Current Affairs – 19th January to 25th January
CENSUS ON RELIGIOUS LINE TO COME UP SOON
The religion data of census 2011 would be released soon. The data was ready in January 2014 but the former government took the decision not to release the data ahead of the LokSabha elections. In normal course, the data from the religion census is released within three years of the census enumeration exercise being completed.
The share of Hindus in India’s population has shown the sharpest dip in a decade since Independence and has dropped below 80 per cent.According to figures of the religion census of 2011, which are yet to be officially released, Hindus comprised 78.35 per cent of the total population of 121.05 crore, compared with 80.45 per cent of the total population in 2001. In absolute terms, however, the Hindu population increased 14.5 per cent from 82.75 crore to 94.78 crore during the period (2001- 11).
The 2011 religion census data also shows that the share of Muslims in the population has risen80 basis points from 13.4 per cent in 2001 to 14.2 per cent with some border states showing a high increase. This decadal increase in share, however, is lower than the 1.7 percentage points increase registered in the previous decade, 1991-2001.
The share of Hindus over the previous five decades, between 1951 i.e. post-partition and 2001 dropped 3.65 percentage points from 84.1 per cent to 80.45 per cent of the total population. Again in absolute terms, the Hindu population more than doubled (172 per cent increase) from 30.36 crore to 82.75 crore during the 50 years till 2001. The drop in share of Hindus, due to a steady dip in the rate of growth of the Hindu population, comes on the back of rising education and income levels of the majority community.
The share of other religious groups like Sikhs and Christians in the total population remained steady at a little over 2 per cent each, roughly in the same range as in the 2001 census.
URBANIZATION HELPS ACHIEVE INCOME EQUALITY
According to a World Bank report, named “Addressing inequality in South Asia”, between 2004-05 and 2009-10, 15 per cent of India’s population, or 40 per cent of the poor, moved above the poverty line. In the same period, a sizeable portion of the poor and the vulnerable, over 9 per cent of the total population or about 11 per cent of the poor and vulnerable moved into the middle class. However, over 9 per cent of the total population, or about 14 per cent of the non-poor group, slipped back into poverty, revealing the greater risks faced by the vulnerable and even the middle class than in other countries.The third finding of the report challenges the conventional understanding of inequality in India.
Almost 200 million people moved to urban areas in East Asia from 2000-2010 – a figure that would be the world’s sixth-largest population for any single country, according to new data released by the World Bank.
For the first time, the data compares urban areas and their populations in a consistent manner across East Asia, providing governments and local leaders with a better understanding of the shape and scale of the growth so they can get urbanization right, creating opportunities for all.
The report finds a direct link between urbanization and income growth, showing how economic output per capita increased throughout the region as the percentage of people living in urban areas went up.
There are 869 urban areas with more than 100,000 people in the East Asia region. They include eight megacities of more than 10 million people: the Pearl River Delta, Shanghai and Beijing in China; Tokyo and Osaka in Japan; and Jakarta, Seoul and Manila. China’s Pearl River Delta has overtaken Tokyo to become the largest urban area in the world in both size and population.
WATER HIGHWAY PROJECT
The Sutlej and the Beas in Punjab have been included in a project to develop 99 rivers nationwide as water highways. The announcement was made at Bathinda, where the construction of Rs. 18,000 crore worth of road projects to make Punjab the first State to have all major cities linked through four-or six-lane highways was launched. The foundation for seven projects was also laid. Among them was the four-laning of the national highway from Bathinda to Chandigarh. The Rs. 3,342-crore project will connect Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan. It is expected that by December, the four-laning of the Amritsar-Bathinda highway would begin at a cost of Rs. 3,800 crore, Jalandhar- Moga (Rs. 1,500 crore) andMoga-Barnala (Rs. 500 crore). The Jalandhar-Hoshiarpur highway would be extended to the Himachal Pradesh border at a cost of Rs. 1,000 crore.
NEW SPAN FOR PAMBAN RAIL BRIDGE
The iconic Pambanrailway bridge at the southern tip of India completed 100 years with the centenary celebrations was inaugurated by Bharat RatnaDr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, former President of India at Pamban railway station in Ramanathapuram District. The Pamban rail bridge will have a new span soon. The rolling type lift span, which opens for vessels to pass through the channel, was designed and built by German engineer Scherzer.
