1. ARE EL NIÑO-LA NIÑA WEATHER PATTERNS CHANGING?
THE CONTEXT: Recently, a new study projects that climate change will significantly impact El Niño-La Niña weather patterns approximately by 2030 — a decade before what was earlier predicted. This is bound to result in further global climate disruptions.
What is the El Niño phenomenon?
- El Niño is the warming of sea water in the central-east Equatorial Pacific that occurs every few years. During El Niño, surface temperatures in the equatorial Pacific rise, and trade winds — east-west winds that blow near the Equator — weaken.
- Normally, easterly trade winds blow from the Americas towards Asia. Due to El Niño, they falter and change direction to turn into westerlies, bringing warm water from the western Pacific towards the Americas. The phenomena of upwelling, where nutrient-rich waters rise towards the surface, is reduced under El Niño. This in turn reduces phytoplankton.
- Thus, fish that eat phytoplankton are affected, followed by other organisms higher up the food chain. Warm waters also carry tropical species towards colder areas, disrupting multiple ecosystems. Since the Pacific covers almost one-third of the earth, changes in its temperature and subsequent alteration of wind patterns disrupt global weather patterns.
- El Niño causes dry, warm winter in Northern U.S. and Canada and increases the risk of flooding in the U.S. gulf coast and southeastern U.S. It also brings drought to Indonesia and Australia.
What is La Niña?
- La Niña is the opposite of El Niño. La Niña sees cooler than average sea surface temperature (SST) in the equatorial Pacific region. Trade winds are stronger than usual, pushing warmer water towards Asia.
- On the American west coast, upwelling increases, bringing nutrient-rich water to the surface. Pacific cold waters close to the Americas push jet streams — narrow bands of strong winds in the upper atmosphere — northwards. This leads to drier conditions in Southern U.S., and heavy rainfall in Canada.
- La Niña has also been associated with heavy floods in Australia. Two successive La Niña events in the last two years caused intense flooding in Australia, resulting in significant damage.
What were the study’s findings?
- The combination of El Niño, La Niña, and the neutral state between the two opposite effects is called the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO). Southern oscillations are large-scale changes in sea level pressure in the tropical Pacific region.
- ENSO’s scale is significant enough to influence global climate. According to the study, published in the Nature Communications journal, increased SST variability from ENSO in the eastern Equatorial Pacific (EP) will emerge around 2030 ( error margin of +/- 6 years), more than a decade earlier than that of the central Pacific (CP) ENSO.
- If CP and EP are not separated, SST variability from ENSO will occur almost four decades earlier than previously suggested. Changes in the equatorial Pacific will be visible first due to a stronger increase in the EP-ENSO rainfall response, leading to increased SST variability.
What is the effect on India’s monsoons?
- In India, El Niño causes weak rainfall and more heat, while La Niña intensifies rainfall across South Asia, particularly in India’s northwest and Bangladesh during the monsoon. At present, India, like the rest of the globe, is witnessing an extended ‘triple dip’ La Niña. As reported by The Hindu, this, in part, is why India saw surplus rain in September, a month that usually sees the monsoon retreat, for the third year in a row.
INDIAN POLITY AND GOVERNANCE
2. THE PREVENTION OF CRUELTY TO ANIMALS ACT, 1960
THE CONTEXT: The Centre has proposed to overhaul The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, introducing 61 amendments in the law, which includes three years’ imprisonment for committing “gruesome cruelty” including “bestiality” with animals.
A draft Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Amendment) Bill, 2022, prepared by the Ministry of Fisheries, Animal Husbandry, and Dairying, has been opened for public comments. Once the draft is final, the Bill could be brought either in the Winter Session or the Budget Session of Parliament.
What are the main changes proposed in the law?
- Essentially, the law is proposed to be made tighter, with more stringent punishments. Several offences have been made cognizable, which means offenders can be arrested without an arrest warrant. The draft Bill has proposed to include “Bestiality” as a crime under the new category of “Gruesome cruelty.”
- he proposed subsection describes “gruesome cruelty” as any act involving animals which leads to “extreme pain and suffering” and is “likely to leave the animal in life-long disability”. It includes “mutilation or killing of animal by the use of strychnine injection in the heart or any other cruel manner that is known to cause permanent physical damage to the animal or render animal useless or cause any injury which is likely to cause death including bestiality…”.
