Polity & Governance
- Kurukh language given official status by Bengal government
Environment & Ecology
- March 3: World Wildlife Day
- NGT fixes norms for camping along Ganga
Bilateral & International Relations
- India to attend Lahore meet on Indus Waters Treaty
- Pakistan returns to SAARC, gets Secretary General post
- Syrian Army recaptures Palmyra
- Half of India-Bangladesh border fenced
Defence & Security Issues
- DRDO Hands Over its Developed Products to Indian Army
- Indian Navy successfully test-Fires anti-ship missile from Kalvari Submarine
Science & Technology
- Dirty dozen superbug list compiled by World Health Organisation
Key Facts for Prelims
- Swachh Shakti Saptah
- Sweden to reintroduce conscription after 6 years
- Regional conference on enhancing steel consumption in India
Polity & Governance
Kurukh language given official status by Bengal government
West Bengal Government has given official language status to endangered tribal language Kurukh, mother tongue belonging to the Dravidian family.
- It was given this status by the state government last month and but was announced recently by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.
- In West Bengal, it is spoken by Oraon tribal community who live in Dooars (alluvial floodplains in northeastern India that lie south of outer foothills of Himalayas and north of Brahmaputra River basin).
- Most of the tribal languages in West Bengal have their origins in the Austro-Asiatic and Tibeto-Barman families. But Kurukh is an exception which has its origin from the Dravidian family is Malto, which is not spoken in West Bengal, but in the Jharkhand’s Rajmahal hills area.
- Santhali, Munda and Hoe languages spoken in state that belong to Austro-Asiastic family, while the languages spoken by the Tamang, Lepcha and Bhutia tribes of the Darjeeling hills are of the Tibeto-Burman group.
About Kurukh language:
- Kurukh language belongs to subfamily of Dravidian languages, spoken by some 17 lakh people (2001 census report) of the Oraon tribes of Chota Nagpur plateau of east-central India.
- It is closely related to Kumarbhag Paharia and Sauria Paharia languages, which are together referred to as Malto. Its script is called Tolong Siki.
- The language has been listed “vulnerable” state in UNESCO’s list of endangered languages.
- Jharkhand has recognised Kurukh as a language and its script in 2003. It allows students can write their school final examination in its script.
Environment & Ecology
March 3: World Wildlife Day
The World Wildlife Day is observed on 3rd March every year to celebrate and raise awareness about the world’s wild fauna and flora.
- 2017 theme: “Listen to the Young Voices”.
- It is celebrated to mark the signing of Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) on this day in 1973.
- It aims to create awareness and encourages people across the globe to protect endangered species.
- It also calls for taking up urgent steps to fight wildlife crime which has wide-ranging environmental, economic and social impacts.
- It aims to empower and engage the youth in conservation issues. Engaging and empowering youth is the call of this year.
- The World Wildlife Day was designated by United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) at its 68th session on 20 December 2013. On this day in 1973, CITES was adopted.
- Wildlife has an intrinsic value and contributes to the ecological, social, economic, genetic, scientific, educational, cultural, aesthetic and recreational aspects of sustainable development and human well-being.
- Habitat loss, poaching and climate change are among the most alarming challenges faced by wildlife today. Poaching and trafficking of wildlife is now the most immediate threat to many species. There is pressing need for enhanced action to ensure survival of wildlife in its natural habitats.
Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) is international agreement to regulate worldwide commercial trade in wild animal and plant species.
- Its aim is to ensure that international trade does not threaten the survival of the species in the wild.
- It was drafted as a result of a resolution adopted in 1963 at a meeting of members of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). It entered into force in July 1975.
- CITES is legally binding on state parties to the convention, which are obliged to adopt their own domestic legislation to implement its goals.
- It classifies plants and animals according to three categories, or appendices, based on how threatened. They are:
Appendix I species:
- It lists species that are in danger of extinction. It prohibits commercial trade of these plants and animals except in extraordinary situations for scientific or educational reasons.
Appendix II species:
- They are those that are not threatened with extinction but that might suffer a serious decline in number if trade is not restricted. Their trade is regulated by permit.
Appendix III species:
- They are protected in at least one country that is a CITES member states and that has petitioned others for help in controlling international trade in that species.
- In addition, CITES also restricts trade in items made from such plants and animals, such as food, clothing, medicine, and souvenirs.
NGT fixes norms for camping along Ganga
The National Green Tribunal (NGT) on 2 March 2017 ordered a ban on camping activities within 100 metres of the Ganga in Uttarakhand.
