ForumIAS: Facts in News (October 22th – 28th)

Facts in news is published on a weekly basis that consists a gist of all crucial news articles from ‘The Hindu’ that may bear relevance to Civil Services Preparation.

Here is the Summary of all current happenings from around the world for the fourth week of October.

Download Facts in News PDF file here.

Bills, Programs, Policies, Schemes, Orders, Judgments 
Comprehensive action plan for a long-term strategy for all key sources of pollution in Delhi and National Capital R

• The Supreme Court directed the Ministry of Environment and Forests and Climate Change (MoEF& CC) to notify a comprehensive action plan for a long-term strategy for all key sources of pollution in Delhi and National Capital Region (NCR).
What is the Action plan was prepared by the Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA)?
• The action plan is under the direction of the Supreme Court.
• This plan is designed for sustained improvement in the air quality over time to help meet the clean air standards.
• This is the first-ever plan for this region that takes an integrated view of the problem.
• It prescribes short, medium and long-term measures for all key sources of pollution.
Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB):
• The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) of India is a statutory organisation under the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC).
• It serves as a field formation and also provides technical services to the Ministry of Environment and Forests under the provisions of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.
• It Co-ordinates the activities of the State Pollution Control Boards by providing technical assistance and guidance and also resolves disputes among them.
• It is the apex organisation in country in the field of pollution control, as a technical wing of MoEF.
‘PaikaBidroha’ (Paika rebellion): First War of IndependenceContext:
• The ‘PaikaBidroha’ (Paika rebellion) of 1817 will find a place in the history books as ‘the First War of Independence’ from the next academic session.
Why is it in news?
• PaikaBidroha took place four decades before the 1857 Sepoy Mutiny.
• But, the 1857 Sepoy Mutiny is so far been regarded as the First War of Indian Independence.
• Thus, to give concrete factual knowledge, the government is on the verge to ammendPaikaBidroha’ of 1817 as ‘the First War of Independence’.
Who was the PaikaBidroha?
• PaikaBidroha, was an armed rebellion against the British East India Company’s rule in Odisha in 1817.
• The Paikas rose in rebellion under their leader BakshiJagabandhu and, projecting Jagannath as the symbol of Odia unity.
• The rebellion quickly spread across most of Odisha before being ruthlessly put down by the company’s forces.
Who were the Paikas?
• Paikas were essentially the peasant militias of the Gajapatirulers of Odisha who rendered military service to the king during times of war while taking up cultivation during times of peace.
• The Paikas were organised into three ranks distinguished by their occupation and the weapons they wielded.
• These were the Paharis, the bearers of shields and the khanda sword,
• The Banuas who led distant expeditions and used matchlocks and
• The Dhenkiyas – archers who also performed different duties in Odisha armies.
Man who has sex with a wife less than 18 years can be charged of rapeContext:
• Recently, the Supreme Court declared that a man who has sex with a wife less than 18 years can be charged of rape.
What is the Supreme Court verdict?
• The court held that since sexual assault in marriage is already a crime under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 (POSCO) , it is discriminatory and arbitrary to suspend the protection of the rape law for these underage married girls.
• The Supreme Court decision makes it clear that sexual consent can only be given by an adult woman of 18 years.
• The apex court holds that the “the girl child must not be deprived of her right to choice”.
• The right to choose includes freedom from parental pressure to marry early, freedom from forced marriages, freedom of choice of sexual orientation, and freedom to find self-fulfillment through study, work, profession, vacation or talent.
‘UGC MoU promising greater autonomy will in fact dilute it’Context:
• Recently a circular has been issued by the University Grants Commission (UGC) to all central universities.
• It is a tripartite memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the commission, the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) and the institutes.
What is the Memorandum?
• The tripartite MoU promises to provide enhanced autonomy and delegation of financial powers.
• It also facilitates assistance from the government and the UGC.
