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Current Events 23 March 2017



23 March 2017

Sr. No.





As waste goes out, a dying river returns to life



New avenue for prisoners to get legal aid



Breather for untrained teachers



Law coming to enforce dam safety regulations



Jaitley strongly defends PAN-Aadhaar link



SC summons nine Chief Secretaries



China reaches out to West Asia



Bankruptcy board spells out ‘eligibility'



8 tribunals face axe amid downsizing



Mars may have had rings that it can possibly regain



A campaign to restore Pluto to planet club



25% of global TB cases in India: study




















As waste goes out, a dying river returns to life

  • It's a rebirth for the Kuttamperoor river, a tributary of Pampa and Achenkovil rivers, thanks to a drive to remove accumulated waste.
  • A 5 km stretch flowing along the Budhanoor panchayat in Alappuzha district has been cleaned up.
  • Thick layers of water weeds and waste dumped into the waterway for over a decade were removed.
  • The project was implemented under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme.
  • About 200 workers were engaged for the work during a twomonth period, generating 30,000 man days. A sum of Rs.72 lakh was spent on the project.
  • "The river, which was 100-130 ft wide in its heyday, has shrunk to 10-15 ft at many locations due to encroachment. Stern measures are required to evict the encroachers," he says.
  • The river used to play a key role in natural flood control. Whenever the Pampa and Achencoil were in spate, the water flowed into the Kuttamperoor river, saving a large area from flooding.
  • Idols of several temples were bathed in the river during ‘Aarattu' festivals.
  • There is now a panoramic view of the river, and the operation has opened a new phase of freshwater fish growth. "Fishermen have thanked us because there is new hope to return to their livelihood," Mr. Nair said.

Aarattu Festival

  • As mentioned before, the Aaarattu Festival is more of a ritual than a festival that is connected to the temple festivals in Kerala.
  • At the Sree Padmanabha Swamy Temple in Thiruvananthapuram, this religious rite is observed with much of ceremonial elegance and splendor.
  • The Aarattu Festival is celebrated twice each year.



New avenue for prisoners to get legal aid


  • The Supreme Court Legal Services Committee (SCLSC) under the chairmanship of Supreme Court judge Justice Ranjan Gogoi, inaugurated its videoconferencing system to overcome geographical and procedural odds and open a direct channel of communication with undertrial prisoners and prison inmates.
  • "The inmates can address their grievances through this system and this will curb delay in filing their matters before the Supreme Court. It is the first time that panel advocates of the SCLSC will directly interact with thousands of inmates lodged in hundreds of jails across the country," the Supreme Court said in an official statement.



Breather for untrained teachers

  • The Union Cabinet has cleared an amendment to the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009, to ensure that all teachers in position as on March 31, 2015, acquire the minimum qualifications till March 31, 2019.
  • "This will enable the in service, untrained elementary teachers to complete their training and ensure that all teachers at the elementary level have a certain minimum standard of qualifications," said a release.
  • Better trained teachers would mean an improvement in the learning outcomes of children, it is believed.
  • "The RTE Act... envisages free and compulsory elementary education to every child in the age group of 6- 14.
  • The Proviso to Section 23 (2) of the Act specifies that all teachers at elementary level who, at the commencement of this Act, did not possess the minimum qualifications as laid down under the RTE Act, need to acquire these within a period of five years i.e., March 31, 2015," the release said.
  • "However, several State governments have reported that out of a total number of 66.41 lakh teachers at the elementary level, 11 lakh are still untrained [of these, 5.12 lakh are in government and aided Schools and 5.98 lakh are in private schools].



