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Current Affairs for UPSC IAS Exam – 15 May 2021

Contents

  1. Israel’s Iron Dome rocket defence system
  2. Native Indian turtles face U.S. slider threat
  3. MoEFCC on elephants killed on railway tracks
  4. Asha workers lack protective gear & tools in UP
  5. OCI holders stung by MHA notification
  6. Assam NRC authority seeks re-verification of citizens’ list
  7. Activists in Karnataka on Child Marriages in Lockdown

Israel’s Iron Dome rocket defence system

Context:

  • Israeli Iron Dome aerial defence system just intercepted a Hamas Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) that crossed from Gaza into Israel.
  • Within a three-day span in early May 2021, Hamas had fired more than 1,500 rockets from Gaza all the way into Israel. The night sky over Israel had been ablaze with interceptor missiles from Iron Dome shooting down the incoming rockets in the sky.

Relevance:

GS-III: Science and Technology (Defence Technology)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is Iron Dome?
  2. How does it work?
  3. What are the limitations of the system?

What is Iron Dome?

  • Iron Dome is a multi-mission system capable of intercepting rockets, artillery, mortars and Precision Guided Munitions like very short-range air defence (V-SHORAD) systems as well as aircraft, helicopters and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) over short ranges of up to 70 km.
  • It is an all-weather system and can engage multiple targets simultaneously and can be deployed over land and sea.
  • Iron Dome is jointly manufactured by Rafael Advanced Systems and has been in service with Israeli Air Force since 2011. Its development was prompted after a series of rocket attacks on Israel by Hezbollah and Hamas in the 2000s.
  • Rafael claims a success rate of over 90%, with more than 2,000 interceptions, however experts agree the success rate is over 80%.
  • It can protect deployed and manoeuvring forces, as well as the Forward Operating Base (FOB) and urban areas, against a wide range of indirect and aerial threats.

How does it work?

  • An Iron Dome battery consists of a battle management control unit, a detection and tracking radar and a firing unit of three vertical launchers, with 20 interceptor missiles each.
  • The interceptor missile uses a proximity fuse to detonate the target warhead in the air.
  • The Iron Dome is deployed in a layered defence along with David’s Sling and Arrow missile defence system which are designed for medium- and long-range threats.
  • One of the system’s important advantages is its ability to identify the anticipated point of impact of the threatening rocket, to calculate whether it will fall in a built-up area or not, and to decide on this basis whether or not to engage it. This prevents unnecessary interception of rockets that will fall in open areas and thus not cause damage.
  • The I-DOME is the mobile variant with all components on a single truck and C-DOME is the naval version for deployment on ships.

What are the limitations of the system?

  • The system has a ‘saturation point’. It is capable of engaging a certain (unpublished) number of targets at the same time, and no more.
  • Additional rockets fired in a crowded salvo could succeed in breaching defences and cause damage.
  • Several assessments suggest that Hamas is developing mitigating strategies including lowering the trajectories of the projectiles while also continuing to accumulate thousands of rockets with improved precision.
  • One of the possible limitations is the system’s inability to cope with very short-range threats as estimates put the Iron Dome’s minimum interception range at 5-7 kilometres.
  • According to a 2017 study, the system is built to intercept a certain of projectiles and can be overwhelmed by a more capable adversary.
  • Among the threats mentioned were mortars, whose range usually does not exceed several kilometres.

-Source: The Hindu


Native Indian turtles face U.S. slider threat

Context:

The American turtle – red-eared slider, popular as a pet is threatening to invade the natural water bodies across the Northeast, home to 21 of the 29 vulnerable native Indian species of freshwater turtles and tortoises.

