9 PM Current Affairs Brief – January 12, 2019


Download the compilation of all summaries of all the news articles here


GS-1

Oceans are heating up at a quickening pace, say scientists

Oceans are heating up at a quickening pace, say scientists

News:

World’s Oceans Are Warming Faster, Fueling Storms and Sea Rise

Important Facts:

  • Oceans are heating up 40% faster on average than a United Nations panel estimated five years ago.
  • A warmer ocean is contributing to increasingly destructive weather patterns around the world
  • More than 90 percent of the excess heat from greenhouse gas emissions has been absorbed into the oceans
  • Ocean temperatures are much less variable than surface temperatures, which can swing greatly from year to year, and therefore give a clearer signal of global warming

Consequences of Ocean Warming:

  • On Climate:
    • The implication of faster ocean warming is that the effect of carbon dioxide on global warming is greater than it was expected. It is already known that adding CO2 to the air was warming the world very rapidly.
    • Greater warming will mean increased water demand for crops and forests and pastures, more stress on irrigation and urban water supplies, and reduced food production.
    • More water demand means more forest fires and smoke, shorter winters with less mountain snowpack, and increased stress on ecosystems, cities and the world economy.
  • Higher Sea Levels
    • When water heats up, it expands. Thus, the most readily apparent consequence of higher sea temperatures is a rapid rise in sea level.
    • Sea level rise causes inundation of coastal habitats for humans as well as plants and animals, shoreline erosion, and more powerful storm surges that can devastate low-lying areas.
  • Stronger Storms
    • The effects of higher ocean temperatures in the form of stronger and more frequent tropical storms and hurricanes/cyclones is already seen in Indian oceans recently. Warmer surface water dissipates more readily into vapor, making it easier for small ocean storms to escalate into larger, more powerful systems.
  • On Ocean organism:
    • Ocean organism most vulnerable to temperature change.
    • Ocean warming leads to deoxygenation – a reduction in the amount of oxygen dissolved in the ocean – and sea-level rise – resulting from the thermal expansion of sea water and continental ice melting. The rising temperatures, coupled with ocean acidification (the decrease in pH of the ocean due to its uptake of CO2), affect marine species and ecosystems
    • Due to temperature change reef bleaching will start. Bleaching slows coral growth, makes them susceptible to disease, and can lead to large-scale reef die-off.
    • Other organisms affected by temperature change include krill, an extremely important link at the base of the food chain
    • Research has shown that krill reproduce in significantly smaller numbers when ocean temperatures rise. This can have a cascading effect by disrupting the life cycle of krill eaters, such as penguins and seals—which in turn causes food shortages for higher predators.
  • Other Consequences
    • Warmer sea temperatures are also associated with the spread of invasive species and marine diseases.
    • If an ecosystem becomes warmer, it can create an opportunity where outside species or bacteria can suddenly thrive where they were once excluded. This can lead to forced migrations and even species extinctions.
    • Warmer seas also lead to melting from below of polar ice shelves, compromising their structural integrity and leading to spectacular shelf collapse
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GS-2

Hurrying through a legislation: on reservation quota

Hurrying through a legislation: on reservation quota

News:

Laps in India’s parliamentary procedures reflected in the Constitution (124th Amendment) Bill, 2019, that enables 10% reservation in education and employment for economically weaker sections.

Important Facts:

Laps in India’s parliamentary procedures

  • The rules of procedure not followed – Lok Sabha require every Bill to be circulated at least two days ahead of introduction. This is to give time for MPs to read the Bill and discuss it (or make objections) when the vote on the motion to introduce the Bill is taken up.
    • However, in the case of 124th Amendment, the bill was not circulated
  • Denial of unstarred question – When unstarred questions was tabled which is whether the government “exploring the scope of providing reservation for poor candidates from forward communities for education and employment” was denied by Minister.
    • Unstarred questions do not allow for follow-up questions. This is why they are more conducive for getting answers on queries related to data/information.
  • By passed security mechanism – The usual practice is to refer Bills to the respective standing committee of Parliament. This step allows MPs to solicit public feedback and interact with experts before forming their recommendations. In the case of this Constitution Amendment this scrutiny mechanism was bypassed.
  • No time for discussion – There was hardly any time between its introduction and final discussion.
  • No Scrutiny by Parliamentary Committee – Barring a few small parties, none of the larger Opposition parties asked for the Bill to be carefully considered by a parliamentary committee not even in Rajya Sabha.

