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04 March Current Affairs

Indo-Pacific Regional Dialogue

In News:

In continuation of the process of engaging the global strategic community in an annual review of India’s opportunities and challenges in the Indo-Pacific region, the second edition of Indo-Pacific Regional Dialogue (IPRD) – 2019 will be held in New Delhi.

Details:

Aim: To provide a platform for substantive and insightful discussions pertaining to the geopolitical developments affecting the maritime domain of the Indo-Pacific, and provide policy-relevant inputs to the policy-makers and the public at large.

About IPRD- Indo- Pacific Regional Dialogue:

The idea of an Indo-Pacific Regional Dialogue (IPRD) was first conceptualised and conducted in 2018, as the apex level conference of the Indian Navy, organised by the National Maritime Foundation as the Navy’s Knowledge Partner.

The permanent theme of this annual dialogue is a review of India’s opportunities and challenges in the Indo-Pacific region.

The aim is to focus attention on the Indo-Pacific, as a maritime geographical-entity, while deliberating aspects of great relevance to regional geopolitics.

Significance:

Indo-Pacific is a multipolar region that is contributing more than half of world GDP and population. Countries falling in the direct catchment of the vast Indian and Pacific oceans can be termed as Indo-Pacific countries.

Smart India Hackthon 2019

In News:

Smart India Hackathon 2019 is a nationwide initiative to provide students a platform to solve some of pressing problems we face in our daily lives, and thus inculcate a culture of product innovation and a mindset of problem solving.

Main feature of the latest edition:

In SIH 2019, the students would also have the opportunity to work on challenges faced within the private sector organisations and create world class solutions for some of the top companies in the world, thus helping the Private sector hire the best minds from across the nation.

What is SIH2019?

  • An initiative by Ministry of HRD, AICTE, Persistent Systems, i4c and Rambhau Mhalgi Prabodhini.
  • Involves 1 Lakh+ technical students, 3000+ technical institutions, 200+ organizations from across India.
  • World’s biggest Software and Hardware hackathon.
  • 3rd edition of highly successful Smart India Hackathon initiative.

Technology Students across India compete to creatively solve problems and offer technical solutions.

Harness expertise of students from IISc, IITs, NITs and AICTE/UGC approved institutions.

Exercise Sampriti – 2019

In News:

As part of the ongoing India Bangladesh defence cooperation, a joint military exercise Sampriti-2019 will be conducted at Tangail, Bangladesh.

Key facts:

Exercise Sampriti-2019 is an important bilateral defence cooperation endeavour between India and Bangladesh and this will be the eighth edition of the exercise which is hosted alternately by both countries.

The exercise is aimed to strengthen and broaden the aspects of interoperability and cooperation between the Indian and Bangladesh Armies.

The exercise will involve tactical level operations in a counter insurgency and counter terrorism environment under the UN mandate.

Construction Technology India (CTI)

In News:

Prime Minister recently inaugurated the Construction Technology India-2019 Expo-cum-Conference in Delhi.

Key facts:

The conference identifies proven, innovative and globally established technologies for use in the Indian context.

Technology providers, researchers, start-ups, developers, academia, public sector agencies and other domain experts participated in the event.

About CTI:

The Construction Technology India (CTI) will be a biennial event.

National Real Estate Development Council (NAREDCO) and Confederation of Real Estate Developers’ Associations of India (CREDAI) will be taking the lead with the support of Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs in hosting this event.

This event will become a regular feature in the international event calendar for construction sector where the leading entities in this space across the world would be making their presence here.

Rajasthan’s Gujjar quota faces a legal challenge

In News:

A PIL has been filed in the High Court of Rajasthan challenging the Rajasthan Backward Classes Amendment Bill, 2019 on grounds of an “untenable basis” of proportionality of population.

Details:

Rajasthan government has proposed to give 5% reservation to Gujjars and four other nomadic communities in jobs and education in Rajasthan, citing them as being an “extremely backward class”.

However, the PIL argues that this law breached the 50% ceiling on reservation. The PIL had also cited the proportion of Gujjars’ population as per the last Census instead of referring to the quantifiable data of backwardness in education and public employment.

Rajasthan Backward Classes Amendment Bill, 2019:

The Rajasthan government has passed the Rajasthan Backward Classes (Reservation of Seats in Educational Institutes in the State and of Appointments and Posts in Services under the State) Amendment Bill, 2019.

The bill seeks to provide 5% reservation to Gujjars, Banjaras, Gadia Lohars, Raikas and Gadaria. At present, the communities are provided 1% reservation under More Backward Classes (MBC).

