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19 March Current Affairs

United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR)

In News:

An International Workshop on Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (IWDRI) is being organised by the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) in collaboration with United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR), and in partnership with the Global Commission on Adaptation, United Nations Development Programme and the World Bank.

Details:

The workshop aims to i) identify good practices of disaster risk management in key infrastructure sectors, ii) identify specific areas and pathways for collaborative research on DRI (Transport, Energy, Telecom and Water), iii) discuss and co-create the broad contours of the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (CDRI) as well as a notional roll-out plan for the next three years, and iv) build a forum for members to work on areas of common interest and make specific commitments.

About UNISDR:

The United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR), created in December 1999, is the successor to the secretariat of the International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction.

It was established to ensure the implementation of the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction.

It is part of the United Nations Secretariat and its functions span the social, economic, environmental as well as humanitarian fields.

Functions: UNISDR supports the implementation, follow-up and review of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction adopted by the Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction on 18 March 2015 in Sendai, Japan.

UNISDR’s vision is anchored on the four priorities for action set out in the Sendai Framework:

  • Understanding disaster risk.
  • Strengthening disaster risk governance to manage disaster risk.
  • Investing in disaster risk reduction for resilience.
  • Enhancing disaster preparedness for effective response and to “Build Back Better” in recovery, rehabilitation and reconstruction.

About Sendai Framework:

The “Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030” was adopted during the Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction held in Sendai, Japan in March, 2015.

Key features of the Sendai framework:

It is the first major agreement of the post-2015 development agenda, with seven targets and four priorities for action.

It was endorsed by the UN General Assembly following the 2015 Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction (WCDRR).

The Framework is for 15-year. It is a voluntary and non-binding agreement which recognizes that the State has the primary role to reduce disaster risk but that responsibility should be shared with other stakeholders including local government, the private sector and other stakeholders.

The new Framework is the successor instrument to the Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA) 2005-2015: Building the Resilience of Nations and Communities to Disasters.

Kisan Urja Suraksha evam Utthaan Mahaabhiyan or KUSUM scheme

In News:

The government has cautioned against fake websites claiming to be registration portal for Kisan Urja Suraksha evam Utthaan Mahabhiyan (KUSUM) scheme and said such websites may be misusing the collected data.

About KUSUM scheme:

It is a ₹1.4 lakh-crore scheme for promoting decentralised solar power production of up to 28,250 MW to help farmers.

Benefits: It would provide extra income to farmers, by giving them an option to sell additional power to the grid through solar power projects set up on their barren lands. It would help in de-dieselising the sector as also the DISCOMS.

Components of the scheme: The components of the scheme include building 10,000 MW solar plants on barren lands and providing sops to DISCOMS to purchase the electricity produced, ‘solarising’ existing pumps of 7250 MW as well as government tube wells with a capacity of 8250 MW and distributing 17.5 lakh solar pumps. The 60% subsidy on the solar pumps provided to farmers will be shared between the Centre and the States while 30% would be provided through bank loans. The balance cost has to be borne by the farmers.

Significance of the scheme: Expected positive outcomes of the scheme include promotion of decentralised solar power production, reduction of transmission losses as well as providing support to the financial health of DISCOMs by reducing the subsidy burden to the agriculture sector. The scheme would also promote energy efficiency and water conservation and provide water security to farmers.

The proposed scheme provides for:

Setting up of grid-connected renewable power plants each of 500KW to 2 MW in the rural area.

Installation of standalone off-grid solar water pumps to fulfil irrigation needs of farmers not connected to grid.

Solarization of existing grid-connected agriculture pumps to make farmers independent of grid supply and also sell surplus solar power generated to Discom and get extra income.

Appointment of Lokpal

In News:

The name of former Supreme Court Judge Justice Pinaki Chandra Ghose has been cleared by the Lokpal Selection Committee headed by the Prime Minister.

Highlights of the Lokpal Act of 2013:

The Act allows setting up of anti-corruption ombudsman called Lokpal at the Centre and Lokayukta at the State-level.

Composition: The Lokpal will consist of a chairperson and a maximum of eight members.

Applicability: The Lokpal will cover all categories of public servants, including the Prime Minister. But the armed forces do not come under the ambit of Lokpal.

The Act also incorporates provisions for attachment and confiscation of property acquired by corrupt means, even while the prosecution is pending.

The States will have to institute Lokayukta within one year of the commencement of the Act.

The Act also ensures that public servants who act as whistleblowers are protected.

Who can become the Chairperson?

