President Tayyip Erdogan declared Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia open to Muslim prayer as a mosque after a top court ruled that the building’s conversion to a museum by modern Turkey’s founding statesman was illegal. Mr. Erdogan made his announcement just an hour after the court ruling was revealed, brushing aside international warnings not to change the status of the nearly 1,500-year-old monument that is revered by Christians and Muslims alike.
What did the court say?
The Council of State, Turkey’s top administrative court, said in its ruling: “It was concluded that the settlement deed allocated it as a mosque and its use outside this character is not possible legally. The Cabinet decision in 1934 that ended its use as a mosque and defined it as a museum did not comply with laws,” it said, referring to an edict signed by Ataturk.
- President Erdogan has sought to shift Islam into the mainstream of Turkish politics in his 17 years at the helm. He has long proposed restoring the mosque status of the huge sixth-century building, which was converted into a museum in the early days of the modern secular Turkish state under Mustafa Kemah Ataturk.
- The association which brought the case, the latest in a 16-year legal battle, said Hagia Sophia was the property of the Ottoman leader who captured the city in 1453 and turned the 900 year-old Greek Orthodox cathedral into a mosque.
- The Ottomans built minarets alongside the vast domed structure, while inside they added huge calligraphic panels bearing the Arabic names of the early Muslim caliphs alongside the monument’s ancient Christian iconography.
About Hagia Sophia –
- Built in AD 537 (Byzantine architecture), during the reign of Justinian 1, the Eastern Roman emperor, it is famous for its large dome. It was a Greek Orthodox Christian patriarchal cathedral.
- It was converted into a mosque after the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople in 1453.
- It is a historic house of worship located in Istanbul.
- It is revered by Christians and Muslims alike.
- In 1935, in the early days of the modern secular Turkish state under Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, it became a museum.
- It is a UNESO world heritage site.
China’s 19th launch of 2020, the Kuaizhou-11 rocket, failed in its mission recently. Both the satellites it was carrying were lost. The rocket was launched from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China, but failed due to malfunction during the flight — the cause of which is under investigation.
About Kuaizhou-11 –
- Kuaizhou, meaning “fast ship” in Chinese, was operated by the commercial launch firm Expace, and was originally scheduled for 2018 after being developed three years earlier.
- Also known as KZ-11, it had a lift-off mass of 70.8 tonnes, and was designed to launch low-Earth and Sun-synchronous orbit satellites.
- It was carrying two satellites — the first being a remote sensing satellite that would provide data to clients on a commercial basis for forecasting and managing geological disasters. It would also provide information required for natural resource exploration. The second was part of a series of satellites for low-Earth orbit navigation.
- Commercial launches are an emerging industry in China. Companies such as Expace, iSpace, and Landspace, created after the Chinese government opened its space sector to private investment in 2014, have cut down traditional launch operations and are developing rapid response capabilities. This has provided greater advantages for both government and commercial customers.
- Since the start of 2020, there have been 19 launches from China, three of which have failed (including Kuaizhou-11).
In July 1995, approximately 8,000 Muslims, mostly men and boys were killed in Srebrenica, a town in Bosnia and Herzegovina in southeastern Europe, by Bosnian Serb forces led by Commander Ratko Mladić. These killings were later classified as genocide by international tribunals investigating the massacre.
- The disintegration of Yugoslavia in 1991 threw the southeastern and central Europe in chaos and led to violent inter-ethinic wars in the region over the next few years.
- In many ways, the violence perpetrated against Bosniaks or Bosnian Muslims during the Srebrenica massacre was a result of this regional conflict. According to some researchers, this massacre was the worst atrocity against civilians in Europe since the Holocaust.
- The Bosnian War that occurred between 1992-1995, witnessed a period of displacement and ethnic cleansing of Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Croats by the Bosnian Serb army and paramilitary forces. During the war, the Srebrenica massacre started on July 11, 1995 when Commander Ratko Mladić occupied the town of Srebrenica.
The Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI), has cleared Itolizumab, a drug used to treat severe chronic plaque psoriasis, for restricted emergency use in COVID-19 care.
The DGCI’s approval for Itolizumab is for emergency use only in the treatment of cytokine release syndrome (CRS) in moderate to severe ARDS (acute respiratory distress syndrome) patients due to COVID-19.
Itolizumab is the first novel biologic therapy to be approved anywhere in the world for treating patients with moderate to severe COVID-19 complications.
About Psoriasis –
- It is a chronic skin condition caused by an overactive immune system, in which the affected skin cells, multiplies 10 times faster than the normal. This chronic skin condition is caused by an overactive immune system.
- The cause of psoriasis is not fully understood, but it is related to an immune system problem with T cells and other white blood cells, called neutrophils, in the body.
- Other factors that trigger psoriasis include Infections, Stress, Smoking, alcohol consumption, Vitamin D deficiency.
The Assam keelback snake has been sighted by a team from the Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun, for the first time since 1869.
About Assam Keelback –
The Assam keelback is so far known only to inhabit Sivasagar in Upper Assam and Poba in Assam-Arunachal border. So, as far as present knowledge goes, it is an endemic snake of Upper Assam. A molecular study has shown that this snake belongs to the genus Herpetoreas, which has only three other known members, and not Hebius.
About Wildlife Institute of India –
- Wildlife Institute of India (WII) is an internationally acclaimed Institution, which offers training program, academic courses and advisory in wildlife research and management.
