POLITY

FAKE NEWS AFFECTING VOTING BEHAVIOR

Context

In a recent interview, the outgoing Chief Election Commissioner raised concerns regarding spread of fake news as it is very much affecting the voting behavior.

Fake news is the potential threat to our democracy.

About fake news (Yellow Journalism):

  • Fake news or hoax news refer to false propaganda published under the guise of authentic news. It is deliberately cheated to misinform the readers.
  • Fake news can be propagated through any media: print, electronic and social.
  • Fake news can be related to anything –
    • Commercially driven sensational content
    • Nation-state sponsored misinformation
    • Highly partisan news site
    • Social media itself
    • Satire or parody
  • Some checks and balances, though largely ineffective, exist in the mainstream media against fake news, but social media does not have such mechanism.
  • Only few mechanisms exist such as defamation suit, filing of FIR, complaints to bodies like News Broadcasters Association (NBA), Broadcasting Content Complaint Council (BCCC), Press Council of India (PCI) etc.

EFFECTS OF FAKE NEWS

  • With millions of people using social media in a country like India, fake news is no less than a potential disaster.
  • It can be used to influence public opinions, to gain popularity or to malign the image, character of certain individuals or opponents or to defame them.
  • It polarizes public opinion and affect political institutions, political disinformation campaigns in Indian electoral system could lead to the deepening of existing social discord, loss of civic trust in the electoral system, and the compromise of basic democratic principles.
  • It affects social & communal harmony by spreading extremists’ ideologies especially in sensitive areas like radicalization of youths, inciting violence and hatred among the communities, swinging public opinions etc.
  • It also hampers citizen’s trust on media as Citizens view any news published by mainstream media as true and also very few citizens try to ascertain the authenticity of news spread on social media.

CHALLENGES IN CONTROLLING FAKE NEWS

  • No standard definition: The term ‘fake news’ is vague and there is no official definition of what constitutes fake news.
  • Lack of regulation: Self-regulation by mainstream media has largely been ineffective. Any direct effort by the government to control fake news is prone to be seen as an assault on the freedom of media which functions as the fourth pillar of democracy.
  • Difficult to achieve balance: The efforts to control fake news should not threaten to cramp legitimate investigative and source-based journalism or freedom of expression as guaranteed in Article 19 of the Constitution. Also, distinguishing between conscious fabrication of news reports and news reports put out in the belief that they are accurate.
  • Tracking fake new on social media: The vastness of the internet users (over 35 crores in India) and social media users (over 20 crore WhatsApp users alone) makes tracing the origin of fake news almost impossible.

LEGAL REMEDIES AVAILABLE TO TACKLE THIS MENACE

  • Indian Broadcast Foundation (IBF) – This body created in 1999 to look into the complaints against contents aired by 24×7 channels.
  • Press Council of India–  it is created by an Act of Parliament, is a statutory body and keep vigil on fake news. It can warn, admonish or censure the newspaper, the news agency.
  • IPC Sections 153A and 295– under this action can be initiated against someone creating or spreading fake news if it can be termed as hate speech.
  • Broadcasting Content Complaint Council (BCCC)– A complaint relating to objectionable TV content or fake news can be filed to the Broadcasting Content Complain Council.
  • Defamation suit- IPC Section 499 makes defamation a criminal offence. Section 500 provides for punishment for criminal defamation.
  • The Information Technology (IT) Act-: It imposes an obligation on intermediaries such as search engine giant Google to remove any objectionable content pursuant to takedown notices by law enforcement agencies.
  • Contempt of Court laws– False stories about judicial proceedings would be covered by contempt of court laws and false stories about Parliament and other legislative bodies would violate privilege.

WAY AHEAD

    • Bring out policy: The government should bring out a draft seeking opinion from stakeholders regarding issues of controlling fake news. Any future guidelines on ‘fake news’ should target ‘fake news’ and not try to regulate media in the name of ‘fake news’.
    • Regulatory mechanism: The PCI needs to be reformed and empowered in a way so as to enable it to strike a balance between the freedom of media and speech on the one hand, and right to know on the other.
    • Awareness: People must be made aware about the menace of fake news, their dissemination.
    • Authentic news: Official accounts of government organizations should also be present on social media to spread authentic news.
    • Social media houses should also come forward to bring in measures to curb the menace of fake news such as Facebook recently announced that it has tied up with Boom Live, an Indian fact-checking agency, to fight fake news during the Karnataka elections.
    • Ensure critical media literacy, with critical digital literacy as a component, to focus on encouraging individuals to learn the skills required to navigate the internet and question the content they are exposed to.
  • Once a message has been reported and identified as fake, it should be permanently tagged so that if someone tries to circulate the same message many months later it should only be transmitted with a statutory warning.

DISSOLUTION OF THE JK ASSEMBLY

CONTEXT

Jammu & Kashmir governor recently dissolved the state assembly without giving an opportunity to form government when rival alliances staked claim to form government.

REASON CITED BY GOVERNOR

  • The reason claimed for dissolution were:
    • Extensive horse trading (vote trading) & possible exchange of money in order to secure support of legislators.
    • Parties with opposite political ideologies would not be stable.
  • The fragile security scenario in the state, which calls for a stable & supportive environment for the security forces.

MORE ABOUT THE NEWS

  • The governor’s rule was imposed in the state since June for six months period following the collapse of BJP-PDP coalition government after BJP withdrew its support.
  • Six months governor rule is compulsory under section 92 of Jammu & Kashmir constitution, under which all legislative power vested in the governor.
  • The six month governor’s rule ended on December 18 and after which state will be under the president’s rule till it goes into polls.

CONSTITUTIONAL PROVISIONS

    • Article 172: Every Legislative Assembly of every State, unless sooner dissolved, shall continue for five years.
    • Article 174: Governor convenes, dissolve state legislature.
    • Article 356 (President’s rule): This empower the president to issue proclamation if the state cannot carried on in accordance with provisions of constitution.
      • President acts either on a report of Governor of state or without report as well.
      • Powers of the Legislature of the State shall be exercisable by or under the authority of Parliament.
    • Article 365: state fails to comply with any direction from Centre.
  • As per the constitution of J&K:
    • Section 26(2): The executive power of the state shall be vested in the governor.
    • Section 92: Proclamation of governor’s rule, after expiry of six months Article 356 (president’s rule) will come into force.

ISSUES WITH DISSOLUTION POWER

    • Non conduction of floor test: Arc rival parties were not given the chance to prove their majority on the floor as decreed by the supreme court in its Bommai Judgement (1993).
    • J&K’s relationship with Centre: Constitutional’s expert claims that J&K’s relationship with the Centre is rooted in constitutional safeguards as well as in participation of its major parties in electoral politics and parliamentary democracy.
  • Reason cited as opposition political ideology is flawed because:
    • The governor has no power to examine the ideologies of the political parties prior inviting them to form government.
    • Option of doubting the credentials of registered political parties is not available to anyone.
    • The only governor has to do is satisfy himself that new formation has numbers. Even in the pre-independence times, Hindu Mahasabha and Muslim league had formed a coalition government in few provinces.
  • Rameshwar Prasad judgment: A Governor cannot shut out post-poll alliances altogether as one of the ways in which a popular government may be formed.
  • According to experts dissolution of assembly to prevent formation of popular government shows a lack of belief in parliamentary democracy, which is basic structure of the constitution.

Observations of relevant Committees:

  • Sarkaria Commission (1987)-
      • Article 356 should be used very sparingly, in extreme cases and only as a matter of last resort.
      • Any imposition of Article 356 should be accompanied with a report by Governor to the President with relevant facts and details.
  • No dissolution of Assembly till proclamation is ratified by the parliament.
  • National Commission for Reviewing the Working of Constitution (2002)
  • The Governor’s report, on the basis of which a proclamation under Article 356(1) is issued, should be given wide publicity in all the media and in full.
  • Safeguards corresponding to that of Article 352 should be incorporated in Article 356 to enable Parliament to review continuance in force of a proclamation.
  • A warning should be issued to the errant State, in specific terms that it is not carrying on the government of the State in accordance with the Constitution.
  • Punchhi Commission (2008)
  • The governor should follow “constitutional conventions” in a case of a hung Assembly.
  • The commission recommended imposition of localized emergency i.e. in only a district or a part of it. Such an imposition should not be of a duration exceeding three months.

SC ON DOUBLE JEOPARDY

CONTEXT

The SC has held that the bar of double jeopardy does not arise if an accused was discharged of a criminal offence, even before the commencement of trial, on the basis of an invalid sanction for prosecution.

BACKGROUND

  • The corruption case was filed by the Aizawl police in February 2009 for misappropriation of public money. 
  • During inquiry, it was detected that the respondent had acquired valuable assets disproportionate to known sources of income.
  • The first invalid sanction for prosecution was issued by the Commissioner-Secretary, Department of Personnel & Administrative Reforms (DP & AR) directly without the Governor’s approval. 
  • Following the discharge of the accused by the special court, the Governor accorded a fresh sanction in December 2013.
  • The judgment is based on an appeal filed by the State of Mizoram against an order passed by the Guwahati High Court in August 2015, upholding a Special Court decision to decline to entertain a second charge-sheet filed in a corruption case against the accused, Dr. C. Sangnghina, on the ground of double jeopardy.

SC RULING

  • Article 20(2): It mandates that a person can’t be prosecuted or punished twice for same offence.
  • No trial- no double jeopardy: A Bench of Justices R. Banumathi and Indira Banerjee held in a judgment that if an accused has not been tried at all and convicted or acquitted, the principles of double jeopardy cannot be invoked at all.
  • No quashing of the proceedings: The courts are not to quash or stay the proceedings under the Prevention of Corruption Act merely on the ground of an error, omission or irregularity in the sanction granted by the authority, unless it is satisfied that such error, omission or irregularity has resulted in failure of justice.
KNOW ABOUT ARTICLE 20:

Article 20 mainly deals with protection of certain rights in case of conviction for offences. Article 20 is that it can’t be suspended during an emergency period. It has basically three clauses:

  • Ex Post Facto Legislation – The clause (1) of Article 20 protects individuals against ex post facto legislation, which means no individual can be convicted for actions that were committed before the enactment of the law. 
  • Immunity from Double Punishment – The clause (2) of Article 20, which safeguards an individual from facing multiple punishments or successive criminal proceedings for the same crime. According to this clause, no person shall be prosecuted and punished for the same offence more than once. 
  • Immunity from Self-Incrimination- The Article 20(3) of the constitution which states that the accused can never be compelled to be a witness against himself. In short, no individual can be forced to accuse himself. 

CREATION OF ALL INDIA JUDICIAL SERVICES

CONTEXT

Recently in its report “Strategy for New India @ 75”, the NITI Ayog mooted the creation of an All India Judicial Services (AIJS) for making appointments to the lower judiciary.

FACTORS FAVOURS AIJS

  • It focuses on quality of judges rather than quantity.
  • AIJS leads to more representation from marginalized communities and women.
  • Appropriate way to recruit the best talent required for fulfilling the role that is demanded of a judge.
  • Currently the subordinate judiciary depends entirely on state recruitment. But the brighter law students do not join the state judicial services because they are not attractive.
  • With no career progression, no one with a respectable Bar practice wants to become an additional district judge, and deal with the hassles of transfers and postings. Hence the quality of the subordinate judiciary is by and large average.
  • In this scheme of things, the measure of uniformity in the standards for selection will improve the quality of personnel in different High Courts, as one-third of the judges come there on promotion from the subordinate courts.

PREVIOUSLY RECOMMENDED BY

  • The proposal for an All-India Judicial Service was first suggested in the Chief Justices’ Conference in 1961.
  • 1st Law commission recommended an AIJS in interest of efficiency of the judiciary. In its 77th Report the LCI once again said the AIJS needed serious consideration.
  • The idea of an AIJS was approved in the chief ministers’ conference in 1982.
  • The Supreme Court has itself said that an AIJS should be set up, and has directed the Union of India to take appropriate steps in this regard.
  • After the Swaran Singh Committee’s recommendations in 1976, Article 312 was modified to include the judicial services.
  • Union law ministry also recommended the creation of AIJS as a solution to the problems of vacancies in the lower judiciary and a lack of representation in the judiciary from marginalised communities.

