JUNE 2018
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1. The ocean–atmosphere interaction plays a major role in controlling weather systems Mapping southern Bay of Bengal for insights into the summer monsoon An international team of ocean researchers has now generated a comprehensive in situ observational dataset of the physical, chemical and biological parameters of the southern Bay of Bengal, air–sea interface and the overlying atmosphere. The ocean–atmosphere interaction plays a major role in controlling the weather systems associated with the Indian summer monsoon (June–September). The field programme was carried out as a part of the Bay of Bengal Boundary Layer Experiment (BoBBLE) to collect the dataset, onboard one of India’s research ships Sindhu Sadhana, The two-month study — June to July 2016 — was carried out on multiple platforms (ship, ocean gliders and Argo floats) to measure salinity, conductivity, temperature, dissolved oxygen and chlorophyll content in the sea water. Salinity contrast “There is a huge salinity contrast between Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal. There are no major rivers in the western side of India. So Arabian Sea does not get much fresh water. 2.The exchange between these two basins takes place in the southern Bay,” explains Prof. P.N. Vinayachandran from the Centre for Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences at Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru. The southern Bay region hosts a salt pump which draws high salinity water from the Arabian Sea and supplies to the Bay of Bengal. The data collected during BoBBLE programme found that the sea surface temperature in this region increases steadily during the break period of the monsoon. 3. Gutkha and other chewable tobacco items are equally, if not more, harmful compared to cigarettes. Surveys show that these products are sometimes mixed with carcinogenic compounds called nitrosamines. The food safety rules target pre-mixed tobacco products, such as gutkha, which contains lime, sugar and other spices. This leaves unflavoured items, such as khaini or surthi, out of regulatory purview. 4. United Arab Emirates (UAE) on May 29 banned import of fresh fruits and vegetables from Kerala in the wake of outbreak of Nipah virus (NiV) in the state. Preliminary information, it added indicates that the main host of the disease is the fruit bat, where the virus is transmitted through secretions from the bat to the fruit that it feeds on or touches. Mangoes, dates and bananas are the bat’s most preferred fruit. There have been cases of transmission of the disease among humans and between humans and animals as well. 5. India’s 2017/18 cotton exports are likely to jump nearly 30% from the year before to a four-year high of 7.5 million bales, as climbing global prices and a weaker rupee boost overseas demand, the head of an industry body told Reuters. 6. MSCI Inc., a widely-tracked global index provider said it is considering placing some emerging markets including India on notice for limiting investor access What is MSCI? It is the world’s biggest index compiler, with more than $10 trillion in assets benchmarked to its products, with emerging markets alone accounting for $2 trillion. Why are MSCI indices important? The indices are closely tracked by global investors. Inclusion in MSCI Inc.’s stock indices opens up investment interest from foreign investors in a particular country and brings a stamp of financial credibility. What happens if MSCI caps India’s weightage? India currently has a weightage of 8.3% in the MSCI Emerging Markets Index. The weightage, which was 8.48% till last month, came down slightly following the partial inclusion of China A- shares on May 31. Since it is a widely tracked index, any changes in weightage would affect inflows from foreign investors. 7. The proposed Outward Direct Investment policy could, however, tighten provisions to prevent round-tripping To tighten regulations to prevent round-tripping structures, where funds are routed by India-based companies into a newly formed or existing overseas subsidiary and then brought back to India to circumvent regulations here. According to India Brand Equity Foundation (IBEF), “Indian firms invest in foreign shores primarily through mergers and acquisition (M&A) transactions The IBEF said ODI is being channelled into Mauritius, Singapore, British Virgin Islands, and the Netherlands mainly because these countries provide higher tax benefits. 8. What is LTCG? LTCG or long-term capital gains refer to the gains made on any class of asset held for a particular period of time. In case of equity shares, it refers to the gains made on stocks held for more than one year. In other words, if the shares are bought and held for more than a year before selling, then the gains, if any, on the said sale are referred to as long term capital gains or LTCG. Why is LTCG tax in the news? It is in the news as Finance Minister Arun Jaitley re-introduced LTCG tax on equity shares. Investors have to pay 10% LTCG tax on gains exceeding ₹one lakh on the sale of shares or equity mutual funds held for more than one year. Previously, short-term capital gains (STCG) tax of 15% was levied. The Centre said if the gains exceeded ₹one lakh in a year, then 10% LTCG tax had to be paid without the benefit of indexation (adjusting the profit against inflation to compute the real taxable gains). Was the tax levied on stock market trades earlier? Such a tax existed until October 2004 when it was replaced by the securities transaction tax (STT) which was levied on all trades made on the stock exchanges. The introduction of LTCG tax can only increase the cost of trading stocks at a time when various market participants have been highlighting the ‘export of capital’ to other countries due to lower transaction costs in those nations. 