The HINDU Notes – 01st May 2018 - VISION

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Tuesday, May 01, 2018

The HINDU Notes – 01st May 2018






📰 Korean thaw

The stage is set for a truly historic meeting between Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump

•The summit between the leaders of the two Koreas is perhaps the most significant step in decades towards securing peace on the peninsula. Kim Jong-un on Friday became the first North Korean leader since the 1953 armistice to step on South Korean soil. Not many had foreseen such a rapid turnaround in ties between the two Koreas, given the acrimony and war rhetoric of the recent past. Mr. Kim had stepped up his country’s nuclear weapons programme since assuming power in 2011. Last year, U.S. President Donald Trump and he even exchanged nuclear threats. But it has become evident that Mr. Kim’s primary goal may not be to maintain the North’s nuclear capability or to live in a perpetually hostile environment. He has signalled that he is willing to barter the North’s nuclear capability for economic and security assurances. At their summit, Mr. Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-in, whose persistence in breaking the ice was vital to the historic meeting, spared no words in expressing their desire for peace in a “nuclear-free” peninsula. They declared that there would be no more war on the peninsula. There are plans to transform the existing armistice into a peace treaty with the help of the U.S. and China, to formally end the Korean war by year-end.

•The significance of the summit notwithstanding, peace is not a given. In the past, two South Korean Presidents had travelled to the North to meet its leader. The 2007 joint declaration after an inter-Korean summit had expressed almost similar goals as in the latest declaration, including on the nuclear issue. Yet relations deteriorated, with the international peace process failing to make any progress and the North going back to its nuclear weapons programme. What is different this time is that the inter-Korean summit is to be followed by a meeting between Mr. Kim and Mr. Trump. Mr. Kim first conveyed the promise of denuclearisation through visiting South Korean officials. And then he travelled to China to discuss the proposal with President Xi Jinping before meeting Mr. Moon. He announced a freeze on further nuclear tests and said North Korea’s main test site would be shut down, all aimed to show his seriousness of purpose. Mr. Trump has welcomed the Panmunjom summit and said that he expects to meet Mr. Kim within four weeks. Despite his promises, Mr. Kim is unlikely to give up his nuclear weapons unless he gets credible guarantees from the U.S., China and other countries. He is likely to also press the U.S. to withdraw its nuclear umbrella from the South. But it is quite extraordinary to think that Mr. Trump and Mr. Kim may actually now get down to discussing, face-to-face, steps towards denuclearising the Korean peninsula.

📰 Take oath of office in given time: SC

Bench issues order to legislatures

•Elected representatives should face “serious consequences” for not taking the oath of office within a specified time, the Supreme Court urged State Legislatures in a judgment.

•A Bench of Justices Madan B. Lokur and Deepak Gupta said measures should be taken to videograph the swearing in or oath taking so that no dispute arises in the future. The court’s judgment focuses on elected representatives of local bodies and their swearing-in.

No-confidence motion

•The case concerned a no-confidence motion against Uttar Pradesh’s Kshettra panchayat pramukh. The pramukh said some of the elected members had not taken oath and their votes were invalid.

•Dismissing the contention in its recent judgment, Justice Lokur, however, wrote that such disputes would erupt unless State legislatures provide provisions specifying consequences against elected members who do not take their oath of allegiance.

•Justice Lokur said the Constitution attached a great degree of solemnity to the oath of office. For example, Article 60 provides that before entering upon his office, the President shall make and subscribe the oath or affirmation.

•Similarly, Article 69 requires the Vice-President to make and subscribe the oath or affirmation before entering upon his office.

•“It should be appreciated that apart from requiring elected representatives of a panchayat attaching seriousness to taking the oath of office, an unimpeachable record of the elected representatives taking the oath of office should be maintained by officials of the State government,” the Supreme Court observed in its judgment.

