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Current Affairs for IAS Exams - 12 February 2018

Current Affairs for IAS Exams - 12 February 2018


SC on Implementation of Juvenile Justice Act and its rules

  • The Supreme Court criticised the government for the “tardy, if not virtual non-implementation,” of juvenile justice laws.
  • Criticised for ignoring the plight of the “voiceless, if not silenced,” children of the nation.
  • In a 62-page judgment, the Social Justice Bench of Justices Madan B. Lokur and Deepak Gupta described the authorities’ negligence of children, including the pendency of cases of orphaned, abandoned and surrendered children.
  • The “uncomfortable” conditions of children in observation and care homes, the increasing number of vacancies in juvenile justice institutions and the lack of initiatives by legal services authorities despite the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000, and its improved version passed in 2015.
  • “No one has any doubt that it is time for the state to strongly and proactively acknowledge that even children in our country have fundamental rights and human rights, and they need to be enforced equally strongly,” observed Justice Lokur, who authored the judgment.
  • To drive home its point, the court quoted from South African leader Nelson Mandela’s speech in 1997: “Our children are our greatest treasure. They are our future. Those who abuse them tear at the fabric of our society and weaken our nation.”

3 New species of EEL found in BOB

  • Scientists have discovered three new species of eel along the northern Bay of Bengal coast in the past few months.
  • Dark brown with white dots on the dorsal side, Gymnothorax pseudotile was discovered at the Digha coast of the Bay of Bengal.
  • The other two species,Gymnothorax visakhaensis (uniformly brown) and Enchelycore propinqua (reddish brown body mottled with irregular creamy white spots), were discovered from the Visakhapatnam coast of the Bay of Bengal.
  • While Gymnothorax pseudotile is about 1 feet to 1.5 feet long, Gymnothorax visakhaensis is about a foot long. Enchelycore propinqua is the smallest of them measuring less than a foot.
  • A description of all the three new species was published in the journal Zootaxa .
  • Anil Mohapatra, a Zoological Survey of India ( ZSI) scientist who is behind all the three discoveries, said that while the specimens of the first two species can be found upon a considerable search, the third one is relatively rare.
  • Scientists and researchers David G. Smith, Subhrendu Sekhar Mishra , Swarup Ranjan Mohanty, Dipanjan Ray and Prasad C. Tudu have contributed to these discoveries.
  • Eels are found mostly at the bottom of rivers and seas.
  • Across the world about 1,000 species of eels have been identified. In India, the number is around 125. For species belonging to the family Muraenidae , referred commonly as Moray eels, there are records of about 200 species of which more than 30 species are found in India.
  • With these new discoveries, the Bay of Bengal coast has yielded at least five new species of eel. In 2016, Mr. Mohapatra and his team identified Gymnothorax indicus , an edible species.
  • In 2015, a short brown unpatterned moray eel, named Gymnothorax mishrai(Bengal moray eel), was discovered from the coast of Bay of Bengal.
  • The specimens of Gymnothorax pseudotile were collected in a trawl net by fishermen in the northern Bay of Bengal.

PM Modi visit to UAE

  • India and the UAE will hold a bilateral naval exercise, the External Affairs Ministry announced.
  • The declaration came during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s discussion with the leadership of the Gulf country with both sides agreeing to deepen the strategic partnership and counter terrorism in “all forms”.
  • The two leaders welcomed the decision taken during the latest round of JDCC [Joint Defence Cooperation Committee] held in New Delhi in December 2017 to conduct the first bilateral Naval Exercise during 2018.
  • It explained that maritime security would be a crucial domain of India-UAE cooperation focussing on the Indian Ocean and the Gulf region.
  • The Hindu had earlier reported that the naval exercise, is likely to take place in March off the coast of Abu Dhabi.
  • Apart from the announcement for joint maritime cooperation, Prime Minister Modi and the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, expressed joint commitment against tackling terrorism and threats to stability in the region.
  • Making common cause against international terrorism, a joint statement issued at the end of Mr. Modi’s discussions with the hosts.
  • It said, the two sides deplored the adoption of double standards in addressing the menace of international terrorism and agreed to strengthen cooperation in combating terrorism both at the bilateral level and within the multilateral system.
  • The two sides resolved to continue working together towards the adoption of India’s proposed Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism in the United Nations.
  • Apart from a common intent to fight terrorism, both sides affirmed partnership on the cyber front and declared that joint research and development centres of excellence to fight cyber threats will be expedited.
  • Both sides also reviewed contribution from UAE’s sovereign wealth fund ADIA (Abu Dhabi Investment Authority).
  • Prime Minister Modi welcomed ADIA’s participation in India’s National Infrastructure Investment Fund as an anchor investor and welcomed DP World’s agreement with NIIF to create a joint investment platform for ports, terminals, transportation and logistics businesses in India.

