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Current Affairs: 15 January 2019

NATION

36 years on, devadasi custom still prevalent
  • More than 36 years after the Karnataka Devadasis (Prohibition of Dedication) Act of 1982 was passed, the State government is yet to issue the rules for administering the law. Meanwhile the practice of dedicating young girls to temples as an offering to appease the gods persists not just in Karnataka, but has also spread to neighbouring Goa.
  • Two new studies on the devadasi practice by the National Law School of India University (NLSIU), Bengaluru, and the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) in Mumbai, paint a grim picture of the apathetic approach of the legislature and enforcement agencies to crack down on the practice, particularly prevalent among oppressed communities of north Karnataka.
  • A disturbing aspect revealed by the new studies is that special children, with physical or mental disabilities, are more vulnerable to be dedicated as devadasis — nearly one in five (or 19%) of the devadasis that were part of the NLSIU study exhibited such disabilities.
  • The NLS researchers found that girls from socio-economically marginalised communities continued to be victims of the custom, and thereafter were forced into the commercial sex racket. 
  • Reporting of cases pertaining to the custom under the Karnataka law is very low, with only four cases filed between 2011 and 2017. None of these cases were filed in Ballari, where village and district authorities indicated that identifying and preventing the incidents were difficult. The law is used sparingly, and focuses on prosecution (including of the victims themselves) with no frame-work for rehabilitation.
  • Despite sufficient evidence of the prevalence of the practice and its link to sexual exploitation, recent legislation such as the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act 2012, and Juvenile Justice (JJ) Act of 2015 have not made any reference to it as a form of sexual exploitation of children, the NLSIU’s Centre for Child and the Law noted in its report.
  • Dedicated children are also not explicitly recognised as children in need of care and protection under JJ Act, despite the involvement of family and relatives in their sexual exploitation. India’s extant immoral trafficking prevention law or the proposed Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill 2018, also do not recognise these dedicated girls as victims of trafficking for sexual purposes.
  • The State’s failure to enhance livelihood sources for weaker sections fuels the continuation of the practice, the studies underline. More inclusive socio-economic development apart, the NLSUI has mooted a legislative overhaul and a more proactive role from State agencies.
AURIC attracts record investment
  • The Aurangabad Industrial City (AURIC) project, announced as part of the Delhi- Industrial Corridor project, has attracted a record investment of over ₹36 crore, officials of the DMIC Development Corporation said on Monday.
  • Touted as India’s first Greenfield Industrial Smart City, the AURIC has been planned across 10,000 acres in Maharashtra. As of December 2018, investors who expressed interest include global companies from the U.S., Europe, Russia, China, Japan and South Korea, said Gajanand Patil, joint managing director, Aurangabad Industrial Township Ltd (AITL). 
  • Hyosung Corporation of South Korea, is interested in investing ₹3,000 crore. The Indian Institute of Technology-Bombay will be part of the engineering and designing of the AURIC and 49% of the industrial funding will be provided by central government, officials said. 
  • The Indian companies which have expressed interest in investing here include Bajaj, Skoda India and Perkins.
Spiritual circuit planned to link 133 places in Kerala
  • A spiritual circuit linking 133 religious places spread over 14 districts in the State has been given the nod by the Union Ministry of Tourism under the Swadesh Darshan scheme.
  • The proposed spiritual circuit III, the sixth project under the Swadesh Darshan scheme in the State, will get ₹85.23 crore from the Centre for upgrading infrastructure around these places of worship.
  • The districts had been divided into seven clusters and the cluster of Alappuzha and Kottayam districts would get the highest allocation of ₹18.24 crore and lowest of ₹6.09 crore to the cluster of Wayanad, Kannur, and Kozhikode districts.
  • Mr. Alphons said work in the precincts of Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple at an estimate of ₹78.55 crore was over and would be commissioned by the Prime Minister.
Thousands witness ‘Makarajyoti’
  • Worship of the ‘Makaravilakku deeparadhana’ performed at the Ponnamabalamedu, a remote cliff on the eastern side of Sabarimala ‘Sannidhanam’, and sighting of the celestial star ‘Makara’, better known as ‘Makarajyoti’, were moving experiences for the Ayyappa devotees at the ‘Sannidhanam’ on Monday.
  • Though there was a lean pilgrim turn out on Saturday and Sunday forenoon, the ‘Sabarimala Sannidhanam’ was converted into a sea of humanity by Monday afternoon.
  • The inflow of pilgrims from Pampa due to denial of entry to the hilltop on safety grounds too has led to overcrowding of the ‘Sannidhanam’ by Monday afternoon.
  • The sacred jewellery, ‘Thiruvabharanam’, brought from the Pandalam Palace was brought to the Sannidhanam in a ceremonial procession
Cockfights go on unchecked in Andhra Pradesh
  • Organisers and punters had the final say on conducting cockfights during the Sankranti festival this year too, as the game of blood was conducted in hundreds of arenas in East Godavari and West Godavari districts.
  • Stake amount from a few hundreds to several lakhs changed hands within no time and the prohibited gambling (‘Gundata’ in the local parlance) too was conducted on the sidelines of the cockfights.
  • Interestingly, the fights began with a traditional ‘pooja’ by the organisers. By afternoon, all the venues were jam-packed with punters and the general public. There was no visible policing at any of the arenas and even the entry of media into some venues was prohibited by the organisers concerned.
  • Besides supplying liquor and non-vegetarian food to the high-end punters, the organisers also take precautions such as arranging a medical practitioner near the gallery to provide first aid to the birds that suffered knife injuries.
  • While business people had already made their presence felt, a few personalities from the Telugu film industry were expected to join the activity by Tuesday.
  • A political touch was given to the cockfights in West Godavari district with Undi MLA Vetukuri Sivarama Raju formally inaugurating cockfights at Undi.
CAG report points to anomalies in Madhya Pradesh tribal schools
  • Residential schools and hostels for Scheduled Tribes run by the previous BJP government in Madhya Pradesh have come under the scrutiny of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India.
  • In a report tabled in the M.P. Assembly, the CAG report for 2012-13 to 2016-17 blamed the Commissioner, Tribal Development, for submitting fictitious utilisation certificates amounting to ₹113.84 crore in respect of grants-in-aid received from the Union government during the same period.
  • It also noted large-scale advances of ₹30.69 crore released to 18 District Collectors, which remained unutilised till August 2018.
  • The CAG spoke about tests it conducted in Dhar, Mandla and Shahdol districts to detect ₹6.03 crore advances, but was unable to trace them.