FACTORS AGAINST AIJS:

  • The idea of an AIJS is opposed mainly because it seems to lack basic understanding of the problems with judiciary.
  • False assumptions that current federal structure which vests recruitments and appointments for lower judiciary in hands of state governors, high court and state PSC is inefficient.
  • Recently published ‘’court news’’ revealed that states are doing efficient job in recruiting lower judiciary. For example, in Maharashtra 2280 sanctioned posts, only 64 are vacant.
  • The assumption that AIJS leads to more representation from marginalized communities & women is false, as several States already provide for reservations in their lower judicial service.
  • A national exam is said to be disadvantageous to the less privileged candidates from being able to enter the judicial services.
  • Taking into account local laws, practices and customs which vary widely across States and even training judges in this line would be a problem.

WAY AHEAD

  • A career judicial service will make the judiciary more accountable, more professional, and arguably, also more equitable.
  • It can have far-reaching impact on the quality of justice and on people’s access to justice as well.
  • The consensus should be built between union and states before moving any resolution for creation of AIJS.

MOB VIOLENCE

CONTEXT

  • Recently a SHO of Uttar Pradesh police was shot dead allegedly by a mob of cow vigilantes.
  • There is growing evidence of hate crimes which are criminal acts against people based on their real or perceived membership of a particular group, such as caste, religion or ethnicity across India.

WHAT IS MOB VIOLENCE?

  • Lynching, a form of violence in which a mob, under the pretext of administering justice without trial, executes a presumed offender, often after inflicting torture and corporal mutilation. The term lynch law refers to a self-constituted court that imposes sentence on a person without due process of law.

FACTORS CAUSING SURGE IN MOB VIOLENCE

  • Lack of police strength: The most important factor is there simply aren’t enough policemen to police. By UN standards, at current population levels, UP needs around a million police personnel. At present it has around 3,00,000. 
  • Evil mindset: Those who are there are not just overburdened and under-resourced, but their professional spine has been broken by casteism, corruption and frequent transfers.
  • Political interference: Political interference at every stage from investigation to prosecution ensures that the police is accountable not to the citizenry, but to the powerful political class who is in a position to reprimand them.
  • Loopholes in Criminal justice system: It seeks largely to respond to the acts of violence itself, while leaving the causal factors unchecked.
  • Failure of police machinery: They consistently fail to lodge FIRs or charge sheets on time. In many cases, allegations of collusion have been made against them. Poor investigation and reluctance of public prosecutors to pursue cases have resulted in bails for alleged culprits. 
  • Abysmal conviction rates: the conviction rates are very low, due to lack of evidences, lack of forensics facilities.
  • Rise of cow vigilante: Even since, Government imposed a ban on the sale and purchase of cattle for slaughter at animal markets across India, under Prevention of Cruelty to Animals statutes (26th May 2017), it sparked a new wave of cow vigilante in the country.

WAY AHEAD

  • The nexus between state governments and police needs to be dismantled by shifting police supervision to more independent body.
  • Make police accountable by introducing police complaints authority.
  • Community Policing & Violence observatories should be established to systematically study the causes of violence in the risk-prone areas.
  • Sensitize the subordinate judiciary & higher judiciary dealing with such hate crimes so as to protect vulnerable sections of the society.
  • Hold registered political parties and other registered entities accountable for the acts of commission or omission by their members.

HIGH LEVEL COMMITTEE FOR IMPLEMENTATION OF CLAUSE 6 OF THE ASSAM ACCORD

CONTEXT

The Union Cabinet has approved the setting up of a High Level Committee for implementation of Clause 6 of the Assam Accord and measures envisaged in the Memorandum of Settlement, 2003 and other issues related to Bodo community.

WHAT IS CLAUSE 6 OF ASSAM ACCORD?

  • Clause 6 of the Accord envisaged that appropriate constitutional, legislative and administrative safeguards, shall be provided to protect, preserve and promote the cultural, social, linguistic identity and heritage of the Assamese people.
  • Clause 6 of the Assam Accord has not been fully implemented even almost 35 years after the Accord was signed. Cabinet approved setting up of a High Level Committee to suggest constitutional, legislative and administrative safeguards as envisaged in Clause 6 of the Assam Accord.

BACKGROUND

  • In July last year, the draft national register of citizen (NRC) left out nearly 40 lakh people in Assam incorporating names of 2.89 crore people out of 3.29 crore applicants.
  • The list has been updated for the first time since 1951, to account for illegal migration from nearby Bangladesh.

BODO MUSEUM-CUM-LANGUAGE CENTER

  • The Cabinet approved the establishment of a Bodo Museum-cum-language and cultural study Centre.
  • The Bodo Accord was signed in 2003 which resulted in the establishment of a Bodoland Territorial Council under Sixth Schedule of the Constitution of India.
  • It will also undertake modernization of existing All India Radio Station and Doordarshan Kendra at Kokrajhar and naming a Superfast Train passing through BTAD as ARONAI Express.

INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS

G20 SUMMIT

CONTEXT

India submitted a nine-point agenda for dealing with fugitive economic offenders at G-20 summit 2018 which recently concluded in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

India will host the G20 Summit in 2022, the year New Delhi celebrates its 75th Independence Day.

MORE ABOUT SUBMIT

  • Leaders of the G-20 also agreed to fix the world trading system, expect US all 19 agreed to support the Paris accord on fighting climate change.
  • The theme of the summit was ‘Building consensus for fair and sustainable development’.
  • G-20 leaders also recognize the importance of multilateral approach to trade and importance of the reform of the World Trade Organization and renew their commitment to a rules-based international order.
  • First trilateral meeting between Japan, India and US on the sidelines of the G-20 summit also took place to discuss major issues of global and multilateral interests.
    • JAI’ (Japan, America, India) agreed on free, open, inclusive and rules-based order to maintain peace and prosperity in Indo-Pacific region. 
  • Other challenges highlighted at the G-20 summit like
    • Oil price volatility.
    • Unsynchronized policies of advanced countries and uneven pace of revival of economies.
    • Reformation of WTO and promoting global value chain in agriculture sector.
    • Escalating trade tensions.

INDIA’S NINE POINT ACTION AGENDA

  • India presented the nine-point action agenda to deals with menace of fugitive economic offenders, and call for strong and active cooperation in this regard.
  • Cooperation in the legal processes such as effective freezing of the proceeds of the crime, early return of offenders and efficient repatriation of proceeds of the crime should be enhanced and streamlined.
  • A joint effort by G-20 countries to form a mechanism that denies entry and safe havens to all fugitive economic offenders.
  • Principles of United convention against corruption (UNCAC), United Nations convention against transnational organized crime (UNOTC), especially related to “International cooperation” should be fully and effectively implemented.
  • Financial Action Task Force (FATF) should be called upon to assign priority and focus to establishing international co-operation that leads to timely and comprehensive exchange of information between the competent authorities and Financial Intelligence Units (FIUs).
  • FATF should be tasked to formulate a standard definition of fugitive economic offenders.
  • FATF should also develop a set of commonly agreed and standardized procedures related to identification, extradition and judicial proceedings for dealing with the fugitive economic offenders to provide guidance and assistance to countries, subject to their domestic law.
  • The common platform should be set up for sharing experiences and best practices including successful cases of extradition, gaps in existing systems of extradition and legal assistance etc.

BACKGROUND

In November last year, the Westminster Magistrates’ court London ruled against India which was trying to extradite bookie Sanjeev Kumar Chawla and an Indian couple, Jatinder and Asha Rani Angurala. India has suggested a nine-point action plan for strong and active cooperation across G-20 countries to deal comprehensively and efficiently with menace fugitive offenders.

KNOW ABOUT FATF

  • Financial Action Task Force (FATF) is an inter-governmental body established in 1989 by the Ministers of its Member jurisdictions.
  • The objectives of the FATF are to set standards and promote effective implementation of legal, regulatory and operational measures for combating money laundering, terrorist financing and other related threats to the integrity of the international financial system.

KIMBERLY PROCESS CERTIFICATION SCHEME

CONTEXT

India will chair Kimberly Process.

Kimberly Process Certification Scheme (KPCS)

  • KPCS was started in 2003 after the United Nations General Assembly adopted a landmark resolution in 2000 supporting the creation of an international certification scheme for rough diamond.
  • It also finds mention in the United Nations Security Council resolutions.
  • It has 54 members representing 81 countries with EU seen as a single entity.
  • KPCS enables the participating countries to certify the shipment in rough diamonds as ‘conflict-free’ (rough diamonds used to finance the conflicts and topple the established government) and prevent their entrance in legitimate trade.
  • According to the KPCS terms member states have to meet the ‘minimum requirements’ and also put in place national legislations and institutions, export, import and internal controls, commit to transparency and exchange of statistical data.
  • India is the founding member of Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS) and is actively involved in KP activities to ensure that almost 99 per cent of the diamond trade in the world is conflict free.
  • Participants can only trade legally with other participants who have set the ‘minimum requirements’ and it also states that the international shipment should be accompanied by KP certification guaranteeing that they are conflict free.

INDO-US 2+2 DIALOGUE

CONTEXT

  • First time India held a ‘2+2’ Dialogue with any country at ministerial level it would boost Indo -U.S. bilateral ties.
  • Recognizing their two countries are strategic partners, major and independent stakeholders in world affairs, the Ministers committed to work together on regional and global issues, including in bilateral, trilateral, and quadrilateral formats.

UPSWING IN INDO U.S. RELATIONS

    • Since the days of Indo-Pak War of 1971, the Indo-U.S. relations was at a very low ebb. It reached the nadir following India’s Pokhran II nuclear tests. In the last 20 years India has sought to develop closer relations with USA as a result of end of the cold war and the phenomenal rise of China.
    • The following are some of the landmark events for improving India USA relations:
      • President Bill Clinton’s visit to India in March 2000.
      • Twin tower attack on September 2001 and terrorist attacks against the Indian Parliament in December the same year precipitated a rapid thaw in overall relationship.
      • President Bush waived the sanctions imposed on India due to nuclear tests. In 2002 USA and India concluded a General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA). GSOMIA facilitated opportunities for greater intelligence sharing between India and the United States.
  • Signing of the New Framework for Defense Cooperation in 2005 and the 2012 U.S. Defense Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI).
    • The “New Framework” understanding was renewed in 2015 by the U.S. Secretary of Defense and the Indian Defence Minister to underscore the importance of the DTTI and to establish additional cooperation groups to find concrete measures to strengthen U.S.-India defense trade.
    • Later, U.S. declared India as its major defence partner. Trump administration put India in the Strategic Trade Authorisation1 (STA-1) list, which means India gets to buy high end technology from the U.S.
    • The U.S. grants STA-1 only to countries that are part of all four – the Wassenaar Arrangement, Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) and Australia Group. India is yet to get into the NSG because of opposition from China.

STRENGTHENING THE DEFENSE AND SECURITY PARTNERSHIP

    • The Ministers welcomed the inclusion of India by the United States among the top tier of countries entitled to license-free exports, re-exports, and transfers under License Exception Strategic Trade Authorization (STA-1) and committed to explore other means to support further expansion in two-way trade in defense manufacturing supply chain linkages.
    • They welcomed the signing of a Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA), facilitate access to advanced defense systems and enable India to optimally utilize its existing U.S. origin platforms.
    • The Ministers announced their readiness to begin negotiations on an Industrial Security Annex (ISA) that would support closer defense industry cooperation and collaboration.
    • After recognizing the recent bilateral engagements, the Ministers committed to start exchanges between the S. Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT) and the Indian Navy, underscoring the importance of deepening their maritime cooperation in the western Indian Ocean.
  • Through the Defense Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI), the ministers committed to prioritize co-production and co-development projects to pursue other avenues of defense innovation cooperation. Further they welcomed the conclusion of a Memorandum of Intent between the S. Defense Innovation Unit (DIU) and the Indian Defense Innovation Organization – Innovation for Defence Excellence (DIO-iDEX).
  • The Ministers announced to increase information-sharing efforts on known or suspected terrorists and to implement UN Security Council Resolution 2396 on returning foreign terrorist fighters.