The bridge is unique in the sense that its two spans open up to allow ships to pass under it. Another interesting feature of this is that a device fitted on the bridge warns railway officials if the wind speeds exceed 58kmph and trains are stopped from using the bridge. An anemometer fixed at 56th pier over the bridge records the velocity of the wind and whenever the velocity of the wind exceeds 58 kmph, trains are not allowed over the bridge. This is ensured by suitable connectivity to the approach signals from the anemometer. The historic and famous Pamban railway bridge has almost completed 100 years of existence. This bridge, which is a great tourist attraction, is located between Mandapam and Pamban railway stations in Madurai – Rameswaram section of Madurai Division of Southern Railway. The Pamban Railway bridge connects the Rameswaram island to the main land.
The Pamban railway bridge
The bridge was constructed between August 1910 and December 1913. The 2054.35 m long bridge consists of 145 spans of 40 feet steel girders and 1 span of 218 feet steel truss consisting of 2 lifting type of cantilever trusses. This span has been named after Scherzer, the Engineer who designed and executed this span. Works on the Scherzer span commenced in July 1913 and were completed in December 1913. A unique feature of this span is that it can be opened for the movement of boats / vessels by lifting the cantilever span for a maximum of 81 degrees in vertical plane. The Pamban Railway bridge was opened on 24th February, 1914 by Neville Priestley, MD, South Indian Railway Company Ltd. Railway traffic was opened in February, 1914 by the then South Indian Railway Company to facilitate transport between India and Ceylon.
GOVT ISSUES STRICT GUIDELINES FOR COAL BLOCK OPERATIONS
In an attempt to avoid future controversies associated with the allocation of natural resources, the government recently released the terms of agreement for coalfield operations that include stringent criteria such as protection of workers’ rights, efficient mining practices and anti-graft provisions. The terms were spelt out ahead of the auction or allocation of 101 coal mines. Of these, 65 will be auctioned and 36 allotted to state entities in a process to be completed before the end of the current fiscal year on 31 March.
Of the 101 mines that are up for grabs, 42 blocks with a production capacity of 90 million tonnes (mt) are operational.The auction and allocation has been necessitated by a Supreme Court order cancelling the allotment of 204 mines in September. CMPDA will have a clause which mandates “the successful bidder to comply with all the applicable laws in relation to health, safety, welfare, social security and minimum wages for the workers”.
ROARING SUCCESS: GIANT LEAP FOR BIG CAT
India now has 70 per cent of the tiger population in the world with the latest assessment estimating 2,226 big cats, up 30 per cent from 1,706 in 2010, according to preliminary estimates in “Status of Tigers in India, 2014.”
The largest increase is recorded in the Western Ghats Landscape complex — Kerala, Karnataka, Goa and Tamil Nadu, with 776 tigers (up from 402 in 2006). The Mudumalai-Bandipur-Nagarahole- Wayanad complex holds the world’s single largest tiger population currently estimated at over 570 tigers (in 11,000 sq.km of habitat). Goa now has a persistent tiger presence with three to five animals. However, the Sunderbans did not report an increase in the numbers because of a low prey base and other factors. Odisha reported a fall in number.
PROJECT CROCODILE’ GETS A BOOST
A crocodile project in Sunderbans, aimed at increasing the number of salt water crocodiles in the delta, has got a fresh start with the help of renowned experts in herpetology who introduced global best practices in crocodile conservation.
The Bhagabatpur Crocodile Project started in the mid 1970’s, was aimed at increasing the number of salt-water crocodiles, a Schedule-I species under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. A few years later, the eggs to hatchling ratio declined, and of the 100 eggs collected on an average, less than 40 would hatch, posing questions over the fate of the project.
The State Forest Department involved experts like Shailendra Singh from Turtle Survival Alliance, Lonnie McCaskill from the Disney Animal Kingdom and AnirbanChaudhuri, wildlife consultant, Herpetology from Kolkata-based Nature Mates- Nature Club.The crocodile project located at Bhagbatpur is next to the uninhabited Lothian Island, far from the mainland in the Sunderbans archipelago. The place does not have electricity and it was particularly difficult to create an ideal situation and use modern techniques to improve hatching of crocodile eggs there.
The experts provided inputs to forest officials on how to collect crocodile eggs, to distinguish between fertile and infertile eggs, to create the ideal hatching environment using mother nest substrate and artificial substrate. The training, which also included on field training, started in December 2013 and continued for a year.
