Current Affairs, 23 October 2018

 Current Affairs, 23 October 2018


 

Paper 1:

Topic: Important Geophysical phenomena such as earthquakes, Tsunami, Volcanic activity, cyclone etc., geographical features and their location- changes in critical geographical features (including water-bodies and ice-caps) and in flora and fauna and the effects of such changes.

 

Earth’s inner core is softer, a study reveals

What to study?

For Prelims and Mains: All about Earth’s inner core, its state and significance of its finding.

 

Context: Contrary to the fact the Earth’s inner core is solid, researchers from Australian National University (ANU) have found that it is comparatively softer.

 

Facts about the inner core of the Earth:

  • Radius: 1,220 kilometres (760 miles) i.e. 70 per cent of the Moon’s radius.
  • Composed of: Nickel-iron alloy.
  • Temperature: 5,700 K (5,430 °C) or 9806 °F, which is almost the temperature of Sun.

 

What is inner core made of?

  • The inner core is made up of two layers outer and inner.
  • Outer core is 1,355 miles (2,180 km) thick.

 

Why is the radius of inner core unknown?

  • There is no estimated radius of the inner core; however, it plays a distinct role in making Earth’s magnetic field.
  • The inner core is measured by shear waves, a seismology term, which so tiny and feeble that it can’t be observed directly.
  • In fact, detecting them has been considered the ‘Holy Grail’ of global seismology since scientists first predicted the inner core was solid in the 1930s and 40s.

 

Purpose of the Earth’s inner core:

When charged particles from the solar wind collide with air molecules above Earth’s magnetic poles, it causes the air molecules to glow, causing the auroras – the northern and southern lights.

 

How has it been discovered?

Researchers came up with a way to detect shear waves, or “J waves” in the inner core – a type of wave which can only travel through solid objects.

According to the research published by the university, the wavefield method looks at the similarities between the signals at two receivers after a major earthquake, rather than the direct wave arrivals. The study shows these results can then be used to demonstrate the existence of J waves and infer the shear wave speed in the inner core.

It has been found that the inner core shares some similar elastic properties with gold and platinum.

 

What is the significance of this method?

The understanding of the Earth’s inner core has direct consequences for the generation and maintenance of the geomagnetic field, and without that geomagnetic field there would be no life on the Earth’s surface.

 

Sources: the hindu.


Paper 2:

Topic: Separation of powers between various organs dispute redressal mechanisms and institutions.

 

Large vacancies for judges in lower courts

 

What to study?

  • For Prelims: Malik Mazhar Sultan case.
  • For Mains: Vacancies in lower courts- concerns, challenges and what needs to be done, is central recruitment necessary?

 

Context: Describing as “unacceptable” the existence of 5,133 vacancies of judges in “Higher Judicial Service” and “Lower Judicial Service”, the Supreme Court has sought the response of the State governments and the High Courts whether the time for the ongoing recruitment of 4,180 judicial officers could be shortened.

 

Directions issued:

  • Passing a suo motu order on the huge number of vacancies in the subordinate judiciary across the country, the court has sought the response from the High Courts/State governments as it noted that the recruitment process for filling 4,180 posts was already underway.
  • Noting that there was a mismatch in the number of vacancies, the number of posts for which recruitment process is underway and those still pending, the apex court also sought details of the vacancies that have occurred since the current recruitment process commenced.
  • The court also sought information whether “infrastructure and manpower available in the different states is adequate if all the posts that are borne in the cadre are to be filled up.

 

Malik Mazhar Sultan case:

A seven-month schedule for recruitment has been formulated by the top court in the Malik Mazhar Sultan case. If the time taken exceeds the schedule fixed by this Court, the reasons thereof should be furnished by the Registries of such High Courts/concerned authorities of the State where the recruitment is done through the Public Service Commission(s) which are in default.

 

Central recruitment to fill judges’ vacancies is the right idea:

The Union law ministry is working with the Supreme Court to conduct a nationwide examination to recruit around 6,000 judges for the lower judiciary as a one-time measure.

