The HINDU Notes – 08th April


🌐 Ken-Betwa link hits green hurdle

  • India’s apex forest advisory body has imposed tough conditions on the Ken-Betwa river interlinking project.
  • Given the ecological and environmental impact posed by the project, it had to pass multiple authorities for clearance.
  • A forest advisory clearance was seen to be the last step before the project was to begin.
  • The Forest Advisory Committee (FAC), the apex environment ministry authority that clears requests for diverting forest land for projects, usually rejects or recommends a proposal, sometimes with conditions, for the diversion of forest land.
  • As minutes of the March 30 meeting – made public on 7 April 2017 – show, in the case of the Ken-Betwa project, the FAC has refrained from explicitly giving its opinion either way and only seconded an earlier sub-committee’s report that had cleared the project subject to strict caveats.
  • The FAC’s recommendations are passed on to the environment minister, who can abide by them or reject them.
  • The Rs. 18,000 crore river interlinking project requires 4,141 hectares of forest in the heart of the Panna Tiger reserve, and some more besides, to build a dam and a 230-km canal to transfer water to several drought-afflicted villages in Bundelkhand.
  • As compensation for the pristine tiger habitat that would be inundated by the project, the Water Ministry had agreed to acquire about 8,000 hectares of forest land from the Madhya Pradesh government and revive them as forest.

But the FAC said this land was not good enough as it was fragmented, and, to meaningfully revive a forest that is part of tiger habitat, the land acquired ought to be contiguous.

  • This would require, according to the FAC, “revenue lands/nonforest lands by way of purchase or otherwise by the project proponents and the government”.
  • While a State can relatively allocate forest land for Central projects, transferring private or revenue land is harder, time-consuming and costly.
  • The FAC has also asked for the project’s main canal to be re-aligned.

🌐 SC seeks response on plea for reining in cow vigilantes

  • The Supreme Court directed the Central government and six States to respond on a public interest litigation (PIL) plea to declare cow vigilantes “extortionists” and put an end to their atrocities against Dalits and minority communities.
  • A Bench led by Justice Dipak Misra issued notices to Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Karnataka and Uttar Pradesh and asked them, along with the Centre, to file their written responses to the PIL petition for initiating criminal action against the vigilante groups.
  • Counsel for the petitioner, entrepreneur and activist Tehseen S. Poonawalla, referred to the recent incident in Alwar, Rajasthan, wherea man was lynched by a mob claiming to be cow protectors.
  • The petition was filed shortly after investigating officials found there was no evidence of cow slaughter by Mohammed Akhlaq, who was beaten and lynched in 2015 on the suspicion of storing beef in his house at Dadri in Uttar Pradesh.
  • The filing of the plea coincided with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s denouncement of these vigilantes as anti-social elements in the garb of ‘gau rakshaks’ for spreading violence against the downtrodden and destroying the delicate social fabric.
  • “The Dalits who were attacked at Una or at East Godavari were only doing their traditional profession of skinning the already dead cow to provide leather to tanneries… the menace caused by the so-called cow protection groups is spreading fast to every nook and corner of the country and is creating disharmony among various communities and castes,” the plea filed through advocate Fuzail Ahmad Ayyubi contended.
  • It submitted that cow vigilante groups should be punished under various provisions of the Indian Penal Code as well as under Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.
  • The petition pointed to how some State governments even provided cow vigilantes with identity cards. It highlighted the Gujarat Animal Prevention Act, 1956 which deemed that all who acted to protect cows were public servants and no legal action shall be instituted against them.
  • The case was the same with the Maharashtra Animal Prevention Act, 1956 and the Karnataka Prevention of Cow Slaughter and Cattle Preservation Act.
  • Further, the Gujarat Animal Prevention (Amendment) Rules, 2011 provided that authorised persons under these rules included those employed in gaushalas.


🌐 U.S. joins Syrian war, bombs base

  • The U.S. targeted a Syrian airbase controlled by the country’s beleaguered President Bashar al-Assad, making a dramatic turnaround in American policy.
  • Former President Barack Obama had turned back from military intervention against the Assad regime in 2013 and President Donald Trump has been opposed to U.S. involvement in the Syrian civil war.
  • A chemical attack on the rebel town of Khan Sheikhoun that killed 80 people earlier in the week changed his mind, Mr. Trump said.
  • Tonight, I ordered a targeted military strike on the airfield in Syria from where the chemical attack was launched. It is in…[the] vital national security interest of the United States,” the President said, moments after 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles launched from warships in the Mediterranean hit the Shayrat airbase.