In 1970, it was estimated that a mere 100 gharials survived in the wild. Getting alarmed, the Government of India subsequently accorded the highest level of protection to Gharial by bringing it under Schedule I of the Wild Life Protection Act, 1972. By the time crocodile hunting was banned in India in 1972, Gharials were on the verge of extinction.
In 1976, Project Crocodile was initiated with support from the United Nations Development Programme and Food and Agriculture Organization. The project included an intensive captive rearing and breeding programme intended to restock depleted Gharial habitats.
By the time the primary project ended in 1982, more than 1,000 gharials had been raised and released into sanctuaries, increasing the total population.But in recent years, human-crocodile conflict has once again drastically affected the population of crocodiles in the country.
What more is needed?
Revive and rejuvenate our rivers
Without fail, make local communities co- beneficiaries of all conservation initiatives.
Secure the National Chambal Sanctuary and other Gharial range areas through coordinated planning and action by the three states, i.e., Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan.
Re-evaluate environmentally sensitive schemes of river-linking, and large irrigation projects.
Base conservation plans on sound scientific study and monitoring of Gharial
MOEF TO REDEFINE DEFINITION OF A FOREST
The Union ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) is now in the process of defining a forest, after having allowed the diversion of forests for non-forestry purposes for decades. MoEFhas told the National Green Tribunal (NGT) it needs two more months to finalize the parameters for classifying an area as a forest, because several state governments are yet to respond to its request. According to MoEF officials the ministry has nearly cracked the definition, which is in line with the diverse conditions across the country, but is fine- tuning it in consultation with the states because once finalized, it is bound to have far-reaching implications.
India is a diverse country and conditions across India are different. The ministry has broadly identified three categories under which forests across the country would be defined. Currently, the definition of forests is an unresolved issue. Understood in the dictionary sense of the word, it often leads to varying interpretations.
AFRICA SOON TO ACCOMPANY CHINA ONTO SILK-ROAD
Following the visit to the African continent by Foreign Minister Wang Yi, China has accelerated its drive to draw Africa into the Maritime Silk Road, which is Beijing’s ambitious transcontinental initiative. Among the several themes that were covered during Wang’s five-nation visit, the push for speedy construction of a modern standard-gauge rail link between Nairobi and Mombasa was one of the star highlights.
The project to linkup the capital of Kenya and the country’s well-established port has much larger implications. Once it is through, the rail corridor will help connect the vast hinterland of East Africa with the Indian Ocean, making it a salient strategic project, which will add a layer to the realisation of President Xi Jinping’s dream of establishing a 21st century Maritime Silk Road (MSR). In scene of the plans materialising, Mombasa would be eventually linked with Malaba in west Kenya and then Kampala, Kigali and Juba – capitals of Uganda, Rwanda and South Sudan.
The Chinese undertook the project, clearly aware of the larger regional opportunities that it presented. Symbolically, this was evident when the leaders from Uganda, Rwanda and South Sudan stood aside with visiting Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqian in Nairobi, along with representatives from Tanzania, Burundi and the African Development Bank, to sign a deal on the project.As concrete steps are taken on ground, it has become apparent that Africa is becoming one the pillars of the MSR project. Apart from building railroads, highways and airports, the Chinese are developing 12 deep water ports, seven of which are along the African coastline.These are Djibouti, Dares Salaam, Maputo, Libreville (Gabon), Tema (Ghana), Dakar (Senegal), Bizerte (Tunisia).In turn, these ports connect with the MSR, as they are meant to serve large commercial ships coming from Asia, laden with food and industrial products, and return with raw materials from Africa.
The Maritime Silk Road
Officially the 21st Century Maritime Silk Route Economic Belt is a Chinese strategic initiative to increase investments and foster collaboration across the historic Silk Road.The Maritime Silk Road initiative was first proposed by Chinese President Xi Jinping during a speech to the Indonesian Parliament in October, 2013.In November 2014, Chinese President Xi Jinping announced plans to create a 40 billion USD development fund, which would help finance China’s plans to develop the New Silk Road and the Maritime Silk Road. China has accelerated its drive to draw Africa into the MSR by speedy construction of a modern standard-gauge rail link between Nairobi and Mombasa.
