Daily News Analysis – May 14, 2019

Source: The Hindu, Live Mint and Indian Express


FOREST FIRES IN INDIA

Context: Forest fires started in Uttarakhand.

 Essentials

  • The Forest Survey of India’s data on forest fire attribute around 50% of the forest areas as fire prone. However, only 6.17% of the forests are prone to severe fire damage. 

  • Fig: Map of India showing the districts with regular interval of forest fire
  • A large fraction of India’s deciduous and semi-deciduous forests is characterized by open and frequently burned stands.
  • To reduce water stress the deciduous trees shed their leaves during the dry season.
  • These fuels, together with the grass layer, allow the development of low- and medium-intensity surface fires almost every year.
  • The Himalayan regions and the dry deciduous forests of India, particularly in Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Odisha are ecologically sensitive areas and are most affected by these fires.
  • India’s monsoons are largely responsible for the seasonal nature of forest fires in the country. For most of India, forest fires peak during the dry months of March or April before the arrival of the monsoon.
  • The forest types most affected by fires:

  • Forest fires result from a combination of natural and social factors. The forest fire triangle in figure 1.3 illustrates how these factors are interrelated.

  • Local topography influences the difficulty of fire prevention and suppression and can raise the potential for out-of-control fires.
  • Moving up steep slopes, fires can spread at several times the rate they would on level ground.
  • Winds in rugged terrain can change direction quickly or blow harder, and fuels may dry out faster on south-facing slopes.
  • By comparison with dry deciduous forests, there is a greater potential for intense fire behaviour in India’s subtropical pine forests. Pine needles degrade slowly and have a high resin content.

 More specifically the causes of forest fires in India are:

  • Natural Causes:
  • Lightening
  • Rubbing of dry sticks
  • Friction due to rolling stones
  • Man- Made Causes:
  • Shifting Cultivation
  • Covering up Illicit felling of trees
  • Clearing path through the forest
  • Tribal Traditions

The following are among the advantages of natural forest fires:

  • Wildfires are sometimes a natural process, and help forests by promoting flowering, branching and seedling establishment.
  • Fires that are limited to the surface may help in the natural regeneration of forests.
  • The heating of the soil may result in helpful microbial activity, and hasten decaying processes that are useful for the vegetation.
  • Fire helps revive dormant seeds of many species. 
  • Some young woody trees survive ground fires and have higher growth rates immediately post-fire, until they reach a certain height.
  • Fires helps suppressing invasive species. 
  • Bandipur National Park in Karnataka experienced large scale forest fires recently.

 The following are among the disadvantages of forest fires:

  • Wildfires release chlorine-containing compounds. Some of these can reach the ozone layer, and cause photocatalytic ozone depletion. 
  • Forest fires and volcanic eruptions are the largest producer of dioxins in the world.
  • Dioxins are carcinogenic bio-accumulative toxins, that are able to persist in the environment for a prolonged period of time.

Management of Forest Fires

  • The Forest Alert System is part of the Large Forest Fire Monitoring Programme that was launched by the Forest Survey of India (FSI) in January 2019 using near real time data from the SNPP-VIIRS satellite.
  • The Draft Forest Policy, 2018, does mention forest fires as a threat and has proposed the mapping of vulnerable areas along with developing and strengthening early warning systems. 
  • Uncontrolled fires should be treated as disasters so that disaster management authorities can play a major role in preventing them.
  • The National Forest Commission of 2006 too suggested that all fires that burn an area larger than 20 sq km, should be declared a state disaster.

YOUNG SCIENTIST PROGRAMME (YUVIKA)

Context: As many as 110 teenagers, aspiring space scientists from all States and Union Territories, on Monday began a two-week residential training programme under ‘Yuvika’ (Yuva Vigyani Karyakram) to learn about the national space programme first hand.

Essentials

  • The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has launched a special programme for School Children called “Young Scientist Programme” “YUva VIgyani KAryakram” from this year.
  • The Program is primarily aimed at imparting basic knowledge on Space Technology, Space Science and Space Applications to the younger ones with the intent of arousing their interest in the emerging areas of Space activities.
  • The programme involves a residential training of around two weeks duration during summer holidays.
  • It is proposed to select 3 students each from each State/Union Territory to participate in this programme covering state, CBSE, and ICSE syllabus.
  • The selection is based on the academic performance (8th Std marks – 50% weightage) and extracurricular activities.
  • Students belonging to the rural area have been given special weightage in the selection criteria.
  • In case there is tie between the selected candidates, the younger candidates will be given

WHAT IS BONE OSSIFICATION TEST?

Context: This test is often in news to determine the age of crime accused.