Relevance:

GS-III: Environment and Ecology (Conservation of Biodiversity, Species in news)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About the Red-eared slider
  2. What are Alien Invasive Species?
  3. About the recent studies on Red-eared sliders in India
  4. Turtles and Turtle conservation in India

About the Red-eared slider

  • The red-eared slider (Trachemys scripta elegans) derives its name from red stripes around the part where its ears would be and from its ability to slide quickly off any surface into the water.
  • The red-eared slider originated from the area around the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico, in warm climates in the Southeastern United States.
  • They also require abundant aquatic plants, as these are the adults’ main food, although they are omnivores.
  • This turtle is an extremely popular pet due to its small size, easy maintenance, and relatively low cost. But on the flip side, they grow fast and virtually leaves nothing for the native species to eat.
  • People who keep it as pets become sensitive about turtle conservation but endanger the local ecosystem, probably unknowingly, by releasing them in natural water bodies after they outgrow an aquarium, tank or pool at home.

What are Alien Invasive Species?

An alien species is a species introduced outside its normal distribution – and when they out-compete the native species and upset the ecological balance in the place outside their natural area where they are introduced deliberately or accidentally – they become Alien Invasive Species.

The most common characteristics of invasive species are:

  1. Rapid reproduction and growth,
  2. High dispersal ability,
  3. Ability to survive on various food types,
  4. Ability to survive in a wide range of environmental conditions
  5. Ability to adapt physiologically to new conditions- phenotypic plasticity.

Due to various factors like lack of a predatory species capable of restricting their population or the abundance of suitable food in the region where they are introduced – these invasive species outnumber and outcompete other similar native species and disturb the biodiversity significantly.

About the recent studies on Red-eared sliders in India

  • A team of herpetologists from NGO Help Earth found red-eared sliders in the Deepor Beel Wildlife Sanctuary and the Ugratara temple pond – both in Guwahati.
  • Another report said a red-eared slider was collected from an unnamed stream, connected to the Tlawng River, on a farm near Mizoram capital Aizawl.
  • The invasive species, red-eared slider, has already affected States such as Karnataka and Gujarat, where it has been found in 33 natural water bodies. But more than elsewhere in India, preventing this invasive species from overtaking the Brahmaputra and other river ecosystems in the Northeast is crucial because the Northeast is home to more than 72% of the turtle and tortoise species in the country, all of them very rare.
  • Although the red-eared slider is traded legally, the time has come for the government to come up with regulations against keeping invasive as pets.

Turtles and Turtle conservation in India

  • There are five turtle species in Indian waters — Leatherback, Loggerhead, Hawksbill, Green and Olive Ridley.
  • In India sea turtles are protected under the Indian Wildlife Protection Act of 1972, under the Schedule I Part II.
  • Every year, thousands of sea turtles are accidentally captured, injured or killed by mechanised boats, trawl nets and gill nets operated and used by comercial fishermen.
  • The turtle breeding season is usually between November and December. In Tamil Nadu, for example, the Olive Ridley nests between December and April along the Chennai-Kancheepuram coastline.
  • Sea turtles, especially the leatherback, keep jellyfish under control, thereby helping to maintain healthy fish stocks in the oceans.
  • The Green turtle feeds on sea grass beds and by cropping the grass provide a nursery for numerous species of fish, shellfish and crustaceans.

-Source: The Hindu


MoEFCC on elephants killed on railway tracks

Context:

A total of 186 elephants were killed after being hit by trains across India between 2009-10 and 2020-21, according to the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC).

Relevance:

GS-III: Environment and Ecology (Conservation of Biodiversity, Initiatives and Steps for Conservation of species, Man-Animal Conflict)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Human-Elephant Conflicts
  2. MoEFCC on Elephant deaths due to train hits
  3. Steps taken by the MoEFCC for saving Elephants from Trains
  4. Possible Solution: Eco Bridges
  5. What is Project Elephant?

Human-Elephant Conflicts

  • Elephant-human conflict is a result of habitat loss and fragmentation.
  • When elephants and humans interact, there is conflict from crop raiding, injuries and deaths to humans caused by elephants, and elephants being killed by humans for reasons other than ivory and habitat degradation.
  • Such encounters foster resentment against the elephants amongst the human population and this can result in elephants being viewed as a nuisance and killed.
  • In addition to the direct conflicts between humans and elephants, elephants also suffer indirect costs like degradation of habitat and loss of food plants.

