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Newest phase in Earth’s history named after Meghalaya rock

Image result for A layer (marked in pic) in this stalagmite from Meghalaya he

Note4students

Mains Paper 1: Geography | Salient features of world’s physical geography

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Meghalayan age, Holocene Epoch, International Union of Geological Sciences (IUGS), International Commission on Stratigraphy

Mains level: Geological era’s of Earth and their important features


News

Meghalayan Age

  1. Scientists have created a new phase in Earth’s geological history and named it Meghalayan, after a stalagmite from a cave in the Indian state of Meghalaya
  2. The stalagmite helped define climatic events 4,200 years ago, marking the beginning of the phase that continues till today

The beginning of a new age

  1. The Meghalayan Age began with a mega global drought that devastated ancient agricultural civilisations from Egypt to China
  2. It is part of a longer period known as the Holocene Epoch, which reflects everything that has happened over the past 11,700 years

Uniqueness of this age

  1. The Meghalayan is unique because it is the first interval in Earth’s geological history that coincided with a major cultural event, as agricultural societies struggled to recover from the shift in climate
  2. The droughts over a 200-year period resulted in human migrations in Egypt, Greece, Syria, Palestine, Mesopotamia, the Indus valley and the Yangtze river valley
  3. The change in global climate was likely triggered by shifts in ocean and atmospheric circulation

IUGS findings

  1. This discovery was done by the International Commission on Stratigraphy of the International Union of Geological Sciences (IUGS)
  2. The commission then forwarded these proposals to its parent body, the IUGS, for consideration, and the executive committee of IUGS voted unanimously to ratify them
  3. Two other ages — the Middle Holocene Northgrippian Age and the Early Holocene Greenlandian Age — with beginnings defined at climatic events that happened about 8,300 years and 11,700 years ago, respectively, were also approved by the International Commission on Stratigraphy, which is responsible for standardising the geologic time scale

Distinct periods of Earth’s geology

  1. Geologists divide the 4.6-billion-year existence of Earth into distinct periods
  2. Each period corresponds to significant events such as the break-up of continents, shifts in climate, and the emergence of particular types of animals and plant life
  3. These units of the geologic time scale are based on sedimentary strata that have accumulated over time and contain within them sediment types, fossils and chemical isotopes that record the passage of time as well as the physical and biological events that produced them

Back2Basics

International Union of Geological Sciences (IUGS)

  1. The IUGS is an international non-governmental organization devoted to international cooperation in the field of geology
  2. It is a Scientific Union member of the International Council for Science (ICSU), which it recognizes as the coordinating body for the international organization of science
  3. Currently, geologists from 121 countries (and regions) are represented in IUGS through a 121 Adhering Organization
  4. IUGS promotes and encourages the study of geological problems, especially those of worldwide significance, and supports and facilitates international and interdisciplinary cooperation in the earth sciences
  5. The Union’s Secretariat is currently located at the Chinese Academy of Geological Sciences in Beijing, China
  6. The Union is the main scientific sponsor of the International Geological Congress (IGC), which takes place every four years
  7. IUGS is a joint partner with UNESCO for the International Geoscience Programme (IGCP) and they also participate in the Global Network of National Geoparks (GGN)
  8. The Geological Society of London oversees the production and distribution of IUGS Publications
  9. As of 2016 IUGS runs Seven international commissions covering the following topics:
  • Commission for the Management and Application of Geoscience Information (CGI)
  • Geoscience Education, Training and Technology Transfer (COGE)
  • Geoscience for Environmental Management(GEM)
  • International Commission on Stratigraphy (ICS)
  • International Commission on the History of Geological Sciences (INHIGEO)
  • Commission on Tectonics and Structural Geology (TECTASK)
  • Commission on Global Geochemical Baselines
Global Geological And Climatic Events

[op-ed snap] On crime against women, bad questions, poor answers

Note4students

Mains Paper 1: Social issues | Role of women & women’s organization

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Issues related to women safety and how to ensure a equitable treatment for them


