Daily Current Affairs : 5th and 6th August 2020

Daily Current Affairs for UPSC CSE

  1. United Nation’s policy brief on the pandemic’s impact on education
  2. Pakistan’s New Map
  3. Pokkali rice
  4. Ammonium Nitrate
  5. Amnesty Report
  6. EWS Quota
  7. Facts for Prelims

1 . United Nation’s policy brief on the pandemic’s impact on education


Context: United Nation has released a policy brief on the pandemic’s impact on education.

Key Observations

  • The vulnerable population at a greater loss: More than 1.6 billion learners across the world have been affected by the disruption of the education system, but the pandemic has also served to exacerbate existing disparities, with vulnerable populations in low-income countries taking a harder and longer hit. For example, during the second quarter of 2020, 86% of children at the primary level have been effectively out of school in poor countries, compared to just 20% in highly developed countries.
  • Almost 24 million children are at risk of not returning to school next year due to the economic fallout of COVID-19.
  • According to UNESCO estimates 23.8 million additional children and youth [from pre-primary to tertiary] may drop out or not have access to school next year due to the pandemic’s economic impact alone.
  • Educational financing gap: The educational financing gap is also likely to increase by one third.
  • Situation worse for girls and young women: Girls and young women are likely to be disproportionately affected as school closures make them more vulnerable to child marriage, early pregnancy and gender-based violence.
  • Learning loss: Even for those who do not drop out of school, learning losses could be severe, especially in the foundational years.

2 . Pakistan’s New Map


Context: Pakistan has recently launched a new political map which included the entire Indian territory of Jammu and Kashmir and parts of Gujarat, including Junagad.

Background

  • Recently Pakistan released a new political map which showed Pakistan frontier clearly marked with India with the entire Kashmir as its territory. However, the part of Kashmir and Ladakh border with China was not marked and described as Frontier Undecided .
  • Line of Control had been extended to the Karakoram Pass, clearing showing Siachen as part of Pakistan. The LoC had been marked by a red dotted line.
  • The J&K had been described as Disputed Territory Final status to be decided in line with relevant UNSC resolutions .
  • Another change in the map showed that the international border lines lies along the eastern bank of Sir Creek, which was previously along the western bank.
  •  Map also claims erstwhile state of Junagadh in Gujarat as part of Pakistan’s territory.
  • The Pakistan cabinet also approved the decision to rename a major road in Islamabad as Srinagar Highway. The road was previously called Kashmir Highway.

Indian Response

  • India has declared this move by Pakistan as an exercise in political absurdity as they do not have either legal validity or international credibility.
  • The move reflects on Pakistan’s obsession with territorial aggrandisement supported by cross-border terrorism.

India- Pakistan Border

  • India- Pakistan runs from the Line of Control (LoC), which separates Indian-administered Kashmir from Pakistan-administered Kashmir, in the north, to the Sir Creek in Rann of Kutch between the Indian state of Gujarat and the Sindh province of Pakistan, in the south
  • The border was drafted and created based upon the Radcliffe line in 1947

Sir Creek

  • Sir Creek is a 96-km strip of water disputed between India and Pakistan in the Rann of Kutch marshlands. Originally named Ban Ganga, Sir Creek is named after a British representative. The Creek opens up in the Arabian Sea and roughly divides the Kutch region of Gujarat from the Sindh Province of Pakistan.
  • Pakistan claims the entire creek as per paragraphs 9 and 10 of the Bombay Government Resolution of 1914 signed between then the Government of Sindh and Rao Maharaj of Kutch. The resolution, which demarcated the boundaries between the two territories, included the creek as part of Sindh, thus setting the boundary as the eastern flank of the creek popularly known as Green Line. But India claims that the boundary lies mid-channel as depicted in another map drawn in 1925, and implemented by the installation of mid-channel pillars back in 1924.
  • Apart from strategic location, Sir Creek’s core importance is fishing resources. Sir Creek is considered to be among the largest fishing grounds in Asia. Another vital reason for two countries locking horns over this creek is the possible presence of great oil and gas concentration under the sea, which are currently unexploited thanks to the impending deadlock on the issue.