- The draft proposes fines from Rs 50,000 to Rs 75,000 “or the cost of the animal…whichever is more or with the imprisonment of one year which may extend up to three years or with both” for the offence of gruesome cruelty. For killing an animal, the draft Bill proposes a maximum punishment of five years in jail.
About Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960
- The legislative intent of the Act is to “prevent the infliction of unnecessary pain or suffering on animals”.
- The Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) was established in 1962 under Section 4 of the Act.
- This Act provides for punishment for causing unnecessary cruelty and suffering to animals. The Act defines animals and different forms of animals.
- Discusses different forms of cruelty, exceptions, and killing of a suffering animal in case any cruelty has been committed against it, so as to relieve it from further suffering.
- Provides the guidelines relating to experimentation on animals for scientific purposes.
- The Act enshrines the provisions relating to the exhibition of the performing animals, and offences committed against the performing animals.
- This Act provides for the limitation period of 3 months beyond which no prosecution shall lie for any offences under this Act.
SOCIAL ISSUES AND SOCIAL JUSTICE
3. NATIONAL SUICIDE PREVENTION STRATEGY
THE CONTEXT: The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare unveiled the National Suicide Prevention Strategy — the first-of-its-kind policy formulated by the government to prevent suicides as a public health priority.
What is India’s National Suicide Prevention Strategy?
- According to the ministry, the policy that will set the stage for promotion of mental health and prevention of suicides in the coming decade.
- The goal of the strategy is to reduce suicide mortality in the country by 10 per cent by 2023. The strategy provides a framework for multiple stakeholders to implement activities for prevention of suicides in the country.
National Suicide Prevention Strategy: Objectives
- First, it seeks to establish effective surveillance mechanisms for suicide within the next three years.
- Second, it seeks to establish psychiatric outpatient departments that will provide suicide prevention services through the District Mental Health Programme in all districts within the next five years.
- Third, it aims to integrate a mental well-being curriculum in all educational institutions within the next eight years.
- The fourth objective of the National Suicide Prevention Strategy is to strengthen surveillance of suicide and further generation of evidence through evaluation, that will ensure improvement in the programme quality.
- Reinforcing leadership, partnerships and institutional capacity in the country.
- Enhancing the capacity of health services to provide suicide prevention services.
- Developing community resilience and societal support for suicide prevention and reduce stigma associated with suicidal behaviours.
Suicides in India: What’s the current scenario?
- According to the annual report of the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), released in August, 1.64 lakh people died by suicide in 2021 — an increase of 7.2 per cent from 2020. This is 10 per cent higher than the COVID deaths (1.48 lakh) in India in 2020, and 6.8 times the maternal deaths (23,800) in the same year.
- The NCRB report also stated that more than 1,00,000 people die by suicide in the country every year. A total of 25,891 suicides were reported in the 53 megacities of the country during 2021, with the highest in Delhi.
- In the past three years, the suicide rate in the country has increased from 10.2 to 11.3 per 1,00,000 population. Most suicides in India are by youth and middle-aged adults — with 65 per cent of the suicides in 2020 being reported in the age group of 18-45 years.
Ongoing suicide prevention initiatives in India
- The National Mental Health Policy (2014) sees prevention of mental disorders, reduction of suicide and attempted suicide as core priority areas.
- The Mental Healthcare Act 2017 brought in some necessary changes. The Act that came into force from May 2018 effectively decriminalised attempted suicide, which was punishable under Section 309 of the Indian Penal Code.
- It ensured that the individuals who have attempted suicide are offered opportunities for rehabilitation from the government as opposed to being tried or punished.
4. SEBI’S PLANS TO TACKLE MARKET RUMOURS
THE CONTEXT: Recently, the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) floated a consultation paper proposing measures to effectively tackle market rumours. It reviewed disclosure requirements for material events and information under the SEBI (Listing Obligations and Disclosure Requirements) Regulations, 2015.
What was the need for review?
- The central premise of the proposal is to ensure timely disclosure of significant events that may have a bearing on the price of a scrip. SEBI notes that while regulatory actions against non-disclosure of events do act as a deterrent for listed entities to withhold details of material events or information, timely disclosure is still very important.
