The HINDU Notes – 19th April
📰 THE HINDU – CURRENT NOTE 19 April
- India is likely to get ‘normal’ monsoon rains, according to the first official forecast of the season by the India Meteorological Department (IMD).
- Rains are likely to be 96% of the 50-year average of 89 cm for the monsoon season of June to September.
- They are expected to fan out favourably and “help agriculture.” There is, however, a significant element of uncertainty in this forecast.
- For one, there’s the looming threat of El Nino.
- Secondly, the IMD has adopted a new weather model this year, and it is still a work-in-progress.
- Every number forecast by the IMD has a built-in 5% error margin.
- India saw drought years in 2014 and 2015.
- As for 2016, it received 3% less than the 89 cm average, despite an IMD forecast of ‘above normal’ rains. The dynamical model in April had forecast excess rains (more than 110%) and India ended up with 3% less.
- Given the deficient pre-monsoon rains over large parts of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala, good rains are essential this year to trap enough soil moisture for a healthy kharif crop, which is vital to keep inflation down and rural consumption up.
- The El Nino – characterised by surface waters of the equatorial Pacific warming up more than half a degree – is known to dry up monsoon rains every six out of 10 years.
- This year, international weather models as well as the IMD’s own dynamical global climate forecasting system model indicate that El Nino conditions might set in during the “latter part of the monsoon.”
- Another climate phenomenon, called the Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD), which refers to a swing in the sea surface temperatures in the western and eastern Indian oceans, is also known to influence the Indian monsoon.
- A ‘positive’ IOD can counter an ominous El Nino. In its assessment, the IMD expects “weak positive IOD” to develop in the latter half of the monsoon, which means that it’s unlikely to be a potent ally this year.
El Niño and La Niña
Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD)
Madden-Julian oscillation (MJO)
- Bharat Biotech International Ltd in Hyderabad will start the Phase I clinical trial of Zika virus vaccine in India.
- The Phase I is being initiated based on the promising results in animals trials. In the animal trials, two doses of the vaccine made using an African Zika virus strain conferred 100% protection against mortality and disease in mice.
- The protection was the same when the mice were infected with an Asian and an African Zika strains.
Supreme Court orders timeline:
- October 2016 Case: A petition filed by Shyam Narayan Chouksey.
- It wants Parliament to apply its mind and define ‘respect’ for the national anthem and flag underArticle 51A (a) of the Constitution.
- If not, it alternatively wants the Supreme Court to issue a mandamus to the government to frame guidelines.
- November 30, 2016 order– it is compulsory for all to stand up in cinema halls when the national anthem is played.
- Later in December 2016, the court had exempted physically challenged persons from standing up for the anthem.
- April-18-2017 (i.e.,yesterday), the court exempted persons -who are wheel chair users, those with autism, persons suffering from cerebral palsy, multiple disabilities, Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, leprosy cured, muscular dystrophy and deaf and blind from the ambit of its November orders.
Centre response: respect for the national anthem, flag is “a matter of national pride and non-negotiable”
Supreme Court response: It questioned the need to expressively define ‘respect’ for the two national symbols when such a feeling of reverence is already inherent in the Constitution.
Another petition : SC issued a notice to the Centre on a petition filed by advocate Ashwini Upadhyay to make singing or rendering of national anthem and song compulsory in Parliament, Assemblies, public offices and all schools.
- All dignitaries, including the President and Union Ministers, may soon start giving speeches in Hindi if a parliamentary panel’s recommendations accepted by President Pranab Mukherjee are implemented.
- The recommendation that all dignitaries, especially those who can read and speak Hindi, may be requested to give their speech/statement in Hindi only, has been accepted.
- The President has accepted many other recommendations, including announcements on Indian aeroplanes being made in Hindi before in English.
- On flights, half of the reading material should consist of Hindi newspapers and magazines as “Hindi is grossly neglected by airlines”, as per the panel’s recommendation, accepted by the President.
