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THE HINDU CURRENT AFFAIRS 29TH JANUARY 2020

Q.1 Consider the following statements about C40
cities:
1. It is a network of the world’s megacities
committed to addressing climate change.
2. C40 cities are involved in actions that
reduces global green house gas emission.
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.2 Consider the following statements regarding
National Blindness and Visual Impairment
Survey 2019:
1. According to the survey, cataract is the
leading cause of blindness in people
above 50 years.
2. Blindness is more pronounced among
illiterates as compared to literates.
3. The financial constraint is the most
important barrier in accessing
treatment.
Which of the above statements is/are correct?
(a) 1, 2 and 3
(b) 2 only
(c) 1 and 2 only
(d) 1 and 3 only

Q.3 In the context of recently launched “Food
Safety Mitra Scheme” consider the following
statements:
1. Both “Eat Right Jacket” and “Eat
Right Jhola” initiatives are launched
to strengthen the food safety
administration.
2. The Eat Right Jacket is a jacket that
has a smart design to hold technological
devices.
3. Eat Right Jhola is using re-usable cloth
bag to replace plastic bags.
Which of the above statements is/are correct?
(a) 1 only
(b) 3 only
(c) 1 and 2 only
(d) 1, 2 and 3

ANSWERS: C,A,D

NATIONAL POPULATION REGISTER

NEWS: 

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Tuesday said the National Population Register (NPR) in its new format would create confusion in the country and suggested that the Centre should continue to retain the old format, in use since 2011.

Nobody knows their parents’ birth date… we believe that the Central government should continue with the old format of NPR,” the JD(U) leader, who is a key ally of the ruling NDA, added.

About National Population Register

  • Definition:
    • It is a list of “usual residents of the country”.
    • A “usual resident of the country” is one who has been residing in a local area for at least the last six months, or intends to stay in a particular location for the next six months.
  • Legal Provisions:
    • The NPR is being prepared under provisions of the Citizenship Act 1955 and the Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003.
    • It is mandatory for every “usual resident of India” to register in the NPR.
  • Background:
    • The data for the NPR was first collected in 2010 along with the house listing phase of Census 2011.
    • In 2015, this data was further updated by conducting a door-to-door survey.

AFRICAN CHEETAHS

NEWS:

The Supreme Court on Tuesday lifted its seven-year stay on a proposal to introduce African cheetahs from Namibia into the Indian habitat on an experimental basis.

In May 2012, the top court had stalled the plan to initiate the foreign cheetahs into the Palpur Kuno sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh, fearing that they may come into conflict with a parallel and a much-delayed project to reintroduce lions into the same sanctuary.

The court was also worried whether the African cheetahs would find the sanctuary a favourable clime as far as abundance of prey is concerned.

However, on Tuesday, a Bench led by Chief Justice Sharad A. Bobde was nudged by the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) to take the plunge and go ahead with its plans to bring the African cat to India.

ABOUT NTCA

NTCA:-  The National Tiger Conservation Authority(NTCA) was established in December 2005 following a recommendation of the Tiger Task Force.

The Wildlife Protection Act of 1972 was amended to provide for constituting the National Tiger Conservation Authority responsible for implementation of the Project Tiger plan to protect endangered tigers. The National Tiger Conservation Authority is set up under the Chairmanship of the Minister for Environment and Forests.

It approves the State Govt. Plans for Tiger Conservation.

Lays down Standards and Measures.

Also Prepares Report to be laid down in front of Parliament.

Project Tiger was Launched in 1973.
NTCA at Present is a Statutory Body under MOEF.

NATIONAL GREEN TRIBUNAL

NEWS: 

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has appointed a committee to prepare an action plan for scientific removal and processing of debris emerged following the demolition of four apartment buildings at Maradu.

The joint committee includes the Secretary of the Maradu municipality, a representative of the Kerala State Pollution Control Board, the District Collector, and the Revenue Divisional Officer, Fort Kochi.

ABOUT NGT:

National Green Tribunal was formed under the National Green Tribunal Act of 2010. Act was enacted under the India’s constitutional provision of Article 21 which assures the citizens of India the right to healthy environment.

Tribunal has been created for effective and expeditious disposal of the cases relating to environmental protection and giving relief and compensation for damages to persons and property and for matters connected therewith and incidental thereto.

Tribunal is mandated to make endeavour for disposal of applications or appeals filing within 6 months of the filing of the same.

Chairman of the tribunal must be a serving or retired Chief Justice of a High Court or judge of the Supreme Court of India. 

