Polity & Governance
- Disparity between States growing: Study
Environment & Ecology
- National waterways project threatens Gangetic dolphins
Bilateral & International Relations
- UN Security Council backs nuke test ban implementation
- India to host 1st BRICS Young Scientists Conclave
- Pakistan’s MFN tag may stay for now
Science & Technology
- PSLV-C35 successfully launches 8 satellites
Key Facts for Prelims
- First open defecation-free (ODF) cities
- Platinum jubilee of CSIR
- Africa’s elephant population has suffered its worst drop in 25 years
- World’s largest radio telescope
Polity & Governance
Disparity between States growing: Study
According to a report in Economic and Political Weekly, regional disparity has been growing over the years in India.
- The study evaluates the governance performance of 19 major States.
Highlights of the report:
- Five of the six best-performing States in 2001 — Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala and Punjab — continue to be the top performers in 2011.
- Four of the six worst-performing States in 2001 — Odisha, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar — remained at the bottom in 2011.
- This led the researchers to conclude that “development clusters” — combinations of quality service delivery and high per capita income — are emerging among the more developed States in the south and west of the country, leaving behind the less-developed States, especially in the eastern region.
- The study shows that development legacy seems to have a strong impact on the quality of governance (when measured as service delivery).
- Some of the less developed States like Bihar and Madhya Pradesh moved up significantly in the modified ranking.
- Bihar jumped eight positions from the 18th in standard ranking to the 10th in development-adjusted ranking.
- Madhya Pradesh jumped from the 13th to second position.
- Chhattisgarh, placed at the eighth position, was the top performer in the modified ranking.
- While there are various approaches to evaluating performance of the State governments, the researchers use “output” — the quality of service delivery — as a measure of governance quality.
- Five sets of criteria were used to rank the States: infrastructure, social services, fiscal performance, justice, law and order, and quality of the legislature.
- Only official government data were used.
- The study covers 19 States which account for 96% of the population, for which requisite data was available from 2001-02 to 2011-12.
Environment & Ecology
National waterways project threatens Gangetic dolphins
According to the scientists and wildlife conservationists, the National Waterways (NW) project possesses serious environmental threat to Gangetic river dolphins.
Threats to survival of Gangetic river dolphins:
- Construction of dams and barrages which hinders the natural flow of the rivers is the main reason considered for decline in the population of Gangetic river dolphin.
- Besides, pollution and lack of awareness also causes decline in their population.
- Loss of habitat due to increased developmental work, depletion of prey base, accidental mortality in fishing nets and accidents with vessel propellers are also some anthropogenic threats.
- The ships’ noise-levels also disrupt the ability to navigate and find prey.
Significance of National Waterway 1:
India has a huge untapped potential of inland waterways. To tap this potential, the Central Government has planned to develop National Waterway 1, World Bank-aided 1600-km waterway project in River Ganga between Allahabad and Haldia for inland transportation.
- It has potential to emerge as the logistics artery for northern India and improve navigability of the River Ganga as it passes through Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal.
- To tackle threat to dolphins, Union Ministry of Environment and Forest Conservation in 2016 had launched Endangered Species Recovery Plans for four species of global importance.
- During the development of NWs, some measures will be listed such as safeguards, mentioned issues like minimising dredging.
- Movement of cargo vessels will be restricted through protected habitat areas through river, monitoring systems and sound mufflers will be installed to reduce underwater noise.
- Nesting grounds, breeding and spawning grounds of dolphins will be identified and development projects activity will be minimised in those areas.
About River dolphins:
- River dolphins are found in Ganga and Brahmaputra and its tributaries.
- It is the National Aquatic Animal of India.
- It has been declared endangered species and is protected under Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.
- This fresh water dolphin species is practically blind. They rely on bio-sonar method to move around and catch their prey.
Bilateral & International Relations
UN Security Council backs nuke test ban implementation
The UN Security Council has approved a resolution urging quick global implementation of Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban treaty (CTBT) that would ban tests of nuclear weapons.
