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18 Feb Current Affairs

National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST)

In News:

Foundation Day of National Commission for Scheduled Tribes is being observed on 19th February, 2019. The Commission will be celebrating fifteen years on 19th February, 2019.

Background:

The National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST) was set up on 19th February, 2004 through Constitution (89th Amendment) Act.

NCST leadership award:

On this occasion, the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes has also decided to institute a national award named as “NCST Leadership Award” which will be conferred for significant and exemplary services towards Scheduled Tribes in the country.

The awards will be given in 3 categories i.e. (i) Educational Institutions/ Universities, (ii) Public Sector Undertakings/Banks and (iii) Public Service rendered by an Individual, NGO or Civil Society.

About NCST:

NCST was established by amending Article 338 and inserting a new Article 338A in the Constitution through the Constitution (89th Amendment) Act, 2003. By this amendment, the erstwhile National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes was replaced by two separate Commissions namely- (i) the National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC), and (ii) the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST).

Composition: The term of office of Chairperson, Vice-Chairperson and each member is three years from the date of assumption of charge. The Chairperson has been given the rank of Union Cabinet Minister and the Vice-Chairperson that of a Minister of State and other Members have the ranks of a Secretary to the Government of India.

Powers: NCST is empowered to investigate and monitor matters relating to safeguards provided for STs under the Constitution or under other laws or under Govt. order. The Commission is also authorized to inquire into specific complaints relating to rights and safeguards of STs and to participate and advise in the Planning Process relating to socio-economic development of STs and to evaluate the progress of their development under the Union and States.

Report: The commission submits its report to the President annually on the working of safeguards and measures required for effective implementation of Programmers/ Schemes relating to welfare and socio-economic development of STs.

Deendayal Disabled Rehabilitation Scheme

In News:

For the overall empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (Divyangajan), a “Regional Conference on Deendayal Disabled Rehabilitation Scheme (DDRS)” is being organized by the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (DEPwD), Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, Government of India at Kolkata, West Bengal.

Details:

The stakeholders i.e. the NGOs receiving grant under DDRS, State Government Officers & District level officers will be participating.

Objectives of the conference:

To disseminate the provisions of the revised scheme and to sensitize various stake holders about it.

To provide a unique opportunity for interactions amongst all stakeholders.

To ensure exchange of cross-sectoral views on the aspects of the efficacy of the scheme as well as the scope of improvements in it.

About Deendayal Disabled Rehabilitation Scheme (DDRS):

“Scheme to Promote Voluntary Action for Persons with Disabilities” was revised and renamed as the “Deendayal Disabled Rehabilitation Scheme (DDRS)”.

The objectives of the scheme are:

To create an enabling environment to ensure equal opportunities, equity, social justice and empowerment of persons with disabilities.

To encourage voluntary action for ensuring effective implementation of the People with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities and Protection of Rights) Act of 1995.

Approach and Strategy:

The approach of this Scheme is to provide financial assistance to voluntary organizations to make available the whole range of services necessary for rehabilitation of persons with disabilities including early intervention, development of daily living skills, education, skill-development oriented towards employability, training and awareness generation.

With a view to inclusion of persons with disabilities in the mainstream of society and actualizing their potential, the thrust would be on education and training programmes.

Eco Circuit

In News:

‘Development of Eco Circuit: Pathanamthitta – Gavi – Vagamon – Thekkady’ under the Swadesh Darshan scheme of Ministry of Tourism was recently inaugurated.

Details:

Eco Circuit is one of the fifteen thematic circuits identified for development under Swadesh Darshan Scheme- Integrated development of theme- based tourist circuits in the country.

Major works carried out under the project includes Eco Adventure Tourism Park at Vagamon, Cultural Centre at Kadamanitta, Eco Log Huts at Peerumedu, Idukki, Approach Roads, Walking trails, Rain Shelters at Pine Valley Forest, Thekkady, Kumily, Moozhiyar Dam, Penstock and Kakki Dam.

About Swadesh Darshan Scheme:

The Tourism Ministry had launched ‘Swadesh Darshan’ scheme with an objective to develop theme-based tourist circuits in the country. These tourist circuits will be developed on the principles of high tourist value, competitiveness and sustainability in an integrated manner.

