citizenship Bill
The Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) on the contentious Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2016 recommended that the Assam government should help settle migrants “especially in places which are not densely populated, thus, causing lesser impact on the demographic changes and providing succour to the indigenous Assamese people”.
The Bill paves the way to grant citizenship to six religious minorities — Hindus, Jains, Sikhs, Parsis, Christians and Buddhists — from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh who came to India before 2014.
There has been a strong resistance to the Bill in the BJP-ruled Assam as it would pave the way for giving citizenship, mostly to illegal Hindu migrants from Bangladesh, in Assam who came after March 1971, in violation of the Assam Accord of 1985.
The Union Cabinet cleared the redrafted Citizenship Amendment Bill on Monday, and it is likely to be tabled in Parliament on Tuesday. The Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) expressed its concern before the committee.
The committee headed by Rajendra Agarwal of the BJP appreciated the government’s decision, claiming such people were being subjected to “unfair treatment” in those countries and submitted the 440-page report in the Lok Sabha on Monday.
6. Leprosy is no longer a ground for divorce
The Lok Sabha on Monday passed a Bill seeking to remove leprosy as a ground for divorce, stating that this was a “discriminatory” provision for a disease that is now curable.
“Leprosy is being removed as a ground for divorce as it is now a curable disease as against the earlier notion of it being incurable,” said Minister of State for Law P. P. Chaudhary moving the Personal Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2018, in the Lok Sabha.
The Bill has sought to amend five Acts — the Divorce Act, 1869, the Dissolution of Muslim Marriage Act, 1939, the Special Marriage Act, 1954, the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, and the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, 1956 — on provisions related to marriage, divorce, and separation of Hindu and Muslim couples.
Each of these Acts prescribe leprosy as a ground for seeking divorce or separation from the spouse. The Bill cleared on Monday removes this as a ground for divorce or separation.
The Bill was passed by a voice vote amid din as the Congress protested over the Rafale deal and and the Samajwadi Party over the issue of CBI searches.
7. SC shocked as Section 66A of IT Act is still invoked
Over three years after it struck down Section 66A of the Information Technology Act as unconstitutional, the Supreme Court on Monday said it was shocked to hear that authorities still continued to book people under the now-extinct draconian provision.
A Bench led by Justice Rohinton F. Nariman, who wrote the judgment in March 2015 upholding online free speech against Section 66A, said “strict action” would follow if the claims in the petition filed by the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) were found true.
The court ordered the Centre to respond to the petition in four weeks.
The PUCL said Section 66A, which restricted free expression online, continued to survive and occasionally found a place in the FIRs registered by the police in complete contravention of the Supreme Court judgment in the Shreya Singhal case.
The judgment had found that Section 66A was contrary to both Articles 19 (free speech) and 21 (right to life) of the Constitution. The entire provision was struck down by the court.
The petition said the judgment rendered Section 66A extinct from the very date of its insertion into the IT Act, i.e. October 27, 2009.
The petition said many officials may not even know about the Supreme Court verdict.
8. Sheikh Hasina takes oath for third consecutive term
Sheikh Hasina was sworn in as Bangladesh’s Prime Minister for a record fourth term on Monday after her Awami League registered a landslide victory in the recent election that was marred by deadly violence and allegations of vote rigging.
President Md. Abdul Hamid administered the oath of office to the 71-year-old Ms. Hasina at the Bangabhaban for a record third consecutive term. Ms. Hasina was first elected Prime Minister in 1996 and then again in 2008 and 2014.
The President then administered the oaths for the new Ministers, Ministers of State and Deputy Ministers who will form the Cabinet. Ms. Hasina will lead a Cabinet of 24 Ministers, 19 Ministers of State and three State Ministers. Her Cabinet is mostly made up of new faces. Thirty-one members of the new Cabinet are first-timers.
Ms. Hasina, who had included representatives from the Awami League’s allied parties in the previous cabinets, has not picked any of them in her new Cabinet.
9. May to hold Brexit vote on Jan. 15
Prime Minister Theresa May will hold a delayed parliamentary vote on her Brexit deal on January 15, the BBC reported on Monday, citing government sources.
Ms. May was forced to pull the vote on her deal in December after she said it would be defeated by a large majority.
The government had previously said the vote would be held in the week of January 14.
