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18 December Current Affairs

Prayagraj Kumbh Mela 2019

In News:

Prayagraj Kumbh Mela 2019, a religious fair that will be held from January 15, 2019 to March 4, 2019.

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. The Mela draws tens of millions of pilgrims over the course of approximately 55 auspicious days to bathe 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.

Celebration:

Kumbh Mela is a religious pilgrimage that 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

Mount Soputan, Pacific ring of fire

In News:

One of the most active volcanoes of Indonesia, Mount Soputan volcano, erupted recently. It is located on the Sulawesi island in Indonesia.

Background:

Indonesia sit along the Ring of Fire region, an area where most of the world’s volcanic eruptions occur. The Ring of Fire has seen a large amount of activity in recent days, but Indonesia has been hit hard due to its position on a large grid of tectonic plates.

Vulnerable: Indonesia is at the meeting point of three major continental plates – the Pacific, the Eurasian and the Indo-Australian plates – and the much smaller Philippine plate. As a result, several volcanoes on the Indonesian islands are prone to erupting, with Bali’s Mt Agung taking the headlines last year and in 2018. Indonesia is home to roughly 400 volcanoes, out of which 127 are currently active, accounting for about a third of the world’s active volcanoes.

What is the Ring of Fire?

The Ring of Fire is a Pacific region home to over 450 volcanoes, including three of the world’s four most active volcanoes – Mount St. Helens in the USA, Mount Fuji in Japan and Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines. It is also sometimes called the circum-Pacific belt.

Around 90% of the world’s earthquakes occur in the Ring of Fire, and 80% of the world’s largest earthquakes. The 40,0000 kilometre horse-shoe-shaped ring loops from New Zealand to Chile, passing through the coasts of Asia and the Americas on the way.

Location:

It stretches along the Pacific Ocean coastlines, where the Pacific Plate grinds against other, smaller tectonic plates that form the Earth’s crust – such as the Philippine Sea plate and the Cocos and Nazca Plates that line the edge of the Pacific Ocean.

Risk:

The people most at risk from activity in the Ring of Fire are in the US west coast, Chile, Japan and island nations including the Solomon Islands. These areas are most at risk because they lie on so-called subduction zones – which are boundaries that mark the collision between two of the planet’s tectonic plates.

How was the Ring of Fire formed?

The Ring of Fire is the result from subduction of oceanic tectonic plates beneath lighter continental plates. The area where these tectonic plates meet is called a subduction zone.

Why does the Ring of Fire trigger earthquakes?

The world’s deepest earthquakes happen in subduction zone areas as tectonic plates scrape against each other – and the Ring of Fire has the world’s biggest concentration of subduction zones.

As energy is released from the earth’s molten core, it forces tectonic plates to move and they crash up against each other, causing friction. The friction causes a build-up of energy and when this energy is finally released it causes an earthquake. If this happens at sea it can cause devastating tsunamis.

Tectonic plates usually only move on average a few centimetres each year, but when an earthquake strikes, they speed up massively and can move at several metres per second.

Source: The Hindu

Concurrent List of the Indian Constitution

In News:

Telangana TRS chief K Chandrasekhar Rao has called for an economic and political overhaul in India. KCR’s pitch, like that of many regional leaders, is an increase in state autonomy by weakening the concurrent list.

Details:

Emphasising the need to decentralise power, KCR has said- The autonomy of states should increase. The Concurrent List should be weakened. There should be a clear division. Subjects which are under the Centre must be transferred to the state.

What is the Concurrent List?

The Constitution of India has provided for a division of powers between the Central and state governments. Under the Seventh Schedule, there are three lists – the Union, State and Concurrent.

The Union List has a range of subjects under which the Parliament may make laws. This includes defence, foreign affairs, railways, banking, among others.

The State List lists subjects under which the legislature of a state may make laws. Public order, police, public health and sanitation; hospitals and dispensaries, betting and gambling are some of the subjects that come under the state.

The Concurrent List includes subjects that give powers to both the Centre and state governments. Subjects like Education including technical education, medical education and universities, population control and family planning, criminal law, prevention of cruelty to animals, protection of wildlife and animals, forests etc. However, given that there can be conflict when it comes to laws passed by Parliament and state legislatures on the same subject, the Constitution provides for a central law to override a state law.

Debate over Centralisation of power:

Since 1950, the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution has seen a number of amendments. The Union List and Concurrent List have grown while subjects under the State List have gradually reduced.