Structural Loophole in India which obstruct an effective parliamentary procedure to take place

  • The anti-defection law – That restrains MPs from voting according to their conscience.
  • Lack of recorded voting as a norm which reduces the accountability of the MP as voters don’t know which way they voted on each issue.
  • Party affiliation of the Speaker – Making her dependent on the party leadership for re-election prospects.
  • Frequent bypassing of committees – Just 25% of Bills have been referred to committees in this Lok Sabha.
  • Insufficient time and research support to examine Bills.
  • The lack of a calendar – Parliament is held at the convenience of the government.

Practice in Britain in contrast to India

  • For instance, recently, a member of the ruling Conservative Party wanted to move an amendment bill to set a deadline for the Prime Minister to put forward new plans if she loses the Brexit vote next week and when the government objected that such amendments can be moved only by a Minister, the Speaker differed on this and said that every member had a right to move an amendment.
  • This case reflects three ways how Britain have better Bill passage mechanism
    • First, the absence of an anti-defection law, which allow each MP can vote her conscience.
    • Second, In Britain it is known exactly how each MP voted because they are recorded. In India, most votes (other than Constitution Amendments that need a two-thirds majority to pass) are through voice votes, just 7% of other Bills had a recorded vote over the last 10 years.
    • Third, in above case the Speaker insisted on the supremacy of Parliament in Britain, and allow a motion against the wishes of the government.

Way Forward:

  • Parliament has a central role to secure the interest of citizens. It is the primary body of accountability that translates the wishes and aspirations of citizens into appropriate laws and policies.
  • The need of the hour is for greater and effective utilization of Parliamentary Committees to strengthen Parliament as a deliberative body which can ensure effective oversight.
  • Each day a specific time-frame shall be maintained for discussion of any new or urgent issues in concurrence with the Speaker. The Opposition could also be allotted a couple of hours at the starting or at the end of the day to put their views forward.
  • Need to address each of the issues discussed above to strengthen Parliament and protect our democracy.
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GS-3

Meghalaya’s rat hole traps

Meghalaya’s rat hole traps

News

1. Search Continues for 15 miners trapped in Ksan Rat Hole Coal Mines  

2. Justice B.P. Katoki committee appointed by the NGT reported rampant illegal mining as reason for such mining disaster which continues despite NGT ban

Important Facts

What is Rat Hole Mining?

1. Rat Hole Mining is mining procedure which involve digging of very small tunnel of only 3-4 feet high for extracting coal.

2. It is called rat hole because of  small height of tunnel

3. It is of broadly two types: (a) Side-Cutting: involve digging tunnel in hill slopes through which workers move to find coal seam (b) Box-Cutting: involve digging pit until coal seam found followed by digging rat hole tunnel

Why Rat Hole Mining method is done in Meghalaya?

1. Meghalaya hilly geography necessitate rat hole mining because coal seam is very thin (less than 2m)

2. Other mining methods like open cast mining which works well when coal seam is thick, cannot be employed

3. Removal of rocks from hill terrain and constructing pillars in mines is very expensive method

Why was Rat Hole Mining is banned?

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) banned it in 2014 and retained the ban in 2015 on grounds of it being unscientific and unsafe for workers.

Reasons:

1. Environmental concerns: includes acidic mines drains acidifying rivers (lunar, lakha and kopili rivers); soil infertility due to degradation of top layer soil in mining area; road side coal dumping and off road coal transportation damages environments

2. Lives concern: involves loss of lives either due to rat holes flooding or rat holes collapsing

3. Social concern: due to small size of tunnel, there is incidences of employing children as worker; no social security for migrants workers from nearby states  

4. Cultural concern: rampant illegal mining destroying natural caves in jaintia hills

Why Rat Hole Mining still continuing?

1. Rat hole mining cheaper than other conventional mining methods and also hilly geography necessitate such mining method

2. Meghalaya Mines and Mineral Policy, 2012 does not address rat hole mining issue

3. The government of Meghalaya controls only 5% land rest either community or privately owned which undermines effective regulations

4. Misuse of 6th Schedule of Constitution which provides tribal communities right over -land and use of its resources- by illegal miners and local councils

5. Increasing agriculture indebtedness and lack of livelihood opportunities in concerned districts

6. Citizen’s Reports cited shadow economy running illegal mining involving nexus between illegal miners, traders, politicians and administrators

Why Mining is important for Meghalaya?

