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Insights Daily Current Affairs + PIB: 11 November 2019


Insights Daily Current Affairs + PIB: 11 November 2019


Table of contents:

 

GS Paper 1:

  1. How lightning strikes?

 

GS Paper 2:

  1. Study moots lowering the age of consent.
  2. Ayodhya verdict.
  3. HS code.
  4. Draft Social Security code.

 

GS Paper 3:

  1. Fall Armyworm.
  2. Scientists call for action on climate.

 

Facts for prelims:

  1. Cyclones so far in the Indian Ocean.
  2. What is Pliosaur?
  3. New Zealand- Zero Carbon law.
  4. Maternal mortality rate in India.

 

GS Paper 1:

 

Topics Covered:
1. 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.

 

How lightning strikes?

 

What to study?

For Prelims and mains: What is lightning, and how does it strike?

 

Context: As per IMD, With 9 lakh lightning strikes between April 1 and July 31 this year, Odisha recorded the highest number of lightning strikes in the country, while Jammu and Kashmir recorded the least with about 20,000 strikes.

 

Significance:

This is the first time the weather monitoring body has released the data on total lightening strikes across the country. The date for the months of April till July was compiled by IMD’s Climate Resilient Observing Systems Promotion Council (CROSPC).

The report was prepared as part of a three-year study period under Lightning Resilient India campaign.

 

Key findings:

  1. Most number of deaths due to lightning strikes were reported from Uttar Pradesh.
  2. The highest intensity lightning strikes were observed in Chhotanagpur plateau in East Singhbhum district of Jharkhand. The area also received the maximum number of strikes for a district.
  3. The number of lightning days (number of days when lightning strikes happened) across India has been increasing every month. July witnessed the highest number of lightning days, especially in the latter half due to the onset of monsoon.

 

What is lightning?

It is a very rapid — and massive — discharge of electricity in the atmosphere, some of which is directed towards the Earth’s surface.

These discharges are generated in giant moisture-bearing clouds that are 10-12 km tall.

 

How does it strike?

  1. The base of these clouds typically lies within 1-2 km of the Earth’s surface, while their top is 12-13 km away. Temperatures towards the top of these clouds are in the range of minus 35 to minus 45 degrees Celsius.
  2. As water vapour moves upward in the cloud, the falling temperature causes it to condense. Heat is generated in the process, which pushes the molecules of water further up.
  3. As they move to temperatures below zero degrees celsius, the water droplets change into small ice crystals. They continue to move up, gathering mass — until they are so heavy that they start to fall to Earth.
  4. This leads to a system in which, simultaneously, smaller ice crystals are moving up and bigger crystals are coming down.
  5. Collisions follow, and trigger the release of electrons — a process that is very similar to the generation of sparks of electricity. As the moving free electrons cause more collisions and more electrons, a chain reaction ensues.
  6. This process results in a situation in which the top layer of the cloud gets positively charged, while the middle layer is negatively charged. The electrical potential difference between the two layers is huge — of the order of a billion to 10 billion volts. In very little time, a massive current, of the order of 100,000 to a million amperes, starts to flow between the layers.
  7. An enormous amount of heat is produced, and this leads to the heating of the air column between the two layers of the cloud. This heat gives the air column a reddish appearance during lightning. As the heated air column expands, it produces shock waves that result in thunder.

 

How does this current reach the Earth from the cloud?

While the Earth is a good conductor of electricity, it is electrically neutral. However, in comparison to the middle layer of the cloud, it becomes positively charged. As a result, about 15%-20% of the current gets directed towards the Earth as well. It is this flow of current that results in damage to life and property on Earth.

There is a greater probability of lightning striking tall objects such as trees, towers or buildings. Once it is about 80-100 m from the surface, lightning tends to change course towards these taller objects. This happens because air is a poor conductor of electricity, and electrons that are travelling through air seek both a better conductor and the shortest route to the relatively positively charged Earth’s surface.

Sources: the Hindu.


 

GS Paper 2:

 

Topics Covered:

  1. Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

 

Study moots lowering the age of consent

 

What to study?

For prelims and mains: Laws in this regard, need for change.

 

Context: A new study calls for a need to distinguish between self-arranged marriages among older adolescents and forced child marriages to protect teens from social stigma, parental backlash and punitive action.

 

Key findings:

  1. The study makes a case for an age of consent that is lower than the age of marriage to decriminalise sex among consenting older adolescents to protect them from the misuse of law for enforcing parental and caste controls over daughters.
  2. It also demanded uniform age for marriage.
  3. The study also records that while girls face restrictions on their mobility, premarital relations and sexuality, the same was not true for boys of the same social milieu who enjoyed greater freedom.
  4. The study again provides evidence of the misuse of POCSO, which raised the age of consent from 16 to 18 years. Activists have long argued that this would result in adolescents being wrong

 

What the law says?