The person who is to be appointed as the chairperson of the Lokpal should be either of the following: Either the former Chief Justice of India Or the former Judge of Supreme Court Or an eminent person with impeccable integrity and outstanding ability, having special knowledge and expertise of minimum 25 years in the matters relating to anti-corruption policy, public administration, vigilance, finance including insurance and banking, law and management.

Who can become a member?

Out of the maximum eight members, half will be judicial members. Minimum fifty per cent of the Members will be from SC / ST / OBC / Minorities and women. The judicial member of the Lokpal should be either a former Judge of the Supreme Court or a former Chief Justice of a High Court. The non-judicial member should be an eminent person with impeccable integrity and outstanding ability, having special knowledge and expertise of minimum 25 years in the matters relating to anti-corruption policy, public administration, vigilance, finance including insurance and banking, law and management.

Who cannot become the chairperson?

The following persons cannot become chairperson of Lokpal: MPs and MLAs Persons convicted of any offense involving moral turpitude Less than 45 years of age, Members of Panchayats or Municipality, A person who was removed or dismissed from the public service, A person who holds any office of trust / profit; if so, he would need to resign from Lokpal. A person who is affiliated to a political party Carries on some business / profession; if so, he would need to quit some business.

Term of Office:

The term of office for Lokpal Chairman and Members is 5 years or till attaining age of 70 years.

The salary, allowances and other conditions of service of chairperson are equivalent to Chief Justice of India and members is equivalent to Judge of Supreme Court. If the person is already getting the pension (for being a former judge), the equivalent pension amount will be deducted from the salary.

The source of salary for Lokpal and Members is Consolidated Fund of India.

If the chairperson dies in office or has resigned from the post, President can authorise the senior-most Member to act as the Chairperson until new chairperson is appointed. If chairperson is not available for certain functions due to leave, his job will be done by senior most member.

Powers:

The Lokpal will have the power of superintendence and direction over any investigation agency including CBI for cases referred to them by the ombudsman.

As per the Act, the Lokpal can summon or question any public servant if there exists a prima facie case against the person, even before an investigation agency (such as vigilance or CBI) has begun the probe. Any officer of the CBI investigating a case referred to it by the Lokpal, shall not be transferred without the approval of the Lokpal.

An investigation must be completed within six months. However, the Lokpal or Lokayukta may allow extensions of six months at a time provided the reasons for the need of such extensions are given in writing.

Special courts will be instituted to conduct trials on cases referred by Lokpal.

Ambit of the Lokpal:

For a wide range of public servants from the PM, ministers and MPs, to groups A, B, C and D employees of the central government various rules are in place.

If a complaint is filed against the PM, the Act says, “Lokpal shall inquire or cause an inquiry to be conducted into any matter involved in, or arising from, or connected with, any allegation of corruption made in a complaint”.

However, certain conditions will apply. The Act does not allow a Lokpal inquiry if the allegation against the PM relates to international relations, external and internal security, public order, atomic energy and space.

Also, complaints against the PM are not to be probed unless the full Lokpal bench considers the initiation of an inquiry and at least two-thirds of the members approve it.

Such an inquiry against the Prime Minister (if conducted) is to be held in camera and if the Lokpal comes to the conclusion that the complaint deserves to be dismissed, the records of the inquiry are not to be published or made available to anyone.

Lokpal itself is also subjected to the Law:

The Act also includes the Lokpal’s own members under the definition of “public servant”.

The Chairperson, Members, officers and other employees of the Lokpal shall be deemed, when acting or purporting to act in pursuance of any of the provisions of this Act to be public servants.

It shall apply to public servants in and outside India.

It clarifies that a complaint under this Act shall only relate to a period during which the public servant was holding or serving in that capacity.

Sary-Arka-Antiterror 2019- SCO joint anti- terrorism exercise

In News:

The Shanghai Cooperation Organization’s (SCO) member states will hold a joint anti-terrorism exercise “Sary-Arka-Antiterror 2019.” The decision to hold a joint exercise was announced during the 34th meeting of the RATS council held in Tashkent, Uzbekistan.

Other outcomes of RATS council meeting:

Chaired by Russia, the meeting also declared plans to hold the first stage of the joint border operation “Solidarity 2019-2021,” the 7th meeting of the heads of the border services, and training workshops on identifying and preventing the use of the Internet for terrorist, separatist and extremist purposes.

What is RATS?

RATS, established in 2004, is a permanent organ of the SCO which serves to promote cooperation of member states against the three evils of terrorism, separatism and extremism. It is headquartered in Tashkent.

About SCO:

The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, also known as the Shanghai Pact, is a Eurasian political, economic, and military organisation which was founded in 2001 in Shanghai by the leaders of China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. Apart from Uzbekistan, the other five countries have been a part of the Shanghai 5 since 1996. The cooperation was renamed to Shanghai Cooperation Organisation after Uzbekistan joined the organisation in 2001.