1. Meghalaya is rich in mineral resources like coal, limestone (estimated coal reserves at 576mt) which provides direct and indirect livelihoods and act as base of local economy. For Eg. NGT ban costs state 600cr annual revenue

2. Taking into accounts such factors, NGT had allowed conditional transportation of extracted coal and  the small and traditional system of mining by local people in their own land

What are way forwards to Illegal Mining issue?

1. Need of framing new mining policy, plans and guidelines which allows scientific mining along with stringent regulations and their enforcement as mandated by NGT

2. Effective implementation of 6th schedule provisions through regulation of land leasing and protection of “community” right over land resources

3. Diversifying livelihood opportunities in concerned districts through better implementation of schemes like MGNREGA, Prime Minister’s Employment Generation Program (PMEGP)

4. Rehabilitation of workers from impoverished communities including child labourer

5.  Implementation of NGT order for state to deposit 100cr with the Central Pollution Control Board for environmental restoration

6. Stringent implementation of the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act which prohibits operation of illegal mining under state accountability

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ISRO cranks up Gaganyaan project

ISRO cranks up Gaganyaan project

PT Facts

News

The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) has set up a Human Space Flight Centre to implement Gaganyaan Project

Important Facts

  1. The Centre will be in charge of all human-related programme at the ISRO, including the Gaganyaan project
  2. Scientist Unnikrishnan Nair has been named director of the centre. He had earlier led ISRO’s Advanced Space Transportation Programme
  3. The project director for Gaganyaan will be R Hutton, who is now project director for the PSLV programme
About Gaganyaan Mission:
● Gaganyaan is India’s first Human Space Flight Programme to be launched by Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) by 2022.
● The programme will make India the fourth nation in the world to launch a Human Spaceflight Mission. So far, only the USA, Russia and China have launched human spaceflight missions.
  1. ISRO also announced the launch of India’s second lunar mission Chandrayaan-2 in in mid-April 2019
  2. Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft, will be launched on board the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) Mk-3.
  3. Chandrayaan 2 will orbit around the moon to study its conditions and collect data of its topography, mineralogy and exosphere.
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Centre signs pact with 5 States on Renuka dam

PT Facts

Centre signs pact with 5 States on Renuka dam

News:

The Centre has signed an agreement with the chief ministers of Haryana, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan for the construction of a multipurpose dam

Important Facts

  1. The Renuka dam project has been conceived as a storage project on the Giri River (a tributary of the Yamuna) in the Upper Yamuna basin, Sirmaur district of Himachal Pradesh.
  2. The project is proposed to be executed by Himachal Pradesh Power Corporation Ltd.
  3. The live storage of the Renukaji Multi-Purpose Project is 0.404 million acre-foot and it would ensure supply of 23 cubic metres per second water to the basin states.
  4. The project will also generate 40 MW of power.

 

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Migration to Gulf for jobs drops 62% over 5 years

Migration to Gulf for jobs drops 62% over 5 years

News:

According to e-Migrate emigration clearance data migration to Gulf for jobs drops 62% over 5 years

Important Data

  • Emigration clearances granted to Indians headed to the Gulf for employment have dropped by 21%,
  • During 2018, the largest outflow was to UAE, 35% of the total workers granted emigration clearances. This was followed by Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.
  • In 2017, Saudi Arabia was the most attractive destination among Gulf countries for Indian workers.
  • Qatar is the only country in the Gulf region where the number of workers shows an increase in 2018 as compared to the previous year. This could be because of increased labour requirement as the country prepares to host the football World Cup 2022.
  • Also Qatar has over the past few years introduced many worker protection reforms, it needs to ensure ethical recruitment and reimbursement of payment through official means, guided by a regulatory body.

Possible Reason for drop in migration:

  • Impact of Nitaqat Scheme – Under this scheme Saudi labour ministry had banned foreigners from working in Saudi Arabia’s shopping malls.
  • Economic slowdown – Gulf countries are passing through a period of economic slowdown primarily because of the slump in oil prices.
  • Gulf countries are aiming at filling up maximum posts both in public and private sector with their own nationals.
  • Moreover, a large number of Indian nationals holding emigration check required (ECR) passports reportedly travel to the Gulf countries on tourist visa and get their visas converted to employment visa, thereby bypassing the e-Migrate system and are not reflected in the e-Migrate emigration clearance data.
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FDI via Mauritius dives in first half, Singapore gains

FDI via Mauritius dives in first half, Singapore gains

News:

Singapore becomes preferred country for routing FDI in India with a 77.77 per cent jump in investments.

