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Current Affairs for UPSC IAS Exam – 27 October 2020

Contents

  1. Kabartal Wetland, Asan Conservation Reserve: Ramsar
  2. CVC on Integrity Pact in govt. organisations
  3. Cut in states’ share in tax may be the next big flashpoint
  4. Male govt. employees: Child care leave as single parents
  5. India, U.S. 2+2: BECA Agreement
  6. Stubble Burning, Lokur Panel

KABARTAL WETLAND, ASAN CONSERVATION RESERVE: RAMSAR

Focus: GS-III Environment and Ecology

Why in news?

Asan Conservation Reserve has become the first wetland from Uttarakhand to be included in the prestigious Ramsar sites list.

Besides Asan, Kabartal Wetland from Bihar was the second new site to get included in this list.

Asan Conservation Reserve

  • Asan Conservation Reserve is a stretch on the Asan River running down to its confluence with the Yamuna River in Dehradun district of Uttarakhand.
  • The damming of the River by the Asan Barrage in 1967 resulted in siltation above the dam wall, which helped to create some of the Site’s bird-friendly habitats.
  • These habitats support 330 species of birds including the critically endangered red-headed vulture (Sarcogyps calvus), white-rumped vulture (Gyps bengalensis) and Baer’s pochard (Aythya baeri).
  • Asan receives about 40 migratory species, including Rudy Shelduck, Common coot, Gadwall, Kingfisher, Indian cormorant, Baer’s pochard, Northern pintail, Bar-headed goose.
  • Other non-avian species present include 49 fish species, one of these being the endangered Putitora mahseer (Tor putitora). Fish use the site for feeding, migration and spawning.
  • The criteria cleared by Asan Conservation Reserve to get Ramsar site tag include that it supports vulnerable, endangered, or critically endangered species, it supports populations of plant and/or animal species important for maintaining the biological diversity, it supports plant and/or animal species at a critical stage in their life cycles and it is an important source of food for fishes, spawning ground, nursery and/or migration path on which fish stocks, either within the wetland or elsewhere, depend.

Kabartal Wetland

  • Also known as Kanwar Jheel, Kabartal Wetland is a part of the Indo-Gangetic plains in the Begusarai district of Bihar.
  • It acts as a vital flood buffer for the region besides providing livelihood opportunities to local communities.
  • It is an important stopover along the migration route “Central Asian Flyway (CAF)” with 58 migratory waterbirds using it to rest.
  • Major threats to the Site include water management activities such as drainage, water abstraction, damming and canalization.
  • Five critically endangered species inhabit the site, including three vultures – the red-headed vulture (Sarcogyps calvus), white-rumped vulture (Gyps bengalensis) and Indian vulture (Gyps indicus) – and two waterbirds, the sociable lapwing (Vanellus gregarius) and Baer’s pochard (Aythya baeri).

Ramsar Site

  • A Ramsar site is a wetland site designated to be of international importance under the Ramsar Convention.
  • Ramsar sites are recorded on the List of Ramsar wetlands of international importance.
  • The Ramsar Classification System for Wetland Type is a wetland classification developed within the Ramsar Convention intended as a means for fast identification of the main types of wetlands for the purposes of the Convention.
  • The countries with most sites are the United Kingdom with 175 and Mexico with 142.
  • And, the country with the greatest area of listed wetlands is Bolivia.

A wetland can be considered internationally important if any of the following nine criteria apply:

  1. Criterion 1: “it contains a representative, rare, or unique example of a natural or near-natural wetland type found within the appropriate biogeographic region.”
  2. Criterion 2: “it supports vulnerable, endangered, or critically endangered species or threatened ecological communities.”
  3. Criterion 3: “it supports populations of plant and/or animal species important for maintaining the biological diversity of a particular biogeographic region.”
  4. Criterion 4: “it supports plant and/or animal species at a critical stage in their life cycles, or provides refuge during adverse conditions.”
  5. Criterion 5: “it regularly supports 20,000 or more waterbirds.”
  6. Criterion 6: “it regularly supports 1% of the individuals in a population of one species or subspecies of waterbird.”
  7. Criterion 7: “it supports a significant proportion of indigenous fish subspecies, species or families, life-history stages, species interactions and/or populations that are representative of wetland benefits and/or values and thereby contributes to global biological diversity.”
  8. Criterion 8: “it is an important source of food for fishes, spawning ground, nursery and/or migration path on which fish stocks, either within the wetland or elsewhere, depend.”
  9. Criterion 9: “it regularly supports 1% of the individuals in a population of one species or subspecies of wetland-dependent non-avian animal species.”

