Current Affairs | National | International | SSC | UPSC - 17th September 2023


National News

1. Kuno cheetahs to be released into the wild in winter with collars on 

  • The cheetahs in Kuno are likely to be released into the wild after the onset of winter, and they will have their collars fitted back on them, S.P. Yadav, head of the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) and key official with Pro- ject Cheetah told The Hindu. 
  • A year after Prime Minister Narendra Modi released the first of eight African cheetahs, flown from Namibia into enclosures at the Kuno National Park, Madhya Pradesh, the plan was to have the animals later joined by a cohort of 12 cheetahs from South Africa - range in the 748 sq. km of the park. However, a year later, six of the 20 animals had died, and of the quartet of the first litter born to one of the animals, three succumbed to Kuno's heat, with the surviving cub being hand-reared by park officials. While ailments and adapting to Indian conditions are believed to be behind the death of the animals, a particular cause of worry has been the death of two cheetahs reportedly by parasitical infections from open, untreated wounds around their necks. Mr. Yadav dismissed suggestions that the collars were responsible. 
  • All the cheetahs had been checked and treated, including those requiring medication. "In some cheetahs, there was no need to remove the collars and so, they are still wearing them. When we release all of them back into the wild, they will all have their collars on. It's the only way to monitor them," Mr. Yadav added.

International News

2. 3 infiltrators killed amid Pak. fire cover

  • The Indian Army on Saturday accused the Pakistan Army of providing fire cover to infiltrators in the Uri Sector of Baramulla, where three infiltrators were killed close to the Line of Control (LOC). 
  • "Three infiltrators were killed in twin gunfights in the Hathlanga area between 6.40 a.m. and 9.45 a.m. 
  • Two bodies were recovered. However, one injured infiltrator exfiltrated with the help of fire cover provided by Pakistani posts. The Army's quadcopters also came under fire from the Pakistan Army. However, the third militant too died [on the other side]," Brigadier P.M.S. Dhillon said.

3. NIA searches 31 locations in T.N., Telangana in IS recruitment case; documents, cash seized

  • The National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Saturday carried out searches at 31 locations in Tamil Nadu and Telangana as part of a crackdown on a radicalisation and recruitment campaign by the Islamic State (IS) terror group. No arrest has been made so far, sources said. 
  • The agency seized several digital devices, documents, and incriminating books in vernacular and Arabic languages during the searches, in addition to 760 lakh in Indian currency and $18,200. The NIA is in the process of examining the data in the seized mobile phones, laptops and hard disks, it said in a press release.
  • The NIA teams searched 22 locations in Coimbatore, three in Chennai, one in Tenkasi district, and five in Hyderabad. 
  • The case pertains to clandestine operations by a group of individuals to radicalize gullible youth. This was being carried out in the garb of holding Arabic language classes conducted through their regional study centers. Such activities were being flashed online through so- cial media platforms and mobile applications, the NIA said. 
  • The probe revealed that IS- inspired agent provocateurs were engaged in propagation of an ideology that is inimical to India's constitutionally established principles of secularism, the agency said. 
  • The group of persons involved in the case had entered into a conspiracy to radicalize and recruit youth, who were later found involved in terrorist" as well as unlawful acts and activities. One such terror attack related to the Coimbatore car bomb blast case of October 23, 2022, it said. 
  • The agency said that investigations in the case were continuing, as part of the NIA's efforts to thwart the IS attempts to initiate vulnerable and susceptible youth into the terrorist network, which is working actively to spread terror in the country with the overarching aim of disturbing and disrupting its peace and communal harmony.

4. Former U.S. diplomat gets probation for ethics violations 

  • Richard Olson, a former U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan and the UAE, was sentenced to three years of probation for violating federal ethics laws. The 63- 63-year-old Mr. Olson was also fined $93,400 after pleading guilty to charges he misused his official position for personal gain. 
  • Mr. Olson, who served as the U.S. envoy to Pakistan from 2012 to 2015, pleaded guilty in June of last year to making a false statement and violating laws governing lobbying for a foreign government. 
  • Mr. Olson was accused of helping the government of Qatar influence U.S. policymakers shortly after retiring from the State Department in 2016. 
  • According to the U.S. Attorney, Mr. Olson, while serving as the U.S. envoy to Pakistan, also received favors from a Pakistani- American businessman identified in documents only as "Person 1."
  • They included $25,000 paid to Mr. Olson's then-girlfriend to help pay her tuition at Columbia University in New York and $18,000 in first-class travel for the Ambassador to attend a job interview in London. 

