Current Affairs Analysis

12th & 13th July 2020 Current Affairs Analysis – IASToppers

International Tiger Day; National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR); Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (Amendment) Act, 2019; Itolizumab; World Population Day 2020; Reproductive, Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health Programme (RMNCH+A strategy); Global FP2020 Movement; India's top trading partner in 2019-20; Unified Gas Price System; Study on Forest fires; National Action Plan on Forest Fires; Mizoram quake zone; Faults; National Intelligence Grid (NATGRID); Kuaizhou-11 rocket; RCF SAFEROLA; EC’s power to hold election; Section 151A of the Representation of the People Act; Article 324; National Human Rights Commission guidelines; Code of Criminal Procedure (Amendment) Act, 2005; PUCL vs. State of Maharashtra (2014); Important Rights of an Arrested Person; All India Tiger Estimation 2018; Bon Bibi; Sundarbans; etc.
By IASToppers
July 15, 2020

Contents

Polity & Governance

  • Is EC empowered to delay elections?
  • Rajasthan government for new guidelines on elementary education
  • What rules the law lays down on extrajudicial killings

Issues related to Health & Education

  • Itolizumab

Social Issues

  • World Population Day 2020

Economy

  • India’s top trading partner in 2019-20
  • Unified Gas Price System

Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management

  • India’s Tiger Census sets a New Guinness Record
  • How faith in Bon Bibi helps the Sundarbans survive
  • Study on Forest fires
  • Mizoram quake zone

Defence & Security Issues

  • NATGRID

Key Facts for Prelims

  • Kuaizhou-11 rocket

RCF SAFEROLA

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Polity & Governance

Is EC empowered to delay elections?

A political party member demands to postpone Bihar polls till the COVID19 outbreak is contained.

EC’s power to hold election

  • Under Section 151A of the Representation of the People Act, Election Commission (EC) is mandated under law to hold elections at any time within 6 months before the five-year term of the Lok Sabha or Legislative Assembly expires.
  • In the case of early dissolution, EC has to ensure that a new Lok Sabha or Assembly is in place within six months of the dissolution.

Is the EC empowered to delay elections at will?

  • An election once called usually proceeds as per schedule. However, in some cases, the process can be postponed or even scrapped under extraordinary circumstances.
  • Under Section 153 of the Representation of the People Act, the poll panel can “extend the time” for completing an election, but such extension should not go beyond the date of the normal dissolution of the Lok Sabha or the Assembly.
  • Powers under Section 153 can be exercised only after an election schedule has been notified.

Process of postponing the elections

  • If the EC wants to postpone elections, it will have to be done through its extraordinary powers under Article 324 (Superintendence, direction and control of elections to be vested in EC).
  • The Commission will have to inform the government of its inability to hold polls on time.
  • The government and the President will then decide the future course, either to impose President’s Rule or allow the incumbent Chief Minister to continue for six months.

Under what circumstances can the EC decide to postpone an election?

  • There is no specific legal provision that specifies the circumstances under which elections can be deferred.
  • Law and order, natural calamities like earthquake and floods, or any other compelling circumstances that are beyond EC’s control would be guiding factors for EC to take a decision in the matter.
[Ref: Indian Express]

 

Rajasthan government for new guidelines on elementary education

National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) has pulled up the Rajasthan government for its new guidelines on elementary education that violate the Right to Education Act of 2009 and deny children from economically weaker sections the right to free education in nursery classes.

Rajasthan Government`s Guidelines

  • Admissions to private schools under the RTE Act, 2009, for the 2020-21 academic year will take place only from class 1 or above, and that the law’s provisions will not be applicable for pre-schoolers. As per RTE Act, Private Schools will have to admit to the extent of at least twenty-five per cent of the strength of that class, children belonging to weaker section and disadvantaged group in the neighbourhood and provide free and compulsory education till its completion.
  • Recommends the age of admission to be 5 years or above but less than 7 years as of 31st March 2020. Under the Central law, there is no such restriction and a male or female child of the age of six to fourteen years can seek admission.

