Scientists excavate ‘Ancient River’ in Uttar Pradesh
Topic: GS-I: Geography
The Union Water Ministry has excavated an old, dried-up river in Prayagraj (formerly Allahabad) that linked the Ganga and Yamuna rivers.
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- The aim is to develop it as a potential groundwater recharge source, according to officials at the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG), a body under the Union Jal Shakti Ministry that coordinates the cleaning of the Ganga.
- The “ancient buried river” as it was described at a conference organised by the Ministry, is around 4 km wide, 45 km long and consisted of a 15-metre-thick layer buried under soil.
- The discovery was made last December by a team of scientists from the CSIR-NGRI (National Geophysical Research Institute) and the Central Groundwater Board during a helicopter-borne geophysical survey covering the Prayagraj and Kaushambi region in Uttar Pradesh.
- These paleochannels reveal the course of rivers that have ceased to exist.
- The newly discovered river,was a “buried paleochannel that joins the Yamuna river at Durgapur village, about 26 km south of the current Ganga-Yamuna confluence at Prayagraj.
- The genesis of the palaeochannel’s discovery followed a 2016 report of a seven-member committee, of the Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research (JNCASR), commissioned by the Water Resources Ministry.
- This report concluded that evidence from palaeochannels suggested that the mythological Saraswatiriver did indeed exist. They claimed to have based their conclusions on reports and maps of palaeochannels in north India and a separate, ongoing project by the Central Groundwater Board to map the aquifers (extremely deep stores of groundwater) of India.
- Knowledge on subsurface connectivity between Ganga and Yamuna rivers will play a very crucial role in planning of Ganga cleaning and protecting safe groundwater resources.
Kerala tops education ranking
Topic: GS–II: Education, Human Resources
Kerala and Rajasthan have emerged as States with the best quality of school education in the country, with scores of 76.6% and 72.9% respectively, in the NITI Aayog’s rankings.
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- The Union Territory of Chandigarh, however, pipped them overall with a score of over 80%.
- Reflecting the huge differences in quality across the country, Uttar Pradesh scored the lowest among 20 large States, with just 36.4%, although the small State of Arunachal Pradesh and the Union Territory of Lakshadweep had even lower scores.
School Education Quality Index (SEQI)
- The School Education Quality Index (SEQI) is part of the NITI Aayog’s effort to rank the performance of States in across various indicators, including water, health and the ease of doing business, to encourage data-driven policy reforms.
- The Centre plans to collaborate with the World Bank to offer performance-linked grants as incentives for the States with high rankings, School Education.
- The first edition of the SEQI assessed the States on the basis of learning outcomes, access, equity, infrastructure and facilities, and the governance processes which aid such outcomes.
- The Index is largely based on data from the National Achievement Survey (NAS) of 2017-18 and the Unified District Information on School Education data of 2016-17.
Minor planet ‘Jasraj’ get its name
Topic: GS -III: Science and Technology
A minor planet between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter has been named after the legendary vocalist PanditJasraj.
What is a ‘minor planet’?
- Minor planets are celestial objects orbiting the Sun that are not large enough for their gravity to pull them into a spherical shape. This distinguishes a minor planet — or a “small Solar System body”, which is now the preferred term — from planets or “dwarf planets”, which are almost spherical. Small Solar System bodies include asteroids, comets, and several other celestial objects that go around the Sun.
How are they named?
- Names of celestial bodies are finally approved by a committee at the International Astronomical Union (IAU), a global organisation of professional astronomers, which also decides on definitions of fundamental astronomical and physical constants.
- In the case of small Solar System bodies, the discoverer has the privilege to suggest the name. The discoverer holds this privilege for 10 years since the discovery. But there is a process to be followed, and not all names are acceptable.
- Once it is determined that a celestial body is indeed new, a provisional name is given. This name has the year of discovery, two letters of the alphabet and, perhaps, two numbers. The minor planet that has been named after PanditJasraj was initially called ‘2006VP32’.
- Once more information is available about the body, particularly its orbit, and after it has been sighted on at least four occasions, it is entitled to have a permanent number. In this case, the number allotted was 300128. Only after this is the discoverer invited to suggest a name.
What are the requirements of the name?
- There are rules for nomenclature, and restrictions on the names that can be suggested. The proposed name must have 16 characters or less, it must be “non-offensive”, and not too similar to an existing name.
