1. RTI’s Rejections (Prelims, GS II-Polity & Governance)
Why in News?
Ø The Centre has rejected 4.3% of all Right to Information (RTI) requests in 2019-20, the lowest ever rate, according to the Central Information Commission (CIC)’s annual report.
Ø Rejection rates have fallen since the 13.9% rate in 2005-06, and have been steadily trending downwards since the 8.4% spike in 2014-15.
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Rejection without Reason
Ø Almost 40% of these rejections did not include any valid reason, as they did not invoke one of the permissible exemption clauses in the Right to Information (RTI) Act.
Ø These rejections are classified under the ‘Others’ category in the CIC data.
Ø The Finance Ministry alone rejected 40% of its total RTI requests without providing a valid reason under the Act.
Ø More than 90% of rejections by the Prime Minister’s Office, the Delhi High Court, the Comptroller and Auditor General, among others fell into the “Others” category.
Ø The Home Ministry had the highest rate of rejections, as it rejected 20% of all RTIs received.
Ø The Delhi Police and the Army also saw increases in rejection rates.
Ground for Rejection of the RTI Requests
Ø Section 8(1) deals with the exemption from disclosure of information-
o If it is related to the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security, strategic, scientific or economic interests of the State, relation with foreign State or lead to incitement of an offence,
o Information including commercial confidence, trade secrets or intellectual property,
o Information, the disclosure of which would endanger the life or physical safety of any person,
o Information which would impede the process of investigation or prosecution of offenders,
o Information which relates to personal information the disclosure of which has no relationship to any public activity or interest.
o Of the permissible grounds for rejection, Section 8(1) was used in around 46% of the cases.
Ø It empowers the Central Public Information Officer or State Public Information Officer to reject a request for information which involves an infringement of copyright.
Ø It exempts information related to security and intelligence organisations except allegations of corruption and human rights violations.
Ø Around one in five (20%) permissible rejections coming under this category.
Right to Information (Amendment) Act, 2019
Ø It provided that the Chief Information Commissioner and an Information Commissioner (of Centre as well as States) shall hold office for such terms as prescribed by the Central Government.
Ø Before this amendment, their term was fixed for 5 years.
Ø It provided that the salary, allowances and other service conditions of the Chief Information Commissioner and an Information Commissioner (of Centre as well as States) shall be such as prescribed by the Central Government.
Ø Before this amendment, the salary, allowances and other service conditions of the Chief Information Commissioner were similar to those of the Chief Election Commissioner and that of an Information Commissioner were similar to those of an Election Commissioner (State Election Commissioners in case of States).
Ø It removed the provisions regarding deductions in salary of the Chief Information Commissioner, an Information Commissioner, the State Chief Information Commissioner and a State Information Commissioner due to pension or any other retirement benefits received by them for their previous government service.
For more about CIC & IC, refer to our Polity MCQ Course.
2. African Elephants (Prelims, GS III-Fauna)
Why in News?
Ø The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has declared African Forest and Savanna (or bush) elephants as ‘critically endangered’ and ‘endangered’ respectively.
Ø Earlier, African elephants were treated as a single species, listed as Vulnerable. This is the first time the two species have been assessed separately for the IUCN Red List.
Ø African elephants are the largest land animals on Earth. They are slightly larger than Asian elephants.
Ø They have two fingerlike features on the end of their trunk while Asian elephants have just one.
Ø Elephants are matriarchal, meaning they live in female-led groups.
Ø African elephants are keystone species, meaning they play a critical role in their ecosystem.
Ø Also known as “ecosystem engineers,” elephants shape their habitat in many ways.
Ø Elephants have a longer pregnancy than any other mammal—almost 22 months.
Ø This compounds the problem of conservation since there are simply not enough calves being born to make up for the losses from poaching.
Ø There are two subspecies of African elephants, the Savanna (or bush) elephant and the Forest elephant. Savanna elephants are the larger of two.
Ø Poaching for the illegal ivory trade.
Ø Regions with high levels of poverty and corruption are more likely to have higher poaching rates. This suggests that helping communities develop sustainable livelihoods could reduce the lure of poaching.
Ø Increasing human population, and conversion of land for agriculture and development.