- The resolution has welcomed progress made towards universalization of the Treaty with 14 votes in favour of it and one abstention (Egypt).
- The CTBT bans all nuclear explosions for both civilian and military purposes. It was adopted by the UNGA under resolution 50 (1996).
- The Treaty will enter into force 180 days after the date of deposit of the instruments of ratification by all.
- So far, 183 countries have signed the CTBT and 166 States have deposited their instruments of ratification.
- The treaty already has a network of monitoring stations but does not have power to go on site to inspect for tests until it enters into force.
- But for that, the holdouts among the 44 countries that are designated nuclear capable, the United States, Egypt, China, India, Israel, Iran, North Korea and Pakistan must ratify it.
India to host 1st BRICS Young Scientists Conclave
The Department of Science & Technology (DST), Government of India, under the BRICS framework, is hosting 1st BRICS Young Scientists Conclave.
- It will be a five-day event, held in Bengaluru, where a group of about 50 young scientists/ researchers from BRICS countries will meet.
- It would be organized and coordinated by the National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS), Bengaluru.
- The meet would provide a platform for engaging, connecting and networking among young scientists to hold discussions and find solutions to some of the common challenges and problems being faced in BRICS countries.
- The participants are drawn from science, engineering and allied disciplines. The focus of the Conclave would be on three thematic topics – Computational Intelligence, Energy Solutions and Affordable Healthcare.
Aim of this Conclave:
- The Conclave aims at building a BRICS Innovation Corps – who individually or collectively have specialized capability to work on their novel scientific ideas and technological solutions which transform and accelerate change through better quality of life and higher incomes for citizen of this region.
Significance of this meeting:
- This BRICS Young Scientists Conclave assumes importance as it is taking place during India’s chairmanship of BRICS in 2016 under a focal theme of ‘Building, Responsive, Inclusive and Collective Solutions’.
- It will pave way for creation of strong generation of S&T leadership that can accelerate change collectively.
About the BRICS Young Scientist Forum (BRICS-YSF):
The BRICS Young Scientist Forum (BRICS-YSF), under which the BRICS Young Scientists Conclave is being organised, was initiated at the 2nd BRICS Science, Technology and Innovation Ministerial Meeting at Brasilia in March, 2015.
- The respective Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) Ministries of BRICS countries are the lead coordinating organisations for this Forum on co-investment and co-ownership principles.
Pakistan’s MFN tag may stay for now
The Centre has clarified that it is not considering any proposal to withdraw the ‘Most Favoured Nation’ (MFN) status accorded to Pakistan.
- The MFN status was accorded to Pakistan in 1996 as per India’s commitments as a member of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
- It is important to note that Pakistan, a founding member of the WTO like India, is yet to grant the MFN tag to India (and Israel).
What is MFN principle?
- According to the WTO, though the term ‘MFN’ “suggests special treatment, it actually means non-discrimination.”
- According to the MFN principle of the WTO’s General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) — to which India is a signatory/contracting party — each of the WTO member countries should “treat all the other members equally as ‘most-favoured’ trading partners.”
In the wake of the deadly attack on Indian soldiers in Uri, an incident for which India is holding Pakistan responsible, there have been calls in India for tough action against its neighbour, including the revocation of the MFN status.
Can India withdraw the MFN status accorded to Pakistan?
- International trade experts said India could consider making use of a ‘security exception’ clause in the GATT to deny the MFN status to Pakistan or bring in certain trade restrictions.
- This is because Article 21(b)(iii) of GATT states that “Nothing in this Agreement shall be construed to prevent any contracting party (including India in this case) from taking any action which it considers necessary for the protection of its essential security interests taken in time of war or other emergency in international relations.”
What if India withdraw the MFN status accorded to Pakistan?
- If India revokes the MFN status it would only have a symbolic impact on Pakistan.
- On the other hand, it would hit India’s exports to Pakistan if there are retaliatory actions.
