17 April Current Affairs
April 17, 2019
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April 19, 2019
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18 April Current Affairs

Exercise ‘SEA VIGIL’

In News:

The maiden national level Coastal Defence Exercise SEA VIGIL was conducted recently by the Indian Navy.

Details:

The exercise witnessed the simultaneous activation of the coastal security apparatus across the country involving maritime stakeholders at the Centre and all the 13 Coastal States and Union Territories.

Key takeaways from the exercise debrief were deliberated and disseminated to all for further action/ follow-up. The feedback from the exercise and the deliberations would be presented at the next meeting of the National Committee for Strengthening Maritime and Coastal Security (NCSMCS).

WHO releases guidelines on how countries can use digital health technology

In News:

The World Health Organization (WHO) has released new recommendations on 10 ways that countries can use digital health technology, accessible via mobile phones, tablets and computers, to improve people’s health and essential services.

Details:

Various digital interventions include: decision-support tools to guide health workers as they provide care; and enabling individuals and health workers to communicate and consult on health issues from across different locations.

Key highlights:

Health systems need to respond to the increased visibility and availability of information. People also must be assured that their own data is safe and that they are not being put at risk because they have accessed information on sensitive health topics, such as sexual and reproductive health issues.

Provide supportive environments for training, dealing with unstable infrastructure, as well as policies to protect privacy of individuals, and governance and coordination to ensure these tools are not fragmented across the health system.

Encourage policy-makers and implementers to review and adapt to these conditions if they want digital tools to drive tangible changes and provide guidance on taking privacy considerations on access to patient data.

Telemedicine allows people living in remote locations to obtain health services by using mobile phones, web portals, or other digital tools. This is a valuable complement to face-to-face-interactions, but it cannot replace them entirely. It is also important that consultations are conducted by qualified health workers and that the privacy of individuals’ health information is maintained.

Reach vulnerable populations, and ensure that digital health does not endanger them in any way.

Why it matters?

Digital health technology is increasingly popular around the world, perhaps unsurprisingly, as around two-thirds of the world’s population owns a smartphone. But as the technologies grow in adoption, experts warn that it must be done thoughtfully, looking at the challenges of each region.

Digital health has the potential to help address problems such as distance and access, but still shares many of the underlying challenges faced by health system interventions in general, including poor management, insufficient training, infrastructural limitations, and poor access to equipment and supplies.

Source: Down to Earth

Criminalization of Politics

In News:

A famous religious head who has been charge sheeted in a bomb blast case is contesting the elections. This has raised concerns amongst various section of society including Politicians as well. The legal bar on contesting applies only to individuals who have been convicted by a court.

Details:

Currently, under the Representation of Peoples (RP) Act, lawmakers cannot contest elections only after their conviction in a criminal case.

Section 8 of the Representation of the People (RP) Act, 1951 disqualifies a person convicted with a sentence of two years or more from contesting elections. But those under trial continued to be eligible to contest elections. The Lily Thomas case (2013), however, ended this unfair advantage.

Criminals in Politics:

Protecting the parliamentary system from criminalisation has been the intention of the law from the beginning.

Efforts by SC in this regard:

The SC has repeatedly expressed concern about the purity of legislatures.

In 2002, it made it obligatory for all candidates to file an affidavit before the returning officer, disclosing criminal cases pending against them.

The famous order to introduce NOTA was intended to make political parties think before giving tickets to the tainted.

In its landmark judgment of March 2014, the SC accepted the urgent need for cleansing politics of criminalisation and directed all subordinate courts to decide on cases involving legislators within a year, or give reasons for not doing so to the chief justice of the high court.

The trend:

According to the ADR’s analysis of EC data, 187 MPs in the current Lok Sabha face criminal charges (that is, 34.4 per cent). Of them, 113 face serious criminal charges. The number has gone up from 162 (76 serious) charges in 2009 and 128 (58 serious) in 2004.

Main reasons for Criminalization:

  • Corruption
  • Vote bank.
  • Lack of governance.

What is the way out?

There are three possible options.

  1. One, political parties should themselves refuse tickets to the tainted.
  2. Two, the RP Act should be amended to debar persons against whom cases of a heinous nature are pending from contesting elections.
  3. Three, fast-track courts should decide the cases of tainted legislators quickly.