National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR)

  • The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) was set up in March 2007 under the Commission for Protection of Child Rights Act, 2005.
  • It is a statutory body under the administrative control of the Ministry of Women & Child Development.
  • The Commission’s Mandate is to ensure that all Laws, Policies, Programmes, and Administrative Mechanisms are in consonance with the Child Rights perspective as enshrined in the Constitution of India and also the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
  • The Child is defined as a person in the 0 to 18 years’ age group.

Members

  • The commission consists of Chairperson and Six members, out of which at least two are woman appointed by the Central Government from amongst person of eminence, ability and experience.

Functions and powers of the NCPCR

  • Examine and review the safeguards provided by or under any law.
  • Inquire into violation of child rights and recommend initiation of proceedings in such cases.
  • Examine all factors that inhibit the enjoyment of rights of children affected by terrorism, communal violence, riots, natural disaster, domestic violence, HIV/AIDS, trafficking, maltreatment and prostitution and recommend appropriate remedial measures.
  • Look into the matters relating to the children in need of special care and protection including children in distress, marginalized and disadvantaged children etc.
  • Under the RTE Act, 2009, the NCPCR can inquire into complaints about violation of the law and can summon an individual, demand evidence, seek a magisterial enquiry as well as file a writ petition in the High Court or Supreme Court. It can also approach the government concerned for the prosecution of the offender and recommend interim relief to those affected.

Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (Amendment) Act, 2019

  • It was passed by the Parliament and received the assent of the President of India in January 2019.
  • The act seeks to do away with the no-detention policy in schools.
  • The motion to pass the bill was accepted by voice vote in the upper house of the Parliament.

Aim:

  • The key aim behind the move is to rebuild the education system of the country.
  • Teacher’s training, quality and accountability and there is no shortage of teachers.

Right to Education (RTE) Act:

  • The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 provides for free and compulsory education to all children of the age of six to fourteen years.
  • Section 16 of the Act provides that no child admitted in a school shall be held back in any class or expelled from school till the completion of elementary education.
[Ref: The Hindu]

What rules the law lays down on extrajudicial killings

The recent killing of gangster Vikas Dubey by the Uttar Pradesh Police has put the spotlight back on encounters or executive killings.

  • An extrajudicial killing is the killing of a person by governmental authorities/individuals without the sanction of any judicial proceeding.

Reason

  • Lack of faith in the judiciary because many believe that the courts will not provide timely justice.
  • Temptation of getting Promotional
  • Cash incentives
  • To become a hero in the society as many people see them doing the job of cleaning up the Indian society by killing the criminals.

Article 21 of Indian Constitution

  • Article 21 guarantees the protection of life and personal liberty to every individual and states that, “No person shall be deprived of his life and personal liberty except according to procedure established by law.”

NHRC guidelines

  • A complaint from the Andhra Pradesh Civil Liberties Union was filed alleging a series of fake encounters in the state to eliminate individuals identified as Maoists (members of Communist Party of India).
  • After that, in 1993, National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) issued general guidelines on custodial death which are as follows:
    • Every case of custodial death must be intimated to it within 24 hours.
    • Post mortem reports and other related documentation was to be sent to the NHRC to ascertain its reliability within 2 months of the incident.
    • If a death is found to be a case of death that took place unlawfully, NHRC would grant compensation to the victim’s kin and penalise the state and its officials.

Code of Criminal Procedure (Amendment) Act, 2005

Sections 176(1A) and 176(5) of CrPC (related to parallel Magisterial Inquiry) were introduced in Code of Criminal Procedure (Amendment) Act, 2005 after the Law Commission of India recommended it in 1994.

  • Section 176(1) – Magistrate can hold an inquiry into the cause of death in addition to the investigation held by the police officer.
  • Section 176(1A) – Magistrate can hold an inquiry (special provision) to deal with cases of death, disappearance or rape in police custody.
  • Section 176(5) – Magistrate holding such inquiry should, within 24 hours of the death of the person, forward the body to the nearest Civil Surgeon. If it is not possible to do so, reasons must be recorded in writing.

