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Insights Daily Current Events, 25 January 2016

Insights Daily Current Events, 25 January 2016

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Paper 3 Topic: biodiversity.

Sundarbans buzzes with discovery of solitary bee

A “solitary bee” species was recently discovered in the Sundarbans Biosphere Reserve.

Key facts:

  • The bee is named Braunsapis chandrai.
  • It is 6.2-mm-long and is black in colour and has punctured legs.
  • What makes it distinct from other species of solitary bees is the different patterns of the marks on its face and frontal region.
  • Solitary in nature, they nest in stems and twigs independently.
  • The new species play a significant role in pollination, though it does not produce honey.
  • Of the 20,000 species of bees found in the world, India accounts for only 633.

As bees play an important role in the ecosystem as critical pollinators, scientists believe that without them, the world would face extinction as food options would become highly limited.

sources: the hindu.

 

Paper 3 Topic: infrastructure.

National Industrial Corridor Authority

The Union Cabinet is expected to grant its approval for a proposal to establish a National Industrial Corridor Authority (NICA) for fulfilling a promise made by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley.

  • With a corpus of around Rs 18,500 crore, the authority will supervise the implementation and coordination among the five industrial corridors in the works.

Background:

In his Budget speech, 2014-15, Mr. Jaitley had said the proposed NICA will be headquartered in Pune and coordinate the development of the industrial corridors. However, the proposal was not taken up by the cabinet.

Why we need NICA?

Bringing all the corridors under the ambit of an Authority (NICA) — on the lines of the National Highways Authority of India — is aimed at providing certainty to investors as well as to multilateral agencies like Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and JBIC (which are supporting DMIC and CBIC) and the Asian Development Bank (which has completed a conceptual development plan for VCIC).

Significance of NICA:

The authority will effectively monitor the development of these industrial corridors. The corridors, with smart cities linked to transport connectivity, will be the cornerstone of the strategy to drive India’s growth in manufacturing and urbanization.

Way ahead:

The government was earlier considering a proposal to bring into force a NICA Act on the lines of the NHAI Act. Since that move would need Parliament approval and therefore, is more time-consuming than giving a Cabinet approval to the NICA, NICA Bill has also been deferred for the time being.

Please note that DIPP is the nodal agency at the Centre for Industrial Corridors.

sources: the hindu.

 

Paper 3 Topic: Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment.

Google to pay $185 m back taxes to U.K., critics want more

Google has agreed to pay 130 million pounds ($185 million) in back taxes to Britain, prompting criticism from opposition lawmakers and campaigners who said the “derisory” figure smacked of a “sweetheart deal”.

  • Google, now part of Alphabet Inc, has been under pressure in recent years over its practice of channelling most profits from European clients through Ireland to Bermuda, where it pays no tax on them.

Background:

  • In 2013, the company faced a UK parliamentary inquiry after an investigation showed the company employed hundreds of sales people in Britain despite saying it did not conduct sales in the country, a key plank in its tax arrangements.
  • Between 2005 and 2013, Google had UK turnover of GBP 17 billion and its main UK unit reported a tax charge of GBP 52 million. In 2014, it had UK revenues of around 4 billion pounds, according to its annual report, but has not yet published its UK tax charge.

Significance of this case:

The deal comes as governments around the world seek to clamp down on multinational companies shifting profits overseas to reduce their tax bills.

sources: the hindu.

 

Paper 3 Topic: Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment.

Engineering exporters told to improve standards

The Engineering Export Promotion Council India (EEPC India) has asked the exporters to improve standards and compliance with technical regulations to maintain market share.

  • The directive comes in the backdrop of a sharp fall in engineering exports.

What’s the issue?

India’s major destinations for engineering exports like the U.S. and major European countries, recently revealed that technical regulations and standards for the products imported into the country were partially blocking the growth of exports.

What needs to be done?

  • In the current scenario, engineering manufacturer-exporters have to upgrade their standards not only to maintain their market share but also to make new forays.
  • India needs better preparedness to face the challenges of new standards and stricter regulations.
  • With focus shifting on ‘Make in India’ and various initiatives taken by the government, the quality of products and services also need to improve.
  • Major Indian products like iron and steel, electrical machinery, industrial machinery, suffer from lack of standards harmonization. Hence, the need of the hour is creation of more labs and certification bodies.

