Goaltide Daily Current Affairs 2020
Current Affair 1:
A controversial Project in Dibang
Understand the issue.
The plan to build two enormous dams in one of only 36 mega biodiversity hotspots in the world- DIBANG VALLEY is causing a stir all over India. So, the problem is biodiversity under threat.
A small piece of information below about threat:
We will learn here:
- Biodiversity Hotspots.
- Dibang Valley
We won’t read any non-sense.
A biodiversity hotspot is a biogeographic region that is both a significant reservoir of biodiversity and is threatened with destruction.
Conservation International was a pioneer in defining and promoting the concept of hotspots. The Conservation International Foundation (CI) is a non-profit organization that operates internationally in over 30 countries across six continents with a wide range of partners in order to empower societies to responsibly and sustainably care for nature for the well-being of humanity.
Dibang Valley district derives its name from the river Dibang (a tributary of the Brahmaputra) which flows through it and finally debouches into the plains where it meets the Lohit River near Sadiya. The major tributaries of Dibang River are Dri, Mathun, Talon, Eme, Ahi, Emra and Awa.
Aside from housing a vast variety of flora and fauna including that of six globally threatened mammals and four critically endangered birds, it is also the home of the indigenous community of Idu Mishmi.
Current Affair 2:
Fire in Assam: Threat to Biodiversity
The death of two Oil India Limited (OIL) employees as a result of a blowout at the Baghjan gas well site on June 9 (Tuesday) has sparked outrage across Assam. Most of the anger is aimed at OIL, for its alleged failure to curb a 14-day leak, resulting in the uncontrollable gush of natural gas.
This is sad but our purpose is to learn important things from here:
- Where is this Baghjan gas field (near Maguri Motapung beel): Poor management of wetlands.
- MB Lal Committee recommendations related to this incident (not full recommendations, just few. We will mention below)
The Baghjan field is located less than a kilometer away from the Dibru-Saikhowa National Park. Located less than 10 km south of Dibru-Saikhowa National Park is Maguri Motapung beel (Assam’s Critical Wetland Habitat Is Burning because of above incident). Maguri Motapung beel was declared an important bird and biodiversity area in 1996.
The important here is India has no concern for wetlands.
The situation at Maguri Motapung beel only highlights India’s lack of concern for its wetland ecosystems. The fire and oil leak in Tinsukia district, where the Baghjan oil well is located, is happening in the midst of numerous ‘development’ projects that the Indian government has mooted in an effort to industrialize the northeast. At the same time, wetlands themselves bear much of the brunt of India’s industrial tendencies across the country.
Two recent examples include land appropriation for housing development projects, which will damage the mangroves of Kakinada Bay on the Godavari river, and Tamil Nadu mulling denotifying a part of the Vedanthangal Bird Sanctuary in Chengalpattu district to benefit a pharmaceutical company, in violation of the Wildlife Protection Act 1972.
Now, if we see MB Lal Committee: It came into news:
The MB Lal committee was constituted following a fire incident in October 2009 at the IOCL terminal at Jaipur. It had nearly 118 recommendations with regard to safety guidelines to be followed by oil companies at their installations.
Emergency Response Centres (ERCs) to handle major oil fires in the fastest way possible are yet to be set up in India, more than a decade after they were recommended by the MB Lal Committee. This is according to the last report of the Parliamentary panel on Petroleum and Natural Gas that was tabled in the Lok Sabha in January 2019. We have pasted the report below:
Just you remember that this committee belongs to what. It can be important. No need to know all recommendations.
Current Affair 3:
Advisories by Union Government to formalize the process of importing live exotic animals
The Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) on June 1, 2020, issued an advisory to streamline and formalize the process of importing live exotic animals.
Problems with the regulation of exotic species in India:
- The terms ‘exotic species’ or ‘exotic pets’ are not defined in Indian law. The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Pet Shop) Rules 2016 define ‘pet animals’, but the scope of this term is limited to “dog, cat, rabbit, guinea pig, hamster, rodents of the rat or mice category and captive birds”. As such, this definition excludes many exotic species like turtles, snakes, iguanas, monkeys, etc., which are all commonly imported into India.
