Insights Daily Current Affairs, 12 December 2016
Paper 2 Topic: India and its neighbourhood- relations.
Kolkata-Mizoram trade route to open via Myanmar
A deep water port built in Myanmar’s Sittwe on the Bay of Bengal by India is ready to be commissioned. An inauguration ceremony for this strategically important facility will be held soon.
- Construction of the sea port is the first phase of an integrated $500-million project being funded by a long-term interest-free loan provided by India.
Where is Sittwe located?
Sittwe is the capital of Rakhine State (which has been in the news for the plight of Rohingya Muslims) in south-western Myanmar. It is located at the mouth of the Kaladan river, which flows into Mizoram in north-eastern India.
Significance of this port for India:
India has for years sought transit access through Bangladesh to ship goods to the landlocked north-eastern States. At present, the only route to this region from the rest of India is a rather circuitous one through a narrow strip of Indian territory nicknamed the Chicken’s Neck in West Bengal, sandwiched between Bhutan and Bangladesh. The new route through Sittwe would significantly lower the cost and distance of movement from Kolkata to Mizoram and beyond.
The link was conceived by the UPA government and work began in 2010. The completion target of 2013 was missed.
Sources: the hindu.
Paper 2 Topic: Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.
Murder rate declining in India
Official data from the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) show that the murder rate in India has been steadily declining over the past two decades.
The murder rate (murders per lakh population) for 64 years (from 1952 to 2015) from the NCRB were compiled by the Clio Infra Project — a project which has collected worldwide data on social, economic, and institutional indicators.
However, the NCRB numbers are based on FIRs alone. Crimes for which FIRs are not registered are not accounted for in the official data.
- Murder rate has declined from 4.6 in 1992, the peak year of violence (in terms of murder rate) to 2.6 in 2015. The rate saw a steady rise from 2.7 in 1952 to the highest rate in the early nineties.
- Among mega cities, Patna turns out to be the least safe, having a murder rate of 11.3 — four times that of the national average in 2015. Meerut, Ludhiana, Faridabad and Agra come next. Kolkata, Kochi and Mumbai happen to be the safest, all having a rate of less than one murder per lakh population.
- Absolute numbers, however, are still high — 32,127 murders were recorded in 2015, which means 88 people were killed every day. In fact, murders in 2015 alone were almost similar in number to terrorism-related fatalities in India over the last two decades.
- Between 2006 and 2015, the figure was between 32,000 and 35,000. In the decade before, 1996-2005, recorded murder incidents were between 32,000 and 38,000. As per NCRB data from 1952-2015, 1992 saw the maximum number of deaths in one calendar year—40,105.
- In 2015, the major motive of murder was ‘Personal vendetta or enmity’ (4,758 cases), accounting for 14.8% of the total murder cases followed by ‘property dispute’ with 3,540 cases (11.0%).
- Murder rate for India in 2012 (3.5) was almost half compared to the world average (6.2). Among 209 countries for which comparable data was available, India ranked 133 (higher rank means higher murder rate).
Sources: the hindu.
Paper 3 Topic: Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.
Cancel illegal salt pans in Sambhar Lake: NGT
The central zonal bench of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has directed the Rajasthan government to cancel allotments of salt pans in the Sambhar Salt Lake that fall within the wetland and run contrary to the mandate of Wetland Rules, 2010.
- NGT has also directed the State government to not to make any further allotments or permit new salt pans within the wetland areas or in the ‘no construction zone’ identified for the said purpose in accordance with the Wetland Rules, 2010.
- It has further asked the authority to examine the sensitive issue in light of observations and recommendations made by the two expert committees in the year 2010. The bench gave six months’ time to implement the recommendations which should not be later than the 2017 monsoon.
It has been alleged that in and around the Sambhar Lake, commercial and other activities detrimental to the eco-system of the wetland were being carried out contrary to the provisions of the Wetland (Conservation and Management) Rules framed under the Environment Protection Acts of 1986 and 2010. Salt manufacturers in the region are also accused of digging unauthorised borewells around the lake and exploiting the groundwater.
About the lake:
The Sambhar Salt Lake is India’s largest inland salt lake. The lake encircles historical Sambhar Lake Town located 96 km south west of the city of Jaipur in Rajasthan. It is the source of most of Rajasthan’s salt production. It produces 196,000 tonnes of clean salt every year, which equates to around 9% of India’s salt production.
Sambhar has been designated as a Ramsar site. The wetland is a key wintering area for tens of thousands of flamingos and other birds that migrate from northern Asia.
Sources: the hindu.
Paper 2 Topic: Separation of powers between various organs dispute redressal mechanisms and institutions.
Parliamentary panel says SC showing a ‘zeal for primacy’
A Parliamentary Standing Committee report accusing the Supreme Court of distorting the original constitutional mandate and showing an “unnecessary zeal” for primacy in judicial appointments has been tabled in the parliament.
