The HINDU Notes – 30th April 2019 - VISION

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Tuesday, April 30, 2019

The HINDU Notes – 30th April 2019

πŸ“° Rare stucco statue put on show

1.74-metre Bodhisattva figure was unearthed from Phanigiri on April 26

•Nearly 1,700 years after a life size stucco Bodhisattva was created by craftsmen at Phanigiri at the peak of Ikshavaku dynasty rule, the 1.74-metre statue was put on display here on Monday.

•Brown and white fragments of the statue covered with soil were laid out on two tables at the State Museum at Gunfoundry.

•“We unearthed this statue on April 26, and in three days, we shifted it here for safe keeping. This is a stucco statue and lot of soil and earth has accreted to the figure. We were worried it would get damaged due to rain and hence, shifted it quickly,” said Sunita Bhagwat of Department of Archaeology and Museums, pointing to the statue of a muscular figure with parts of the face and hip covered in soil.

•Officials said it is one of the rare life-size figures in stucco to be unearthed in India. “I suspect the statue was built in a standing position and later collapsed face down. We were surprised during excavation as one piece after another was flipped over around 3 p.m. on April 26 at Phanigiri,” said M.A. Srinivasan, who was part of the team that discovered the statue.

•“Our priority is to mend it and ensure there is no further damage. We are in touch with conservation experts to see how best we can protect it and later put it on display,” said Ms. Bhagwat.

πŸ“° SC restrains HC from appointing civil judges

Registrar General summoned with selection records pertaining to the posts

•The Supreme Court Monday directed the Punjab and Haryana High Court Registry not to appoint any civil judge in Haryana without its nod and summoned the Registrar General with all the selection records pertaining to the exams held to fill 107 posts in lower judiciary.

•The top court was hearing the plea filed by 92 aspirants to the post of Civil Judge (Junior Division) in Haryana. They alleged that 1,282 examinees, who had qualified the preliminary tests, appeared for the mains and out them only 9 were selected for the interview against a total 107 vacancies.

•“Issue notice, returnable on May 3. The Registrar General of the High Court of Punjab and Haryana will be present with the records of the selection, including the evaluation of the answer scripts of all the candidates appeared in the Main Written Examination. No appointments will be made without leave of the court,” said a Bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi.

Discrepancies alleged

•The plea, filed through Prashant Bhushan, Amiy Shukla and Shakti Vardhan, has listed out several discrepancies and sought quashing of the result of the Main (Written) Examination of Civil Judge (Junior Division) in the Haryana, which was declared on April 11.

•The Bench, which also comprised Justices Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna, was hearing the petition challenging the selection process and evaluation method adopted in the examination on the grounds of being “unreasonable, arbitrary and malafide”.

•The plea alleged that if the examination’s selection process was not stayed, it would cause irreparable damage to the petitioners and other unsuccessful candidates.

•The petitioners alleged that various RTI applications were filed immediately after the result of the main examination seeking disclosure of marks, copies of answer scripts, model answers and marking criteria, but to no avail and the interview tests were scheduled on the basis of the already declared results.

•The petitioners have alleged that there was a “serious problem” with the evaluation method being conducted for selecting judicial officers in Haryana.

•A total 14,301 students took the preliminary examination held on December 22, 2018 for total 107 vacancies.

‘99% failed test’

•“1,282 students, out of 14,301, who were declared successful in preliminary examination, took the main examination held on March 15 and 17, 2019,” it said. The main examination was cleared only by nine students out of 1,282, against the total vacancies of 107 which means that a total of 99.298 % of the students failed the test, the plea said.

•“Some of the candidates who have not been found fit for the interview are the toppers and gold medallists in their respective reputed law colleges, the plea said.

πŸ“° Permanent closure of LoC trade sought

•The Jammu and Kashmir BJP on Monday pitched for permanent closure of cross-LoC trade, currently suspended on the direction of the Centre, saying it has developed into a channel to foment trouble and sponsor illegal and unwanted activities.

