Daily Current Affairs
09 February 2021

1. Geological evidence of eastern Himalaya earthquake

GS 1: Important Geophysical phenomena such as earthquakes, Tsunami, Volcanic activity, cyclone etc.

 

CONTEXT

Scientists have found the first geological evidence of an earthquake at Himebasti Village on the border of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh, documented by historians as Sadiya earthquake in history, which is recorded to have caused massive destruction in the region and almost destroyed the town in 1697 CE.

 

ABOUT:

  1. This finding could contribute to a seismic hazard map of the eastern Himalaya, which can facilitate construction and planning in the region.
  2. The study of the earthquake at Sadiya standing on a grassy plain, almost surrounded by forested Eastern Himalayas on the right bank of Lohit River, adds an important site to the seismic hazard assessment of the eastern Himalaya, which will benefit the inhabitants and help in providing better infrastructure across the Eastern Himalayan foothills which is one of the most densely populated regions in the world.

 

2. Democracy Index

GS 2: Important International Institutions

 

Context:

Recently, 2020 Democracy Index’s report titled Democracy in sickness and in health? has been released by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU).

 

INDIA RANKING:

  1. India slipped two places to 53rd position due to the democratic backsliding” by authorities and “crackdowns” on civil liberties has led to a further decline in the country’s ranking.
  2. With mounting pressure on India’s democratic norms, India’s score fell from a peak of 7.92 in 2014 to 6.61 in 2020 (6.9 in 2019) and its global ranking slipped from 27th (in 2014) to 53rd. India was ranked 51st in the 2019 Democracy Index.
  3. It has been classified as a ‘flawed democracy’.
  4. Report alleged that the Central government had “introduced a religious element to the conceptualisation of Indian citizenship, a step that many critics see as undermining the secular basis of the Indian state”.
  5. The authorities’ handling of the coronavirus pandemic led to a further erosion of civil liberties in 2020.

 

NEIGHBOURING COUNTRIES

  1. Sri Lanka: 68th , flawed democracy
  2. Bangladesh (76), Bhutan (84) and Pakistan (105) : ‘Hybrid regime’ category
  3. Afghanistan : 139th , ‘Authoritarian regime’

 

 

3. Who are the Lingayats and why they want a minority status

GS 1: Population and associated issues

 

CONTEXT:

The community is demanding inclusion of a large Lingayat sub-sect in an OBC quota category that provides 15% reservation in government jobs and education in the state.

ABOUT:

  1. The Lingayats are a dominant community who make up nearly 17% of Karnataka’s six crore population.
  2. The Lingayats, classified as a Hindu sub- caste called Veerashaiva Lingayats, are essentially followers of the 12th-century philosopher Saint Basavanna, who started a movement to help sections of society break away from the chains of caste.
  3. The Veerashaiva Lingayats are an amalgamation of the followers of Basavanna’s teachings and Veerashaivas who follow more traditional Hindu practices. Current issue:

 

RESERVATION:

  1. Veerashaiva Lingayats have been provided 5% reservation under a special category called 3B.
  2. A sub-sect called the Panchamasali Lingayats — basically agriculturists who account for nearly 70% of Lingayats — have now risen in protest seeking reservations under the category 2A, which currently provides 15% reservations to backward castes.
  3. The main stand of the Panchamasali Lingayats is that the community has been denied benefits, and that large sections dependent on agriculture are socially, economically, and educationally backward.

 

How the government plan to address the reservation demand?

The chairman of the Karnataka Backward Classes Commission is directed to conduct a study and submit a report on the social, economic and educational status of the Panchamasali community to determine their inclusion under the 2A category.

 

 

4. Glacial burst

GS 1: Important Geophysical phenomena such as earthquakes, Tsunami, Volcanic activity, cyclone etc.

 

CONTEXT:

  1. A glacier break is suspected to have caused the flash floods in Uttarakhand’s Chamoli. Last October 2020, the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), which is headed by Indian PM, had issued detailed guidelines on how to reduce and deal with disasters caused by what is scientifically called Glacial Lake Outburst Floods (GLOFs).
  2. It occurred in river Rishi Ganga due to the falling of a portion of Nanda Devi glacier in the river which exponentially increased the volume of water.

 

 

What are GLOFs and how vulnerable are the Himalayas?