Important Facts:

  • In 2017-18, Mauritius was the top source of FDI into India with $13.41 billion investments followed by Singapore.
  • According to RBI report, Mauritius, has witnessed a 69.3 per cent decline in foreign direct investment (FDI) in India in the first six months ended September 2018.
  • Singapore which overtook Mauritius has turned out to be the preferred country for routing FDI with a 77.77 per cent jump in investments.

Why the shift:

  • Amended DTAA (double tax avoidance agreement).
    • Mauritius emerged as the preferred route to channel foreign money into India largely owing to the double taxation avoidance treaty between the two countries.
    • Under this, capital gains are taxed only in the ‘country of residence’, and since Mauritius does not tax gains on investment income, the moneybags got away lightly.
    • However recently, FDI equity flows routed through Mauritius declined sharply due to amended DTAA (double tax avoidance agreement).
    • The DTAA provided for a capital gains tax exemption to resident entities of these countries on transfer of Indian securities.
    • These agreements were amended in 2016 with the purpose of source-based taxation of capital gains on shares, preventing round tripping of funds, curbing revenue loss and preventing double non-taxation.
    • After the DTAA amendment, India gets taxation rights on capital gains arising from alienation of shares acquired on or after April 1, 2017, in a company resident in India.
  • General Anti-Avoidance Rule (GAAR) in April 2017.
    • Aimed to plug tax avoidance. Under these rules, Indian I-T authorities can take a closer look at ‘brass-plate companies’ that have been set up in offshore centers solely to evade tax.

Global FDI trend:

  • As per United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) estimates, global FDI flows fell by 41 per cent in H12018.
  • This fall is attributed, to large repatriations of retained earnings by US-based parent companies from their affiliates abroad.
  • This is evident in the aftermath of the enactment of the US tax reform package at the end of 2017 which gave multinationals a one-time special rate of 15.5 per cent instead of 35 per cent rate on the repatriation of profits earned abroad.
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Musk unveils prototype of Mars-bound rocket

Musk unveils prototype of Mars-bound rocket

News:

SpaceX Unveils Prototype of Starship, SpaceX’s Mars-Bound Rocket

Facts:

  • SpaceX has unveiled the first pictures of a rocket called Starship that may one day carry people to the Moon and Mars.
  • SpaceX currently launches regular supply missions to the astronauts living at the International Space Station, using its Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon cargo capsule.
  • It is now working on a new Dragon crew capsule that could start carrying people to the orbiting outpost
  • Other Musk ventures include OpenAI, Neuralink and the Boring Co., which focuses on infrastructure and tunnels.
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Cycling could help economy, avoid premature death: Study

Cycling could help economy, avoid premature death: Study

News:

Cycling for short distance trips can yield an annual benefit of ₹1.8 trillion to the economy

Important Facts:

  • According to analysis conducted by The Energy Resources Institute (Teri), cycling regularly for an average distance of 3.5 km for just 120 days can help avoid 4,756 premature deaths.
  • More than half of India uses “non-motorised” forms of transport, such as walking and cycling, to travel to work, followed by two-wheelers (18%) and buses (16%)
  • Cycle sales have risen only 1% in a decade as opposed to a 9% rise in cars and two wheelers but still cyclists in cities constitute nearly 40% of those who travel more than 21 km for work the same as those who commute a similar distance by car.
  • Substituting just half the short distance work trips, which are undertaken by two-wheelers and cars, with cycles, could result in massive savings about ₹27 billion from fuel expenditure and 0.35 Million Tonnes of Oil Equivalent (MTOE) in terms of energy,
  • At present, the cheapest bicycle available in India costs around ₹2,500-₹5,000, which accounts for 15% of the annual per capita income in rural areas. In comparison, the cheapest bicycle in China accounts for only 2.5% of the annual per capita income in rural areas
  • Lack of dedicated cycling lanes, as well as poorly maintained roads, in several cities, cycling is fraught with danger in India.

Suggestions:

  • The government should reduce Goods and Services Tax (GST) on cycles that cost less than ₹5,000.
  • Promote manufacturing of bicycles because it absorbs unskilled labour, and discourage personal motorised vehicles through congestion charges, increased cost of parking, and a pollution tax.
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