Ramsar Convention

  • The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance especially as Waterfowl Habitat is an international treaty for the conservation and sustainable use of wetlands.
  • It is named after the city of Ramsar in Iran, where the Convention was signed in 1971.
  • The 2nd of February each year is World Wetlands Day, marking the date of the adoption of the Convention on Wetlands.
  • The Convention’s mission is “the conservation and wise use of all wetlands through local and national actions and international cooperation, as a contribution towards achieving sustainable development throughout the world”.
  • Every three years, representatives of the Contracting Parties meet as the Conference of the Contracting Parties (COP), the policy-making organ of the Convention which adopts decisions (Resolutions and Recommendations) to administer the work of the Convention and improve the way in which the Parties are able to implement its objectives.

India and Ramsar sites

  • At present, two wetlands of India are in Montreux Record: Keoladeo National Park (Rajasthan) and Loktak Lake (Manipur).
  • Chilika Lake (Odisha) was placed in the record but later removed from it.
  • Till February 2020, only 37 sites from India were in the Ramsar site list, which has now been extended to 39 Ramsar Sites in India (The highest in South Asia).
RAMSAR SITES IN INDIASTATE – LOCATION
Ashtamudi WetlandKerala
Beas Conservation ReservePunjab
Bhitarkanika MangrovesOdisha
Bhoj WetlandsMadhya Pradesh
Chandra TaalHimachal Pradesh
Chilika LakeOdisha
Deepor BeelAssam
East Kolkata WetlandsWest Bengal
Harike WetlandsPunjab
Hokera WetlandJammu & Kashmir
Kanjli WetlandPunjab
Keoladeo National ParkRajasthan
Keshopur-Miani Community ReservePunjab
Kolleru lakeAndhra Pradesh
Loktak lakeManipur
Nalsarovar Bird sanctuaryGujarat
Nandur MadhameshwarMaharashtra
Nangal Wildlife SanctuaryPunjab
Nawabganj Bird SanctuaryUttar Pradesh
Parvati Agra Bird SanctuaryUttar Pradesh
Point Calimere Wildlife and Bird SanctuaryTamil Nadu
Pong Dam lakeHimachal Pradesh
Renuka lakeHimachal Pradesh
Ropar WetlandPunjab
Rudrasagar LakeTripura
Saman Bird SanctuaryUttar Pradesh
Samaspur Bird SanctuaryUttar Pradesh
Sambhar lake Rajasthan
Sandi Bird SanctuaryUttar Pradesh
Sarsai Nawar JheelUttar Pradesh
Sasthamkotta lakeKerala
Surinsar- Mansar lakesJammu & Kashmir
TsomoririJammu & Kashmir
Upper Ganga riverUttar Pradesh
Vembanad Kol WetlandKerala
Wular lakeJammu & Kashmir
Sunderban WetlandWest Bengal
Asan Conservation ReserveUttarakhand
Kabartal WetlandBihar

-Source: Hindustan Times


CVC ON INTEGRITY PACT IN GOVT. ORGANISATIONS

Focus: GS-II Polity and Governance

Why in news?

The Central Vigilance Commission has amended the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) on adoption of “Integrity Pact” in government organisations for procurement activities, and restricted the maximum tenure of Integrity External Monitors (IEMs) to three years in an organisation.

Details

  • The latest order revises the SOP and states that the choice of IEM should be restricted to officials from the government and Public Sector Undertakings (PSUs) who have retired from positions of the level of Secretary to the Central government or of equivalent pay scale.
  • The Amendment provides that for appointment as IEM, the Ministry, department or organisation concerned has to forward a panel of suitable persons to the CVC, of those persons who are in the panel maintained by the Commission.
  • The Amendment also states that the IEM will be appointed for a period of three years in an organisation.

Integrity Pact

  • According to the Commission, “Integrity Pact” is a vigilance tool that envisages an agreement between the prospective vendors/bidders and the buyer, committing both the parties not to exercise any corrupt influence on any aspect of the contract.
  • The pact is also to ensure transparency, equity and competitiveness in public procurement.