9 The conceptualisation of a new Theyyam, Alanthatta Daivathareeswaran, in Kasaragod, was a special event that was a confluence of tradition, folk lore, belief and rituals There are scholars who opine that the Theyyam is related to the cult of hero worship as it existed in the Sangam period (300 BC- 250 AD). These are considered as the base from which more Theyyams originated — surrealistic expressions linked with the worship of gods, heroes, ancestors, warriors, enemies killed in fight, tragic characters and animals, among others. The origins of almost all these Theyyams are based on some incidents or omens and popular faith irrespective of religion, and authenticated by astrological predictions and royal sanction. During the thottam (rustic songs explaining the origin of the Theyyam concerned, the locality, history and so on that is sung as a prelude) of the Theyyams, the Alanthatta Daivathar is customarily praised. The predominant right to perform Theyyams in the region belongs to members of Malaya and Koppala communities living in the area. However, astrological beliefs mandated that in this temple, only a member of the Vannan community should perform at the temple. Taking into consideration the demands of the concept of the Alanthatta Daivathareeswaran (Theyyam), the choreography was designed without any vibrant movements or dance unlike many other Theyyams to symbolise the mood of detachment and renunciation. To maintain the stayi (dominant mood) of the Theyyam, the Daivathareeswaran is not supposed to speak unlike other Theyyams. Blessings are only by giving flowers chethippoovu (Ixora) and thulasi (basil) used in temple rituals. “It is a rare privilege to do this Theyyam and is challenging as the dominant mood is that of a Yogi, unlike usual Theyyams,” muses Kanoor Kumaran Vannan, who donned the role. 10. Nataraja is a large granite idol with ten arms, and more importantly, the right foot is raised and not the left. At the Ratna Sabha, in Thiruvalangadu, where Karaikkal Ammaiyar sang of the Lord, the deity is in Urdhva Tandava pose, with a foot raised to his head. Yet another unique depiction of Nataraja is at Kizhvelur, the temple dedicated to Siva as Kedili Appar or Akshaya Linga. The sanctum is accessed by a small set of steps thereby making it a kattu malai – a built hillock. The twin shrines to Akshaya Linga and Tyagaraja (here known as Devanayaka) are where most people stop to pray. But in a niche by itself is an exquisite Nataraja – multi-armed and with His feet crossed, the right leg lifted just enough to show the sole fully to all devotees. This is a complete orchestra, the performers all being divine personages. Brahma is playing on what looks like an udukkai, Vishnu plays a drum, Lakshmi is keeping time with Her hands while Saraswathi plays the veena. 11. Fall in core capital ratio contributed’ Fitch Ratings has downgraded the Viability Rating (VR) of Punjab National Bank to ‘b’ from ‘bb-’ and maintained negative ratings. The two-notch downgrade is a reflection of the significant deterioration in its standalone credit profile, mainly due to a drop in its core capital ratio that was bigger than Fitch’s expectation, the rating agency said. 12. Cross-border environmentalism is crucial for South Asia, but India is not inclined to take the lead Ground fog, brown cloud As the UNEP will be the first to insist, climate change is introducing massive disturbances to South Asia, most notably from the rise of sea levels. The entire Indian Ocean coastline will be affected, but the hardest hit will be the densely populated deltas where the Indus, the Irrawaddy and the Ganga-Brahmaputra meet the sea. The retreat of the Himalayan glaciers is jeopardising the perennial nature of our rivers and climate scientists are now zeroing in on the ‘atmospheric brown cloud’ to explain the excessive melting of snows in the central Himalaya. This high altitude haze covers the Indo-Gangetic plains for much of the dry season and penetrates deep into the high valleys. This cloud is made up of ‘black carbon’ containing soot and smog sent up by stubble burning, wood fires, smokestacks and fossil fuel exhaust, as well as dust kicked up by winter agriculture, vehicles and wind. It rises up over the plains and some of it settles on Himalayan snow and ice, which absorb heat and melt that much faster. Like the ‘brown cloud’, the policy-makers are yet to consider the seet lahar , the ground-hugging fog that engulfs the subcontinent’s northern plains for ever-extended periods in winter, a result of the spread of canal irrigation and simultaneous increase in the presence of particulate matter in the air. 15. National Food Security Act (NFSA) In the 2013 National Food Security Act (NFSA), which has been lauded for guaranteeing a quantitative “right to food” to all Indians. However, the NFSA suffers from serious