 Essentials

  • Ossification is the process of formation of new bone by cells called osteoblasts.
  • As per scientific evidence, by the age of 25 years nearly all bones are completely ossified in humans.
  • Ossification test is a guess work based on the fusion of joints in the human body b/w birth and age 25.
  • If all joints are fused the person must be of 25yrs of age or older.
  • As per experts that there can be an error of about 2 years in the age determined by the ossification test, but it is still more reliable than ascertaining the age on mere appearance basis.
  • The Supreme Court in Mukarrab vs. State of UP, had reiterated that ossification test cannot be regarded as conclusive for ascertaining the age of a person.

DIRECTORATE OF ENFORCEMENT

Context: The Enforcement Directorate on Monday questioned former ICICI Bank managing director and chief executive officer Chanda Kochhar and her husband Deepak Kochhar in connection with the Videocon Group loans case. 

 Essentials

  • Directorate of Enforcement is a specialized financial investigation agency under the Department of Revenue, Ministry of Finance (Department of Investment and Public Asset Management; Expenditure; Revenue; Financial Services; Economic Affairs are other departments of the Ministry).
  • It enforces the following laws: – 
  • Foreign Exchange Management Act, 1999 (FEMA) – A Civil Law.
  • Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 (PMLA) – A Criminal Law.

 Other major agencies of the central government

  • The Intelligence Bureau (IB) is India’s internal intelligence agency. It is under the Ministry of Home Affairs.
  • The Directorate of Revenue Intelligence is the apex intelligence and investigative agency for matters relating to violation of the Customs Act. It is under the Ministry of Finance. 
  • The Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) is a part of Department of Revenue in the Ministry of Finance.
  • National Investigation Agency (NIA) is a central agency established by the Indian Government to combat terror in India. It is under the Ministry of Home Affairs.
  • The Central Bureau of Investigation(CBI) is the premier investigating agency of India operating under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions.
  • All appointments in the CBI above the rank of Superintendent of Police are approved by a five-member committee chaired by the CVC and including two vigilance commissioners and secretaries of the Home Ministry and the Department of Personnel and Training. The CBI chief is an invitee to the committee and has to be consulted.

THE FOREIGN CONTRIBUTION (REGULATION) ACT, 2010

Context: The Home Ministry has cancelled the FCRA licence of Infosys Foundation after a request was made by the not-for-profit initiative of the IT major.

 Essentials

  • The Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 2010
  • It extends to the whole of India, and it shall also apply to—
  • (a) citizens of India outside India; and
  • (b) associate branches or subsidiaries, outside India, of companies or bodies corporate, registered or incorporated in India.
  • Every person who has been granted a certificate or given prior permission shall receive foreign contribution in a single account only through such one of the branches of a bank.
  • No funds other than foreign contribution shall be received or deposited in such account or accounts.
  • However, such person may open one or more accounts in one or more banks for utilising the foreign contribution received by him.

 Who can accept Foreign Contribution?

  • Organizations working for definite cultural, social, economic, educational or religious programs can accept foreign contribution but first, they’ve to get permission from the Ministry of Home Affairs.
  • They also have to maintain a separate account book listing the donation received from foreigners and get it audited by a Chartered Accountant and submit it to Home Ministry every year.

 Prohibition to accept foreign contribution.

  • No foreign contribution shall be accepted by any—
  • (a) candidate for election;
  • (b) correspondent, columnist, cartoonist, editor, owner, printer or publisher of a registered newspaper;
  • (c) Judge, Government servant or employee of any corporation or any other body controlled or owned by the Government;
  • (d) member of any Legislature;
  • (e) political party or office-bearer thereof;
  • (f) organisation of a political nature;
  • (g) association or company engaged in the production or broadcast of audio news or audio visual news or current affairs programmes through any electronic mode;
  • No person who receives foreign contribution as per provisions of this Act, shall transfer to other person unless that person is also authorized to receive foreign contribution as per rules made by the Central Government. 
  • Foreign contribution shall be utilized for the purpose for which it has been received and such contribution can be used for administrative expenses up to 50% of such contribution received in a financial year.
  • However, administrative expenses exceeding fifty per cent of the contribution to be defrayed with the prior approval of the Central Government.

 Why is FCRN Act in news in the recent past?

  • The original provision in the FCRA declared that any company with over 50% FDI was a foreign entity.
  • And, the Representation of the People Act and the FCRA bar political parties from receiving foreign funds.
  • The government has amended (retrospectively) the FCRA, allowing foreign-origin companies to finance non-governmental organisations and thus political parties by changing the definition of “foreign companies”.

DNA DATABASE COMING UP FOR INDIAN RHINO

Context: The Union Environment Ministry has embarked on a project to create DNA profiles of all rhinos in the country.

