Tuesday, 06 February 2018 11:50


3 - FEBRUARY - 2018



Jallikattu – a cultural right?

  • The Supreme Court on Friday referred to a Constitution Bench to decide whether the people of Tamil Nadu can preserve jallikattu as their cultural heritage.
  • To see it under Article 29 (1) of the Constitution and demand its protection.
  • A Bench of Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra and Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman referred to a five-judge Bench a batch of petitions filed by People for Ethical Treatment of Animals and activists.
  • They wanted to strike down the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Tamil Nadu Amendment) Act of 2017 and the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Conduct of Jallikattu) Rules of 2017.
  • They contended that the amended laws had opened the gates for the conduct of the popular bull-taming sport in the name of culture and tradition
  • In 2014 ban by the Supreme Court.
  • It is for the first time the Supreme Court is considering the question of granting constitutional protection to jallikattu as a collective cultural right under Article 29 (1), Article 29(1) is a fundamental right guaranteed under Part III of the Constitution to protect the educational and cultural rights of citizens.
  • Though commonly used to protect the interests of minorities, Article 29(1) mandates that “any section of the citizens residing in the territory of India or any part thereof having a distinct language, script or culture of its own shall have the right to conserve the same”.
  • “It has never been looked into whether a State can claim constitutional protection under Article 29 (1) for what it thinks is a cultural right,” Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra had orally observed.
  • The case reserved for final judgment in the previous hearing.
  • The Constitution Bench would also look into whether the 2017 jallikattu and bullock-cart races laws would actually sub-serve the objective of “prevention” of cruelty to animals under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act of 1960.
  • On the other hand, the apex court frames the question, “does it perpetuate cruelty to animals and therefore, can it be said to be a means of cruelty to animals?”

Changes in FCRA

  • The Union government has proposed to amend the repealed Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA), 1976 retrospectively.
  • This move that will benefit the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress held guilty by the Delhi High Court for receiving foreign funds from two subsidiaries of Vedanta, a
  • U.K.-based company.
  • The Representation of the People Act and the FCRA bar political parties from receiving foreign funds.
  • In 2016, the government amended the FCRA through the Finance Bill route, allowing foreign-origin companies to finance non-governmental organisations and clearing the way for donations to political parties by changing the definition of “foreign companies”.
  • The amendment, though done retrospectively, only made valid the foreign donations received after 2010, the year when the 1976 Act was amended.
  • The retrospective amendment did not apply to donations prior to 2010.
  • In a move to extend relief to the two parties, the government has again proposed an amendment through the Finance Bill, 2018.
  • It says, “Clause 217 of the Bill seeks to amend Section 236 of the Finance Act, 2016 which relates to amendment to sub-clause (vi) of clause (j) of sub-section (1) of Section 2 of the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 2010 …. effect from the 5th August, 1976 the date of commencement of the FCRA, 1976, which was repealed and re-enacted as the FCRA, 2010.”
  • The Home Ministry had sought the Attorney-General’s opinion to amend the repealed Act.
  • The original provision in the FCRA, which declared that any company with over 50% FDI was a foreign entity, was inconsistent with the view of the Finance and the Commerce Ministries, which treated companies based in India and having Indian directors and employees as Indian subsidiaries.

Mandatory Dust Mitigation Plan

  • The Environment Ministry has made it mandatory for companies seeking environment clearance to ensure that they put in place a dust mitigation plan.
  • The requirements, specified in a gazette notification on January 25, say that roads leading to or at construction sites must be paved and blacktopped.
  • There could be no soil excavation without adequate dust mitigation measures in place. No loose soil, sand, construction waste could be left uncovered.
  • A water sprinkling system was mandatory, and the measures taken should be prominently displayed at the construction site.
  • Moreover, the grinding and cutting of building materials in open area were prohibited and no uncovered vehicles carrying construction material and waste would be permitted.
  • The standards were developed by the Central Pollution Control Board as part of the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS), and will now empower the organisation to fine companies and agencies for not complying with norms.
  • A study by the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur and commissioned by the Delhi government reported, in 2015, that road dust and burning of biomass and municipal solid waste, constituted the lion’s share of the city’s air pollution.
  • Road dust contributed 56% of all PM10 pollution, while it was 38% for PM2.5.
  • Another estimate by the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, Pune had different numbers but still ranked dust as the major contributor — 52% — to the city’s PM10 load.
  • Before PM2.5 became the focus of attention — for its role in lodging itself in the lungs and for being a key component of diesel emissions — dust was the key villain for a long time.
  • Dust is a generic term for a vast mix of metals and non-metals — silicon, aluminium, titanium, manganese, copper, barium, antimony, selenium and zinc.

