Daily Current Affairs 11.04.2023 ( Efforts on to open Zojila Tunnel ahead of deadline: Gadkari , Centre told to frame policy for menstrual hygiene in schools, China military ‘ready to fight’ after exercises near Taiwan, States’ subsidy accounting must be transparent: CAG , India must balance conservation efforts with the rights of forest dwellers , Wider, transparent consultations are needed in shaping the curriculum )

Daily Current Affairs 11.04.2023 ( Efforts on to open Zojila Tunnel ahead of deadline: Gadkari , Centre told to frame policy for menstrual hygiene in schools, China military ‘ready to fight’ after exercises near Taiwan, States’ subsidy accounting must be transparent: CAG , India must balance conservation efforts with the rights of forest dwellers , Wider, transparent consultations are needed in shaping the curriculum )


1. Efforts on to open Zojila Tunnel ahead of deadline: Gadkari

All-weather link: Union Minister Nitin Gadkari, along with J&K Lt. Governor Manoj Sinha, inspecting the tunnel work in Ganderbal. 

Union Minister for Transport and Roadways Minister Nitin Gadkari, who inspected the strategically important Zojila Tunnel that connects the Kashmir Valley with the Union Territory of Ladakh on Monday, said it will realise the dream to have an all-weather road from Kashmir to Kanyakumari.

Mr. Gadkari said efforts are being made to open the tunnel for traffic ahead of its deadline set for 2026. “We are planning to open part of the project earlier than 2026,” he said.

He said the importance of connecting Kashmir and Ladakh was strongly felt by former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee during the Kargil war between India and Pakistan.

The decision to speed up work comes at a time when troops of India and China are eyeball to eyeball in parts of Ladakh since the Galwan incident in 2020.

India has matched its build-up to the Chinese along the Line of Actual Control in Ladakh.

Sonamarg is a key route for troops to reach Ladakh. However, the Zojila Pass becomes inaccessible for more than three months in winter and is prone to accidents due to shooting stones and landslides.

The 13.14-km tunnel will facilitate round-the-year transportation of goods to Ladakh and better movement of the armed forces in case of emergency.

2. Centre told to frame policy for menstrual hygiene in schools

The Supreme Court on Monday said a “uniform national policy” may be framed by the Centre in consultation with the States and Union Territories to ensure menstrual hygiene by providing sanitary pads, vending and disposal mechanisms and exclusive washrooms for girls in schools.

“It is appropriate if the Union of India deals with the States and Union Territories to form a uniform national policy with sufficient leeway for States and Union Territories based on prevailing conditions,” a Bench led by Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud said.

The court said the issue was in public interest and highlighted the need for sanitation and menstrual hygiene for girl children in government-aided and residential schools.

The court was hearing a petition to direct the government to ensure provision of sanitary pads to girl students in Classes 6 to 12 and separate toilets.

The Centre, represented by Additional Solicitor-General Aishwarya Bhati, indicated that the Health, Education and Jal Shakti Ministries were the nodal Ministries. Ms. Bhati said the States also had a vital role to play as education and health came within their jurisdiction.

The court gave the States and Union Territories four weeks to submit to the Union Health Secretary their menstrual hygiene plans. The court asked them to provide the ratio of girls’ toilets in schools and the amount spent on low cost sanitary pads, and vending and disposal mechanisms in schools.

The court listed the case after three months by the end of July.

3. China military ‘ready to fight’ after exercises near Taiwan

Military might: A PLA Navy landing ship sails towards China’s closest point to Taiwan in Fujian province on Monday.

The theatre’s troops are ready to fight at all times and can fight at any time to resolutely smash any form of Taiwan independence and foreign interference attempts, says Beijing after the drills



China’s military declared on Monday it is “ready to fight” after completing three days of large-scale combat exercises around Taiwan that simulated sealing off the island in response to the Taiwanese President’s trip to the U.S. last week.

The “combat readiness patrols” named Joint Sword were meant as a warning to self-governing Taiwan, which China claims as its own, China’s military said earlier.

“The theatre’s troops are ready to fight at all times and can fight at any time to resolutely smash any form of ‘Taiwan independence’ and foreign interference attempts,” it said on Monday.

The exercises were similar to the ones conducted by China in last August, when it launched missile strikes on targets in the seas around Taiwan in retaliation for then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, but have been smaller and less disruptive.

Military experts say the exercises serve both as intimidation and as an opportunity for Chinese troops to practice sealing off Taiwan by blocking sea and air traffic, an important strategic option the Chinese military might pursue in the event it uses military force to take Taiwan.

U.S. ship’s trespassing

The exercises this time have focused more on air strength, with Taiwan reporting 200 flights by Chinese warplanes in the past three days.

Meanwhile, to the south in the South China Sea, the U.S. 7th Fleet said its missile destroyer USS Milius sailed by China’s Mischief Reef in a freedom of navigation operation.

China said the U.S. “illegally trespassed” into waters near the reef without its permission.

4. States’ subsidy accounting must be transparent: CAG

‘We wish to distinguish justifiable subsidies from freebies, which are not fiscally responsible; States must earn adequate returns on investments, recover the cost of borrowing sans implicit subsidies’

The Comptroller & Auditor General (CAG) of India, G.C. Murmu, on Monday said States must take measures to maintain proper accounting of subsidies, reduce fiscal deficits, remove revenue deficits and keep outstanding debts at an acceptable level.

