Karnataka’s order capping weight of school bags
The Karnataka government has ordered all schools in the state to ensure that the weight of a child’s schoolbag does not exceed 10% of the weight of the child. The order is applicable to all schools in the State, including government, aided and unaided institutions.
Highlights of the order:
Prescribed weight: A bag of a student in Class 1 or 2 should weigh no more than 2 kg. It can weigh anywhere between 2 and 3 kg for students from Class 3 to 5. The prescribed weight increases progressively, with students in Class 9 and 10 allowed to carry bags in the 4-5 kg range.
Homework: Students in Classes 1 and 2 should not be given any homework. Schools must set a timetable in advance, which will limit the number of books that have to be brought to class every day. All classwork should be kept in the school itself, either in files or books.
Awareness: Managements have been directed to create awareness about the health hazards of lugging heavy school bags.
Other measures: The order also says that schools must provide some space in classrooms where students can store their notebooks and textbooks. Another measure to ease the daily load is to make provisions for drinking water facilities so students don’t have to carry water bottles. Schools have also been directed not to ask students to keep books of more than 100 pages.
The third Saturday of every month should be followed as a “No School Bag Day”. On that day, teachers have to engage students without any books or supplementary materials. Suggested activities include field visits, general knowledge clubs, art classes, indoor and outdoor games, abacus, dance classes, and debates.
Karnataka’s order capping weight of school bags reopens an important debate about children’s health. The weight of a child’s school bag has been a contested issue for long, and especially so in recent months.
In October last year, the HRD Ministry directed all states and Union Territories to “formulate guidelines to regulate the teaching of subjects and weight of school bags in accordance with the Government of India instructions”.
What necessitated this?
Surveys and experts’ views have confirmed that the weight not only hurts the children’s back but causes long-term damage to their body. The burden may cause muscle strain and lead to deformation of the spine or even nervous disorders.
Source: The Hindu
Pacific decadal oscillation
Northeast India, one of the wettest places on the Earth has been experiencing rapid drying, especially in the last 30 years. The decreasing monsoon rainfall is associated with natural changes in the Pacific decadal oscillation (PDO).
The “Pacific Decadal Oscillation” (PDO) is a long-lived El Niño-like pattern of Pacific climate variability. The PDO is detected as warm or cool surface waters in the Pacific Ocean, north of 20°N.
Major changes in northeast Pacific marine ecosystems have been correlated with phase changes in the PDO; warm eras have seen enhanced coastal ocean biological productivity in Alaska and inhibited productivity off the west coast of the contiguous United States, while cold PDO eras have seen the opposite north-south pattern of marine ecosystem productivity.
How is it different from ENSO?
Duration: Both PDO and ENSO have similar spatial climate fingerprints yet the major difference is that PDO persists for 20-30 years while the typical ENSO persists for 6 to 18 months.
The primary climatic fingerprints of the PDO are most visible in the North Pacific/North American sector, while secondary signatures exist in the tropics. On the contrary, the primary climatic fingerprints of the ENSO are visible in tropics while secondary are visible in North Pacific/North American sector.
The PDO has two cycles, viz. Cold Cycle and Warm Cycle, very much similar to La Nina and El Nino of the ENSO cycle.
The PDO has a major influence on Alaskan and for those matter global temperatures. The positive phase favors more El Ninos and a stronger Aleutian low and warm water in the north Pacific off the Alaskan coast. The negative phase more La Ninas and cold eastern Gulf of Alaska waters. Note the strong similarity of the positive phase with El Nino and the negative with La Nina. PDO is responsible for bringing colder surface water temperatures and thus beginning the overall cooling effect in recent times in Alaska.
Source: The Hindu
Global Ecosystem Assessment
The first-ever Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services by Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) has been released.
About the report:
The Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services is termed as the first-ever such comprehensive report. It took three years for a group of 145 expert authors from 50 countries to prepare this report based on more than 15,000 scientific and government documents. It primarily looked or analysed the impact of economic development on nature and ecosystems.
Nature is declining globally at rates unprecedented in human history — and the rate of species extinctions is accelerating with grave impacts on people around the world now likely,
One million animal and plant species are under extinction. More to it, thousands of these would extinct within decades.
Since the beginning of the last century (1900), availability of native species in most of the land-based habitats has declined by 20 per cent. Similarly, 40 per cent of the amphibian species are threatened with extinction.