The bill has increased the OBC reservation in Rajasthan from the present 21% to 26%. It has also increased the income limit for defining creamy layer in OBC from Rs. 2.5 lakh to Rs. 8 lakh/annum.

The Rajasthan government has also passed a resolution requesting the Centre to include the bill in Schedule IX of the Indian Constitution. This is because Rajasthan has breached the 50% cap on reservations set by the Supreme Court.

Background:

A law enacted and included in the Ninth Schedule gets protection under Article 31-B (validation of certain Acts and Regulations) and is not subject to judicial review. However, in 2007, the Supreme Court ruled that all laws including those in the Ninth Schedule would be open to judicial review if they violated the basic structure of the constitution.

What are the concerns?

Multiple commissions appointed by State governments have recommended the implementation of the 5% quota on the basis of the community’s “extreme” or “most” backward nature.

But the lack of adequate data in the absence of a proper socio-economic caste census to prove this has led to the policy’s undoing in judicial orders.

Also, the repeated agitations reveal the shortfall in adequate, gainful and secure job opportunities in States such as Rajasthan.

Source: The Hindu

Kanyashree scheme

In News:

Experts and activists have observed that Kanyashree stipends are no shield against trafficking. They say the complex problem cannot be prevented merely by monetary handouts meant to retain girls in school.

About Kanyashree scheme:

Kanyashree is a conditional cash transfer scheme aiming at improving the status and wellbeing of the girl child by incentivising schooling of teenage girls and delaying their marriages until the age of 18. It received the United Nations Public Service Award last year.

Performance of the scheme: Through the initiative, cash was deposited into the bank account of girls for every year they remained in school and were unmarried. This initiative led to a “drastic reduction in child marriage, increase in female education and female empowerment.”

Source: The Hindu

Kumbh Mela 2019

In News:

Prayagraj Kumbh Mela 2019 has been placed in the Guinness World Records in three sectors. It includes:

Details:

Largest traffic and crowd management plan.

The biggest painting exercise of public sites under paint my city scheme.

Biggest sanitation and waste disposal mechanism.

About Kumbh Mela:

The Kumbh Mela (the festival of the sacred pitcher) is anchored in Hindu mythology.

It is the largest public gathering and collective act of faith, anywhere in the world.

Crowds gather at the sacred confluence of the Ganga, the Yamuna, and the mystical Sarasvati. Primarily, this congregation includes Ascetics, Saints, Sadhus, Sadhvis, Kalpvasis, and Pilgrims from all walks of life.

The Mela was included in the list of “Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity” by UNESCO in 2017.

Celebration:

Kumbh Mela is celebrated four times over a course of 12 years.

The geographical location of Kumbh Mela spans over four locations in India and the Mela site keeps rotating between one of the four pilgrimage places on four sacred rivers as listed below:

  • Haridwar on the Ganges in Uttarakhand.
  • Ujjain on the Shipra in Madhya Pradesh.
  • Nashik on the Godavari in Maharashtra.
  • Prayagraj at the confluence of the Ganges, the Yamuna, and the mythical Sarasvati in Uttar Pradesh.

Selection of site:

Each site’s celebration is based on a distinct set of astrological positions of the Sun, the Moon, and the Jupiter. The celebrations occur at the exact moment when these positions are fully occupied, as it is considered to be the holiest time in Hinduism.

Source: The Hindu

SC rebukes Haryana govt for throwing open Aravallis for realtors, miners

In News:

The Supreme Court has come down heavily on the Haryana government for diluting laws protecting the Aravalli hills.

Details:

Haryana government recently pushed an amendment to Punjab Land Preservation Act (PLPA). It effectively strips protection under the act to areas under master plans of cities such as Gurugram, Faridabad, Nuh, Mahendragarh and Rewari.

The court has now ordered the government to not implement the amendment and reportedly said it was aware the move was to “favour the builders” and found it shocking that the government “went ahead despite our warning”.

Why Aravallis matters?

The Aravallis, one of the world’s oldest mountain chains, keeps the Thar desert from encroaching into Delhi and nearby territories.

The Aravallis in Haryana are home to over 400 species of native trees, shrubs and herbs, more than 200 native and migratory bird species, and wildlife that includes leopards, jackals, hyenas, mongoose and civet cats.

They are crucial to groundwater recharge, which is significant given the water scarcity the region faces during harsh summer months.

The thick forest cover helps to naturally purify air in a region plagued by high levels of vehicular and industrial pollution through the year.

Concerns:

The Wildlife Institute of India, in a 2017 report, had highlighted: “The forests of the Aravalli range in Haryana are now the most degraded forests in India, most of the indigenous plant species have disappeared.

The rapid deforestation and developmental activities are destroying the unique landscape that requires immediate conservation attention.