New members: India and Pakistan joined SCO as full members in June 2017 in Astana, Kazakhstan.

The SCO’s main goals are: strengthening mutual trust and neighborliness among the member states; promoting their effective cooperation in politics, trade, the economy, research, technology and culture, as well as in education, energy, transport, tourism, environmental protection, and other areas; making joint efforts to maintain and ensure peace, security and stability in the region; and moving towards the establishment of a democratic, fair and rational new international political and economic order.

Source: The Hindu

Govt.’s prerogative to frame schemes: SC

In News:

It is the sole prerogative of the government to frame schemes and courts should stay out of governance, the Supreme Court has said in a judgment.

Background:

SC has criticised the Uttarakhand High Court for framing a scheme to regularize hundreds of casual workers engaged by the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) in the construction of roads for Char Dham Yatra pilgrimage.

Important observations made by SC:

It is not the function of the courts to frame any scheme but it is the sole prerogative of the government to do it.

All that the High Court, in exercise of its extraordinary power under Article 226 of the Constitution, can do is to direct the government to consider framing an appropriate scheme.

Such directions to the government to consider framing a scheme should be with regard to the facts and circumstances of each case.

It is only in exceptional cases when the court considers it proper, should it issue appropriate mandatory directions, the Supreme Court held.

Need of the hour:

The line between Judicial activism and Judicial Overreach is very narrow. In simple terms, when Judicial activism crosses its limits and becomes Judicial adventurism it is known as Judicial Overreach. When the judiciary oversteps the powers given to it, it may interfere with the proper functioning of the legislative or executive organs of government. Judicial Overreach destroys the spirit of separation of powers.

Source: The Hindu

Hayabusa2

In News:

Japan’s Hayabusa2 spacecraft will follow up last month’s touchdown on a distant asteroid with another risky mission — dropping an explosive on the asteroid to make a crater and then collect underground samples for possible clues to the origin of the solar system. Hayabusa2 made history on 22 February when it successfully touched down on the boulder-strewn asteroid and collected some surface fragments.

 

Hayabusa:

In mid-September 2005, Hayabusa landed on the asteroid Itokawa, and managed to collect samples in the form of grains of asteroidal material. It returned to Earth with the samples in June 2010, thereby becoming the first spacecraft to return asteroid samples to Earth for analysis.

Hayabusa2:

It is an asteroid sample-return mission operated by the Japanese space agency, JAXA.

It was launched on 3 December 2014 and rendezvoused with near-Earth asteroid 162173 Ryugu on 27 June 2018.

It is in the process of surveying the asteroid for a year and a half, departing in December 2019, and returning to Earth in December 2020.

Hayabusa2 carries multiple science payloads for remote sensing, sampling, and four small rovers that will investigate the asteroid surface to inform the environmental and geological context of the samples collected.

The scientific objectives of Hayabusa2 mission are twofold:

To characterize the asteroid from remote sensing observations (with multispectral cameras, near-infrared spectrometer, thermal infrared imager, laser altimeter) on a macroscopic scale

To analyse the samples returned from the asteroid on a microscopic scale.

What is the significance of the mission?

Ryugu is a C-type asteroid – a relic from the early days of the Solar System. Scientists think that C-type asteroids contain both organic matter, and trapped water, and might have been responsible for bringing both to Earth, thereby providing the planet with the materials necessary for life to originate.

Source: The Hindu

Africa-India Field Training Exercise-2019

In News:

The inaugural Africa-India Field Training Exercise-2019 for India and African nations called AFINDEX-19 is being held at Aundh Military Station, Pune.

Details:

The aim of the exercise is to practice the participating nations in planning and conduct of Humanitarian Mine Assistance and Peace Keeping Operations under Chapter VII of United Nations Peace Keeping Operations.

Parrotfish in Andaman

In News:

Fishing and coral reef degradation threaten parrotfish in Andaman. New study says presence of a protected area, live coral and algal cover, significantly influences distribution and abundance of the specie.

Details:

Bumphead parrotfish (Bolbometopon muricatum), is an important component of coral reef ecosystem, but is highly endangered globally. It is categorized as ‘vulnerable’ in the Red List of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Threats: This fish is a highly prized resource, but is threatened due to limited knowledge about its distribution and abundance in Indian waters.

Need of the hour: Ban night fishing for the species and implement regulations regarding reef fishing. Considering the vulnerable status of Bumphead parrotfish globally, the species could be a flagship for educational campaigns focusing on the importance of conserving similar fish groups and protecting the coral reefs.

 

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