• It will result in the bureaucratisation of the academic system.
• With the loan system, the fee structure will become exorbitant, which will impose stringent financial stress on many.
New guidelines for designating lawyers in the Supreme CourtContext:
• The Supreme Court has laid down guidelines for designating lawyers in the Supreme Court and High Courts as senior advocates.
What are the changes in the process made?
• Application will be vetted by a permanent committee known as the Committee for Designation of Senior Advocates that will publish the names of candidates on the respective courts’ websites to ensure transparency.
Permanent Committee:
• It will consist of the Chief Justice of India, two senior-most judges of the Supreme Court/ High Courts, the Attorney General of India/ the Advocate General of State, and a member of the Bar to be nominated by the above four members.
• The committee will have a permanent secretariat.
• This system is transparent and objective, and provides equal opportunity to all candidates.
Parliamentary panel revampContext:
• The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Law and Justice has dropped a discussion on electoral reforms, especially on proportional representation versus the first-past-the-post system.
What is the conflict about reconstitution of parliamentary committees?
• The Congress had bitterly protested against the reconstitution of parliamentary committees.
• It is not yet clear whether or not deliberations on electoral reforms with views of all political parties sought on various aspects from the system of election to funding and campaigning will be taken to its logical conclusion.
• A majority of the Opposition parties had recommended that a hybrid of the firstpast-the-post system and proportional representation be followed in the country.
Mobile AadhaarContext:
• Mobile Aadhaar can be used as ID proof to enter airports.
• Identification documents will not be required for minors accompanied by parents, according to a circular issued by aviation security agency BCAS.
• Passport, voter ID card, Aadhaar or m-Aadhaar, PAN card and driving licence, any one will do to gain entry.
PUCL seeks repeal of ordinanceContext:
• The People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) on Saturday demanded repeal of a controversial ordinance promulgated by the Rajasthan government which has made public servants immune to investigation.
Key features of Ordinance:
• The ordinance attempts to silence the media and prevent the judiciary from exercising its function of setting the criminal law in motion.
• The ordinance bars the media from disclosing names of officials until prior sanction is granted for their prosecution.
• The ordinance amends the Criminal Code of Procedure, 1973 and also seeks curb on publishing and printing in any case the name, address, photographs, and family details of the public servants.
• No magistrate shall order an investigation nor will any investigation be conducted against a person, who is or was a judge or a magistrate or a public servant.
• The Ordinance made additions to section 156(3) and 190(1) of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) which empower a magistrate to take cognizance of an offence and order an investigation.
• It provides 180 days immunity to officers as it has provision mentioning no magistrate can order an investigation nor will any investigation be conducted against person who is or was a judge or magistrate or public servant.
Air programme on dangers of Blue Whale gameContext:
• With alarming cases of suicides because of the recent Blue Whale Game, the Supreme Court has ordered educational programmes about the dangers of the online.
• It is to be a public broadcasted through Doordarshan.
What is the Blue Whale game or Blue Whale Challenge?
• The Blue Whale game or Blue Whale Challenge is believed to be a suicide game wherein a group of administrators or a certain curator gives a participant a task to complete daily.
• It is for a period of 50 days.
• The final of which is the participant committing suicide.
• Participants are expected to share photos of the challenges/tasks completed by them.
Consequences of the game:
• Cyberbullying: Cyberbullying or cyberharassment is a form of bullying or harassment using electronic forms of contact.
• Online shaming: Online shaming is a form of Internet vigilantism in which targets are publicly humiliated using technology like social and new media.
International Issues
India, France to boost defence tiesContext:
• India and France recently decided to expand military cooperation in the strategically key Indo-Pacific region, besides resolving to ramp up the overall defence and security ties.
India and France enhanced defence ties:
• An extensive talk is held covering a variety of issues, including the regional security situation, joint development of defence platforms and expansion of military-to-military ties.
• The two sides also agreed to expand counterterror cooperation.