NHRC 1997 Guidelines

In 1997, NHRC chairman Justice M. N. Venkatachaliah, in a letter addressed to chief ministers of all states, said that

  • When the police officer receives information about encounter, he shall enter that information in the appropriate register.
  • The information shall be regarded as sufficient to suspect the commission of a cognizable offence and immediate steps should be taken.
  • As the police officers belonging to the same police station are the members of the encounter party, it is appropriate that the cases are made over for investigation to some other independent investigation agency, such as the state CID.
  • Question of granting of compensation to the dependents of the deceased may be considered in cases ending in conviction, if police officers are prosecuted.
  • For every case of custodial death, the concerned officers would be on trial. However, their actions would not constitute an offence in only two circumstances: a) if they have killed to protect themselves and, b) if it is necessary for making an arrest.

NHRC 2010 Guideline

  • A magisterial inquiry must be held in all cases of death which occur in the course of police action, preferably, within three months.
  • Prompt prosecution and disciplinary action against officers found guilty in the magisterial inquiry/police investigation, denial of out-of-turn promotion or instant gallery rewards on concerned officers soon after the occurrence were other steps recommended by NHRC.

Section 197 CrPC: Prior sanction from a competent officer is needed to prosecute a government servant for alleged criminal act done in discharge of his official duty.

A recommendation:

  • Often police prefer to remain silent rather than assist the court in encounter cases.
  • To address this concern, the law commission recommended twice (in its 113th & 152nd report) the insertion of Section 114-B into the Indian Evidence Act 1972, which is, if there is evidence that the injury was caused during the custody, the court may presume that the police officer having custody of the person caused it. This recommendation has not yet been taken up by Parliament.

Landmark Case on encounter case

Andhra Pradesh Civil Liberties Committee vs. Government of Andhra Pradesh (2007):

  • The High Court made it mandatory to charge policemen with culpable homicide in every case of encounter killing. However, the verdict was immediately stayed by the Supreme Court.

People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) vs. State of Maharashtra (2014):

  • HC: Every custodial death would be probed by a magistrate as per Section 170 of the CrPC.
  • The court issued 16 point guidelines on holding an independent investigation into the encounter. It includes that Investigation shall be conducted by the CID or police team of another police station under the supervision of a senior officer at least a level above the head of the police party engaged in the encounter.

Concerns over Custodial deaths in India:

  • Out of 827 cases of death or disappearance of persons in police custody between 2005 and 2017, judicial inquiry was ordered only in 166 cases i.e. 20% of the total cases.
  • Despite the mandatory nature of Section 176(1A), its compliance is highly rare.
  • The examination of case— from initiating the case to investigating it — is done by the police, who are the accused to begin with.
  • Magisterial inquiries rarely hold police accountable.
  • One important right of accused is his/her the medical examination, detailing injury marks if any. The medical officer sometimes records their injuries merely as “abrasions,” even though injuries are severe.
  • The presence of a lawyer during arrest reduces the possibility of physical harm and violation of the legal rights of the arrestees. In the absence of any mechanism, this constitutional right is often denied.
  • Another roadblock is that cases go on for a long time, and witnesses often turn hostile under pressure and may change their statements.

Important Rights of an Arrested Person:

Right to Silence:

  • Normally courts or tribunals should not conclude that the person is guilty of any conduct merely because he has not responded to questions which were asked by the police or by the court.

When Police Is Arresting Without Warrant:

  • Section 41 of CrPC: Police can arrest, in cognizable offences, without obtaining warrant of arrest.
  • However, there can be no legal arrest if there is no reasonable suspicion that the person has been involved in a cognizable offence specified in Section 41.

Modes of Arrest

  • Section 46 of CrPC: envisages modes of arrest i.e. submission to custody, touching the body physically or confining the body.
  • Where a woman is to be arrested, unless the police officer is a female, the police officer shall not touch the person of the woman for making an arrest. After sunset and before sunrise, no woman can be arrested, except in exceptional circumstances.

Right To Be Taken Before A Magistrate Without Delay

  • The person who is making such arrest has to bring the arrested person before a judicial officer without any unnecessary delay.
  • Section 76 of CrPC: Delay shall not exceed 24 hours in any case, excluding travel time.

No Unnecessary Restraint

  • Section 49 of CrPC: there should be no more restraint than is justly necessary to prevent escape i.e. reasonable force should be used for the purpose. Restraint or detention without arrest is illegal.