Health scheme to be well funded

  • Calling it ‘historic’, ‘bold’ and ‘committed to the common man’, Union Health Minister J.P. Nadda welcomed Budget 2018, which had seen an 11.5% increase in the allocation for the health sector.
  • Stating that the Budget would change the socio-economic scenario of the country and aid in increased productivity for the common man.
  • The Minister told: “The Budget will spur growth and development. It is aimed towards all sections of the country. This is a visionary and people-oriented budget.”
  • The Minister spoke about the National Health Protection Scheme, which will cover 10 crore households by providing an annual package of Rs. 5 lakh for hospitalisation needs.
  • “This will change the face of health care in India and we will no longer have families breaking down under the financial burden of medical care,” the Minister said.
  • The government was working on the intricate details of the scheme and would come out with a definite plan soon.
  • “We are confident about the scheme. Finances will never be a problem. Details will be given out as soon as we are ready to implement it,” he said.
  • Asked who will pay the premium, Mr. Nadda said: “The government will pay the premium with the States’ share. Rs. 2,000 crore has been kept for it as of now.”


e-way bill roll-out after 1st day

  • A day after the Centre deferred February 1 roll out of the e-way bill in the wake of ‘technological glitches’ that left trucks stranded for hours across the country, transporters urged the Centre to fix all issues before introducing the measure.
  • The e-way bill portal had crashed on 1st day leaving transporters waiting in vain for hours to generate the bills.
  • “Today things are back to normal,” said Ramesh Agarwal, Chairman, Agarwal Movers Group.
  • “Government took a wise decision to put it [ rollout ] on hold. Otherwise by Saturday lots of factories would have closed down,” he said.
  • The Centre’s use of twitter to announce the decision added to the confusion.
  • “It will take time in India to accept information disseminated through twitter,” said Devendra Patne, CEO, DTIX.org, a transport industry initiative.
  • “Lots of people did not give credence to it and waited for logging into the portal.”
  • S.R. Hatti, VP of VRL Logistics in Bengaluru, said the firm had started moving goods from Friday morning with normal invoices as all States were accepting them.
  • Finance Secretary Hasmukh Adhia told PTI the measure would be reintroduced in the “next few weeks” after the system was fully ready.

KUSUM to boost farmer’s solar power use

  • The Centre has announced a Rs. 1.4 lakh-crore scheme for promoting decentralized solar power production of up to 28,250 MW to help farmers.
  • The Centre will spend Rs. 48,000 crore on the ten-year scheme which was announced in the Union Budget 2018-19.
  • Kisan Urja Suraksha evam Utthaan Mahaabhiyan or KUSUM scheme would provide extra income to farmers, by giving them an option to sell additional power to the grid through solar power projects set up on their barren lands, the Minister said.
  • It would help in de-dieselising the sector as also the DISCOMS, he said.
  • India had about 30 million farm pumps that include 10 million pumps running on diesel.
  • The Minister said the positive outcomes that are expected when the scheme is fully implemented across the country include promotion of decentralised solar power production, reduction of transmission losses as well as providing support to the financial health of DISCOMs by reducing the subsidy burden to the agriculture sector.
  • The scheme would also promote energy efficiency and water conservation and provide water security to farmers.
  • The components of the scheme include building 10,000 MW solar plants on barren lands.
  • And providing sops to DISCOMS to purchase the electricity produced, ‘solarising’ existing pumps of 7250 MW as well as government tube wells with a capacity of 8250 MW and distributing 17.5 lakh solar pumps.
  • The 60% subsidy on the solar pumps provided to farmers will be shared between the Centre and the States while 30% would be provided through bank loans.
  • The balance cost has to be borne by the farmers.

Jobs in leather sector to increase

  • The leather industry has welcomed the Budget proposal to cut the minimum period of employment.
  • The new norms mandate 150 days as the minimum period of employment in the footwear and leather industry, as has been the case for the apparel sector. Earlier, it was 240 days.
  • The move is aimed at creating new employment opportunities, Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said in his Budget speech.
  • The Centre has made these changes along with certain amendments to Employment Provident Fund Act to encourage employment of more women.
  • Earlier, this relaxation was available to the textile sector and the anomaly has been set right.
  • Panaruna Aqeel, vice chairman, Council for Leather Exports, said, “The extension of 25% reduced corporate tax to [firms] having turnover of up to Rs. 250 crore in FY17 will be immensely beneficial to the leather and footwear industry as about 90% of the industry is concentrated in the MSME segment.”