- It could also result in India losing goodwill in the South Asian region (where it enjoys a trade surplus and is a party to a free trade pact called SAFTA, which also includes Pakistan).
- The move may also not go down well at the WTO-level.
Science & Technology
PSLV-C35 successfully launches 8 satellites
Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) has successfully launched eight satellites in two different orbits in a single mission.
- These satellites were launched with the PSLV C35 from the first launch pad of the Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Sriharikotta.
- Among the eight satellites launched, three satellites were from India, three from Algeria and one each from Canada and United States.
- SCATSAT-1 satellite of India weighing 371 kg was the primary payload and remaining other seven customer satellites were secondary payloads (5 foreign and 2 domestic satellite) weighing 304 kg in total.
- It is weather satellite that was placed in polar sun synchronous orbit of 730 kilometer height.
- It will provide weather forecasting services meant for ocean and weather forecasts, cyclone detection and tracking through wind-vector products. It will have life of five years.
- It is a 10-kg satellite developed by students from Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Bombay.
- It will be used to study the total electron count in space with a resolution of 1km x 1km location grid.
- It is a 5.25-kg satellite made by students of Bengaluru’s PES University.
- It will take pictures of earth for remote sensing applications.
- It is US satellite owned by BlackSky.
- It weighs 44 kg and has a high resolution imaging microsatellite.
- It is Canadian satellite developed by University of Toronto.
- It is a nano-satellite weighing 8 kg.
- It will be used for experiments for reducing space debris.
Three smaller payloads from Algeria:
- Alsat-1B 103 kg, Alsat-2B 110 kg and Alsat Nano 7 kg.
- They are meant for earth observation, remote sensing and technology demonstration.
Key Facts for Prelims
First open defecation-free (ODF) cities
- Mysuru and Mangaluru have been declared the first open defecation-free (ODF) cities in the categories of million-plus population and below 5 lakh-population, respectively.
- The announcement was made by the Quality Council of India (QCI).
- Mysuru was declared “open defecation free” after a survey of 73 cities was conducted by the Quality Council of India under the Ministry of Urban Development.
Platinum jubilee of CSIR
India’s largest civilian research and development agency Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) celebrated its platinum jubilee.
Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), established in 1942, is an autonomous body and the largest research and development (R&D) organisation in India.
- It runs 37 laboratories and 39 field stations or extension centres spread across the nation.
- Although it is mainly funded by the Ministry of Science and Technology, it operates as an autonomous body registered under the Registration of Societies Act of 1860.
- The research and development activities of CSIR includes aerospace engineering, Structural engineering, ocean sciences, Life sciences, metallurgy, chemicals, mining, food, petroleum, leather, and environment.
- CSIR is ranked at 84th among 4851 institutions worldwide and is the only Indian organization among the top 100 global institutions, according to the Scimago Institutions Ranking World Report 2014.
Africa’s elephant population has suffered its worst drop in 25 years
- According to IUCN report, Africa’s elephant population has suffered its worst drop in 25 years, as a result of poaching.
- Africa’s total elephant population at around 415,000, a decline of around 111,000 over the past decade.
- Habitat loss is also increasingly threatening the species.
World’s largest radio telescope
- China has built world’s largest radio telescope nicknamed Tianyan (Heavenly Eye” or “The Eye of Heaven) or the five-hundred-metre aperture spherical radio telescope (FAST).
- It has started its operation and is part of China’s drive to become a science powerhouse.
- It is located in the Dawodang depression (vast natural crater), a natural basin in Pingtang County in the Guizhou Province, Southwest China.
- It is the world’s largest filled aperture (single dish) radio telescope and the second largest radio telescope after the Russian RATAN-600, which has a sparsely filled aperture.
- It will be used to search for signs of intelligent life and to observe distant pulsars – tiny, rapidly spinning neutron stars believed to be the products of supernova explosions.
- It will be also used to study stellar radio emissions, gravitational waves and potentially signals from extraterrestrial civilizations.
- China’s best supercomputers the SkyEye-1 will be used to process the massive amounts of data supplied by FAST.