Polity & Governance
- Justice Rohini to head sub-categorisation panel
- Madhya Pradesh bags ‘Best Tourism State’ award for third time in a row
- Meenakshi temple adjudged cleanest temple in India
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
- India unveils third National Wildlife Action Plan for 2017-2031
- Centre launches six-year secure Himalaya project
- Environment Minister Inaugurates Global Wildlife Programme
- Nepal, India to conduct first joint tiger count
Bilateral & International Relations
- India gets first-ever U.S. crude shipment
Science & Technology
- US scientists awarded Nobel in medicine for body clock insights
Key Facts for Prelims
- 2nd October: World Habitat Day
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Polity & Governance
Justice Rohini to head sub-categorisation panel
The President of India, in exercise of the powers conferred by article 340 of the Constitution, has appointed a Commission to examine the sub-categorisation of Other Backward Classes.
- Former Delhi High Court Chief Justice G. Rohini has been appointed by President of India as the head of the Commission.
Need for such Commission
Sub-categorisation of the OBCs will ensure that the more backward among the OBC communities can also access the benefits of reservation for educational institutions and government jobs.
The terms of references of the Commission
- To examine the extent of inequitable distribution of benefits of reservation among the castes or communities included in the broad category of Other Backward Classes with reference to such classes included in the Central List;
- To work out the mechanism, criteria, norms and parameters in a scientific approach for sub-categorisation within such Other Backward Classes; and
- To take up the exercise of identifying the respective castes or communities or sub-castes or synonyms in the Central List of Other Backward Classes and classifying them into their respective sub-categories.
Significance of this move:
- The decision, taken on the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, reinforces the government’s efforts to achieve greater social justice and inclusion for all, specifically members of the OBC.
- The Commission is required to present their Report to the President within a period of twelve weeks of assumption of charge by the Chairperson of the Commission.
- On receipt of the Report of the Commission, the Central Government will consider ways and means for equitable distribution of the benefits of the reservation in Central Government jobs and admission in Central Government Institutions amongst all strata of the Other Backward Classes.
Article 340 of the Constitution of India
- Article 340 calls for the appointment of a Commission to investigate the conditions of backward classes.
- The President may by order appoint a Commission consisting of such persons as he thinks fit to investigate the conditions of socially and educationally backward classes within the territory of India and the difficulties under which they labour.
- They can then make recommendations as to the steps that should be taken by the Union or any State to remove such difficulties and to improve their condition.
- A Commission so appointed shall investigate the matters referred to them and present to the President a report setting out the facts as found by them and making such recommendations as they think proper.
- The President shall present the copy of the report together with a memorandum explaining the action taken thereon to be laid before each House of Parliament
Madhya Pradesh bags ‘Best Tourism State’ award for third time in a row
Madhya Pradesh has won the ‘Best Tourism State’ national award for the third consecutive year.
- President Ram Nath Kovind handed over the award, named as ‘Hall of Fame Award’ to the state government on the occasion of World Tourism Day.
- The state bagged total 10 awards.
- The Most Innovative Tourist Product award for ‘Hanuwantia Jal Mahotsav’.
- Best State for Adventure Tourism.
- Chanderi was adjudged as the Best Heritage City.
- The Best Tourist-Friendly Railway Station award was given to Ujjain Railway Station.
- The Best Civic Management of a Tourist Destination of India award was given to Khargone.
- An English coffee-table book published by MP Tourism Board, won the national award for Excellence in Publishing.
- A national award for Film Promotion Policy in the category of Best Film Promotion Friendly State/Union Territory.
- The national award for Excellence in Publishing in Hindi was given to the Hindi brochure published by Madhya Pradesh Tourism in Simhastha-2016.
- Best Wildlife Guide national award was bagged by Saib Khan of Pachmarhi.
Meenakshi temple adjudged cleanest temple in India
The Sri Meenakshi Sundareswarar Temple in Madurai has been adjudged the cleanest iconic place in the country under Swachhta Hi Seva (cleanliness is service) programme.
- The temple earned the top slot from among 10 iconic places selected by Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation under Swachh Bharath Mission.
- It has piped other iconic places such as Taj Mahal, Ajmer Sharif Dargah, Golden Temple, Tirupathi temple and Sri Vaishno Devi temple.
About Sri Meenakshi Sundareswarar Temple:
Meenakshi Temple is a historic Hindu temple located on the southern bank of the Vaigai River in the temple city of Madurai, Tamil Nadu.
- It is dedicated to Meenakshi, a form of Parvati, and her consort, Sundareswar, a form of Shiva.
- It was originally built during reign of Pandyas. However, it was rebuilt by the Nayak ruler Vishwanatha Nayakar around the 16th century.
- It houses 14 gopurams (gateway towers), ranging from 45–50m in height and tallest is southern tower, 51.9 metres high.