  • Currently, the law prescribes that the minimum age of marriage is 21 and 18 years for men and women,
  • The minimum age of marriage is distinct from the age of majority, which is gender-neutral.
  • An individual attains the age of majority at 18 as per the Indian Majority Act, 1875.
  • For Hindus, Section 5(iii) of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955sets 18 years as the minimum age for the bride and 21 years as the minimum age for the groom. Child marriages are not illegal but can be declared void at the request of the minor in the marriage.
  • In Islam, the marriage of a minor who has attained puberty is considered valid under personal law.
  • The Special Marriage Act, 1954 and the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006 also prescribe 18 and 21 years as the minimum age of consent for marriage for women and men respectively.

 

Why have a minimum age for marriage?

The law prescribes a minimum age of marriage to essentially outlaw child marriages and prevent abuse of minors. Personal laws of various religions that deal with marriage have their own standards, often reflecting custom.

 

Need for uniformity:

  1. The different legal standards for the age of men and women to marry has been a subject of debate. 
  2. In a consultation paper of reform in family law in 2018, the Law Commission argued that having different legal standards “contributes to the stereotype that wives must be younger than their husbands”.
  3. Women’s rights activists too have argued that the law perpetuates the stereotype that women are more mature than men of the same age and therefore can be allowed to marry sooner.
  4. The Law Commission paper recommended that the minimum age of marriage for both genders be set at 18. For the difference in age for husband and wife has no basis in law as spouses entering into a marriage are by all means equals and their partnership must also be of that between equals.

 

Two Supreme Court rulings could be significant to the context of this argument:

  1. In 2014, in National Legal Services Authority of India v Union of India, the Supreme Court while recognising transgenders as the third gender said that justice is delivered with the “assumption that humans have equal value and should, therefore, be treated as equal, as well as by equal laws.”
  2. In 2019, in Joseph Shine v Union of India, the Supreme Court decriminalised adultery and said that “a law that treats women differently based on gender stereotypes is an affront to women’s dignity.”

 

Sources: the Hindu.


Topics Covered:

Indian Constitution- historical underpinnings, evolution, features, amendments, significant provisions and basic structure.

 

Ayodhya verdict

 

What to study?

For Prelims: Details of the case and the judgment.

For Mains: Implications of the judgement and significance of the precedent it has set.

 

Context: A bench led by CJI Ranjan Gogoi delivered the Ayodhya verdict alongside CJI designate S.A. Bobde, and Justices D.Y. Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and S.A. Nazeer. The verdict was unanimous.

 

What was the issue?

At the centre of the issue is the belief among sections of Hindus that the Babri Masjid, named after Mughal emperor Babur, was built in Ayodhya after destroying a Ram Temple that marked the birthplace of the deity.

The Hindu parties wanted the land to themselves, contending that Lord Ram was born at a spot on which later the central dome of the mosque was built. The Muslim parties, however, contended that the mosque was constructed in 1528 by Mir Baqi, a commander of Babur’s army, without demolishing any place of worship and since the land rights had not been transferred to any other party, the space was rightfully theirs.

 

The verdict:

  1. The Hindus would get the entire disputed 2.77 acres in Ayodhya where the demolished Babri Masjid once stood.
  2. Possession of disputed 2.77 acre land will remain with Central government receiver.
  3. The Muslims will get alternate five acres of land either in the surplus 67 acres acquired in and around the disputed structure by the central government or any other “prominent” place.
  4. A trust will be formed in 3 months to build a temple on the disputed land. The court held that the Nirmohi Akhara is not the shebait or devotee of the deity Ram Lalla but will get to be a member of the Trust. 

 

What is Article 142, invoked by SC to give land for a mosque?

The Supreme Court, implicitly referring to the demolition of the Babri Masjid at the disputed site, said that it was invoking Article 142 “to ensure that a wrong committed must be remedied”.

Article 142(1) states that The Supreme Court in the exercise of its jurisdiction may pass such decree or make such order as is necessary for doing complete justice in any cause or matter pending before it, and any decree so passed or order so made shall be enforceable throughout the territory of India in such manner as may be prescribed by or under any law made by Parliament and, until provision in that behalf is so made, in such manner as the President may by order prescribe”.

This was the first time that the court invoked this power in a case involving a civil dispute over an immovable property, involving private parties.