•The party also launched a scathing attack on National Conference and PDP leadership for their stand on Article 370 and Article 35A which, according to the BJP, have lost their relevance and time has come for their “removal for good”.

πŸ“° Army invokes emergency powers for missile deal

Army invokes emergency powers for missile deal
Set to procure systems from Israel and Russia

•The Army is in the process of procuring Spike-LR Anti-Tank Missiles from Israel and Igla-S Very Short Range Air Defence Systems (VSHORAD) from Russia through a set of new financial powers for emergency procurements sanctioned by the Defence Ministry earlier this month, Defence sources said.

•“Under the latest emergency financial powers, armed forces have been given a free hand to procure equipment worth up to ₹300 crore on a priority basis. The Request For Proposal (RFP) for the two deals have been issued and negotiations are ongoing,” the source said. Entirely new systems not in use can also be procured under the new powers, the source stated.

•Tenders for both deals had gone through regular procurement process earlier. While the Spike tender was cancelled during the cost negotiation phase, the deal for Igla, after repeated delays, is in the cost negotiation phase. However, given the questions that were raised in the earlier deals, clarity is needed on the modalities for purchase through the emergency route.

•Under the emergency route, the Army is looking to procure about 12 launchers and around 250 missiles for each system. Deliveries have to be completed in three months, but extendable to six months.

•The Spike-LR (Long Range) being procured is a different variant from the one tested and shortlisted as part of the earlier procurement for over 8,000 missiles and 300 launchers along with technology transfer. As contract negotiations dragged on, the deal was cancelled in January last year and it was decided to procure a smaller number — 170 launchers, 4,500 missiles and 15 simulators — through an Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA) and make up the balance requirement with an indigenous Man Portable ATGM currently under development.

•Before the IGA was concluded, validatory trials of the Infrared Seeker (IR) of the missile were to be held during the Indian summers as the missile “did not perform as desired in the previous trials during peak summer temperatures in the desert,” according to another source. However, the IGA has not made progress so far. The Spike-LR (Long Range) has a range of 4 km. It is so far not clear if additional trials would be performed as part of the emergency procurement. Some defence officials indicated that testing was not required as the missile is operational and in service across the world and that if needed tests would be carried out in the home country (Israel).


•The deal for VSHORAD, to replace the legacy Igla systems in service, began in 2010 and has since seen several trials and re-trials with three contenders in the fray — MBDA of France, Rosoboronexport of Russia and SAAB of Sweden. Eventually, all three were declared technically complaint last year.

•While the benchmark price determined was just over $2 bn, Rosoboronexport’s bid was much lower at around $1.47 bn, while SAAB’s bid was at about $2.6 bn and MBDA around $3.68 bn. This led to a division within the Ministry on how to proceed given such low bid from the Russians compared to the benchmark price, but eventually Igla-S was declared the winner. “The deal is currently at the Contract Negotiation phase,” the source said.

•Officials said the emergency procurements were one of critical procurement and not related to the acquisitions through the regular route, in a bid to assure that these would not impact the regular deals.

•In the case of VSHORAD, the other two vendors lodged protests and wrote a series of letters to the Defence Ministry on several occasions alleging procedural violations favouring Igla-S which were rejected.

πŸ“° India-China team on pharma to meet next month

Move part of efforts by India to increase pharmaceutical exports to its neighbour

•India will be sending a high-level delegation to the first meeting of the working group on pharmaceuticals, with China, scheduled in Beijing next month.

•An initiative under the India-China Strategic Economic Dialogue (SED) Mechanism, the working group meeting comes in the backdrop of growing efforts by India to increase pharma exports to China.

•In doing so, the emphasis has been on impressing upon China to make the drug registration process easier for Indian pharma companies. “There is a need for strengthening our exports to China and also to reduce import dependence from China, which could be achieved with regular trade and bilateral discussions,” a communication from the Pharmaceuticals Export Promotion Council of India (Pharmexcil) to its members said.

