Society and women related issues:
‘Provide safety to couples facing threat’(The Hindu)
- The Centre suggested that couples facing a threat to their lives from relatives or community Panchayats like khap should have a provision to inform the officer who is registering their marriage.
Why is it in news?
- The Centre acknowledged that ‘honour killing’ is neither separately defined nor classified as an offence under the prevailing laws but it is treated as murder.
- Thus, by the above mentioned provision, the official can intimate the police to provide them with protection from ‘honour killing’.
- State governments should include a declaration by the couple who intend to have a court marriage if they apprehend a threat to their life and liberty.
- The proposed law against honour killing, the Prohibition of Interference with Freedom of Matrimonial Alliance Bill, is still under circulation among the States.
The power of numbers(The Hindu Opinion)
Collecting data about sexual violence is a crucial step towards breaking the culture of silence
Difference in perceptions about the prevalence of sexual harassment:
- When the India Human Development Survey (IHDS) asked men and women in over 40,000 households about how often young women in their neighbourhoods were harassed, 20% of women and 14% of men said this occurred ‘at least sometimes’ in 2005.
- In 2012, when the same households were interviewed again, 31% of women and 21% of men reported that harassment was prevalent in the same neighbourhoods.
What does this imply?
- This suggests that women are far more likely to feel harassment is pervasive in their neighbourhoods than men.
- moreover, for both men and women, perceptions of sexual harassment increased by almost 10 percentage points between 2005 and 2012 in the same neighbourhoods.
- Lok surveys, asked women about their actual experiences of sexual harassment to nearly 78,000 women.
- When asked, how often you have experienced unwanted groping/touching by men, nearly 10% said often and an additional 7.5% said very often.
- Since personal experiences of this nature is generally expected to be underreported, over 17% women claiming they experience unwanted groping often or very often is striking.
- Of the 15.67% of women who reported experiencing groping/touching only ‘rarely,’ a fair number might have been under-reporting.
- When both men and women were asked whether “women should tolerate eve-teasing as a normal part of life” only about 50% disagreed with this statement
- Others either agreed to some extent or had no opinion. The acceptance of sexual harassment is striking
National Family Health Survey (NFHS) – IV
- NFHS asked questions about women’s experiences of sexual violence.
- About 5.5% of the women surveyed say they have experienced sexual violence;
- Over 80% of these instances of violence are perpetrated by husbands.
What is the problem with NHFS results?
- These results direct attention to the home as the primary site for violence, away from public spaces and workplaces.
- This is misleading and largely reflects problems in survey design and execution.
- NFHS-IV is: “Has anyone ever forced you in any way to have sexual intercourse or perform any other sexual acts when you did not want to?”
- It then goes on to ask the identity of the perpetrator.
- The question which is most likely asked in semi-public settings, in the absence of lead-up and sensitivity, elicits largely negative responses.
- It, moreover, asks about non-consensual sexual acts; it does not account for sexual coercion tactics
What is missing in all the data mentioned above?
- There is no mention of sexual harassment and violence against women in the workplace.
- There is minimal data on workplace harassment in India.
Why is data collection on sexual harassment extremely challenging?
- It is difficult to define sexual harassment
- It is even more difficult to collect information about painful and stigmatising experiences.
- There should be privacy, safety and guard against further stigmatising survivors of sexual harassment and violence.
- Data must be collected and interpreted with sensitivity in order to do justice to the struggles women encounter in the face of gendered and sexual violence.
- However, collecting and disseminating data about sexual violence is the first step towards breaking the culture of silence and finding ways of combating violence against women.
- Nonagenarian architect and reputed urban planner Balkrishna Doshi has been named this year’s winner of architecture’s highest honour — the Pritzker Prize.
Why is it in news?
- Balkrishna Doshi is the first Indian to receive the award.
Balkrishna Doshi’s contribution to architecture:
- His designs include the IIM-Bangalore; Centre for Environmental Planning and Technology, Ahmedabad; cultural spaces in Ahmedabad such as Tagore Memorial Hall, the Institute of Indology, and Premabhai Hall; and private residence Kamala House (Ahmedabad), among many others.
- The architect also designed Aranya Low Cost Housing (Indore, 1989), which currently accommodates over 80,000 individuals through a system of houses, courtyards and a labyrinth of internal pathways.
- It is time that the Sri Lanka’s government had decisively and impartially put down anti-Muslim violence.
- In recent years, Muslims have been targeted by extreme right-wing groups, which are presumably looking for new enemies after the fall of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
- More recently, there was hate-mongering against the community in the backdrop of some Rohingya refugees seeking shelter in Sri Lanka.
State of emergency:
- This is the first time since 2011 that Colombo has had to invoke emergency provisions to bolster the security apparatus, indicating official concern that the current violence could escalate.
