Q.1 Consider the following statements regarding
1. The IUCN Red Data Book has listed
Vulture as “Critically Endangered”.
2. The major reason behind the vulture
population getting nearly wiped out was
the drug Diclofenac, found in the carcass
of cattle the vultures fed on.
3. Vultures are native to India only.
Which of the above statements is/are correct?
(a) 1 and 2 only
(b) 3 only
(c) 1 only
(d) 1, 2 and 3
Q.2 Consider the following statements regarding
Hog technology in Railways:
1. The new technology is expected to
transform the way air conditioners (ACs)
run and power is supplied in the railway
2. It will ensure sustainable use of
Which of the above statements is/are correct?
(a) 1 only
(b) 2 only
(c) Both 1 and 2
(d) Neither 1 nor 2
Q.3 “Rome Statute” sometimes seen in news is
related to what?
(a) International Criminal Court (ICC)
(b) International Court of Justice (ICJ)
(c) World Trade Organization
(d) World Bank
CITIZENSHIP AMENDMENT ACT 2019
Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Sunday that the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) was aimed at giving citizenship and not taking it away.
Addressing a gathering of youth at Belur Math, the headquarters of Ramakrishna Mission, in West Bengal’s Howrah district, on the occasion of the birth anniversary of Swami Vivekananda, Mr. Modi accused those opposing the amended law of “playing political games” and “fuelling misconception among the youth”.
WHAT DOES THE ACT CONTAINS?
The ACT seeks to amend the Citizenship Act, 1955 by seeking to grant citizenship to undocumented non-Muslims from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan who came to India on or before December 31, 2014.
The ACT says the six non-Muslim communities “shall not be treated as illegal migrant” for violating provisions under Passport Act, 1920 or the Foreigners Act, 1946 that pertains to foreigners entering and staying in India illegally.
The ACT shall not apply to tribal areas of Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Tripura as included in the sixth schedule of the Constitution and States of Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram and Nagaland protected by the Inner Line Permit (ILP).
ACT has reduce the time period required for naturalization from 11 years to 5 years for members of these communities.
SOCIAL MEDIA POSTING
NEWS:In a landmark order, the Tripura High Court has ordered the police to refrain from prosecuting a man who was earlier arrested over a social media post. Chief Justice Akil Kureshi also barred the police from making any further arrests in connection with the case.
The Chief Justice in his order remarked that posting on social media was tantamount to a “fundamental right” applicable to all citizens, including government employees.
In compliance with the court’s order, the police have now erased Sections 120(B) and 153(A) of the Indian Penal Code from the First Information Report.
With Kaanum Pongal, the fourth and final day of the harvest festival, less than a week away, Forest Department officials in Salem are gearing up to prevent an unusual jallikattu — one that uses foxes instead of bulls.
The jallikattu-like event using foxes, or vanga nari in Tamil, is usually organised on Kaanum Pongal on the outskirts of the district as villagers believe it will bring bountiful rain and good fortune.
The animals are muzzled and their hind legs tied with rope. After special rituals are conducted, the hapless animals are chased through the streets, much like bulls in the more conventional jallikattu. After the event, the animals are released into the forest.
Pongal festival is the harvest festival of Tamil Nadu that falls in the month of Thai (January-February season).
What is Pongal?
The term ‘Pongal’ is derived from the Tamil literature which means ‘to boil’. It is an ancient festival of South India, particularly Tamils. It is basically a harvest festival which is celebrated for four-day long in Tamil Nadu in the month of January-February (Thai) during the solar equinox after harvesting of crops like rice, sugarcane, turmeric etc.
NEWS:Set up in 2006, Rajasthan Technical University currently functions with less than 50% of sanctioned staff including teaching and non-teaching posts, shows a RTI reply.
The information sought through a Right to Information query by Kota-based activist Sujeet Swami revealed that 63% of teaching posts in the university are unfilled.
For the non-teaching staff, 187 posts are filled against a sanctioned strength of 382 posts, including the important posts of examination controller, director, dean and student welfare officer.
Currently, against the 37 sanctioned posts of professors, only 10 posts are filled.
Similarly, only 19 associate professors are working against the sanctioned strength of 68 with 49 posts unfilled.
There are 67 assistant professors against the sanctioned posts of 156.
All the 25 posts in the petrochemical, Information Technology and MBA courses in the university have remained unfilled.
ABOUT RTI ACT 2005
An act to
- provide right of information to citizens
- to secure access to information under the control of public authorities
- in order to promote transparency and accountability in the working of every public authority.
- The constitution of Central Information Commission and State Information Commission.
