Current Affairs for NDA, CDS, AFCAT, Airforce X&Y Groups – News Analysis from THE HINDU (January 05, 2019)
1. A.P. unveils second largest rock art trove
Andhra Pradesh’s second largest petroglyph site, containing about 80 petroglyhs, has been discovered at Mekala Benchi, near Aspari, in Kurnool district. These petroglyphs, or rock carvings, underscore Kurnool’s importance as a major site of Neolithic settlements in south India.
Kandanathi, with 200 petroglyphs, is also in Kurnool district. While Mekala Benchi has rock carvings dating back from the Neolithic to the Megalithic period, Kandanathi’s carvings range from the prehistoric to the historic period.
The petroglyphs were recently discovered by Yadava Raghu, an archaeologist and academic consultant with Yogi Vemana University’s Department of History and Archeology. Two boulders, one known as ‘Boodida Konda’ (ash-coloured hill) and the other an unnamed granite hillock, mostly have images of bulls or bull-riding, and human figures, an elephant, tiger-like animals and cupules.
Native bulls of western Kurnool are known for their ‘long horns’, as depicted in the petroglyphs. “Settled village life and the finished stone axe are salient Neolithic features of communities settled on granitoid hills or levelled terraces on hillsides or on valley floors. The current site, at the granite foothills of Boodida Konda, fits the description of a Neolithic settlement,” Mr. Raghu said. The researcher collected stone tools and potsherds from the site dating back to the Neolithic period (2900 BCE-1000 BCE).
2. Lokpal search panel formed, govt. tells Supreme Court
The government informed the Supreme Court on Friday that a search committee had been constituted in September 2018 for zeroing in on eligible candidates for the Lokpal, and it will frame its own rules of functioning.
The Department of Personnel and Training’s notification, issued on September 27, lists the names of the eight-member search committee, led by former Supreme Court judge Ranjana Prakash Desai. A Bench, led by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, ordered Attorney-General K.K. Venugopal to file an affidavit detailing the steps taken so far in the search for a Lokpal.
When Mr. Venugopal offered to pass on to the court a “note” detailing the steps taken, Justice Gogoi insisted that the Centre file a sworn affidavit.
The court then posted the case to January 17.
Advocate Prashant Bhushan, for petitioner NGO Common Cause, submitted that Section 4 of the Lokpal Act mandates the government to be transparent about the search and appointment process.
3. Wi-Fi facility at 2,000 rail stations soon
Railway Minister Piyush Goyal has instructed officials to provide Wi-Fi facilities at a minimum of 2,000 stations as soon as possible.
The Minister has also called for setting up a single helpline number for all non-security railway complaints by the end of January.
Additionally, point of sale (PoS) machines will be distributed in all trains to each catering staffer by March 31 to address complaints related to overcharging by the caterer, an official release said.
The government will replace conventional coaches with modern LHB (Linke Hofmann Busch) design coaches in all long distance trains, the Railway Minister told the Rajya Sabha on Friday.
4. Ramnath Goenka award for The Hindu scribe
S. Vijay Kumar, Senior Deputy Editor with The Hindu in was on Friday presented the Ramnath Goenka Excellence in Journalism Award for Investigative Reporting (Print category).
Instituted by the Ramnath Goenka Memorial Foundation, the award was presented by Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh at a ceremony in New Delhi.
The award for Investigative Reporting in the broadcast category was won by Anand Kumar Patel of India Today TV.
The awards for Political Reporting went to Brajesh Rajput of ABP News Network and Sushant Kumar Singh of the Indian Express.
M. Gunasekaran with News18 Tamil Nadu (broadcast)and Nishant Dattaram Sarwankar and Sandeep Ashok Acharya both with Loksatta(print), bagged the awards in the Regional Languages category.
The award in the Environmental Reporting category were presented to Sushil Chandra Bahuguna of NDTV and Sandhya Ravishankar of the online magazine The Wire.
5. NGT stays notification on groundwater
Terming a December 12 notification issued by the Union Water Resources Ministry on the extraction of groundwater, as “unsustainable,” the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has asked the Centre to “not give effect” to it as it had “serious shortcomings.”
A Bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel said, “It is clear that rather than laying down stricter norms for extraction of groundwater for commercial purposes and putting in place a robust institutional mechanism for surveillance and monitoring, extraction of groundwater has been liberalised adding to the crisis, unmindful of the ground situation and likely impact it will have on environment.”