Reason behind the state of emergency:
- A Sinhalese truck driver was beaten to death by a group of Muslims for blocking their way.
- This was followed by attacks on Muslim houses, business establishments and mosques.
- There was one more death, that of a Muslim man, whose burnt body was found in a house.
- Sinhala groups then waded in with rumour and inflammatory social media posts, adding to the incendiary mood.
- President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe should redouble efforts to ensure that the authorities on the ground act with decisiveness and impartiality.
Centre’s reply sought on Rohingya(The Hindu)
The Supreme Court has asked the government to reply to a plea by Rohingya refugees to treat them on a par with the Sri Lankan refugees in India as far as health care and education are concerned.
- The court was informed by Prashant Bhushan, counsel for the Rohingya that schemes and provisions similar to those made available to the Sri Lankan refugees must be provided to the Rohingya refugees.
- Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta has submitted that the government would file a reply by March 16.
Aadhaar uncertainty can’t go on, says judge(The Hindu)
- Justice D.Y. Chandrachud highlighted the prevailing uncertainty and dangers, especially in the banking and financial sectors, of waiting till the “last minute” to extend the March 31 deadline for Aadhaar linkage.
What is in news?
- Supreme Court: The Supreme Court expressed displeasure over banks, mobile phone companies and financial institutions continuing to force people to link their Aadhaar cards before March 31 for uninterrupted service, saying the delay in extending the deadline to link Aadhaar with government services will cause uncertainty.
- Centre: The Centre was not reluctant to extend the deadline but there was no such immediate requirement and advised the bench to see how the case progresses.
- Justice DY Chandrachud: Justice DY Chandrachud felt a delay will leave citizens confused.
- As the country is nearing the end of the financial year, there is uncertainty in banks, stock exchanges and financial markets because of the deadline.
- The judge made the observations after advocates complained that government authorities and institutions are still compelling people to link their Aadhaar cards for continuance of their services and urged the court to extend the deadline.
Cabinet approves easing spectrum cap(The Hindu)
The Union Cabinet has approved relaxing the cap on spectrum holding by telcos
- The Cabinet has also given telcos the option to extend the time period for payment of spectrum bought in auction to 16 years from the present 10 years.
- This is likely to help with the cash flow in the short to medium term, while adding Rs. 74,446 crore till 2034-35 to the government’s kitty due to no reduction in interest rates.
- The cap on overall spectrum that can be held by an operator in a circle has been raised to 35% from the current 25%.
- In line with earlier recommendations of TRAI, the current cap of 50% on intra-band spectrum holding has also been removed.
- Instead, there will be a cap of 50% on the combined spectrum holding in the sub-1 GHz bands (700 MHz, 800 MHz and 900 MHz bands).
- There will be no cap on individual or combined spectrum holding in the above 1 GHz band.
Significance of the Move:
- Revising the limit for the spectrum cap holding will facilitate consolidation of telecom licensees and may encourage the participation in the future auction
- Further, the telecom operators will now be able to trade in excess (subject to the prescribed time limit) as well as the current spectrum held by them with other telecom operators depending upon their current spectrum holdings.
- The relief measures, based on the recommendations by the Inter Ministerial Group on stressed assets in the telecom sector will enhance ease of doing business
- The debt payment extension will have only minimal benefit unless the interest rate is also reduced
- The systemic issues of the industry such as excessive taxes and levies of 30% or more remained unaddressed.
- The India-China bilateral trade has reached $84.44 billion last year.
Rise in bilateral trade:
- The bilateral trade in 2017 rose by 18.63% year-on-year to reach $84.44 billion.
- The volume of bilateral trade for the first time touched $80 billion above the $71.18 billion registered last year.
- Trade touched a historic high despite bilateral tensions over a number of issues.
- Including the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.
- China blocking India’s efforts to bring about a UN ban on J-e-M leader Masood Azhar.
- Beijing blocking India’s entry into the Nuclear Suppliers Group as well as the Doklam standoff.
- Trade had stagnated around $70 billion, despite the leaders of both nations setting a $100 billion target for 2015.
- Indian bank are starting at Rs 20,000 crore losses in the bond portfolio in the January-March quarter, which is three times more than the losses incurred in the Oct-Dec quarter.
Highlight from the report:
- As per the Credit Suisse(Swiss multinational financial services holding company, headquartered in Zürich), banks were having huge liquidity after demonetization.
- Banks hold 10% more bonds than what is mandated.
- Banks are required to hold 19.5% of their deposits in government papers.
- Rising bond losses will add to concerns on the adequacy of the recap plan.
- As per the report, RBI intervention by either raising the HTM (held to maturity) threshold or buyback of treasures are needed to help contain the MTM(mark-to market) hit for the bank.
