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GS: 2

International relations:

India, U.K. in talks over education(The Hindu)

What has happened?

India and the United Kingdom (U.K.) were holding talks to seal an agreement on mutual recognition of educational qualifications, London’s envoy said here on Friday

Background

Upcoming CHOGM meet in London

Recognizing Masters Degrees of UK in India

The one-year masters degrees given by the UK universities are not recognised in India

So discussion is under way for an agreement to mutually recognise these degrees

Why India didn’t recognize these degrees?

Because some of them come from less reputed educational institutions in UK which would hamper prospects of students in future.

Agreement with France

India last month signed an agreement on mutual recognition of educational degrees with France, during the visit of President Emmanuel Macron to Delhi

Indian Constitution and Polity:

Office-of-profit case: EC to hear AAP MLAs on May 17(The Hindu)

What has happened?

Pursuant to a Delhi High Court order setting aside the disqualification of 20 Aam Aadmi Party MLAs last month, the Election Commission will on May 17 resume an “oral hearing” on office-of-profit allegations against them.

Notification quashed

  • On March 23, the High Court had quashed the notification issued by President Ram Nath Kovind, on a recommendation from the EC, to disqualify the MLAs
  • A Bench of Justices Sanjiv Khanna and Chander Shekhar referred the issue back to the EC, stating that the commission’s recommendation dated January 19 was vitiated because of the failure to give the legislators an oral hearing or opportunity to address their argument on merits

SC to examine plea on ‘master of roster’ issue(The Hindu) 

What has happened?

The Supreme Court on Friday agreed to examine a petition filed by former Union Law Minister Shanti Bhushan to declare that the authority of the Chief Justice of India as “master of roster” should not be reduced to an absolute, singular and arbitrary power

Sought help of AG

Bench seeks help of A-G on petition filed by former Law Minister Shanti Bhushan against ‘absolute discretion’ of CJI

Earlier judgments on the issue

  • The Bench will hear the petition despite two separate judgments by the Supreme Court in November 2017 and on April 11, 2018, upholding the Chief Justice’s complete administrative authority to allocate cases and constitute Benches
  • Both judgments were pronounced by Benches led by Chief Justice Dipak Misra.
  • The April 11 verdict called the CJI an “institution in himself”.

Judges Case ruling

The Judges Case of 1998: The Supreme Court itself had interpreted the term “Chief Justice of India” to mean the entire Collegium for the purposes of appointments and transfers of judges.

What is asked in the petition?

To clarify the administrative authority of the Chief Justice of India as the master of roster and for the laying down of the procedure and principles to be followed in preparing the roster for allocation of cases

Preventing accidents(The Hindu Opinion) 

Context

The government had promised to address road safety issue but it has not been able to do so as the requisite amendments to the Motor Vehicles Act have not yet been passed

Apathy of the governments

Safety black spots on roads that were identified on the basis of fatal accidents between 2011 and 2014: The Union Road Transport Ministry stated in March this year that only 189 out of 789 such spots had been rectified, while funds had been sanctioned for another 256, and the rest were either under State jurisdiction or awaiting sanction

Measures suggested

  • Road risk complaints
    • The apex court has directed that the performance of district committees should be reviewed periodically
    • This should ideally follow mandatory public hearings every month for citizens to record road risk complaints
  • Forming the National Road Safety and Traffic Management Board

Forming the much-delayed National Road Safety and Traffic Management Board, with a provision for State governments to participate, has to be a top priority

  • Taking help from technical experts in investigation
    • Without expert help, executive agencies such as the Police and Public Works Departments are unable to conduct a technical investigation into an accident
    • Only a scientific system can stop the routine criminalising of all accidents
  • No monetary help to victims
    • For accident victims, there is also the heavy burden of out-of-pocket expenditure on medical treatment
    • The government had promised to address this issue through a cashless facility, but it has not been able to do so as the requisite amendments to the Motor Vehicles Act have not yet been passed 

Conclusion

Ultimately, road safety depends on enforcement of rules with zero tolerance to violations, and making officials accountable for safety. That can be ensured even today.

GS: 3

Economy:

FRDI Bill: Banks’ loss is Postal dept.’s gain?(The Hindu)

What has happened?

The Financial Resolution and Deposit Insurance (FRDI) Bill, 2017, seems to have a positive impact on the Postal department, if the increase in the total deposits in post offices across the Andhra Pradesh Circle in the last two years is any indication.

