The HINDU Notes – 14th February
📰 THE HINDU – CURRENT NOTE 14 February
💡 UN calls for urgent meet over North Korea’s ballistic missile test
- UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres condemned North Korea’s latest ballistic missile test and called for a united international response to the “further troubling violation” of UN resolutions. His statement came ahead of an urgent UN Security Council meeting called to discuss Sunday’s missile test — nuclear-armed North Korea’s first since U.S. President Donald Trump assumed office.
- The North’s leader Kim Jong-Un “expressed great satisfaction over the possession of another powerful nuclear attack means which adds to the tremendous might of the country.
Russia, China also condemns:
- Permanent UN Security Council members China and Russia joined a chorus of international criticism of the launch near the western city of Kusong. The council was to meet around 2200 GMT on Monday following a request by the United States, Japan and South Korea.
- China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said it opposes North Korean missile launches that violate UN resolutions. Russia’s Foreign Ministry called the launch “a demonstration of contempt for UN Security Council resolutions”.
💡 Turmoil in Trump’s National Security Council
- Three weeks into the Trump administration, council staff members get up in the morning, read President Donald Trump’s Twitter posts and struggle to make policy to fit them. Most are kept in the dark about what Mr. Trump tells foreign leaders in his phone calls.
- They have turned to encrypted communications to talk with their colleagues, after hearing that Mr. Trump’s top advisers are considering an insider threat programme that could result in monitoring cellphones and emails for leaks.
The Flynn Case:
- There are transcripts of a conversation in at least one phone call, recorded by U.S. agencies that wiretap foreign diplomats, which may determine Mr. Flynn’s future.
- National Security Adviser Michael T. Flynn has hunkered down since investigators began looking into what, exactly, he told the Russian ambassador to the U.S. about the lifting of sanctions imposed in the last days of the Obama administration, and whether he misled Vice-President Mike Pence about those conversations.
- Stephen Miller, White House senior policy adviser said that possibly misleading the Vice-President on communications with Russia was “a sensitive matter”.
- President Barack Obama replaced his NSA Gen. James Jones, a four-star former supreme allied commander in Europe, after concluding that the general was a bad fit for the administration.
- The first years of President George W. Bush’s council were defined by clashes among experienced bureaucratic infighters — Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Colin Powell among them.
- What is happening under the Trump White House is different, and not just because of Mr. Trump’s Twitter foreign policy.
- Several staff members who did not want to work for Mr. Trump have returned to their regular agencies, leaving a larger-than-usual hole in the experienced bureaucracy. Many of those who remain, who see themselves as apolitical civil servants, have been disturbed by displays of overt partisanship.
💡 Damaged spillway triggers mass evacuation
- Emergency crews early on Monday prepared loads of rock to be dropped by helicopters to seal a crumbling spillway that threatens to inundate communities along the Feather River in Northern California.
- Almost 2,00,000 people were ordered on Sunday to evacuate from the area below the Lake Oroville Dam, the tallest dam in the United States, after authorities said its emergency spillway could give way.
- Helicopters from around the state were sent to drop chest-high bags of rocks to close the hole in the spillway, dump trucks dropping off piles of rock, which were then loaded into the bags with backhoes. The operation to close the gap would begin as soon as it was feasible.
- The water department said that the spillway next to the dam was “predicted to fail within the next hour” but it remained standing, authorities were releasing water to lower the lake’s level after weeks of heavy rains in drought-plagued California.
- State and local officials said the immediate danger had passed with water no longer flowing over the eroded spillway but they cautioned that the situation continued to remain unpredictable.
💡 We are fully sovereign, says visiting Taiwanese leader
- Kuan Bi-Ling, member of the Taiwanese Parliament said that Taiwan had protected its status as a free country despite the difficulties posed by Beijing’s One-China policy. He said that the country’s freedom is a de facto reality in international affairs.
- Some countries may not recognise Taiwan’s independence, but that has no impact on our sovereignty and freedom said the Kuan.
- The first all-women MPs delegation from Taiwan to India arrived on Sunday and held a meeting with Indian members of the India-Taiwan Parliamentary Association consisting of MPs from both sides.
- Taiwan has become one of the major investors in India from the Asia-Pacific region and it wishes to uplift relations with India to the same level as its ties with Japan and the United States. Taiwanese investment in India is aimed at the manufacturing sector which helps in generating employment.
- We are determined to build substantive economic ties with India and bridge the gap between our goals and realities in Taiwan-India ties,” Ms. Kuan said emphasising that Taipei wishes to invest in the flagship Indian programmes such as the “Make in India” and “Smart City” projects.
