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Current Events 22 February 2017

 

NEWS

22 FEBRUARY 2017

Sr. No.

Topic

News

1.

GS II : GOVERNANCE NGOs

Amnesty faults sedition law, curbs on NGOs

2.

GS II : INTERNATIONAL PAKISTAN

Saeed could pose a threat to Pak.: Minister

3.

GS III : ENVIRONMENT BIODIVERSITY

Shoot at sight against poachers

4.

GS II : SOCIAL-ELDERLY

Coping with age when families are distant

5.

GS II : BILATERAL INDIA- NEPAL

NIA puts off Nepal visit for ‘sabotage' probe

6.

GS II :POLITY JUDICIARY

Can you stop obscene uploads, SC asks ISPs

7.

GS II :BILATERAL INDIA-AFRICA

India, Rwanda sign aviation, visa deals

8.

GS III: DEFENCE

More radars to beef up coastal surveillance

9.

GS II : BILATERAL INDIA -NORWAY

No discrimination of Indian children in Norway: Envoy

10.

GS II : BILATERAL INDIA- UK

‘Labour mobility issue is key to U.K.-India FTA'

11.

GS III : ECONOMY BANKING

Acharya sets timeline on NPAs

12.

GS II : BILATERAL INDIA- JAPAN

India, Japan ink pact on rail safety

13.

GS III : ENVIRONMENT BIODIVERSITY

Four new tiny frog species found in Western Ghats

14.

GS III : ENVIRONMENT CLIMATE CHANGE

How ponds can speed up global warming

15.

GS III: S&T - IT

Green tea-laced capacitor to power wearable devices

 

 

GS II : GOVERNANCE NGOs

Amnesty faults sedition law, curbs on NGOs

  • Amnesty International's annual report, the State of the World's Human Rights Report 2016-17, has expressed concerns over a range of human rights violations in India.

NGOs:

  • The report, being released worldwide on 22 February 2017, slammed the use of legislation such as the Foreign Currency (Regulation) Act (FCRA) and the sedition law to silence government critics and crack down on civil society organisations.
  • It noted, in particular, the suspension of the FCRA registration of Lawyers Collective, and the government's refusal to renew the FCRA licences of 25 NGOs "without offering valid reasons", which constitute a violation of the right to freedom of association.

Journalists:

  • Speaking of India's record, Amnesty International said, "Human rights activists and journalists faced intimidation and attacks from both state and non-state actors."
  • The report pointed to the deaths of journalists Karun Mishra and Rajdeo Ranjan, who were allegedly killed for their reporting, in Sultanpur, Uttar Pradesh, and Siwan, Bihar, respectively.

SCs and STs

  • In a sub-section on India titled ‘Caste-based discrimination and violence', the report noted that "Dalits and Adivasis continued to face widespread abuses".
  • It also highlighted the nationwide protests following the suicide of Dalit student Rohith Vemula, the attack on Dalit men by a cow vigilante group in Una, and the discrimination faced by Dalits in accessing social spaces and public services.

Children:

  • Noting that crimes against children in India grew by 5% in 2015, the report drew attention to India's amendment to the child labour law, which allows children under 14 to work in "family enterprises", and children between 14 and 18 years to work in occupations not classified as "hazardous."
  • It also pointed out that India's draft national education policy released last August "made no mention of human rights education."

Minorities:

  • Under the section, ‘Communal and Ethnic Violence', the report noted that "cow protection groups harassed and attacked people in States including Gujarat, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka."
  • Among other crimes, it referred to the killing of two Muslim cattle traders in Jharkhand, and the gang-rape of two women in Haryana by men who accused them of eating beef.

In J&K

  • The report criticised the Indian state's handling of the protests in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) following the killing of a Hizbul Mujahideen leader in July.
  • The state security forces used "arbitrary or excessive force against demonstrators on several occasions", said the report, which also slammed the use of pellet guns, which it said were "inherently inaccurate and indiscriminate.
  • On human rights violations in Kashmir, the report also highlighted the incident of August 2016, when "Shabbir Ahmad Monga, a lecturer, was beaten to death by army soldiers."
  • The ban on local newspapers for three days, and the detention of Kashmiri human rights activist Khurram Parvez "on spurious grounds" to prevent him from travelling to a U.N. Human Rights Council session in Geneva, also came in for censure.