  • In the voluminous report, the CAG found that residential schools, hostels were deficient in infrastructure such as inadequate accommodation for inmates as well as staff, toilets, dining space, library and sports material.
  • The CAG noted that under the Eklavya Model Residential School scheme, 29 schools were set up to provide quality education to ST category students from Classes VI to XII, but shortage of teachers adversely affected the quality of education. Moreover, the overall pass percentage of Class XII students in EMRS was extremely poor.
Helping build urban houses faster, cheaper
  • The Centre will offer about ₹150 crore as a technology innovation grant to build 6,000 homes — cheaper, faster and better — using alternative technologies and materials under the Global Housing Technology Challenge launched on Monday.
  • However, the challenge may not do much to actually speed the pace of construction under the urban section of Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana or Housing for All, which has completed just over 10% of its target as the scheme reaches its halfway point.
  • After a global expo and conference in March, the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs will invite bids and identify proven demonstrable technologies from around the world, which are to be adapted and mainstreamed for use in the Indian context. 
  • By July, six winning bidders will be invited to design and build lighthouse projects of 1,000 housing units each. Apart from state and Central assistance of ₹1.5 lakh each, the Centre will offer an additional technology innovation grant of ₹2.5 lakh for each house, PMAY (Urban) mission director Amrit Abhijat said.
  • Another section of the challenge will identify potential future technologies which may not yet be market ready, and offer incubation facilities and accelerator support in collaboration with four of the IITs.
  • Once innovative technologies have been tested and proved, they will be included in the Central Public Works Department list, with an approved schedule of rates. However, they will still be optional for use, and there is no guarantee they will be adopted by private or government builders, or even used to construct PMAY homes.
India protests harassment of staff in Pak.
  • The Indian High Commission in Islamabad has written a note of protest to the government of Pakistan, alleging persistent harassment and relentless surveillance by local security agencies.
  • A source told The Hindu that the harassment has even extended to social occasions that Indian diplomats have to attend.
  • “Attempts were made to hack social media accounts of senior Indian diplomats, and the High Commissioner and Deputy High Commissioner are being closely followed and aggressively watched by Pakistani security agencies,” said a source who requested anonymity.
  • The new row erupted hours after a Pakistani diplomat was briefly detained over inappropriate behaviour at a south Delhi market.
Rajnath likely to meet northeast CMs
  • As widespread protests rock Assam and other northeast States over the Citizenship Amendment Bill, Home Minister Rajnath Singh will convene a meeting of the Chief Ministers of these States, a Home Ministry official said.
  • The Minister will discuss measures to protect the region’s cultural and linguistic identity.
  • The Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2019 that seeks to grant citizenship to non-Muslims from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, who entered India before December 31, 2014, has been passed by the Lok Sabha. It is likely to be tabled in the Budget Session in the Rajya Sabha.
  • The Bill has sparked several protests across Assam as it negates the 1985 Assam Accord, that fixed the cut-off date for migrants from Bangladesh to March 24,1971.
  • Mr. Singh said that while introducing the Bill in Lok Sabha on January 8, he had made it abundantly clear that the Bill was not meant for the individuals belonging to six minority communities who had come from one particular country.
  • Representatives of Bodo groups, including the Bodoland Territorial Council chief Hagrama Muhilary, Chandan Brahma, Minister from BPF in the State government and Biswajit Daimary, MP also met the Union Home Minister over the weekend .
SC refuses to intervene now in citizenship issue
  • The Supreme Court on Monday refused immediate intervention in a petition seeking to quash a series of subordinate laws notified by the government which allow the naturalisation of illegal Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian migrants fleeing religious persecution from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
  • The court said the Citizenship Amendment Bill was under the consideration of Parliament, and the court should not step in at this stage. It agreed to keep the petition pending.
  • The Bench led by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi said the petition would become infructuous if the Bill, already passed in the Lok Sabha, got Rajya Sabha assent.
  • The petitioners urged the court to declare the amendments made through the Passport (Entry into India) Amendment Rules, 2015; the Foreigners (Amendment) Order, 2015; and the order issued by the Home Ministry on December 26, 2016 under the Citizenship Act, allowing the naturalisation of illegal immigrants who are Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians, as “illegal and invalid”. These subordinate laws served the same purpose as the proposed Bill.
  • The petition branded the move to differentiate “illegal immigrants” on the basis of their religion and grant them naturalisation as “communally motivated human- itarianism”.
Chakma and Hajong communities in a spot
  • The contentious Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 has put the spotlight on Bengali Hindus in Assam with Finance and Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma even saying the community could help the Assamese people win in 18 Assembly constituencies where Bengali Muslims are in a majority.
  • But in Arunachal Pradesh and Mizoram, it’s the Buddhist Chakma community displaced from present-day Bangladesh in the 1960s that is facing similar protests.
  • Southern Mizoram has had a sizeable Chakma population for ages. But there is a perception among the majority Mizos that many Chakmas have crossed over from the adjoining Chittagong hill tracts in Bangladesh following displacement by the Kaptai dam in the 1960s.
  •  Some came later along with nearly 2,000 Hajongs, who are Hindus, because of alleged religious persecution.
  • Nearly 5,000 Chakmas and a few Hajongs who had taken refuge in Mizoram — then the Lushai Hills part of Assam — were settled in Arunachal Pradesh. Indigenous groups in Arunachal Pradesh say their population has now increased to beyond 1,00,000, but the Chakmas and Hajongs say they are half that number.
  • The Bill, passed in the Lok Sabha on January 8, seeks to grant citizenship to six minority communities — Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis, and Christians — without valid documents from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan after six years of stay in India.
  • Apart from the Mizo National Front, the BJP Mizoram unit has opposed the Bill primarily with the Chakmas in mind. Mizo organisations have often served “quit notices” to Chakmas who had entered the State after 1950 but older residents have reportedly been targeted too.

