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Tiger reserve status for Nandhaur sought
- Authorities at the Nandhaur Wildlife Sanctuary has planned to seek Tiger Reserve status for the sanctuary. This is because the number of tigers in the sanctuary has been on a rise and a Tiger reserve status would ensure better funds and management of the sanctuary.
- Nandhaur Wildlife Sanctuary is a wildlife sanctuary in Uttarakhand. It is situated close to the Nandhaur River in Kumaon region. It is a part of the Terai Arc Landscape (TAL), a forest zone that spreads across the Indian states of Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, and the low lying hills of Nepal.
- Tiger Reserves are protected areas established under the Project Tiger. The reserves aims at conserving the habitat to ensure a viable population of the tigers along with their prey base in their habitat.
- The Project tiger was launched in India in 1972 as conservation programme for saving the Indian Tiger Population. It is administered by the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA).
- NTCA is a statutory body under the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change. It has a supervisory / coordination role, performing functions as provided in the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.
Rawat bats for indigenisation
- Indian Army chief has announced that the Army is planning to carry out joint training and exercise with the Indian Coast Guard.He was speaking at the commissioning of the Indian Coast Guard Ship Veera. Veera is the third ship in the series of offshore patrol vessels of the Indian Coast Guard.It was built by L&T at its shipbuilding facility at Kattupalli in Chennai.
- Veera is equipped with state-of-the-art machinery comprising an integrated bridge system which includes (a)advanced navigation (b)communication technology and (c)integrated platform management system.ICG vessel Veera will also help the coast guard monitor the maritime boundaries more effectively and add to the maritime strength of ICG.
- The army chief has also called for enhanced coastal security and has expressed satisfaction over the thrust to indigenisation and fleet augmentation under ‘Make in India’ programme.
- The Indian Coast Guard (ICG) is an armed force that protects India’s maritime interests and enforces maritime law,with jurisdiction over the territorial waters of India,including its contiguous zone and exclusive economic zone.
- The Indian Coast Guard was formally established on 18 August 1978 by the Coast Guard Act,1978 of the Parliament of India as an independent Armed force of India.It operates under the Ministry of Defence.
EC curbs campaigning by Yogi, Mayawati, Maneka and Azam
- The Election Commission (EC) has imposed restrictions on the campaigning of four senior politicians for violating the model code of conduct in Uttar Pradesh.
- The restrictions on campaigning also prevent them from giving interviews or making any comment on the electronic, print or social media in connection with the upcoming Lok Sabha election.
- One of the politicians has had violated the provisions of the model code as laid down in Para 3 and 4 of Part-1 of the ‘General Conduct’ section. Para 3 says that there should not be appeal to caste or communal feelings for securing votes.
- According to provisions of para 4, all activities which are “corrupt practices” and offences under the Section 123 of the Representation of the People Act , such as bribing of voters, intimidation of voters, etc. amounts to violation of the model code of conduct.
- In 2017, the Supreme Court had held that an appeal for votes during elections on the basis of religion, caste, race, community or language will amount to a corrupt practice and had called for disqualification of the candidate.
- Further, another senior politician has been barred from political campaigning for his indecent comments on a woman candidate. In 2013, the EC had issued an advisory stating that all the political parties and candidates had been told to refrain from any actions repugnant to the honour and dignity of women.
- Model code of Conduct (MCC) are the guidelines issued by the Election Commission of India for conduct of political parties and candidates during elections. The MCC comes into force immediately on the announcement of the election schedule by the commission. The Code remains in force till the end of the electoral process.
CCS to decide on dual control over Assam Rifles
- The Ministry of Home Affairs has informed the Delhi High Court that it, along with the Ministry of Defence will abide by the decision of the Cabinet Committee on Security(CCS) on the dual control over Assam Rifles.
- Earlier,the Delhi High Court had sought the response of the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) on a plea seeking directions to remove the dual control of Assam Rifles and bring it under the Defence Ministry.
