Weekly Current Affairs Prelims (7th to 13th January, 2020)

Mining laws (Amendment) Ordinance 2020

Weekly Current Affairs Prelims (7th to 13th January, 2020)

(Info-graphic Summary at the end)

Topic: Mining laws (Amendment) Ordinance 2020

Topic in Syllabus: Indian Governance

Mining laws (Amendment) Ordinance 2020

Context:

The Union Cabinet approved the promulgation of Mineral Laws (Amendment) Ordinance 2020.

Decisions taken:

  • The Centre has decided to,
    1. Liberalise norms for entry into coal mining and
    2. Relax regulations on mining and selling coal in the country.
  • The Union Cabinet approved promulgation of Mineral Laws Ordinance 2020 to amend,
    1. The Coal Mines (Special Provisions) Act, 2015, and
    2. The Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957.
  • Amendments to these two Acts cleared by the Cabinet will free the sector from restrictions that were inhibiting its development.
  • This will open up the coal mining sector completely, enabling anyone with finances and expertise to bid for blocks and sell the coal freely to any buyer of their choice.

Background:

  • Until now there were restrictions on who could bid for coal mines.
  • Only those in power, iron and steel, and coal washery business could bid for mines and the bidders needed prior experience of mining in India.
  • This effectively limited the potential bidders to a select circle of players and thus limited the value that the government could extract from the bidding.
  • The end-use restrictions inhibited the development of a domestic market for coal.

Significance:

  • The ordinance democratises the coal industry and makes it attractive for merchant mining companies, including multinationals to look at India.
  • The move was behind the schedule considering that the country spent ₹ 1,71,000 crore in coal imports last year to buy 235 million tonnes, of this,
    1. 100 million tonnes was not substitutable, as the grade was not available in India,
    2. 135 million tonnes could have been substituted by domestic production had it been available. 

Impact?

  • Large investment in mining will create jobs and set off demand in critical sectors such as mining equipment and heavy commercial vehicles.
  • The country may benefit from infusion of sophisticated mining technology, especially for underground mines, if multinationals decide to invest.
  • However, for that to happen, the government needs to do more such as,
    1. Shaping the time taken for approvals of mining leases and
    2. Easing the procedures for clearances.
  • The test would come when 46 producing mines, whose leases expire in March 2020, come up for bidding shortly.

Ordinance mean to CIL:

  • Coal India Limited (CIL) is a Maharatna PSU and tremendous public resources have been invested in the company over the years.
  • The company employs about 3 lakh people and is a national asset.
  • Opening up of coal mining effectively ends CIL’s monopoly status.
  • It is the responsibility of the government to ensure that CIL is not compromised the way BSNL has been by the opening up to private players.
  • Coal Minister emphasised that the CIL has been and will be allotted adequate blocks and that it will be supported and the interests of labourers will be taken care of.
  • CIL has to be nurtured even as private players are welcomed.

 

Sample Question:

Consider the following statements with reference to Mineral Laws (Amendment) Ordinance 2020:

  1. Mineral Laws (Amendment) Ordinance 2020 introduces the concept of Inter-Generational Equity.
  2. The ordinance allows coal mining by any company present in sectors other than steel and power, and does away with the captive end-use criteria.
  3. GOI has set a mining target of 1.5 billion tonnes of coal by 2020.
  4. India is the world’s fifth largest coal reserves nation.

Which of the above given statements is/are correct?

(a) 1 and 2

(b) 2 and 3

(c) 2, 3 and 4

(d) 1, 2 and 3

Answer: B


Topic: ‘Planting of exotics harmful to Nilgiris’

Topic in Syllabus: Ecology & Environment

‘Planting of exotics harmful to Nilgiris

Context:

A Coonoor-based trust proposes to plant more than 10,000 trees in the Nilgiris. However, there is a problem: almost all of them are exotic flora — from avenue trees such as jacaranda, podocarpus, pine and bottlebrush.

