IASCLUB Daily Current Affairs : 29 May 2019

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Scientists give the thumbs-up for Anthropocene epoch

Topic: GS-I:  Geography

The Anthropocene Working Group (AWG) voted 29-4 in favour of designating a new geological epoch — the Anthropocene.

More in news:

  • The vote signals the end of the Holocene Epoch, which began 11,700 years ago.
  • According to Nature, the panel plans to submit a formal proposal for the new epoch by 2021 to the International Commission on Stratigraphy, which oversees the official geologic time chart
  • That nearly 90% voted in favour of a naming the new epoch to reflect how the Earth has been shaped by human activity, is not surprising, as an informal vote had already conducted three years ago in Cape Town at the 2016 International Geological Congress.

Background:

  • The term ‘Anthropocene’ was coined in 2000 by Nobel Laureate Paul Crutzen and Eugene Stoermer to denote the present geological time interval in which human activity has profoundly altered many conditions and processes on Earth.
  • According to the AWG, the phenomena associated with the Anthropocene include an order-of-magnitude increase in erosion and sediment transport associated with urbanisation and agriculture, marked and abrupt anthropogenic perturbations of the cycles of elements such as carbon, environmental changes generated by these perturbations, including global warming, sea-level rise, and ocean acidification, rapid changes in the biosphere and finally proliferation and global dispersion of many new ‘minerals’ and ‘rocks’ including concrete, fly ash and plastics, and the myriad ‘technofossils’ produced from these and other materials.

Identifying a geologic marker

  • The focus is now on identifying a definitive geologic marker or golden spike (technically called Global boundary Stratotype Section and Point) to signal the beginning of the Anthropocene Epoch. The golden spike must be present globally and should be a part of deposits for geological record.
  • Many in the AWG believe that artificial radionuclides spread across the world by atomic bomb tests from the early 1950s would serve as the golden spike. The radionuclides are present almost everywhere — from marine sediments to ice layers and even stalagmites and stalactites.
  • Once a formal proposal is made by the AWG, it will be considered by several more groups of the International Commission on Stratigraphy.
  • The final ratification will be made by the executive committee of the International Union of Geological Sciences.

BIMSTEC leaders confirm attending swearing-in

Topic: GS –II: International relations

Several foreign leaders have confirmed participation at the swearing-in of Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday.

More in news:

  • The Presidents of Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Kyrgyz Republic and Myanmar and the Prime Minister of Mauritius, Nepal and Bhutan will attend the function. Thailand will send a special envoy.
  • Sources said Pakistan would be left out as the primary focus (with the exception of the Kyrgyz Republic) was the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) grouping.The Maldives and Afghanistan were not invited for the same reason.
BIMSTEC :

The Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) is an international organisation of seven nations of South Asia and South East Asia, housing 1.5 billion people and having a combined gross domestic product of $3.5 trillion (2018).

·         The BIMSTEC member states—Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand , Nepal and Bhutan—are among the countries dependent on the Bay of Bengal.

·         Fourteen priority sectors of cooperation have been identified and several BIMSTEC centres have been established to focus on those sectors.

·         A BIMSTEC free trade agreement is under negotiation.

·         Leadership is rotated in alphabetical order of country names.

·         The permanent secretariat is in Dhaka.

EC teams to appraise poll operations

Topic: GS –II: Constitution and Polity

The Election Commission (EC) constituted eight working groups to thoroughly appraise specific areas, based on its experience during the conduct of the Lok Sabha polls.

More in news:

  • Among the issues to be examined are timely action in cases of Model Code of Conduct (MCC) violations and the legal aspects of enforcement of the code.
  • The groups, which have to submit their recommendations to the EC, would be headed by senior Deputy Election Commissioners, Deputy Election Commissioners and Director-Generals. There would also be a coordination committee headed by a Senior Deputy Election Commissioner and comprising all the senior officials till the rank of Director-General, besides eight nodal Chief Electoral Officers (CEOs).

