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15 July Current Affairs

Free access for pilgrims to Kartarpur Sahib

In News:

Pakistan agreed to give year-long visa-free access to Indian pilgrims to the holy Gurdwara of Kartarpur Sahib.

Details:

  • Pakistan was agreed to allow visa-free travel for the Indian passport holders and OCI card holders seven days a week.
  • Throughout the year, 5000 pilgrims will be allowed to visit Kartarpur Sahib Gurudwara per day.
  • The pilgrims will be allowed to travel as individuals or in groups and also on foot.

Kartarpur Sahib:

The gurdwara in Kartarpur stands on the bank of the Ravi, about 120 km northeast of Lahore. It was here that Guru Nanak assembled a Sikh community and lived for 18 years until his death in 1539. The shrine is visible from the Indian side, as Pakistani authorities generally trim the elephant grass that would otherwise obstruct the view. Indian Sikhs gather in large numbers for darshan from the Indian side, and binoculars are installed at Gurdwara Dera Baba Nanak.

Access to gurdwaras in Pakistan:

Sikh jathas from India travel to Pakistan on four occasions every year — for Baisakhi, the martyrdom day of Guru Arjan Dev, the death anniversary of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, and the birthday of Guru Nanak Dev. These Indian pilgrims are given access to all gurdwaras in Pakistan.

Midday meals left 900 children ill

In News:

More than 900 children were reported ill across the country with zero fatalities due to the consumption of mid-day meals in the last three years, according to the officials of the Ministry of Human Resource Development (HRD).

Details:

The Ministry had received 35 complaints from 15 States and Union Territories (UTs) regarding substandard food quality in the same period.

Ministry:

The Mid-Day Meal Scheme comes under the HRD Ministry’s Department of School Education and Literacy.

Hygiene:

The HRD ministry has also issued guidelines on quality, safety and hygiene in school-level kitchens.

The guidelines provide instructions on procuring AGMARK quality items for preparation of midday meals, tasting of meals by 2-3 adult members of school management committee, including at least one teacher, before serving to children.

About Mid-Day Meal Scheme:

The Midday Meal Scheme is a school meal programme of the Government of India designed to better the nutritional standing of school-age children nationwide. The programme supplies free lunches on working days for children in primary and upper primary classes in government, government aided, local body, Education Guarantee Scheme, and alternate innovative education centres, Madarsa and Maqtabs supported under Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, and National Child Labour Project schools run by the ministry of labour.

 ‘India must push for Afghan polls’

In News:

India must continue to push for Afghanistan elections, said former Afghanistan Ambassador to India and presidential contender Shaida Abdali, cautioning against an “indifferent” attitude from New Delhi towards the progress being made in talks with the Taliban.

Details:

The comments came just as diplomats from the U.S., Russia China and Pakistan met in Beijing to discuss the peace process in Afghanistan.

What is peace process?

It is a political process in which conflicts are resolved by peaceful means.” They are a “mixture of politics, diplomacy, changing relationships, negotiation, mediation, and dialogue in both official and unofficial arenas.”

Background:

On July 10 and 11, the four-nation talks in Beijing agreed to step up efforts for an intra-Afghan dialogue between the Taliban and the Afghan government in the next few weeks. It is being seen as the next step in the reconciliation process.

The discussions were led by U.S. special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, who has just completed the eighth round of talks with Taliban leaders in Doha, where he claimed “substantial progress” had been made on issues like the intra-Afghan dialogue, Taliban guarantees on terrorism, withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan, and a possible ceasefire. However, there is still some uncertainty over whether Afghan presidential elections, scheduled at present for September 28, will go ahead as planned.

BHOPAL GAS TRAGEDY

A US multinational pesticide company called ” union carbide” operating in Bhopal, met with an accident in December 1984, spewed enormous amount of poisonous gases killing thousands of people and leaving many more in serious health hazards – whose effects are felt even today.