Challenges of planting exotic trees:

  • Exotic trees such as pine, podocarpus and cypress trees have a huge impact on soil chemistry on the ground where they are planted, preventing native grass, plants and herbs from taking root underneath the canopy.
  • It has a knock-on effect on wildlife resulting in their vacating the areas.
  • When exotics take root in a particular area they increase the water demand in that region, impacting not just the Nilgiris but other districts further downstream that rely on rivers emanating from the hills.
  • Growing exotic trees in the Nilgiris is counterproductive to conservation and ensuring biodiversity.
  • The roots of these trees are very shallow and the trees can be uprooted by high velocity winds and heavy rain, which characterise the monsoons in the Nilgiris.

Why Exotic trees:

  • Forest Department has only enough native trees to afforest their reserve forests, so they do not give out any saplings to private individuals.
  • They lead to better soil stability of the slopes on which they are planted.

Way Forward:

  • The government should come up with a policy that stipulates that only native flora should be planted in public spaces in the Nilgiris because of its ecological significance and its unique biodiversity.
  • There is need to have a better understanding of the best ecological restoration practices that can be implemented when working in a landscape of the Nilgiris.
  • Large-scale planting of exotics in ecologically sensitive areas must be discouraged.
  • Shola tree species requires a lot of maintenance post-planting to ensure their survival. Maintaining a Shola nursery is indeed very difficult as the trees are very slow in growing.

 

Sample Question:

Consider the following statements :
1. Sholas are patches of deciduous forests in Nilgiri Hills.
2. Sholas are characterized by the presence of dense forests.
Which of the statements given above is/are correct ?
a) 1 only
b) 2 only
c) Both 1 and 2
d) Neither 1 nor 2

Answer: d


Topic: Right to Private Property

Topic in Syllabus: Indian Polity

Right to Private Property

Context:

The Supreme Court has recently held that a citizen’s right to own private property is a human right.

  • The case was of an 80-year-old woman whose 3.34 hectare land was forcibly taken by the Himachal Pradesh Government in 1967, for constructing a road.
  • The Court used its extraordinary jurisdiction under Article 136 and Article 142 of the Constitution to direct the government to pay the woman compensation of 1 crore rupees.

Key Points

  • A citizen’s right to own private property is a human right.The state cannot take possession of it without following due procedure and authority of law.
    • The Bench referred to an earlier verdict in State of Haryana v. Mukesh Kumar case (2011)wherein it was held that the right to property is not only a constitutional or statutory right, but also a human right.
  • Doctrine of Adverse Possession:The state cannot trespass into the private property of a citizen and then claim ownership of the land in the name of ‘adverse possession.
    • Grabbing private land and then claiming it as its own makes the state an encroacher.
  • In 1967, when the government forcibly took over the land, ‘right to private property was still a fundamental right’under Article 31 of the Constitution.
    • Right to Property ceased to be a fundamental right with the 44thConstitution Amendment in 1978.
    • It was made a Constitutional right under Article 300A. Article 300A requires the state to follow due procedure and authority of law to deprive a person of his or her private property.

Doctrine of Adverse Possession

  • It is a legal doctrine that allows a person who possesses or resides on someone else’s land for an extended period of time to claim legal title to that land.
  • In India, a person who is not the original owner of a property becomes the owner because of the fact that he has been in possession of the property for a minimum of 12-years, within which the real owner did not seek legal recourse to oust him.

Article 142

  • It provides discretionary power to the Supreme Court as it states that the Supreme Court in the exercise of its jurisdiction may pass such decree or make such order as is necessary for doing complete justice in any cause or matter pending before it.

Article 136 (Special Leave Petition)

  • It allows the Supreme Court to hear, at its discretion, an appeal against any order from any court or tribunal in the territory of India. However, this does not apply to any judgment, determination, sentence or order passed or made by any court or tribunal constituted by or under any law relating to the Armed Forces.