MoEFCC on Elephant deaths due to train hits

  • As per the data furnished by the Project Elephant Division of the Ministry, Assam accounted for the highest number of elephant casualties on railway tracks (62), followed by West Bengal (57), and Odisha (27).
  • According to the Ministry, a Permanent Coordination Committee has been constituted between the Ministry of Railways (Railway Board) and the MoEFCC for preventing elephant deaths in train accidents.

Steps taken by the MoEFCC for saving Elephants from Trains

  1. The formation of coordination committees of officers of Indian Railways and State Forest Departments;
  2. Clearing of vegetation along railway tracks to enable clear view for loco pilots;
  3. Signage boards at suitable points to alert loco pilots about elephant presence;
  4. Moderating slopes of elevated sections of railway tracks;
  5. Underpass/overpass for safe passage of elephants;
  6. Regulation of train speed from sunset to sunrise in vulnerable stretches;
  7. Regular patrolling of vulnerable stretches of railway tracks by frontline staff of the Forest Department and wildlife watchers.

Possible Solution: Eco Bridges

  • Eco Bridges are wildlife corridors also known as wildlife crossing that are a link of wildlife habitat which connects two larger areas of similar wildlife habitat.
  • Eco Bridges aims at enhancing wildlife connectivity. It connects wildlife populations that would otherwise be separated by human activities or structures such as roads and highways, other infrastructure development, or logging and farming, etc.
  • These are made up of native vegetation i.e., it is overlaid with planting from the area to give a contiguous look with the landscape.
  • Eco-bridges include underpass tunnels, viaducts, and overpasses (mainly for large or herd-type animals); amphibian tunnels; fish ladders; Canopy bridge (especially for monkeys and squirrels), tunnels and culverts (for small mammals such as otters, hedgehogs, and badgers); green roofs (for butterflies and birds).
  • The two main aspects considered in building the eco bridges are size and location. These bridges should be built based on the animals’ movement pattern.

Why eco-bridges matter?

  • They enhance wildlife connectivity that can be disrupted because of highways or logging.
  • Many road projects cut across animal corridors. For example, National Highway 37 through the Kaziranga-Karbi Anglong landscape in Assam, and State Highway 33 through the Nagarhole Tiger Reserve in Karnataka.

What is Project Elephant?

  • Project Elephant is a Central Government sponsored scheme launched in February 1992.
  • Through the Project Elephant scheme, the government helps in the protection and management of elephants to the states having wild elephants in a free-ranging population. 
  • It ensures the protection of elephant corridors and elephant habitat for the survival of the elephant population in the wild.
  • This elephant conservation strategy is mainly implemented in 16 of 28 states or union territories in the country which includes Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh Jharkhand, Kerala, Karnataka, Meghalaya, Maharashtra, Nagaland, Orissa, Tamil Nadu, Uttaranchal, Uttar Pradesh, and West Bengal.
  • The union government provides technical and financial help to these states to carry out and achieve the goals of project elephant. Not just that, assistance for the purpose of the census, training of field officials is also provided to ensure the mitigation and prevention of man-elephant conflict.

-Source: The Hindu


Asha workers lack protective gear & tools in UP

Context:

Asha workers – the thousands of frontline workers tasked with surveillance and monitoring of COVID-19 in rural Uttar Pradesh are suffering from absence of proper protective gear and equipment.

Relevance:

GS-II: Social Justice (Government Schemes and Intiitatives)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is ASHA?
  2. The details task assigned to ASHA workers under National Health Mission
  3. Financial Aid provided

What is ASHA?

  • Under the National Health Mission, Accredited Social Health Activists ASHA are envisaged to be community health volunteers. Under the National Health Mission, ASHA are entitled to task/activity-based incentives.
  • Under the National Health Mission, ASHAs act as a critical link between Healthcare delivery system and community.

