Polity & Governance
- SC’s poser on misuse of religion in elections
- No relook into allocation of Krishna water: Tribunal
- MoU signed for Smarter railway stations
Environment & Ecology
- Kashmir’s Red Stag to get IUCN’s Critically Endangered status
- Railways to implement green corridor
Bilateral & International Relations
- India, Algeria mull fertilizer JV
Science & Technology
- Tasmanian devil’s milk may help fight drug-resistant superbugs: Study
Key Facts for Prelims
- “Sino India Cooperation 2016”
- EC hosts first ever International Conference on Voter Education
- Kaushalya SETU initiative
Polity & Governance
SC’s poser on misuse of religion in elections
The Supreme Court has questioned whether the practice of using the mass religious appeal by leaders to canvas votes for candidates amounts to a corrupt electoral practice.
What’s the issue?
- The seven-judge Constitution Bench of Supreme Court is re-considering its 1995 verdict which had held that canvassing votes in name of ‘Hindutva/Hinduism’ wasn’t a corrupt electoral practice, as Hinduism was not a religion but a way of life in India.
- It was considering the various means by which misuse of religion or faith of the masses for electoral gains can be categorised as a corrupt practice.
- It was also looking into electoral practices of political parties and candidates to rope in clerics or priests to flex their religious sway over particular religious community to swing votes.
- Recently, the Constitution Bench of SC raised question of using the mass appeal of religious while testing the limits of Section 123 of Representation of the People Act.
What 1995 verdict says?
- The Representation of the People Act bars candidates and political parties to appeal in the name of religion. If found guilty for violation, the candidate can be disqualified.
- The 1995 judgment delivered by Justice JS Verma had seeking votes in the name of Hinduism is not a “corrupt practice” under Section 123 of Representation of the People Act.
No relook into allocation of Krishna water: Tribunal
The Krishna Water Disputes Tribunal II (KWDT-II) headed by Justice Brijesh Kumar, has decided to confine the reallocation of Krishna water to Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.
- The tribunal decided to maintain status quo on the allocation of Krishna River water among all four riparian states viz. Maharashtra, Karnataka, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh.
- The KWDT-II pronounced its judgement on the litigation prompted by Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.
- Both states in their petition had sought fresh allocation of Krishna River water among all four riparian states.
- They had urged that Section 89 in the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act, 2014 meant redistribution of Krishna water among all the four riparian States not just between both of them.
What’s the KWDT-II verdict?
- In its verdict, the tribunal said that Section 89 the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act, 2014 was not applicable to all four riparian states but is meant only for Telangana and Andhra Pradesh.
- Thus, there was no need to re-allocate of Krishna River water among all four riparian states.
- The river water should be re-allocated between Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, from the share of undivided Andhra Pradesh.
What is Krishna Water Disputes Tribunal (KWDT)?
Krishna Water Disputes Tribunal (KWDT) is a tribunal set up by the Central Government in 1969 under the Interstate River Water Disputes Act, 1956 to resolve the disputes between the states of Karnataka, Maharashtra and then undivided Andhra Pradesh over sharing of Krishna river water.
What is KWDT I Award?
- The KWDT I (Bachawat commission) gave its award in 1973.
- While the Tribunal had in its earlier report detailed two schemes, Scheme A and Scheme B, the final award only included Scheme A and Scheme B was left out.
- Scheme A pertained to the division of the available waters based on 75% dependability, while Scheme B recommended ways to share the surplus waters.
- The KWDT in its award outlined the exact share of each state. The award contended based on 75% dependability that the total quantum of water available for distribution was 2060TMC. This was divided between the three states in the following manner.
- Maharashtra (560 TMC).
- Karnataka (700 TMC).
- Andhra Pradesh (800 TMC).
About Krishna River:
- The Krishna River is the second biggest river in peninsular India after Goadavri River.
- It originates near Mahabaleshwar (Satara) in Maharashtra.
- It then runs from four states Maharashtra (303 km), North Karnataka (480 km) and the rest of its 1300 km journey in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh before it empties into the Bay of Bengal.
MoU signed for Smarter railway stations
A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) has been signed between the Urban Development Ministry and the Railways to redevelop railway stations and surrounding areas under the Smart City plan.
