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01 Feb Current Affairs

Salt Satyagraha Memorial

In News:

National Salt Satyagraha Memorial has been opened at Dandi in Navsari district, Gujarat. It was dedicated to the nation on the occasion of Mahatma Gandhi’s 71st death anniversary (30th January).

Details:

The memorial encapsulates the ideals of Mahatma Gandhi-  Agrah for Swadeshi, Swatchagrah and Satyagraha.

Significance:

The memorial aims to serve as a reminder of the great sacrifices made by the people of the nation for the cause of freedom. It is a tribute to the Satyagrahis led by Gandhi Ji, who worked for India’s freedom and is expected to be a major attraction for the tourists.

About the Salt Satyagraha:

On March 12, 1930, Mahatma Gandhi embarked a historic Salt March from Sabarmati Ashram in Gujarat’s Ahmedabad to the village of Dandi in the state’s coastal area to protest against the steep tax the British levied on salt. The Salt March began on March 12, 1930 and continued till April 6, 1930.

It was a 24-day Salt March, which was non-violent in nature, is historically significant as it led to the mass Civil Disobedience Movement.

Upon reaching the seashore in Dandi, Mahatma Gandhi broke the law by producing illegal salt. This later turned into a mass civil disobedience movement throughout India as millions broke salt laws by either making salt or buying illegal salt.

Historical Background:

During that time, the British had prohibited Indians from collecting or selling salt. Indians were also forced to buy the staple diet ingredient from the British, who, not only exercised monopoly over its manufacture and sale but also levied a heavy salt tax. The Salt March was a collective beginning of a mass resistance movement against the British tyranny.

Source: The Hindu

Polar vortex

In News:

Meteorologists have blamed a phenomenon called the polar vortex for the bitter cold that has descended on much of the central and eastern United States this week, forcing residents to huddle indoors, closing schools and businesses and cancelling flights.

Details:

The term ‘polar vortex’ has become more commonly used in the past couple of years but the phenomenon has been around forever. There is some debate among scientists about whether polar vortexes have become more frequent and, if so, what effect climate change might be having on them.

What exactly is a polar vortex?

It is described as a whirling cone of low pressure over the poles that is strongest in the winter months due to the increased temperature contrast between the polar regions and the mid-latitudes, such as the US and Europe.

Features:

The polar vortex spins in the stratosphere.

Usually, when the vortex is strongest, cold air is less-likely to plunge deep into North America or Europe. In other words, it forms a wall that protects the mid-latitudes from cold Arctic air.

But occasionally, the polar vortex is disrupted and weakens, due to wave energy propagating upward from the lower atmosphere. When this happens, the stratosphere warms sharply in an event known as sudden stratospheric warming, in just a few days, miles above the Earth’s surface.

The warming weakens the polar vortex, shifting its location somewhat south of the pole or, in some instances, ‘splitting’ the vortex up into ‘sister vortices’.

Effects of Polar Vortex:

The split higher up in the atmosphere can give rise to both, sudden and delayed effects, much of which involves declining temperatures and extreme winter weather in the eastern US along with northern and western Europe.

A sudden stratospheric warming also leads to a warm Arctic not only in the stratosphere but also in the troposphere as well.

A warmer Arctic, in turn, favours more severe winter weather in the Northern Hemisphere mid-latitudes including the eastern US.

Source: The Hindu

The President’s address to both Houses of Parliament

In News:

The President’s address to the joint sitting of Parliament at the beginning of the Budget Session every year is a Constitutional requirement.

Details:

Article 87(1) says: “At the commencement of the first session after each general election to the House of the People and at the commencement of the first session of each year the President shall address both Houses of Parliament assembled together and inform Parliament of the causes of its summons.”

First Constitutional Amendment: Originally, the Constitution required the President to address both Houses of Parliament at the commencement of “every session”. This requirement was changed by the First Amendment to the Constitution.

President’s address:

The President’s speech essentially highlights the government’s policy priorities and plans for the upcoming year. It is drafted by the Cabinet, and provides a broad framework of the government’s agenda and direction.