Seventeenth position

•In 2018-19, China figured in the 17th spot in the list of India’s top pharma export destinations. At $230.19 million, exports increased 14.83% from the previous year’s $200.46 million.

•The growth potential, however, is much higher, considering the fact that the exports grew 52% in 2017-18.

•The Indian delegation will be led by Joint Secretary to the Department of Pharmaceuticals and comprise senior officials from the Commerce Ministry as well. Senior executives of a few pharma companies from India as well as of those already involved in their firms’ operations in China, such as Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories and Hetero, are expected to be part of the delegation, sources said.

•The Working Group meeting is on May 7, and will be followed by the delegation visiting API plants and interacting with API manufacturers and trade associations on May 8-9. Pharmaceuticals, according to Pharmexcil, has come to the centrestage of such discussions in the wake of China removing import tariffs on oncology drugs and a few others products. It is against this backdrop India is keen on China relaxing the drug registration process. Such a move – now 3-5 years is the time taken for getting a product registration from China’s National Medical Products Administration and the cost is about $58,000 per drug – would encourage more Indian companies to supply to China.

πŸ“° Penal provision necessary to avoid frivolous complaints against VVPAT: EC

•The Election Commission on Monday said the penal provision for a voter making any false allegation about VVPAT displaying wrong result was necessary to prevent frivolous complaints.

•Deputy Election Commissioner Sudip Jain said it usually took more than 20 minutes for poll officials to address a complaint of VVPAT showing wrong result. A series of such complaints could even sabotage the election process.

•The Commission has so far received three such complaints, one each from Gujarat and Kerala and another from a former DGP in Assam. While the first two complaints were found to be incorrect, the former DGP refused to give a declaration that he would be penalised if his complaint turned out to be false.

•The EC’s assertion came on a day when the Supreme Court sought its response to a petition seeking decriminalisation of the related provision, Rule 49MA of the Conduct of Elections Rules.

•As provided, any person making a claim about the malfunction after casting his vote has to make a declaration, after which the person is allowed to cast a “test” vote. If the allegation is false, a case under Section 177 of the IPC is made out. It prescribes simple imprisonment for a term extending to six months, or with fine of ₹1,000, or both.

πŸ“° Severe cyclonic storm ‘Fani’ heading towards Odisha

The IMD said the possibility of landfall in Odisha is under continuous watch.

•Cyclone ‘Fani’ intensified into a ‘severe cyclonic storm’ on Monday evening and is headed towards the Odisha coast, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said.

•It could take a shape of an ‘extremely severe cyclone’ by Wednesday, prompting the government to put the National Disaster Response Force and the Indian Coast Guard on high alert, officials said.

•In its 9 pm bulletin, the Cyclone Warning Division of the IMD said the storm currently lays about 620 km east-northeast of the Trincomalee in Sri Lanka, 770 km east-southeast of Chennai and 900 km south-southeast of Machilipatnam.

•“The Cyclonic storm ‘Fani’ (pronounced as Foni) over Southeast Bay of Bengal and neighbourhood moved north-northwestwards with a speed of about 16 kilometres per hour in last six hours, intensified into a severe cyclonic storm.

•“It is very likely to intensify into a very severe cyclonic storm during next 24 hours and into an extremely severe cyclonic storm during subsequent 24 hours. It is very likely to move northwestwards till May 1 evening and thereafter recurve north-northeastwards towards the Odisha coast,” the bulletin said.

•The National Crisis Management Committee (NCMC), the country’s top body to deal with emergency situation, Monday took stock of the situation arising out of cyclone ‘Fani’ and assured the state governments concerned of all assistance from the central government to face the storm.

•The NDRF and the Indian Coast Guard have been put on high alert and the fishermen have been asked not to venture into the sea as cyclone ‘Fani’ is expected to intensify into a ‘very severe storm’ by Tuesday, the Home Ministry said.

•The wind speed of a cyclonic storm is 80-90 kilometres per hour with wind gusting up to 100 kmph. In case of an ‘extremely severe cyclonic storm’, the wind speed goes up to 170-180 kmph and could gain the speed of 195 kmph.