📰 A dangerous incursion

The opposition of the government to the elevation of Justice K.M. Joseph is on specious grounds

•The government’s opposition to the elevation of the Chief Justice of the Uttarakhand High Court, Justice K.M. Joseph, to the Supreme Court, as recommended by the Supreme Court collegium as far back as January 10, 2018, is per se unprincipled. Its logic is faulty, both statistically and otherwise.

•Justice Joseph pronounced a historic judgment in April 2016 when he struck down the imposition of President’s rule in Uttarakhand. Little did he know that his judgment would stand in the way of his elevation. This has created a situation where the very independence of the judiciary is now under attack. We will have to await the response of the collegium. I hope its members stand together and speak in one voice. That is the only way the Supreme Court can reassert its supremacy in the matter of judicial appointments.

•Justice Joseph’s request to be transferred to the Andhra Pradesh High Court on health grounds since he had undergone a bypass surgery was ignored. In May 2016, the collegium had cleared his transfer to the Andhra Pradesh High Court. For inexplicable reasons, the recommendation was not forwarded for approval to the then President of India, Pranab Mukherjee. In the normal course of events, recommendations for transfers are cleared within 10 days. The attitude of the Union government shows that he was being targeted. The Centre’s obduracy by supplying unedifying reasons for rejecting the collegium’s recommendation can be clearly attributed to his judgment of April 2016.

Point of seniority

•Let us analyse the reasons put forth in Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad’s letter of April 26, 2018 for rejecting the recommendation for Justice Joseph’s elevation. The first is that in the All India High Court Judges Seniority List, Justice Joseph is placed at serial number 42 and that 11 Chief Justices of various High Courts in the said list are otherwise senior to him.

•This reasoning is flawed. The first is that Justice Joseph was, obviously, elevated as Chief Justice of the Uttarakhand High Court on account of his qualities as a judge over other judges who might otherwise have been senior. Second, seniority among High Court judges has never been the only benchmark for appointment as Chief Justice of a High Court or elevation to the Supreme Court. Ever since 2014, the government of the day has never considered seniority as the only basis for elevation. When Judges Deepak Gupta and Navin Sinha were appointed in February 2017 to the Supreme Court, there were 40 High Court judges across India senior to them. Similarly, in the case of Justices S. Abdul Nazeer and Mohan M. Shantanagoudar, who were also elevated to the Supreme Court in February 2017, there were 20 High Court judges who were senior to them. When Justice S.K. Kaul was elevated too, there were 14 High Court judges senior to him. In denying Justice Joseph his due, the government has left itself without cover.

Regional representation

•Another reason given by the Law Minister is that several High Courts including smaller high courts are not represented in the Supreme Court at present. It is true that High Courts in a few States are not represented. This has happened under the present regime as well as in the past. Justices K.G. Balakrishnan, Cyriac Joseph and K.S.P. Radhakrishnan were all from the Kerala High Court despite the Law Minister calling it a relatively small High Court. This was at a time when the strength in the Kerala High Court was less than 40 judges. Justices K.S. Paripoornan and K.T. Thomas were also elevated to the Supreme Court from the Kerala High Court when its strength was just 21. So, a small High Court such as Kerala’s has had a slew of elevations perhaps because of the outstanding quality of individual judges. The Delhi High Court, with a judge strength of 60, has three judges in the top court. The reason given by the Law Minister that in elevating Justice Joseph there would then be two judges from the Kerala High 
Court —which he considers inconsistent with the concept of adequate regional representation — is clearly specious.

•The Law Minister ought to have disclosed that in February 2017, two judges from the Karnataka High Court, Justices Shantanagoudar and Abdul Nazeer, were elevated on the same day. If two judges can be elevated from Karnataka, especially in light of the fact that Justice Kurian Joseph, also from Kerala, is going to retire in the course of this year, the logic of not having two judges from the Kerala High Court is clearly manufactured only to oppose Justice Joseph’s appointment.

