Current Affairs 7th May 2022

COVID holds up Hangzhou Asian Games #GS3 #SnT

The 19th Asian Games that were set to be held in the Chinese city of Hangzhou in September have been postponed, organisers said on Friday, as China battles a spread of COVID-19 cases.

The Olympic Council of Asia said, following a meeting with the Chinese Olympic Committee, that the Asian Games, scheduled to be held in September, would be postponed and new dates announced “in the near future”.

The Asian Youth Games, also to be held in China in December, would be cancelled. The World University Games, which China was to host, has also been put off. The International University Sports Federation (FISU) said the games, to be held in Chengdu, is likely to be held next year. The postponements underlined the costs of China’s “zero-COVID” strategy.

The postponements underlined the costs of China’s “zero-COVID” strategy. The cities had already prepared venues for the events and extensive arrangements to welcome athletes from around the world. While the rest of the world has opened up and returned to some form of normalcy, China remains the only country still closed to the world.

Centre-Delhi row heads to Constitution Bench #GS2 #Governance

The Supreme Court on Friday referred to a Constitution Bench the battle between the Centre and Arvind Kejriwal-led Delhi government for control over bureaucrats in the Capital.

A three-judge Bench led by Chief Justice of India N.V. Ramana said the tussle between the Union and Delhi governments over the limited question concerning ‘services’ or bureaucracy required an authoritative pronouncement by a five-judge Bench of the Supreme Court.

The court informed the lawyers that the case would be listed again on May 11.

The CJI, who read out the order in open court, said the court did not “deem it necessary to revisit” any other issues, between the Centre and the Delhi government, which had already been settled in the earlier judgment of the court in 2018.

Four years ago, a Constitution Bench had unanimously held that the Lieutenant Governor of Delhi was bound by the “aid and advice” of the popularly-elected Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government and both had to work harmoniously with each other. It had noted that there was no room for anarchy or absolutism in a democracy.

However, reading the order, Chief Justice Ramana pointed out that the 2018 judgment had not specifically dealt with the issue of ‘services’.

‘King without a kingdom’

The National Capital Territory government had compared its predicament without power over the ‘services’ like that of a king without a kingdom. The situation was such that a “democratic representative government” had to get the approval of the Lieutenant Governor to appoint a Health Secretary or a Commerce Secretary, it had argued.

The 2018 judgment had made it clear that the powers of the Centre and the Delhi government were collective and coextensive, senior advocate A.M. Singhvi, for the Delhi government, had submitted.

“What collective responsibility will the Delhi govt. have without the power to control the transfers and postings of the officers? Federalism is itself being eroded,” the senior lawyer had argued.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, for the Centre, had argued in favour of referring the issue to a Constitution Bench. The Centre had argued that Delhi, the nation’s capital and a sprawling metropolis, should be under its control. Delhi could not be left to the “small mercies and smaller resources” of a State legislature, the Centre reasoned.

On February 14, 2019, a Supreme Court Bench of Justices A.K. Sikri and Ashok Bhushan (both retired) gave a split opinion on the question of control over ‘services’ in the Capital.

While Justice Bhushan had held that the Delhi government had no power over ‘services’, Justice Sikri, who was the lead judge on the Bench, took the middle path. Justice Sikri had concluded that files on the transfers and postings of officers in the rank of secretary, head of department and joint secretary could be directly submitted to the Lieutenant Governor.

Italy, India discuss Ukraine, energy and G-20 cooperation #GS2 #IR

The Government of India continued its push for better ties with Europe, as External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar met Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio in Delhi on Friday. Chief on the agenda, as has been the case during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s tour to Germany, France, as well as to Denmark for the Nordic Summit, was the Ukraine issue, climate change cooperation, and space cooperation between the two countries.

“On Ukraine, the two Ministers expressed their concern on the ongoing humanitarian crisis and called for an immediate cessation of hostilities. They also underlined the importance to safeguard the international order based on the UN Charter, with special regard to the respect of sovereignty and territorial integrity. Significantly, the Italian Minister made no criticism of Russia in the statement, the first of Italy’s European counterparts this week not to insert a line “condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine”.