ECONOMY

Centre to award UDAN-III routes soon
  • The Union Ministry of Civil Aviation will shortly award new regional connectivity routes under UDAN (Ude Desh ka Aam Nagarik) III, Union Minister for Commerce, Industry & Civil Aviation Suresh Prabhu said in Mumbai on Monday.
  • He was referring to Air Odisha and Air Deccan which, despite bagging many regional connectivity routes, could not launch many flights due to lack of resources. The third round of bidding under the Regional Connectivity Scheme (RCS) for domestic routes concluded recently and 15 airlines had bid for a total 111 routes. These include a bulk of the 56 (RCS) routes withdrawn from Air Odisha and Air Deccan because of their inability to launch flights. The two airlines between them had 84 routes bagged by them in round one of UDAN
  • As the two airlines accounted for two-thirds of the total 128 routes bagged by five operators in round one, their inability to start these routes meant a setback for the scheme.
  • He added that at the summit, the Ministry would unveil a Vision 2040 for the aviation sector. Delegates from about 86 countries are participating in this first-of-its-kind summit.
Govt. mulls sops for electronics makers
  • The government is considering credit guarantee for term loans of up to ₹100 crore as well as interest subsidy on loans of up to ₹1,000 crore for electronic manufacturing companies under the new policy in works.
  • According to official sources, the Ministry of Electronics and IT (Meity) has proposed “credit guarantee fund” (CGF) scheme and “interest subvention scheme” (ISS) to boost electronics manufacturing ecosystem in the country under new National Policy on Electronics in the works.
  • “There is proposal to provide credit guarantee on term loans for projects up to ₹100 crore per borrowing unit. This will not require any collateral security and third party guarantee, for setting up a new electronics manufacturing unit or considerable expansion of an existing electronics manufacturing pant. The cover will vary on case to case basis, depending upon investments...,” an official source told PTI. 
  • According to the proposal, the government will provide up to 50% guarantee cover of the sanctioned loan amount, the source said.

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