Siachen Glacier

  • The Siachen glacier demarcates central Asia from the Indian subcontinent, and separates Pakistan from China in the region.
  • The Saltoro Ridge of the Siachin glacier serves as a divide that prevents direct linking of PoK with China, stopping them to develop geographical military linkages in the area.
  • Siachen also serves as a watchtower for India to keep a deep watch on Gilgit and Baltistan regions of Pakistan.
  • If Pakistan gets the location advantage in Siachen, it would become a big threat to  India from the west in Ladakh in addition to Chinese threats from Aksai Chin of the east.
  • Due to its control over Saltoro Ride, India is better placed to strike a bargain while settling bilateral territorial disputes with Pakistan in the future.
  • Siachen also helps India to keep a close watch on China ’s activities as Beijing has vastly improved its infrastructure in this region. China has developed all weather rail and road links in the Shaksgam region, which was ceded to China by Pakistan in 1960s. Ceding Indian-controlled Karakoram Pass triangle region to Pakistan would have further strengthened the Sino-Pakistan footprints on these strategic heights.
  • India took control of Siachen Glacier through Operation Meghadoot

3 . Pokkali rice seedlings


Context : Farmers in West Bengal are relying on pokkali variety of rice from Kerala to tide over a crisis-like situation created by severe seawater incursion into paddy fields in vast areas of the Sundarbans after cyclone Amphan hit West Bengal

About Pokkali variety

  • Pokkali is a unique saline tolerant rice variety that is cultivated using extensive aquaculture in an organic way in the water-logged coastal regions, spread in about 5000 hectares area in Alappuzha, Thrissur and Ernakulam districts of Kerala
  • The brand Pokkali has received a GI tag from the Geographical Indications Registry Office, Chennai.
  • It is naturally and Organically Grown and it is called as Clever man’s Rice.
  • The farming of Pokkali rice does not affect natural ecological process.
  • The Nutritious Pokkali rice is believed to be secret energy of the local fishermen, it helps them to stay at the sea all Day.

Vytilla-11 variety

  • Vyttila-11 is a variety of pokkali seedlings
  • It is latest variety that has been found in Kerala Agricultural University’s field station in Vyttila.
  • Vyttila-11 promises better yield of about 5 tonnes per hectare than the previous varieties, and is crossed with the Jyoti variety of rice popular in Kerala.
  • The crop duration is about 110 days.

Uniqueness

  • Pokkali cultivation is a pure organic farming of rice in tune to natural and climatic situations existing in the area and the farmers undertake the cultivation as a challenge for their survival in a highly unfavourable life situation. This organic system of rice cultivation is highly eco-friendly.
  • The distinctive, exclusive and rare qualities of Pokkali rice could be the result of several factors. The very good cooking quality, with a high percentage of protein could be attributed to the genetic parameters of Pokkali cultivars, the purely organic method of cultivation and the method of processing.
  • Pokkali rice and other Pokkali rice products have medicinal properties. Pokkali rice is commonly used in the preparation of ‘Marunnukanji’ which is a traditional health care food consumed during the Malayalam month “Karkidagam” falling during peak monsoon period in Kerala.
  • Pokkali rice bran is believed to be good for smoothening the problems associated with piles.
  • Pokkali broken rice is also considered to be best for the preparation of starter food after recovering from certain diseases like cholera and typhoid.
  • Rice gruel water (Kanji vellam) from Pokkali is also considered as a highly suitable drink to patients suffering from Cholera.
  • Traditional Pokkali cultivars are the most valuable gene donors for salinity tolerance in rice and are utilized throughout the world in salinity resistance breeding programmes.
  • International Rice Research Institute, Philippines has developed many high yielding rice lines utilizing the genes from Pokkali cultivars.

4 . Ammonium Nitrate


Context : The catastrophic explosion at Beirut port that has so far killed at least 100 people and injured around 4,000, with an unknown number feared trapped under rubble was, according to the government of Lebanon, caused by over 2,700 tonnes of ammonium nitrate kept in storage for over six years.

What is ammonium nitrate, which caused the massive explosion in Beirut?

  • A common chemical ingredient of agricultural fertilisers, the nitrogen rich compound is also the main component of the explosive composition known as ANFO — ammonium nitrate fuel oil

Ammonium nitrate, the substance

  • In its pure form, ammonium nitrate (NH4NO3) is a white, crystalline chemical which is soluble in water. It is the main ingredient in the manufacture of commercial explosives used in mining and construction.
  • In India, The Ammonium Nitrate Rules, 2012, under The Explosives Act, 1884, define ammonium nitrate as the “compound with formula NH4NO3 including any mixture or compound having more than 45 per cent ammonium nitrate by weight including emulsions, suspensions, melts or gels but excluding emulsion or slurry explosives and non explosives emulsion matrix and fertilizers from which the ammonium nitrate cannot be separated”.

Ammonium nitrate as an explosive

  • Pure ammonium nitrate is not an explosive on its own. It is classified as an oxidiser (Grade 5.1) under the United Nations classification of dangerous goods. If mixed with ingredients like fuel or some other contaminants, or because of some other external factors, it can be very explosive.
  • However, for combinations to explode, triggers like detonators are required.
  • Many Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) used by terrorists around the world have ANFO as the main explosive, triggered by primary explosives like RDX or TNT.
  • In the majority of terror attacks in India, including those in Pulwama, Varanasi, Malegaon, Pune, Delhi, Hyderabad, and Mumbai, ammonium nitrate has been used along with initiator explosives like RDX.

