Current Affairs Analysis

20th August 2020 Current Affairs Analysis – IASToppers

Monarch butterfly; Sutlej-Yamuna Link canal; National Recruitment Agency; Common Eligibility Test; Domicile-based Job quota; Article 16; Compensatory Afforestation; Compensatory Afforestation Fund Act, 2016; Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning (CAMPA); Plastic pollution in Atlantic Ocean; Microplastics; Atlantic Ocean; Guru Granth Sahib; Parkash Purab; Invisible shield for Electromagnetic Interference; Ninja UAVs; Millennium Alliance; 2020 QG; D614G; etc.
By IASToppers
August 20, 2020

Contents

Polity & Governance

  • Sutlej-Yamuna Link canal issue

Government Schemes & Policies

  • National Recruitment Agency to conduct CET
  • Domicile-based Job quota

Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management

  • Compensatory Afforestation: 70% data with ministry incorrect
  • How severe is plastic pollution in Atlantic Ocean?
  • Decline in Monarch butterfly population

Art & Culture

  • Parkash Purab of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji

Science & Technology

  • Invisible shield for Electromagnetic Interference

Key Facts for Prelims

  • Ninja UAVs
  • Millennium Alliance
  • 2020 QG
  • D614G

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Polity & Governance

Sutlej-Yamuna Link canal issue

Punjab Chief Minister has asked the Central government to be cautious on the contentious Sutlej-Yamuna Link (SYL) canal issue.

  • The Canal issue is the focal point of a water-sharing dispute between Punjab and Haryana and has the potential to disturb the nation’s security.

What is Sutlej Yamuna Link (SYL) Canal?

  • SYL is a proposed 214-kilometer long canal to connect the Sutlej and Yamuna rivers.
  • It defines river water sharing between Punjab (122 km) and Haryana (92 km).
  • However, the proposal met obstacles and was referred to the Supreme Court.

What is the controversy over it?

  • The creation of Haryana from the old (undivided) Punjab in 1966 threw up the problem of giving Haryana its share of river waters.
  • Punjab was opposed to sharing waters of the Ravi and Beas with Haryana, citing riparian principles, and arguing that it had no water to spare.
  • However, Centre, in 1976, issued a notification allocating Haryana 3.5 million acre feet (MAF) out of undivided Punjab’s 7.2 MAF.
  • The Eradi Tribunal headed by Supreme Court Judge V Balakrishna Eradi was set up to reassess availability and sharing of water.
  • The Tribunal in 1987, recommended an increase in the shares of Punjab and Haryana to 5 MAF and 3.83 MAF, respectively.
  • To enable Haryana to use its share of the waters of the Sutlej and its tributary Beas, a canal linking Sutlej with Yamuna, cutting across the state was planned.
  • A tripartite agreement was also negotiated between Punjab, Haryana, and Rajasthan in this regard.
  • However, following the protests in Punjab, the Punjab Assembly passed The Punjab Termination of Agreements Act, 2004, terminating its water-sharing agreements, and thus jeopardizing the construction of SYL in Punjab.

What is Haryana’s claim?

  • Haryana has been staking claim on Ravi-Beas waters through SYL canal on the plea that providing water for irrigation was a tough task for the state.
  • In southern parts of the state, where underground water had depleted up to 1700 feet, there was a problem of drinking water.

Status Quo:

  • Supreme Court had asked the Punjab and Haryana governments to build the SYL canal by finding an amicable solution with mutual understanding, but the dispute lies unresolved.
[Ref: The Hindu; Indian Express]

Government Schemes & Policies

National Recruitment Agency to conduct CET

The Union Cabinet recently approved the creation of a National Recruitment Agency for conducting a Common Eligibility Test for various government jobs.

Common Eligibility Test:

  • The preliminary exam named common eligibility test (CET) will be conducted for recruitment of Group B and C (non -technical) staff in the Central government.
  • The online test will be conducted to screen/shortlist candidates at the first level for vacancies, which are presently filled through different exams conducted by Staff Selection Commission (SSC), Railways Recruitment Board (RRB) and Institute of Banking Personnel Selection (IBPS).
  • Based on screening done at the CET score level, final selection for recruitment shall be made through separate specialised Tiers (II, III etc.) of examination, which shall be conducted by the respective recruitment agencies.
  • The CET score of the candidate shall be valid for three years from the date of declaration of the result.
  • The best of the valid scores shall be deemed to be the current score of the candidate.
  • There shall be no restriction on the number of attempts to be taken by a candidate to appear in the CET subject to the upper age limit.
  • There will be Examination Centres in every District of the country which would greatly enhance access to the candidates located in far-flung areas.