Right to Know the Grounds of Arrest:

  • Section 50(1) CrPC: every police officer, if arresting any person without a warrant, has to communicate the reason grounds for such arrest to the arrested person.

Person Arrested to Be Informed of the Right to Bail:

  • Section 50(2) of CrPC: If the arrest is made in a bailable case, the person shall be informed of his right to be released on bails.

Medical Examination of Arrested Person

  • Section 54 of CrPC: Provides for compulsory medical examination by a medical officer. Female arrestees can only be examined by female medical officer or registered medical practitioner.

Right to Free Legal Aid

  • Arrestee has the right to consult and to be defended by a counsel of his choice and have right to get free legal aid.
[Ref: The Hindu]

Issues related to Health & Education

Itolizumab

Recently, the Drug Controller General of India approved Itolizumab for restricted emergency use to treat Covid-19 patients.

  • The drug was launched in 2013 by Indian pharmaceutical company, Biocon. Itolizumab is used for skin disorder psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and autoimmune disorders.
  • The drug can be used as soon as a cytokine storm begins or at the height of the cytokine storm. Cytokine storm refers to the immune system becoming hyperactive and uncontrollable, resulting in excess cytokines, T-cells and antibodies. Instead of killing the virus, it kills humans. This drug starts modulating the immune system.
  • The approval may also bring down the cost of treatment for Covid-19 patients.
[Ref: Indian Express]

Social Issues

World Population Day 2020

The World Population Day is observed on July 11 in an attempt to raise awareness about the trend of growing global population and its implications. It was established in 1989 by the governing council of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

  • The theme of the World Population Day 2020 is to raise awareness about safeguarding sexual and reproductive health needs and vulnerabilities of women and girls during the Covid-19 pandemic

Key Points:

  • It took hundreds of thousands of years for the world population to grow to 1 billion – then in just another 200 years or so, it grew sevenfold.
  • In 2011, the global population reached the 7 billion mark, and today, it stands at about 7.7 billion, and it’s expected to grow to around 8.5 billion in 2030, 9.7 billion in 2050, and 10.9 billion in 2100.
  • A study by the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) revealed that 800 women die every day during the process of childbirth.
  • UNFPA research highlighted that if the lockdown continues for 6 months, with continued major disruption to health services, then 47 million women in low and middle-income countries might not have access to modern contraceptives. This would, in turn, lead to 7 million unintended pregnancies.
  • This could lead to a rise in gender-based violence, female genital mutilation and child marriages, and thus threaten the transformative results attained thus far in raising the health conditions of women.

India’s Concerns

  • India has 2% of the world’s landmass and 16% of the global population. It is the second-most populous country in the world with an estimated population of around 1.37 billion by 2019
  • Between the Census of 2001 and 2011, India added 18% more people to its population — translating to around 181 million.
  • According to the Population Division of the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, India’s population is expected to add nearly 273 million people in the next three decades and surpass China’s population within the next 7 years.

Important Data (India):

Reasons:

  • Increasing numbers of people surviving to reproductive age.
  • Increasing urbanization and accelerating migration.
  • As a result of poverty, more children in poorer families mean more earnings hands.
  • Low female literacy has resulted in women being less vocal against early marriage, use of contraceptives and no. of children to bear.
  • Preference for male children by families is still prevalent resulting in the woman being pregnant multiple times and producing many children until a male child is born.
  • Huge variation across states and the income level of people in terms of Total Fertility Rate (TFR). Poorer states like Bihar (3.2), Uttar Pradesh (3.1), Jharkhand (2.7) and Rajasthan (2.7) still have TFRs above 2.5, while the poorest household has a TFR of 3.2 children per woman compared to 1.5 children per woman from the affluent families.

Possible Impacts:

  • Influences economic development, employment, income distribution, poverty and social protections.
  • Shapes the efforts towards ensuring universal access to health care, education, housing, sanitation, water, food and energy.

Government Measures:

Reproductive, Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health Programme (RMNCH+A strategy)

  • Following the Government of India’s Call to Action (CAT) Summit in February 2013, the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare launched Reproductive, Maternal, Newborn Child plus Adolescent Health (RMNCH+A) to influence the key interventions for reducing maternal and child morbidity and mortality.
  • The RMNCH+A strategy is built upon the continuum of care concept and is holistic in design, encompassing all interventions aimed at the reproductive, maternal, newborn, child, and adolescent health under a broad umbrella, and focusing on the strategic lifecycle approach.

