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Scorching heat forces animals out of Seshachalam Biosphere Reserve

Paper : General Studies 3

Why in news?

The depletion of water and food and temperatures touching 45 degrees Celsius have led to animals foraying into human habitations.

About Seshachalam Biosphere Reserve

  • The hill ranges spread in parts of Chittoor and Kadapa districts of Andhra Pradesh are designated as Seshachalam Biosphere Reserve in Andhra Pradesh
  • It has large reserves of red sandalwood which is used in medicines, soaps, spiritual rituals.
  • It is the richest floristic hotspot harboring many endemic and rare plants. Five Gecko species were recorded in this reserve, out of that the Golden Gecko Calodactylodes aureus are rare and endemic species in the biosphere reserve.12 species of lizards and 22 species of snakes are found Seshachalam Biosphere.
  • The faunal composition represents the Deccan Peninsular  zone of biogeographic classification of India. The great diversity of geomorphology and vegetation give rise to multitude of habitats that support rich wildlife.
  • The forests of the reserve harbor certain highly endangered wildlife species, like Slender Loris, Indian Giant squirrel,  Mouse deer, Golden Gecko, etc. Tigers, leopard Elephants , Sloth bear, Indian wolf , wild boar, chinkara, Four-horned antelope, chital and sambar, Ibex, pig, Bonnet monkey, Mongoose, Wild  dogs Black, Bison, Jackal, Fox, Civet cat, Junglecat, Lizards are some of other animals commonly found roaming in this area.
  • More than 150 species of birds are reported from this area. Pangolins, Pythons, Peafowls, Jungle Fowl, Partridges, Quail, Crested Serpent Eagle, Ashy Crowned Finch Lark, Indian Roller, Kingfishers and White Bellied Woodpecker etc. are common. It is estimated that 137 species of birds are found in Seshachalam Forests.Yellow throated Bulbul, an endangered bird species, is found  to exist in forests of Seshachalam Biosphere Reserve.


People in News : Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar

Paper : Prelims Specific, General Studies 1

About Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar

  • Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar (1820-1891) was as one of the pillars of Bengal renaissance who managed to continue the social reforms movement that was started by Raja Rammohan Roy in the early 1800s.
  • Vidyasagar was a well-known writer, intellectual and above all a staunch supporter of humanity.

Educational Reforms

  • He brought about a revolution in the Bengali education system and refined the way Bengali language was written and taught. His book, ‘Borno Porichoy’ (Introduction to the letter), is still used as the introductory text to learn Bengali alphabets.
  • The title ‘Vidyasagar’ (ocean of knowledge) was given to him due to his vast knowledge in several subjects.
  • Vidyasagar is credited with the role of thoroughly remodelling medieval scholastic system prevailing in Sanskrit College and bring about modern insights into the education system. The first change that Vidyasagar made when he came back to the Sanskrit College as a Professor was to include English and Bengali as the medium of learning, besides Sanskrit. He introduced courses of European History, Philosophy and Science alongside of Vedic scriptures.
  • He wrote two books ‘Upakramonika’ and ‘Byakaran Koumudi’, interpreting complex notions of Sanskrit grammar in easy legible Bengali language.
  • He was an ardent advocate of women education. He opened 35 schools for women throughout Bengal and was successful in enrolling 1300 students. He even initiated Nari Siksha Bhandar, a fund to lend support for the cause.
  • He maintained his support to John Elliot Drinkwater Bethune to establish the first permanent girls’ school in India, the Bethune School, on May 7, 1849.

Social Reforms

  • Vidyasagar was always vocal about the oppression that the society inflicted on women at that time. He challenged the Brahminical authorities and proved that widow remarriage is sanctioned by Vedic scriptures.
  • He took his arguments to the British Authorities and his pleas were heard when the Hindu Widows’ Remarriage Act, 1856 or Act XV, 1856, was decreed on July 26, 1856.
  • He did not just stop there. He initiated several matches for child or adolescent widows within respectable families and even married his son Narayan Chandra to an adolescent widow in 1870 to set an example.


Proposal to halt waste dumping defeated : Geneva

Paper : General Studies 2, General Studies 3

Why in news?

  • A proposal by India to prevent developed countries from dumping their electronic and plastic waste on to developing countries was defeated at the recently concluded meeting of the Basel Convention in Geneva
  • A key outcome of the meeting was an amendment to the Convention that includes plastic waste in a legally-binding framework which would make global trade in plastic waste more transparent and better regulated.


What is the Basel Convention?

  • The Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal, usually known as the Basel Convention, is an international treaty that was designed to reduce the movements of hazardous waste between nations, and specifically to prevent transfer of hazardous waste from developed to less developed countries (LDCs).
  • The Convention is intended to minimize the amount and toxicity of wastes generated, to ensure their environmentally sound management as closely as possible to the source of generation, and to assist LDCs in environmentally sound management of the hazardous and other wastes they generate.
  • It does not deal with radioactive waste.
  • It came into force in 1992 and has 186 states + EU as parties to the Convention


India gives two attack helicopters to Afghanistan

Paper : General Studies 2

Why in news?

  • India handed over two Mi-24 attack helicopters to Afghanistan as a replacement for four attack helicopters gifted by India to Afghanistan in 2015.
  • These helicopters shall boost the capabilities of the Afghan Air Force and enhance the effectiveness of the Afghan National Security in combating terrorism.