Floating Treatment Wetland in Hyderbad lake

  • Gently floating on the surface is an artificial ‘island’ made of meticulously chosen plant species, in the Neknampur Lake in Hyderabad city.
  • The island is a floating treatment wetland (FTW).
  • Several plants on this FTW help clean the lake by absorbing nutrients such as excess nitrates and oxygen present in the water.
  • They thus reduce the content of these chemicals.
  • The FTW on Neknampur Lake was inaugurated on February 2, World Wetlands Day. Measuring 3,000 sq. ft., the FTW is a joint effort of Dhruvansh, the Hyderabad Metropolitan Development Authority, the Ranga Reddy district administration and other organisations.
  • It has already been recognised by the India Book of Records as the largest FTW in the country.
  • Based on the soil-less hydroponics technique, the FTW comprises four layers. Floatable bamboo forms its base, over which styrofoam cubicles are placed.
  • The third layer consists of gunny bags. The final layer is of gravel.
  • Hydroponics permits plants to grow only on sunlight and water. There is no need of soil.
  • There are small holes at the bottom, which facilitate the flow of nutrients from the water to the plants (biological uptake process), which are held upright by the gravel layer.
  • Cleaning agents planted on the FTW include vetivers, canna, cattalis, bulrush, citronella, hibiscus, fountain grass, flowering herbs, tulsi and ashvagandha.
  • Micro-organisms growing on the FTW and plant root systems break down and consume the organic matter in the water through microbial decomposition. The root systems filter out sediments and pollutants.
  • FTW is strong and can hold the weight of as many as four people. Compared to sewage treatment plants, this method is much cheaper.
  • Periodic biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) readings are taken from the Pollution Control Board. When the project began, the BOD was 27 mg/l.
  • Hoping that in four to six months there will be a fundamental change because of the FTW.

Sanitation vs Stunting

  • Stunting among children, or low height for age, is common in developing countries with poor sanitation.
  • Scientists hypothesise that this is because open defecation and unclean water expose children to faecal bugs.
  • Even if these pathogens do not cause diarrhoea, they inflame a child’s gut and hamper the food absorption
  • However, two studies from Bangladesh and Kenya show that this hypothesis may need a rethink.
  • The studies, which targeted over 13,000 families, showed that water purification, sanitary latrines and hand-washing (WASH) interventions in select households were not enough to prevent stunting in those households.
  • The findings, published inThe Lancet Global Healthon January 29, mean one of two things.
  • First, WASH interventions may need to be very widespread to make a difference.
  • Second, factors other than WASH may be critical to stunting.
  • The two studies, to test whether WASH interventions could reduce gut-inflammation, and consequently, stunting, began in 2012.
  • One group, led by Stephen Luby of US’s Stanford WOODS Institute of Environment, enrolled 5,551 pregnant women from around Dhaka, and divided their families into seven groups.
  • Three groups received the three individual WASH interventions, while a fourth received nutritional counselling and dietary supplements for children.
  • The fifth group received all three WASH interventions, the sixth received WASH as well as nutrition, while a seventh served as a control.
  • Once the pregnant women gave birth, stunting, diarrhoea and mortality rates were tracked among their children for two years.
  • Another research group, led by Clair Null, a child-health researcher at USA’s Mathematica Policy Research, carried out a similar experiment on 8,246 pregnant women in Kenya.
  • After two years, the Bangladeshi study found children in the WASH groups to be no taller than controls.
  • Improved diet did not make a big difference either – it corrected only a sixth of the height deficit in the nutrition groups. The Kenyan study reported similar findings.
  • The findings were a surprise to Luby, because previous research supports the link between hygiene and stunting.
  • But Luby cautions that it is too early to dismiss the link, because the WASH interventions may have failed at fully cutting exposure to faecal bugs and gut-inflammation.
  • Such exposure could occur in several ways. While the interventions were restricted to household compounds and human faeces, children also come in contact with the outside environment and animal faeces.
  • Plus, while chlorine is a good disinfectant, it may not work against protozoa like Giardia lamblia.
  • Governments must still focus on WASH because it is a basic human right. But should we expect sanitation to solve stunting? It will not.


Proof of militants submitted to Pakistan : Afghanistan

  • Afghanistan has given Pakistan confessions and other proof showing that the militants who carried out a recent series of attacks were trained in Pakistan and that Taliban leaders there are allowed to roam freely, Afghan officials said.
  • Interior Minister Wais Ahmed Barmak told a news conference that the evidence was presented at a meeting a day earlier in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad.
  • Afghanistan’s spy chief, Masoom Stanekzai, also attended the meeting, along with senior Pakistani military and intelligence officials.
  • Mr. Stanekzai, addressing the same news conference, said Afghanistan laid out its proof and asked Pakistan to take action to prevent further attacks.
  • A Pakistani delegation is due in Kabul on Saturday, said Mr. Stanekzai. Nearly 200 people have been killed over the past month in attacks claimed by the Taliban and a rival Islamic State affiliate.
  • “The Taliban, with these actions, cannot call themselves a political organisation,” Mr. Stanekzai said.
  • “They are a terrorist organisation... We expect action, not just talk,” he added.
  • The Afghan officials said some of the latest evidence came from confessions by captured militants.
  • They said they told the Pakistani side that some of the militants had been trained at Islamic seminaries in the Pakistani border town of Chaman.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 06 February 2018 12:51