Meanwhile, the Prime Minister said on Monday that Britain will set out additional proposals for Northern Ireland and giving parliament a bigger role as the government seeks more assurances from the European Union on her Brexit deal.
10. Process starts to elect new Malaysia king
Malaysia’s royals prepared on Monday to pick a new king to replace Sultan Muhammad V, who abdicated in a historic first after reportedly marrying a Russian former beauty queen, holding a special gathering at the national palace.
As the country reacted with shock to the news, Malaysia’s Islamic royal families set about the task of electing a new king. A special meeting of the rulers was held at the palace in Kuala Lumpur to set a date for a new king to be elected, official news agency Bernama reported.
11. World Bank President announces resignation
World Bank President Jim Yong Kim announced on Monday that he would step down next month, more than three years before his current term was due to expire.
The decision ends Mr. Kim’s six-year tenure and may give U.S. President Donald Trump decisive influence over the future leadership of the global development lender.
Mr. Kim, who became President in 2012, is to join an as-yet unnamed firm focussing on investments in developing countries, the bank said in a statement, and will return to the board of Partners-in-Health, which he co-founded.
World Bank CEO Kristalina Georgieva will serve as interim President.
12. First India-flagged cruise from April
Aimed at contributing to India’s cruise tourism, Zen Cruises, a company promoted by Essel Group chairman Subhash Chandra’s family office, has announced plans to start cruise services on India’s coastline starting April 17.
Karnika, the first ship under the Jalesh brand, with a capacity to take 1,900-2,000 people on board, will sail from Mumbai to Goa, to begin with.
The company, which will operate its services under the Jalesh Cruises brand, has decided to make Mumbai its home port and the ships will be registered in India, thus making it the first India flagged cruise line.
13. On top down under — after seven decades of agony
Their spirit shone bright on a murky day; much like headlights on an unlit highway.
This Indian team had been tactically slick, fought with commitment and passion, and accomplished what no Indian team had managed to achieve in 71 years.
India had finally, after all these years of wait, agony and near misses, triumphed in a Test series in Australia. Indian cricket had broken through a monumental barrier.
A persistent drizzle and bad light meant the fifth day’s play was called off at 2.30 p.m. local time at the SCG on Monday; Australia, following on 322 behind and six without loss in its second innings, was not forced to save the fourth Test.
India had retained the Border-Gavaskar Trophy with a 2-1 verdict in the four-Test series. Down under, the Indians had kept their date with history.
14. Ferrari to replace Arrivabene with Binotto
Ferrari is set for a management reshuffle with team principal Maurizio Arrivabene to be replaced by technical director Mattia Binotto, according to reports on Monday. Gazzetta Dello Sport said Arrivabene’s contract will not be renewed following another disappointing season. Ferrari president John Elkann has decided that Binotto, 49, is the right man to lead the Italian stable in 2019.
15. Gas hydrates produced under ‘space’ conditions
Researchers at Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Madras have experimentally shown that methane and carbon dioxide (CO2) can exist as gas hydrates at temperatures and pressures seen in interstellar atmosphere. Gas hydrates are formed when a gas such as methane gets trapped in well-defined cages of water molecules forming crystalline solids. In terrestrial conditions, gas hydrates are formed naturally under the sea bed and glaciers under high pressure, low temperature conditions. Methane hydrate is a potential source of natural gas.
The methane and CO2 hydrates were produced in the lab at very low pressures (ten thousand billionth of atmospheric pressure) and temperature (as low as -263 degree C) to simulate the conditions of deep space.
The carbon dioxide hydrate produced in the lab raises the possibility of sequestering or storing carbon dioxide as hydrates by taking advantage of ice existing in environmental conditions favourable for hydrate formation. In these environments, the carbon dioxide will have enough energy to interact with ice. So both molecules will have enough mobility to allow interaction to form carbon dioxide hydrate.
Research and Analysis Wing (RAW)
Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL)
Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT)
Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs)
17. Things to Remember:
Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharam
Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora
Norway’s Prime Minister Erna Solberg
World Bank CEO Kristalina Georgieva
18. Improve your Vocabulary:
Meaning 1 – Assistance and support in times of hardship and distress
Example – ‘the wounded had little chance of succour’
Synonyms – aid, help, a helping hand, assistance
Meaning 1.1 – (succours) Reinforcements of troops.
Synonyms – additional troops, fresh troops, additional police, supplementaries, auxiliaries, reserves