Ø There are three subspecies of Asian elephant which are the Indian, Sumatran and Sri Lankan.
Ø Estimated 20,000 to 40,000.
Ø The Indian subspecies has the widest range and accounts for the majority of the remaining elephants on the continent.
Ø There are around 28,000 elephants in India with around 25% of them in Karnataka.
Ø IUCN Red List Status: Endangered.
Ø CITES: Appendix I.
Ø Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972: Schedule I.
3. Garhwal Forts (Prelims, GS I-History)
Why in News?
Ø Recently, a study has identified 193 sites having either intact or ruins of Garhwal forts and fortalices spread along the north, east and southern regions of the Garhwal Himalayas.
Ø This is the first of its kind database. A total of36 major forts and 12 prominent fort clusters have been identified.
Ø A majority of medieval forts in the Garhwal Himalayas of Uttarakhand were strategically built to form clusters.
Ø The forts, dating back to the 8th centuryCommon Era (CE), were built at diverse altitude zones like valleys, along the ridges and prominent hilltops, some standing more than 3,000 metres above Mean Sea Level (MSL) in the Garhwal Himalayas.
Ø These well networked forts were built either during or after the downfall of the Katyuri dynasty.
Ø Geographically, the forts were built away from one another. But the ruler's back then ensured that they were surrounded with smaller fortalices, which primarily functioned as watchtowers.
Ø These fortalices were erected and positioned around 15 km periphery of a major fort.
Ø Numerous such fortalices then formed a strategic network, enabling them to relay information, particularly when invaded by enemies.
Ø Fire, smoke or similar light signals could have been the common means to convey messages.
Ø The Katyuri kings were a medieval ruling clan of present-day Uttarakhand, India. They ruled over the region now known as Kumaon from 700 to 1200 CE.
Ø The Katyuri dynasty was founded by Vashudev Katyuri (sometimes spelled Vasu Dev or Basu Dev).
Ø At its peak, the Katyuri dynasty of Kumaon extended from Sikkim in the east to Kabul, Afghanistan in the west, before fragmenting into numerous principalities by the 12th century.
4. Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV’s) (Prelims, GS III-Air Space Regulations)
Why in News?
Ø Recently, the Ministry of Civil Aviation has granted permits to "No-Permission-No-Takeoff' (NPNT)compliant drone operations at 34 additional green zones to facilitate, smoothen, and promote drone operations in the country.
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Ø NPNT is a software program that enables every Remotely Piloted Aircraft (except Nano) to obtain a valid permission through DigitalSky platform before operating in India.
Ø If a NPNT compliant drone tries to breach geo-fencing (to go beyond the permissible boundary in the airspace), the in-built software will compel the drone to return-to-home (RTH).
Ø Drone flights in the green zone sites shall be compliant with the applicable conditions of Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) Rules, 2021.
Ø Flying in the ‘green-zones’ require only intimation of the time and location of the flights.
Ø Permissions are required for flying in ‘yellow zones’ and flights are not allowed in the ‘red zones.
Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) Rules, 2021
Ø UAS categorised as airplane, rotorcraft and hybrid with further categorisation as remotely piloted aircraft, model remotely piloted aircraft and autonomous unmanned aircraft system.
Ø UA is classified as nano, micro, small, medium and large unmanned aircraft based on the maximum all up weight.
Ø Mandatory for individuals and companies to obtain approval from the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) to import, manufacture, trade, own or operate drones.
Ø No Permission- No Take-off (NPNT) policy adopted for all UAS except for those in the nano category.
Ø Micro and small UAS are not permitted from flying above 60m and 120m, respectively.
Ø UAS prohibited from flying in strategic and sensitive locations, including near airports, defence airports, border areas, military installations/facilities and areas earmarked as strategic locations/vital installations by the Ministry of Home Affairs.
Ø Research and development (R&D) organisations, including start-ups, authorised UAS manufacturers, any accredited recognised institution of higher education located in India, are permitted to carry out R&D of UAS only after obtaining authorisation from the DGCA.
Ø Penalties ranging between rupees ten thousand and one lakh for individuals, and for organisations, a 200, 300 and 400% of the amount specified for individuals, based on the size of the organisation.
5. Earth Hour (Prelims, GS III-Environment & Climate Change)
Why in News?
