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Current Affairs – 15 May 2021

Current Affairs (15th May 2021)

‘Mice rain’

Context:

  • Australia is witnessing a devastating mouse plague that has affected farmers, community members and residents. To control the plague, the government has now authorised the use of an otherwise outlawed poison called bromadiolone.
  • NSW Farmers have called the plague an “economic and public health crisis” and had initially demanded that the government pay for 50 per cent of the cost of baits.

When did the plague begin?

  • The current plague is being called one of the worst plagues in decades and started being reported around mid-March in Australia’s eastern states.
  • Live Science reported in March as a result of the “rampaging mice”, some farmers lost entire grain harvests “while hotels have had to close because they can’t keep the critters out of the rooms.”
  • In some places, residents of affected areas reported mice falling out from roof tops causing “mice rain”.
  • Mice have a short breeding cycle (a pair of breeding mice can give birth to a new litter every 21 days or so) and are not very choosy about food.
  • The health department of Australia’s Victoria state notes that rodents (which includes rats and mice) are the second most successful mammals on the planet after humans.

How does a plague of this scale affect people?

  • Rodents are capable of destroying food grains and can cause widespread damage to domestic households, commercial businesses, farms, manufacturers and livestock.
  • Further, rodents can not only gnaw through materials but can also ruin supplies by excreting on them.
  • Rodents can also cause diseases such as leptospirosis and typhus fever. They can also carry fleas or ticks that can harm pets and humans.
  • Rats and mice can stay in walls, ceilings, under cupboards or bathtubs, in rubbish heaps, wood piles, thick vegetation and in holes under buildings.

How can plagues be controlled?

  • Research carried out by the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC), which is led by CSIRO says that increasing zinc phosphide in mouse baits will help farmers to battle the higher-than-average mouse numbers in eastern Australia.
  • As a result of this research, the authorities have allowed makers to double the toxicity levels in mouse baits.

 

Cyclone Tauktae

Context:

  • The first cyclone of 2021, Cyclone Tauktae formed in Arabian Sea.

About:

  • The current characteristics of the storm indicate rapid intensification. According to the India Meteorological Department (IMD), the cyclone that a low-pressure area had formed in the south eastern Arabian Sea close to Lakshadweep on May 13.

Impact of Climate Change:

  • It is a well-known climatological fact that during pre-monsoon and post-monsoon seasons in the North Indian Ocean, more cyclones form in the Bay of Bengal compared with the Arabian Sea.
  • This is due to a newly discovered Phenomenon (2007) El Nino Modoki — which causes warm moist conditions in the Central Pacific and dry cold conditions in Eastern and western pacific. A more familiar phenomenon, El Nino, was found to suppress cyclone formation in the Arabian Sea.
  • The number of cyclones per year show significant differences indicating that El Nino Modoki years are conducive for cyclone formation over Arabian Sea while El Nino is conducive for cyclones over the Bay of Bengal.
  • Other factor of the increasing frequency and intensity of tropical cyclones — a combined named used for hurricanes, cyclones, and typhoons- in the Arabian Sea is because of the rapid warming that has made the relatively cooler Arabian Sea (compared to the Bay of Bengal) a warm pool region that can actively support cyclone formation.
  • There could be a five per cent increase in maximum cyclonic wind speeds if the world warms by two degrees celsius by 2100. 
  • Ocean warming has made some new challenges also. Cyclones are now intensifying rapidly since warm ocean waters act as a fuel for them. Extremely severe cyclones like Fani and Amphan intensified from a weak to severe status in less than 24 hours due to warm ocean conditions. State-of-the-art cyclone models are unable to pick this rapid intensification because they do not incorporate the ocean dynamics accurately.
  • Rapid intensification happens when there is an increase of maximum sustained winds of a cyclone by at least 55 kilometres per hour within 24 hours.

 

Transparency in Court Proceedings

Context:

  • A mobile app that would allow media persons to view the Supreme Court’s virtual proceedings live on their mobile phones has been launched.
  • Chief Justice of India V. Ramana also launched a new feature in the Supreme Court’s official website called ‘Indicative Notes’.

About:

  • The CJI said public access to court hearings was important as the rulings of courts, more particularly the Supreme Court, had an impact on the lives of people across the country.
  • It was highlighted that the role of the media assumes importance in the process of disseminating information.
  • Indicative Notes is aimed at providing concise summaries of landmark judgments in an easy-to-understand format.
  • It would serve as a useful resource for media persons and the public who wish to be better informed about the rulings of the court.
  • It is widely opined that access to media to court proceedings would increase transparency.