Amnesty International

  • Amnesty International is a non-governmental organisation focused on human rights with over 7 million members and supporters around the world.
  • The stated objective of the organisation is "to conduct research and generate action to prevent and end grave abuses of human rights, and to demand justice for those whose rights have been violated."
  • Amnesty International was founded in London in 1961, following the publication of the article "The Forgotten Prisoners", by the lawyer Peter Benenson.
  • Amnesty draws attention to human rights abuses and campaigns for compliance with international laws and standards.
  • It works to mobilise public opinion to put pressure on governments that let abuse take place.
  • Amnesty considers capital punishment to be "the ultimate, irreversible denial of human rights".
  • The organisation was awarded the 1977 Nobel Peace Prize for its "campaign against torture," and the United Nations Prize in the Field of Human Rights in 1978.
  • In the field of international human rights organisations, Amnesty has the second longest history, after the International Federation for Human Rights and broadest name recognition, and is believed by many to set standards for the movement as a whole.


 

GS II : INTERNATIONAL PAKISTAN

Saeed could pose a threat to Pak.: Minister

  • Hafiz Saeed's house arrest was in Pakistan's "larger interest" as he could pose a "serious threat" to the country, Defence Minister Khawaza Asif has said in the first public admission of the JuD chief's terror links.
  • Mr. Asif 's remarks about the danger posed by the mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai attacks - in which 166 people died - came at an international security conference in Munich, Germany.
  • Saeed was placed under house arrest under the Schedule IV of the Anti-Terrorism Act on January 30 in Lahore, provoking an uproar from his party and allies.
  • Saeed was earlier this month put on the Exit Control List, barring him from leaving the country.
  • As far back as 2008, Saeed was placed under house arrest after the Mumbai attacks, but was freed by a court in 2009.
  • Saeed carries a reward of $10 million announced by the U.S. for his role in terror activities.
  • During a panel discussion on countering extremism and terrorism, Mr. Asif said: "Terrorism is not synonymous to any religion.
  • Terrorists aren't Christians or Muslims or Buddhists or Hindus. They are terrorists, they are criminals."
  • Pakistan was hit by at least eight terror attacks in February 2017 in which more than 100 people died, the latest being a suicide bombing on a famed Sufi shrine in Sindh province that claimed 88 lives.
  • In a statement critical of the American policies, Mr. Asif said Pakistan was determined to fight terrorism: "Let me assure the world community that Pakistan is a frontline state in this war and it will continue to fulfil its obligations to its own people and the international community but if the West's policies are going to be isolationist, it won't help the fight against terrorism, only fuel it."



GS III : ENVIRONMENT BIODIVERSITY

Shoot at sight against poachers

  • In an attempt to curb poaching of tigers from the Corbett Tiger Reserve (CTR), "shoot at sight" orders were issued to forest department workers on 21 February 2017 to gun down poachers spotted inside the tiger reserve.
  • However, the "shoot at sight" orders are to be exercised for "self protection against poachers carrying arms," said the Director of the tiger reserve.
  • According to the tiger census data released in 2015, Uttarakhand with 340 tigers has the second highest tiger population in the country after Karnataka.
  • According to wildlife experts the tiger population has gone even higher in the past two years.
  • According to the data provided by the Uttarakhand forest department, 112 tigers have died between November 2000 and November 2016.
  • This includes 56 natural deaths, 19 deaths due to mutual fights between tigers, 17 deaths in accidents and six tiger deaths in poaching incidents.

NOTE:

  • The Rajaji National Park in Uttarakhand was notified as the Rajaji Tiger Reserve by the Centre in April 2015. Uttarakhand got its second tiger reserve, besides the Corbett Tiger Reserve.

 


GS II : SOCIAL-ELDERLY

Coping with age when families are distant

  • With vast and growing numbers of Indians in the workforce emigrating to foreign lands, typically to North America, Western Europe, Australia or parts of South East Asia, many Indian families are now experimenting by either taking their elderly parents along with them, or, when that model fails owing to the loneliness of the elderly in a new country and their dependence on their children, they are sent back to India to face their uncertain twilight years more or less alone.
  • This trend has also accompanied the breakdown of the traditional Indian joint family system, with the result that a growing cohort of elderly Indians have to fend for themselves in old age homes far from any family connections.
  • Yet in some cases the elderly refuse to cut their ties to India to accompany their children abroad in the first place.
  • According to a 2015 report by the consultancy firm Jones Lang LaSalle India, India has a senior population of over 100 million and has an estimated demand of 3,00,000 senior housing units, valued at over $1 billion.
  • According to Mathew Cherian, CEO of HelpAge India, a large non-profit organisation working for senior citizens in the country, there are over 4,000 old age homes, of which at least 130 were designed as retirement communities geared towards the expectations and demands of the rising middle class and affluent NRIs.
  • Many opt for such homes offering specialist services for the care of the elderly because the costs of hiring private, full time can be prohibitive and also it can be an insurmountable task to effectively coordinate doctor visits and such.
  • In the new class of senior citizen colonies, many of these facilities are taken care of under a single package.
  • Thus, despite this growing sophistication of elderly care packages available on the market, old-fashioned social relationships with friends and neighbours may ultimately offer as much or more succour for the elderly whose children no longer reside in India.



