The HINDU Notes – 08th May 2019 - VISION

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Wednesday, May 08, 2019

The HINDU Notes – 08th May 2019

📰 SC dismisses Opposition plea to review order on VVPAT counting

21 Opposition parties had sought a review of Supreme Court verdict that increased counting of VVPAT slips to five random EVMs in each Assembly constituency. The Opposition wanted to increase the number to at least 25%.

•The Supreme Court on Tuesday dismissed a plea of 21 Opposition parties, led by Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu, to review its judgmentrejecting 50% random physical verification of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) using Voter-Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT).

•"How much counting do you want now?" Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi asked senior advocate A.M. Singhvi, who is representing the Opposition.

•"We have asked for 50%, but we can settle for 33% or 25% verification. My Lords had agreed with our plea in principle, but increased the counting from one VVPAT to only five. My Lords had 50% was not 'viable' at this point of time during the Lok Sabha elections," Mr. Singhvi submitted.

•Chief Justice Gogoi responded, "We decline to review our order".

•The court dismissed the review plea.

•Mr. Naidu, National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah, CPI parliamentarian D. Raja and AAP MP Sanjay Singh, were present in the courtroom.

•The review petition was filed weeks ago after the court, on April 8, directed the Election Commission of India (ECI) to increase physical counting of VVPAT slips to five random EVMs in each Assembly segment/constituency.

•Earlier, under the ECI guideline 16.6, only the VVPAT slips from one EVM in every Assembly segment/constituency was subjected to physical verification. Scrutiny of votes polled through five EVMs was quite enough to ensure that an election was "foolproof", the court said in its April verdict.

•The court's decision was, however, a far shot from what the Opposition wanted — VVPAT verification in 50% or 125 polling booths in each constituency. The physical scrutiny of slips in five EVMs has increased the VVPAT verification percentage from 0.44% to less than two per cent.

•The review plea contended that the Indian democracy could not be left to the mercy of EVM programmers. It pointed to large-scale tampering and selective malfunctioning of EVMs in the present Lok Sabha polls.

•The earlier judgment had refused delve into the issue of integrity of the EVMs.

•Instead, the court was more keen on the logistics of physical verification in its April 8 judgment. It had said the VVPAT verification of five EVMs, rather than in 125 polling booths, was far more "viable at this point of time" in the Lok Sabha poll season. It had added that verification of five EVMs would not be a drain on the ECI's infrastructural resources and manpower as the Opposition's idea would have been. Neither would counting VVPAT slips of five EVMs take any substantial amount of time, it had explained.

•The ECI had said that a 50% random physical verification of VVPATs would delay the Lok Sabha poll results by six whole days. It had quoted from a March 22 report of the Indian Statistical Institute that said a sample verification of 479 EVMs and VVPATs out of a total 10.35 lakh machine would lift the public confidence to 99.9936%.

📰 ‘Karnataka has no right to utilise Pennaiyar water’

T.N. objects to neighbour’s projects

•Tamil Nadu has told the Supreme Court that Karnataka has no right to utilise the waters of the Pennaiyar river to the detriment of the people of Tamil Nadu.

•The flowing water of an inter-State river is a national asset and no single State can claim exclusive ownership of its waters, Tamil Nadu said in an original suit filed against Karnataka’s ‘work on check dams and diversion’ structures on the river.

•It said the 1892 agreement is ‘valid and binding’ on the party States. Tamil Nadu said Karnataka “without furnishing the details of its new diversions or new schemes or projects, and obtaining the consent of the lower riparian State should not suo motu proceed to construct check dams/pump directly from the river or from the tanks draining into river, which would clearly amount to an infringement of the rights of the inhabitants of the Plaintiff State [Tamil Nadu].”

•Tamil Nadu said a river even includes the stream, tributaries and other streams contributing water directly or indirectly into it.

Stand untenable

•“Thus, the major tributary, Markandeyanadhi, which has its catchment area both in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, cannot be considered to be out of the purview of the Agreement, and hence any new construction obstructing the flow of Markandeya river is governed and controlled by 1892 Agreement,” Tamil Nadu argued.

•Tamil Nadu said Karnataka’s stand that it is free to construct any diversion structure or large dams across Markandeya river is wholly untenable.

•“The Markandeya river is to be construed as an inter-State river and hence the 1st Defendant State (Karnataka) cannot suo motu construct a large dam just upstream of Karnataka-Tamil Nadu border, which results in obstructing the flows due to Tamil Nadu,” the State contended.

📰 Centre asks Supreme Court to rethink elevation of two High Court judges

Names were cleared by Collegium.

•The Central government has asked the Supreme Court to re-consider its recommendation to elevate Jharkhand High Court and Gauhati High Court Chief Justices Aniruddha Bose and A.S. Bopanna, respectively, to the Supreme Court.

•Sources said the government cited ‘regional imbalance’ for suggesting the re-think and returned the file to the Supreme Court Collegium.