HOW DID IT HAPPEN?

There was a leakage in the water pipe and as result water entered into methyl iso cyanide(MIC) tank. Also refrigeration system was not working to cool MIC and prevent chemical reaction. Due to this, exothermic reaction took place releasing large amount of heat and the volume of gas increased and a cloud of gases phosgene, carbon monoxide and MIC started coming out. As it was very spontaneous and rapidly it spread and soon a very dense cloud was formed over the city of Bhopal exposing half a million people.

WHAT ARE THE WAYS OR CONDITIONS UNDER WHICH CHEMICAL DISASTER MAY ARRIVE?

Accident can happen in 2 ways.

Storage: No proper isolated specific storage rooms and also lack of maintenance of gas cylinder or container.

Reaction: system failure, no precautions are taken, mistake by workers, machinery are not maintained properly which might lead to unwarranted reactions. (as happened in Bhopal gas tragedy)

WHAT KIND OF PREPAREDNESS IS REQUIRED NOW?

off late chemical and nuclear plants are on the rise, so if there are precautions taken then disasters can be mitigated, contained and if accidents do happen then damage can be minimized.

The first and far most step to be done is to have an Onsite and offsite plan: onsite plan is capacity building for the people within the industry esp. the labourers should be imparted with basic knowledge, awareness of hazardous gases or chemicals being used in the industry, continuous feedback to workers, do’s and don’ts  when accident happens, mock drills should be regularly conducted.

Offsite plan refers to outside industry. Public should be given awareness. Their participation and cooperation is very crucial so that panics and rumors can be avoided, these  things are crucial esp. for the people residing close to the vicinity of the industries.

For instance during Bhopal gas tragedy, had people been little aware to cover their faces esp. eyes with wet cloth, much of the damage could have been minimized.

Law Commission to be formed soon

In News:

With the country left without a Law Commission since September 2018, the Law Ministry has initiated the process of setting up the body which gives advice to the government on complex legal issues.

Background:

The three-year term of the 21st Law Commission ended on August 31 last year. On at least one occasion, the Ministry had moved the proposal to reconstitute the panel.

But the proposal could not move further, and the government later went into election mode.

21st Law Commission:

The 21st commission, under Justice B.S. Chauhan (retd), had submitted reports and working papers on key issues such as simultaneous polls to the Lok Sabha and the Assemblies and a uniform civil code.

While the Law Commission had supported simultaneous polls, it had said that the time was not ripe for a common code.

Proposed changes to the Law Commission:

In 2010, the then UPA government had prepared a draft Cabinet note to give statutory status to the Law Commission, and the Law Ministry had mooted to bring the Law Commission of India Bill, 2010. But the idea was shelved.

In 2015, a proposal was mooted to make the law panel into a permanent body either through an Act of Parliament or an executive order (resolution of the Union Cabinet). The move was shelved after the Prime Minister’s Office felt that the present system should continue.

About Law Commission:

Law Commission of India is an executive body established by an order of the Government of India. Its major function is to work for legal reform. Its membership primarily comprises legal experts, who are entrusted a mandate by the Government. The Commission is established for a fixed tenure and works as an advisory body to the Ministry of Law and Justice.

The first Law Commission was established during the British Raj era in 1834 by the Charter Act of 1833.It was presided by Lord Macaulay After that, three more Commissions were established in pre-independent India.

The first Law Commission of independent India was established in 1955 for a three-year term.

Speed restrictions and sound alerts mooted for protection of dolphins

In News:

Restricting the speeds of vessels and blowing sirens and horns is how the Ministry of Shipping plans to safeguard the population of the Ganges River Dolphin, in the country’s one dolphin reserve through which National Waterway-1 connecting Haldia to Varanasi passes.

Details:

The Vikramshila Gangetic Dolphin Sanctuary (VGDS), from Sultanganj to Kahalganj on the Ganga in Bihar is the only dolphin sanctuary in the country. The Sultanganj-Kahalgaon stretch of National Waterway-1 passes through it.

