[op-ed snap] Eye on the monsoon

Mains Paper 3 : Conservation, Environmental Pollution & Degradation, Eia |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Monsson

Mains level : Preparedness for monsoon is not upto the mark which will harm india's Interest.


CONTEXT

As India awaits the arrival of the annual summer monsoon, hopes are particularly high for normal rainfall that is so vital for agriculture, the health of forests, rivers and wetlands. The India Meteorological Department has forecast normal rainfall of 96% of the long period average of 89 cm rain, with an onset date in the first week of June in Kerala. It has also signalled a significant possibility of a deficit.

Monsoon’s Importance

The monsoon bounty is crucial for the 60% of gross cropped area in farming that is rain-fed, and represents, in the assessment of the National Commission on Farmers, 45% of agricultural output.

Given the erratic patterns of rainfall witnessed over the past few decades and their possible connection to atmospheric changes caused by a variety of pollutants, the distribution of monsoon 2019 will add to the insights.

The southwest monsoon is a determinant of India’s overall prosperity, and sustained efforts to make the best use of rainfall are absolutely important for farms, cities and industry.

Areas of Concern

Decline in groundwater

Considering that there has been a 52% decline in groundwater levels based on tests conducted last year over the previous decadal average, State governments should have pursued the setting up of new recharging wells and made improvements to existing ones on a war footing.

Delay in building infrastructure

They also have lagged in building structures to harvest surface water and helping farmers raise the efficiency of irrigation.

Ineffective Support

The approach to the farming sector, however, has been influenced more by the imperatives of an election year, and the Centre’s biggest intervention was to announce a cash handout to specified categories of small farmers.

Effects of Industrial Pollution

  • A normal summer monsoon over the subcontinent brings widespread prosperity, but does not guarantee a uniform spread.
  • This, as scientists point out, may be due to the effect of particulates released through various industrial and agricultural processes.
  • Some of these aerosols suppress the rainfall and disperse it across the land, causing long breaks in precipitation, while others absorb heat and lead to a convection phenomenon that increases rainfall in some places.

Work on Industrial Pollution

Such evidence points to the need for India to clean up its act on rising industrial emissions, and burning of fossil fuels and biomass in order to improve the stability of the monsoon.

Freshwater availability

An equally key area of concern is freshwater availability for households, which, NITI Aayog says, account for 4% of available supplies, besides 12% used by industry.

Conclusion

Urbanization trends and the severe water stress that residents experience underscore the need for mandatory rainwater harvesting policies and augmented efforts by States to preserve surface water by building new reservoirs. Yet, governments are adopting a commodity approach to the vital resource, displaying deplorable indifference to the pollution and loss of rivers, wetlands and lakes that hold precious waters. This is no way to treat a life-giving resource.

Monsoon Updates

[op-ed snap] Moral ambiguity on the Rohingya

Mains Paper 2 : India & Its Neighborhood - Relations |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing Much

Mains level : India should take a firm and oral stand on rohingaya crisis.


CONTEXT

India’s abstention from voting on a UN Human Rights Council draft resolution, in March this year, on the “situation of human rights in Myanmar” needs closer examination. Co-sponsored by the European Union (EU) and Bangladesh, the resolution “expresses grave concern at continuing reports of serious human rights violations and abuses in Myanmar”, particularly in Rakhine, Kachin and Shan States, and calls for a full inquiry into these by the Council’s own mechanism and the International Criminal Court (ICC).

  • In its follow-up explanatory statement, India’s permanent representative to the UN in Geneva, Rajiv Kumar Chander, said that it would “only be counter-productive” to support “extensive recommendations regarding legislative and policy actions” and “threatening Myanmar with punitive action, including at the ICC, to which that state is not a signatory”.
  • ” India, for its part, continues to maintain ties with the Myanmar armed forces (Tatmadaw), supplying them with combat hardware and imparting UN peacekeeping training.
  • An edition of the India-Myanmar bilateral army exercise, IMBEX 2018-19, took place this January at Chandimandir.

