Goaltide Daily Current Affairs 2020
Current Affair 1:
How glaciers in the western Himalayas are reacting differently to climate change and human activities?
The western Himalayan region holds about 15% of the total ice mass of the Himalayas and the meltwater from these glaciers is significant for the surrounding countries. A report was recently published regarding western Himalayas. We will see below.
Who has published the study?
The study was done between 2002-2019 by a set of researchers from different institutes across India led by Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) at the Chhota Shigri Glacier in the Lahaul-Spiti valley (Himachal Pradesh) in the western Himalayan region. It was published in the Journal of Glaciology in June 2020.
The study is based on the longest recorded field-based datasets in the whole Himalayan range and the observed research components include “mass balance, ice velocity, high-altitude meteorology and glacier runoff, and their interactions under the ongoing climate change,” according to the researchers
Three important studies:
Three studies shed light on glacier health in the western Himalayas, with results that are in contrast with previous speculation on glacial melts and could better inform glacier protection and policy.
- Summer-monsoonal snowfall plays an important role in maintaining glacier mass in the western Himalayan region. More frequent and strong snowfall in the years ahead could likely sustain the health of glaciers, says one study.
- Less impact of warming at high altitude
- Another study from the western Himalayan region reveals that biomass burning and not fossil fuel is the primary driver behind carbon-induced melting of glaciers in the region.
Explanations of all three points in brief:
Summer-monsoonal snowfall plays an important role in maintaining glacier mass in the western Himalayas. If this snowfall is more frequent and stronger in the years ahead, the health of glaciers will most likely sustain, says a latest study by a group of researchers from across India.
Though the health of the glaciers mainly depends on the fluctuations in air temperature, it is also influenced by the sporadic summer-monsoonal snowfall. With more extreme events in the coming years, where frequency and intensity of this snowfall is expected to be higher, western Himalayan glaciers could still continue to sustain, steering away from the expectation that climate change will cause increasing glacier mass loss.
Less impact of warming at high altitude
It found that the Chhota Shigri Glacier is losing its mass similar to the glaciers in other parts of the world and that the rate of mass loss is not extraordinarily high as against what has been speculated in the past. However, the study noted that this glacier is trying to adjust to the changes in climate through its retreat. But at the higher altitudes, the ice flow hasn’t changed much which indicates that there is less impact of warming at the higher altitudes.
Biomass burning is the main source of black carbon
To understand the impact of climate change on glaciers it is important to also look at the impact of black carbon (BC) on them. According to another recent study, published in journal Environmental Science and Technology in June 2020, factors like wood burning and forest fires – and not the carbon emitted from the use of fossil fuel – are the primary drivers behind carbon-induced melting of glaciers in the western Himalayan region.
This is in contrast to the glaciers of the central and eastern Himalayan region as they are affected significantly by carbon from the fossil fuel sources. This study was done by a team of researchers from various institutes in India, the United Kingdom, Canada, the United States of America and China.
Current Affair 2:
Referendums and The Indian Constitution
Very important article for Prelims and Mains both. You won’t find anywhere. Please read.
Earlier this month, Russia voted on an important referendum that brought significant changes to its Constitution. The Russians decided to grant President Putin the option of leading the country until the year 2036, by limiting a President's Rule to two six-year terms in total rather than two consecutive terms. They also voted to effectively ban same-sex marriages in the country
What is the difference between direct and indirect democracy?
Majority of democratic nations across the world, follow the system of an indirect democracy, wherein the citizens elect their representatives, who in turn make laws, determine policies and carry on administrative work. On the other hand, in some countries citizens directly take part in the administration of the country, decide on policy issues and make laws as well. This form is called a direct democracy and a referendum is a facet/means of it. In a referendum, the citizens are called to vote in person (rather than through their elected representatives) on a policy decision to be taken by the government (for instance, United Kingdom's decision to leave the European Union) or an amendment to their Constitution. Several nations have incorporated provisions for referendums in their Constitution.
Here we will discuss the position of referendums in India, starting from the discussions in the Constituent Assembly.
- Constituent Assembly and Referendums
The Constituent Assembly while debating upon the provisions of the Constitution, witnessed a lengthy discussion on the position of a referendum. We will not go in detail, just we will see statements put up by leaders during discussion.
- Dr. Rajendra Prasad (President of the Assembly) responded to this demand, by stating that any discussions on a referendum would be futile, since there is no provision for one in the Constitution
- Dr. Ambedkar cited the examples of the Irish Constitution, Swiss Constitution and the Australian Constitution, to argue that a referendum involves an elaborate and difficult procedure and hence, has not been included in our Constitution.
- Shri Brajeshwar Prasad during debate in Assembly advocated for referendums. Vey important for you people if you want to write something supporting referendum. Read below.
- Independent India and Referendums
The Constitution as adopted by the Constituent Assembly, did not have any provisions for a referendum. However, the nation witnessed referendums on five key occasions.
- First, during the incorporation of Chandernagore within the territory of India
- Incorporation of princely state of Junagadh, wherein the citizens voted to accede to India rather than Pakistan in the year 1948
- Pondicherry (a former French territory) voting to join the Indian Union in the year 1954.
- Incorporation of Goa, Daman and Diu. It should be noted that the government did not call the this exercise a 'referendum' but an Opinion Poll. However, in effect it was a referendum.
- The last referendum happened in the year 1975, wherein the inhabitants of Sikkim decided on their merger with India
Note: It should be noted that while the Constitution does not allow for referendums, the tribal areas in the states of Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram, recognised under the Sixth Schedule have incorporated provisions allowing referendums in election matters [For instance, United Khasi Jaintia Hills Autonomous District (Appointment and Succession of Chief and Headman) Act, 1959]. These areas have been given such autonomy so as to protect their distinct culture.
