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21 July Current Affairs

Rani-ki-Vav

In News:

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) will soon be releasing a new lavender Rs 100 currency note. The banknote highlights the rich and diverse cultural heritage of India as it prominently displays a photograph of ‘Rani-ki-vav’ (The Queen’s Stepwell), an 11th century architectural wonder.

About ‘Rani- ki- vav’:

Located in Gujarat’s Patan, the 900-year-old structure is a major tourist attraction, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and was awarded as the cleanest iconic place in India in 2016. It is located on the banks of Saraswati River.

It was built by the Solanki dynasty’s queen Udayamati in the 11th century as a memorial to her deceased husband Bhimdev I.

Architectural significance: Rani-ki-Vav was built in the complex Maru-Gurjara architectural style. It highlights the sanctity of water as it is designed as an inverted temple under the earth’s surface. The central theme is the Dasavataras, or ten incarnations of Vishnu, including Buddha. The avatars are accompanied by sadhus, brahmins, and apsaras (celestial dancers).

Source: The Hindu

Israel Adopts Jewish Nation-State Law

In News:

Israel’s parliament has adopted a law defining the country as the nation state of the Jewish people, provoking fears it could lead to blatant discrimination against Arab citizens.

The Nationality Bill:

The law speaks of Israel as the historic homeland of the Jews and says they have a “unique” right to self-determination there.

The legislation makes Hebrew the country’s national language and defines the establishment of Jewish communities as being in the national interest.

Arabic, previously considered an official language, was granted only special status.

It also establishes the flag, the national symbol and anthem.

The legislation becomes part of the country’s basic laws, which serve as a de facto constitution.

Concerns:

Critics say the law is “racist” and it legalises “apartheid”. The passage of the law continues Israel’s rightward shift in recent years amid frustration with failed peace agreements with the Palestinians and steady growth in settlement building in the occupied West Bank.

Arab Muslims are also concerned. Israel is currently home to 1.8 million Arab Muslims, roughly 20 percent of its population, who have lived here since the creation of the independent nation state. They speak and study in the language most widely spoken across the region, by Muslims, Christians and Jews alike.

Why was this law created?

The question of Israel’s status as a Jewish state is politically controversial and has long been debated. Before now, it has not been enshrined in law.

Some Israeli Jewish politicians consider that the founding principles of Israel’s creation, as a state for Jews in their ancient homeland, are under threat and could become less relevant, or obsolete, in the future.

Fears over the high birth-rate of Israeli Arabs, as well as possible alternatives to a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict which could challenge Israel’s Jewish majority, have spurred on calls to anchor the Jewishness of Israel in law.

Analysis:

For a country that prides itself on being the only strong and stable democracy in a region surrounded by dictators, monarchs and other authoritarian rulers inimical to its existence, this legislation changes that very character. Reducing the status of minorities further is only likely to fuel tensions in one of the most volatile regions in the world. After all, both Jewish national consciousness and Arab nationalism fuel each other.

Facts for Prelims:

Israel has no constitution but instead passed over time a series of Basic Laws which have constitutional status. The nation state law is the 14th such basic law. (Source: BBC).

Source: The Hindu

Student Police Cadet Programme

In News:

Union Home Minister has launched Student Police Cadet Programme.

About Student Police Cadet Programme:

The programme seeks to build a bridge between the Police and the larger community through school students by inculcating values and ethics in them through classes in school and outside.

The programme focuses on students of class 8 & 9 and special care has been taken to ensure that it does not lead to increase in the workload of the students.

The programme does not have any prescribed text book nor is any exam envisaged. Only one class in a month is proposed.

The programme seeks to cover broadly two kinds of topics: Crime prevention and control and Values and ethics.

The Programme shall be at first implemented in Government schools in both urban and rural areas.

Implementation:

The programme shall be steered by a State level committee to be headed by the Principal Secretary, Home Department with the Principal Secretary, Education and Director General of Police as members. There shall be a similar committee at the district level headed by the District Magistrate with the District Inspector of Schools and Superintendent of Police as members.

Source: PIB

Global slavery Index 2018

In News:

The report of the Global slavery Index 2018 has been released. It is published by the Australia-based human rights group Walk Free Foundation.

Details:

The estimation data were drawn from 54 surveys conducted in 48 countries which included a module on Modern Slavery, with a total sample of 71,158 individual interviews.

Modern Slavery:

“In the context of this report, modern slavery covers a set of specific legal concepts including forced labour, debt bondage, forced marriage, slavery and slavery-like practices, and human trafficking”.

It is used as an umbrella term which refers to situations of exploitation that a person cannot refuse or leave because of threats, violence, coercion, deception, and abuse of power.

