Current Affairs Analysis

18th June 2020 Current Affairs Analysis – IASToppers

Gharial; Article 226; Kanwar Yatra; Khelo India State Centres of Excellence; Khelo India Programme; Finance Commission Grants; Neera; Preferential issue; India elected non-permanent member of UNSC; United Nations Security Council; IAEA begins meet over Iran’s n-programme; International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA); Disaster Management (DM) Act, 2005; Northern Limit of Monsoon; Axone; New fish species etc.
By IASToppers
June 18, 2020

Contents

Polity & Governance

  • HC rejects petition seeking rent waiver
  • Petition to restrain elderly kanwariyas

Government Schemes & Policies

  • Khelo India State Centres of Excellence
  • Conflict over Coal Washing

Economy

  • Finance Commission Grants
  • KVIC taps Indian Palm Industry
  • SEBI eases fund-raising norms for firms

Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management

  • Dip in gharial count in Odisha

Bilateral & International Relations

  • India elected non-permanent member of UNSC
  • AEA begins meet over Iran’s n-programme

Key Facts for Prelims

  • Disaster Management (DM) Act, 2005
  • Jan Aushadhi Suvidha Sanitary Napkin
  • Northern Limit of Monsoon
  • New fish species

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Polity & Governance

HC rejects petition seeking rent waiver

The Delhi High Court has dismissed a petition seeking direction to prohibit the eviction of tenants by landlords over non-payment of rent till the COVID-19 crisis is over.

Verdict by HC:

  • The HC said that the waiver of rent cannot be granted by this court while exercising powers under Article 226 of the Constitution of India as waiving of such rent vests first with the landlords.
  • If the landlord is entitled to receive the rent in accordance with law as per the contractual agreement entered between the parties concerned, then, the court cannot, by a general order waive such amount.

About the Article:

  • Article 226, empowers the high courts to issue, to any person or authority, including the government, orders or writs, including writs in the nature of habeas corpus, mandamus, prohibition, quo warranto, certiorari or any of them.

Writs:

  • Habeas Corpus – A writ requiring a person under arrest of illegal detention to be brought before a judge or into court, especially to secure the person’s release unless lawful grounds are shown for their detention.
  • Mandamus – A writ issued as a command to an inferior court or ordering a person to perform a public or statutory duty.
  • Prohibition – Issued to prevent an inferior court or tribunal from exceeding its jurisdiction in cases pending before it or acting contrary to the rules of natural justice.
  • Quo warranto – Issued to enquire into the legality of the claim of a person or public office. It restrains the person or authority to act in an office which he / she is not entitled to; and thus, stops usurpation of public office by anyone. This writ is applicable to the public offices only and not to private offices.
  • Certiorari– Issued by the Supreme Court or any High Court for quashing the order already passed by an inferior court, tribunal or quasi-judicial authority.
[Ref: The Hindu]

Petition to restrain elderly kanwariyas

The Delhi High Court has asked the Centre to treat as representation a petition to restrain kanwariyas above 60 years, and those with co-morbidities, from undertaking this year’s Kanwar Yatra, which is starting from July 6.

What is the reason?

  • The petition stated that the sheer number of pilgrims participating in the Kanwar Yatra results in infinite social contacts of the kanwariyas among them and with the rest of the community.
  • This in the light of COVID-19, is a high-risk situation not only for the aged and co-morbid kanwariyas but also for their family members and the whole community.
  • Further, the COVID-19 pandemic has been most lethal for those in the 60-plus age group.

Kanwar Yatra:

  • The Kanwar Yatra is an annual pilgrimage of devotees of Shiva, known as Kanvarias to Hindu pilgrimage places of Haridwar, Gaumukh and Gangotri in Uttarakhand and Sultanganj in Bihar to fetch holy waters of Ganges River to their residences.
  • Kanwariyas walk hundreds of miles mostly barefoot to their residences carrying Ganga water on their shoulders.
[Ref: The Hindu]

Government Schemes & Policies

Khelo India State Centres of Excellence

The Sports Ministry is all set to establish Khelo India State Centres of Excellence under its flagship, Khelo India Scheme.