India – Afghanistan Relations

  • India and Afghanistan have a strong relationship based on historical and cultural links. The relationship is not limited to the governments in New Delhi and Kabul, but has its foundations in the historical contacts and exchanges between the people.
  • In recent past, India-Afghanistan relations have been further strengthened by the Strategic Partnership Agreement, which was signed between the two countries in October 2011.
  • The Strategic Partnership Agreement (SPA) between the two sides, inter alia, provides for assistance to help rebuild Afghanistan’s infrastructure and institutions, education and technical assistance to rebuild indigenous Afghan capacity in different areas, encouraging investment in Afghanistan’s natural resources, providing duty free access to the Indian market for Afghanistan’s exports support for an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned, broad-based and inclusive process of peace and reconciliation, and advocating the need for a sustained and long-term commitment to Afghanistan by the international community.
  • India has taken up several infrastructure development projects in Afghanistan – Parliament Building, Salma Dam, Zaranj-Delaram road Shahtoot Dam and drinking water project for Kabul that would also facilitate irrigation, water supply for Charikar City, road connectivity to Band-e-Amir in Bamyan Province that would promote tourism, low cost housing for returning Afghan refugees in Nangarhar Province to promote their resettlement, a gypsum board manufacturing plant in Kabul to promote value added local industry and for import substitution, and a polyclinic in Mazar-e-Sharif.
  • In addition, India will also take up 116 High Impact Community Development Projects in 31 provinces of Afghanistan. These important investments will be in the areas of education, health, agriculture, irrigation, drinking water, renewable energy, flood control, micro-hydro power, sports and administrative infrastructure.
  • India has  also announced that ongoing programmes for education, capacity building, skills and human resource development of Afghanistan, one of the largest such programmes in the world, will continue for a further period of five years from 2017 to 2022.
  • India-Afghanistan inaugurated a Dedicated Air Cargo Corridor in 2017 between Kabul and New Delhi.


Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA)

Paper : Prelims Specific, General Studies 2


  • COMCASA stands for Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement and is one of the four foundational agreements that the U.S. signs with allies and close partners to facilitate interoperability between militaries and sale of high end technology.
  • COMCASA allows India to procure transfer specialised equipment for encrypted communications for US origin military platforms like the C-17, C-130 and P-8Is. Currently, these platforms use commercially available communication systems.
  • This will also enable greater communications interoperability between the militaries of India and the US. Data acquired through such systems cannot be disclosed or transferred to any person or entity without India’s consent.
  • It comes into force immediately, and is valid for a period 10 years.
  • India had signed the General Security Of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) in 2002 and the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) in 2016. The last one remaining is the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-spatial Cooperation (BECA).


US President announces new points based green card system

Paper : General Studies 2

Why in news?

  • U.S. President Donald Trump announced a proposal that will include significant changes to the way green cards are allocated, by dramatically reducing the number of family-based green cards and moving towards a points-based (“merit-based”) system that will reward, among other factors, education, skills and English language proficiency.
  • The new proposal will increase skills-based green cards to 57%. Points will be awarded to applicants based on their education, work experience, age (more points for younger workers), English language ability etc.
  • New immigrants will have to show that they can financially support themselves and will need to pass a civics exam.
  • People given Green Cards on humanitarian and diversity grounds will now only constitute 10% of all Green Card recipients


What will the impact be on Indian immigrants?

  • A large majority (over 70%) of H1B visas, for skilled workers, went to Indians in fiscal year 2018. Many of these are eventually converted to green cards. Indian residents getting green cards have been in the range of 57,000-62,000 in the 2015-2017 period.
  • However, it is far from clear that a shift towards a points-based system will make the prospects of Indian skilled migrants wanting to settle in the U.S. easier, as bringing family members over, especially elderly parents, may get more complicated. Spouses and children will be prioritized under the new system.


RBI mandates risk officers for NBFCs

Paper : General Studies 3

Why in news?

  • RBI has asked all NBFCs with a size of Rs 5,000 crore to appoint Chief Risk Officers.
  • The CRO shall be a senior official in the NBFC with adequate experience in the area of risk management.
  • CRO shall have direct reporting lines to the MD & CEO of the Board. In case the CRO reports to the MD&CEO, the Risk management Committee/Board shall meet the CRO without the presence of the MD & CEO at least on a quarterly basis.


What is a Non-Banking Financial Company (NBFC)?

  • A Non Banking Financial Company (NBFC) is a company registered under the Companies Act, 1956 of India, engaged in the business of loans and advances, acquisition of shares, stock, bonds, hire-purchase insurance business or chit-fund business but does not include any institution whose principal business includes agriculture, industrial activity or the sale, purchase or construction of immovable property
  • NBFCs are regulated by the RBI under the RBI Act of 1935 from 1997 onward. They have to: register with the RBI, keep minimum capital, some of them have to maintain SLR and still some of them have to keep the CRAR (Capital to Risk Weighted Asset Ratio) etc.

What are the differences between banks and NBFCs?

NBFCs perform functions similar to that of banks but there are a few differences-

  • Provides Banking services to People without holding a Bank license,
  • An NBFC cannot accept Demand Deposits,
  • An NBFC is not a part of the payment and settlement system and as such,
  • An NBFC cannot issue Cheques drawn on itself, and
  • Deposit insurance facility of the Deposit Insurance and Credit Guarantee Corporation is not available for NBFC depositors, unlike banks,
  • An NBFC is not required to maintain Cash Reserve Ratio
  • An NBFC cannot indulge Primarily in Agricultural, Industrial Activity, Sale-Purchase, Construction of Immovable Property
  • Foreign Investment allowed up to 100%.