01st October 2018, Current Affairs and News Analysis for UPSC Civil Service Examination, SSC CGL and State Civil Service Examinations.

01st October 2018 - Current Affairs for UPSC IAS and State Civil Service Exam

Social Justice/ Rights

With Sabarimala verdict, ‘Ghost of Narasu’ is finally exorcised

The unchallenged 67-year reign of a Bombay High Court judgment that personal law, religious customs, usages and beliefs are outside the ambit of fundamental rights of equality, life and dignity came to an end.

The Bombay High Court in State of Bombay versus Narasu Appa Mali had held that personal law is not ‘law’ or ‘laws in force’ under Article 13. This 1951 judgment was never challenged in the Supreme Court.

The decision in Narasu opined that personal law is immune from constitutional scrutiny. This detracts from the notion that no body of practices can claim supremacy over the Constitution and its vision of ensuring the sanctity of dignity, liberty and equality.

Observations of SC contrary to Narasu case

  • SC held that the reasoning given in the Narasu Appa Mali judgment of the Bombay High Court in 1951 was based on flawed premises.
  • Immunising customs and usages, like the prohibition of women in Sabarimala, takes away the primacy of the Constitution.
  • Judge observed that custom, usages and personal law have a significant impact on the civil status of individuals. Custom or usage cannot be excluded from ‘laws in force’.
  • Those activities that are inherently connected with the civil status of individuals cannot be granted constitutional immunity merely because they may have some associational features which have a religious nature.
  • Narasu, in restricting the definition of the term ‘laws in force’ detracts from the transformative vision of the Constitution.

Defence and Security

India should choose local partner if it chooses Gripen: Swedish Air Chief

  • If India chooses the Gripen fighter jet, then the choice of the private Indian company to partner with Sweden’s SAAB to build the aircraft should be the Indian Government’s and “nobody else’s”, Swedish Air Force Chief said.
  • The Gripen is powered by American GE-414 engine, a variant of which is on the indigenous Light Combat Aircraft Tejas.
  • The Indian Air Force issued a Request For Information (RFI) in April to procure 114 fighter jets under the Strategic Partnership model and most of them will be built in India by an Indian private partner under technology transfer.

Health

Cocoa butter important source of vitamin D

  • Cocoa butter and dark chocolate can be a significant source of Vitamin D and may help reduce the risk of respiratory diseases and brittle bones, according to the study, published in the journal Food Chemistry.

Vitamin D is crucial for the human body. It comes in two types: vitamin D2 and D3.

  • Vitamin D3 is produced in the human skin through exposure to the sun. Humans get 90 per cent of their vitamin D requirements this way.
    • The rest is ideally consumed through food, such as fatty fish or chicken eggs.
  • Vitamin D2, which can also be utilised by the human body, is found in fungi.

Other Uses

  • Cocoa is the dried and fully fermented fatty seed of the cacao tree from which chocolate is made.
  • “Cocoa” can often also refer to the drink commonly known as hot chocolate; cocoa powder, the dry powder made by grinding cocoa seeds

Where is it grown in India?

  • Cocoa plant is a small (4 to 8 m height) evergreen tree. In India, it is mainly cultivated in Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu mainly as intercrop with Arecanut and Coconut.

Climatic Conditions

  • Cocoa can be grown up to 300 m above mean sea level.
  • It requires a minimum of 90-100 mm rainfall per month with an annual rainfall of 1500-2000 mm.
  • The plants need equitable climate with well distributed rainfall.
  • The temperature range of 15°-39°C with optimum of 25°C is considered ideal.

Soil

  • Cocoa requires deep and well drained soils. Poorly drained soil affects growth of plants. Majority of area under Cocoa cultivation is on clay loam and sandy loam soil.  It grows well in the pH range of 6.5 to 7.0.

First human case of rat virus found

A Hong Kong man has developed the world’s first ever human case of the rat version of the hepatitis E virus, according to new research from one of the city’s leading universities.

  • There had previously been no evidence the disease could jump from rats to humans.
  • The disease was found in a 56-year-old man who persistently produced abnormal liver function tests following a liver transplant.
  • Rat hepatitis E virus is very distantly related to human hepatitis E virus variants.
  • It has a major public health significance.

Hepatitis E

  • Hepatitis E is a liver disease caused by infection with a virus known as hepatitis E virus (HEV).
  • Every year, there are an estimated 20 million HEV infections worldwide, leading to an estimated 3.3 million symptomatic cases of hepatitis E.
  • WHO estimates that hepatitis E caused approximately 44 000 deaths in 2015 (accounting for 3.3% of the mortality due to viral hepatitis).
  • The virus is transmitted via the faecal-oral route, principally via contaminated water.
  • Hepatitis E is found worldwide, but the prevalence is highest in East and South Asia.
  • Two different patterns are observed, where hepatitis E is found in: resource-poor areas with frequent water contamination; and areas with safe drinking water supplies.
  • A vaccine to prevent hepatitis E virus infection has been developed and is licensed in China, but is not yet available elsewhere.
  • Prevention is the most effective approach against the disease. At the population level, transmission of HEV and hepatitis E disease can be reduced by:

Economy

RBI cracks down on Bandhan Bank for violating norm

  • The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has cracked the whip on Bandhan Bank freezing the remuneration of its MD and CEO Chandra Shekhar Ghosh for not bringing down promoters’ shareholding in the bank to 40% within three years of operations as mandated by it while granting the bank licence.
  • RBI had also barred the Kolkata-based lender from opening new branches. The bank has to take RBI’s prior approval for opening branches.
RBI crack down Bandhan Bank

Background

  • There is a three-layered structure for the group. Bandhan Financial Services holds 100% stake in Bandhan Financial Holdings which is the non-operative financial holding company and also the promoter of Bandhan Bank with a 82.28% stake.
  • The bank started operations on August 23, 2015.
  • Bandhan Bank was listed at the end of March this year following an Initial Public Offering.
  • While Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) norms ban promoters’ stake sale for one year after listing, since the lender was aware of the RBI’s licensing conditions, it should have timed its IPO accordingly.