Key features of RMNCH+A Strategy:

  • Health systems strengthening (HSS) focusing on infrastructure, human resources, supply chain management, and referral transport measures.
  • Prioritization of high-impact interventions for various lifecycle stages.
  • Increasing the effectiveness of investments by prioritizing geographical areas based on evidence.
  • Integrated monitoring and accountability through good governance, use of available data sets, community involvement, and steps to address grievance.

Global FP2020 Movement:

  • FP2020 aims to enable 120 million more women and girls to use contraceptives by 2020.
  • It is an outcome of the 2012 London Summit on Family Planning.
  • The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, The Department for International Development (DFID), UNFPA and USAID are the core partners of the programme.
  • Achieving the FP2020 goal is a critical milestone to ensuring universal access to sexual and reproductive health services and rights by 2030, as laid out in Sustainable Development Goals 3 and 5. FP2020 is in support of the UN Secretary-General’s Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health.
  • India is a fundamental part of the global FP2020 movement. India has invested substantial domestic funding to achieve ambitious FP2020 goals. The major initiatives under Family Planning include Mission Parivar Vikas, Injectable Contraceptive MPA, Family Planning – Logistics Management Information System (LMIS), Family Planning Communications Campaign.
  • The National Family Planning Program has introduced the Injectable Contraceptive in the public health system under the “Antara” program. This contraceptive is highly effective and will meet the changing needs of couples and help women space their pregnancies.

Ayushmaan Bharat-Health and Wellness Centers Mobile App:

  • Developed by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
  • It is an extension of AB-HWC Portal.
  • The App is designed to streamline the process of data reporting at AB-Health and Wellness Centres. It shall provide real-time information on the people who have been screened, the dispensation of healthcare services and drugs, footfalls, and referrals made to PHCs.

Some important days:

  • International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation (6 February)
  • International Women’s Day (8 March)
  • International Day of Families (15 May)
  • International Youth Day (12 August)
  • International Day of Older Persons (1 October)
  • World Children’s Day (20 November)
[Ref: PIB, News 18]

Economy

India’s top trading partner in 2019-20

The United States of America (USA) remained India’s top trading partner for the second consecutive fiscal in 2019-20.

  • According to the data of the commerce ministry, in 2019-20, the bilateral trade between the US and India stood at $88.75 billion as against $87.96 billion in 2018-19.
  • The USA is one of the few countries with which India has a trade surplus. The trade gap between the countries has increased to $17.42 billion in 2019-20 from $16.86 billion in 2018-19.
  • In 2018-19, the USA first surpassed China to become India’s top trading partner. Before China, UAE was the largest trading nation.

Reasons:

  • Presence of Indian diaspora is creating demand for Indian goods such as consumer items.

Way Forward

  • India and the US are negotiating a limited trade pact to iron out differences at trade front and boost commercial ties.
  • India is seeking relaxation in US visa regime, exemption from high duties imposed by the US on certain steel and aluminium products, and greater market access for its products from sectors such as agriculture, automobile, automobile components and engineering.
  • On the other hand, the US wants greater market access for its farm and manufacturing products, dairy items, medical devices, and data localisation, apart from a cut on import duties on some information and communication technology products.

Trade with China:

  • The bilateral trade between India and China has dipped to $81.87 billion in 2019-20 from $87.08 billion in 2018-19.
  • The trade deficit has declined to $48.66 billion in 2019-20 from $53.57 billion in the previous fiscal.
  • China was India’s top trading partner since the 2013-14 till 2017-18.
  • India is considering certain steps like framing technical regulations and quality control orders for a host of items to cut import dependence on China and boost domestic manufacturing.
[Ref: Business Standard]

Unified Gas Price System

The Government is planning to rationalise tariffs for the transportation of natural gas. There would be one price for those transporting gas nearby within 300 km and one price for those transporting gas beyond 300km.

Why?