Rolls, IDs

  • One of the working groups on “electoral roll and polling stations” would study the health and fidelity of electoral rolls to make them error free. It would also look into issues pertaining to uniqueness and portability of Electoral Photo ID Card. Standardisation of addresses and rationalisation of polling stations would also be examined, apart from legal changes needed for improving electoral registrations.
  • Another group on “election planning and management” would review matters related to simultaneous elections, scheduling of polls, deployment of armed forces, mapping of vulnerable pockets and law and order concerns. The issues pertaining to Electronic Voting Machines (EVM) and Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) would be looked into by another team, in terms of inventory management and counting of paper slips.
  • A group on “Model Code of Conduct, Manifestos, Observers and Political Parties” would explore various ways for standardisation of protocol for timely and effective action in MCC matters and their database management. It would also review its various provisions, including those involving manifestos.
  • “Election expenditure monitoring” and related areas like fixing accountability of political parties and contribution reports involving star campaigners would be appraised by another group.
  • Another group would suggest steps for encouraging higher voter turnout and awareness, besides dealing with the issues involving social media and paid news.

Sri Lanka, Japan & India sign deal to develop container terminal

Topic: GS –II: International relations

Sri Lanka, Japan and India signed an agreement to jointly develop the East Container Terminal at the Port.

More in news:

  • As per the agreement, the Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA) retains 100% ownership of the East Container Terminal (ECT), while the Terminal Operations Company is jointly owned, the SLPA.
  • Sri Lanka will hold a 51% stake in the project and the joint venture partners will retain 49%. The ECT is located some three km away from the China-backed international financial city, known popularly as “port city”.
  • “Japan is likely to provide a 40-year soft loan with a 0.1% interest rate,” said Sudarshana Gunawardana, director of development communications at the Prime Minister’s office. The SLPA described the “envisaged Japanese loan” as “one of the best loan terms Sri Lanka has obtained”.
  • Details of India’s contribution to the initiative are awaited, but New Delhi’s interest in partnering the project is well known. Over 70% of the trans-shipment business at the strategically located ECT is linked to India.

NDA inches towards majority in Rajya Sabha

Topic: GS –II: Constitution and Polity

The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) is inching towards a majority in the Upper House and it is likely to reach the magic figure of 124 seats by 2021-end, depending on the outcome of the Assembly elections in Maharastra, Haryana and Jharkhand later this year.

  • This will remove the handicap that pinned down the NDA government during its first tenure, failing to clear many controversial pieces of legislation such as the triple talaq Bill and the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill in the Upper House.
  • Both sides stand neck and neck in the Rajya Sabha. The NDA currently has 102 members with the BJP’s 73, and the Opposition 101 with the Congress’s 50.

Congress’s loss

  • The largest attrition will take place in 2020 when 72 members will retire. Among them, 15 are Congress members and the party will not be able to retain a majority of the seats.
  • By 2020, the Left parties, which together have seven MPs, will be down to just five.
  • Two of its MPs — D. Raja of the CPI who retires in June this year and T.K. Rangarajan of the CPI(M) in 2020 — might not be able to return.More than the Congress, the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party will have their presence whittled down.
  • As many as 10 seats from the State will fall vacant in 2020 and the BJP’s huge majority in the Assembly means it can win nine of them.The Samajwadi Party, which has 13 members currently, will lose six in 2020 and will only be able to reoccupy one of those seats.The BSP, which has four members now, will lose two seats in 2020 and will not be able to reoccupy either of them.

Bihar election

  • Among the major names, Sharad Pawar of the NCP will retire in 2020 and whether he comes back or not will be decided by the Maharashtra results.
  • In 2020, Bihar will also go to the polls and if the sentiment of the Lok Sabha polls carries over to this Assembly election too, then the equation will further change.
  • By the BJP’s own estimate, it is only by 2021 that the NDA can have a shot at reaching the 124-seat mark, giving it room to move and clear controversial legislation stalled by the Rajya Sabha.

Karnataka ordered to release 9.19 tmcft

Topic: GS -III: Economic Development

The Cauvery Water Management Authority (CWMA) ordered Karnataka to release 9.19 tmcft of water for the month of June from the Biligundlu reservoir to the Mettur dam in Tamil Nadu.

More in news:

  • The monsoon is forecast to make landfall in Kerala on June 6, and the Central Water Commission’s records show that key reservoirs in southern India are at levels below their five-year average. The total live storage is 6.38 bcm (billion cubic metre), which is 12% of the total live storage capacity.
  • The quantum of water to be released is in line with the Supreme Court’s order on February 16 last year. While conferring authority on the CWMA to decide on releasing water, the court said Karnataka’s share was 284 tmcft, Tamil Nadu’s 404 tmcft, Kerala’s 30 tmcft and Puducherry’s 7 tmcft.
  • Besides this, the court reserved 10 tmcft for environmental purposes and four tmcft for natural flow into the sea.
  • This is the third meeting of the CWMA since June 2018, when it was constituted. It is expected to meet once in 10 days from June to October.
Central Water Commission:

·         It is a premier Technical Organization of India in the field of Water Resources and is presently functioning as an attached office of the Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation.