The tribunal shall not be bound by the procedure laid under the Code of Civil Procedure 1908 but shall be guided by the principles of natural justice. 

New Delhi is the principle place of sitting of the tribunal and Bhopal, Pune, Kolkatta and Chennai are other four places of sitting of the tribunal.

Present NGT Chairperson is Justice (Retired) Adarsh Kumar Goel.

BHOPAL GAS TRAGEDY

NEWS:

A Constitution Bench on Tuesday adjourned the hearing of a curative petition filed by the government for enhanced compensation to Bhopal gas tragedy victims after one of the judges withdrew from the case. Justice S. Ravindra Bhat recused from the case as he had appeared for the government in the case before.

ABOUT BHOPAL GAS TRAGEDY

The Bhopal disaster, also referred to as the Bhopal gas tragedy, was a gas leak incident on the night of 2–3 December 1984 at the Union Carbide India Limited pesticide plant in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, India.

Cause: Methyl isocyanate leak from Union Carbide India Limited plant.

OPERATION VANILA

NEWS:

The Navy on Tuesday launched Operation Vanilla in support of the national disaster in Madagascar and diverted a large amphibious ship to provide assistance. “INS Airavat, which was Mission Deployed, has been diverted for the same,” the Navy said in a statement. Madagascar has been hit by a cyclone and there has been heavy flooding and landslips since last week, causing loss of lives. According to reports, more than 92,000 have been affected.

RAMSAR SITES

NEWS:

India has added 10 more wetlands to sites protected by the Ramsar Convention, Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar announced on Tuesday.

The 10 new ones are Nandur Madhameshwar, a first for Maharashtra; Keshopur-Miani, Beas Conservation Reserve and Nangal in Punjab; and Nawabganj, Parvati Agra, Saman, Samaspur, Sandi and Sarsai Nawar in Uttar Pradesh. The other Ramsar sites are in Rajasthan, Kerala, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Assam, West Bengal, Jammu and Kashmir, Andhra Pradesh, Manipur, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu and Tripura.

RAMSAR CONVENTION ON WETLANDS: (WATERFOWL CONVENTION)(adopted:1971 & effective:1975)

Ramsar in Iran

Intergovernmental treaty for conservation of wetlands- only global environment treaty to deal with a particular ecosystem.

Not affiliated with UN system of Multilateral env. Agreements(MEAs)

World Wetland day- 2nd Feb

Ramsar List= list of wetlands of international importance- each contracting party has to designate atleast 1 site.- India has 26 sites

India became a contracting party to Ramsar in 1981
MONTREUX RECORD – adopted in BRISBANE in 1996 – Montreux is in Swizerland

Register of wetland sites where changes in ecological character have occurred, are occurring or likely to occur due to human interference

Keoladeo NP & Loktak Lake are there from India.

Chilika was also on list but removed on 2002 and received Ramsar wetland Conservation Award.

FIRST EDITORIAL: AIR INDIA SALE

Editorial highlights that after learning from the last failed attempt Government has come up with new deal to sell Air India.

As per the document inviting Expression of Interest (EOI), the government will sell 100% equity in the national carrier and Air India Express Ltd. and its 50% holding in AISATS, the joint venture with SATS Ltd., Singapore; the debt that the buyer will assume has been whittled down to ₹23,286.50 crore to match the written down value of its assets; the net worth of prospective bidders is reduced to ₹3,500 crore and bidding consortium members can have as low a stake as 10% only.

WHY SALE IS NECESSARY?

A whopping ₹30,500 crore has been sunk into Air India since 2012 despite which it has been posting losses.

STILL AREAS OF CONCERN

The government has not addressed a prime hurdle to the stake sale — the fate of 17,984 employees of Air India and Air India Express, 9,617 of whom are permanent.

WAY AHEAD

Apart from the huge employee base, the successful bidder will also have to deal with pension liability for the airline’s retired employees and their perks such as free/rebated tickets.

All that the EOI document says is that contingent liabilities due to retired employees will be clarified at the Request for Proposal stage. If there is one weak spot on which the sale attempt could falter it is this.

Yet, lack of upfront clarity on this may put off prospective bidders.

WHAT MORE COULD BE DONE?

The government ought to have gone the whole hog and clearly stated its intent. Maybe a moratorium for a specified period on forced attrition could have been spelt out. This would have helped bidders make up their minds.

