Current Affairs for NDA/CDS/AFCAT/Airforce X&Y Groups
News Analysis from THE HINDU (October 23, 2018)
1. Where Ganga meets the Bay of Pollution
An exponential increase in the number of pilgrims coming to the Ganga Sagar Mela, which takes place at the Sagar Island every year during Makar Sankranti, has been responsible for the worsening water pollution, prompting scientists to raise serious concerns about the likely outbreak of several diseases.
The number of pilgrims descending on the Sagar Island to take a dip at the place where the Ganga meets the Bay of Bengal, has risen from 2 lakh in 1990 to 20 lakh in 2018.
“A health survey was conducted with the local people… it found that diseases like cholera, dysentery, and skin disease were predominant in the post-Ganga Sagar Mela period,” observed a paper titled ‘Pollution and its consequences at Ganga Sagar mass bathing in India’, published recently in the journal Environment, Development and Sustainability.
The study noted a sharp deterioration in water quality parameters between the pre-mela and post-mela period.
One of the authors of the paper, Tuhin Ghosh from the School of Oceanographic Studies at Kolkata’s Jadavpur University, said the focus of the administration is mostly on managing the mela, and that it should also manage the pollution with sustainable strategies.
Several studies have shown that the island is at the frontline of climate change, facing serious erosion due to rising sea level and tidal surges.
2. Why are media regulators soft with scribes, asks SC
The Supreme Court on Monday said media regulators tend to wear a “velvet fist inside a velvet glove” when it comes to dealing with journalists and media organisations whose actions, like revealing the identity of a rape survivor, make them criminally liable.
It is a crime under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act and the Indian Penal Code to disclose the identity of victims of sexual abuse, especially if they are children.
The Supreme Court asked whether statutory bodies like the Press Council of India (PCI), Editors Guild of India, National Broadcasting Standards Authority (NBSA), and the Indian Broadcasting Federation (IBF) have no responsibility to inform the police when a journalist or a media outlet commits such a crime in the course of reportage.
A Bench of Justices Madan B. Lokur and Deepak Gupta observed orally that it was not enough on the part of these statutory and independent bodies, most of them headed by retired judges, to say they have “norms” to deal with errant journalists.
3. Kiren Rijiju turns up for security pact with China
There was intense drama at North Block on Monday when Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju was called at the last minute to participate in the formal signing of an internal security agreement with China by Home Minister Rajnath Singh and Zhao Kezhi, Chinese Minister of Public Security. Mr. Rijiju is an MP from Arunachal Pradesh, which China considers a disputed territory.
4. ‘In urban U.P., 87% of waste from toilets goes to rivers, farmlands’
While urban Uttar Pradesh has an 80% coverage of toilets, inefficient sanitation systems ensure that almost 87% of the excreta being generated by these toilets is being dumped in waterbodies or agricultural lands, according to a new analysis of 30 cities by the Centre for Science and Environment.
“With 2019 just round the corner, the number of toilets and onsite sanitation systems being built in the State are all set to increase exponentially — if not managed scientifically and sustainably, the amount of faecal sludge that these new toilets will generate will swamp the State,” said Suresh Rohilla, programme director of waste and wastewater management at the CSE.
The report, released on Monday, argues that building more toilets will only worsen the environmental, sanitation and manual scavenging situation, unless sewerage connections increase from the current 28% of households in the 30 cities studied. Onsite sanitation systems — such as septic tanks or pit latrines — are far more prevalent, and are used by 47% of households.
Without a sewerage system, the effluent from the septic tank, along with greywater from the kitchen and bathroom flows out into stormwater drains and open drains or nullahs. The faecal sludge, on the other hand, has to be periodically emptied from the septic tank, either manually or mechanically using vacuum trucks or tankers. CSE’s analysis found that half of all emptying work in these cities is done manually, despite the legal prohibition of the employment of manual scavengers.
“As there is no designated site for disposal, the emptied faecal sludge ends up in open drains/nullahs/open fields, which eventually lead to polluting the Ganga and other rivers and surface water bodies,” said the report.
Over a six month period, researchers mapped excreta flow diagrams for 30 cities divided into four clusters by population.
In cities with a population over 10 lakh, such as Lucknow, Kanpur and Agra, the sewerage system covers 44% of the population. However, only 28% of that wastewater is safely treated. A third of the population is dependent on septic tanks connected to open drains, while 4% of the population still defecate in the open. Overall, 44% of the waste generated is safely treated and managed.