Unusual dust and thunderstorms, sometimes accompanied by hailstorms, ravaged Northern India — especially UP and Rajasthan — last year. Increasing and intensifying dust storms are a symptom of extended desertification.

Source: Down to Earth

Rare diseases day

In News:

28 February, 2019, Rare Disease Day is an observance held on the last day of February to raise awareness for rare diseases and improve access to treatment and medical representation for individuals with rare diseases and their families.

Details:

A rare disease, also referred to as an orphan disease, is any disease that affects a small percentage of the population.

Most rare diseases are genetic, and are present throughout a person’s entire life, even if symptoms do not immediately appear. In Europe a disease or disorder is defined as rare when it affects less than 1 in 2000 citizens.

Rare diseases are characterised by a wide diversity of symptoms and signs that vary not only from disease to disease but also from patient to patient suffering from the same disease. Relatively common symptoms can hide underlying rare diseases, leading to misdiagnosis.

The most common rare diseases recorded in India are Haemophilia, Thalassemia, sickle-cell anaemia and primary immuno deficiency in children, auto-immune diseases, Lysosomal storage disorders such as Pompe disease, Hirschsprung disease, Gaucher’s disease, Cystic Fibrosis, Hemangiomas and certain forms of muscular dystrophies.

Need of nationwide policy:

State has responsibility for providing affordable, accessible and reliable health-care services to every citizen. In fact constitution also mentions importance of health-care services under articles like 21, 38 and 47 and thus state cannot evade this responsibility under the pretext of non-justifiability of articles.

Given the low volumes at which the drugs needed to treat such diseases would be consumed, pharmaceutical companies have little commercial incentive to produce them. Thus, a nationwide policy on orphan drugs could incentivize these players.

Even if pharmaceutical companies are incentivized to develop drugs to treat rare diseases, pharmaceutical companies remain beholden to the laws of economics and, given the low demand for orphan drugs, price these drugs as high as they choose to. Hence there has to be regulation of the government in restricting the exorbitant prices of the drugs.

Although proportion of rare diseases is much less than the other diseases, it does not reduce the importance of the life of person affected by rare diseases. Thus national policy would remove this adverse distinction and would make government committed equally to all people.

Source: Down to Earth

Red sanders is now free of export restrictions

In News:

The Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT), an agency of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, has revised its export policy to permit the export of red sanders if it is obtained from cultivated land.

Details:

Though a farmer can grow the tree, he/she requires permits to fell and transport the wood, which was difficult to obtain. Moreover, the price of this wood in the domestic market is less than half of what it is in the international market as the demand is low. At the same time, the farmer could not even export it earlier as the foreign trade policy prohibited it.

Estimates suggest that there are more than 3,000 farmers across India who were unable to sell their produce due to the earlier export policy. Earlier, only seized logs from smugglers were being exported depending on state government rules. This is a great step taken by the DGFT which will benefit red sanders farmers.

About Red sanders:

Red sanders (Pterocarpus santalinus), known for its rich hue and therapeutic properties, is high in demand across Asia, particularly in China and Japan, for use in cosmetics and medicinal products as well as for making furniture, woodcraft and musical instruments.

Its popularity can be gauged from the fact that a tonne of red sanders costs anything between Rs 50 lakh to Rs 1 crore in the international market.

Why the restrictions?

The tree is endemic to several districts in Andhra Pradesh and some parts of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. But overexploitation prompted the Union government in the 1980s to recommend inclusion of red sanders in Appendix II of CITES, which says “trade must be controlled in order to avoid utilisation incompatible with their survival”.

The species was listed in Appendix II of CITES in 1995, and subsequently export of red sanders was prohibited in 2004.

In 2010, when the CITES was planning to suspend trade of red sanders obtained from India, the government submitted a Non-Detriment Finding (NDF) report saying it must be allowed to export from cultivated sources.

So in 2012, India got an export quota on red sanders from CITES, under which the country could export 310 tonnes of red sanders obtained from “artificially propagated” sources (grown on farms) and 11,806 tonnes of wood from seized sources.

Source: Down to Earth

Centre for Disability Sports’ to be set up at Gwalior

In News:

A ‘Centre for Disability Sports’ will be set up at Gwalior in Madhya Pradesh. The proposal regarding setting up of it has been approved by the Government.

Details:

It will be registered under the Societies Registration Act, 1860, which is to function under the name of Centre for Disability Sports, Gwalior.

Significance: Improved sports infrastructure created by this Centre will ensure effective participation of Persons with Disabilities (PwDs) in sports activities and also enable them to compete at national and international levels. Setting up of the Centre will develop a sense of belonging in Divyangjan to facilitate their integration in society.

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