•If one looks at the aspect of regional representation made much of by the Law Minister and analyses the current representation of judges in the Supreme Court, then the Allahabad High Court, which has a sanctioned strength of 160, should have many more than two judges. This logic also applies to the Punjab and Haryana High Court as well as the Bombay High Court. While the Allahabad High Court has two judges in the Supreme Court, the Bombay High Court has three. Therefore, the opposition to Justice Joseph’s elevation on the basis of inadequate regional representation is a bogey.

•The third reason is that there is an inadequate representation of the Scheduled Castes (SC) and the Scheduled Tribes (ST) in the Supreme Court. First, the total sanctioned strength of the Supreme Court is 31 judges. At the moment, there are 25. Six judges are to retire this year. Consequently, its strength, if no judges are appointed, will be reduced to 19. There will be 12 vacancies. If the government so chooses, it can give representation to the SCs and STs consistent with its logic. But this logic cannot be advanced in opposing Justice Joseph’s elevation. Such an argument only betrays the real intent behind the opposition.

•Having demonstrated the fragility of the reasoning of the Law Minister, all the points for not elevating Justice Joseph — such as seniority at the level of the High Court, regional representation, representation of SCs and STs — become insignificant when there is an outstanding candidate for elevation. I only wish to reiterate the recommendation made by the collegium on January 10, 2018: “The Collegium considers that at present Mr. Justice K.M. Joseph, who hails from the Kerala High Court and is currently functioning as Chief Justice of Uttarakhand High Court, is more deserving and suitable in all respects than other Chief Justices and senior puisne Judges of High Courts for being appointed as Judge of the Supreme Court of India.”

•It is crystal clear that the opposition to Justice Joseph is mala fide. The executive is seeking to blatantly interfere in the appointment process. If the government’s stand is legitimised, such incursions on the independence of the judiciary will become routine. We want our judges to be immune to extra-constitutional pressures. That immunity is the only way to protect our citizens. A judiciary that capitulates is the greatest danger to democracy.

📰 Local democracy in disarray

Twenty-five years after decentralised democratic governance was introduced, a look at why it has failed

•It’s been 25 years since decentralised democratic governance was introduced in India by the 73rd and 74th Constitution Amendments, which came into force on April 24 and June 1, 1993, respectively. The structural reforms that followed heralded an inclusive, responsive, participatory democracy which was tasked to deliver economic development and social justice at the grass-roots level. These reforms did not mean de-concentration or delegation. They were not even variants of fiscal federalism, which is much-theorised by Western public finance pundits and generally endorsed by their Indian counterparts. The creation of lakhs of “self-governing” village panchayats and gram sabhas, with over three million elected representatives mandated to manage local development, was a unique democratic experiment in the contemporary world. Parts IX and IXA of the Constitution, introduced following the two Constitution Amendments, initiated a process with standardised features such as elections every five years; reservations for historically marginalised communities and women; the creation of participatory institutions; the establishment of State Finance Commissions (SFCs), a counterpart of the Finance Commission at the sub-national level; the creation of District Planning Committees (DPCs); and so on. Moving the 73rd Amendment Bill on December 1, 1992, the Minister of State in the Rural Development Ministry underscored the “duty on the Centre as well as the States to establish and nourish the village panchayats so as to make them effective-self-governing institutions.”

•Today, the moot question is, what impact has this reform package had on democratic practices in India? Have these reforms ensured every citizen a comparable level of basic services irrespective of one’s choice of residential jurisdiction? While the economic reforms that were launched almost simultaneously with the decentralisation reforms made tremendous headway, making India the fastest-growing economy in the world today, local democracy has not much to write home about. Given the unprecedented growth of the economy over the last 25 years, its limited success in ensuring primary health care, access to drinking water supply, street lighting, education, food security, and so on is an enigma. The media and mainstream economists who get nervous when there is even a small slippage in the quarterly economic growth rate have been silent on this social failure in local democracy. Indeed, the village panchayats have not succeeded in enhancing the well-being, capabilities and freedom of citizens.

