Current Affairs for IAS Exams – 13 September 2013

Current Affairs for IAS Exams – 13 September 2013

India officially undercounts all crimes including rape

  • The National Crime Records Bureau, India’s official source of crime
    data, is systematically under-counting virtually every crime in India on
    account of a statistical shortcoming
  • The NCRB, under the union Home ministry, compiles its annual ‘Crime in
    India’ publication based on data that comes to it from state crime records
    bureaus, which in turn get their data from the First Information Reports (FIRs)
    filed with every police station in that State.
  • What few know, however, is that the data published by the NCRB only
    takes into account the ‘principal offence’ in every FIR, that is, the charge
    that attracts the maximum penalty,
  • “Some 60 lakh cases are filed in India every year.“

Space ‘Ferrari’ set to fall

  • A science satellite dubbed the “Ferrari of space” for its sleek, finned
    looks will shortly run out of fuel and fall to Earth after a successful
    mission, the European Space Agency (ESA) Launched in 2009, the satellite — a
    hi-tech craft designed to monitor gravity and ocean circulation — is likely
    to break up in mid-October,
  • The Gravity Ocean Circulation Explorer (GOCE) orbits at an extremely low
    altitude of just 260 km, where there are lingering molecules of atmosphere.
  • To reduce drag, it has an arrow-like octagonal shape and two fins to
    provide extra aerodynamic stability, a departure from the box-like form of
    satellites that operate in the complete vacuum of space.
  • Royal Mail to be privatised
  • The British government is pressing ahead with its controversial plans to
    privatise Royal Mail, a decision described by the Financial Times as the
    “most ambitious privatisation since John Major sold the railways in the
  • Royal Mail is an iconic institution, dating back to 1512 under Henry
    VIII’s reign, and its privatisation is being met with stiff resistance from
    labour unions.
  • Business Secretary Vince Cable announced the plans to the Cabinet on
  • It will entail a stock market flotation of the company, a process which
    will take four to six weeks that according to industry watchers could value
    the company at up to 3 billion GBP.
  • The announcement comes at a time when the 125,000 postal workers are
    being balloted for a strike, the results of which will be announced on
    October 3.
  • In a statement, the Communications Workers Union said the plans to sell
    are a “betrayal of the British public — 70 per cent of whom are against
    privatisation according to a Sunday Times poll at the weekend.”
  • In a letter to a postal employee on the government website, Michael
    Fallon, the Minister for Business and Enterprise, had justified the sale on
    the grounds that it would give Royal Mail “future access to private capital”
    to “modernise and take advantage of opportunities to grow.”
  • It should not have to compete with hospitals and schools for “scarce
    public resources,”

Protecting forest lands

  • The report of the Comptroller and Auditor General underscoring the
    blatant violation of conservation laws and Supreme Court orders in the
    diversion of forests for destructive non-forestry use confirms what former
    Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh said about the system:
  • The compensatory afforestation mechanism instituted to balance the
    devastating loss of natural forests has failed abysmally.
  • The CAG’s report is proof that India’s environmental health has been in
    free fall since the dawn of economic reforms.
  • The Union government as well as the States have played an active role in
    this decline.
  • The Supreme Court’s Central Empowered Committee (CEC) stepped in where
    governments failed and set up a framework for monetisation of forests.
  • But what was meant to ration the use of forest land has only served to
    justify its usurpation.
  • With the possible exception of designated protected areas, judicial
    scrutiny and oversight did not result in an effective regime to either
    reduce deforestation or to green alternative lands.
  • Among the major findings of the CAG are the non-receipt of nearly 73 per
    cent of lands earmarked for reforestation, poor work outcomes, and failure
    to assess and levy stiff penalties on defaulting companies to whom forest
    wealth was handed over.
  • The funds collected for transfer of forest land, totalling around Rs
    30,000 crore, have been misused, not accounted for or badly managed.
  • The CAG has recorded the arbitrariness in the deployment of funds by the
    Union government, the States and the CEC.
  • Environment and Forests is in the concurrent list of the Constitution.

    This was meant to make the States and the Centre co-trustees of natural

Time to bridge this river divide

  • Much of South Asia is now haunted by the spectre of hydro-electricity.
  • At heart remains the sub-continent’s unsolved riddle of trying to
    ‘meaningfully share’ its many trans-boundary rivers.
  • Existing river development models, as all governments have learnt, are
    indeed a zero sum game: in which a benefit extracted from one point of the
    river’s stem will inevitably involve a cost at another point in the flow.
  • For all the careful wording that has gone into framing water treaties,
    sharing agreements or cooperation models, the overwhelming fact remains that
    every country in the region is energy starved, politically impatient and is
    compelled to tap rivers for hydropower.
  • the Indus Water Treaty (IWT). Signed in 1960 between India and Pakistan,
    the IWT, ironically enough for J&K, continues to be celebrated as a
    diplomatic-legal-technical success story in the region.
  • The consensus over the IWT, in fact, has not only held and endured wars
    but arguably, as well, offers one of the most substantial set of protocols
    for addressing disputes and disagreements that may arise over water sharing.
  • But clearly this curriculum vitae of the IWT has failed to impress the
    J&K government, which has even gone on to hire the services of a private
    consultancy firm — M/S Halcrow India Limited — and tasked it to assess
    losses that have ostensibly been incurred by the State in the past five
    decades on account of the IWT.
  • According to one such estimate, J&K suffers an annual loss of Rs.6,000
    crore; a calculation based on the perceived benefits that are denied to the
    State from clauses in the IWT that prevent the former from storing water
    (for generating electricity) and from diverting flows for irrigational
  • Jammu and Kashmir is, in fact, energy-deficit and according to the
    latest Economic Survey (2012-13), only 23.22 per cent of the required power
    was generated within the State while the rest had to be imported.
  • As of now, J&K purchases around 1,400 MW of power from the northern grid
    and spends Rs. 3,600 crore annually on meeting its growing demand which
    peaked at 2,600 MW.
  • This, given the fact that ‘potentially’ it can generate 20,000 megawatts
    from the rivers and many cascading tributaries that run through its valleys
    and hills.
  • In effect, J&K‘s hydro-electricity dilemmas have turned into a hard rock
    that the State government is now continually hurling against the IWT and
    battering the delicate water sharing agreement between India and Pakistan.
  • Historically, the estimated total water available from the Indus
    catchments has been calculated at being approximately 150 Million Acre Feet
    (MAF) (181 billion m3), a large portion of which then hurtled as fresh water
    flows into the sprawling edges of mangroves and estuarine ecologies of the
  • Over the past 60 years or so, however, the quantity of sweet water flows
    has been reduced below Kotri (in Sindh Province) to a peak (in the three
    monsoon months) of about 34.8 MAF (43 billion m3), with barely 20 MAF
    reaching the mangroves.
  • In effect, fresh water flows have been steadily slurped off in the flood
    plains, with diversions for agriculture and industry and reservoirs holding
    back volumes for power generation. Importantly as well, instead of the 400
    million tonnes of nutrient rich fine grained soil that used to annually
    nourish the delta, there is now barely a 100 million or so tonnes of soil
    washing up along the coasts.

Sources: Various News Papers

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