Aim:

  • To strengthen India’s pursuit for excellence in Olympics.
  • To scale up the best sporting facilities available in each state in India into academies of world-class standard.

Major Highlights:

  • One Khelo India State Centres of Excellence (KISCE) will be identified in each state and union territory, with an effort to create a robust sporting ecosystem in the entire country.
  • In the first phase, the Ministry has identified state-owned sports facilities in eight states of India: Karnataka, Odisha, Kerala, Telangana, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Mizoram and Nagaland which will be upgraded into KISCE.
  • The eight centres will be given a grant based on the actual amount finalized as per the requirement indicated after a comprehensive gap analysis study.
  • In a bid to broad-base talent identification, the states and UTs will also identify and develop talent in each sport for which funding is received at the centre.
  • The Sports Authority of India will extend expertise, resources and a monitoring system to ensure that the level of performance of the athletes improve to international standards.
  • The state and UT will run the centre and will be responsible for all aspects of management of the centre including, boarding, lodging and maintenance.
  • The funds for critical gaps such as expert coaches, support staff, equipment, infrastructure will be extended through the Khelo India Scheme.

Khelo India programme:

  • Khelo India Programme is a brain child of the PM Modi and a national scheme for the development of sports in India.
  • It was launched in the year 2018 and is an initiative of Ministry of Youth Affairs & Sports.
  • It was introduced to revive the sports culture in India at the grass-root level by building a strong framework for all sports played in the country and establish India as a great sporting nation.
  • It is a Central Sector Scheme with 100% funding by the union government.
  • It is a Pan India Sports Scholarship scheme that annually covers 1000 most deserving and talented athletes across the sports discipline.
  • The Talent Search and Development vertical of Khelo India scheme provides for grant of financial assistance of Rs. 5 lakhs per annum for a period of 8 consecutive years for selected sportspersons.
[Ref: PIB]

Conflict over Coal Washing

The Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change in May 2020 has dropped the mandatory coal washing for supply to thermal power plants.

What were the guidelines?

  • In 2014, as part of its climate change commitments, the government had made coal washing mandatory for supply to all thermal units beyond 500 kms from the coal mine.
  • This was done in line with India’s stand in climate change negotiations – not to reduce coal consumption and rather focus on emission control.
  • MoEFCC, in its guidelines (2014) said that Power stations located between 500-750, 750-1000 km would be supplied coal with ash content not exceeding 34 per cent on quarterly average basis from January 01, 2016.
  • Hence, the Ministry directed the coal companies to supply washed/blended or beneficiated coal.

What is coal washing?

  • Depending on its quality, coal needs to be washed with water and chemicals to remove sulfur and impurities before it can be burned in a power plant.
  • Coal washing or coal beneficiation, is widely seen as an efficient method for getting the most from run-of-mine coal.
  • It is a water-intensive process: typically, washing one ton of coal consumes about 45 m3 liters of water.
  • As India’s coal is high in fly ash content, coal beneficiation is done to improve the quality of raw coal by either reducing the extraneous matter that gets extracted along with the mined coal or reducing the associated ash or both.

What is the recent move?

  • MoEFCC has dropped the mandatory requirement of coal washing for supply to thermal power plants beyond 500 kms from the coal mine.
  • The ministry said that in the overall scheme of coal, mine, washery and power plant, the extent of ash content in mined coal remains the same.
  • As per the ministry coal washing does not help reduce emissions, and the coal rejected from washery find its way into the market for use by industries and create pollution.
  • Thus, washing of coal is unable to meet its intended objective as it merely localizes the pollution around coal mines which otherwise would have been distributed over larger areas.
  • Further, the process of coal washing is cumbersome, costly and leads to reduction in the calorific value of the coal as well.
[Ref: The Hindu; The Wire]

Economy

Finance Commission Grants

15th Finance Commission held meeting with Ministry of Jal Shakti on the issue of Finance Commission ‘s grants to Rural Local Bodies for provisions of drinking water & sanitation services.

Major Highlights:

  • The Terms of Reference of the Finance Commission mandates it to recommend the measures needed to augment the Consolidated fund of a State to supplement the resources of the Panchayats and Municipalities in the State on the basis of recommendations made by the Finance Commission of the State.  
  • The Ministry said that it would require an amount of approximately 82 thousand crore rupees as a part of ‘Sectoral allocations for infrastructural development’ to achieve drinking water security.