A systemic failure

•What went wrong? Skipping the several success stories, which are exceptions, what happened to the third tier may be hypothesised as a systemic failure. While the economic reforms were championed by the political class and received support from the bureaucracy, there was no perceptible hand-holding and support by the States to foster decentralised governance. (The people’s planning in Kerala is a conspicuous exception.) From the beginning, whether it was postponing elections or the failure to constitute SFCs and DPCs, it became evident that States can violate the various provisions of Parts IX and IXA with impunity. These are the provisions which envisage the delivery of social justice and economic development at the local level. It appears that the judiciary has been indifferent to the two momentous amendments and their potential.

•There was no institutional decentralisation except in Kerala. The roles and responsibilities of local governments remain ill-defined despite activity mapping in several States. States control funds, functions and functionaries, making autonomous governance almost impossible. Most States continue to create parallel bodies (often fiefdoms of ministers and senior bureaucrats) that make inroads into the functional domain of local governments. For example, Haryana has created a Rural Development Agency, presided over by the Chief Minister, to enter into the functional domain of panchayats. Legislative approval of these parallel bodies legitimises the process of weakening decentralised democracy. Increasing allocations to Members of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme, or MPLADS, which started in 1993, and their State-level counterparts, known as the MLALADS, hastened the process of euthanasia. There is no mandate to create a DPC tasked to draft a district development plan that takes into account spatial planning, environmental conservation, rural-urban integration, etc. In States like Gujarat, the DPC has not been constituted. A potential instrument to reduce growing regional imbalances is left to rot.

Continuity and change

•Looking back, there was a clear lack of continuity, and change for the better. Following the Constitution Amendments, Article 280, establishing the Finance Commission, was amended to add 280 (3) (bb) and (c), designed to empower the third tier. Following the recommendation of the 11th Finance Commission, there were reforms in budget and accounting, and efforts towards streamlining the financial reporting system at the local level. Even so, there is no credible fiscal data base and budget system among local governments now. That accountability arrangements remain very weak even after 25 years shows a lack of will. The 13th Finance Commission made significant steps to carry forward decentralised governance by linking the grants to local governments to the divisible pool via Article 275 besides taking various measures to incentivise the process of decentralisation. The 14th Finance Commission enhanced the grant substantially but did not take the change forward. The Terms of Reference of the 15th Finance Commission, which sought to abolish Article 275 and ignore an integrated public finance regime, do not seem to opt for continuity.

•Despite the reservation of seats for Adivasis, Dalits and women, these categories remain on the periphery, often as victims of atrocities and caste oppression rather than as active agents of social change. This means that involving women’s agencies and the marginalised to lead social transformation at the grass-roots level remains an uphill task.

•Even after 25 years, local government expenditure as a percentage of total public sector expenditure comprising Union, State and local governments is only around 7% as compared to 24% in Europe, 27% in North America and 55% in Denmark. The own source revenue of local governments as a share of total public sector own source revenue is only a little over 2% and if disaggregated, the Panchayat share is a negligible 0.3% (several States like Rajasthan, Punjab and Haryana have abolished property taxes and others do not collect taxes). This speaks of the fiscal weakness of village panchayats.

•Local democracy in India is in deep disarray. Will the Prime Minister take time to look into this pathology and take remedial action in the interest of democracy, social inclusion and cooperative federalism?

📰 AFSPA will continue in Nagaland: Rijiju

AFSPA will continue in Nagaland: Rijiju
Says the peace deal in the State hasn’t been finalised yet

•Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju said AFSPA, the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958, will continue in Nagaland as it is a “special case” and the “peace agreement” hasn’t been finalised there yet.

•Nagaland is the only State in the northeast, apart from eight police stations in Arunachal Pradesh, where ASFPA continues to be imposed by the Union Home Ministry.

•Nagaland, Manipur and Assam are the only three States in the northeast that continue to be under AFSPA.