State News

5. Maharashtra Cabinet announces 45,000 cr. for development of drought-hit Marathwada 

  • Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde on Saturday announced a 245,000-crore package for the development of the drought-hit Marathwada region in the State. 
  • The decision to imple- ment various projects was taken during the first Cabinet meeting held in Marathwada's Chhatrapati Sambhaji Nagar, formerly known as Aurangabad, after a gap of seven years to commemorate the 75th anniversary of Marathwada Mukti Sangram (Marathwada freedom struggle). 
  • The region, consisting of Chhatrapati Sambhaji nagar, Nanded, Latur, Jal-na, Beed, Parbhani, Dha-rashiv (formerly known as Osmanabad), and Hingoli districts, had been liberated from Nizam rule by Indian forces on September 17, 1948. The last such meeting was organized in the region in 2016. 
  • Addressing media sons following the meeting, co-chaired by Deputy ing, co-chaired by Deputy Chief Ministers Devendra Fadnavis and Ajit Pawar, Mr. Shinde announced revised administrative sanctions for irrigation projects worth ₹14,000 crore.
  • A package of 245,000 crore will be given for the development of Marathwada. Revised administrative sanctions worth 14,000 crore will be given for irri- gation projects. This paves the way for bringing eight lakh hectares under irrigation," the CM said.
  • Mr. Shinde rubbishes allegations leveled by some Opposition leaders that the participants of the meeting had been put up in five-star hotels. "All of us are staying in the government guest house," he said.
  • Mr. Fadnavis said out of the 31 developmental works announced for Ma- rathwada in 2016 when he was the CM, 23 have been implemented. He hit out at the Opposition parties, and asked what they had done for the region when they were in power for two and a half years.
  • Earlier, the Chief Minister reiterated his ambition to achieve a $1-trillion State economy, with the country aiming to achieve a $5-trillion economy. 
  • State Congress chief Nana Patole termed the package "jugglery of numbers" and said not declaring drought in the region despite deficit rain was a "cruel joke on farmers". He said 168 farm- ers had died by suicide in Beed, the home district of State Agriculture Minister Dhananjay Munde. 
  • "It is unfortunate that assurances given in 2016 by the then Fadnavis government are announced again in 2023. Marathwada is under the shadow of drought. People had expected drought would be declared, but that did not happen," said Leader of the Opposition in the Assembly and Congress leader Vijay Wadettiwar.

6. Dolls from Manipur camps to spread smiles globally 

  • Dolls crocheted by displaced people living in relief camps in ethnic conflict-hit Manipur are set to go global.
  • 1 Million Heroes, a multi-platform entertainment brand for children, has undertaken a project to train the State's Internally displaced people in crocheting amigurumi dolls for export. 
  • The ethnic violence, which broke out on May 3, has so far claimed 175 lives, injured 1,108 and displaced 60,000 people. More than 4,780 houses have been set on fire.
  • The training is being imparted in five relief camps across Manipur, one of them in Khangabok of Thoubal district housing 210 people. Laishram Geeta Leima, a 36-yearold mother of three, is one of the trainees who hopes to sustain her family by producing the dolls on a larger scale. She had fled her home when armed miscreants attacked Sugnu Awang Leikai village in the Kakching district on May 27. 
  • "I have almost mastered the art, which is satisfying and productive as well. I hope the new skill would ensure a future for my children during and after such tough times," she said. 
  • Agom Sangeeta Leima, 48, who also fled her home in Sugnu, said the doll-making training had boosted her confidence by showing her a way to overcome financial challenges. 
  • Trainers assigned by 1 Million Heroes have been visiting the five relief camps since the first week of August, concentrating on five characters conceived as the first line of the global amigurumi doll brand-Buddy the pet dog, Mitten the cat, Raja the tiger, Oliver the bear and Bola the teddy bear. 
  • Master trainer Utpala Longjam said the training programme has been progressing well.
  • "It was not difficult to train as most of them knew the basics of crochet. We are teaching them the pattern and the right way to go about it. Once they become comfortable with the needle, crochet and patterns, we would be providing them with the cotton yarn for the actual Vice product," she said. Monish Dha Karam, the founder of 1 Million Heroes, said the liam project had germinated in day Singapore where he was living when the violence day started in May.
  • "We wanted to do something for the people pay back home to help rebuilding their lives sustainably. The dolls were thought of because our women are quite good in handicraft Dh and handloom," he said. 
  • "What they are producing are not mere Sp dolls. We believe they are the symbol of hope and vessels of storytelling," Mr. tig Karam said, adding that 1 ka Million Heroes is handling the entire gamut from designing and supplying raw materials to marketing di the products.