Integrity External Monitors (IEM)

  • The IEMs independently and objectively review the documents to determine if the parties have complied with their obligations under the pact.
  • They may submit a report to the chief executive of the organisation concerned or directly to the Chief Vigilance Officer (CVO) and the CVC, if they find serious irregularities attracting the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 provisions.

Click Here to read more about the CVC and Vigilance Awareness Week

-Source: The Hindu


CUT IN STATES’ SHARE IN TAX MAY BE THE NEXT BIG FLASHPOINT

Focus: GS-III Indian Economy

Why in news?

The issue of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) compensation controversy may have been laid to rest for now, but the Centre and the states, on opposing sides in that debate, find themselves in a similar position again – this time over the ongoing discussion on a possible review of the share of states in the divisible pool of revenue.

Details

  • The Union government has asked the 15th Finance Commission to review the share of states in the divisible pool of taxes, and possibly reduce it from the current 42%.
  • This move has been fiercely opposed by the states in the past, and several states have made a representation to raise their share in total taxes to 50%.
  • The previous 14th Finance Commission, in a historic step in 2015, sharply increased the states’ share in the divisible pool – the repository where all taxes are collected before being divided between Centre and states – to 42% from 32%, holding that tax devolution should be the primary source of transfer of funds to states.

Background on Legislative Provisions regarding the devolution of taxes

The Constitution, through Article 280 to 281, provides for finance commissions, set up every five years, a mechanism for division of taxes and revenues vertically i.e. between the Centre and states, and horizontally, i.e. among all states, based on their levels of development, prosperity and regional needs.

The Finance Commission is constituted by the President under article 280 of the Constitution – and under Article 280 the finance commission is mandated to make recommendations to the President as to

  1. the distribution between the Union and the States of the net proceeds of taxes which are to be, or may be, divided between them under this Chapter and the allocation between the States of the respective shares of such proceeds;
  2. the principles which should govern the grants in aid of the revenues of the States out of the Consolidated Fund of India;
  3. any other matter referred to the Commission by the President in the interests of sound finance

Under Article 281: The President shall cause every recommendation made by the Finance Commission under the provisions of this Constitution together with an explanatory memorandum as to the action taken thereon to be laid before each House of Parliament.

-Source: Hindustan Times


MALE GOVT. EMPLOYEES: CHILD CARE LEAVE AS SINGLE PARENTS

Focus: GS-II Polity and Governance

Why in news?

The Union Minister of State for Personnel said male government employees who were single parents were now entitled to child care leave.

Details

  • “Single male parent” included employees who were unmarried or widower or divorcee and might therefore be expected to take up the responsibility of caring for a child single-handedly.
  • This move is described as a path-breaking and progressive reform to bring ease of living for government servants.
  • In further relaxation, the Minister of State for Personnel said an employee on child care leave might now leave the headquarters with the prior approval of the competent authority.
  • In addition, the Leave Travel Concession (LTC) might be availed by the employee even if he was on child care leave.
  • The child care leave could be granted at 100% of leave salary for the first 365 days and 80% of leave salary for the next 365 days.
  • Based on inputs received over a period of time, he said another welfare measure introduced in this regard was that in case of a disabled child, the condition of availing child care leave up to the age of 22 years of the child had been removed.
  • Now child care leave could be availed by a government servant for a disabled child of any age, he added.

Legislations regarding Maternity Benefits and more in India

Indian legal system provides certain assurance of rights of working women, such as

  1. Maternity Benefit Amendment Act, 2017 which was a revision of the Maternity Benefit Act, 1961, provides for maternity leaves, creche facility at the workplace.
  2. Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition, and Redressal) Act, 2013 has provisions regarding grievance redressal and providing a safe working environment.
  3. The Factories Act, 1948: The Factories Act is a legislation to secure to the workers employed in a factory, health, safety, welfare, proper working hours, leave and other benefits. The Factories Act also has exclusive provisions for women workers.
  4. The Equal Remuneration Act, 1976: According to Article 39 of our constitution which directs that States shall, in particular, have policies towards securing equal pay for equal work for both men and women. Under the Equal Remuneration Act, employers shall pay equal remuneration to its male and female employees who are carrying out the same or similar work and cannot discriminate between men and women while recruiting
  5. Shops and Establishments Acts: The State Governments enact their respective shops and establishments act, regulates the working conditions of employees in a shop or commercial establishment. They provide for various provisions including provisions pertaining to termination, leave entitlement, and working conditions and has special provisions for women as well.