Worse in small cities
The situation is much worse in smaller cities. In cities with a population between five and 10 lakh, more than 70% of the population is dependent on tanks connected to open drains, and only half of them would actually qualify as septic tanks. Of the five cities in this cluster, only Jhansi has a designated disposal site. Overall, only 18% of waste and sludge is safely managed.
In cities with a population between 1.2 lakh and five lakh, only 9% of waste and sludge are safely managed, while in the fourth cluster of cities whose populations are less than 1.2 lakh, that figure drops to a mere 4%.
5. Experts’ group to cut school bag weight formed, court told
Union Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) informed the Madras High Court on Monday that an Experts’ Group has been constituted to formulate a draft policy on reducing the weight of school bags in proportion to the age and average weight of children.
Justice N. Kirubakaran was told that the Centre had decided to implement his May 29 judgment on the issue in letter and spirit. The MHRD had issued an order on October 5 to formulate a policy on school bags on the lines of the Children School Bags (Limitation on Weight) Bill of 2006, which never turned into a law.
Disposing of a writ petition filed by advocate M. Purushothaman, the judge had directed the Centre to formulate a nationwide policy forthwith on the permitted weight of backpacks that could be carried by schoolchildren, observing that “neither are children weightlifters nor school bags load containers.”
Reporting compliance, Assistant Solicitor General (ASG) G. Karthikeyan told the court that the MHRD was keen on formulating the draft policy within a month and Prof. Ranjana Arora of the National Council of Educational Research and Training had been named as the convenor of the Experts’ Group. S. Vijaya Kumar, joint commissioner (Academics) of the Kendriya Vidyalaya Sangathan; A.N. Ramachandra, joint commissioner (Academics) of the Navodaya Vidyalaya Samiti; and Joseph Emmanuel, director (Academics) of the Central Board of Secondary Education would be members of the group.
10% of student’s weight
Representatives of the education departments of Maharashtra and Telangana would also be included in the group, as the States have a policy in place stipulating that the weight of a bag should not exceed 10% of the weight of the student. The ASG said Maharashtra, while deciding the weight of the bag, had considered the weight of books, geometry box, stationery, lunch box and even the water bottle.
6. Turf battle
The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and the Union government are once again at loggerheads over the legitimate extent of their powers. In a rare gesture, the central bank last week made public its reservations against the government’s plans to set up an independent payments regulator, potentially setting the stage for a regulatory turf war. In a strongly worded dissent note against the inter-ministerial committee for the finalisation of amendments to the Payment and Settlement Systems Act, 2007, published on its website on Friday, the central bank observed that it would prefer the Payments Regulatory Board to function under the purview of the RBI Governor. “There is no case of having a regulator for payment systems outside the RBI,” the note read. In support of its stance, the RBI stated that the activities of payments banks come well within the purview of the traditional banking system, which the central bank oversees as the overarching financial regulator. So, according to this logic, it might make better sense to have the RBI oversee the activities of payments banks as well instead of creating a brand new regulator for the growing industry. “Regulation of the banking systems and payment system by the same regulator provides synergy,” it noted. The RBI, in essence, is pointing to the interconnection between the payments industry and the banking system to back the extension of its regulatory powers.
The RBI’s case makes good sense when seen from the perspective of the cost of regulatory compliance. As stated above, there is definite overlapping between the current regulatory powers of the RBI and the proposed regulations for the payments industry. A unified regulator can thus help in lowering the compliance costs and enabling the seamless implementation of rules. Further, there is the real risk that a brand new regulator may be unable to match the expertise of the RBI in carrying out necessary regulatory duties. So it makes better sense to have the RBI take charge of the rapidly growing payments industry which can ill-afford regulatory errors at this point. The fact that the RBI has made public its dissent against the Union government’s idea, suggests that the central bank has serious problems with the dilution of its current powers over the financial sector. However, the RBI’s demand for the centralisation of regulatory powers also brings with it the need for exercising a greater degree of responsibility. At a time when there are increasing risks to the stability of the domestic financial system, both the government and the RBI must look to work together to tackle these risks instead of battling over regulatory powers.