INFORMATION : means any material in any form, including recored, docuements, memos, emails, opinions, advices, press releases, circulars, orders, logbooks, Contracts,Reports.
PUBLIC AUTHORITY: means any authority or body or institution of self government established or constituted by
- State Legislature
- Appropriate government
- Body owned controlled or substantially financed
- NGO substantially financed
1.Section 3: RTI is for all the Indian Citizens
- Section4: IT is duty of every public authority to maintain all its records duly catalogued and indexed in a manner and the form which facilitates the RTI under this Act.
- Section 6: Application for seeking the information may be made in writing or through electronic means in English or Hindi or in the official language of the area along with the fees prescribed by CPIO and SPIO
- Section 7: information has to be provided within 30 days. If information concerns the life and liberty of person then information should be provided within 48 hours.
- Section 8: Certain grounds on the basis of which information might be denied.
- Section 19: First Appeal (30 days) and Second Appeal (90 days) to CIC and SIC.
- Section 20: Empowers the Central Information Commission or the State Information Commission as the case may be a penalty of Rs 250 each day till application is received or information is furnished, however total amount of such penalty shall not exceed 25,000 rupees.
- Section 24: Act does not apply to Intelligence and Security Agencies.
TRAFFIC CONTROL IN SIKKIM
Sikkim Chief Minister Prem Singh Tamang has suggested several measures to address traffic woes in the State capital Gangtok, including one-way routes, carpooling for officials during the peak tourist season and relocating some taxi stands outside the town.
He also proposed creating tourist entry permit systems in the districts and the sub-divisions to check influx in the town, thereby decreasing the congestion on the roads.
Chairing a meeting with his Ministerial colleagues and senior officials here on Saturday, Mr. Tamang suggested constituting a committee to resolve the traffic congestion crisis in Gangtok.
Twenty-one mugger crocodiles live in ten village ponds adjoining Ghodahada reservoir of Odisha’s Ganjam district that houses 44 of these reptiles.
This example of peaceful coexistence of humans and crocodiles in the Digapahandi forest range under Berhampur forest division was revealed during annual crocodile census conducted in the region on Saturday. “As per the census, the number of mature crocodiles in Ghodahada reservoir and its adjoining area has increased from 58 in January 2019 to 65 in 2020. In 2019, there were 43 muggers in the reservoir, while 15 were living in the nearby village ponds,” said Berhampur Divisional Forest Officer Amlan Nayak.
WORLD’S SECOND TALLEST BUDDHA STATUTE
NEWS: No progress has been made on the Gujarat government’s plan to build the world’s second tallest statue of Gautam Buddha in Sabarkantha district and to develop the place into an international Buddhism destination, a member of a Buddhist organisation claimed on Sunday.
The government had proposed to develop Dev Ni Mori in Sabarkantha district into an “international Buddhist destination” with “the second tallest statue of Buddha (108 metres) in the world after the Spring Temple statue in China (153 metres). The proposed statue will be more in height than the Thailand-based Sitting Buddha statue (92 metres).
The State archaeological department had carried out excavation at Dev Ni Mori near Shamlaji, an important Hindu pilgrimage destination, during 1960-1963.
During excavation, remains of a Buddhist monastery dated third-fourth century AD were found. A casket was also found, which as per its inscription, contained relics of Gautam Budhha. The 1700-year-old casket is currently kept at MS University of Baroda in Vadodara.
STONE THROWING RITUAL AT BUDDHIST SITE
After a sustained campaign, heritage lovers and officials have been successful in almost stopping the stone-pelting ritual at Bojjannakonda, a famous Buddhist site at Sankaram, 3.5 km from Anakapalle and 41 km from here.
The villagers, as a part of an ancient ritual, would throw stones at a belly-shaped object at the site, believing it to be a part of a demon.
Bojjannakonda and Lingalametta are twin Buddhist monasteries dating back to the 3rd century BC. These sites have seen three forms of Buddhism — the Theravada period when Lord Buddha was considered a teacher; the Mahayana, where Buddhism was more devotional; and Vajrayana, where Buddhist tradition was more practised as Tantra and in esoteric form.
The main stupa was carved out of rock and then covered with bricks, and a number of images of the Buddha are seen sculpted on the rock face all over the hill.
HIGH MORTALITY IN UNDER 5 GIRLS
India is among the few countries in the world where, in 2018, the mortality for girls under 5 years of age exceeded that of boys, according to the ‘Levels and Trends in Child Mortality’ report by the United Nations (UN) inter-agency group for child mortality.