Under the nationwide recruitment scheme, a central agency will conduct the test with due importance given to local languages for those opting for a particular state. Subsequently, an all-India merit list will be prepared based on which the state governments will make the final appointments. Although this has been proposed as a one-time measure, there is a case here to have a permanent central judicial recruitment mechanism. This will also help ensure uniformity in judicial recruitment across the country.

 

Significance:

This is much needed given the huge number of vacancies for judges and the high pendency of cases. In fact, lower courts currently have a backlog of 2.78 crore cases. Unless judges are quickly recruited, this number can’t be kept down. True, appointment of judges in district and subordinate courts is the responsibility of state governments and the high courts concerned. But things have come to this pass because of inordinate delays in holding examinations for judicial recruitment at the state level.

 

Sources: the hindu.


Topic: India and its neighbourhood- relations.

 

Sittwe Port

What to study?

For Prelims and Mains: Sittwe port- location, significance, challenges and potential.

 

Context: India and Myanmar have signed an important MoU for the appointment of a private Port Operator for the Operation and Maintenance of Sittwe Port, Paletwa Inland Water Terminal and associated facilities included in the Kaladan Multi Model Transit Transport Project in implementation of India’s Act East Policy.

 

Where is Sittwe located?

Sittwe is the capital of Rakhine State (which has been in the news for the plight of Rohingya Muslims) in south-western Myanmar. It is located at the mouth of the Kaladan river, which flows into Mizoram in north-eastern India.

 

Significance of this port for India:

India has for years sought transit access through Bangladesh to ship goods to the landlocked north-eastern States. At present, the only route to this region from the rest of India is a rather circuitous one through a narrow strip of Indian territory nicknamed the Chicken’s Neck in West Bengal, sandwiched between Bhutan and Bangladesh. The new route through Sittwe would significantly lower the cost and distance of movement from Kolkata to Mizoram and beyond.

 

About Kaladan project:

The Kaladan project connects Sittwe Port in Myanmar to the India-Myanmar border.

  • The project was jointly initiated by India and Myanmar to create a multi-modal platform for cargo shipments from the eastern ports to Myanmar and to the North-eastern parts of the country through Myanmar.
  • It is expected to open up sea routes and promote economic development in the North-eastern states, and also add value to the economic, commercial and strategic ties between India and Myanmar.
  • This project will reduce distance from Kolkata to Sittwe by approximately 1328 km and will reduce the need to transport good through the narrow Siliguri corridor, also known as Chicken’s Neck.

 

Way ahead:

Following this MoU the process of identifying bidders to maintain these facilities will be initiated by floating an RFP. Subsequent to the commencement of operations at this port, it would offer new infrastructure for trade including between India and Myanmar, thereby contributing to job creation and development in the whole region, particularly in the Rakhine and Chin States of Myanmar.

 

Sources: the hindu.


Topic: Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora.

 

The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty

What to study?

For Prelims and Mains: Key features and significance of INF Treaty.

 

Context: U.S. President Donald Trump has announced that he would “terminate” the INF Treaty in response to a long-running dispute over Russian noncompliance with the treaty.

 

What’s the issue?

The United States first alleged in its July 2014 Compliance Report that Russia is in violation of its INF Treaty obligations “not to possess, produce, or flight-test” a ground-launched cruise missile having a range of 500 to 5,500 kilometers or “to possess or produce launchers of such missiles.” Subsequent State Department assessments in 2015, 2016, and 2017 repeated these allegations. Russia denies that it is in violation of the agreement. On December 8, 2017, the Trump administration released a strategy to counter alleged Russian violations of the Treaty.

 

About the Intermediate- Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty:

The 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty required the United States and the Soviet Union to eliminate and permanently forswear all of their nuclear and conventional ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges of 500 to 5,500 kilometers.