•Last year, the Home Ministry gave up its power and asked the Assam government to take a decision on continuing AFSPA in the State. The Act gives powers to the Army and the Central forces deployed in “disturbed areas” to kill anyone acting in contravention of law, arrest and search any premises without a warrant and provide cover to forces from prosecution and legal suits without the Centre’s sanction.

State to renew plea

•Nagaland’s Deputy Chief Minister Y. Patton said the State government would reiterate its request to the Centre to revoke AFSPA.

•“The discussion on the Naga political situation is on and we are expecting the Government of India to solve the problem at the earliest. We have requested to lift AFSPA but we have been asked to wait for some time. When the solution (Naga deal) comes, automatically AFSPA will go,” Mr. Patton said.

•NSCN-IM signed a framework agreement with the Government of India on August 3, 2015 to find a solution to the Naga issue.

•The NSCN-IM has been fighting for ‘Greater Nagaland’ or Nagalim — it wants to extend Nagaland’s borders by including Naga-dominated areas in neighbouring Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh, to unite 1.2 million Nagas.

•Mr. Rijiju told The Hindu , “Revocation of AFSPA in Meghalaya is definitely related to improvement of the security scenario in the northeast. AFSPA is imposed both by the State and the Centre. It was withdrawn by Tripura (in 2015).

‘No politics’

•“It is a joint effort by the State government and the Centre. Security is a subject where both the Centre and the State should come together without any politics. In Assam also the situation has improved, that is why the Home Ministry withdrew it but it is imposed by the State government.”

•He said he was not sure if AFSPA would be lifted from Nagaland in future.

‘Many factions involved’

•“Nagaland is a special case…the peace agreement has not come about yet. There are many underground factions as well. There are issues like rivalry among different factions…I cannot say about the future policy,” Mr. Rijiju said. On April 1, the Home Ministry revoked AFSPA in Meghalaya and restricted it to eight police stations instead of 16 in Arunachal Pradesh.

📰 Power Ministry feels no need to change electrification definition

Power Ministry feels no need to change electrification definition
Village is declared electrified if 10% of its households have connection

•The government is not considering modifying the current, much-criticised definition of an electrified village, which counts a village as electrified if at least 10% of its households have an electricity connection, according to a senior official in the Ministry of Power.

•According to the definition, in place since October 1997, a village is deemed to be electrified if basic infrastructure such as a distribution transformer and distribution lines are in place in the inhabited locality, electricity is provided to public places like schools, panchayat office, health centres, dispensaries, community centres, and at least 10% of the households in the village are electrified.

Target of 100%





•“Obviously this does not complete the objective of electrification, we know it,” Joint Secretary in the Ministry of Power Arun Kumar Verma told The Hindu . “As of today in India, the rural household electrification is about 83%. From State to State, it ranges from 47% to 100%, but on average about 83% of households are electrified. So, to say that electrification means only 10% households, that’s no longer an issue.”

•“To come out of this dichotomy or contradiction, the government of India has already decided to go for full household electrification,” Mr. Verma added. “Once you target 100% of households, what is the issue of this 10%?”

•Prime Minister Narendra Modi had on Sunday tweeted that the country had achieved 100% electrification of villages on April 28, leading to criticism from various quarters about the deficiencies in the definition of electrification.

•“28th April 2018 will be remembered as a historic day in the development journey of India. Yesterday, we fulfilled a commitment due to which the lives of several Indians will be transformed forever! I am delighted that every single village of India now has access to electricity,” Mr. Modi tweeted.

‘Definition of past’

•“There was a definition in the past, and we are not going to be changing it,” Mr. Verma said. “Because what is the meaning of changing it if all houses are going to be electrified?”

•The government had in September 2017 launched the Pradhan Mantri Sahaj Bijli Har Ghar Yojana (Saubhagya), aimed at covering the last-mile connectivity of taking electricity to the household level. The target for the scheme is March 31, 2019.