7. Premature deindustrialisation
This refers to a phenomenon wherein the growth of an economy’s manufacturing sector begins to slow down prematurely in its path towards development. Economists generally picture economic development as a process by which labour and other resources gradually move from agriculture to the manufacturing sector before these resources move to the services sector at higher stages of development. Some economies, however, may witness a premature movement of resources to the services sector, thus leading to underdevelopment of the manufacturing sector. The concept was popularised in 2015 by Turkish economist Dani Rodrik.
8. Committed to train project: Japan’s envoy
Calling the Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train project a “very symbolic” one, Japan’s Ambassador Kenji Hiramatsu said on Monday that he hoped the Indian government would “amicably and satisfactorily” resolve all land acquisition issues.
“I have 100% trust in India to complete this high-speed railway project,” Mr. Hiramatsu said at Brookings India ahead of the summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Japanese counterpart, Shinzo Abe, in Tokyo on October 28 and 29.
The Hindu had reported on Sunday that according to a report of the Palghar District Collector’s office submitted to the Maharashtra Chief Secretary and Chief Project Officer of the National High Speed Railway Corporation Ltd., nearly all of the 108 km of land spread over 73 villages needed for the project was yet to be acquired.
During the summit, Mr. Abe and Mr. Modi are expected to discuss the project.
Mr. Hiramatsu said Japan remains committed to financing the ₹1.08-lakh-crore railway project and will “continue to do so”.
9. Lower judiciary vacancies unacceptable: SC
The Supreme Court on Monday took suo motu cognisance of over 5,000 vacancies in the lower judiciary across the country, saying the situation is “wholly unacceptable”.
A Bench led by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi found that even the official statistics provided by various High Courts on the recruitment processes “under way” did not match. The Supreme Court said it wanted specific, updated information by October 31 from the High Courts.
Over three crore cases lie pending in lower courts.
In a five-page order, the Supreme Court recorded that there are a total of 22,036 posts in the district and subordinate judiciary, from district judges to junior civil judges, across the States. As on date, 5,133 posts out of the total 22,036 are vacant, the court found. It said that information received from various High Courts say that recruitment is on to fill 4,180 of the 5,133 vacant posts. However, the same data show that recruitment is yet to start in 1,324 out of the 5,133 vacancies.
Mistmatch of figures
“There is an obvious mismatch in the figures mentioned above which is being also looked into by the Registry of this court. The Registry of this court is, therefore, directed to register a suo motu writ petition,” Chief Justice Gogoi said in the order for the Bench.
The Supreme Court asked the High Courts’ registries to provide the Secretary-General, Supreme Court, with information, such as when the recruitment process had commenced; whether it is expected to be completed within the schedule formulated by the Supreme Court in the Malik Mazhar Sultan vs U.P. Public Service Commission & Ors judgment; when the appointments would be made; whether the time expected to be taken to complete the ongoing process/processes can be shortened and so on.
10. Gokhale meets Suu Kyi, discusses bilateral ties
Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale on Monday called on Myanmar’s State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi here and discussed issues related to bilateral cooperation and about the developments in the strife-torn Rakhine State. He also signed an MoU that would add to local infrastructure capacity and help in creating job opportunities in Myanmar.
11. Bolton arrives in Russia for talks on nuclear treaty
White House National Security Advisor John Bolton on Monday began two days of meetings with senior Russian officials following Washington’s weekend announcement of its withdrawal from a Cold War-era nuclear weapons treaty.
The Moscow visit by Mr. Bolton was planned before the Saturday announcement by President Donald Trump that the U.S. was ditching the three-decade-old Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, known as the INF, a move Moscow has already denounced as “dangerous”.
The treaty, banning intermediate-range nuclear and conventional missiles, was signed in 1987 by then U.S. President Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, the last Soviet leader. Mr. Gorbachev said on Sunday that “dropping these agreements… shows a lack of wisdom” and was a “mistake”.
Mr. Bolton arrived in Russia on Sunday and is set to speak with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. On Monday morning, he met his Russian counterpart, Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev.
On Tuesday, he may also speak about the treaty with President Vladimir Putin, according to Mr. Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov, who said the Russian leader was looking for “clarifications” about U.S. intentions.
12. May rejects EU proposal on Irish border amid criticism
U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May believes that 95% of Britain’s Brexit deal has been agreed but opposes a European Union (EU) proposal for the Irish border, according to excerpts from a statement she was to make in Parliament.