-Source: The Hindu


INDIA, U.S. 2+2: BECA AGREEMENT

Focus: GS-II International Relations

Why in news?

India and the U.S. will sign the last foundational agreement, Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-Spatial cooperation (BECA) during the 2+2 ministerial dialogue.

Details

  • The two Ministers reviewed bilateral defence cooperation spanning “military-to-military cooperation, secure communication systems and information sharing, defence trade and industrial issues” and also discussed ways to take bilateral cooperation forward, the statement said. Stating that they discussed potential new areas of cooperation both at the Service-to-Service level and the joint level.
  • The U.S. was keen on India signing BECA and discussions continued to iron out the differences.
  • One of the major differences was the issue of reciprocity in exchange of geo-spatial data.
  • This agreement (BECA) will allow for expanded geospatial information sharing between our armed forces.
  • India maintains the largest fleets of C-17 and P-8 aircraft outside of the United States, and as of 2020, the United States has authorised more than $20 billion in defence sales to India.
  • A maritime information agreement is also under discussion between India and the US, an official source stated.
  • India already has such agreement with other Quad countries, Australia and Japan.
  • There has been a sharp increase in India’s maritime interactions with the Quad countries on a bilateral basis centered around information sharing for improved Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA) in the Indian Ocean Region and Indo-Pacific.

-Source: The Hindu


STUBBLE BURNING, LOKUR PANEL

Focus: GS-III Environment and Ecology

Why in news?

The Centre will bring in a law, via ordinance, to address air pollution as well as check stubble burning in Delhi as well as the surrounding National Capital Region, the Supreme Court was informed.

Recently in news: Delhi Air Quality Index worsens to “Severe”

Click Here to read more about the impact of the farm fires, Natinoal Air Quality Index and GRAP

Details

  • The Delhi NCR already has a Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP), which is overseen by the Environment Pollution Authority, that has specified a number of measures that governments must take — from banning diesel gensets to restricting vehicle movement — depending on the degree of pollution.
  • To check stubble burning this kharif (summer) season, the Punjab government has appointed 8,000 nodal officers in villages that grow paddy.
  • With the monsoon withdrawing and winter-conditions setting in, air quality in the Delhi-NCR has been deteriorating since last week and dipped to ‘poor and very poor’ on the air quality index.
  • Pollutants from straw burning are brought in by the wind. Instances of burning, or fire counts, as they are called and tracked via satellite, have increased in the last few weeks.
  • Central Pollution Control Board officials have said adverse meteorological conditions — a drop in wind speed and lowering of the mixing height (at which pollutants disperse), led to pollutants remaining trapped in the air.

Lokur Panel

  • The Supreme Court decided to “keep in abeyance” its previous order appointing former Supreme Court judge Justice Madan B. Lokur to a one-man committee to monitor/prevent stubble-burning in Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Punjab.
  • The decision to put on hold its order came soon after Solicitor General informed the Supreme Court Bench that the Centre had “proposed a legislation to tackle the problem” which occurs annually and chokes the Capital.

Views of the Supreme Court

  • The court had said the student forces could patrol highways and fields in the three States and ensure that no fires were started in the fields.
  • It asked the Chief Secretaries of the three States to provide facilities to the Lokur committee and provide student volunteers with adequate transportation to aid their vigil.
  • It directed the existing mobile teams and nodal officers of the States to report to the committee.
  • The court chose Justice Lokur for the task as the retired judge had headed the Green Bench which was monitoring stubble-burning for two whole years before his retirement.

Stubble Burning

  • Stubble burning is intentionally setting fire to the straw stubble that remains after grains, like paddy, wheat, etc., have been harvested.
  • The practice was widespread until the 1990s, when governments increasingly restricted its use.
  • The burning of stubble, contrasted with alternatives such as ploughing the stubble back into the ground or collecting it for industrial uses, has a number of consequences and effects on the environment.

Advantages

  • Kills slugs and other pests
  • Can reduce nitrogen tie-up

Disadvantages

  • Loss of nutrients
  • Pollution from smoke
  • Damage to electrical and electronic equipment from floating threads of conducting waste
  • Risk of fires spreading out of control

The main adverse effects of crop residue burning include the emission of greenhouse gases (GHGs) that contributes to the global warming, increased levels of particulate matter (PM) and smog that cause health hazards, loss of biodiversity of agricultural lands, and the deterioration of soil fertility.

-Source: The Hindu

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