According to India’s 2017 Sample Registration System, the States with the highest burden of neonatal mortality are Madhya Pradesh, Odisha and Uttar Pradesh, with 32, 33 and 30 neonatal deaths per 1,000 live births, respectively. India’s neonatal mortality rate is 23 per 1,000 live births.
Further, Jharkhand, Bihar and Uttarakhand showed the largest gender gaps in under-5 mortality.
Half of all under-5 deaths in 2018 occurred in five countries: India, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Ethiopia. India and Nigeria alone account for about a third.
The major causes of neonatal mortality are pre-term birth, intrapartum related events, and neonatal infection.
COMMISSIONING OF COAST GUARD SHIPS
Two Indian Coast Guard Ships (ICGS) — Annie Besant and Amrit Kaur — were commissioned by Defence Secretary Ajay Kumar at Kolkata on Sunday.
Director General of Indian Coast Guard K. Natarajan, Additional Director General and Coast Guard Commander (Eastern Seaboard) V.S. Pathania, and other officials were present at the ceremony, according to an official statement by the Coast Guard Eastern Seaboard.
While Annie Besant will be based at Chennai, Amrit Kaur will be based at Haldia.
PRIVATE PROPERTY A FUNDAMENTAL RIGHT
A citizen’s right to own private property is a fundamental right. The State cannot take possession of it without following due procedure and authority of law, the Supreme Court held in a judgment on January 8.
The State cannot trespass into the private property of a citizen and then claim ownership of the land in the name of ‘adverse possession’, the court said, adding that grabbing private land and then claiming it as its own makes the State an encroacher.
Ordering the State to pay her ₹1 crore in compensation, the Supreme Court noted that in 1967, ‘right to private property was still a fundamental right’ under Article 31 of the Constitution.
Property ceased to be a fundamental right with the 44th Constitution Amendment in 1978. Nevertheless, Article 300A required the State to follow due procedure and authority of law to deprive a person of his or her private property, the Supreme Court reminded the government.
ABOUT FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS
The Fundamental Rights are named so because they are guaranteed and protected by the Constitution, which is the fundamental law of the land. They are ‘fundamental’ also in the sense that they are most essential for the all-round development (material, intellectual, moral and spiritual) of the individuals.
Originally, the Constitution provided for seven Fundamental Rights viz,
1. Right to equality (Articles 14–18)
2. Right to freedom (Articles 19–22)
3. Right against exploitation (Articles 23–24)
4. Right to freedom of religion (Articles 25–28)
5. Cultural and educational rights (Articles 29–30)
6. Right to property (Article 31)
7. Right to constitutional remedies (Article 32)
However, the right to property was deleted from the list of Fundamental Rights by the 44th Amendment Act, 1978. It is made a legal right under Article 300-A in Part XII of the Constitution. So at present, there are only six Fundamental Rights.
KAZIRANGA WETLAND BIRDS
Kaziranga recorded 96 species of wetland birds — one of the highest for wildlife reserves in India, according to the second wetland bird count conducted on January 9-10.
The survey registered a total of 19,225 birds belonging to 96 species under 80 families. The first waterfowl census in 2018 had yielded 10,412 birds covering 80 species, belonging to 21 families.
With 6,181 individuals, the bar-headed goose led the species count, followed by the common teal at 1,557 and northern pintail at 1,359. All three belong to the family anatidae,” said an official.
The other species with sizeable numbers include gadwall, common coot, lesser whistling duck, Indian spot-billed duck, little cormorant, ferruginous duck, tufted duck, Eurasian wigeon, Asian openbill, northern lapwing, ruddy shelduck and spot-billed pelican.
The first wetland bird survey in Kaziranga, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1985, was conducted in 2018.
- Wetlands are areas where water is the primary factor controlling the environment and the associated plant and animal life. They occur where the water table is at or near the surface of the land, or where the land is covered by water.
- Wetlands are defined as: “lands transitional between terrestrial and aquatic eco-systems where the water table is usually at or near the surface or the land is covered by shallow water”.
Wetlands take many forms including:
- Coastal Wetlands: Coastal wetlands are found in the areas between land and open sea that are not influenced by rivers such as shorelines, beaches, mangroves and coral reefs. A good example is the mangrove swamps found in sheltered tropical coastal areas.
- Shallow lakes and ponds: These wetlands are areas of permanent or semi-permanent water with little flow. They include vernal ponds, spring pools, salt lakes and volcanic crater lakes.
