Sarat Chandra IAS Academy

Lightning Incidents in India

Sarat Chandra IAS Academy -UPSC Civils Daily Current Affairs 15th July-2021

Topics

  • Assam -Mizoram Border Dispute
  • Lightning Incidents in India
  • Unified Payment Interface (UPI)
  • High fuel prices forcing people to cut expenditure on health and utilities.
  • Tiger Corridors

 

1.Assam -Mizoram Border Dispute

#GS2 #Interstate relations #GS3 #Internal Security

Context: Recently, several IED (Improvised Explosive Device) blasts were carried out inside Cachar district of Assam allegedly by miscreants from Mizoram.

  • These blasts signal the re-emergence of long-unresolved Assam-Mizoram Border Dispute.

Background:

  • The states of Meghalaya, Nagaland and Mizoram were carved out of Greater Assam.
  • The region, with differences in culture and identity, was earlier amalgamated into one major state which led to a conflict among the various communities and tribes.
  • The ‘balkanisation’ of Assam and thereafter led to the formation of three major states that is Nagaland (1963), Meghalaya and Mizoram (1972) was essential.
  • Granting statehood addressed the demand for a separate political identity but had a negative fallout in the form of continuing border disputes between the mother Assam state and other created states.

About the issue:

  • Formerly known as Lushai Hills, Mizoram shares borders with three north-eastern states of Tripura, Assam and Manipur, and a 722-km border with the neighbouring countries of Bangladesh and Myanmar.
  • The two documents that are in the middle of this ongoing boundary conflict are a
    • 1875 notification which differentiates between the Cachar Hills and Lushai Hills and
    • 1933 notification which demarcates the Lushai Hills (from where Mizoram has been carved out) and Manipur.
  • The state of Mizoram does not follow the notification of 1933, since the boundary was demarcated before the formation of the Mizo state.
  • Mizoram believes the boundary should be demarcated on the basis of the 1875 notification, which is derived from the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation (BEFR) Act, 1873.
  • On the other hand, the Assam government follows the 1933 demarcation.
  • As a result both states continue to have a differing perception of the border and that is the point of conflict.
  • Further, the boundary between Mizoram and Assam follows naturally occurring barriers of hills, valleys, rivers and forests, and both sides have attributed border skirmishes to perceptional differences over an imaginary line.

Disputed Area:

Reasons for these continued Boundary Incidents:

  • Resources: The presence of important natural resources plays an important role in these boundary incidents. To occupy a resource-rich land, is beneficial for trade and economic purposes of any state.
  • Ethnic Identity: One of the main reasons for the border conflict is the presence of different ethnicities near the border region. Groups mainly clash in order to suppress the minority ethnic group. At times two ethnic tribal identities clash in order to dominate the region.
  • Lack of Effective Boundary Demarcation: Border demarcation has been improper and the borders have been demarcated as per convenience of the involved parties, therefore, leading to many undefined and complicated local boundary disputes.
    • The states were hurriedly carved out of Assam without paying much attention to the tribal realities on the ground and because these freshly created state boundaries did not strictly conform to the ethnic boundaries of the region.
  • Historical Evidence: All the states involved seem to have connected historical evidence and all of them tend to quote these historical evidences in order to justify their land/border claims.
  • Ongoing Insurgency: The Insurgents further restrict free movement of people across the border thereby creating a safety issue which diverts the attention of the states towards defending their own territorial integrity, thereby, leaving less time to focus on finding a solution to the conflict.