- The Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972 curbs the smuggling and illegal trade in wildlife and its derivatives as one of its primary objectives. The major drawback of this law is that it only extends protection to animals listed under its Schedule, which are mostly animals native to the Indian subcontinent, and doesn’t have exotic species within its purview. This has allowed unrestricted trade to continue.
- The export-import policy of the Government of India together with the Customs Act 1962 and Foreign Trade (Regulation and Development) Act 1992 do restrict the import of live animals in India and empower authorities to search, seize, confiscate and deport such animals.
However, these laws are also weakened by the absence of features like imprisonment. These laws also don’t prescribe the need to involve wildlife and forest authorities – typically the experts in this domain.
So, what now?
To address these loopholes, the Union environment ministry recently issued an advisory to streamline and formalize the process of importing live exotic animals.
The advisory has defined them as those that are mentioned under the Appendices of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), but not under the schedules of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.
So, we will see in brief what is written in advisory?
According to the advisory, an importer needs a licence to import live animals from the Director General of Foreign Trade and a no-objection certificate from the chief wildlife warden of the relevant state. This way, forest and wildlife authorities can stay abreast imports of exotic species. In addition, extant owners of exotic species are required to declare and register their animals within six months of acquiring or importing them. If they get delayed, they will also have to furnish documents related to the animals’ provenance. Finally, the advisory also describes some rules that an importer has to follow when the animals are in captivity soon after they have been imported.
After so long government has thought something on this but as an UPSC aspirant, we have to find problems too. So, On the flip side, this advisory fails to address many long-standing issues and loopholes.
- First off, many exotic species are not listed under CITES. So, deriving the definition of exotic species from CITES itself limits the number of species under the advisory, keeping its purview narrow.
- Second, the advisory doesn’t at all address the two primary threats from exotic species: turning into invasive species and spreading zoonotic diseases. It doesn’t address the domestic trade in exotic species either.
- Third, the advisory doesn’t mention welfare standards for captive facilities. It specifies some rules and procedures but much of it is ambiguous. For example, it prohibits mixing and breeding with indigenous animal species but doesn’t restrict any in-breeding among imported animals, which is a matter of concern.
- Finally, as an advisory and not a law, it fails to plug the absence of heavy penalties, including imprisonment. Since the trade in such exotic species involves a lot of money, animal smuggling is likely to continue, with smugglers continuing to walk away after paying fines.
The advisory is the first step towards recognizing and regulating the import and trade of exotic species in India, and on this count deserves appreciation. But to fully address the issue, the need of the hour is proper legislation or regulation that resolved all of the existing ambiguities – including an all-encompassing definition for exotic species, stringent punishments, higher fines and recognizing the threat of invasive species and zoonotic diseases.
Something important for you to know about invasive species:
India has adopted Aichi Target 9 as its National Biodiversity Target 4 – i.e., to identify invasive alien species and their pathways of introduction, and to develop strategies to manage prioritized invasive alien species by 2020.
Current Affair 4:
Indian Elephants in danger due to Pandemic
News was very simple. Elephants are not able to get proper food due to lockdown. See below a piece of information:
So, if elephants are not getting food, what we have to do with??
We have to learn something basics about elephants. Just check how much you know about it
The Indian Elephant (Elephas maximus) is protected under Schedule 1 of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, which affords maximal protection. It is listed as “Endangered” in the Red List of Threatened Species of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
Latest Elephant Census has been conducted in 2017: Remember very carefully. So, all numbers related to elephants comes from this census only.
Only three things you have remember from this report now:
- Elephant population in the country is estimated at 29,964 as per the census conducted in 2017. The South Region accounted for 14,612 followed by North East with 10,139 elephants.
- According to the report, released by the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change on August 12, Karnataka has the highest number of elephants (6,049), followed by Assam (5,719) and Kerala (3,054).
- The numbers are lower than from the last census estimate in 2012 (between 29,391 and 30,711).