About the Engineering Export Promotion Council India (EEPC India):

EEPC India is the premier trade and investment promotion organization in India. It is sponsored by the Ministry of Commerce & Industry, Government of India and caters to the Indian engineering sector. As an advisory body it actively contributes to the policies of Government of India and acts as an interface between the engineering industry and the Government. It was set up in 1955.

sources: the hindu.

 

Paper 2 Topic: Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.

Birth defects spark panic in Latin America

The United States has expanded a travel warning for pregnant women.

Why?

In the last few days, the country has seen over thousands of birth defects. The defects are blamed on the spread of mosquito-borne Zika virus.

Details:

Babies across the region, and at least one in the United States, have been born with abnormally smaller heads — a condition doctors call microcephaly, which can cause brain damage. The scare has struck hardest in Brazil, which hosts the summer Olympic Games in August.

About the Virus:

  • The virus was first identified outside of Africa on Easter Island in 2014. It attacks the nervous system and can lead to potentially fatal paralysis.
  • The virus is carried by the Aedes aegypti mosquito.
  • There is no vaccine, and scientists have warned that developing one could take at least five years.

How it affects?

  • With the sting of a mosquito bite and a fever, many pregnant women may not know that they caught the Zika virus — until it strikes their unborn child.

Some women in Latin America are avoiding getting pregnant for fear of the virus.

Way ahead:

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has extended the list of territories on its no-go list for pregnant women. Health authorities around the world are on alert over the Zika virus.

sources: the hindu.

 

Paper 2 Topic: Parliament and State Legislatures – structure, functioning, conduct of business, powers & privileges and issues arising out of these.

Cabinet clears Central rule in Arunachal

The Union Cabinet has recommended imposition of President’s rule on the Congress-ruled Arunachal Pradesh after it felt the State was heading for a “constitutional breakdown.” Now, the President will issue a proclamation in this regard under Article 356(1) of the Constitution.

Why President’s Rule?

  • The Centre based its decision on Article 174 of the Constitution, according to which six months shall not intervene between the last sitting of the Assembly in one session and the date appointed for its first sitting in the next session. According to one interpretation, the next session should therefore have taken place at the latest by January 21, 2016.
  • The Centre has also considered the fact that the Speaker, using the State machinery, prevented the session, though it was called by the Governor. The Union government also felt that there was flouting of Article 167(b) of the Constitution as the government was not responding to the Governor’s letters on issues of public importance.

Existing confusion:

  • A session was indeed held on December 16, 2014 albeit outside the Assembly building (where a majority of the members had voted) as access to the building was denied. But, the session which took place on December 16, 2015 has been disputed by Chief Minister Nabam Tuki and his supporters. Now, it is up to the Supreme Court to decide the validity of this session.
  • Even if the Supreme Court rules in favour of the interpretation that this session was not valid, there will be a constitutional breakdown because the requirement of Article 174(1) would have been breached. On the other hand, if the court holds that the December 16 session was valid, it is clear the government is in a minority and is not allowing a vote of confidence. Therefore, in either case, the State is heading for a constitutional crisis.

It is also being alleged that the Governor recommended President’s rule without consulting the State Cabinet at a time when several cases on the matter were in the Supreme Court.

About President’s rule:

What’s in the constitution?

The article 356 of the constitution which focuses on the failure of the Constitutional machinery of the State is often termed as the President’s rule. There are various reasons for which President’s rule can be imposed on a State. The failure of the State government to function as per the constitution is the first step towards this.

  • Other factors include the loss of majority, break down of law and order, indecisive outcome of elections, no alternate claimant to form the government, insurgency, defections and break-up of coalition.
  • It can be imposed initially for a period of six months.

What happens to the legislative assembly?

When President’s rule is imposed, the assembly is either dissolved or kept in suspended animation.

Shift in role:

The state comes under the direct control of the Central government. The authority shifts from the Chief Minister and the council of ministers to the Governor. The Governor gets the power to appoint civil servants and some administrators to assist him who will take on the role and responsibilities of the Council of Ministers.

Landmark judgement:

There was widespread belief that imposition of President’s rule was more to do with the priorities of the Central government than the constitutional crisis. The judgement of the Supreme Court in 1994 gave a clear definition as to when the President’s rule can be imposed on a state thereby paving the way for the state governments to challenge the Centre if it feels that it has been unduly removed.

  • The Supreme Court held that a state government could be dismissed only under justifying circumstances and laid down guidelines for the same.
  • This judgement is called the Bommai judgement after the former Karnataka Chief Minister S R Bommai whose government was dismissed by the Centre and the President’s rule was imposed.
  • The verdict was in response to his challenging the dismissal. Thereafter further pronouncements by the Supreme Court helped limit the number of cases where the President’s rule is imposed drastically.

sources: the hindu.