- The decision was taken by a bench of justices headed by NGT Chairperson Swatanter Kumar.
- The ban will be imposed from Kaudiyala to Rishikesh in Uttarakhand.
- NGT bench gave this ruling by relying on various studies conducted by the Uttarakhand government and the Wildlife Institute of India (WII).
- It held that river rafting is one of the significant components of eco-tourism, but it needs to be encouraged but with a clear mandate so that it does not cause any environmental and biodiversity degradation.
- It clarified that the portion of the identified beaches which fall outside the restriction of 100 meters should only be used for effective camping activity.
- The remaining part of the beach should not be permitted for any activity including tenting, toilets and other incidental requirements.
- NGT held that the illegal and improper activities at the camping sites led to the pollution of River Ganga. It ordered implementation of management plan prepared by State government.
Polluting of the Ganga water is a cause of concern for the Union government as well and in fact, the cabinet minister of Water Resources, River Development & Ganga Rejuvenation, Uma Bharti had set 2018 as the deadline to clean Ganga fully.
However, it is unlikely for the work to be completed by 2018. Main reasons for the delay include the delay in clearances by the state government to execute the projects as well as the intrusive questioning process of the NGT about the operating capacity of sewage treatment plants in Uttar Pradesh.[Ref: The Hindu]
Bilateral & International Relations
India to attend Lahore meet on Indus Waters Treaty
Signalling a major shift in its position on talks with Pakistan on the Indus Waters Treaty (IWT), India has accepted an invitation to attend the next meeting of the Permanent Indus Commission (PIC) to be held in Lahore in March.
- The move came after two months of diplomatic negotiations, with World Bank officials playing mediator in encouraging Pakistan to extend the invitation and for India to accept.
- A look at the two major hydro electric projects- Kishenganga and Ratle- in Jammu and Kashmir may be taken up in the meeting.
About Indus Water treaty:
The Indus Waters Treaty is a water-distribution treaty between India and Pakistan, brokered by the World Bank.
- The treaty was signed in Karachi in 1960 by Prime Minister of India Jawaharlal Nehru and President of Pakistan Ayub Khan.
- According to this agreement, control over the three “eastern” rivers — the Beas, the Ravi and the Sutlej — was given to India, while control over the three “western” rivers — the Indus, the Chenab and the Jhelum — to Pakistan.
- As per the provisions in the treaty, India can use only 20% of the total water carried by the Indus river.
- A Permanent Indus Commission was set up as a bilateral commission to implement and manage the Treaty. The Commission solves disputes arising over water sharing.
It is important to note that China has been kept out of the Treaty although Indus originates from Tibet. If China decides to stop or change the flow of the river, it will affect both India and Pakistan.
What is Permanent Indus Commission?
- Permanent Indus Commission (PIC) is a bilateral commission of officials from India-Pakistan, created to implement and manage goals of Indus Waters Treaty.
- Under the treaty, it is required that India and Pakistan meet every financial year. The Indus Commission is the first step for conflict resolution.
- If an agreement cannot be reached at the Commission level, the dispute is to be referred to the two governments.
- If the governments too fail to reach an agreement, the Treaty provides an arbitration mechanism.
- The last meeting of the commission was held in July 2016.
About Kishanganga Hydroelectric Plant:
- The Kishanganga Hydroelectric Plant is an $864 million dam which is part of a run-of-the-river hydroelectric scheme that is designed to divert water from the Kishanganga River to a power plant in the Jhelum River basin.
- It is located 5 km north of Bandipore in Jammu and Kashmir, India and will have an installed capacity of 330 MW.
- Construction on the project began in 2007 and is expected to be complete in 2016.
- Construction on the dam was temporarily halted by the Hague’s Permanent Court of Arbitration in October 2011 due to Pakistan’s protest of its effect on the flow of the Kishanganga River (called the Neelum River in Pakistan).
- In February 2013, the Hague ruled that India could divert a minimum amount of water for power generation.
About Ratle Hydroelectric Plant:
- The Ratle Hydroelectric Plant is a run-of-the-river hydroelectric power station currently under construction on the Chenab River, downstream of the village of Ratle in Doda district of the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir.
- The project includes a 133 m (436 ft) tall gravity dam and two power stations adjacent to one another.
Pakistan returns to SAARC, gets Secretary General post
After months of difficulty posed mainly by India, Pakistan has succeeded in getting its official elected to the post of the Secretary General of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC).