  • The treaty marked the first time the superpowers had agreed to reduce their nuclear arsenals, eliminate an entire category of nuclear weapons, and utilize extensive on-site inspections for verification. As a result of the INF Treaty, the United States and the Soviet Union destroyed a total of 2,692 short-, medium-, and intermediate-range missiles by the treaty’s implementation deadline of June 1, 1991.
  • Despite its name, the INF Treaty covers all types of ground-launched cruise and ballistic missiles — whether their payload is conventional or nuclear. Moscow and Washington are prohibited from deploying these missiles anywhere in the world, not just in Europe. However, the treaty applies only to ground-launched systems. Both sides are free to deploy air- and sea-launched missiles within the 500-to-5,500-kilometer range.

 

What are the military implications of withdrawal?

It is unclear what INF-prohibited systems the United States could deploy to Europe or Asia in the near term. The U.S. military has not developed any land-based missiles within the prohibited ranges for decades and has only just started funding a new ground-launched cruise missile to match the 9M729.

  • Moscow is in a very different position and could rapidly expand deployment. The number of operational 9M729 missiles has been quite limited, but released from its official obligations under the treaty, Moscow could deploy more units rapidly.
  • Russia could also effectively reclassify the RS-26 Rubezh, an experimental system that has been tested just above the INF Treaty’s 5,500-kilometer limit. To avoid violating the INF, Russian officials previously described the RS-26 as an intercontinental ballistic missile. However, it could form the basis for a missile of a slightly shorter range if Moscow wished to boost its INF forces — without counting it under the U.S.-Russian New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, or New START, governing longer-range systems.

 

What are the diplomatic implications of withdrawal?

Withdrawal is likely to be controversial with U.S. allies in NATO, further splitting the alliance at a difficult time for transatlantic relations. Many Western European NATO states favor retaining the INF, in conjunction with previous U.S. policy designed to push Moscow back into compliance. This raises concerns that divisions within NATO may worsen when the United States officially withdraws from the INF.

Withdrawal will probably not lead to a new INF deal. Given its heavy investment in intermediate-range systems, China will not take up Trump’s offer of talks with the United States and Russia. Moscow seems to be in no mood for negotiations.

Trump’s move is also likely to undermine the 2010 New START treaty governing U.S. and Russian long-range nuclear systems. The INF Treaty’s demise will undercut New START by reopening questions on the relationship between intermediate and strategic systems that have been resolved for 30 years by the elimination of ground-based, intermediate-range missiles.

 

Sources: the hindu.


Paper 3:

Topic: Inclusive growth and issues arising from it.

 

Tea Board

 

What to study?

For Prelims and Mains: Tea Board- functions, objectives and programmes.

 

Context: Tea Board of India is planning to launch an app aimed at guiding small growers, whose share in total tea production is increasing. The proposed name of the app is Chai Sahay (tea help).

 

Key facts:

  • The mobile platform would have user-interface facilities with the targeted user groups (the small tea grower) and the various officials. It would also have information on the various activities of the board officials.
  • The existing database of the STGs would be incorporated in the app, which would also give information on their registration process. There would be advisories on application of farm inputs and pesticide use. Small growers can also post queries for advice on pest control.

 

About Tea Board of India:

  • The Tea Board is set up under the Tea Act 1953. It has succeeded the Central Tea Board and the Indian Tea Licencing Committee which functioned respectively under the Central Tea Board Act, 1949 and the Indian Tea Control Act, 1938 which were repealed.
  • The Tea Board is functioning as a statutory body of the Central Government under the Ministry of Commerce.
  • The Board is constituted of 31 members (including Chairman) drawn from Members of Parliament, tea producers, tea traders, tea brokers, consumers, and representatives of Governments from the principal tea producing states, and trade unions. The Board is reconstituted every three years.

 

Functions:

  • The Tea Board India is responsible for the assignment of certification numbers to exports of certain tea merchants. This certification is intended to ensure the teas’ origin, which in turn would reduce the amount of fraudulent labelling on rare teas.
  • The Tea Board India’s tasks include endorsement of the diverse production and productivity of tea, financial support of research organisations and the monitoring of advances in tea packaging as it relates to health beneficial aspects.
  • It coordinates research institutes, the tea trade and government bodies, ensuring the technical support of the tea trade in the global industry.

