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January 19, 2019
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January 22, 2019
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21 January Current Affairs

Appointment of Chief Information Commissioner

In News:

RTI activists have termed the appointment of former Law Secretary Suresh Chandra as a Central Information Commissioner on January 1 an “arbitrary process” as he had not applied for the position.

Details:

DoPT had informed the Supreme Court that the search committee was to shortlist candidates “out of the applications received.” However, later it was found that shortlisting had been done outside the list of applicants, in violation of procedure laid out by the department in their own affidavit to the Supreme Court.

However, the department defends its move by saying that the search committee is not restricted to applicants, but to deserving candidates.

Need of the hour:

We need transparency at every stage, and public scrutiny to prevent such an arbitrary process. Centre and states to maintain transparency in appointments of Chief Information Commissioner and Information Commissioners and upload the details of search committees and applicants on website.

Basics about CIC:

Eligibility criteria and the process of appointment of CIC/IC:

Section 12(3) of the RTI Act 2005 provides as follows:

  • The Prime Minister, who shall be the Chairperson of the committee;
  • The Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha; and
  • A Union Cabinet Minister to be nominated by the Prime Minister.

Eligibility:

Section 12(5) of the RTI Act 2005 provides that the Chief Information Commissioner and Information Commissioners shall be persons of eminence in public life with wide knowledge and experience in law, science and technology, social service, management, journalism, mass media or administration and governance.

Section 12(6) of the RTI Act 2005 provides that Chief Information Commissioner or an Information Commissioner shall not be a Member of Parliament or Member of the Legislature of any State or Union Territory as the case may be, or hold any other office of profit or connected with any political party or carrying on any business or pursuing any profession.

What is the term of office and other service conditions of CIC?

Section 13 of the RTI Act 2005 provides that the Chief Information Commissioner shall hold office for a term of five years from the date on which he enters upon his office and shall not be eligible for reappointment.

Section 13(5)(a) of the RTI Act 2005 provides that the salaries and allowances payable to and other terms and conditions of service of the Chief Information Commissioner shall be the same as that of the Chief Election Commissioner.

Source: The Hindu

Manipur People’s Protection Bill

In News:

Manipur state government has decided to oppose the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2018, if there is no clause to protect the indigenous peoples of the North East (NE) region in general, and Manipur in particular.

Details:

The state has submitted a memorandum to Home Minister Rajnath Singh to give President’s assent to the Manipur Peoples (Protection) Bill, 2018. It will protect the interests of people of the State.

Manipur People’s Protection Bill, 2018:

It seeks to regulate the entry and exit of “outsiders” on the lines of the British-era inner-line permit system prevalent in three other north-eastern states — Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram and Nagaland.

The bill sets 1951 as the base year to identify locals and prevent an influx of outsiders.

Who are Manipuris and non- Manipuris?

According to the bill, Manipur people include Meitis, the Pangal Muslims, scheduled tribes as listed under the Constitution in terms of Manipur and all those citizens of India who have been living in Manipur before 1951.

The rest have been put in the category of non-Manipuris and will have to register themselves within one month of the notification of the law. They will be issued a pass extendable up to six months. While those who have trade licences can get a pass extendable up to five years, which will have to be renewed every year. Any outsider visiting Manipur would need a pass.

Rationale behind the Bill:

The influx of foreign tourists has increased exponentially in Manipur, thus creating a demographic imbalance in the region. If this was not enough, illegal immigration from Bangladesh, Nepal and Myanmar has also contributed to the crisis. This has created fear among the locals over employment and availability of resources.

At a time where there already exists stiff competition between the locals and outsiders over jobs, the outsiders mostly settle for low paid work. Hence, locals feel ILP fails to safeguard the interests of the indigenous people.

Inner Line Permit:

The Inner Line Permit (ILP) is an official travel document issued by the Government of India to grant inward travel of an Indian citizen into a protected area for a limited period. It is obligatory for Indians residing outside those states to obtain permission prior to entering the protected areas.

Currently, the Inner Line Permit is operational in Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram and Nagaland. The document has been issued under the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation, 1873 and the conditions and restrictions vary from state to state.

It can be issued for travel purposes solely. Visitors are not allowed to purchase property in these regions. However, there might be a different set of rules for long term visitors, though they are not valid for central government employees and security forces.

Source: The Hindu

International Solar Alliance

In News:

The International Solar Alliance (ISA) is going to propose a new bank exclusively for financing energy access to billions.

The proposal- The bank is still at the ideation stage:

ISA has asked the Asian Development Bank to prepare a concept note.

A public-private partnership is being thought of for the proposed, which will work for 1.2 billion people who lack access to energy as well as the 2.4 billion who lack access to clean energy.

Need:

Existing banks do not focus on universal energy access—those still deprived are the poorest of the poor; thus, out of the ambit of these banks. Therefore, we need special finance mechanism which can target these people.

