The HINDU Notes – 05th JUNE 2017(Daily News Paper Analysis For UPSC CSE)
Women to get combat role in Army: Gen. Rawat
- In a transformational move, the Indian Army is all set to open up combat positions for women, a gender barrier broken by only a few countries.
- Army Chief Gen. Bipin Rawat said the process is moving fast and initially women will be recruited for positions in military police.
- “I am looking at women coming as jawans. I am going to start it soon. Firstly, we will start with women as military police jawans,” he said.
- The roles of military police include policing the cantonments and Army establishments, prevent breach of rules and regulations by soldiers, maintaining movement of soldiers as well as logistics during peace and war, handling prisoners of war and extending aid to the civil police whenever required.
- Women are now allowed in a number of select areas including in medical, legal, educational, signals and engineering wings of the Army but combat roles are off limits for them due to operational concerns and logistical issues.
- The Army Chief said he was ready to recruit women as jawans and the matter is being taken up with the government.
- Only countries such as Germany, Australia, Canada, the U.S., Britain, Denmark, Finland, France, Norway, Sweden and Israel have allowed women in combat roles.
Tiny Orang roars on tiger density
Orang, the tiger reserve in Assam with the smallest core among 50 nationally protected areas, has presented wildlife scientists doing a census with a surprise: a high density of 28 big cats.
- The count was revealed during phase IV of the all-India tiger estimation programme of the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA).
Orang, the tiger reserve:
- Spread over Darrang and Sonitpur districts and notified in February 2016, Orang Tiger Reserve is the 49th in the country. It has the smallest core of 78.28 sq. km., and the cat density was revealed during a census done between January and March 2017. Kamlang Tiger Reserve in Arunachal is the 50th and latest to be notified.
- Whatever we know about tiger ecology is from reserves such as Corbett and Kanha. It has not been studied in the Brahmaputra flood plains like Kaziranga and Orang.
- A Wildlife Institute of India and NTCA report last year titled The Status of Tigers, Co-predators and Prey in India, said the density in Kaziranga National Park was 12.72 per 100 sq. km., followed by Jim Corbett National Park (11) in Uttarakhand and Bandipur National Park (10.28) in Karnataka.
- Orang’s buffer area is 413.18 sq. km., but experts say the boundary between the core and buffer is sharp and not contiguous forest as in other reserves of Assam.
- Agni Mitra, regional director of Wildlife Crime Control Bureau and tiger biologist said the tiger reserves from Uttarakhand to Nepal, parts of Bihar and north Bengal and in Assam in the ‘Terai arc landscape” sustains grassland and a good prey base.
‘Terai arc landscape”
- The Terai Arc Landscape (TAL) is an 810km stretch between the river Yamuna in the west and the river Bhagmati in the east, comprising the Shivalik hills, the adjoining bhabhar areas and the Terai flood plains
- It is spread across the Indian states of Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, and the low lying hills of Nepal.
- The landscape boasts of some of India’s most well-known Tiger Reserves and Protected Areas such as Corbett Tiger Reserve, Rajaji National Park, Dudhwa Tiger Reserve, Valmiki Tiger Reserve and Nepal’s Bardia Wildlife Sanctuary, Chitwan National Park, and Sukhla Phanta Wildlife Sanctuary.
- In total, the landscape has 13 Protected Areas, nine in India and four in Nepal, covering a total area of 49,500 km2, of which 30,000km2 lies in India.
- The National Tiger Conservation Authority is a statutory body under the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change constituted under enabling provisions of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, as amended in 2006, for strengthening tiger conservation, as per powers and functions assigned to it under the said Act.
- The National Tiger Conservation Authority has been fulfilling its mandate within the ambit of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 for strengthening tiger conservation in the country by retaining an oversight through advisories/normative guidelines, based on appraisal of tiger status, ongoing conservation initiatives and recommendations of specially constituted Committees.