- Names of political or military leaders can be suggested only 100 years after their death. The same applies for a political or military event. Names of pets, and names of a commercial nature are “discouraged”. There can be restrictions depending on where the body is located — for example, new objects discovered beyond Neptune are supposed to be given names of creation deities.
China and India lead global urbanisation shift
Topic: GS -III: Economic Development
The economic outlook update released by the Asian Development Bank highlighted that, according to World Urbanization Prospects data, “the number of urban inhabitants in developing Asia has increased almost five-fold since 1970”.
- “Developing Asia” refers to a group of 45 countries that are members of the ADB.
- As such, between 1970 to 2017, the urban population in this group of countries grew from 375 million to 1.84 billion. The region led the global increase in urban population in this period and accounted for 53% of it.
- Two-thirds of the nearly 1.5.billion additional city dwellers in Developing Asia belong to China and India. Developing Asia urbanised faster than the rest of the world not only in terms of absolute growth, but also in terms of growth rate.
- The urban population in this region increased at an average 3.4% per annum from 1970 to 2017. This was much faster than the 2.6% in the rest of the developing world — mainly Africa and Latin America — and 1.0% in the developed world.
- Within the Developing Asia region, East Asia, at 3.7%, had the highest annual growth rate. It was followed by Southeast Asia at 3.6%, and South Asia at 3.3%. The Pacific saw an annual growth rate of 2.9% in the urban population, and Central Asia witnessed a 1.6% annual growth.
- However, the ADB reports states that, notwithstanding the fast growth in urban population, “developing Asia’s urbanisation rate still lagged at 46% in 2017”.
- Urbanisation rate means the percentage of the population living in urban areas.
- The United States achieved the 46 per cent urbanisation mark over a century ago while Japan reached there in the early 1950s. But the US and Japan are far cries at the moment.
- Developing Asia’s urbanisation rate in 2017 was lower than the average in other developing economies (which stood at 58 per cent) and the average in the developed economies (which stood at 81 per cent).
- India, specifically, has 34 per cent of its population living in urban areas.
The ‘right to be forgotten’ on the Internet
Topic: GS -III: Security
The European Union’s highest court ruled that an online privacy rule known as the ‘right to be forgotten’ under European law would not apply beyond the borders of EU member states.
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- The European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled in favour of the search engine giant Google, which was contesting a French regulatory authority’s order to have web addresses removed from its global database.
- The ruling comes as an important victory for Google, and lays down that the online privacy law cannot be used to regulate the internet in countries such as India, which are outside the European Union.
What is the ‘right to be forgotten’ under European law?
- The right to be forgotten empowers individuals to ask organisations to delete their personal data. It is provided by the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), a law passed by the 28-member bloc in 2018.
- According to the EU GDPR’s website, the right to be forgotten appears in Recitals 65 and 66 and in Article 17 of the regulation, which states:
- “The data subject shall have the right to obtain from the controller the erasure of personal data concerning him or her without undue delay and the controller shall have the obligation to erase personal data without undue delay” (if one of a number of conditions applies).
- Under Article 2 of the GDPR, “personal data” means “any information relating to an identified or identifiable natural person (“data subject”)”, and “controller” means “the natural or legal person, public authority, agency or any other body which… determines the purposes and means of the processing of personal data”. According to the GDPR website, “undue delay” is considered to be about a month.
- After a search engine company like Google gets requests under the privacy law to get information deleted, it first reviews and then removes links on country-specific sites within the European Union, such Google’s ‘google.de’ for Germany. According to the New York Times, Google has so far received more than 8.45 lakh requests to take down 33 lakh internet links, and 45% of the latter have been delisted.
- In 2015, the Commission nationale de l’informatique et des libertés (CNIL), an internet regulating agency in France, required that Google go beyond its practice of region-specific delinking, and ordered the search engine company to delete links from its global database.
- Google refused to abide by the order, arguing that following the same would impede the free flow of information across the world. This led to the CNIL slapping a fine of EUR 100,000 (around INR 77 lakh) on Google in 2016.
- Google challenged the CNIL’s order at the ECJ, and contended that implementing the online privacy law beyond the EU would hamper access to information in countries around the world, especially those ruled by authoritarian governments.
- Arriving at a landmark ruling, the ECJ has now restricted applying the privacy law beyond the EU. It has also observed that the EU cannot enforce the ‘right to be forgotten’ on countries which do not recognise such a right.
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