- Marshes: These are periodically saturated, flooded, or ponded with water and characterized by herbaceous (non-woody) vegetation adapted to wet soil conditions. Marshes are further characterized as tidal marshes and non-tidal marshes.
- Swamps: These are fed primarily by surface water inputs and are dominated by trees and shrubs. Swamps occur in either freshwater or saltwater floodplains.
- Bogs: Bogs are waterlogged peatlands in old lake basins or depressions in the landscape. Almost all water in bogs comes from rainfall.
- Estuaries: The area where rivers meet the sea and water changes from fresh to salt can offer an extremely rich mix of biodiversity. These wetlands include deltas, tidal mudflats and salt marshes.
LEAD ARTICLE: RELIGIOUS LIBERTY
WHY IN NEWS?
a nine-judge bench of the Supreme Court begins hearing arguments on questions concerning the relationship between the right to freedom of religion and the rights of individuals to dignity and equality.
WHAT ARE THE RELIGIOUS BELIEFS BEING CHALLENGED?
Madesnana, a 500-year-old ritual performed at the Kukke Subramanya Temple in Karnataka. The practice involves persons, in particular those from Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, rolling over plantain leaves left behind with food half eaten by Brahmins, in the belief that doing so would cleanse their skin of impurities.
Practice of female genital mutilation
Rights of Parsi women to enter fire temples
DILEMMA BEFORE SUPREME COURT
In answering these questions, the Court will be faced with a difficult question of balance. Within the Constitution of India, there are two impulses that may, at times, come into conflict with one another.
The first impulse recognises that India is a pluralist and diverse nation, where groups and communities — whether religious or cultural — have always played an important role in society. Following up on this impulse, the Constitution recognises both the freedom of religion as an individual right (Article 25), as well as the right of religious denominations to manage their own affairs in matters of religion (Article 26).
The second impulse, on the other hand, recognises that while community can be a source of solidarity at the best of times, it can also be a terrain of oppression and exclusion.
Both Articles 25 and 26 are subject to public order, morality, and health; and further, Article 25 is also subject to other fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution, and to the state’s power to bring in social reform laws.
WHAT COULD BE DONE ACCORDING TO AUTHOR?
One way, would be to ask whether the effect of the disputed religious practice is to cause harm to individual rights. Madesnana, for example, is a clear violation of human dignity.
Second would be to go for anti exclusion prinicple.
When the hearings begin today, therefore, the nine-judge Bench will face a difficult and delicate task of constitutional interpretation. Much will ride upon its decision: the rights of women in particular (a group that has long been at the receiving end of discriminatory practices) and of many other vulnerable groups in general but also, the constitutional vision of ensuring a life of dignity and equality to all, both in the public sphere and in the sphere of community
SECOND ARTICLE: IMPLICATIONS OF US ATTACK ON IRAN
WHAT HAS HAPPENED IN IRAN?
The death of Qassem Soleimani, one of the most important military leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran, who designed and executed the spread of Iranian power across West Asia, is a blow to the regime.
Till a few weeks ago, the regime was fighting to quell widespread dissent and protests. Economic hardships, largely because of crippling American sanctions along with the oppressive policies of the government, had triggered mass rallies in early December, which were put down brutally. The regime was in an embattled state. But a few weeks later, millions thronged the streets in one of the greatest displays of support for the regime. Soleimani united the several political factions in Iran through his martyrdom, which he could not even have dreamt of while alive.
Iran is a civilisation state, not just a nation state. For centuries it has remained a political entity, even before the idea of a modern nation state emerged, defined by Persian civilisation. Since the Safavid dynasty adopted Shia Islam as the official religion of the empire, Iran (Persia) has been majority Shia. And since the 1979 Islamic revolution that overthrew the Pahlavi monarchy, the two key pillars that carried the revolutionary state were political Shiism and nationalism.
SHIA SUNNI HISTORY
After Prophet Mohammed’s death, his followers were divided on who should be his successor as the rightful leader of the ummah (the Muslim community). One faction wanted the successor from Mohammed’s family. They supported Ali, the Prophet’s cousin and son-in-law, while the other faction supported Abu Bakr, a companion of the Prophet. Abu Bakr became the first Caliph. Ali eventually became the fourth Caliph. The supporters of Ali became Shias and the followers of the Rashidun Caliphs (Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman and Ali) became Sunnis. Ali’s reign was marked by conflicts within the Islamic community and he was killed amid the Sunni-Shia power struggle, becoming the first martyr of Shia Islam. His son, Hassan, the second Imam of the Shias, assumed the Caliphate but would soon abdicate in the face of growing challenges and threats from the Umayyads. Hussein, Ali’s second son, refused to pledge loyalty to the Umayyads ruler, Yazid. In 680, Hussein and 72 of his followers were killed in Karbala, in today’s Iraq, by the army of Yazid. Hussein, who is the third Shia Imam, was beheaded and his head was brought to Damascus for Caliph Yazid.