lacunae in its drafting, which severely undermine its stated objective of giving legal form to the right to food in India. Assessing the Food Security Act The NFSA surprisingly does not guarantee a universal right to food. Instead, it limits the right to food to those identified on the basis of certain criteria. It then goes on to further restrict the right to 75% of the Indian population. Another problematic aspect of the NFSA is its embrace of certain objectives that are to be “progressively realised”. These provisions include agrarian reforms, public health and sanitation, and decentralised procurement, but they make no mention of the need to reconsider fundamental assumptions about our agricultural systems and look at food security in a more comprehensive manner. Finally, while the NFSA addresses issues of access, availability and, even tangentially, utilisation, it is largely silent on the issue of stability of food supplies — a startling omission given India’s vulnerability to climate change impacts, to name one impending threat to food security. Thus there is a need to frame a “third generation” food security law and recognise and mainstream issues including increasing natural disasters and climate adaptation. Food security brings together diverse issues such as inequality, food diversity, indigenous rights and environmental justice. 16. Misuse of the office by some is not a justification for removing it altogether. We need proper checks Under the constitutional scheme, the Governor’s mandate is substantial. From being tasked with overseeing government formation, to reporting on the breakdown of constitutional machinery in a State, to maintaining the chain of command between the Centre and the State, he can also reserve his assent to Bills passed by the State Legislature and promulgate ordinances if the need arises. Further, under Article 355, the Governor, being the Central authority in a State, acts as an overseer in this regard. A possible solution would be not to nominate career politicians and choose “eminent persons” from other walks of life. Both the Sarkaria and M.M. Punchhi Commissions seem to hint at this. In India, the balance in power is tilted towards the Union. The importance of the Governor’s position arises not from the exceptional circumstances that necessitate the use of his discretion, but as a crucial link within this federal structure in maintaining effective communication between the Centre and a State. 17. Whether in Chennai, Delhi or Mumbai, why we need to rethink our approach to building 'slum-free cities' Contemporary eco-restoration projects are everywhere dislodging ecologies of low-income settlement and urban livelihoods, whether on the Yamuna in Delhi, the Sabarmati in Ahmedabad or the Musi in Hyderabad. River rejuvenation has emerged as among the most exclusionary interventions in our urban development landscape, sparking large-scale human tragedy. Resettlement colonies are simmering sites of discontent and despair. The rot in resettlement models must provoke a rethinking of this approach to building “slum-free cities”. 18. The government must move purposefullyto address the systemic malaise in agriculture Take one instance — 100% FDI was allowed in the food retail business in 2016, but little money has come in as retailers want permission to stock a few non-food items like soaps and shampoos for customers. The minister in charge had promised this over a year ago, but nothing happened. Blaming the agitators is easy; policy responses are where the heavy lifting is needed. 19. States should have the final say in what is important for protection in the Schedule lists of the Wildlife Act Over the years, the Wildlife Act has expanded the number of species given varying degrees of protection under its six Schedules: 184 animals in 1972 to over 909 entries of taxa of vertebrates, invertebrates and plants now. The Schedule lists are critical as they determine anti-poaching regulations and even habitat protection, in part because diverting forest lands is difficult in areas where better-protected species are found. Crimson rose, a colourful butterfly that is widely found in south India, remains as protected as the tiger, while the poorly understood, near-threatened striped hyena is in Schedule III along with “least concern” species of wild pig or barking deer. A majority of the 659 species of Indian endangered fish do not find mention; only an estimated quarter of the butterfly species have been represented; and 128 species of bats, including fruit bats, are considered vermin despite their significant role as pollinators. Shouldn’t States have the final say in what is important for protection within their myriad landscapes? The two protected species (Schedules III and I, respectively) have caused large-scale degradation of native vegetation and threaten other native animals and plants. The process of inclusion can spawn environment movements around species hitherto under the shadows of the great mammals. This may be the fastest way to protect the critically endangered amboli toad, which is unlisted currently, or even get the Indian flying fox, considered an extension of the divine in southern villages, out of the vermin list. 20. Centre to start measuring ‘green GDP’ of States India’s environmental diversity and riches are universally recognised but have never been quantified. Starting this year, the government will begin a five-year exercise to compute district-level data of the country’s environmental wealth. The numbers will eventually be used to calculate every State’s ‘green’ Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The metric will help with a range of policy decisions, such as compensation to be paid during land acquisition, calculation of funds required for climate mitigation, and so on. “This is the first time such a national environment survey is being undertaken,” said Anandi Subramanian, Senior Economic Adviser, Union Environment Ministry. 