 

Sample Question:

The Fundamental Right that aims at the abolition of social distinctions is the right?
A) to equality

B) to property
C) against exploitation
D) to freedom

Answer:a


Topic: Wetland birds in kaziranga

Topic in Syllabus: Ecology & Environment

Wetland birds in kaziranga

Context:

Officials of the Kaziranga National Park and avian specialists conducted the second wetland bird count. The teams counted a total of 19,225 birds belonging to 96 species under 80 families.

About Kaziranga national park 

  • Kaziranga, home of the world’s most one-horned rhinos, has 96 speciesof wetland birds , one of the highest for wildlife preserves in India.
  • Much of the focus of conservation efforts in Kaziranga are focused on the ‘big four’ species— rhino, elephant, Royal Bengal tiger and Asiatic water buffalo.
  • The park also has more than 250 seasonal water bodies, besides the Dipholu River running through it.

Importance of wetland for the water bird population

  • Some birds depend on wetlands almost totally for breeding, nesting, feeding, or shelter during their breeding cycles. 
  • Birds that need functional access to a wetland or wetland products during their life cycle, especially during the breeding season, can be called “wetland dependent”
  • Other birds use wetlands only for some of their needs, or they might use both wetland and upland habitats.

Number of birds in a wetland depends on:

  • Number of wetlands in the area
  • Wetlands’ size and water depth
  • Climate 
  • Species of bird and the bird’s adaptations to wetlands.

Significance:

Data on avian wealth is important because the wetlands nourish Kaziranga’s ecosystem. Increase or decrease in the number of birds is indicative of the park’s health.

 

Sample Question:

Kaziranga National Park is famous for which of the following

  1. Rhinos
  2. Tiger
  3. Deer
  4. Elephant

Answer: A


Topic: Process of Declaring A Species Extinct

Topic in Syllabus: Ecology & Environment

Process of Declaring A Species Extinct

Context:

One of the largest freshwater fish, Chinese paddlefish has been declared extinct in a study published in the journal Science of the Total Environment. 

About the “extinct” Chinese paddlefish

  • Chinese paddlefish measured up to 7 m in length making it an “iconic species”.
  • It dates back 200 million years ago.
  • Its ancestral home was the Yangtze River.

Reason for extinction:

Overfishing and Habitat Fragmentation.

Criteria of the red list of the international union for conservation of nature:

  • “Extinct in the wild” means a species survives only in a captive environment.
  • “Locally extinct” means a species has ceased to exist in a particular area but may exist in other areas. 
  • “Functionally extinct” means the species continues to exist but it has too few members to enable to reproduce meaningfully enough to ensure survival. 
  • “Globally extinct”, it means a species has no surviving member anywhere. Such a conclusion is reached when there is no reasonable doubt left that its last member has died.

Process of declaring a species extinct

  • Declaring a species extinct is an elaborate process involving:
  • A series of exhaustive surveys, which need to be taken at appropriate times, throughout the species’ historic range and over a time-frame that is appropriate to the species’ life cycle and form. 
  • When these surveys fail to record the existence of any individuals belonging to that species, a species may be presumed to be extinct.

 Therefore, Once declared extinct, a species is not eligible for protective measures and conservation funding.

 

Sample Question:

Which of the following pairs is/are correctly matched?

                      Species                            IUCN Status

  1. Chinese paddlefish       –     Critically Endangered
  2. Humpback mahseer    –      Endangered
  3. Pondicherry Shark      –     Critically Endangered

Select the answer using the code below:

  • (a) 1 and 3
  • (b) 2 only
  • (c) 3 only
  • (d) 2 and 3

Answer: C


Topic: Revolutionary Ashfaqullah Khan

Topic in Syllabus: Indian History

Revolutionary Ashfaqullah Khan

Context:

The Uttar Pradesh cabinet recently approved a proposal to set aside Rs 234 crore for a zoological garden spread across 121 acres in Gorakhpur, to be named after the freedom fighter and revolutionary Shaheed Ashfaqullah Khan.

