Polity & Governance
- Opposition sees amendment through in Rajya Sabha, again
Environment & Ecology
- Government signs MoU on conservation of birds of prey
- Nagarahole Tiger Reserve has a density of 8.6 tigers per 100 sqkm: survey
- Sharp drop in aid to SAARC nations
Science & Technology
- Kodaikanal mercury poisoning: HUL, ex-staff sign settlement
- New mini fuel cell powers drones for over an hour
Polity & Governance
Opposition sees amendment through in Rajya Sabha, again
The opposition has successfully moved amendment to the “Motion of Thanks” to the President for his address.
- The opposition’s amendment was against the minimum educational qualification fixed for aspirants in local and panchayat elections in Haryana and Rajasthan polls, which was also a part of the President’s address.
- It should be noted here that such amendment has been moved for the 5th time in Parliamentary history and 2nd time in the tenure of this government.
- However, the government has argued that the amendment was not right since it referred to an issue which was a state subject
Now, the motion of thanks on the President’s address will be sent back to the President with a mention of the amendment passed.
What is “Motion of Thanks”?
- The President makes an address to a joint sitting of Parliament at the start of the Budget session, which is prepared by the government and lists its achievements.
- The President’s speech is a statement of the legislative and policy achievements of the government during the preceding year and gives a broad indication of the agenda for the year ahead.
- The address is followed by a motion of thanks moved in each House by ruling party MPs.
- During the session, political parties discuss the motion of thanks also suggesting amendments.
Amendments to the “Motion of Thanks”:
- Notices of amendments to Motion of Thanks on the President’s Address can be tabled after the President has delivered his Address.
- Amendments may refer to matters contained in the Address as well as to matters, in the opinion of the member, the Address has failed to mention.
- Amendments can be moved to the Motion of Thanks in such form as may be considered appropriate by the Speaker.
- The only limitations are that members cannot refer to matters which are not the direct responsibility of the Central Government and that the name of the President cannot be brought in during the debate since the Government and not the President is responsible for the contents of the Address.
[Ref: Hindu, Wiki]
Environment & Ecology
Government signs MoU on conservation of birds of prey
The Government has signed ‘Raptor MoU’ – a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on conservation of birds of prey in Africa and Eurasia.
- The MoU was signed recently at the Convention on Migratory Species Office in Abu Dhabi.
- With this, India has become the 56th signatory State to sign the ‘Raptor MoU’ that was concluded on October 22, 2008 and came into effect on November 1, 2008.
- The Union Cabinet in December 2015 had approved the proposal of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change to sign the ‘Raptor MoU’, on Conservation of Migratory Birds of Prey in Africa and Eurasia, with the Convention on Conservation of Migratory Species (CMS), or Bonn Convention, under the auspices of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
- The CMS aims to conserve migratory species throughout their range.
- India had become a party to the CMS since November 1, 1983.
Implications of signing MoU:
- Considering that the Raptor MOU is also in conformity with the provisions of the existing Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972, wherein the birds have been accorded protection, India would gain domain knowledge which would be helpful in effectively managing the habitats of these Raptors, including concerted trans-boundary efforts for conservation through interaction with other range countries by signing of the MOU with the CMS.
About Raptor MoU:
The Raptor MOU is an agreement under the Convention on Conservation of Migratory Species (CMS)and is not legally binding.
- The MOU seeks willingness of the signatory Range States for working for conservation of the raptor species and their habitats. Under this, an action plan has been formulated which primarily envisages the conservation action for Raptor species.
- The Raptors MoU extends its coverage to 76 species of birds of prey out of which 46 species including vultures, falcons, eagles, owls, hawks, kites, harriers, etc. also occur in India.
India’s neighbours Pakistan and Nepal are also signatories to this MOU.
[Ref: Hindu, Wiki]
Nagarahole Tiger Reserve has a density of 8.6 tigers per 100 sqkm: survey
A recent survey by Karnataka Forest Department has revealed that the Nagarahole Tiger Reserve has a density of 8.6 tigers per 100 sqkm.
- The national standard for a good density of the big cat is between 8 and 10 per 100 sqkm.
- The Nagarahole Tiger Reserve, officially known as the Rajiv Gandhi National Park, covers an area of 643sqkm and is spread over Kodagu and Mysuru districts in Karnataka. It is home to one of the country’s largest number of tigers.
- Survey results also indicate that the park has 93 tigers. The national tiger census, however, puts the number at 101. Forest officials say it’s common to find such differences between tiger estimates.
Kodaikanal mercury poisoning: HUL, ex-staff sign settlement
Hindustan Unilever Limited (HUL) has finally entered into a settlement to provide “undisclosed” ex-gratia amount to the victims consisting of future health care benefits.
- The settlement has been entered into on humanitarian considerations to put an end to the long-standing matter pending before the court for several years, in view of the suggestion of the Madras High Court.
What’s the matter?