- The Ministry of Civil Aviation has been asked to ensure implementation of the recommendations.
- Mukherjee has accepted another recommendation of the Committee that maximum usage of Hindi should be ensured on all tickets of Air India and Pawan Hans helicopters.
- A recommendation favouring full cent percent availability of bilingual training material in bilingual at the Mussoorie-based Lal Bahadur Shashtri National Administrative Academy, where the premier institute to train civil servants is trained including those in Indian Administrative Service (IAS), has also been accepted.
- Recently Australian government decided to scrap Australian “457” visa programme that allowed Australian companies to hire Indians in a number of skilled jobs.
- Aastralian government decided to replace the programme with a more stringent system, making it difficult to hire non-Australian citizens.
- The new visa programme will cut more than 200 eligible jobs for skilled migrants — from 651 to 435
- Visa fees are set to increase
- Visas will be restricted to filling “critical skills shortages”.
- Indian government response to this move-Indian government warned that such a move could have an impact on negotiations on the free trade agreement — Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreements (CECA) — between both countries.
- India provides the highest number of temporary skilled workers to Australia – eight out of the top 10 occupations for Indian 457 visa holders were IT professionals.
- According to the Australian Department of Immigration and Border Protection, Indians constituted 76% of the total ‘457’ visas issued in the three IT streams, and 57% of permanent migrant visas issued in the skilled stream of workers last year.
🌐 SC questions Army’s silence
- The Supreme Court on 18 April 2017 asked the Army why it chose to maintain silence despite Commissions of Inquiry set up by the Manipur government over alleged rape and murder against its personnel in Manipur during insurgency.
- A Bench of Justices Madan B. Lokur and U.U. Lalit highlighted the case of murder of Thangjam Manorama, a Manipuri girl, in 2004.
- The judicial inquiry report into the case alleged she had suffered “brutal and merciless torture” by a 17 Assam Rifles team.
- Rebutting the Army’s submissions that an internal enquiry into the Manorama incident had revealed some “violations of laid-down procedures”, Justice Lokur asked why the Army agreed to pay Rs. 10 lakh compensation, as ordered by the Supreme Court, for a mere violation of procedure.
- The Army counsel submitted that the operation conducted in the Manorama incident was based on reliable intelligence and the Army “is not averse to an enquiry by a high-ranking officer.”
- Attorney- General Mukul Rohatgi, who joined in the hearing on the Army’s side, submitted that the Army did not come within the jurisdiction of a Commission set up by the Manipur government.
- The court then turned to the Manipur government to ask why it never tried to “break the stonewall” created by the Army to access evidence from personnel.
- This time the court was referring to the suicide of a 15- year-old girl in 2003 after she was allegedly raped by two Army personnel.
- “This was the case of a 14- year-old girl and there was no allegation she was an insurgent. She was working in a farmhouse when people came and raped her.
- Mr. Attorney, you may have two alleged rapists,” the Bench addressed Mr. Rohatgi.
- Mr. Rohatgi said rape might have been committed but there was only an allegation that it was committed by Army personnel.
🌐 India opposes ‘genocide’ charge
- India has registered a strong note of protest before the visiting Canadian Defence Minister, Harjit Singh Sajjan, against a provincial Assembly legislation which had accused India of “genocide” in the events of 1984.
- According to Defence Ministry sources, Arun Jaitley made this the focus during their bilateral discussion.
- Calling the Bill an unwarranted comment on India’s internal situation, Mr. Jaitley conveyed that there was considerable “disquiet” in India and the language was “unreal and exaggerated” which did not conform to reality.
- “It was conveyed that as another liberal democracy, it is not in the spirit of India- Canada relations and did not help in furthering the relationship,” a Ministry source said.
- In response to Mr. Jaitley’s comments, Mr. Sajjan dissociated himself from the situation, and said it was a private member’s Bill and moved in the context of the local elections.