Switching to Postal service

People are apparently switching over to Postal service from commercial banks fearing flight of their savings

Rise in net deposits

  • The total deposits touched Rs. 16,132.28 crore in 2017-18 against Rs. 14,947.24 crore in 2015-16 financial year
  • The net deposits stood at Rs. 2031.78 crore in the last fiscal compared with Rs. 507.13 crore in 2015-16

Rise in new accounts in Postal offices

The number of accounts being opened in the post offices has also increased considerably

Five lakh accounts were opened during 2017-18 financial year alone

FRDI bill one of the factors

Though the Postal department did not study the reasons for the ‘impressive growth’, senior officials, in private, say that the FRDI Bill is one of the factors.

Environment:

Turtle with punk hairdo on endangered species list(The Hindu)

What has happened?

Boasting a green, punk hairdo and the unusual ability to breathe through its backside, an Australian turtle has become famous overnight — but not only for its eccentricity. 

Found in: Mary River, Queensland, Australia

Scientific Name: Elusor macrurus

Status: Latest creature to join the “EDGE of Existence” list of endangered species compiled by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) 

Features

Breathing through genitals

  • It can breathe underwater through specialised glands in the cloaca — orifices through which the turtle excretes urine and waste, and lays eggs.
  • They have specialised organs in their cloaca which process oxygen from the surrounding water
  • It is able to spend so much time underwater up to three days without coming up for air due to its strange ability to breathe through its bum
  • The Mary River Turtle takes an exceptionally long time to reach sexual maturity, with individuals not breeding before the age of 25 

Distinguishing feature

The bright green, spiky mohawks sprouting on the heads of some

mary river turtle

Green Mohawk: It’s algae not hair

Due so much time submerged underwater that some parts become covered in algae 

Reasons for Decline

  • According to Australia’s department of the environment, the Mary River Turtle’s rapid decline was sparked by its popularity as a house pet in the 1970s and 80s, known then as the “Penny Turtle”
  • Destruction of the creatures’ natural habitat through the building of dams, as well as the collection of its eggs for the pet trade, piled on the survival pressure.

 

EDGE of Existence Programme of ZSL 

EDGE: Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered (EDGE) 

Aim

  • The aim of the EDGE programme is to put these species (EDGE) on the map and catalyse conservation action to secure their future
  • To ensure that local stakeholders, governments, and in-country and international conservation organisations take ownership of these forgotten species and commit to ensuring their future survival. 

What is it?

The EDGE of Existence programme is the only global conservation initiative to focus specifically on threatened species that represent a significant amount of unique evolutionary history

What it does?

  • Using a scientific framework to identify the world’s most Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered (EDGE) species, the EDGE of Existence programme highlights and protects some of the most unique and most wonderful species on the planet

EDGE species

  • EDGE species have few close relatives on the tree of life and are often extremely unusual in the way they look, live and behave, as well as in their genetic make-up
  • They represent a unique and irreplaceable part of the world’s natural heritage, yet an alarming proportion are on the verge of extinction

EDGE Lists

  • The EDGE of Existence programme uses EDGE Lists to prioritise species for conservation
  • EDGE Lists covers amphibians, birds, corals, mammals, and now reptiles
  • Each species is given an EDGE score, which combines extinction risk with how isolated (or unusual) that species is on the Tree of Life, providing an at-a-glance guide to both its evolutionary uniqueness and conservation status. 

ZSL – Zoological Society of London

Tagline: Let’s Work for Wildlife

Founded: In 1826, the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) is an international scientific, conservation and educational charity

Mission: to promote and achieve the worldwide conservation of animals and their habitats.                                                                                               

North Indian reservoirs run dry as summer sets in(The Hindu) 

What has happened?

North India saw good rains last week, but its reservoirs are precariously deficit

  • The total live storage now is 3.62 BCM (billion cubic metres), which is 20% of capacity
  • The storage during the corresponding period last year was 23% and the average storage of the last 10 years during the corresponding period was 27% of live storage capacity.

Poor pre-monsoon rain last month has contributed to the shortage

According to figures from the India Meteorological Department (IMD), north-west India, which normally gets 5.9 cm of rain from March 1 to April 12, got only 3.4 cm — a 42% decline.

Hotter summer days

The summer months from March-May will be “warmer” than normal and several parts of north India, at least a degree hotter than their average summer temperatures, the IMD had said in its annual forecast

Delay in harvest of Wheat

  • Widespread rain during the past few days in parts of Punjab and Haryana could delay the harvesting of the standing wheat crop by at least a week
  • Even as a fresh western disturbance could bring more rain in the region on April 15 and 16. While the IMD hasn’t yet announced its monsoon forecast, private agencies have said India is likely to get a normal monsoon.
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