Polity & Governance
- Cabinet approves amendments in instant triple talaq bill
- Lok Sabha passes Bill to help India become arbitration hub
Issues related to Health & Education
- Cabinet approves continuation and revision of PMS-OBC
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
- 12th August: World Elephant Day
Bilateral & International Relations
- China detains 1 million ethnic Uighurs in secret camps, says UN Reports
Defence & Security Issues
- Delhi Police gets India’s first all-women SWAT team
- Deccan papers shine the light on Aurangzeb rule
Science & Technology
- India’s first genetic bank for wildlife conservation
- Axis Bank introduces iris authentication for Aadhaar-based transactions
- GMRT: Indian telescope spots distant radio galaxy
- Parker Solar Probe launches on historic journey to touch the sun
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Polity & Governance
Cabinet approves amendments in instant triple talaq bill
The Union Cabinet has approved a few amendments in the instant triple talaq bill.
- The amended triple talaq bill will be tabled in Rajya Sabha for its approval.
- In August 2017, the Supreme Court struck down triple talaq, calling the Islamic practice unconstitutional.
- Later, the draft bill, officially called Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill 2017, was passed by the LoK Sabha in December 2017. The bill makes instant triple talaq a criminal offence.
What is instant triple talaq?
Among Muslims, marriage is treated as a social contract and the Muslim Sharia (Islamic Law) provides the ways to terminate marriage in the form talaq.
- There are three forms of talaq (divorce) in Islam: Ahsan, Hasan and Talaq-e-Biddat (triple or instant talaq).
- Ahsan and Hasan are revocable but Biddat is irrevocable. Biddat is considered sinful but is permissible in Islamic law. It has been banned in more than 20 Muslim countries, including Pakistan and Bangladesh.
Provisions of the original bill passed by the Lok Sabha:
- The bill says that “any pronouncement of talaq by a person upon his wife, by words, either spoken or written or in electronic form or in any other manner whatsoever, shall be void and illegal.”
- It makes instant triple talaq or talaq-e-biddat illegal and void, be it in any form- spoken form, in writing or by electronic means such as email, SMS and WhatsApp or in any other manner whatsoever.
- It defines ‘talaq’ as ‘talaq-e-biddat’ pronounced by a Muslim man resulting in instant and irrevocable divorce. Talaq-e-biddat refers to the practice under Muslim personal laws where pronouncement of the word ‘talaq’ thrice in one sitting by a Muslim man to his wife results in an instant and irrevocable divorce.
- It makes declaration of talaq a cognizable and non-bailable offence. A husband declaring talaq can be imprisoned for up to three years along with a fine.
- Any offence committed under the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 will be treated as cognisable and non-bailable.
- It envisages entitling divorcee Muslim women for maintenance. It gives power to wife, upon whom talaq is pronounced, to approach a magistrate seeking subsistence allowance for herself and her minor children.
- A married Muslim woman will be entitled to custody of her minor children in the event of pronouncement of talaq by her husband, which will be determined by the Magistrate.
- The Bill will help in ensuring gender justice and gender equality of married Muslim women and will help them in practising their fundamental rights of non-discrimination and empowerment.
Amendments approved by the Cabinet:
- The amendment mandates that the magistrate can decide on releasing the husband on bail only after hearing the wife. However, the offence remains non-bailable. The government has not struck down the three year jail penalty for the husband or the provision that only empowers a magistrate to release the accused on bail.
- Another amendment makes it clear that the police would lodge FIR only if approached by the victim (wife), her blood relations or people who become her relatives by virtue of her marriage. This would settle fears that even a neighbour can file FIR as is the cases in any cognisable offence. This would check misuse.
- The third amendment makes the offence of instant triple talaq “compoundable”. Now, a magistrate can use his powers to settle the dispute between a husband and his wife. Under a compoundable offence, both parties have the liberty of withdrawing the case. However, the jail term for a Muslim man who resorts to triple talaq remains three years and only a magistrate, and not a local police officer, can release the accused on bail.
Lok Sabha passes Bill to help India become arbitration hub
The Lok Sabha has passed Arbitration and Conciliation (Amendment) Bill, 2018 to help India become hub for domestic and global arbitration for settling commercial disputes.
- It will amend e Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 which contains provisions to deal with domestic and international arbitration and defines law for conducting conciliation proceedings.
Highlights of the bill:
Arbitration Council of India (ACI):
- The Bill establishes ACI as an independent body for promotion of arbitration, mediation, conciliation and other alternative dispute redressal mechanisms.
Functions of ACI:
- It will frame policies for grading arbitral institutions and accrediting arbitrators, make policies for establishment, operation and maintenance of uniform professional standards for all alternate dispute redressal matters and maintain depository of arbitral judgments (awards) made in India and abroad.