Road Ahead:

  • Boundary disputes between the states can be settled by using satellite mapping of the actual border locations.
  • Inter-state council under Article 263 shall be revived to resolve the disputes.
  • Zonal councils need to be revived to discuss the matters of common concern to states in each zone—matters relating to social and economic planning, border disputes, inter-state transport, etc.
  • India is the epitome of unity in diversity. However, in order to strengthen this unity furthermore, both the centre and state governments, need to imbibe the ethos of cooperative federalism.
  • People to People Engagement: All ethnic majority and minority tribes residing in the region, must be respected and developed. The concept of a ‘shared’ North East Identity could bring the people together.
    • Education can be an effective tool to facilitate people-to-people connect.
  • The active involvement of the Supreme Court in matters pertaining to legal issues could fast-track the decision-making process and thereafter the implementation process.
    • Establishment of a ‘court monitored boundary commission’ to look into the demands of all the conflicting parties involved, and thereafter, suggest a solution, is essential.
  • The presence of common leadership in most states can lead to an agreement on border issues as well as the presence of the centre leadership would lead to faster implementation of the solution in the region.
  • The Act East Factor: Maintaining a peaceful North East is vital for India’s ‘Act East Policy’ as the NorthEast Region is the doorway to the ASEAN regions.
    • All the states gain by being connected to one another and for this peaceful borders to ensure ‘free’ movement of people and trade are essential.

 

  1. Lightning Incidents in India

#GS1 # Important Geophysical phenomena such as earthquakes, Tsunami, Volcanic activity, cyclone etc #GS3 #Disaster management

Context: At least 30 people were killed in separate incidents of lightning in various parts of the country in the past 24 hours. This includes Rajasthan, UP and MP.

How common are deaths by lightning?

  • Deaths due to lightning have become frequent in the country. In July last year, 40 people were killed by lightning in Bihar in two separate incidents.
  • As a whole, India sees 2,000-2,500 lightning deaths every year on average.
  • Lightning is the biggest contributor to accidental deaths due to natural causes.

What is lightning?

  • It is a very rapid and massive discharge of electricity in the atmosphere.
  • It is the process of occurrence of a natural ‘electrical discharge of very short duration and high voltage between a cloud and the ground or within a cloud’, accompanied by a bright flash and sound, and sometimes thunderstorms.
  • Inter cloud or intra cloud (IC) lightning are visible and harmless.
  • Cloud to ground (CG) lightning is harmful as the ‘high electric voltage and electric current’ leads to electrocution.

Process of Lightning creation:

  • It is a result of the difference in electrical charge between the top and bottom of a cloud.
  • The lightning-generating clouds are typically about 10-12 km in height, with their base about 1-2 km from the Earth’s surface. The temperatures at the top range from -35°C to -45°C.
  • As water vapour moves upwards in the cloud, it condenses into water due to decreasing temperatures. A huge amount of heat is generated in the process, pushing the water molecules further up.
  • As they move to temperatures below zero, droplets change into small ice crystals. As they continue upwards, they gather mass, until they become so heavy that they start descending.
  • It leads to a system where smaller ice crystals move upwards while larger ones come down. The resulting collisions trigger release of electrons, in a process very similar to the generation of electric sparks. The moving free electrons cause more collisions and more electrons leading to a chain reaction.
  • The process results in a situation in which the top layer of the cloud gets positively charged while the middle layer is negatively charged.
  • In little time, a huge current, of the order of lakhs to millions of amperes, starts to flow between the layers.
  • It produces heat, leading to the heating of the air column between the two layers of cloud.
  • The heated air column expands and produces shock waves that result in thunder sounds.

How does this current reach the Earth from the cloud?

  • The Earth is a good conductor of electricity. While electrically neutral, it is relatively positively charged compared to the middle layer of the cloud. As a result, an estimated 20-25% of the current flow is directed towards the Earth.
  • There is a greater probability of lightning striking tall objects such as trees, towers or buildings. Once it is about 80-100 m from the surface, lightning tends to change course towards these taller objects.
    • This happens because air is a poor conductor of electricity, and electrons that are travelling through air seek both a better conductor and the shortest route to the relatively positively charged Earth’s surface.

Concerns: Climate Change and Increasing Lightning.