Context

Rising crimes against women

  1. Recently, the Thomson Reuters Foundation put out the results of its 2018 The World’s Most Dangerous Countries for Women survey
  2. India, fourth most dangerous in 2011, was now the world’s most dangerous, it said
  3. The questions of the survey centred on five key areas:
  • Healthcare,
  • economic resources and discrimination,
  • customary practices,
  • sexual violence and harassment,
  • non-sexual violence and human trafficking

Impact of Nirbhaya incident

  1. In December 2012, a student was gang-raped in a Delhi bus and left to die, an act of such horrific brutality that it became a watershed moment for women’s rights
  2. That December changed the conversation around the place of women in India
  3. Public displays of misogyny and sexism have not abated but public disapproval of it is now far stronger
  4. Discussions around women’s autonomy — to work, to love, in dress — rage on in living rooms

Data on crimes related to women

  1. India’s use and misunderstanding of data on sexual crime has not evolved
  2. Official statistics do not capture the full extent of sexual crime in India
  3. There is the part that official data is not capturing, and the part that it is erroneously capturing
  4. Non-capture of data is due to the fact that in a deeply patriarchal and often violent country, women might fear speaking out about sexual crime, and also fear to report it to the police

False cases

  1. Majority of rape cases were that of involving consensual sex between sometimes inter-religious or inter-caste couples
  2. The matches were set by the couples themselves often to their families’ disapproval
  3. In case after case, adult couples had been detained by a cooperative, often paternalistic police force, after the woman’s father or uncle filed rape charges against her lover or chosen husband
  4. This and the enduring issue of some men being charged with rape after a “breach of promise to marry”, yet another example of the price on a woman’s “chastity” — have had the opposite effect of under-reporting

Way Forward

  1. False cases have inflated the number of rape cases to an unspecifiable extent
  2. If there is some “over-reporting” of rape in India, it stems from the deep discomfort the country continues to have over women’s sexual autonomy
  3. The question to ask is not whether India’s women are safe. It is whether India’s women are free
Women Safety Issues – Marital Rape, Domestic Violence, Swadhar, Nirbhaya Fund, etc.

[op-ed snap] The mob that hates

Note4students

Mains Paper 1: Social Issues | Salient features of Indian Society

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not Much

Mains level: Rise in lynching incidents across India and reasons behind them


Context

SC directive on anti-lynching law

  1. The court has asked Parliament to consider passing a special law on lynching
  2. As the grim threat of lynching casts a terrifying shadow over large swathes of the country, directions from India’s Supreme Court to all governments to take steps to prevent what it described as “horrendous acts of mobocracy” can only be welcomed
  3. This is essential to protect citizens and ensure that the “pluralistic social fabric” of the country holds against mob violence

Lynching as a crime in India

  1. Lynching is not officially a crime in India
  2. But if state administrations choose to clamp down, the Indian Penal Code already punishes all the criminalities perpetrated by lynch mobs
  3. Section 223(a) of the Code of Criminal Procedure also enables a group of people involved in the same offence to be tried together

Defining lynching

  1. Lynching is not just “mobocracy”; it is a collective hate crime
  2. Lynching may be sparked variously by disputes over allegations of cow smuggling or slaughter, or wild rumours of cattle theft or child kidnapping, or something even as trivial as a seat in an unreserved train compartment
  3. Whatever the ostensible trigger, murderous mobs gather to lynch people of hated identities with gratuitous cruelty

Minorities & disabled are easy targets

  1. IndiaSpend found that 86 per cent of persons killed in cow-related lynching were Muslim, and 8 per cent Dalit
  2. The recent spate of mob killings on rumours of child kidnapping target strangers and mentally challenged persons

Reasons for rise in lynchings

  1. These hate crimes flourish most of all because of the enabling climate for hate speech and violence which is fostered and legitimised from above
  2. This frees people to act out their prejudices, and the impunity assured by state administrations to the perpetrators
  3. Senior ministers and elected representatives frequently come out in open defence of the attackers, charging the victims with provoking the attacks
  4. The members of the lynch mob in most incidents of lynching video-tape the act and upload the videotapes
  5. To record one’s crimes and display these on the social media reflects a brazen confidence that you will not be punished for your crime, and even if you are nabbed, you will be a hero for the ruling establishment