Facing some of the fiercest attacks to date over her Brexit plans after again failing to clinch a deal at an EU summit last week, Ms. May is trying to calm passions in Parliament where her strategy has angered eurosceptics and EU supporters alike.
N. Irish ‘backstop’
With just over five months until Britain is scheduled to exit the EU, talks have stalled over a disagreement on the so-called Northern Irish “backstop”, an insurance policy to ensure there will be no return to a hard border on the island of Ireland if a future trading relationship is not agreed in time. But Ms. May’s attempt to unlock the talks by considering an extension to a status-quo transition period beyond the current proposed end date of December 2020 has further riled both pro-and anti-EU factions in her deeply split Conservative Party.
The deal cannot be signed off until the two sides settle on future management of the border between Northern Ireland, a British province, and EU member state Ireland. Critics of Ms. May used Britain’s Sunday newspapers to rhetorically savage the British leader, with unnamed rivals using phrases such as “assassination is in the air”.
On Sunday, Brexit minister Dominic Raab pushed forward the suggestion of extending the transition period, saying London could accept such a move if the EU dropped its proposal for a backstop without time limit, which Ms. May says would tear Northern Ireland away from mainland Britain.
13. Zee bags U.S. patent to provide viewers ‘immersive experience’
ZEE Entertainment Enterprises Ltd. (ZEE) has secured a United States (U.S.) patent on a technology platform built on technologies such as 3D audio, augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), digital scent, holograms and touch. The company aims to offer an immersive experience to the viewers, satisfying all the five senses.
The platform developed at its ZEE Media Lab in the Silicon Valley will enable the viewers to touch, feel, smell and experience products, with a seamless transaction (e-commerce) ecosystem.
Be it immersive entertainment content or informative education-based solutions, or gaming, or e-commerce, this comprehensive technology platform is built to cater to every single need of the viewer, said a company statement.
ZEE’s chairman Subhash Chandra said: “At ZEE, we envisioned 4-5 years back, that the overall media landscape is poised to evolve at an extremely rapid pace, with content companies blending into technology companies. Hence, we started investing our time and energy in building a technology for the future, which enhances the content viewing experience by many folds. It is a concrete step in realising our vision of transforming ourselves from a media & entertainment powerhouse to a technology company, offering immersive experiences.”
Amit Goenka, CEO, Z5 Global, said: “We are excited to offer this unique immersive experience to our viewers. The U.S. patent is a milestone achieved in this process giving us the required level of confidence and reassurance. This is just the beginning of an extraordinary journey of transforming the viewers content viewing experience.”
14. Panel for adopting UN model on cross-border insolvency
The Insolvency Law Committee (ILC), tasked with suggesting amendments to the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code of India, has recommended that India adopt the United Nations’ model to handle cross-border insolvency cases.
“The ILC has recommended the adoption of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) Model Law of Cross Border Insolvency, 1997, as it provides for a comprehensive framework to deal with cross-border insolvency issues,” the government said in a statement. “The committee has also recommended a few carve-outs to ensure that there is no inconsistency between the domestic insolvency framework and the proposed cross border insolvency framework.”
The UNCITRAL Model Law has been adopted in 44 countries and, therefore, forms part of international best practices in dealing with cross border insolvency issues, the government said.
“The advantages of the model law are the precedence given to domestic proceedings and protection of public interest,” the statement added.
“The necessity of having a cross-border insolvency framework under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code arises from the fact that many Indian companies have a global footprint and many foreign companies have a presence in multiple countries, including India,” the government said.
15. Tejas wins ₹111-cr. order for Navy’s network
Tejas Networks, a maker of networking products, has received an ₹111-crore purchase order from Sterlite Technologies to implement Indian Navy’s country-wide next-generation digital communications network. Tejas Networks would supply its terabit capacity DWDM systems and high-performance layer-3 multi-gigabit ethernet switches for Navy’s pan-India network, according to a statement.
16. A meteoric rise
By becoming the first Indian wrestler to win two World Championship medals, Bajrang Punia has placed himself alongside all-time greats Sushil Kumar, Yogeshwar Dutt, K.D. Jadhav and Sakshi Malik.
Unlike the above quartet , Bajrang has not won an Olympic medal yet. But the 24-year-old from Khudan village in Haryana has age on his side to accomplish the target in 2020.