 

Sources: the hindu.


Topic: Effects of liberalization on the economy, changes in industrial policy and their effects on industrial growth.

 

Cross-Border Insolvency

 

What to study?

  • For Prelims: Insolvency & Bankruptcy Code, 2016- key features.
  • For Mains: Cross-Border Insolvency- need, challenges and global practices.

 

Context: The Insolvency Law Committee (ILC) on October 22, 2018 submitted its 2nd Report on Cross Border Insolvency to Arun Jaitley, Minister of Finance and Corporate Affairs. The ILC was constituted by the Ministry of Corporate Affairs to recommend amendments to Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code of India, 2016.

  • The ILC recommended the adoption of the UNCITRAL Model Law of Cross Border Insolvency, 1997 as it provides for a comprehensive framework to deal with cross border insolvency issues. The Committee also recommended a few steps to ensure that there is no inconsistency between the domestic insolvency framework and the proposed Cross Border Insolvency Framework.

 

Need for cross-border insolvency framework:

As the size of the Indian economy grows, business and trade have adopted an increasingly international character. Creditors and corporates frequently transact business in more than one jurisdiction. Foreign banks and creditors finance Indian companies and Indian banks have foreign exposure. Also, as part of its Ease of Doing Business and Make in India policies, India seeks to attract foreign companies to set up manufacturing facilities in India.

Besides, global experience demonstrates that cross-border investment decisions and their outcomes, are considerably affected by the insolvency laws in force in a country. Towards this end, even though the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016 has resulted in significant improvement in India’s insolvency regime, there is a need to include cross-border insolvency in the Code to provide a comprehensive insolvency framework.

 

Benefits associated:

Inclusion of cross-border insolvency framework will further enhance ease of doing business, provide a mechanism of cooperation between India and other countries in the area of insolvency resolution, and protect creditors in the global scenario.

Also, it will make India an attractive investment destination for foreign creditors given the increased predictability and certainty of the insolvency framework.

 

UNCITRAL Model Law of Cross Border Insolvency, 1997:

The UNCITRAL Model Law has till now been adopted in 44 countries and forms part of international best practices in dealing with cross border insolvency issues. The model law gives precedence to domestic proceedings and protection of public interest.

The advantages of the model law include greater confidence generation among foreign investors, adequate flexibility for seamless integration with the domestic Insolvency Law and a robust mechanism for international cooperation.

 

Four major principles of UNCITRAL Model Law- The model law deals with four major principles of cross-border insolvency, namely:

  • Direct access to foreign insolvency professionals and foreign creditors to participate in or commence domestic insolvency proceedings against a defaulting debtor.
  • Recognition of foreign proceedings & provision of remedies.
  • Cooperation between domestic and foreign courts & domestic and foreign insolvency practioners.
  • Coordination between two or more concurrent insolvency proceedings in different countries. The main proceeding is determined by the concept of centre of main interest (COMI).

 

Global scenario:

On the global scale, the UNCITRAL (United Nations Commission on International Trade Law) Model Law on Cross-Border Insolvency, 1997 (Model Law) has emerged as the most widely accepted legal framework to deal with cross-border insolvency issues while ensuring the least intrusion into the country’s domestic insolvency law. Due to the growing prevalence of multinational insolvencies, the Model Law has been adopted by 44 States till date, including Singapore, UK and US.

 

Sources: the hindu.


Topic: Pollution related issues.

 

Harit Diwali-Swasth Diwali campaign

What to study?

For Prelims and Mains: Features and significance of the campaign.

 

Context: Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) has launched Harit Diwali-Swasth Diwali campaign. MOEFCC has merged this year’s campaign with “Green Good Deed” movement that has been initiated as social mobilization for conservation and protection of environment.