 

Paper 3 Topic: biodiversity.

Dinosaur Fossils Found In Kutch Region Of Gujarat

A team of Indo-German geologists and palaeontologists have found fossils of a 135-million-year old herbivorous dinosaur in Kutch, Gujarat, possibly the oldest such fossil found this century. The fossil belonged to the time when India and Madagascar were one landmass and the Himalayas yet to form.

  • Gujarat is considered to be home to one of the largest collection of dinosaur remains in India. A large number of dinosaurs eggs have been discovered at Balasinor, 100 km from Ahmedabad, and fossils have been found near the Narmada banks too. The Kutch Basin, it is believed, was inundated by seawater during the Jurassic period and these repeated over millennia to throw up an extremely varied bio-geography.
  • The most recent dinosaur fossils from India in this millennium is the “Rajasaurus Narmadensis”, a 30-feet-long, carnivorous and stocky animal, which was discovered from the Narmada Valley Basin in Kheda, Gujarat.

What is Jurassic era?

The so-called Jurassic era spanned 250-145 million years during which herbivorous dinosaurs flourished and laid the ground for beasts, such as the Tyrannosaurus Rex. These flourished during the Cretaceous period —145 to 65 million years ago — after which the double blows of a meteor strike and overflowing volcanoes are said to have destroyed these animals.

sources: the hindu.

 

Paper 3 Topic: space.

Rise in space junk orbiting the Earth could ‘provoke armed conflict’, Russian scientists warn

Scientists have warned that the rise of space junk orbiting the Earth could ‘provoke armed conflict’ as damage to military satellites could be misconstrued as an attack. It is difficult to determine whether an operational satellite had been hit by the fragments or was intentionally attacked by another country.

Main concerns:

The junk poses the greatest danger to satellites in low Earth orbit, where debris can slam into spacecraft at a combined speed of more than 48,280 kmph. This realm of space, which stretches from 160 to 1930 km above the surface, is where most military satellites are deployed.

  • Impacts from space junk, especially on military satellites, poses special political danger and may provoke political or even armed conflict between space-faring nations.

Incidents so far:

In 2013, Russian satellite, Blits, was damaged after colliding with debris created when China shot down an old weather satellite in 2007.

Way ahead:

Space agencies in the U.S. and Russia track more than 23,000 pieces of debris larger than 10 cm long, but estimates say there could be half a billion fragments ranging from one to 10 cm long, and trillions of smaller particles. Hence, if no immediate action is taken to clean up the space, it would initiate a cascade process in which chunks of debris crash into one another and produce ever more smaller fragments.

sources: the hindu.

 

Topic: general awareness.

Centre sanctions funds for Wagah-like ceremony in Tripura

The Centre has sanctioned funds to create infrastructure for ‘Beating Retreat’ ceremony at Agartala-Akhaura border with Bangladesh, similar to that at Wagah in Punjab. The money was sanctioned by the Union Tourism Ministry under the ‘Swadesh Darshan scheme’ for building a mini stadium and roads among others. The Agartala-Akhaura check post is an integrated one, which is also the second largest trading centre with Bangladesh after Benapole and Petrapole in West Bengal.

sources: the hindu.

 

Topic: general awareness.

Kerala Tourism wins best pavilion award in Madrid

Kerala Tourism has emerged as one among the four winners in the destination category at the 36th edition of FITUR – the second largest travel and tourism fair in Spain.

  • The eye-catching pavilion, themed on Kerala’s fabled snake-boat race, has fetched the State the award along with Mexico, Japan, and Nepal.
  • A large number of visitors flocked to the Kerala pavilion, adorned by two replicas of snake-boats, making it one of the most-photographed pavilions at FITUR.
  • The pavilion, created with stunning images of boat races, won the Best Stand award for design, communication, and professionalism.

The award-winning pavilion was conceived and designed by Stark Communications, the marketing agency of Kerala Tourism, and executed by Art Director Sabu Sivan and team.

sources: the hindu.

 

Topic: general awareness.

Largest and tallest tricolour hoisted at Ranchi

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar recently hoisted the largest tricolour in the country atop the tallest pole at Pahari Mandir in Ranchi. The flag measures 66 feet in height and 99 feet in width. It was hoisted on a 293-foot-tall pole. Until now, Faridabad had the tallest national flag raised at a height of 246 feet.

sources: the hindu.