PARTNERS IN THE INDO-PACIFIC AND BEYOND

  • The Ministers reaffirmed their shared commitment to a united, sovereign, democratic, inclusive, stable, prosperous, and peaceful Afghanistan. The two sides expressed their support for an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned peace and reconciliation process.
  • India welcomed the recent U.S. – North Korea summit. The two sides pledged to work together to counter North Korea’s weapons of mass destruction programs and to hold accountable those countries that have supported them.
  • The United States welcomed India’s accession to the Australia Group, the Wassenaar Arrangement, and the Missile Technology Control Regime and reiterated its full support for India’s immediate accession to the Nuclear Suppliers Group.

PROMOTING PROSPERITY AND PEOPLE-TO PEOPLE TIES

  • Both countries committed to further expanding and balancing the trade and economic partnership consistent with their leaders’ 2017 joint statement, including by facilitating trade, improving market access, and addressing issues of interest to both sides.
  • Thus, both sides welcomed the ongoing exchanges between the Ministry of Commerce of India and the Office of the United States Trade Representative and hoped for mutually acceptable outcomes.
  • Both sides looked forward to full implementation of the civil nuclear energy partnership and collaboration between Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) and Westinghouse Electric Company for the establishment of six nuclear power plants in India.

ISSUES IN INDO-US RELATIONS

  • Bilateral Trade: In 2017-18, India–U.S. Total Bilateral Trade was $126.1 billion. India’s exports to U.S. was $77.3 billion and India’s imports from was $48.8 billion.
    • US slapped steel and aluminum tariffs on India — inviting reciprocal duties on 29 American exports by India.
    • India has also dragged the U.S. to the World Trade Organisation’s (WTO) dispute settlement mechanism over the imposition of import duties on steel and aluminum.
  • U.S. Business Concerns: U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) complained against India at WTO on export subsidy programmes: The Merchandise Exports from India Scheme; Export Oriented Units Scheme and sector specific schemes including the Electronics Hardware Technology Parks Scheme; Special Economic Zone (SEZ); Export Promotion Capital Goods Scheme; and duty free imports.
  • H1B Visa Issue: The crackdown on the non-immigrant visa programme has affected Indian skilled workers and IT professionals. India raised the issue many times with the US.
Do you know?

General Security Of Military Information Agreements (GSOMIA)

It is one of the four foundational agreements that the U.S. signs with allies and close partners to facilitate interoperability between militaries and sale of high end technology.

The four foundational agreements are – Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA), COMCASA, General Security Of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) and Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-spatial Cooperation (BECA).

Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMACASA)

The COMCASA provides the legal framework for the U.S. to part with its sensitive communication equipment and codes to enable transfer of real time operational information. This equipment is largely used for ground-to-air communication, on installed U.S. origin military aircraft, to enable best battle situation awareness. India signed in 2018.

Logistics Exchange memorandum of agreement (LEMOA)

The agreement gives militaries of both the nations access to each other’s military facilities, without making it automatic or obligatory, mostly for the purposes of refueling and replishment. India signed the pact in 2016.

 

ECONOMY

AGRICULTURE EXPORT POLICY 2018

CONTEXT

  • The Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister has approved the Agriculture Export Policy (AEP), 2018.
  • The Cabinet has also approved the proposal for establishment of Monitoring Framework at Centre with Commerce as the nodal Department, to oversee the implementation of Agriculture Export Policy.

SIGNIFICANCE

  • DOUBLE FARMER INCOME – To double the farmer income by 2022 & export of agrarian product play vital role in achieving this objective.
  • INTEGRATION OF FRAMERS AND GLOBAL VALUE CHAIN – It will ease the integration of farmers and agriculture products with the global chain value by resolving the issues such as logistics.
  • INCREASED COMPETITION – Larger market means more consumer can compete for produce enabling better prices.
  • INCREASED EXPORTS – India holds minuscule 2.2% share in global agricultural exports, so this policy aims to increase the trade in agricultural products.
  • QUALITY OF PRODUCTS – This will ensure quality of products.

VISION OF THE POLICY

To Harness export potential of Indian agriculture, through suitable policy instruments, to make India global power in agriculture and raise farmers’ income.

SPECIFIC OBJECTIVES OF AEP 2018

  • To double agricultural exports from present US$ 30+ Billion to US$ 60+ Billion by 2022 and reach US$ 100 Billion in the next few years thereafter, with a stable trade policy regime.
  • To diversify export basket, destinations and boost high value and value added agricultural exports including focus on perishables.
  • To promote novel, indigenous, organic, ethnic, traditional and non-traditional Agricultural products exports.
  • To provide an institutional mechanism for pursuing market access, tackling barriers and deal with sanitary and phyto-sanitary issues.
  • To strive to double India’s share in world agricultural exports by integrating with global value chain at the earliest.
  • Enable farmers to get benefit of export opportunities in overseas market.

 

 

KEY CHALLENGES IN AGRICULTURE’S EXPORT SECTOR

  • Tariff & non-tariff barriers: Relative appreciation of the rupee against the dollar has eroded India’s price competitiveness. Recent de-stocking and curbs on imports of agricultural commodities by various countries.
    • Developed countries give heavy subsidies to their farmers leading to price incompetency to Indian farmers as their exports become costly.
  • Backward Integration: The backward integration in India especially for perishables is inefficient and unorganized, resulting in quality and longevity issues.
  • Lack of synergy: Lack of synergy between the state and central government as agriculture is a state subject, while the state’s role for exports is undefined.
  • Training & Skill development at farm level: Unregulated input (chemicals) usage at the farm level and inadequate harvest and post-harvest management affects quality and shelf life of the produce.
  • Training & Skill development at exporters’ level: Lack of awareness on existing schemes and policies related to exports and Documentation and procedures to be followed for exports.
  • Infrastructure and Logistics: The connectivity of the land locked production areas to the ports or terminals is a stiff challenge. E.g. Bihar, Jharkhand, NE states and hilly regions like Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and J&K. Congestion at the ports due to high waiting periods of the shipment is also cause of concern.
  • Administrative issues: Certification & Signing authority at the ports are not available round the week and 24*7. And instances of system breakdown in customs have resulted in exporters not getting a printed receipt/bill, resulting in free shipping.
    • Minimum export prices make agricultural products uncompetitive in international market.
    • Essential commodities act prohibits export of certain essential commodities.

WAY AHEAD

    • Given the numerous tariff and non-tariff barriers, India needs to devise an effective strategy to counter them.
    • India will have to take up the issues of farm subsidies, market denials and high import duties at all bilateral (FTAs), regional (e.g. RCEP) and multilateral (WTO) trade forums if it is serious about pushing its farm exports.
    • India needs to remove quantitative restrictions on exports for improving its image as a supplier.
    • To tackle temporary shortage of specific agriculture commodities, export duties should be used.

 

  • India can consider cultivation of GM crops for capturing a bigger share in global farm trade.
  • Focus should be on thrust areas including marketing and promotion of “Produce of India”, infrastructure and logistics to support agricultural exports, establishment of strong quality regimen, self-sufficiency and export-centric research & development.

 

  • Exporters and processors must be encouraged to buy directly from farmer-producer organisations (FPOs), bypassing the inefficient APMCs.

 

STATE OF MAHARASHTRA’S AGRIBUSINESS AND RURAL TRANSFORMATION (SMART) PROJECT

CONTEXT

Maharashtra Government has launched World Bank assisted State of Maharashtra’s Agribusiness and Rural Transformation (SMART) Project to transform rural Maharashtra.

This initiative is in line with Union Government’s step towards doubling farmers’ income by 2022. The launch of project which was followed by signing of 50 memorandum of understandings (MoUs) between big corporates and farmers producer groups.

GOAL

  • The goal of the project is to enhance the enterprise formation, increasing access to markets; and promoting climate resilience and resource-use efficiency.

OBJECTIVE

  • Support value addition in the post-harvest segments of agriculture value-chains;
  • Facilitate agribusiness investments through inclusive business models that provide opportunities to small farmers.
  • Stimulate the establishment of small and medium enterprises
  • Support resilience of agriculture production systems to better manage increasing production and commercial risks associated with climate change.
  • Supporting the development of a modern supply chain; improved information communication technologies (ICT) based farm information and intelligence services, and alternative marketing channels.

 

Area of coverage

  • It will cover almost one-fourth of Maharashtra. Its focus is on villages which are reeling under worst agriculture crisis compounded by lack of infrastructure and assured value chains to channelize farm produce.

 

Significance

  • The project is giant step towards transformation of rural economy and empowerment of farmers and also sustainable agriculture through public-private partnership (PPP) model.
  • It seeks to ensure higher production of crops and create robust market mechanism to enable farmers to reap higher remunerations for the yield. It unites agriculture-oriented corporates and farmers by providing them common platform.

 

SWAMINATHAN CALLS GM CROPS A FAILURE

CONTEXT

  • Agriculture scientist M.S. Swaminathan, in a research paper, has described Bt cotton as a ‘failure’.
  • The findings were published in paper ‘Modern Technologies for Sustainable Food and Nutrition Security’.
  • It is the review of crop development in India and transgenic crops- particularly BT cotton, the stalled BT brinjal as well as DMH-11, a transgenic mustard hybrid.

KEY OBSERVATIONS

  • BT crops have failed as a sustainable agriculture technology and have, therefore, also failed to provide livelihood security for cotton farmers who are mainly resource-poor, small and marginal farmers.
  • It states that the precautionary principle (PP) has been done away with and no science-based and rigorous biosafety protocols and evaluation of GM crops are in place.

What is GM crop?

  • A Genetically modified crop is a plant that has a novel combination of genetic material obtained through the use of modern biotechnology.

Prof. Swaminathan’s suggestions:

  • Conventional GE technology uses genes from soil bacterium to either protect them from specific pests or- as in the case of GE mustard- a facilitate hybridization.
  • This means making the plant more amenable to developing higher-yielding varieties.
  • Swaminanthan, credited with leading India’s green revolution, has said the government should only use genetic engineering as a last resort.
  • He has emphasized that genetic engineering is supplementary and must be need based.
  • Only in very rare circumstance may there arise a need for the use of this technology.

GM FOR ABIOTIC STRESSES

  • Abiotic stresses refer to environmental factors that could meddle with plant yield, as opposed to ‘biotic’ stressors such as insects.
  • GE may be deployed to manage against abiotic stresses.

KNOW ABOUT THE BT (BACILLIUS THURINGIENSIS)

  • BT is a soil dwelling bacterium generally used in biopesticide.
  • Bt cotton was created through addition of genes encoding toxin crystals in CRY group of endotoxin.
  • Genetic engineering appraisal committee (GEAC) is the central agency to allowed field trials of BT/GM crops.

WAY AHEAD

  • Regulation mechanism should be strengthened by providing assistance by foreign researchers and countries which are already involved in GM crops.
  • Soil management and conservation agencies should have regular assessment reports on soil strength and pest controlling resistance by inducted crops this will give a closure look for concluding the nature of crops.

SOIL HEALTH CARD FOR OPTIMAL UTILIZATION OF FERTILIZERS

CONTEXT

Soild health card scheme has been taken up for the first time in a comprehensive manner across the country.

Under the scheme soil health cards are provided to all farmers so as to enable the farmers to apply appropriate recommended dosages of nutrients for crop production and improving soil health and its fertility.

FEATURES OF SOIL HEALTH CARD SCHEME

  • Collecting the soil samples at a grid of 2.5 ha in irrigated area and 10 ha in un-irrigated areas.
  • Uniform approach in soil testing adopted for 12 parameters viz. primary nutrients (NPK), secondary nutrients(S), micronutrients (B,Mn,Fe,Zn & Cu) and other (pH) for comprehensiveness.
  • GPS enabled soil sampling to create a systematic database and allow monitoring of the changes in the soil health over the years.

CONCERN REGARDING SOIL HEALTH

  • Indian farmers apply around 66 million tonnes of fertilizers every year, so that they can minimise their cost and maximise the crop yield.
  • They account for significant share of India’s imports and subsidies.
  • It also rapidly declines the soil health.

