Current Affairs Analysis

18th February 2020 Current Affairs Analysis – IASToppers

Kambala: the traditional buffalo race; Delimitation commission in Jammu and Kashmir; Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019; Battle of Gallipoli; Dardanelles strait; State of India’s Birds 2020; EC gets Silver award for Excellence; ERONET; Punjab Kinnow; Permanent commission to women in Army; Google to phase off free Wi-Fi; India-Portugal ink several MoUs; SUTRA PIC; Panchagavya
By IASToppers
February 20, 2020

Contents

Polity & Governance

  • EC gets Silver award for Excellence
  • Delimitation commission in Jammu and Kashmir

Government Schemes & Policies

  • Permanent commission to women in Army
  • SUTRA PIC

Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management

  • State of India’s Birds 2020
  • Punjab Kinnow

Bilateral & International Relations

  • Battle of Gallipoli
  • India-Portugal ink several MoUs

Art & Culture

  • Kambala: the traditional buffalo race

Also in News

  • Google to phase off free Wi-Fi

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Polity & Governance

EC gets Silver award for Excellence

The Election Commission of India has been awarded ‘Silverfor Excellence in Government Process re-engineering for digital transformation for the year 2019-20.

Purpose:

  • The award seeks to recognize the projects that involved analysis and re-design of workflow and which resulted in improvement in outcomes related to efficiency, effectiveness of process, cost, quality, service delivery or a combination of these.

Presented by:

  • The award was presented during the 23rd National Conference on e-Governance at Mumbai by Department of Administrative Reforms and Public Grievances (DARPG), Government of India.

Why was the award given?

ERONET:

  • ECI got the award for ERONET.
  • ERONET is a web portal launched by the Election Commission of India in 2018 to provide hassle free services to the citizens of India for the registration of their voter-ID cards online, to choose to change the state in which they want to enrol as a voter without going through unnecessary bureaucratic hurdles and many other services.
  • ERONET standardised forms processing, standard database schema, and a standard template for enrol printing.
  • It automated the process of electoral roll management starting from elector registration, field verification of electors, decision support system for Electoral registration officers and for providing extensive integrated value-added services.
  • ERONET is a common database for all States and UTs with data of 91 crore electors.
  • It provides bedrock of electoral roll in providing various web services to Conduct of Elections applications of Election Commission of India.
[Ref: PIB]

Delimitation commission in Jammu and Kashmir

About six months after the State of Jammu and Kashmir was split into the Union Territories of J&K and Ladakh, the government moved on to start the delimitation of Assembly constituencies in J&K.

What is delimitation?

  • Delimitation literally means the process of fixing limits or boundaries of territorial constituencies in a state that has a legislative body.
  • Delimitation is the process of redrawing the boundaries of the various assembly and Lok Sabha constituencies based on a recent census.

Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019:

  • As per the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019, which was passed by Parliament on August 5, 2019 and came into effect on October 31, the Union Territory of J&K will have an Assembly, while Ladakh will not.
  • The Act further said the number of seats in the Assembly of J&K would be increased from 107 to 114 after delimitation, on the basis of the 2011 Census.
  • Out of these 114 seats, only 90 will be open for elections, and the remaining 24 will be shadow seats reserved for the areas of the erstwhile state that have been occupied by Pakistan (PoJK).
  • The delimitation of Assembly constituencies should take place as per the area and population. It should take place in all three regions – Kashmir, Jammu and Ladakh.

Delimitation Commission of India:

  • Delimitation Commission was first established in India in the year 1952.
  • After this, Delimitation Commissions have been constituted in 1963,1973 and 2002.
  • Delimitation Commission has not been formed after the year 2002 in India.
  • According to Article 82 of the Indian Constitution, the central government can set up a delimitation commission after every 10 years.