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Pakistan’s iron lady

  • Noted Pakistani lawyer Asma Jehangir, who passed away on 11thfeb 2018, was the country’s symbol of human rights and resistance and a fierce opponent of military dictators for over five decades.
  • She was also a vocal advocate of India-Pakistan peace and was part of several ‘Track 2’ delegations to India.
  • Born in Lahore on January 27, 1952, Ms. Jehangir had a prominent career both as a lawyer and a rights activist. After obtaining a law degree from the Punjab University in 1978, she started her career as an advocate at the judiciary.
  • She soon became a champion democracy activist and was subsequently imprisoned in 1983 for participating in the Movement for the Restoration of Democracy against the military rule of Zia-ul-Haq.
  • She also served as chairwoman of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, and was widely respected for her outspoken criticism of the country’s militant and extremist Islamist groups.
  • Ms. Jehangir also served as president of the Supreme Court’s Bar Association and was a UN rapporteur on human right and extrajudicial killings. She was once on Time magazine’s list of 100 most influential women.
  • She often defended minority Christians charged with blasphemy, an offence that under Pakistan’s controversial law carries the death penalty.
  • She was repeatedly threatened by the country’s militant religious right whom she criticised loudly and often.
  • Ms. Jehangir has also taken up cases of missing persons and fought in the courts for their recovery free of cost.
  • She played an active role in the famous lawyers’ movement in 2007 to restore Iftikhar Chaudhry as the Chief Justice of Pakistan. The movement later brought the fall of then President Gen. Pervez Musharraf.
  • Of late, she had been critical of the Supreme Court for its ‘judicial activism’ and had also criticised the apex court for disqualifying Nawaz Sharif from the office of Prime Minister in July last year.
  • She won numerous national and international awards for her struggle for the oppressed including the highest civilian honours Hilal-i-Imtiaz and Sitara-i-Imtiaz.
  • Ms. Jehangir is survived by her businessman-husband, Tahir Jehangir, a son and two daughters.
  • Condolences poured in from within and outside the country. Leaders of all political parties paid rich tributes to her. President Mamnoon Hussain and Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi both expressed grief and sorrow.
  • The President, in his condolence message, said that Ms. Jahangir played an unforgettable role in the upholding of democracy and human rights. Mr. Abbasi lauded Ms. Jahangir for her immense contribution towards upholding rule of law, democracy and safeguarding human rights.
  • He termed her demise as a great loss for legal fraternity.
  • Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said that Ms. Jahangir had always been in the forefront when it came to confronting dictatorship in the country.
  • Supreme Court Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar and other judges of the apex court also expressed deep sorrow and grief over the demise.


Ministries to discuss Health plan shortly

  • The Ministries of Finance and Health will hold the first meeting on the National Health Protection Scheme (NHPS) to discuss the modalities of its implementation, including whether to rope in insurance firms or set up a trust to settle claims.
  • The scheme, which would be the world’s largest government healthcare programme, was announced in the 2018-19 Budget for providing medical cover of up to Rs. 5 lakh to more than 10 crore poor and vulnerable families, constituting 40% of India’s population.
  • “It would be deliberated on whether National Health Protection Scheme will be run through a trust-based model or through general insurance companies,” an official said.
  • Certain States are already successfully running healthcare schemes using the trust-based model.
  • Under this model, a trust will be set up by the government with funds being contributed by the Centre and States, which will settle hospital claims of beneficiaries, instead of insurers settling them.
  • The Health Ministry will draft the scheme, which is likely to be unveiled either on August 15 or October 2, after consultations with the States.
  • There are States which run schemes for specific illnesses and discussions would include ways to streamline those with NHPS.
  • The Health Ministry would discuss with States on how to go about with the existing state-run schemes once the NHPS is implemented.
  • At the central level, the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana would be subsumed within NHPS.