 Essentials

  • By 2021, the project’s deadline, the Indian rhino could be the first wild animal species in India to have all its members DNA-sequenced.
  • The project’s proponents, including the World Wide Fund for Nature-India (WWF-India) and the Centre-funded Wildlife Institute of India (WII), said the exercise would be useful in curbing poaching and gathering evidence in wildlife crimes involving rhinos.
  • The project is a subset of the Centre’s larger, ongoing rhino conservation programme.

 Kaziranga National Park

  • There are about 2,600 rhinos in India, with more than 90% of the population concentrated in Assam’s Kaziranga National Park.
  • Since the 1980s, the government has been trying to move a significant number of rhinos out of Kaziranga in the interest of the species’ conservation, threats from poaching and challenges to their habitat.
  • Outside Kaziranga, there are about 200 rhinos in West Bengal, 40 in Uttar Pradesh and 1 in Bihar.
  • There are three species of rhinos, of which only one — the Indian rhino — is found in the country.
  • Along with the iconic Greater one-horned rhinoceros, the park is the breeding ground of elephants, wild water buffalo, and swamp deer.
  • The park has 57% of the world’s wild water buffalo population, one of the largest groups of Asian elephants and 21 Royal Bengal tigers per 100 sq.km – one of the highest striped cat density.
  • Over the time, the tiger population has also increased in Kaziranga, and that’s the reason why Kaziranga was declared as Tiger Reserve in 2006.
  • Also, the park is recognized as an Important Bird Area by BirdLife International for the conservation of avifaunal species.
  • The rhino may well be a keystone species – known to have a disproportionately large impact on its environment relative to its population.
  • Both African species and the Sumatran rhinoceros have two horns, while the Indian and Javan rhinoceros have a single horn.
  • The horns are made of keratin, the same type of protein that makes up hair and fingernails.
  • The Indian rhino was moved from its status of endangered (since 1986) to vulnerable in 2008 by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
  • The first successful attempt to move rhinos out of Assam and re-introduce them into a similar habitat was made in 1984 in Uttar Pradesh’s Dudhwa national park.

 The Indian Rhino Vision 2020 initiative 

  • IRV2020 hopes to raise the number of rhinos in Assam to 3,000 by 2020 and spread them over seven of the state’s protected areas: Kaziranga, Pobitora, Orang national park, Manas national park, Laokhowa wildlife sanctuary, Burachapori wildlife sanctuary and Dibru Saikhowa wildlife sanctuary.

WHAT IS THE CTBT?

Context: The executive secretary of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) has invited India to be an observer in the CTBT.

 Essentials

  • Being an observer would give India access to data from the International Monitoring System — a network which when complete will consist of 337 facilities (321 monitoring stations and 16 radionuclide labs) located in 89 countries.
  • This system can detect even small nuclear explosions using seismology, hydroacoustics, infrasound and radionuclide technology.

 Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT)

  • The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) is the Treaty banning all nuclear explosions – everywhere, by everyone.
  • The Treaty was negotiated at the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva and adopted by the United Nations General Assembly.
  • The Treaty has reached near-universality. 182 countries have signed the Treaty – the last country to do so was Trinidad and Tobago in October 2009 which also ratified the Treaty in May 2010.
  • 154 countries have ratified the Treaty – most recently Ghana in June 2011.

Why is the CTBT so important?

  • The CTBT is the last barrier on the way to develop nuclear weapons. 
  • It curbs the development of new nuclear weapons and the improvement of existing nuclear weapon designs.
  • When the Treaty enters into force it provides a legally binding norm against nuclear testing.

How many nuclear tests were conducted and by whom?

  • Three countries have carried out nuclear explosions after the 1996: India and Pakistan in 1998, and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) in 2006 and 2009.

 Why has the Treaty not entered into force yet?

  • The Treaty’s entry into force depends on 44 specific States  that must have signed and ratified the Treaty. 
  • These States had nuclear facilities at the time the Treaty was negotiated and adopted.
  • As of August 2011, 35 of these States have ratified the Treaty.
  • Nine States still need to do so: China, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Iran, Israel, Pakistan and the United States. 
  • India, North Korea and Pakistan have not yet signed the Treaty.
  • All 44 States are listed in the Treaty’s Annex 2.

What is the difference between signature and ratification?

  • The signatureto a treaty indicates that the country accepts the treaty.  It commits not to take any actions that would undermine the treaty’s purposes. A treaty is signed by a senior representative of a country such as the president or the foreign minister.
  • The ratificationsymbolizes the official sanction of a treaty to make it legally binding for the government of a country.  This process involves the treaty’s adoption by the legislature of a country such as the parliament.   