The 42nd Amendment Act was perhaps one of the most controversial. Effected in 1976 during the Emergency by then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, the amendment restructured the Seventh Schedule ensuring that State List subjects like education, forest, protection of wild animals and birds, administration of justice, and weights and measurements were transferred to the Concurrent List.

Former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister CN Annadurai was one of the first to advocate for state autonomy and federalism at the Centre. “It will be sufficient if the Centre retains only such powers as are necessary for preserving the unity and integrity of the country, leaving adequate powers to the states,” he said in 1967.

Taking his idea forward, the Tamil Nadu government under M Karunanidhi constituted the PV Rajamannar Committee to look into Centre-State relations. While the Committee submitted its reports in 1971, the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly adopted a resolution three years later demanding that the Centre accept the state’s views on state autonomy and the recommendations of the Rajamannar Committee. The Rajamannar Committee spurred other states to voice their opposition to the Centre’s encroachment on subjects that were historically under the state’s purview.

PM Indira Gandhi had constituted the Sarkaria Commission to look into Centre-State relations. However, the recommendations of the Sarkaria Commission were not implemented by successive central governments.

Source: The Hindu

Asbestos in Baby Powder

In News:

Over 12,000 women in the US have sued Johnson & Johnson over claims that the talcum powder manufactured by them is the prime cause behind their ovarian cancer. A recent investigation by Reuters claimed that the talcum powder was contaminated by carcinogenic asbestos, making it poisonous and life-threatening for women using it on themselves.

Details:

Talc is a mineral in clay mined from underground deposits. It’s the softest mineral known to man and that makes it useful in a wide range of consumer and industrial products.

Asbestos is also found underground, and veins of it can often be found in talc deposits, leading to a risk of cross-contamination, geologists say.

About Asbestos:

Asbestos is a set of six naturally occurring silicate minerals, which all have in common their eponymous asbestiform habit: i.e., long (roughly 1:20 aspect ratio), thin fibrous crystals, with each visible fiber composed of millions of microscopic “fibrils” that can be released by abrasion and other processes.

They are commonly known by their colors, as blue asbestos, brown asbestos, white asbestos, and green asbestos.

Uses and applications:

Manufacturers and builders use asbestos for its desirable physical properties. Some of those properties are sound absorption, average tensile strength, affordability, and resistance to fire, heat, and electricity. It was used in such applications as electrical insulation for hotplate wiring and in building insulation.

When asbestos is used for its resistance to fire or heat, the fibers are often mixed with cement or woven into fabric or mats. These desirable properties led to asbestos being used very widely.

Health effects:

Inhalation of asbestos fibers can cause serious and fatal illnesses including lung cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestosis (a type of pneumoconiosis).

Source: The Hindu

Outcomes of COP24 in Poland

In News:

Countries settled on most of the tricky elements of the “rulebook” for putting the 2015 Paris agreement into practice. This includes how governments will measure, report on and verify their emissions-cutting efforts, a key element because it ensures all countries are held to proper standards and will find it harder to wriggle out of their commitments. This global deal is meant for climate actions by all the countries across the globe post-2020.

Details:

The Katowice package includes guidelines that will operationalize the transparency framework. It sets out how countries will provide information about their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) that describe their domestic climate actions. This information includes mitigation and adaptation measures as well as details of financial support for climate action in developing countries.

Besides transparency framework, the Katowice package also includes guidelines that relate to the process for establishing new targets on finance from 2025 onwards to follow-on from the current target of mobilizing $100 billion per year from 2020 to support developing countries.

It also includes how to conduct the Global Stocktake (GST) of the effectiveness of climate action in 2023 and how to assess progress on the development and transfer of technology.

Significance of the rulebook:

The global rules are important to ensure that each tonne of emissions released into the atmosphere is accounted for. In this way, progress towards the emission limitation goals of the Paris Agreement can be accurately measured. Currently, climate actions of rich nations for pre-2020 period are being guided by the Kyoto Protocol.

Why did it take so long?

There was a row over carbon credits, which are awarded to countries for their emissions-cutting efforts and their carbon sinks, such as forests, which absorb carbon. These credits count towards countries’ emissions-cutting targets. Brazil, which hopes to benefit from its large rainforest cover, insisted on a new form of wording that critics said would allow double counting of credits, undermining the integrity of the system. This issue has been put off until next year.

What wasn’t agreed?