•Light to moderate rainfall at a few places is very likely over north coastal Andhra Pradesh and south coastal Odisha on Thursday.

•The precipitation is likely to increase intensity with ‘heavy to very heavy rainfall’ at isolated places over coastal Odisha and adjoining districts of north coastal Andhra Pradesh from Thursday.

•Light to moderate rainfall is expected at many places. Downpour at isolated places is also very likely to start over coastal districts of West Bengal from Friday, the IMD said.

•The NCMC met here under the chairmanship of Cabinet Secretary P K Sinha and took stock of the situation. Chief secretaries, principal secretaries of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha and West Bengal attended the meeting through video conference.

•Senior officers from the central ministries and agencies concerned also attended the meeting.

•The NDRF and the Indian Coast Guard are coordinating with the state governments. The home ministry has assured the state governments to release in advance the first instalment of the State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF), as per their request, a Home Ministry statement said.

•During the meeting, officers of all the state governments concerned confirmed their full preparedness to deal with any emerging situation arising out of the cyclonic storm.

•Further, the state government highlighted that there is a seasonal ban on fishing in sea up to June 14 due to breeding season. The state governments were advised to effectively enforce this ban.

•According to the IMD, the cyclone’s landfall over Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh is ruled out. However, the possibility of landfall in Odisha is under continuous watch.

•Regular warnings have been issued since April 25 to fishermen not to venture into the sea and asking those at sea to return to the coast.

•The IMD has been issuing three hourly bulletins with latest forecast to all the states concerned. The Home Ministry is also in continuous touch with the state governments and the central agencies concerned, the statement said.

•The NCMC meeting followed directions from Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is closely monitoring the situation. The NCMC will meet again on Tuesday to take stock of the situation.

πŸ“° NGT direct U.P. govt. to take remedial action

On curbing industrial water pollution

•The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has directed the Uttar Pradesh government to take steps in curbing water pollution around industrial areas in the State.

•Following a report furnished by the Uttar Pradesh Pollution Control Board stating that industrial effluents are contaminating the Hindon river, a Bench headed by NGT Chairperson Adarsh Kumar Goel said, “When industrial areas are set up, requisite infrastructure for scientific discharge of effluents is not being developed. Let this aspect be considered by the Chief Secretary, U.P., and remedial measures be taken.”

•The Bench added that the remedial measures to be taken are in respect of areas that are “already set up as well as the areas which may be set up later” as industrial areas.

•Taking into consideration an action taken report submitted by the State pollution control board, the Bench observed, “…(the report) acknowledges that industrial effluents and sewage are being discharged into the drain connecting Hindon river which is broken at many places. Overflow of the effluents is collected in vacant plots.”

•“The UPPCB may monitor the compliance of the environmental norms and furnish a further report to the tribunal within three months,” the bench said.

πŸ“° HC adjourns petition challenging NGT order on sand mining

Tribunal had asked State government to deposit Rs. 100 crore for damage done by unregulated excavations

•The petition filed by the owner of a construction and sand mining company in the Andhra Pradesh High Court against the National Green Tribunal (NGT) order on sand mining in Andhra Pradesh has been adjourned until after the summer holidays.

•The NGT in the order had asked the Andhra Pradesh government to deposit Rs. 100 crore for the damage done by unregulated sand mining and banned mechanised sand mining.

•Justice Kongara Vijaya Lakshmi on Monday heard the arguments of the advocates of the petitioner and the respondents, which included National Green Tribunal (NGT), departments of Industries and Commerce, Irrigation, Mines and Geology and anti-land pooling activist Anumolu Gandhi before adjourning the case.

•Counsel for the petitioner Kanneganti Buchaiah said that the government allotted the work of sand mining to the company with strict guidelines, rules and regulations.

•His sand mining and construction company would incur huge losses if mining was stopped as per the directive of NGT. The company would have to pay rent for the machine even if mining was not allowed leading to losses, he said.