- This was backed by all members, including India, which made the selection consensus-based.
As the incoming chair, Pakistan was supposed to provide the next Secretary General. The new chief of SAARC was expected to take charge a year ago. Earlier, India had opposed holding of the 19th SAARC summit in Islamabad in November 2016 following the terror strike in Uri.
About Secretary General SAARC:
- The Secretary–General of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, is the head of the SAARC Secretariat, which is headquartered in Kathmandu, Nepal.
- The Secretary-General is appointed for a three-year term by election by a council of Ministers from member states.
- The Secretary-General is assisted by eight deputies, one from each nation, who also reside in Kathmandu.
Syrian Army recaptures Palmyra
The Syrian Army has recaptured the ancient city of Palmyra from Islamic State (IS) for the second time in a year, with help from allied forces and Russian war-planes.
Palmyra was first seized by the militant group in May 2015. After capturing the city, UNESCO world heritage site was destroyed systematically. The city was listed on UNESCO’s world heritage site for hosting numerous ancient monuments and temples.
Later in March 2016, the militant group was driven out from the city but was able to recapture it in December 2016 when the Syrian government focused on recapturing rebel-held East Aleppo.
Loss of Palmyra is being considered as the latest blow to the militant group, ISIS because in recent past the group had suffered losses in its two main strongholds, namely Raqa (Syria) and Mosul (Iraq). It lost these two areas after facing assaults by forces backed by the US-led coalition. Early in 2014, the militant/jihadist group took over swathes of territory in Syria and Iraq.
- The city of Palmyra, known as an oasis in the Syrian Desert, was a house of monumental ruins of the Neolithic period, like the Temple of Ba’al, the Agora, Diocletian’s Camp, Theatre and other temples, before it was captured by ISIS.
- Their entrance to the city led to the destruction of several structures and loot of the heritage site just for sale in the black market.
- Before the entrance of ISIS, the city was one of the most important cultural centres of the ancient world.
- The city was first mentioned in the archives of Mari in the 2nd millennium BC.
- It was established as a caravan oasis under the Roman control in the mid-first century AD as part of the Roman province of Syria.
- With time, the city became an important trade route of Asia as it linked China, India and Persia with the Roman Empire.
- Discovery of the ruined city by travellers in the 17th and 18th centuries resulted in its subsequent influence on architectural styles.
Half of India-Bangladesh border fenced
The Union Government has announced that half of the 4,096-km long border India shares with Bangladesh has been fenced.
- The remaining half will be fenced by 2019 deadline. Its aim of fencing the India-Bangladesh border is to curb infiltration and smuggling of cattle and fake Indian currency notes (FICN).
- However, land acquisition is a major challenge to completing the work by the deadline.
- Besides, government is going to use technological solutions such as cameras and lasers across cross border rivers, where fencing is not possible.
- India and Bangladesh share a 4,096 km land boundary, largest among the international boundaries that India shares with its neighbours.
- The border runs along five states, West Bengal (2,216.7 km), Assam (263 km), Meghalaya (443 km), Tripura (856 km) and Mizoram (318 km).
Defence & Security Issues
DRDO Hands Over its Developed Products to Indian Army
The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) handed over three of its products for induction into the Indian Army at a function in New Delhi.
The three new products are:
- Weapon Locating Radar (WLR), SWATHI
- It was developed by the DRDO’s Electronics and Radar Development Establishment (LRDE).
- The radar provides fast, automatic and accurate location of all enemy weapons like mortars, shells and rockets firing within in its effective zone of coverage.
- The SWATHI simultaneously handles multiple projectiles fired from different weapons at different locations.
- The system is capable of adjusting the fire of our own artillery weapon also.
- The weapon includes 81mm or higher calibre mortars, 105mm or higher calibre shells and 120mm or higher calibre free flying rockets.
- Thus WLR has two roles to perform – Weapon Location Mode for enemy artillery and Direction of Own artillery Fire (DOOAF) Mode for our own artillery.
- NBC Recce Vehicle Mk-I
- The NBC Recce Vehicle Mk-I was developed by Vehicles Research and Development Establishment (VRDE).
- It carries out post-event recce of nuclear, biological and chemical contaminated areas.
- It is capable of collecting solid and liquid samples of biologically contaminated areas, mark the nuclear and chemical contamination zone and transfer the recce data speedily to support formations.
- NBC Drugs
- The drugs were developed by the DRDO’s Institute of Nuclear Medicine and Allied Sciences (INMAS).