  • An increase of one degree Celsius would increase the frequency of lightning strikes by 12%, based on a study by California University.
  • The number of lightning strikes recorded during the summer months between 2010 and 2020 shot up from around 18,000 at the start of the decade to more than 1,50,000 by 2020.
  • Even the Indian Institute of Tropical Management (IITM) concludes that the increase in lightning incidents may be directly related to the climate crisis, and the availability of more moisture over land due to global warming.
    • As many as 18.5 million lightning strikes were recorded in India between April 2020 and March 2021, according to India’s second annual report on lightning released by Lightning Resilient India Campaign (LRIC) recently.

What precautions should be taken against lightning?

  • Lightning rarely hits people directly — but such strikes are almost always fatal.
  • People are most commonly struck by what are called “ground currents”.
    • The electrical energy, after hitting a large object (such as a tree) on Earth, spreads laterally on the ground for some distance, and people in this area receive electrical shocks.
  • It becomes more dangerous if the ground is wet or if there is metal or other conducting material on it.
    • Water is a conductor, and many people are struck by lightning while standing in flooded paddy fields.
  • Predicting a thunderstorm over a pinpointed location is not possible. Nor is it possible to predict the exact time of a likely lightning strike.
  • For reasons given above, taking shelter under a tree is dangerous. Lying flat on the ground too, can increase risks. People should move indoors in a storm; however, even indoors, they should avoid touching electrical fittings, wires, metal, and water.

 

 

  1. Unified Payment Interface (UPI)

#GS3 # Indigenization of technology and developing new technology.

Context: After Singapore, Bhutan adopts India’s BHIM-UPI

Key Details:

  • The UPI services have started in Bhutan under India’s neighbourhood first policy.
  • Bhutan has become the first country to adopt India’s Unified Payment Interface (UPI) standards for its quick response (QR) code.
  • It is also the second country after Singapore to have BHIM-UPI acceptance at merchant locations.
  • Bhutan will also become the only country to both issue and accept RuPay cards as well as accept BHIM-UPI.

What is Bharat Interface for Money (BHIM)?

  • It is an initiative to enable fast, secure, reliable cashless payments through the mobile phone. BHIM is based on Unified Payment Interface (UPI) to facilitate e-payments directly through banks.
  • This is a system that powers multiple bank accounts into a single mobile application (of any participating bank), merging several banking features, seamless fund routing & merchant payments into one hood.
  • It also caters to the “Peer to Peer” collect request which can be scheduled and paid as per requirement and convenience
  • It is Developed by National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI).
  • Launched in December, 2016.

The BHIM app has three levels of authentication:

  • For one, the app binds with a device’s ID and mobile number.
  • Second, a user needs to sync whichever bank account (UPI or non-UPI enabled) in order to conduct the transaction.
  • Third, when a user sets up the app they are asked to create a pin which is needed to log into the app. The UPI pin, which a user creates with their bank account is needed to go through with the transaction.

What is UPI?

  • Unified Payments Interface (UPI) is an instant real-time payment system, allowing users to transfer money on a real-time basis, across multiple bank accounts without revealing details of one’s bank account to the other party.
  • UPI is currently the biggest among the National Payments Corporation of India(NPCI) operated systems including National Automated Clearing House (NACH), Immediate Payment Service (IMPS), Aadhaar enabled Payment System (AePS), Bharat Bill Payment System (BBPS), RuPay etc.

 

  1. High fuel prices forcing people to cut expenditure on health and utilities.

#GS3 #Inflation #Economic growth

Context: State Bank of India’s economics research team’s findings on the rising fuel prices in India.

Background:

  • SBI has released a report which tries to show the relationship between rising inflation and expenditure on non-discretionary items.
  • The retail inflation has breached the 6% threshold owing to rising fuel prices.
  • Petrol has crossed the 100 rupee mark in more than 18 states and Union territories, while Diesel is being sold at over rupees 100 in Rajasthan and Odisha.
  • Fuel costs have been raised to current levels by the combined effects of rising benchmark Brent prices and the increasing government levies on fuels.
  • Currently, central and state-level taxes contribute to about 55 percent of the retail price of petrol and 51 per cent for diesel.