Composition of ACI:
- It will consist of Chairperson who is either Judge of Supreme Court or Judge of High Court or Chief Justice of High Court or eminent person with expert knowledge in conduct of arbitration.
- Its other members will include eminent arbitration practitioner, academician with experience in arbitration and government appointees.
Appointment of arbitrators:
- Under the 1996 Act, parties were free to appoint arbitrators. In case of disagreement on an appointment, the parties could request the Supreme Court, or the concerned High Court, or any person or institution designated by such Court, to appoint an arbitrator.
Appointment of arbitrators:
- The Bill allows Supreme Court and High Courts to designate arbitral institutions, which parties can approach for appointment of arbitrators.
- For international commercial arbitration, appointments will be made by institution designated by Supreme Court.
- The institution designated by concerned High Court will make appointments for domestic arbitration appointments.
- In case there are no arbitral institutions available, then concerned High Court Chief Justice can maintain panel of arbitrators to perform functions of arbitral institutions.
- The application for appointment of arbitrator is required to be disposed of within 30 days.
Relaxation of time limits:
- The Bill proposed to remove time restriction for international commercial arbitrations. Earlier under the parent Act, arbitral tribunals were required to make their award within period of 12 months for all arbitration proceedings.
Completion of written submissions:
- The Bill requires written claim and defence to claim in arbitration proceeding should be completed within six months of appointment of arbitrators. Currently, there is no time limit to file written submissions before an arbitral tribunal.
Confidentiality of proceedings:
- The Bill provides that all details of arbitration proceedings will be kept confidential except for the details of the arbitral award in certain circumstances. Disclosure of the arbitral award will only be made where it is necessary for implementing or enforcing the award.
Issues related to Health & Education
Cabinet approves continuation and revision of PMS-OBC
The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has given its approval for continuation and revision of the Centrally Sponsored Scheme of “Post Matric Scholarship for Other Backward Classes Students for studying in India” (PMS-OBC) till 2020.
- PMS-OBC is flagship scheme of Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment, in operation since 1998-99.
- It fully centrally sponsored scheme that aims to provide financial assistance to OBC students studying at post-matriculation or post-secondary stage to enable them to complete their education.
- It enables approximately 40 lakh OBC students to pursue higher study after class X per year.
The revised PMS-OBC:
- The revised scheme will cover larger numbers of eligible and deserving poor OBC students who will be able to pursue higher studies
- It will ensure effective implementation, achieve de-duplication and enhanced monitoring.
The revision in the PMS-OBC scheme to ensure effective implementation and better monitoring of the schemes includes:
- Annual parental income will be increased from Rs. One Lakh to Rs. 1.5 lakh.
- 30% of the funds allocated earmarked for girl students and 5% for students with disabilities.
- Disbursement of scholarships through Aadhaar seeded bank accounts.
- Since the Scheme is funds-limited, central assistance shall be released according to the Notional Allocation. The concept of Committed Liability shall not apply to States/UTs for releases.
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
12th August: World Elephant Day
The World Elephant Day is observed every year on August 12 to support various stakeholders involved in supporting various conservation policies to protect elephants.
- It also seeks to support stakeholders involved in improving enforcement policies to prevent illegal poaching and trade in ivory, conserving elephant habitats, providing better treatment for captive elephants and reintroducing captive elephants into sanctuaries.
- The World Elephant Day was conceived in 2011 by Canadian filmmakers Patricia Sims and Michael Clark of Canazwest Pictures and Sivaporn Dardarananda, Secretary-General of Elephant Reintroduction Foundation of Thailand.
- Now it is supported by over 65 wildlife organisations and many individuals in several countries across the globe.
In India, cultural event Gaj Mahotsav was organised by Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) and Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) on this occasion of this day.
Key facts about Elephants:
- As per the available population estimates, there are about 400,000 African elephants and 40,000 Asian elephants across the globe.
- Asian elephants are listed as “endangered” and African elephants are listed as “vulnerable” in the IUCN Red List of threatened species.
- Indian elephant is one of three recognized subspecies of Asian elephant and native to mainland Asia is national heritage animal of India (declared in 2011).
- The vanishing corridors or passages within the forests through which the animal migrates without human disturbance is the biggest stumbling block in the way of conservation.
Bilateral & International Relations
China detains 1 million ethnic Uighurs in secret camps, says UN Reports
A UN human rights committee has heard there were credible reports that hundreds of thousands of innocent Uighurs and other ethnic minorities have been unjustly arrested and imprisoned in China.
- The report says that China had turned the Xinjiang province, home to millions of Uighurs, into “something that resembles a massive internment camp.”
- However, Beijing has previously denied the existence of such camps.
Who are China’s Uighurs?
- Uighurs are a Muslim Turkic minority mostly based in the Xinjiang province in China’s far north-west.
- They make up around 45 per cent of the population there.
