Current Affairs for NDA/CDS/AFCAT/Airforce X&Y Groups
News Analysis from THE HINDU (October 03, 2018)
1. 88 million-year-old isle and crater to be geoparks
Geological Survey chooses heritage locations in Maharashtra and Karnataka for UNESCO site status
In a first, an ancient circular lake created by a meteorite strike in Maharashtra and a hexagonal mosaic of basaltic rocks in an island off Udupi are poised to become global geoparks, under a Geological Survey of India (GSI) plan.
Lonar Lake in Maharashtra and St. Mary’s Island and Malpe beach in coastal Karnataka are the GSI’s candidates for UNESCO Global Geopark Network status.
The road to recognition, however, is long. An aspiring Global Geopark must have a dedicated website, a corporate identity, comprehensive management plan, protection plans, finance, and partnerships for it to be accepted. In mid-August, GSI moved ahead with the plan, setting a follow-up time frame of 100 days.
The Geopark tag is akin to that of a ‘World Heritage Site’ for historical monuments that can bring India’s famed geological features to the global stage.
Lonar crater became a geo-heritage site in 1979. It is relatively young geologically, at just 50,000 years old. A meteorite estimated to weigh two-million-tonnes slammed into the Earth, creating a 1.83-km diameter crater where the lake formed. It is distinguished by a near-perfect, circular ejecta blanket, which refers to earth thrown up during the collision, around it.
2. Odisha launches own food security scheme
The Naveen Patnaik government launched its own food security scheme on the occasion of Gandhi Jayanti on Tuesday, benefiting 25 lakh people who were left out of the National Food Security Act.
The beneficiaries will get 5 kg of rice per person per month at the rate of ₹1 per kg, said the Chief Minister while launching the scheme at four different districts through videoconferencing from the State Secretariat here.
The State government will spend ₹443.5 crore per annum to support the scheme and ₹221.75 crore in the current financial year, Mr. Patnaik added.
The State government had decided to launch its own food security scheme after the Centre did not respond to its request to add additional beneficiaries under the NFSA.
3. PM to unveil 64-ft tall statue of Sir Chhotu Ram
Prime Minister Narendra Modi will unveil a 64-foot tall statue of peasant leader late Sir Chhotu Ram at his native village Garhi Sampla in Haryana’s Rohtak district on October 9, Union Steel Minister Chaudhary Birender Singh said on Tuesday.
4. Venkaiah Naidu inaugurates ‘World Peace’ monument
Vice-President M. Venkaiah Naidu on Tuesday inaugurated the world’s largest dome at the Maharashtra Institute of Technology (MIT)’s World Peace University (MIT-WPU) campus at Loni Kalbhor on the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.
Institute authorities have said the structure, called the ‘World Peace Monument’ dome, took nearly 13 years to be build. At 160 ft. in diameter and 263 ft tall, it is larger in area than the dome at St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City (which is 136 ft. in diameter and 448 ft. in height).
The dome is built atop the MIT World Peace Library and the World Peace Prayer Hall, which are named after the 13th century poet-saint and philosopher Dnyaneshwar — a pivotal figure of the Bhakti movement in Maharashtra.
Each of the 24 massive columns in the dome stands 63 feet tall. The prayer hall can accommodate 3,500 people and is embellished with portraits of more than 50 accomplished men globally.
5. Govt. gives in to some demands
As the thousands of protesting farmers affiliated to the Bharatiya Kisan Union (Tikait group) were prevented from entering Delhi in support of their demands, Minister of State for Agriculture Gajendra Singh Shekhawat on Tuesday said the Centre would consider reducing GST on farm equipment to 5%.
The farmers have demanded that farm equipment be exempt.
Among the protesters were sugarcane farmers from Bhora Kalan village in Muzaffarnagar who complained of rising debt, increasing cost of pesticides and other expenses and demanded that the recommendations of the M.S. Swaminathan Commission be accepted.
6. Toilet-for-all: WHO calls for more investment
In a release, the WHO said that by adopting its new guidelines, countries can significantly reduce diarrhoeal deaths due to unsafe water and poor sanitation and hygiene. For every US $1 invested in sanitation, the WHO estimates a nearly six-fold return as measured by lower health costs, increased productivity and fewer premature deaths.
Worldwide, 2.3 billion people lack basic sanitation (with almost half of them forced to defecate in the open). They are among the 4.5 billion without access to safely managed sanitation services – in other words a toilet connected to a sewer or pit or septic tank that treats human waste.
The WHO developed the new guidelines on sanitation and health because current sanitation programmes are not achieving anticipated health gains and there is a lack of authoritative health-based guidance on sanitation.
7. In a first, 10 Odisha villages eradicate untouchability
As a tribute to Mahatma Gandhi, 10 villages in seven panchayats in the Daringbadi block of Odisha’s Kandhamal district on Tuesday declared their habitats untouchability-free.
