Today's Headlines

Today's Headlines - 17 May 2023

Sikkim Day celebrated

GS Paper - 2 (Polity)

Sikkim day is annually celebrated on 16 May, recalling the history of the former kingdom’s integration with India in 1975. This year too, political leaders conveyed their messages, marking the day India’s the 22nd state joined the union.

Sikkim’s history

  1. The kingdom of Sikkim was established in 1642, when, according to one account, three Tibetan lamas consecrated Phuntsong Namgyal as the first ruler or Chogyal of Sikkim.
  2. The monarchy of the Namgyal dynasty was maintained for the next 333 years, until its integration with India in 1975.
  3. Sikkim’s Chogyal dynasty was of Tibetan origin. Sandwiched between India and China, and often party to conflicts over land with Bhutan and Nepal, the British colonisation of India first led to a kind of formal relationship developing between the two states.
  4. The British saw Sikkim as a buffer state against China and against Nepal, with whom they fought in the Anglo-Gorkha war of 1814-16, helping Sikkim secure a number of territories that Nepal had previously captured.
  5. formal protectorate was established over Sikkim through the Treaty of Tumlong in 1861, meaning the British had control over it but it was not officially under their rule and the Chogyals could continue holding onto power.
  6. Other official treaties followed: The treaty of Titaliya in 1817 gave the British authorities a number of commercial and political advantages in Sikkim.
  7. The Calcutta Convention of 1890 demarcated the border between Sikkim and Tibet, and was signed by Viceroy Lord Lansdowne and Qing China’s Imperial Associate Resident in Tibet. The Lhasa Convention of 1904 affirmed the Calcutta Convention.

How Sikkim joined India

  1. Sikkim’s state council or assembly had some elected members and others nominated by the king. In the early years, it saw some political tussle over the representation for various communities, and the Chogyal’s reluctance to let go of his control.
  2. Indian PM Indira Gandhi, her position weakened after the 1967 general elections that saw her return to power with a reduced majority in the Lok Sabha.
  3. This was following the India-China war of 1962, where India lost. It made it all the more important to contain skirmishes between Indian and Chinese troops on the Sikkim border. The two states decided to alter existing wording to indicate a “permanent relationship” between them, but the Chogyal wanted further clarity on Sikkim’s independence.
  4. This was slowly becoming unacceptable to the Indian leadership, which by the early 1970s, decided to back pro-democracy forces in Sikkim – such as Kazi Dorji of the SNC.
  5. Anti-monarchy protests grew in Sikkim in 1973, following which the royal palace was surrounded by thousands of protesters.
  6. A year later, in 1974, elections were held, where the Sikkim Congress led by Kazi Dorji won.
  7. That year, a new constitution was adopted, which restricted the role of the monarch to a titular post. A referendum was held in Sikkim in 1975, where two-thirds of eligible voters took part. Here, 59,637 votes were cast in favour of abolishing the monarchy and joining India, with 1,496 voting against.
  8. Within a week, India’s Ministry of External Affairs introduced the Constitution (Thirty-Sixth Amendment) Bill in the Lok Sabha to recognise Sikkim as a state in the Union of India. This was passed in the Parliament and assented to by President Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed, coming into effect on 16 May 1975.
  9. Sikkim’s new parliament, led by Dorji, proposed a bill for Sikkim to become an Indian state, which was accepted by the Indian government.

 

Thawing permafrost in the Arctic, unlock toxic waste

GS Paper-3 (Environment)

According to a new study, with rising global temperaturesthawing permafrost is likely to destabilise thousands of industrial sites and linked contaminated areas in the Arctic, which could result in the spread of toxic substances across the region.

More about the news:

  1. The study, ‘Thawing permafrost poses environmental threat to thousands of sites with legacy industrial contamination, was published in the journal Nature Communications says nearly 2,100 industrial sites and between 5,600 and 10,000 contaminated sites are under threat of destabilisation by the end of this century.
  2. The Arctic is dotted with countless industrial facilities such as oilfields and pipelines, mines and military bases; this infrastructure is built on permafrost, which was once believed to be perennially stable and reliable.
  3. The toxic waste from these industrial facilities has been buried in the permafrost, on the assumption that it would stay locked away permanently, but danger looms as the planet continues to heat up.