Arms and business ties

  • According to the arms transfer database of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), India is one of Myanmar’s top arms suppliers, and weapons sales includes military aircraft, artillery, naval vessels and reconnaissance equipment, armoured vehicles, anti-submarine torpedoes and missiles.
  • One analysis by the Dutch advocacy group, Stop Wapenhandel (Stop Arms Trade), claims that India transferred combat equipment in violation of international embargoes.
  • India’s core logic here is to “modernise” the Tatmadaw with the intent of securing its 1,640-km plus border with Myanmar and forge a sustainable strategic partnership at China’s doorstep.
  • But, in this inflexible realpolitik approach, there is little space for end-user accountability and human rights. 

Through Dhaka’s lens

  •  India’s soft, backfoot approach is being increasingly seen by Bangladesh, which is hosting nearly a million Rohingya refugees, to be tilted in Myanmar’s favour.
  • Bangladeshi journalist Humayun Kabir Bhuiyan argues that “Indian policy regarding the Rohingya crisis has always favoured Myanmar.”

  • Alternate ways
  • Instead of just pushing one-time economic aid into Bangladesh and Myanmar, India could have forged a regional ‘compact’, much like the Jordan Compact on Syria, to ensure sustained humanitarian assistance in addressing the short- and long-term needs of the displaced Rohingya population.
  • This would have ensured uniform donor interest and better monitoring of where aid is going to. I
  • Using the geo-economic leverage that it enjoys with Myanmar, India could compel Myanmar to bring the alleged perpetrators of war crimes to book or at least get a guarantee that such conduct would not be repeated in the future.
  • Conclusion
  • For now, India is happy to be in a stable, but morally tenuous, friends-with-benefit relationship with Myanmar. The victims continue to be the stateless Rohingya.
Foreign Policy Watch: India-Myanmar

[op-ed snap] The case for informal regional diplomacy’

Mains Paper 2 : Bilateral, Regional and Global Groupings and agreements involving India |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : SAARC

Mains level : Informal meetings may provide enhanced relationship with neighbors.


CONTEXT

Rather than pray for the success of SAARC, the new government in Delhi should double down on informal diplomacy that could help pave the way for more purposeful regional cooperation — both bilateral and multilateral.

Background

  • If Modi used the invitation in 2014 to signal his commitment to South Asian regionalism, he was also quick to see the limitations of SAARC (the South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation) at the Kathmandu summit in 2014.
  • The summit had failed to sign off on the connectivity agreements that were painfully negotiated by senior officials, because Pakistan chose to pull out at the last stage.
  • Apparently Rawalpindi was not ready for trade and economic cooperation with India.

Steps taken to enhance regional coperation

  • At Kathmandu, Modi recognised that South Asian regionalism can’t be allowed to become a hostage to Pakistan.
  • To be sure, Islamabad had the sovereign right to decide on the need, nature and pace of its integration with the rest of the subcontinent.
  • The only sensible course, then, is for the rest of the SAARC to move forward wherever they can and let Pakistan join the process whenever it feels comfortable.

Multilateral Mechanism

Since then Delhi has emphasised other multilateral mechanisms — including sub-regional cooperation between Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal and trans-regional cooperation in the east — the littoral of the Bay of Bengal including Burma and Thailand.

Reviving bilateral engagements –

Modi also revived the bilateral engagement with countries like Sri Lanka that were constrained in the UPA years — thanks to Tamil Nadu’s veto over the engagement with Colombo.

Regular Office Visits to neighbour countries

  • Regular official visits to the neighbouring capitals have become the norm at all levels.
  • It has become the convention for any new foreign secretary to travel first to all the neighbouring capitals.

Focus on informal meetings

  • The Subcontinent can do with more of this kind of engagement — leaders seeing each other on short notice for informal consultations or just watch a cricket match or join a social or spiritual occasion.
  • Informal diplomacy in South Asia will make it easier for India to sustain high-level engagement with the neighbourhood.
  • These include pre-set multilateral summits — from BRICS and SCO to the ASEAN, G-20 and the UN — as well as annual meetings with friendly nations through the year.
  • Meanwhile, some of these multilateral summits could throw up the possibilities of a meeting with the Pakistani leadership.
  • If meetings with Pakistan’s leadership become routine and informal, Delhi will be able to prevent each encounter seem like a gladiatorial contest that must address all issues and produce joint statements, every word of which is analysed to death.