- The petition was filed on the grounds that the administrative control of Assam Rifles lies with the Home Ministry, while the operational control is with the Defence Ministry.The dual leadership has caused administrative problems and many Assam Rifle personnel were being deprived of promotion due to dual control.
- The Assam Rifles was formed under the British in 1835 by the name of Cachar Levy and had a number of names — the Assam Frontier Police (1883), the Assam Military Police (1891) and Eastern Bengal and Assam Military Police (1913) before finally becoming the Assam Rifles in 1917.
- The Assam Rifles is the oldest paramilitary force of India.Assam Rifles operates in the North Eastern part of India and complements the Indian Army in countering the insurgency and guarding the borders.
- The Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) is chaired by the Prime Minister.The committee comprises of Minister of External Affairs,the Home Minister,the Finance Minister and the Defence Minister.
- The Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) takes decision on (a)senior appointments in the national security apparatus (b)defence policy and expenditure and (c)generally all matters of India’s national security.
Monsoon likely to be ‘normal’ this year, says meteorological dept.
- The India Meteorological Department (IMD) has said monsoon rains are expected to be normal in 2019- 96% of the Long-term average (LPA). The IMD defines normal rainfall as between 96% and 104% of the Long Period Average (LPA). LPA (50year average) of monsoon rains in India is 89 cm.
- The IMD issues its first monsoon forecast in April. Then in June, updates are issued. It contains details on how the monsoon will perform in various geographical regions.
- IMD’s prediction is contradictory to what Skymet, India’s only private weather forecaster has predicted. Skymet has said that it expects the 2019 monsoon rains to be “below normal”.
- IMD’s optimistic assessment of monsoon rains is based on global climate models which has projected a ‘weakening El Nino.’ El Nino refers to the large-scale ocean-atmosphere climate interaction linked to a periodic warming in sea surface temperatures across the central and east-central Equatorial Pacific.
- A temperature rise greater than 1 degree C for three consecutive months, is considered a ‘strong’ El Nino. A 0.5C -1C rise is called ‘weak El Nino conditions. At present, the El Nino is 0.9 C.
- A strong El Nino results in reduction and uneven distribution of rainfall across the Indian sub-continent. This is because the trade winds coming from South America which normally blow westward towards Asia during Southwest Monsoon gets weakened due to the warming of the Pacific Ocean. Therefore, moisture and heat content gets limited and this leads to poor rainfall in the region.
Public sector enterprises to get 12 months to sell non core assets
- Central Public Sector Enterprises(CPSEs) has been given 12 months to monetise non-core assets failing which the finance ministry may restrict budgetary allocations to the companies.Non-core assets are assets that are either not essential or simply no longer used in a company’s business operations.
- Earlier,Department of Investment and Public Asset Management (DIPAM) had issued the guidelines for monetisation of non-core assets of CPSEs.
- According to the guidelines,an inter-ministerial group chaired by the secretary of DIPAM,will identify the non-core assets of the CPSEs on its own and also on the basis of recommendations of the Niti Aayog. However,final decision will be taken by the finance minister-headed panel.
- The panel comprising the finance minister,road transport minister and the minister of concerned administrative ministry,approves the assets for monetisation and it should be completed within 12 months from the date of approval.
- The amount raised through sale of non-core assets would form part of the disinvestment proceeds.The government has set a target of Rs 90,000 crore to be raised through CPSE disinvestment in the current financial year,up from the Rs 85,000 crore disinvestment achieved in the previous fiscal.
10% quota: Cabinet nod for funds
- The Union Cabinet has approved a budget of Rs.4315.15 crore to create the additional seats in 158 central educational institutions to implement 10% EWS quota.
- In January 2019, the government had passed 103rdConstitutional Amendment Act. It provides for 10% reservation in government jobs and educational institutions for the economically weaker section in the unreserved category. It also provides for reservation in private unaided educational institutions.
- The quota is over and above the existing reservations for Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Class. It breaches the 50% reservation limit set by Supreme Court.