- To begin with, 100 railway stations and an adjoining area of 300-800 acres would be redeveloped in the Smart Cities and the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) Cities plans.
- At present, railway stations in 10 cities could be taken up for the redevelopment with the involvement of the National Buildings Construction Corporation (NBCC). They are Varanasi, Sarai Rohilla (Delhi), Bhubaneswwar, Lucknow, Varnasi, Jaipur, Kota, Thane, Margao (Goa), Tirupati and Puducherry.
- The scope of the MoU will be extended to over 500 cities in time.
- The validity of the MoU is five years and can be extended with the consent of both the ministries.
- Countries like Germany, France, Japan, South Korea, the U.K. and Belgium have shown interest in the redevelopment of railway stations.
Environment & Ecology
Kashmir’s Red Stag to get IUCN’s Critically Endangered status
In order to get more attention and protection to Kashmir’s Red stag, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has decided to put Red Stag on the critically endangered species list.
- As per Bombay Natural History Society, nearly 3000 to 5000 Hanguls existed around the 1940s.
- At present, only about 150 of them survive in the Greater Dachigam, located on foothills of Zabarwan range on the outskirts of Srinagar, J&K.
Even then, IUCN had categorised it as that of Least Concern by clubbing with European and other ‘red deer’ species of the world.
About the Kashmir Stag:
- The Kashmir Stag or Hangul is a subspecies of elk native to India.
- Earlier it was believed that it is a subspecies of red deer. But mitochondrial DNA genetic studies have revealed that it is part of the Asian clade of elk.
- It is found in dense riverine forests in the high valleys and mountains of Kashmir Valley and northern Chamba district of Himachal Pradesh.
- It has been listed under Schedule-I of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 and J&K Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1978.
- It also has been listed among the top 15 species of high conservation priority by the Central Government.
Reasons for decline in population:
- The cited reasons for the decline in its population are said to be habitat destruction, over-grazing by domestic livestock, and poaching.
Railways to implement green corridor
The Union Ministry of Railways has declared the Okha-Kanalus and the Porbandar-Wansjaliya railway sections of Gujarat as Green Train Corridors.
- All trains passing on these 175-km long lines (141-km-long Okha-Kanalus route and the 34-km-long Porbandar-Wansjaliya route) are now equipped with bio-toilets.
- On these routes, about 29 trains consisting of nearly 700 coaches have been equipped with bio-toilets to prevent open discharge free zone on tracks as part of the Swachh Bharat Mission.
What are Green Train Corridors?
- Green Train Corridors are sections of the railways which will be free of human waste discharge on the tracks. Trains running on these corridors will be equipped with bio-toilets.
- It will completely stop discharge of human waste from trains onto the ground which in turn would help in improving cleanliness and hygiene.
The 114-km long Rameswaram-Manamadurai section of Tamil Nadu was made the India’s first Green Rail Corridor in July 2016.
- The Union Ministry of Railways has taken up a mammoth task of equipping human discharge free bio-toilets in all its coaches by 2021-22 in order to contribute to mission ‘Swachh Bharat Abhiyan’.
- It aims at completely stopping discharge of human waste from trains onto the ground in order improving cleanliness and hygiene.
Bilateral & International Relations
India, Algeria mull fertilizer JV
India is keen to join hands with Algeria to explore the possibilities of setting up a multi-billion dollar fertilizer project.
- A meeting in this regard was also recently held between the two countries.
Why India is interested?
- Phosphorus is one of three important elements in the chemical fertilizers that are most important in plant nutrition along with nitrogen and potassium.
- Around 90 to 95% phosphate being used by Indian fertilizer companies is imported and the production cost is also very high.
- Currently, India imports raw phosphate resources from a number of African countries including Tunisia, Egypt, Jordan and Syria and also from Russia, Canada and Israel among others.
- The phosphatic reserve available in Algeria is estimated to be more than 5 billion tonnes.
- The price of fertilizer in India is expected to come down along with the subsidy burden if the talks between the two countries lead to setting up of a joint venture mega fertilizer company in Algiers.
- Indian fertilizer industry is producing about 12.28 million tonnes of nitrogen and 4.37 million tonnes of phosphatic nutrient production.
- India ranks second in the production of nitrogenous fertilizers and third in phosphatic fertilizers.