Who was Ashfaqullah Khan?

  • Khan was born on October 22, 1900, in Shahjahanpur, Uttar Pradesh.
  • He grew up at a time when Mahatma Gandhi had launched the non-cooperation movement and urged Indians not to pay taxes to the government or co-operate with the British.
  • Chauri Chaura incident– Within about 1.5 years of the movement’s launch, in February 1922, the Chauri Chaura incident took place in Gorakhpur.
  • In the incident, large number of non-cooperation protestors clashed with the police and set the police station on fire, killing roughly 22 policemen.
  • Opposed to violence, Gandhi called off the movement.
  • Youth’s reaction– The youth of the country were greatly disappointed and disillusioned with this. Khan was one among these youths.
  • Subsequently, he joined the revolutionaries and became acquainted with Bismil.
  • The  Hindustan Socialist Republican Association– In the mid-1920s, Khan and Bismil went on to found the Hindustan Socialist Republican Association (HSRA), with the aim of winning freedom for the country through an armed revolution.
  • HSRA published a manifesto titled “The Revolutionary” in 1925.

Hindustan Socialist Republican Association:

  • The Hindustan Socialist Republican Association (HSRA) was a revolutionary party set up by Ram Prasad Bismil and his associates to fight against British colonial rule in India and achieve independence for the country through an armed rebellion if necessary.
  • HSRA published its manifesto titled “The Revolutionary”in 1925, which, among other things, said, “The immediate object of the revolutionary party in the domain of politics is to establish a federal Republic of United State of India by an organized and armed revolution.

HRA Formation

  • The constitution for the HRA was drafted by Bismil in 1923 at Allahabad with the blessing of Lala Har Dayal.
  • Other prominent members of the party were Sachindra Nath Sanyal and Jogesh Chandra Chatterjee (who was also a member of the Anushilan Samiti).
  • The HRA formed centres at, besides Allahabad, Agra, Kanpur, Varanasi, Lucknow, Shahjahanpur and Saharanpur.
  • It also had bomb manufacturing units at Calcutta and Deogarh.
  • A manifesto for the party was written by Sanyal titled ‘Revolutionary’. It contained incendiary material asking the youth of the country to join the party and take part in the freedom struggle. It did not approve of the methods used by Gandhi and criticised them. The manifesto stated that it sought to achieve a ‘Federal Republic of the United States of India’ after overthrowing British rule.
  • It also demanded universal suffrage. The material espoused a socialist society for India.
  • The pamphlets were distributed in many cities in northern India.
  • In 1924 – 25, many young people joined the party, prominent among them being Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev and Chandrasekhar Azad.

Why they were hanged?

  • Khan and Bismil were hanged to death because of their contribution in the Kakori Conspiracy in August 1925.
  • In order to fund the activities of the HSRA, Bismil, Khan and over 10 other revolutionaries stopped the Kakori Express, robbed and fled with the cash they received.
  • Bismil was arrested on September 1926 along with the others and the Khan was finally arrested later in Delhi.
  • After 1.5 years of trail, they were sentenced to death in 1927.

What was the Kakori Conspiracy?

  • In August 1925, an armed robbery took place on board the Kakori Express which was going from Shahjahanpur to Lucknow.
  • It was carrying money that had been collected at various railway stations and was to be deposited in Lucknow.
  • In this planned robbery, carried out to fund the activities of the HSRA, Bismil, Khan and over 10 other revolutionaries stopped the train and fled with the cash they found in it.
  • Within a month of the robbery, many members of the HSRA were arrested.
  • In September 1926, Bismil was arrested but Khan was on the run.
  • He hid in a sugarcane field half a mile from his home for some time, before he left for Bihar and then Delhi, where he was finally arrested.
  • The trial for the case went on for about 1.5 years.
  • It ended in April 1927, with Bismil, Khan, Rajendra Lahiri and Roshan Singh sentenced to death, and the others given life sentences.

