IASCLUB Daily Current Affairs : 22 June 2019

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Amid protests, triple talaq Bill introduced

Topic: GS–II: Social Justice  

Government introduced The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2019, also known as the triple talaq Bill, in the Lok Sabha, amid protests by Opposition members who said it violated the Constitution.

543 cases reported

  • Law Minister said the legislation was meant to ensure gender justice and equality. The Bill was not about religion but a “question of dignity of women and we are committed to safeguarding [it]”. There were 543 cases of triple talaq reported in the country.
  • Even after the Supreme Court banned the practice, over 200 cases were reported and this necessitated, in his view, a Bill that addressed the issue.

FATF warns Pak., but keeps it off the blacklist

Topic: GS –II: International relations

Pakistan has avoided being placed on the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) blacklist during the multilateral financial watchdog’s plenary meetings in Orlando, Florida held from June 16 to 21.

More in news:

  • However, the country, which continued to remain on a greylist, was given a warning at the end of the plenary session and told that it lacked a proper understanding of transnational terrorist financing.

Indian efforts

  • The mention of transnational terrorist financing is significant in light of India’s efforts to isolate Pakistan on the international stage in the context of its support for terror in Kashmir. The FATF strongly urges Pakistan to swiftly complete its action plan by October 2019 when the last set of action plans are set to expire. Otherwise, the FATF will decide the next step at that time for insufficient progress.
  • In June 2018, Pakistan was placed on a FATF greylist of countries whose laws do not adequately deal with money laundering and terrorist financing and agreed to a 10-point action plan to strengthen its anti-money laundering and combating the financing of terrorism and proliferation regime.
  • In April this year Pakistan Foreign Minister had said that being greylisted could cost Pakistan $10 billion a year.

Blacklist, greylist criteria

  • To stay off of the FATF blacklist, the support of at least three of a total of 36 (excluding two regional organisations) FATF members is required. Fifteen members need to support a country’s move off of the greylist, as per the FATF charter.
  • FATF continued to call for countermeasures against Iran and North Korea.
  • The FATF noted that Iran had not completed its action plan which expired in January 2018 and listed seven points for Iran to complete, noting however that Iran had made progress, including by passing the Anti-Money Laundering Act.
The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) is an inter-governmental body established in 1989 by the Ministers of its Member jurisdictions.

·         The objectives of the FATF are to set standards and promote effective implementation of legal, regulatory and operational measures for combating money laundering, terrorist financing and other related threats to the integrity of the international financial system.  The FATF is therefore a “policy-making body” which works to generate the necessary political will to bring about national legislative and regulatory reforms in these areas.

·         The FATF has developed a series of Recommendations that are recognised as the international standard for combating of money laundering and the financing of terrorism and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.  They form the basis for a co-ordinated response to these threats to the integrity of the financial system and help ensure a level playing field.  First issued in 1990, the FATF Recommendations were revised in 1996, 2001, 2003 and most recently in 2012 to ensure that they remain up to date and relevant, and they are intended to be of universal application

·         The FATF monitors the progress of its members in implementing necessary measures, reviews money laundering and terrorist financing techniques and counter-measures, and promotes the adoption and implementation of appropriate measures globally.  In collaboration with other international stakeholders, the FATF works to identify national-level vulnerabilities with the aim of protecting the international financial system from misuse.

·         The FATF’s decision making body, the FATF Plenary, meets three times per year.

India placed on ‘Tier 2’ in human trafficking report

Topic: GS –II: Governance

The U.S. State Department has released its 2019 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report, highlighting the need for action against domestic trafficking. India continued to be placed in Tier 2 on the country trafficking scale.

More in news:

  • The 2019 report highlights the national nature of trafficking: in 77% of the cases, victims are trafficked within their own countries of residence, rather than across borders.
  • Victims of sex trafficking were more likely to be trafficked across borders while victims of forced labour were typically exploited within their own countries, the report says, citing International Labour Organisation (ILO) data.

Three categories

  • The report categorises countries into three groups based on the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA), U.S. legislation enacted in 2000. The categorisation is based on efforts to meet minimum standards for the elimination of human trafficking.
  • India was placed in Tier 2, which comprises “countries whose governments do not fully meet the TVPA’s minimum standards but are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with those standards.”
  • The recommendations for India include amending the definition of trafficking in Section 370 of the Penal Code to “include forced labour trafficking and ensure that force, fraud, or coercion are not required to prove a child sex trafficking offence,” and to establish Anti-Human Trafficking Units in all districts with funding and clear mandates.

Only one in four received PM-KISAN money

 Topic: GS–II: Social Justice  

 While the Union government has expanded the PM-KISAN scheme to all farmers with great fanfare, only one in four of the intended beneficiaries have received income support from the scheme so far, Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar told the Rajya Sabha.