•According to data from the Ministry of Power and the Central Electricity Authority, so far 84.3% of households have been electrified. The Saubhagya scheme defines the electrification of a household as including a service line cable, energy meter, and single point wiring.

•For unelectrified households in remote areas, electrification will involve the provision of power packs of 200 to 300 W (with battery bank) with a maximum of 5 LED lights, 1 DC Fan, and 1 DC power plug.

•According to Mr. Verma, 15% of the villages so far electrified have been done so using off-grid solutions such as solar, while the remaining 85% are connected to the grid.

•However, an in-depth analysis by The Hindu in March 2016 had found severe gaps between the on-ground reality and the numbers projected by the government.

•Of the many deficiencies found, the analysis revealed that while several villages were deemed to be electrified in the official data, the on-ground engineers had registered complaints that key components such as transmission wires had been stolen, leaving the village unelectrified.

📰 The cost of pollution

It adversely impacts both the economy and our health

•Pollution is a challenge to developing countries which try to achieve rapid economic development without adequately managing the environment. In recent years, the pollution load has increased, sometimes beyond the carrying capacity of the environment. Though various measures have been adopted to manage pollution, significant progress has not been achieved.

The environmental Kuznets curve

•India’s developmental activities are affecting the environment to a considerable extent, through over-exploitation of natural resources and indiscriminate discharge of waste. This has been interpreted by the environmental Kuznets curve (EKC) hypothesis which suggests that as per capita income grows, the increase in environmental impact hits the maximum and thereafter declines. According to the hypothesis, in the initial stages of economic growth, when more resources are used, there is greater waste generation and more emissions. But when a country has achieved a certain level of development, pollution reduces with greater protection of the environment, technological improvements, diversification of the economy from manufacturing to services, and increasing scarcity and prices of environmental resources, leading to lower consumption.

•India is on the upward part of the EKC. For achieving sustainable development, it must move to the second stage. However, it is not wise to wait for that stage. India can’t ignore the environmental consequences of its rapid growth. Over the last few decades, water-intensive and polluting industries such as textiles, leather, sugar and paper have shifted from developed to developing countries. They withdraw huge quantities of water and discharge effluents without adequate treatment. Before 1980, countries like the U.K. and the U.S. played a vital role in textile production and export. But by 2000, their dominance had substantially reduced and the share of developing countries like India and China had increased. One of the factors attributed to this shift is that there are relatively less stringent environmental policies in developing nations. Countries like India are now manufacturing products which contribute to pollution for domestic and international markets.

•At the household level, the economic loss on account of pollution includes the cost of treatment and wage loss during sickness. Pollution impacts ecosystems and related economic activities like agriculture and livestock. Air pollution causes climate change. Hence, pollution leads to the real and potential loss of the overall development opportunity in an economy. Generally, pollution impacts the socially vulnerable and poor communities more due to their weak coping options. When traditional drinking water sources get contaminated, the rich can buy packaged water. But the poor cannot afford it and are hence compelled to use contaminated water. They are also less aware of the health hazards caused by pollution.

•Pollution is not a disease, it is only a symptom. Hence, its root cause should be investigated. For instance, in developing countries, water pollution has not been a major topic of political debate, but political instruments including Environmental Quality Objectives and Uniform Standards are in the political agendas of Western countries. Natural resources management agencies have centralised structures and function without the consultation of multi stakeholders. Emission-based standards have not been very effective so far, since they are rarely monitored and only occasionally enforced. The ‘polluters pay’ principle is not in force. For the most part, polluters are not willing to internalise the external and social costs. Pollution is also neglected by funding agencies worldwide and by governments in budgets. However, experiences from the U.S. and Europe reveal that pollution mitigation can yield large gains to human health and the economy.

Remedial measures

•Economic growth is an inevitable requirement, but it need not be at the cost of health. To tackle pollution, there should be public awareness about its consequences, adequate pollution-linked databases, integration of pollution prevention policies into the development sector, strict enforcement of pollution control policies, eco-friendly inputs in production, reliance on renewable energy, introduction of market-based/economic instruments (charges/taxes/levies, tradable permits, subsidies and soft loans), and increase in ecosystem resilience through the conservation of biodiversity.