Source: Indian Express

Swadesh Darshan scheme

In News:

First project in Sikkim under the Swadesh Darshan scheme has been inaugurated at the Zero Point, Gangtok.

Details:

The project is officially named as “Development of North East Circuit: Rangpo– Rorathang- Aritar- Phadamchen- Nathang-Sherathang- Tsongmo- Gangtok-Phodong- Mangan- Lachung-Yumthang- Lachen- Thangu-Gurudongmer- Mangan- Gangtok-Tuminlingee- Singtam”.

Under this project, the Ministry has developed tourism infrastructure facilities like Tourist Information Centre, Meditation Centre, Organic Eco Tourism centre, Log Huts, Zip Line, Flower etc.

About Swadesh Darshan Scheme:

Tourism Ministry launched the scheme.

Objective: to develop theme-based tourist circuits in the country. These tourist circuits will be developed on the principles of high tourist value, competitiveness and sustainability in an integrated manner.

Features of Swadesh Darshan Scheme:

100% centrally funded for the project components undertaken for public funding.

To leverage the voluntary funding available for Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives of Central Public Sector Undertakings and corporate sector.

Funding of individual project will vary from state to state and will be finalised on the basis of detailed project reports prepared by PMC (Programme Management Consultant). PMC will be a national level consultant to be appointed by the Mission Directorate.

A National Steering Committee (NSC) will be constituted with Minister in charge of M/O Tourism as Chairman, to steer the mission objectives and vision of the scheme.

A Mission Directorate headed by the Member Secretary, NSC as a nodal officer will help in identification of projects in consultation with the States/ UTs governments and other stake holders.

Source: PIB

Nuclear Suppliers Group

In News:

China has refused to dilute its stand on India’s entry into the elite Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), asserting that New Delhi must sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty to gain entry as there is no precedent for the inclusion of non-NPT countries.

Details:

India has been seeking entry into NSG, but China has repeatedly stonewalled its bid.

India is not a signatory to the NPT. China has stuck to its stand that new members should sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), making India’s entry difficult as the group is guided by the consensus principle.

What is NSG?

Brought in 1974– in response to the Indian nuclear test (smiling Buddha).

It is a Multilateral export control regime.

It is a Group of nuclear supplier countries that seek to prevent nuclear proliferation by controlling the export of materials, equipment and technology that can be used to manufacture nuclear weapons.

The NSG first met in November 1975 in London, and is thus popularly referred to as the “London Club”.

It is Not a formal organization, and its guidelines are not binding. Decisions, including on membership, are made by consensus.

Membership: 48 supplier states.

Criteria for membership:

The ability to supply items (including items in transit) covered by the annexes to Parts 1 and 2 of the NSG Guidelines;

Adherence to the Guidelines and action in accordance with them;

Enforcement of a legally based domestic export control system which gives effect to the commitment to act in accordance with the Guidelines;

Full compliance with the obligations of one or more of nuclear non-proliferation agreement.

Support of international efforts towards non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and of their delivery vehicle.

Why the membership is important for India?

Membership will increase India’s access to state-of-the-art technology from the other members of the Group.

Access to technology and being allowed to produce nuclear equipment will give a boost to the Make in India program. That will, in turn, boost the economic growth of our country.

As per India’s INDC under the Paris Climate agreement, we have committed to reducing dependence on fossil fuels and ensuring that 40% of its energy is sourced from renewable and clean sources. In order to achieve this target, we need to scale up nuclear power production. This can only happen if India gains access to the NSG.

Namibia is the fourth-largest producer of uranium and it agreed to sell the nuclear fuel to India in 2009. However, that hasn’t happened, as Namibia has signed Pelindaba Treaty, which essentially controls the supply of uranium from Africa to the rest of the world. If India joins the NSG, such reservations from Namibia are expected to melt away.

India will get an opportunity to voice it’s concern if in case of change in the provision of the NSG guidelines.

Other Benefits associated with NSG membership- Once admitted, an NSG member state gets:

Timely information on nuclear matters.

Contributes by way of information.

Has confirmed credentials.

