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Current Affair – July 1, 2021

Compensation during disaster& NDMA

  • The Supreme Court pulled up the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), for failing in its duty to recommend ex gratia to the families of those who lost their loved ones due to COVID19.
  • The court gave the NDMA 6 weeks to frame guidelines for fixing the ex gratia meant for these families.
  • It left it to the “wisdom” of the NDMA to fix the amount of ex gratia to the families of those who lost their loved ones to COVID 19, while considering the recommendations in the 15th Finance Commission Report and funds required for other reliefs and priorities, including COVID19 preparedness, mitigation, prevention and recovery.

What are the provisions for compensation for death?

  • Last year, the Centre declared Covid-19 as a notified disaster under the Disaster Management Act.
  • Section 12(iii) of the Act says the National Authority shall recommend guidelines for the minimum standards of relief to be provided to persons affected by disaster, which shall include “ex gratia assistance on account of loss of life as also assistance on account of damage to houses and for restoration of means of livelihood”.
  • The Centre revises this amount from time to time. On April 8, 2015, the Disaster Management Division of the Home Ministry wrote to all state governments and attached a revised list of “norms of assistance”. Under “ex gratia payment to families of deceased persons”, it specified: “Rs 4 lakh per deceased person including those involved in relief operations or associated in preparedness activities, subject to certification regarding cause of death from appropriate authority.”

Compensation for Covid

  • On March 14, 2020, the Home Ministry wrote to state governments that the central government “has decided to treat it (Covid-19) as a notified disaster for the purpose of providing assistance under SDRF”, and attached a “partially modified list of items and norms of assistance”. It did not specify payment of ex gratia to families of deceased.
  • Some states have decided to pay, but not for all deaths.

About National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA)

  • The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), headed by the Prime Minister of India, is the apex body for Disaster Management in India.
  • Setting up of NDMA and the creation of an enabling environment for institutional mechanisms at the State and District levels is mandated by the Disaster Management Act, 2005.
  • NDMA is mandated to lay down the policies, plans and guidelines for Disaster Management.
  • India envisions the development of an ethos of Prevention, Mitigation, Preparedness and Response

Evolution of NDMA

  • The Government of India (GOI), in recognition of the importance of Disaster Management as a national priority, set up a High-Powered Committee (HPC) in August 1999 and a National Committee after the Gujarat earthquake, for making recommendations on the preparation of Disaster Management plans and suggesting effective mitigation mechanisms.
  • The Tenth Five-Year Plan document also had, for the first time, a detailed chapter on Disaster Management.

The twelfth Finance Commission was also mandated to review the financial arrangements for Disaster Management.

  • On 23 December 2005, the Government of India enacted the Disaster Management Act, which envisaged the creation of National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), headed by the Prime Minister, and State Disaster Management Authorities (SDMAs) headed by respective Chief Ministers, to spearhead and implement a holistic and integrated approach to Disaster Management in India.

Responsibilities of NDMA:-

  • Lay down policies on disaster management.
  • Approve the National Plan.
  • Approve plans prepared by the Ministries or Departments of the Government of India in accordance with the National Plan.
  • Lay down guidelines to be followed by the State Authorities in drawing up the State Plan.
  • Lay down guidelines to be followed by the different Ministries or Departments of the Government of India for the purpose of integrating the measures for prevention of disaster or the mitigation of its effects in their development plans and projects.
  • Coordinate the enforcement and implementation of the policy and plans for disaster management.
  • Recommend provision of funds for the purpose of mitigation.
  • Provide such support to other countries affected by major disasters as may be determined by the Central Government.
  • Take such other measures for the prevention of disaster, or the mitigation, or preparedness and capacity building

for dealing with threatening disaster situations or disasters as it may consider necessary.

  • Lay down broad policies and guidelines for the functioning of the National Institute of Disaster Management.
Source: Indian Express

Jacobabad ‘Wet bulb’ temperature

  • Jacobabad, located in the Sindh province of Pakistan, has always been notorious for its scorching summers. The city has officially surpassed the threshold temperature which human beings can with stand. The city has officially surpassed the threshold temperature which human beings can withstand.
  • Mercury levels in the city can soar to a life-threatening 52 degrees Celsius (126 F). The grim milestone was crossed, albeit briefly, decades ahead of predictions based on climate change models. Ras al Khaimah in the United Arab Emirates is the only other city to have crossed this deadly threshold.
  • The situation is made worse by the fact that blackouts are common and few have air conditioning to combat the blistering heat. During these months, the city also witnesses a spike in cases of heat strokes, heat-related illnesses and deaths.

