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February 19, 2020
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February 21, 2020
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20 Feb Current Affairs

Kambala

In News:

The Kambala jockey who was compared to world record holder Usain Bolt after a video went viral showing him ‘finishing 100 metres in 9.55 seconds’, has refused to participate in athletics trials.

Key Points:

Kambala is a traditional buffalo race in paddy fields filled with slush and mud which generally takes place in coastal Karnataka (Udupi and Dakshina Kannada) from November to March.

Traditionally, it is sponsored by local Tuluva landlords and households in the coastal districts.Tuluva people are an ethnic group native to Southern India. They are native speakers of the Tulu language.

During the race, the racers try to bring the buffaloes under control by holding their reins tight and whipping them.

Tradition: In its traditional form, Kambala was non-competitive and buffalo pairs raced one after another in paddy fields.

It was also observed as thanksgiving to gods for protecting the animals from diseases.

Concerns:

Animal activists criticize the sport and argue that the Kambala involves acts of cruelty on animals which are not physiologically suited for racing and they run in the race due to fear of being beaten.

According to them, it violates the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (PCA) Act, 1960. The Act prevents practices which involve unnecessary pain to the animal amounting to cruelty.

Background:

The Supreme Court had banned jallikattu, bullock-cart races, and kambala events in its judgement on May 7, 2014.

The judgement upheld the Constitution of India read with legislation under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 and provided animals with the fundamental right to be treated with compassion and dignity and to be free from unnecessary pain and suffering

However, the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Karnataka Amendment) Ordinance, 2017 approved the organising of kambala event, provided steps are taken to avoid cruelty to the participating bulls.

E-MASIHA

In News:

Recently, the Ministry of Minority Affairs has informed that India has made the Haj 2020 process completely digital.

Key Points:

India has become the first country in the world which has made the entire Haj 2020 process 100% digital.

The online facilities include application procedure, E-Visa, Haj mobile app, “E-MASIHA” health facility and “E-luggage pre-tagging” providing all information in India itself regarding accommodation/transportation in Makkah-Madinah, Saudi Arabia.

E-MASIHA:

E-MASIHA (E-Medical Assistance System for Indian Pilgrims Abroad) is an online system to create and maintain the complete health database of Indian pilgrims.

It also provides doctors’ prescriptions, medical treatment as well as medicine disbursals, and has been developed to deal with any emergency in Makkah-Madinah.

100 years of Jamshedpur City

In News:

Jamshedpur City is celebrating the completion of 100 years.

Jamshedpur is one of the first industrial planned cities of India and the most populous urban agglomeration in Jharkhand.

Key Points:

The city, originally a village called Sakchi, was renamed as Jamshedpur by then Viceroy of India Lord Chelmsford (1916-21) in 1919 in the honour of Jamsetji Nusserwanji Tata, founder of the Tata group.

It is located in Chota Nagpur plateau, surrounded by the Dalma Hills and at the confluence of Kharkai and Subarnarekha Rivers.

Jamshedji Tata had established the Tata Iron and Steel Company (TISCO) in Jamshedpur in 1907. TISCO (now Tata Steel Ltd) is the oldest iron and steel enterprise of India.

Arab World’s First Nuclear Power Plant

In News:

Recently, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has issued an operating licence for the Arab world’s first nuclear power plant, paving the way for it to start production in 2020.

Key Points:

The Barakah nuclear power plant in Abu Dhabi is being built by Korea Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO), was originally due to open in 2017.

Barakah will have four reactors with a total capacity of 5,600 megawatts. It will be almost a fifth of the country’s current installed generating capacity.

The plant is located on a sparsely populated strip of desert on the Persian Gulf coast.

ISRO Plans for 2020-21

In News:

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has released its annual report for 2019-20 recently.

Details:

ISRO has been allocated with the budget of ₹13,480 crores for 2020-21.

Currently, India has 19 national Earth Observation (EO) satellites, 18 communication satellites and 8 navigation satellites in service.

These are used for broadcasting, telephony, Internet services, weather, agriculture-related forecasting, security, disaster-time rescue and relief and location-based services.

Three of the communication satellites are dedicated to military communication and networking.

Key Points:

The report states an annual plan of 36 missions (including both satellites and their launchers) including the launch of 10 Earth Observation (EO) satellites.

The upcoming EO satellites include radar imaging satellites RISAT-2BR2, RISAT- 1A and 2A; Oceansat-3, GISAT-1 and Resourcesat-3/3S.

ISRO plans to launch Chandrayan-3, Gaganyan in the year of 2020-21.

ISRO also plans to launch a new series of high-resolution HRSATs through Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) launcher.

ISRO is expected to develop its own space station within a decade.

Permanent Commission for Women

In News:

The Supreme Court has brought women officers in 10 streams of the Army on a par with their male counterparts in all respects, setting aside longstanding objections of the government. The court ordered the government to implement its judgment in three months.

Court’s observations:

The Supreme Court rejected arguments against greater role for women officers, saying these violated equality under law.

The biological argument was also rejected as disturbing.