Features of Swadesh Darshan Scheme:

The scheme is 100% centrally funded for the project components undertaken for public funding.

It leverages the voluntary funding available for Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives of Central Public Sector Undertakings and corporate sector.

Funding of individual project will vary from state to state and will be finalised on the basis of detailed project reports prepared by PMC (Programme Management Consultant).

A National Steering Committee (NSC) will be constituted with Minister in charge of M/O Tourism as Chairman, to steer the mission objectives and vision of the scheme.

A Mission Directorate headed by the Member Secretary, NSC as a nodal officer will help in identification of projects in consultation with the States/ UTs governments and other stake holders.

PMC will be a national level consultant to be appointed by the Mission Directorate.

Scientists discover massive mountains under Earth’s crust

In News:

Scientists have discovered massive mountains in the Earth’s mantle, an advance that may change our understanding of how the planet was formed.

About the discovery:

These newly discovered mountains are located between upper and lower mantle. Scientists used data from an enormous earthquake in Bolivia to find mountains and other topography on a layer located 660 km straight down, which separates the upper and lower mantle.

Data from earthquakes that are magnitude 7.0 or higher sends shockwaves in all directions that can travel through the core to the other side of the planet — and back again.

Lacking a formal name for this layer, the researchers simply call it “the 660-km boundary.”

Implications:

The presence of roughness on the 660-km boundary has significant implications for understanding how our planet formed and evolved.

What are earthquake waves?

Earthquake waves are basically of two types – body waves and surface waves.

Body waves: They are generated due to the release of energy at the focus and moves in all directions traveling through the body of the earth. Hence, the name – body waves. They travel only through the interior of the earth. Body waves are faster than surface waves and hence they are the first to be detected on a seismograph. There are two types of body waves as primary waves and secondary waves.

Surface Waves: When the body waves interact with surface rocks, a new set of waves is generated called as surface waves. These waves move along the earth surface. Surface waves are also transverse waves in which particle movement is perpendicular to the wave propagation. Hence, they create crests and troughs in the material through which they pass.

Surface waves are considered to be the most damaging waves. Two common surface waves are Love waves and Rayleigh waves.

Source: The Hindu

Finance Commission of India

In News:

People representatives of Panchayat Raj institutions and urban local bodies in Hyderabad are planning to make a case with the visiting 15th Central Finance Commission to enhance the quantum of funds to the local bodies. More so to release the share of funds that the zilla and mandal parishads used to get directly till the 14th Finance Commission discontinued the practice and diverted them to the gram panchayats.

Details:

The Finance Commission is constituted by the President under article 280 of the Constitution, mainly to give its recommendations on distribution of tax revenues between the Union and the States and amongst the States themselves.

Two distinctive features of the Commission’s work involve redressing the vertical imbalances between the taxation powers and expenditure responsibilities of the centre and the States respectively and equalization of all public services across the States.

What are the functions of the Finance Commission?

It is the duty of the Commission to make recommendations to the President as to:

the distribution between the Union and the States of the net proceeds of taxes which are to be, or may be, divided between them and the allocation between the States of the respective shares of such proceeds;

the principles which should govern the grants-in-aid of the revenues of the States out of the Consolidated Fund of India;

the measures needed to augment the Consolidated Fund of a State to supplement the resources of the Panchayats and Municipalities in the State on the basis of the recommendations made by the Finance Commission of the State;

any other matter referred to the Commission by the President in the interests of sound finance.

The Commission determines its procedure and have such powers in the performance of their functions as Parliament may by law confer on them.

Who appoints the Finance Commission and what are the qualifications for Members?

The Finance Commission is appointed by the President under Article 280 of the Constitution.   As per the provisions contained in the Finance Commission [Miscellaneous Provisions] Act, 1951 and The Finance Commission (Salaries & Allowances) Rules, 1951, the Chairman of the Commission is selected from among persons who have had experience in public affairs, and the four other members are selected from among persons who:

are, or have been, or are qualified to be appointed as Judges of a High Court; or

have special knowledge of the finances and accounts of Government; or

have had wide experience in financial matters and in administration; or

have special knowledge of economics

The recommendations of the Finance Commission are implemented as under:

Those to be implemented by an order of the President:

The recommendations relating to distribution of Union Taxes and Duties and Grants-in-aid fall in this category.