- According to a report of department of fertilizers, by 2016-17, fertilizer demand in the country is projected to increase to about 336.77 lakh tonnes of urea, 124.13 lakh tonnes of DAP, 59.48 lakh tonnes of SSP and 47.93 lakh tonnes of MOP.
Science & Technology
Tasmanian devil’s milk may help fight drug-resistant superbugs: Study
Scientists have discovered that Tasmanian devil milk contains an arsenal of antimicrobial compounds that can kill some of the most deadly bacterial and fungal infections, including golden staph.
What has been found?
- As per the research, Tasmanian devils produce six different types of the antimicrobial compounds that hold the power to kill several drug-resistant superbugs.
- Scientists were able to successfully synthesise the antimicrobial compounds in the lab to test their effectiveness against a number of drug-resistant bacterial and fungal pathogens.
- When tested against 25 different bacterial and six fungal strains, the six varieties of antimicrobial compounds were found to kill golden staph, responsible for food poisoning, pneumonia, and toxic shock syndrome. They were also found to produce Enterococcus, which can cause urinary tract infections and meningitis.
- The compounds also killed Candida krusei, a rare yeast species associated with high mortality, and the deadly and hyper-virulent airborne fungus called Cryptococcus gattii.
About Tasmanian devil:
- The Tasmanian devil is a carnivorous marsupial of the family Dasyuridae.
- They are found in the wild only on the Australian island state of Tasmania.
- It became the largest carnivorous marsupial in the world following the extinction of the thylacine in 1936.
- It is characterised by its stocky and muscular build, black fur, pungent odour, extremely loud and disturbing screech, keen sense of smell and ferocity when feeding.
- Tasmanian devils are currently under serious threat from Devil Facial Tumour Disease (DFTD), a highly infectious parasitic facial cancer that has wiped out more than 70 percent of the species.
- The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) declared the species as endangered in 2009.
What are superbugs?
- Superbugs are those bacteria that cannot be treated by current antibiotics and other drugs.
- According to a recent study, by 2050, superbugs’ infection could kill one person every three seconds across the world or 10 million people worldwide.
Key Facts for Prelims
“Sino India Cooperation 2016”
- The Indian and Chinese armies held 2nd joint exercise “Sino India Cooperation 2016” in Ladakh.
- The exercise was held as a part of the ongoing initiative to enhance interaction and cooperation between India and China, under the provisions of Border Defense Cooperation Agreement, 2013.
- The Exercise was held as a sequel to the first Joint Exercise held on 6 February 2016 at Chushul Garrison of Eastern Ladakh.
- During the day long exercise on Humanitarian Aid and Disaster Relief (HADR) a fictitious situation of earthquake striking an Indian Border village was painted. Thereafter joint teams carried out rescue operations, evacuation and rendering of medical assistance.
- The exercise is aimed at increasing the level of trust and cooperation between the two border guarding forces along the LAC in Eastern Ladakh.
- The joint exercise, compliments the Hand in Hand series of the India -China joint exercises and the effort of both the nations to enhance cooperation and maintain peace and tranquility along the border areas of India and China.
EC hosts first ever International Conference on Voter Education
- The first ever Global Conference on Voter Education titled ‘Voter Education for Inclusive, Informed and Ethical Participation’ is being held in New Delhi.
- It is being organized by the Election Commission of India (ECI) in association with UNDP.
- The motto of the conference is: “No Voter to be Left Behind”.
- This Conference represents nearly 40% of the world’s population under a single roof as 27 countries and 5 international organizations are participating in it.
- The topic of the first of its kind conference is Voter Education for Inclusive, Informed and Ethical Participation.
- It has been organized with an aim to share best practices, initiatives and policies of voter education by election management bodies.
- It will deliberate upon five topics ranging from Role of Information Communication Technology in Voter Education, Electoral Literacy to Enhanced participation by special categories of voters and Strategies for Informed and Ethical Voting.
- The Conference will see the launch of the ambitious VoICE.NET project, a Global Knowledge Network on voter education.
Kaushalya SETU initiative
- Maharashtra Government launched Kaushalya SETU (Self-Employment and Talent Utilisation) initiative.
- The initiative, which is a skill development programme for students, is likely to generate employment for as many as 7.5 lakh people in state.
- The best part of the initiative is that it would help in bridging the gap between education and employment.