 

LEAD ARTICLE: CHALLENGES FOR WORLD AND INDIA IN 2020

Democracy and democratic freedoms are coming under increasing attack accompanied by a retreat from liberalism and globalisation. This is not limited to any one country or a group of countries, but is evident across much of the world.

GEO POLITICAL FAULT LINES

Geopolitical fault-lines widened in 2019. America’s leadership of the world came under increasing threat from countries such as China.

The future of the United Kingdom, under the shadow of Brexit, remained unclear. Europe seemed to be in eclipse. Latin and Central America were in turmoil.

In Asia, Afghanistan appeared to be at a crossroads in its history. Instability plagued Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Egypt. Civil war conditions prevailed in many regions.

Violent protests raged in many domains, including Hong Kong, once a symbol of “One Country Two Systems”. Existing threats to the security of nations remained unchanged, even as offensive cyber-attacks became the new weapon of choice in many situations.

This is perhaps the most troubled time in recent history, given the looming spectre of an all-out war between Iran and the United States. Exertion of “maximum pressure” by the U.S. to minimise Iran’s influence and reduce its support to proxies in the region and elsewhere, combined with Iran’s only slightly less provocative posture as seen towards the end of 2019, had resulted in a major stand-off by the beginning of 2020.

INDIA’S PROBLEMS

Political tensions had intensified on various issues like CAA, NRC and NPR.

While India appears reasonably well-positioned to deal with some of the other internal threats, including insurgencies in the North-east, Naxalite violence, and the “terror imperative”, the fallout of protests over the CAA has the potential to become India’s most serious threat in decades. Already, it is aggravating the fault-lines in society and this could become the harbinger of a highly divisive period in India’s recent history.

FOREIGN POLICY CHALLENGES:

As 2020 commences, India’s foreign policy challenges remain very considerable.

India-Pakistan relations remain frozen, even as Pakistan continues to make overtures to the U.S., and further cements its relationship with China at one level and Saudi Arabia at another.

Sino-Indian relations continue to be riddled with numerous problems. The vexed Sino-Indian border dispute remains in deep freeze.

China, meanwhile, has embarked more aggressively on establishing its leadership across Asia; in the shadow play for influence across parts of Asia, including South Asia, China seems to be gaining at India’s expense.

India’s attempts at creating a supportive environment in its immediate neighbourhood in 2020 remains equally challenging.

While relations with the Maldives improved during the past year, the advent of a new Government in Sri Lanka, headed by the Rajapaksas, does not augur too well for India.

Relations with Bangladesh appear satisfactory on the surface, but underlying strains are emerging. Relations with the United Arab Emirates are better than at any time previously, but the India-Saudi Arabia relationship can at best be termed uncertain.

Relations with Iran are likely to become highly problematic, in view of India’s “tilt” towards the U.S., and the open hostility on display currently between Iran and the U.S.

ECONOMY THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE

Furthermore, given the current economic malaise facing the country, which can hardly be treated as a cyclical phenomenon, the economic portents for 2020 also do not look too good. For several months now, the country has witnessed the slowing down of the economy and India’s growth story appears set to lose much of its shine. A sustained below 5% GDP growth could become a recipe for disaster. Already, India is being mentioned as among 2020’s top geopolitical risks.

 

SECOND ARTICLE: REORGANIZING THE RAILWAY BOARD

WHAT WERE THE CHANGES?

The proposed changes at the Board level: re-designating the Chairman as Chairman and CEO, reducing the number of Railway Board members excluding the Chairman, from the existing eight to four and rationalising their responsibilities on functional lines and the induction of four members, from outside the Railway hierarchy in an advisory capacity.

So also, the long overdue upgrading of 27 posts of General Managers to that of Secretary to the Government of India.

WHY THIS HAS BEEN DONE?

The ostensible reason for this “mega merger” is to counter “silo” mentality and inter-departmental rivalries that sometimes adversely impact the working of the Railways.

IS THIS REASON RIGHT?

he Minister’s assertion that Railway officers are constrained to function within departmental silos right through their service except at the level of the Chairman Railway Board is a bit of a stretch. A majority of Railway managers of all departments serve in one of the 68 operational Divisions of the Railways, particularly during the first 15 to 20 years of their service. So even at present the ethos of coordinated working and a broad exposure to departments other than one’s own is inherent in the system.

For a malady that significantly afflicts only a few departments is there a justification to overhaul the recruitment procedure, the results of which may become apparent only after more than 25- 30 years, when those recruited through the new scheme reach senior positions? What happens during the intervening period and how will the existing personnel be integrated into the new system?