New rifle ready, but Army holds fire
- The Ordnance Factory Board has developed a new 7.62-mm assault rifle for the Army, which will begin trials of the weapon in June.
- But the Army remains unenthused about the gun and is going ahead with a global tender for procuring new rifles.
- Work on the gun began on October 1, 2016 and was completed in a “record six months” as per the requirements of the Army, an official said.
- The rifle weighs 4.5 kg and is fully automatic. It has two firing modes, single shot and automatic, and has a lethal firing range of 500 metres.
- “The function of a self-loading rifle (SLR) has been transferred to the new rifle,” the official said referring to the superior lethal effect of the SLRs used in the past.
- The rifle also has a picatinny rail, a standard bracket on the gun, both above and below, where various accessories such as night-vision devices and under-barrel grenade launchers can be mounted. Basic trials were conducted during the development.
- The Army has an initial requirement of 1,85,000 guns and much more later.
- The OFB has so far supplied over 10 lakh INSAS (Indian National Small Arms System) rifles to the Army so far and the plan is to replace all of them.
- The indigenously built 5.56-calibre INSAS rifle was cleared for induction into the Army in 1999 and was fully inducted by 2004.
- The tender for assault rifles with interchangeable barrels issued in December 2011 was cancelled in 205 as none of the companies could meet the service quality specifications.
- The Army has now decided to go for 7.62-mm calibre, and fresh General Staff Quality Requirements (GSQR) have just been issued.
CSIR faces fund crunch, asks labs to look outside
The Council of Scientific and Industrial Research is staring at a fund crunch this year. Hence, CSIR’s chief has asked the directors of all of the organisation’s 38 labs to look outside of the CSIR to meet their expenses.
In any given year, the CSIR— with a ₹4,000 crore annual budget — apportions out about ₹1,200-1,400 crore to its labs for research. This year only about ₹360 crore would be available. Pay panel and pension payouts along with scrapping of plan panel’s block grants has crippled the scientific organisation.
- It was established as an autonomous body that has emerged as the largest research and development organisation in India.
- It runs several laboratories and field stations or extension centres throughout the nation, with a collective staff of over 17,000 workers.
- Although it is mainly funded by the Ministry of Science and Technology, it operates as an autonomous body through the Societies Registration Act, 1860.
- The research and development activities of CSIR include aerospace engineering, structural engineering, ocean sciences, life sciences, metallurgy, chemicals, mining, food, petroleum, leather, and environmental science.
Aadhaar must for kerosene subsidy, Atal Pension Yojana
- Aadhaar has now been made mandatory to get subsidy on kerosene and benefits of the Atal Pension Yojana.
- The last date to get Aadhaar or enrol for getting it is September 30 in the case of the kerosene subsidy. For the pension scheme, the deadline is June 15.
- However, till Aadhaar is obtained, ration card, driving licence, voter identity card, Kisan passbook with photo, job card issued under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme or a certificate issued by a gazetted officer or a tehsildar will be considered as proof of identity for the benefits.
- The Ministry of Oil and Natural Gas has introduced direct benefit transfer through which subsidy is transferred directly to the bank accounts of the beneficiaries, who purchase the PDS kerosene at non-subsidised rate.
- The decision to make Aadhaar mandatory for these two schemes is expected to prevent leakages.
- The Centre allocates subsidised kerosene to the States and Union Territories as affordable cooking fuel for domestic use, mainly to those living below the poverty line.
- Under the pension scheme, a subscriber gets a minimum pension of Rs. 1,000 to Rs. 5,000 a month, depending on contributions made, from the age of 60.
Commerce Ministry to redefine focus
- The Commerce Ministry has sought to shed from its portfolio non-core areas including Foreign Trade Policy (FTP) implementation, as well as administrative control over commodity boards and certain Public Sector Undertakings (PSU) such as MMTC, STC and PEC.
- This is to better utilise the ministry’s resources in ‘core focus areas’ such as FTP formulation as well as India’s trade talks with other countries (bilateral and regional Free Trade Agreements) and at the World Trade Organisation (WTO)-level, according to official sources.
