Insights Daily Current Affairs, 11 September 2018
Topic: Important Geophysical phenomena.
UN sees 70% chance of El Nino event this year
What to study?
For Prelims and Mains: ENSO- El Nino and La Nia- causes, effects and impacts, global climate change and ENSO cycle.
Context: The World Meteorological Organisation forecast “a 70% chance of an El Nino developing by the end of this year.” The warming phase of ENSO is called El Nino.
The organisation sees increased odds of higher surface temperatures in most of Asia-Pacific, Europe, North America, Africa and along much of South America’s coastline. Interior parts of South America, Greenland, many south Pacific islands and some in the Caribbean were identified as possible exceptions.
What is ENSO?
ENSO is nothing but El Nino Southern Oscillation. As the name suggests, it is an irregular periodic variation of wind and sea surface temperature that occurs over the tropical eastern Pacific Ocean. ENSO affects the tropics (the regions surrounding the equator) and the subtropics (the regions adjacent to or bordering the tropics). The warming phase of ENSO is called El Nino, while the cooling phase is known as La Nina.
What is El Nino?
El Nino is a climatic cycle characterised by high air pressure in the Western Pacific and low air pressure in the eastern. In normal conditions, strong trade winds travel from east to west across the tropical Pacific, pushing the warm surface waters towards the western Pacific. The surface temperature could witness an increase of 8 degrees Celsius in Asian waters. At the same time, cooler waters rise up towards the surface in the eastern Pacific on the coasts of Ecuador, Peru, and Chile. This process called upwelling aids in the development of a rich ecosystem.
What causes El Nino?
El Nino sets in when there is anomaly in the pattern. The westward-blowing trade winds weaken along the Equator and due to changes in air pressure, the surface water moves eastwards to the coast of northern South America. The central and eastern Pacific regions warm up for over six months and result in an El Nino condition. The temperature of the water could rise up to 10 degrees Fahrenheit above normal. Warmer surface waters increase precipitation and bring above-normal rainfall in South America, and droughts to Indonesia and Australia.
What are El Nino’s effects?
- El Nino affects global weather. It favours eastern Pacific hurricanes and tropical storms. Record and unusual rainfall in Peru, Chile and Ecuador are linked to the climate pattern.
- El Nino reduces upwelling of cold water, decreasing the uplift of nutrients from the bottom of the ocean. This affects marine life and sea birds. The fishing industry is also affected.
- Drought caused by El Nino can be widespread, affecting southern Africa, India, Southeast Asia, Australia, and the Pacific Islands. Countries dependent on agriculture are affected.
- Australia and Southeast Asia get hotter.
- A recent WHO report on the health consequences of El Nino forecasts a rise in vector-borne diseases, including those spread by mosquitoes, in Central and South America. Cycles of malaria in India are also linked to El Nino.
Why is it a concern?
The rise in sea surface temperature may be intensified by global warming. From the current study, we learn that El Nino can exacerbate global warming and hence the process could become a vicious circle.
What is La Nina?
La Nina is a climate pattern that describes the cooling of surface ocean waters along the tropical west coast of South America. It is considered to have the opposite effect of El Nino. It brings greater than normal rainfall in Southeast Asia and Australia, and causes drier-than-normal conditions in South America and the Gulf Coast of the United States. La Nina events sometimes follow El Nino events.
How long does it last?
An El Nino or La Nina episode lasts nine to 12 months. Some may prolong for years. Its average frequency is every 2 to 7 years. El Nino is more frequent than La Nina.
Sources: the hindu.
Topic: Functions and responsibilities of the Union and the States, issues and challenges pertaining to the federal structure, devolution of powers and finances up to local levels and challenges therein.
Article 161 of the Constitution
What to study?
- For Prelims: Article 161, differences in pardoning powers of President and Governor.
- For Mains: Significance of pardoning powers, role of cabinet and constitutional conundrum in such issues.