WILL IT SOLVE THE PROBLEM?

The new recruitment procedure appears to target the wrong problem: that of disparity in promotional prospects between departments in a particular recruitment year. It needs emphasising that departmental rivalry is not a seniority problem but domain-related.

A longer stint in a particular department or discipline is the basic requirement for developing domain expertise.

Being humans not robots, this also generates a sense of allegiance, belonging, ownership, professional pride and loyalty to that department, which in turn could sometimes transform into ‘empire building’. These, and not seniority, are the predominant factors that influence a manager’s outlook or decisions, in the context of departmental rivalry.

CONCLUSION

A single management cadre cannot make the functions performed by the different departments in the Railways to disappear. Some measure of departmental rivalry will always be there under the best of circumstances and in fact may even be beneficial as a means of “competitive tension”. It is the job of those charged with the coordinating function at various levels to ensure that departmental rivalry does not get out of hand.

“Silolessness” carried to the extreme can only lead to apathy, neglect and chaos. It is wise to hasten slowly. As a first step, the merger between the Mechanical and Electrical disciplines, already proposed at the apex level, should be implemented down the line.

SECOND EDITORIAL: CORONA VIRUS IN INDIA

India is still novel coronavirus free, even as 18 countries/regions have reported 67 cases, as on January 28, according to WHO.

As on Monday, all 20 samples sent to the National Institute of Virology (NIV), Pune were negative, according to a Health Ministry tweet on Tuesday. Besides the NIV, four other laboratories have been equipped for testing.

WHAT STEPS HAVE BEEN TAKEN BY GOVERNMENT TO CHECK CORONA VIRUS?

Thermal screening of passengers from China will now be extended from seven to 20 airports; around 33,000 passengers have been screened so far. With Nepal reporting one case, another Health Ministry tweet says, “adequate preparedness for screening” is in place in five adjoining States.

Editorial highlights that  India should under no circumstances hide corona virus cases as much is not known about the virus.

RAPID SPREAD IN CHINA

In China, despite nearly 20 million people being locked down across Hubei province, the virus appears to be spreading with renewed vigour. Cases reported from mainland China have risen sharply — from 1,975 on January 25 to 2,744 on January 26 and 4,515 on January 27.

China’s recent warning that the novel virus might be spreading even before there are symptoms has the potential to change the infection landscape if true.

PUBLIC HEALTH EMERGENCY

If the virus had exhibited all the attributes necessary to be declared as a “public health emergency of international concern” even during the first emergency committee meeting, the situation has become grim since then. WHO cannot dither any more.

 

OP-ED PAGE

FIRST ARTICLE: PROBLEMS FACED BY NCRB IN PUBLISHING CRIME DATA?

Author highlights that many of us are quick to highlight that NCRB data are not reliable but we do not realize the hurdles faced by NCRB in collecting data.

The first is the lackadaisical approach of some of the States in providing data. The NCRB merely assembles the figures it receives from the State police forces and does not tinker with them to reach a predetermined conclusion. It hits a roadblock when a few States either don’t bother to send the figures or send them much after the volume is published.

The second problem is that questions are raised over the utility of the data. There was a two-year delay in releasing the crime statistics for 2017. Just two months after it was published, the ‘Crime in India’ 2018 report was released. These numbers are only relevant to researchers, not policymakers. It is strange that we see such delays in an age of computerisation, when we boast of efficient and swift online services. Part of the blame rests on State police agencies.

The third problem lies with the police and the public. The police are notorious the world over for not registering complaints. They do this so that they can present a false picture of a decline in crime. This pernicious practice is often encouraged by the top leadership. Legend has it that some four or five decades ago, an Inspector General of Police in Uttar Pradesh lost his job for ordering his force to register every single complaint made to them at the police station! His political bosses apparently didn’t take kindly to this, as a phenomenal increase in the number of crimes would show the government in poor light.

CONCLUSION

To be fair to the NCRB, we must concede that the organisation has more than justified its existence. The CII is used extensively by researchers.

However, there is scope for more dynamism on the NCRB’s part, especially in the area of educating the public on the realities of crime and its reporting.

The NCRB will also have to be conscious of the expectation that it should bring greater pressure on States to make them stick to schedules and look upon this responsibility as a sacred national duty.

 

SECOND ARTICLE: DISSENT WILL NOT HURT INDIA’S FOREIGN POLICY

Author highlights that t is too much of a stretch to say that the demonstrations will hurt India’s foreign policy interests. The international order envisaged in the UN Charter is based on sovereignty, and interfering in the internal affairs of other nations is specifically prohibited.