 

Who are the travellers quoted in Ayodhya judgment?

In its judgment, the Supreme Court relied in part on centuries-old travelogues, gazetteers and books to provide an account of the faith and belief that the Hindus placed in the Janmasthan. The travelogues that the court took note of included, among others, those by the European travellers Joseph Tieffenthaler, William Finch, and Montgomery Martin – these being written before the building of the grill-brick wall in front of the mosque during British rule.

  1. Tieffenthaler was an 18th-century missionary who travelled in India for 27 years, and wrote his travelogue titled “Description Historique et Geographique De l’Inde”. In India, he was commissioned at the famous observatory of Sawai Jai Singh, the Raja of Jaipur, and was later attached at the Jesuit College in Agra which was built with the patronage of Akbar. 
  2. William Finch’s account has been recorded in the 1921 book ‘Early Travels in India (1583-1619)’ by the historiographer Sir William Foster.
  3. Originally from Dublin in Ireland, Martin was an Anglo-Irish author and civil servant. He practised medicine in Ceylon (present day Sri Lanka), East Africa and Australia. Martin then went on to work in Kolkata where helped found the paper ‘Bengal Herald’. He wrote the three-volume work ‘History, Antiquities, Topography and Statistics of Eastern India’.

 

What is adverse possession, the Muslim claim SC rejected?

One of the questions before the Supreme Court was whether the Sunni Wakf Board had acquired the title of the disputed land by adverse possession.

Adverse possession is hostile possession of a property – which has to be continuous, uninterrupted and peaceful.

The Muslim side had claimed that the mosque was built 400 years ago by Babar – and that even if it is assumed that it was built on the land where a temple earlier existed, Muslims, by virtue of their long exclusive and continuous possession – beginning from the time the mosque was built, and up to the time the mosque was desecrated – they had perfected their title by adverse possession. This argument has now been rejected by the Supreme Court.

 

Sources: the Hindu.


Topics Covered:

Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability, e-governance- applications, models, successes, limitations, and potential; citizens charters, transparency & accountability and institutional and other measures.

 

HS code

 

What to study?

For Prelims and mains: Meaning and significance of HS code.

 

Context: The Ministry of Commerce and Industry has allocated a separate Harmonised System (HS) code for Khadi.

Khadi is India’s signature handspun and handwoven cloth that was made iconic by Mahatma Gandhi during the freedom struggle.

 

What does this mean for Khadi?

The move is expected to boost Khadi exports in the coming years. Earlier, Khadi did not have its exclusive HS code.

 

What does the HS code mean?

The Harmonised System, or simply ‘HS’, is a six-digit identification code. Of the six digits, the first two denote the HS Chapter, the next two give the HS heading, and the last two give the HS subheading.

Developed by the World Customs Organization (WCO).

Called the “universal economic language” for goods.

It is a multipurpose international product nomenclature.

The system currently comprises of around 5,000 commodity groups.

 

HS code are used by Customs authorities, statistical agencies, and other government regulatory bodies, to monitor and control the import and export of commodities through:

  1. Customs tariffs
  2. Collection of international trade statistics
  3. Rules of origin
  4. Collection of internal taxes
  5. Trade negotiations (e.g., the World Trade Organization schedules of tariff concessions)
  6. Transport tariffs and statistics
  7. Monitoring of controlled goods (e.g., wastes, narcotics, chemical weapons, ozone layer depleting substances, endangered species, wildlife trade)
  8. Areas of Customs controls and procedures, including risk assessment, information technology and compliance.

 

Need for and significance:

Over 200 countries use the system as a basis for their customs tariffs, gathering international trade statistics, making trade policies, and for monitoring goods.

The system helps in harmonising of customs and trade procedures, thus reducing costs in international trade.

 

Sources: the Hindu.

 


Topics Covered:

  1. Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes; mechanisms, laws, institutions and bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections.

 

Draft Social Security code

 

What to study?

For Prelims: Higlights of the draft.

For Mains: need for and significance of the code.

 

Context: The draft code on social security, which subsumes eight existing laws covering provident fund, maternity benefits and pension, is being further worked upon after a recent round of public consultations.

 

Objectives of the draft:

  1. To amalgamate a clutch of existing laws and proposes several new initiatives including universal social security for unorganized sector workers and, insurance and health benefits for gig workers.
  2. To Corporatize of existing organizations like EPFO and ESIC headed by people other than the labour minister.

