The Ministry of Environment and Forests and Climate Change has urged the Ministry of External Affairs to revoke the visas of BBC’s South Asia correspondent Justin Rowlatt and his crew and prevent “their further entry into India, for a period of not less than five years.”
An office memorandum by National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) has also advised the wildlife wing of the Ministry to “disallow filming permission to the BBC in any protected areas of the country for a period of five years.”
The move came in the wake of Mr. Rowlatt’s documentary, “One World: Killing for Conservation”, which explored the antipoaching strategy adopted by the guards of the Kaziranga Tiger Reserve (KTR) in Assam while protecting the one-horned Indian Rhino.
The documentary among other things referred to “dark secrets” of conservation at KTR and said the forest guards had been given powers “to shoot and kill” poachers.
It also stated that more people were killed by guards than rhinos by poachers at the reserve.
The NTCA, in its memorandum, alleged that the violations by the journalist involved “filming after sunset,” dishonouring the undertaking provided along with “deviating from the original synopsis submitted to MEA and its authority.”
“Not screening the documentary before a committee of the (MoEF&CC) which would have ensured that Govt policies vis-à-vis wildlife conservation are not projected in a distorted manner,” was listed among the violations.
💡 Even hill stations will be hotter this year, warns IMD
Prepare for a scorching summer as the India Meteorological Department has forecast “above normal” temperatures across most of the country.
Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Jammu and Kashmir — or hill-station States popular among tourists wanting to escape the heat — are expected to be particularly hot with predicted temperatures, on average, likely to be well above 1 degree C above their normal summer temperatures.
Punjab, Delhi, Haryana, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Odisha and Telangana are other States in the “core heat zone” that are likely to see significantly warmer temperatures.
The IMD weather model, used to prepare the forecast, shows a 47% probability of summer temperatures being above normal.
2016 was the warmest year in a century, according to the IMD, with the country 0.91OC warmer than the 1961- 1990 average.
The summer months of March-May last year were 1.36 OC higher than historical average, making it the second-warmest since 1901.
The weather agency blames global warming. “Studies indicate increasing trends in the frequency and duration of heat waves over the country.”
This can be attributed to increasing trends in the greenhouse gases and the warming of the sea surface temperatures over the equatorial Indian and Pacific oceans.”
Though still early days, global weather models have given feelers that an El Nino — an anomalous warming of waters in the equatorial Pacific and frequently toxic to the Indian monsoon — may be taking shape during the middle of the year.
The agency is expected to give its first forecast of the June-September monsoon in April. The IMD will also update its summer forecasts every 5 days using the dynamical model, primarily designed to forecast the monsoon, but has since last year been also used to gauge summer temperatures.
💡 WHO wants new drugs against 12 super-germs
The World Health Organisation has urged governments, scientists and pharmaceutical companies to create new drugs to tackle 12 antibiotics-resistant supergerms threatening an explosion of disease.
Left to market forces alone, the antibiotics may not be ready in time, it said.
The germs cause ailments including lung, blood, brain, and urinary tract infections, food poisoning from salmonella and gonorrhoea.
💡 India, Oman to hold counter-terror exercises
The armies of India and Oman are scheduled to conduct their second bilateral exercise, Al Nagah-II 2017, in March with a focus on counter-terrorism.
India has, of late, been deepening its defence cooperation with the region.
The Chief of the Naval Staff, Admiral Sunil Lanba, is on a tour of Oman and the UAE to “explore new avenues for naval cooperation”.
The Army said in a statement that the exercise would be held in the Dhauladhar Ranges at Bakloh in Himachal Pradesh from March 6 to 19.
Sixty troops from the two sides will participate. “The aim of the exercise is to build and promote bilateral Army-to-Army relations and enhance interoperability while exchanging skills and experiences between the Indian Army and the Royal Army of Oman,” the statement said.
An added aim, the statement said, is to enhance knowledge of each other’s military procedures qualitatively, thus increasing the scope for “interoperability and better responsiveness to a common threat”.
India and Oman already have extensive cooperation in the maritime domain.
The navies of the two countries have been holding the bilateral maritime exercises called ‘Naseem Al Bahr’ since 1993.