International Relations

India to gift Mig-21 fighter jets to Russia

A highlight on the sidelines of the upcoming India-Russia bilateral summit is likely to be the gifting of three MiG-21 fighter jets to Russia. Russian President will be in New Delhi on October 4 and 5 for the annual summit with Prime Minister of India.

  • Three MiG-21s are scheduled to be handed over to Russians based on a request from their Defence Minister to our Defence Minister.
  • They comprise one Type 75 aircraft and two Type 77 aircraft

Impact on Relation of India and Russia

This will be major symbolic gesture to showcase the all-weather friendship and deep strategic partnership between India and Russia, which has been put to test in recent times due to changing geopolitical conditions.

MiG-21

  • The MiG-21, a product of the Soviet Union, was designed by the Mikoyan-Gurevich Design Bureau in the 1950s.
  • It made first flight in 1956 and entered service in 1959.
  • However, Russia stopped producing the aircraft in 1985, while India continued operating the upgraded variants.
  • India inducted the MiG-21s in 1963 and got full technology transfer and rights to license-build the aircraft in the country.
  • It is the first supersonic fighter aircraft of the Indian Air Force. The IAF still has about 120 MiG-21s in service which will all be phased out of service by 2021-22.

Environment

59 plant species in IUCN threat categories

Threatened wildlife is not just about tigers but numerous plants too. Recently, scientists identified the threat status of 59 Indian plant species based on criteria used by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), in the hope that this “streamlines” conservation efforts for the plants.

This included the extent and area of each plant's geographical range, which revealed that 10 species are critically endangered, 18 endangered, six vulnerable, five near threatened and one species each are data deficient and least concern.

Palm Bentinckia Nicobarica

  • It is currently listed as endangered; however the new study suggests it is critically endangered based on its distributional attributes (the palm is reported only from the Great Nicobar Island).

Possible Causes

  • Based on population sizes and numbers of mature individuals remaining in the wild using field surveys revealed that habitat loss was a huge factor affecting many declining plant population
  • Factors such as low seed viability could have caused declines in the wild too.

Significance of this report

  • This would streamline conservation efforts for the plants.
  • Funding agencies often consider the threat status of species provided in IUCN’s Red List (a catalogue of the world’s threatened species), to sponsor research and conservation activities to save them.

India sees highest seizure of black spotted turtles

India accounts for 29% of black spotted turtles (Geoclemys hamiltonii) seized from across seven countries in South Asia, states a recent report by TRAFFIC, an international network monitoring trade in wildlife.

Indian Black spot turtle

Classified as vulnerable by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Red List of threatened species, the black spotted turtle or spotted pond turtle is native to South Asia, and a heavily trafficked chelonian. The medium-sized freshwater turtle has a black shell with yellow streaks. The species was once smuggled for its meat and is now sought after as an exotic pet.

Analysis Record

The report titled ‘Black Spotted Turtle Trade in Asia II: A Seizure Analysis’ records seizures of 10,321 specimens in 53 instances across seven countries between April 2014 and March 2016.

The highest number of seizures occurred in India, accounting for a total of 3,001 (29.33%) specimens. Of the 53 seizures across these seven countries, 38% (or 20) seizures were from India.

India is followed by Southeast Asian countries such as Thailand (1,995 specimens or 19%) and Hong Kong (1,775 specimens or 17%), followed by Bangladesh (1,197 specimens or 12%). The remaining specimens were seized from China, Pakistan and Singapore.

Chennai Hub

In India, the species is distributed across the north, northeast and a few parts of central India in States such as West Bengal, Assam, Bihar, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand, and parts of Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, Rajasthan and Meghalaya. But an analysis of the trade route places Chennai as an important centre for the trade.

  • In the past, Chennai has been identified as a major transit hub for illegal international trade in the Indian star tortoise
  • Concerns

    • The species was once smuggled for its meat and is now sought after as an exotic pet.
    • Of the 55 suspects arrested for smuggling black spotted turtles, the number of known convictions was only 20, showing lacunae in the preparation of cases, and in procedural lapses in prosecution.

    Recommendation

    • increasing public awareness
    • Better law enforcement and cooperation among international authorities.

    Govt Polices and Interventions

    Questions on Aadhar and its Misuse

    Aadhaar is being misused at various instances and government is ill-equipped to address this issue.

    How Aadhaar is being misused

    • Welfare States hand out money, either in the form of cash or benefits, Well-known examples are scholarships, old age and disabled persons’ pensions, subsidy for the LPG cylinder, etc.
    • But I has been found that a private college had ‘ghost’ students on its rolls and claimed scholarships for them.
    • Many households had two or more LPG cylinder connections and claimed the subsidy on all cylinders with the connivance of the dealers.
    • LPG dealers had enrolled ‘ghost’ customers, claimed the subsidy, and sold the cylinders to hotels, restaurants and marriage halls.

    Effect on peoples

    • The other problem was that the poor did not have a reliable method to identify themselves.
    • The worst sufferers were migrant workers, slum dwellers, forest dwellers and people forced to live on the streets.
    • They had no verifiable address, their names were not on the electoral rolls or any other government record, they could not get a ration card or admit their children to a school, and they were at the mercy of the police, municipal and forest officials who treated them roughly as vagabonds and encroachers.