- The 10% quota has been subjected to widespread debate and been criticised on grounds such as a) completely violates the Constitutional norm that economic criterion cannot be the only basis of reservation, b) violative of the equality principle enshrined in Article 14 of the Constitution as it excludes OBCs, SCs and STs from the scope of economic reservation c) breaches 50% reservation cap and d) provides reservation in private educational institutions which has been clearly barred by the SC in previous judgements.
Watch Modi biopic fully this time, SC tells ECI
- The Supreme Court has directed the Election Commission to re-examine its earlier order and take an informed decision on stay on the release of the biopic on Prime Minister Narendra Modi after watching the entire movie. The SC has asked the Election commission to report back to the court on 20thApril on whether the movie is to be publicly screened or not.
- Recently, the makers of the biopic had filed a plea in the Supreme Court against the stay on the release. They had alleged that the stay violated their fundamental right to free speech and expression as guaranteed by Article 19 (1) (a) of the Indian constitution.
- Exercising its powers under Article 324 of the Indian constitution, the EC had deferred the release of the biopic till the elections are over. It had argued that displaying material that promotes a political figure would go against the core principle of the Model Code of Conduct of creating a level-playing field for elections.
- The Supreme Court had earlier rejected a plea by an opposition party activist seeking a stay on the release of the biopic on Narendra Modi. The court had left it to the EC to take a call on whether the film violates the model code of conduct.
SC irked after poll panel’s counsel says it is ‘powerless’
- The Supreme Court has expressed displeasure over the Election Commission for not taking action against politicians for communal and hate speeches during the Lok Sabha campaigning.The court has decided to examine the ambit of poll panel’s power on the violation of model code of conduct.
- The court was hearing a plea seeking an order from the court that the Election Commission must ensure no political leader is allowed to seek votes on the grounds of caste,race and religion which is a violation of Model code of conduct,
- The Election Commission has informed the court that its powers in cases of violation of the model code of conduct are limited to issuing notice and upon consideration of the reply to issue advisories and in case of a repeated offence the EC can register a police complaint.
- In 2017,the Supreme Court had held that an appeal for votes during elections on the basis of religion,caste,race,community or language will amount to a corrupt practice and had called for disqualification of the candidate.
- The apex court was interpreting the pronoun ‘his’ used in Section 123 (3) of the Representation of the People Act.The provision mandates that it would amount to a corrupt practice if a candidate or his agent or any other person,with his consent,appeals for votes on religious or such grounds.
- Model code of Conduct (MCC) are the guidelines issued by the Election Commission of India for conduct of political parties and candidates during elections.The MCC comes into force immediately on the announcement of the election schedule by the commission.
Notre-Dame cathedral, iconic Paris landmark, engulfed in fire
- A catastrophic fire had engulfed the famous Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France. The cathedral, whose name means Our Lady, is the seat of the archbishop of Paris.
- The foundation stone of the Notre-Dame was laid in 1163 by Pope Alexander III during the reign of King Louis VII. The construction of the cathedral was completed in the 13th century. It lies at the eastern end of the Île de la Cité, a small island in the middle of the river Seine River, Paris.
- It was damaged and neglected in the 1790s, during the French Revolution. The Notre Dame Cathedral was the site of Napoleon Bonaparte’s coronation as emperor in 1804.
- It is also the setting of Victor Hugo’s famous novel The Hunchback of Notre-Dame. The book informed readers about the building’s dilapidating condition and help spur support for major restorations.
- Notre Dame Cathedral is one of the finest examples of French Gothic cathedral architecture, it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage in 1991.
- People across the globe have lamented the destruction of Notre Dame Cathedral due to the fire. French President has pledged to rebuild the Notre Dame and has promised that an immediate fundraising campaign would be launched.
Plea in SC seeks entry of women into mosques
- A petition has been filed in the Supreme Court pleading that Muslim women be allowed to enter and offer namaz inside mosques.The petitioner asked the apex court to declare the prohibition on entry of women inside mosques in the country as illegal and unconstitutional.