During the Cold War, human rights issues were used selectively to discredit governments, but even apartheid South Africa was not isolated fully.

Similarly, the Non-Aligned Movement was composed of several countries ruled by dictators who oppressed their people. India took pride in siding with them on the plea that internal policies had nothing to do with non-aligned solidarity and fight against imperialism and colonialism.

Even after the Cold War, countries were singled out for criticism on political grounds. While Cuba, for instance, was dragged over the coals citing human rights violations, China escaped action by resorting to gimmicks like ‘no action motions’.

CONCLUSION

Independent nations take action on bilateral and multilateral ties on merits, even if decisions by other governments lead to internal protests. A country’s own Constitution is the only guide and the Supreme Court the prime arbiter on whether or not a particular action is constitutional.

Such display of dissent cannot affect a country’s foreign policy as friends in the international sphere are chosen for the contribution they make for the common good or for bilateral benefits. Equally, the absence of protests in a diverse country like India does not guarantee a trouble-free relationship.

The old dictum that the success of foreign policy depends on the capacity of the country to help or harm others and not on the absence of internal protests is still valid.

RECESSION IN INDIAN ECONOMY

NEWS: 

Nobel Laureate Abhijit Banerjee on Tuesday explained how immunisation was positively influenced when people were given a kilogram of dal in India, and how, in Africa, cheaper mosquito nets caused a fall in the number of child deaths due to malaria.

On Monday, when asked whether India is facing a recession, Dr. Banerjee said, “We have really no way of knowing. It’s not that this question has an answer and somebody is hiding it. Nobody really knows. We are just picking up the symptoms from different sides.”

On his hopes from the coming Budget, he added that money must be pumped in to refinance the banking sector and improve infrastructure.

ABOUT RECESSION

A recession is a period of declining economic performance across an entire economy, frequently measured as two consecutive quarters.

Prolonged Recession is Depression.

SAARC

NEWS: 

India is playing a lead role in connectivity in the South Asian region, but the full potential of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) is not utilised because of the behaviour of a single country, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said on Tuesday, in a reference to Pakistan.

ABOUT SAARC

  • SAARC stands for South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation
  • It is regional intergovernmental organization and geopolitical union in South Asia.
  • Founded in Dhakain 1985
  • Secretariat : Kathmandu
  • 8Members:
    • Afghanistan (Joined in 2007)
    • Bhutan
    • Bangladesh
    • India
    • Pakistan
    • Nepal
    • Sri Lanka
    • Maldives

CREATING MENTAL HEALTH CHAMPIONS

NEWS: 

White Swan Foundation, a non-profit organisation, is launching a programme called ‘Mental Health Champions at the Workplace’ that is aimed at addressing issues relating to mental health.

For the day-long programme, organisations have to nominate an employee, the idea being that the trained employees will start informal conversations about mental health at their workplace.

This programme will formulate how organisations can begin to transition towards a mental health-friendly workplace; and spell out how to begin talking about mental health within a corporate team.

White Swan Foundation has curated this programme in collaboration with those working in the field of mental health and organisational development. The Foundation disseminates knowledge about mental health, adds the release.

5G

NEWS: 

Prime Minister Boris Johnson granted Huawei a limited role in Britain’s 5G mobile network on Tuesday, resisting U.S. pressure to exclude the Chinese company from next generation communications over fears Beijing could use them to spy.

Britain had to weigh its “special relationship” with the U.S. against Chinese trade and investment ties which it wants to develop after leaving the EU.

ABOUT 5G

The term 5G is used to describe the next-generation of mobile networks beyond Long Term Evolution(LTE) mobile networks.

Advantages of 5G :-

Advantage

5G network speeds should have a peak data rate of 20 Gb/s for the downlink and 10 Gb/s for the uplink.

Latency in a 5G network could get as low as 4 milliseconds in a mobile scenario and can be as low as 1 millisecond in ultra-reliable low latency communication scenarios.

Latency

It is a networking term to describe the total time it takes a data packet to travel from one node to another. In other contexts, when a data packet is transmitted and returned back to its source, the total time for the round trip is known as latency

Internet of Things (IoT)

It is an ecosystem of connected physical objects that are accessible through the internet. The ‘thing’ in IoT could be a person with a heart monitor or an automobile with built-in-sensors, i.e. objects that have been assigned an IP address and have the ability to collect and transfer data over a network without manual assistance or intervention.

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