More in news:

  • With a long verification process delaying payments, the Centre has now announced that farmers will get benefits retrospectively from the time their names are uploaded in the database, rather than from the time their details are verified.
Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi Scheme:

Objective

·         With a view to provide income support to all land holding eligible farmer families, the Government has launched PM-KISAN. The scheme aims to supplement the financial needs of the farmers in procuring various inputs to ensure proper crop health and appropriate yields, commensurate with the anticipated farm income.

Benefits and Eligibility conditions

·         All land holding eligible farmer families (subject to the prevalent exclusion criteria) are to avail of the benefits under this scheme, as per the recent cabinet decision taken during May 2019.

·         The revised Scheme is expected to cover around 2 crore more farmers, increasing the coverage of PM-KISAN to around 14.5 crore beneficiaries, with an estimated expenditure by Central Government of Rs. 87,217.50 crores for year 2019-20.

·         Earlier, under the scheme, financial benefit has been provided to all Small and Marginal landholder farmer families with total cultivable holding upto 2 hectares with a benefit of Rs.6000 per annum per family payable in three equal installments, every four months.

Exclusion Categories

·         The following categories of beneficiaries of higher economic status shall not be eligible for benefit under the scheme:

·         All Institutional Land holders.

·         Farmer families in which one or more of its members belong to following categories

a)      Former and present holders of constitutional posts

b)      Former and present Ministers/ State Ministers and former/present Members of LokSabha/ RajyaSabha/ State Legislative Assemblies/ State Legislative Councils,former and present Mayors of Municipal Corporations, former and present Chairpersons of District Panchayats.

c)      All serving or retired officers and employees of Central/ State Government Ministries /Offices/Departments and its field units Central or State PSEs and Attached offices /Autonomous Institutions under Government as well as regular employees of the Local Bodies (Excluding Multi-Tasking Staff /Class IV/Group D employees)

d)      All superannuated/retired pensioners whose monthly pension is Rs.10,000/-or more (Excluding Multi-Tasking Staff / Class IV/Group D employees) of above category

e)      All Persons who paid Income Tax in last assessment year

f)       Professionals like Doctors, Engineers, Lawyers, Chartered Accountants, and Architects registered with Professional bodies and carrying out profession by undertaking practices.

·         Responsibility of identifying the landholder farmer family eligible for benefit under the scheme shall be of the State/UT Government.

Suicide deaths by farmers

Topic: GS–II: Social Justice  

Despite spending over ₹19,000 crore on farm loan waiver, a total of 12,021 farmers have died in the Maharashtra State due to suicide between 2015 and 2018, the government said in Assembly.

More in news:

  • In a written reply, Relief and Rehabilitation Minister admitted that the first three months of this year saw 610 deaths of farmers.
  • Despite the loan waiver scheme and increasing expenditure on the agriculture sector, the farmer deaths in the state have not stopped. As per government reply, out of 12,021 farmer suicides, a total of 6,888 cases qualified for compensation as per the norms. “Out of these, kin of farmers in 6,845 cases have been paid ₹1 lakh aid.

Kaleshwaram project

Topic: GS -III: Economic Development

The world’s largest irrigation and drinking water system—Kaleshwaram Multipurpose Lift Irrigation Project—was inaugurated Friday by Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekhar Rao.

  • The project will provide water for drinking and irrigation purpose to about 45 lakh acres in 20 of the 31 districts in Telangana, apart from Hyderabad and Secunderabad. The cost of the project is Rs 80,000 crores but is expected to rise to Rs 1 lakh crore by the time it is completely constructed.

Why Kaleshwaram irrigation project is unique

  • This project is unique because Telangana will harness water at the confluence of two rivers with Godavari by constructing a barrage at Medigadda in Jayshankar Bhoopalpally district and reverse pump the water into the main Godavari river and divert it through lifts and pumps into a huge and complex system of reservoirs, water tunnels, pipelines and canals.
  • The project has set many records with the world’s longest water tunnels, aqua ducts, underground surge pools, and biggest pumps. By the time the water reaches Kondapochamma Sagar, the last reservoir in the system about 227 kms away in Gajwel district, the Godavari water would have been lifted to a height of 618 metres from its source at Medigadda.
  • About 141 to 180 TMC would be harnessed during the 90 flood days of Godavari from August to October. The total length of Kaleshwaram project is approximately 1,832 kms, of which 1,531 kms is gravity canals and 203 kms comprise water tunnels. There are 20 water lifts and 19 pump houses in the project.
  • The massive project is divided into seven links and 28 packages and involved digging of 20 reservoirs in 13 districts with a total capacity to store 145 TMC.
  • The reservoirs are interconnected through a network of tunnels running about 330 kms, the longest underground tunnel is 21 kms long connecting Yellampalli reservoir with Medaram reservoir. While the intricate canal network covers approximately 1,832 kms, the farthest point is Narketpally in Nalgonda district which is 500 kms away from the source.
  • The project is all set to create a world record in July when seven gigantic pumps with a capacity of 139 MW each in a pumping station built 330 metres below the surface will start lifting 2 TMC of water per day received from Medigadda Barrage on Godavari through a 14.09 kms long underground tunnel, the longest irrigation tunnel, in the world. The pumps would be operating at a cavern and surge pool which also holds a record for being the biggest in the world with a capacity to hold 2 crore litres of water.