Law coming to enforce dam safety regulations

  • The Centre is contemplating an institutional mechanism to improve safety in India's 5300-odd dams.
  • Currently, guidelines in this regard are not effectively enforced by the States. The new law, which has been vetted by the Union Law Ministry and will now go to the Union Cabinet for approval, proposes a Central authority and State-level bodies that will enforce regulation.
  • Dam and project proponents falling short could face a fine, though they are unlikely to face imprisonment.
  • According to a Water Ministry official familiar with the dam safety bill, recent analysis of the state of India's dams found that half of them did not meet contemporary safety standards.
  • "We have had discussions with all the States and most of them have been fairly supportive," said Amarjit Singh, Secretary, Water Resources Ministry.
  • There are around 4900 large dams in India and several thousand smaller ones.
  • About 300 are in various stages of construction.
  • However, large reservoirs and water storage structures, in the past few decades, are not seen as a model of safety.
  • Kerala, for instance, continues to fight with Tamil Nadu over threats posed by the Mullaperiyar dam on the river Periyar.
  • More recently, the Chennai floods of 2015, due to unusually-heavy winter rains, were thought to have been compounded by an unprecedented release of water from the Chembarambakkam dam into the Adyar River.
  • In 2014, an unscheduled release of water from the Larji hydroelectric project into the Beas river drowned 25 students from Hyderabad.
  • The 1979 Machchu dam failure in Morbi, Gujarat, is estimated to have killed at least 25,000.
  • "This does not mean the dams are unsafe, but that we have much stricter safety criteria now than we did when these dams were built 50 or 100 years ago," the official told.
  • The safety criteria include increasing the spillway (a design structure to ease water build-up) and preventing ‘over-topping' in which the dam overflows and causes it to fail.



Jaitley strongly defends PAN-Aadhaar link

  • Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has defended the amendment to the Finance Bill, cleared by the Lok Sabha, making an Aadhaar number mandatory for issuing a PAN card.
  • The biometric security of Aadhaar, he said, would prevent individuals holding multiple PAN cards and evading tax.

Jaitley strongly defends PAN-Aadhaar link | Latest Current Affairs 23rd March 2017



SC summons nine Chief Secretaries

  • The Supreme Court summoned Chief Secretaries of nine drought affected States, including Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat, for having failed to implement the National Food Security Act, 2013.
  • A Bench led by Justice Madan B. Lokur said these States had failed to implement the food law despite the fact that considerable time had passed since the statute came into force.
  • "It is a matter of concern that a parliamentary statute is not being given importance. Article 21 [protection of life and personal liberty] of the Constitution is also involved. State Food Commissions, as mandated under Section 16 of the National Food Security Act, have not been appointed," the Bench said.
  • "Details should also be given with regard to Section 15 of the National Food Security Act by which State governments have to frame rules for the appointment or designation of the District Grievance Redressal Officer," the Bench said.
  • The court directed the Chief Secretaries to inform whether a social audit can be conducted, as provided under the Food Security Act.
  • The order came on a petition filed by NGO Swaraj Abhiyan seeking various relief measures for farmers in the drought-affected States.



China reaches out to West Asia

  • China is in the middle of a complex diplomatic dance with West Asia, by engaging rivals such as Syria, Saudi Arabia, Israel and Iran, all at the same time.


  • On 21 March 2017, visiting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Chinese President Xi Jinping announced an "innovative comprehensive partnership" between both countries.
  • China's focus in the "partnership" is on maximising absorption of Israel's technology in hi-tech and other advanced domains.
  • That dovetails well with the ‘Made in China-2025' strategy of transitioning China's manufacturing to the advanced level by leveraging the Internet, Big Data and robotics among the key tools.
  • In that endeavour, China is pursuing the industry 4.0 model pioneered by Germany.
  • Mr. Netanyahu narrowed down on clean energy, agriculture, investment, finance and medical services among the top priority areas.
  • Israel hopes to participate in the Belt and Road Initiative - fast becoming a litmus test defining the health of any nation's ties with China.