Context: After failing to get the seven convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case released by exercising its statutory power to remit life sentences, the government in Tamil Nadu has taken recourse to a possible constitutional remedy. It has decided to invoke the Governor’s clemency power under Article 161 of the Constitution.
What’s the issue?
In 2014, the Tamil Nadu government tried to invoke its remission powers under Section 432 of the Code of Criminal Procedure to release the convicts. The Centre opposed the move, arguing that since the case had been prosecuted by the Central Bureau of Investigation, the state first needed to take the Centre’s “concurrence” as required by Section 435 of the code.
The dispute went to the Supreme Court, which decided in the Centre’s favour in 2015, ruling that the word “consultation” in Section 435 in spirit meant “concurrence”. In August this year, the Centre denied concurrence to Tamil Nadu on the grounds that releasing the people convicted of assassinating a former prime minister would have “international ramifications” for India.
What should the governor do now?
Tamil Nadu Governor will now have to take a call on the advice of the State’s Council of Ministers and decide whether he is bound by it. He can either reject the proposal or seek its reconsideration. In either case, he will be mindful of the fact that his decision will be subject to judicial review.
Is the governor bound by the Cabinet’s advice?
It is settled in law that except in matters where governor has discretion or enjoys independent powers, they are bound by the Cabinet’s decision. Governor does not have the option of returning a decision for reconsideration either since the Indian Constitution provides that recourse only for the President. However, governor’s decision, even if made on the aid and advice of the Cabinet, is subject to judicial review. Further, Supreme Court rulings on how governor should make decisions under Article 161 add to the complexity of the present case.
In two separate judgements, the apex court has reiterated that governor’s power to pardon cannot be used mechanically. In Epuru Sudhakar, which involved a Congress leader in Andhra Pradesh, the court ruled that political considerations cannot be the basis for granting pardon, and set aside the governor’s clemency order.
Options before the governor:
- One, he can sit on the cabinet recommendation endlessly, as Article 161 of the Constitution does not prescribe any time limit for him to take a decision on the cabinet resolution.
- Two, he can return the resolution to the cabinet for clarification or reconsideration.
- Third, he can reject the resolution prompting the stake-holders to take the issue to courts, where it will be a time-consuming process.
Is concurrence of the Centre necessary?
Since state’s executive power extends to all laws on the concurrent list, including the Indian Penal Code and the Criminal Procedure Code, governor has the power to remit sentences handed down under such laws. In the particular matter of Rajiv Gandhi’s assassins, though, the point of concurrence was insisted upon as the case had been investigated by a central agency.
But given that the exercise of governor’s power under Article 161 is constitutional, it does not require the Centre’s concurrence. The aid and advice of the state Cabinet is enough.
Why Centre’s intervention is necessary?
There is a possibility that the Centre will challenge the governor’s order if he accepts the state Cabinet’s advice, not least because it will cause several legal and diplomatic complications. Since three of the convicts are Sri Lankan nationals, what will be their legal status after they are released? Will the Indian government be willing to let foreign nationals convicted of assassinating a former prime minister live in the country? Will it deport them to Sri Lanka, where they are bound to be arrested again? If they propose to move to another country, can India be expected to facilitate such a move?
An omnibus order of release clearly will not address the particularities in each case, or evaluate the gravity of their role in the crime and the effect on society of releasing them.
Moral issues: In principle, the idea that convicts who have suffered prolonged incarceration require compassion cannot be faulted. The idea of locking away a person for life, without so much as a sliver of hope of freedom, is not in keeping with the ideals of a truly modern society.
What should not be ignored? It is impossible to ignore the impact of such a decision on capital punishment. When lifelong imprisonment is regarded as a humane alternative to capital punishment, releasing life convicts may only strengthen the demand for the imposition of the death penalty — which would be retrograde. Although there are many political considerations behind the move to release the convicts, this case must be decided on the basis of legal principles alone.
What you need to know? Article 161:
- Article 161 deals with Power of Governor to grant pardons, etc, and to suspend, remit or commute sentences in certain cases.
