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Current Affairs Analysis

4th June 2016 Current Affairs Analysis

'Good Country' 2015 index; 'Gyps Vulture Reintroduction Programme'; Desert Eagle-II; Bionic leaf 2.0 etc.
By IT's Current Affairs Analysis Team
June 04, 2016

Contents

Polity & Governance

  • Colleges that don’t comply with sexual harassment norms may lose recognition
  • India ranks 70th, Sweden best country, says report
  • Railways to stop footing bill on passenger travel concessions
  • Citizens have right to safe water, say draft legislation

Environment & Ecology

  • Asia’s first ‘Gyps Vulture Reintroduction Programme’ launched

Defence & Security Issues

  • Exercise Desert Eagle-II Concludes

Science & Technology

  • NASA finds 39 unreported sources of pollution
  • ‘Bionic’ leaf that turns sunlight into liquid fuel

 

Polity & Governance

Colleges that don’t comply with sexual harassment norms may lose recognition

Universities and colleges not complying with a new set of regulations to curb sexual harassment on college and university campuses will now face action.

  • The UGC has notified the guidelines to be followed in all institutions of higher education.
  • They give women students, employees, interns and apprentices protection on the campus even from a visitor to the institution.

Key points of the guidelines:

Definition of sexual harassment:

  • They define what constitutes sexual harassment and lay down the procedure to file a complaint and the punishments to be meted out.
  • The regulations define sexual harassment in very exhaustive terms. It ranges from physical contact to verbal or non-verbal conduct of a sexual nature.

Internal Complaints Committee

  • Institutions will have to set up an internal complaints committee, in which at least half the members are women.
  • To ensure the committee’s autonomy, it has been laid down that no administrative official — like Vice-Chancellor or Registrar — will be its members.

Proposed actions against non-compliance:

Consequences of non-compliance are serious.

  • An institution could face withdrawal of declaration of fitness to receive grants under section l2 B of the UGC Act, 1956;
  • Removal of its name from the list maintained by the Commission;
  • Withholding of allocated grant; and
  • Being declared ineligible to be considered for special assistance programmes of the Commission.
  • Other penalties include informing the public that the institution lacks a zero-tolerance policy towards sexual harassment; recommending withdrawal of university affiliation to a college; and asking the Centre to withdraw the deemed university status or, in the case of a State university, asking the State government to withdraw the status.

Background:

  • The regulations are based on the Saksham report that included inputs from open forums conducted throughout India after the MHRD formed a task force on the issue post the Delhi gang rape.
  • The Supreme Court, in the Vishakha judgment in 1997, mandated internal committees at workplaces to look into sexual harassment cases.
[Ref: Hindu]

 

India ranks 70th, Sweden best country, says report

According to the ‘Good Country’ 2015 index which seeks to measure how countries contribute to the global good, India figured low at 70th position on a list of 163 nations.

Key facts:

  • Sweden has been voted as the best country in the world when it comes to serving the interests of its people and contributing to the common good of humanity.
  • The top ten best countries included Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands, the UK, Germany, Finland, Canada, France, Austria and New Zealand.
  • Libya was ranked as the least “good” country in the world.
  • In 2014, Ireland had topped the first Good Country Index, outranking 130 other countries.

India’s position:

India figured at 70th position overall, three places below China, with the best ranking (27th) in International peace and security and the worst (124th) in prosperity and equality category.

While the country stood at 37th position in health and wellbeing and 62nd in science and technology, it was ranked 119th in culture, 106th in climate and 100th in world order.

About the index:

  • The Good Country Index is pretty simple: to measure what each country on earth contributes to the common good of humanity, and what it takes away, relative to its size.
  • The report ranked a total of 163 countries taking 35 different UN and World Bank indices into account, including global contributions to science, culture, peace and security, climate change and health and equality.
  • The biannual index was founded by Simon Anholt, a British government adviser whose aim is “to find ways of encouraging countries to collaborate and co-operate a lot more, and compete a bit less”.
[Ref: BS]

 

Railways to stop footing bill on passenger travel concessions

Indian Railways has decided to stop footing the bill for myriad passenger travel concessions.

Reasons for the move:

  • Every year, Indian Railways loses about Rs. 1,500 crore in providing 53 such concessions as a part of social service obligation, including those for senior citizens, differently-abled and patients.
  • Of the total loss of Rs. 1,500 crore on passenger fare concessions, the largest chunk of about Rs. 1,000 crore is accounted for by subsidies for senior citizens.
  • While male senior citizens can avail 40 per cent reduction on ticket fares, female passengers get 50 per cent discount.
  • This concession is provided across all passenger classes and trains, including in services like Rajdhani, Shatabdi, Jan Shatabdi and Duronto.

So who should take responsibility of concessions?

  • According to the Railway Ministry, the financial burden should be borne by the ministries concerned such as social justice for senior citizens, home affairs for freedom fighters and so on.
  • For instance, the Parliamentary Affairs Ministry already pays the full ticket fares for Members of Parliament travelling on railway concession passes.

Way ahead:

  • A few meetings had already been held on the issue and the Railways Ministry will soon write to other ministries requesting them to reimburse the concessions.

Background:

  • A white paper on Indian Railways released by the government in February 2015 had said that the social obligation cost “impinges upon the viability” of the Railways network.
[Ref: Hindu]

 

Citizens have right to safe water, say draft legislation

A proposed new law on water promises to give every person the right to a minimum amount of “safe water”, while making the state “obliged” to “protect” and conserve water.