- Demand for Re-instating Referendums in the Constitution of India
The Union government passed the infamous 42nd Amendment [Constitution (Forty Second Amendment) Act, 1976 that gave unbridled powers to the Parliament. Therefore, when a new Union government came to power in the year 1977, it tried its best to undo the wrongs of the past.
Law Minister Shanti Bhushan was keen on granting additional protection to the provisions of fundamental rights and introduced a provision in the 44th Amendment that fundamental rights could be amended only through a referendum. He introduced a provision stating that wherever an amendment affected the basic features of the Constitution i.e. secularism, democracy, fundamental rights, free and fair elections, independence of the judiciary etc., the final call on it would be taken through a referendum.
Ultimately, the provisions on referendum were defeated in the Rajya Sabha and the 44th Amendment Bill was sent back to the Lok Sabha with changes. Arguably, this became the first instance in India's parliamentary history, wherein a Constitution Amendment Bill passed by the Lok Sabha was changed and returned by the Rajya Sabha. The issue of incorporating referendums in the Constitution, was put to rest.
- The Constitution of India is silent on a referendum, therefore theoretically a referendum is neither allowed nor prohibited.
- A country like India does not need a referendum. The periodical elections conducted, act as the referendum where people express their views at large.
- Constitutional expert Shri Subhash Kashyap has rightly remarked that, every election is a referendum on the basis of agenda, policy, programme and ideologies of the parties concerned. In his opinion, referendum in India shall carry the risk of stifling the voice of minorities. Even the Courts will be hesitant to interfere, knowing that the law in question is backed by the sovereign i.e. the people of India.
Current Affair 3:
Researchers use metamaterials to enhance detection of defects in large structures
Periodic testing is required to prevent catastrophic failures in many engineering structures like buildings, pipelines and rails. High-frequency sound waves that travel in the bulk (bulk ultrasound) are widely used for non-invasive and non-destructive testing of structural materials.
Why bulk ultrasonic inspection is not good?
Conventional bulk ultrasonic inspection is tedious and time-consuming, as it involves point-by-point assessment of structures, and this is especially challenging in large-scale assets.
So, what now?
To address this challenge, Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Madras and University of Nairobi researchers have used metamaterials to improve detection of defects in large structures by Guided Wave Ultrasound. In Guided Wave Testing (GWT), the sound waves are sent along the length of the structure rather than into the structure. This allows the waves to travel long distances.
Whereas conventional ultrasound-based testing has to be done at multiple regions of the test material and is therefore quite difficult to be used with large objects such as train tracks, oil-pipelines and reinforcing structures of tall buildings, etc.
What are metamaterials?
Metamaterials are artificially crafted materials with unique internal microstructures that give them properties not found in nature. The constituent artificial units of the metamaterial can be tailored in shape, size, and interatomic interaction, to exhibit unusual properties.
Current Affair 4:
National Financial Reporting Authority
Recently, the National Financial Reporting Authority (NFRA) has constituted a Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) to aid and advise the executive body of the NFRA on issues relating to drafts of accounting standards and auditing standards. The TAC comprises seven members including the chairman - R. Narayanaswamy.
Functions of TAC:
Now learn National Financial Reporting Authority
NFRA was constituted in 2018 by the Government of India under section 132 (1) of the Companies Act, 2013. It is an audit regulator.
The decision to constitute the NFRA was taken after the role of auditors and the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India came under the scanner for alleged lapses in various corporate scams including that at the Punjab National Bank.
It consists of a chairperson, who shall be a person of eminence and having expertise in accountancy, auditing, finance or law, appointed by the Central Government and such other members not exceeding 15.
Functions and Duties:
- Recommend accounting and auditing policies and standards to be adopted by companies for approval by the Central Government.
- Monitor and enforce compliance with accounting standards and auditing standards.
- Oversee the quality of service of the professions associated with ensuring compliance with such standards and suggest measures for improvement in the quality of service.
- Protect the public interest.
Current Affair 5:
Zoram Mega Food Park: Mizoram
Recently, the government has operationalized the first Mega Food Park (MFP) of Mizoram i.e. Zoram Mega Food Park. It has been set up under the ‘Mega Food Park Scheme’.
The Zoram Mega Food Park (MFP) in Mizoram will provide direct and indirect employment to 5,000 persons and benefit about 25,000 farmers in the CPC (Core Processing Centre) and PPC (primary processing Centre) catchment areas.
About Mega Food Park Scheme:
- Launched in 2008-09 under the purview of the Ministry of Food Processing Industries.
- The Scheme of Mega Food Park aims at providing a mechanism to link agricultural production to the market by bringing together farmers, processors and retailers so as to ensure maximizing value addition, minimizing wastage, increasing farmers income and creating employment opportunities particularly in rural sector.
- The Mega Food Park Scheme is based on “Cluster” approach and envisages creation of state of art support infrastructure in a well-defined agri / horticultural zone for setting up of modern food processing units in the industrial plots provided in the park with well-established supply chain.
- Mega food park typically consists of supply chain infrastructure including collection centers, primary processing centers, central processing centers, cold chain and around 25-30 fully developed plots for entrepreneurs to set up food processing units.
- The Mega Food Park project is implemented by a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) which is a Body Corporate registered under the Companies Act.
- State Government, State Government entities and Cooperatives are not required to form a separate SPV for implementation of Mega Food Park project.
See below all operational Mega Food Parks: you will find this is not the first one in North East, one more is there in Assam. Can be your Prelims question.
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