- The Uighurs are one of the largest ethnic minority populations in China, with an estimated 11 million Uighurs living in Xinjiang – half the Muslim population in China.
- Xinjiang was designated an official autonomous region by the Communist party in 1955, like Tibet to its south, in recognition of its distinct history and ethnic identity.
What’s the issue?
- Over the decades, waves of Han Chinese migrants arrived in the region, displacing Uighurs from their traditional lands and fueling tensions.
- Xinjiang is now home to more than eight million Han Chinese, up from 220,000 in 1949, and 10 million Uighurs. The newcomers take most of the new jobs, and unemployment among Uighurs is high.
- They complain of discrimination and harsh treatment by security forces, despite official promises of equal rights and ethnic harmony.
- Beijing says Uighur groups want to establish an independent state and, because of the Uighurs’ cultural ties to their neighbours, leaders fear that elements in places like Pakistan may back a separatist movement in Xinjiang.
What are the claims against Beijing?
- Human rights groups including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have submitted reports to the UN committee documenting claims of mass imprisonment, in camps where inmates are forced to swear loyalty to China’s President Xi Jinping.
- The World Uyghur Congress said in its report that detainees are held indefinitely without charge and forced to shout Communist Party slogans.
- It said they are poorly fed, and reports of torture are widespread. Most inmates have never been charged with a crime, it is claimed, and do not receive legal representation. China is said to carry out the detentions under the guise of combating religious extremism.
What has been Beijing’s response?
- The Chinese government has strongly denied claims of human rights abuses against the Uighur people as “completely untrue” and insists their legal, cultural and religious rights are being fully protected.
Location of Xinjiang Province:
- It is a provincial-level autonomous region of China in the northwest of the country.
- It is the largest Chinese administrative division and the eighth largest country subdivision in the world.
- Xinjiang contains the disputed territory of Aksai Chin, which is administered by China and claimed by India.
- Xinjiang borders the countries of Mongolia, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan and India.
- The rugged Karakoram, Kunlun, and Tian Shan mountain ranges occupy much of Xinjiang’s borders, as well as its western and southern regions.
- Xinjiang also borders Tibet Autonomous Region and the provinces of Gansu and Qinghai.
- The most well-known route of the historical Silk Road ran through the territory from the east to its northwestern border.
Defence & Security Issues
Delhi Police gets India’s first all-women SWAT team
Delhi will be the first police force in the country to have an all-women SWAT team.
About the all-women SWAT team:
- The women are trained to handle challenges unique to the capital—like climbing multi-storey buildings or carrying out hostage rescue operations at hotels, buses or metro.
- Trained by specialists from India and abroad, 36 women constables from northeastern states have been inducted into the squad after rigorous, 15-month training.
- The maximum numbers of members (13) are from Assam and five each from Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim and Manipur.
- These commandos will be stationed at strategic locations in central and south Delhi.
- Amidst intel inputs of women fidayeens planning to target the capital, this all-women unit would helm the security apparatus around Red Fort and India Gate as well.
- Many of them would be posted in anti-terror vans called Parakram.
Significance of the move:
- The formation of this team is being considered a big achievement as most western countries do not have all-women SWAT teams due to the kind of training required to become one.
Deccan papers shine the light on Aurangzeb rule
The Telangana Archives and Research Institute holds a whopping 1.55 lakh documents — all on handmade paper — including 5,000 from the period of Shah Jahan (1628-1658) and another 1.5 lakh of Aurangzeb (1658-1707).
- It gives a graphic picture of the mansabdari system, the military administration and the revenue machinery of the Mughals in the Deccan.
- Written in Persian in Shikasta script, cursive style, the documents are linked and arranged in chronological order — date, month and regnal year-wise.
- Farman: order of the emperor
- Nishan: order of a member of the royal family
- Yaddasht-i-ahkam-i-muqaddas: memorandum containing imperial orders
- Parwana: orders issued by higher authorities
- Siyaha huzur: proceedings of the provincial court
- Roznamcha-i-waqai: daily news report
- Qabzul wasil: bill payments
- Andarz-o-chihra(documents on personnel and horses.
Science & Technology
India’s first genetic bank for wildlife conservation
India has got its first scientific and most modern National Wildlife Genetic Resource Bank.
- It was inaugurated at Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology’s (CCMB) Laboratory of Conservation of Endangered Species (LaCONES) facility in Hyderabad, Telanagana.
About the National Wildlife Genetic Resource Bank:
- It will store genetic material of Indian species for posterity which will further the cause of conservation of endangered and protected animals.
- It is equipped with sophisticated equipment to preserve the genetic resources that could be utilised to virtually resurrect an animal species in case it goes extinct.
- So far this bank has collected and preserved genetic resources of 23 species of Indian wild animals.
- It is India’s only research facility engaged in conservation and preservation of wildlife and its resources.
