Insights Daily Current Events, 08 January 2015
Restriction on production of Neem coated Urea removed
The Government has taken steps to encourage production and availability of fortified and coated urea in the country. In this regard, the cap / restrictions to produce Neem coated urea has been removed.
- Using neem coated urea will not only increase crop yields but also lower input cost to farmers.
- It will also reduce imports of precious fertilizers as well as reduce ground and soil pollution.
- Presently India is using only 60 lakh mt neem coated urea which can be increased to full demand of 310 lakh MT in the country.
- Coated urea is costly by 5% compared to plain prilled urea but it reduces Nitrogen loss by more than 10%, thereby incurring a net savings of Rs. 13.5 per bag for farmers.
- Due to higher nitrogen use efficiency, the use of nitrogen coated urea can also eliminate import of urea resulting in huge foreign exchange savings. Presently, India is importing about 71 lakh MT urea.
- Additionally, farmers will also get advantage of better yield, less pest attack due to less use of urea which will also ensure better NPK use ratio and balanced use of fertilizers.
There is adequate availability of fertilizers in the country.
Pravasi Bharatiya Divas 2015
External Affairs and Overseas Indian Affairs Minister inaugurated the Youth Pravasi Bharatiya Divas in Gandhinagar, as a precursor to the main Pravasi Bharatiya Divas.
- The minister cited the importance of three ‘Cs’ in bringing about synergy among Indians worldwide: Come, Connect, and Contribute.
Pravasi Bharatiya Divas:
Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD) is celebrated on 9th January every year to mark the contribution of Overseas Indian community in the development of India.
Why January 9?
- January 9 was chosen as the day to celebrate this occasion since it was on this day in 1915 that Mahatma Gandhi, the greatest Pravasi, returned to India from South Africa, led India’s freedom struggle and changed the lives of Indians forever.
- PBD conventions are being held every year since 2003.
- These conventions provide a platform to the overseas Indian community to engage with the government and people of the land of their ancestors for mutually beneficial activities.
- These conventions are also very useful in networking among the overseas Indian community residing in various parts of the world and enable them to share their experiences in various fields.
- During the event, individuals of exceptional merit are honoured with the prestigious Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Award to appreciate their role in India’s growth.
- The event also provides a forum for discussing key issues concerning the Indian Diaspora.
- The decision to celebrate Pravasi Bharatiya Divas was taken in accordance with recommendations of the High Level Committee (HLC) on the Indian Diaspora set up by government of India under the chairmanship of L. M. Singhvi. The then Prime Minister of India, Shri Atal Bihari Bajpayee after receiving the report of the Committee at a public function at Vigyan Bhavan in New Delhi on 8 January 2002, announced the “Pravasi Bharatiya Divas”(PBD) on 9 January that year.
Sources: PIB, moia.gov.in, pbdindia.com.
Citizenship (Amendment) Ordinance, 2015 Promulgated
The President of India has promulgated the Citizenship (Amendment) Ordinance, 2015 on January 06, 2015 with immediate effect which provides for the following amendments to the Indian Citizen Act, 1955:
- At present one year continuous stay in India is mandatory for Indian Citizenship which is relaxed stating that if the Central Government is satisfied that special circumstances exist, it may, after recording such circumstances in writing, relax the period of twelve months specified upto a maximum of thirty days which may be in different breaks.
- To enable for registration as Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) by a minor, whose parents are Indian Citizens.
- To enable for registration as Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) by a child or a grand-child or a great grandchild of such a citizen.
- To enable for registration as Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) by such spouse of a citizen of India or spouse of an OCI registered under Section 7A and whose marriage has been registered and subsisted for a continuous period of not less than two years immediately preceding the presentation of the application under this section.
- In respect of existing PIO card holders central government may, by notification in Official Gazette, specify a particular date from which all existing PIO card holders will be deemed to be OCI card holders.
Citizenship act 1955:
The Indian Citizenship Act, 1955 provides for acquisition, termination, deprivation, determination of Indian Citizenship and other related aspects. The Act provides for acquisition of Indian citizenship by birth, descent, registration, naturalization and incorporation of territory under certain circumstances, and also for the termination and deprivation of citizenship.
