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GS: 2


International relations:

39 Indians, abducted by IS in Iraq, are dead: Sushma(The Hindu)

What has happened?

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj informed the Rajya Sabha that the 39 Indians, who had been abducted in Iraq in 2014, are dead.

DNA tests helped in identification

  • Their bodies had been recovered from a mound in Badush, around 30 km from Mosul
  • The identities of the deceased were established after the bodies were exhumed from a mass grave and matched with DNA samples collected from family members in September last year.

Martyr’s Foundation of Iraq

The help of the Martyr’s Foundation, an Iraqi government-run agency, was sought to establish the identity of the deceased

Background Facts

  • The group of 40 Indian workers, mostly from Punjab, and some Bangladeshis were taken hostage by fighters of the Islamic State (IS) when the outfit captured Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, in 2014
  • A member of the group, Harjit Masih from Gurdaspur, managed to escape to Erbil and contacted Indian authorities. He later claimed that the other hostages were taken to a jungle, lined up and shot dead. The government had then rejected his claims.

Indian Constitution and Polity:

Criterion for giving minority tag to educational groups tweaked(The Hindu)

What has happened?

Making it easier for educational institutions to get the minority tag, the Department of Primary and Secondary Education has tweaked the eligibility criterion to set up minority education institutions.

New Rules

The Karnataka Educational Institutions (Recognition of minority educational institutions terms and conditions) draft rules now state that the institution can have 25% students belonging to any number of religious or linguistic minority communities.

Older Rules

  • The older rules required a school to have 25% of the total number of students in an academic year belonging to a specific religious or linguistic minority community

Management Rules unchanged

The other criterion of two-thirds of the management members having to be of a particular minority community remains unchanged

Opposition to the move

The new rules would help a large number of schools “escape” from reserving 25% of their seats for students from weaker and disadvantaged backgrounds under the RTE Act

Justification for the move

Population of linguistic minority communities was less and the move would benefit institutions run by them.

SC gives State a month to submit revised seniority list (The Hindu)

Context

The Supreme Court on Tuesday denied the Karnataka government six months to implement its February 9, 2017, judgment to revise the promotion list of employees after invalidation of a law granting reservation in promotion to Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe employees

One month given

Court has given one month to the state government and directed that if the directions are not complied with, the Chief Secretary has to appear personally before the court on April 25

Backdrop

In January this year, the Supreme Court slammed the State government for not complying with its February 9 judgment

  • In its judgment, the court had held that the “exercise for determining inadequacy of representation, backwardness, and overall efficiency is a must before a State decides to provide reservation with consequential seniority under Article 16 (4A) of the Constitution for SC/ST persons in government service”. It had then given Karnataka three months to revise its seniority list
  • However, the State responded by passing the Karnataka Extension of Consequential Seniority to Government Servants Promoted on the Basis of Reservation (To posts in the Civil Services of the State) Bill, 2017. This Bill is awaiting the President’s assent

Centre wants ‘humane’ AFSPA (The Hindu)

Context

In a first admission that Centre was keen to water down the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA), 1958, Union Minister of State for Home Hansraj Gangaram Ahir informed the Lok Sabha that it was considering a proposal to make the Act more “operationally effective and humane.” The AFSPA is in force in several northeastern States

Backdrop

The decision came after the Home Ministry decided to reduce the number of Central Armed Police Force personnel deployed in the northeastern States

  • The Centre appointed a five-member committee headed by Justice B.P. Jeevan Reddy in November 2004 to review the AFSPA. The committee recommended that the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, should be modified to specify the powers of the armed forces and the Central forces
  • The Home Ministry was of the view that additional Central forces would be sent to the northeastern States and the respective State governments would deploy the State police for regular law and order and patrolling duties
  • In 2017, no insurgency-related incidents were reported in Tripura and Mizoram and no security forces were killed in Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya and Mizoram

SC/ST Act being used for blackmail, says top court (The Hindu)

SC’s observations on Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act of 1989

Observations

  • The anti-atrocities law, which protects Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes from casteist slurs and discrimination, has become an instrument to “blackmail” innocent citizens and public servants
  • Instead of blurring caste lines, the Act has been misused to file false complaints to promote caste hatred. The current working of Atrocities Act may even “perpetuate casteism” if it is not brought in line and the court needs to intervene to check the “false implication of innocent citizens on caste lines.”
  • The 1989 Act penalizes casteist insults and even denies anticipatory bail to the suspected offenders. The law is therefore used to rob a person of his personal liberty merely on the unilateral word of the complainant. Anticipatory bail should be allowed if the accused is able to prima facie prove that the complaint against him is malafide

Guidelines issued

Issuing a slew of guidelines to protect public servants and private employees from arbitrary arrests under the Atrocities Act, the Supreme Court directed that