Background

  • Soil health management (SHM) is one of the most significant interventions under National Mission for Sustainable Agriculture (NMSA).
  • The government has launched a nationwide soil health card (SHC) scheme in early 2015 to rejuvenate India’s exhausted soil.
  • The aims of the Soil Health Mission are:
    • To promote integrated nutrient management (INM) through judicious use of chemical fertilizers including secondary and micro nutrients in conjunction with organic manures and bio-fertilizers for improving soil health and its productivity.
    • To strengthen soil and fertilizer testing facilities to give soil test-based recommendations to farmers for improving soil fertility.
    • To ensure quality control requirements of fertilizers, bio-fertilizers under Fertilizer control order, 1985.
    • To upgrade skill and knowledge of soil testing laboratory staff, extension staff and farmers through training and demonstrations.
    • To promote organic farming practices.

Why farmers disregard SHCs?

  • Maximizing yield and fear of loss are the major concerns.
  • Farmer convinced that there is a perfect correlation between high fertilizer usage and more output.
  • They believe that their farmlands have good soil health.
  • SHCs are not easy to use.
  • They give general recommendations regarding the quantity of fertilizers requires over the entire crop season.

Way ahead

  • Vigorous campaign must be done to disregard the more fertilizers better yields myth.
  • A behavioral approach based on understanding farmers realities needs to be used.
  • Soil health must be positioned as crucial to the long-term productivity of land, which will be irredeemably lost if the focus is only on present income flows.

PCS 1X

CONTEXT

Indian Ports Association (IPA), under the guidance of Ministry of Shipping launched the Port Community System ‘PCS1x’.

WHAT IS PCS 1X?

  • It is a cloud based new generation technology, with user-friendly interface.
  • This system seamlessly integrates 8 new stakeholders besides the 19 existing stakeholders from the maritime trade on a single platform.
  • It can latch on to third party software which provides services to the maritime industry thereby enabling the stakeholders to access wide network of services. 
  • The platform offers value added services such as notification engine, workflow, mobile application, track and trace, better user interface, better security features, improved inclusion by offering dashboard for those with no IT capability.

SIGNIFICANCE

    • The platform has the potential to revolutionize maritime trade in India and bring it at par with global best practices and pave the way to improve the Ease of Doing Business world ranking and Logistics Performance Index (LPI) ranks.
    • This system will enable trade to have an improved communication with the customs as they have also embarked on an Application Programming Interface (API) based architecture, thereby enabling real time interaction.
    • This initiative supports green initiatives by reducing dependency on paper.

 

  • It has been developed indigenously and is a part of the ‘Make in India’ and ‘Digital India’ initiative.

 

KNOW ABOUT INDIAN PORT ASSOCIATION

IPA was constituted in 1966 under Societies Registration Act, with the idea of fostering growth and development of all Major Ports which are under the supervisory control of Ministry of Shipping

PRADHAN MANTRI AWAS YOJANA – URBAN

CONTEXT

According to released report of the CRISIL, Union government has to mobilize Rs 1 lakh crore in the next three years for achieving its target of building 1 crore houses under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana – Urban (PMAY-U).

KNOW ABOUT PRADHAN MANTRI AWAS YOJANA (PMAY-U)

  • The Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana – Urban (PMAY-U), being implemented by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs under the ‘Housing for All by 2022’ mission, has come a long way since inception in June 2015.
  • The scheme provides assistance to states and union territories for addressing the housing requirements of slum dwellers/ urban poor across the country.
  • It has four verticals for implementation-
    • in situ slum redevelopment (ISSR)
    • affordable housing in partnership (AHP)
    • beneficiary-led individual house construction or enhancement (BLC)
    • Credit-linked subsidy scheme (CLSS).

BENEFICIARIES OF SCHEME

  • The mission seeks to address the housing requirement of urban poor including slum dwellers. A slum is defined as a compact area of at least 300 people or about 60 – 70 households of poorly built congested tenements in unhygienic environment usually with inadequate infrastructure and lacking in proper sanitary and drinking water facilities.
  • Beneficiaries include Economically Weaker Section (EWS), low-income groups (LIGs) and Middle Income Groups (MIGs). The annual income cap is up to Rs 3 lakh for EWS, Rs 3-6 lakh for LIG and Rs 6 + -18 lakhs for MIG.
  • For identification as a EWS or LIG beneficiary under the scheme, an individual loan applicant will submit self-certificate/ affidavit as proof of income.
  • A beneficiary family will comprise husband, wife, unmarried sons and/or unmarried daughters.

 

SIGNIFICANCE OF THE SCHEME

  • One crore houses would mean an opportunity for over Rs 2 lakh crore of home loans and incremental consumption of 80-100 million tonnes of cement & 10-15 million tonnes of steel.
  • PMAY-U does offer a huge opportunity for several sectors by setting of a virtuous cycle.
  • The construction opportunity is of about four billion square feet over the life of PMAY-U. and all that would translate into 9-10 crores incremental jobs over the execution period.
  • Employment opportunity to various people.

PROGRESS ACROSS THE STATES

  • The top five north-eastern states in terms of sanctioned houses are Tripura, Assam, Mizoram, Manipur and Nagaland, which contribute to just about 4% share of the overall sanctions.
  • Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Tamil Nadu are the top five states, which command 55% share of the overall sanctions.
  • Among the union territories, Delhi tops the list, with less than 1% share of the overall sanctions.

CONCLUSION

  • Of the total central assistance, Rs. 19,000 crores have been factored in the budgetary allocation and rest would be met through future budgetary allocation and extra budgetary resources.
  • Extra budgetary resources in the form of bonds through companies such as the Housing and Urban Development Corporation Ltd.

NATIONAL MISSION ON GOVERNMENT E-MARKET (GEM) PORTAL 

CONTEXT

The National Mission on GeM (NMG) was launched to accelerate the adoption and use of Procurement by Major Central Ministries, States and UTs and their agencies (including CPSUs/PSUs, Local Bodies) on the GeM platform.

OBJECTIVES

  • Promote inclusiveness by catapulting various categories of sellers and service providers
  • Highlight and communicate ‘value add’ by way of transparency and efficiency in public procurement, including corruption free governance.
  • Achieve cashless, contactless and paperless transaction, in line with Digital India objectives.
  • Increase overall efficiency leading to significant cost saving on government expenditure in Procurement.
  • Maximizing ease in availability of all types of products and services bought by Government buyers.

BACKGROUND

 

  • The portal was launched on 9th August 2016 as a pilot and gradually scaled up.

 

  • GeM has brought transparency, efficiency, and inclusiveness in public procurement. It has reduced the time of procurements, reduced the process and enabled ease of doing business for both buyers and vendors.
  • There is huge savings in the cost of procurement, ranging from a minimum of 10% to 45% in different categories. The average saving based on the MRP/Listed price is about 28%.

NATIONAL MEDICAL DEVICES PROMOTION COUNCIL

CONTEXT

Recently government has announced setting up of a National Medical Devices Promotion Council under the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) in the Ministry of Commerce & Industry. Commerce Minister.

WHAT IS THE NEED?

  • The Medical Devices Industry (MDI) plays a critical role in the healthcare ecosystem and is indispensable to achieve the goal of health for all citizens of the country.
  • To enhance the manufacturing and trade in MDI which includes a wide range of products.
  • Although the industry has been growing in double digits but is predominantly import-driven with imports accounting for over 65% of the domestic market.

OBJECTIVES OF NATIONAL MEDICAL DEVICES PROMOTION COUNCIL

  • It acts as a facilitating and promotion & developmental body for the Indian MDI.
  • Hold periodic seminars, workshops and all related networking activities to garner views of the industry and understand best global practices in the sector.
  • Identify redundant processes and render technical assistance to the agencies and departments concerned to simplify the approval processes.
  • Support dissemination and documentation of international norms and standards for medical devices, by capturing the best practices in the global market and facilitate domestic manufacturers to rise to international level of understanding of regulatory and non-regulatory needs of the industry.
  • Drive a robust and dynamic Preferential Market Access (PMA) policy, by identifying the strengths of the Indian manufacturers and discouraging unfair trade practices in imports.
  • Undertake validation of Limited Liability Partnerships (LLPs) and other such entities within MDI sector and make recommendations to the government based on industry feedback.

LOAN WAIVER

CONTEXT

  • Loan waiver made by political parties during election as a manifesto promise is cause of concern according to eminent economists.
  • Such announcements only reveal the reckless desire of the political parties to capture power by hook or by crook in complete disregard for the economic consequences.

CAUSE OF CONCERN

  • Fiscal problem – Loan waiver create enormous problems for the fiscal of the state once those waivers are done.
  • A farm loan waiver in this context may lead to breach of 3% threshold of fiscal deficit as given in state level FRBM acts.
  • There are only subset of farmers who are getting loan waivers.
  • A farm loan waiver would mean diversion of resources away from other capital expenditures like infrastructure building.
  • A increase in borrowing by states to waive farm loans would increase demand for loanable funds in financial market. This would increase the cost of loanable funds in market. In a cascading effect, this would crowd out private borrowers as higher interest rates would make new investment unviable.
  • It will open the Pandora box and other states also start expecting the loan waivers from the political parties in exchange of votes.

WHY LOAN WAIVER IS NOT VIABLE OPTION?

  • First, the cause and effect of farm distress are not identical across the country. In Madhya Pradesh, for example, unlike say in a section of Maharashtra afflicted by a prolonged drought, the crisis is due to a surplus in farm output. Clearly, a solution that works in one state need not do so in another.
  • Second, Indian farming is no longer a story of food grains. In fact, horticulture, a more remunerative crop, is now a dominant part of the agrarian economy and the share of food grains in the agrarian output is less than half.
  • Third, this reset in the agrarian economy’s size and composition, has come with a spike in underlying risks. The nature of these risks is beyond the mitigation mechanisms in place at the moment. Efforts like crop insurance are baby steps in the right direction.
  • Fourth, leading on from the above, the terms of trade have moved dramatically against farm products.
  • Fifthly, the level of investment in agriculture, particularly in irrigation, is abysmal.
  • Sixthly, the lack of a supply chain is more than apparent. Most horticultural products are perishables and hence the need for a cold chain.

WAY AHEAD

  • It is high time the Election Commission of India declared such promises unfair and ensured those making them are disqualified from contesting.
  • Expand the scope of irrigation to increase crop intensity, improve access to irrigation, enhance the seed replacement rate and encourage the balanced use of fertilizers.
  • Adopting precision farming and related new technologies that allow highly efficient farming and conserve resources. Schemes like Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana can contribute to such initiatives.
  • Better leasing laws to solve the problem of informal tenancies.
  • Encouraging farm related activities and non-farming activities to address the problem of rural distress and agrarian price glut.
  • Establishing an Agriculture Risk fund to provide relief in natural calamities as was recommended by the M. S Swaminathan Committee.
  • Better assessment of risk on part of banks to minimize defaulting of loans.

 

IN-FLIGHT, MARITIME MOBILE PHONE SERVICES

CONTEXT

 

  • The travelers will be soon able to make calls and access the internet through their phones during air travel and ship voyage within the Indian Territory.
  • The government has notified rules for providing such services. Indian and foreign airlines and shipping companies operating in the country are now allowed to provide in –flight and maritime voice and data services in partnership with a valid Indian telecom license holder.

 

KEY HIGHLIGHTS:

  • This service will be provided only within India and also too those who fly over the Indian space.
  • The decision of the government will solve connectivity woes for air passengers.
  • In – flight connectivity (IFC) will help the passengers do digital payment in the aircraft while on board.
  • These rules may be called the flight and maritime connectivity rules, 2018.
  • IFC providers, who are interested to give onboard wifi facility, have been invited. The internet service provider can apply for the same to DoT to get the license.
  • This decision will not only benefit passengers but also big telecom players like airtel and jio who are learnt to be keen on entering this space.

 

KNOW ABOUT IFMC (Flight and Maritime Connectivity Rules, 2018):

 

  • The In-flight and maritime Connectivity (IFMC) can be provided using telecom networks on the ground as well as using satellites.
  • In case of using satellite system for providing IFMC, the telegraph message shall be passed through the satellite gateway earth station located within India.
  • Telecom regulatory authority of India (TRAI) had issued its recommendation on IFC months ago and it took almost 11 months for DoT to notified the final rules.
  • The IFMC services will be activated once the aircraft attains a minimum height of 3,000 metres in Indian airspace to avoid interference with terrestrial mobile networks.