- WII carries out wildlife research in areas of study like Biodiversity, Endangered Species, Wildlife Policy, Wildlife Management, Wildlife Forensics, Spatial Modeling, Eco development, Habitat Ecology and Climate Change.
- It was established in 1982.
- It is an autonomous institution under the Ministry of Environment Forest and Climate change, Government of India.
- The institute is based in Dehradun.
Kuwait’s Draft Expat Bill
The Kuwait National Assembly (NA) is discussing several proposals to reduce the share of foreigners in the country’s population, which is now pegged at 70%. There are many proposals under consideration, and one is to put country caps on the number of emigrants in the country. In this, the plan is that Indians should not exceed 15% of Kuwaiti citizens, while Egyptians, Bangladeshis and Filipinos among others must not each exceed 10% of Kuwaitis.
Kuwait’s Prime Minister Sheikh Sabah Al-Khaled Al Hamad Al-Sabah had said, “the ideal population structure is to have 70 per cent Kuwaitis and 30 per cent non-Kuwaitis”.
What is the issue?
Kuwaitis are a minority in Kuwait. Of the total population of 4.3 million, Kuwaitis are 1.3 million, which is less than one third. There are more Indians than Kuwaitis in Kuwait — 1.45 million, according to one account. However, statistics available on the website of the Indian Embassy in Kuwait puts the number at above a million. If Indians cannot exceed 15% of Kuwaitis, the cap would be around two lakh.
Status of Indian community in Kuwait –
- According to the Indian Embassy in Kuwait, besides the million-plus who are in the country as legal workforce, there are about 10,000 Indian nationals who have overstayed their visas.
- The Indian community in Kuwait has been growing at 5-6% per annum until the economic crisis triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic put an abrupt stop to immigration to the country.
- Indians are the largest expatriate community and Egyptians are the second largest. Three fourths, or about 7.5 lakh Indians are males as against only 2.5 lakh females.
- It is estimated that 5.23 lakh Indians are deployed in the private sector, as construction workers, technicians, engineers, doctors, chartered accountants, IT experts, etc.
- About 1.16 lakh are dependents and there are about 60,000 Indian students studying in 23 Indian schools in the country; about 3.27 lakh are domestic workers (i.e. drivers, gardeners, cleaners, nannies, cooks and housemaids) who are not allowed to bring their spouses/children into the country.
- About 28,000 Indians work for the Kuwaiti government in various jobs such as nurses, engineers in national oil companies, and a few as scientists. In 2018, India received nearly $4.8 billion from Kuwait as remittances.
What happens now?
- Around eight million Indians work in the GCC countries. Around 2.1 million of them are from one State — Kerala. Other major contributors to the Indian expatriate communities in GCC countries are Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Bihar, West Bengal, Punjab and Rajasthan.
- A renewed push for nationalisation of jobs and diversification of expatriates is possible. However, the structure of the GCC economies makes any dramatic change unlikely. Nationalisation of government jobs can be achieved to a significant extent, but the private sector will continue to draw the majority of its workforce from abroad.
- The costs associated with hiring a citizen are too prohibitive for the private sector, which will leave the country if it is forced to. There is a social stratification in GCC countries that has natives at the top, followed by white professionals from the U.S. and Europe, immigrants from other Arab countries and then others including workers from India.
- There is a division of labour among these classes and that cannot be changed in a hurry. Replacement of Indian or Asian workers on a large scale is not possible, and native Arabs will not do certain categories of work.
All India Tiger Estimation 2018
The fourth cycle of the All India Tiger Estimation 2018, results of which were declared to the nation on Global Tiger Day last year by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has entered the Guinness World Record for being the world’s largest camera trap wildlife survey.
- India has fulfilled its resolve to double the tiger numbers four years before the target. The country now has an estimated 2967 tigers as per the latest census.
- With this number, India is home to nearly 75% of the global tiger population and has already fulfilled its resolve of doubling tiger numbers, made at St. Petersburg in 2010, much before the target year of 2022.
- The latest results of 2018 had shown that India now has an estimated 2967 tigers out of which 2461 individual tigers have been photo captured, a whopping 83 % of the tiger population, highlighting the comprehensive nature of the survey.
- The All India Tiger Estimation done quadrennially is steered by the National Tiger Conservation Authority with technical backstopping from the Wildlife Institute of India and implemented by State Forest Departments and partners.
- There is hardly any parallel of such a focused species oriented program like Project Tiger across the world, which started with 9 Tiger Reserves, with 50 tiger reserves currently.
About Project Tiger –
- Project Tiger, a centrally sponsored scheme was launched in 1973 with 9 tiger reserves (currently increased to 50 tiger reserves) with the following objectives –
- To ensure maintenance of available population of Tigers in India for scientific, economic, aesthetic, cultural and ecological value.
- To preserve, for all times, the areas of such biological importance as a national heritage for the benefit, education and enjoyment of the people.
- The tiger reserves are constituted on a core/buffer strategy. The core areas have the legal status of a national park or a sanctuary, whereas the buffer or peripheral areas are a mix of forest and non-forest land, managed as a multiple use area.
- It is an ongoing Centrally Sponsored Scheme of the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change providing central assistance to the tiger States for tiger conservation in designated tiger reserves.
About National Tiger Conservation Authority –
- The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) is a statutory body of the Ministry, with an overarching supervisory/coordination role, performing functions as provided in the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.
- The NTCA was launched in 2005, following the recommendations of the Tiger Task Force.
- It was given statutory status by 2006 amendment of Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.