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Current Affairs 6 & 7 December 2020 for UPSC Exam

Contents

  1. Coal Mining in Meghalaya’s Moolamylliang
  2. J&K administration seeks review of order on Roshni Act
  3. Hampi stone chariot now gets protective ring
  4. Hayabusa 2 with asteroid samples
  5. States with stressed groundwater trade most cereals

COAL MINING IN MEGHALAYA’S MOOLAMYLLIANG

Focus: GS-I Geography, GS-III Environment and Ecology 

Why in news?

A mining-ravaged area in Meghalaya – Moolamylliang has reaped the benefits of the National Green Tribunal order of a ban on rat-hole coal mining.

Details

  • Moolamylliang, a village in Meghalaya’s East Jaintia Hills district, is making progress in becoming a greener place amid abandoned pits from the rat-hole mining.
  • The Jaintia Coal Miners and Dealers’ Association claims there are around 60,000 coal mines across 360 villages in East Jaintia Hills district.
  • Moolamylliang used to be one such village until the National Green Tribunal (NGT) banned hazardous rat-hole coal mining in Meghalaya in April 2014 and set a time limit for transporting the coal already mined till that time.
  • Though the NGT ban did not stop illegal mining in the district, it helped Moolamylliang reform.

Northeast India and Coal Mining (Especially in Meghalaya)

  • In the northeast, coal mining is part of a larger trend which is the decimation of natural resources.
  • For example, there is large-scale deforestation going on in the Garo and Khasi Hills of Meghalaya, besides limestone mining in the Jaintia Hills.
  • Assam, which has lost most of its once extensive forest cover, sees poaching in the Dima Hasao region, coal mining in Upper Assam, and sand/stone mining from river beds.
  • Meghalaya – being a tribal state where the 6th Schedule applies, all land is privately owned, and hence coal mining is done by private parties. The schedule does not explicitly refer to mining.
  • The sizable coal deposits in the state, mostly in the Jaintia Hills, occur in horizontal seams only a few feet high that run through the hills which is why rat-hole mining is practised instead of open cast mining.
  • Most of the labour (including children) comes from Nepal, the poorer areas of Assam, and Bangladesh. In Meghalaya, the non-tribal is a second-class citizen, as is the poor tribal, which explains the general lack of concern even within the State about the trapped miners.
  • A flooded rat hole mine at Khloo Ryngksan in East Jaintia Hills district of Meghalaya cause death of 17 miners in December 2018.

What is Rat-hole Mining?

  • Rat-hole mining is a term used for a hazardous and arduous mining practice.
  • Here, the miners crawl into winding underground tunnels that are just 4-5 feet in diameter to extract coal from the deep seams with a pickaxe.
  • Rat-hole mining involves digging of narrow tunnels, usually 3-4 feet high, for workers to enter and extract coal.

-Source: The Hindu


J&K ADMINISTRATION SEEKS REVIEW OF ORDER ON ROSHNI ACT

Focus: GS-II Polity and Governance

Why in news?

The J&K administration has sought modifications to the High Court judgment passed in October 2020, which declared the 2001 Roshni Act null and void in the Union Territory (UT) and directed authorities to end the ownership rights of occupants of government land.

What is the Roshni Act?

  • The Jammu and Kashmir States Land (vesting of ownership to the occupants) Act – also known as the Roshni Act – was enacted in 2001 to regularize unauthorized land.
  • It envisaged the transfer of ownership rights of state land to its occupants, subject to the payment of a cost, determined by the government.
  • The government said that the revenue generated would be spent on commissioning hydroelectric power projects, hence the name Roshni.

Issue

  • While the Act was passed to raise 25,000 crore Rupees for hydel projects, only 76 crore Rupees was collected.
  • In 2018, the then Lieutenant Governor Satyapal Malik repealed the Act.
  • Later, the High Court also scrapped the Act and directed the authorities to retrieve the land from the occupants.
  • The HC had also asked the government to ensure annulment of mutation of property under the Act, and work out modalities to evict encroachers from state land and retrieve it within six months.
  • The government sought time to allow the government to fix an appropriate ceiling and a rate so that the common people continue to remain in possession of the land.
  • The government decision has drawn sharp criticism from various quarters, especially those who had challenged the Roshni Act.
  • The annulment of the Roshni Act by the High Court put the spotlight on prominent politicians who benefited from its provisions. But there were thousands of common people who too could transfer land ownership under the same Act.

