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Insights Daily Current Events, 13 April 2016

Insights Daily Current Events, 13 April 2016

Paper 3 Topic: Disaster and Disaster management.

SC: Why not treat drought as disaster?

With around 10 states reeling under drought, the Supreme Court has asked the Centre why the natural calamity could not be brought under the Disaster Management Act to release funds for the welfare of affected families. The court mooted the idea after noting that many states had not declared drought.

What the centre says?

The Centre informed the court that its hands were tied and it could not force states to declare a drought as the matter came within states’ domain. Also, there is no statute to regulate declaration of drought.

  • The centre says, “The onus of declaring drought rests entirely with the State governments, and it has only a limited role — of providing funds and putting in place a monitoring system.”

What the Court says?

The court pointed out that drought could be covered under the Disaster Management Act. Drought was not expressly mentioned in the Disaster Management Act, but it can be covered under loss of crops.

Way ahead:

The court has sought information on the number of people and districts affected by drought, as well as the budgetary allocation for and expenditure of national and state disaster relief funds. The Centre has assured that it would place the information before the court on the next hearing.

DM Act:

The Disaster Management Act, 2005 came into force in India in January 2006. The Act extends to the whole of India. The Act provides for “the effective management of disasters and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.”

  • The Act calls for the establishment of National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), with the Prime Minister of India as chairperson.
  • The Act enjoins the Central Government to Constitute a National Executive Committee(NEC) to assist the National Authority.
  • All State Governments are mandated to establish a State Disaster Management Authority (SDMA).

Sources: toi.

Paper 3 Topic: conservation.

Three of India’s natural world heritage sites face threat from harmful activity: WWF

India’s three major natural World Heritage Sites – the Western Ghats, Sundarbans National Park and Manas Wildlife Sanctuary – are facing threats from harmful industrial activities like mining, according to a the survey ‘Protecting People Through Nature’ by World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

What’s affecting them?

While ecology of Western Ghats covering six states – Gujarat, Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala – is threatened by mining and oil and gas exploration, Manas Wild Life Sanctuary faces threat from dams and unsustainable water use.

  • Sundarbans in West Bengal and neighbouring Bangladesh have been hit by various activities including unsustainable water use, dams, wood harvesting, over-fishing and shipping lanes.

Way ahead:

These iconic places face a range of threats, including climate change. Removing pressure from harmful industrial activity is therefore critical to increase the sites’ resilience.

Significance of world heritage sites:

  • World Heritage sites are not just important environmentally, they also provide social and economic benefits.
  • Two-thirds of natural sites on the UNESCO World Heritage List are crucial sources of water and about half help prevent natural disasters such as floods or landslides.
  • WWF survey estimates that “11 million people – more than the population of Portugal – depend directly on World Heritage sites for food, water, shelter and medicine. Harmful industrial development poses a threat to these ecosystem services and communities that depend on them.”

UNESCO world heritage site:

A UNESCO World Heritage Site is a place that is listed by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as of special cultural or physical significance.

  • The list is maintained by the international World Heritage Programme administered by the UNESCO World Heritage Committee, composed of 21 UNESCO member states which are elected by the General Assembly.
  • Each World Heritage Site remains part of the legal territory of the state wherein the site is located and UNESCO considers it in the interest of the international community to preserve each site.
  • The List of recorded sites on the World Heritage now stands at 981 which include both cultural and natural wonders.
  • Italy is home to the greatest number of World Heritage Sites with 50 sites.

Sources: the hindu.

Paper 1 Topic: Important Geophysical phenomena.

Above normal monsoon

India’s official weather forecasting agency, IMD, has said that the monsoon is likely to be “above normal” and likely to be 106% of the average of 89 cm.

  • Monsoon rains within 96% and 104 %per cent of this average are considered “normal” in the terminology of the India Meteorological Department (IMD).

Several reasons underlie the IMD’s optimism:

A major reason for the good outlook this year was the weakening of El Nino, which is expected to dissipate during or before the monsoon season. El Nino, an abnormal warming of surface waters in the east-central Pacific that drives weather changes across the globe, is seen to have depressed the last two monsoons in India.

Another meteorological phenomenon known as a positive Indian Ocean Dipole — where the western portions of the Indian Ocean are warmer than the east and thereby push rain-bearing clouds over India — is also likely to form during the middle of the monsoon season, according to the IMD.

Sources: the hindu.

Paper 1 Topic: Important Geophysical phenomena.

Heat wave warning for Telangana

The India Meteorological Department (IMD) has issued a heat wave warning for the next two days for Telangana.

  • It has warned that heat wave conditions were likely to prevail over parts of Hyderabad, Nizamabad, Karimnagar, Rangareddy, Khammam and Nalgonda districts.
  • According to IMD, the State would have day temperatures hovering between 40 degree Celsius and 45 degree Celsius.