Saudi Arabia

  • Unperturbed by the complex web of rivalries and friendships, the Chinese are also aiming high in building ties with the region's controversial heavyweight, Saudi Arabia.
  • Last week Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud was in Beijing. With energy, and infrastructure investments by China as the centre, the two countries ended up signing agreements and letters of intent worth around $65 billion involving investment, energy, space and other areas.
  • Xinhua quoted Mr. Xi as saying that China will support the Kingdom's "Saudi Vision 2030" plan - a blueprint for reducing Riyadh's dependence on oil, and reliance on other drivers of the economy such as infrastructure development - where China is a world leader - apart from health, education and tourism.


  • Closer ties with Riyadh have not diluted China's strong relationship with Iran, Saudi Arabia's archrival, highlighting Beijing's non-zero sum approach to the region.


  • China and Russia have been active partners preventing "regime change" in Syria, which is also strongly backed by Iran.



Bankruptcy board spells out ‘eligibility'

  • The first order issued by the recently-established Insolvency and Bankruptcy Board of India (IBBI) is expected to set in motion a chain of events at many firms, including well-known consultancies that are eyeing the huge market for stressed assets and debt resolution.
  • In its March 2 order, IBBI rejected an application for registration as an Insolvency Professional (IP) by an individual who works with one of the so-called Big Four consultancy firms. "... an IP must not ‘engage in any employment', repeat ‘any employment'.
  • It envisages that a person must not play two roles - profession and employment - simultaneously," according to the order.
  • Practitioners in the segment say that the order has made it clear that IBBI is not going to grant registration to individuals in such a scenario and so entities that want to be registered will have to form a separate subsidiary with dedicated resources related to insolvency and bankruptcy work.
  • Legal experts say that the first order from IBBI has set a tone on how it is going to interpret the provisions of its regulations and is in line with the views of other regulators.
  • The order brings clarity on eligibility norms to be an IP and is in the same direction as SEBI or other regulators expect a person who is a registered intermediary.

Insolvency and Bankruptcy Board of India (IBBI) 

  • It is the regulator for overseeing insolvency proceedings and entities like Insolvency Professional Agencies (IPA), Insolvency Professionals (IP) and Information Utilities (IU) in India.
  • It was established on 1 October 2016 and given statutory powers through the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, which was passed by Lok Sabha on 5 May 2016.
  • It covers Individuals, Companies, Limited Liability Partnerships and Partnership firms.
  • The new code will speed up the resolution process for stressed assets in the country.
  • It attempts to simplify the process of insolvency and bankruptcy proceedings.
  • It handles the cases using two tribunals like National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) and Debt Recovery Tribunal (DRT).



8 tribunals face axe amid downsizing

  • The Centre has decided to wind up eight tribunals that currently deal exclusively with disputes pertaining to employees' provident fund or EPF, Competition law, Airports' economic regulation, Information Technology law, National highways, railways, copyrights and foreign exchange.
  • The Lok Sabha approved amendments to this effect in the Finance Bill of 2017 proposed by the Centre, along with changes in the norms for tribunals, appellate tribunals and other boards associated with the administration of 17 central laws.
  • The major tribunals to be relegated to history include the Competition Appellate Tribunal, whose work will now be transferred to the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal; the Airports Economic Regulatory Authority Appellate Tribunal (AERAAT) and the Cyber Appellate Tribunal - whose functions will now be discharged by the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT).
  • Separately, the National Highways Tribunal that deals with disputes under the Control of National Highways (Land and Traffic) Act of 2002 will be wound up.
  • Highway disputes will now be adjudicated by the Airport Appellate Tribunal set up under the Airport Authority of India Act of 1994, which is distinct from AERAAT.