The act has been amended by the Citizenship (Amendment) Act 1986, the Citizenship (Amendment) Act 1992, the Citizenship (Amendment) Act 2003, and the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2005.
The Original Act provided:
- a person born in India after 26 January 1950 would, subject to certain exceptions be a citizen of India by Birth
- anyone born outside India after 26 January 1950, subject to certain requirements, would be a citizen of India if his/her father was an Indian citizen at the time of his/her birth
- under certain conditions, certain category of persons could acquire Indian citizenship by registration in prescribed manner
- foreigners could acquire Indian citizenship on application for naturalization on certain conditions
- if any territory became part of India, the Government of India could by order specify the persons who would become citizens of India as a result thereof
- citizenship could be lost by termination, renunciation or deprivation on certain grounds
- A citizen of commonwealth country would have the status of commonwealth citizen of India. Government could make suitable provisions on the basis of reciprocity.
Sources: PIB, Wiki.
BCCI should pay service tax for recording matches: SC
The Supreme Court has said the Board of Control for Cricket in India would have to pay service tax for recording cricket matches, as it was a “service provider.”
- The BCCI had moved the court against an order by the Central Excise and Service Tax Appellate Tribunal directing it to pay Rs. 18 crore as service tax for recording matches between 2006 and 2010.
- The cricketing body argued that merely recording a match was not part of production of a programme, and could not be included as an act attracting service tax.
- It argued that camerapersons deployed just recorded the matches and this could not be described as production.
But the court did not agree with the cricketing body’s arguments.
The SC said the recording of a cricket match eventually amounted to programming because the visuals were watched by millions of people.
Service tax is a tax levied by the government on service providers on certain service transactions. It is categorized under Indirect Tax and came into existence under the Finance Act, 1994.
Sources: The Hindu.
CIC plans action against parties
Faced with the worst case of defiance of its orders, the Central Information Commission will rule shortly on action to be taken against political parties which refuse to comply with the Right to Information Act.
- Eighteen months after it ruled that six national political parties, which enjoy considerable public funding, should be designated as ‘public authorities’ under the RTI Act, a full bench of the CIC held a hearing on their continued non-compliance.
- Yet again, not a single party representative attended the hearing, and none of the parties challenged the June 2013 ruling either.
For the CIC, this is the first time it is faced with complete and continued defiance of its orders.
The Central Information Commission (CIC) is set up under the Right to Information Act and is the authorised body, established in 2005, under the Government of India.
The Chief Information Commissioner heads the Central Information Commission, the body that hears appeals from information-seekers who have not been satisfied by the public authority, and also addresses major issues concerning the RTI Act.
Sources: The Hindu, cic.gov.in.
Rock paintings at risk of fading away
The rock paintings in the Marayur-Chinnar forest belt of Kerala, the second largest concentration of cave paintings in south India, are at high risk of degeneration.
- As per isolated studies conducted so far, there are 21 cave paintings of red ochre in this Kerala-Tamil Nadu region.
- Over 50 caves, situated in the forest belt, are believed to be of the prehistoric period.
- The cave paintings in Ezhuthala and Attala in Marayur sandal division, the most noted ones, were in more danger.
- The rock paintings were in the eastern slope of the Western Ghats, at around 3,000 metres above sea level. The sandy rocks were highly prone to degeneration.
It is the duty of the Archaeological Survey of India to protect these paintings.
The Archaeological Survey of India is an Indian government agency in the Department of Culture that is responsible for archaeological studies and the preservation of cultural monuments.
- The ASI’s function is to “explore, excavate, conserve, preserve and protect the monuments and sites of National & International Importance.”
- The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) is the successor of the Asiatic Society of British archaeologist Sir William Jones, founded January 15, 1784. In 1788 it begun to publish a journal The Asiatic Researches and in 1814 built its first museum in Bengal.
- The ASI in its current form was founded in 1861 under British colonial administration by Sir Alexander Cunningham with the help of the then Viceroy Canning.
- ASI administers 3636 monuments it has declared to be of national importance under the provisions of the Antiquity and Art Treasure Act 1972.
Sources: The Hindu, Wiki, asi.nic.in.
Classical status for Marathi soon
The Centre is expediting the process to declare Marathi a classical language.