Finance Commission:

  • The Finance Commission is a constitutional body set up by the President of India, every five years or earlier to decide the share of the Union government and state governments in the divisible pool of tax revenue.
  • The Finance Commission also decides the share of each state from the share of states in the divisible pool.
  • The Commission further recommends the share of funds and grants to be transferred to local bodies.

Finance Commission Grants:

  • The 73rd Constitutional Amendment requires both the Centre and states to help Panchayati Raj institutions to evolve as a unit of self-governance by assigning them funds, functions and functionaries.
  • The Finance Commission Grants, in the Union Budget, provides funds to local bodies, state disaster relief funds and compensates any revenue loss to states after devolution of taxes.

Division:

The Finance Commission Grants are primarily divided into four sub-heads.

1. Grants for rural local bodies:

  • The three-tier model of governance envisioned in the Constitution assigns clear roles and responsibilities to Gram Panchayats.
  • The Finance Commission recommendations ensure that these local bodies are adequately funded.
  • Nearly half of the Finance Commission Grants in Union Budget goes to village local bodies.

2. Grants for urban local bodies:

  • In addition to units of self-governance at the village level, the Constitution also envisages cities as units of self-governance.
  • Urban local bodies like municipal councils receive the largest chunk of Finance Commission Grants after Rural Local Bodies and Post Devolution Deficit Grants to states.

3. Assistance to SDRF:

  • The central government also provides funds to State Disaster Relief Funds in addition to funding the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA).
  • The assistance to state government’s disaster relief authorities is provided as per the recommendations of the Finance Commission.

4. Post devolution revenue deficit grants:

  • About a third of the total revenue collected by the Centre is directly transferred to states as their share in the divisible pool.
  • However, the Finance Commission also provides a mechanism for compensation of any loss incurred by states, which is called post-devolution revenue deficit grants.
  • This Finance Commission Grant forms the second largest chunk of Finance Commission transfers after the assistance to local rural bodies.
[Ref: AIR; Financial Express]

KVIC taps Indian Palm Industry

The Khadi and Village Industries Commission has rolled out a unique project to produce Neera and Palmgur which has huge potential to create employment in the country.

Aim:

  • To promote Neera as a substitute to soft drinks while also creating self-employment to Adivasis and traditional trappers.

Major Highlights:

  • The initiative was launched at Dahanu in Palghar district of Maharashtra, a state with more than 50 lakh palm trees.
  • The project has been rolled out on the initiative of Union Minister of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises.
  • KVIC distributed tool kits for extraction of Neera and making Palmgur to 200 local artisans who were given 7 days training by KVIC.
  • The initiative will provide direct employment to 400 local traditional trappers.
  • KVIC is proposed to start standardized collection, processing and packing of Neera under controlled conditions so as to prevent it from fermentation.

What is Neera?

  • Neera is a nutrient-rich health drink extracted from the palm trees before sunrise.
  • It is consumed in many Indian states.
  • Due to lack of institutionalized market technique, the commercial production and large scale marketing of Neera has not commenced yet.

Significance:

  • There are approximately 10 crore palm trees across the country.
  • A wide range of products can be produced from Neera if properly marketed.
  • At present Palmgur and Neera worth Rs 500 crore is traded in the country.
  • The turnover is likely to increase manifold with commercial production of Neera.
[Ref: PIB]

SEBI eases fund-raising norms for firms

The markets regulator has relaxed norms for preferential sale of shares to make it easier for publicly traded companies to raise funds.

Major Highlights:

  • The Securities and Exchange Board of India amended the takeover code for the financial year 2020-21 to allow promoters to buy as much as 10% through a preferential allotment.
  • Till now, promoters could buy only up to 5% through a preferential issue.
  • SEBI also reduced the time gap between two qualified institutional placements (QIPs) from six months to two weeks.