National Recruitment Agency (NRA):

  • A multi-agency body called National Recruitment Agency (NRA) will conduct a Common Eligibility Test (CET) to screen/shortlist candidates for Group B and C (non-technical) posts.
  • NRA will have representatives of Ministry of Railways, Ministry of Finance/Department of Financial Services, the SSC, RRB & IBPS.
  • NRA would be a specialist body bringing the state-of-the-art technology and best practices to the field of Central Government recruitment.
  • The Union Cabinet has approved an amount of Rs 1517.57 crore for the NRA, for a period of 3 years.
  • The money will be used for setting up of NRA, and examination centres in the aspirational districts.
[Ref: PIB; Indian Express]

Domicile-based Job quota

Madhya Pradesh state government has decided to reserve all government jobs for children of the state.

  • Although the details of the proposal are not yet outlined, the reservation solely based on place of birth would raise questions relating to the fundamental Right to Equality.

Article 16:

  • Article 16: Guarantees equal treatment under law in matters of public employment.
  • It prohibits the state from discriminating on grounds of place of birth or residence.
  • Article 16(2): No citizen shall, on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, descent, place of birth, residence or any of them, be ineligible for, or discriminated against in respect or, any employment or office under the State.
  • Article 16(3): Provides an exception that Parliament may make a law prescribing a requirement of residence for jobs in a particular state. This power vests solely in the Parliament, not in the state legislatures.

Why does Constitution prohibit reservation based on domicile?

  • India has common citizenship, which gives citizens the liberty to move around freely in any part of the country.
  • So,the requirement of a place of birth or residence cannot be qualifications for granting public employment in any state.

Reservations granted on grounds of caste:

  • Equality enshrined in the Constitution is not mathematical equality and does not mean all citizens will be treated alike without any distinction.
  • To this effect, the Constitution underlines two distinct aspects of the equality law:
    • Non-discrimination among equals.
    • Affirmative action to equalise the unequals.

SC’s stand on reserving jobs for locals:

  • The Supreme Court has ruled against reservation based on place of birth or residence.

1. Dr. Pradeep Jain v Union of India (1984):

  • Despite Article 16(2) some of the States are adopting ‘sons of the soil’ policies prescribing reservation or preference based on domicile or residence requirement for employment or appointment.
  • Prima facie this would seem to be constitutionally impermissible.

2. Sunanda Reddy v State of Andhra Pradesh (1995):

  • The SC Supreme Court affirmed to strike down a state government policy that gave 5% extra weightage to candidates who had studied with Telugu as the medium of instruction.

3. Other Rulings:

  • In 2002, the SC invalidated appointment of government teachers in Rajasthan in which the state selection board gave preference to applicants belonging to district or rural areas of the district concerned.
  • In 2019, the Allahabad High Court struck down a recruitment notification by the UP Subordinate Service Selection Commission which prescribed preference for women who are original residents of UP alone.

How do some states have laws that reserve jobs for locals?

  • Under Article 16(3), Parliament enacted the Public Employment (Requirement as to Residence) Act, aimed at abolishing all existing residence requirements in the states and enacting exceptions only in the case of the special instances of Andhra Pradesh, Manipur, Tripura and Himachal Pradesh.
  • Some other states also have special protections under Article 371.
  • Andhra Pradesh under Section 371(d) has powers to have direct recruitment of local cadre in specified areas.
  • In Uttarakhand, class III and class IV jobs are reserved for locals.
  • Some states have gone around the mandate of Article 16(2) by using language.
  • States that conduct official business in their regional languages prescribe knowledge of the language as a criterion.
  • This ensures that local citizens are preferred for jobs.
  • For example: States including Maharashtra, West Bengal and Tamil Nadu require a language test.
[Ref: Indian Express]

Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management

Compensatory Afforestation: 70% data with ministry incorrect

A letter sent to principal secretaries for forests of all States and UTs complained that about 70a5 data on compensatory afforestation in the country was incorrect or incomplete.

  • It asked the states to ensure units responsible for updating the compensatory afforestation data are strengthened and a system of robust scrutiny is created.

Compensatory Afforestation:

  • Compensatory afforestation means that every time forest land is diverted for non-forest purposes such as mining or industry, the user agency pays for planting forests over an equal area of non-forest land, or when such land is not available, twice the area of degraded forest land.

Compensatory Afforestation Fund Act, 2016:

  • The Compensatory Afforestation Fund Act was passed by the centre in 2016.
  • It was enacted to manage funds collected for compensatory afforestation which till then was managed by ad hoc Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA).
  • As per the rules, 90% of the CAF money is to be given to the states while 10% is to be retained by the Centre.

Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning (CAMPA):

  • Supreme Court ordered for establishment of Compensatory Afforestation Fund and Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA) in 2001.
  • In 2009, Supreme Court permitted release of Rs.1000 crore every year to States/UTs for compensatory afforestation and other activities.
  • It has provisioned that CAMPA funds shall be kept in interest bearing non-lapsable Public Account.
  • The CAMPA Fund is now utilized as per the provisions of the Compensatory Afforestation Fund (CAF) Act, 2016.

Objective of CAMPA:

  • To promote afforestation and regeneration activities as a way of compensating for forest land diverted to non-forest uses.

Utilisation of Fund:

  • The funds can be used for catchment area treatment, wildlife and forest management, forest fire prevention, relocation of villages from protected areas, soil and moisture conservation work in the forest, managing human-wildlife conflicts, training and awareness generation etc.
  • These fund cannot be used for payment of salary, travelling allowances, making buildings and buying office equipment for forest officers.

Mandate:

  • Lay down broad guidelines for and assist State CAMPA.
  • Make recommendations to State CAMPA based on a review of their plans and programmes.
  • Provide a mechanism to State CAMPA to resolve issues of an inter-state or Centre-State character.
[Ref: DownToEarth]

How severe is plastic pollution in Atlantic Ocean?

A recent study has estimated the amount of microplastic pollution in the Atlantic Ocean at 11.6-21.1 million tonnes.

What are microplastics?

  • Microplastics are plastic debris smaller than 5mm in length, or about the size of a sesame seed.
  • They come from a variety of sources, most common is when larger pieces of plastic degrade into smaller pieces.
  • The pollution from plastic, especially smaller microplastics, have reached the oceans and even some of the most remote corners of the Arctic Ocean.

How does plastic reach the oceans?

  • There are multiple pathways including:
    • Riverine and atmospheric transport from coastal and inland areas
    • Illegal dumping activities
    • Direct-at-sea littering from shipping
    • Fishing and aquaculture activities.
  • As per International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), at least 8 million tonnes of plastic end up in the oceans every year and makes up about 80% of all marine debris from surface waters to deep-sea sediments.

Why is plastic pollution harmful?

  • Plastic can take hundreds to thousands of years to decompose depending on the type of plastic and where it has been dumped.
  • In the oceans, it impacts marine life, ocean health, coastal tourism and even human health.
  • Marine animals such as whales, seabirds and turtles ingest plastic and often suffocate.
  • Smaller plastic particles are easier to sink to greater ocean depths and some marine species such as zooplanktons show preferential ingestion of smaller particles.
  • Smaller plastic particles are easier to sink to greater ocean depths and some marine species such as zooplanktons show preferential ingestion of smaller particles.
  • The marine plastic pollution via sea food is reaches the food chain and harmful for humans too. Example: Microplastics have been found in tap water, beer and even salt, which can be carcinogenic. 

Atlantic Ocean:

  • The Atlantic Ocean is the second-largest of the world’s oceans, with an area of about 106,460,000 sq. kms.
  • It covers approximately 20% of Earth’s surface and about 29% of its water surface area.
  • The Ocean occupies an elongated, S-shaped basin extending longitudinally between Europe and Africa to the east, and the Americas to the west.
  • It is connected in the north to the Arctic Ocean, to the Pacific Ocean in the southwest, the Indian Ocean in the southeast, and the Southern Ocean in the south.
  • The Equatorial Counter Current subdivides it into the Northern Atlantic Ocean and the Southern Atlantic Ocean.

 [Ref: Indian Express]

Decline in Monarch butterfly population

There has been a decline in the population of Monarch butterflies.

Major Highlights:

  • As per a recent study the butterfly populations declined for the most past of the past two decades.
  • The study favours the declining numbers due to the ‘milkweed limitation’ hypothesis.
  • The hypothesis has a view that the decline in habitat loss was because of the increasing use of glyphosate herbicide on corn and soybean fields in the Upper Midwest region of the US.

Monarch butterflies:

  • The monarch butterfly is the most familiar North American butterfly.
  • It is considered an iconic pollinator species.
  • Its wings feature an easily recognizable black, orange, and white pattern, with a wingspan of 8.9 – 10.2 cm.
  • Famous for their seasonal migration, millions of monarchs migrate from the US and Canada south to California and Mexico for the winter.
  • Monarchs have been bred on the International Space Station.
[Ref: DownToEarth]

Art & Culture

Parkash Purab of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji

PM Modi greeted people on the occasion of the 416th Anniversary of the first Parkash Purab of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji.