Criteria for declaration of a language as a Classical Language are:
- High antiquity of its early texts/recorded history over a period of 1500-2000 years;
- A body of ancient literature/texts, which is considered a valuable heritage by generations of speakers;
- The literary tradition should be original and not borrowed from another speech community;
- The classical language and literature being distinct from modern, there may also be a discontinuity between the classical language and its later forms or its offshoots.
The government of India has declared Tamil, Sanskrit, Telugu, Malayalam, Kannada and Odiya as classical languages.
The benefits that will accrue to a language declared as “Classical Language” are:
- Two major international awards for scholars of eminence in Classical Indian Languages are awarded annually.
- A ‘Centre of Excellence for Studies in Classical Languages’ will be set up.
- The University Grants Commission will be requested to create, to start with at least in the Central Universities, a certain number of Professional Chairs for Classical Languages for scholars of eminence in Classical Indian Languages.
Sources: The Hindu, PIB, Wiki.
Atul Khare is U.N. Under-Secretary-General
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has announced the appointment of Atul Khare of India as Under-Secretary-General, Department of Field Support (DFS).
- He succeeds Ameerah Haq of Bangladesh.
An Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations (USG) is a senior official within the United Nations System, normally appointed by the General Assembly on the recommendation of the Secretary-General for a renewable term of four years.
USGs have diplomatic rank equivalent to that of a national cabinet minister. Under Article 105 of the United Nations Charter they have diplomatic immunity.
Sources: The Hindu, Wiki.
Eurozone pricefall fuels deflation fears
Recently released Data shows that the eurozone slipped into deflationary territory in December for the first time since the height of the financial crisis in 2009 challenging the European Central Bank (ECB) to take action to avert a new economic crisis in Europe.
- Consumer prices in the single currency area fell 0.2 per cent last month, dragged down by plummeting oil prices and signalling big problems ahead with renewed crisis in debt-plagued Greece also on the horizon.
- World stocks nosedived and the euro struck nine year lows against the dollar this week on renewed fears of a Greek exit from the eurozone if poll-leading leftists win snap elections this month in Athens.
- Amid the instability, the first confirmed sign of a real fall in prices since the financial crisis could force the ECB’s hand to do more to prop up the single currency.
ECB is now under pressure to quickly put prices back in positive territory.
Deflation is a decrease in the general price level of goods and services. Deflation occurs when the inflation rate falls below 0% (a negative inflation rate). This should not be confused with disinflation, a slow-down in the inflation rate (i.e., when inflation declines to lower levels). Inflation reduces the real value of money over time; conversely, deflation increases the real value of money –- the currency of a national or regional economy. This allows one to buy more goods with the same amount of money over time.
The Eurozone is an economic and monetary union (EMU) of 19 European Union (EU) member states that have adopted the euro (€) as their common currency and sole legal tender.
Sources: The Hindu, Wiki.
Embankments are sinking Bangladesh’s islands
Recent studies reveal that Bangladesh’s estuarine islands are sinking, and ironically, this could owe to embankments built to protect them from tidal erosion. Some islands have sunk by as much as 1.5 metres in the last 50 years.
- Earthen embankments built,
to protect fields against tidal and storm-surge inundation and buffering them against floods, have also prevented the deposition of sediment that helps maintain an elevation in this area.
- The loss of elevation was felt most significantly during the 2009 cyclone Alia when large areas of land were left inundated for upto two years.
- Deforestation and a regionally increased tidal range have contributed to the phenomenon.
The study therefore implicates “direct human modification of the environment” and not global sea-level rise as the most important agent of change in the western Ganges Brahmaputra tidal delta plain.
Experts say that it is possible to recover some of the lost ground. “Controlled breaching of embankments” can restore elevation and relieve environmental problems. The silver lining for Bangladesh and the delta system remains the one billion tons of river sediment that may be effectively dispersed onto the landscape to alleviate elevation deficits.
Sources: The Hindu.
What will be the India-based Neutrino Observatory’s impact?
The Union Cabinet recently approved the India-based Neutrino Observatory project. Coming soon after the approval of the 30-metre telescope which will be located in Hawaii, this decision will cause India to step into big fundamental science.