While Pakistan is a special case, informal high-level diplomacy could also help liberate the region from the stuffy and unproductive formalism of the SAARC.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-SAARC Nations

[pib] ‘Not all animals migrate by choice’ campaign

Mains Paper 3 : Conservation, Environmental Pollution & Degradation, Eia |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : About the campaign

Mains level : Curbing illicit trade in wildlife



News

  • UN Environment and Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WCCB) has launched an awareness campaign for the protection of wildlife in the backdrop of rising illegal wildlife trade through airports.

“Not all animals migrate by choice” Campaign

  • Campaign launched by Wildlife Crime Control Bureau of India and UN Environment aimed at airports across India.
  • The campaign complements worldwide action on illegal trade in wildlife through UN Environment’s global campaign, Wild for Life.
  • In collaboration with the Airports Authority of India and GMR Group, the campaign will travel across 22 airports across India over the next year.

Which animals are included?

  • In the first phase of the campaign, Tiger, Pangolin, Star Tortoise and Tokay Gecko have been chosen as they are highly endangered due to illegal trading in International markets.
  • Phase two will see more threatened species and explore other routes of trafficking.

Why these animals?

  • Tiger is traded for its skin, bones and body parts.
  • Pangolin, the most illegally traded wild mammal on the planet is trafficked for its meat and its scales are used in traditional medicines.
  • Star Tortoise for meat and pet trade and Tokay Gecko in traditional medicine mostly into South East Asia and particularly Chinese Markets.

Why such move?

  • Recent media reports on seizures of illegally traded species and their parts at airports is a growing indication of rampant wildlife trafficking.
  • Some of the major wildlife species being smuggled through airports are star tortoises, live birds, Shahtoosh shawls, tiger and leopard body parts, ivory, rhino horns, pangolin and pangolin scales, sea shells, sea-horse, Sea-cucumber, red sanders, agarwood, deer antlers, mongoose hairs, reptile skins, live snakes, lizards, corals, orchids and medicinal plants.

About Wildlife Crime Control Bureau

  1. WCCB is a statutory multi-disciplinary body established by the GoI under the MoEFCC, to combat organized wildlife crime in the country.
  2. Under Section 38 (Z) of the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972, it is mandated to collect and collate intelligence related to organized wildlife crime activities.
  3. It aims to:
  • disseminate the same to State and other enforcement agencies for immediate action so as to apprehend the criminals;
  • establish a centralized wildlife crime data bank;
  • co-ordinate actions by various agencies in connection with the enforcement of the provisions of the Act;
  • assist foreign authorities and international organization concerned to facilitate co-ordination and universal action for wildlife crime control;
  • capacity building of the wildlife crime enforcement agencies for scientific and professional investigation into wildlife crimes and assist State Governments to ensure success in prosecutions related to wildlife crimes;
  • and advise the Government of India on issues relating to wildlife crimes having national and international ramifications, relevant policy and laws.
  1. It also assists and advises the Customs authorities in inspection of the consignments of flora & fauna as per the provisions of Wild Life Protection Act, CITES and EXIM Policy governing such an item.
Wildlife Conservation Efforts

[pib] Redefined units of measurement of kilogram, Kelvin, mole and ampere

Mains Paper 3 : Awareness In The Fields Of It, Space, Computers, Robotics, Nano-Technology, Bio-Technology |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Units and Measurements

Mains level : Read the attached story



News

  • The General Conference on Weights and Measures (CGPM) at BIPM held on 16 November 2018 has unanimously adopted the resolution to redefine four of the seven base units.
  • These included kilogram (SI unit of weight), Kelvin (SI unit of temperature), mole (SI unit of amount of substance), and ampere (SI unit of current).
  • The new SI is being implemented worldwide from 20th May 2019 i.e. the World Metrology Day.

Global standards of Kg

  • The global standards for measurement are set by the International Bureau of Weights and Measures (BIPM), of which India became a member in 1957.
  • At BIPM in Sèvres, near Paris, stands a cylinder of platinum-iridium locked in a jar.
  • Since 1889, the kilogram has been defined as the mass of this cylinder, called Le Grand K, or International Prototype Kilogram (IPK).
  • In India, CSIR-NPL maintains the National Prototype Kilogram (NPK-57), which is calibrated with IPK.