•Justice Bose’s parent High Court is Calcutta and Justice Bopanna’s is Karnataka. Justice Bose stands at number 12 in the combined seniority of High Court judges on all-India basis and Justice Bopanna come in at number 36 in the list.

•Justices Bose and Bopanna were recommended for elevation by a five-judge Supreme Court Collegium led by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi on April 12.

•The Collegium is expected to meet soon to decide on the government’s suggestion. If the Collegium reiterates the names, the government is bound to process the appointments.

•Presently there are 27 judges in the Supreme Court. If the two judges are eventually appointed, the number would go up to 29. The sanctioned judicial strength in the Supreme Court is 31.

•On April 12, the Collegium had found the two judges “more deserving and suitable in all respects than other Chief Justices and senior puisne Judges of High Courts, for being appointed as Judges of the Supreme Court of India”.

📰 ‘Iran to reduce nuclear commitments’

•Iran will reduce some of its commitments to the nuclear deal in response to the United States’ decision to withdrew from the 2015 multilateral deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), state news agency IRNA said on Tuesday.

•“This will be communicated to the Ambassadors of the five countries” still party to the deal — Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia — at a meeting on Wednesday with Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Seyed Abbas Araghchi, IRNA reported.

•President Hassan Rouhani is also set to send a letter to the five countries’ heads of state in order to “clearly emphasise how much Iran has commanded patience regarding the JCPOA,” it said.

•“But opportunities have been lost, and the counterparts have been unable to live up to their commitments in the JCPOA, in a way that Iran is left no way but to reduce its commitments,” the news agency said.

📰 Govt. refutes report on discom debt levels

‘Pre-UDAY level prediction incorrect’

•The government has refuted reports that debt levels of power distribution companies (discom) have reached the levels they were at before the Ujjwal Discom Assurance Yojana (UDAY).

•The UDAY scheme implemented in 2015 was aimed at reducing discom debt levels and improving their efficiency. CRISIL on Monday released a report saying that discom debt was set to increase to pre-UDAY levels of ₹2.6 lakh crore by the end of this financial year.

•“Pre-UDAY debt levels of 16 UDAY states with comprehensive MoUs were to the tune of around ₹3.24 lakh crore,” the Ministry of Power said in a statement. “Therefore the prediction that discom debt at around ₹2.6 lakh crore would reach pre-UDAY levels is not correct.”

•The Ministry added that the CRISIL analysis perhaps did not take into account the fact that almost about ₹85,000 crore of debt was yet to be converted into grants or equity by the participating states as per the UDAY plan.

•“A deeper analysis of discom debt would reveal a tighter fiscal management by discoms,” the government added in the statement. “Discoms have managed their finances with around ₹40,000 crore less than what was expected under UDAY.”

📰 Odisha’s wildlife sanctuaries ravaged by Fani

Loss of habitat has forced hundreds of monkeys into residential areas in Bhubaneswar’s periphery

•Severe Cyclone Fani rendered not only several thousand people homeless as it tore along India’s east coast last week, but also dealt a body blow to wildlife and forest resources in the region.

•The scenic stretch along the tree-lined Marine Drive that bisects the Balukhand Wildlife Sanctuary adjacent to the Bay of Bengal between Puri and Konark, is now a wasteland with hardly any tree left untouched, wildlife officials said.

•“As per eye estimate, the cyclone damaged nearly 55 lakh trees, mostly casuarinas,” said Harsabardhan Udgatta, Divisional Forest Officer of Puri (wildlife) division. “As many as 20% of the trees were uprooted, while the rest were found snapped and broken. The devastation has left around 400 spotted deer homeless,” he said.

•Apart from deer, the sanctuary, spread over an area of 87 sq km, was home to wild boar, jackals, striped hyenas, wolves and mongooses. While the DFO asserted that no carcasses of spotted deer had been sighted, it was hard to imagine that the animals had actually escaped the cyclone’s fury.

Nandankanan closed

•In Bhubaneswar, the cyclone had uprooted decades-old trees inside the Nandankanan Zoological Park. Several animal enclosures too have been affected forcing authorities to shut down the zoo for an indefinite period. The Chandaka Wildlife Sanctuary, which is close by, has also been impacted with thousands of trees uprooted. Authorities are attempting to assess the extent of damage.

•As a result, hundreds of displaced monkeys have now entered residential colonies in the periphery of Bhubaneswar. Residents have reported cases of the simians iattacking people after loss of habitat and food sources.

📰 Rohingya trafficking: vigil up on Myanmar border

Locals asked to travel with ID proof

•The paramilitary Assam Rifles has stepped up vigil along the India-Myanmar border and asked the local people to travel with proper identity proof to and from Moreh, Manipur’s border trade town.