- The three types of neutrinos, which were initially thought to be mass-less, are now believed to have a small mass.
- This was shown by observations of neutrino oscillation, which is a phenomenon by which one type of neutrino transforms into another.
- There is a hierarchy among the masses of these three types of neutrino and the experiments at the INO will study this mass ordering using a magnetised iron calorimeter (ICAL). The ICAL is a massive detector which will be made of iron — 50,000 tonnes of it. The project will be housed in the 63 acres of land, about 2 km away from the settlement, in the Bodi West Hills about 100 km from Madurai, Tamil Nadu.
About the project:
The India-based Neutrino Observatory (INO) Project is a multi-institutional effort aimed at building a world-class underground laboratory with a rock cover of approximately 1200 m for non-accelerator based high energy and nuclear physics research in India.
- It is anticipated to provide a precise measurement of neutrino mixing parameters.
- The project, expected to be completed in 2015 at an estimated cost of INR 1,500 crores, has been cleared by the Ministry of Environment for construction in the Bodi West Hills Reserved Forest in the Theni district of Tamil Nadu. When completed, the INO will house the world’s most massive magnet, four times larger than the 12,500-tonne magnet in the Compact Muon Solenoid detector at CERN in Geneva, Switzerland.
- The initial goal of INO is to study neutrinos. According to standard model of particle physics, they are mass less. However recent experiments indicate that these charge-neutral fundamental particles, have finite but small mass which is unknown. They oscillate between flavours as they propagate. Determination of neutrino masses and mixing parameters is one of the most important open problems in physics today.
- The ICAL detector is designed to address some of these key open problems in a unique way. Over the years this underground facility is expected to develop into a full-fledged underground science laboratory for other studies in physics, biology, geology, hydrology etc.
Impact on surroundings:
- Experts say that it will not affect the stability of the surrounding hills.
- The impact will be mainly during construction period; after construction ends within a few years, the lab will be maintained by a small staff with some students and scientists and will have negligible environmental impact. The GOI has assured that all efforts will be made to minimise and manage the impact during construction.
Need for such a massive detector and for drilling underground:
- The neutrinos interact very weakly with the surroundings. We are all being washed by a stream of neutrinos every passing minute as they just pass through us without leaving a trace. It is impossible to detect them on the surface of earth.
- Since they interact so weakly, detecting them over other interactions is impossible. So, there is a need to have a barrier of at least 1 km of earth to block out other radiation and particles, such as muons from cosmic rays.
- This is the reason scientists are going underground. They will construct a tunnel at a depth of 1,300 metres below the peak.
What are the benefits to local people from this project?
- The construction contract will specify that local labour should be used, based on the skill levels, to the maximum extent possible.
- Furthermore, gainful employment will be there for a small number of people by way of sourcing of services and daily needs for the INO facility and for the upkeep of buildings and landscapes.
- A major benefit will be for schools and colleges in the region as the students interested in science can benefit from the outreach activities as well as doing projects at the lab.
- Efforts are being made to improve the infrastructure and academic standards of the surrounding schools as permitted by governing rules. Exhibitions and other similar facilities will be arranged to enhance the scientific spirit of the local youngsters, etc.
What are neutrinos?
Neutrinos are tiny, neutral, elementary particles which interact with matter via the weak force. The weakness of this force gives neutrinos the property that matter is almost trans- parent to them. The Sun, and all other stars, produce neutrinos copiously due to nuclear fusion and decay processes within their core.
- Since they rarely interact, these neutrinos pass through the Sun, and even the Earth, unhindered. There are many other natural sources of neutrinos including exploding stars (supernovae), relic neutrinos, natural radioactivity, and cosmic ray interactions in the atmosphere of the Earth.
- The neutrino was proposed by Wolfgang Pauli in 1930; but it took another 26 years for it to be actually detected. In 1956 Reines and Cowan found evidence of neutrino interactions by monitoring a volume of cadmium chloride with scintillating liquid near to a nuclear reactor. Reines was jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1995 in part for this revolutionary work.
- We now know that not just one but at least three types or flavours of neutrinos and their anti-particles exist in nature. They have a tiny mass whose value is still not known.
Sources: The Hindu, Wiki, http://www.ino.tifr.res.in/.