Background

  • The Media is considered the Fourth pillar of democracy. Objective of the media is to spread the news to people.
  • Presently, people can’t access the live proceedings of the Supreme Court as they could in pre-covid times.
  • In this scenario, the Supreme Court has come up with this app where links will be shared on the App for virtual hearings.
  • The Supreme Court is also introducing a feature of Indicative Notes on its website and on the App too. It will be a repository to all the landmark judgements.
  • The virtual meetings will be opened for other courts too once a proper informed consensus is reached.
  • The SC has taken various steps in past years to take justice closer to people to access it. Even vernacular translations of the judgements are being provided by the Court.
  • The e-Court Mission Mode Project was conceptualized with a vision to transform the Indian Judiciary by ICT enablement of Courts.
Benefits Challenges
1.       Open to all

2.       Transparency, right to access to justice, fostering public confidence, and education people about how the judiciary functions.

3.       Safeguarding public interests

4.       Avoiding fake news

5.       Safe work conditions

1.       Lack of technical infrastructure, internet connectivity

2.       Matters which privacy dimensions are out of scope.

3.       Link to live access could be misused.

Conclusion:

  • The pandemic has presented the Supreme Court with both a challenge and an opportunity to adopt technology. The live proceedings should continually be used even in post-covid times as:
    • It is a faster way of operating and justice will be delivered fast.
    • Travel costs and other expenses will reduce significantly.
    • Mechanisms would become more transparent and accountable.
  • Both audio-visual recordings and transcripts of oral arguments should be maintained for the purpose of posterity.
  • The openness and transparency will reinforce the public’s faith in the judicial system as “sunlight is the best disinfectant”.

 

Remittances Report

Context:

  • Recently, the World Bank released a report on remittances.

Major Findings of the Report 

  • Indian scenario 
    • India received over $83 billion in remittances in 2020.
    • It is a drop of just 0.2% from the previous year, despite a pandemic that devastated the world economy.
      • In 2019, India had received $83.3 billion in remittances.
    • Remittances declined due to a 17% drop in remittances from the United Arab Emirates.
  • Neighbouring Countries:  
    • In Pakistan, remittances rose by about 17%, with the biggest growth coming from Saudi Arabia.
    • In Bangladesh, remittances also showed a brisk uptick in 2020 (18.4%), and Sri Lanka witnessed remittance growth of 5.8%.
    • In contrast, remittances to Nepal fell by about 2%, reflecting a 17% decline in the first quarter of 2020.
  • Global Scenario
    • China received $59.5 billion in remittances in 2020 against $68.3 billion the previous year, is a distant second in terms of global remittances for the year gone by
    • India and China are followed by Mexico ($42.8 billion), the Philippines ($34.9 billion), Egypt ($29.6 billion), Pakistan ($26 billion), France ($24.4 billion) and Bangladesh ($21 billion).
    • Remittance outflow was the maximum from the United States ($68 billion), followed by UAE ($43 billion), Saudi Arabia ($34.5 billion), Switzerland ($27.9 billion), Germany ($22 billion), and China ($18 billion).

Suggestions

    • Growing significance of remittances as a source of external financing for low- and middle-income countries, there is a need for better collection of data on remittances, in terms of frequency, and timely reporting.
    • Supportive policy responses, together with national social protection systems, should continue to be inclusive of all communities, including migrants.
    • The World Bank is assisting member states in monitoring the flow of remittances through various channels, the costs and convenience of sending money, and regulations to protect financial integrity that affect remittance flows.
      •  It is working with the G20 countries and the global community to reduce remittance costs and improve financial inclusion for the poor.

 

Hoolock gibbon

Context:

  • The Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) study has found that there is only one species of Hoolock gibbons and not two in India.

About:

  • The Western Hoolock gibbons (Hoolock Hoolock) are the only apes in India. The other species, Mishmi Hills gibbons (Hoolock leuconedys), is not present here.
  • There was confusion before as these small apes present in the northeast have populations had different physical features.
  • The CCMB team corroborated the data with mitogenome (genetic information contained in mitochondria) analysis and estimated that the split between two species occurred 1.49 million years ago.
  • The new findings will help design conservation programmes by inter-breeding the two populations and maintain their genetic diversity.
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