GS III : SECURITY

NIA puts of Nepal visit for ‘sabotage' probe

  • The National Investigation Agency (NIA) has decided to put on hold its visit to Nepal to investigate the role of Shamsul Hoda, a businessman, in allegedly mobilising people in India and Nepal to plant an improvised explosive device (IED) on a railway track at Ghorasahan in Bihar earlier this year.
  • The bomb did not explode, but the Bihar police, who arrested three persons for allegedly planting it, said the ISI had planned the operation.
  • The Nepal police arrested Hoda in a double murder case on his return from Dubai on February 2.
  • As reported earlier, the Nepal police were not sure of many of the suspicions of Indian agencies about Hoda's links to the recent train accidents at Kanpur and Andhra Pradesh.
  • The Nepal police were dismissive of India's allegation that Hoda was working on the ISI's behalf, but they confirmed that the accused regularly met a Paksitani, Shafi Sheikh, in Dubai.
  • In January, the Bihar police arrested Moti Paswan, Uma Shanker Patel and Mukesh Yadav who allegedly planted the bomb, packed in a pressure cooker, on the railway track at Ghorasahan on October 1.
  • During his interrogation, Paswan is alleged to have told the police that the ISI was involved in the Kanpur train accident on November 20, and he and two others had travelled to the accident site to place the IED.
  • Hoda has emerged as a key catch for the NIA, which is investigating a "sabotage" or "terror" angle in the Kanpur train accident , in which more than 100 people were killed, and the Andhra Pradesh incident on January 21, in which 41 lost their lives.



GS II : POLITY JUDICIARY

Can you stop obscene uploads, SC asks ISPs

  • Noting that it wants "prevention and not cure", the Supreme Court asked Internet service providers if there was any mechanism to identify those who upload obscene content online and prevent it.
  • Sajan Poovayya, counsel for Google, said content was catalogued and objectionable ones were deleted when spotted.
  • The lawyer said the inflow of information online was huge, and it was near impossible to filter and block content before they were uploaded.
  • He submitted that the government's nodal agency could help Internet service providers.
  • The court referred to the Information Technology Act, and asked how the service providers abided by the guidelines to regulate Web content.
  • The court observed that the time lapsed to remove objectionable videos or material led to loss of reputation and dignity of the victims.



GS II : BILATERAL INDIA-AFRICA

India, Rwanda sign aviation, visa deals

  • India and Rwanda have concluded a bilateral air services agreement enabling direct flights between the two countries.
  • This is among the three memorandums of understanding (MoUs) concluded during Vice-President Hamid Ansari's visit to the African nation.
  • The other two MoUs pertained to the setting up of an entrepreneurial development centre in Rwanda and exemption of visa for entry of diplomatic and official passports.
  • The Rwandan government wants to encourage tourism. With the air services agreement, that should happen. But they also want Bollywood films to be shot there, because they have noticed how tourism to New Zealand picked up after Bollywood started shooting films there.

 

 

GS III: SECURITY

More radars to beef up coastal surveillance

  • To strengthen surveillance of over 7,500-km coastline of the country, the Defence Ministry gave the go-ahead to expand the coastal radar surveillance network.
  • The decision was taken by the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC), chaired by Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar.
  • The council reviewed the status of other procurements. "The DAC gave approval for issuing the Acceptance of Necessity (AoN) for Phase II of the static sensor chain and also an intermediate aircraft engine repair facility for the Navy," a Ministry source said.
  • One official said Phase II involves setting up 38 additional radars and four mobile surveillance stations as well as two vessel traffic management systems (VTMS) in Kutch and Khambat in Gujarat at a cost of approximately Rs. 800 crore.
  • The project will be executed by Indian companies and the lead integrator of the various works is Bharat Electronics Ltd., based in Bengaluru.
  • In the aftermath of the 2008 Mumbai attacks in which terrorists used a fishing boat to enter the city, the government decided to set up a chain of static sensors to fill gaps in coastal surveillance and keep track of boats entering Indian territorial waters.
  • Under Phase I, a chain of 46 coastal surveillance radar and electro-optic sensors were set up, including 36 in the mainland, six in the Lakshadweep islands and four in the Andaman & Nicobar islands.
  • India is also setting up similar radar stations in friendly Indian Ocean littoral nations.
  • The DAC also gave approval for the setting up of a shore-based intermediate engine repair facility for the Navy's MiG-29K fighters at the Naval yard in Goa.