The court has rejected government’s arguments, saying they are based on sex stereotypes premised on assumptions about socially ascribed roles of gender which discriminate against women.

It has also said that it only shows the need “to emphasise the need for change in mindsets to bring about true equality in the Army”.

 Background:

The case was first filed in the Delhi High Court by women officers in 2003, and had received a favourable order in 2010. But the order was never implemented, and was challenged in the Supreme Court by the government.

Women in Army: Background of the case:

The induction of women officers in the Army started in 1992. They were commissioned for a period of five years in certain chosen streams such as Army Education Corps, Corps of Signals, Intelligence Corps, and Corps of Engineers. Recruits under the Women Special Entry Scheme (WSES) had a shorter pre-commission training period than their male counterparts who were commissioned under the Short Service Commission (SSC) scheme.

In 2006, the WSES scheme was replaced with the SSC scheme, which was extended to women officers. They were commissioned for a period of 10 years, extendable up to 14 years. Serving WSES officers were given the option to move to the new SSC scheme, or to continue under the erstwhile WSES. They were to be however, restricted to roles in streams specified earlier — which excluded combat arms such as infantry and armoured corps.

What was the main issue now?

While male SSC officers could opt for permanent commission at the end of 10 years of service, this option was not available to women officers. They were, thus, kept out of any command appointment, and could not qualify for government pension, which starts only after 20 years of service as an officer.

Why the government was against this?

Motherhood, childcare, psychological limitations have a bearing on the employment of women officers in the Army.

Family separation, career prospects of spouses, education of children, prolonged absence due to pregnancy, motherhood were a greater challenge for women to meet the exigencies of service.

Physical limitations: Soldiers will be asked to work in difficult terrains, isolated posts and adverse climate conditions. Officers have to lead from the front. They should be in prime physical condition to undertake combat tasks. The Govt. said women were not fit to serve in ground combat roles.

Behavioural and Psychological Challenges: Army units were a “unique all-male environment”. The presence of women officers would require “moderated behaviour”. The male troop predominantly comes from a rural background and may not be in a position to accept commands from a female leader.

But, why they should be granted permanent commission?

Past records: A quick look at the past records reveals, all the arguments put forth against giving women more responsibility have been answered by the armed forces by giving women greater responsibility in uniform — the IAF has allowed women to become fighter pilots, and the Army has sent them to tough UN peacekeeping missions globally.

Women officers are already commanding platoons, companies and second in command successfully, with male soldiers accepting orders from them as part of a professional force.

Now they are being excluded from commanding a unit, only on the basis that they are women. This argument doesn’t hold water.

A professional force does not discriminate on the basis of gender, it works because of training, norms and culture. Denying women the posts will be an “extremely retrograde step” and “will inflict irreparable injury” to their dignity.

Order and its implications:

It means that women officers will be eligible to tenant all the command appointments, at par with male officers, which would open avenues for further promotions to higher ranks for them.

It also means that in junior ranks and career courses, women officers would be attending the same training courses and tenanting critical appointments, which are necessary for higher promotions.

The implications of the judgment will have to be borne by the human resources management department of the Army, which will need to change policy in order to comply.

State of India’s Birds 2020

In News:

The research titled ‘State of India’s Birds 2020’ (SoIB), put together by over ten institutions and numerous citizen scientists, was released recently at the ongoing United Nations 13th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Migratory Species in Gandhinagar, Gujarat.

Key findings:

Over 50 per cent of the 867 species studied, exhibit a population decline in the long term while 146 are at great risk in the short term.

The populations of raptors (eagles, hawks, kites, etc.), migratory seabirds and birds that live in specialised habitats were the most affected in the past decades.

The number of birds in the Western Ghats, which is considered one of the world’s foremost biodiversity hotspots, also declined by almost 75 per cent since 2000.

Indian Peafowl, the national bird, has shown a dramatic increase in both abundance and distribution across the country. The number of house sparrows has also stabilised nationwide, although there is still a marked decline in their population in cities.

126 species, including the peafowl, house sparrow, Asian Koel, rose-ringed parakeet and the common tailorbird, are expected to increase in numbers, primarily due to their ability to survive in human habitats.

How was the study carried out?

The data for these birds was collected through the citizen science app ‘eBird’, which received a record ten million entries by approximately 15,500 citizen scientists.

Cornell University’s Laboratory of Ornithology hosts the app, while its India-specific portal is curated and customised by Bird Count India, an informal group of birdwatching enthusiasts, ornithologists, naturalists and conservationists dedicated to documenting Indian birds.

Concerns:

This assessment makes it very clear that our birds are in overall decline, in some cases catastrophically so.

Several spectacular birds, many of them endemic to the sub-continent, face a growing threat from loss of habitat due to:

  • Human activity.
  • The widespread presence of toxins, including pesticides.
  • Hunting and trapping for the pet trade.

Categorisation:

  • It categorises 101 species as ‘High Conservation Concern for India’.
  • 319 species are classified under the ‘Moderate Conservation Concern’ These species must be carefully monitored to rapidly detect and act upon signs of continuing decline.

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