Now one more thing:
Monitoring the Illegal Killing of Elephants (MIKE)
The CITES Monitoring the Illegal Killing of Elephants (MIKE) Programme is a site-based system designed to monitor trends in the illegal killing of elephants, build management capacity and provide information to help range States make appropriate management and enforcement decisions.
What is the objective of MIKE?
The overall aim of MIKE is to provide information needed for elephant range States and the Parties to CITES to make appropriate management and enforcement decisions, and to build institutional capacity within the range States for the long-term management of their elephant populations. MIKE aims to help range States improve their ability to monitor elephant populations, detect changes in levels of illegal killing, and use this information to provide more effective law enforcement and strengthen any regulatory measures required to support such enforcement.
Now is the definition of Captive Animal:
Under Section 1(5) of the Wildlife Protection Act, a captive animal is ‘captured, or kept or bred in captivity.’
Section 40 in the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, gives special status to elephants regarding possession, inheritance, or acquisition. “This exception was originally created for the elephants that were already in captivity at the time, to regularize their possession. But it is being used to capture more elephants and issue new ownership certificates.
Didn’t get? Understand it more clearly:
“It’s like this. If I step into the forest and see a wild elephant and if I get caught trying to capture it, I have committed an offence. But if the next morning, I happen to walk to the Chief Wildlife Warden’s office, telling him that I have an elephant in my backyard and that he/she is listening to all my commands, I will get the ownership certificate. They won’t ask me how I acquired the elephant.”
Moreover, elephants are used for commercial purposes. Under the Performing Animals Registration Rules, 2001 (part of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1960) using captive elephants for commercial purposes such as tourism is strictly prohibited unless specific permission is obtained by the Animal Welfare Board of India. There are several state-specific laws, as well.
Current Affair 5:
PM CARES Fund Not A ‘Public Authority’ Under RTI Act.
The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) has clarified that the PM-CARES Fund, which has so far attracted a huge sum of donations to handle the challenges arising from the COVID-19 crisis, is not a public authority. This, even though the PM is the ex-officio chairman of the trust, and three cabinet ministers are its trustees.
What is meaning of Public Authority under RTI?
There are 2 parts that have defined public authority. The first part of the definition i.e. clauses 2(h) clause (a) to (d), talks about any authority or body or institution of self-Government created or constituted by or under the Constitution of India, by laws made by Parliament and state legislatures, and by a notification or order issued or made by the appropriate authority.
The second part expands the scope of the definition of a public authority to include anybody owned, controlled or substantially financed, and any nongovernmental body substantially financed directly or indirectly by funds by the appropriate government. Public authority in layman’s term
- Any authority which has a legal mandate to govern, administrate a part or aspect of public life, such as all branches of the executive power of a state, province, municipality etc.
- In a wider sense also various chartered organizations holding their authority from the above without being run by public officials
Now done with Public Authority, we will move ahead what actually problem is with PM-CARES Fund.
We need to understand the what is creating problem?
According to news reports, while PM Narendra Modi would be its ex-officio chairman, its trustees were to be Union home minister Amit Shah, defence minister Rajnath Singh and finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman. So, what is problem in that? See below.
Other problem is the Comptroller and Auditor General’s office had clarified that it wouldn’t audit PM-CARES Fund as it is “a charitable organisation” and “based on donations from individuals and organizations”. The PMNRF too is not audited by CAG but by an independent auditor outside of the government. The opposition had questioned the need for a creation of the Fund as the PM’s National Relief Fund (PMNRF) already exists to receive donations for such emergencies.
What is the latest court’s rulling on such funds?
In 2018, a division bench of the Delhi high court was split on the issue of whether PMNRF is a public authority under the RTI Act and is liable to disclosure of information to applicants. While Justice Ravindra Bhat felt it was a public authority, Justice Sunil Gaur differed. The matter was thereafter forwarded to the acting chief justice of the HC for an opinion. The issue is still pending.
We will wait for updates on this topic.
Current Affair 6:
UN Security Council Elections to Be Held on June 17
According to the world body’s provisional programme, elections for five non-permanent members of the UN Security Council (UNSC) will be held on June 17.