If one tracks back extinction of species to the 16th century, 680 vertebrate species have been pushed into extinction since then, while 9 per cent of all domesticated breeds of mammals used for food and agriculture went extinct by 2016. Add to it, 1,000 more such breeds are under threat of extinction.
Almost 33 per cent of reef-forming corals and more than a third of all marine mammals are threatened. Ecosystems, species, wild populations, local varieties and breeds of domesticated plants and animals are shrinking, deteriorating or vanishing. The essential, interconnected web of life on Earth is getting smaller and increasingly frayed.
Reasons: This loss is a direct result of human activity and constitutes a direct threat to human well-being in all regions of the world.
Human-induced loss in ecosystems: Three-quarters of the land-based environment and about two-thirds of the marine environment have been significantly altered by human actions, says the assessment. Nearly 75 per cent of all freshwater resources are now used for crop and livestock rearing activities.
Impacts: productivity in 23 per cent of global land has reduced due to land degradation. Up to $577 billion in annual global crops are at risk from pollinator loss and 100-300 million people are at increased risk of floods and hurricanes because of loss of coastal habitats and protection.
What is IPBES?
The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) is an independent intergovernmental body, established by member States in 2012. The objective of IPBES is to strengthen the science-policy interface for biodiversity and ecosystem services for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, long-term human well-being and sustainable development.
The work of IPBES can be broadly grouped into four complementary areas:
Assessments: On specific themes (e.g. “Pollinators, Pollination and Food Production”); methodological issues (e.g. “Scenarios and Modelling); and at both the regional and global levels (e.g. “Global Assessment of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services”).
Policy Support: Identifying policy-relevant tools and methodologies, facilitating their use, and catalyzing their further development.
Building Capacity & Knowledge: Identifying and meeting the priority capacity, knowledge and data needs of our member States, experts and stakeholders.
Source: The Hindu
10th Schedule of the Constitution
The Supreme Court has stayed proceedings initiated by Tamil Nadu Assembly Speaker P. Dhanapal for the disqualification of three AIADMK MLAs for “anti-party activities”.
The court has held that it would be constitutionally impermissible for the Speaker to adjudicate a dispute of disqualification petition under the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution while a notice of resolution for his own removal from the office of Speaker is pending.
What’s the issue?
The MLAs had approached the Supreme Court urging it to restrain the Speaker from acting on a disqualification notice for anti-party activities, in view of their support for T.T.V. Dhinakaran.
They claimed the Speaker acted in a “partisan and biased manner, contrary to the high position”. Besides, a motion for his removal moved by the DMK on April 30 was pending.
The petitioners contended that the action by the Speaker was taken in an arbitrary manner without jurisdiction and actuated with malice. They also contended that with a no-confidence motion pending against the Speaker, he could not adjudicate in a matter of disqualification.
What is the anti-defection law?
The Tenth Schedule was inserted in the Constitution in 1985 by the 52nd Amendment Act. It lays down the process by which legislators may be disqualified on grounds of defection by the Presiding Officer of a legislature based on a petition by any other member of the House.
The decision on question as to disqualification on ground of defection is referred to the Chairman or the Speaker of such House, and his decision is final.
The law applies to both Parliament and state assemblies.
If a member of a house belonging to a political party:
Voluntarily gives up the membership of his political party, or
Votes, or does not vote in the legislature, contrary to the directions of his political party. However, if the member has taken prior permission, or is condoned by the party within 15 days from such voting or abstention, the member shall not be disqualified.
If an independent candidate joins a political party after the election.
If a nominated member joins a party six months after he becomes a member of the legislature.
Exceptions under the law:
Legislators may change their party without the risk of disqualification in certain circumstances. The law allows a party to merge with or into another party provided that at least two-thirds of its legislators are in favour of the merger. In such a scenario, neither the members who decide to merge, nor the ones who stay with the original party will face disqualification.
Decision of the Presiding Officer is subject to judicial review:
The law initially stated that the decision of the Presiding Officer is not subject to judicial review. This condition was struck down by the Supreme Court in 1992, thereby allowing appeals against the Presiding Officer’s decision in the High Court and Supreme Court. However, it held that there may not be any judicial intervention until the Presiding Officer gives his order.
Source: The Hindu
Environment Impact Assessment (EIA)
Karnataka Neeravari Nigam Ltd., which is executing the Kalasa-Banduri project worth nearly Rs. 850 crore, has claimed that the drinking water project is out of the purview of Environment Impact Assessment (EIA).