• The Ministers reviewed ongoing initiatives to strengthen bilateral defence cooperation further.
Measures provided:
• A lot more could be done in the maritime sphere, particularly in the Indo-Pacific region, where China was trying to expand its footprint.
• The French side explored the possibility of a follow-on order of additional Rafale fighter jets being placed by India.
• The Ministers of India reviewed ongoing initiatives to strengthen bilateral defence cooperation further as a key pillar of the strategic partnership between the two countries.
• Recognising the growing significance of maritime security in the Indo-Pacific and the need for greater maritime domain awareness, India and France will further expand information sharing arrangements.
‘Quadrilateral’ and ‘Asian NATO’Context:
• The recent revival of the ‘Quadrilateral’ and the consequent talk of an ‘Asian NATO’ have brought the India-China rivalry back to the limelight.

• The North Atlantic Treaty Organization also called the North Atlantic Alliance, is an intergovernmental military alliance between several North American and European states based on the North Atlantic Treaty that was signed on 4 April 1949.
• NATO constitutes a system of collective defence whereby its member states agree to mutual defence in response to an attack by any external party.
• Three NATO members (the United States, France and the United Kingdom) are permanent members of the United Nations Security Council with the power to veto and are officially nuclear-weapon states.
U.S. Secretary of State’s visit to IndiaContext:
• U.S. Secretary of State will embark on a crucial visit to India and Pakistan next week as part of his week-long five-nation tour that would also take him to Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Switzerland.
Areas of discussion:
• Discussion will be held to further strengthening of strategic partnership and collaboration on security and prosperityin the Indo-Pacific region.
• Regional issues could take precedence over bilateral ones.
• Washington’s new South Asia policy will be raisedwith respect to Pakistan and Afghanistan and prospects for more cooperation in the Indo-Pacific.
• Both the sides will discuss pending bilateral issues including enhancing trade, the U.S.’s pitch to sell India UAV drones, F-16s and F-18s, and the outstanding decisions on the “foundational agreements” in defence.
• China’s OBOR initiative and the Doklam standoff to be discussed.
Significance of visit:
• The visits of Mr. Tillerson to Delhi indicate that they will provide all three — the U.S., Afghanistan and India — the opportunity to hold talks on crucial regional and security-related issues.
• US holds the view that Both India and Pakistan are “important elements” in the U.S. policy for stabilising South Asia and characterised China a destabilising force.
South Asians Against Terrorism and for Human Rights (SAATH)Context
• Former Ambassador of Pakistan to the U.S. Husain Haqqani has launched South Asians Against Terrorism and for Human Rights (SAATH).
• SAATH will try to address mainstream extremist and terrorist organizations in Pakistan.
What does SAATH aims at?
• The forum demands that the provinces should activate the Provincial Finance Commissions and allocate maximum resources to the local governments.
• It also demands that the local governments should be given 25% of the royalty and the profits of natural resources exploited from their respective areas.
• Participants decided that Pakistan needs a new national narrative that is based on the consent of its people rather than on religious hatred, militarism and militancy.
• Participants of SAATH will set up two secretariats, one in Pakistan and the other abroad for the diaspora, to help wrestle the idea and identity of Pakistan away from the obscurantist forces.
• The Centre announced road construction, called BharatMalaPariyojana, in a bid to encourage the economy as private investment remains moribund.
What is the Bharatmala project?
• Bharatmala is a name given to road and highways project of Government of India.
• The total investment for the Bharatmala plan is estimated at Rs10 trillion, which is the largest ever outlay for a government road construction scheme.
• Under Bharatmala, the road ministry also plans to undertake a network of economic corridors in the country
Key features:
• Bharat Mala will connect a total of 12 states.
• The BharatMala project will include economic corridors, inter-corridor and feeder route, national corridors efficiency improvement , border roads and international connectivity, coastal roads and port connectivity and green-field expressways.