Measures:

“Vessel speed would be restricted to 2.7 knots in Vikramshila Gangetic Dolphin Sanctuary (VGDS) area to reduce the noise generation from propeller… lf any aquatic mammal/dolphin is spotted, then the measures will be taken to push it away through sirens/signals,” the Ministry said.

The other mitigation measures, include fitting vessels with propeller guards and dolphin deflectors to minimise dolphin accidents and using non-toxic paints for painting vessels.

The mitigations are based on Comprehensive Environmental and Social lmpact Assessment (ESIA) study on National Waterway-I including on stretches falling within VGDS.

About Gangetic Dolphins:

  • The Ganges River dolphin, or susu, inhabits the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna and Karnaphuli-Sangu river systems of Nepal, India, and Bangladesh.
  • It is classified as endangered by the IUCN.
  • This dolphin is among the four “obligate” freshwater dolphins – the other three are the baiji now likely extinct from the Yangtze river in China, the bhulan of the Indus in Pakistan and the boto of the Amazon River in Latin America. Although there are several species of marine dolphins whose ranges include some freshwater habitats, these four species live only in rivers and lakes.
  • Being a mammal, the Ganges River dolphin cannot breathe in the water and must surface every 30-120 seconds. Because of the sound it produces when breathing, the animal is popularly referred to as the ‘Susu’.

Threats:

The survival of the Ganges River dolphin is threatened by unintentional killing through entanglement in fishing gear; directed harvest for dolphin oil, which is used as a fish attractant and for medicinal purposes; water development projects (e.g. water extraction and the construction of barrages, high dams, and embankments); industrial waste and pesticides; municipal sewage discharge and noise from vessel traffic; and overexploitation of prey, mainly due to the widespread use of non-selective fishing gear.

India is home to 1,256 species of orchid, says first comprehensive survey

In News:

The Botanical Survey of India has come up with the first comprehensive census of orchids of India putting the total number of orchid species or taxa to 1,256.

Details:

Orchids of India : A Pictorial Guide , a publication detailing all the species of India was unveiled earlier this month by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change.

The 1,256 species or taxa of orchids belong to 155 genera and 388 species are endemic to India.

Three life forms:

Orchids can be broadly categorised into three life forms:

  1. epiphytic (plants growing on another plants including those growing on rock boulders and often termed lithophyte),
  2. terrestrial (plants growing on land and climbers) and
  3. mycoheterotrophic (plants which derive nutrients from mycorrhizal fungi that are attached to the roots of a vascular plant).

About 60% of all orchids found in the country, which is 757 species, are epiphytic, 447 are terrestrial and 43 are mycoheterotrophic.

The epiphytic orchids are abundant up to 1800 m above the sea level and their occurrence decreases with the increase in altitude. Terrestrial orchids, which grow directly on soil, are found in large numbers in temperate and alpine region whereas mycoheterotrophic orchids, mostly associated with ectomycorrhizal fungi, are found in temperate regions, or are found growing with parasites in tropical regions.

Mediterranean sharks face risk of ‘disappearing’

In News:

Sharks — the sea’s top predators for millions of years — are at risk of disappearing from the Mediterranean as overfishing and plastic pollution choke populations of the endangered hunters, conservationists have warned.

Details:

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) said that more than half of shark and ray species in the Mediterranean were under threat, and that almost a third of them have been fished to the brink of extinction.

Threats:

While some species are targeted for food, many of the sharks fished in the Mediterranean are bycatch caught up in nets set for other fish.

More than 60 shark species entangled in fishing nets across the Mediterranean.

In addition, the explosion of plastic pollution is endangering shark populations, either through the animals ingesting or becoming enmeshed in refuse items.

IUCN Category:

The IUCN Red List of endangered species counts 79 endangered shark and 120 endangered ray species.

 

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