 

INTERNATIONAL YEAR OF MILLETS IN 2023 

CONTEXT

  • In 160th session of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) Council in Rome, approved India’s proposal to observe an International Year of Millets in 2023. 
  • The FAO Council also approved India’s membership to the Executive Board of the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) for 2020 and 2021.

BENEFIT OF THIS MOVE

  • This will enhance global awareness to bring back these nutri-cereals to the plate, for food and nutrition security and hence increase production for resilience to challenges posed globally by climate change.
  • This is further supported by increase in Minimum Support Prices (MSP) of millets. 

NATION YEAR OF MILLET: 2018

  • This international endorsement comes in the backdrop of India celebrating 2018 as the National Year of Millets for promoting cultivation and consumption of these nutri-cereals.

WHAT IS MILLET?

  • Millets consists of Jowar, Bajra, Ragi and minor millets together termed as nutri-cereals.
Know about Food and agriculture organization:

  • The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is specialized agency of the United Nations that leads international efforts to defeat hunger. 
  • Serving both developed and developing countries, FAO acts as a neutral forum where all nations meet as equals to negotiate arguments and debate policy.
  • Its headquartered at Rome, Italy.

 

PATENTS GRANTED BY INDIA SHOT UP BY 50% IN 2017: UN

Context

According to World Intellectual property indicators 2018 report released by United Nation’s World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), number of patents granted by India shot up by 50% in 2017.

Key facts

  • The patents granted by India increased from 8,248 in 2016 to 12,387 last year, according to WIPO’s World Intellectual Property Indicators 2018 report. 
  • The number of patents given to domestic entities has shown an increasing trend: In 2016, 1,115 went to domestic individuals or entities and 7,133 to foreigners, and in 2015, 822 were granted to applicants in India and 5,200 to foreigners.
  • Demand for IP (intellectual property) protection is rising faster than the rate of global economic growth, illustrating that IP-backed innovation is an increasingly critical component of competition and commercial activity 
    Pharmaceuticals accounted for 15.7 per cent of the Indian domestic applications for patents last year.
  • Globally, 1.4 million patents were granted in 2017.

 

KNOW ABOUT WORLD INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY ORGANIZATION (WIPO)

 

  • WIPO is the global body for intellectual property services, policy, information and cooperation. It is the self-funding agency of United Nations, with 191 member states.
  • The objective of WIPO is to lead the development of a balanced and effective international intellectual property (IP) system that enables innovation and creativity for the benefits of all.
  • The mandate, governing bodies and procedures are set out in WIPO convention, which established WIPO in 1967 and is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland.
  • It encourages and provide to all its 191 member countries in formulating national IPR policy however it does not dictate or prescribe any mandatory measures. India is a member if WIPO and party to several treaties administered by WIPO.

 

MSME AND ISSUES

CONTEXT

 

The Micro, Small and medium Enterprises (MSME) sector has been recognized as engine of growth all over the world. Many countries of the world have established a SME development Agency as the nodal agency to coordinate and oversee all Government interventions in respect of the development of this sector.

 

WHAT ARE MSMEs?

 

MSME Act 2006 defines the entity

 

Manufacturing sector

 

Micro enterprises annual turnover does not exceed Rs.5 cr,
Small enterprises Annual turnover between Rs.5cr. To Rs.75cr.
Medium enterprises Annual turnover between Rs.75Cr. To Rs.250 Cr.

 

Service sector

 

Micro Enterprises Annual turnover does not exceed Rs.5 cr.
Small Enterprises Annual turnover b/w Rs.5 cr. To Rs.75 cr.
Medium Enterprises Annual turnover b/w Rs.75 cr. To Rs.250 cr.

 

ROLE OF MSMES

  • 31 % contributions to nation’s GDP and Exports.
  • Provide large employment.
  • Promote industrial development and skill development.
  • Boost manufacturing sector (traditional to hi-tech firms).
  • Resilient to global and economic development.
  • Promote both self-employment and wage employment outside the agriculture sector.
  • Help in inclusive balanced growth.

 

CHALLENGES

 

  • Access to capital – MSMEs are mostly depended on informal source of income.
  • Quality issues: Quality assurance/certification, Standardization of products and proper marketing channels to penetrate new markets.
  • Lack of scaling up: Most of the unregistered MSMEs would predominantly comprise micro enterprises, particularly confined to rural India.
  • Working capital management: Long receivables cycles make a mess of working capital management.
  • Access to skilled manpower and technology: Little access to trained labour, technical progress and management support limit their growth.
  • Infrastructural challenges viz availability of assures electricity, transportation facility, access to ports.
  • Regulatory issues: limitations posed by labour laws, taxation policy, environmental laws.

 

PROPOSED INCENTIVES TO MSMES

  • The announcement for allowing fixed term employment to all sectors- which was hitherto limited to textiles, to all sectors, can be a major game changer labour reform.
  • Credit support in the Budget has been provided for MSMEs.
  • Reduction of corporate tax rate of 25% to companies that have reported turnover up to Rs.250 cr in FY 2016-17.
  • India is already negotiating with Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP)- a free trade agreement between ten member and ASEAN. This will eventually bring down customs duties at zero at some point of time.
  • Public Sector banks and corporates have come on board the Trade Electronic Receivable Discounting System (TReDS) – an online bill discounting platform and that it will be linked to GSTN network so that transactions b/w large buyers and MSME sellers become automatically verified.
  • Measures proposed in the budget 18 is that companies with lower rating are also eligible for accessing Bond market.

 

MORE INITIATIVE

    • Adoption of policy to promote MSMEs like.
      • Fiscal concession.
      • Tech and marketing support
      • Direct bank credit (Udyami Mitra portal)
    • Zero defect Zero effect (ZED)
      • To promote exports.

 

  • Digital MSME scheme

 

      • Usage of cloud computing.

 

  • MSME Sambandh

 

      • Monitoring the implementation of public procurement

 

  • PM employment generation programme

 

      • Credit linked subsidy under MSME.

 

  • ASPIRE

 

      • Create new jobs and promote and entrepreneurship culture.

 

  • SFURTI

 

    • Organize traditional industries and artisans into clusters and make them competitive.

 

CONCLUSION

 

  • India’s next wave of EODB should have three vectors—rationalization (cutting down the number of laws), simplification (cutting down the number of compliances and filings) and digitization (architecting for true paperless, presence-less and cashless).
  • The next avatar of our EODB programme must aim to decisively shift the Indian state from being an MSME bully to an MSME friendly.

 

ESTABLISHING GAS TRADING HUB/EXCHANGE IN THE COUNTRY

CONTEXT

The Union Government plans to set up a Gas Trading Hub / Exchange (GTHE), thus creating an Indian gas benchmark that will spark an increase in the consumption of the cleaner-burning fuel.

SIGNIFICANCE

  • The hub would be used for the trade and supply of natural gas through a market-based mechanism instead of multiple formula driven prices.

 

  • Currently, the government fixes the price of the bulk of domestically produced natural gas using the price prevalent in gas-surplus nations such as US, Canada, UK, and Russia.
  • In order to move towards a gas-based economy, the Union Government is laying focus on:

 

    • Increasing the availability of natural gas by enhancing the domestic production
    • Encouraging the import of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG)
    • Completion of national pipeline grid
    • Speedier roll out of City Gas Distribution network in the country.

 

BACKGROUND

  • The establishment of a hub is an attempt to meet operators’ demands for the adoption of a market-based gas-pricing regime. But India faces challenges in making the dream a reality, amid concerns over third-party access and competition.
  • Oil Public Sector Undertakings (PSUs) namely Indian Oil Corporation Limited (IOCL), Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited (BPCL) and Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited (HPCL) have decided to set up an integrated refinery-cum-petrochemical complex with a refining capacity of 60 MMTPA (Million Metric Tonnes Per Annum) at Babulwadi, Taluka Rajapur in Ratnagiri District in the state of Maharashtra.

NATIONAL GAS GRID

  • To develop the natural gas grid, government has earmarked the funds to GAIL for development of a 2655 Km long Jaddishpur-Haldia/Bokaro-Dhamra Gas Pipeline (JHBDPL) project.
  • This pipeline will transport Natural Gas to the industrial, commercial, domestic and transport sectors in the States of Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha, West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh.

OBJECTIVES OF NATIONAL GAS GRID

  • To remove regional imbalance within the country with regard to access of natural gas and provide clean and green fuel throughout the country.
  • To connect gas sources to major demand centres and ensure availability of gas to consumers in various sectors.
  • Development of City Gas Distribution Networks in various cities for supply of CNG and PNG.

 

CONCLUSION

  • The authorities, are considering overhauling the policy of fixed domestic gas prices, currently based on a formula derived from prices in the US, Canada, UK and Russia.
  • India sees itself as a potential candidate for Asia’s largest LNG trading hub, in a region that lacks accurate benchmarks reflecting Asian gas fundamentals.

 

FARM LOAN WAIVER

 

CONTEXT

Rural agrarian distress is firmly at the centre of the national discourse today, triggered by the continuous farmer agitations in the past two years.

 

LOAN WAIVERS BECOMING A NORM

  • A farm loan waiver was among the first steps taken by the three new governments in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, and has understandably set off a debate about its usefulness.
  • Since 2014, there have been similar moves in Telangana, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh and Punjab.

 

NEED OF FARM LOAN WAIVER

  • Mounting debt: Mounting debt burden is pushing farmers to despair and suicides. The quantum of debt has increased enormously, especially from informal sources.
    • Lack of compensation during drought and disasters,
    • The failures of the crop insurance scheme, and
    • The deficit due to prices falling below the announced Minimum Support Prices
  • A study showed that 75% of farmer suicides in Telangana are by tenant farmers.
  • The Reserve Bank of India did issue guidelines in 2014 for extending loans to Bhoomi Heen Kisan (landless farmers) and for a debt-swapping scheme to convert informal loans of farmers into bank loans, but they have remained on paper.

CAUSE OF CONCERN

  • Fiscal problem – Loan waiver create enormous problems for the fiscal of the state once those waivers are done.
  • A farm loan waiver in this context may lead to breach of 3% threshold of fiscal deficit as given in state level FRBM acts.
  • There is only a subset of farmers who are getting loan waivers.
  • A farm loan waiver would mean diversion of resources away from other capital expenditures like infrastructure building.
  • An increase in borrowing by states to waive farm loans would increase demand for loanable funds in financial market. This would increase the cost of loanable funds in market. In a cascading effect, this would crowd out private borrowers as higher interest rates would make new investment unviable.
  • It will open the Pandora box and other states also start expecting the loan waivers from the political parties in exchange of votes.

 

WHY LOAN WAIVER IS NOT VIABLE OPTION?

  • First, the cause and effect of farm distress are not identical across the country. In Madhya Pradesh, for example, unlike say in a section of Maharashtra afflicted by a prolonged drought, the crisis is due to a surplus in farm output. Clearly, a solution that works in one state need not do so in another.
  • Second, Indian farming is no longer a story of foodgrains. In fact, horticulture, a more remunerative crop, is now a dominant part of the agrarian economy and the share of foodgrains in the agrarian output is less than half.
  • Third, this reset in the agrarian economy’s size and composition, has come with a spike in underlying risks. The nature of these risks is beyond the mitigation mechanisms in place at the moment. Efforts like crop insurance are baby steps in the right direction.
  • Fourth, leading on from the above, the terms of trade have moved dramatically against farm products.
  • Fifthly, the level of investment in agriculture, particularly in irrigation, is abysmal.
  • Sixthly, the lack of a supply chain is more than apparent. Most horticultural products are perishables and hence the need for a cold chain.

 

FOCUS ON VIABLE SOLUTION

  • In addition to reforming the credit system, agriculture should be made profitable by ensuring fair remunerative prices, lowering the cost of cultivation, and promoting viable farmer collectives and sustainable models of agriculture.
  • Establishment of farmers’ distress and disaster relief commissions at the national and State levels, based on the model of Kerala’s Farmers’ Debt Relief Commission.
  • A well-designed loan-waiver programme could enhance the overall well-being of the households by improving their productive investments, as opposed to distorting their loan utilization and repayment patterns.
  • To formulate eligibility rules that depend on historical loan-utilization, investment, and repayment patterns.
  • Implement the recommendations of Swaminathan commission.

