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GS: 2

International Relations:

Emerging irritant: on China-Pakistan Economic Corridor(The Hindu)

What has happened?

The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is China’s ambitious project for increasing connectivity and economic cooperation within Eurasia. Since its announcement in 2013, the BRI has been positively received by many countries covered within its ambit.

Indian concern regarding CPEC

China’s insistence on establishing the CPEC project through PoK is seen by India as a deliberate disregard of its territorial claims

Effect of CPEC

  • If China invests heavily in the region, it risks becoming party to what has been a troubling bilateral dispute between nuclear-armed rivals.
  • If CPEC gets operationalized and fortifies the emergence of a fully functional China-Pakistan axis, this would hamper India’s larger interests in the South Asian region and force a strategic rethink in South Block
  • The incentives for this would be even stronger if CPEC’s potential success renders PoK more industrially developed, thus granting Pakistan greater legitimacy over the region

Conclusion

The best way forward would be for India to come up with a concrete plan on PoK. Otherwise, its protests on CPEC may well be ignored by stakeholders in the project, with little consequence.

Indian Constitutional and Polity:

Centre quotes SC order on Aadhaar(The Hindu) 

What has happened?

Recently, the Aadhaar Constitution Bench, led by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, had questioned the government’s line that its efforts to mandatorily link SIMs with Aadhaar was based on a February 6, 2017 order of the Supreme Court.

Centre’s stand

  • The Centre insisted that its earlier move for mandatory seeding of mobile phone SIMs with Aadhaar was based on February 6, 2017 order of the Supreme Court
  • This order was based on a PIL petition filed by Lok Niti Foundation, highlighting the need for a “definite mobile phone subscriber verification scheme, to ensure 100% verification of the subscriber.”
  • The petitioner had argued that such a scheme was necessary to prevent the use of unverified mobile phone SIMs in domestic crime and terror acts.

SC upholds MCI notification(The Hindu) 

Context

Bid to prevent blocking of Post Graduate entrance medical seats

What has happened?

The Supreme Court on Thursday upheld the validity of a April 9 notification issued by the Medical Council of India (MCI) making changes in the method of admissions to the postgraduate medical courses to arrest the blocking of seats by certain candidates which was detrimental to the interest of meritorious students in the all India quota.

Court observed

There is “material on record to suggest that devious methods were adopted by certain candidates to block the seats in the All India quota and resign thereafter from those seats which resulted in reversion of the all India quota seats to the State quota”

Illegal practice

“The Medical Counselling Committee identified about thousand candidates who were indulging in such illegal practice and proposes to take action against them after a thorough inquiry

Need time for Cauvery scheme: Centre to SC(The Hindu) 

What has happened?

Tamil Nadu argued that though the Cauvery tribunal had ordered the release of 2.5 tmcft each for April and May, Karnataka had released only 1.1 tmcft in April.

Background

Tamil Nadu has filed a contempt petition against the Centre for delaying the framing of the scheme as per the top court’s February 16 judgment. 

Electoral issue

The Centre does not want to frame the scheme before the elections on May 12 to favour the BJP’s fortunes in the State

CJ’s assurance

The Chief Justice assured that Tamil Nadu would indeed get water. In a stern voice, he told the Karnataka counsel that the “State must release water.”

What now?

The court directed Mr. Venugopal to respond on Tuesday about what steps the Centre had taken so far to frame the scheme.

GS: 3

Economy:

AIIB not a threat, can cooperate: ADB president(The Hindu) 

What has happened?

The rise of China-led The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) is not seen as a threat to Asian Development Bank (ADB) and in fact, both can cooperate to finance the large infrastructure funding needs, Takehiko Nakao, president of the ADB, said on Thursday.

China’s clout

  • In 2016, China unveiled the international development bank as Beijing sought to change the unwritten rule of the financing game.
  • With several large countries agreeing to join the bank, despite the United States’ reservation, it reflected China’s growing clout

Long-term strategy

  • ADB has initiated a long-term ‘Strategy 2030’ to address the changing dynamics — the way Asian countries need finances to deal with poverty.
  • The agency was looking at options on how to fund the ‘one-belt-one road’ initiative, which would connect China with the rest of Eurasia, and was open to collaborate with AIIB

Regional cooperation

  • On the belt and road initiative (BRI), ADB has an MoU with the Chinese authorities about things to do together
  • ADB happy to cooperate with BRI when there are appropriate projects because good connectivity is important

Internal Security:

Despite CA’s closure, U.K. to continue investigation(The Hindu)

What has happened?

The closure of Cambridge Analytica (CA) and the associated firm SCL Elections will not have any impact on two U.K. investigations into the data analytics company. 

Investigations to continue irrespective of the closure of the firm

  • Britain’s Information Commissioner’s Office, which is investigating SCL Group and CA as part of a wider probe into the use of personal data and analytics in political campaigns and beyond, said it would continue its civil and criminal investigations and pursue individuals and directors “as appropriate and necessary”
  • It will also monitor successor companies to “ensure the public is safeguarded”.

List of unanswered questions

Earlier this week, the committee sent a strongly-worded letter to Facebook, with 40 questions that had not yet been answered in its testimony, and a deadline of May 11 for Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to agree to give evidence directly to the panel before May 24, failing which a formal summons could be issued to him

Insolvency proceedings

CA said it and SCL Elections would be commencing insolvency proceedings after “numerous and unfounded” accusations, vilification, and “siege of media coverage” had “driven away virtually all of the company’s customers and suppliers”.

Environment:

Poor response in Alipore zoo to animal adoption scheme(The Hindu)

Context

Most organisations and individuals have not renewed contract with the zoo 

What has happened?

Almost four years after the West Bengal government introduced a scheme to adopt animals in the Alipore Zoological Garden, the initiative seems to have lost steam with fewer individuals and companies approaching the authorities for adoption.

Decrease in revenue from the scheme

The animal adoption scheme was announced in 2013 and in 2015-16 the revenue from the initiative increased up to Rs. 31.65 lakh. But in 2017-18, the money from the scheme dropped to Rs. 11.75 lakh 

Lone adoption

Almost Rs. 11 lakh came from a single source, a non-resident Indian. S.U. Rahaman, whose address in the zoo records was mentioned as Sutton, London, had adopted three tigers, two lions and one leopard

Incentives galore

  • Besides incentives like celebrating the birthday of the adopted animal inside the zoo, the scheme provides opportunity to use the animal’s photograph for publication in newspapers, magazines, in the letter head and website of individual or the institution.
  • Adoption cost of tigers and lions was highest at Rs. 2 lakh per annum. Birds or porcupines could be adopted at Rs. 10,000 for a year.

New snake found in Western Ghats(The Hindu) 

What has happened?

Just 40 cm long and iridescent brown, Bhupathy’s shieldtail is the latest addition to the snake fauna of the Western Ghats.

Location

Bhupathy’s shieldtail has been observed only in the Anaikatty Hills of Tamil Nadu

Uropeltis bhupathyi 

The snake, currently observed only in the forests of the Anaikatty hills in Tamil Nadu’s Coimbatore district, has been named Uropeltis bhupathyi , after the late herpetologist S. Bhupathy, for his contributions to the field

Key features

  • The reptile belongs to a family of snakes found only in peninsular India and Sri Lanka
  • They are non-venomous, burrowing and mostly earthworm-eating, and are called shieldtails after the large, flat tips of their tails, which make them appear almost sliced off

Distinguishing feature

The new species had more than 200 scales

Shieldtail species in number

  • The discovery takes the number of known species of shieldtails in India to 41
  • The country is home to more than 300 snake species.
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