 

Key highlights of the draft:

  1. Insurance, PF, life cover for unorganized sector employees: Central Government shall formulate and notify, from time to time, suitable welfare schemes for unorganised workers on matter relating to life and disability cover; health and maternity benefits; old age protection; and any other benefit as may be determined by the central government.
  2. Corporatization of EPFO and ESIC:The pension, insurance and retirement saving bodies including EPFO and ESIC will be body corporate. Labour minister, labour secretary, the central PF commissioner and Director General of ESIC may not be by default the head of such organizations.
  3. Benefits for Gig workers:“Central Government may formulate and notify, from time to time, suitable social security schemes for gig workers and platform workers” and such schemes would encompass issues like “life and disability cover”, “health and maternity benefits” , “old age protection” and “any other benefit as may be determined by the Central Government”.
  4. Maternity Benefit:Subject to the other provisions of this Code, every woman shall be entitled to, and her employer shall be liable for, the payment of maternity benefit at the rate of the average daily wage for the period of her actual absence, that is to say, the period immediately preceding the day of her delivery, and any period immediately following that day.
  5. The Code on Social Security, 2019 once in place will merge eight exiting labour laws includingEmployees’ Compensation Act, 1923; Employees‘ State Insurance Act, 1948, Employees‘ Provident Funds and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1952; Maternity Benefit Act, 1961; Payment of Gratuity Act, 1972; Cine Workers Welfare Fund Act, 1981; Building and Other Construction Workers Cess Act, 1996 and Unorganized Workers‘ Social Security Act, 2008.

 

Sources: the Hindu.

 


GS Paper 3:

 

Topics covered:

  1. Issues related to direct and indirect farm subsidies and minimum support prices; Public Distribution System objectives, functioning, limitations, revamping; issues of buffer stocks and food security; Technology missions; economics of animal-rearing.

 

Fall Armyworm (FAW)

 

What to study?

For prelims and mains: FAW- causes, effects, concerns and measures needed.

 

Context: Proper precaution and timely management by the state agriculture department and awareness among farmers have succeeded in thwarting an attack by the Fall Armyworm (FAW) on maize crop in Odisha.

 

Background:

Odisha produces over 7 lakh tonnes maize every year. The coverage of maize has increased to 2.40 lakh hectares in 2019-20 from 2.28 lakh ha a year ago.

 

What is FAW?

It is a native of the tropical and sub-tropical regions of the Americas.

First detected in the African continent in 2016. Since then, it has spread to other countries such as China, Thailand, Malaysia and Sri Lanka.

The pest can attack at least 80 types of crops including bajra, jawar, ragi, paddy, wheat and vegetables.

In India: It was reported in India for the first-time in Karnataka. Within a span of only six months, almost 50 per cent of the country, including Mizoram, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and West Bengal, has reported FAW infestations.

 

What makes FAW dangerous?

  1. It is the polyphagous (ability to feed on different kinds of food) nature of the caterpillar and the ability of the adult moth to fly more than 100 km per night.
  2. Given its ability to feed on multiple crops — nearly 80 different crops ranging from maize to sugarcane — FAW can attack multiple crops.
  3. Similarly, it can spread across large tracts of land as it can fly over large distances. This explains the quick spread of the pest across India.

 

How FAW affects output?

  1. Till date, India has reported FAW infestation on maize, sorghum (jowar) and sugarcane crops. Maize has been the worst affected as most maize-growing states in southern India have been affected by the pest.
  2. FAW infestation and drought has led to a shortfall of nearly 5 lakh tonnes in output, prompting the central government to allow import of maize under concessional duty. Maize is the third most important cereal crop grown in the country and the infestation, if not checked in time, can wreck havoc.

 

Sources: the Hindu.


Topics Covered:

  1. Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.

 

Scientists call for action on climate

 

What to study?

For Prelims and mains: Concerns and challenges highlighted and ways to address them.

 

Context: More than 11,000 scientists have co-signed a letter in the journal BioScience, calling for urgently necessary action on climate.

This is the largest number of scientists to explicitly support a publication calling for climate action.

 

Key facts:

  1. Globally, greenhouse gas emissions are still rising, with increasingly damaging effects. However, there’s more to climate change than global temperature.
  2. Scientists have developed a broader set of indicators to convey the effects of human activities on greenhouse gas emissions, and the consequent impacts on climate, our environment and society.
  3. The indicators include human population growth, tree cover loss, fertility rates, fossil fuel subsidies, glacier thickness, and frequency of extreme weather events. All are linked to climate change.