Significance:

  • The SEBI relaxation will help promoters bring more capital into their companies at a time when other investors may not be too comfortable to invest given the economic uncertainties arising out of the covid-19 pandemic.
  • So, if in these times, the promoter puts in money into the company then that sends a strong signal to the market and gives comfort to other investors to put money in that stock.
  • This relaxation of preferential allotment norms will also protect companies from the threat of takeovers.
  • The reduction of time gap as it will allow companies to regularly access investment from institutional investors through QIPs which is a faster and more efficient manner of raising capital, without having to wait for a fixed period of time before approaching investors.

What is preferential issue?

  • A preferential issue is a primary market issuance of shares by listed companies to selected institutions or institutional buyers.
  • It is a sale of shares or convertible securities by listed or unlisted companies to a select group of investors and considered to be the fastest way of raising capital.
[Ref: Live Mint]

Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management

Dip in gharial count in Odisha

As per former wildlife researcher in Odisha forest department only 14 gharials were spotted at Satkosia gorge in Odisha in 2019.

About Gharials:

  • Gharials are found only in India and Nepal.
  • It is a river dwelling fish-eater, usually harmless to humans.
  • The gharial is found mostly in Himalayan rivers.
  • Inhabitation range: Ganga, Mahanadi, Girwa, Son River, Chambal, Ken, Ramganga River.
  • Protected areas: National Chambal Sanctuary and Katerniaghat Wildlife Sanctuary.
  • They once inhabited all the major river systems of the Indian Subcontinent, from the Irrawaddy River in the east to the Indus River in the west.
  • But, their distribution is now limited to only 2% of their former range.
  • IUCN status: Critically Endangered

Concerns:

  • Their habitat is threatened because of human encroachment and disruption of population through fishing activities.
  • They are also genetically weak as compared to salt water crocodiles and muggers.
  • The construction of dams, barrages, irrigation canals; siltation; changes in river course; sand-mining; riparian agriculture, and domestic and feral livestock have stripped gharials of riverine habitat.

World Crocodile Day:

  • June 17 is observed annually as the World Crocodile Day.

Key facts:

  • India is home to three crocodilian species:
    • The mugger or marsh crocodile
    • The estuarine or saltwater crocodile
    • The gharial.
[Ref: Down To Earth]

Bilateral & International Relations

India elected non-permanent member of UNSC

India was elected as non-permanent member of the powerful UN Security Council for a two-year term winning 184 votes in the 193-member General Assembly.

Major Highlights:

  • India along with Ireland, Mexico and Norway won the UN Security Council elections.
  • To be elected to the Council, candidate countries need a two-thirds majority of ballots of Member States that are present and voting in the Assembly.
  • India was elected to the non-permanent seat of the Security Council for the term 2021-22 and will sit in the most powerful UN organ, for two years beginning on January 1, 2021.
  • India was a candidate for a non-permanent seat from the Asia-Pacific category for the 2021-22 term.
  • New Delhi’s candidature was unanimously endorsed by the 55-member Asia-Pacific grouping, including China and Pakistan, in June 2019.
  • Previously, India has been elected as a non-permanent member of the Council for the years 1950-1951, 1967-1968, 1972-1973, 1977-1978, 1984-1985, 1991-1992 and most recently in 2011-2012.

United Nations Security Council:

  • United Nations Security Council is one of the six main organs of the United Nations (UN).
  • The council held its first session in 1946.
  • It is headquartered at New York, United States.
  • It is the only body of the United Nations with the authority to issue binding resolutions to member states.
  • The presidency of the Council is held by each of the members in turn for one month, following the English alphabetical order of the Member States names.

Composition:

  • The Council is composed of 15 Members.
  • Five permanent members: China, France, Russia, United Kingdom, and the United States, and ten non-permanent members elected for two-year terms by the General Assembly (with end of term year).
  • The non‑permanent members are elected on a regional basis for a two‑year term by the General Assembly.
  • It is not possible to be re‑elected immediately after holding a seat in the Security Council.

How are the non-permanent members elected?

  • Each year, the UNSC elects five non-permanent members (out of 10 in total) for a two-year term.
  • In accordance with the General Assembly resolution 1991, the 10 non-permanent seats are distributed on a regional basis as follows: five for African and Asian States; one for Eastern European States; two for the Latin American and Caribbean States; and two for Western European and other States.
[Ref: TOI]

IAEA begins meet over Iran’s n-programme

Iran has refused to allow International Atomic Energy Agency access to its two sites where the agency suspects nuclear activity to have occurred in the past.