Heat Wave:

A heat wave is a combination of temperture and humidity for a prolonged period. It is an extended period of very high summer temperture with the potential to adversely affect communities.

  • High temperture are often accompanied by high humidity, that the body cannot tolerate are defined as extreme heat. A heat wave is a very dangerous situation and major threat to lives.
  • According to IMD, Heat Wave occurs when temperatures are greater than 4.5 degree Celsius above what’s usual for the region.

Sources: the hindu.

Paper 2 Topic: Statutory, regulatory and various quasi-judicial bodies.

Warrant against I&B Secretary

In an unprecedented move, the Press Council of India (PCI) recently took a unanimous view to serve I&B Secretary Sunil Arora with a bailable arrest warrant, setting the government on a collision course with the Council.


Mr. Arora had questioned the powers of the Council to serve summons directing him to appear before its members.


PCI had several issues to be discussed and had issued notices to the Secretary on this matter as is the practise. He chose not to appear and questioned the jurisdiction of the Council to issue notices

About PCI:

The Press Council of India is a statutory body in India that governs the conduct of the print media.

  • Presently, the Council functions under the Press Council Act 1978 which arose from the recommendations of the Second Press Commission of India (1978).
  • The Press Council is a quasi-judicial body which acts as a watchdog of the press. It adjudicates the complaints against and by the press for violation of ethics and for violation of the freedom of the press respectively.

Sources: the hindu.

Paper 3 Topic: disaster and disaster management.

Potassium chlorate, beautiful but dangerous

Investigators probing the cause of the fireworks disaster at the Puttingal Devi temple near Kollam recently, hinted that rival teams possibly used potassium chlorate, a banned explosive. They had also probably sourced the chemical illegally from matchstick factories.

About Potassium chlorate:

Potassium chlorate was discovered by French chemist Claude Louis Berthollet during the end of the 18th Century.

Where is it used?

It is commonly used in pyrotechnics. The principal reason for using it in pyrotechnics is for the production of beautiful colours. Despite its inherent risk, the reason it is sometimes used in pyrotechnics is because it is cheap and easily available.

How does it work?

Potassium chlorate has very powerful oxidising ability. When heated, it decomposes to produce oxygen. The oxygen so produced fuels the flame of the lit firework, thereby increasing the temperature of the firework even further. The extra heat generated excites the electrons in the colour-producing chemicals added in the firework mixture and thus produces beautiful colours.

Why is it banned?

The oxidising property of potassium chlorate is also its biggest disadvantage when used in fireworks. It has an inherent property to become very reactive, especially when mixed with sulphur; the potassium chlorate-sulphur mixture becomes dangerously sensitive to friction and may spontaneously ignite. Hence, potassium chlorate is banned for use in fireworks.

Sources: the hindu.

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

Tap forex pool to help exporters: Ministry

The Commerce Ministry has asked RBI to use a part of its foreign exchange reserves to give long-term loans at low interest rate to the Exim Bank of India, which can pass it on to exporters at lower rates than bank credit.


The aim is to help reduce the costs and enhance the competitiveness of exporters at a time of global trade slowdown and weak demand overseas.

Commerce Ministry’s proposal:

According to the commerce ministry, a part of India’s foreign exchange (forex) reserve can be used for loans as the forex reserve has now increased to a record high of around $360 billion.

  • The ministry argues that higher import cover indicates greater currency stability and India’s capacity to absorb external shocks, such as the impact of an outflow of funds following a rate hike by the US Fed, and support its domestic economy.

What necessitates this?

Rate of export credit in India is between 11 and 12% as against 2-3% in the Euro area (except Greece), 2.6% in Taiwan, 4.6% in Thailand, 5.5% in China and 6.2% in Malaysia.

  • Exporters, citing the contraction in the country’s goods exports for 15 months since December 2014, have been demanding credit at lower rates to help increase their competitiveness in global markets.
  • Exim Bank of India has also been citing constraints including that it is permitted a low leverage ratio, of around 11 times the bank’s net-owned funds, in comparison to that of its Chinese counterpart, where the ratio is 77 times. Exim Bank has sought relaxation of norms including a higher leverage ratio, of at least 15 times its NOF, and more capital from the government.
  • However, the Finance Ministry is unwilling to give more capital to the Exim Bank given the fiscal constraints. Therefore, the Exim Bank is finding it difficult to finance project exports due to these operational limitations.

Sources: the hindu.

Paper 1 Topic: Modern Indian history from about the middle of the eighteenth century until the present- significant events, personalities, issues.

Canada to offer formal apology for Komagata Maru tragedy

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will offer an apology in the House of Commons on May 18 almost 102 years after the Komagata Maru incident, where the government of the day turned away more than 300 Indians seeking a better life in Canada.