• It will provide road connectivity to border regions in a structured way.
• Expertise of BRO/Border Roads Organisation will be taken for rougher terrains.
• Bharat Mala will provide easier access to border areas for armed forces and boost trade via the land route.
• Bharatmala will replace National Highways Development Project (NHDP).
Pradhan Mantri Sahaj Bijli Har GharYojana, or Saubhagya SchemeContext:
• The Government of India has launched the Pradhan Mantri SahajBijliHarGharYojana, or Saubhagya Scheme.
What is Saubhagya scheme?
• The Saubhagya scheme was launched on September 25th, 2017.
• The scheme will provide electricity connections to over 40 million families in rural and urban areas by December 2018.
Importance of the scheme:
• The scheme will help to meet India’s global climate change commitments as electricity will substitute kerosene for lighting purposes.
• Easy access to electricity in turn will also help in improving education, health, connectivity with the multiplier effect of increased economic activities and job creation.
India is open to work with partner countries for regional issuesContext:
• Citing growing international partnerships, India emphasized that it is “open” to work with partner countries for regional issues that are “relevant”.
• The comments came as a response to Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono declaration that Tokyo would call fora quadrilateral dialogue with Australia, India and the U.S.
The benefit:
• Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar indicated India’s willingness to work with Japan and the United States deals with regional issues.
• U.S. investments in the power sector of Nepal will be in Indian interest.
• Regionalism will grow if there are higher comfort levels.
• Having Japanese or the Americans in room will be more helpful.
• Indications of regional partnership between India and Japan came also during Mr Abe’s visit, with both sidesindicating willingness to manage the maritime domain from Indian Ocean and the Asia-Pacific zone.
National issue
Forced patriotismContext
• The apex court recently observed that people don’t have to stand up at a cinema hall to be perceived as patriotic.
Constitutional Patriotism:
• It has been argued that free speech and expression can be curtailed under Article 51(A) only by an existing law or a law made by the State and no other mechanism.
• The Court has taken refuge of Article 51A of the Indian Constitution to direct individuals to compulsorily stand up during the national anthem as a ‘sacred obligation’.
• Article 51A(a) of the Constitution only casts a duty on the citizens to ‘abide by the Constitution and respect its ideals and institutions, the national flag and the national anthem’ and does not prescribe specific standards such as being required to sing and/or stand to show respect.
Article 51(A):
• Fundamental Duties in India are guaranteed by the Constitution of Indiain Part IVA in Article 51A.
• These fundamental duties are recognized as the moral obligations that actually help in upholding the spirit of nationalism as well as to support the harmony of the nation, as well as of the citizens.
• These duties are designed concerning the individuals and the nation.
• However, these fundamental duties are not legally enforceable.
• Furthermore, the citizens are morally obligated by the Constitution to perform these duties.
Drought and heat wavesContext:
• Drought and heat waves all together has been engaging several researchers in India.
Analysing rainfall and temperature data of 50 years, researchers have found that:
• The frequency of heatwaves accompanied by drought has increased not only in magnitude but in area too over the past three decades.
• While heatwaves and droughts are destructive even when occurring in separate events, their concurrence is far more serious.
• A single extreme event may not be critical, but two extremes occurring at once are much more significant in the distress it causes.
What is the reason behind the phenomena?
• Researchers believe this could be due to the intricate relationship of land surface processes, soil moisture, evapo-transpiration and local climate.
• A spatial analysis reveals the area affected by the twin calamities is starkly increasing.
Environmental Issue
Crop burningContext:
• Despite the 2015 ban on crop burning, farmers in the State continue to set fire to paddy residue to make way for the next crop.
What is the reason behind burning crop residue?
• Residue burning gives fields to farmers that are easier to seed and less pest infested.
• Burning residue gives the farmers a seedbed that is easy to work and will not obstruct the growth of a new crop.
What are the adverse effects of crop residue?