Functions:

·         The Commission is entrusted with the general responsibilities of initiating, coordinating and furthering in consultation of the State Governments concerned, schemes for control, conservation and utilization of water resources throughout the country, for purpose of Flood Control, Irrigation, Navigation, Drinking Water Supply and Water Power Development. It also undertakes the investigations, construction and execution of any such schemes as required.

·         Central Water Commission CWC Central Water Commission CWC is headed by a Chairman, with the status of Ex-Officio Secretary to the Government of India.

·         The work of the Commission is divided among 3 wings namely, Designs and Research (D&R) Wing, River Management (RM) Wing and Water Planning and Projects (WP&P) Wing.

Post Balakot, Indian Air Force zeroes in on key vulnerability

Topic: GS -III: Security

Drawing lessons from the Balakot air strike, the Indian Air Force (IAF) has identified a shortage of Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) aircraft to provide round-the-clock surveillance as a major deficiency.

More in news:

  • The air strike and the aerial engagement that followed in February were discussed in detail at the recent Air Force Commanders’ conference.

Resource optimization

  • The biggest lesson of February 27 was the need to have a core of high-end fighters for short skirmishes.
  • the IAF is banking on the soon-to-be-inducted Rafale fighters, the tender currently under way for a new fighter aircraft and the indigenous Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) MK-2 that is being developed, even as upgrades to the existing platforms make up for the shortages in the interim.

Remedial measures

  • While aircraft induction is a long-term measure, in the short term, the IAF has identified AWACS, Software Defined Radios (SDR) and close-in weapons systems as immediate requirements. The process for their procurement is already in advanced stages.

Advantage Pakistan

  • Pakistan currently has an advantage as they have more AWACS. They have seven AWACS and could keep one on our side at all times.In contrast, the IAF operates three Israeli Phalcon AWACS and two indigenous Netra Airborne Early Warning and Control (AEW&C) system developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO). Also, the platforms are not available all the time.
  • The IAF is now set to take the third Netra system (mounted on Embraer aircraft) from the DRDO.
  • Separately, a proposal for two more Phalcon AWACS has been in the works for a long time. It is now pending final approval of the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS).
  • A deal for SDRs has been signed with Elbit Systems of Israel and the process for close-in weapons is at the technical evaluating stage.

 ‘AI will double the rate of innovation’

Topic: GS -III: Economic Development

Adoption of artificial intelligence is expected to help double the rate of industrial innovation, and may lead to an over two-times jump in employee productivity in India by 2021, says a study by Microsoft.

  • The study titled was ‘Future Ready Business: Assessing Asia Pacific’s Growth Potential through AI’.

Other findings in report:

  • The study, conducted by research firm IDC on behalf of Microsoft, says organisations that have adopted AI see tangible improvements in the range of 8-22% in areas like customer engagement, margins and competitiveness.
  • By 2021, artificial intelligence (AI) will more than double the rate of innovation in organisations (2.2 times) and employee productivity (2.3 times) in India.
  • However, only one-third of the organisations (respondents) in India say they have embarked on their AI journeys.
  • The study has found that Indian business leaders and workers hold positive viewpoints about AI’s impact on the future of jobs. About 64% of business leaders and 63% of workers believe that AI will either help them do their existing jobs better or reduce repetitive tasks.
  • When it comes to creating or replacing jobs, 16% of business leaders believe AI will create new jobs, but 18% also feel that the technology will replace workers.
  • The report says that about 85% of businesses prioritise skilling and re-skilling of workers in the future and plan to invest in the human capital evenly or even more compared to investing in technology.
  • The Asia-Pacific study was based on responses from 1,605 business leaders and 1,585 workers, including 200 business leaders and 202 workers in India.
  • Fifteen countries including Australia, China, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, and Singapore were part of the report.

Editorial section:

The key agenda must be to accelerate growth – The Hindu

To be decisive – The Hindu

Pending divorce? – The Hindu

 

 

 

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