- In their discussions, the two ministers agreed to deepen the defence cooperation.
🌐 CPEC unrelated to Kashmir issue: China
- China reinforced its call for India’s participation in the Belt and Road connectivity initiative, telling that the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), on which India has its reservations, was not linked to the Kashmir issue.
- India has objected to the CPEC as it passes through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.
Beijing’s high profile Belt and Road Forum on May 14-
- 28 heads of state or government had affirmed their participation at the summit, including Russian President Vladimir Putin, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, Indonesian President Joko Widodo and State Councilor Myanmar Aung San Suu Kyi.
RBI red flags banks’ telecom exposure
- The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has raised a red flag over banks’ loans to telecom players and asked the lenders to increase their standard asset provisioning more than what is prescribed so that they can built ‘necessary resilience.’
- The telecom sector is reporting stressed financial conditions.
- Telecom players are reeling under a huge debt – estimated to be about Rs. 4.2 lakh crore – amid a tariff war and a consolidation among some of the players.
- Banks have to make 0.4% provision for standard advances.
- RBI governor Urjit Patel had earlier said five sectors, including telecom, contributed to 61% of the stress in the banking system.
- Banks are reeling under asset quality pressure amid sluggish economic growth as their gross non-performing asset rate rose to 9.1% in September 2016, from 5.1% a year ago.
- RBI has also asked banks to increase standard asset provision in other stressed sectors.
🌐 Railways seek aid for unviable routes
- The Railway Ministry has sought compensation for operating railway lines of strategic and national importance – a practice discontinued following the merger of Railway and Union Budgets.
- Every year, the Indian Railways used to get subsidy from the Finance Ministry for losses incurred on railway operations on strategic lines.
- After the Budget merger, the Finance Ministry had discontinued the practice of providing annual subsidy to the Railways for operating loss-making strategic routes as the Railways was no longer required to pay an annual dividend.
- Recently, two Parliamentary bodies – Standing Committee on Railways and Estimates Committee – recommended that the Finance Ministry should continue compensating the Railways for losses in operating strategic lines.
- The subsidy provided to the Indian Railways by Finance Ministry for non-profitable routes stood at Rs. 4,024 crore and Rs. 3,723 crore in 2014-15 and 2015-16 respectively.
- However, in 2016-17, the Railways had budgeted subsidy of Rs. 4,301 crore on unviable routes which it didn’t receive from the Finance Ministry as its annual dividend was waived off.
- “As these lines mainly cater to defence movements on border areas and development of social and backward region, the Committee recommends that reimbursement of operational losses on strategic lines and railway lines in hilly, coastal and backward areas should be continued and desires the Ministry of Railways to pursue the matter with Ministry of Finance in this regard,” the committee added.
- The Estimates Committee, chaired by BJP veteran Murli Manohar Joshi, in its report on Structural Changes in Union Budget had also said that the Railways should “continue to get reimbursement of losses on operation of strategic lines.”
🌐 Buzz over photograph of ‘Indian wolf ‘ in Sunderbans
- A picture of purportedly an Indian wolf (Canis lupus pallipes) in Sunderbans captured by a naturalist has taken wildlife enthusiasts and forest department officials in West Bengal by surprise.
- While the State forest department was yet to verify the veracity of the claim, the photograph has sparked speculation whether the Indian wolf, categorised as ‘endangered’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, was in fact spotted in the mangrove forest.
- The Indian wolf is a Schedule I animal in the Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972 of India.
- Indian wolf prefers to live in scrublands, grasslands and semiarid pastoral, agricultural landscape, and this was the first record of an Indian wolf from a “mangrove terrain”.
- Pradeep Vyas, West Bengal’s Chief Wildlife Warden, however, said the forests of the Sunderbans did not have the habitat to sustain wolves.
- He said ‘camera traps’ had been placed in the area, which would have captured the animal if it was in fact roaming there.
- The Indian region of the Sunderbans has a population of about 100 tigers.