In the gramsabha meetings of the seven panchayats held on Tuesday, resolutions relating to complete eradication of untouchability by pallisabha (smaller village or hamlet councils) in these 10 villages were approved. The villages are: Sundardanda of Pliheri panchayat, Sripanka of Daringbadi panchayat, Ganadkamba and Sikaketi of Badabanga panchayat, Padanketa of Danekbadi panchayat, Sanagudumaha, Sikapata and Jidingmala of Greenbadi panchayat, Budanpipali of Bhramarbadi panchayat, and Penapusi of Sinagabali panchayat.
This path-breaking decision could be taken up by these villages, inhabited mostly by tribals and Scheduled Castes, due to a month-long effort by social organisations Jagruti and Antaranga, of Kandhamal.
8. The NRC case
Between 2009 and 2012, public interest petitions were filed before the Supreme Court, challenging Section 6A of the Citizenship Act, and also asking for the updating of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) for the State of Assam, in accordance with the Assam Accord. It was argued that this was urgently required to check illegal migration from across the border, and detect and deport non-citizens living in Assam. In the beginning, the court only monitored the government’s progress, asked for status reports, and prodded the administrative authorities.
All that changed, however, in late 2014. First, a bench of the court headed by Justice Gogoi directed the State Coordinator of the NRC to submit in a “sealed cover” a report indicating the “steps and measures” that he was taking to complete his work of updating of NRC. This suggested that the court was no longer content with mere oversight, but would direct both the modalities and the implementation. Then, on December 17, 2014, a two-judge bench of the court — again presided over by Justice Gogoi — referred the constitutional challenge to a larger bench, but also passed a detailed order (authored by Justice R.F. Nariman) setting out a time schedule requiring the draft NRC to be completed by the end of January 2016. The bench of Justices Gogoi and Nariman then virtually took over the task of preparing the NRC.
Three incidents, in particular, highlight this. On February 14, 2017, the NRC Coordinator placed a “power point presentation” before the Court, which set out the “steps involved” (both present and future) in the preparation and upgradation of the NRC. The court did not make this public. Subsequently, however, it was reported that the court had approved an entirely new method of ascertaining citizenship, known as the “Family Tree Verification”, on the basis of a behind-closed-door power-point presentation made to it by the State Coordinator. In July, the State Coordinator stated that on the basis of the Family Tree Method, 65,694 cases had been “discovered to be false”. But as it was also reported, for instance not only did people from the hinterlands have little awareness about this method, but putting together a family tree (in the unique sense in which it is being used in this case) was a big challenge especially for women. None of this was taken into account by the Court.
Second, it became increasingly clear that the time schedule was unrealistic. Extensions were requested, which the court granted grudgingly. On November 30, 2017 — with the deadline a month away — the Attorney-General requested a further extension. It was submitted to the court that more than 75 lakh unverified claims would remain even after the deadline had expired. The court refused an extension, and ordered that a “partial” NRC be published on December 31, with the remainder published later. The Attorney-General protested, arguing that this might raise a law and order problem, as a large number of people would believe they had been excluded from the list. The court brushed aside this objection.
On January 2, 2018, it was reported that a 40-year-old man from Silchar killed himself after his name did not figure in the partial draft NRC.
And lastly, on the publication of the final draft NRC at the end of July 2018, around 4 million people had been left out. Now the State Coordinator submitted to the court the “modalities” for the process of filing objections, including a new list of 10 documents that could be relied upon, and leaving out five base documents. The court refused to make the Coordinator’s reports public. It even refused to share them with the Union of India, citing “sensitivity”, despite repeated requests by the Attorney-General. It then set a timeline of 60 days to process the objections of the 4 million left-out individuals.
9. The new deals
After more than a year of intense negotiation, the U.S., Canada and Mexico managed to arrive at a revised trade agreement on Sunday to replace the quarter-century-old North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Even though the deal does not do anything new to promote the cause of free trade among the North American nations, it achieves the objective of averting any significant damage to the international trade system.
When it comes to the finer details, the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) makes several changes to NAFTA, which U.S. President Donald Trump had promised to scrap. The most prominent changes are the tweaks to production quotas applied to Canada’s dairy industry, which were intended to help protect it by restricting supply. Under the new deal, Canada will have to allow American dairy producers to compete against locals, a move that will favour Canadian consumers. The U.S. agreed to retain Chapter 19 and Chapter 20 dispute-settlement mechanisms as a compromise. This will help Canada and Mexico deal with protectionist duties imposed by the U.S., often under the influence of domestic business lobbies, against their exports.
10. Price confusion
This refers to the confusion caused among economic actors due to unpredictability in the rate of price inflation. Prices in any economy act as signals to coordinate economic activity. If the price of a commodity like steel, for instance, increases, it signals to businessmen that the supply of steel is scarce and more of it needs to be produced to satisfy consumer demand. Some of this price rise, however, may simply be due to an increased money supply. This can confuse businessmen as to the extent to which the rise in the price of any good is purely due to a drop in its supply.