GS II : BILATERAL INDIA-NORWAY

No discrimination of Indian children in Norway: Envoy

  • Norway treats all its children equally and does not differentiate between them based on their nationalities, with "every child having the same right to a safe upbringing," said Norwegian Ambassador to India.
  • Replying to a question on why some Indians face problems in Norway, with at least three cases of Indian children being taken away by childcare officers, Mr. Kamsvåg said the law regarding such issues relates to all children in Norway and is not specific to India.
  • "That means that the government has the responsibility of [looking into] reports by schools and kindergartens that there are indications the families are not treating their child in a proper way.
  • In 90% of these cases, the families get counselling. In some cases, if it is outside of what is acceptable, then the childcare authorities can bring it up to a committee, which can decide on it," he said.
  • Ambassadors of five Nordic countries - Finland, Denmark, Iceland, Norway and Sweden - visited the office and spoke on various issues, including immigration, the impact of Brexit in Europe, and partnerships of Nordic countries with India, among other subjects.
  • The ambassadors of the five Nordic countries are in Tamil Nadu as part of an annual visit to a State.

Faroe Islands are an autonomous country within the Kingdom of Denmark.

Aland Islands are an archipelago at the entrance to the Gulf of Bothnia in the Baltic Sea belonging to Finland.



GS II : BILATERAL INDIA-U.K.

‘Labour mobility issue is key to U.K.-India FTA'

  • Resolving the issue of workers' mobility would be "key" to a post-Brexit free trade agreement, said Y.K. Sinha, India's High Commissioner to the United Kingdom.
  • Speaking at an event on opportunities for post-Brexit collaboration between the two countries, he said that while negotiating a bilateral trade agreement would potentially be easier than one with the entire block, for India, it was essential to ensure that its professionals, particularly in the financial services sector and IT services sectors, were able to visit and return freely.
  • "The EU and India have been negotiating a free trade agreement since 1997, but we didn't make headway for various reasons," he said, adding that among them were issues that Britain had with the draft agreement.
  • A Commonwealth study published last year estimated a 25% boost to U.K.-India trade should a post-Brexit FTA be implemented.
  • While bilateral trade could see a boost, in the short term, the Brexit uncertainty is likely to hit Indian investment into the U.K., said Dr. Didar Singh, Secretary General of FICCI.



GS III : ECONOMY BANKING

Acharya sets timeline on NPAs

  • Newly appointed Reserve Bank of India deputy governor Viral Acharya, in his maiden speech after taking charge, came down heavily on the way lenders approached the problem of bad loans and set a timeline to resolve the issue.
  • For resolution of stressed assets, he suggested a Private Asset Management Company (PAMC), which would be suitable for sectors where the stress is such that assets are likely to have economic value in the shortrun, with moderate levels of debt forgiveness.
  • Some of the sectors seeing heavy stress are metals, telecom, and textiles.
  • Possibly a sixth of public sector banks' gross advances are stressed, and a significant majority of these are in fact non-performing assets (NPAs), he said.
  • "The doubling of stressed assets is the case also for private sector banks, but their ratio of stressed assets to gross advances is far lower and their capitalization levels far greater."
  • The other model he suggested is that of a National Asset Management Company (NAMC), which would be necessary for sectors where the problem is not just one of excess capacity but possibly also of economically unviable assets in the short to medium-term.
  • Many banks suffered heavy losses in recent quarters as bad loans zoomed.
  • He suggested ‘surgical restructuring' to strengthen bank balance sheets.



GS II : BILATERAL INDIA-JAPAN

India, Japan ink pact on rail safety

  • India signed an agreement with Japan on enhancing railway safety in the Indian Railways with focus on railway track and rolling stock safety, a press statement said.
  • The areas of cooperation include rail inspection, rail wielding and providing automatic railway track safety inspection, maintenance of rolling stock and "any other relevant railway safety matters jointly determined by both sides" with the aim to prevent major rail accidents.
  • The agreement with Japan comes at a time when the train derailments are on the rise. In 2016-17, the number of consequential train accidents remained the same level as last year at 95 while derailments rose from 56 to 74. Unmanned level crossing accidents fell.