About the incident:

A Japanese steam ship named Komagata maru, filled with Indian immigrants was forced to return to India on September 29, 1914 from Canada when the passengers were not allowed to land in Canada (only 24 out of 352 passengers were admitted to Canada). This was due to the Continuous passage act enacted by the Canadian government to check the immigrants and particularly from India.

  • In this incident, 19 Canada-bound Indian immigrants were killed in police firing and many were arrested by the British police.
  • This incident had also made the Ghadar Party proclaim war and inspired thousands of Indian immigrants to come back and organize an armed rebellion against British imperialism in India.

Sources: the hindu.

Paper 1 Topic: Social empowerment, communalism, regionalism & secularism.

Elderly women outnumber men, says NSS report

The latest National Sample Survey report on ‘Health in India’ notes that the share of 60-plus women is higher than that of men in both rural and urban areas.

Key facts:

  • India has more elderly women than men with the sex ratio of the country’s 60-plus population recorded at 1,033 women per 1,000 men in the 2011 Census, up from 1,029 in the 2001 census.
  • The sex ratio in the country had shot up from 930 in the 1991 Census to 1,029 in 2001. However, the National Sample Survey in 2004 recorded a drop in this ratio to 999, before it went up again in 2011.
  • Among rural areas, the highest sex ratio (1,289) was reported in Gujarat and in urban Assam it was recorded as 1,476.
  • The share of elderly women (per 1,000 population) in both urban and rural areas is higher than those of men.
  • The overall proportion of the elderly in India, home to the world’s largest youth population, too has gone up. An estimated 87.6 million aged people live in India, about 69% of them in rural parts. Their magnitude in terms of number or in terms of share to total population is found to rise gradually over the decades. In 1981, the share of the elderly population per 1,000 in rural India was 68, which went up to 88 in 2011. In urban India, the elderly share was recorded at 54 per 1,000 in 1981, going up to 81 in the 2011 Census. But about 50% of the elderly population is totally economically dependent on others.


Experts describe the pattern as feminisation of ageing, which in the context of a developing country like India, brings with it health and financial concerns.

  • According to the Health in India report, around 70% elderly women in both urban and rural India are economically dependent on others. And around 35% of women aged over 80 are immobile.
  • Financial constraints are further compounded by illnesses of old age. The survey found a high proportion of the elderly battling chronic illnesses and around 8% of the elderly, particularly those aged over 80, confined to their beds.

Sources: the hindu.


Facts for Prelims from “The Hindu”:

  • Haryana Government has decided to rename Gurgaon as “Gurugram.” The decision to change the name of Gurgaon was taken on the basis of several representations recommending “Gurugram” as the appropriate name for the city. Haryana was a historic land of the Mahabharata period and Gurgaon was a great centre of learning where Guru Dronacharya taught the Pandavas and Kauravas. The town derived its name from Guru Dronacharya, who was gifted the village as “gurudakshina” by his students, the Pandavas. It came to be known as “Gurugram”, which in the course of time got distorted to Gurgaon.
  • Tiny South Pacific island nation Nauru has become the 189th member of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. Nauru will be WB’s smallest member by land mass, at 21 square kilometers. By joining the World Bank, Nauru gains access to financial support, technical support and special expertise in dealing with Pacific area issues, such as water and sanitation and disaster risk management amid the threat of climate change and rising sea levels. With the IMF, Nauru can benefit from the crisis lender’s advice on managing government finances and monetary policy.
  • In a significant decision that could have far-reaching implications for India’s military posture, India and the U.S. have agreed “in principle” on a logistics support agreement — the first proposed in 2004— that would make it easier for both militaries to share each other’s facilities.
  • As India’s HIV policy struggles with a funding crisis, the Health Ministry — in a marked departure from the Centre’s policy on financial decentralisation — has taken back control of the programme’s funding. After a year of experimenting with routing money through State treasuries, the National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) will once again route money directly to State-level AIDS societies from this month.
  • Maharashtra government has presented the much-awaited bill against caste panchayats in the State. Once introduced, Maharashtra will be the first State in the country to enact a law against social boycott of individuals or families by caste panchayats. As per the proposed law, an imprisonment of up to three years or fine which may extend to rupees one lakh is proposed. The offence registered under the act will be congnizable and bailable. It will be tried by a judicial magistrate of the first class.
  • According to a survey by research firm New World Wealth, India’s Maharajas’ Express is ranked fourth among the top-rated trains in the world, while Eastern and Oriental Express (Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand) was rated the best globally.
  • Consumer sentiment in India deteriorated in the first quarter of 2016 with consumers getting more pessimistic about the future than they were at the start of the year, according to a new index formulated by the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE). The CMIE Consumer Sentiments Index, which was introduced in January, shows that consumers’ economic conditions, sentiments, and expectations of what the future holds, have all been on a declining trend from January to March. The index of consumers’ current economic conditions was 4% lower in March than it was in January and 1.4% lower than what it was in February.