Supreme Court gives RBI ‘last chance’ to alter disclosure policy
Topic : GS Paper-2 Governance
The Supreme Court gave the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) “a last opportunity” to withdraw a November 2016 Disclosure Policy to the extent to which it stonewalls revelation of every other kind of information under the Right to Information Act, including the list of wilful defaulters and annual inspection reports.
More in news:
• A Bench of Justices L. Nageswara Rao and M.R. Shah found the policy of the central bank to be directly contrary to the court’s judgment of December 2015 that the RBI could not withhold information sought under the RTI Act.
• The Bench was hearing contempt petitions filed against the RBI for not complying with the 2015 judgment.
• The 2015 judgment had rejected the RBI’s argument that it could refuse information sought under the RTI Act on the grounds of economic interest, commercial confidence, fiduciary relationship or public interest.
‘No fiduciary ties’
• The court had observed that there was “no fiduciary relationship between the RBI and the financial institutions”.
• It had reminded the RBI that it had the statutory duty to uphold the interests of the public at large, the depositors, the economy and the banking sector.
‘Last chance’ to alter disclosure policy
• Court observe that the RBI is duty-bound to comply with the provisions of the RTI Act and disclose the information. The submission made on behalf of the RBI that the disclosure would hurt the economic interests of the country was found to be totally misconceived.
• The court however said some matters of national economic interest like disclosure of information about currency or exchange rates, interest rates, taxes, the regulation or supervision of banking, insurance and other financial institutions, proposals for expenditure or borrowing and foreign investments could harm the national economy, particularly, if released prematurely.
‘Qatar’s exit visa system to end this year’
Topic : GS Paper-2 International relations
Qatar is set to abolish its controversial exit visa system for all foreign workers by the end of 2019 the UN’s International Labour Organization said.
More in news:
• Last year, the exit visa was eliminated for the majority of workers, this year, that will be extended to all remaining categories of workers.
• In September 2018, Qatar approved legislation to scrap the “kafala”, or sponsorship, system which required that foreign workers obtain permission from their employers to leave the country. In October, it went into force for all but 5% of a company’s workforce — reportedly those in the most senior positions.
• It is a system used to monitor migrant laborers, working primarily in the construction and domestic sectors, in Bahrain, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE.
• The system requires all unskilled laborers to have an in-country sponsor, usually their employer, who is responsible for their visa and legal status.
• This practice has been criticised by human rights organizations for creating easy opportunities for the exploitation of workers, as many employers take away passports and abuse their workers with little chance of legal repercussions.
An emperor Penguin colony in Antarctica vanishes
Topic : GS Paper- 3 Bio-diversity
According to a new study the Antarctic’s second-largest colony of emperor penguins collapsed in 2016, with more than 10,000 chicks lost, and the population has not recovered.
More in news:
• The world’s second-largest emperor penguin colony has almost disappeared, according to a new report, raising fears about the effects of climate change on the species.
• Researchers from the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) say in the report that thousands of emperor penguin chicks drowned when sea ice in Antarctica’s Weddell Sea, on the edge of the Brunt Ice Shelf, was destroyed by storms in 2016.
• Emperor penguins at the Halley Bay colony in the Weddell Sea have failed to raise chicks for the last three years.
• The emperor penguin (Aptenodytes forsteri) is the tallest and heaviest of all living penguin species and is endemic to Antarctica.
• The male and female are similar in plumage and size, reaching 122 cm (48 in) in height and weighing from 22 to 45 kg (49 to 99 lb).
• Like all penguins it is flightless, with a streamlined body, and wings stiffened and flattened into flippers for a marine habitat.
• Its diet consists primarily of fish, but also includes crustaceans, such as krill, and cephalopods, such as squid. While hunting, the species can remain submerged up to 18 minutes, diving to a depth of 535 m (1,755 ft).
• It has several adaptations to facilitate this, including an unusually structured haemoglobin to allow it to function at low oxygen levels, solid bones to reduce barotrauma, and the ability to reduce its metabolism and shut down non-essential organ functions.
• Awkward on land, they cannot climb icy cliffs and so are vulnerable to warming weather and high winds whipping across the ice.
• They need stable sea ice on which to breed and this icy platform must last from April, when the birds arrive, until December, when their chicks fledge.
• The lifespan is typically 20 years in the wild, although observations suggest that some individuals may live to 50 years of age.
• The storms recurred in 2017 and again in 2018 and led to the death of almost all the chicks at the site each season.
• The BAS study reports that for the last 60 years, the sea ice conditions in the Halley Bay site had been stable and reliable.
Until recently, the colony’s breeding pairs numbered each year between 14,000 and 25,000, around 5-9% of the global emperor penguin population.
• Under the influence of the strongest El Niño in 60 years, September 2015 was a particularly stormy month in the area of Halley Bay, with heavy winds and record-low sea ice.
• Those conditions, appeared to have led to the loss of about 14,500 to 25,000 eggs or chicks that first year and the colony has not rebounded. The study called the three-year decline unprecedented: “three years of almost total breeding failure.”
• Still, the population in Halley Bay represents only about 8% of the world’s population of emperor penguins, so the loss does not pose a threat to the future of the species. Roughly 130,000 to 250,000 breeding pairs of emperor penguins live in 54 colonies worldwide.
• British researchers have been studying penguins in the area since 1956 and had never seen a decline of this magnitude.
• Several researchers said they were encouraged by satellite evidence suggesting that many of the animals were able to relocate to a colony called Dawson-Lambton, about 35 miles to the south, which has seen a more than tenfold increase in penguins in the past few years.
Some good news:
• The BAS team, which has tracked the population of this and other colonies in the region for the last decade, used high-resolution satellite imagery to estimate the group’s numbers after the 2016 storm, which was associated with the worst El Niño event witnessed in the area.
• But the scientists also discovered some good news. While the Halley Bay colony has almost disappeared, the nearby Dawson Lambton colony has increased more than tenfold, from around 2,000 to almost 15,000 breeding pairs, indicating that many of the adult emperors have moved there, seeking better breeding grounds as environmental conditions have changed.
• It shows two things, firstly that when faced with long-term poor conditions emperors will move, rather than try to tough it out at the old location. This gives them some resilience in the face of future change, secondly, it shows how little we know about what drives sea ice dynamics, which is worrying for all species that require that habitat.
1 million species risk extinction due to humans: draft UN report
Topic : GS Paper-3 Bio-diversity
Up to one million species face extinction due to human influence, according to a draft UN report that painstakingly catalogues how humanity has undermined the natural resources upon which its very survival depends.
More in news:
• The accelerating loss of clean air, drinkable water, forests, pollinating insects, protein-rich fish and storm-blocking mangroves to name but a few of the dwindling services rendered by Nature poses no less of a threat than climate change, says the report, set to be unveiled on May 6.
• Indeed, biodiversity loss and global warming are closely linked, according to the 44-page summary for policymakers, which distils a 1,800-page UN assessment of scientific literature on the state of Nature.
• The report warns of “an imminent rapid acceleration in the global rate of species extinction”.
• The pace of loss “is already tens to hundreds of times higher than it has been, on average, over the last 10 million years,” “Half-a-million to a million species are projected to be threatened with extinction, many within decades.”
• The direct causes of species loss, in order of importance, are shrinking habitat and land-use change, hunting for food or illicit trade in wildlife body parts, climate change and pollution, the report finds.
Editorial section :
Lessons from a military encounter – The Hindu
Parallel probes – The Hindu
Competing for the best – The Hindu
Backstop option – The Hindu
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