  • Currently, tariffs for transportation of gas are set by the Petroleum and Natural Gas Regulatory Board(PNGRB) separately for each pipeline based on the assumptions of the volume of gas transported on the pipeline and its operating life aimed at providing the operator with a pre-tax return of 18%.
  • The tariffs for pipeline usage are divided into zones of 300km, with the tariff increasing for zones further away from the point where gas is injected. Since all of India’s imported natural gas arrives at terminals on the west coast, this leads to increased cost for buyers located in the east.
  • Additionally, if a buyer needs multiple pipelines even from the same operator, that transport tariff would increase.

Possible Implications:

  • Benefit consumers in parts of the country far from the western coast.
  • It could boost the share of natural gas in India’s energy basket from around 6 per cent currently to 25 per cent by 2030.
  • The cost of gas transportation closer to the points of gas injection might go up.
[Ref: Indian Express]

 

Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management

India’s Tiger Census sets a New Guinness Record

The fourth cycle of the All India Tiger Estimation 2018 has entered the Guinness World Record for being the world’s largest camera trap wildlife survey.

  • Camera traps – Outdoor photographic devices fitted with motion sensors that start recording when an animal passes by.

Background

  • The All India Tiger Estimation done quadrennially is steered by the National Tiger Conservation Authority with technical backstopping from the Wildlife Institute of India and implemented by State Forest Departments and partners.
  • The latest results of 2018 shown that India has 2967 tigers out of which 2461 individual tigers have been photo captured.

Highlights of All India Tiger Estimation 2018

  • Total tigers: 2967 tigers.
  • 33% rise in tiger numbers in this survey (during 2014-18) is the highest ever recorded between four-year cycles.
  • India is home to almost 75 % of the global tiger population.
  • Madhya Pradesh has the highest number of tigers (526), followed by Karnataka (524) and Uttarakhand (442).

Evaluation of India’s 50 tiger sanctuaries

  • India’s tiger habitat in India is classified into five landscapes – Shivalik hills and Gangetic plains, Central and Eastern ghats, Western Ghats, North East hills and the Brahmaputra, and the Sundarbans.
  • Pench Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh: Highest number of tigers.
  • Sathyamangalam Tiger Reserve in Tamil Nadu: Maximum improvement since 2014.
  • The Dampa Reserve (Mizoram) and Rajaji reserve (Uttarakhand) were least managed tiger reserves.

Tiger conservation efforts in India

  • In 1973, Project Tiger was started in India which was a unique plan to save tigers on the planet.
  • The project included Enabling provisions for tiger in the national legislation, Creation of National Tiger Conservation Authority, Modern protocol for field monitoring (M-STrIPES), Year-round monitoring of tiger and prey, Online database of tiger crime etc.

About Global Tiger Initiative

  • The Global Tiger Initiative (GTI), backed by World Bank, was launched in 2008 to save wild tigers from extinction.
  • Over the years, the initiative has institutionalised itself as a separate entity in the form of the Global Tiger Initiative Council (GTIC), with its two arms – the Global Tiger Forum and the Global Snow Leopard Ecosystem Protection Program.

International Tiger Day

  • Every year, July 29 is celebrated as International Tiger Day to spread awareness on the conservation of the natural habitat of tigers.
  • It was first established in 2010 at Saint Petersburg Tiger Summit in Russia. Here, 13 tiger range countries pledged to double the number of tigers by 2022 under the Global Tiger Recovery Program. India achieved its target two years before the committed date of 2022.

Key Facts on Tigers

  • Tigers are the largest wild cats in the world.
  • Tigers are the third-largest carnivore on land after polar bears and brown bears.
  • Unlike most members of the cat family, tigers are good swimmers.
  • Tigers are the only cat species that are completely stripped. They even have stripes on their skin.
  • There are five subspecies of tiger existing today: Bengal, South China, Indochinese, Sumatran and Siberian. However, three of them have become extinct – Caspian, Bali and Javan.
[Ref: PIB, Hindustan Times]

How faith in Bon Bibi helps the Sundarbans survive

A centuries-old folk theatre form and the worship of a forest goddess has helped the Sundarbans people understand the power of nature through cyclone amphan.

Who is Bon Bibi?