11. India sends relief material to Indonesia
IAF aircraft and naval ships on the way to tsunami-hit Palu
The Indian Air Force and the Navy on Tuesday launched efforts to deliver relief material to the tsunami-hit Indonesia.
The Navy has diverted its ships INS Tir, Sujata and Shardul on deployment to Singapore to Palu in Indonesia. The IAF has deployed one C-130J and one C-17 transport aircraft to ferry medical teams and relief material.
The C-130J aircraft is carrying a field hospital from Agra. The C-17 aircraft is carrying tents, generators, medicines and others from the National Disaster Management Authority. The C-130J carrying 37 medical personnel took off from the Hindon Air Force Station to Chennai. From Chennai, the aircraft will fly to the Kualanamu international airport and from there, to Palu. “Light medical equipment, including an X-ray machine, and medicines are being carried,” an IAF officer said.
12. Army to acquire rifles, carbines
The Army expects to sign contracts to procure 72,400 assault rifles and 93,895 close quarter battle (CQB) carbines by May next year. After several failed attempts, the acquisition process began again this year through the fast-track procurement (FTP) route in which a U.S. firm has emerged as the lowest bidder for assault rifles and a UAE firm for carbines.
Sig Sauer of the U.S. has emerged the lowest bidder with a quote of around $990 for the SIG 716 rifle. Caracal from the UAE made the lowest bid of around $1150 for its CAR 816 carbine.
In January, the Defence Acquisition Council had approved the procurement of 72,400 assault rifles and 93,895 carbines for ₹3,547 crore on a fast track basis. Of these, a small quantity is meant for the Navy and the Air Force. The assault rifles will be of 7.62mm calibre while the carbines will be of 5.56mm calibre.
In July, an empowered committee headed by a Brigadier visited the original equipment manufacturers (OEM) in five countries to evaluate the assault rifles and carbines.
In FTP, there is no elaborate general staff evaluation and the entire process is expected to be completed in a year. The evaluation is based on operational requirements. The deliveries have to start within one year of signing of the contract.
The broad parameters for the assault rifle are an effective range of 500 m and weight of less than 3 kg. For the carbine, it should be 200 m and 2 kg.
These are only a small part of the small arms requirement of the Army. The new assault rifles will replace INSAS (Indian National Small Arms System) rifles in use and are meant for troops deployed in forward and counter insurgency areas.
13. ‘Tallest’ Tricolour flies in Guwahati
The Assam government on Tuesday celebrated the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi by unfurling India’s tallest national flag from the mean sea level.
The 9,600-sq.ft flag flies from a 319.5-ft flag pole at Gandhi Mandap atop Sarania Hill. Considering only the height of the pole, the flag at Gandhi Mandap is third tallest in the country.
14. Laser pioneers win Physics Nobel
Three scientists on Tuesday won the Nobel Physics Prize, including the first woman to receive the prestigious award in 55 years, for inventing optical lasers that have paved the way for advanced precision instruments used in corrective eye surgery.
Arthur Ashkin of the U.S. won one half of the nine million Swedish kronor (about $1.01 million) prize, while Gerard Mourou of France and Donna Strickland of Canada shared the other half.
Mr. Ashkin, 96, was honoured for his invention of “optical tweezers” that grab particles, atoms, viruses and other living cells with their laser beam fingers.
Mr. Ashkin, who made his discovery while working at AT&T Bell Laboratories from 1952 to 1991, is the oldest winner of a Nobel prize, beating out American Leonid Hurwicz who was 90 when he won the 2007 Economics Prize.
Meanwhile Mr. Mourou, 74, and Ms. Strickland ,59, — only the third woman to win the Physics Prize — won for helping develop a method to generate ultra-short optical pulses, “the shortest and most intense laser pulses ever created by mankind,” the jury said.
15. Garg gets additional charge of NSIC Chairman
Sudhir Garg, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises, has assumed charge as interim CMD of National Small Industries Corporation (NSIC) after the Public Enterprises Selection Board did not find a suitable candidate for the post. Ministry sources said Mr. Garg has been given additional charge of the post from October 1, for a period of three months or until further orders, whichever is earlier.
INSAS (Indian National Small Arms System)
U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA)
North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)
National Food Security Act (NFSA)
Unmanned Aircraft Operator Permit (UAOP)
17. Things to Remember:
Minister of State for Agriculture Gajendra Singh Shekhawat
Indonesian President Joko Widodo
18. Improve your Vocabulary:
Meaning – Destroy completely; put an end to.
Example – ‘this disease has been eradicated from the world’
Synonyms – get rid of, eliminate, do away with, remove, suppress