IMPACT OF US ATTACK
In less than a year, Soleimani is a martyr. By making him one, the U.S. has actually played into the political Shia narrative. For a political ideology that thrives in the memory of victimhood, persecution, the martyrdom of Soleimani is as much a blessing as a setback. That is where Mr. Trump has erred.
But then Mr. Trump decides to take out Qassem Soleimani, stirring up nationalist and religious passions, allowing Ayatollah Khamenei to seize the moment. Mr. Trump may not have realised that he has just scored an own goal.
SECOND EDITORIAL: CRIMES IN INDIA REPORT 2018
WHY IN NEWS?
National Crime Records Bureau’s 2018 report was unveiled last week.
FINDINGS OF THE REPORT
Some States are better than others in tracking and registering crimes. This is why Kerala and the National Capital Region having the highest crime rates in the country — 1463.2 per one lakh population and 1342.5, respectively — is also a reflection of the fact that crime reporting, follow-up and subsequent steps in trial and punishment are much better undertaken in these two States/UTs.
Better reporting could also perhaps explain why there is a 15% increase in the total crimes against women across all States, but the fact that this number went up by 66% in a large State such as Uttar Pradesh must be cause for concern.
Unlike crime numbers that are difficult to interpret due to registration and policing issues, the number of murders across States is a stark reflection of violent crime. The finding in the 2017 NCRB report that northeastern States such as Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Tripura and Meghalaya have a relatively higher murder rate compared to most States bears itself out in 2018 as well. Other States which have a worrisome record here include Jharkhand (4.6 murders per one lakh population, the highest in the country) and Haryana (3.9). Among cities, Patna (4.4) has an egregious murder rate.
Cases related to caste and communal/religious riots, political violence and agrarian conflicts registered a dip while there was an increase in industrial rioting and other personal disputes.
Among cases registered as “offences against the State”, there has been an ominous increase under “sedition” with the number of those booked in 2018 double that of 2016, even as most such cases under this section came under the “Prevention of Damage of Public Property Act”; Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh led with nearly half of the overall cases.
LEAD ARTICLE: FAVORING PUBLIC ORDER OVER JUSTICE
Last week, the Supreme Court gave its much-awaited judgment on the legality of the telecommunications and Internet shutdown orders in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), in place for more than 160 days now.
CENTRAL ARGUMENT OF THE AUTHOR
In its language, structure and the relief granted, the verdict came across more as one premised on legal centrism than one advancing fundamental rights.
After acknowledging in the first paragraph that India is a “land of inherent contradictions”, the court immediately assumed the role of an acrobat which had to “strike a balance between the liberty and security concerns” rather than rule in favour of citizens’ rights.
The principal job of the court in such writ challenges is to review the administrative and executive action. In this case, the decision charted the link between fundamental rights and access to the Internet and sought to apply it when it came to prohibition in place in J&K. While doing so, the court rejected the government’s arguments emerging from extreme positions of national security. It applied the proportionality doctrine to reason that “complete blocking/prohibition perpetually cannot be accepted”.
The judicial response followed clear precedents and did not fashion anything novel. For instance, on the surface, the directions for the right to access the Internet may seem to be a victory for the litigants. However, this was already a well-established position flowing from various previous verdicts such as the Section 66A decision in the Shreya Singhal case and administrative policies and orders such as National Telecom Policy and Net Neutrality Rules.
Even when it comes to the court’s direction to conduct a periodic review of such shutdowns every seven days, it needs to be noted that the review committee will lack independence and real power to overturn the initial Internet shutdown orders. The committee will be principally composed of bureaucrats and no independent members.
The ruling may be termed as an act of judicial centrism. The court clutched on to the basic constitutional norms to maintain legality, while showing reluctance to expand upon rights. An end product of such a posture is that it may not extend the true spirit of our fundamental rights and would perpetuate a status quo. This was tangibly felt when the judgment shifted the legal review of the J&K shutdown orders — the principal question of determination — back to the government.
Today, “We the people” is not a mere phrase of our constitutional preamble but a call for action to Indians. They must encourage our institutions to shift from centrism to a progressive assertion of our fundamental rights.
PERSONS IN NEWS
Tsai Ing-wen: Elected President of Taiwan.
ROBERT ABELA: New President of Malta