Cyclone frequency may rise over Indian coast due to warming of pacific: study
Context: Tropical cyclones originating near the Equator have shown reduced intensity and frequency in recent decades. Cyclone Okchi, in 2017, was a significant cyclone of this kind that impacted parts of India and Sri Lanka.
Relevance: GS -1 Cyclones
Factors Influencing Equatorial Cyclones:
- A study in the journal Nature Communications suggests that a combination of global warming and the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) might increase the occurrence of equatorial-origin cyclones.
Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) and Climate Phases:
- PDO is a cyclical climate phenomenon repeating every 20 to 30 years.
- It affects the Pacific Ocean’s temperature distribution, with a positive or “warmer” phase corresponding to a warmer Western Pacific and a cooler Eastern Pacific.
- Unlike El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO), PDO phases are not annual and require several years of ocean temperature measurements to be identified.
ENSO’s Role in Equatorial Cyclone Frequency:
- El Nino, a part of ENSO, involves warming of the Central Equatorial Pacific and often results in reduced rainfall over India.
- La Nina, another aspect of ENSO, brings cooler-than-normal temperatures and excessive rainfall.
- These patterns affect cyclone formation and rainfall over India.
Recent Developments and Cyclone Possibility:
- In 2019, the PDO transitioned to a cooler, negative phase.
- This shift, if it continues, might lead to increased tropical cyclones in post-monsoon months originating near the equator.
- Warmer waters enhance cyclone intensity by providing more moisture.
El Nino’s Influence on Rainfall:
- El Nino is currently developing in the Pacific.
- Its effects are causing rainfall deficits of 7% and 17% in central and southern India, respectively.
- The warmer waters near the equator can intensify cyclone formation.
- Equatorial cyclones are relatively rare but can be fueled by warm waters.
The Election Commission — autonomy in the crosshairs
Context: The Election Commission of India (ECI) has become a point of contention between the government and the judiciary. A recent disagreement is centred around the appointment process of the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) and Election Commissioners (EC).
Relevance: GS Paper – 2 Constitutional Bodies
Supreme Court’s Directive and Its Significance:
- In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court ruled that the CEC and ECs would be appointed by the President based on a committee’s advice.
- The committee would comprise the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha (or the largest Opposition party’s leader), and the Chief Justice of India (CJI).
- This move aimed to broaden the ECI’s scope and enhance its constitutional standing.
- The judgment recognized Article 324 of the Constitution, allowing Parliament to enact laws for this matter.
Government’s Proposed Bill and its Impact:
- The government introduced a bill in the Rajya Sabha to counter the Supreme Court’s judgment.
- The proposed bill seeks to exclude the Chief Justice of India from the selection committee.
- Instead, the committee would consist of the Prime Minister (Chairperson), the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha (Member), and a Union Cabinet Minister appointed by the Prime Minister (Member).
- This step by the government challenges the court’s decision and aims to exert greater influence on the appointment of top election officials.
Government’s Intent and Institutional Changes:
- Governments, particularly those with authoritarian tendencies, often do not abolish democratic institutions but rather reshape them to align with their interests.
- The government’s move can be seen as an effort to control the appointments of key election officials and thereby consolidate power.
History of Appointment Reforms:
- Discussions on the appointment process have occurred since the Constituent Assembly debates.
- Various committees and experts have suggested that a collegium or a more representative committee should be involved in these appointments.
- A committee proposed by the Prime Minister with the inclusion of the Chief Justice of India, Leaders of the Opposition, and other relevant members was suggested to ensure non-partisan appointments.
Erosion of Autonomy and Public Trust:
- The ECI has been lauded for its integrity and effectiveness in managing elections involving millions of voters.
- However, allegations of leniency towards the ruling party have led to concerns about the erosion of the ECI’s autonomy and public trust.
- The government’s desire for more control over the ECI aligns with its objectives.
Gig Workers Bill: reading between the lines
Context: The Rajasthan government’s introduction of the Platform-Based Gig Workers (Registration and Welfare) Bill 2023 aims to provide social security to gig workers.
Relevance: GS Paper – 2 Government Policies & Interventions
Four major issues are highlighted:
1. Definitions of Gig Worker and Aggregator:
- The bill’s definitions of gig workers and aggregators lack clarity and clear binding as employer-employee relationships.