Delimitation Commission Act, 2002:

  • According to the Act, the Delimitation Commission appointed by the Centre has to have three members: a serving or retired judge of the Supreme Court as the chairperson, and the Chief Election Commissioner or Election Commissioner nominated by the CEC and the State Election Commissioner as ex-officio members.
[Ref: The Hindu, Rediff]

Government Schemes & Policies

Permanent commission to women in Army

The Supreme Court has paved the way for permanent commission for women officers in 10 streams of the Army on a par with their male counterparts in all respects, setting aside longstanding objections of the government.

Background:

  • The case for the issue was first filed in the Delhi High Court by women officers in 2003, and had received a favorable order in 2010. But the order was never implemented, and was challenged in the Supreme Court by the government.
  • The induction of women officers in the Army started in 1992. They were commissioned for a period of five years in certain chosen streams such as Army Education Corps, Corps of Signals, Intelligence Corps, and Corps of Engineers.
  • Recruits under the Women Special Entry Scheme (WSES) had a shorter pre-commission training period than their male counterparts who were commissioned under the Short Service Commission (SSC) scheme.
  • In 2006, the WSES scheme was replaced with the SSC scheme, which was extended to women officers.
  • They were commissioned for a period of 10 years, extendable up to 14 years.
  • However, they were restricted to roles in streams specified earlier — which excluded combat arms such as infantry and armoured corps.
  • The first batch of women officers under the new scheme entered the Army in 2008.

Two key arguments out ruled:

  • The Supreme Court rejected arguments against greater role for women officers, saying these violated equalities under law.
  • They were being kept out of command posts on the reasoning that the largely rural rank and file will have problems with women as commanding officers. The biological argument was also rejected as disturbing.
  • They were kept out of any command appointment, and could not qualify for government pension, which starts only after 20 years of service as an officer.

Government order of 2019:

  • While the proceedings were on, the government passed an order in February 2019 for the grant of PC to SSC women officers in eight streams of the Army, in addition to the Judge Advocate General (JAG) department and the Army Education Corps (AEC), which had been opened up in 2008.
  • But they would not be offered any command appointments, and would serve only in staff posts.
  • During the hearing, the government came up with a proposal whereby women officers of up to 14 years of service would be granted permanent commission in line with the letter of February 2019.
  • Women officers with more than 14 years of service would be permitted to serve for up to 20 years without being considered for PC, but would retire with pension, and those with more than 20 years of service would be released with pensionary benefits immediately.

Recent order and its implications:

  • The SC has done away with all discrimination on the basis of years of service for grant of PC in 10 streams of combat support arms and services, bringing them on a par with male officers.
  • It has also removed the restriction of women officers only being allowed to serve in staff appointments, which is the most significant and far-reaching aspect of the judgment.
  • It means that women officers will be eligible to tenant all the command appointments, at par with male officers, which would open avenues for further promotions to higher ranks for them: if women officers had served only in staff, they would not have gone beyond the rank of Colonel.
  • It also means that in junior ranks and career courses, women officers would be attending the same training courses and tenanting critical appointments, which are necessary for higher promotions.
[Ref: Indian Express]

SUTRA PIC 

SUTRA PIC or Scientific Utilisation Through Research Augmentation-Prime Products from Indigenous Cows is an initiative launched by government of India to promote research on indigenous breeds of cows.

Initiated by:

  • The initiative, SUTRA PIC is led by the Department of Science and Technology (DST) and is to be funded by multiple scientific ministries.
  • It is a collaborative effort of the Department of Biotechnology, Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), the Ministry for AYUSH (Ayurveda, Unani, Siddha, Homoeopathy) and the Indian Council of Medical Research.

Themes:

The initiative has five themes:

  • Uniqueness of Indigenous Cows,
  • Prime-products from Indigenous Cows for Medicine and Health,
  • Prime-products from Indigenous Cows for Agricultural Applications,
  • Prime-products from Indigenous Cows for Food and Nutrition,
  • Prime-products from indigenous cows-based utility items.

Objectives:

  • To perform scientific research on complete characterisation of milk and milk products derived from Indian indigenous cows;
  • Scientific research on nutritional and therapeutic properties of curd and ghee prepared from indigenous breeds of cows by traditional methods;
  • Development of standards for traditionally processed dairy products of Indian-origin cow etc.