 

CONCLUSION

The challenge before political parties and governments is to deliver on the institutional solutions demanded by farmers. The farming community is not likely to relent if governments adopt a business-as-usual approach.

 

THE AADHAAR AND OTHER LAWS (AMENDMENT) BILL, 2018

 

CONTEXT

 

Recently, Lok Sabha has passed the Aadhar and other Laws (Amendment) Bill 2018 to amend certain existing laws to provide legal backing for voluntary seeding of biometric Aadhaar ID for mobile SIM card and bank account authentication purposes.

 

OBJECTIVE OF THE BILL

  • The Bill aims to amend three existing laws: The Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Act, 2016, The Indian Telegraph Act, 1885, and The Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002.

 

KEY PROVISIONS OF THE BILL

 

  • Enrolment of Children: Permits the enrolment of children to the scheme with the consent of their parents or guardian.
    • Children can opt out of Aadhar on attaining majority.
  • Offline verification: Bill allows ‘offline verification’ of an individual’s identity, without authentication, through modes specified by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) by regulations.
  • Voluntary use of Aadhaar to verify identity: The Bill states that an individual may voluntarily use his Aadhaar number to establish his identity, by authentication or offline verification. Authentication of an individual’s identity via Aadhaar, for the provision of any service, may be made mandatory only by a law of Parliament.
  • Virtual ID: The Bill changes the definition of ‘Aadhar number’ to include ‘virtual ID’, in addition to the 12 digits number. The 16-digit Virtual ID enables one to authenticate identity without providing Aadhar number.
  • High Court judge can order disclosure: The authority which can issue orders to disclose Aadhar information is proposed to be changed as ‘High Court judge’ from ‘District Judge’.
  • The right of hearing before disclosure order: The Bill states that the holder of the Aadhar number should be heard before issuing such order.
  • Secretary authorized to order disclosure in the interest of national security: The authority which can issue orders of disclosure of Aadhaar information in the interests of national security is proposed to be changed to the officer of the rank of “Secretary” from “Joint Secretary”.
  • No denial of services due to authentication failure: The Bill clarifies that failure in authentication of Aadhaar number due to old age, sickness, or technical reasons should not result in denial of any service, benefit or subsidy. It states that alternate means to verify identity should be used in such cases.
  • Civil penalties: The Bill proposes civil penalties for collection, use, and disclosure of Aadhaar information in contravention with the violation of the provisions of the Act.
  • Section 57 Omitted: The Bill proposes to omit Section 57 of the Aadhar Act that permitted private entities to use Aadhaar number for authenticating identity before providing services.
  • Amending Telegraph Act: The Bill proposes to amend the Indian Telegraph Act 1855 to provide for voluntary use of Aadhaar number for identity verification by the telecom companies. However, the Bill does not say that Aadhaar has to be compulsorily used for verification.
  • Bank Accounts and Aadhar: The Bill proposes an amendment to the Prevention of Money Laundering Act to permit voluntary use of Aadhaar for identity verification by banks before opening bank accounts. Aadhaar is specified as one of the means of identity verification, and there is no compulsion to use it.
  • UIDAI Fund: Under the Act, all fees and revenue collected by the UIDAI shall be credited to the Consolidated Fund of India.
    • The Bill removes this provision and creates the Unique Identification Authority of India Fund.
    • All fees, grants, and charges received by the UIDAI shall be credited to this fund. The fund shall be used for expenses of the UIDAI, including salaries and allowances of its employees.

 

REASONS FOR PROPOSED AMENDMENTS:

  • To modify existing laws to implement the Supreme Court’s judgment (September 2018) which upheld Aadhaar but limited its use for only certain subsidies and schemes funded by the Consolidated Fund of India and disallowed private companies from seeking Aadhaar for authentication.

 

INDIAN BRIDGE MANAGEMENT SYSTEM (IBMS)

CONTEXT

  • To ensure the safety of bridges in near future, Ministry Road Transport & Highways and Shipping launched the Indian Bridge Management System (IBMS).
  • IBMS is being developed to create an inventory of all bridges in the country and rate their structural condition so that timely repair and rehabilitation work can be carried out based on the criticality of the structure.

WHY IBMS IS REQUIRED?

  • Lack of any data on the bridges across India has led to a situation in which there is no clarity about the exact number, location and condition of bridge. Bridges in poor conditions hampers efficient transport and also leads to accidents and loss of lives on several occasions.
  • IBMS aims to fill this gap by preparing a data base of all bridges in the country. It will also detail their structural condition, which will help the government to take a decision on repairing the existing bridge or build new ones in their place.

WORKING OF IBMS

  • Firstly, during inventory creation each bridge is assigned a unique identification number or National Identity Number based on the state, RTO zone and whether it is situated on an National Highway, State Highway or is a district road.
  • Secondly, the precise location of the bridge in terms of latitude-longitude is collected through GPS and based on this, the bridge is assigned a Bridge Location Number.
  • Thirdly, engineering characteristics like the design, materials, type of bridge, its age, loading, traffic lane, length, width of carriage way etc. are collected and are used to assign a Bridge Classification Number to the structure.
    • These are then used to do a structural rating of the structure on a scale of 0 to 9, and each bridge is assigned a Structural Rating Number.
  • Fourthly, the rating is done for each component of the structure like integral and non-integral deck, superstructure, substructure, bank and channel, structural evaluation, deck geometry, vertical clearance, waterway efficiency etc.
  • Lastly, in addition to the structural rating, the bridges are also being assigned Socio-Economic Bridge Rating Number which will decide the importance of the structure in relation to its contribution to daily socio-economic activity of the area in its vicinity.

 

SOCIAL ISSUES

GUIDELINES FOR CRÈCHES AT WORKPLACES

Context

The Centre has prepared guidelines for setting up of Creche facilities at work, which prescribe trained personnel to man the facility as well as infrastructure requirements and safety norms.

BACKGROUND

  • A few months back, Parliament passed the Maternity Benefit Amendment Act, 2017, enhancing paid maternity leave from a period of 12 weeks to 26 weeks. The law is applicable to all institutions with 10 or more employees. It also makes it mandatory for every organization with 50 or more employees to have a crèche.

NEW GUIDELINES FOR CRÈCHES AT WORKPLACES

  • A crèche be either at the workplace or within 500 metres of it.
  • Alternatively, it could also be in the beneficiaries’ neighborhoods.
  • The facility should be open for eight to 10 hours and if the employees have a shift system, then the crèche should also be run accordingly.
  • A crèche must have a minimum space of 10 to 12 square feet per child to ensure that she or he can play, rest and learn.
  • There should be no unsafe places such as open drains, pits, garbage bins near the centre.
  • The crèches should have at least one guard, who should have undergone police verification.
  • There should also be at least one supervisor per crèche and a trained worker for every 10 children under three years of age or for every 20 children above the age of three, along with a helper.

APART FROM THIS

  • The government has also recommended that no outsiders such as plumbers, drivers, and electricians be allowed inside the crèche when children are present.
  • A crèche monitoring committee with representations from among crèche workers, parents and administration should be formed.
  • There should also be a grievance redressal committee for inquiring into instances of sexual abuse.
  • The guidelines are not mandatory but are a yardstick for NGOs and organizations for setting up of creches.
Know about maternity benefit act:

  • The Maternity Benefit Act, 1961, applies to establishments employing 10 or more than 10 persons in factories, mines, plantation, shops & establishments and other entities.
  • The main purpose of this Act is to regulate the employment of women in certain establishments for certain period before and after child birth and to provide maternity benefit and certain other benefits. The Act was amended through the Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act, 2017.

 

GLOBAL NUTRITION REPORT 2018

CONTEXT

The Global nutrition report 2018 was published recently.

With India facing a major malnutrition crisis, it calls for concerted actions to address the gaps and concerns.

HIGHLIGHTS OF THE REPORT

  • Global burden of malnutrition “remains unacceptably high and progress unacceptably slow”. Under-nutrition accounts for around 45% of deaths among children under five in low and middle – income countries.
  • Overweight and obesity has led to around 4 million deaths and 120 million healthy years of life lost across the globe, with around 38.9% adults found to be overweight.
  • Among children under five years of age, 150.8 million are stunted, 50.5 million are wasted and 38.3 million are overweight, while 20 million babies are born underweight each year.
  • The impact of the malnutrition on global economy is close to US$3.5 trillion per year, with obesity alone costing US$500 billion per year.
  • A major section of the study looks at the quality, nutrient content and type of food consumed across the globe. The results suggest a disparity between developed and emerging markets, according to report.
  • The report says the regardless of wealth, school-age children, adolescents and adults are consuming too many refined grains, sugary foods and drinks, and not enough fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

WHAT IS STATUS OF INDIA?

  • India holds almost a third (31%) of global burden for stunting, the prevalence of which differs from state to state. As per the UNICEF, stunting is caused by long – term insufficient nutrient intake and frequent infections.
  • Stunting varies greatly from district to district (12.4% to 65.1 %), with 239 of 604 districts accounting for stunting levels above 40%. The differences between districts were a result of multiple factors, including gender, education, economic status, health, hygiene, and other demographic factors.
  • India is the country with the largest number of children who are stunted at 46.6 million, followed by Nigeria (13.9 million) and Pakistan (10.7 million). The urban prevalence of stunting on average 19.2% compared with 26.8% in rural areas.
  • Other influential gender-related factors included maternal education (accounted for 12%), age at time of marriage (7%) and antenatal care (6%).
  • Children’s diets (9%), assets (7%), open defecation (7%) and household size (5%) were also influential.

SDG 2: ZERO HUNGER

FACTORS DETERMINING QUALITY AND QUANTITY OF NUTRITION

 

WAY AHEAD

  • Literacy and women empowerment at the maternity level should be the priority.
  • Political commitment to improve the level of nutrition of district/village level.
  • Special attentions towards children under 6 and lactating women is need of the hour.
  • Government can consider:
    • Food fortification
    • Include nutritionists in mid- day meal, ICDS etc.
    • Tax bad cholesterol products.
    • Subsidize good nutritive foods like milk, egg etc.

RESTRICTED AREA PERMIT SYSTEM

CONTEXT

Chairman of National Commission for Scheduled Tribes had advised to revisit its decision to lift the Restricted Area Permit (RAP) system from 29 islands of Andaman and Nicobar, after the death of U.S. citizen John Allen Chau.

WHAT IS RESTRICTED AREA PERMIT SYSTEM?

  • Under the Foreigners (Restricted Area) Order 1963, a Restricted Area Permit (RAP) is required for non-Indians to visit certain areas in India.
  • These areas prior to October 2018 Order included all of Andaman and Nicobar and some parts of Sikkim.
  • The Ministry of Home Affairs in October 2018 passed an order to remove 29 islands of Andaman and Nicobar group of islands under the Foreigners (Restricted Area) Order 1963 from Restricted Area Permit regime till 31st December 2022 (subject to certain conditions).
  • Usually under it, foreign nationals are not normally allowed to visit protected or restricted area unless Government is satisfied that there are extra-ordinary reasons to justify their visit.
  • Every foreigner, except citizen of Bhutan, who desires to enter and stay in protected or restricted area, is required to obtain special permit from competent authority having power to issue such permits to foreigner, seeking it.
  • Citizens of Afghanistan, China and Pakistan and foreign nationals of Pakistani origin are exception and are not allowed to enter such areas.

 

TRANSGENDER BILL PASSED BY THE LOK SABHA

CONTEXT

The Lok Sabha has passed the Transgender Persons Bill to five transgender person equal rights and protection under Law though a voice vote.

WHAT IS NEED OF THIS BILL?

  • The transgender community are facing discrimination, unemployment, lack of educational facilities, homelessness, and lack of medical facilities.
  • Deprivation of voting rights to transgender.
  • This community feels neglected are inheritance of property or adoption of a child. 
  • Socio-economic problems like marriage and employments.

NEW DEFINITION IN PRESENT BILL

  • Old Definition: the amendments passed include a change in the previous definition of transgender persons as “neither wholly female nor wholly male’’, which was criticized as being insensitive.
  • New definition: The new definition terms a transgender person as one whose gender does not match the gender assigned to that person at birth and includes trans-men or trans-women, persons with intersex variations, gender-queers, and persons having socio-cultural identities such as kinnar, hijras, aravani and jogta.