About ISA:

The Paris Declaration establishes ISA as an alliance dedicated to the promotion of solar energy among its member countries.

Objectives: The ISA’s major objectives include global deployment of over 1,000GW of solar generation capacity and mobilisation of investment of over US$ 1000 billion into solar energy by 2030.

As an action-oriented organisation, the ISA brings together countries with rich solar potential to aggregate global demand, thereby reducing prices through bulk purchase, facilitating the deployment of existing solar technologies at scale, and promoting collaborative solar R&D and capacity building.

When the ISA Framework Agreement entered into force on December 6th, 2017, ISA formally became a de-jure treaty based International Intergovernmental Organization, headquartered at Gurugram, India.

Source: Down to Earth

Smart Food Executive Council

In News:

Associations including the Asia-Pacific Association of Agricultural Research Institutions (APAARI), Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA), West and Central African Council for Agricultural Research and Development (CORAF), Food Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN), and the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) together have formed the Smart Food Executive Council.

About Smart Food Executive Council:

Formed under the aegis of the Smart Food Initiative that was launched in 2013.

Need: Stemmed from the strategic thinking around the need for food that fulfils the criteria of being good for the consumer, good for the planet and good for the farmer.

Objective: To diversify staples which can have the strongest impact on nutrition, the environment and farmer welfare.

Significance: Given that staples may typically constitute 70% of a meal and are often eaten three times a day, diversifying them can have a pronounced impact on overcoming malnutrition and poverty and coping with climate change and environmental degradation.

This would contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for overcoming poverty and hunger (SDG 1 and 2), responsible consumption and production (SDG 12), along with adaptation to climate change (Goal 13). The approach taken will include gender equality (SDG 5) and action through partnerships (SDG 17).

Future potential:

This new partnership strengthens collaborations between Asia and Africa and can open up opportunities to join forces at any point along the value chain, from consumers through to processors, chefs through to farmers, researchers and others.

Facts for Prelims:

The Smart Food initiative is founded by the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid-Tropics (ICRISAT) and aims to build food systems where the food is good for you (highly nutritious), good for the planet and good for the smallholder farmer. It is an initiative which will initially focus on popularizing millets and sorghum.

Source: Down to Earth

Alliance to End Plastic Waste (AEPW)

In News:

An alliance of global companies has launched a new organisation- AEPW- to help eliminate plastic waste, especially in the ocean.

About the Alliance to End Plastic Waste (AEPW):

The Alliance to End Plastic Waste (AEPW), comprising about 30 companies, pledged over $1 billion to eliminate plastic waste across the world. They aim to invest $1.5 billion over the next five years for the same.

The alliance is designed as a non-profit organization. It includes companies from across North and South America, Europe, Asia, Southeast Asia, Africa as well as the Middle East are part of the Alliance.

Aim:

The aim is to develop solutions to mitigate plastic pollution and promote a circular economy by utilising used plastics.

Member companies include those that make, use, sell, process, collect and recycle plastics, as well as chemical and plastic manufacturers, consumer goods companies, retailers, converters, and waste management companies, also called the plastics value chain. From India, Reliance Industries will advance efforts towards a sustainable future.

Significance:

Plastic waste management is a complex and serious global challenge that calls for swift action and strong leadership. The issue of plastic waste is seen and felt all over the world. It must be addressed. This new alliance is the most comprehensive effort to date to end plastic waste in the environment.

Way ahead:

Success will require collaboration and coordinated efforts across many sectors – some that create near-term progress and others that require major investments with longer timelines.

Addressing plastic waste in the environment and developing a circular economy of plastics requires the participation of everyone across the entire value chain and the long term commitment of businesses, governments, and communities.

Source: Down to Earth

Global Economy Watch by PwC

In News:

Global Economy Watch report has been released by London based multinational professional services network- PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC).

Details:

PwC’s Global Economy Watch is a short publication that looks at the trends and issues affecting the global economy and details its latest projections for the world’s leading economies.

A look at India’s economy in 2019 as per the report:

India is likely to surpass the United Kingdom in the world’s largest economy rankings in 2019.

As per the report, while the UK and France have regularly switched places owing to similar levels of development and roughly equal populations, India’s climb up the rankings is likely to be permanent.

The report projects real GDP growth of 1.6% for the UK, 1.7% for France and 7.6% for India in 2019.

As per the report, India should return to a healthy growth rate of 7.6% in 2019-20, if there are no major headwinds in the global economy such as enhanced trade tensions or supply side shocks in oil.

The growth will be supported through further realisation of efficiency gains from the newly adopted GST and policy impetus expected in the first year of a new government.

Global Scenario:

The report notes that global economy as a whole is expected to slow in 2019 as G7 countries return to long-run average growth rates.

PwC expects that the pick-up in growth of most major economies seen between the end of 2016 and the beginning of 2018 is now over.