- It also has two golden sculptured vimanas, shrines over garbhagrihas (sanctums) of main deities.
- The temple forms the heart and lifeline of the 2,500-year-old city of Madurai.
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
India unveils third National Wildlife Action Plan for 2017-2031
India unveiled the third National Wildlife Action Plan for 2017-2031 spelling out the future road map for wildlife conservation.
- The plan was released here at the opening ceremony of Global Wildlife Program (GWP) that involves 19 Asian and African countries, United Nations, World Bank and other leading global organisations to deal with the wildlife crime.
- The NWAP 2017-31, under which there are 250 projects, is India’s road map to conserve wildlife for the next 15 years.
- The plan is woven around the agenda of the United Nations’ 15th Sustainable Developmental Goal — “Life on Land”.
- The third action plan comes after the first plan in 1983 and second from 2002 till 2016.
- The third plan was initiated in February 2016 by environment ministry. This plan was drafted by a 12-member committee chaired by JC Kala, a former secretary to the ministry.
How this plan is unique?
- The third National Wildlife Action Plan is unique as this is the first time India has recognised the concerns relating to climate change impact on wildlife and stressed on integrating actions that need to be taken for its mitigation and adaptation into wildlife management planning processes.
Highlights of the National Wildlife Action Plan 2017-2031:
- The plan calls for adopting a landscape approach for wildlife conservation, which is an advancement over the previous protected area-centric approach.
- It also addresses rising human-animal conflict owing to shrinkage, fragmentation and deterioration of habitats generating animosity against wild animals and protected areas.
- Underscoring the increasing need for people’s support for conservation of wildlife, it recommends eco-development, education, innovation, training, extension, and conservation awareness and outreach programs.
- It underlines increased role of private sector in wildlife conservation. It lays down that Government will ensure that adequate and sustained funding including Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) funds are made available for implementation of plan.
Centre launches six-year secure Himalaya project
The Centre launched a six-year project, called SECURE Himalaya, to ensure conservation of locally and globally significant biodiversity, land and forest resources in the high Himalayan ecosystem spread over four states in India.
- The project was launched by the Union environment ministry in association with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
What is project SECURE?
- The SECURE project aims at securing livelihoods, conservation, sustainable use and restoration of high range Himalayan ecosystems for specific landscapes. These include
- Changthang (Jammu and Kasmir)
- Lahaul – Pangi and Kinnaur (Himachal Pradesh)
- Gangotri – Govind and Darma – Byans Valley in Pithoragarh (Uttarakhand)
- Kanchenjunga – Upper Teesta Valley (Sikkim)
- Enhanced enforcement efforts and monitoring under the project will also curb illegal trade in some medicinal and aromatic plants which are among the most threatened species in these landscapes.
- Protection of snow leopard and other endangered species and their habitats is one of the key components of the project.
- The project will also focus on securing livelihoods of the people in the region and enhancing enforcement to reduce wildlife crime.
Environment Minister Inaugurates Global Wildlife Programme
The Global Wildlife Programme (GWP) Conference was recently held in New Delhi.
- It was jointly hosted by Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC), World Bank and United Nations Development Programme.
- Theme of the Conference was – “Peoples’ participation in wildlife conservation”.
- The four-day conference will give India an opportunity to get acquainted with best practices on the management of wildlife habitats and minimising human-wildlife conflict situations.
About Global Wildlife Program (GWP):
The GWP is a World-Bank led partnership of 19 countries to promote the conservation and sustainable development by combating trafficking in wildlife.
- It was initiated in 2015 by the Global Environment Facility (GEF).
- The GWP involves 19 Asian and African countries, United Nations, World Bank and other leading global organisations to deal with the wildlife crime.
- It serves as a platform to exchange knowledge and coordinate in on-ground action for combating illegal poaching of wildlife and improve governance on wildlife conservation.
- It seeks to reduce both supply and demand that drives illegal wildlife trade, and protect species and habitats through integrated landscape planning.
Nepal, India to conduct first joint tiger count
Nepal and India, for the first time, will undertake a joint tiger census next month in their national parks, forests and protected areas adjoining the two countries using a globally-recognised method.
- This is the first time that both the countries are counting tiger heads using the same method that is recognised globally.
- Conservation authorities and experts would install cameras in various locations in tiger habitats as well as in buffer zones to capture and track the movements of the big cat.
- The last tiger count conducted by Nepal in 2013 puts the number of adult tigers around 200 in the Himalayan country.
- Recent figures showed that since 2010, the estimated number of tigers across 13 tiger range countries including India and Nepal stood at 3,900.
- At the International Tiger Conference in Russia in 2010, participating countries including Nepal had made a commitment to double the tiger population by 2022. This means Nepal would have at least 250 tigers, 100% increase from its 2010 tiger count which had put the number of the big cat at 125.