    Permafrost:
  1. It is essentially any ground that stays frozen, 0 degree Celsius or lower, for at least two years straight. These permanently frozen grounds are often found in Arctic regions such as Greenland, Alaska (the United States), Canada, Russia and Eastern Europe.
  2. According to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), permafrost is composed of “a combination of soil, rocks and sand that are held together by ice.
  3. The soil and ice in permafrost stay frozen all year long. However, the ground remains perennially frozen, permafrost regions aren’t always covered with snow.

Findings of the study:

  1. The region witnessed an expansion of industrial and economic development during the Cold War; it became a centre for resource extraction and military activities. It led to the accumulation of industrial and toxic waste on or in permafrost which was never removed.
  2. The known industrial waste types (in the region) include drilling and mining wastes, toxic substances like drilling muds and fluids, mine waste heaps, heavy metals, spilled fuels, and radioactive waste.
  3. The study finds that across the entirety of the Arctic 4,500 industrial facilities in the permafrost regions have most likely produced between 13,000 and 20,000 contaminated sites.
  4. According to the study, as of now, around 1,000 of the known industrial sites and 2,200 to 4,800 of the known contaminated sites are already at risk of destabilising due to thawing permafrost.
  5. These numbers will jump to more than 2,100 industrial sites and 5,600 to 10,000 contaminated sites by the end of the century under the low emissions scenario consistent with the 2-degree Celsius global warming target.

Other consequences of thawing permafrost:

  1. According to experts, thawing permafrost can severely impact the planet, due to release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
  2. 2022 report by NASA said, “Arctic permafrost alone holds an estimated 1,700 billion metric tons of carbon, including methane and carbon dioxide. That’s roughly 51 times the amount of carbon the world released as fossil fuel emissions in 2019.”
  3. A 2022 study by Columbia University observed that thawing permafrost would unleash thousands of dormant viruses and bacteria. Some of these “could be new viruses or ancient ones for which humans lack immunity and cures, or diseases that society has eliminated, such as smallpox or Bubonic plague.”

 

India’s role in G20’s disaster management initiatives

GS Paper-3 (Disaster management)

The G20 under India’s Presidency, has endorsed a new working group on disaster risk reduction. This makes it to prioritise disaster risk financing to achieve the targets set by Sendai framework for 2030.

More about the news:

  1. The 2021-22 Human Development Report shows that disasters do not merely exacerbate poverty and thwart development, but also generate social polarisation across nations and communities.
  2. The lack of competent financial risk management and insurance has provided a fertile breeding ground for these risks to proliferate and intensify, wreaking havoc on various aspects of society and the economy.
  3. Annual disaster losses account for a significant share of GDP in many low-income economies. To manage these risks, financial strategies must be developed.

Role of G20 to strengthen financial risk management capabilities:

  1. There is need to enhance the capacity to understand risks and integrate them into government planning and budget processes. The insurance industry needs better regulation, legislation, and supervision.
  2. There is need for partnerships with the private sector, to transfer sovereign risk to the capital markets, and the financing for response, recovery, and reconstruction needs to be improved by shifting from ex-post to ex-ante mechanisms.
  3. There is need to move beyond treating disasters as singular events and adopt a multi-hazard approach, considering various emergencies and risks in financial decision-making.

Measures by G20:

  1. The G20’s new Disaster Risk Reduction Working Group (DRRWG) has recognised the importance of prioritising disaster risk financing, the G20 can help governments worldwide to manage risk more effectively and ensure sustainable development.
  2. The DRRWG can support the harmonisation of definitions and methodologies for data collection and analysis to improve access to international (re)insurance markets.
  3. The DRRWG will strive to address, all the key components of a comprehensive financial management strategy such as encompassing disaster risk assessment and modeling, affordable and comprehensive insurance coverage of disaster risks, financial assistance and compensation for affected individuals and businesses, and risk transfer mechanisms, including catastrophe bonds and insurance, for management of fiscal risks.

Challenges:

The significant difficulty in collecting and analysing data on hazards and exposures, the necessity of strengthening technical and institutional capacity for risk assessment and modelling, and the challenge of achieving comprehensive coverage of disaster risks.