Other suggested measure to curb criminalization of politics:

Bringing greater transparency in campaign financing is going to make it less attractive for political parties to involve gangsters.

The Election Commission of India (ECI) should have the power to audit the financial accounts of political parties, or political parties’ finances should be brought under the right to information (RTI) law.

Broader governance will have to improve for voters to reduce the reliance on criminal politicians.

The Election Commission must take adequate measures to break the nexus between the criminals and the politicians.

The forms prescribed by the Election Commission for candidates disclosing their convictions, cases pending in courts and so on in their nomination papers is a step in the right direction if it applied properly.

Conclusion:

Corruption and criminalisation of politics is hitting at the roots of democracy. Therefore, Parliament must take steps urgently to curb this menace. Candidates and political parties must give wide publicity to criminal cases pending against her/him in the local media, both print and electronic, after s/he files nomination to contest elections.

Source: Indian Express

Indian Forest Act amendment

In News:

It is said that the amendments proposed in the colonial-era Indian Forest Act, 1927 reflect the Centre’s attempt to grab natural resources owned by tribals for generations.

Details:

As per the new draft, forest officials have been given the absolute authority to shoot tribals for “violation of laws”. If a forest guard kills an “offender”, the move will invite no prosecution by the state governments without first initiating an inquiry into the matter under an executive magistrate. Under the new amendment, forest departments can also declare any forest as reserved and alienate the forest-dwelling communities from their ancestral lands.

Highlights of the draft amendment bill:

The amendment accords significant powers to India’s forest officers — including the power issue search warrants, enter and investigate lands within their jurisdictions, and to provide indemnity to forest officers using arms to prevent forest-related offences.

It seeks to provide indemnity to Forest-officer using arms etc, to prevent the forest offence. Forest-officer not below the rank of a Ranger shall have power to hold an inquiry into forest offences and shall have the powers to search or issue a search warrant under the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.

The amendment defines community as “a group of persons specified on the basis of government records living in a specific locality and in joint possession and enjoyment of common property resources, without regard to race, religion, caste, language and culture”.

Forest is defined to include “any government or private or institutional land recorded or notified as forest/forest land in any government record and the lands managed by government/community as forest and mangroves, and also any land which the central or state government may by notification declare to be forest for the purpose of this Act.”

“Village forests”, according to the proposed Act, may be forestland or wasteland, which is the property of the government and would be jointly managed by the community through the Joint Forest Management Committee or Gram Sabha.

The legislation also proposes a forest development cess of up to 10% of the assessed value of mining products removed from forests, and water used for irrigation or in industries. This amount would be deposited in a special fund and used “exclusively for reforestation; forest protection and other ancillary purposes connected with tree planting, forest development and conservation,” the draft document noted.

While the preamble of IFA, 1927, said the Act was focused on laws related to transport of forest produce and the tax on it, the amendment has increased the focus to “conservation, enrichment and sustainable management of forest resources and matters connected therewith to safeguard ecological stability to ensure provision of ecosystem services in perpetuity and to address the concerns related to climate change and international commitments”.

Increased role of states: The amendments say if the state government, after consultation with the central government, feels that the rights under FRA will hamper conservation efforts, then the state “may commute such rights by paying such persons a sum of money in lieu thereof, or grant of land, or in such other manner as it thinks fit, to maintain the social organisation of the forest dwelling communities or alternatively set out some other forest tract of sufficient extent, and in a locality reasonably convenient, for the purpose of such forest dwellers”.

The amendment also introduces a new category of forests — production forest. These will be forests with specific objectives for production of timber, pulp, pulpwood, firewood, non-timber forest produce, medicinal plants or any forest species to increase production in the country for a specified period.

Indian Forest Act, 1927:

The Indian Forest Act, 1927 was largely based on previous Indian Forest Acts implemented under the British. The most famous one was the Indian Forest Act of 1878.

Both the 1878 act and the 1927 one sought to consolidate and reserve the areas having forest cover, or significant wildlife, to regulate movement and transit of forest produce, and duty leviable on timber and other forest produce.

It also defines the procedure to be followed for declaring an area to be a Reserved Forest, a Protected Forest or a Village Forest.

It defines what a forest offence is, what are the acts prohibited inside a Reserved Forest, and penalties leviable on violation of the provisions of the Act.

The need for review:

Many reports like the MB Shah report of 2010 and the TSR Subramanian report of 2015, have talked about amending the IFA.