The details task assigned to ASHA workers under National Health Mission

  1. To create awareness and provide information to the community on determinants of health such as nutrition, basic sanitation and hygienic practices, healthy living and working conditions, information on existing health services and the need for timely use of health services.
  2. To counsel women and families on birth preparedness, importance of safe delivery, breastfeeding and complementary feeding, immunization, contraception and prevention of common infections including Reproductive Tract Infection/Sexually Transmitted Infection (RTIs/STIs) and care of the young child.
  3. To mobilize the community and facilitate people’s access to health and health related services available at the village/sub-centre/primary health centres, such as Immunization, Ante Natal Check-up (ANC), Post Natal Check-up (PNC), ICDS, sanitation and other services being provided by the government.
  4. To work with the Village Health, Sanitation and Nutrition Committee to develop a comprehensive village health plan, and promote convergent action by the committee on social determinants of health. In support with VHSNC, ASHAs will assist and mobilize the community for action against gender based violence.
  5. To arrange escort/accompany pregnant women & children requiring treatment/ admission to the nearest pre- identified health facility i.e. Primary Health Centre/Community Health Centre/First Referral Unit (PHC/CHC/FRU).
  6. To provide community level curative care for minor ailments such as diarrhoea, fevers, care for the normal and sick newborn, childhood illnesses and first aid. She will be a provider of Directly Observed Treatment Short-course (DOTS) under Revised National Tuberculosis Control Programme.
  7. She will also act as a depot holder for essential health products appropriate to local community needs. A Drug Kit will be provided to each ASHA. Contents of the kit will be based on the recommendations of the expert/technical advisory group set up by the Government of India. These will be updated from time to time, States can add to the list as appropriate.
  8. To act as a care provider can be enhanced based on state needs. States can explore the possibility of graded training to the ASHA to provide palliative care, screening for non-communicable diseases, childhood disability, mental health, geriatric care and others.
  9. To provide information on about the births and deaths in her village and any unusual health problems/disease outbreaks in the community to the Sub-Centres/Primary Health Centre. She will promote construction of household toilets under Total Sanitation Campaign.

Financial Aid provided

To improve the financial   security of ASHAs, the Government of India has already taken several steps in addition to routine and recurring incentives, which inter-alia includes:

  • Benefits of Life insurance, accident insurance and pension to eligible ASHAs and ASHA facilitators are extended by enrolling them under:
  • Pradhan Mantri Jeevan Jyoti BeemaYojana (premium of Rs. 330 contributed by GOI).
  • Pradhan Mantri Suraksha Beema Yojana (premium of Rs. 12 contributed by GOI).
  • Pradhan Mantri Shram Yogi Maan Dhan (PM-SYM) (50% contribution of premium by GOI and 50% by beneficiaries).
  • The government has also approved a cash award of Rs. 20,000/- and a citation to ASHAs who leave the programme after working as ASHAs for minimum of 10 years, as acknowledgement of their contribution.

-Source: The Hindu


OCI holders stung by MHA notification

Context:

The Home Ministry passed an order recently that required professional Overseas Citizens of India (OCIs), such as journalists, engineers and researchers, to notify the Ministry about their activities in India.

Relevance:

GS-II: Polity and Governance (Citizenship)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Overseas Citizen of India (OCI)
  2. Benefits to OCI Card Holders
  3. Limitations on OCI Card Holders
  4. Recently in news: NRI quota seats for OCI

Overseas Citizen of India (OCI)

  • An Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) is a person who is technically a citizen of another country having an Indian origin.
  • They are defined as a person who: Was a citizen of India on or after 26th January 1950; or Was eligible to become a citizen of India on 26th January 1950; or Is a child or grandchild of such a person, among other eligibility criteria.
  • According to Section 7A of the OCI card rules, an applicant is not eligible for the OCI card if he, his parents or grandparents have ever been a citizen of Pakistan or Bangladesh.
  • The Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) Scheme was introduced by amending the Citizenship Act, 1955 in August 2005 in response to demands for dual citizenship by the Indian diaspora, particularly in developed countries.
  • Multi-purpose and life-long visa are provided to the registered Overseas Citizen of India for visiting India and are also exempted from registration with Foreign Regional Registration Officer or Foreign Registration Officer for any length of stay in India.

Benefits to OCI Card Holders

  • OCI cardholders can enter India multiple times, get a multipurpose lifelong visa to visit India, and are exempt from registering with Foreigners Regional Registration Office (FRRO).
  • If an individual is registered as an OCI for a period of five years, he/she is eligible to apply for Indian citizenship.
  • At all Indian international airports, OCI cardholders are provided with special immigration counters.
  • OCI cardholders can open special bank accounts in India, buy the non-farm property and exercise ownership rights and can also apply for a Permanent Account Number (PAN) card.