  • Public servants can only be arrested with the written permission of their appointing authority. In the case of private employees, the Senior Superintendent of Police concerned should allow it
  • Besides this precaution, a preliminary inquiry should be conducted before the FIR is registered to check whether the case falls within the parameters of the Atrocities Act and if it is frivolous or motivated

GS: 3


Economy:

Centre clears Rs. 1,400 cr. for Polavaram (The Hindu)

Context

The Union Ministry of Finance has directed NABARD to release Rs. 1,400 crore from the Long Term Irrigation Fund (LTIF) to fund the Polavaram Project, State Water Resources Principal Secretary Shashi Bhushan Kumar has said

Info relevant to prelims

Polavaram project

Polavaram is a multi-purpose irrigation project which is under construction and located on river Godavari near Ramayyapet village of Polavaram Mandal of West Godavari district in Andhra Pradesh. The project will be a one-stop solution for all the water needs of the state

  • Importance of the project: Polavaram project dam being built on River Godavari can help divert and utilise Godavari water to Krishna and other rivers. If executed well, this project can make the state drought-freeforever

New telecom policy almost ready: Sinha (The Hindu)

Context

Union Minister Manoj Sinha said on Tuesday that the new telecom policy (NTP) was almost ready and would be brought in the next session of Parliament after Cabinet nod

Information relevant for prelims

Deen Dayal SPARSH Yojana

Under the scheme of SPARSH (Scholarship for Promotion of Aptitude & Research in Stamps as a Hobby), it is proposed to award annual scholarships to children of Standard VI to IX having good academic record and also pursuing Philately as a hobby through a competitive selection process in all postal circles

  • To avail this scholarship, a child must be a student of a recognized school within India and the concerned school should have a Philately Club and the candidate should be a member of the Club
  • In case the school Philately Club hasn’t been established a student having his own Philately Deposit Account will also be considered.Every prospective school, which participates in the competition, would be assigned a Philately mentor to be chosen from amongst the renowned Philatelists
  • The Philately mentor would help in formation of the School level Philately Club, providing guidance to young and aspiring Philatelists on how to pursue the hobby and also helping the aspiring Philatelists on their Philately Projects etc

What is philately?

Philately is the hobby of collection and study of Postage stamps. It also entails the collection, appreciation and research activities on stamps and other related philatelic products. The hobby of collecting Stamps includes seeking, locating, acquiring, organizing, cataloguing, displaying, storing, and maintaining the stamps or related products on thematic areas

  • Philately is called the king of hobbies because Stamp collection as a hobby has lot of educational benefits – it teaches a lot about the socio economic political reality of the period in which the stamp is issued or the theme on which it is issued

‘Move out, move up approach could ease India’s farm crisis’ (The Hindu)

Context

View of the head of the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) ahead of release of annual global food policy report

Views

Indian must adopt policies that facilitate sections of farmers to ‘move out’ of rural areas to urban areas and the remaining ones to ‘move up’ in the farming sector to tackle the current agrarian crisis

  • Move out, move up approach: For India, some farmers have to move to cities and urban centres. Those who stay behind will be able to increase the holding and move to producing high value food that will create new opportunities. That is the ‘move out, move up’ approach
  • Non-farm opportunities in rural areas must also increase if farmers have to come out of poverty. Higher the non-farm income, the lower the poverty rate
  • Non-farm opportunities: food processing, input supplies, trade and marketing, making construction materials for urban centres etc. are non-farm opportunities that are possible in rural areas, where farmers can work part-time or seasonally
  • Inadequate linkages: India has been investing in rural and urban projects separately, but investment in the linkage between urban and rural economy is inadequate
  • Shift of demand: As urban people get prosperous they will demand better, more nutritious food in the future. This would encourage agriculture that is now grain focused, to shift to vegetables, fruits, good dairy products and meat
  • More investment in R&D: Indian agriculture scientists must work hard to develop and own new technologies. The country should own them rather than multinationals, so that Indian farmers will benefit. India should invest more in this research
  • Anti-globalism could be detrimental to food security and countries such as India and China must continue to argue for “free and fair trade” and the free movement of people around the world

Environment:

Awash in water crises (The Hindu Opinion)

Context

As World Water Day draws closer (March 22), this year’s World Water Development Report makes it clear that nature-based solutions — which are also aligned with the principles and aims of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development — can offer answers to our most pressing water-related challenges. Business-as-usual approaches to water security are no longer viable

Challenges for water security

  • Rising population in emerging economies: The world’s population is expected to increase from 7.6 billion (2017) to between 9.4 and 10.2 billion people (2050), with two-thirds of them living in cities. UN estimates are that more than half of this anticipated growth will be in Africa (1.3 billion) and Asia (0.75 billion). Therefore, those most in need of water will be in developing or emerging economies
  • Climate change: Climate change is also impacting the global water cycle with wetter regions generally becoming wetter and drier regions drier. The International Water Management Institute estimates that total demand could increase from 680 billion cubic metres (BCM) to 833 BCM by 2025, and to 900 BCM by 2050