Ø The Earth Hour is being observed on 27th March 2021.
About Earth Hour
Ø Earth Hour is the World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF)’s annual initiative that began in 2007.
Ø It is held every year on the last Saturday of March.
Ø It encourages people from more than 180 countries to switch off the lights from 8.30 pm to 9.30 pm as per their local time.
Ø The idea is to refrain from the use of non-essential lighting to save energy in a symbolic call for environmental protection.
Ø Earth Hour has become a catalyst for positive environmental impact, driving major legislative changes by harnessing the power of the people and collective action.
Ø It helped-
o Create a 3.5-million-hectare marine-protected area in Argentina.
o Ban all plastics in the Galapagos in 2014.
o Plant 17 million trees in Kazakhstan.
o Light up homes with solar power in India and the Philippines.
o Push new legislation for the protection of seas and forests in Russia.
World Wildlife Fund for Nature
Ø It is the world’s leading conservation organization and works in more than 100 countries.
Ø It was established in 1961 and is headquartered at Gland, Switzerland
Ø It aims to conserve nature and reduce the most pressing threats to the diversity of life on Earth.
Other Initiatives of WWF
Ø TX2 Goal
Ø Living Planet Report
6. Aluminium Air Batteries (Prelims, GS III-Science & Tech)
Why in News?
Ø State-owned Indian Oil Corporation Ltd. has entered into a joint venture with Israel-based battery technology start-up Phinergy to develop aluminium-air technology-based battery systems.
Aluminium Air Batteries
Ø These batteries utilise oxygen in the air which reacts with an aluminium hydroxide solution to oxidise the aluminium and produce electricity.
Ø These batteries are said to be a lower cost and more energy-dense alternative to lithium-ion batteries, which are currently in use in India.
Ø These batteries can be used for electric vehicles and stationary storage, as well as hydrogen storage solutions.
Ø One of the key downsides of aluminium-air batteries is that they cannot be recharged like lithium-ion batteries. So, large scale use of these battery-based vehicles requires several battery swapping stations.
Ø Aluminium plates in aluminium-air battery is converted into aluminium trihydroxide over time and that aluminium can be reclaimed from aluminium trihydroxide or even traded directly for industrial uses.
7. SAMAAR Campaign (Prelims, GS II-Hunger & Malnutrition)
Why in News?
Ø Jharkhand government launched the SAAMAR (Strategic Action for Alleviation of Malnutrition and Anaemia Reduction) campaign to tackle malnutrition in the state.
About the Campaign
Ø SAAMAR campaign aims to identify anaemic women and malnourished children through Anganwadi Centres, and subsequently they will be treated at the nearest Malnutrition Treatment Centre.
Ø The campaign converges various govt. departments and engagement with school management committees, gram sabhas among others.
Ø It has been launched with a 1000 days target, under which annual surveys will be conducted to track the progress.
Ø It also tries to target Primarily Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs).
Ø SAMAAR will capitalise on the Tejaswini Project functioning in the 17 districts of the state where youth communities of adolescent girls and women are being trained in various skills, entrepreneurship and for jobs.
Ø All these adolescent girls and women will be educated on nutritional behaviour, and will be given a health and nutrition card.
8. Diatom Test (Prelims, GS III-Science & Tech)
Why in News?
Ø Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) relied on a diatom tests for leads in the alleged murder case of Mansukh Hiran.
Ø Diatom test helps in diagnosing the death caused by drowning. It tests diatoms in the body being tested.
Ø Diatoms are photosynthesising algae found in aquatic environment including fresh and marine waters, soils, etc., (almost anywhere moist).
Ø If the person is alive when he enters the water, the diatoms will enter the lungs when the person inhales water while drowning. These diatoms are then carried to different body parts by blood circulation.
Ø If a person is dead when is thrown in the water, then there is no circulation and there is no transport of diatom cells to various organs.
Ø Diatom analysis is considered positive only when the number of diatoms recovered from the body is more than a minimal limit.
Ø Diatoms extracted from the body would be correlated with the samples from the water body where the drowning took place to ascertain the place of drowning.
Ø The test will be negative if the person died instantly after falling into the water.
Ø Diatom test is reliable unless and until the deceased person has been drinking water from the same source of water before his death.