The Ministers discussed implementing the “India-Italy Strategic Partnership on Energy Transition” announced last year during the Prime Minister’s visit to Italy for the G-20 meeting, and also discussed cooperating with multilateral organizations, including the G-20.

Italy had agreed to hold the G-20 meeting in India’s place, as New Delhi had wanted more time in order to prepare its hosting of the event in 2023. Ahead of the upcoming G-20 this year in Indonesia, members of the grouping are sharply divided over inviting President Vladimir Putin. Indonesian President Joko Widodo has confirmed that Mr. Putin will attend the summit in November, and he also extended an invitation to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to attend.

“[They] agreed to explore partnerships in areas such as gas transportation, green hydrogen, biofuels, and energy storage. In addition, they agreed to jointly organize an India – Italy Tech Summit on Energy Transition and Circular Economy, to be held in Delhi on November 17, 2022.

Venus mission: ISRO plans to make it a special one #GS3 #SnT

The mission to Venus is likely to cost between ₹500 crore and ₹1,000 crore depending on the level of instrumentation, said S. Somanath, chairman, Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), on Friday.

Although 2024 has been doing the rounds as the likely year for the ISRO’s Venus mission, the space agency can announce a schedule only after the Government of India gives the go-ahead for the mission, said Mr. Somanath. He was speaking on the sidelines of the national conference on Aerospace Quality and Reliability organised jointly by the Society for Aerospace Quality and Reliability, Thiruvananthapuram, and the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC).

The Venus mission is back in the news with the ISRO organising a one-day online meeting on Venus science, with the theme ‘Outstanding Scientific Problems on Venus: Need for Space-based Studies,’ on May 4.

The space agency is particular that the mission, when it takes place, produces path-breaking scientific knowledge, said Mr. Somanath. ‘‘It is very important that we come out with ‘Nobel-class’ findings in our missions. This is our goal,’‘ said Mr. Somanath, adding that the Venus endeavour should have a unique identity among all the missions to the planet that are likely to take place in the future.

He pointed out how, despite the Chandrayaan-I mission being instrumental in the discovery of water on the moon, U.S. scientists were the first to announce the findings. It could have been an Indian finding, he said.

Different challenges

Venus offers different challenges compared to Mars, given the thick atmosphere and surface activity, which make it a complex planet. ”Reaching Venus is not a big issue. We have gone to Mars, we know how to go to Venus. But if you need a deeper understanding, you need to have instruments that go deep through the atmosphere. That is a challenge,” he said.

Mr. Somanath said the ISRO was not in a hurry to launch the Chandrayaan-3 mission. Tests are in progress, but the ISRO has not fixed a schedule. ”We want to make sure that all of us are happy with what we have done. Handling failure is a difficult thing. These missions are very costly and technology-intensive. Nothing can be left to chance,” he said.

Loudspeaker in mosque not a fundamental right, says HC #GS2 #Governance

The use of a loudspeaker from a mosque is not a fundamental right, the Allahabad High Court has said. The court passed the observation while dismissing a petition filed by a Budaun man who wanted permission to play a loudspeaker from a mosque during azan, the Islamic call for prayer, at a village in the district.

“The law has now been settled that use of a loudspeaker from mosque is not a fundamental right. Even otherwise, a cogent reason has been assigned in the impugned order,” said a Division Dench of Justices Vivek Kumar and Vikas Budhwar on May 4.

Irfan of Budaun district had filed a petition praying that the court quash the rejection order dated December 3, 2021, by the Sub-Divisional Magistrate (SDM), Bisauli tehsil, through which he was denied permission to use a loudspeaker/mike from Noori Masjid at the time of azan.

His counsel argued that the SDM’s order was wholly illegal and violated the fundamental and legal rights of the petitioner to run a loudspeaker from the mosque.

No more body pushing at LAC, situation stable: Lt. Gen. Dwivedi #GS3 #Defence

The situation along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) was stable but in a state of “heightened alert” and to make sure that there was no irritant that was likely to become a violent situation, firstly at the lower level (battalion and brigade level), various channels of communication have been opened up. Also, the system of body push has been stopped to ensure that there was no physical contact, the GOC-in-C, Northern Command, Lt. Gen. Upendra Dwivedi, said on Friday.