  • also laid out stringent rules in two separate pieces of draft legislation uploaded on the website of the Union Water Ministry and open for public comment, on how corporations and large entities can extract groundwater.
  • The two draft bills are:
  1. National Water Framework Bill and
  2. Model Bill for the Conservation, Protection, Regulation and Management of Groundwater

Highlights of the draft National Water Framework Bill:

  • The draft National Water Framework Bill says every person would be entitled to “water for life” that shall not be denied to anyone on the ground of inability to pay.
  • It defines this “water for life” as that basic requirement that is necessary for the “fundamental right of life of each human being, including drinking, cooking, bathing, sanitation, personal hygiene and related personal and domestic uses”.
  • This would also include the additional requirement for women “for their special needs” and the water required by domestic livestock.
  • This minimum water requirement would be determined by the “appropriate” governments from time to time.
  • The draft law, prepared by the Water Resources Ministry, is being proposed as a model legislation that can be adopted by states, since water is in the jurisdiction of the state governments.

Highlights of the draft Bill for ‘Conservation, Protection, Regulation and Management of Groundwater’:

  • The draft law aims to decentralise water management and give more power to panchayats and gram sabhas to decide how water can be better used.
  • The most fundamental reform that the Bill sought to make was to do away with the “British Common Law” concept that he who owned the land could extract unlimited groundwater.
  • According to the provisions of the proposed Bill, corporations and industries extracting groundwater now had to submit plans to ensure that water was used responsibly and that any possible contamination was remedied.
  • The proposed law wants to introduce a “graded pricing system” for domestic water supply, with full cost recovery pricing for high-income groups, “affordable pricing” for middle-income, and a “certain quantum of free supply” to the poor.
[Ref: Hindu]

 

Environment & Ecology

Asia’s first ‘Gyps Vulture Reintroduction Programme’ launched

The Haryana government has launched Asia’s First ‘Gyps Vulture Reintroduction Programme’ at Jatayu Conservation Breeding Centre, Pinjore.

  • The Centre has become prominent vulture breeding and conservation centre in the country-after successfully breeding Himalayan Griffon Vultures-an old world vulture in the family of Accipitridae-in captivity.
  • The Himalayan Griffon is closely related to the critically endangered resident Gyps species of vultures but is not endangered.

Concerns:

  • It is a matter of concern that some vulture species have become endangered.
  • Almost 95 per cent vultures have disappeared and the reason is diclofenac, a pain killer drug given to cattle which can kill them.

Solutions:

  • Breeding and conservation of vultures is a significant step in the direction of saving the species.

About the Himalayan griffon:

IASToppers-Current-Affairs-AnalysisHimalayan_griffon_(Gyps_Himalayensis)_in_Spiti

  • The Himalayan vultureor Himalayan griffon vulture is closely related to the European griffon vulture and once considered a subspecies of it.
  • It is one of the two largest Old World vultures and true raptors.
  • The species has been listed as Near Threatened by the IUCN.

220px-Status_iucn3.1_NT.svg

  • Himalayan griffons do not breed in the first three years, and hence juvenile birds of the species do not remain in breeding grounds to avoid competition.
  • The species is found mainly in the higher regions of the Himalayas, the Pamirs, Kazakhstan, Burma, Singapore and Cambodia, Afghanistan, Bhutan, Thailand and on the Tibetan Plateau (technically in China).
[Ref: PIB, Wiki]

 

Defence & Security Issues

Exercise Desert Eagle-II Concludes

Desert Eagle II, which was the second in the series of bilateral exercises between Indian Air Force (IAF) and United Arab Emirates Air Force (UAE AF), recently concluded. 

Background:

  • Defence Co-operation between the two nations gained momentum after signing of the ‘Agreement of Defence Co-operation’during the visit of the Chief of Staff of UAE Armed Forces to India in 2003.
  • The Indian Air Force had participated previously in Desert Eagle I in 2008.

It is pertinent to note that India and United Arab Emirates have strong bilateral relations which date back to more than hundreds of years.

[Ref: PIB]

 

Science & Technology

NASA finds 39 unreported sources of pollution

Using a new satellite-based method, NASA scientists have located 39 unreported and major human-made sources of toxic sulphur dioxide emissions.

  • Found in the analysis of satellite data from 2005 to 2014, the unreported emission sources are clusters of coal-burning power plants, smelters, oil and gas operations – found notably in West Asia, but also in Mexico and parts of Russia.
  • Altogether, unreported and under-reported sources account for about 12 % of all human-made emissions of sulphur dioxide — a discrepancy that can have a large impact on regional air quality.

About Sulphur dioxide:

  • Sulphur dioxide is a known health hazard and cause of acid rain.
  • Sulfur dioxide (also sulphur dioxide) is the chemical compound with the formula SO2.
  • At standard atmosphere, it is a toxic gas with a pungent, irritating smell.
  • It is released naturally by volcanic activity.
  • Sulfur dioxide was used by the Romans in winemaking when they discovered that burning sulfur candles inside empty wine vessels kept them fresh and free from vinegar smell.

Currently, sulphur dioxide-monitoring activities include the use of emission inventories that are derived from ground-based measurements and factors, such as fuel usage.

[Ref: Hindu]

 

‘Bionic’ leaf that turns sunlight into liquid fuel

A team of scientists from Harvard University has created a unique ” bionic leaf ” that uses solar energy to split water molecules into oxygen and hydrogen, and hydrogen-eating bacteria to produce liquid fuels from CO2.

  • Comparing their invention with the natural process of photosynthesis, scientists refer to it as a “bionic leaf” or “artificial leaf,” and they say the level of efficiency they have achieved far exceeds that of other similar systems – including photosynthesis itself.
  • Dubbed “bionic leaf 2.0”, the new system can convert solar energy to biomass with 10 % efficiency – a number far higher than the one per cent seen in the fastest growing plants.
[Ref: ToI]

 

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