Operation Bandar

Topic: GS -III: Security

The air strike by the Indian Air Force (IAF) on a terrorist training camp in Balakot, Pakistan, was code-named ‘Operation Bandar’.

  • “It was code-named Operation Bandar but was known to very few,” a defence source said on Friday. There was no particular reason in the choice of the name, the official stated and added, “It could have been anything.”

Secrecy maintained

  • To maintain secrecy, the Mirages took off directly from their home base in Gwalior at the time of the mission crossing Himachal Pradesh and Kashmir to the target and back.
  • As a response to the Pulwama terror attack which claimed the lives of 40 security personnel, 12 IAF Mirage-2000 fighter jets struck on Jaish-e-Mohammed training camp in Balakot inside Pakistan in the early hours on February 26 with precision guided munitions.

Forest cover up by 1%, says Javadekar

Topic: GS -III: Bio-diversity

Union Minister for Environment Prakash Javadekar told the Lok Sabha that India’s forest cover was up by 1% in the last one year, while former Minister and his own party’s MP Maneka Gandhi disputed the fact, cautioning him that satellite imagery could be misleading, with sugar cane crops being mistaken for trees.

More in news:

  • According to a latest report, over 24.39% of the country’s geographical area now consists of green cover. Union Minister for Environment said 125 crore trees would be planted along highways to increase the green cover.
  • The Minister, in response to a separate question, said the government did not agree with a private weather agency’s report on climate change that 11 out of 15 hottest places in the world are from India.

Promise of a new science

Topic: GS -III: Science and Technology

About a year ago, two scientists from Indian Institute of Science (IISc)-Bangalore reported an extraordinary finding on a public online scientific forum — they had observed superconductivity at room temperature, in a new composite material made of gold and silver.

  • The claim created huge excitement. Superconductivity is a phenomenon that, so far, has been possible only at extremely low temperatures, in the range of 100°C below zero. The search for a material that exhibits superconductivity at room temperature has been going on for decades, without success. If the claimed discovery were confirmed, it could be one of the biggest breakthroughs in physics in this century so far.
  • Amid increasing criticism, IISc asked some senior subject specialists to collaborate with the two researchers and reexamine the results. That group, which included the original two researchers, last month reported the results of fresh experiments on new samples of the same material, and reiterated not just the original findings, but much more. The group has also sent a paper for publication in an international journal. Their paper, as of now, is under “technical review”.

What is superconductivity?

  • It is a state in which a material shows absolutely zero electrical resistance. While resistance is a property that restricts the flow of electricity, superconductivity allows unhindered flow.
  • Electricity is essentially the movement of free electrons in a conducting material like copper. While the movement of electrons is in one particular direction, it is random and haphazard. They frequently collide with one another, and with other particles in the material, thus offering resistance to the flow of current. The picture is similar to one of messy traffic in a congested urban area. In the process, a lot of electrical energy is lost as heat. Resistance is a measurable quantity, which varies with the material.
  • In a superconducting state, however, the material offers no resistance at all. All the electrons align themselves in a particular direction, and move without any obstruction in a “coherent” manner. It is akin to vehicles moving in an orderly fashion on a superhighway. Because of zero resistance, superconducting materials can save huge amounts of energy, and be used to make highly efficient electrical appliances

How rare is this?

  • The problem is that superconductivity, ever since it was first discovered in 1911, has only been observed at very low temperatures, somewhere close to what is called absolute zero (0°K or -273.15°C). In recent years, scientists have been able to find superconductive materials at temperatures that are higher than absolute zero but, in most cases, these temperatures are still below -100°C and the pressures required are extreme. Creating such extreme conditions of temperature and pressure is a difficult task. Therefore, the applications of superconducting materials have remained limited as of now.

When will science be sure?

  • The matter would be settled only when their paper is finally published. As of now, no one knows how long that is going to take. Considering the scale of the finding, it is likely to undergo several layers of peer review.
  • If confirmed, this would probably be the biggest discovery to come out of an Indian laboratory since the Raman Effect in the 1920s.

Editorial section:

 Smart diplomacy in five moves- The Hindu

A new course- The Hindu

Why South Asia must cooperate- The Hindu

A stable planet- The Hindu

 

 

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