- The petition was filed on the grounds that (a)there is nothing in the Quran and the Hadith that requires gender segregation (b)the act of prohibition of females from entering Mosque is void and unconstitutional and (c)such practices are not only repugnant to the basic dignity of a woman as an individual but also violative of the fundamental rights
- The petitioner has also cited the apex court judgment in the Sabarimala matter where the court had said that religion cannot be used as cover to deny rights of worship to women.Further,the petition has said that women are allowed in mosques in Saudi Arabia,UAE,Egypt,US,UK and Singapore.
- At present,women are allowed to offer prayers at mosques under the Jamaat-e-Islami and Mujahid denominations but they are barred from entering mosques under the predominant Sunni faction.Even in mosques where women are allowed,there are separate entrances and enclosures for men and women.
China is using AI to profile Uighur Muslims
- The Chinese government has been allegedly using a system of facial recognition cameras to track Uighur Muslim minority. According to experts, it is the first known example of a government intentionally using artificial intelligence for racial profiling
- The facial recognition system has been integrated into surveillance cameras. They look exclusively for Uighurs based on their appearance and keeps records of their comings and goings for search and review.
- Previously, Chin had been alleged of preparing a DNA database for surveillance against Uighurs and other predominantly Muslim ethnic minorities in the Xinjiang region.
- Xinjiang is an administrative region in north-western China. The population in Xinjiang is predominantly Uighurs. Uighurs are ethnically Turkic Muslims.
- China has faced widespread international condemnation for allegedly detaining Uighur Muslims and other Muslim groups in the western Xinjiang region. However, China has denied there are internment camps but advocated that people in Xinjiang are receiving “vocational training” in “re-education camps”.
Global measles cases up 300% year-on-year: WHO
- The World Health Organization (WHO) has said that measles cases worldwide rose by 300% during the first three months of 2019 compared with the same period in 2018.
- Measles is a highly contagious viral disease that is spread by contact with an infected person through coughing and sneezing. It can be entirely prevented with a two-dose vaccine.
- According to the WHO, measles remains an important cause of death among young children globally. When more than five cases of measles are reported in a place in a short span of time, it is considered an outbreak.
- Africa has seen a 700% increase in cases in the first three months of 2019 compared to 2018. Further, Madagascar is the hardest-hit country, reporting more than 69,000 cases in its ongoing measles outbreak.
- The rise in measles cases has raised widespread concerns. The cases have not only been reported from areas with low vaccination coverage but also countries with high vaccination coverage such as the United States.
Subsonic cruise missile ‘Nirbhay’ successfully test-fired
- India has successfully test-fired its long-range subsonic cruise missile Nirbhay from a test range in Odisha. It has been indigenously designed & developed by Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO).
- Nirbhay is an all-weather low-cost long-range cruise missile with stealth and high accuracy. The missile has a range of more than 1000 km.
- The missile has the capability to cruise at 0.7 Mach, at altitudes as low as 100 m. Its relatively slow flight speed allows it to navigate its way precisely to the target.
- The Nirbhay cruise missile is an Indian version of the American Tomahawk. The missile is capable of being launched from multiple platforms on land, sea and air.
- Subsonic means any speed lower than the speed of sound. Mach number greater than 1 is called as super-sonic. Further, cruise missile is a guided missile that flies with constant speed to deliver a warhead at specified target over long distance with high accuracy.
Death of rare turtle leaves 3 remaining in the world
- China has said that the last known female Yangtze giant softshell turtle has died. She was believed to be over 90 years old and died around 24 hours after researchers had tried to artificially inseminate her.
- This was one of four Yangtze giant softshell turtles known to be remaining in the world. The same zoo also houses a male Yangtze giant softshell turtle. The other two live in Vietnam, but their genders are unknown. This turtle is listed as critically endangered in the IUCN Red List.
- According to National Geographic, Yangtze giant softshell turtles are the largest freshwater turtle species,weighing about 220 pounds. They have tiny, piglike snouts and large, smooth shells.
- The species once flourished in China and Vietnam but (a)destruction of their habitats (b)pollution (c)exploitation for food and perceived medical benefits has played an important role in their decline.