 

Sample Question:

Consider the following statements regarding Ashfaqullah Khan:

  1. He was one of the earliest revolutionaries who used violent means during World War 1 for attaining Independence.
  2. His life ended when he was sentenced to Death in Kakori Robbery Case.

Which of the above statements is/are correct?

a) 1 only

b) 2 only

c) Both 1 and 2

d) Neither 1 nor 2

Answer:  B


Topic: Annual Crime in India Report 2018

Topic in Syllabus: Security Issues

Annual Crime in India Report 2018

Context:

The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) published the annual Crime in India Report 2018.

Crimes against women:

  • According to the report, 3,78,277 cases of crime against women were reported in the country, up from 3,59,849 in 2017.
  • Uttar Pradesh topped the list with 59,445 cases, followed by Maharashtra (35,497) and West Bengal (30,394).
  • The conviction rate in rape-related cases stood at 27.2% even though the rate of filing chargesheets was 85.3% in such cases.
  • Cruelty by husband or his relatives (31.9%) followed by assault on women with intent to outrage her modesty (27.6%) constituted the major share of crimes against women.

Suicides report:

  • The NCRB also released the Accidental Death and Suicides in India 2018 report, which said that 10,349 people working in the farm sector ended their lives in 2018, accounting for 7.7 % of the total number of suicides in the country.
  • There were 5,763 farmers/cultivators and 4,586 agricultural labourers among those who ended their lives.
  • The total number of people who committed suicide in 2018 was 1,34,516, an increase of 3.6% from 2017 when 1,29,887 cases were reported.
  • The highest number of suicide victims were daily wagers — 26,589, comprising 22.4% of such deaths.
  • The majority of the suicides were reported in Maharashtra (17,972) followed by Tamil Nadu (13,896), West Bengal (13,255), Madhya Pradesh (11,775) and Karnataka (11,561)

More murder cases

  • The incidents registered under the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes related Acts saw a decline from 6729 incidents reported in 2017 to 4816 in 2018.
  • A total of 29,017 cases of murder were registered in 2018, showing an increase of 1.3% over 2017 (28,653 cases).
  • A total of 76,851 cases of offences against public tranquillity were registered in 2018, out of which rioting, 57,828 cases, accounted for 75.2% of total such cases, the report said.
  • As many as 27,248 cases of cyber crimes were registered in 2018, up from 21796 cases in 2017.

Data on Rioting

  • In 2018, 76,851 cases were registered under the category “Offences against Public Tranquillity”.
  • This was a decline from 2017 which saw 78,051 such cases.
  • Almost 90% of all such offences were associated with rioting while the rest were under “Unlawful Assembly” (popularly known as Section 144).
  • Compare this with riots for other reasons such as communal, students agitation, political and agrarian. According to the NCRB, political riots fell by almost 25% in 2018 over 2017.
  • Communal riots fell by almost 30% in the same period.
  • Caste conflicts too declined by almost 20%. Student conflicts marginally fell by about 10%, while agrarian riots recorded a decline of over 35%.
  • Cases of rioting during “andolan/morcha” too have registered a decline of 25%.
  • While cases of communal riots are down, cases of attempts at inciting passions and stoking hatred have risen.
  • The data show offences promoting enmity different groups have been constantly rising and have in fact more than doubled over 2016.

National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB)

  • It is an attached office of the Ministry of Home Affairs.
  • The agency is responsible for collecting and analysing crime data as defined by the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and Special and Local Laws (SLL).

 

Sample Question:

Consider the following statements with respect to the Annual Crime Rate report 2018:

  1. It is published by National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB)
  2. Overall crime in India decreased in 2018 compared to 2017

Which of the following below given codes are correct?

  • 1 only
  • 2 only
  • Both 1 and 2
  • Neither 1 nor 2

Answer: A


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