📰 Lake Victoria species under threat: report

Three quarters of endemics face extinction

•Three quarters of freshwater species endemic to East Africa’s Lake Victoria basin face the threat of extinction, conservationists said on Monday, warning the biodiversity there was being “decimated”.

•A fresh report backed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) assessed the extinction risk of 651 freshwater species like fish, molluscs, dragonflies, crabs and aquatic plants native to Africa's largest lake.

•It found that a full 20% of these species were threatened with extinction.

•The picture was, however, far darker when looking only at the freshwater species endemic to the area — 204 of those assessed, according to the report titled “Freshwater biodiversity in the Lake Victoria Basin”. “Three-quarters (76%) of these endemics are at risk of extinction,” IUCN warned in a statement.

•In its report, the Switzerland-based organisation pointed out that freshwater species are important sources of food, medicine and construction material for the millions of people living in the area surrounding the lake. The lake, which stretches into Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda and whose catchment also touches Burundi and Rwanda, is known for its high-level of unique biodiversity.

•The report pointed for instance to the African Lungfish, a long eel-like fish, which it said has seen its numbers dwindle due largely to overfishing, poor fishing practices and environmental degradation as wetlands are converted to agricultural land.

📰 Heavy rain spells doom for baby turtles

Sand compacted and nests strewn with cracked eggs and carcasses; forest personnel devastated

•Hundreds of thousands of Olive Ridley turtle hatchlings were found buried alive after four days of persistent thundershowers in Odisha’s Gahirmatha Sanctuary compacted their sand-pit nests.

•This year, over six lakh turtles nested at Gahirmatha, which hosts more numbers of Olive Ridleys than any mass nesting ground in India.

•A spell or two of rain around now is normal but continuous and heavy rainfall this year, especially every afternoon between April 24 and 29, has had a catastrophic impact on the Gahirmatha rookery.

•“The emergence of hatchlings depends on how loose the sand is. Thundershowers that occurred in the afternoon and evening for four days compacted the sand and baby turtles could not come out,” B. P. Acharya, Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) of the Rajnagar Forest Division told The Hinduover phone.

Significant loss

•“Although it is not possible to put a figure on hatchling loss, it is quite significant.”

•Although the loss of hatchlings has not been quantified, the sight of half-hatched eggs and baby turtle carcasses stuck in the sand has left on-duty forest personnel devastated.

•“Lakhs of turtles come to this part of world by travelling thousands of miles and lay eggs in January and February. Eggs of these harmless creatures face great risk from natural predators. Our watchers and volunteers protect eggs from dogs, jackals and other predators for 40-50 days. The whole difficult process comes to a naught when weather plays spoilsport at the time of the birth of babies, and it hurts,” said Mr. Acharya.

•Turtle hatchlings ideally emerge from eggs in the evening hours and make their way to the sea.

High tide

•Since mother turtles return to the sea after laying the eggs, turtle babies get no help in averting dangers. Also, high tide swept lakhs of eggs into the Bay of Bengal.

•According to data from the Rajnagar Mangrove Forest Division, Olive Ridley turtle hatching in 2018 began on April 23 and, over the next seven days, close to 27 lakh babies were seen crawling toward the sea. The adverse conditions may have caused the losses to outnumber the survivors.

📰 NASA mission to the ‘heart’ of Mars

•NASA’s first-ever mission to study the deep interior of Mars is on schedule to launch this week, the U.S. space agency said.

•The Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) is the first planetary mission to take off from the West Coast of U.S.

•Launching on the same rocket is a separate NASA technology experiment known as Mars Cube One (MarCO), which consists of two mini-spacecraft and will be the first test of CubeSat technology in deep space. The lander will study the deep interior of Mars to learn how all rocky planets formed, including Earth and its Moon.




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