🌐 PM: focus on providing affordable healthcare

  • On the occasion of World Health Day, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said his government was leaving no stone unturned in providing quality healthcare that was accessible and affordable.
  • The Health Ministry had launched free drugs and diagnostics initiative to make healthcare affordable while undertaking a universal health screening in 100 districts for hypertension, diabetes and breast, cervical and oral cancers.
  • Speaking to the press, J.P. Nadda, Union Health Minister, said, “We will strengthen Public Health Centres and around one lakh sub centres will be transformed into wellness centres, 2,500 have already been selected for a pilot.


🌐 HCs told to appoint independent public prosecutors in POCSO courts

  • The Supreme Court directed High Courts to initiate steps to appoint independent public prosecutors for POCSO courts meant for trial in sexual offence cases against children.

  • Section 32 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act mandates appointment of independent public prosecutors to try the accused in child abuse cases under the special law.
  • The Bench also directed the High Courts concerned to create necessary infrastructure in such POCSO courts so that a “child-friendly atmosphere” could be provided to the victims under Section 33 of the Act.
  • One in each district Mr. Bansal submitted that the website of the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights showed that only 604 special courts have been constituted by States in 675 districts. This is when the Act mandates at least one special court in each district.

🌐 ‘Rs. 1.37 lakh crore tax evasion’

  • Law enforcement agencies have detected Rs. 1.37 lakh crore worth of tax evasion, launched criminal prosecution in 2,814 cases, and have arrested 3,893 people in the last three years, according to a statement by the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT).
  • The Enforcement Directorate also intensified its anti-money laundering actions, registering 519 cases, conducting 396 searches, making arrests in 79 cases, and attaching properties worth Rs.14,933 crore.
  • Over 245 benami transactions were identified under the benami prohibition law and properties worth Rs.55 crore have been provisionally attached across 124 cases.
  • “Relevant laws and rules have been streamlined and tightened, plugging the loopholes and strengthening the penal provisions. Effective steps were taken to track and curb cash transactions through various means,” the statement added.

Enforcement Directorate

  • The Enforcement Directorate is a law enforcement agency and economic intelligence agency responsible for enforcing economic laws and fighting economic crime in India.
  • It is part of the Department of Revenue, Ministry of Finance.
  • It comprises officers of the Indian Revenue Service, Indian Police Service and the Indian Administrative Service.
  • The origin of this Directorate goes back to 1 May 1956, when an ‘Enforcement Unit’ was formed, in Department of Economic Affairs, for handling Exchange Control Laws violations under Foreign Exchange Regulation Act, 1947.
  • In the year 1957, this Unit was renamed as ‘Enforcement Directorate’.

🌐 Turning cow dung into tableware

  • Italy’s “Shit Museum” has the whiff of success about it: here in Castelbosco, farmers are transforming sloppy cowpats into plates you can eat off.

  • The cow excrement is collected into stool digesters, immense vats where bacteria transform everything organic into methane. The methane is then burned to produce electricity.
  • The most sophisticated stool success is the line of tableware created out of the left-over faeces, dubbed “merdacotta” – literally “baked shit”, a play on the clay-based earthenware Terracotta.
  • The Merdacotta collection won a prize at Milan’s design fair last year, for “turning shit into something graceful.”

🌐 Study finds ‘night owl’ gene variant

  • Researchers at Rockefeller University in the U.S. have discovered that a variant of the gene CRY1 slows the internal biological clock – called the circadian clock – that normally dictates when you feel sleepy each night and when you are ready to wake.
  • People who self-categorise as night owls are often diagnosed with delayed sleep phase disorder (DSPD).
  • When the researchers examined the DNA from the DSPD patient, one variant stood out; a mutation in CRY1.
  • In a healthy circadian clock, a handful of genes turn on and off over a 24 hour cycle. The protein made by CRY1 is normally responsible for suppressing some of these genes during certain parts of the cycle.
  • Researchers discovered that the mutation made the CRY1 protein more active than usual, keeping other clock genes switched off for a longer period of time.

🌐 Google adds ‘fact check’ to search results

  • Google is adding a fact-checking tag to search results globally, its latest initiative to help curb the spread of misinformation and “fake news,” the company said.
  • The new tags, to be used in all languages for users worldwide, will use third-party fact-checkers to indicate whether news items are true, false or somewhere in-between.
  • “For the first time, when you conduct a search on Google that returns an authoritative result containing fact checks for one or more public claims, you will see that information clearly on the search results page,” Google said in a blog post. “The snippet will display information on the claim, who made the claim, and the fact check of that particular claim.”
  • People who search for a topic in Google’s main search engine or the Google News section will see a conclusion such as “mostly true” or “false” next to stories that have been fact checked.
  • Google is working with more than 100 news organisations and fact-checking groups including The Associated Press, the BBC, PolitiFact and Their conclusions will appear in search results as long as they meet certain criteria for automation.
  • The move came a day after Facebook added a new tool in news feeds to help users determine whether shared stories are real or bogus.


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