What is the CTBT verification regime?

  • The CTBT verification regime is a unique, comprehensive system, consisting of the International Monitoring System(IMS), International Data Centre (IDC) and on-site inspections (OSI).
  • It constantly monitors the planet for nuclear explosions and shares its findings with Member States (= the 182 States that have signed the Treaty).  

 Monitoring stations

  • The IMS facilities are located all over the globe and use four distinct technologies to look for signs of nuclear explosions: 
  • Seismic: to detect shockwaves in the Earth.
  • Hydroacoustic: to detect acoustic signals in the oceans.
  • Infrasound: to detect low-frequency sound waves in the air with a network of 60 stations.
  • Radionuclide: to detect radionuclide particles and noble gas.

  Can monitoring data be used for other purposes?


STRAIT OF HORMUZ

Context: Saudi Arabia said two oil tankers were damaged significantly in a “sabotage” attack over the weekend near the Strait of Hormuz, intensifying the spotlight on the waterway — the world’s biggest potential choke point for global crude shipments.

Essentials

The Strait of Hormuz and why it’s so important to the global crude-oil market.

Where is the Strait of Hormuz?

  • The Strait of Hormuz is a narrow waterway that links the Persian Gulf with the Gulf of Oman and the Arabian Sea.
  • At its narrowest point, the waterway is only 21 miles wide, and the width of the shipping lane in either direction is just 2 miles, separated by a two-mile buffer zone.

Why is it important?

  • Oil tankers carrying crude from ports on the Persian Gulf must pass through the strait.
  • Around 18.5 million barrels a day of crude and refined products moved through it in 2016, nearly a third of all seaborne-traded oil and almost 20% of all oil produced globally.
  • That makes the Strait of Hormuz the world’s most sensitive oil transportation choke point.

What’s the threat?

  • Iranian officials last month threatened to interrupt the flow of oil through the strait after the Trump administration said it would end waivers that allow countries to import Iranian oil.
  • The U.S. last week announced it was sending an aircraft carrier group, bombers and a Patriot antimissile battery to counter what the Trump administration said were “clear indications” that Iran and its proxies were preparing to possibly attack U.S. forces in the region.
  • That’s in addition to the presence of the U.S. Fifth Fleet, which is based in Bahrain.

CONSUMER PRICE INDEX (CPI)

Context: CPI inflation quickens to six-month high of 2.92% on food, fuel prices.

 Essentials

  • Two Ministries – Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MOSPI) and Ministry of Labour and Employment (MOLE) are engaged in the construction of different CPIs for different groups/sectors.
  • CPI inflation is also called as retail inflation as the prices are quoted from retailers.
  • CPI is based on retail prices and this index is used to calculate the Dearness Allowance (DA) for government employees.

Table : Different Price Indices in India

•     Index

•     Agency

•     Base Year

•     WPI

•     Office of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Commerce and Industries

•     2011-12

•     CPI All India, CPI -Urban and Rural

•     CSO, Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation

•     2012

•     CPI-AL

•      

•     Labour Bureau, Ministry of Labour and Employment

•     1986-87

•     CPI-RL

•     1986-87

•     CPI-IW

•     2001

Does RBI use WPI or CPI Inflation to manage monetary policy?

  • While earlier the Reserve Bank of India used WPI inflation to manage monetary policy expectations, it is now the CPI inflation which is largely taken into account. 

 Do you know?

  • Headline inflation is the raw inflation figure reported through the Consumer Price Index (CPI).
  • Core inflationremoves the CPI components that can exhibit large amounts of volatility from month to month, which can cause unwanted distortion to the headline figure.
  • The most commonly removed factors are those relating to the cost of food and energy.
  • Inflation deliberately undertaken to relieve a depression- Reflation
  • Rise in prices with little change in output- Stagflation is when economic growth is stagnant but there still is price inflation.
  • Price rise at full employment- Continuous inflation
  • The term ‘benign inflation’ implies a mild rate of inflation.

TERMS IN NEWS

Indian Automobile Industry

  • The new financial year kicked off on a disappointing note for the Indian automobile industry with sales declining across all four segments.
  • The demand was impacted by a weak consumer sentiment due to factors such as political uncertainty, high insurance costs, liquidity crunch and rise in commodity prices that forced car makers to increase vehicle prices.

 General Data Protection Regulation

  • The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), agreed upon by the European Parliament and Council in April 2016, as the primary law regulating how companies protect EU citizens’ personal data.
  • Companies that fail to achieve GDPR compliance before the deadline (May 25, 2018) will be subject to stiff penalties and fines.
  • GDPR requirements apply to each member state of the European Union, aiming to create more consistent protection of consumer and personal data across EU nations.