Research on Panchagavya:

  • In 2017, Science for Equity Empowerment and Development (SEED) constituted a National Steering Committee (NSC) for ‘Scientific Validation and Research on Panchagavya (SVAROP)’.
  • Panchgavya is an Ayurvedic panacea and is a mixture of five (pancha) products of the cow (gavya) — milk, curd, ghee, dung and urine. Its proponents believe it can cure, or treat a wide range of ailments.

Research programmes into indigenous cattle:

  • The Finance Minister had announced research programmes into indigenous cattle in the 2016-17 as well as in the 2019-20 Union Budget.
  • The stated objective was to develop products as well as improve the genetic quality of indigenous cattle breeds.
  • A 2019 article in the Journal of Animal Research said India had 190.9 million cattle and 43 registered native cattle breeds.
  • The exotic / crossbred population has been increased by 20.18% during the period of last census while population of indigenous cattle has been decreased by 8.94% during the same duration.
  • The reasons for depletion of native breeds includes cross-breeding with exotic breeds, economically less viable, losing utility, reduction in herd size and the large-scale mechanisation of agricultural operation.

Funding:

  • Researchers from academic organisations as well as capable voluntary organisations (NGOs) active in India with proven record of accomplishment in executing S&T-based R&D projects have been invited to apply for funding for the research.
[Ref: The Hindu]

Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management

State of India’s Birds 2020

A research titled ‘State of India’s Birds 2020’ (SoIB), put together by over ten institutions, was released recently at the ongoing United Nations 13th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Migratory Species in Gandhinagar, Gujarat.

Major highlights of the report:

  • According to the study, the populations of raptors (eagles, hawks, kites, etc.), migratory seabirds and birds that live in specialised habitats were the most affected in the past decades.
  • The number of birds in the Western Ghats, which is considered one of the world’s foremost biodiversity hotspots, also declined by almost 75 % since 2000.
  • Indian Peacock, the national bird, has shown a dramatic increase in both abundance and distribution across the country.
  • The number of house sparrows has also stabilised nationwide, although there is still a marked decline in their population in cities.

  • It was an assessment of nearly 867 Indian species which made it clear that for the long-term, over 25 years, the data found that 52 % of 261 species were projected to decline, while for the short-term, almost 80 % of 146 species were on a decline.
  • 319 species are classified under the ‘Moderate Conservation Concern’ category and must be carefully monitored to rapidly detect and act upon signs of continuing decline.

How was the data sourced?

  • The data was collected through the citizen science app ‘eBird’, which received a record ten million entries by approximately 15,500 citizen scientists.
  • Cornell University’s Laboratory of Ornithology hosts the app, while its India-specific portal is curated and customised by Bird Count India, an informal group of birdwatching enthusiasts, ornithologists, naturalists and conservationists dedicated to documenting Indian birds.
  • The data was compiled, categorised, and studied by ten research and conservation organisations within the country, spanning both governmental and non-governmental institutions and is aimed for conservation of the birds.
[Ref: The Print]

Punjab Kinnow

The Punjab Agri Export Corporation recently launched the ‘Punjab Kinnow’ brand at the Kinnow festival in Abohar. This brand of Kinnow, which is considered the ‘king fruit’ of Punjab, is said to be “pesticide-free”.

Why was the ‘Punjab Kinnow’ brand launched?

  • This has been done along the lines of the region-specific branding of several other fruits like the ‘Nagpur orange’ (which even has a GI tag) and ‘Australian kiwi’.
  • Punjab being the largest producer of kinnow in the country, such branding will attract more consumers.
  • The branding of Punjab kinnow will help boost its export.
  • It is to benefit farmers in getting a premium price for their product.
  • Punjab’s kinnow has several nutritive values including limonin, which helps control cholesterol level and has anti-cancer properties.