- INMAS has carried out extensive research and laboratory trials in the past two decades to develop formulations for use as antidotes and de-corporating agents for Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) emergencies.
- Out of the several formulas developed by INMAS, 15 drugs have been identified for induction.
Indian Navy successfully test-Fires anti-ship missile from Kalvari Submarine
The Indian Navy successfully conducted the maiden firing of an anti-ship missile from an INS Kalvari class submarine.
- The test firing was conducted in the Arabian Sea and the missile successfully hit a surface target at extended ranges during the trial firing.
Features of INS Kalvari:
- INS Kalvari is a class of diesel-electric attack submarine. These submarines are based on the Scorpene-class submarine being built for the Indian Navy.
- While INS Kalvari is designed by French naval defence and energy company DCNS, they are being manufactured by Mazagon Dock Limited in Mumbai.
- All six Kalvari class submarines being built in India will be equipped with anti-ship missiles.
- These missiles will provide the submarines the ability to neutralise surface threats at extended ranges and boost India’s maritime security.
Science & Technology
Dirty dozen superbug list compiled by World Health Organisation
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has published its first ever list of antibiotic-resistant `priority pathogens’ -a catalogue of 12 families of bacteria that pose the greatest threat to human health.
- This is bad news for India as most of these 12 superbugs are present in the country.
- The list was drawn up to promote research and development of new antibiotics.
- The move was part of efforts to address the problem of growing global resistance to antimicrobial medicines.
- The list is divided into three urgency categories – critical, high, and medium – representing how badly we need new antibiotics to treat their respective superbugs.
- The most critical group includes multidrug-resistant bacteria that pose a particular threat in hospitals, nursing homes and among patients whose care requires devices such as ventilators and blood catheters.
- These species are all examples of what’s called gram-negative bacteria – bugs that usually live in the gut that have developed two cellular membranes, making it harder for drug molecules to penetrate them.
- The nine other pathogens making up the high and medium urgency categories are bacteria that cause more common diseases – such as gonorrhoea and food poisoning – but which can also be deadly, and are increasingly resistant to drugs.
Key Facts for Prelims
Swachh Shakti Saptah
- Union Minister of Drinking Water and Sanitation Narendra Singh Tomar launched Swachh Shakti Saptah, a week-long programme of activities across the country to highlight the role of women in Swachh Bharat Mission and to recognize their leadership.
- The Ministry made the national launch of Swachh Shakti Saptaah in Gurugram, Haryana, at a joint event with the Haryana Government.
- The launch marked the achievement of Swachh Bharat Milestone as over 100 districts in India were declared as ODF districts and over 1.7 lakh villages have become ODF.
- Moreover, throughout the week, there will be nationwide events honouring women champions, women sarpanches, ASHA workers, school teachers, young students and senior citizens.
- The Swachh Shakti Saptaah will culminate with a mega-event in Gujarat named Swachh Shakti 2017 where the Prime Minister Narendra Modi will address 6000 women sarpanches and honour them for their contribution to Swachh Bharat.
Sweden to reintroduce conscription after 6 years
- Sweden has announced that it will reintroduce compulsory military service starting this summer to respond to global security challenges, including from Russia.
- Sweden’s government is set to introduce to the Parliament a bill to restore conscription this summer for all Swedes born after 1999. It will last for 11 months.
- Some 13,000 young Swedes are expected to be mobilised from July 1, but only 4,000 of them will be selected for military service based on motivation and skills. They will be called up each year after January 1 2018.
- The Scandinavian nation, which has not seen armed conflict on its territory in two centuries, ended conscription in 2010 after it was deemed an unsatisfactory way of meeting the needs of a modern army.
- The government wants a more stable staff supply system and to boost its military capability because the security situation has changed.
Regional conference on enhancing steel consumption in India
- Maiden regional conference of Eastern States on enhancing steel consumption in India will be held in Gangtok, Sikkim.
- The theme is ‘Enhancing steel consumption in India’.
- This will be first of the four regional conferences being planned across India.
- The delegates in the conference would deliberate on measures to increase steel demand, advantages of steel intensive construction & steel in high-rises, rural sector, bridges and other fields.
- The delegates in the conference would include decision makers in projects in central and state Governments, architects, structural designers and consultants, project financers, contractors, fabricators, erectors, Faculties from Metallurgy, Mechanical and Civil Engineering departments, representatives from large infrastructure industry, steel/engineers/architect associations.