Role of police

  1. There is a recurring pattern in police action too. If present, even as the slaughter of innocents unfolds, they don’t act, pleading later that they were outnumbered
  2. In most cases, they come in too late to save lives, and very often they register crimes against the victims and drag their feet to charge and arrest the attackers
  3. After the lynching, police often tries to record the incident as a crime of cow smuggling, animal cruelty, rash driving and road rage
  4. In its investigations, the police never cordon off the site of the lynch attacks: Even hours after the crime, people walk over the ground still splattered with blood or burned flesh
  5. This is not a shoddy investigation. It is deliberate (and criminal) destruction of evidence which could have been used against the killers
  6. The police in almost every case, instead, registers crimes against the victims

Just a moral failure?

  1. For people in political authority, uniform and magistrates to take sides in hate battles is a profound crime against humanity
  2. Yet this still is recognised at best as a moral failure, not a punishable crime

Way forward

  1. If there is any new law we need to prevent the spread like an epidemic of this new scourge of targeted hate crime, of lynch mobs, it requires only one law, and this is the creation of a crime of dereliction of duty and communal partisanship by public officials
  2. The challenge, ultimately, is not of law, but of our collective morality and our collective humanity
Human Rights Issues

[op-ed snap] Explaining the Fugitive Economic Offenders Ordinance

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability, e-governance- applications, models, successes, limitations, and potential

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Read the attached story

Mains level: Laws to prevent economic frauds


News

Who is a fugitive economic offender?

  1. Under the Fugitive Economic Offenders Ordinance, promulgated by the President in April, a fugitive economic offender is any individual against whom a warrant for arrest in relation to a scheduled offence has been issued by any court in India and who has either left India to avoid criminal prosecution, or who, being abroad, refuses to return to India to face criminal prosecution.
  2. The list of offences that can qualify an individual to be designated an economic offender, enumerated in the schedule to the Ordinance, includes offences under several Acts such as:
  • Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881;
  • Reserve Bank of India Act, 1934;
  • Central Excise Act, 1944;
  • Customs Act, 1962;
  • Prohibition of Benami Property Transactions Act, 1988;
  • Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002; and
  • Indian Penal Code.

What happens if a person is designated a fugitive economic offender?

  1. If the special court is satisfied that an individual is a fugitive economic offender, it can direct the Central government to confiscate the proceeds of the crime in India or abroad, whether or not such property is owned by the fugitive economic offender, and any other property or benami property in India or abroad that is owned by the fugitive economic offender.
  2. While the confiscation of property within India should not be a problem for the Centre, confiscating properties abroad will require the cooperation of the respective country.
  3. The fugitive economic offender will also be disqualified from accessing the Indian judicial system for any civil cases.

On whom does the burden of proof lie?

In keeping with the principle of ‘innocent until proven guilty’, the burden of proof for establishing that an individual is a fugitive economic offender or that certain property is part of the proceeds of a crime is on the Director appointed to file an application seeking fugitive economic offender status.

Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code

[pib] IAF participation in Ex Pitch Black 2018

Note4students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Ex Pitch Black 2018

Mains level: Not Much


News

Ex Pitch Black

  1. The Indian Air Force for the first time is participating with fighter aircraft in Exercise Pitch Black 2018 (PB-18), which is scheduled in Australia.
  2. It would aim to undertake simulated air combat exercises in a controlled environment and mutual exchange of best practices towards enhancing IAF operational capability.
  3. Ex Pitch Black is a biennial multi-national large force employment warfare exercise hosted by the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF).