7. Cauvery dispute: CWMA to hold emergency meet tomorrow as Karnataka rejects directive 

  • The Cauvery Water Management Authority (CWMA) is going to hold an emergency meeting on Monday in light of Karnataka's refusal to comply with the latest direction of the Cauvery Water Regulation Committee (CWRC) on September 12 to continue releasing 5,000 cubic feet per second (cusecs) of water to Tamil Nadu for another 15 days. 
  • According to sources, the meeting's agenda is to discuss the quantum of water release to Tamil Nadu. Though the meeting will take place in hybrid mode, Representatives of the Tamil Nadu government, led by Sandeep Saxena, Additional Chief Secretary (Water Resources), will take part in the deliberations in person.
  • Though Karnataka had implemented the CWMA's decision of releasing 5,000 cusecs for 15 days (August 29-September 12) and released 7.17 thousand million cubic feet (tmc ft) as against the stipulated 6.48 tmc ft for the period, it did not agree with CWRC's fiat. 
  • Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, in a letter to Jal Shakti Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat a few days ago, said the panel's decision could not be.
  • "practically implemented" without endangering the interest of farmers with respect to irrigation, and of humans and livestock.
  • Deputy Chief Minister D.K. Shivakumar met Mr. Shekhawat in Jaipur on September 14 to hand over the letter. 
  • The State's stand has been to await the outcome of the Authority's meeting, even as the case in the Supreme Court is due for hearing on September 21.
  • Tamil Nadu's Water Resources Minister Duraimu- rugan had earlier contended that the refusal to release water would amount to "deceiving" the farmers of Tamil Nadu as Karnataka had enough water to spare and it was expected to receive more flowers in the near future. 
  • Sources in Chennai said that going by the realization at Biligundlu on the inter-state border, it is evident that Karnataka was not releasing water as per the CWRC's directions.
  • On September 13 and 14, the realization varied from 2,500 cusecs to 3,100 cu- secs. From June 1 to September 14, the cumulative realization was 38.37 tmc ft, of which the first half of September accounted for 6.79 tmc ft, according to the data furnished by the Central Water Commission.

Science and Technology News

8. Al cameras gun for poachers 

  • Wildlife officials at one of the most populous tiger zones in India are experimenting with a new set of camera traps- or cameras with in- frared sensors deployed in forests to count wild animals or monitor the movement of potential poach- ers-that harness the power of Ar- tificial Intelligence (AI).
  • In experiments under way at the Kanha-Pench corridor in Mad- hya Pradesh, the system has, for the first time, caught poachers on camera that - a year down - helped forest authorities secure a conviction, according to a person involved in the experiment.
  • Cameras set up in remote re- gions are a key tool in surveys and census counts of tigers and elephants but have limitations such as requiring personnel physically access the machine to prise photos. They are also bulky and are not always optimized to conserve charge to keep the instruments running. The new kind of camera set-up, called the TrailGuard Al camera-alert system, being tested comprises slim devices that can be inconspicuously set up within the foliage of trees. 

Economy News

9. Fall in tea prices hits small farmers

  • Small tea farmers in Tamil Nadu's Nilgiris district have been hit by a drop in tea leaf prices over the last few months.
  • Small and micro farmers in the Nilgiris harvest almost 40 crore kilogram (kg) of tea leaves annually and this year the produc- tion has risen by almost one crore kg, said H.N. Sivan, promoter of Nilgiris Nectar Organic Farmer Producers' Organization. 
  • Growers got on average 20.99 for a kg of green leaf during the COVID pandemic (August 2020). But the prices started declining gradually and in August 2022, their crop fetched on average 14.38 per kg. The base price fixed by the Tea Board India this August for the Nilgiris farmers was on- ly 14.54 a kg, said K. Manivannan, secretary of the Naaku Betta Badagar Welfare Association. 
  • Growers who supply to a couple of INDCO factories received 11-15 a kg. And the average price that they got in the market was about 12. The small grow- ers had been staging a hun- ger protest for more than two weeks now demanding "reasonable prices", Mr. Manivannan added. 
  • Mr. Sivan and Mr. Manivannan said small tea growers, numbering almost one lakh in the Nilgiris, were realizing prices that were less than the cost of production for almost two decades now. But, the base price fixed by the Tea Board India this August for the Nilgiris farmers was on- ly 14.54 a kg, said K. Manivannan, secretary of the situation, was getting worse, affecting farmers' livelihoods. The average cost of production was estimated to be (22.29 a kg.)
  • "Labour and input costs are increasing every year. But the price for tea leaves is not," observed Mr. Sivan. 
  • C. Shreedharan, president of the United Planters Association of Southern India, said that globally and in India there was excess supply of teas, with output growth outpacing growth in consumption. He said it was important to encour age exports by promoting value addition and access to emerging markets. 