CUBA, US OPEN HISTORIC TALKS
The United States and Cuba opened two days of historic talks in Havana to end decades of Cold War-era animosity and re-establish diplomatic relations. The meetings in Havana follow the historic decision by U.S. President Barack Obama and Cuban leader Raul Castro in December to seek normal diplomatic relations. The Cold War-era rivals sat down for negotiations aimed at lifting restrictions on diplomats in Havana and Washington, and pave the way to return ambassadors, decades after relations broke in 1961.The raising of the U.S. and Cuban flags in each other’s capitals would send powerful signals of the new era the two nations want to enter, though no timeline has been given for reopening the embassies. On the eve of the talks, US President Barack Obama urged the Congress to end the decades-long embargo against Cuba, which the Castro regime has blamed for the country’s economic woes. The migration talks will tackle an issue that has vexed both nations for years, with Cubans regularly hopping on rickety boats to reach Florida, 145km away.
POLITICAL INSTABILITY REIGNS IN NEPAL
With the parties failing to reach consensus or agreeing on a compromise despite many rounds of bilateral and multi-party discussions, opposition parties continued their protests inside the Constituent Assembly (CA) as well outside to prevent the ruling parties from adopting the procedure to discuss the new Constitution.
According to the leaders from the Nepali Congress, the CPN-UML and the UCPN (Maoist), the Constitution would be passed once consensus is reached. In that event, the likely step would be to suspend all regulations and processes and adopt the draft of the Constitution to be promulgated at a later date.
CHINA’S ONE-CHILD POLICY AFFECTS DEMOGRAPHIC TRENDS
A new study has suggested that the 2013 reforms aimed at relaxing China’s ‘one-child policy’ are likely to have little effect on the country’s long- term demographic trends and the problem of China’s shrinking workforce. It explores why China has only partially lifted its family planning restrictions, suggesting that local governments rely on the income from fines imposed on couples who violate the one-child policy, known as ‘social maintenance fees’. It also argues that it is hard to dislodge the old system because of ‘policy inertia’ due to the vast family planning bureaucracy involved in implementing the one-child policy.
Key points mentioned in the Report:
v The study highlights UN figures showing that China’s population aged 65 and above is set to almost triple from 9% in 2010 (or 114 million) to 24% (331 million) by 2050. By contrast, the working population aged 20-34 is projected to shrink from 25% (333 million) of the population in 2010 to 16% (228 million) by 2050. However, the study adds that even though the country has had below replacement fertility for more than 20 years, total population has still grown by around 200 million over the same period and is forecast to continue growing for another 15 years.
The report authors describe the 2013 reforms as ‘relatively limited’, suggesting that only a partial lifting of the one-child policy was born out of government fears that a large ‘unmet need’ for children would lead to a ‘destabilising baby boom’. The authors also suggest that even those couples who might like to have a second child are not doing so because many are put off by the additional living and education costs entailed, also citing a lack of adequate childcare facilities as a problem.
As per the report, governments in East Asia and elsewhere have found it easier to encourage couples to have fewer children than they have in persuading them to have larger families. Tackling the real and perceived barriers to having children will need wide-ranging structural change, concludes the report. It suggests this will mean a review of the functions and financing of local government, as well as looking at what improvements can be made to reconcile work with family life.
VALLS UNVEILS ANTI-TERROR MEASURES
Of recent, French officials have unveiled sweeping new anti-terror measures, funneling 425 million euros ($490 million) towards counter- terrorism efforts, weapons, and intelligence staffing.The measures were announced by French Prime Minister Manuel Valls, promising better weapons and protection for police, an improved database for tracking suspected extremists, and 2,600 new counter-terrorism positions. The security measures will make it easier for the French to track the 3,000 suspected radicals.
In the French capital, on high alert since jihadist attacks left 17 dead weeks ago, Prime Minister Manuel Valls has outline promised measures to boost security forces. The worst attack on French soil in decades has put Europe on high alert and a wave of police raids, investigations and extraditions have taken place across the jittery continent. Valls announced the creation of special files for people linked to terrorism, and said prisoners linked to radical Islam could be isolated in jail, a hotbed for radicalisation. According to a source, 400 million euros ($460 million) will go to the police for hiring, upgrading information systems and equipment. European Commissioners in Brussels will meet to discuss the 28-nation bloc’s new counterterrorism strategy, including changes to the region’s Schengen free travel area and intelligence cooperation.