 IAF Contingent

  1. The IAF contingent consists of 145 air-warriors including Garud team, 04 X Su-30 MKI, 01 X C-130 and 01 X C-17.
  2. The contingent will assemble at   Air Force Station Kalaikunda and depart for the exercise on 19 Jul 18 from India to Australia via Indonesia.
  3. During the flight from India to Australia and back, Su-30 MKI will carry out air to air refueling with IL-78 tankers.
  4. After completion of the exercise, on its return leg from Darwin to Subang, Su-30 MKI will be refueled in air for the first time by RAAF KC-30A.

 Benefits of such exercises

  1. The exercise will provide unique opportunity for exchange of knowledge and experience with these nations in a dynamic warfare environment.
  2. Participation in multinational air exercise assumes importance in view of the continued engagement of the IAF with friendly foreign countries.
  3. Over the last decade, IAF has been actively participating in operational exercises hosted by various countries, wherein collaborative engagements undertaken with the best air forces in the world.
Defence Sector – DPP, Missions, Schemes, Security Forces, etc.

WCD ministry set to move cabinet to make child marriages invalid

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Mechanisms, laws, institutions & Bodies constituted for the protection & betterment of the vulnerable sections

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Stats mentioned in the newscard

Mains level: Legal measures against child marriages in India


News

Child Marriages still Valid

  1. The WCD Ministry official said a draft cabinet note has been circulated that proposes to make child marriages “void ab initio” (invalid from the outset).
  2. The proposal of the ministry, if approved, would amend the law that allows child marriages to continue, despite an October 2017 Supreme Court ruling that “sexual intercourse with a minor wife amounts to rape, as under no circumstance can a child below 18 years give consent, express or implied, for sexual intercourse”.
  3. Currently, child marriages are valid in India, but can be annulled if a case is filed in a district court by either of the two contracting parties within two years of becoming an adult, or through a guardian in case of minors.
  4. The ministry seeks to amend section 3 of the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, under which a child marriage is only voidable at the option of the contracting parties.

Current Scenario of Marriages

  1. The legal age for marriage in India is 18 for a woman and 21 for a man.
  2. According to a study based on Census 2011, there are 2.3 crore child brides in the country.
  3. The National Family Health Survey (NFHS) 2015-16 also showed that 26.8 per cent women were married off before they turned 18.
  4. According to the NFHS 2015-16, nearly eight per cent girls in the 15-19 age group had already become mothers or pregnant at the time of the survey.

Vulnerabilities of child brides

  1. The WHO in a report dealing with the issue of child brides, found that though 11 per cent of the births worldwide are among adolescents, they account for 23 per cent of the overall burden of diseases.
  2. Therefore, a child bride is more than doubly prone to health problems than a grown up woman.
Child Rights – POSCO, Child Labour Laws, NAPC, etc.

Govt decides to withdraw contentious FRDI bill

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Bail-in, bail-out

Mains level: Focus on issues related to the ‘Bail in’ clause of the Bill


News

FRDI Bill

  1. The government has decided to withdraw the contentious Financial Resolution and Deposit Insurance Bill 2017, or FRDI Bill to avoid controversial legislation ahead of the 2019 general election.
  2. It was tabled in the Lok Sabha in August, following which it was referred to the joint parliamentary committee. The panel is due to submit its report on the last day of the ongoing monsoon session.
  3. The bill aims to limit the fallout of the failure of institutions such as banks, insurance companies, non-banking financial companies, pension funds and stock exchanges.
  4. However, some of its provisions have been termed anti-people and anti-poor by the opposition parties who have pointed out that people’s money will be used to bail out banks that make bad lending decisions through a corresponding reduction in the claims of depositors.

What is ‘Bail in’ clause?

  1. A bail-in is rescuing a financial institution on the brink of failure by making its creditors and depositors take a loss on their holdings.
  2. A bail-in is the opposite of a bail-out, which involves the rescue of a financial institution by external parties, typically governments using taxpayer’s money.

