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What is the issue?
- Dust-storms, thunderstorms, and lightning at many places in northern, central and eastern India killed as many as 100 people in 1 day.
- While the weather events are common around this time of the year, the number of causalities was unusually high in the current storm.
What had happened?
- Rainstorms and dust-storms arise from similar meteorological conditions.
- They are almost always preceded (caused) by a spell of intense heat – the affected areas indeed had heat-wave like conditions lately.
- Thunderstorms or hail occur when the atmosphere has moisture, and dust-storms occur when moisture is absent.
- Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) routinely issues alerts and the current weather events too, had been predicted, and warnings were issued.
- The Factors – Such storms occur due deviation from the normal temperature difference (locally) between the upper and lower atmosphere.
- Moist easterly winds from the Bay of Bengal reached up to Himachal Pradesh, which was also receiving dry winds from the north-westerly direction.
- These two systems destabilised the equilibrium between the upper and lower layers of atmosphere – making it conducive for the thunderstorm.
- The final trigger, however, is the development of a large scale air-circulation system that developed over Rajasthan a couple of days earlier.
Why so many death?
- While it seems odd, a large number of deaths over a few days have been reported earlier too, like in the June 2016 lightening – which killed over 300.
- Notably, lightning is the biggest killer in India among natural calamities and accounted for as much as 2641 causalities in 2015.
- Nevertheless, the recent storm was unusually catastrophic because it occurred over a large area over a short span of time.
- In most cases, storms (like lightening) do not kill by themselves– but they trigger incidents that result in deaths.
- Walls or homes collapse, and people are electrocuted after power lines snap, or after they are caught in fields filled with water.
How useful are the predictions?
- People in the poorest, most densely populated areas are the most vulnerable.
- Also, while meteorological predictions are for broad geographical areas and timeframes, events are however localised both in time and space.
- It is not yet possible to predict a thunderstorm or lightning at a precise location — say a village or a part of a city.
- As the exact times these events will hit can’t be predicted, alerts and warnings usually merely telling people to expect these events, and to take precautions.
Post-sanctions, the development of the Chabahar port reflects Iranian quest for multilateralism, and China by default is an important player in the Iranian scheme of things.
China is one of the few countries which never severed its ties with Iran. In fact, it had played a crucial role in bringing Iran to the diplomatic table to negotiate the P5+1 nuclear deal.
A recent World Bank report estimates substantial acceleration in Iran’s GDP growth rate (6.4%) in the year 2016 due to lifting of sanctions.
This rebound is poised, if all goes well after the U.S. action, to get further impetus from Iran’s participation in China’s connectivity projects.
China was also one of the countries that maintained steady trade relations with Iran even during the sanctions era. In fact, trade figures rose from $4 billion in 2003 to $53 billion in 2013.
A large chunk of China-Iran trade is petroleum-based products. China is the largest importer of Iranian oil.
Iran, with its massive infrastructural needs, sees China as its most valued partner and Beijing has been investing in Iran in crucial sectors like railways.
Chinese investments in Iran are part and parcel of its ambitious $1 trillion Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
Apart from their economic rationale, these investments are also a means to generate political confidence/acceptability for a China-centric world order.
Iran perceives the BRI as a project that would make it an indispensable transit hub for countries like China, India and Russia and an effective antidote to the U.S. sanctions.
Iran’s premium geographical location (as a bridge between Persian Gulf and Central Asia) along with a relatively stable political architecture makes it a central player for China’s BRI.
After the 1979 revolution, Tehran has been dependent on Beijing for meeting its defence requirements. China has supplied Iran with surface-to-air missiles and has also trained Iranian nuclear scientists.
China, being permanent member of the Security Council with veto power, could be of great strategic help for Iran when it comes to vetoing any proposal against Iran in the United Nations.
A parallel, China-dominated global order suits Iran more than the U.S.-centric world order.
India’s policy options
For India, to be an influential player in the region, economics and politics should complement and not substitute each other.
India will have to capitalise upon the existing synergies.
In collaboration with countries like Japan, India should offer favourable terms of trade in the region vis-à-vis China.
To consolidate its strategic depth in the region, India should focus on initiatives like frequent joint naval exercises in the Persian Gulf.
Iran, on the other hand, would do well by maintaining a fine balance between the elephant and the dragon.
Some form of Chinese participation in the Chabahar project would be helpful for the future of the project, especially if the terms and conditions are clearly specified.
India and China are exploring joint economic projects in Afghanistan; they can surely also extend this engagement to the Chabahar.
Iran nuclear deal: Key details
In 2015, Iran agreed a long-term deal on its nuclear programme with the P5+1 group of world powers – the US, UK, France, China, Russia and Germany.
- Under the agreement, Iran agreed to eliminate its stockpile of medium-enriched uranium, cut its stockpile of low-enriched uranium by 98%, and reduce by about two-thirds the number of its gas centrifuges for 13 years.
- For the next 15 years, Iran will only enrich uranium up to 3.67%.
- Iran also agreed not to build any new heavy-water facilities for the same period of time.
- Uranium-enrichment activities will be limited to a single facility using first-generation centrifuges for 10 years.