What are called Tiger range countries (TRCs)?
- Tiger range countries (TRCs) are those where the big cat roams freely.
- The 13 tiger range countries include Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Russia, Thailand, and Vietnam.
Threats to tiger population:
Tiger is an endangered animal listed in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).
- According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), tigers have lost 93% of their historical range.
- Human and wildlife conflict, climate change and poaching and illegal wildlife trade are among the major reasons that has pushed the feline into the endangered category — facing risk of extinction in the wild — over the years.
Bilateral & International Relations
India gets first-ever U.S. crude shipment
The first ever shipment of U.S. crude oil of 1.6 million barrels, purchased by state-run Indian Oil Corporation (IOC), was received at Paradip Port in Odisha.
- The shipment is a part of recent commitments to purchase U.S. oil by IOC, Bharat Petroleum (BPCL) and Hindustan Petroleum (HPCL).
- With this, India, the world’s third-largest oil importer, joins Asian countries like South Korea, Japan and China to buy US crude after production cuts by oil cartel OPEC drove up prices of Middle East heavy-sour crude, or grades with a high sulphur content.
Significance of the move:
- This marks the beginning of a new chapter in the history of Indo-U.S. trade, particularly in the oil and gas sector.
- The inclusion of the U.S. as a source for crude oil imports by India’s largest refiner will go a long way in mitigating the risks arising out of geo-political disruptions.
- The new arrangement will also usher in price stability and energy security for India, which is witnessing robust growth in demand for petroleum products.
- The IOC deal came within weeks of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s June-end visit to the US when President Donald Trump talked of his country looking to export more energy products to India.
- The Indian government has encouraged state-controlled refiners to buy US and Canadian crude from the US Gulf coast as it looks at cheaper alternatives that have emerged due to global supply glut.
- Buying US crude has become attractive for Indian refiners after the differential between Brent (the benchmark crude or marker crude that serves as a reference price for buyers in western world) and Dubai (which serves as a benchmark for countries in the east) has narrowed.
- To encourage US crude purchases, the government has allowed refiners to use a foreign rather than an Indian-owned vessel for the purchase. Indian refiners typically have to use domestic vessels for their crude imports.
- U.S. crude oil shipments to India have the potential to boost bilateral trade by up to $2 billion.
- The United States and India’s cooperation in the field of energy is increasing, which includes future plans for cleaner fossil fuels, renewables, nuclear and cutting edge storage and energy efficiency technologies.
Science & Technology
US scientists awarded Nobel in medicine for body clock insights
Three US scientists, namely Jeffrey C. Hall, Michael Rosbash and Michael W. Young, have won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine “for their discoveries of molecular mechanisms controlling the circadian rhythm,” otherwise known as our biological clock.
- Their discoveries explain how plants, animals and humans adapt their biological rhythm so that it is synchronized with Earth’s revolutions.
- The winners are chosen by Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institute.
About Circardian Rhythm:
- All living organisms on Earth have an internal clock, known as the circadian rhythm, which in humans underlies why we are awake during the day and sleep at night. But our biological clock also helps regulate eating habits, hormone release, blood pressure and body temperature.
- A person’s well-being is affected when there is a “temporary mismatch between our external environment and this internal biological clock.” For example, disruption to our clocks when someone travels across a number of time zones results in jet lag.
- An imbalance between lifestyle and rhythm could lead to increased risk for a number of diseases including metabolic diseases, such as diabetes and cancer, and neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease.
Significance of the research:
- Research on the body clock has helped scientists improve health.
- Many drugs now on the market work best when taken at the right time. The cholesterol-cutting drug Mevacor, for example, is taken at night because levels of the enzyme it targets are highest then. The same is true for low-dose aspirin used to reduce blood pressure.
Key Facts for Prelims
2nd October: World Habitat Day
- The United Nations designated the first Monday of October of every year as World Habitat Day to reflect on the state of our towns and cities, and on the basic right of all to adequate shelter.
- The theme for this year was ‘Housing Policies: Affordable Homes’.
- The declaration of the World Habitat Day is intended to remind the world of its power and responsibility to shape the future of all cities and towns.
- The United Nations Human Settlements Programme in 1989 launched the ‘UN-Habitat Scroll of Honour award’. It is the most prestigious human settlements award in the world. The winners of the award are honoured on the occasion of the day.
Following are some of the UN-Habitat’s main focus areas:
- Inclusive housing and social services
- A safe and healthy living environment for all — with particular consideration for children, youth, women, elderly and disabled
- Affordable and sustainable transport and energy
- Promotion, protection, and restoration of green urban spaces
- Safe and clean drinking water and sanitation
- Healthy air quality
- Job creation
- Improved urban planning and slum upgrading
- Better waste management