15th Finance Commission’s report tabled in Parliament
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
- World Wetlands Day
- 2020 Tyler Prize awarded to Indian economist Pavan Sukhdev
- National Games mascot flame-throated bulbul
- Green India Mission
Bilateral & International Relations
- Maldives re-joins Commonwealth of nations
- Scientists to digitally recreate Tamil Nadu port city
Art & Culture
- Bodo language
Science & Technology
- National Mission on Quantum Technologies and Applications
Key Facts for Prelims
- 34th Surajkund International Crafts Mela
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15th Finance Commission’s report tabled in Parliament
The report of the Fifteenth Finance Commission, along with an Action Taken Report, was tabled in Parliament on February 1. The Commission, headed by N K Singh, had submitted its Report to the President in December 2019.
What is the Finance Commission?
- The Finance Commission is appointed by the President under Article 280 of the Constitution, mainly to give its recommendations on distribution of tax revenues between the Union and the States and amongst the States themselves.
- Two distinctive features of the Commission’s work involve:
- redressing the vertical imbalances between the taxation powers and expenditure responsibilities of the centre and the States respectively,
- equalization of all public services across the States.
- The First Commission was set up in November 1951 under the Chairmanship of K C Neogy, a former member of the Constituent Assembly.
Functions of the Finance Commission:
To make recommendations to the President as to:
- Distribution of the net proceeds of taxes between the Centre and states, and among the states.
- the principles which should govern the grants-in-aid of the revenues of the States out of the Consolidated Fund of India;
- 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 the recommendations made by the Finance Commission of the State;
- any other matter referred to the Commission by the President in the interests of sound finance.
Qualifications for Members:
- As per the provisions contained in the Finance Commission (Salaries & Allowances) Rules, 1951, the Chairman of the Commission is selected from among persons who have had experience in public affairs, and the four other members are selected from among persons who-
(a) are, or have been, or are qualified to be appointed as Judges of a High Court; or
(b) have special knowledge of the finances and accounts of Government; or
(c) have had wide experience in financial matters and in administration; or
(d) have special knowledge of economics.
Fifteenth Finance Commission:
- The recommendations of Fifteenth Finance Commission will cover the five-year period commencing from 1st April, 2020.
[Ref: Indian Express]
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
World Wetlands Day
February 2 was World Wetlands Day. It was on this date in 1971 that the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands was adopted in Ramsar, Iran. This year’s Wetlands Day theme is Wetlands and Biodiversity.
What are wetlands?
- The Ramsar Convention definition for wetlands includes marshes, floodplains, rivers and lakes, mangroves, coral reefs and other marine areas no deeper than 6 metres at low tide, as well as human-made wetlands such as waste-water treatment ponds and reservoirs.
Need to protect wetlands:
- The IPBES (Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services) the global assessment identified wetlands as the most threatened ecosystem.
- According to UNESCO, this impacts 40% of the world’s plant and animal species that live or breed in wetlands.
- Thirty per cent of land-based carbon is stored in peatland; one billion people depend on wetlands for their livelihoods; and wetlands provide $47 trillion in essential services annually.
- They are in fact a major source of water and the principal place from which India’s cities receive their freshwater.
What is the status of wetlands in India?
- India has over 7 lakh wetlands and rules for their protection; yet not one of the wetlands has been notified under domestic laws.
- Wetlands are regulated under the Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Rules, 2017.
- The 2010 version of the Rules provided for a Central Wetland Regulatory Authority.
- The 2017 Rules replace it with state-level bodies and created a National Wetland Committee, which functions in an advisory role.
- The newer regulations removed some items from the definition of “wetlands” including backwaters, lagoon, creeks, and estuaries.
- The 2010 Rules required States to identify and prepare Brief Documents, submit them to the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests, which was to notify them.
- Under the 2017 regulations, the whole process has been delegated to States.
- Wetlands International South Asia (WISA) indicated that nearly 8% of India’s wetlands area was likely to be situated within an urban sprawl.
About Ramsar convention:
- The Convention on wetlands was signed in Ramsar (Iran) in 1971.
- It came into force in 1975.
- It is the intergovernmental treaty that provides the framework for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources.