Mars may have had rings that it can possibly regain

  • Mars could once have had rings, and the Red Planet may regain them again, according to a new study.
  • A new model developed by scientists at Purdue University in the U.S. suggests that debris that was pushed into space from an asteroid slamming into Mars around 4.3 billion years ago alternates between becoming a planetary ring and clumping together to form a moon.
  • According to one theory, Mars' large North Polar Basin or Borealis Basin - which covers about 40% of the planet in its northern hemisphere - was created by that impact, sending debris into space.
  • "That large impact would have blasted enough material off the surface of Mars to form a ring," researcher Andrew Hesselbrock said.
  • As the ring formed, and the debris slowly moved away from the planet and spread out, it began to clump and eventually formed a moon.
  • Over time, Mars' gravitational pull would have pulled that moon towards the planet until it reached the Roche limit, the distance within which a planet's tidal forces will break apart a celestial body that is held together only by gravity.
  • In 70 million years Phobos, one of Mars' moons, is getting closer to the planet.
  • According to the model, Phobos will break apart upon reaching the Roche limit, and become a set of rings in roughly 70 million years.
  • Depending on where the Roche limit is, Mr. Hesselbrock and David Minton believe this cycle may have repeated between three and seven times over billions of years. Each time a moon broke apart and reformed from the ring, its successor moon would be five times smaller than the last.


A campaign to restore Pluto to planet club

  • A team of scientists seeking to restore Pluto to planethood launched a campaign on 21 March 2017 to broaden the astronomical classifications, which led to its demotion to a "dwarf planet" more than a decade ago.
  • Six scientists from institutions across the U.S. argued that Pluto deserved to be a full planet, along with some 110 other bodies in the solar system, including Earth's moon.
  • In a paper presented at an international planetary science conference at The Woodlands, Texas, the scientists explained that geological properties, such as shape and surface features, should determine what constitutes a planet.
  • In 2006, the International Astronomical Union, struggling with how to classify a newly discovered icy body beyond Pluto, adopted a definition for a planet based on characteristics that include clearing other objects from its orbital path.
  • Pluto and its newfound kin in the solar system's distant Kuiper Belt region were reclassified as dwarf planets, along with Ceres, the biggest object in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.
  • The decision left the solar system with eight planets.
A campaign to restore Pluto to planet club | Latest Current Affairs 23rd March 2017

"Cleared the neighborhood" 

  • It means that the "planet" has to be the dominant gravitational body in their orbit around the sun.
  • This means that the "planet" has to cruise its orbit while consuming or slinging away smaller objects in its orbital path.
  • Pluto is only .007 times the mass of the other objects in its orbit.



25% of global TB cases in India: study

  • Tuberculosis (TB) infects more urban individuals per year while a similar case in rural area remains infectious for longer period, a new research has found.
  • India bears the highest burden of TB globally, about 25% of all cases.
  • In a new study from the Centre for Disease Dynamics, Economics and Policy (CDDEP), researchers have developed an approach to estimate the extent of TB in India using previous estimates from nearby countries and a current understanding of TB transmission.
  • The results of their study are published in The International Journal of Tuberculosis and Lung Disease.
  • An urban TB case will infect an average of 12 people per year and remains infectious for about one year, while a rural case will infect an average of 4 people per year, but remains infectious for over two years.
  • Results suggest the need for interventions tailored to these different settings.



Home Current Affairs 2017 March 2017 Latest Current Affairs 23 March 2017

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Current Affairs News Covered:

GS III : ENVIRONMENT - As waste goes out, a dying river returns to life.
GS II: POLITY - New avenue for prisoners to get legal aid.
GS II : SOCIAL- EDUCATION - Breather for untrained teachers.
GS III : ENVIRONMENT - Law coming to enforce dam safety regulations.
GS II: GOVERNANCE - Jaitley strongly defends PAN-Aadhaar link.
GS II : GOVERNANCE - SC summons nine Chief Secretaries.
GS II : INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS - Bankruptcy board spells out ‘eligibility'.
GS II : GOVERNANCE - 8 tribunals face axe amid downsizing.
GS III: S&T SPACE - Mars may have had rings that it can possibly regain.
GS III: S&T SPACE - A campaign to restore Pluto to planet club.
GS II : SOCIAL- HEALTH - 25% of global TB cases in India: study.


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