What is held-to maturity security?
- A held-to-maturity security is purchased with the intention of holding the investment to maturity.
- This type of security is reported at amortized cost on a company’s financial statements
- It is usually in the form of a debt security with a specific maturity date
What is Mark to market?
- Mark to market is an accounting practice that involves recording the value of an asset to reflect its current market levels.
- At the end of the fiscal year, a company’s annual financial statements must reflect the current market value of its accounts.
According to Indian Steel Association (ISA), the proposal by the Trump administration to levy a steep tariff on steel imports would encourage steel-surplus nations to divert their exports India
- The association has said that U.S. move to club India, a steel non-mature country, with other steel surplus nations “is not appropriate.”
- He added that the U.S. proposal would dent the growth prospects of a developing nation like India, whose production and consumption were inward looking.
- Further, the proposal, if implemented, would result in major shifts in existing global trade flows of steel and steel products
- ISA also pointed out that there were a total of 16 trade remedies in place in the U.S. against Indian steel companies. This included 10 anti-dumping and six countervailing duties.
Though India is the third largest producer of steel and produces 12% of the world’s non-Chinese production of steel, it has only a 2.7% share in the U.S. imports
The ecologically subsidised city(The Hindu Opinion)
- Kolkata’s wetland conservation and ecological importance
Rural ecological reference:
- A renowned environmentalist discovered that kolkatas waste water is detained in shallow water bodies which serve as oxidation ponds because of the presence of algae.
Under the open tropical sun
- Ghosh discovered that water undergoes change, getting comprehensively treated and cleaned as the bacteria disintegrate and the algae proliferate, serving as food for fish.
- The treated water is used by villagers in the area to grow vegetables and paddy.
Significance of discovery:
- It is considered a remarkable ecological wisdom on the part of largely illiterate villagers, based on knowledge of local conditions and wetland hydrology.
- The 125 sq km area of the wetlands were recognised internationally in 2002 as a ‘Ramsar site due to the efforts of Ghosh.
World’s largest organic sewage treatment plant:
- Kolkata is fortunate to be home to the world’s largest organic ‘sewage treatment plant’, the wetlands.
- Unobserved by the rest of the world, sun-fed algae and the bacteria in the sewage perform this wondrous function.
- The capacity to treat 750 million litres of wastewater per day. In monetary terms it would be over $25 billion (Rs. 162,500 crore) annually.
- These wetlands are also home to a wide variety of aquatic life, vegetation, and hundreds of species of birds
UN Millennium Ecosystem Assessment
- In 2005, the UN Millennium Ecosystem Assessment found ecological degradation to be more prominent within wetlands than any other ecosystem on Earth.
‘A fight for a cleaner future’(The Hindu)
- International Solar Alliance’s founding conference to be held in New Delhi.
- International Solar Alliance conference will be jointly held by India an France.
- Venezuela’s President Maduro is making his first visit to India for two days for the International Solar Alliance
How significant is this visit expected to be?
- This is the first meeting between President Maduro and PM Modi.
- Venezuela is increasing its oil production and is a major exporter to India.
- India also has good relations with Venezuela
- Both India and Venezuela collaborate in many multilateral platforms.
Venezuela is increasing its oil production and is a major exporter to India. Is there a contradiction between that and the Solar Alliance’s plans?
- Oil is a geo-strategic resource and countries of the world must see it as a reason to cooperate, not a reason to dominate others.
- Venezuela sits on the world’s largest energy reserves and coal.
- Today, 60% of our energy comes from hydropower.
What is on the India-Venezuela bilateral agenda?
- India and Venezuela have kept up their oil relations.
- Both sides have increased production of oil, which is jointly developed by Indian oil companies.
- Both leaders will discuss cooperation in pharma production.
- The Venezuelan government provides all medicines, many of which procure from India.
- Venezuela has protected the Indian pharmaceutical companies from American and European MNCs who want to stop them.
- There is also hope for agricultural cooperation. Venezuela wants Indian agricultural agencies to impart their knowledge and technology to them.
- S .economic sabotage:
- Venezuela is the world’s largest natural reserves of oil.
- U.S. and their agencies and European powers are not seeking democracy in Venezuela, they are after the oil.
- The Assam government recently informed the National Green Tribunal that State government had allocated financial assistance of a sum of Rs 11 crore for the installation of sensor-operated automated traffic barriers to check unnatural death of animals around the Kaziranga National Park.
- The directions came while the tribunal was hearing a plea filed by wildlife activist who opposed the widening of NH-37 which passes along the national park.
Rejection of proposal:
- Initially, the green panel had rejected the Assam government’s proposal of deploying manpower instead of installing the sensor-operated automated traffic barriers to curb the deaths.