 

Concerns and challenges:

  1. Profoundly troubling signs linked to human activities include sustained increases in human and ruminant populations, global tree cover loss, fossil fuel consumption, number of plane passengers, and carbon dioxide emissions.
  2. The concurrent trends on the actual impacts of climate change are equally troubling. Sea ice is rapidly disappearing, and ocean heat, ocean acidity, sea level, and extreme weather events are all trending upwards.
  3. These trends need to be closely monitored to assess how we are responding to the climate emergency. Any one of them could hit a point of no return, creating a catastrophic feedback loop that could make more regions of Earth uninhabitable.

 

Six critical and interrelated steps that governments, and the rest of humanity, can take to lessen the worst effects of climate change:

  1. Prioritise energy efficiency, and replace fossil fuels with low-carbon renewable energy sources,
  2. Reduce emissions of short-lived pollutants like methane and soot,
  3. Protect and restore the Earth’s ecosystems by curbing land clearing,
  4. Reduce our meat consumption,
  5. Move away from unsustainable ideas of ever-increasing economic and resource consumption.
  6. Stabilise and ideally, gradually reduce human populations while improving human well-being.

 

Sources: Down to earth.

 


 

Facts for prelims:

 

Cyclones so far in the Indian Ocean:

2019 may be the record-breaking cyclone year for India. We are already on a par with 2018 when a record of seven Cyclones was made.

The latest cyclone- bulbul, is the seventh to be formed in the Indian Ocean this year.

  • It is the highest in the last 34 years — a record held jointly with 2018.
  • It will also be the second storm to form in the Bay of Bengal this year after extremely severe Cyclone Fani in April-May.

Previously there was Cyclone Maha formed in the Arabian Ocean.

  • In the Indian Ocean region, cyclones Bulbul and Maha came in quick succession after super cyclone Kyarr — a first in the region after the Odisha super cyclone of 1999.
  • The Arabian sea, usually not known to be prone to cyclones, has had four major cyclones this year — very severe cyclone Vayu, very severe cyclone Hikaa, super cyclone Kyarr and extremely severe cyclone Maha. This equals the record for the highest number of severe cyclones in the Arabian sea in the last 117 years.
  • There have been two extremely severe cyclones and one super cyclone in the Indian Ocean region in 2019, taking the total number of severe cyclones to five.

Elsewhere:

  • Super typhoon Halong in the western north Pacific Ocean.
  • Hurricane Dorian– Bahamas.
  • Nakri– West Philippine’s Sea.

 

What is Pliosaur?

  • They are the largest aquatic carnivorous reptiles that have ever lived.
  • They are often dubbed “sea monsters”. Scientifically, they are placed in the suborder

Context: Interest in these giants has been revived with the recent discovery of their bones in a cornfield in the Polish village of Krzyzanowice. Remains of pliosaurs are rare in Europe.

 

New Zealand- Zero Carbon Law:

  • The country has passed Zero Carbon bill which aims to make New Zealand reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to the point the country becomes mostly carbon neutral by 2050.
  • It gives some leeway to farmers, who bring in much of the country’s foreign income. 
  • The bill requires all greenhouse gases except methane from animals to be reduced to net zero by 2050. Methane emissions would be reduced by 10% by 2030 and by between about one-quarter and one-half by 2050. 

 

Maternal mortality rate in India:

A Special Bulletin on Maternal Mortality in India 2015-2017 from the Sample Registration System has been released.

Key facts:

  1. Maternal mortality ratio is measured as the number of maternal deaths per lakh live births.
  2. It varies among the Indian states from a high of 229 per lakh in Assam to a low of 42 in Kerala.
  3. Across the country, the maternal mortality ratio has declined from 130 during 2014-2016 to 122 during 2015-17.
  4. There is a 26.9% decrease since 2013 (from 167 in 2011-13 to 122 in the latest bulletin).
  5. For Assam, which recorded the highest maternal mortality ratio, or MMR, the 229 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births is still an improvement from the 2014-16 MMR of 237. Uttar Pradesh (216), Madhya Pradesh (188), Rajasthan (186), Odisha (168), Bihar (165) and Chhattisgarh (141) follow.
  6. Among these states, the maternal mortality rate is the highest in Uttar Pradesh, at 20.1. Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan and Assam follow with maternal mortality rates at 17.5, 16.9, 16.8 and 15.2 respectively.
  7. Kerala has the lowest MMR, at 42. It is followed by Maharashtra (55), Tamil Nadu (63), Andhra Pradesh (74), Jharkhand (76) and Telangana (76). Kerala also has the lowest maternal mortality rate, at 1.9, followed by Maharashtra at 3.3.

According to the United Nations’ (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the global target is to bring down the MMR to fewer than 70 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births by 2030.