- It states, the Governor of a State shall have the power to grant pardons, reprieves, respites or remissions of punishment or to suspend, remit or commute the sentence of any person convicted of any offence against any law relating to a matter to which the executive power of the State extends.
DIFFERENCE BETWEEN PARDONING POWERS OF PRESIDENT AND GOVERNOR:
The scope of the pardoning power of the President under Article 72 is wider than the pardoning power of the Governor under Article 161. The power differs in the following two ways:
- The power of the President to grant pardon extends in cases where the punishment or sentence is by a Court Martial but Article 161 does not provide any such power to the Governor.
- The President can grant pardon in all cases where the sentence given is sentence of death but pardoning power of Governor does not extend to death sentence cases.
Significance of pardoning powers:
- The pardoning power of Executive is very significant as it corrects the errors of judiciary. It eliminates the effect of conviction without addressing the defendant’s guilt or innocence.
- Pardon may substantially help in saving an innocent person from being punished due to miscarriage of justice or in cases of doubtful conviction.
- The object of pardoning power is to correct possible judicial errors, for no human system of judicial administration can be free from imperfections.
Sources: the hindu.
Topic: Statutory, regulatory and various quasi-judicial bodies.
Animal Welfare Board of India
What to study?
- For Prelims: About AWBI.
- For Mains: Issues related to the welfare of animals in India.
Context: Union Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi has locked horns with the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI), accusing it of being lax in enforcement of rules that specify how wild animals can be depicted in films and television programmes.
What’s the issue?
The minister has listed “blatant errors” by the AWBI subcommittee that screens applications from film-makers. She alleged that the committee did not seek details of the species being used, which were required to determine whether they were protected. It had even allowed their depiction in scenes that could promote cruelty to animals. This is against the Supreme Court’s orders.
About Animal Welfare Board of India:
Established in 1962 under Section 4 of The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act,1960, the Animal Welfare Board of India is a statutory advisory body advising the Government of India on animal welfare laws, and promotes animal welfare in the country of India. Animal Welfare Board of India was started under the stewardship of Late Smt. Rukmini Devi Arundale, well known humanitarian.
- The Board was initially within the jurisdiction of the Government of India’s Ministry of Food and Agriculture. In 1990, the subject of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals was transferred to the Ministry of Environment and Forests, where it now resides.
- The Board consists of 28 Members, who serve for a period of 3 years.
- It works to ensure that animal welfare laws in the country are followed and provides grants to Animal Welfare Organisations. The Board oversees Animal Welfare Organisations (AWOs) by granting recognition to them if they meet its guidelines.
Sources: the hindu.
Topic: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
Historians oppose Monuments Bill
What to study?
- For Prelims: Key features of the Bill.
- For Mains: Concerns and ways to address them, importance of monuments and their protection.
Context: Historians have vociferously opposed changes to the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958. If the Act comes into force, they say it could have disastrous consequences for historical monuments, they fear.
- The Act proposes to allow the construction of Centre-approved public infrastructure within a 100 metre radius of Archaeological Survey of India (ASI)-protected monuments. This is worrying because this could open the way for denigration of ancient monuments in the name of development.
- A 2013 report by CAG said that about 1/3rd of the National Monuments of the country have been encroached upon and a majority of them were poorly guarded due to the lack of manpower.
- The monuments which are already deteriorating due to pollution, human interference and development activities around are further put under direct threat with the proposed changes.
- Public works by central government are executed more often than other small infrastructure projects which may even cause disturbance to tourism. The construction methods and tools may cause great loss to some architecturally and structurally weak monuments, viz. vibrations, particulate pollutants. It will give people the wrong message of govt. giving priority to development over environment, deterring the public from being conscious about the environment.
The Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains (Amendment) Bill, 2017:
Construction in ‘prohibited areas’: The Act defines a ‘prohibited area’ as an area of 100 meters around a protected monument or area. The central government can extend the prohibited area beyond 100 meters. The Act does not permit construction in such prohibited areas, except under certain conditions. The Act also prohibits construction in ‘prohibited areas’ even if it is for public purposes. The Bill amends this provision to permit construction of public works in ‘prohibited areas’ for public purposes.
Definition of ‘public works’: The Bill introduces a definition for ‘public works’, which includes the construction of any infrastructure that is financed and carried out by the central government for public purposes. This infrastructure must be necessary for public safety and security and must be based on a specific instance of danger to public safety. Also, there should be no reasonable alternative to carrying out construction in the prohibited area.
Procedure for seeking permission for public works: As per the Bill, the relevant central government department, that seeks to carry out construction for public purposes in a prohibited area, should make an application to the competent authority. If there is any question related to whether a construction project qualifies as ‘public works’, it will be referred to the National Monuments Authority. This Authority, will make its recommendations, with written reasons, to the central government. The decision of the central government will be final.
Impact assessment of proposed public works: The Bill empowers the National Monuments Authority to consider an impact assessment of the proposed public works in a prohibited area, including its (i) archaeological impact; (ii) visual impact; and (iii) heritage impact. The Authority will make a recommendation, for construction of public works to the central government, only if it is satisfied that there is no reasonable possibility of moving the construction outside the prohibited area.
Sources: the hindu.
Topic: India and its neighbourhood- relations.
Kartarpur Sahib pilgrim corridor
What to study?
For Prelims and Mains: Location and significance of the corridor, issues involved in its construction.
Context: Citing the strong sentiments Sikhs attach to the Kartarpur Sahib gurdwara in Pakistan, Punjab Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu has written to the Centre, asking for steps to realise a “Kartarpur Sahib corridor” for pilgrims.
What’s the issue?
The visa wrangles have deprived numerous pilgrims of reaching this gurdwara over the years. The rift between the two neighbours, India and Pakistan, grew so much over the years that even visiting the historical gurdwaras at will became a problem.
The gurdwara in Kartarpur stands on the bank of the Ravi, about 120 km northeast of Lahore. It was here that Guru Nanak assembled a Sikh community and lived for 18 years until his death in 1539. The shrine is visible from the Indian side, as Pakistani authorities generally trim the elephant grass that would otherwise obstruct the view. Indian Sikhs gather in large numbers for darshan from the Indian side, and binoculars are installed at Gurdwara Dera Baba Nanak.
Access to gurdwaras in Pakistan:
Sikh jathas from India travel to Pakistan on four occasions every year — for Baisakhi, the martyrdom day of Guru Arjan Dev, the death anniversary of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, and the birthday of Guru Nanak Dev. These Indian pilgrims are given access to all gurdwaras in Pakistan.
The “corridor” would bring Pak infrastructure right up to the Indian border. Over the past year, gurdwaras in Pakistan have been used for a pro-Khalistan campaign. Earlier this year, a gurdwara displayed posters and distributed pamphlets for the so-called “Sikh Referendum 2020”, and Pakistan denied permission to the Indian envoy and diplomats to visit it. Pakistan’s intent also remains suspect, and Indian officials are wary of the corridor being misused by both state and non-state actors in that country.
Sources: the hindu.
Facts for Prelims:
Indo – Mongolian Joint Exercise: Nomadic Elephant:
Context: INDO-MONGOLIA joint exercise Nomadic Elephant-2018 is being held in Ullanbaatar, Mongolia.
What is it? Exercise Nomadic Elephant is an annual, bilateral exercise since 2006 which is designed to strengthen the partnership between Indian Army and Mongolian Armed Forces. The exercise will see them improve their tactical and technical skills in joint counter insurgency and counter terrorist operations in rural and urban scenario under United Nations mandate.
- Mongolia is a landlocked unitary sovereign state in East Asia.
- It is sandwiched between China to the south and Russia to the north.
- It is also the world’s second-largest landlocked country behind Kazakhstan and the largest landlocked country that does not border a closed sea.