Monday, 20 April 2015

Daily News Mail - News of 20/04/2015

600 kg of sea cucumbers seized

  • In the second seizure of sea cucumbers this month, the Coastal Security Group (CSG) of State Police confiscated around 600 kg of the endangered marine species, which was stocked illegally in a godown at Keechankuppam near Nagapattinam, Tamil Nadu.
  • The  CSG personnel seized the processed sea cucumbers, which were kept in 17 plastic crates.
  • The godown owner T. Kandan (42) and the seized consignment were later handed over to the Forest Department for the registration of a case under the Wildlife Protection Act, CSG sources said.
  • The value of the seized consignment in the international market was put at Rs. 60 lakh. A person called Kandan was remanded.
  • A few days ago, the CSG personnel seized five tonnes of sea cucumbers stocked in a godown at Akkaraipettai in the district.
  • The seizure was by far the biggest by CSG personnel, who raided the godown based on a tip-off, and arrested M. Kubendran (40), the land owner, and his associate, T. Senthil (39).
  • Catching and trading of sea cucumbers were prohibited under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.
Sea cucumber
Sea cucumbers are echinoderms from the class Holothuroidea. They are marine animals with a leathery skin and an elongated body containing a single, branched gonad. Sea cucumbers are found on the sea floor worldwide. The number of holothurian species worldwide is about 1,717 with the greatest number being in the Asia Pacific region. Many of these are gathered for human consumption and some species are cultivated in aquaculture systems. Sea cucumbers serve a useful role in the marine ecosystem as they help recycle nutrients, breaking down detritus and other organic matter after which bacteria can continue the degradation process.
Sea Cucumber

Uttarakhand gets new tiger reserve
  • Uttarakhand, the State with the second highest tiger population after Karnataka, now has a second tiger reserve, besides the Corbett Tiger Reserve.
  • The Rajaji National Park has now been notified as the Rajaji Tiger Reserve by the Centre.
  • The tiger reserve (1075.17 sq-km) includes the 255.63 sq-km area of Rajaji National Park’s buffer zone.
  • The new tiger reserve is expected to bring in more tourists and boost the economy of the State.
India fifth biggest generator of e-waste in 2014: U.N. report
  • India is the fifth biggest producer of e-waste in the world, discarding 1.7 million tonnes (Mt) of electronic and electrical equipment in 2014, a UN report has warned that the volume of global e-waste is likely to rise by 21 per cent in next three years.
  • The ‘Global E-Waste Monitor 2014’, compiled by U.N.’s think tank United Nations University (UNU), said at 32 per cent, the U.S. and China produced the most e-waste overall in 2014.
  • India is behind the U.S., China, Japan and Germany.
  • Most e-waste in the world in 2014 was generated in Asia at 16 Mt or 3.7 kg per inhabitant. The top three Asian nations with the highest e-waste generation in absolute quantities are China (6.0 Mt), Japan (2.2 Mt) and India (1.7 Mt).
  • The top per capita producers by far are the wealthy nations of northern and western Europe, the top five being Norway, Switzerland, Iceland, Denmark, and the U.K.
  • The lowest amount of e-waste per inhabitant was generated in Africa (1.7 kg/inhabitant). The continent generated 1.9 Mt of e-waste in total.
  • In 2014, people worldwide discarded all but a small fraction of an estimated 41.8 Mt of electrical and electronic equipment — mostly end-of-life kitchen, laundry and bathroom equipment like microwave ovens, washing machines and dishwashers.
  • While only 7 per cent of e-waste last year was made up of mobile phones, calculators, personal computers, printers, and small information technology equipment, almost 60 per cent was a mix of large and small equipment used in homes and businesses, such as vacuum cleaners, toasters, electric shavers, video cameras, washing machines, electric stoves, mobile phones, calculators, personal computers, and lamps.
The secrecy regime
  • A committee set up by the Union government to look into the provisions of the Official Secrets Act, 1923 (OSA) in light of the Right to Information Act, 2005, had its first meeting recently. This marks a step in making a transition from a secrecy regime towards open and transparent governance. 
  • Although the move is currently entangled in specific controversies over declassifying(declassify - officially declare (information or documents) to be no longer secret) files relating to Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, its broader and long-term implications are of enormous significance. The legal position is clear. Whenever there is a conflict between the two laws, the provisions of the RTI Act override those of the OSA. Section 22 of the RTI Act states that its provisions will have effect notwithstanding anything that is inconsistent with them in the OSA. 
  • Similarly, under Section 8(2) of the RTI Act a public authority may allow access to information covered under the OSA, “if the public interest in disclosure outweighs the harm to the protected interests”. It is the interpretation of ‘public interest’ that is the challenge. National security laws should balance the need to ensure state sovereignty with principles of transparency and accountability.
  • The draconian OSA was enacted in 1923 by the British rulers under very different political circumstances, and it was amended post-Independence, perpetuating the insulation of the government from public scrutiny. The statute has provisions that are too broad and vague, often leaving room for arbitrariness. 
  • For instance, under Section 2(8)(d) of the Act defining a “prohibited place”, “any railway, road, way or channel or other means of communication by land or water…” can be notified by the Central government as a ‘prohibited place’. Section 3 provides for penalty for spying to be imposed on anyone who is even found in the ‘vicinity’ of a prohibited place. Unsurprisingly, the law has been misused time and again. 
  • V.K. Singh, who wrote a book detailing instances of corruption, nepotism and negligence within the Research and Analysis Wing, was charged with an offence under the OSA. The court had to intervene, granting the retired General anticipatory bail based on the finding that nothing in the book put any national secret in jeopardy. 
  • Dr. B.K. Subbarao, a former Navy Captain, was put in the lock-up for months on charges of violating the OSA. The Bombay High Court found his prosecution to be fraudulent. Secrecy in government operations is necessary, but it has to be limited by absolute necessity, keeping the confidentiality strictly time-bound. As part of the review, the Home Secretary will take inputs from security agencies; to make the process more representative, civil society should also be included in the dialogue.

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