EVOLUTION OF TRANSGENDER LEGISLATION

  • Setting up of Expert Committee: In 2013, the government set up an expert committee to examine issues related to transgender persons. The committee stated that transgender persons faced issues of social stigma and discrimination which affected their access to healthcare, employment, education, and government documents and other social services.
  • Supreme Court Giving Recognition: In 2014, the Supreme Court (SC) recognized transgender person’s right to self-identification as male, female or the third gender. Further, the Court directed the government to grant legal recognition to transgender persons, address issues of social stigma and discrimination, and provide social welfare schemes for them.
  • Framing Legislation: The first effort at framing legislation for transgenders was made in 2014. The Rights of Transgender Persons Bill, 2014 was introduced as a Private Member’s Bill in the Rajya Sabha, where it was passed. But the bill was never debated in the Lok Sabha.
  • The Bill had many progressive clauses including the creation of institutions like the national and State commissions for transgenders, as well as transgender rights courts but all these remedial measures were done away with when the government drafted The Rights of Transgender Persons Bill, 2015.
  • Introduction of Bill: The Bill was first introduced in the Lok Sabha in 2016, following which it was sent to a 31-member parliamentary standing committee.

Highlights of the bill:

  • Prohibition against discrimination: Bill prohibits discrimination of transgenders in relation to opportunities for education, job, health care services, and access to services, accomodation, transport etc.
  • Right to be recognized as transgender recognition: the bill state that a certificate of identity has to be obtained from the District Magistrate, who further issue certificate based on recommendation of District Screening Committee.
  • No discrimination against employment: bill oblige that there will be no discrimination in relation to employment, promotion and other job benefits.
  • Right of residence: No transgender person shall be separated from parents or immediate family on the ground of being a transgender.
  • Offences: Compelling a transgender person to indulge in begging or bonded labour is made an offence.
  • Government is mandated to formulate welfare schemes for transgender persons.
    National Council for Transgender Persons is sought to be established.

Criticisms:

    • Activists around the country has pointed out that the bill still mandates a district screening committee; comprising a Chief Medical Officer among others, to issue identity certificates, a provision that violates a landmark Supreme Court judgment in 2014 that affirmed the right of transgender people to self-identify their gender.
    • The bill is claimed to be unscientific and goes against global best practices. It doesn’t prevent but encodes discrimination.
    • The Bill also does not fulfill the demand of reservation across education, jobs, and other entitlements.

 

  • The Transgender Bill does not mention any punishments for rape or sexual assault of transgender persons as according to Sections 375 and 376 of the Indian Penal Code, rape is only when a man forcefully enters a woman.
  • Bill criminalises begging, thereby targeting transgender persons who rely on begging for sustenance. Such harsh measures of detaining marginalised individuals under the garb of rehabilitation have also been criticised by the Delhi High Court in Harsh Mander v. Union of India, 2018.

 

WAY AHEAD:

    • The need of the hour is a robust Bill with strong anti-discrimination provisions that will remedy the historical injustices faced by the transgender community, which continues to fight for the most basic rights even today.

 

  • The bill should be revised and brought in line with the NALSA judgment to ensure full realisation of transgender persons’ fundamental rights.

 

TRIBAL EDUCATION

CONTEXT

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs, chaired by the Prime Minister has given its in-principle approval for setting up of Eklavya Model Residential Schools (EMRSs) in every block with more than 50% ST population and at least 20,000 tribal persons by 2022.

WHAT ARE EKLAVYA MODEL RESIDENTIAL SCHOOLS?

EMRS is a Government of India scheme for model residential school for Indian tribals (Scheduled Tribes, ST) across India.

OBJECTIVES OF EMRS:

To provide quality middle and higher level education to Scheduled Tribe (ST) students in remote areas, not only to enable them to avail of reservation in high and professional educational courses and as jobs in government and public and private sectors but also to have access to the best opportunities in education at par with the non ST population.

  • Comprehensive physical, mental and socially relevant development of all students enrolled in each and every EMRS. 
  • Focus differentially on the educational support to be made available to those in Standards XI and XII, and those in standards VI to X, so that their distinctive needs can be met.
  • Support the annual running expenses in a manner that offers reasonable remuneration to the staff and upkeep of the facilities.
  • Support the construction of infrastructure that provides education, physical, environmental and cultural needs of student life.

 

PROBLEMS OF TRIBAL EDUCATION

There are many critical issues and problems in the field of tribal education:

  • Medium of language – Language is one of the important constraints of tribal children which prevents them access to education.
  • The Location of the Village – The physical barriers create a hindrance for the children of a tribal village to attend the school in a neighboring village.
  • Economic Condition – The economic condition of tribal people is so poor that they do not desire to spare their children or their labour power and allow them to attend schools.
  • Attitude of the parents – As education does not yield any immediate economic return, the tribal parents prefer to engage their children in remunerative employment which supplements the family income.
  • Teacher Related Problems -In the remote tribal areas the teacher absenteeism is a regular phenomenon and this affects largely the quality of education.
  • Lack of Proper monitoring– Proper monitoring is hindered by poor coordination between the Tribal Welfare Department and School Education Department.

GOVERNMENT POLICIES AND PROGRAMMES FOR TRIBAL EDUCATION

The ministry of tribal affairs implementing number of interventions to improve the educational status of the tribals.

  • Grants-in-Aid under Article 275(1) of the Constitution: This grant is utilized for socio-economic development ofIntegrated Tribal Development Agency (ITDA), Integrated Tribal Development Project (ITDP).
  • Prime minister’s research fellowship (PMRF): This facilitate 1000 best Btech students to do Ph.D in IITs and IIScs with handsome fellowship.
  • Scheme of Vocational Training in Tribal Areas: to develop the skills of the ST youth for a variety of jobs as well as self-employment and to improve their socio-economic condition by enhancing their income. 
  • Support to Tribal Research Institute (TRIs): It is set up by various State Governments. The basic objective of the scheme is to strengthen the Tribal Research Institutes (TRIs) in their infrastructural needs, Research & Documentation activities and Training & Capacity Building programmes, etc. 
  • Adivasi Shiksha Rrinn Yojana: Under this scheme, financial assistance up to ₹5.00 lakh at concessional rate of interest of 6% per annum is provided to ST students for pursuing professional/ technical education including Ph.D. in India.
  • Asharam Schools: Funds provided for making residential schools for STs for primary, middle, secondary and secondary level of education.
  • Scholarships: Post-matric scholarship for ST students and pre-matric scholarship for ST students of IX and X.
  • Kastruba Gandhi Balika Vidyalatyas (KGBVs) scheme provides residential schools for girls at upper primary level with minimum of 75% seats are for minority, SC/ST and OBC girls. KGBVs cover 69% ST girls in ST special focus districts.

 

SUGGESTIONS

  • Literacy campaign – Proper awareness campaign should be organized to create the awareness about the importance of education. Extensive literacy campaign in the tribal dominated districts may be undertaken on a priority basis to literate the tribal.
  • Attitude of the tribal parents – The attitude of the tribal parents toward education should be improved through proper counseling and guidance.
  • Relevant study materials in local languages – All study materials should be supplied in local languages of tribes.
  • Appointment of Local teachers and female teachers – It is suggested to appoint more tribal teachers and female teachers in the tribal areas. The ecological, cultural, psychological characteristics of tribal children should be considered carefully by the teachers in tribal areas.
  • Stipends and various scholarships – Since higher education among the tribes is less, special ST scholarships should be provided to the tribal students perusing higher education, particularly in medical, engineering, and other vocational streams.
  • Residential schools – More residential schools should be established in each states and districts and extended up to PG level in tribal areas.
  • Social security– Social security of students, especially of adolescent girls is of great concern in residential schools.

 

BVR MOHAN REDDY COMMITTEE

CONTEXT

  • AICTE has accepted the recommendations of a government committee headed by BVR Mohan Reddy on technical education.
  • The committee was setup to provide short and medium perspectives for engineering education in India.

KEY RECOMMENDATIONS OF THE COMMITTEE

  • Restrict new colleges: committee recommended stop setting up new colleges from 2020 and review the creation of new capacity every two years after that.
  • Initiate new programmes: Start programmes in new technologies or convert current capacity in traditional engineering disciplines to emerging new technologies like artificial intelligence or robotics should be entertained.
  • Approval based on capacity utilization: As for approving additional seats in existing institutions, the committee has suggested that the AICTE should only give approvals based on the capacity utilization of concerned institute.
  • Capacity building: Every education institution should be mandated to initiate reforms according to current needs taking into consideration innovation, incubation and start up ecosystem in educational institutions.
    • Entrepreneurship should be a minor elective for Undergraduates.
    • Tinkering Laboratories similar to Atal Innovation Laboratories to be in every educational Institution.
    • Educational Institutions need to set up incubation centers, mentoring clubs, and accelerator programs.
  • The committee has urged the AICTE to introduce UG engineering programmes exclusively for artificial intelligence, block chain, robotics, quantum computing, data sciences, cyber security and 3D printing and design.

Background:

  • India faced the challenge of meeting the fast-growing demand of skilled workforce emanating from various key sectors of the economy.
  • In 2003, the UR Rao committee had warned of the rise in the number of engineering colleges and suggested that a five-year moratorium on approving undergraduate technical institutions be put in force in states where the annual student intake exceeded the national average of 150 per million population.
  • A 2017 study by Aspiring Minds found that 95% of engineering graduates were unemployable for the software industry, which accounts for the bulk of engineering jobs.

What are current problem in technical education system?

The technical education in India is plagued with many inadequacies. It has rendered the engineers coming out of most of the Institutes are almost unemployable. Major issues in engineering system are:

  • Lack of quality education: Most private colleges charge a great amount as capitation fee and enroll students en masse without an adequate system for monitoring the quality of education.
    • Even the top ones such as the IITs – do not rank among the top in the world, due to outdated curriculum.
  • Mushrooming of engineering institutions: The government took the lead by setting up several technical institutions. The policy continued unabated for about two decades, without any meaningful appraisal or evaluation of institutions.
  • Programmes and curriculum development: Programmes don’t meet the requirements of rapid changes and developments in technology like undergraduate courses are not diversified according to specialization.
    • There is no system to generate the trained faculty for meeting this rapidly changing requirement.
  • Lack of quality research: In India, engineering research and development programmes exist mainly in the IITs. Even here, the main focus appears to be fundamental research and applied research activities are rather on a low key.
    • Other degree colleges do not have any inclination towards supporting the research and development due to the government lack of interest and support.
  • Lack of Involvement in high-technology in emerging areas: lacking in emphasis in industrial production and engineering education from the good old traditional and conventional fields to the more sophisticated fields of new emerging technologies like Block chain, IoT, Robotics etc.
  • Lack of Entrepreneurship: There are very few initiatives taken to support and nurture the entrepreneurship. Technical education institution can play vital role in promoting entrepreneurship.

CONCLUSION:

On taking into consideration the issues related to engineering education government constituted a committee to look upon the issues. As India harbors ambitions of becoming the manufacturing hub of the world. Make in India is government’s flagship program aimed for that, so to achieve this ambition there is serious need to reforms the technical education.

BOOST TO PLAIN PACKAGING

CONTEXT

  • Thailand and Saudi Arabia introducing plain packaging of tobacco products.
  • Both countries are the first in the Asian and Arab regions, respectively, to adopt the tough measure in order to curb tobacco consumption.

BACKGROUND

  • In December 2012, Australia became the first country to introduce plain packaging following the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) guidelines
  • World Trade Organisation (WTO), in June 2018, has recommended the plain packaging.

WHAT IS PLAIN PACKAGING AND ITS SIGNIFICANCE?

  • The brand and product names displayed in a standard color and font style and other then these are prohibited like the use of logos, colors, brand images or promotional information. Besides increasing the effectiveness of health warnings, it reduces the attractiveness of tobacco products, with no scope for using packaging to advertise and promote consumption.
  • Plain packaging standardizes the appearance of tobacco products.
  • Along with higher taxes and large pictorial warnings, plain packaging can serve as a tool to deter new users and prompt existing users to quit.
  • Plain packaging along with other measures led to 0.55 percentage point reduction in smoking prevalence in Australia.
  • In April 2016, India increased the size of graphic pictorial warnings, by 85%, on the packaging of tobacco products (both front and back).