About Kalasa- Banduri project:
The Kalasa-Banduri Nala is a project undertaken by the Government of Karnataka to improve drinking water supply to the Districts of Belagavi, Dharwad and Gadag.
It involves building across Kalasa and Banduri, two tributaries of the Mahadayi river to divert 7.56 TMC of water to the Malaprabha river, which supplies the drinking water needs of the districts.
Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) is a formal process used to predict the environmental consequences of any development project. Environment Impact Assessment in India is statutory backed by the Environment Protection Act in 1986, which contains various provisions on EIA methodology and process.
Rationale behind EIA: EIA looks into various problems, conflicts and natural resource constraints which may not only affect the viability of a project but also predict if a project might harm to the people, their land, livelihoods and environment. Once these potential harmful impacts are predicted, the EIA process identifies the measures to minimize those impacts.
The objective of the EIA is to: Identify the environmental, social and economic impacts of a project prior to taking a decision on its implementation. Mitigation of harmful impacts and maximizes the beneficial effects.
Once the assessment is complete, the EIA findings are communicated to all stakeholders viz. developers, investors, regulators, planners, politicians, affected communities etc. On the basis of the conclusion of EIA process, the government can decide if a project should be given environment clearance or not. The developers and investors can also shape the project in such a way that its harms can be mitigated and benefits can be maximized.
Source: The Hindu
Election Commission observers
The Supreme Court has sought responses from the Election Commission, the West Bengal government and others on a plea challenging the appointment of two retired bureaucrats as special observer and Central police observer in the State for the ongoing Lok Sabha election.
The observers are drawn from various central services, such as the Indian Revenue Service, the Indian Administrative Service, and the Indian Police Service. They are considered to be on EC duty till the elections process ends.
Observers of the Election Commission of India (ECI) are appointed under the powers conferred on it by Section 20B of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 and the plenary powers available to the Commission under the Constitution of India.
They are the appointees of the Commission working under the superintendence, control and discipline of the Commission for the period from their appointment until the process of election is completed.
The Representation of the People Act, 1951 was amended in August 1996 to add a new Section 20B. This provides statutory powers to the Observers to watch the conduct of elections and especially in respect of counting of votes.
Roles and duties:
The General and Police Observers are expected to assist the Commission in the conduct of free and fair polls.
They also oversee the efficient and effective management of the electoral process at the field level.
For all purposes, they act as the eyes and ears of the Commission during the period of the election and provide direct inputs to the Commission from the field as an interface with the election machinery the candidates, political parties, and electors to ensure that the Acts, rules, procedures, instructions and guidelines related to elections are strictly and impartially complied with by all concerned.
Source: The Hindu
Anti-dumping duty put on saccharine
The Finance Ministry has, on the recommendations of the Commerce Ministry, imposed an anti-dumping duty on the import of saccharine from Indonesia. Indonesia, until recently, accounted for a large chunk of India’s saccharine imports.
Saccharine is a compound most commonly used in sugar-substitute sweeteners.
Despite the use of bisphenol-A (BPA) being prohibited in feeding bottles for babies, the toxic chemical continues to be found in some bottles and cups for babies sold in the Indian market, and is leaching into baby foods, found a recent study conducted by Toxics Link.
BPA is an endocrine-disrupting chemical that has been accepted as the “chemical of concern” globally, and countries have taken action to phase it out from products. The toxic chemical is known to mimic a hormone in the body which activates the progression of cancer and interferes with the development of the reproductive system.
Effects: Epidemiological studies of children indicate correlations between BPA exposure and heart diseases, liver toxicity, and metabolic syndrome (diabetes obesity).
Sea of Japan
About Sea of Japan:
It is the marginal sea between the Japanese archipelago, Sakhalin, the Korean Peninsula and Russia.
The Japanese archipelago separates the sea from the Pacific Ocean.
It is bordered by Japan, Korea (North and South) and Russia.
Like the Mediterranean Sea, it has almost no tides due to its nearly complete enclosure from the Pacific Ocean.
It is Indian Navy’s fourth Stealth Scorpene-Class submarine.
launched by MDL after it entered into contract with French collaborator Ms Naval Group (earlier known as DCNS) for construction and transfer of technology for six Scorpene class submarines under Project 75.
It is a diesel-electric attack submarine of Kalvari-class.
INS Vela was first commissioned on August 31, 1973 in the Indian Naval Service and continued to serve for 37 years. It was the country’s oldest submarine when it was decommissioned on June 25, 2010.