- The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievance, Law and Justice has directly contradicted the Supreme Court’s judgment on the National Judicial Appointments Committee (NJAC) law, which upheld the concept of judicial primacy.
The committee had taken suo motu cognisance of the “sad state of affairs” caused by the “inordinate delay in filling the vacancies in the Supreme Court and High Courts”. Nearly 43% of the approved strength of judges in High Courts is vacant. The draft Memorandum of Procedure for judicial appointments has been in limbo for almost a year.
The report may act as a trigger for kick-starting legislative efforts to overcome the impact of the Supreme Court’s October 16, 2015 judgment scrapping the NJAC law.
- The report concludes that the judiciary’s zeal for primacy over the government had led to the “present unfortunate situation”.
- It recommends that the original constitutional position on judicial appointments be brought back. It also notes that the appointment of High Court judges is “essentially” an executive function and a shared responsibility of the government and the judiciary.
- The committee also asked the government to reverse the distortion created in the original mandate of the Constitution arising from the judgments of the apex court in the Second Judges Case and subsequent cases.
- The committee said the Constitution’s makers believed that only an equal involvement of multiple constitutional authorities in judicial appointments would mould an independent judiciary. On this, the committee quotes Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, who said that “after all, the Chief Justice is a man with all the failings, all the sentiments and all the prejudices which we as common people have”.
- It refers to how the Supreme Court itself, in the NJAC judgment, had concluded that the Collegium system lacked transparency.
- The report has also hinted that the NJAC judgment was not heard by a sufficient quorum of judges. It recommended that the Supreme Court ought to set up a Bench of a minimum 11 judges while deciding the validity of a constitutional amendment.
Sources: the hindu.
Paper 3 Topic: Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology and issues relating to intellectual property rights.
Japan Launches Magnetic Tether To Clean Up Space Junk
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency launched a spacecraft from the Tanegashima Space Center that carried a magnetic tether designed to move vast amounts of space junk from the Earth’s orbit.
- The automated cargo ship – called Stork or Kounotori in Japanese – which is carrying the junk collector is bound for the International Space Station and blasted off from Tanegashima Space Center in the North Pacific.
- The tether, made of aluminium strands and steel wire, is designed to slow the debris, pulling it out of orbit.
- The innovative device was made with the help of a fishing net company.
- Researchers say the lubricated, electro-dynamic tether will generate enough energy to change an object’s orbit, pushing it towards the atmosphere where it will burn up.
- The experiment is part of an international initiative designed to make space safer for astronauts by getting rid of space junk.
There is estimated to be more than 100 million pieces of space junk in orbit, including discarded equipment from old satellites, tools and bits of rocket.
Many of these objects are moving at high velocity around the Earth at speeds of up to 28,000km/h (17,500mph) and could cause catastrophic accidents and damage to the world’s orbital telecommunications network.
The junk has accumulated in the more than 50 years of human space exploration since the Soviet-launched Sputnik satellite in 1957. Collisions between satellites and the testing of anti-satellite weapons have made the problem worse.
Sources: the hindu.
Facts for Prelims
‘100 Million for 100 Million’ Campaign:
- ‘100 Million for 100 Million’ Campaign was recently launched by President Pranab Mukherjee.
- It was organized by the Kailash Satyarthi Children’s Foundation.
- The ‘100 Million for 100 Million’ Campaign aims to mobilise 100 million youth and children for 100 million underprivileged children across the world, to end child labour, child slavery, violence against children and promote the right of every child to be safe, free, and educated, over the next 5 years.
ISRO signs deal for first privately built satellite:
- The Indian Space Research Organisation has roped in a consortium of six companies to deliver the country’s first industry-built spacecraft by late 2017.
- In this regard, ISRO recently signed an agreement. The contract includes assembly, integration and testing (AIT) of two spare navigation satellites consecutively in around 18 months.
- The contract was signed between SRO Satellite Centre (ISAC) and the consortium lead, Alpha Design Technologies P Ltd.
- Alpha is a defence manufacturing contractor while the others are small and medium-sized vendors that already supply components to ISRO. The others in the consortium are Newtech Solutions, Aidin Technologies and DCX Cables of Bengaluru, Vinyas Technologies of Mysuru and Avantel Systems of Hyderabad.
- The work will start around January and the first spacecraft will be brought out in around nine months.
Longest rail tunnel opens in Switzerland:
- The famed 57km Gotthard Base Tunnel (GBT) has been opened for passengers.
- The 57-kilometre (35-mile) Gotthard Base Tunnel (GBT) is longest tunnel now. It runs from Erstfeld in the central canton of Uri, to Bodio in the southern Ticino canton.
- With its opening, the GBT has surpassed Japan’s 53.9-kilometre Seikan tunnel as the world’s longest train tunnel. The 50.5-kilometre Channel Tunnel that links England and France has been bumped into third place.