  1. When glaciers melt, the water in glacial lakes accumulates behind loose, natural “glacial/moraine dams” made of ice, sand, pebbles and ice residue.
  2. A GLOF refers to the flooding that occurs when the water dammed by a glacier or a moraine is released suddenly.
  3. Unlike earthen dams, the weak structure of the moraine dam leads to the abrupt failure of the dam on top of the glacial lake, which holds large volume of water.
  4. According to NDMA, glacial retreat due to climate change occurring in most parts of the Hindu Kush Himalaya has given rise to the formation of numerous new glacial lakes, which are the major cause of GLOFs.
  5. Since glaciers in the Himalayas are in a retreating phase, glacial lakes are growing and pose a potentially large risk to downstream infrastructure and life.
  6. An “Inventory and Monitoring of Glacial Lakes / Water Bodies in the Himalayan Region of Indian River Basins”, sponsored by Climate Change Directorate, Central Water Commission, and done by National Remote Sensing Centre during 2011-15, found that there are 352, 283 and 1,393 glacial lakes and water bodies in the Indus, Ganga and Brahmaputra basins respectively.

 

GLACIERS
• Glaciers are found on every continent except Australia and some are hundreds of thousands of years old. A large cluster of glaciers are in the Himalayas.

• Glaciers are made of layers of compressed snow that move or flow due to gravity and the softness of ice relative to rock.

• A glacier's “tongue” can extend hundreds of kilometers from its high-altitude origins, and the end, or “snout," can advance or retreat based on snow accumulating or melting.

 

How can the risk be reduced (by NDMA)?

  1. Identifying and mapping such lakes, taking structural measures to prevent their sudden breach, and establishing mechanism to save lives and property in times of a breach.
  2. Potentially dangerous lakes can be identified based on field observations, records of past events, geomorphologic and geotechnical characteristics of the lake/dam and surroundings, and other physical conditions.
  3. Use of Synthetic-Aperture Radar imagery to automatically detect changes in water bodies, including new lake formations, during the monsoon months.
  4. Methods and protocols could also be developed to allow remote monitoring of lake bodies from space.
  5. To manage lakes structurally, reduce the volume of water with methods such as controlled breaching, pumping or siphoning out water, and making a tunnel through the moraine barrier or under an ice dam.

 

How well is India prepared?

  1. There are no uniform codes for excavation, construction and grading codes.
  2. Restricting constructions and development in GLOF/LLOF prone areas.
  3. Construction of any habitation should be prohibited in the high hazard zone.
  4. Existing buildings are to be relocated to a safer nearby region and all the resources for the relocation have to be managed by Central/State governments.
  5. New infrastructures in the medium hazard zone have to be accompanied by specific protection measures.

 

5. Einsteinium

Preliminary: General Science

 

CONTEXT:

  1. A team of scientists at the Berkeley Lab has reported some of the properties of element 99 in the periodic table called “Einsteinium”, named after Albert Einstein.
  2. With a new study published in the journal Nature recently, for the first time, researchers have been able to characterise some of the properties of the element.

 

ABOUT:

  1. Discovered in 1952 in the debris of the first hydrogen bomb (the detonation of a thermonuclear device called “Ivy Mike” in the Pacific Ocean).
  2. Einsteinium-254: one of the more stable isotopes of the element that has a half-life of 276 days. The most common isotope of the element, einsteinium 253 has a half-life of 20 days.
  3. High radioactivity and short half-life of all einsteinium isotopes, even if the element was present on Earth during its formation, it has most certainly decayed.
  4. It cannot be found in nature and needs to be manufactured using very precise and intense processes.
  5. So far, the element has been produced in very small quantities and its usage is limited except for the purposes of scientific research.
  6. The element is also not visible to the naked eye and after it was discovered, it took over nine years to manufacture enough of it so that it could be seen with the naked eye.

 

6. “Economic impact” of various judgments

GS 2: Judiciary Separation of Powers Constitutional Bodies Indian Constitution

 

CONTEXT:

Government think tank NITI Aayog has asked Jaipur-headquartered research organisation Consumer Unity and Trust Society (CUTS) International to conduct a study on the “economic impact” of various judgments delivered by Supreme Court, the high courts, and quasi-judicial bodies such as the National Green Tribunal (NGT) and the “judicial activism” of such courts and tribunals.

 

ABOUT:

  1. Judicial decisions have far-reaching economic impacts which are often not taken into account at the time of decision making.
  2. The absence of ex-ante analysis of the economic costs associated with a decision is further exacerbated when judicial activism by courts and tribunals is also in play.
  3. Study funding: NITI Aayog
  4. Objective of study: “narrative building for sensitising the judiciary on the economic impact of their decisions”
  5. Significance: the findings will be used as a training input for judges of commercial courts, NGT, HCs, SC.
  6. The study, initially supposed to start in February 2020 and get over by the end of this month, was delayed due to a nationwide lockdown to prevent the spread of Covid-19
  7. The study is to do an objective cost-benefit analysis of the economic impact of the decisions.
  8. The study is also a part of the larger umbrella project undertaken by NITI Aayog under which it wants to establish a judicial performance index, which would measure the performance of judges at district courts and subordinate levels.