- SEBI also seeks to ensure that unverified rumours do not shake investor confidence and affect decision-making. Listed entities too have sought that the regulator institute a certain uniformity in its guidance for disclosures, to help them better determine what constitutes a material event or information.
- In a related context, the market regulator pointed to provisions that require companies to put forth specific and adequate replies to all rumour verification queries raised by the exchanges. This could be with respect to certain ‘information’ circulating on social media or any other platform. It proposes that entities should confirm or deny any such reported event or information.
What disclosures are being proposed?
- The proposed measures are directed towards preventing any false market sentiment or impact on the securities of a company. Recognising the “growing influence” of print, television and digital news media, it argues that companies need to keep pace and ensure that any rumours are verified or refuted.
- It proposes companies disclose all information whose expected impact in terms of value exceeds 2% of either its turnover or net-worth as per the last audited financial statement, or 5% of the three-year average of absolute value of profit/loss after tax.
- In order to avoid information asymmetry, SEBI has proposed that the listed entities need to also disseminate any communication with regards to the company made by its directors, promoters, key managerial personnel or senior management individually and not through the company. It recognises that it is difficult for an investor to keep track of multiple newsworthy announcements from diverse avenues.
- To this effect, it proposes that companies inform about any ratings actions, even if it was not requested for by the company or if a request was withdrawn. Further, companies also need to disclose any actions initiated by a regulatory, statutory, enforcement or judicial authority against any of its directors, key managerial personnel, senior management, promoter or subsidiary in relation to the entity.
- These may include investigation, suspension, imposition of penalty or fine, settlement of proceedings, debarment, sanctions, warnings, search, seizure, and default on the payment of fines, penalties and dues among others. The mentioned measure would thus, prevent information asymmetry as it would streamline access to verified information.
- Other than this, the proposals also recognise the material importance of key personnel, senior management and directors to investors. They instil confidence in the functioning and affairs of the company.
- To this effect, it proposes that entities inform the exchange about their resignation(s) within seven days. Along similar lines, companies must also disclose if the MD/CEO is not available to discharge their duties for greater than a month.
Are timelines being revised?
- The regulator observed that there was a need for quicker disclosure of material events since ‘information’ permeates very fast on social media and digital media. It makes a note of several instances where the disclosures were made only after the news had already circulated in the media.
- At times, the information was disclosed only after the exchange raised a query to the company. Therefore, SEBI proposes that disclosures pertaining to events or information emanating from within the company be made within twelve hours instead of the existing mandate of twenty-four hours.
5. WHAT IS THE ASSAM-MEGHALAYA BORDER DISPUTE
THE CONTEXT: The recent killing of six people in Assam police firing comes ahead of the second phase of talks between the two states to resolve their boundary dispute, and there are concerns its shadow will loom large over the negotiations.
The incident comes ahead of the second phase of talks scheduled for this month-end (November 2022) between the two states to resolve their boundary dispute, and there are concerns its shadow will loom large over the negotiations.
What is the border dispute?
- Assam and Meghalaya have a longstanding dispute in 12 stretches of their 884-km shared border. The two states had signed a pact in March resolving the dispute in six out of 12 areas. In August, they decided to form regional committees. The second round of discussions for the remaining six phases was to commence by the end of this month..
- The Assam-Meghalaya pact was seen as a major achievement, as Assam’s border disputes with other states in the Northeast have remained unresolved despite multiple rounds of talks. Now, the firing threatens to derail the upcoming talks.
CONNECT THE DOT: In March 2022,the Assam and Meghalaya state Government signed an agreement to resolve their five-decade-old border dispute in six of the 12 locations.
History Behind Border Demarcation
- During the British rule, Assam consisted of the present-day Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh, and Meghalaya, besides Mizoram, which later became separate states.
- However, the long-standing dispute between Assam and Meghalaya began in 1972 when Meghalaya was carved out of Assam under the Assam Reorganisation Act, 1971, a law that it challenged.
Major Point of Contention
- Since 1993, twelve (12) areas of differences have evolved between the two states. The said areas are: Upper Tarabari, Gazang reserve forest, Hahim, Langpih, Borduar, Boklapara, Nongwah, Matamur, Khanapara-Pilangkata, Deshdemoreah Block I and Block II, Khanduli and Retacherra.