- Hindustan Unilever Limited (HUL) was facing a ‘class action litigation’ moved by the former workers of its thermometer factory at Kodaikanal who were allegedly exposed to toxic mercury vapour during their employment.
- This is the first ever class action litigation moved by industrial workers against occupational health exposure.
- In the year 2006, Ex-employees move Madras High Court against Unilever. Health effects such as miscarriages, kidney and nervous system damages, mental disability in children etc. stated
- In 2011, Committee constituted by Ministry of Labour concludes there was prima facie evidence of mercury-related ailments in workers.
- Mercury is a chemical element with symbol Hg and atomic number 80.
- It is commonly known as quicksilver and was formerly named hydrargyrum.
- Mercury is the only metallic element that is liquid at standard conditions for temperature and pressure. The only other element that is liquid under these conditions is bromine.
- Mercury occurs in deposits throughout the world mostly as cinnabar(mercuric sulfide).
- Mercury poisoning can result from exposure to water-soluble forms of mercury (such as mercuric chloride or methylmercury), inhalation of mercury vapor, or eating seafood contaminated with mercury.
- Mercury is a very rare element in the Earth’s crust. It accounts for only about only 0.08 parts per million (ppm).
- It is a relatively poor conductor of heat. Most metals are excellent thermal conductors.
Applications of Mercury:
- Mercury is used in thermometers, barometers, manometers, sphygmomanometers, float valves, mercury switches, mercury relays, fluorescent lamps and other devices.
- It is also used in lighting: electricity passed through mercury vapor in a fluorescent lamp produces short-wave ultraviolet light which then causes the phosphor in the tube to fluoresce, making visible light.
Effects of Mercury on Health:
- Exposure to mercury – even small amounts – may cause serious health problems, and is a threat to the development of the child in utero and early in life.
- Mercury may have toxic effects on the nervous, digestive and immune systems, and on lungs, kidneys, skin and eyes.
- Mercury is considered by WHO as one of the top ten chemicals or groups of chemicals of major public health concern.
- People are mainly exposed to methylmercury, an organic compound, when they eat fish and shellfish that contain the compound.
[Ref: Hindu, Wiki]
Sharp drop in aid to SAARC nations
The budget tabled in parliament has slashed India’s development assistance to all SAARC neighbours.
- Maldives, Bangladesh and Nepal are worst hit by cuts. Allocation to Nepal has seen a drop of 28.6%. Sri Lanka and the Maldives have seen cuts of 54% and 78.1% compared with the previous year. And even the countries with the lowest GDP, Afghanistan and Bhutan, saw cuts this year of 23% and 10.8% respectively.
- The slashing of the assistance to SAARC countries is in line with the cut in Budget to the Ministry of External Affairs this year that has fallen by about Rs. 500 crores, if one counts the allocation for the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs (MOIA) that was merged with the MEA this year.
- The one exception to the Budget proposals is Myanmar (not a SAARC nation), and saw a major 48% increase in development aid, due to the government’s focus on the Kaladan multi-mode transport corridor project, as well as the ‘Trilateral Highway’ project.
- This cut is also likely to affect Bhutan, where hydel projects such as Punatsangchhu I and II or the massive 720 MW Mangdechuare at the preliminary stages of progress.
- However, according to SAARC officials, the Salma hydel power project in Afghanistanwhich was nearing completion, might be the least affected.
MEA has clarified that it will continue with all its aid programmes for all the neighbouring countries, and if the need arises for additional funds, then at the revised estimates stage, it will seek the additional funds.
Science & Technology
New mini fuel cell powers drones for over an hour
Scientists have developed a miniaturised fuel cell that can power drones for more than one hour and may lead to smartphone batteries that require charge only once a week.
About the Cell:
The solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC), developed by researchers in South Korea, may replace lithium-ion batteries in smartphones, laptops, drones, and other small electronic devices.
Advantages of SOFC:
- The SOFC, referred to as a third-generation fuel cell, has been intensively studied since it has a simple structure and no problems with corrosion or loss of the electrolyte.
- This fuel cell converts hydrogen into electricity by oxygen-ion migration to fuel electrode through an oxide electrolyte.
- Performance and durability were increased simultaneously. In addition, the fuel cells are made by a combination of tape casting-lamination-cofiring (TLC) techniques that are commercially viable for large scale SOFC.
- The research team expects this fuel cell may be suitable for portable electronic devices such as smartphones, laptops, and drones that require high power-density and quick on/off. They also expect to develop large and inexpensive fuel cells for a power source of next-generation automotive.
- Typically, silicon has been used after lithography and etching as a supporting component of small oxide fuel cells. This design, however, has shown rapid degradation or poor durability due to thermal-expansion mismatch with the electrolyte, and thus, it cannot be used in actual devices that require fast On/Off.
- The research team developed, for the first time in the world, a new technology that combines porous stainless steel, which is thermally and mechanically strong and highly stable to oxidation/reduction reactions, with thin-film electrolyte and electrodes of minimal heat capacity.
[Ref: Hindu, ToI]