Aim: To reduce adverse environmental conditions especially pollution in the country after post Diwali celebrations due to excessive bursting of crackers which contributes significantly to air and noise pollution.

 

Harit Diwali-Swasth Diwali campaign:

  • This campaign was initiated in 2017-18 to enlighten children about harmful fire crackers and motivate them to celebrate Diwali in environment-friendly manner and not to buy fire crackers, instead buy gift, food items, or sweets for poor and underprivileged children living in their locality.
  • Under this campaign, the MoEFCC will undertake various activities for creating awareness among various stakeholders and encourage people to participate in combating air pollution. This campaign was extremely successful and the air quality had not deteriorated post Diwali in 2017 unlike what was experienced in 2016.

 

Background:

Air pollution is a serious health issue in the country especially in the northern parts during winter seasons. It is attributed to dust, burning of crops in certain states, burning of garbage construction and prevailing climatic conditions.

  • This air pollution has serious impacts on the health of children aged people and people suffering from respiratory ailments. Diwali which is a festival of lights falls during the same period. As a matter of practice people have been celebrating Diwali by bursting crackers.
  • Crackers contains combustible chemicals that include potassium chlorate powdered aluminum, magnesium, salts of barium, copper, sodium, lithium, strontium etc. and emits smoke on combustion of these chemicals along with sound. This smoke and sound has health impacts on children, aged people and also animal and birds. Apart from these compounds large amount of waste is also generated after bursting of crackers.

 

Sources: the hindu.


 

Facts for Prelims:

 

‘Gaming Garage’:

Context: Andhra Pradesh government has proposed to set up a ‘Gaming Garage’ to generate employment and encourage entrepreneurs and game developers in view of its growing importance. The ‘Gaming Garage’ will be launched in Vijayawada very soon.

Key facts:

  • Companies such as the Unity Technologies, Denmark/San Francisco would provide the software. The Kajaani University of Applied Sciences (KAMK) of Finland would be knowledge/operational partner.
  • Any creative thinker could walk into the Garage to develop a game of choice. The government would provide them with “the necessary software and infrastructure free of cost”. It would also encourage them in commercialising their product.

Background: The gaming became an industry with crores of rupees turnover with the rapid development of computers and smartphone technologies. The Cabinet in April gave its nod to animations and visual effects, gaming and comics policy to attract the best from the sector and an investment of about ₹6,400 crore by 2020.

 

Migingo Island:

Where is Migingo Island Located?

Compared to half the size of a football pitch, Migingo is a small rock Island, located in Lake Victoria which is the largest lake in Africa and the largest Tropical Lake in the whole world.

Why in News?

For over a decade, Migingo has been a source of tension between Uganda and Kenya, who have been unable to decide to whom it really belongs.

 

World’s longest sea crossing: Hong Kong-Zhuhai bridge:

Chinese President Xi Jinping has officially opened the world’s longest sea crossing bridge, nine years after construction first began.

  • Including its access roads, the bridge spans 55km (34 miles) and connects Hong Kong to Macau and the mainland Chinese city of Zhuhai.
  • The bridge has cost about $20bn (£15.3bn) and seen several delays. The bridge, designed to withstand earthquakes and typhoons, was built using 400,000 tonnes of steel, enough to build 60 Eiffel Towers.
  • About 30km of its total length crosses the sea of the Pearl River delta. To allow ships through, a 6.7km section in the middle dips into an undersea tunnel that runs between two artificial islands.

Editorial: Should India have two time zones?


 

 

Background:

The time difference between the westernmost part of India and the easternmost point is approximately two hours, the effect of which is that the sun rises and sets much earlier than it does in the rest of the country.

Most Indians are not particularly worried about Indian Standard Time (IST), except for those who live in the Northeast where the sun rises around 4 a.m. in summer, and gets dark well before 4 p.m. in winter.

 

Context: A new report advocating 2 time zones in India

A proposal for two time zones has come from India’s national timekeeper itself.