- It was established in 1998 with the help of Central Zoo Authority of India, CSIR and the government of Andhra Pradesh.
- LaCONES has helped the Mouse Deer Conservation Breeding Centre at Nehru Zoological Park to increase the population of mouse deer in Telangana forests.
- Amrabad forest, for instance, ran out of mouse deer and through the efforts of LaCONES, the animal is now reintroduced in Amrabad Tiger Reserve.
- Earlier, LaCONES has developed universal DNA based marker for identification of wild animals from parts and remains.
- It has a DNA banking of more than 250 species of mammals, birds and reptiles.
Axis Bank introduces iris authentication for Aadhaar-based transactions
Axis Bank became first bank in the country to introduce Iris Scan Authentication feature for Aadhaar-based transactions through its micro ATM tablets.
How this works?
- These micro ATM tablets are Standardisation Testing and Quality Certification (STQC) certified and UIDAI compliant registered devices with completely integrated iris sensors.
- Micro ATMs completely eliminate requirement of debit cards, passwords, PINs, and user IDs, and empower consumers to avail banking services using only their Aadhaar numbers and biometrics (iris scan or fingerprint scan).
- Iris scan technology is completely contactless and provides up to 98.2% authentication success rate and offers edge over other prevalent biometric modes.
- It will help to boost bank’s financial inclusion efforts by making Aadhaar authentication process hassle-free and offering easier access to digital banking for consumers especially in rural parts of the country.
GMRT: Indian telescope spots distant radio galaxy
Astronomers have used an Indian telescope – Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope (GMRT) to discover the most distant radio galaxy ever known, located at a distance of 12 billion light-years.
- The galaxy, from a time when the universe was only 7% of its current age was found.
- The distance to this galaxy was determined using the Gemini North telescope in Hawaii and the Large Binocular Telescope in Arizona.
What are radio galaxies?
Radio galaxies are very rare objects in the universe. They are colossal galaxies with a supermassive black hole in their centre that actively accretes gas and dust from its surroundings.
- This activity initiates the launch of high-energy jet streams, which are capable of accelerating charged particles around the supermassive black hole to almost the speed of light.
- The discovery of such galaxies at extremely large distances is important for our understanding of the formation and evolution of galaxies.
About Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope (GMRT):
GMRT is an indigenous project set up by Pune based National Centre for Radio Astrophysics (NCRA).
- It is operated by the National Centre for Radio Astrophysics, a part of the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Mumbai.
- It has been designed for investigating a variety of radio astrophysical problems, ranging from nearby Solar system to the edge of observable Universe.
- One of the aims for the telescope during its development was to search for the highly redshifted 21-cm line radiation from primordial neutral hydrogen clouds in order to determine the epoch of galaxy formation in the universe.
- Astronomers from all over the world use this telescope regularly to observe many different astronomical objects such as galaxies, pulsars, supernovae, HII regions and Sun and solar winds.
- At the time it was built, it was the world’s largest interferometric array offering a baseline of up to 25 kilometres (16 mi).
Parker Solar Probe launches on historic journey to touch the sun
NASA has launched the Parker Solar Probe – the space agency’s first mission to the sun – that will explore the sun’s atmosphere and its outermost atmosphere, the corona.
- The project, with a $1.5 billion price tag, is the first major mission under Nasa’s Living With a Star program.
About NASA’s Parker Solar Probe:
NASA’s Parker Solar Probe will be the first-ever mission to “touch” the sun.
- To trace how energy and heat move through the solar corona and
- To explore what accelerates the solar wind as well as solar energetic particles.
- Determine structure and dynamics of magnetic fields at sources of solar wind.
- Trace flow of energy that heats corona and accelerates solar wind.
- Determine what mechanisms accelerate and transport energetic particles.
- Explore dusty plasma near Sun and its influence on solar wind and energetic particle formation.
Key facts about the probe:
- The spacecraft, about the size of a small car, will travel directly into the sun’s atmosphere about 6.2 million miles from our star’s surface.
- The probe will use Venus’ gravity during seven flybys over nearly seven years to gradually bring its orbit closer to the Sun.
- The Parker Solar Probe will perform its scientific investigations in a hazardous region of intense heat and solar radiation.
- The primary power for mission is dual system of solar panels (photovoltaic array). Secondary source consists of much smaller secondary array power that uses pumped-fluid cooling to maintain operating temperature.
- The spacecraft is designed to endure harsh environment near Sun, by approaching within 8.5 solar radii (5.9 million kilometers) to ‘surface’ (photosphere) of Sun where incident solar intensity is approximately 520 times intensity at Earth orbit.
- It will be protected by solar shadow-shield made of reinforced carbon-carbon composite.
- The spacecraft systems and scientific instruments are located in central portion of shield’s shadow, where direct radiation from Sun is fully blocked.