Performance of various countries:

North Korea is at the top of the list with 104.6 per 1,000 and Japan registering the lowest prevalence rate of 0.3 per 1,000.

Globally, nearly three-quarters (71 percent) of modern slavery’s victims are women and girls. There are more female than male victims across all forms of modern slavery.

The 10 countries with the largest number of absolute numbers of people in modern slavery include India, China, Pakistan, North Korea, Nigeria, Iran, Indonesia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Russia and the Philippines. These 10 countries account for 60 percent of people living in modern slavery.

Findings from the Index highlight the connection between modern slavery and two major external drivers – highly repressive regimes, in which populations are put to work to prop up the government, and conflict situations which result in the breakdown of rule of law, social structures, and existing systems of protection.

Extent of modern slavery in India:

Among 167 countries, India ranked 53. However, in absolute numbers, India topped the list on prevalence.

The index estimates that on any given day in 2016 there were nearly 8 million people living in “modern slavery” in India — a claim strongly contested by the government on the grounds that its parameters were poorly defined and too wide-ranging.

The report said that in terms of prevalence, there were 6.1 victims for every thousand people.

India’s stand:

The Indian government questioned the definition of modern slavery used in the research and also the sample size for interviews and the questions posed to those surveyed.

Ministry of Women and Child Development termed the index flawed in its interpretations and as the terminology used is very broad based and words like “forced labour” need a more detailed elaboration in the Indian context where the socio-economic parametres are diverse and very nuanced.

Source: The Hindu

Delhi Dialogue

In News:

10th edition of the Delhi Dialogue (DD X) was held in New Delhi. This is the first major event to be organized after the ASEAN-India Commemorative Summit, that was held in New Delhi in January 2018.

Theme: “Strengthening India-ASEAN Maritime Cooperation”.

Delhi Dialogue:

It is a premier annual track 1.5 event to discuss politico-security, economic and socio-cultural engagement between India and ASEAN.

It has been held annually since 2009 and political leaders, policy makers, senior officials, diplomats, think tanks and academicians from both sides participate in the discussions pertaining to ASEAN-India relations.

It is aimed at finding a common ground and expanding the scope of cooperation between India and ASEAN nations.

ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations):

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN, was established on 8 August 1967 in Bangkok, Thailand.

It was established with the signing of an ASEAN Declaration (Bangkok Declaration) by the ministers of the founding countries.

Its founding countries are Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand.

Eventually, Brunei Darussalam then joined on 7 January 1984, Viet Nam on 28 July 1995, Lao PDR and Myanmar on 23 July 1997, and Cambodia on 30 April 1999, making up to ten Member States of ASEAN.

India’s active participation in the region:

India’s focus on a strengthened and multi-faceted relationship with ASEAN is an outcome of the significant changes in the world’s political and economic scenario since the early 1990s and India’s own march towards economic liberalisation.

Apart from ASEAN, India has taken other policy initiatives in the region that involve some members of ASEAN like BIMSTEC, MGC etc. India is also an active participant in several regional forums like the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM), East Asia Summit (EAS), ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting + (ADMM+) and Expanded ASEAN Maritime Forum (EAMF).

Significance of India-ASEAN relations for India:

ASEAN is our fourth largest trading partner and India is their seventh largest trading partner.

The South-East Asian region is economically very vibrant; this is a vibrant economic commercial space for India.

India’s investment in the last two decades has been $70 billion. So, there is a lot of potential in engaging them further.

Many countries in the region have people of Indian origin among their citizens—most notably Malaysia and Singapore.

Facts for Prelims:

The theme of ninth edition of dialogue was “ASEAN-India Relations: Charting the Course for the Next 25 Years”. It had marked the 25th anniversary of ASEAN-India Partnership.

The term track 1.5 diplomacy is used by some analysts to define a situation where official and non-official actors cooperate in conflict resolution.

Source: PIB

Solar parks in India

In News:

Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh and Rajasthan have topped the list of states with maximum solar power generation capacity approved under solar parks in India.

Details:

Gujarat’s total capacity of 6,200 Mw is distributed across 3 solar parks; Rajasthan’s 4,331 Mw capacity comes from 6 parks; while 4 solar parks account for Andhra’s 4,160 Mw total approved capacity.

Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh have 570 Mw and 2,570 Mw approved capacity, respectively. Also, 7 of the 45 parks have capacity exceeding 1,000 Mw.

Solar Park Scheme:

Ministry of New and renewable Energy (MNRE) has drawn a scheme to set up number of solar parks across various states in the country, each with a capacity of Solar Projects generally above 500 MW.

The Scheme proposes to provide financial support by Government of India to establish solar parks with an aim to facilitate creation of infrastructure necessary for setting up new solar power projects in terms of allocation of land, transmission and evacuation lines, access roads, availability of water and others, in a focused manner.

