Current Affair – May 17, 2021

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CURRENT AFFAIRS

Asian gracile skink

  • In September 2019, a group of herpetologists gathered at Anaikatti hills in Coimbatore for the South Asian Reptile Red List Assessment organ­ised by the International Un­ion for Conservation of Na­ture (IUCN).
  • Herpetologists have discovered new species: an Asian gracile skink. 
  • This spe­cies is only the third skink species discovered from mainland India in the last millennium.
  •  The new species was found in a dry deciduous area, showing that even the dry zones of our country are home to unrealised skink di­versity.

About skinks

  • Skinks are non­veno­mous.
  • They resemble snakes because of the often­ incon­spicuous limbs and the way they move on land. Such re­semblance has led to confu­sion often resulting in hu­mans killing this harmless creature.
  • Other skinks are known to feed on insects such as termites, crickets and small spiders.

Significance of the new finding

  • Highlights the need to change the notion that high biodiversity can be found only in the wet and evergreen forests.
  • Highlights the need to study the little-known animal groups inside our forests.
  •  They are fundamental components of our biodiversity.

Source: The Hindu

Hard to stay fat for Female Elephant seal

  • Elephant seals are one of the most distinctive of the 33 species that comprise the world’s seal family .
  • Scientists have conduct­ed the most thorough study to date of the unique feed­ing behaviour of northern elephant seals.
  • The study focused on the females of the species during arduous two-month post-breeding migrations in the northeastern Pacific Ocean.

Methodology

  • The researchers tracked 48 female elephant seals from Año Nuevo State Park in California, site of an im­portant breeding colony. .
  • They based their findings on data obtained from 2011 and 2018 using three small removable devices: one at­tached under the jaw that counted the number of times they fed and mea­sured their depth; a satellite tracker attached atop the head that provided location information; and a “smart” video camera with an infra­ red LED light flash, motion tracker and another depth sensor, also atop the head.

Findings

  • The seals were found to spend upwards of 20 hours every day – and sometimes a full 24 hours – in continuous deep-diving to feed on mul­titudes of small fish, rather than the larger prey fa­voured by other deep-diving marine mammals, to gain the body fat essential for successful reproduction and insulation in the frigid depths.
  • They fed 1,000 to 2,000 times daily.
  • Male northern elephant seals may reach 4 metres length and weigh up to 2,000 kg. Females are sub­stantially smaller, getting up to about 3 metres in length and 590 kg.
  • The males feed only in coastal waters.

How do female elephant seal feed?

  • The sleep­ing hours in at sea animals is not fully understood.   The female elephant seals are also large but not on the scale of a sperm whale.
  • They eat huge amounts of small fish. But it is laborious to catch enough small fish to meet the energy needs of such a large animal.
  • They continuously dive, for long periods of time – 20 minutes on average and deep, 500 metres on average – with only a few mi­nutes breathing at the sur­face.
  • During the two-month migration, they never come back to the land.
The sleep­ing hours in at sea animals is not fully understood.
Source: The Hindu

Hamas in the Gaza Strip

  • India condemned the indiscriminate rock­et firings from Gaza targeting the civilian population in Is­rael and said this alongwith retaliatory strikes in­to Gaza, have caused im­mense suffering and resulted in deaths.
  • All efforts should be made to create conducive conditions for resumption of talks bet­ ween Israel and Palestine

Rootsof Hamas

  • Palestine Libera­tion Organisation (PLO) was founded in 1964. The roots of Hamas go back to the Muslim Brotherhood. The Brotherhood, was established by Egyptian Islamist Hasan al­Banna in 1928.
  • It made a presence in the Brit­ish­-ruled Palestine in the 1930s.
  • Its focus had been on reorienting Muslim society, while the Palestine Libera­tion Organisation (PLO) has cham­pioned the Palestinian na­tionalist sentiments.
Palestine Libera­tion Organisation (PLO) was founded in 1964.

1967 war

  • After Israel captured the West Bank and East Jerusalem from Jor­dan, and Gaza Strip from Egypt in 1967, the PLO, vow­ing to liberate the whole of Palestine, would start a gue­rilla war against Israel. The Muslim Brotherhood would still stay away from politics, but their leadership was in­creasingly critical of the PLO’s secular nationalism.
  • The Brotherhood’s ap­proach was that time for “ji­had” had not come yet and they should first rebuild a stronger, pious Islamic socie­ty — they called it “the up­ bringing of an Islamic gener­ation”.
  • During this time, Israel established contacts with the Brotherhood leader­ship in the occupied territo­ries. Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, half­-blind cleric of the Broth­erhood, established The Islamic Centre in 1973.
  • Unlike the PLO, which was modelled around the leftist guerilla national movements in the third world, Hamas had a completely different vi­ sion. The charter it issued on August 19, 1988 was studded with anti­Semitic remarks. According to the charter, Palestine is “an Islamic Waqf land consecrated for Moslem generations until Judgement Day”; “there is no solution to the Palestine problem except jihad” and all peace initia­tives are a “waste of time and acts of absurdity”.   Israel recog­nised the Centre first as a charity and then as an association. This allowed Yassin to raise funds, build mos­ques and set up educational institutions.

The rise 

  • Hamas was established after the first intifada broke out in 1987. In 1989, Hamas launched its first attack, ab­ducting and killing two Israe­li soldiers. Israel cracked down on the group, arresting Yassin and jailing him for life.
  • It op­posed the Oslo agreement, which allowed the formation of the Palestinian Authority with limited powers within the occupied territories. When the PLO recognised Is­rael, Hamas rejected the two­ state solution and vowed to liberate the whole of Pales­ tine “from the ( Jordan) River to the (Mediterranean) Sea”.
Unlike the PLO, which was modelled around the leftist guerilla national movements in the third world, Hamas had a completely different vi­ sion. The charter it issued on August 19, 1988 was studded with anti­Semitic remarks. According to the charter, Palestine is “an Islamic Waqf land consecrated for Moslem generations until Judgement Day”; “there is no solution to the Palestine problem except jihad” and all peace initia­tives are a “waste of time and acts of absurdity”.