The report also notes that workers and wages will come to the fore and trade conflicts will deepen. The main focus of tensions is likely to remain US-China trade, but there will always be the risk of this escalating into a wider trade conflict and businesses accordingly need to plan for different scenarios.

Source: The Hindu

ISRO’s Young Scientist programme

In News:

Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has announced Young Scientist Programme.

About Young Scientist Programme:

Aim: Inculcate and nurture space research fervour in young minds.

It would be a one month programme. The students will be exposed to the practical experience of building small satellites.

Eligibility: Mostly 8th standard passed out students will be given lecturers and access to research laboratories. 3 students from each of the 29 States and 7 Union Territories will be selected for the Young Scientist program.

Source: PIB

‘Operation Kabaddi’

In News:

Former army commanders have revealed the details of this operation in the book, Line on Fire: Ceasefire Violations and India-Pakistan Escalation Dynamics.

Details:

It was to be the largest planned operation by the Indian Army to end cross-LoC infiltration by capturing at least 25 selected Pakistani posts along the Line of Control (LoC) in September 2001. However, owing to some issues it was not carried out.

Operation Kabaddi would include a “wide spectrum of evolving punitive operations such as the execution of deliberate fire assaults to destroy military and terrorist points, and area targets across the LoC; ambushes and raids across the LOC; and company, battalion, and brigade-sized deliberate offensive attacks to capture objectives of tactical importance across the LoC that would improve the Indian Army’s counter-insurgency (CI) posture.”

The objective of Operation Kabaddi was to change the geography of the LoC with access to tactical points there, which would then help the Army tackle the infiltration of militants by the Pakistani side.

Mentioned in the Hindu- Maniyaro

MANIYARO is a variety of folk dance of Gujarat.

It carries the sentiments of heroism in the Dandiya RAAS of Maher community in Gujarat.

In Gujarat and especially in Saurashtra region, generally Men wear traditional costumes, having preset sized wooden sticks and present Maniyaro.

Maniyaro is usually being played with the ancient instruments like Drum, Flute, and RAVAN Hattho etc.

Lyrics of the songs that are being sung in Maniyaro are sometimes flowing enjoyment, at times expressing the feeling of separation and sometimes inspiring heroism.

Aadhaar as travel documents to visit Nepal, Bhutan

Aadhaar cards are now valid travel documents for Indians under 15 and over 65 travelling to Nepal and Bhutan. Indians other than those in the two age brackets will not be able to use Aadhaar to travel to the two neighbouring countries, for which no visas are needed.

Background:

Indian citizens going to Nepal and Bhutan have to have a valid passport, identity card issued by the Indian government or the Election Commission, they do not need a visa. Earlier, persons under the age of 65 and below 15 years could show their PAN card, driving license, Central Government Health Service (CGHS) card or ration card to prove their identity for the visit of these two countries. The Aadhaar card has now been added to this list.

33rd district of Tamil Nadu- Kallakurichi

The government of Tamil Nadu has announced the creation of the state’s 33rd district — Kallakurichi, carved out of Villuppuram district, south of Chennai.

India’s second defence industrial corridor

In News:

Tamil Nadu Defence Industrial Corridor has been inaugurated.

Key facts:

The corridor is the second defence corridor being set up by the government to support various defence manufacturing units. The first one is being established in Uttar Pradesh.

The corridor is also referred to as the Tamil Nadu Defence Production Quad as the nodal cities form a quadrilateral with one of them at the centre.

The key aim behind setting up defence industrial corridors is to ensure connectivity among various defence industrial units. The development of the defence corridor will help facilitate a well-planned and efficient industrial base that will lead to an increased defence production in the country.

Small Woodbrown butterfly

In News:

After a span of 120 long years, researchers in Sikkim have rediscovered the Small Woodbrown butterfly species from Bakhim in Khanchendzonga National Park.

Key facts:

The Small Woodbrown butterfly, scientifically known as Lethe nicetella is named after its brown-coloured wings patched with white round spots.

It is amongst the smallest members of the genus Lethe, with wings that are up to 50 millimeters long.

The species is endemic to the eastern Himalayas and occurs in forests lying between elevations of 1,800-2,800 metres.

Distribution: Across the world, species of Lethe are found in Sunda Islands, Japan, Siberia, Himalayas and peninsular India. Of the 41 species of Lethe that are found in India, 32 species are reported from Sikkim alone.

Two new species of moss rose discovered in south India

In News:

Two new species of moss rose discovered in south India.

Names: Portulaca badamica and Portulaca lakshminarasimhaniana. Portulaca badamica is named after the site of its discovery that is, the Badami hills, while the second new species—Portulaca lakshminarasimhaniana—honours Pakshirajan Lakshminarashimhan, who is the head of the Botanical Survey of India, western regional circle in Pune, for his significant contribution to plant taxonomy.

IUCN Status: Portulaca badamica- data deficient category and Portulaca lakshminarasimhaniana- critically endangered.