The crop is vulnerable to:

  • Over a dozen types of insects and pests attack the kinnow plant’s leaves, stem and fruit through the year.
  • Kinnow crop harvesting starts in the first week of December in Punjab and continues till mid-March.
  • Experts say that the Citrus Psylla attacks the crop almost throughout the year till a month before harvesting in March-April, July-August and September-October.
  • The other pests attacking the species are: Citrus Leaf Minor, Citrus Whitefly and blackfly, Citrus Thrips, Black Citrus Aphids, etc.
  • The plant is also vulnerable to the Fruit Sucking bug, Mealybugs, Fruit Flies, Lemon butterfly etc.

How are they controlled?

  • Different chemical insecticides are required to be sprayed and recommended doses are set by the Punjab Agriculture University (PAU), Ludhiana.
  • Farmers need to spray these when the insects cross the Economic Threshold Level (ETL) on a plant, leaf or fruit.
  • Experts say bio-based and Neem-based organic sprays are also available but they are not very viable due to cost and quantity factors.

Effect of insecticides on the fruit:

  • These insecticides cause no harm when sprayed in the recommended doses, but several farmers have a mind-set of using more than that, which is a major challenge and not a good farming practice.
  • A fewer pests attack the kinnow plant so there is hardly any use of pesticide on it and it can be called ‘pesticide free’.

  • Because of the natural climatic conditions in the state, the farmers are not required to spray any insecticides pre-harvesting and harvesting period from November to mid-February and this makes kinnow safe for consumption.
[Ref: Indian Express]

Bilateral & International Relations

Battle of Gallipoli

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s in a recent address in Pakistan has criticised India’s policy in Jammu and Kashmir, and compared the “struggle” of Kashmiris with that of Turkey during World War I and to the Battle of Gallipoli.

About Battle of Gallipoli or Çanakkale:

  • The Battle of Çanakkale, or Gallipoli campaign or the Dardanelles campaign, is considered to be one of the bloodiest battle of World War I.During the battle, the Ottoman (Turkish) army faced off against the Allied forces (Britain, France, Australia, New Zealand) leading to the slaughter of tens of thousands of soldiers on both sides.
  • The Allies carried out heavy naval bombardment of Turkish forts along the shores of the Dardanelles strait, with a plan to take control of the strategic strait.
  • However, it turned out to be a catastrophe for the allied armies and followed heavy bloodshed.
  • The nine months long battle till January 2016, resulted into the defeat of the allied forces, gave new identity to Turkey, and killed more than 40,000 British soldiers, along with 8,000 Australians and about 60,000 on the Turkish side.

India-Turkey relations:

  • India’s relations with Turkey have been deteriorating steadily in recent times.
  • This is linked primarily to Turkey’s support for the Pakistani position on Kashmir, as well as its backing of Pakistan at the FATF.
  • Earlier on September 2019, Erdogan told the United Nations General Assembly that the international community has “failed” to “pay enough attention” to the Kashmir conflict, which “awaits solution” for 72 years.
  • Recently, Erdogan has compared Kashmir to Çanakkale — the World War I battle that built several national identities.

Dardanelles strait:

  • The Dardanelles strait is a strategic strait that connects the Sea of Marmara to the Aegean Sea and the Mediterranean Sea.

  • It is a narrow, natural strait and internationally significant waterway in north-western Turkey that forms part of the continental boundary between Europe and Asia, and separates Asian Turkey from European Turkey.
  • The strait also allows passage to the Black Sea by extension via the Bosphorus strait.
  • Together with the Bosphorus strait, the Dardanelles strait forms the Turkish strait.
[Ref: Indian Express]

India-Portugal ink several MoUs

The President of India, Shri Ram Nath Kovind received His Excellency Mr Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, the President of the Portuguese Republic at Rashtrapati Bhavan recently.

Boosting the ties:

  • The two Presidents welcomed the exchange of 14 agreements and understandings between India and Portugal in the fields of Maritime heritage, Maritime transport and Port development, Migration and Mobility, Start-ups, Intellectual Property Rights, Aerospace, Nano-biotechnology, Audio visual co-production, Yoga, Diplomatic training, Scientific research and Public-policy.