Limitations on OCI Card Holders

  • OCI card holders are not covered by Right to equality of opportunity under article 16 of the Constitution with regard to public employment.
  • They lack the benefit of Right for election as President and Vice-President under article 58 and article 66 respectively.
  • They are not entitled to the rights under article 124 and article 217 of the Constitution.
  • They are not given Right to register as a voter under section 16 of the Representation of the People Act, 1950(43 of 1950).
  • They Lack Rights with regard to the eligibility for being a member of the State Council/Legislative Assembly/Legislative Council.
  • They are not eligible for appointment to the posts of Public Services and Union Affairs of any State.
  • They cannot purchase agricultural or farmland.
  • They cannot travel to restricted areas without government permission.

Recently in news: NRI quota seats for OCI

  • Recently, the Ministry issued a gazette notification that OCI cardholders could claim “only NRI (Non-Resident Indian) quota seats” in educational institutions based on all-India entrance tests such as National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET), Joint Entrance Examination (Mains), Joint Entrance Examination (Advanced) or other such all-India professional tests. – The OCI cardholder shall not be eligible for admission against any seat reserved exclusively for Indian citizens.
  • The order specified that OCIs could only pursue the following professions — doctors, dentists, nurses and pharmacists, advocates, architects and chartered accountants, and the rest would require “special permission”.
  • The gazette notification imposing restrictions on Overseas Citizens of India (OCI) from practising journalism or research, and engaging in Tabligh or missionary activities, has effectively granted legal sanction to what was earlier only a set of guidelines in an official brochure.
  • OCI cardholders will enjoy parity with NRIs in adoption of children, appearing in competitive exams, purchase or sale of immovable property barring agricultural land and farmhouses, and pursuing professions such as doctors, lawyers, architects, and chartered accountants.
  • OCI cardholders will be entitled to get multiple entry lifelong visas for visiting India for any purpose. They are exempted from registration with the Foreigners’ Regional Registration Officer (FRRO) for any length of stay in India.

Issues highlighted due to this change

  • Even if an OCI student has secured a high rank in an exam like NEET, several institutions of repute do not have NRI seats.
  • The notification seemingly equates India-domiciled OCIs with a foreigner.
  • The exorbitantly high fees under the NRI quota cannot be afforded by many OCIs as they live and work in India.

-Source: The Hindu


Assam NRC authority seeks re-verification of citizens’ list

Context:

The Assam National Register of Citizens (NRC) authority has approached the Supreme Court seeking a comprehensive and time-bound re-verification of the citizens’ list, highlighting “major irregularities” in the process.

Relevance:

GS-II: Polity and Governance (Citizenship, Government Initiatives and Schemes)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is National Register of Citizens (NRC)?
  2. NRC in Assam
  3. About the recent developments in implementation of NRC in Assam

What is National Register of Citizens (NRC)?

  • National Register of Citizens, 1951 is a register prepared after the conduct of the Census of 1951 in respect of each village, showing the houses or holdings in a serial order and indicating against each house or holding the number and names of persons staying therein.
  • The NRC was published only once in 1951.

NRC in Assam

  • The issue of its update assumed importance as Assam witnessed large-scale illegal migration from erstwhile East Pakistan and, after 1971, from present-day Bangladesh.
  • This led to the six-year-long Assam movement from 1979 to 1985, for deporting illegal migrants.
  • The All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) led the movement that demanded the updating of the NRC and the deportation of all illegal migrants who had entered Assam after 1951.
  • The movement culminated in the signing of the Assam Accord in 1985.
  • It set March 25, 1971, as the cut-off date for the deportation of illegal migrants.
  • Since the cut-off date prescribed under articles 5 and 6 of the Constitution was July 19, 1949 – to give force to the new date, an amendment was made to the Citizenship Act, 1955, and a new section was introduced.
  • It was made applicable only to Assam.
  • There had been intermittent demands from AASU and other organisations in Assam for updating the NRC, an Assam based NGO filed a petition at the Supreme Court.
  • In December 2014, a division bench of the apex court ordered that the NRC be updated in a time-bound manner.
  • The NRC of 1951 and the Electoral Roll of 1971 (up to midnight of 24 March 1971) are together called Legacy Data. Persons and their descendants whose names appeared in these documents are certified as Indian citizens.