21.NPAs increasing, IBA tells panel Seeks extension of the deadline for compliance with Basel III norms With non-performing assets (NPA) increasing and banks’ capital positions not improving despite the additional capital infused by the government in public sector banks, the Indian Banks’ Association (IBA) told the Standing Committee on Finance that one way forward could be an extension of the deadline by which Indian banks have to comply with the Basel III norms. However, the IBA said this growth was also due to the Asset Quality Review conducted by the Reserve Bank of India, which revealed a lot of loans as NPAs, which were earlier classified as standard assets. “NPA is one of the major concerns for the banking system around the globe and the Indian banking system is not an exception to this universal phenomenon.” The Basel III norms are international standards that lay strict requirements on banks’ equity and capital ratios. The RBI has been implementing the norms in a phased manner from April 2013, and they have to be fully implemented by March 31, 2019. 22. Parliamentary Standing Committee to review Smart Cities projects Thirteen of the 31 members of the Committee headed by Chairman Pinaki Misra will review, among others, the works the Corporation has undertaken under the Ministry's two flagship schemes – Smart Cities Mission and AMRUT (Atal Mision for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation), say Corporation sources. As far as the implementation of projects under the Smart Cities Mission, the Corporation will have very little to showcase as few of the 21 projects the Corporation had proposed to take up, are off the drawing board. As for projects like lake rejuvenation or erection of smart boards or solar tree or command and control centre, the Corporation has very little to show by way of implementation. In fact, the Corporation has given up a few projects like Smart Schools and smart poles. Likewise in AMRUT, the sources say, the Corporation has proposed drinking water augmentation and underground drainage projects for added areas and they are in various stages of development. 23. -From softwood to hardwood trees The Forest Department has discontinued planting softwood trees and shifted to hardwood trees to expand green cover in urban areas instead. In the wake of damage to public and private properties because of the fall of softwood trees during rains and storms, tamarind, neem (hebbevu), black plum (jamun or nerale), mahogany and peepul (arali) saplings were being planted in recent years. The department has raised plants yielding hardwood for planting them exclusively on roadsides and on the premises of institutions like schools and hospitals. 24. -Plastic waste posing threat to turtles One out of every 20 Olive Ridley sea turtles that come to the shore to lay eggs die due to consuming plastic waste that is dumped into the ocean, say marine biologists in Andhra University. The Olive Ridley sea turtle is classified as vulnerable species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), and is listed in Appendix I Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. Visakhapatnam is a major nesting centre in the east coast for Olive Ridleys and not only the turtles, even dolphins and other marine species and the overall marine ecology is threatened by plastic that is dumped rampantly into the ocean Since plastic is not biodegradable, they block the intestine and leads to death Layers of floating plastic do not allow the sunray to reach the micro marine organisms such as the phytoplankton and zooplankton and this results in the death of fish or large migration due to lack of food Phytoplankton release molecular oxygen into the water and due to their depletion, the chemical properties of water such as PH is affected. This is leading to large-scale depletion of fish and other marine resources 25. -Govt. mulls GST hike for farmers’ welfare fund *1% uniform raise proposed; Centre, States to share revenue Goods and Services Tax (GST) rates could rise by 1% to finance a Farmer Welfare Fund, according to a proposal under consideration of a Group of Ministers (GoM) set up by the GST Council. The hike is seen as an alternative to a sugar cess that had been proposed by the government to alleviate distress among sugar cane farmers. To ease farm distress The proposal to hike GST rates entails sharing of the additional revenue between the Centre and States to finance a farmer welfare fund to benefit all farmers not just sugar cane farmers. The fund would be to extend financial aid to farmers in case of situation that has arisen for sugar cane farmers and the States will have control over their share for disbursal .

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