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17 August Current Affairs

Districts In India

In News:0

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister announced that Vellore district would be trifurcated to create two more districts, Ranipet and Tirupattur. the latest move will take the total number of districts to 37.

About: 

The idea behind creating new districts in any state is, generally, that it is expected to make governance easier; sometimes, the decision is driven by local demands.

The larger states predicatbly have a higher number of districts, with Uttar Pradesh (75) leading the count, followed by Madhya Pradesh (52), while the smallest state, Goa (2), has the lowest number.

However, the number of districts in a state is not always a function of the area of the state, or of its population.

For example, Andhra Pradesh is the seventh largest state by area but has among the smallest counts of districts at 13. As such, it has only one district for every 12,000 sq km, which is the largest average size for a district in any Indian state.

According to 2011 census, the largest district y area is Kachchh (Gujarat) followed by Leh (Jammu and Kashmir), Jaisalmer (Rajasthan) and Bikaner (Rajasthan).

Maharshi Badrayan Vyas Samman

In News:

President of India awarded the Certificate of Honour and Maharshi Badrayan Vyas Samman for the Year 2019.

About:

The awards were instituted in 1958 by Union Ministry of Human Resource Development.

These are annually conferred on the Independence Day.

It is conferred to recognise contribution of scholars the field of 9 languages (Sanskrit, Persian, Arabic, Pali, Prakrit, Classical Oriya, Classical Kannada, Classical Telugu and Classical Malayalam).0

These awards are not given posthumously. Also, these awards are not given to scholars

  • who have received this award earlier, or
  • who are convicted in a criminal case/against whom a criminal case is pending in a court.

Key differences:

Certificate of Honour:

For scholars aged 60 years and above.

It carries a cash prize of Rs. 5,00,000/-

Maharshi Badrayan Vyas Samman:

For young scholars between 30 to 45 years of age.

It carries a cash prize of Rs. 1,00,000/-

Reservation In Chhattisgarh

In News:

Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel announced an increase in reservations for OBCs and Scheduled Castes in state government jobs and education.

About:

Chhattisgarh government will increase the quota for Scheduled Castes by 1 % while nearly doubling reservation for OBCs from 14 % to 27 %. The quota for Scheduled Tribes remains at 32 %.

Once in effect, it will mean Chhattisgarh will have a total of 72 % reservation (32 % for STs, 13 % for SCs and 27 % to OBCs), the highest in the country and far above the 50 % cap on quotas mandated by the Supreme Court.

The state government is still considering the 10 % centre mandated EWS quota for the general category. if implemented, it would take the reservation to 82 %.

Analysis: 

According to government, this has been done to keep it in line with the population demographic in the state. The percentage of OBCs is close to 47 %, who along with STs form the major chunk of the population.

This serves two purposes for the Congress. It assuages OBCs, who have been demanding more quota, and cements the politics of CM Bhupesh Baghel.

While questions remain on whether the move will stand in courts, the Congress hopes it will help improve its tally in local elections this year.

Chief Ministry Panel, states talk use of GM crops in restricted spaces

In News:

A committee of chief ministers set up by the prime minister to look for ways to transform agriculture in the country is deliberating with various state governments on whether to permit GM crops “in restricted spaces”.

Details:

The contentious move may take time as some state governments have opposed introduction of GM crops, the Chief Minister’s Panel on Agriculture has decided to make substantial changes in the Essential Commodities Act to avoid unnecessary stock limits , Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis said.

Our oilseeds productivity is less, (hence) we are looking at new technology on seeds,” he said here after a meeting of the high-powered committee. “We are dependent on oilseeds that we import from other countries that use GM technology.

The chief ministers’ panel has, however, decided to bring in major changes in the Essential Commodities Act (ECA) to ensure that a rise in crop prices is not stymied by the imposition of stock limit through ECA.

Official thinktank NITI Aayog gave a proposal to states that unless there is a drought or natural calamity states should not levy ECA on agri goods. It proposed that if the prices shoot up by more than 50% then the states can levy ECA.

The Maharashtra chief minister also said the Centre would soon come up with certification norms for ‘pest free area’ and to certify organic produce. This is expected to boost agri product exports as many countries prefer produce from a pest free area, or organic produce.

The Centre would also empower Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA) to take commercial decisions to boost and facilitate exports of agricultural products.

‘No First Use’ nuclear doctrine is not rigid, says Rajnath Singh

In News:

The future of India’s ‘No First Use’ policy on nuclear weapons depends on the “circumstances”, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh tweeted, after visiting the nuclear test site in Pokhran.

Details:

The remark raised questions of a change in the nuclear doctrine. August 16, 2019 marks the first death anniversary of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, under whose government India conducted nuclear tests in 1998.

Pokhran is the area which witnessed Atal Ji’s firm resolve to make India a nuclear power and yet remain firmly committed to the doctrine of ‘No First Use’. India has strictly adhered to this doctrine. What happens in future depends on the circumstances.

India put in place its nuclear doctrine with ‘No First Use’ and massive retaliation forming its core tenets soon after it tested nuclear weapons in 1998. The concept of maintaining a minimum credible deterrence and a nuclear triad for delivery of weapons based on aircraft, missiles and nuclear submarines flow from that.

Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act (PSA)

In News:

Former IAS officer has been detained under the Public Safety Act (PSA).

What is the J&K PSA?

The Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act (PSA) received the assent of the J&K Governor on April 8, 1978.

The Act was introduced as a tough law to prevent the smuggling of timber and keep the smugglers “out of circulation”.

The law allows the government to detain any person above the age of 16 without trial for a period of two years.

The PSA allows for administrative detention for up to two years “in the case of persons acting in any manner prejudicial to the security of the State”, and for administrative detention up to one year where “any person is acting in any manner prejudicial to the maintenance of public order”.

Detention orders under PSA can be issued by Divisional Commissioners or District Magistrates.

Section 22 of the Act provides protection for any action taken “in good faith” under the Act: “No suit, prosecution or any other legal proceeding shall lie against any person for anything done or intended to be done in good faith in pursuance of the provisions of this Act.”

Under Section 23 of the Act, the government is empowered to “make such Rules consistent with the provisions of this Act, as may be necessary for carrying out the objects of this Act”.

Why is it often referred to as a “draconian” law?

  1. Right from the beginning, the law was misused widely, and was repeatedly employed against political opponents by consecutive governments until 1990. After the emergence of militancy, the J&K government frequently invoked the PSA to crack down on separatists.
  2. In August 2018, the Act was amended to allow individuals to be detained under the PSA outside the state as well.
  3. The detaining authority need not disclose any facts about the detention “which it considers to be against the public interest to disclose”.
  4. The terms under which a person is detained under PSA are vague and include a broad range of activities like “acting in any manner prejudicial to the security of the State” or for “acting in any manner prejudicial to the maintenance of public order”.
  5. The vagueness provided in the act gives unbridled powers to the authorities. The detainees, therefore, are effectively debarred from contesting the legality of their detention.
  6. PSA does not provide for a judicial review of detention. To checkmate the J&K High Court orders for release of persons detained under the act the state authorities issue successive detention orders. This ensures prolonged detention of people.
  7. PSC has been used against human rights activists, journalists, separatists and others who are considered as a threat to the law & order. Right to dissent is stifled by these Acts.

Wholesale Price Index

A wholesale price index (WPI) is an index that measures and tracks the changes in the price of goods in the stages before the retail level.

I.e. goods that are sold in bulk and traded between entities or businesses instead of consumers.

WPI is usually expressed as a ratio or percentage, it shows the included goods’ average price change and is often seen as one indicator of a country’s level of inflation.

Although many countries and organizations use WPIs in this way, many other countries, including the United States, use the producer price index (PPI) instead (a similar but more accurately named index)

India uses the base year 2011-12 for calculating WPI.

Consumer Price Index

The Consumer Price Index (CPI) is a measure that examines the weighted average of prices of a basket of consumer goods and services, such as transportation, food, and medical care.

It is calculated by taking price changes for each item in the predetermined basket of goods and averaging them.

Changes in the CPI are used to assess price changes associated with the cost of living.

The CPI is one of the most frequently used statistics for identifying periods of inflation or deflation.

India uses 2012 as the base year for calculating CPI.

Global assessment of forest biodiversity by WWF

In News:

World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) has released the first-ever global assessment of forest biodiversity.

Background:

Until now, forest biodiversity had never been assessed, but forest area was often used as a proxy indicator.

The new findings were based on the Forest Specialist Index, developed following the Living Planet Index methodology — an index that tracks wildlife that lives only in forests.

Key findings:

There has been a 53% decline in the number of forest wildlife populations since 1970.

Of the 455 monitored populations of forest specialists, more than half declined at an annual rate of 1.7 per cent, on average between 1970 and 2014.

While the decline was consistent in these years among mammals, reptiles and amphibians (particularly from the tropical forests), it was less among birds (especially from temperate forests).

Reasons responsible for the decline in wildlife populations:

  1. Deforestation
  2. Habitat loss and habitat.
  3. Degradation/change.
  4. Exploitation
  5. Climate change.

Threats:

Loss of habitat due to logging, agricultural expansion, mining, hunting, conflicts and spread of diseases accounted for almost 60 per cent of threats.

Nearly 20 per cent of threats were due to overexploitation. Of the 112 forest-dwelling primate populations, 40 were threatened by overexploitation (hunting).

Climate change, on the other hand, threatened to 43 per cent of amphibian populations, 37 per cent of reptile populations, 21 per cent of bird populations but only 3 per cent of mammal populations.

More than 60 per cent of threatened forest specialist populations faced more than one threat.

What’s the main concern now?

Wildlife is an essential component of natural and healthy forests. They play a major role in forest regeneration and carbon storage by engaging in pollination and seed dispersal. Thus, loss of fauna can have severe implications for forest health, the climate and humans who depend on forests for their livelihoods.

Need of the hour:

Protecting wildlife and reversing the decline of nature requires urgent global action. The need is to preserve harmonious land use in our region, including forest management and protect the most valuable surviving ecosystems.

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