India-Portugal relations:

  • The bilateral relations began amicably in 1947 after India’s independence and diplomatic relations were established in 1949.
  • However, the relations went into decline after 1950 over Portugal’s refusal to surrender its enclaves of Goa, Daman Diu and Dadra and Nagar Haveli on India’s west coast.
  • By 1955, the two nations had cut off diplomatic relations which were followed by Indian military forces liberating Goa in 1961 through Operation Vijay, ending over 450 years of Portuguese rule in India.
  • In 1974, India and Portugal signed a treaty recognising India’s sovereignty over Goa, Daman & Diu, Dadra & Nagar Haveli and related matters.
  • With the signing of this treaty in New Delhi on December 31, 1974, diplomatic relations were re-established and an era of friendly bilateral relations began

Location of Portugal:

  • Portugal is a country located mostly on the Iberian Peninsula, in south-western Europe.

  • It is the westernmost sovereign state of mainland Europe, being bordered to the west and south by the Atlantic Ocean and to the north and east by Spain.
  • Its territory also includes the Atlantic archipelagos of the Azores and Madeira, both autonomous regions with their own regional governments.

Currency: Euro

Capital: Lisbon

[Ref: PIB]

Art & Culture

Kambala: the traditional buffalo race

  • Srinivasa Gowda, the Kambala jockey is being compared to world record holder Usain Bolt after a video went viral last week showing him ‘finishing 100 metres in 9.55 seconds’.

He has been contracted by the officials at Sports authority of India (SAI) for athletics trails.

What is Kambala?
  • Kambala is an annual Buffalo Race held traditionally under the auspices of local land lords and households or Patel of village, in coastal Karnataka, India.
  • The Kambala season generally starts in November and lasts until March.
  • The contest generally takes place between two pairs of buffaloes, each pair raced in wet rice fields, controlled by a whip-lashing farmer.
  • The ‘track’ used for Kambala is a paddy field filled with slush and mud.
  • The “Kambala Committee” is formed and it usually arranges Kambala in several categories.

  • People place massive bets on the buffaloes to win and one can witness more than 20,000 spectators in a well-organised Kambala, egging on and cheering the buffaloes to complete the race.
  • In traditional form of Kambala racing is non-competitive, and buffalo pairs run one by one in paddy fields.
  • A ritualistic approach is also there, as some agriculturists race their buffaloes for thanks giving to god for protecting their animals from diseases.
  • The buffaloes developed for the race are carefully fed and trained.
  • This age-old tradition of buffalo race is a cause of concern for animal lovers and animal activists.
  • Animal rights activists are objecting to the traditional sport, claiming it tortures the buffaloes, whose anatomy is not made for racing.
[Ref: TOI]

Also in News

Google to phase off free Wi-Fi

As per the recent statement of US technology giant Google, it will shut down its initiative ‘Station’ to provide free Internet at multiple locations across the globe through 2020., including in India.

Why this move?

  • The company had successfully provided free internet access to 400 railway stations in the country over the past five years.
  • Google said that getting online has become simpler and cheaper since it started the programme five years ago.
  • India, specifically now, has among the cheapest mobile data per GB in the world, with mobile data prices having reduced by 95% in the last five years, as per TRAI (telecom regulator) in 2019.
  • Today, Indian users on an average, consume close to 10 GB of data each month.
image (42)

Station:

  • Google launched Station in India in 2015 in partnership with the Indian Railways and Railtel to bring fast, free public Wi-Fi to over 400 of the busiest railway stations.
  • It crossed that number in June 2018.
  • While the Railways provided fibre connectivity, Google was responsible for installing and maintaining the access points and running the software.
  • The Railways has since launched an initiative to connect more stations on its own and has connected 5,500 stations with other partners, including Tata Trust and Power Grid Corp.
[Ref: Economic times]

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