Largely absent from these talks, which had a technical focus, was the key question of how countries will step up their targets on cutting emissions. On current targets, the world is set for 3C of warming from pre-industrial levels, which scientists say would be disastrous, resulting in droughts, floods, sea level rises and the decline of agricultural productivity.

When will that be agreed?

The key deadline is 2020, when countries must show they have met targets set a decade ago for cutting their emissions, and when they must affirm new, much tougher targets.

What does the science say?

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the global body of the world’s leading climate scientists, warned two months ago that allowing warming to reach 1.5C above pre-industrial levels would have grave consequences, including the die-off of coral reefs and devastation of many species.

How long have we got?

If we extrapolate from the IPCC’s findings, the world has little more than a decade to bring emissions under control and halve them, which would help to stabilise the climate.

Are we getting there?

After years in which the world’s carbon emissions appeared to be stabilising, they are on the rise again. Coal use continues and oil is still the engine of much of the world’s economy. Clean energy is coming on-stream at a faster rate than many predicted, and the costs of it have come down rapidly, but its adoption needs to be speeded up.

Infrastructure, such as energy generation plants, transport networks and buildings, is a central issue: infrastructure built now to rely on high-carbon energy effectively locks in high emissions for decades to come. Some people are also saying we need to invest in projects to remove carbon from the atmosphere.

What happens next?

The UN will meet again next year in Chile to thrash out the final elements of the Paris rulebook and begin work on future emissions targets. But the crunch conference will come in 2020, when countries must meet the deadline for their current emissions commitments and produce new targets for 2030 and beyond that go further towards meeting scientific advice.

That conference may be held in the UK or Italy, both of which have bid to be hosts. The UK’s intention in offering to host is to signal it will retain its role on the world stage after Brexit. The event may also provide a welcome change from wranglings over Brexit and intractable trade deals.

Source: ET

Eklavya Model Residential Schools

In News:

In the context of establishing quality residential schools for the promotion of education, Eklavya Model Residential Schools (EMRSs) for ST students are set up in States/UTs with provisioning of funds through “Grants under Article 275(1) of the Constitution”.

Details:

The establishing of EMRSs is based on demand of the concerned States/UTs with availability of land as an essential attribute.

As per the budget 2018-19, every block with more than 50% ST population and at least 20,000 tribal persons will have an Eklavya Model Residential School by 2022.

Background:

EMRS is a Government of India scheme for model residential school for Indian tribals (Scheduled Tribes, ST) across India.

Objectives of EMRS:

Comprehensive physical, mental and socially relevant development of all students enrolled in each and every EMRS. Students will be empowered to be change agent, beginning in their school, in their homes, in their village and finally in a larger context.

Focus differentially on the educational support to be made available to those in Standards XI and XII, and those in standards VI to X, so that their distinctive needs can be met,

Support the annual running expenses in a manner that offers reasonable remuneration to the staff and upkeep of the facilities.

Support the construction of infrastructure that provides education, physical, environmental and cultural needs of student life.

Source: PIB

IMPRESS scheme has been launched to promote Social Science Research in the country

In News:

The Government has approved “Revitalizing Infrastructure and Systems in Education by 2022”, accordingly the scope of institutions to be funded through Higher Education Financing Agency (HEFA) has been enlarged to encompass School Education and Medical Education institutions, apart from Higher Education.

Details:

The Government of India, in August 2018, had sanctioned the scheme “Impactful Policy Research in Social Sciences (IMPRESS)” at a total cost of Rs. 414 Cr for implementation up to 31.03.2021.

Highlights of the Scheme:

1500 research projects will be awarded for 2 years to support the social science research in the higher educational and to enable research to guide policy making.

Implementing Agency:

Indian Council of Social Science and Research (ICSSR)

Objectives of the Scheme:

To identify and fund research proposals in social sciences with maximum impact on the governance and society.

To ensure selection of projects through a transparent, competitive process on online mode.

To provide opportunity for social science researchers in any institution in the country, including all Universities (Centre and State), private institutions with 12(B) status conferred by UGC.

ICSSR funded/recognized research institutes will also be eligible to submit research proposals on the given themes and sub-themes.

About ICSSR –

Indian Council of Social Science Research (ICSSR) was established in the year of 1969 by the Government of India to promote research in social sciences in the country.

About HEFA –

Higher Education Financing Agency (HEFA) is a joint venture of MHRD Government of India and Canara Bank with an agreed equity participation in the ratio of 91% and 9% respectively. It is for financing creation of capital assets in premier educational institutions in India as part of rising 2022. HEFA’s scope is greatly expanded to cover school education, educational institutes under Ministry of Health, etc.