Ambiguity over ‘bail-in’

  1. The bill has been criticized for some of its controversial provisions, including a “bail-in” clause, which suggests that depositor money could be used by failing financial institutions to stay afloat.
  2. The lack of clarity over protecting existing levels of deposit insurance for smaller deposits also led to a lot of criticism.
  3. At present, deposit insurance is available for all deposits of up to ₹1 lakh but there was no clarity on whether it will be continued in the bill.
  4. The decision to withdraw the bill comes as a surprise because the government has been vociferously defending the provisions of the bill by pointing out that the bail-in clause will not adversely impact depositors.
  5. The government had maintained that the implicit sovereign guarantee for state-run banks remains unaffected.
Banking Sector Reforms

Cabinet relaxes NELP, pre-NELP pact rules

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Economy | Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, and Railways etc.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: HELP, NELP

Mains level: India’s energy security concerns and measures taken to overcome them.


News

Eased levy terms

  1. The Union Cabinet approved the policy framework to streamline production sharing contracts signed in the pre-New Exploration Licensing Policy (NELP) and NELP periods.
  2. Key decisions under the framework include increasing the exploration period granted for blocks in the northeast, and easing the sharing of royalties with the developers of the blocks.
  3. Based on recommendations in ‘Hydrocarbon Vision 2030 for North East’, it has extended timelines for exploration and appraisal period in operational blocks of NE region considering geographical, environmental and logistical challenges.

Pricing freedom

  1. The exploration period has been increased by two years and appraisal period by one year.
  2. The Centre has also allowed marketing, including pricing freedom for natural gas to be produced from discoveries which are yet to commence production as on July 1, 2018.
  3. The government has created an enabling framework for sharing of statutory levies including royalty and cess in proportion to the participating interest of the contractor in Pre-NELP Exploration Blocks, and the same has been made cost recoverable with prospective effect.

Back2Basics

New Exploration Licensing Policy (NELP)

  1. New Exploration Licensing Policy (NELP) was conceptualized by the Government of India, during 1997-98 to provide an equal platform to both Public and Private sector companies in exploration and production of hydrocarbons.
  2. It provided for establishment of Directorate General of Hydrocarbons (DGH) as a nodal agency for its implementation.
  3. It was introduced to boost the production of oil and natural gas and providing level playing field for both public and private players.
  4. India has an estimated sedimentary area of 3.14 million km2. consisting of 26 sedimentary basins, of which, 57% (1.79 million km2.) area is in deepwater and remaining 43% (1.35 million km2.) area is in inland and shallow offshore.
  5. At present 1.06 million km2 area is held under Petroleum Exploration Licenses in 18 basins by national oil companies viz. Oil and Natural Gas Corporation Limited (ONGC), OIL India Limited (OIL) and Private/Joint Venture companies.
  6. Before implementation of the New Exploration Licensing Policy (NELP) in 1999, a mere 11% of Indian sedimentary basins were under exploration, which has now increased extensively over the years.

Hydrocarbon Exploration and Licensing Policy (HELP)

  1. It is a policy adopted by Government of India on 10.03.2016 indicating the new contractual and fiscal model for award of hydrocarbon acreages towards exploration and production (E&P).
  2. HELP is applicable for all future contracts to be awarded.
  3. HELP replaces the present policy regime for exploration and production of oil and gas, known as New Exploration Licensing Policy (NELP), which has been in existence for 18 years.
  4. Features of HELP:
  • Uniform License: It provides for a uniform licensing system to cover all hydrocarbons such as oil, gas, coal bed methane etc. under a single licensing framework, instead of the present system of issuing separate licenses for each kind of hydrocarbons.
  • Open Acreages: It gives the option to a hydrocarbon company to select the exploration blocks throughout the year without waiting for the formal bid round from the Government.
  • Revenue Sharing Model: Present fiscal system of production sharing contract (PSC) is replaced by an easy to administer “revenue sharing model”. The earlier contracts were based on the concept of profit sharing where profits are shared between Government and the contractor after recovery of cost.
  • Marketing and Pricing Freedom: It has been granted, subject to a ceiling price limit, for new gas production from Deepwater, Ultra Deepwater and High Pressure-High Temperature Areas.