Illegal camps

•This follows a few cases of trafficking of Rohingya boys and girls detected in Manipur as well as illegal camps established by extremist groups such as the Isak-Muivah faction of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland. Officials in Moreh said the border between Manipur and Myanmar has been sealed expect for two international gates used by people on both sides for trade and social visits. As per a bilateral agreement, local residents of both countries are allowed to travel up to 16 km from the border without travel documents.

•Elderly traders are complaining about the identity cards that they said were never required even during conflict situations in the past. “This is a security requirement based on inputs about possible trafficking of people and movement of extremists,” an official said.

📰 ‘Crops worth Rs. 20 crore damaged in insect attack’

Mizoram government informs Centre

•The Mizoram government has informed the Centre about an estimated crop loss of Rs. 20 crore caused by an outbreak of the ‘Fall Army Worm’ (FAW) in the State, a Minister said on Tuesday.

FAW outbreak

•The outbreak caused by Spodoptera Frugiperda, an insect, has affected maize cultivation in 1,747.9 hectares in 122 villages, State Agriculture Minister C. Lalrinsanga said.

•The State government has constituted a Rapid Response Team to monitor the outbreak and take measures to mitigate the loss of crops, he said.

•State Agriculture Department director Rohmingthanga Colney said that chemical pesticides and organic ones were being used to kill the worm in maize fields.

•“Concerted efforts are being made to contain the outbreak which was first detected in Lunglei district on March 8,” Mr. Colney said.

•The FAW outbreak was reported in neighbouring Bangladesh and Myanmar early this year.

•Being a nocturnal pest, the FAW hides under maize leaves at day time and is difficult to detect.

📰 Fall armyworm threat to crops in Adilabad

Scientists suggest preventive measures before the start of kharif season

•Agriculture scientists and environmentalists predict that the deadly pest, fall armyworm (FAW), could turn out to be a scourge for farmers in former undivided Adilabad district in the coming crop seasons. The pestilence, which had primarily attacked maize crop in Nirmal and Adilabad districts, had damaged crop to the extent of 90% in some cases and is expected to attack even cotton and soyabean crops.

•“It is better to take precautionary and preventive measures before the commencement of sowing in kharif this year,” warned Coordinator of Adilabad District Agriculture Advisory and Technology Transfer Centre (DAATTC) Sudhanshu Kasbe. “Go in for deep ploughing to expose more soil to the sun and avoid staggered sowing,” he suggested.

•“If an entire village goes in for sowing within a short time frame, the growth of crop would be uniform and the distribution of the pest will be uniform too, which reduces the crop damage. Also, maize should not be sown until at least 50 mm of rainfall is recorded during the season,” he explained.

•The scientist also suggested sowing of treated maize seeds and inter-cropping with red gram and use of pheromone traps.

•“There is need for documenting the methods that farmers in Mahabubnagar and Ranga Reddy districts and in some places in Karnataka had used to control FAW. Also, instead of using the deadly pesticides recommended for its control without carrying any research, farmers should go in for local solutions,” advised Hyderabad-based environmentalist Donthi Narasimha Reddy.

•In the last season agriculture scientists had deployed some methods of damage-control in maize crop which is cultivated in about 20,000 hectares in erstwhile Adilabad. One of the methods, suggested by Food and Agriculture Organisation, was the use of sand and lime mixture in the whorls of the maize plants.

📰 Road accidents still cause most deaths: WHO report

WHO says over 1.35 mn lives lost a year

•Road accidents are the leading cause of death among people in the 5-29 age-group worldwide with more than 1.35 million lives lost each year and 50 million sustaining injuries, according to a World Health Organisation (WHO) report released during the on-going global road safety week.

•“But what makes matters worse for India is the fact that since 2008 we have maintained our dubious distinction of being world number one in road crash deaths. In 2015, India became a signatory to the Brasilia Declaration on Road Safety, where we committed to halving road crash deaths by 2020. Forget about halving, we may not even have acknowledged the full scale of the problem in India,” said Piyush Tewari, founder, Save LIFE Foundation.

Questions data

•He said that as per the data released by the Indian government, road crashes kill close to 1,50,000 people each year. However, the WHO global status report on road safety had challenged the numbers and stated that India might be losing over 2,99,000 people each year.

•“Road crashes have emerged as the single biggest killer of people in the age group of 15-45. We are in the midst of a major pandemic and the need of the hour is strong political will and leadership to address the issue. Simply blaming individual drivers will not help when the existing systems in which they are forced to operate are outdated and rotten,” Mr. Tewari added.

•Meanwhile, the reasons listed for this trend include — rapid urbanisation, poor safety, lack of enforcement, distracted, influence of drugs or alcohol, speeding and a failure to wear seat-belts or helmets, according to experts.

📰 Limit children’s exposure to digital screens: WHO

•The World Health Organisation (WHO) recently issued guidelines stating that children aged under five must spend less time watching screens and being restrained in prams and seats. It also said they should get better quality sleep and spend more time on active play.

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