Those to be implemented by executive orders:

Other recommendations to be made by the Finance Commission, as per its Terms of Reference

When was the first Commission Constituted and how many Commissions have been Constituted so far?

The First Finance Commission was constituted vide Presidential Order dated 22.11.1951 under the chairmanship of Shri K.C. Neogy on 6th April, 1952.  Fifteenth Finance Commissions have been Constituted so far at intervals of every five years.

Why is there a need for a Finance Commission?

The Indian federal system allows for the division of power and responsibilities between the centre and states.  Correspondingly, the taxation powers are also broadly divided between the centre and states.  State legislatures may devolve some of their taxation powers to local bodies.

Formula used for distribution:

The share in central taxes is distributed among states based on a formula.  Previous Finance Commissions have considered various factors to determine the criteria such as the population and income needs of states, their area and infrastructure, etc.  Further, the weightage assigned to each criterion has varied with each Finance Commission.

The criteria used by the 11th to 14thFinance Commissions are:

Population is an indicator of the expenditure needs of a state. Over the years, Finance Commissions have used population data of the 1971 Census.  The 14th Finance Commission used the 2011 population data, in addition to the 1971 data.  The 15th Finance Commission has been mandated to use data from the 2011 Census.

Area is used as a criterion as a state with larger area has to incur additional administrative costs to deliver services.

Income distance is the difference between the per capita income of a state with the average per capita income of all states. States with lower per capita income may be given a higher share to maintain equity among states.

Forest cover indicates that states with large forest covers bear the cost of not having area available for other economic activities. Therefore, the rationale is that these states may be given a higher share.

Grants-in-Aid:

Besides the taxes devolved to states, another source of transfers from the centre to states is grants-in-aid. As per the recommendations of the 14th Finance Commission, grants-in-aid constitute 12% of the central transfers to states. The 14th Finance Commission had recommended grants to states for three purposes: (i) disaster relief, (ii) local bodies, and (iii) revenue deficit.

Source: The Hindu

Azov sea

In News:

The EU has decided to sanction eight Russian nationals for their responsibility in incidents in the Azov Sea last November.

Details:

The Ukraine-Russia conflict flared up when Russian forces seized three Ukrainian vessels and captured two dozen sailors as they tried to pass from the Black Sea to the Sea of Azov.

About the conflict in the Sea of Azov:

Ukraine and Russia accuse each other of violating international maritime law. They refer to the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, which both states joined in the 1990s.

Ukraine insists on freedom of movement in the Kerch Strait and the Sea of Azov in accordance with this agreement, while the Russian side is trying to draw territorial borders. The countries also have a bilateral agreement on the free use of the Kerch Strait and the Sea of Azov, an accord that Russia has never called into question.

Why the Kerch Strait is important?

The Kerch Strait is the only connection between the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov, and the only way to reach two important Ukrainian ports, Mariupol and Berdiansk. Russia has controlled the strait since annexing Crimea in 2014, which has made traffic significantly more difficult for Ukrainian ships.

About Sea of Azov:

It is a sea in Eastern Europe. To the south it is linked by the narrow (about 4 km or 2.5 mi) Strait of Kerch to the Black Sea, and it is sometimes regarded as a northern extension of the Black Sea.

The sea is bounded in the north and in the west by Ukraine, in the east by Russia.

The Don and Kuban are the major rivers that flow into it.

The Sea of Azov is the shallowest sea in the world, with the depth varying between 0.9 and 14 metres.

Source: The Hindu

International Court of Justice

In News:

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) will begin hearing the case of Kulbhushan Jadhav at The Hague. Pakistan has sentenced Jadhav to death for spying while India claims he is not a spy and is challenging his death sentence.

About ICJ:

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) is the principal judicial body of the UN. Established in 1946 to replace the Permanent Court of International Justice, the ICJ mainly operates under the statute of its predecessor, which is included in the UN Charter.

It has two primary functions: to settle legal disputes submitted by States in accordance with established international laws, and to act as an advisory board on issues submitted to it by authorized international organizations.