Redifining Kg

  • The IPK was the last physical artifact used to define any of the fundamental units.
  • IPK would put on a little extra mass when tiny dust particles settled on it; when cleaned, it would shed some of its original mass.
  • Scientists have long stressed that the fundamental units should be defined in terms of natural constants.
  • On November 16, 2018 representatives of 60 countries agreed that the kilogram should be defined in terms of the Planck constant.
  • The Planck constant is a quantity that relates a light particle’s energy to its frequency.
  • Using a machine called a Kibble balance, in which the weight of a test mass is offset by an electromagnetic force, the value of the Planck constant was fixed, the kilogram was redefined.

How was this achieved?

  • The new definition for kilogram fits in with the modern definitions for the units of time (second) and distances (metre).
  • Today, the second is defined as the time it takes for a certain amount of energy to be released as radiation from atoms of Caesium-133.
  • By its modern definition, a metre is the distance travelled by light in vacuum in 1/299,792,458 of a second (which is already defined).
  • This is where the Planck constant comes in.
  • It has been measured precisely at 6.626069… × 10^(-34) kilograms per second per square metre.
  • With the second and the metre already defined, a very precise definition for the kilogram

Benefits of recalibration

  • What was 1 kg earlier is still 1 kg today. An updated kilogram doesn’t mean that weights everywhere will be thrown off balance.
  • All that has changed is the definition, for the sake of accuracy.
  • A mass measured as 1 kg earlier would have meant 1 kg, plus or minus 15-20 micrograms.
  • Using the new definition, a mass measured as 1 kg will mean 1 kg, plus or minus 1 or 2 nanograms.

About World Metrology Day

  • The World Metrology Day (WMD) is celebrated annually on this very day as the Metre Convention was signed by representatives of seventeen nations on May 20, 1875.
  • The Convention set the framework for global collaboration in the science of measurement and in its industrial, commercial and societal applications.

Assist this newscard with:

 

[pib] World’s standard definition of kilogram now redefined

How much is a kilogram? Here comes a new way to measure it

Promoting Science and Technology – Missions,Policies & Schemes

United Nations not a State under Article 12: Delhi HC

Mains Paper 2 : Indian Constitution - historical underpinnings, evolution, features, amendments, significant provisions and basic structure |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Art. 12 and Fundamental Rights

Mains level : Scope and ambit of Art. 12 of Indian Constitution


News

  • The Delhi High Court has ruled that the United Nations is not a State under Article 12 of the Constitution of India and is not amenable to its jurisdiction under Article 226 of the Constitution.

Why such move?

  • An Indian diplomat convicted by a US Federal Court and sentenced to imprisonment and two years of mandatory probation, was released and deported to India in May 2014.
  • In his petition, he claimed that due process was not followed in his case.
  • He had in November 2018, written a letter to the MEA seeking a grant of permission to initiate legal action against the UN under section 86 of Civil Procedure Code, 1908.
  • The provision provides that a foreign State may be sued in any Court with the consent of the Central government.
  • The Ministry replied that the consent of the Government of India is not required to initiate a legal suit against UN as it is not a foreign state and is only an Internal Organization.

Legal immunity to UN and its officials

  • UN and its officials enjoy immunity under the United Nations (Privileges and Immunities) Act, 1947.
  • It also said as per Section 2 of Article II of the Schedule of Act, 1947, UNO has immunity from every form of legal process except in any particular case it has expressly waived its immunity.

Back2Basics

Article 12 of Indian Constitution

  • Most of the Fundamental rights provided to the citizens are claimed against the State and its instrumentalities and not against the private bodies.
  • 13(2) bars the ‘state’ from making any ‘law’ infringing a Fundamental Right.
  • 12 clarifies that the term ‘state’ occurring in Art. 13(2), or any other provision concerning Fundamental Rights, has an expansive meaning.
  • According to Article 12, the term ‘State’ includes:
  1. The Government and Parliament of India: the term “State” includes Government of India (Union Executive) and the Parliament of India (Union Legislature)
  2. The Government and the Legislature of a State i.e., the State Executive and the legislature of each state.
  3. All local authorities; and
  4. Other authorities within the territory of India; or under the control of the Central Government.
  • The term ‘other authorities’ in Article 12 has nowhere been defined.
  1. What about Judiciary?
  • The Judiciary does not have a specific mention in Article 12.
  • However, the school of thought is that since the judiciary has the power to make and enforce laws, it should be considered to be a State.
  • However, since an erroneous judgement may cause the violation of the fundamental rights of a citizen, unreasonable decisions of the Courts are subjected to the tests of Article 14 of the Constitution.