How did Jacobabad cross this deadly temperature threshold?

  • Jacobabad is situated along the Tropic of Cancer, which means that the sun is nearly overhead during the summer months. The mixture of heat and humid air from the Arabian Sea has contributed to the city crossing temperatures of 52 degrees Celsius, which could potentially be fatal for human beings.
  • Based on available global weather data, the researchers found that Jacobabad and Ras al Khaimah are the only two cities in the world to have crossed this dangerous temperature threshold.
  • Temperatures are likely to rise even further in the near future as this region of Pakistan along the Indus Valley is believed to be particularly vulnerable to climate change.

Wet bulb Temperatures

  • To take both heat and humidity into account, the researchers assessed what are known as ‘wet bulb temperatures’. These are measured using a thermometer covered in a moist cloth. These

readings are generally lower than dry bulb readings, which do not take humidity into account.

  • At a wet bulb reading of 35 degrees Celsius, the body can no longer cool itself by sweating. If this temperature persists for a few hours, it could result in organ failure and even death.
Heat is more dangerous when combined with high levels of humidity.  

Is this the first time Jacobabad has crossed the 35°C wet bulb threshold?

  • No, the city first crossed the threshold in July 1987. It happened yet again in June 2005, then again in June 2010 and July 2012. Each time, the temperature hovered around the threshold for only a couple of hours. However, a three-day average maximum temperature of 34 degrees Celsius (wet bulb) was recorded in June 2010, June 2001 and July 2012. The dry bulb temperature is often over 50 degrees Celsius during the summer.

Which other countries are reporting dangerously high temperatures?

  • While only Jacobabad and Ras al Khaimah have recorded life-threatening temperatures so far, other cities around the world do not fall far behind. A study published in the Science Advances journal last year, found that parts of eastern coastal India, Pakistan and northwestern India also record temperatures over 31 degrees Celsius (wet bulb) during summer months.
  • India’s average yearly temperature in 2020 was 25.78 degrees Celsius. India Meteorological Department (IMD) data shows that temperatures are steadily increasing across seasons. In 2015, two deadly heatwaves in India and Pakistan that hit 30 degrees Celsius left more than 4,000 people dead.
  • The shores of the Red Sea, Gulf of California, and southern Gulf of Mexico are also hotspots.
Source: Indian Express

Heat wave in North America

  • Canada broke a national heat record when the temperature in a small town in British Columbia reached almost 116 degrees, breaking an 84-year-old record by nearly 3 degrees.

What is a heat wave?

  • In most parts of the country, temperatures must be above the historical average in an area for two or more days before the label “heat wave” is applied to a hot spell, according to the National Weather Service.
  • But the definition can vary by region; in the Northeast, it is defined as three straight days in the 90s or above.
  • Heat waves begin when high pressure in the atmosphere moves in and pushes warm air toward the ground. That air warms up further as it is compressed, and we begin to feel a lot hotter.
  • The high-pressure system pressing down on the ground expands vertically, forcing other weather systems to change course. It even minimizes wind and cloud cover, making the air more stifling. This is also why a heat wave parks itself over an area for several days or longer.

What is a heat dome?

  • As the ground warms, it loses moisture, which makes it easier to heat even more. And in the drought-ridden West, there is plenty of heat for the high-pressure system to trap.
  • As that trapped heat continues to warm, the system acts like a lid on a pot — earning the name “heat dome.” In the Pacific Northwest, the heat and the drought are working in concert, exacerbating the problem and causing temperature records to fall day after day.

Why is it hotter than normal in North America?