- Taiwan’s new government under President Tsai ing-Wen has launched the “New Southbound policy” which aims to energise Taiwan’s ties with the ASEAN region, Australia, New Zealand and India.
Tourism and culture:
- Apart from increased bilateral trade, the “New Southbound Policy” is also aimed at energising people-to-people contact in the fields of tourism and culture. More Taiwanese tourists should be enabled to visit the Buddhist sites in India. Scholars, researchers should be supported so that we can appreciate bilateral issues better.
💡 Karnataka amends law to allow kambala
- The Karnataka Legislative Assembly on Monday passed the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Karnataka Amendment) Bill, 2017. The Bill seeks to exempt kambala (traditional buffalo race) and bullock-cart racing from the ambit of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (PCA) Act, 1960.
- Kambala is currently stayed by the High Court following a petition by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).
- Thousands in the coastal districts of Dakshina Kannada and Udupi, where kambala is widely held, had protested the ban. They argued that the annual kambala races in paddy fields were part of their tradition. The sport did not torture animals, they said. The movement gathered momentum after the jallikattu agitation in the neighbouring Tamil Nadu.
PETA criticises move:
- PETA called the amended Bill “a setback to the welfare of buffaloes.” The cruelty inherent in events such as bull and buffalo races violated the PCA Act, 1960. Poorva Joshipura, CEO, PETA India, said three kambala events inspected by the Animal Welfare Board of India had resulted in the filing of 65 non-cognisable offence complaints and an FIR in 2014-15.
- PETA said the inspection reports contained a scientific assessment of the welfare of buffaloes that were forced to participate in such events, including evidence of different forms of cruelty inflicted on the animals. Many of the buffaloes frothed at the mouth, salivated heavily, and displayed increased respiration rates, demonstrating that they struggle, and are anatomically unfit to be forced to take part.
💡 Centre puts onus on States to set factories’ threshold limit
- Today fresh discussions begin with trade unions today to push through a long-pending overhaul of the Factories Act of 1948.
- Labour Ministry has tweaked its draft amendments to put the ball on contentious issues in the domain of State governments. Instead of increasing the threshold limit set for the number of workers in an industrial unit to be statutorily covered by the factories law.
- The Centre is now proposing an enabling provision that lets State governments decide the threshold over which a unit will be considered a factory for the purpose of the law.
Change in Definition:
- The definition of factory is proposed to be modified as in the original Bill by giving powers to the State governments to increase the threshold limit of workers up to 20 and 40 for factories working with and without the aid of power respectively.
- Earlier, the Centre had proposed that the Factories Law be applicable to all factories that employ at least 40 workers – a move that was strongly opposed by the central trade unions.
- The present Factories Act 1948 applies to establishments with 10 or more workers, if the premise is using power and to establishments with 20 or more workers, without electricity connection.
- According to the previous proposal, Factories with less than 40 workers were to be covered under a new law for small factories. However, the fate of the proposed Small Factories Bill, 2015 is unclear as the Labour Ministry note has no mention about the proposed law.
- Now all factories below the threshold limit could be brought under the purview of the Act through notifications issued by state governments. “Flexibility has been given to the States to decide on the threshold limit.
- The unions are likely to oppose the move to give flexibility to state governments on deciding the threshold limit for the Factories Act and instead ask the Centre to cover all manufacturing establishments “since manpower of industrial establishments is reducing as a result of automation and advancements in technology.”
💡 Retail inflation slows to 3.17% in January
- Retail inflation eased in January to 3.17% on the back of a sharp slowdown in food price inflation. Growth in the consumer price index (CPI) slowed from the 3.4% seen in December 2016, extending the streak of easing retail inflation to six months.
- The food and beverages category registered an inflation rate of 1.3% in January, down from the 2% witnessed in December 2016. Food price gains have also been easing for six consecutive months.
- Inflation in the fuel and light segment slowed to 3.4% in January from 3.7%, while the housing segment saw inflation quicken marginally to 5.02% from 4.98% over the same period.
- The curious part of this inflation rate is that the non-food components have shown higher price increases such as pan, intoxicants (6.4%), clothing and footwear (4.7%), housing (5.0%), fuel and light (3.4%), and miscellaneous items (5.1%)
- The non-food components have registered an increase and going ahead would tend to be upward moving. Higher global commodity prices will get ingrained in these components while food items will be unaffected.” “Also, as the economy is remonetised, some pent-up demand will have returned.