•Counsel said that sand was being excavated following the Sand Policy of the Government 2016. According to the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, GoI, “Dredging and de-silting of dams, reservoirs, weirs, barrages, rivers and canals for the purpose of maintenance, upkeep, and disaster Management are exempt from the requirement of obtaining prior environmental clearance”.

•The NGT order was therefore “illegal, arbitrary, unconstitutional, unwarranted and void” and pleaded with the court to declare it as so.

•NGT and Supreme Court advocate and environment law expert Sanjay Upadhyay arguing for the fifth respondent, Anumolu Gandhi, said that those who wanted to challenge the order of a tribunal could do so only in the Supreme Court and not here. He quoted the case of Major General Shri Kant Sharma verses the Union Government case.

•He said what the NGT pronounced was just an interim order and there was still scope for the petitioners to appeal to the NGT, implying that there was no need for them (petitionmers) to approach the High Court.

•Raising doubts about the “maintainability” of the case, Justice Vijaya Lakshmi adjourned the case to after the court holidays.

πŸ“° Manipur tense over ‘unauthorised’ NSCN(IM) camp

Columns of Assam Rifles arrive in Sihai village; locals plan peace rally today

•A stand-off between the paramilitary Assam Rifles and the Isak-Muivah faction of the extremist National Socialist Council of Nagaland over an ‘unauthorised’ camp of the latter has turned a Manipur village near the Myanmar border into a virtual battlefield.

•Around 70 NSCN(IM) members had allegedly set up a camp at Khamasom village, about two km from the India-Myanmar border, a few months ago. The Assam Rifles came to know about this camp during an aerial survey on April 25 and urged the locals and church leaders to tell the insurgents to vacate the camp as it had been set up in violation of the ceasefire ground rules.

Ceasefire rules broken

•The NSCN(IM) had inked a ceasefire agreement with the Indian government in July 1997. According to the rules, the extremists are required to stay in designated camps.

•The ground rules also require security forces not to keep vigil within a certain radius of such designated camps. Though this rule does not apply to unauthorised camps, the Assam Rifles personnel made Sihai village, about five km from Khamasom, their temporary halt “in order not to create unnecessary tension”.

•Tension has gripped the people of Sihai with military choppers landing and taking off frequently in the area and columns of Assam Rifles arriving in batches.

•The chairman of the ceasefire monitoring group had on April 27 instructed the NSCN(IM) leadership in adjoining Nagaland to ask their members to vacate the Khamasom camp, but the extremists have shown no signs of leaving the area.

‘War-like situation’

•“It is a war-like situation and the people are panicking... We have decided to take out a peace rally at Sihai on Tuesday,” Mangang Raman, leader of the apex body of the Tankhul Naga people, said.

•“We are duty-bound to ensure the ground rules are adhered to,” an Assam Rifles officer said, indicating that armed personnel would stay as long as needed to vacate the ‘unauthorised’ camp that has been under constant air surveillance.

πŸ“° GRSE to build anti-submarine craft for Navy

•The Ministry of Defence (MoD) on Monday signed a contract with Kolkata based defence shipyard Garden Reach Shipbuilders and Engineers Limited (GRSE) for the construction of eight Anti-Submarine Warfare Shallow Water Crafts (ASWSWCs) at a cost of Rs. 6,311 crore.

•“The first ship is to be delivered within 42 months from contract signing date and subsequent balance ships delivery schedule will be two ships per year. The project completion time is 84 months from today,” The MoD said in a statement.

•Navy had issued the Request For Proposal (RFP) for design, construction and supply of the eight ASWSWCs to Defence Public Sector Undertaking (DPSU) shipyards and private shipyards in April 2014 in which GRSE emerged as the successful bidder.

•These ships displacing 750 tons, have a complement of 57 personnel and can reach speed of 25 knots. They are capable of full-scale sub surface surveillance of coastal waters and coordinated ASW operations with aircraft.

•These can also be deployed for search and rescue by day and night in coastal areas. In their secondary role, these will be capable to prosecute intruding aircraft, and lay mines in the sea bed, the statement added.