- The tribunal said that except budgetary constraints, there was no reason for the government to deploy manpower instead of sensors.
- The green panel had also highlighted that any vehicle that surpassed the 40 km speed limit would be liable to pay an environmental compensation of Rs. 5,000 apart from the fine under the Motor Vehicles Act.
About Kaziranga National Park:
- Kaziranga National Park is a national park in the Golaghat and Nagaon districts of the state of Assam.
- The sanctuary, which hosts two-thirds of the world’s great one-horned rhinoceroses, is a World Heritage Site.
- Kaziranga is home to the highest density of tigers among protected areas in the world, and was declared a Tiger Reserve in 2006.
- Located on the edge of the Eastern Himalaya biodiversity hotspot, the park combines high species diversity and visibility.
Rooftop energy(The Hindu Opinion)
- Surveys to map usable rooftops for solar power must be undertaken nationwide
Why in news?
- Bengaluru’s aerial mission to produce a three dimensional map of rooftop solar power potential using Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) data can give solar source of power a big boost
Highlights’ of the survey:
- A survey determines usable rooftops, separating them from green spaces, and analyses the quality of the solar resource.
- Solar maps of this kind will give residents an opportunity to the grid by 2022.
- Major solar projects that connect to the grid often face the challenge of land acquisition and transmission connectivity.
- This has led to a delay in planned capacity coming on stream during 2017: nearly 3,600 MW did not get commissioned during the last quarter, out of a scheduled 5,100 MW.
- Rooftop solar power growth has demonstrated an overall positive trend, including in the fourth quarter of 2017 when tenders for 220 MW represented a doubling of the achievement in the previous quarter.
- This need to be scaled up massively to achieve the national target.
- Domestic policy has to evaluate the impact of factors such as imposition of safeguard duty and anti-dumping duty on imports, and levy of the goods and services tax on photovoltaic modules.
- The Centre should come up with incentives, given the enormous investment potential waiting to be tapped and the real estate that can be rented.
- The southern States and Rajasthan together host the bulk of national solar infrastructure on a large scale.
- Need for some forward-looking policymaking.
India, which is a founder-member of the International Solar Alliance launched in Paris during the climate change conference more than two years ago, must strive to be a global leader. Initiatives such as the Bengaluru mapping project can contribute to assessments of both real potential and risk. This is crucial for projects on a large scale involving significant exposure for financial institutions, including banks. With ongoing improvements to solar cell efficiency and battery technology, rooftops will only get more attractive in the future.
Be alert to Operation ‘Dhakka’: on the toppling of the Lenin statue(The Hindu Opinion)
The toppling of the Lenin statue in Tripura
What has happened?
- On March 5th 2018, saffron-sporting men felled the statue of Lenin- the Russian communist revolutionary
- A second Lenin statue was similarly toppled at another site in the State shortly thereafter
- Syama Prasad Mookerjee and BR Ambedkar’s statues were defaced in Kolkata and Meerut 7th March
- What has been the government response?
- The Prime Minister has condemned the spate of statue vandalism in the country
- The home ministry sent out an advisory to states asking them to prevent such attacks.
- The new Chief Minister of Tripura has also condemned the act of toppling Lenin statue.
Demolitions in the past:
- The Babri Masjid, Ayodhya, December 6, 1992.
- The Wali Dakhani Mazaar, Ahmadabad, March 1, 2002.
- An estimated 272 minority shrines in Gujarat over six days thereafter.
- St. Sebastian’s Church, Dilshad Bagh, Delhi, Christmas Eve, 2014.
The toppling of the Lenin statue in Tripura and similar other statue vandalism across India is a reminder of the grave danger to Indian democracy
Science and Technology:
Our toasters are brave(The Hindu Opinion)
- Today, the “Internet of Things” (IoT), the term coined by Peter T. Lewis in 1985, is threatening to take control of the planet.
- Interestingly, one of the first IoTs is perhaps what John Romkey created — a toaster that could be turned on and off over the Internet for the Interop conference (1989).
- During 2008, the number of “things” connected to the Internet surpassed the number of people on Earth.
- According to Cisco, 50 billion connected “things” will be used globally in 2020.
- It is predicted “that the worldwide IoT market will grow to $7.1 trillion by 2020, compared to $1.9 trillion in 2013. By 2020, it’s estimated that 90% of cars will be connected to the Internet, compared to 10% in 2012”.
Threats IoT poses:
- But, we must keep in mind that the IoT would generate loads of data posing a serious security and privacy threat.
- Hackers may exploit such weak spots.
Measures to be taken:
- Software must be designed accordingly and remote devices locked down as well.
- We need to be alert while interacting with the new ecosystem of appliances.
- The users of the IoT also have to be ‘smart’, keeping security concerns in mind.