Scientists at the Council of Scientific & Industrial Research’s National Physical Laboratory (CSIR-NPL) have now argued that IST should be done away with at the Chicken’s Neck.

There is a request to change the temporal modalities of the Indian nation-state from its official time-keeper.

 

Why there is Necessity of Two time zones:

Over the years, various citizens and political leaders have debated whether India should have two separate time zones.

The demand is based on the huge difference in daylight times between the country’s longitudinal extremes, and the costs associated with following the same time zone.

Those arguing against the idea, on the other hand, cite impracticability particularly the risk of railway accidents, given the need to reset times at every crossing from one time zone into another.

 

Possible Impact of change in time zones:

Northeast India would move an hour ahead, increasing the region’s productive, daylight hours and the country’s potential energy savings could amount to a whopping 20 million kWh a year.

Offices could open sooner after sunrise, and perhaps workers could even savour the last dregs of dusk as they trudge towards home or their desired form of recreation.

Biomedical research has consistently pointed to the physical and psychological benefits of aligning circadian (sleep) rhythms to the sun’s rising and setting.

 

Problems of different time zones in India:

India has a huge population; if the country were divided into two time zones, there would be chaos at the borderbetween the two zones. It would mean resetting clocks with each crossing of the time zone.

There is scope for more dangerous kinds of confusion.

  • Railway signals are not fully automated and many routes have single tracks.
  • Trains may meet with major accidents owing to human errors. Just one such accident would wipe out any benefits resulting from different time zones in the country.

Partitioning the already divided country further into time zones may also have undesirable political consequences. Moreover, our research shows that the energy saving from creating two time zones is not particularly large.

While there is merit in the argument, the potentially adverse consequences of introducing a new time zone within the country are many.

For Instance, Not forgetting the fact that a country like Russia has as many as nine time zones across contiguous territory, having to cope with the zones and to be forced to reset the watch each time you need to cross a domestic line could be complicated.

With a time difference of one hour in the mornings and in the evenings, there would be nearly 25% less overlap between office timings in the two zones. This could be important for banks, offices, industries and multinational companies which need to be constantly interconnected.

This will be further detrimental to productivity and to the interests of the eastern region.

There is already a sense of alienation between the relatively prosperous and industrialised western zone and the less developed eastern zone. The people in the Northeast sense a distance from the mainland and a separateness in clock time may accentuate it.

Having a separate time zone for the eastern region will provide no energy or other benefits to the rest of the country.

Moreover, India will continue to be in off-set time zones, five and a half hours in the west and six and a half in the eastern region ahead of.

 

Hurdles in implementation:

A long-standing argument against doing away with IST has been it would confuse the railway infrastructure.

In a country with so many diversities to amalgamate into a proverbial unity, asking the people of the Northeast to wake up an hour earlier might lead to yet another point of difference.

 

Alternative to the present proposal:

One proposal is to introduce neither time zones nor DST, but to advance IST by half an hour to being six hours ahead of GMT, once and permanently.

Such a suggestion has been made before, but until now no one has computed the energy savings that would accrue as a result using a correct model and dependable data.

This proposal of advancing IST by half an hour avoids the problems apprehended in the other two proposals (of time zones and DST) but provides maximum energy saving during evening hours when the utilities fail to supply continuous power.

 

Conclusion:

It is now time to initiate a process of consultation to consider all sides of the question afresh.

What might be seriously examined is a proposal of some researchers, including those from the National Institute of Advanced Studies in Bangalore and Scientists at the Council of Scientific & Industrial Research’s National Physical Laboratory (CSIR-NPL), to set the IST forward by half an hour so that it is six hours ahead of Universal Coordinated Time.

This will mean advancing the point of reckoning at 82.5 degree East to 90 degree East, which will fall at a longitude along the West Bengal-Assam border.

That should go some way in meeting Assam’s demand, and help avoid potential grievances from north western India about corresponding inconveniences that an advancing by one full hour could entail for it in terms of late sunrise time.

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