πŸ“° Committee constituted to oversee clean air programme

Cities expected to implement specific measures

•The Union Environment Ministry has constituted a committee to implement the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP), which aims to reduce particulate matter (PM) pollution by 20%-30% in at least 102 cities by 2024.

•The committee will be chaired by the Secretary, Union Environment Ministry and has among its members the Joint Secretary (Thermal), Ministry of Power; Director-General, The Energy Resources Institute (TERI), the Delhi-based think-tank; and Professor Sachidananda Tripathi, Indian Institute of Technology-Kanpur (IIT-K).

•The NCAP unveiled in January is envisaged as a scheme to provide the States and the Centre with a framework to combat air pollution.

•The committee would be headquartered in New Delhi and its remit includes ensuring “inter-ministerial organisation and cooperation, sharing information and resolving issues that could arise between ministries… The committee would also give overall guidance and directions to effectively implement the programmes,” said a ministerial note.

•The NCAP is envisioned as a five-year action plan with 2019 as the first year. There would be a review every five years.

•States in which the cities are located are expected to produce plans that include increasing the number of monitoring stations, providing technology support, conducting source apportionment studies, and strengthening enforcement. For achieving the NCAP targets, the cities would be expected to calculate the reduction in pollution, keeping 2017’s average annual PM levels as the base year.

•The World Health Organisation’s (WHO) database on air pollution over the years has listed Tier I and Tier II Indian cities as some of the most polluted places in the world. In 2018, 14 of the world’s 15 most polluted cities were in India.

•The NCAP requires cities to implement specific measures such as “ensuring roads are pothole-free to improve traffic flow and thereby reduce dust” (within 60 days) or “ensuring strict action against unauthorised brick kilns” (within 30 days). It doesn’t specify an exact date for when these obligations kick in. Experts have criticised the lack of mandatory targets and the challenge of inadequate enforcement by cities.

πŸ“° Genes of climate-resistant chickpea varieties identified

ICRISAT study discovers important factors for heat and drought tolerance

•An international team led by the Hyderabad-based International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) has identified in chickpea four important genes for heat tolerance and three important genes for drought tolerance.

•With rising temperatures and increasing climatic fluctuations due to climate change, the identification of these climate-resistant genes will help in developing newer chickpea varieties which can tolerate temperatures up to 38°C. Also, the identification of other genes with important agromic traits will help in increasing the yield and providing better resistance to pests and diseases. The study was based on complete genome sequencing of 429 chickpea lines from 45 countries.

•More than 90% of chickpea cultivation area is in South Asia, including India. Globally, more than 70% yield is lost due to drought and increasing temperatures. Chickpea is a cool season crop, so in general any further increase in temperature is expected to further reduce the yield.

Timely trial

•“With the identification of the heat- and drought-tolerant genes, it will be possible to cross a chickpea landrace carrying those genes with a variety and select only those lines (progenies) with the genetic markers that have the heat and drought tolerance genes. By using such genomics-assisted breeding approach, the time taken to produce a new heat- and drought-tolerant chickpea variety can be halved from about eight to four years,” says Dr. Rajeev K. Varshney from ICRISAT. He is the first author and one of the corresponding authors of a paper published in Nature Genetics.

•In India, chickpea is generally sown in September-October and harvested in January-February. “Currently, in India, chickpea does not face a major threat from increasing temperature. But we are already witnessing a slight warming during the months of January and February. So a new variety with heat and drought tolerance will be highly useful to Indian farmers,” says Dr. Varshney. “When heat-tolerant chickpeas are developed in future, farmers in India may have a possibility to go in for a second round of cropping. Though the yield will be less for the second crop, farmers will still stand to gain.”

Diversity, domestication

•The study has found that chickpea originated in the Mediterranean/south-west Asia and migrated to south Asia. It reached India about two centuries ago, apparently through Afghanistan. In parallel, it migrated from the Mediterranean to east Africa and central Asia. The study provides insights into chickpea’s genetic diversity, domestication too.

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