As per the policy, these solar parks will be developed in collaboration with the State Governments. The implementation agency would be Solar Energy Corporation of India (SECI) on behalf of Government of India (GOI). The states shall designate a nodal agency for implementation of the solar park.

What is a solar park?

A solar park is a concentrated zone of development of solar power generation projects and provides developers an area that is well characterized, with proper infrastructure and access to amenities and where the risk of the projects can be minimized.

Benefits of the scheme for states:

At the state level, the solar park will enable the states to bring in significant investment from project developers  in  Solar Power sector, to  meet its Solar Purchase Obligation (SPO) mandates and provide employment opportunities to local population.

The state will also be able to reduce its carbon footprint by avoiding emissions equivalent to the solar park’s generated capacity.

They will also generate large direct & indirect employment opportunities in solar and allied industries like glass, metals, heavy industrial equipment etc.

The solar parks will also provide productive use of abundant uncultivable lands which in turn facilitate development of the surrounding areas.

Way ahead:

Given the large land requirement, around 4 acre per Mw, for execution of solar projects, there are inherent execution challenges related to land acquisition which vary across states, apart from issues of inadequate transmission connectivity.

As a result, efforts both from central and state governments are required to enable and co-ordinate with nodal implementation agency of a solar park, especially for land acquisition and transmission connectivity, in a time-bound manner so that solar projects of larger size can be attracted through bidding route in such parks.

Source: The Hindu

India to expand polar research to Arctic

In News:

Three decades after its first mission to Antarctica, the government is refocusing priorities to the other pole — the Arctic—because of opportunities and challenges posed by climate change.

Efforts in this regard:

The government has renamed the National Centre for Antarctic and Ocean Research (NCAOR) — since 1998, charged with conducting expeditions to India’s base stations to the continent — as the National Centre for Polar and Ocean Research.

It’s also in talks with Canada and Russia, key countries with presence in the Arctic circle, to establish new observation systems, according to a source. Now, India only has one Arctic observation station near Norway.

What made India refocus its priorities?

Climate change was a decisive factor in India re-thinking priorities. Sea ice at the Arctic has been melting rapidly — the fastest in this century. That means several spots, rich in hydrocarbon reserves, will be more accessible through the year via alternative shipping routes.

Facts for Prelims:

India is already an observer at the Arctic Council — a forum of countries that decides on managing the region’s resources and popular livelihood.

In 2015, set up an underground observatory, called IndARC, at the Kongsfjorden fjord, half way between Norway and the North Pole.

Source: The Hindu

BRICS

  • BRICS is an association of five major emerging national economies: Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.
  • The BRICS members are all leading developing or newly industrialized countries, but they are distinguished by their large, sometimes fast-growing economies and significant influence on regional affairs.
  • All five are G-20 members.
  • BRICS developed New Development Bank (NDB) which will have capital of US$50 billion with each country contributing US$10 billion, while the monetary fund will have US$100 billion at its disposal.
  • Since 2012, the BRICS group of countries have been planning an optical fibre submarine communications cable system to carry telecommunications between the BRICS countries, known as the BRICS Cable.
  • Since 2009, the BRICS nations have met annually at formal summits.
  • China has hosted the 9th BRICS Summit (2017) at Xiamen province.
  • Xiamen Declaration of BRICS forum was recently adopted in its 9th summit.
  • It explicitly called out several Pakistan-based terror organisations and expressed concern on the security situation in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region.

BRICS Media Forum

  • BRICS Media Forum,2018 is a high-level dialogue among media organisations from Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.
  • It was held at Cape Town in South Africa recently under the theme ‘Fostering an Inclusive, Just World Order’.
  • It was organised on the occasion of on former South African President Nelson Mandela’s 100th birth anniversary on July 18.
  • The Forum was attended by 38 mainstream media organisations from BRICS nations, including five from India.
  • The forum unanimously agreed to adopt the Cape Town Declaration 2018.
  • It pledged to strive to create a media landscape that upholds the integrity of news that is created and shared through the BRICS nations.
  • A decision to establish BRICS Media Academy and a BRICS news portal was also taken.

Ekalavya Schools

  • Ministry of Tribal Affairs recently approves setting up of Eklavya Model Residential Schools (EMRSs) in States/ UTs.
  • Ekalavya Residential Schools aims to provide education to tribals in their local environment.
  • Target – Ekalavya schools in every block with more than 50% ST population and at least 20,000 tribal persons by 2022.
  • Ekalavya schools will be on a par with Navodaya Vidyalayas.
  • It will have special facilities for preserving local art and culture, besides providing training in sports and skill development.
  • The Ekalavya Residential School Scheme isnt new. It has been around for many years now. However, the government has signaled in Budget 2018 that it wants to expand the scope.

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