Talking to journalists on the sidelines of a two-day North Tech Symposium at Udhampur, he stated that India now had “strategic patience” and was negotiating from a position of strength.

“We have regular hotline exchanges and we have stopped the system of body push etc and no physical contact is being ensured. Wherever there is an irritant, we immediately call for talks at the battalion and brigade level, sit down together and come to an amicable solution,” he said.

At the symposium, over 160 Indian companies and start-ups are displaying a range of niche technologies that can be employed on the borders.

Pointing out that the situation on the LAC was in a state of heightened alert as ‘‘we don’t want a repeat of the situation of April 2020”, the Army Commander remarked, “As a result, the force and equipment deployments are calibrated in nature and we will make sure any misadventure by the adversary does not take place again.”

As far as the LAC was concerned, he observed that there were negotiations as the difference of perception of it had been there for very long. “Earlier, we used to say the Chinese have strategic patience and they are ready to wait. Now, India has come up a long way and we also have strategic patience and we are also ready to wait. It means we are now negotiating from the position of strength with assertiveness and the law of fair play.”

On the difference of perception of the LAC, he noted these were required to be handled at the higher level – Corps Commander level and the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) level, and these meetings were taking place regularly.

The Northern Command exemplified the notion of the “two and a half front.” “The ‘eyeball to eyeball’ deployment, ranging from the plains of Jammu to the Siachen Glacier and further to eastern Ladakh, and the dynamic internal security situation in Jammu and Kashmir made the Command the most unique theatre.

‘Fertility rate falls further, obesity rises’ #GS2 #SocialIssues

The Total Fertility Rate (TFR), an average number of children per woman, has further declined from 2.2 to 2.0 at the national level between National Family Health Survey (NFHS) 4 and 5.

There are only five States — Bihar (2.98), Meghalaya (2.91), Uttar Pradesh (2.35), Jharkhand (2.26) Manipur (2.17) — in India which are above replacement level of fertility of 2.1 as per the national report of the NFHS-5, released by the Union Health Ministry.

The main objective of successive rounds of the NFHS has been to provide reliable and comparable data relating to health and family welfare and other emerging areas in India. The NFHS-5 national report lists progress from NFHS-4 (2015-16) to NFHS-5 (2019-21).

The other key highlights of the survey include institutional births increased from 79% to 89% across India and in rural areas around 87% births being delivered in institutions and the same is 94% in urban areas.

As per results of the NFHS-5, more than three-fourths (77%) children aged between 12 and 23 months were fully immunised, compared with 62% in NFHS-4.

The level of stunting among children under five years has marginally declined from 38% to 36% in the country since the last four years. Stunting is higher among children in rural areas (37%) than urban areas (30%) in 2019-21.

Additionally, NFHS-5 shows an overall improvement in Sustainable Development Goals indicators in all States/Union Territories (UTs). The extent to which married women usually participate in three household decisions (about health care for herself; making major household purchases; visit to her family or relatives) indicates that their participation in decision-making is high, ranging from 80% in Ladakh to 99% in Nagaland and Mizoram. Rural (77%) and urban (81%) differences are found to be marginal. The prevalence of women having a bank or savings account has increased from 53% to 79% in the last four years.

Rise in obesity

Compared with NFHS-4, the prevalence of overweight or obesity has increased in most States/UTs in NFHS-5. At the national level, it increased from 21% to 24% among women and 19% to 23% among men. More than a third of women in Kerala, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Andhra Pradesh, Goa, Sikkim, Manipur, Delhi, Tamil Nadu, Puducherry, Punjab, Chandigarh and Lakshadweep (34-46 %) are overweight or obese.

The NFHS-5 survey work has been conducted in and around 6.37 lakh sample households from 707 districts (as on March, 2017) of the country from 28 States and eight UTs, covering 7,24,115 women and 1,01,839 men to provide dis-aggregated estimates up to district level. The report also provides data by socio-economic and other background characteristics; useful for policy formulation and effective programme implementation.