Members of the Court:

The International Court of Justice is composed of 15 judges elected to nine-year terms of office by the United Nations General Assembly and the Security Council. These organs vote simultaneously but separately. In order to be elected, a candidate must receive an absolute majority of the votes in both bodies. In order to ensure a measure of continuity, one third of the Court is elected every three years. Judges are eligible for re-election.

Who nominates the candidates?

Every state government, party to the Charter, designates a group who propose candidates for the office of ICJ judges. This group includes four members/jurists of the Permanent Court of Arbitration (machinery which enables arbitral tribunals to be set up as desired and facilitates their work) also picked by the State. Countries not part of the statute follow the same procedure where a group nominates the candidates.

Each group is limited to nominate four candidates, two of whom could be of their nationality. Within a fixed duration set by the Secretary-General, the names of the candidates have to be sent to him/her.

What are the qualifications of ICJ judges?

A judge should have a high moral character.

A judge should fit to the qualifications of appointment of highest judicial officers as prescribed by their respective states or.

A judge should be a juriconsult of recognized competence in international law.

The 15 judges of the Court are distributed as per the regions:

Three from Africa.

Two from Latin America and Caribbean.

Three from Asia.

Five from Western Europe and other states.

Two from Eastern Europe.

Independence of the Judges:

Once elected, a Member of the Court is a delegate neither of the government of his own country nor of that of any other State. Unlike most other organs of international organizations, the Court is not composed of representatives of governments. Members of the Court are independent judges whose first task, before taking up their duties, is to make a solemn declaration in open court that they will exercise their powers impartially and conscientiously.

In order to guarantee his or her independence, no Member of the Court can be dismissed unless, in the unanimous opinion of the other Members, he/she no longer fulfils the required conditions. This has in fact never happened.

Source: The Hindu

Policy bias against rainfed agriculture

In News:

A new rainfed agriculture atlas has been released recently. It has been released by Revitalising Rainfed Agriculture (RRA) Network.

Details:

The atlas not only maps the agro biodiversity and socio-economic conditions prevailing in such areas, but also attempts to document the policy biases that are making farming unviable for many in these areas.

Challenges present:

Three out of five farmers in India grow their crops using rainwater, instead of irrigation. However, per hectare government investment into their lands may be 20 times lower, government procurement of their crops is a fraction of major irrigated land crops, and many of the government’s flagship agriculture schemes are not tailored to benefit them.

There has been “negligence” toward rainfed areas which is leading to lower incomes for farmers in these areas. Farmers in rainfed areas are receiving 40% less of their income from agriculture in comparison to those in irrigated areas.

Lands irrigated through big dams and canal networks get a per hectare investment of ₹5 lakh. Watershed management spending in rainfed lands is only ₹18,000-25,000.

The difference in yield is not proportionate to the difference in investment. When it comes to procurement, over the decade between 2001-02 and 2011-12, the government spent ₹5.4 lakh crore on wheat and rice. Coarse cereals, which are grown in rainfed areas, only had ₹3,200 crore worth of procurement in the same period.

Flagship government schemes, such as seed and fertiliser subsidies and soil health cards, are designed for irrigated areas and simply extended to rainfed farmers without taking their needs into consideration.

What needs to be done?

A more balanced approach is needed to give rainfed farmers the same research and technology focus, and production support that their counterparts in irrigation areas have received over the last few decades.

In the long run, cash incentives and income support like the PM-KISAN scheme announced in the budget are better than extensive procurement. While income support is important to help farmers through the current crisis, it is now the time to design better structured interventions for the future.

Source: The Hindu

EXERCISE VAYU SHAKTI-2019

In News:

EXERCISE VAYU SHAKTI-2019 was held recently in Rajasthan.

Details:

Vayu Shakti is held by Indian Airforce.

It demonstrates the IAF’s ability to strike targets on the ground such as enemy convoys and tanks, radar stations, railway yards and military headquarters.

Blackbuck

Key facts:

The blackbuck (Antelope cervicapra) is an antelope indigenous to the India plains. Also found in India, Nepal and Pakistan.

The Females are generally hornless.

It is considered to be the fastest animal next to Cheetah.

It is of Least Concern according to the IUCN red list.

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