• Most importantly, it gives way to a significant amount of air pollution.
• Recent data says that concentration of carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide rises by 7% and 2.1%,
• Weakens the local capacity of the agroecosystem services, ranging from protection of soils against erosion to recycling of nitrogen.
• Erosion thus leads to loss of necessary nutrition of the soil.
• It raises health issues such as acute respiratory problems and heart problems.
What is crop residue?
• There are two types of agricultural crop residues.
• Field residues: are materials left in an agricultural field or orchard after the crop has been harvested.
• These residues include stalks and stubble (stems), leaves, and seed pods. The residue can be ploughed directly into the ground, or burned first. Good management of field residues can increase efficiency of irrigation and control of erosion.
• Process residues: are materials left after the crop is processed into a usable resource.
• These residues include husks, seeds, bagasse, molasses and roots. They can be used as animal fodder and soil amendment, fertilizers and in manufacturing.
Boost in levels of oxygenContext:
• Recently studies say that a boost in levels of oxygen may have caused a three-fold increase in biodiversity during between 445 and 485 million years ago.
Why is it in news?
• This study suggests that atmospheric oxygen levels did not reach and maintain modern levels for millions of years after the Cambrian explosion.
• In fact, the oxygenation of the atmosphere and Shallow Ocean took millions of years.
• And it was only when shallow seas became progressively oxygenated were the major pulses of diversification able to take place.
What has been found?
• Researchers were able to identify an oxygen increase during the Middle and Late Ordovician periods.
• They also found:
• 80% increase in oxygen levels where oxygen constituted about 14% of the atmosphere during the Darriwilian Stage (Middle Ordovician 460-465 million years ago) and
• Increased to as high as 24% of the atmosphere by the mid-Katian (Late Ordovician 450-455 million years ago).
The three fold increase:
• The explosion of diversity, recognised as the Great Ordovician Biodiversification Event, brought about:
• the rise of various marine life,
• tremendous change across species families and types,
• as well as changes to the Earth, starting at the bottom of the ocean floors.
Economic Issues
Small Industries Development Bank of India’s portal had a makeoverContext:
• Small Industries Development Bank of India (SIDBI) has revamped its portal.
• It seeks to enhance features to provide easy access to credit and hand-holding services for micro small medium enterprises (MSME).
Revamped version of the portal:
• Transparency and competition among lenders removes the need to approach several banks individually.
• In the market place, any bank, other than those requested, can also pick up the application for sanction, thus bringing in best option to MSMEs.
• The portal is mobile-enabled and provides a self-assessment module.
• It sends various information on registered MSMEs.
• It also allows loan applications to be perused and picked up by multiple lenders.
• The revamped version of the portal is planned to leverage the experiences to create and implement a much larger platform to transform the digital landscape for MSME loans.
Environmental damage costs as incomeContext:
• India’s current method of GDP calculation treats environmental damage costs as income.
Why is it in news?
• Economists concerned about sustainable development advocate low levels of economic growth since with large expansions in national income come negative environmental consequences such as pollution.
• These adversely affect the environmental quality and economic welfare of individuals and households dependent on the environment for their basic livelihood.
Problem of quantification of Ecosystem services:
• The environment generates a range of ecosystem services.
• Identifying and quantifying them for the purpose of damage assessment is a difficult task in the absence of relevant data.
• In India, millions of households and economic activities utilise these ecosystem services for production and consumption.
• Though economically highly valuable, ecosystem services are not traded in the markets and, therefore, their true values are not reflected in the system.
• Therefore, the actual value of economic welfare lost due to loss of ecosystem services will be much higher than what is being currently estimated.
What is the lowdown on one year of note ban?Context:
• November 8 will mark one year of NDA government’s radical plan to demonetize 86% of the currency in circulation in a bid to fight black money, counterfeiting and terrorism.
• On November 8, 2016 Prime Minister announced that Rs 500 and Rs 1000 denomination notes will become invalid.