India is a candidate for a non-permanent seat from the Asia-Pacific category for the 2021-22 term. Its victory is a given since it is the sole candidate vying for the lone seat from the grouping. New Delhi’s candidature was unanimously endorsed by the 55-member Asia-Pacific grouping, including China and Pakistan, in June last year.
How are the non-permanent members elected?
Each year the General Assembly elects five non-permanent members (out of 10 in total) for a two-year term. In accordance with the General Assembly resolution 1991 (XVIII) of 17 December 1963, the 10 non-permanent seats are distributed on a regional basis as follows: five for African and Asian States; one for Eastern European States; two for the Latin American and Caribbean States; and two for Western European and other States.
Previously, India has been elected as a non-permanent member of the Council for the years 1950, 1951, 1967, 1968, 1972, 1973, 1977, 1978, 1984, 1985, 1991, 1992 and most recently in 2011 2012.
So, the currently the members are as follows:
Ok, we will try to study functions of UN Security Council here only:
Current Affair 7:
Border Adjustment Tax
The imposition of Border Adjustment Tax (BAT) on imported goods has been suggested by NITI Aayog to protect the domestic industry from cheap imports. BAT is a duty that is proposed to be imposed on imported goods in addition to the customs levy that is charged at the port of entry.
It has been suggested by NITI Aayog, not implemented. Still we will give respect to it and learn what it actually means.
Explanation of Tax:
A border-adjustment tax conforms to the “destination-based” principle whereby the tax is levied based on where the good is consumed (destination), instead of where it was produced (origin). Put simply, a BAT taxes imports but not exports, creating incentives for companies to import less and export more.
As an example, let’s say that XYZ Company of China manufactures housecleaning robots. The robots require a certain computer chip that tells them when it’s time to mop your floor. XYZ Company purchases these chips from Taiwan. It then assembles its robots and sells them to consumers in the India.
Because Indian buyers purchase the robots, the money they bring in for XYZ Company is subject to the BAT and is taxed.
Why we are doing this?
- The BAT would discourage Indian firms from establishing locations in other countries as they have to pay BAT.
- Domestic production will increase as imported goods will be expensive as BAT is applied to them. People will buy domestic goods.
- It will create more Indian jobs as production will start in India as BAT discourages production outside Indian soil.
- It will also help to strengthen currency.
What problem can we face if BAT is applied?
Inflation can occur. As for many products we depend on imports. If we apply BAT to them, it will increase its cost.
Current Affair 8:
National Institutional Ranking Framework
2020 Ranking has been released. IIT Madras has topped the list under the overall category of the National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF).
We will learn all important points for NIRF:
The National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF) was approved and launched by Minister of Human Resource Development on 29th September 2015. So, this ranking was not released during Nehru or Indira ji time.
This framework outlines a methodology to rank institutions across the country. The methodology draws from the overall recommendations broad understanding arrived at by a Core Committee set up by MHRD, to identify the broad parameters for ranking various universities and institutions.
The parameters broadly cover “Teaching, Learning and Resources,” “Research and Professional Practices,” “Graduation Outcomes,” “Outreach and Inclusivity,” and “Perception”. Just see below. No need to learn. Just have a look.
Ok, here we found an article which says a flaw in NIRF Ranking. Its bit technical. You can skip if you want. Click here to read.
Current Affair 9:
The first population estimation exercise of Indian gaur carried out in the Nilgiris forest division in February has revealed that more than an estimated 2,000 Indian gaurs inhabit the 300 sq. km range.
It becomes important for you to see the image. Once you see its image, few questions can be answered easily in exam. If in exam, a statement says a gaur is a fish, you can easily eliminate. See the image of Gaur below. Suppose second statement says, it lives only in water, you can see below it is standing in grasslands. So, it helps in exam.
The species is listed as ‘vulnerable’ on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species since 1986. They are heavily built, with body weight varying between 400 and 1,200 kilograms.
There was a news in March 2020.
Gaur (Bos Gaurus), the largest extant bovine in the world, have not only returned to Bihar’s Valmiki Tiger Reserve (VTR), but are also breeding there due to an increase in grassland cover.
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