HEFA is registered under Section 8 [Not-for-Profit] under the Companies Act 2013 as a Union Govt company and as Non-deposit taking NBFC (NBFC-ND-Type II) with RBI.

Source: PIB

10 monuments adopted under the ‘Adopt A Heritage’ project

In News:

The ‘Adopt A Heritage: Apni Dharohar, Apni Pehchaan’, scheme launched on 27th September, 2017.

Details:

It is a collaborative effort by Ministry of Tourism, Ministry of Culture and Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), State/UTs Governments and envisages development and maintenance of tourist amenities at heritage sites and making them tourist friendly, to enhance tourism potential and cultural importance in a planned and phased manner.

Aim of the Project:

The aim of the project is to provide basic amenities that include cleanliness, public conveniences, safe drinking water, ease of access for tourists, signages, illumination, Wi-fi etc.

Funding of the Project:

The project envisages involvement of Private/Public Companies/Organizations and Individuals to adopt Monuments, Natural Heritage Sites and other Tourist Sites, primarily under CSR. No fund is given by Ministry of Tourism.

Other Information:

Archaeological Survey of India has identified 100 monuments as “Adarsh Smarak” for upgradation of existing facilities/amenities like Wi-Fi, cafeteria, interpretation centre, brail signage, modern toilets etc.

Sl.No.   Name of Monument   State

  1. Red Fort                                                                         Delhi
  2. Gandikota Fort                                                             Andhra Pradesh
  3. Area surrounding Gangotri Temple and Trail to Gaumukh Uttrakhand
  4. Mt. Stok Kangri Trek, Lakakh                                                 Jammu and Kashmir
  5. Jantar Mantar                                                                         Delhi
  6. Surajkund                                                                         Haryana
  7. Qutub Minar                                                                         Delhi
  8. Ajanta Caves                                                                         Maharashtra
  9. Leh Palace, Leh                                                             Jammu & Kashmir
  10. Hampi (Hazara Rama Temple)                                     Karnataka

Background:

Archaeological Survey of India –

Founder: Alexander Cunningham

The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), under Ministry of Culture, is the premier organization for the archaeological researches and protection of the cultural heritage of the nation.

Prime Objective of ASI:

The prime objective is maintenance of ancient monuments and archaeological sites and remains of national importance.

It regulates all archaeological activities in the country as per the provisions of the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958 along with the Antiquities and Art Treasure Act, 1972.

Georgia’s first female president sworn in

In News:

Salome Zurabishvili is Georgia’s first female president. With this, the country has transformed itself into a parliamentary republic with a largely ceremonial president.

About Georgia:

It is a country in the Caucasus region of Eurasia. Located at the crossroads of Western Asia and Eastern Europe, it is bounded to the west by the Black Sea, to the north by Russia, to the south by Turkey and Armenia, and to the southeast by Azerbaijan.

10 Monuments adopted under ‘Adopt a Heritage’ project

  • The ‘Adopt A Heritage: Apni Dharohar, Apni Pehchaan’ scheme is a collaborative effort by Ministry of Tourism, Ministry of Culture, Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and State/UTs Governments.
  • It focuses development and maintenance of tourist amenities at heritage sites and making them tourist friendly, to enhance tourism potential and cultural importance in a planned and phased manner.
  • The Project envisages involvement of Private/Public Companies / Organizations and Individuals to adopt Monuments, Natural Heritage Sites and other Tourist Sites in the country, primarily under CSR for funding.
  • The 10 monuments adopted under the scheme are – Red Fort,
  • Gandikota Fort, Gangotri Temple and Trail to Gaumukh, Mt.Stok Kangri Trek in Ladakh, Jantar Mantar, Surajkund, Qutub Minar, Ajanata caves, Leh Palace, Hazara Rama Temple in Hampi.

India’s First Railway University

  • The National Rail and Transportation Institute (NRTI) in Vadodara, Gujarat is the first railway university in India and third such university in the world after Russia and China.
  • At present it has two under-graduate programmes – B.Sc. in Transportation Technology and BBA programme in Transportation Management.
  • The university also aims to start master’s programme from 2019-20 academic session in areas such as Transportation and Systems Design, Transport Systems Engineering, Transport Policy and Economics, among others.
  • The Ministry of Railways is funding the university and has sanctioned Rs 4.21 billion for next five years.

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