Budapest has again turned out to be a good venue for Bajrang, who had moved from his mentor Yogeshwar’s shadow to land a bronze medal in 60kg in the 2013 World Championship.
From there, he kept on improving to get medals in almost all major events. Following his switch to 65kg in 2017, Bajrang’s consistency has been amazing.
Run of success
Bajrang’s string of fabulous performances in the current calendar — gold medals in the Commonwealth and Asian Games, a bronze in the Asian championships and a silver in the World under-23 championship apart from the World Championship silver — reminds one of Sushil Kumar’s prolific showing (gold medals in the Asian championships, CWG and the World Championships) in 2010.
The contribution of Georgian Shako Bentinidis, who joined Bajrang’s coaching staff earlier this year, has been significant.
17. Silver for Bajrang
Bajrang Punia’s bid to become only the second Indian wrestler to win a gold medal at the World Championship fell flat as a tactically superior Takuto Otoguro of Japan stunned the 24-year-old in the 65kg final, here on Monday.
A four-point throw gave the 19-year-old Otoguro an early 5-0 lead, leaving Bajrang to play a catch-up game.
With back-to-back take downs, the Indian reduced the deficit to 4-5.
The Japanese got more points with a step out and led 7-6 at the break.
An early take down at the start of second period handed Otoguro a 9-6 lead. The Japanese kept attacking Bajrang’s left leg, a strategy which the Indian struggled to counter. Bajrang finished with silver for his second medal at the Worlds after a bronze in 2013 edition.
Meanwhile, in the 70kg category, Praveen Rana lost to Ikhtiyor Navruzov in the pre-quarterfinals, while Mausam Khatri was knocked out by Jose Daniel Diaz Robertti 2-12 in the 97kg qualification round.
18. Hawking’s wheelchair, thesis set to be auctioned
A total of 22 personal items used by cosmic visionary Stephen Hawking will be open for bids between October 31 and November 8.
The online sale announced on Monday by auctioneer Christie’s features 22 items from Hawking, including his doctoral thesis on the origins of the universe, some of his many awards, and scientific papers such as Spectrum of Wormholes and Fundamental Breakdown of Physics in Gravitational Collapse.
The auction includes one of five existing copies of Hawking’s 1965 Cambridge University Ph.D. thesis, Properties of Expanding Universes, which carries an estimated price of 100,000 pounds to 150,000 pounds.
19. Constellations named after Godzilla, Hulk
NASA scientists have devised a new set of 21 modern gamma-ray constellations and named them after fictional characters such as the Hulk and Godzilla. The constellations, constructed through its gamma-ray telescope, were devised to celebrate the completion of 10 years of operations of the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope.
20. Things to Remember:
CM of Manipur – Shri N. Biren Singh
Governor of Manipur – Dr. Najma A. Heptulla
CM of Meghalaya – Shri Conrad Kongkal Sangma
Governor of Meghalaya – Shri Tathagata Roy
CM of Mizoram – Shri Lal Thanhawla
Governor of Mizoram – Shri Kummanam Rajasekharan
CM of Nagaland – Shri Neiphiu Rio
Governor of Nagaland – Shri Padmanabha Balakrishna Acharya
CM of Odisha – Shri Naveen Patnaik
Governor of Odisha – Prof. Ganeshi Lal
21. Improve your Vocabulary:
Meaning 1 – The leading character or one of the major characters in a play, film, novel, etc
Example – ‘the hard-boiled protagonist of the movie Blade Runner’
Synonyms – leading actor, leading actress, leading performer, leading player, leading lady, leading man, lead, star
Meaning 1.1 – The main figure or one of the most prominent figures in a situation.
Example – ‘in this colonial struggle the main protagonists were Great Britain and France’
Synonyms – chief character, central character, leading character, main character, principal character, central participant, chief participant, leading participant, main participant, principal participant, principal, hero, heroine, leading lady, leading man, title role, lead, star, player, key player, leading player, figure, leading figure, leading light
Meaning 2 – An advocate or champion of a particular cause or idea.
Example – ‘he’s a strenuous protagonist of the new agricultural policy’
Synonyms – supporter, upholder, adherent, backer, proponent, advocate, promoter, champion, exponent, standard-bearer, torch-bearer, prime mover, moving spirit, mainstay, spokesman, spokesperson, spokeswoman