-Source: The Hindu


HAMPI STONE CHARIOT NOW GETS PROTECTIVE RING

Focus: GS-I Art and Culture

Why in news?

Tourists can no longer get too close to the iconic stone chariot in front of the Vijaya Vittala Temple in the UNESCO World Heritage site of Hampi.

Details

  • The Stone Chariot has been cordoned off by a protective ring by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).
  • ASI on Saturday put up the barrier aimed at preventing people from touching or climbing the monument, causing damage in any way.
  • The proposal to install the protective ring has been in the pipeline for a long time now.

More about the Stone Chariot in Hampi

  • Vittala Temple is not only among the most ­visited protected monuments at Hampi, but is also the most photographed.
  • Art historians say it reflects a high degree of craftsmanship of the temple architecture that reached its zenith under the Vijayanagara rulers who reigned from 14th to 17th century CE.
  • The chariot inside the temple complex is a shrine dedicated to Garuda, but the sculpture of Garuda is now missing.

It is one among the three famous stone chariots in India-

  1. Konark Sun Temple, Odissa,
  2. Mahabalipuram, Tamil Nadu, and
  3. Hampi Chariot, Karnataka.

Significance

  • It was built in the 15th century during the rule of Devaraya II, one of the rulers of the Vijayanagara Empire.
  • Dravidian style adorns the built of the complex, which is further enhanced with elaborate carvings.
  • It comprises mainly the remnants of the Capital City of Vijayanagara Empire. It is located in the Tungabhadra basin in central Karnataka.
  • Classified as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO (1986), it is also the “World’s Largest Open-air Museum”.

-Source: The Hindu


HAYABUSA 2 WITH ASTEROID SAMPLES

Focus: GS-III Science and Technology

Why in news?

  • The Japanese spacecraft Hayabusa2 released the small capsule sending it towards Earth to deliver samples from a distant asteroid.
  • The capsule’s return came weeks after NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft made a successful touch-and-go grab of surface samples from the asteroid Bennu.
  • China, meanwhile, announced last week that its lunar lander collected underground samples and sealed them within the spacecraft for return to Earth, as space developing nations compete in their missions.

Details

  • Hayabusa2 left the asteroid Ryugu, about 300 million kilometers away in 2019 itself and after it released the capsule now, it set off on a new expedition to another distant asteroid.
  • Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) hopes to find clues to how the materials are distributed in the solar system and are related to life on Earth.
  • For Hayabusa2, it’s not the end of the mission it started in 2014. It is now heading to a small asteroid called 1998KY26 on a journey slated to take 10 years one way, for possible research including finding ways to prevent meteorites from hitting Earth.
  • So far, its mission has been fully successful.
  • It touched down twice on Ryugu despite the asteroid’s extremely rocky surface, and successfully collected data and samples during the 1½ years it spent near Ryugu after arriving there in June 2018.

-Source: The Hindu


STATES WITH STRESSED GROUNDWATER TRADE MOST CEREALS

Focus: GS-III Agriculture

Introduction

  • Cereals are the source of about half the energy that an average Indian gets from her diet.
  • Within them, rice and wheat dominate cereal production and it’s also known that they are intensely water-consumptive crops.

Why in news?

Researchers recently conducted a study to estimate the ‘water footprint’ of producing and transporting cereals and found that states with stressed groundwater trade most cereals.

Details

  • States with critically low groundwater reserves were responsible for 41%, or about 38.6 million tonnes of India’s domestic cereal trade.
  • This worked out to nearly 39% of India’s total groundwater being used up in producing and trading cereal among States.
  • Moreover, a further 21% (19.6 Mt) of domestically produced cereals were exported from six States with ‘semicritical’ to ‘critical’ groundwater status equivalent to 32% of groundwater.

Significance of the report

The findings of the report reiterate the substantial potential for balancing water resources through the trade of crops in India, either in addition to or in place of large-scale infrastructure projects.

-Source: The Hindu

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