In addition, the Indian Navy has been cooperating with its UAE and Oman counterparts in training, operational interactions and exchange of “white shipping information” with the help of a joint cooperation committee.
The Central Statistics Office (CSO) has kept its January estimate for growth in gross domestic product (GDP) in 2016-17 unchanged at 7.1%, signalling that independent economic forecasters may have overstated the drag on the economy from the November withdrawal of high-value currency notes.
The CSO, which released its second advance estimates of economic growth, also provided GDP and Gross Value Added (GVA) figures for the third quarter, which showed GDP growth slowing to 7%, from 7.3% in the second quarter of the financial year.
The official figures peg GVA growth for the full year at 6.7% as against the 7% projected in the first advance estimates.
For Q3, the GVA growth rate is estimated at 6.6%, down from the 7.1% reported in Q2.
The CSO also revised downward the GVA growth rates for the first two quarters to 6.9% in Q1 and 6.7% in Q2, from the 7.3% and 7.1% reported earlier.
The Election Commission had barred CSO from releasing State-specific data on economic growth projections, in view of the ongoing Assembly elections. The Commission gave a clearance to the release of only national level data.
The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) cut its growth projection for India in 2016-17 to 7%, from an earlier projection of 7.4%, citing the “transitory and short-term costs” from demonetisation.
It forecast growth for 2017-18 at 7.3%, rising to 7.7% in 2018-19.
The report raised some issues that could alter the performance of the Indian economy, including the bank NPA issue and geopolitical risks.
“Highly-leveraged companies and public banks with large non-performing loans are exposed to major shocks emanating from domestic and foreign financial markets,” the report said.
“Investment would suffer and recapitalisation needs would increase, with a negative impact on economic growth and the fiscal deficit,” according to the report.
However, the report added that while banks’ stressed assets have increased in recent years, reaching 12.3% of GDP in September 2016,“the increase in NPLs (non-performing loans) largely reflects greater recognition of them, rather than a further deterioration of underlying fundamentals”.
Within tax reform, the survey report highlighted some key measures that were needed to increase revenue and align the system to international standards.
The OECD recommended implementing the reduction of the corporate tax rate from 30% to 25%, provide certainty regarding tax rules and their implementation, and increase the number and training of staff employed in the tax administration.
💡 Core sector growth slows
The growth of eight core sectors slowed down to a five-month low of 3.4% in January mainly due to contraction in output of refinery products, fertiliser and cement.
The growth rate of eight infrastructure sectors of coal, crude oil, natural gas, refinery products, fertilisers, steel, cement and electricity was 5.7% in January 2016.
Infrastructure sectors’ expansion in January this year is the lowest since August 2016, when the segments had recorded a growth of 3.2%. It is also lower than that of 5.6% seen in December 2016.
The core sectors, which contribute 38% to the total industrial production, expanded 4.8% in April – January this fiscal compared with 2.9% growth in the same period in the previous financial year, according to the data released by the commerce and industry ministry on 28 February 2017.
💡 NHRC notice to States on hysterectomies
Taking suo motu cognisance of a report published in The Hindu, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on 28 February 2017 issued notices to the Karnataka and Maharashtra governments over an unusually large number ofhysterectomies being conducted on women without medical justifications for allegedly commercial reasons.
The women would go to their gynaecologists complaining of bleeding, abdominal pain or urinary tract infections, and would return with theiruterus removed.
The victims’ lives were endangered as they suffered complications after the surgeries.
💡 NGT notice to Centre over pollution
Taking note of a plea according to which ambient air quality in Meerut is worse than Delhi, a Bench headed by National Green Tribunal (NGT) chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar issued notices to the Ministry of Environment and Forests, the UP government, the Central Pollution Control Board, the State Pollution Control Board, the Meerut Development Authority and the UP Road Transport Corporation.
The tribunal has sought a reply before April 10.
The NGT was hearing a plea filed by Meerut resident Lokesh Khurana, who sought directions to restrict entry of diesel vehicles more than 10 years old and petrol vehicles more than 15 years old.
It referred to a study conducted by the Centre of Science and Environment, which said that air pollution in Meerut was more severe than Delhi and that PM2.5 concentration in the city was 1,470 micrograms per cubic meter as against the safe limit of 60 micrograms per cubic metre.
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