Evolution

  • In the 1990s and early 2000s, Hamas conducted several suicide attacks, tar­geting Israelis. In 2000, when the second intifada broke out, Hamas was in the driving seat.
  • In 2005, faced with Hamas’s violent resistance, Israel unilaterally decided to pull out of Gaza.

Hamas and Farah

  • Like Israel, the U.S. and several European countries have designated Hamas as a terrorist organisation. In the 2006 legislative elec­tions in the Palestinian terri­tory, Hamas won74 out of the 132 seats, while the Fatah party, the PLO’s backbone, got only 45 seats. Hamas formed the government, but faced opposition from Israel and most international powers.
  • In 2017, it adopted a new charter from which the anti­Semitic re­ marks of the original charter were expunged. The new document stated Hamas is not seeking war with the Jew­ish people — only with Zion­ ism that drives the occupa­tion of Palestine. “Hamas advocates the liberation of all of Palestine but is ready to support the state on 1967 borders without recognising Israel or ceding any rights,” it said back then.   As tensions rose between Fatah and Hamas in the West Bank, Palestinian President dissolved the Hamas government and de­clared a state of emergency. This led to violent clashes between Fatah and Hamas.
  • Fatah ousted Hamas from the West Bank and Hamas ousted the former from Gaza in 2007. Since then, Hamas is the government in Gaza. Fol­lowing Hamas’s capture of Gaza, Israel has imposed a blockade on the strip, which practically turned the terri­tory of 2 million people into an open prison.
  • The organisation’s out­look has evolved over the years, like the PLO’s did in the pre­Oslo years. It still re­fuses to recognise Israel but has offeredhudna (a lasting ceasefire) if Israel returned to the 1967 border.
  • But Israel continues to maintain the position that it won’t hold talks with a “terrorist entity” that doesn’t recog­nise it. It’s a stalemate.
Like Israel, the U.S. and several European countries have designated Hamas as a terrorist organisation.
In 2017, it adopted a new charter from which the anti­Semitic re­ marks of the original charter were expunged. The new document stated Hamas is not seeking war with the Jew­ish people — only with Zion­ ism that drives the occupa­tion of Palestine. “Hamas advocates the liberation of all of Palestine but is ready to support the state on 1967 borders without recognising Israel or ceding any rights,” it said back then.
Source: The Hindu

23rd district of Punjab

  • Malerkotla has been declared as the 23rd district of the state on the occasion of Eid-ul-Fitr.
  • It was a long pending demand of the Muslim community and the residents of the town. The town has a predominant Muslim population.
  • State Government states that the step would ease the hardships of such people and enable them to resolve their administrative problems more seamlessly.

History

  • It was established in 1454 by Sheikh Sadruddin-i-Jahan from Afghanistan, and subsequently the state of Malerkotla was established in 1657 by Bayazid Khan.
  • Malerkotla was later merged with other nearby princely states to create the Patiala and East Punjab States Union (PEPSU).
  • During the reorganisation of states in 1956, the territory of the erstwhile state of Malerkotla became part of the state of Punjab.
  • Sher Mohammed Khan, former Nawab of Malerkotla, who raised his voice of protest against the inhuman act of torture and bricking alive of the younger Sahibzadas Baba Zorawar Singh Ji (9 years) and Baba Fateh Singh Ji (7 years) by the Governor of Sirhind Wazir Khan.
  • Guru Gobind Singh had blessed Nawab Sher Mohammed Khan and people of Malerkotla. The city is also blessed by the Sufi saint Baba Haider Sheikh, whose dargah also exists here.
  • Mubarak Manzil Palace, occupied by Begum Sahiba Munawwarul Nisa, the wife of Nawab Iftikhar Ali Khan, the last ruler of Malerkotla, is in Malerkotla.
Source: Indian Express

COVID among PVTGs

  • 23 persons belonging to the Dongria Kondh community, a PVTG in the Niyamgiri Hill range of Rayagada district in Odisha, have tested positive for COVID­19.
  • In Malkangiri district, Bonda Hill, home to the Bonda community, another PVTG, has been declared a containment zone.
  • Difficulties in convincing members of the Dongria Kondh community to come for tests.

Steps taken

  • To keep tribal communi­ties safer during the pan­demic, the State government had earlier stopped weekly markets where tribals come in contact with outside world.
  • Help of community leaders to convey messages on CO­ VID­19 appropriate beha­viour in their own dialects.
  • Rapid response teams, community elders and social activists would be roped in to convince the members to come to camps for testing.

About PVTGs

  • PVTGs are more vulnerable among the tribal groups.
  • They have declining or stagnant population, low level of literacy, pre-agricultural level of technology and are economically backward.

Identification:

  • In 1973, the Dhebar Commission created Primitive Tribal Groups (PTGs) as a separate category, who are less developed among the tribal groups.
  • In 1975, the Government of India initiated to identify the most vulnerable tribal groups as a separate category called PVTGs and declared 52 such groups, 23 groups were added in 1993.
  • The total of 75 PVTGs are spread over 18 states and one Union Territory (A&N Islands) in the country (2011 census).
  • Odisha (13) has the highest numbers of PVTGs,  followed by Andhra Pradesh (12).
  • In 2006, the PTGs were renamed as PVTGs.
Source: The Hindu

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