About the recent developments in implementation of NRC in Assam

  • The exercise was a culmination of the Assam Accord of 1985 signed between the Centre and the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) and the All Assam Gana Sangram Parishad (AAGSP) for detection, disenfranchisement and deportation of foreigners.
  • In the letter, the joint director asked the Assam government to assess the software used for managing the register and discontinue the ones not required.
  • The Assam government has rejected the NRC in its current form and demanded re-verification of 30% names included in the NRC in areas bordering Bangladesh and 10% in remaining State.

-Source: The Hindu


Activists in Karnataka on Child Marriages in Lockdown

Context:

Some activists and organisations of Karnataka have raised the issue of increased child marriages in Lockdown with the Ministry of Women and Child Development.

According to a report published in December 2020 by ChildLine India, the pandemic and the subsequent lockdown have proved to be new drivers of child marriages in rural Madhya Pradesh.

Relevance:

GS-II: Social Justice (Issues related to women and children, Government Initiatives and Schemes), GS-I: Indian Society

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. How prevalent is underage marriage?
  2. Significance of Child-marriage in India
  3. Why is child-marriage is so prevalent?
  4. Why are there Increased Child Marriages during Lockdowns?

How prevalent is underage marriage?

  • In India, Child-marriage is the marriage of a girl or boy before the age of 18 and refers to both formal marriages and informal unions in which children under the age of 18 live with a partner as if married.
  • Data show that the majority of women in India marry after the age of 21.
  • Although, the mean age of women at marriage is 22.1 years, and more than 21 in all states- this does not mean that child marriages have disappeared.
  • The latest National Family Health Survey (NFHS-4) found that about 26.8% of women aged 20-24 were married before adulthood (age 18).
  • United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) estimates suggest that each year, at least 1.5 million girls under 18 get married in India, which makes it home to the largest number of child brides in the world – accounting for a third of the global total.
  • Recent study by The Lancet shows that up to 2.5 million more girls (below the age of 18) around the world are at risk of marriage in the next 5 years because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Significance of Child-marriage in India

  • Child Marriage contributes to larger families and in turn, population growth. This delays the demographic dividend that would have come from reduced fertility and investment in education.
  • Children married at a young age do not understand the responsibilities of marriage. This results in a lack of understanding among family members. Hence, disturbs the institution of the family.
  • It negatively influences children’s rights to education, health and protection as a girl who is married as a child is more likely to be out of school and not earn money and contribute to the community.
  • A girl married at such a young age is more likely to experience domestic violence and become infected with HIV/AIDS and also there are more chances of her dying due to complications during pregnancy and childbirth.

Why is child-marriage is so prevalent?

The primary reasons for Child-marriage are:

  1. Poverty,
  2. Political and financial reasons,
  3. Lack of education,
  4. Patriarchy
  5. Gender inequalities, etc.
  • Some parents consider the age period of 15-18 as unproductive, especially for girls, so they start finding a match for their child during this age period.
  • Law and Order are still not able to provide a secure environment for the girls in adolescent age, so some parents get their girl child married at a young age.
  • The Right To Education Act makes education free and compulsory up to the age of 14 only – pointing towards inadequacy in the compulsory norm.

Why are there Increased Child Marriages during Lockdowns?

  • Earlier, when child marriages happened at wedding halls, temples, etc, there were people who would alert the relevant authorities or activists who would be able to reach on time to stop it. But now, with marriages happening at homes, we may get fewer alerts and our going there could be treated as trespass.
  • Economic pressures due to the pandemic have pushed poor parents to marry off girls early.
  • With no schools, safety of children, particularly girls, was a major reason for increase in violence against children and child marriages.

-Source: The Hindu

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