10. Centre publishes disability database stripped of socioeconomic figures 

  • The Union government is shelving socio-economic data it had collected while registering about 94 lakh Persons with Disabilities across the country for the issue of Unique Disability ID (UDID) cards in the past six years, The Hindu has learned. The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment is justifying the move by questioning the "quality" of the socio-economic data collected. 
  • The data being shelved includes information such as socio-economic category (caste), level of education, employment status, income (personal and family), and marital status of PwDs, with officials saying the focus of the form was always to collect disability data and hence all these fields were made optional. Consequently, I skipped them. 
  • Rajesh Aggarwal, Secretary, of the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (DEPWD) of the Social Justice Ministry, said, "The data are not being released because of quality issues." When asked if the department intends to pursue collecting socio-economic data for future UDID registrations, he said, "The basic purpose of the form is to get a disability certificate... and also, we cannot afford to make the form too lengthy by seeking information we cannot verify." 
  • The department this week published aggregated data from the around 94 lakh UDID registrations, minus the socio-economic data, with a statement alongside spelling out the objective of the project - to "create a national database for all Persons with Disabilities (PwDs) along with their socio-economic details" so that policy-making and interventions can be targeted. 
  • The government has not officially disclosed the exact number of people who filled in the socio-economic fields for which data are being shelved. The first UDID card was issued in January 2017. 
  • The Centre has said the aggregated UDID data were meant to influence e-commerce organizations to demand to sign their platforms in a way that increases usability and purchase cycles among PwDs. It has added that the data were also to help efficient allocation of resources to address the specific needs of PwDs from various communities. Further, the department said the data were supposed to influence the education sector to introduce special educators and special requirements PWDs. 
  • However, the fate of these objectives is now in limbo - with the government choosing not to publish whatever data were collected in the fields of personal and family income (spouse and father), whether they were Below Poverty Line, employment status, occupation, socio-economic category (SC/ST/ OBC/General), and level of education. 
  • A senior government official told The Hindu, "For instance, marital status only about 15% of those registered have filled it in. There is not enough data to be significant. Again, for income, just 40% have filled it in. The department has no way to verify the extent to which this information is accurate." Another official aware of the programme's implementation said that "not enough" PwDs had responded to fields such as education and socio-economic category (SC/ST/OBC/General) either, adding this was among the primary reasons for discounting this data. "On the other hand, the medical data and disability-related data is high- quality because that is verified by doctors. And since the purpose was to register people for disability certificates to make them eligible for the department's schemes, only those fields were made mandatory," they said. 
  • Even among the benefits offered by the DEPWD to PwDs, four of seven are related to special education and vocational training programs, skill training, and scholarships. 
  • The data that has been released on the portal contains UDID information district-wise, gender-wise, age-wise, and dis-ability type-wise (including the level of disability). The government said it hoped this would help NGOs in the social sector and researchers to build physical infrastructure that is accessible for persons with specific types and levels of disabilities. This data are meant to be updated every quarter, the government has said. 
  • It had added that the database was also meant to help design accessible websites and applications and "connect PwDs to digital India". However, nowhere in the UDID form is any section seeking information on an existing computer, mobile, and Internet usage among PwDs. 
  • As the government's plans to create a unified database of disability and socio-economic data for PwDs goes into cold storage, a Parliamentary panel had, earlier this year, doubted the Department's ability to even collect accurate population data through the UDID mechanism in time. 
  • The government had told the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Social Justice and Empowerment that data on PwDs are largely taken from the decennial censuses conducted by the Office of the Registrar-General and sample surveys on disability conducted by the National Sample Survey of the National Statistical Office. 
  • With the 2021 Census delayed indefinitely, the government had explained that UDID forms were meant to elicit enough information to design targeted policies for them. To this, the panel, in its July report, had said, "By the department's own admission, it has issued 94.09 lakh UDID cards so far whereas the PWD population even 10 years ago was more than double that number." The Centre has already been under attack from experts, activists, and Opposition leaders for dropping disability-related questions from the forms issued for the sixth round of the NFHS this year.

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