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Insights Daily Current Affairs, 20 October 2017


Insights Daily Current Affairs, 20 October 2017


Paper 2:

Topic: Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora.


Catalonia crisis: Spain moves to suspend autonomy


Spain is planning to suspend Catalonia’s autonomy, as the region’s leader threatens to declare independence. The Spain government would soon meet to activate Article 155 of the constitution, allowing it to take over running of the region.

Article 155 of the constitution, which cemented democratic rule three years after the death of dictator General Francisco Franco in 1975, allows Madrid to impose direct rule in a crisis but it has never been invoked.


Where is Catalonia?

Catalonia is an autonomous community of Spain in the north-east end of the Iberian Peninsula, designated as a nationality by its Statute of Autonomy. It has four provinces: Barcelona, Girona, Lleida, and Tarragona. The capital and largest city is Barcelona, which is the second most populated city in Spain.


What is the history of the secession movement?

Catalonia was historically an autonomous region of the Iberian peninsula, which encompasses Spain and Portugal. However, it was never a disparate part of the region despite having its own language, laws, and customs. The marriage of Petronilia, the Queen of Aragon, and Ramon Berebguer IV, Count of Barcelona in 1150, led to the formation of a dynasty. All regions of the peninsula spanning Aragon and Catalonia were brought under unified rule which lasted until the reign of King Philip V.

  • The war of Spanish Succession created modern Spain with the defeat of Valencia in 1707, and of Catalonia in 1714. Subsequent sovereigns tried to impose the Spanish language and laws in order to culturally unify the kingdom, but their attempts were abandoned in 1931 when the Generalitat (the national Catalan government) was restored.
  • Catalan separatism was crushed under the dictatorship of General Francisco Franco who took control of the region, killing 3,500 people and forcing many more into exile. Franco was ousted in 1977 and democracy was restored.
  • Calls for complete independence continued to grow. In July 2010, the Constitutional Court in Madrid overruled part of the 2006 autonomy statute, stating that there is no legal basis for recognising Catalonia as a separate country in the framework of the Spanish nation state.
  • The economic crisis which has embattled the Spanish economy with rising unemployment and spiralling inflation, only served to amplify separatist sentiments as the wealthy Barcelona region is seen as propping up the poorer provinces.


How would a secession affect the Spanish economy?

The Catalan region has long been the industrial heartland of Spain, with textile and shipbuilding, and more recently, finance, services, and technology. Barcelona has a thriving start-up culture, and plays host to the annual Mobile World Congress, where the bleeding edge of technology is on display.

  • Catalonia is one of the wealthiest regions of Spain. It accounts for 20.07% of the Spanish GDP. Secession would therefore cost Spain almost a fifth of its economic output, and trigger a row on how to carve up the €836 billion of national debt.
  • If Catalonia were to secede from Spain, it would have a GDP of $314 billion, according to calculations by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). That would make its economy larger than Singapore and South Africa, and on a par with Israel. Its GDP per capita would be $35,000, which would make the average citizen of the Catalonian state wealthier than his counterparts from South Korea or Italy.


Sources: the hindu.



Paper 3:

Topic: Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.


India tops list of pollution-linked deaths: Study


India has topped the list of countries with pollution-related deaths in 2015, with 2.51 million people dying prematurely in the country that year due to diseases linked to air, water and other forms of pollution, according to a new study published in the reputed medical journal, The Lancet.

  • The study is part of a two-year project that involved more than 40 international health and environmental authors, and the secretariat of the Global Alliance on Health and Pollution.
  • The aim of the Lancet Commission is to raise global awareness on pollution, end neglect of pollution-related diseases, and mobilise resources and political will to effectively confront pollution.


Highlights of the study:

  • India accounted for about 28% of an estimated 9 million pollution-linked deaths worldwide in 2015. It also topped the list of deaths linked to polluted air (1.81 million) and water (0.64 million).
  • Most of the pollution-related deaths — 92% — were reported in low and middle income countries, and in rapidly industrialising nations such as India, China, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Madagascar and Kenya.
  • China, with 1.8 million pollution-linked deaths in 2015, followed India on The Lancet list. Most of these deaths were due to non-communicable diseases caused by pollution, such as heart disease, stroke, lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
  • Of the 2.51 million deaths in India, 1.81 were related to air pollution, 0.64 million to water pollution, 0.17 million to occupational exposure and 95,000 linked to lead pollution.
  • China (1.58 million) was placed after India in deaths linked to air-pollution, followed by Pakistan (0.22 million), Bangladesh (0.21 million) and Russia (0.14 million). In deaths linked to water pollution, Nigeria (0.16 million) and Pakistan (74,000) were placed after India.


Way ahead:

The Lancet study concluded that pollution is now the largest environmental cause of disease and death in the world today — three times more those from HIV-AIDS, TB and malaria put together.

It is “time to wake up” and start finding innovative solutions. For this, the government will need to take a lead role and formulate strategies on an urgent basis. Otherwise, the growing economy in the country will be a curse to the common man because this is coming at the cost of suffering and death.


Sources: the hindu.



Topic: biodiversity.

New species of large gecko discovered from Eastern Ghats


Scientists have discovered new species of large gecko from Eastern Ghats. The Kanger valley rock gecko Hemidactylus kangerensis is the newest addition to India’s lizard species.

Kanger valley rock geckoZeeshan Mirza

Key facts:

  • The gecko was discovered from Chhattisgarh’s Kanger Ghati National Park. Though named after this park, the species is also found in Jagdalpur and Sukma in Chhattisgarh and in Khamman in the adjoining State of Telangana, which are part of the Eastern Ghats.
  • Growing to over eight inches long, the adult Kanger valley rock gecko is fairly large.
  • The distinct black-bordered beige bands that the new species sports right from its neck to its tail tip and specific scales on its thighs (which are visible only on closer inspection) set the Kanger valley rock gecko apart from the commonly-found rock gecko.
  • According to the researchers, the discovery highlights the need for dedicated surveys across the Eastern Ghats, where biodiversity has not been quantified too well. Most areas here also need protection from various anthropogenic pressures.


Sources: the hindu.



Topic: Misc.

Man Booker Prize: George Saunders wins for Lincoln in the Bardo


George Saunders has won the Man Booker prize for his novel Lincoln in the Bardo – becoming the second US author to take home the £50,000 fiction award.

  • The book tells the story of Abraham Lincoln’s grief after the death of his young son, and his visits to his tomb.


About Man Booker Prize:

The leading literary award in English, The Man Booker Prize was launched in 1969. It aims to promote the ‘finest in fiction’ and is awarded each year to the book adjudged as the best novel of the year written in English and published in the United Kingdom.

  • The winner of The Man Booker Prize receives £50,000. Sponsored by Man Group, the foundation also awards £2,500 and a designer bound copy of their book to each of the six shortlisted authors. The winner and shortlisted authors are also guaranteed a worldwide readership as well as a dramatic spike in book sales.
  • The judges of The Man Booker Prize are chosen from a wide range of disciplines including critics, writers, academics, poets, politicians, actors and ‘all with a passion for quality fiction’. Subject to widespread speculation before the official announcement, the prize usually brings the winner a huge boost in sales and profile.


Sources: the hindu.