Inflation concerns:

  • The higher petrol and diesel prices will lead to rising transport costs which will eventually push up inflation rates.
  • According to SBI’s calculation, with every 10% increase in petrol pump prices in Mumbai, the Consumer Price Index (CPI) could rise by 0.50%.

Household financial distress:

  • The report further notes that even though inflation has shown marginal decline, the levels are still elevated and led to a fall in financial saving, thereby adding to household challenges.
  • The higher expenditure on fuels and also the higher inflation rates have pushed the large middle-class population into financial distress.
  • There has been a significant dip in bank deposits. The decline in financial savings reflects household distress in India.
  • The household financial savings rate in the third quarter of 2020-21 has come down to 8.2% of GDP from 21% and 10.4% in the previous two quarters.
  • Household debt as a percentage of GDP had increased sharply to 37.3% or Rs. 73.6 lakh crore in 2020-21, from 32.5% of GDP or Rs. 66.1 lakh crore in 2019-20.

 

Delay in economic recovery:

  • India’s economic recovery could be delayed by rising financial stress on households.
  • The report notes that surge in prices of petrol and diesel is making spend less on other non-discretionary items like grocery, health and utilities, there crowding out their demand.
  • Also given that the share of non-discretionary spend has jumped to 75% in June, from 62% in March, this has crowded out customers’ discretionary expenses.
  • The report indicated consumers were cutting back spending on other goods to be able to accommodate higher fuel costs. This does not augur well for a predominantly domestic consumption-based economy like India.
  • The lack of demand in the economy will delay the economic recovery in the post-COVID phase.

Demand for tax rationalisation:

  • The rising impact of fuel rates has led to a demand for urgent cut in oil prices through tax rationalisation.
  • As per estimates, over Rs 40 per litre goes as taxes and excise to governments at the Centre and states.
  • If taxes are not rationalised then consumer’s nondiscretionary spends will continue to get distorted and crowd out discretionary expenses.
  • SBI’s economists have called for the fuel taxes to be cut through tax rationalization to both cool inflationary pressures and ease the burden on consumers.
  • This will also impart an upward bias on inflation.

 

  1. Tiger Corridors

#GS3 #Conservation #Environment and Ecology

Context: The Rajasthan government will develop a tiger corridor connecting the newly proposed ‘Ramgarh Tiger Reserve’, Ranthambore Tiger Reserve and Mukundra Hills Tiger Reserve.

  • Sariska Tiger Reserve is another Tiger reserve in Rajasthan.

About the Animal Corridor:

  • A wildlife corridor or green corridor is an area of habitat connecting wildlife populations separated by human activities or structures (such as roads, development, or logging).
  • This allows an exchange of individuals between populations, which may help prevent the negative effects of inbreeding and reduced genetic diversity (via genetic drift) that often occur within isolated populations.
  • Corridors may also help facilitate the re-establishment of populations that have been reduced or eliminated due to random events (such as fires or disease).

Corridors can contribute to three factors that stabilize a population:

  • Colonization—animals are able to move and occupy new areas when food sources or other natural resources are lacking in their core habitat.
  • Migration—species that relocate seasonally can do so more safely and effectively when it does not interfere with human development barriers.
  • Interbreeding—animals can find new mates in neighbouring regions so that genetic diversity can increase and thus have a positive impact on the overall population.

Tiger corridors in India:

  • In 2019, the National Tiger Conservation Authority in collaboration with the Wildlife Institute of India published a document, mapping out 32 major corridors across the country, management interventions for which are operationalised through a Tiger Conservation Plan
  • These are operationalised through a Tiger Conservation Plan, mandated under section 38V of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.

Protection Status of Tiger:

  • Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972: Schedule I
  • International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)Red List:
  • Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES): Appendix I.

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