INDIA & THE WORLD
INDIAN MANGOES NO MORE BANNED IN EU
The seven-month ban on Indian mangoes, imposed last year by the European Union, has been lifted well in advance of the deadline set for the ban, which was originally till December 2015. This came after an audit by the EU last September showed significant improvements in the phytosanitary export certification system. Shipments of mangoes from India, including the premium Alphonso mangoes, had been stopped last year after inspections found some consignments infested with fruit flies.
The proposal by the European Commission to lift the ban on mango imports received the endorsement of experts at a Member State meeting. However, the ban has been lifted only on mangoes. Ban on taro, bitter gourd, snake gourd and eggplant remains in force.
The mango import season begins in April and lasts till June. The EU accounts for more than 50 per cent of total exports of fruits and vegetables from India. The U.K. is the main destination, followed by the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium. The imposition of ban on mangoes did affect India’s exports of fresh fruits which declined from $ 307.38 million in April-November 2013 to $ 291.43 million in April-November 2014. Mango exports to EU suffered a major dent and went down from $ 8.9 million in 2013-14 to $ 1.07 million in 2014-15
INDIA & HKSAR SIGN AGREEMENT
India and Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) of People’s Republic of China signed an agreement on transfer of sentenced persons and their social rehabilitation. The agreement was signed in Hong Kong by Indian Consul General, PrashantAgrawal and Hong KongSecretary of Security, Lai Tung Kwok. It would enable transfer and social rehabilitation of people coming under its purview. The agreement would add the existing framework of institutional cooperation mechanism between India and HKSAR to excellent cooperation.
MoU TO DEVELOP FLORICULTURE
Recently, MoU was inked between Governments of the Netherlands and Thailand with State government of Sikkim for development of floriculture in the Sikkim. This MoU will help Sikkim to reach out to the international market as Netherlands and Thailand will be providing expertise and technology to develop hybrid Sikkim’s Cymbidium and other orchids and also cut flower along with the marketing and transportation of flowers.
The agreement would be to make Sikkim, the geographical and environmental conditions of which are ideal for floriculture, better equipped to cater to demands and requirements of the international market
The Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) new chairperson is Hindi film producer Pahlaj Nihalani ,following the resignation of its Chairperson Leela Samson. The Government also appointed nine new members.
Nihalani, who has produced films such as Aankhenand Shola aurShabnam, has been appointed in honorary capacity, effective from January 19, for a period of three years. The other members who were appointed include writer- director Chandra PrakashDwivedi, best known for the television serial Chanakya, scriptwriter MihirBhuta, Bengali film actor George Baker, Tamil and Telugu actor Jeevitha, actor Vani Tripathi Tikoo, Tamil playwright and film actor S VSekar, Syed Abdul Bari, Ramesh Patange and filmmaker Ashoke Pandit. All these members have also been appointed with immediate effect for a period of three years.
King Salmanbin Abdulaziz Al Saud
On 23 January 2015, Salman aged 79, was crowned the new king after kingAbdullah died of pneumonia.
Saudi Arabia’s new king, Salman bin Abdul- Aziz Al Saud, is a veteran of the country’s top leadership, versed in diplomacy from nearly 50 years as the governor of the capital Riyadh and known as a mediator of disputes within the sprawling royal family. Salman had increasingly taken on the duties of the king over the past year as his ailing predecessor and half-brother, Abdullah, became more incapacitated. Salman had served as defense minister since 2011 and so was head of the military as Saudi Arabia joined the United States and other Arab countries in carrying out airstrikes in Syria in 2014 against the Islamic State, the Sunni militant group that the kingdom began to see as a threat to its own stability.
Thailand’s junta-stacked Parliament voted to impeach the former Premier, Yingluck Shinawatra for corruption in a blow that risks reigniting the country’s bitter divisions. The impeachment of Yingluck, the kingdom’s first woman Premier and the sister of former leader ThaksinShinawatra, carries an automatic five-year ban from politics while the criminal charges could eventually see her jailed for up to a decade.
DSC Prize for Literature
Indian-American author JhumpaLahiri won the USD 50,000 DSC Prize for Literature, one of South Asia’s top literary awards for her book “The Lowland.”
The fiction, which weaves a tale of two brothers set in Kolkata of the 1960s was nominated for the 2013 Man Booker Prize but did not win it. The novel is an extraordinary grant for several reasons. It is a remarkable example of enlighting philanthropy and recognizing South Asian writing. It seeks to discern the dissemination of these writers, celebration of their books and ultimately the integrity of the South Asia.