Criteria for Ramsar site:
- The selection is made on the basis of various criteria defined under the convention.
- Wetlands should be selected for the List on account of their international significance in terms of ecology, botany, zoology, limnology or hydrology.
- There are currently over 2,300 Ramsar Sites around the world, covering over 2.1 million square km.
- India have a total of 7,57,060 wetlands, covering 1.6 crore hectares or 4.5% of India’s area.
- India has 37 Ramsar sites covering an area of 1.07 million ha.
- Recently, Nandur Madhmeshwar wetland becomes Maharashtra’s first Ramsar sites.
- The world’s first Ramsar site was the Cobourg Peninsula in Australia, designated in 1974.
For more information on newly added wetlands from India get the Ramsar site tag, refer this link:
2020 Tyler Prize awarded to Indian economist Pavan Sukhdev
Pavan Sukhdev, environmental economist, and Gretchen C Daily, conservation biologist, will share this year’s ‘Nobel Prize for the Environment’.
- Pavan Sukhdev was the lead expert on the first report of The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) published in 2008 as an initiative the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
- TEEB has since become a leading global initiative focussed on “making nature’s values visible”.
- For the first time, this initiative quantified the economic value of ‘natural capital’ and how moving towards a green economy could be a source of new employment and a means to alleviate poverty.
- The United Nations-appointed Sukhdev to lead the ‘Green Economy Initiative’ launched in 2009 by the UN secretary-general.
National Games mascot flame-throated bulbul
The flame-throated bulbul, was chosen as the mascot of the 36th National Games to be held in Goa.
About flame-throated bulbul:
- It is also called the Rubigula and it is the state bird of Goa.
- The Flame-throated Bulbul is endemic to southern peninsular India.
- IUCN status: Least Concern
- It is a Schedule – IV bird under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.
- It is locally distributed in southern Andhra Pradesh, eastern Karnataka, Goa, Orissa, eastern Kerala and northern Tamil Nadu.
- It favours habitats like rocky, scrub-covered hills mostly in the Eastern Ghats and central peninsular India but also in some places in the Western Ghats.
Green India Mission
According to the Economic Survey 2019-20 released on January 2020, a sum of Rs 343.08 crore has been released under the Green India Mission (GIM) for undertaking afforestation activities over an area of 126,916.32 hectare (ha) in 13 states.
What is Green India Mission (GIM)?
- National Mission for a Green India or GIM is one of the eight Missions outlined under India’s action plan for addressing the challenge of climate change -the National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC).
- GIM was launched in February 2014, is aimed at protecting, restoring and enhancing India’s diminishing forest cover and responding to climate change by a combination of adaptation and mitigation measures.
Objectives of GIM:
- To increase green cover in India to the extent of five million hectares (mha) and improve the quality of existing green cover on another 5 mha.
- To improve eco-system services like carbon sequestration, hydrological services and biodiversity and provisioning services like fuel, fodder, and timber and non-timber forest produces.
- To increase forest-based livelihood income for about three million households.
- Eco-restoration of degraded open forests, Restoration of Grasslands, Restoration of Wetlands, Eco-restoration/afforestation of scrub, shifting cultivation areas, cold deserts, mangroves, ravines and abandoned mining areas etc.
- Between 2015-16 and 2018-19, the area brought under afforestation by GIM plantation activities stood at 87,113.86 ha, according to the data presented by Union Minister of State, Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change.
- For afforestation to be achieved over an area of 126,916.32 ha in 2019-20, as the Economic Survey states, plantation activity under GIM would have to increase by around 45 per cent of where it stood in July 2019.
Concerns and challenges:
- The Lok Sabha Committee on Estimates’ 30th report, ‘Performance of the National Action Plan on Climate Change’ pertaining to Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, released in December 2018 found fund shortage, leading to GIM missing its targets.
- The scheme is proposed for 10 years with an outlay of Rs 60,000 crore. During 2017-18, Rs 47.8 crore has been allocated for the scheme which is grossly insufficient as the committed liability for 2015-16 and 2016-17 is Rs 89.53 crore which is much more than the budget allocated.
- The afforestation done under the mission was only aimed at increasing tree count without considering the soil and weather conditions.