• The government introduced new notes of Rs 2,000 and Rs 500.
• There was also no change effected in any other form of currency exchange like cheque, Demand draft (DD), payments made through credit cards and debit cards.
• The move was taken to curb the menace of black money, fake notes and corruption by reducing the amount of cash available in the system.
Defence issues
Indian Air Force (IAF) is focusing at TejasContext:
• Indian Air Force (IAF) is focusing at Tejas, the indigenously developed light combat aircraft, and a single-engine fighter to be procured soon to seize the dramatic fall in its squad strength.
What is the deal about?
• As the deal with the French government for 36 Rafale jets lands in the middle of political turmoil, the rate of decommissioning of aircraft gets way higher than the planned and even proposed inductions.
• Total 123 Tejas will be inducted in the force as planned.
• The IAF has a sanctioned strength of 42 squadrons and a projected requirement of 45 to face the anticipated threat of a two-front war.
• With the planned induction of 36 Rafales between 2019 and 2022, the remaining Sukhoi-30MKIs and some Tejas jets, the strength will be 30 till 2027.
• In the subsequent five-year term, it will fall to 27. If there are no new inductions, it will slide further to 19 by 2042.
• The IAF is upgrading most of the aircraft in its inventory.
• In a month, the IAF is expected to issue the Request for Information (RFI) for over a 100 single-engine fighter aircraft under the Strategic Partnership model.
Science and Technology
Students encouraged to research, innovateContext:
• Schoolchildren were addressed at JNU’s second annual Open Day to keep pace with changing technology.
What is the purpose?
• Through these presentations, schoolchildren were made aware of the latest developments in the field of life sciences, biotechnology, nanosciences, molecular medicine, computational sciences, arts and aesthetics, social sciences and humanities
Arctic sea: as a key indicator of climate changeContext:
• Arctic sea ice is a key indicator of climate change.
• It could be declining faster than predicted.
What does research says?
• It has been found that satellite measurements over the years have overestimated the thickness of Arctic sea ice by as much as 25% because of the presence of salty snow.
• The prediction of an ice-free Arctic ocean in summertime by 2050 could happen much earlier.
• The researchers have proposed a snow salinity correction factor that could bring down the error in estimation of sea ice thickness.
• Dwindling ice cover hastens the warming of oceans, and has an impact on weather phenomena like the El Nino that influences the Asian monsoon.
• The thinning ice would make it difficult for animals like polar bears and seals and organisms like phytoplankton to survive.
Salty snow:
• Salty snow is formed when brine is expelled upward from the ice surface.
• It does not allow radar waves from satellites to penetrate, leading to skewed measurements.
A Jurassic-era fossil in IndiaContext:
• A Jurassic-era fossil of an animal that looks like an amalgamation of dolphin and lizard has been discovered in Kutch, Gujarat.
Why is it in news?
• This is the first time an ichthyosaur fossil has been discovered in India.
• The 5.5 metre-long skeleton is thought to belong to the Ophthalmosauridae family, which likely lived between 165 and 90 million years ago.
• The way the creature’s teeth were worn out suggest it ate animals with thick and bony coverings
• This is a remarkable discovery because it is the first Jurassic ichthyosaur record from India.
• It also throws light on the evolution and diversity of ichthyosaurs in the Indo-Madagascan region and India’s biological connectivity with other continents in the Jurassic.
• The identification of the new specimen may further throw light on whether there was any marine connection between India and South America about 150 million years ago.
What is Ichthyosaur?
• Ichthyosaur first appeared in the early Triassic period (251 million to 199 million years ago).
• The name means fish-lizard, although the creature has been classified as a reptile since the mid-19th Century.
• Its length ranged from 1m to 14m – although the average length was 2m to 3m.
• The creature was noted for its sharp, robust teeth.
• Ichthyosaurs became extinct around 90 million years ago.
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