Can act as an instrument of harmonization and coordination.

Is part of a very transparent process.

Need of the hour:

India should convince China that, its interest in NSG membership is not guided by any political or strategic considerations but only to facilitate the expansion of its clean and green nuclear energy programme.

Besides, India should continue with a low-key building of partnership with other NSG members. Meanwhile, India should focus on developing the efficient green energy technologies to meet the massive energy requirement.

Source: The Hindu

UN global assessment of environmental laws

In News:

United Nations (UN) has released in its first ever global assessment of environmental laws.

Key findings:

The world fares poorly on implementation of environmental laws and regulations despite the fact that 38 times more green laws have been framed and approved in the last four decades.

As many as 88 countries have adopted the constitutional right to a healthy environment and more than 350 environmental courts and tribunals exist in around 50 countries. But, failure to fully implement and enforce the environmental laws is one of the greatest challenges towards mitigating climate change, reducing pollution and preventing widespread species and habitat loss.

Other problems: Poor coordination across government agencies, weak institutional capacity, lack of access to information, corruption and stifled civic engagement are the key factors behind the poor effectiveness and implementation of environmental regulations.

Underlining the growing resistance to environmental laws, the report also advocated on behalf of the environmental activists and whistle blowers. It said 908 people, including forest rangers, government inspectors, and local activists, were killed in 35 countries between 2002 and 2013 and 197 were killed in 2017 alone.

Indian scenario:

India serves as a perfect example to this issue. India’s people and the environment have been paying the price for its lethargic and poor state of environmental governance. This is reiterated by a high-level committee set up the environment ministry in 2014. Like the Water Act, which was implemented in 1974, a number of laws and regulations have been existing for more than four decades now, but are proving to be ineffective.

India ranked 177th out of 180 countries in the 2018 Global Environment Performance Index (EPI) rankings of the Yale University for being unable to improve its air quality, protect its biodiversity, and cut its greenhouse gas emissions. It also slipped by 36 points in 2018 from 141 in 2016.

India has several rules and guidelines to control air pollution, but they aren’t put to good use. Coal-based power plants continue to be the major source of air pollution in the country as more than 300 coal thermal power plants still violate emission standards.

Judiciary ignored: More than two-thirds of the states/union territories in the country have neither bothered to comply with the orders passed by the Supreme Court, nor complied with the directions given by the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEF&CC). The judiciary’s order failed to even curb illegal rat hole mining and miners in Meghalaya paid the price for that.

Need of the hour:

Unless implementation and enforcement is strengthened, even rules that appear to be rigorous are destined to fail and the fundamental human right to a healthy environment will go unfulfilled. The world needs to shift its focus from development of policies and institutions to implementation and enforcement.

Source: Down to Earth

DIPP as Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade

In News:

The Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) has been renamed as the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade.

Mandate:

To deal with matters related to start-ups, facilitating ease of doing business among others.

Key facts:

It functions under the Ministry of Commerce and Industry. It will look into matters related to promotion of internal trade, including retail trade, welfare of traders and their employees, facilitating ease of doing business and start-ups. The matters related to internal trade were earlier under the domain of the Ministry of Consumer Affairs.

Carnot Prize

In News:

The Union Minister of Railways and Coal, Piyush Goyal has been awarded the Carnot Prize 2018 for the transformational changes brought by him during his tenure as Union Minister of Power.

About Carnot prize:

Annual recognition by the US-based Kleinman Center for Energy Policy for distinguished contributions to energy policy through scholarship or practice.

The prize has been named after French scientist Sadi Carnot, who in 1824 published Reflections on the Motive Power of Fire, which became the basis for the second law of thermodynamics.

Goa introduces tags to protect biodiversity zones

In News:

Goa State Biodiversity Board (GSBB) recently came up with a tagging system to ensure communities residing within the biodiversity zone get Access Benefit Share (ABS) from their profits.

Features of the project:

The tag will show that the ingredients used are sourced from the nature. Under this, the sellers are supposed to pay 0.01% of their annual profit to the GSBB and the board will then use this amount to protect the habitat from where the ingredients are.

 

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