- Other facilities will be converted to avoid proliferation risks. To monitor and verify Iran’s compliance with the agreement, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will have regular access to all Iranian nuclear facilities.
- The agreement provides that in return for verifiably abiding by its commitments, Iran will receive relief from U.S., European Union, and United Nations Security Council nuclear-related economic sanctions.
Why US cannot decide independently on the deal?
- The nuclear deal was reached among seven entities, including the U.S., Russia, Germany and Iran.
- Any unilateral move to withdraw from the agreement would hurt American interests as European countries are keen on expanding economic ties with Iran.
- By law, the US administration is required to notify Congress every 90 days whether Iran is living up to the deal, and no decision can be made by the US administration alone.
Impact on India
India could face the impact of the U.S. decision on the deal as well as instituting the “highest level of economic sanctions” in several ways:
- Oil prices
- Iran is presently India’s third biggest supplier (after Iraq and Saudi Arabia), and any increase in prices will hit both inflation levels as well as the Indian Rupee
- Non-oil trade with Iran may not be impacted as much
- India’s moves over the last few years to develop berths at the Shahid Beheshti port in Chabahar was a key part of its plans to circumvent Pakistan’s blocks on trade with Afghanistan
- The new U.S. sanctions could slow or even bring those plans to a halt depending on how strictly they are implemented
- India has been a founder of the International North South Transport Corridor (INSTC) since it was ratified in 2002
- It starts from Iran and aims to cut right across Central Asia to Russia over a 7,200-km multi-mode network
- Plans for INSTC sped up after the JCPOA was signed in 2015 and sanctions on Iran were lifted
- New U.S. sanctions will affect these plans immediately
4. Shanghai Cooperation Organisation
- India joined the SCO along with Pakistan last year, and both will be formally admitted in June 201
- This year, Chinese officials say they will consider inducting Iran into the 8-member Eurasian security organization
- If the proposal is accepted by the SCO which is led by China and Russia, India will become a member of a bloc that will be seen as anti-American
- It will also run counter to some of the government’s other initiatives, for eg. the Indo-Pacific quadrilateral with the U.S., Australia, and Japan
- The move may also rile other adversaries of Iran, like Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Israel
5. Rules-based order
- India has long been a proponent of a “rules-based order” that depends on multilateral consensus and an adherence to commitments made by countries on the international stage
- By walking out of the JCPOA that was signed by the Obama administration, the U.S. government has overturned the precept that such international agreements are made by “States” not just with prevailing governments or regimes
- This could also impact all agreements India is negotiating both bilaterally and multilaterally with the U.S., and the government will have to choose its future course factoring in the new U.S. behavior
- New Delhi will have to consider a new understanding of its ties with Washington in this context, and some of this understanding may be built during the first “2+2” dialogue between Foreign and Defence Ministers of both countries to be scheduled in the next few weeks in Washington
What is the issue?
- Only about a fifth of the Rs. 20,000 crore allotted for the National Clean Ganga Mission (NCGM) has been utilised till March 2018
- That is roughly the same proportion of the sanctioned money utilised the same time last year
- Amid complaints that the government’s marquee Ganga-cleaning exercise was dawdling, Union Water Resources Ministry had romised(in 2017) a “visible change” in the Ganga water quality by 2019
Financial account from the NCGM
- It says that as of March 2018, Rs. 20,601 crore had been sanctioned for 193 projects. So far, only Rs. 4,254 crore had actually been spent on their implementation
- About half the money, or Rs. 2,814 crore, had been spent on establishing sewage infrastructure
- About 12,000 MLD of sewage is emptied into the Ganga across 11 States, from Uttarakhand to West Bengal
- At present, the capacity for sewage treatment is just 4,000 MLD; of this, 1,000 MLD is functional
- Also, till date, only 24 of the 65 ‘entry-level’ projects had been completed
- These ‘entry level’ projects are meant for cleaning the ghats and establishing new ones and cleaning the river front and the river surface
- They had been allotted Rs. 492 crore
Main source of pollutants
- Though the industrial pollution, volume-wise, accounts for about 20%, its toxic and non-biodegradable nature has a disproportionate impact
- The industrial pollutants largely emanate from tanneries in Kanpur and distilleries, paper mills and sugar mills in the Kosi, Ramganga and Kali river catchments
- The municipal sewage, at a billion litres a day, accounts for 80% of the pollution load
- Unwashed socks worn by visitors and rampant algae seem to turn the Taj Mahal from its natural white to yellow, brown and green, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) said to Supreme Court
- It was not possible to distribute socks to all visitors. Many went wearing their own socks.
- Not convinced with argument it asked the ASI how algae managed to reach the top parts of the mausoleum where patches of discolouration were seen.
- The court said the problem was not with algae but the fact that the ASI was unwilling to accept that they were not doing enough to conserve the monument.
- The dumping of waste in the Yamuna led to the stagnation of the river and the consequent “explosive breeding” of the insect, which is a “biological indicator of water quality and localised water pollution.”
Eighteen to sixty-four should be the age range of the working population factored into policy, since enrolment in senior secondary school is rising.
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