Sources: the hindu

World heritage day

In News:

Every year, 18th April is celebrated Worldwide as World Heritage Day to create awareness about Heritage among communities.

Details:

Theme: The theme for this year’s celebrations is ‘Rural Landscapes’, which is related to the theme of the 2019 ICOMOS Scientific Symposium on Rural heritage that will take place in Marrakesh, Morocco in October.

There are 37 World Heritage Sites located in India. These include 29 cultural sites, seven natural sites and one mixed site. India has the sixth largest number of sites in the world.

What is a World Heritage site?

A World Heritage site is classified as a natural or man-made area or a structure that is of international importance, and a space which requires special protection.

These sites are officially recognised by the UN and the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation, also known as UNESCO. UNESCO believes that the sites classified as World Heritage are important for humanity, and they hold cultural and physical significance.

Background:

In 1982, the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) announced, 18 April as the “World Heritage Day”, approved by the General Assembly of UNESCO in 1983, with the aim of enhancing awareness of the importance of the cultural heritage of humankind, and redouble efforts to protect and conserve the human heritage.

What are rural landscapes and why are they significant?

In the ICOMOS “Principles concerning rural landscapes as heritage”, adopted by the ICOMOS General Assembly in 2017, rural landscapes are defined as “terrestrial and aquatic areas co-produced by human-nature interaction used for the production of food and other renewable natural resources, via agriculture, animal husbandry and pastoralism, fishing and aquaculture, forestry, wild food gathering, hunting, and extraction of other resources, such as salt. Rural landscapes are multifunctional resources. At the same time, all rural areas have cultural meanings attributed to them by people and communities: all rural areas are landscapes.”

Rural landscapes encompass an increasing accumulation of tangible and intangible heritage which is in constant adaptation to environmental, cultural, social, political and economic conditions. They are the most common type of continuing cultural landscape.

Source: The Hindu

Western Disturbance

In News:

The western disturbance has brought heavy rainfall across various parts of the country.

Details:

It is an extratropical storm originating in the Mediterranean region that brings sudden winter rain to the north-western parts of the Indian sub-continent. It is a non-monsoonal precipitation pattern driven by the westerlies.

Extratropical storms are a global phenomenon with moisture usually carried in the upper atmosphere, unlike their tropical counterparts where the moisture is carried in the lower atmosphere. In the case of the Indian subcontinent, moisture is sometimes shed as rain when the storm system encounters the Himalayas.

Formation:

Western Disturbance originates in the Mediterranean Sea as extra-tropical cyclones. A high-pressure area over Ukraine and neighbourhood consolidates, causing the intrusion of cold air from Polar Regions towards an area of relatively warmer air with high moisture. This generates favourable conditions for cyclogenesis in the upper atmosphere, which promotes the formation of an eastward-moving extratropical depression. They gradually travel across the middle-east from Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan to enter the Indian sub-continent.

Impact:

Plays important role in bringing moderate to heavy rain in low-lying areas and heavy snow to mountainous areas of the Indian Subcontinent.

This disturbance is usually associated with cloudy sky, higher night temperatures and unusual rain. This precipitation has great importance in agriculture, particularly for the Rabi crops. Wheat among them is one of the most important crops, which helps to meet India’s food security.

Excessive precipitation due to this disturbance can cause crop damage, landslides, floods and avalanches. Over the Indo-Gangetic plains, it occasionally bring cold wave conditions and dense fog. These conditions remain stable until disturbed by another western disturbance. When western disturbances move across northwest India before the onset of monsoon, a temporary advancement of monsoon current appears over the region.

Source: The Hindu

‘Raavana-1’ satellite

In News:

Sri Lanka has launched its first satellite ‘Raavana-1’ into space from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on Virginia’s East Shore. ‘Raavana 1’ weights around 1.05 kg. The lifespan of the satellite is around one and a half years.

Details:

It is designed to orbit the Earth 15 times a day at a speed of 7.6 km per second.

‘Raavana 1’ was designed to accomplish five missions: Its camera mission is to take pictures of Sri Lanka and its neighbouring countries. Its Lora Demonstration Mission is to validate the module to be used to data download next satellites. The Attitude Determination and Control Mission of ‘Ravaana 1’ involves the team trying to reduce the angular velocity of the satellite using magnetic torquers.

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