Stored ammonium nitrate is a major fire hazard

  • Large quantities of stored ammonium nitrate are regarded as a major fire hazard, with multiple reported cases across the world.
  • The explosion of large storage can happen primarily in two ways.
  • One is by some type detonation or initiation because the storage comes in contact with explosive mixture.
  • Second, the blast can result due to a fire which starts in the ammonium nitrate store because of the heat generated due to the oxidation process at large scale.
  • The second one seems to be the primary likely cause of the incident at Beirut port.
  • There are several documented examples of deadly ammonium nitrate fire and explosion incidents in the past, some with large numbers of fatalities like in China in 2015 and in Texas in 1947.

Regulations in India about ammonium nitrate

  • Ammonium nitrate is highly regulated in India, at least in letter because it is used as an ingredient for the production of industrial explosives, anaesthetic gases, fertilisers, cold packs and has a strong possibility of misuse.
  • The manufacture, conversion, bagging, import, export, transport, possession for sale or use of ammonium nitrate is covered under The Ammonium Nitrate Rules, 2012. The rules also make storage of ammonium nitrate in large quantities in populated areas illegal in India.
  • For the manufacture of ammonium nitrate, an Industrial licence is required under the Industrial Development and Regulation Act, 1951. A license under the Ammonium Nitrate Rules, 2012 is also required for any activity related to ammonium nitrate.

5 . Amnesty Report


Context : An Amnesty International India report on the situation a year after Article 370 was read down has urged the National Human Rights Commission and the National Commission for Women to set up offices in Jammu and Kashmir

About the news

  • As the seven State-level Commissions, including the human rights panel was wrapped up the people there had not had any redressal of their rights violations.

Recommendations by Amnesty International

  • NHRC branch office: Amnesty International India has recommended that the NHRC should set up a branch office for Jammu and Kashmir to facilitate easy access to the complaint filing process for the local people
  • Special Monitor: Appointment of a special monitor has been recommended for the region to take up cases pending with the erstwhile State Commission.
  • NCW J&K cell: It also recommended that the NCW set up a J&K cell for addressing problems faced by women.
  • Curb Limit:  the curbs should be for a limited timeframe and as per the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights “to which India is a state party

Why these recommendations were made?

  • According to Amnesty International, there has been a systematic dismantling of all avenues for justice for the people of Jammu and Kashmir.
  • There is zero representation, protracted Internet restrictions, arbitrary use of some of India’s most stringent laws, verbal orders of detention and crippling of the local media — most of this disproportionately higher in Kashmir

Amnesty International

  • Amnesty International (also referred to as Amnesty or AI) is a non-governmental organization with its headquarters in the United Kingdom focused on human rights.
  • The stated mission of the organization is to campaign for “a world in which every person enjoys all of the human rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international human rights instruments.”
  • Amnesty International was founded in London in 1961
  • Amnesty International India is a country unit of the Amnesty International network, and is part of a global movement promoting and defending human rights and dignity.

6 . EWS quota challenge referred to Constitution Bench


Context: The Supreme Court has referred to a five-judge Constitution Bench a batch of petitions challenging the 103rd Constitution Amendment of 2019 that provides 10% reservation for Economically Backward Section (EWS).

Background

  • Several petitioners, including Janhit Abhiyan and Kerala Munnoka Samudaya Aikya Munnani, had challenged the validity of the Constitutional Amendment, saying the 50% quota limit was part of the Basic Structure of the Constitution.

About 103rd Constitution Amendment of 2019

  • It provides for 10% reservation in government jobs and educational institutions for EWS, by amending Articles 15 and 16 that deal with the fundamental right to equality.
  • While Article 15 prohibits discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth, Article 16 guarantees equal opportunity in matters of public employment. An additional clause was added to both provisions, giving Parliament the power to make special laws for EWS like it does for Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Castes. The states are to notify who constitute EWS to be eligible for reservation.

What does the reference mean?

  • A reference to a larger Bench means that the legal challenge is an important one. As per Article 145(3) of the Constitution, “the minimum number of Judges who are to sit for the purpose of deciding any case involving a substantial question of law as to the interpretation of this Constitution” shall be five.
  • The Supreme Court rules of 2013 also say that writ petitions that allege a violation of fundamental rights will generally be heard by a bench of two judges unless it raises substantial questions of law. In that case, a five-judge bench would hear the case.
  • Laws made by Parliament are presumed to be constitutional until proven otherwise in court. The SC had refused to stay the 103rd Amendment. A reference will make no difference to the operation of the EWS quota.

What are the grounds of challenge?