- This ambiguity has significant implications as gig workers may be treated as independent contractors rather than employees.
- The global debate about whether gig workers should be considered employees or independent contractors underpins this issue.
2. Limited Integration of Labour Laws:
- As the bill doesn’t classify gig workers as employees, it struggles to integrate existing labour laws.
- Aggregators can evade adhering to labour law mandates and providing workplace entitlements.
- This might hinder gig workers from obtaining compensation for accidents at work.
3. Registration Database and Impediments:
- The bill proposes a database of gig workers, but the registration validity doesn’t account for changing engagement with platforms.
- This may inadvertently hinder workers who engage with multiple aggregators in a day.
- The lack of a preventive mechanism to address this issue is evident.
4. Ambiguity in Social Security and Welfare Measures:
- The bill’s core objective is to ensure social security for gig workers through the creation of a welfare board and fund.
- It lacks clear definitions of social security and specified welfare measures.
- The discretion given to the welfare board to formulate and notify schemes raises concerns about the level of worker representation and influence.
India, Kenya sign MoU for shipbuilding collaboration
Context: Goa Shipyard Ltd. and Kenya Shipyard Ltd. signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) for collaboration in ship design and construction.
Relevance: GS -2 Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests.
The agreement aims to enhance capacity building and cooperation in the shipbuilding industry.
Presentation of Parachutes and Medical Facility Support:
- In a gesture of friendship, Rajnath Singh presented 15 pairs of parachutes (main and reserve) manufactured by Gliders India Ltd. to the Kenyan Cabinet Secretary for Defence.
- This is a symbolic act of cooperation between the two countries.
- Additionally, India offered support for the establishment of an advanced CT scan facility in Kenya.
‘Reroute rail track through gibbon sanctuary’
Context: A 1.65-km long railway track in eastern Assam has divided the Hollongapar Gibbon Sanctuary.
- The sanctuary is dedicated to the western hoolock gibbon, a species marked as endangered due to habitat loss and fragmentation.
- The sanctuary is home to about 125 hoolock gibbons, India’s only ape.
- Gibbons are arboreal animals and inhabit the forest’s upper canopy.
Sanctuary’s Status and Challenges:
- The Hollongapar Gibbon Sanctuary, located in the Jorhat district, covers an area of 21 sq. km.
- The sanctuary has become a “forest island” due to habitat loss and fragmentation, resulting in a loss of connectivity with surrounding forest patches.
- The division caused by the railway track isolates gibbon families on both sides, leading to compromised genetic diversity and further endangering the species’ survival in the sanctuary.
- Gibbons’ sensitivity to canopy gaps makes the proposed canopy bridge crucial for their movement and survival.
- The western hoolock gibbon species, like many other gibbon species globally, faces threats of habitat loss and habitat fragmentation.
- Rerouting the railway track and creating an artificial canopy bridge aim to address the issues of isolation and genetic variability in the sanctuary’s gibbon population.
- Connectivity restoration between gibbon populations is crucial for maintaining genetic diversity and overall species survival.
Centre slashes LPG prices by ₹200 ahead of poll season
Context: The Union Cabinet approved a reduction of ₹200 in the price of domestic LPG (liquefied petroleum gas) cylinder.
Continued Subsidy and Expansion of Ujjwala Yojana:
- The beneficiaries covered under the Prime Minister’s Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY) will still receive a subsidy of ₹200 per cylinder in their bank accounts.
- The Cabinet also approved the addition of 75 lakh new Ujjwala connections.
- The total number of beneficiaries under the scheme will increase to 10.35 crore.
Government’s Intent and Citizens’ Welfare:
- Prime Minister Modi emphasized that the government’s goal is to enhance the quality of life and benefit the poor and middle-class citizens.
- The government aims to ease the financial burden on citizens and prioritize their well-being by providing access to essential commodities at reasonable rates.
LPG Consumption Statistics:
- India has more than 31 crore domestic LPG consumers, which includes around 9.6 crore beneficiaries of the Ujjwala scheme.
- The decision reflects the government’s commitment to ensuring citizens’ access to essential commodities at affordable prices.