Cryptocurrency issues

  • Last October, the Board of the International Organization of Securities Commissions (IOSCO) discussed the growing usage of Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) to raise capital as an area of concern.
  • “There are clear risks associated with these offerings,” IOSCO had warned all nations in a statement after the discussions.
  • The world body also said that ICOs are highly speculative investments in which investors were putting their entire invested capital at risk.
  • To be fair, some operators provide legitimate investment opportunities to fund projects or businesses.
  • But, the increased targeting of retail investors through online distribution channels by parties often located outside an investor’s home jurisdiction — which may not be subject to regulation or may violate laws — “raises investor protection concerns.”
  • In Budget 2018, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said the government did not consider cryptocurrencies legal tender and would aim to eliminate their use in financing illegitimate activities.
  • Many regulatory and self-regulatory authorities globally have cautioned investors on ICOs.
  • ICOs, also known as token sales or coin sales, typically involve the creation of digital tokens — using distributed ledger technology — and their sale to investors in return for a cryptocurrency such as bitcoin or ether.
  • A survey by the North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA) of state and provincial securities regulators showed 94% believed there was a “high risk of fraud” involving cryptocurrencies.
  • Regulators also were unanimous in their view that more regulation was needed for cryptocurrency to provide greater investor protection.
  • Cryptocurrencies and investments tied to them are high-risk products with an unproven track record and high price volatility.
  • Combined with a high risk of fraud, investing in cryptocurrencies is not for the faint of heart.
  • German regulator Federal Financial Supervisory Authority said the acquisition of cryptocurrency coins may result in substantial risks for investors.
  • As ICOs are a highly speculative form of investment, investors should be preparedfor the possibility of losing their investment completely.
  • It also said that the term ICO, stems from “initial public offering” (IPO), i.e. a floatation on a stock exchange.
  • The apparent similarity of the terms gives the impression that ICOs are comparable to the issuance of shares.
  • This is not the case, either technically or legally.
  • In a recent interview published by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, its economists Michael Lee and Antoine Martin raised the issue of the trustworthiness of such currencies.
  • They highlighted the “trustless” nature as virtual currencies are “not backed by anything real” such as gold. “Trust is implicit for practically any means of payment,” they added.

Sophisticated CVPS machines used for returned notes

  • The RBI has said that Rs. 500 and Rs. 1,000 notes, returned to banks when the government demonetised high value currency 15-months ago, are still being “processed for their arithmetical accuracy and genuineness.”
  • This is being done in an “expedited manner,” the central bank said.
  • “Specific bank notes are being processed for their arithmetical accuracy and genuineness and the reconciliation for the same is ongoing. This information can, therefore, be shared on completion of the process and reconciliation,” the RBI said in reply to an RTI application.
  • As on date, 59 sophisticated currency verification and processing (CVPS) machines are in operation in RBI for the purpose, it said. The reply did not specify the location of the machines.
  • The RBI will also soon have greater flexibility in terms of managing its liquidity operations with the addition of one more tool ‘Standing Deposit Facility Scheme’ to its kit.
  • Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, in his Budget, had proposed to amend the RBI Act to empower the central bank to come up with an additional instrument for liquidity management.
  • The proposal forms part of the Finance Bill 2018 which is scheduled to be approved by Parliament by March 31.
  • “That is to provide one more tool for liquidity management. There is no more MSS (market stabilisation scheme),” Economic Affairs Secretary S. C. Garg told PTI.
  • The RBI proposed in November 2015 the introduction of the SDF by suitably amending the RBI Act.
  • This would provide the RBI a new tool for liquidity management, particularly in times when the money market liquidity is in excess to deal with post-demonetisation like scenario.
  • Post-demonetisation, the RBI ran out of securities to offer as collateral and had to temporarily hike its cash reserve ratio (CRR) to force banks to park extra deposits with it.
  • The CRR is the portion of deposits that banks have to compulsorily park with the RBI. Currently, the CRR is pegged at 4%.
  • When the liquidity position under the Liquidity Adjustment Facility (LAF) is outside comfort zone, the RBI uses an array of instruments to absorb/inject durable liquidity from/into the financial system.

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