Situation in India

India faces major threats to its water security, with most water bodies near urban centres heavily polluted. Inter-State disputes over river resources are also becoming more intense and widespread

Issue of water quality

Along with water scarcity, there is the issue of water quality. Since the 1990s, water pollution has worsened in most rivers in Africa, Asia and Latin America, according to the UN Environment Programme (UNEP)

  • Situation in India: A Central Pollution Control Board report indicates that almost half of India’s inter-State rivers are polluted. Sewage from 650 cities and towns along 302 polluted river stretches in the country increased from 38,000 million litres per day (MLD) in 2009 to 62,000 MLD in 2015. It found that the untreated sewage and industrial waste was a major cause of pollution in 16 of 40 inter-State rivers in the country.

Possible solutions

Nature-based solutions can address overall water scarcity through supply-side management

  • Environmentally-friendly agricultural systems like those which use practices such as conservation tillage, crop diversification, legume intensification and biological pest control
  • Constructed wetlands for wastewater treatment can also be a cost-effective, nature-based solution that provides effluent of adequate quality for several non-potable uses (irrigation) and additional benefits that include energy production
  • Watershed management is another nature-based solution that is seen not only as a complement to built or “grey” infrastructure but also one that could also spur local economic development, job creation, biodiversity protection and climate resilience
    • Grey infrastructure: It usually refers to the traditional methods of managing water, using man-made, constructed assets, most often water tight and designed to avoid any type of ecosystem to grow on it. Modern grey infrastructure such as permeable pavements and some roof water retention systems mimic the natural water retention capacity of the landscape and help to restore more natural patterns of run-off and infiltration. It includes channels, pipes, sewers and sewage treatment works, ditches, dikes, dams… Grey infrastructure is so-called because it is often constructed of concrete

Conclusion

Nature-based solutions are crucial to achieving our Sustainable Development Goals. Adopting them will not only improve water management but also achieve water security.

World’s last male northern white rhino dies in Kenya (The Hindu)

Context

Sudan, the last male northern white rhino, has died in Kenya at the age of 45, after becoming a symbol of efforts to save his sub-species from extinction, a fate that only science can now prevent

Backdrop

When Sudan was born in 1973 in the wild in Shambe, South Sudan, there were about 700 of his kind left in existence

  • At his death, there are only two females remaining alive and the hope that in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) techniques will advance enough to preserve the sub-species

Poaching crisis wiped out White Rhinos

Demand for rhino horn in traditional Chinese medicine and dagger handles in Yemen fuelled a poaching crisis in the 1970s and 1980s that largely wiped out the northern white rhino population in Uganda, Central African Republic, Sudan and Chad

  • A final remaining wild population of about 20-30 rhinos in the Democratic Republic of Congo died out during the fighting in the late 1990s and early 2000s, and by 2008 the northern white rhino was considered extinct in the wild
  • In the 1970s, Sudan was shipped to the Dvur Kralove Zoo in the Czech Republic.
  • He did manage to sire two females while at the Czech zoo. His daughter Najin, 28, and her daughter Fatu, 17, are the two females left alive at Ol Pejeta Conservancy

Science and Technology:

India joins Europe’s satellite data sharing pool (The Hindu)

Context

India has joined Europe’s mega global arrangement of sharing data from earth observation satellites, called Copernicus

What has happened?

An agreement between European Commission and ISRO means data from a band of Indian remote sensing satellites will be available to the European Copernicus programme, while designated Indian institutional users will in return get to access free data from Europe’s six Sentinel satellites and those of other space agencies that are part of the programme, at their cost

How shall it help India?

Under this arrangement, the European Commission intends to provide India with free, full and open access to the data from the Copernicus Sentinel family of satellites using high bandwidth connections

What will India have to share with EC?

Reciprocally the Department of Space will provide the Copernicus programme and its participating states with a free, full and open access to the data from ISRO’s land, ocean and atmospheric series of civilian satellites (Oceansat-2, Megha-Tropiques, Scatsat-1, SARAL, INSAT-3D, INSAT-3DR) with the exception of commercial high-resolution satellites data

What is Copernicus?

The multi-billion-euro Copernicus is Europe’s system for monitoring the earth using satellite data. It is coordinated and managed by the EC

  • Copernicus is served by a set of dedicated satellites (the Sentinel families) and contributing missions (existing commercial and public satellites). The Sentinel satellites are specifically designed to meet the needs of the Copernicus services and their users. Since the launch of Sentinel-1A in 2014, the European Union set in motion a process to place a constellation of almost 20 more satellites in orbit before 2030

It has benefitted India in the past

The Copernicus emergency response mapping system was activated on at least two Indian occasions — during the 2014 floods in Andhra Pradesh in October 2014 and after the 2013 storm in Odisha.

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