At the Annual Accountant General’s Conclave, Mr. Murmu said States should meet their capital expenditure, including loans and advances, from their own sources of revenue, or at least confine net debt to capital expenditure. “While we understand the importance of subsidies to help the underprivileged, it is essential to transparently account for such subsidies… we require to distinguish between justifiable subsidies from freebies, which are not fiscally responsible,” he said. States must earn returns on their investments and “recover their cost of borrowed funds without resorting to implicit subsidies.”

“We… continue to notice fiscal sustainability risks and financial indiscipline in many States due to off-budget borrowings, misclassification of revenue expenditure as capital expenditure and because State guarantees are not… captured in finance accounting,” he said.

5. EDITORIAL-01: Burning bright

India must balance conservation efforts with the rights of forest dwellers

India’s tiger population in 2022 was at least 3,167 cats, according to the results of the quadrennial census of the tiger population. The previous such exercise, in 2018, estimated the number to be 2,967. There is a fair chance that the 2022 numbers may be revised upwards as a full analysis of the census numbers remains to be done. Being the 50th year of Project Tiger, it is notable that governments, since 1973, have consistently devoted attention to ensuring that tigers — generally vulnerable to environmental degradation and extinct in several countries — continue to populate India’s forests. Being able to ensure an increase in tiger numbers without relying on fenced reserves and by engaging the participation of forest-dwelling communities in conservation are distinct traits of India’s big cat conservation approach. However, this does not mean that tiger numbers are ordained to grow in perpetuity. The ‘Status of Tiger’ report warns that all of India’s five main tiger zones, while largely stable, face challenges of deforestation and loss of tiger habitat. The Western Ghats, while one of the most biodiverse spots globally, also hosts some of India’s most populous tiger reserves. In 2018, 871 unique tigers were photographed, but this time, only 824 were captured. Over the years, there is an increasing presence of tigers outside protected reserves. In the case of the Western Ghats, however, these numbers are on the decline, with only populations within protected forests stable, the report says.

From nine tiger reserves in 1973 to 53 today, the increase in numbers has not translated to all of these reserves becoming suitable habitats for tigers. Serious conservation efforts are needed to help, for instance, tiger population recovery in Jharkhand, Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Telangana, and Andhra Pradesh. Wildlife habitats here face various threats that include habitat encroachment, hunting, conflicts with humans, unregulated cattle grazing, excessive harvesting of non-timber forest products, fires, mining, and expanding infrastructure. Experts have said India’s reserves, in their present state, ought to be able to sustain populations of up to 4,000, and with expanded efforts at improving fledgling reserves, these numbers can increase. But, care has to be taken to maintain the delicate balance between making the ground fertile for conservation and keeping the rights of forest-dwelling communities intact. Showcasing conservation efforts ought not to come at the expense of ensuring the right to livelihood and dignified living of communities, who often live the closest to these majestic wild creatures. The cheetah, the leopard, the lion and the tiger can co-exist in India only with the right incentives in place for all stakeholders.

6. EDITORIAL-02: Right lessons

Wider, transparent consultations are needed in shaping the curriculum

The arbitrary and surreptitious deletion of several portions from various textbooks by the NCERT betrays bad faith and lack of professionalism but, in the prevailing political climate, it is not entirely surprising. The ruling BJP has made the creation of a new knowledge ecosystem across all fields central to its politics. Among the key deletions, which the NCERT describes as rationalisation of syllabus, are references to the dislike of Hindutva extremists for Gandhi, a ban on the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh after his assassination, entire chapters on the history of the Mughals, references to the 2002 communal riots in Gujarat, the Naxalite movement, the Emergency and discussions on social movements. History texts have been targeted in particular, and 250 historians from leading Indian and foreign universities have pointed out that those who prepared them through a process of consultation and wide-ranging discussions were all kept in the dark. These changes are not limited to school textbooks. The UGC draft syllabus for bachelor-level history has also been altered, “leading to a plainly prejudiced and irrational perception of our past”, according to the Indian History Congress. The NCERT has sought to characterise its failure to be transparent as an “oversight”, but remains firm on the revision.

Knowledge expands continuously, and syllabus revision is essential for a robust education system. What is taught to the younger generation is a collective decision of a society in which formal education is a critical part. The values and ethics of the collective are reflected in education, which evolve over time. In India, education has evolved with an aim to promote national integration, critical thinking, and scientific temper. As any society matures, it might be able to process darker episodes of the past with more equanimity. There is also the question of deciding the appropriate levels at which learners are introduced to various levels of knowledge. For all these reasons, textbooks and pedagogy need to be revised periodically. The trouble is when this exercise is carried out in a politically partisan manner, and in disregard of expertise. It turns out to be toxic when strife, not harmony, is promoted through formal education. India’s growth and development depends almost entirely on educating its bursting young population with vocational and social skills and shaping youngsters into caring citizens of a pluralistic nation. They should learn history with the aim of not repeating its tragedies in order to build a harmonious future. There should be wider, more transparent consultations in shaping the curriculum at all levels.

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