- In August 2021, the governments of Assam and Meghalaya had formed a committee to resolve the border rows in a phased manner in six (6) of the 12 disputed sites (Hahim, Gizang, Tarabari, Boklapara, Khanapara-Pilingkata, Ratacherra).
- The proposed recommendations for the 36.79 square km of land said that Assam would keep 18.51 square km, while Meghalaya would get the remaining 18.28 square km.
What is the Next Step?
- The Survey of India (SoI) will delineate and demarcate the boundary in the presence of representatives of both governments. It will then go to Parliament for approval and will likely take a few months.
THE PRELIMS PERSPECTIVE
6. NYINGMA SECT OF BUDDHISM
THE CONTEXT: In a significant development in the Tibetan Buddhist circles, the Nyingma sect has identified a boy from Spiti in Himachal Pradesh as the reincarnation of the late Taklung Setrung Rinpoche, a scholar known for his knowledge of Tibetan Tantric school.
“The Nyingma sect is the oldest of all Buddhist sects, and Taklung Setrung Rinpoche was a profound scholar renowned for his expertise in Tibetan Tantric school.
- The Nyingma or “ancient” tradition is the oldest of the four schools of Tibetan Buddhism. Often referred to as “the ancient translation school”, it was founded in the eighth century following the first translations of Buddhist scriptures from Sanskrit to Tibetan.
- Around 760, the Tibetan king Trisong Detsen invited two Buddhist masters from the Indian subcontinent, Padmasambhava and Shantarakshita, to the “Land of Snows” to bring Buddhism to the Tibetan people. Thus began a massive translation project of all Buddhist texts into the newly created Tibetan language.
- The legendary Vajrayana master Padmasambhava, who Tibetans call Guru Rinpoche, is considered the founder of Tibetan Buddhism. He supervised the translation of the tantras (the esoteric teachings of the Buddha) while Shantarakshita, abbot of the great Buddhist Nalanda University, supervised the translation of the sutras (oral teachings of the Buddha).
- Together they founded the first monastery in Tibet, Samye, which became the main center for Buddhist teaching in Tibet for around three centuries.
- The Nyingma tradition classifies the Buddhist teachings into nine yanas or vehicles. The first three vehicles are common to all schools of Buddhism, the next three are common to all schools of Tantric Buddhism, and the last three are exclusive to the Nyingma tradition. The highest is known as Dzogchen or the Great Perfection.
- Unlike the other schools, the Nyingma traditionally had no centralized authority or a single head of the lineage. However, since the Chinese invasion of Tibet, the Nyingma school has had representatives.
What are the 4 sects of Tibetan Buddhism?
The four schools of Tibetan Buddhism are Nyingma, Kagyu, Sakya, and Gelug or Gelugpa.
- Nyingma (founded in 8th century)
- Kagyu (founded in the early 11th century)
- Sakya (founded in 1073)
- Gelug (founded in 1409)
THE PRELIMS PRACTICE QUESTION
QUESTION OF THE DAY
Q1. Consider the following statements about Global Hunger Index:
- It is calculated on the basis of four parameters with each having equal weightage.
- India ranked 107 out of 121 countries in Global Hunger Index (GHI) 2022.
Which of the statements given above is/are correct?
a) 1 only
b) 2 only
c) Both 1 and 2
d) Neither 1 nor 2
- It is annually released by Concern Worldwide and Welthungerhilfe.
- India has slipped 6 places and ranked 107, out of 121 countries, in Global Hunger Index (GHI) 2022.
- Four parameters:
- Undernourishment: The share of the population whose caloric intake is insufficient. This makes up 1/3 of the GHI score.
- Child Stunting: The share of children under the age of 5 who have low height for their age, reflecting chronic undernutrition. This makes up 1/6 of the GHI score.
- Child Wasting: The share of children under the age of 5 who have low weight for their height, reflecting acute undernutrition. This makes up 1/6 of the GHI score.
- Child Mortality: The share of children who die before their 5th birthday, reflecting in part the fatal mix of inadequate nutrition and unhealthy environments. This makes up 1/3 of the GHI score.