- Trees like eucalyptus were planted which make environmental problems worse rather than solving them.
- Planting of unsuitable trees may cause drought, and prevent biodiversity in the regions.
- Plantations only have value in terms of timber. The other ecological services provided by a forest like prevention of soil erosion, promoting biodiversity, providing livelihood etc. are not there at all.
- In most of the plantations, there is no resident wildlife.
[Ref: Down to earth]
Bilateral & International Relations
Maldives re-joins Commonwealth of nations
The Maldives on Saturday re-joined the Commonwealth, more than three years after the Indian Ocean island nation quit the association amid mounting criticism of its human rights record then.
- Two years ago, the country’s former leader Yameen withdrew the Maldives from the Commonwealth after it mounted pressure on him to protect human rights and ensure the rule of law amid a ferocious crackdown on dissent.
India lauds inclusion:
- The Government of India congratulated the Government of Maldives on its readmission to the Commonwealth of Nations as its 54th member.
- India has always been a key supporter of Maldives readmission and for it to play a larger role in international organisations and the comity of nations.
- India acknowledged the efforts of the government of President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih to participate actively in international organisations such as the United Nations and IORA and increase the global profile of Maldives as a democratic, dynamic and responsible member of the comity of nations.
About the commonwealth of nations:
- The Commonwealth of Nations is an intergovernmental organization of 54 member states that are mostly former territories of the British Empire.
- They came into existence with the proclamation of sovereignty of the state from the colonial rule of British Empire and were later given self-governance.
- It proclaims that the Commonwealth nations are “free and equal.”
- The insignia of this Commonwealth Association is Queen Elizabeth II who is considered the Supreme of the Commonwealth nations.
- The member states of the commonwealth are not legally liable or bound to each other. They are rather united by language, history, culture, likeness of the democracy, human rights and the rule of law.
- After the end of World War II, the British Empire was step by step broken into the fourteen British Overseas Territories which is still held by the United Kingdom.
- The organization came into being in 1949 and since then, independent countries from Africa, the Americas, Asia, Europe and the Pacific have joined The Commonwealth.
- The two countries Rwanda and Mozambique have joined the Commonwealth but have no historical ties to the British Empire.
Scientists to digitally recreate Tamil Nadu port city
The Chola Dynasty port city in Tamil Nadu that vanished from maritime history around 1,000 years ago will be digitally reconstructed by a consortium led by the Department of Science and Technology.
- The reconstruction of Poompuhar is part of the Department of Science and Technology’s Indian Digital Heritage project.
More about study:
- There are narrations in works of Sangam Tamil literature to infer that the city, located 30 km from the existing Poompuhar town in southern TN. The city was submerged due to “kadalkol” or rising sea levels.
- The study involves the visualization of geodynamic processes of the last 20,000 years like land subsidence, sea-level rise, Cauvery’s migration, floods, tsunami, cyclones, and erosion. The information extracted from the studies will help digitally reconstruct the life history of Poompuhar.
- Indian Remote Sensing Satellites earlier studies show that the city was established initially in the Cauvery Delta-A about 30km away from the present town around 15,000 years ago.
- It shifted further 10 km to the west to Delta-B around 11,000 years ago and again further 10 km west to Delta-C around 8000 years ago.
- It was finally re-established at the present location at the mouth of the river Cauvery around 3,000 years ago. The shifts took place due to the continuous rise of sea levels and the submergence of the deltas.
Art & Culture
Bodo is listed in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution and is estimated to have 1.5 million speakers as per Census 2011.
- It is spoken in Assam, where the Bodo tribe constitutes about 5-6% of the population, and in Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Meghalaya, and West Bengal.
- While Bodo is officially written in the Devanagari script, the language has a history of having been written in at least three different scripts — until in 1974, the Government recognised Devanagari as its official script.
- The language is believed to have had its own script in the pre-13th century era, when it was called Deodhai.
A history of various scripts:
- When the Danish missionaries came to the Bodo-dominated area in the latter part of the 19th century, they started using the Roman script to teach Bodo in missionary school.
- In the first decade of the 20th century, Bodos started writing in the Assamese/Bangla script.
- in 1962, the Bodo Sahitya Sabha, the apex Bodo literary body decided to use the Assamese script for Bodo textbooks to systemise the language.