- The Ministry’s move to ensure greater attention to FTP formulation and trade talks assume significance as it comes at a time when India’s goods and services exports are being impacted by rising incidents of protectionism across the world as well as trade disputes and weak global demand.
- The apex body for India’s exporters, FIEO, recently said the government’s target for India’s overall exports (goods and services) of $900 billion by 2019-20 is unlikely to be achieved and that it should be scaled down to $700-750 billion.
- Negotiations on the WTO’s Doha Development Round as well as India’s proposed FTAs including the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (mega-regional FTA between 16 Asia Pacific nations including India) and the one with the European Union are at a crucial stage.
- The Commerce Ministry – in a recent inter-ministerial meeting convened by the Cabinet Secretariat – asked the Central Board of Excise and Customs (CBEC) to take over the role of the nodal body for FTP implementation, the sources said.
- The CBEC, however, is learnt to have declined the Commerce Ministry’s request saying FTP was not its core competence, and that such as move may complicate matters as it (the CBEC) will have to create an operational structure similar to the one that the Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) currently has for FTP implementation.
- The DGFT is attached to the Commerce Ministry and is responsible for formulating and implementing the FTP. The CBEC has also opined that shifting the FTP implementation powers from Commerce Ministry would also require the difficult process of amending the concerned laws – the Customs Act and the Foreign Trade (Development & Regulations) Act, the sources said.
- The Commerce Ministry is also keen to transfer to the Agriculture and Farmer Welfare Ministry the administrative control it (Commerce Ministry) currently has over the commodity boards (Coffee Board, Tea Board, Rubber Board, Spices Board, and Tobacco Board) as well as the related responsibilities regarding the oversight of production, distribution and development of plantation crops (such as coffee, tea, rubber, spices, tobacco and cashew).
- On the issue of jurisdiction over plantations, the Commerce Ministry has begun work on a plan to merge the various commodity boards into a single organisation.
Will RBI correct its inflation forecast?
- The Reserve Bank of India, which surprised the market by changing its stance from ‘accommodative’ to ‘neutral’ in February 2017 due to inflation concerns, may well be on a course correction in the second bi-monthly monetary policy review scheduled on June 7, as price increases have been lower than what the central bank had projected.
- In the last policy review in April, the central bank projected retail inflation to average 4.5% in the first half of 2017-18 and 5% in the second half.
- However, as consumer price index-based inflation dropped below 3% in April (aided by food prices not rising as expected and with international crude oil prices staying benign), economists said inflation will trend far below the central bank’s projected trajectory.
- Technically, a neutral stance means there is a scope for further reduction of the repo rate – which is at 6.25% – but the central bank’s hawkish tone in the last two policy reviews made the yields on benchmark government bonds head north since the market interpreted interest rates have bottomed out.
Citizen scientists find cold new world near solar system
A brown dwarf over 100 light years away from the Sun has been discovered using a new citizen science tool that helps astronomers pinpoint new worlds lurking in the outer reaches of our solar system.
Backyard Worlds project
- The Backyard Worlds project lets anyone with a computer and an Internet connection flip through images taken by NASA’s Wide Field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) spacecraft.
- If an object is close enough to Earth, it will appear to “jump” when multiple images taken of the same spot in the sky a few years apart are compared.
- The goal for Backyard Worlds volunteers — of which there are more than 37,000 — is to flag the moving objects they see in these digital flipbooks for further investigation by the science team. So far, volunteers have classified more than 4 million flipbooks.
- Brown dwarfs are objects which have a size between that of a giant planet like Jupiter and that of a small star. In fact, most astronomers would classify any object with between 15 times the mass of Jupiter and 75 times the mass of Jupiter to be a brown dwarf.
- Given that range of masses, the object would not have been able to sustain the fusion of hydrogen like a regular star; thus, many scientists have dubbed brown dwarfs as “failed stars”.