- The stickiness in core inflation despite continued decline in other parts of the index is a worry since wage-price negotiations based on a sticky core can potentially lift overall inflation. CPI inflation is expected to accelerate 3.5-3.6% in the next couple of months.
💡 ‘Renewables obviate need for new coal capacity’
- The energy that would be available from renewable sources, nuclear and gas plants, both existing and planned, would be enough to meet India’s energy demand for the next 7-8 years, which means no new investment in coal is needed at least till then, as per a report by TERI.
- The Transitions in Indian Electricity Sector report predicts that per capita annual power consumption will increase from the current 1,075 kWh to 1,490 kWh in 2021-22, 2,121 kWh in 2026-27 and 2,634 kWh in 2029-30.
- The country’s renewable energy capacity is set to increase to the targeted 175 GW level by 2021-22 and further grow to 275 GW by 2025-26. The results indicate that the energy that would be available from RE (renewable energy) sources, storage hydro, nuclear and gas plants would suffice for meeting the remainder of the demand for electricity at the national level during the next 7-8 years.
- This would in other words mean that no new coal plants would be needed and the plant load factor (PLF) of coal based plants would be in the range of 78-80% in 2024–25 and 2025–26.
- The Centre would do well to take steps to strengthen the grid infrastructure and build storage capacity. The increasing penetration of solar and wind (which have inherent high intermittency and variability) would no doubt present a number of challenges in respect to planning and operation, ensuring requisite flexibility in ramping up and down, improved forecasting of RE power as well as demand, improved financial health of utilities would be key factors in this context.
💡 J&K govt. launches e-Prison project
- The Jammu and Kashmir government on Monday launched the e-Prison project to enumerate jail inmates in the State, where numbers of detainees keep swelling during unrest.
- The information about jail inmates is currently being maintained manually. To avoid delays in processing the information and manage all the jails efficiently, the automation of prison department has been started.
- The government has already digitised records of 500 inmates. The project will digitise 25 district jails, two Central jails and one sub-jail in the State. The second phase of the project will focus on videoconferencing between jails and prison headquarters, e-court, tele-medication in jails.
💡 Bad air, stomach ailments making urban youth sick
- A comprehensive look at diseases and trends across the country has shown that young Delhiites are the worst hit, reporting maximum doctor visits for air pollution-related diseases.
- As per the results released by Practo of the second edition of its ‘Annual Healthcare Map of India, which highlights some of the key consumer health concerns. The report is based on healthcare appointments booked across 35 cities, with focus on top seven cities, including Delhi-NCR, Bengaluru, Mumbai, Kolkata, Pune, Chennai and Hyderabad across nearly 200 medical specialities.
- The report is entirely based on actual patient actions (booking appointments) rather than surveys. The report noted that air pollution-related diseases were growing at an alarming rate across India, with visits to pulmonologists seeing a 62 per cent growth.
- The major spike in appointments was seen across the age group of 25-35 years and the top three cities that saw a growth in appointments for pulmonologists were Delhi (50%) Mumbai (64%) and Bengaluru (80%).
- The air quality in many cities is poor due to pollution. Many people have been seeking medical help for various related problems, like breathing difficulties, chest pain, etc. It is probably due to harmful toxins in the atmosphere resulting in acute respiratory infection (ARI), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and interstitial lung diseases (ILD), etc., emerging as major health problems.
- Respiratory diseases are no longer restricted to the elderly. Besides respiratory ailments, spinal cord, cardiac and diabetes-related problems are also making the Capital sick. The city reported a 24 per cent rise in cardiologist appointments, 23 per cent rise in diabetologist appointments and 27 per cent rise in gastroenterologist appointments.
- The survey noted that rapid urbanisation and fast-paced socio-economic development was contributing to rising incidence of cardiovascular diseases, chronic respiratory diseases (such as COPD and asthma), diabetes, hypertension, etc.
- Additionally, poor dietary habits, physical inactivity, smoking and stress are some of the major contributors to the development and progression of preventable chronic diseases. Worryingly, the survey noted, that young India is not young at heart.
- There has been a 40 per cent growth in cardiologist appointments, with hypertension as the most common symptom. Most appointments booked by people in the age group of 25-35 years. Also registering an “on the rise” is abdominal discomfort or pain, indigestion, loss of appetite, nausea, and vomiting, especially in the age group of 25-34 years. This ailment showed maximum rise in Mumbai (26%), Delhi (27%) and Hyderabad (24).