Guru Granth Sahib Ji:

  • The Guru Granth Sahib is the holy scripture of Sikhism and considered as the living Guru.
  • The Guru Granth Sahib is a collation of many hymns, poems, shabads and other writings from many different scholars, including the Sikh Gurus and Hindu and Muslim writers.
  • Every Guru Granth Sahib has 1,430 pages, and every copy is identical.
  • The tenth Sikh Guru Gobind Singh declared Guru Granth Sahib as the final Sikh Guru after him.

Significance of Guru Granth Sahib:

  • It contains the words spoken by the Gurus or Gurbani (from the Guru’s mouth).
  • It is believed to be the word of God and is therefore infallible.
  • It is written in Gurmukhi script.
  • Many of Guru Nanak Dev’s hymns and prayers were preserved and complied by Guru Angad Dev and Guru Arjan Dev.
  • This collection came to be known as the Adi Granth or Guru Granth Sahib.
  • It was completed in 1604 and installed in the Golden Temple by Guru Arjan Dev.
  • The first shabad of the Guru Granth Sahib is the Mool Mantra which outlines ‘Ik Onkar’ or the belief in one God.
[Ref: PIB; BBC]

Science & Technology

Invisible shield for Electromagnetic Interference

Scientists from the Centre for Nano and Soft Matter Sciences, Bengaluru have designed a metal mesh structure to make a transparent shield for electromagnetic interference.

Major Highlights:

  • The transparent shield for electromagnetic interference is been called an ‘invisible’ shield that has various military stealth applications.
  • These transparent and flexible EMI shields made of metal meshes have been fabricated using the crack templating method via spray coating.
  • The copper metal mesh developed on polyethylene terephthalate (PET) sheet as its substrate, exhibited a visible transmittance (T), a parameter of visible transparency of about 85% and high sheet resistance (~0.83 ohm per square).
  • This invention has potential to satisfy the huge demand for highly effective transparent and flexible EMI shields, which can cover electromagnetic wave emitter/absorber devices without compromising their aesthetics.

What is Electromagnetic Interference?

  • EMI (electromagnetic interference) is the disruption of operation of an electronic device when it is in the vicinity (area of influence) of an electromagnetic field (EM field) in the radio frequency (RF) spectrum that is caused by another electronic device.
  • The internal circuits of most electronic devices generate EM energy over a wide band of frequencies.
  • These emissions can interfere with the performance of sensitive wireless receivers nearby.
  • The disturbance may degrade the performance of the circuit or even stop it from functioning, or can range from an increase in error rate to a total loss of the data.
  • EMI can be used intentionally for radio jamming, as in electronic warfare.
[Ref: TOI]

Key Facts for Prelims

Ninja UAVs

Indian Railways has started deploying Ninja UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) for establishing a drone-based surveillance system.

Aim:

  • To intensify Railway Protection Force security mechanism across Railway network.

Major Highlights:

  • NINJA UAVs are lightweight and economical micro contraptions built for mapping and surveillance.
  • These drones are capable of real-time tracking, video streaming and can also be operated on an automatic fail-safe mode.
  • Drone surveillance technology has emerged as an important and cost-effective tool for security surveillance over large areas with limited manpower.
  • Drones can help in the inspection of railway assets and safety of yards, workshops, car sheds and used to launch surveillance on criminal and anti-social activities such as gambling, random throwing of garbage, hawking, among others, in railway premises.

Millennium Alliance

  • The Millennium Alliance is an innovation-driven and impact-focused initiative which leverages collaborative resources to identify test and scale Indian innovations that address global development solutions.
  • It is a consortium of partners (Public-Private Partnership) including: Department of Science and Technology, GoI, US Agency for International Development (USAID), Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), UK Government’s Department for International Development (DFID) and Facebook and Marico Innovation Foundation.
  • Under the initiative, innovators will be provided with services such as seed funding, grants, incubation, networking opportunities, business support, knowledge exchange and technical assistance and access to equity, debt and capital.
  • The program is currently running in its sixth year and has played a catalytic role business development support to Indian social enterprises.

2020 QG

  • Asteroid 2020 QG passed 2,950 kilometres above the southern Indian Ocean on August 16 2020.
  • The tiny asteroid has set a record by coming closest to our planet than any other known space rock in the past.
  • However, it did not impact Earth or caused any damage.
  • It has become the closest known non-impacting asteroid.

D614G

  • Malaysia has detected a strain of the new coronavirus that’s been found to be 10 times more infectious.
  • The mutation called D614G has been found in the country.
  • The same strain was also detected in another cluster in people coming back from the Philippines.
  • It is speculated that the strain could mean that existing studies on vaccines may be incomplete or ineffective against the mutation.
  • However, World Health Organization (WHO) has said no evidence suggests that the mutation could cause more severe disease.

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