Coming down heavily on the Ministry, the Bench said, “The so-called regulation is illusory. The so-called conditions are incapable of meaningful monitoring as shown by past experience also. There is no check on injection of pollutants in the groundwater in the impugned notification.”
Taking into account the Ministry’s suggestion of levying a water conservation fee, it said, “The fee virtually gives licence to harness groundwater to any extent.”
6. NGT imposes ₹100 cr. fine on Meghalaya
Following a report submitted by a committee appointed to take stock of mining in Meghalaya, the National Green Tribunal on Friday imposed a cost of ₹100 crore on the State government.
A Bench headed by NGT chairperson Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel directed the State government to deposit the amount with the Central Pollution Control Board within two months. The environmental compensation was levied on the State government based on a report submitted by an independent committee constituted by the NGT in August last year.
“The report indicates that the April 2014 order has been blatantly violated. The acid mine discharge has been continuing and consequently water bodies have been polluted to an extent that it is not suitable for human consumption.
The compensation has been levied based on the environmental loss owing to this,” said advocate Raj Panjwani, the amicus to the matter.
7. Women MPs push for quota
Women members in the Rajya Sabha on Friday urged the government to ensure the passage of the women’s reservation Bill in the Lok Sabha. The Bill, which proposes a 33% reservation for women in Parliament and State legislatures, was passed by the Rajya Sabha in 2010 but has been stuck in the Lower House for nine years.
The Constitution (108th Amendment) Bill, commonly known as the women’s reservation Bill, needs to be approved by the Lok Sabha in order to become law.
Referring to the protests in Kerala regarding the entry of women into the Sabarimala temple, Kanimozhi, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam member, said there was discrimination against women in the country.
8. Telcos pay ₹58 lakh fine for call drops
Financial disincentives of about ₹58 lakh were imposed on telecom companies, including Idea and BSNL, for not complying with the benchmark to measure the drop call rate. These penalties were imposed during the six-month period from January 2018 to June 2018, Telecom Minister Manoj Sinha said in a written reply to the Rajya Sabha.
“As per the latest report of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India for the quarter ending September 2018, all telecom services providers are complying with drop call rate (DCR) benchmarks despite rapid increase in traffic volume and more stringent benchmarks, except Idea in…Assam, Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and North East; and Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) in … West Bengal,” the Minister added.
Idea was fined a total of ₹10.5 lakh in the quarter ended March 2018, while the penalty on BSNL, Tata and Telenor stood at ₹3 lakh, ₹22.5 lakh and ₹6 lakh, respectively.
For the quarter ended June 2018, a fine of ₹12 lakh was imposed on Idea and ₹4 lakh on BSNL.
In a separate reply, the Minister said that to combat call drops, about 9.74 lakh additional base transceiver stations (BTS) for 2G/3G/4G-LTE services had been added by service providers since July 2015.
This took the total BTS count in the country to about 20.07 lakh in November 2018. Additionally, about 9.59 lakh 2G/3G cells have been rectified or optimised during July 2016 to October 2018.
9. ‘Data protection law finalised’
Union Minister for Electronics and IT Ravi Shankar Prasad told the Rajya Sabha on Friday that the government had finalised the data protection law and it would soon be introduced in Parliament.
Mr. Prasad said the government was in the process of finalising guidelines for social media intermediaries such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google and WhatsApp.
The draft bill, which was released last year, had proposed that critical personal data of Indian citizens be processed in centres located within the country. It had also proposed financial penalties for data processor for violations of the data protection law. Likening Google to the East India Company, BJP MP Rakesh Sinha said companies in the West have collected data related to all aspects of the lives of Indians and this was a step in the direction of “neo-imperialism.”
Responding to this, Mr. Prasad said, “irrespective of how big the company was, if they tried to manipulate the data of Indians, strict action would be initiated.”
While responding to a question on hacking of data, Mr. Prasad said that as per the information provided by the Reserve Bank of India, a total of 1191, 1372, 2059 and 921 cases of frauds involving ATM/debit cards, credit cards and Internet banking frauds (amount involving ₹1 lakh and above) were reported during the years 2015-16, 2016-17, 2017-18 and 2018-19 (up to September 30, 2018) respectively. “In comparison to the number of transactions, the number of fraud or data manipulation was miniscule,” he said.