  • Bon bibi (lady of the forest) is a forest goddess for the residents of the Sundarbans.
  • She is called upon mostly by the honey-collectors and the woodcutters before entering the forest for protection against the attacks from the tigers.
  • In most of the shrines of Banbibi in the Sundarbans, Banbibi is worshipped along with her brother Shah Jangali and Dakkhin Rai.
  • She is main character in Bon Bibi’r Palagaan, a centuries-old folk theatre.
  • Hindus and Muslims worship Bon Bibi equally.
  • As per Bon Bibi’r Johuranama (Chronicles of Bon Bibi’s Greatness), a 19th-century text written in Bengali script, it is believed that Bon Bibi came to the Sundarbans with her twin brother, Shah Jongoli, from Saudi Arabia.

About Sundarbans

  • The Sundarbans is a mangrove area in the delta formed by the confluence of the Ganges, Brahmaputra and Meghna Rivers in the Bay of Bengal.
  • It spans from the Hooghly River in West Bengal to the Baleswar River in Bangladesh.
  • Thisactive delta region is among the largest in the world, measuring 40,000 sq km.
  • It constitutes over 60% of the India’s total mangrove forest area, which is 4900 sq km.
  • Sajnakhali Wildlife Sanctuary is located in Sundarbans delta.
  • Fauna: Estuarine crocodile, Indian python, royal Bengal tiger, Water monitor lizard, Gangetic dolphin and olive ridley turtle.
    • It is the only mangrove habitat in the world for Bengal tiger (Panthera tigris tigris) species.

Protection status

  • It is given the status of ‘Wetland of International Importance’ under Ramsar convention.
    • It is the largest protected wetland in India.
  • It became part of UNESCO world heritage site in 1987 after satisfying two criteria:
    • Shows an example of on-going ecological processes as it represents the process of delta formation and newly formed deltaic islands and associated mangrove communities.
    • Supports an exceptional level of biodiversity in both the terrestrial and marine environments.
  • Sunderbans Biosphere Reserve is an Important Bird Area of BirdLife International, an NGO aiming to conserve birds and their habitats.

Threats

  • 4 million people live on its northern periphery, putting pressure on the ecosystem.
  • As per Ramsar Information Sheet: Fishing and harvesting of aquatic resources has high threat to the wetland. Salinity has been categorised as a medium and tourism as a low impact threat.
  • The other threats are from dredging, oil and gas drilling, logging and wood harvesting, hunting and collecting terrestrial animals.
  • It is also vulnerable to climate change.
[Ref: Indian Express]

Study on Forest fires

A study was published in Science of the Total Environment used remote sensing-based models to measure primary productivity over an area and also looked at burn indices. Burn indices help to demarcate the forest fire burn scars using satellite imagery.

Trends:

  • During 2003–2017, a total of 5,20,861 active forest fire events were detected in India, and according to the report of the Forest Survey of India, over 54% of the forest cover in India is exposed to occasional fire.
  • The study noted that very high to high carbon emissions in the eastern Himalayan states, western desert region and lower Himalayan region.
  • Western Himalaya has shown a sharp increase of carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides and ozone during high fire activity periods.
  • The States of northeast India, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand are the most fire-prone in India.

Causes:

  • Presence of plant species like pine trees (in low altitude Himalayan regions).
  • Anthropogenic activities like forest cover clearance, grazing, change in land-use patterns etc.
  • The sharp increase in average and maximum air temperature, a decline in precipitation.

About National Action Plan on Forest Fires:

  • Launched in 2018 by the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC).

Objective:

  • To minimise forest fires by informing, enabling and empowering forest fringe communities and incentivising them to work in tandem with the State Forest Departments.

Features:

  • The plan intends to substantially reduce the vulnerability of forests across diverse forest ecosystems in the country against fire hazards, enhance capabilities of forest personnel and institutions in fighting fires and swift recovery subsequent to fire incidents.
  • Nodal officers for forest fire prevention and control have been appointed in each state.
[Ref: The Hindu, IASToppers.com]

Mizoram quake zone

Recently, Mizoram experienced at least eight moderate earthquakes ranging from 4.2 to 5.5 on the Richter scale.