  • World has warmed by more than 1 degree Celsius (about 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) since 1900, and the pace of warming has accelerated in recent decades.
  • The warmer baseline contributes to extreme-weather events and helps make periods of extreme heat more frequent, longer and more intense.
Source: Indian Express

Haryana Initiative to digitise revenue records

  • Haryana government has initiated a process to scan 16.65 crore revenue documents as part of its initiative to digitise age-old records. Currently, the state revenue department is piled up with lakhs of files — some even belonging to the period before 1870 — which are being maintained manually.

About the initiative?

  • It is an ambitious project of Rs 77 crore to digitise the record rooms of revenue offices across the state approvals, by the CM of Haryana. From this sanctioned amount, Rs 44 crore will be spent to set up modern revenue record rooms at the district level.
  • Important records and documents are being scanned, catalogued and kept in digital boxes in modern record rooms.

How will the process help the landowners?

  • Currently, the landowners have to run behind the officials to get a copy of a particular land record in case of any requirement of old records including in cases of land disputes. In turn, it is difficult for the officials too to dig out old records.
  • The situation is not only time consuming but also encourages corruption. Once the digitisation process is completed, these records will be easily available at the click of the mouse”.

What does the government hope for from this project?

  • Easier access to revenue records and documents will save time and money of the revenue department and general public. The digitisation of records will reduce the workload of revenue department employees too.
  • Ensure speedy disposal of related court cases too following easier availability of revenue records.
  • Entire revenue record may be made available online after completion of the digitisation process so that the general public can access these records while sitting at their homes.
Source: Indian Express

J&K Delimitation

  • The Delimitation Commission chaired by Justice Ranjana Prakash Desai (retd) will visit Jammu and Kashmir from July 6 to 9 “to gather first hand information and input concerning the ongoing process of delimitation” of Assembly seats.
  • The Commission includes Chief Election Commissioner Sushil Chandra and J&K Election Commissioner K.K. Sharma.

What is delimitation and why is it needed?

  • Delimitation is the act of redrawing boundaries of an Assembly or Lok Sabha seat to represent changes in population over time.
  • This exercise is carried out by a Delimitation Commission, whose orders have the force of law and cannot be questioned before any court.
  • The objective is to redraw boundaries (based on the data of the last Census) in a way so that the population of all seats, as far as practicable, be the same throughout the State.
  • Aside from changing the limits of a constituency, the process may result in change in the number of seats in a state.

How often has delimitation been carried out in J&K?

  • Delimitation exercises in J&K in the past have been slightly different from those in the rest of the country because of the region’s special status — which was scrapped by the Centre in August 2019. Until then, delimitation of Lok Sabha seats in J&K was governed by the Constitution of India, but the delimitation of the state’s Assembly seats was governed by the Jammu and Kashmir Constitution and Jammu and Kashmir Representation of the People Act, 1957.
  • Assembly seats in J&K were delimited in 1963, 1973 and 1995. The last exercise was conducted by the Justice (retired) K K Gupta Commission when the state was under President’s Rule and was based on the 1981 census, which formed the basis of the state elections in 1996.
  • There was no census in the state in 1991 and no Delimitation Commission was set up by the state government after the 2001 census as the J&K Assembly passed a law putting a freeze on the fresh delimitation of seats until 2026. This freeze was upheld by the Supreme Court. The J&K Assembly, at that time, had 87 seats — 46 in Kashmir, 37 in Jammu and 4 in Ladakh. 24r more seats are reserved for Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. The freeze, some political parties argue, has created inequity for Jammu region.

Why is it in the news again?

  • After the abrogation of J&K’s special status in 2019, delimitation of Lok Sabha and Assembly seats in the newly-created Union Territory would be as per the provisions of the Indian Constitution.
  • On March 6, 2020, the government set up the Delimitation Commission, headed by retired Supreme Court judge Ranjana Prakash Desai, which was tasked with winding up delimitation in J&K in a year. As per the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Bill, the number of Assembly seats in J&K would increase from 107 to 114, which is expected to benefit the Jammu region.
  • Apart from Desai, Election Commissioner Sushil Chandra and J&K State Election Commissioner K K Sharma are the ex-officio members of the delimitation panel. That apart, the panel has five associate members — National Conference MPs Farooq Abdullah, Mohammad Akbar Lone and Hasnain Masoodi, Union Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office Dr Jitendra Singh, and Jugal Kishore Sharma of the BJP.
Source: Indian Express