10. ‘Obsolete tech in EVMs deliberate’
Former Chief Election Commissioner O.P. Rawat said on Friday that the electronic voting machines (EVMs) used in India were not Internet-enabled as in developed countries, making them tamper-proof just like calculators. The use of this obsolete technology in the machines was deliberate, he said.
Mr. Rawat said the EC had to face criticism as political parties had formed an opinion that the EVMs were faulty and were benefitting a particular party.
“All political parties had complained about the EVMs. It created doubts in the minds of the common people. But the Election Commission has come out clean. The EVMs are tamper-proof,” he said at an event here. He said the new EVMs get into the factory mode if anyone tampers with them.
11. LS passes Bill to amend Aadhaar Act
The Lok Sabha on Friday passed a Bill to amend the Aadhaar Act and two related laws which will allow individuals to offer voluntarily biometric ID as a means of identity verification for obtaining services such as opening a bank account and getting a mobile phone connection.
The Aadhaar and Other Laws (Amendment) Bill also gives a minor the option to opt out of the 12-digit identity scheme on attaining the age of 18. It provides for stiff penalties for violation of norms set for the use of Aadhaar and bans service providers from storing core biometric information and Aadhaar number of individuals who voluntarily offer it as a means of authentication.
12. Chinese lunar rover named as ‘Yutu 2’
China has named the lunar rover, successfully deployed on Thursday to carry out a string of experiments on the unexplored far side of the moon, as ‘Yutu 2’.
The state-run Xinhua news agency reported that the Yutu 2 touched the lunar surface at 10.22 p.m. local time on Thursday, leaving a trace on the loose lunar soil. The rover’s touchdown is part of China Chang’e-4 lunar probe.
Analysts say that China’s lunar probe is part of its ‘Made in China-2025’ project, which focuses on advanced technology, including space applications.
13. China tests its ‘Mother of All Bombs’
China has tested its most powerful non-nuclear weapon, dubbed the “Mother of All Bombs” by official media in a reference to a U.S. munition used in Afghanistan.
In a short video published on the website of state arms manufacturer Norinco, the massive bomb drops on to a plain and produces a gigantic ball of fire and black smoke.
The bomb — whose strength is only second to that of a nuclear weapon, according to the official Xinhua agency — was dropped by a Chinese H-6K bomber.
The bomb is five to six metres long (16 to 20 feet), but weighs less than the American version, according to military analyst Wei Dongxu, who was quoted by the semi-official Global Times daily on Friday.
14. U.S., China to hold trade talks next week
A U.S. government delegation, led by Deputy Trade Representative Jeffrey Gerrish, will visit China on Monday and Tuesday for the first face-to-face talks since President Donald Trump and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping agreed on a temporary truce in the trade war, China’s Commerce Ministry said.
15. Archaeologists find temple to god of skinning sacrifices
Archaeologists in Mexico say they have found the first temple dedicated to a deity called the ‘flayed lord’, an important god in the Aztec Empire whose worshippers were said to wear the skin of sacrificial victims.
Artefacts related to the god were found in the central state of Puebla, at a site built by the Popoloca people, Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History said in a statement. The Popolocas built in the area over several centuries, beginning around A.D. 900, and were assimilated into the sprawling Aztec kingdom.
At the temple, which the institute said was probably built between A.D. 1000 and 1260, the archaeologists found artefacts related to the god, Xipe Tótec, including two stone skulls and a stone torso that had an extra hand hanging off its left arm. Scientists said the extra hand suggested the god was wearing the remains of a sacrificial victim.
Noemi Castillo Tejero, the archaeologist who led the project, was not available for an interview, but the institute said that the excavation at the complex, called Ndachjian-Tehuacan, had also uncovered two altars nearby, in a layout that appeared to match Aztec accounts of rituals associated with the cult of Xipe Tótec.
Those accounts, from around the time of the Spanish invasion in the early 1500s, say that worshippers of Xipe Tótec sacrificed people, usually prisoners of war, by having them fight a series of combatants in a kind of gladiatorial ritual — or by killing the prisoners with arrows. The worshippers then flayed the victims, and priests were said to have worn their skin.
LHB (Linke Hofmann Busch)
National Green Tribunal (NGT)
17. Things to Remember:
Railway Minister Piyush Goyal
18. Improve your Vocabulary:
Meaning – Make amends or reparation
Example – ‘a human sacrifice to atone for the sin’
Synonyms – make amends, make reparation, make restitution, make recompense, make redress, make up for, compensate, pay, pay the penalty, pay the price, recompense, answer