  • Mizoram is located between two geological faults namely Churachandpur Mao Fault and the Mat Fault.
  • The Churachandpur Mao Fault is named after two places in Manipur and runs north-south into Myanmar along the border of Champhai.
  • The Mat Fault runs northwest-southeast across Mizoram, beneath river Mat near Serchhip.
  • Additionally, there are several shallower transverse or minor faults in between these two major faults that are deeper.

Measures that can be taken:

  • Sanctioning of an extensive study by seismologists or geophysicists.
  • Installation of earthquake observation centres.

What are the faults?

  • Faults are discontinuities or cracks that are the result of differential motion within the earth’s crust.
  • Vertical or lateral slippage of the crust along the faults causes an earthquake.
  • Faults may range in length from a few millimetres to thousands of kilometres.
  • Most faults produce repeated displacements over geologic time.

Different types of Faults:

  • Normal Fault – A dip-slip fault in which the block above the fault has moved downward relative to the block below.
  • Thrust Fault/Reverse Fault – A dip-slip fault in which the upper block, above the fault plane, moves up and over the lower block. This type of faulting is common in areas of compression.
  • Strike-Slip Fault – A fault on which the two blocks slide past one another. E.g. The San Andreas Fault.
[Ref: The Hindu]

Defence & Security Issues

National Intelligence Grid (NATGRID)

The NATGRID has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) to access the centralised online database on FIRs and stolen vehicles.

  • The MoU will give NATGRID access to the Crime and Criminal Tracking Network and Systems (CCTNS) database, a platform that links around 14,000 police stations.
  • All State police are mandated to file First Information Reports (FIR) in the CCTNS. The MoU enables the NATGRID to get information about details of a suspect as mentioned in the FIR such as his/her father’s name, telephone number and other details.
  • It will be an automated system and the request will land directly with the concerned department. No two agencies would know about the request generated by the other.

About NATGRID

  • First conceptualised in 2009, NATGRID seeks to become the one-stop destination for security and intelligence agencies (for at least 10 Central agencies such as the Intelligence Bureau (IB) and the Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW) etc. ) to access database related to immigration entry and exit, banking and telephone details of a suspect on a secured platform. The project will be completed by December 31.
  • National Intelligence Grid (NATGRID) is an online database for collating scattered pieces of information of core security agencies and putting them on one platform.

Expected Benefits

  • Provide a secured platform for accessing data.
  • Safeguarding against leaks.
  • Will act as a link between intelligence and investigation agencies.

For More information about NATGRID please refer to the following link: https://www.iastoppers.com/20th-november-2019-current-affairs-analysis-iastoppers/

[Ref: The Hindu]

Key Facts for Prelims

Kuaizhou-11 rocket

  • The Kuaizhou-11 rocket of China failed in its mission.
  • Kuaizhou means fast ship in Chinese and was operated by a private launch firm Expace. It had a lift-off mass of 70.8 tonnes and was designed to launch low-Earth and Sun-synchronous orbit satellites.
  • It was launched from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China.
  • Numerous private space companies are emerging in China after the government there opened its space sector to private investment in 2014.
  • The previous launch sent into space the APSTAR-6D telecommunications satellite which would remain in orbit for 15 years as part of a broadband communications system for the Asia-Pacific region with speeds up to 50 Gbps.
[Ref: Indian Express]

RCF SAFEROLA

  • A hand cleansing gel called Saferola developed by Rashtriya Chemicals and Fertilizers Limited, under the Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers.
  • The gel is a skin-friendly moisturizer-based hand-sanitizer which contains Iso Propyl Alcohol (IPA) and Aloe Vera extract. It is enriched with Vitamin-E and has a fresh lime fragrance.
  • It is available in a non-spillable 50 ml and 100 ml bottles and is priced at 25/- and Rs. 50/- per bottle.

About Rashtriya Chemicals and Fertilizers (RCF) Limited:

  • RCF is a Mini Ratna Company under the Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers.
  • It is a leading producer of fertilizers and chemicals in the country.
  • It manufactures Urea, Complex Fertilizers, Bio-fertilizers, Micro-nutrients, water-soluble fertilizers, soil conditioners.
  • It also produces a large number of industrial chemicals that are important for the manufacture of dyes, solvents, leather, pharmaceuticals and a host of other industrial products.
[Ref: PIB]
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