  • The law was challenged primarily on two grounds.
    • First, it violates the Basic Structure of the Constitution. This argument stems from the view that the special protections guaranteed to socially disadvantaged groups is part of the Basic Structure and that the 103rd Amendment departs from this by promising special protections on the sole basis of economic status. Although there is no exhaustive list of what forms the Basic Structure, any law that violates it is understood to be unconstitutional.
    • The petitioners have also challenged the amendment on the grounds that it violates the SC’s 1992 ruling in Indra Sawhney & Ors v Union of India, which upheld the Mandal Report and capped reservations at 50%. In the ruling, the court held that economic backwardness cannot be the sole criterion for identifying backward class.
    • Another challenge has been made on behalf of private, unaided educational institutions. They have argued that their fundamental right to practise a trade/profession is violated when the state compels them to implement its reservation policy and admit students on any criteria other than merit.

What are the government’s arguments?

  • The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment filed counter-affidavits to defend the amendment. When a law is challenged, the burden of proving it unconstitutional lies on the petitioners.
  • The government argued that under Article 46 of the Constitution, part of Directive Principles of State Policy, it has a duty to protect the interests of economically weaker sections. “The State shall promote with special care the educational and economic interests of the weaker sections of the people, and, in particular, of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes, and shall protect them from social injustice and all forms of exploitation,” the law says.
  • On the challenge that the amendment violates the Basic Structure, the government argued that “to sustain a challenge against a constitutional amendment, it must be shown that the very identity of the Constitution has been altered”.
  • Countering the claims that the amendment violates the Indra Sawhney principle, the government relied on a 2008 ruling— Ashok Kumar Thakur v Union of India, in which the SC upheld the 27% quota for OBCs. The argument is that the court accepted that the definition of OBCs was not made on the sole criterion of caste but a mix of caste and economic factors, to prove that there need not a sole criterion for according reservation.
  • For the unaided institutions, the government argued that the Constitution allows the Parliament to place “reasonable restrictions” on the right to carry on trade.

What are the terms of reference framed by the court?

  • The SC agreed that the case involved at least three substantial questions of law, whether: economic criteria alone cannot be the basis to determine backwardness; the EWS quota exceeds the ceiling cap of 50% set by the court; the rights of unaided private educational institutions.
  • Although Chief Justice of India S A Bobde heads the Bench that made the reference, the case could wait to be heard by a larger Bench. The timing depends on the court’s resources as it would have to spare five judges and allocate time to the larger Bench hearing. As of July 1, there are at least pending 46 cases that require hearing by a minimum of five judges.

Quantum of reservation

  • The persons belonging to EWSs who, are not covered under the scheme of reservation for SCs, STs and OBCs shall get 10% reservation in direct recruitment in civil posts and services in the Government and admission in educational institutions.

Criteria for reservation

  • The laid down criteria defines that those having an annual household income of less than eight lakh Rupees or those having agricultural land of less than 5 acres or having a house smaller than 1,000 square feet or have a residential plot smaller than 100 yards in a municipality or a residential plot of less 200 yards in a non-notified municipality are going to be eligible.
  • But such people either belong to lower middle classes or mid-middle classes.

Benefits of reservation to EWS

  • It will help in upliftment of around 200 million people who are below the poverty line even after over 70 years of independence.

Issues in providing reservation to EWS

  • To provide 10% reservation in higher educational institutions twenty five percent seats will have to be increased.
  • The reservation will be in addition to the existing 50% reservation in favour of the Scheduled Castes (SCs), Scheduled Tribes (STs), and Other Backward Classes (OBCs), and will take the total reservation to 60%. The Amendment has crossed the 50% Lakshman Rekha (upper bound) for reservations in India laid down by the Supreme Court in the Indra Sawhney vs. Union of India case (1992), in providing 10% reservation to the EWS
  • This step will also pose a threat to the basic structure of the Constitution.
  • A common feature that forms the basis of reservation for SCs, STs, and OBCs under Article 46 of the Constitution is ‘social injustice and backwardness’.  Since this is not a predominant element in the case of EWS, where poverty is the sole basis for grant of reservation, it does not meet the test of Article 46.
  • The new Article 15(6), providing for reservation in educational institutions for EWS, does not mention the key condition of reservation- educational backwardness.
  • Also, Article 16(6), providing for reservation in public employment for EWS, does not mention the key condition of reservation of “not adequately represented in the services under the State.”

7 . Facts for Prelims


Brus

  • Bru or Reang is a community indigenous to Northeast India, living mostly in Tripura, Mizoram and Assam. In Tripura, they are recognised as a Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Group.
  • In Mizoram, they have been targeted by groups that do not consider them indigenous to the state.
  • In 1997, following ethic clashes, nearly 37,000 Brus fled Mamit, Kolasib and Lunglei districts of Mizoram and were accommodated in relief camps in Tripura.
  • Since then, 5,000 have returned to Mizoram in eight phases of repatriation, while 32,000 still live in six relief camps in North Tripura.

Lebanon – Map marking

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