- In 1972, many academics and scholars decided that it was better to return to the Roman script since the Assamese script wasn’t conducive to certain Bodo pronunciations.
- In the 1970s, after a mass movement, the then Indira Gandhi government asked the Bodos to use Devanagari as the official script, with a promise that it would be accorded an official Indian language status in the Eighth Schedule.
Bodo Accord 2003:
- It was only in 2003, under the then Bodo Accord, that the language was listed in the Eighth Schedule.
- The 2003 Accord was very significant for language because it was the first tribal language to be included in the Eight Schedule.
Bodo accord 2020:
- Now the 2020 Accord makes Bodo the associate official language throughout Assam.
- The new Accord also promises to establish a separate directorate for Bodo medium schools, provincialize schools and colleges in the BTAD (Bodoland Territorial Autonomous District).
- It also envisages to establish a Cultural Complex-cum-Centre of Excellence named after the late social activist Bodofa Upendranath Brahma in Kokrajhar for protection and promotion of the language.
For detailed information on Bodo Accord 2020, please visit the link given below:
Science & Technology
National Mission on Quantum Technologies and Applications
Finance minister in the Union Budget for 2020-21, presented on February 1, 2020, proposed Rs 8,000 crore over five years for National Mission on Quantum Technologies and Applications.
- One of the basic objectives being pursued by scientists is the construction of a practical quantum computer.
What is Quantum technology?
- Quantum technologies comprise quantum computing, quantum communication, quantum optics, quantum information processing, quantum internet and quantum artificial intelligence.
- Quantum communications deals with the information processing based on qubits. It can enhance (cyber) security, provide unique fingerprints and also increase available bandwidth for internet networks.
- A quantum computer uses quantum physics to manipulate information in ways even the most powerful super computers cannot. The interest and excitement about quantum computer is because of its power to execute complex calculations involved in fields like cyber-security which digital computers now deal with.
- A digital computer’s basic language is made up of 0s and 1s, called bits. But a quantum computer has an expanded language in the form of “qubits”. These can be either 0 or 1 simultaneously, which is the core characteristic of quantum physics. This expanded language provides the computer with greater space for processing information, and thus have a superlative computing power.
- Quantum technology is opening up new frontiers in computing, communications, cyber security with wide-spread applications.
- It is expected that lots of commercial applications would emerge from theoretical constructs which are developing in this area.
- The most anticipated uses of quantum computers are the ability to create new chemicals, like catalysts for producing nitrogen-based fertilizers or for use in cells in higher-powered batteries.
- It could crack most commonly used forms of digital encryption and may be used to streamline logistics and delivery operations, as well as speeding up machine learning application.
- Indian researchers faced problems in research on the field because of a lack of applicability and paucity of funds as the experiments on quantum computing are expensive.
- The field is open and extremely competitive. Funds allocated by Government of India may go some way to aid Indian quantum technology researchers to catch up with their global counterparts.
- In India, some of the prominent institutions where research on quantum computing is being conducted are the Indian Institute of Science, the Raman Research Institute (RRI), both in Bengaluru, and the Harish Chandra Research Institute, Allahabad.
- Quantum Experiments using Satellite Technology (QuEST), in collaboration with the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).
- Integrated photonics-based experimental quantum key distribution, a bilateral collaboration with Italy under the India Trento Programme on Advanced Research (ITPAR) grant.
- Long-distance quantum communications under the central Department of Science and Technology’s network programme on quantum technologies, called ‘Quantum Enabled Science and Technology’.
Key Facts for Prelims
34th Surajkund International Crafts Mela
President of India Urges Everyone to Transform the Philosophy of ‘Buy Local for a Better Tomorrow’ Into a Movement and inaugurated the 34th Surajkund International Crafts Mela in Surajkund, Haryana.
About Surajkund International Crafts Mela:
- Surajkund Mela provides ordinary craftsmen and artisans real recognition and value for their skills.
- It also provides them an excellent opportunity to display and sell their products directly to customers.
- The Surajkund Mela has saved India’s various remarkable craft traditions from extinction.
- For many craftsmen, artisans and weavers, this fair is major source of their annual income.