GS III : ENVIRONMENT BIODIVERSITY

Four new tiny frog species found in Western Ghats

  • Scientists exploring the forests of the Western Ghats have come across four new species of tiny frogs no bigger than a human thumbnail, which make a distinctive chirping sound comparable to that of a cricket.
  • These species are among the seven new ‘Night Frogs' discovered by a team of researchers from the University of Delhi and the Kerala Forest Department, who spent five years surveying the global biodiversity hotspot.
  • Night Frogs belong to the Nyctibatrachus genus endemic to the Western Ghats and represent an ancient group of frogs that diversified on the Indian landmass approximately 70 to 80 million years ago.
  • The scientists used an integrated taxonomic approach that included DNA studies, detailed morphological comparisons and bioacoustics to confirm the new species.
  • While turning the spotlight on the amphibian diversity of the Western Ghats, the discovery also highlights the threat posed by human activities to the species.
  • The Athirappilly Night Frog was found close to the Athirappilly waterfalls, the proposed site of a hydroelectric project, while the Sabarimala Night Frog was discovered near the hill shrine which receives lakhs of pilgrims every year. The Radcliffe's Night frog and the Kadalar Night Frog were reported from plantation areas.
  • Over 32% of the frog species in the Western Ghats are already threatened with extinction.
  • Out of the seven new species, five face considerable anthropogenic threats and require immediate conservation.
  • The discovery has taken the total number of known Nyctibatrachus species to 35, of which 20% are diminutive in size (less than 18 mm).
  • As many as 103 new amphibian species have been described from biodiversity rich Western Ghats region between 2006 and 2015.

 

 

 

GS III : ENVIRONMENT CLIMATE CHANGE

How ponds can speed up global warming

  • Tiny natural ponds pose an overlooked danger for speeding up global warming, according to a study published in the journal Nature Climate Change.
  • In experiments designed to simulate moderate future warming, scientists in Britain found that such ponds - a metre across - gradually lose the capacity to soak up one kind of greenhouse gas and give off even more of another.
  • In the experiments, scientists warmed artificial ponds four degrees Celsius (7.2 degrees Fahrenheit), corresponding to the projected increase in global average temperatures by 2100 in temperate zones under a "moderate" climate change scenario.
  • After seven years at higher-than-ambient temperatures, "the ability of the ponds to absorb carbon dioxide was reduced by almost half, while methane release nearly doubled, the study concluded.
  • "Both those trends became amplified over time," he said.
  • With soil, by contrast, warming initially stimulates CO2 output but then causes it to taper off.
  • The new findings matter because small ponds play an outsized role in the planet's carbon cycle - the balance between input and output of greenhouse gases.
  • While covering only a tiny fraction of Earth's surface area, they are responsible for about 40% of methane emissions from inland waters, earlier research has shown.
  • Methane is about 28 times more effective in trapping the sun's radiation in our atmosphere than carbon dioxide, the dominant greenhouse gas.
  • "Our findings show that warming can fundamentally alter the carbon balance of small ponds over a number years," Mr. Yvon-Durocher said.
  • "This could ultimately accelerate climate change."
  • The main source of manmade carbon pollution is the burning of fossil fuels, accounting for more than 70% of global greenhouse gas emissions.
  • The rest comes from deforestation, the livestock industry, and agriculture.

 

 

 

 

 

 

GS III: S&T -  IT

Green tea-laced capacitor to power wearable devices

  • Scientists have used green tea compounds to develop a new flexible and compact rechargeable energy storage device which may power more comfortable wearable electronics such as heart rate monitors.
  • The most prominent versions of wearable electronics are sold in the form of watches or sports bands.
  • Powering soft wearable electronics with a long-lasting source of energy remains a big challenge.
  • However, most supercapacitors are rigid, and the compressible supercapacitors developed so far have run into roadblocks.
  • Supercapacitors have been made with carbon-coated polymer sponges, but the coating material tends to bunch up and compromise performance.
  • Researchers, including those from CSIR-National Chemical Laboratory in Pune and Academy of Scientific and Innovative Research in New Delhi, wanted to take a different approach.
  • The researchers prepared polymer gels in green tea extract, which infuses the gel with polyphenols.
  • The polyphenols converted a silver nitrate solution into a uniform coating of silver nanoparticles. Thin layers of conducting gold and poly (3,4-ethylenedioxythiophene) were then applied.
  • The resulting supercapacitor demonstrated power and energy densities of 2,715 watts per kg and 22 watt- hours per kg - enough to operate a heart rate monitor, LEDs or a bluetooth module.




 

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