Major Highlights:

  • International Atomic Energy Agency has expressed serious concern in a recent report that Iran has been blocking inspections at the sites. (names undisclosed)
  • The Board of Governors, one of the agency’s policy-making bodies, is expected to discuss the report during its meeting.
  • If they pass a resolution critical of Iran, it would be the first of its kind since 2012.
  • IAEA has called on Iran to cooperate immediately and fully with the Agency, including by providing prompt access to the locations specified.
  • It comes amid rising tensions between Iran and the US, which pulled Iran out of the 2015 international agreement.

International Atomic Energy Agency [IAEA]:

  • It is the world’s central intergovernmental forum for scientific and technical co-operation in the nuclear field.
  • It was created in 1957 in response to the deep fears generated by the diverse uses of nuclear technology.
  • It seeks to promote the peaceful use of nuclear energy, and to inhibit its use for any military purpose, including nuclear weapons.
  • Though established independently of the United Nations through its own international treaty, the IAEA Statute, the IAEA reports to both the United Nations General Assembly and Security Council.
  • The IAEA has its headquarters in Vienna, Austria.
  • India has been a member of IAEA since its inception in 1957.

To know about US-Iran conflict, refer to IASToppers’ Main’s article:https://www.iastoppers.com/us-iran-conflict-explained/

[Ref: The Hindu]

Key Facts for Prelims

Disaster Management (DM) Act, 2005

  • The Supreme Court sought a response from the government to a plea that contributions made to the PM CARES Fund to fight COVID-19 should be transferred entirely to the National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF).
  • NDRF is defined in Section 46 of the Disaster Management (DM) Act, 2005 as a fund managed by the Central Government for meeting the expenses for emergency response, relief and rehabilitation due to any threatening disaster situation or disaster.
  • Petitioners said that Section 11 of the DM Act makes it mandatory for a national plan to be drawn up for disaster management for whole of the country.
  • But currently, there is no such national plan in place to deal with the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic even though the same has been notified as a ‘disaster’.

Jan Aushadhi Suvidha Sanitary Napkin

  • Government of India in June 2018 announced the launch of Jan Aushadhi Suvidha Oxo-Biodegradable Sanitary Napkin for women of India.
  • Jan Aushadhi Suvidha Sanitary Napkin is being made available in more than 6300 Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Janaushdhi Pariyojna Kendras across the country at a minimum price of Rs.1/-per unit.
  • This step ensured Swachhta, Swasthya and Suvidha for the underprivileged Women of India.
  • This step has been taken by the Union Department of Pharmaceuticals to ensure Affordable and Quality Healthcare for All.
  • These napkins are environment friendly, as they are made with Oxo-biodegradable material.

To know more about Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Janaushadhi Pariyojana, refer IASToppers’ past current affairs here: https://www.iastoppers.com/28th-august-2019-current-affairs-analysis-iastoppers/

Northern Limit of Monsoon

  • The Northern Limit of Monsoon is the northernmost boundary of India up to which Monsoon rains have advanced on any given day.
  • NLM is directly related to the onset and advance of Monsoon.
  • The term NLM starts flowing right from the onset to the withdrawal of Monsoon.
  • Southwest Monsoon normally sets in over Kerala around June 1.
  • It advances northwards, usually in surges, and covers the entire country by July 15.
  • The western arm of the Monsoon line generally makes a quick advancement in the initial phase. After its onset, the NLM crosses Mumbai and reaches Dahanu by June 10.
  • During this time the eastern arm covers only Northeast India. The slowest advancement is over west Rajasthan.
  • It normally takes about 12 days for the Monsoon current to reach west Rajasthan, after its onset over Delhi on June 29.

New fish species

  • A new species of fish has been discovered in Arunachal Pradesh.
  • The fish species is named as Schizothorax sikusirumensis, derived from the name of the rivers where it was found.
  • This fish was collected from the junction of River Siku and Sirum in the East Siang District.
  • The fish inhabits the water logged area of torrential river drainage.

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