Way forward:

  1. India has extensive experience dealing with natural disasters and can lead in promoting awareness of the financial impacts of disasters.
  2. It can also lead the way in establishing a regulatory framework to enhance the financial capacity of insurance companies to cover disaster losses.
  3. The DRRWG’s systematic and granular approach, the G20 will make a significant contribution to global efforts to manage disaster risks and build resilient economies and societies.

 

Amrit Bharat Station Scheme

GS Paper-2 (Schemes)

The Indian Railways is planning to overhaul the signage system at railway stations for better travelling comfort of passengers, on the basis of fresh design principles.

More about the news:

Around 1,275 stations have been selected under the Amrit Bharat Station Scheme.These arelocated in major cities and places of tourist and pilgrimage importance.

Some features:

Disabled-friendly:

1.Union Minister for Railways said that there was need to issue standard guidelines on signagesat stations that will be consistent and adequate.

2.The Indian Railways will adopt modern, standard signages which are divyang-friendly.”

Simple language and easy to understand:

1.The Railways prioritises simple language, clear font, easy-to-see colours and intuitive pictograms.

2.It is made keeping in mind the requirements of all passengers, including elderly, women, children, divyangjan etc.

3.The colours of signages, type and size of fonts have been standardised.

Why the need to change?

1.The current system of signages is inconsistent and inadequate. It pointed out that there was a lack of uniformity in some cases.

2.In some cases, signages were overlapping with advertisements and not in the visual scheme of commuters.

3.Some signages were not aesthetically designed and at other places, they were absent.

Some new changes:

1.The new tertiary boards displaying station names with tricolour backgrounds have been introduced.

2.There has been emphasis on providing intuitive way finding and availability of signages on key decision-making points.

3.The concept of grouping of signages has been introduced for faster way finding for commuters. Grouping would provide the hierarchy of how information is shared starting with essential journey information including train travel and platform.

4.Directional information like transport inter-change and navigating the station; amenities and facilities like toilet and water; commercial facilities like restaurants and retail; and lastly exit information will be clearly provided.

5.Use of pictograms for water taps of the disabled, wheelchair assistance, ramps, tourist information, mobile-charging, escalators etc. have been standardised.

Three railway stations, Rani Kamalapati, Gandhinagar Capital, and Sir M. Visvesvaraya Terminal, have already been commissioned along these lines.

 

2016 Nabam Rebia ruling

GS Paper - 2 (Polity)

The Supreme Court has referred to a larger bench its 2016 ruling in the Nabam Rebia case, where it was held that the Speaker of a House can’t decide a disqualification petition filed under the anti-defection law while a notice under Article 179(c) for the Speaker’s removal is pending. In February this year, the court had said that a decision on whether its Nabam Rebia judgment should be referred to a larger Bench, as requested by the Uddhav Thackeray faction of the Shiv Sena, could not be considered in the abstract — and would have to be determined together with the merits of the Sena dispute case.

What was the Nabam Rebia case?

  1. In Nabam Rebia & Bamang Felix v. Deputy SpeakerArunachal Legislative Assembly (2016), the Supreme Court had ruled that it would be “constitutionally impermissible for a Speaker of the House to adjudicate upon disqualification petitions under the anti-defection law as per Tenth Schedule while a motion of resolution for his/her own removal from Office of Speaker is pending”.
  2. The Shinde group had cited the Nabam Rebia ruling when the crisis unfolded in June 2022 to contend that the Deputy Speaker cannot proceed under the Tenth Schedule against the dissident Sena MLAs as a notice seeking his removal was pending.
  3. Contesting this, the Thackeray camp had told the Bench that by invoking it, MLAs who want to defect can pre-empt and stall disqualification proceedings against them by seeking the Speaker’s removal through a notice.
  4. During the hearing before the Constitution Bench in February, the Shinde camp had argued that the matter had become academic and there was no reason to refer it to a larger Bench.
  5. Senior advocates Kapil Sibal and A M Singhvi, who appeared for the Thackeray side, urged the court to refer it to a seven-judge Bench.
  6. Sibal contended that the matter had not become academic and that it had ramifications for the country’s democratic future.

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