TOBACCO CONSUMPTION IN INDIA

  • The percentage of users in India who thought of quitting because of such warning labels increased sharply to 62% (cigarette), 54% (bidi) and 46% (smokeless tobacco users), according to the Global Adult Tobacco Survey 2016-2017, when compared with the survey results of 2009-2010.
  • Tobacco use among those aged 15-24 years showed a six-percentage point reduction (18.4% in 2009-10 to 12.4% in 2016-17). The number of tobacco users dropped by eight million.
  • In India, tobacco is the cause of about one million deaths annually.

INDIA’S EFFORTS IN CURBING TOBACCO CONSUMPTION

  • Increase in size of pictorial warning: In April 2016, India increased the size of graphic pictorial warnings, by 85%, on the packaging of tobacco products (both front and back).
  • Higher taxation: They can serve as a tool to deter new users and prompt existing users to quit.
  • Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) Act (COTPA), in 2003: This included prohibition of smoking in public places, prohibition of advertisements of tobacco products, prohibition on sale of tobacco products to and by minors (persons below 18 years), ban on sale of tobacco products within 100 yards of all educational institutions and mandatory display of pictorial health warnings on tobacco products packages.
  • National Tobacco Control Programme: To strengthen implementation of the tobacco control provisions under COTPA and policies of tobacco control mandated under the WHO FCTC, the Government of the India piloted National Tobacco Control Programme (NTCP) in 2007-2008.
  • Prevention and Control of Pollution Act of 1981: Recognized smoking as an air pollutant.
  • Cable Television Networks Amendment Act of 2000: Prohibited the transmission of advertisements on tobacco and liquor in India.
  • The Motor Vehicles Act 1988: Made smoking illegal in public vehicle
  • India is a signatory to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), 2003.
  • Tobacco Cessation: Tobacco cessation clinics have been set up across the country.
    • GOI launched bilingual nationwide programme and a national toll-free quit line in 2016.
  • Prohibition on e-cigarettes: Jammu and Kashmir, Karnataka, Punjab, Maharashtra and Kerala- Complete ban on the sale (including online sale), manufacture, distribution, trade, import and advertisement of Electronic Nicotine Delivery System (ENDS)/ e-cigarettes.

CHALLENGES AHEAD

  • Economic contribution of Tobacco industry: The tobacco industry has a major contribution to economy: employment generation in agriculture and manufacturing and revenues in the form of exports and taxes.
  • Lobbying: Tobacco industry exert undue influence on government.
  • Improper taxation: Taxes have traditionally been raised targeting cigarettes. This has rendered other tobacco products like bidi, gutka quite inexpensive and affordable.
  • Surrogate advertisements of tobacco products: It means duplicating of brand image of one product extensively in order to promote the same brand.

CONCLUSION

  • Along with higher taxes and large pictorial warnings, plain packaging can serve as a tool to deter new users and prompt existing users to quit.
  • For the sake of proof plain packaging along with other measures led to 0.55 percentage point reduction in smoking prevalence in Australia, translating into at least 1,18,000 fewer smokers.

 

ENVIRONMENT

BEACH POLLUTION IN INDIA

CONTEXT

In the recent study conducted by the National Centre of Coastal Research (NCCR), it is revealed that beach pollution is also biggest cause of concern apart from air and water pollution.

Report says tourism and fishing are the biggest culprits, contributing most of the plastic litter on beaches.

KEY FINDING OF REPORTS

  • The NCCR conducted a qualitative analysis of the litter on six different beaches on the eastern and western coasts. The study found that beach pollution is on the rise in the country.
  • Tourism and fishing are the biggest culprits, contributing most of the plastic litter on beaches.
  • The study reveals that plastic litter from tourism alone accounted for 40-96% of all beach litter.
  • At Chennai’s Elliot’s Beach, for instance, plastics left by tourists accounted for 40 % of all the litter, while at Gopalpur Odisha, it was as high as 96%.
  • After tourism, fishing was the next biggest source of litter. Fishing nets were a major contributor, the processing of fish on the beach also produced a lot of litter.
  • Proportion of biomedical litter was also high in urban areas, like Elliot’s beach.
  • Waste from the creeks and inlets made its way into the sea in the monsoon causing marine pollution.
  • Most of the litter consisted of plastic bottles, cutlery and thermocol.

WAY AHEAD

  • National marine litter policy is need of the hour to control and manage waste on land and prevent entry into the marine environment.
  • Installation of debris booms and fin deflectors upstream as measures to reduce the quantity of floating solid waste entering coastal waters is needed.
  • India needed to start blue- flagging its beaches. It is the globally recognized eco-label awarded to beaches and marines that adhere to strict environmental and safety norms.
DO YOU KNOW BLUE FLAGGING?

  • It was launched in December 2017 by ministry of environment.
  • A pilot project for beach cleanup and development, also striving for the “Blue Flag” Certification for such identified beaches.

OBJECTIVE OF PROJECT

  • Enhancing standards of cleanliness, upkeep and basic amenities at beaches.
  • Under the project, each state or union territory has been asked to nominate a beach which will be funded through the ongoing Integrated Coastal Management Programme.

CRITERIA FOR BLUE FLAG CERTIFICATION

  • To achieve the Blue Flag standards, a beach has to strictly comply with 33 environment and tourism-related conditions. The standards were established by the Copenhagen-based Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE) in 1985. For example- a beach must be plastic-free and equipped with a waste management system.

 

AIR POLLUTION ENDANGERING LIFE EXPECTANCY

CONTEXT

In a recent study by India state –level Disease Burden Initiative published in The Lancet Planetary Health has revealed that Air pollution caused one in every eight deaths and total 1.24 million deaths in India in 2017.

Study shows that average life expectancy would increase by 1.7 years (from current 69 years to 70.7), if had clean air.

HIGHLIGHTS OF THE REPORT

    • India has one of the highest exposure levels to air pollution globally.
    • One in every eight deaths in India is attribute to air pollution which now contributes to more disease burden than tobacco use.
    • In India, the major sources of ambient particulate matter pollution are coal burning for thermal power production, industrial emissions, construction activity and brick kilns, transport vehicles, road dust, residential and commercial biomass burning, waste burning, agricultural stubble burning.
    • 77% of India’s population was exposed to mean PM2.5 more than 40µ/gm3, which is the recommended limit set by the National Ambient Air Quality Standards of India.
    • India accounts for around 26% of global premature deaths due to air pollution.
    • Air pollution was the second largest risk factor contributing to disease burden in India after malnutrition in 2016, with an increasing trend in exposure to ambient particulate matter pollution and decreasing trend in household air pollution.
    • India has one of the highest annual average ambient particulate matter PM2·5 exposure levels in the world.

 

  • Poor, less developed states have earlier deaths:
  • Northern states with lower social development index (SDI)–calculated using per capita income, education levels and total fertility rate–Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Jharkhand had the highest levels of both ambient and household pollution.
  • Solid fuels lead to high deaths and disability:
  • Low SDI states like Bihar, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh and rajasthan sufferd half of the deaths caused by household pollution (burning solid fuel- agriculture residue, coal, wood, dung ).

 

MAJOR CONCERNS

  • The UN agency had recently also linked air pollution with increasing child mortality. In 2017, India witnessed 1,10,000 premature deaths of children due to air pollution, highest in the world in the category of children under five years of age.
  • If India doesn’t pull up its socks now, deaths due to pollution could touch 3.6 mn a year by 2050 — and the poor will be the biggest sufferers says WHO.

WAY AHEAD

  • Creating a robust system to implement existing clean-air policies, promoting coordination between the centre and states, and devising state and district-level pollution control plans are vital to improve air quality.
  • State-specific strategies need of the hour:
    • In Delhi, the use of compressed natural gas by vehicles.
    • In Punjab, subsidies for alternative technologies to compost agricultural waste so it does not have to be burnt.
    • In Maharashtra, the mandatory use of fly ash in the construction industry within 100 km of coal or lignite thermal plants.
  • Urgent intervention is needed for implementing the National Clean Air Action Plan with a strong compliance strategy to meet the clean air standards in all cities. Real-time air quality monitoring, especially that of PM2.5, will have to be expanded significantly to assess air quality in all cities with sizeable population.
  • The promotion of electricity-driven public transport and upgradation of vehicles to the emissions-friendly Bharat Stage VI standards will also help reduce pollution levels.
  • India needs massive energy transition across industries and households, mobility transition to public transport, walking and cycling, and effective waste management to control this run-away pollution.
  • Satellite data can supplement the routine monitoring of air pollution, as it can be more economical than setting up and operating a number of fixed stations. They could also be used to identify potential air quality hot spots.
  • Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana Scheme have given very positive momentum to tackle the household pollution specifically but still marginalized people find LPG less affordable. Thus making it affordable to financial weaker section is needed.
  • India’s Intended Nationally Determined Contribution target– that countries take themselves to reduce national emissions and adapt to the impacts of climate change can be the big driving force to tackle the carbon foot prints and curb pollution.

MEKEDATU PROJECT ISSUE

CONTEXT

Central water commission (CWC) allowed the Karnataka Cauvery Neeravari Nigam to prepare a detailed project report (DPR) to build a balancing reservoir-cum-drinking water project across the Cauvery at Mekedatu.

WHAT IS THE MEKEDATU PROJECT?

Mekedatu, meaning goat’s leap, is a deep gorge situated at the confluence of the rivers Cauvery and Arkavathi, about 100 km from Bengaluru.

In 2013, then Karnataka announced the construction of a multi-purpose balancing reservoir project over the Mekedatu.

WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF THE PROJECT?

  • The project aims to alleviate the drinking water problems of Bengaluru and Ramanagara district.
  • It is also expected to generate hydro-electricity to meet the power needs of the state.
  • The project could be completed in 2-3 years after construction begins, if all approvals are in place.

WHAT IS THE CONTROVERSY?

  • Tamil Nadu has moved the Supreme Court. Its main argument is that the project violates the final award of the Cauvery River Water Tribunal, and that the “construction of the two reservoirs would result in impounding of the flows in the intermediate catchment below the Krishnaraja Sagar and Kabini reservoirs, and Billigundulu in the common border of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu”.
  • Karnataka termed the challenge misconceived, obstructive and factually baseless.
  • It rejected Tamil Nadu’s claims that the tribunal order barred the project and maintained that the reservoir would not affect the downstream flow in the river or jeopardize the livelihood of farmers.

ABOUT CENTRAL WATER COMMISSION

  • It is a premier technical organization of India in the field of water resources and is presently functioning as attached office of ministry of water resources, river development and ganga rejuvenation, government of India.
  • The commission is entrusted with the general responsibilities of initiating, coordinating and furthering in consultation of the state governments concerned, schemes for control, conservation and utilization of water resources throughout the country, for the purpose of flood control, irrigation, navigation, drinking water supply and water power development.
  • Central water commission is headed by a chairman, with the status of Ex-officio secretary to the government of India.

FLOATING SOLAR PLANTS

CONTEXT

The country’s largest floating solar plant of 50 MW will be set up in reservoir of Rihand dam (Govind Balabh Pant Sagar, Rihand river is tributary of son river) in Sonbhadra district of UP.

SIGNIFICANCE OF FLOATED PLANT

  • Floating solar makes intuitive sense in geographies having high land costs and poor availability.
  • Floating solar r or an array of solar panels set upon a structure that floats on a water body has long been viewed as an advantage over ground mounted solar plants owing it its cooling effect and unavailability of land.

CHALLENGES IN IMPLEMENTATION

  • Cost: Floating solar plants are more expensive, its cost includes anchoring, installation, maintenance and transmission which is more than the land-based systems.
  • Technical issues: besides the two major issues of corrosion and instability, other issues like the long-term impact of moist environment on modules, cables, safe transmission of power through the floats to the nearest feeder point, the environmental impact on the water body and the marine life etc. needs to be addressed and – make the system cost effective.

CONCLUSION

In India, floating solar is likely to face challenges scaling up to the level of ground-mounted plants. However floating solar is definite for states that are a significant market for more renewable energy but with little land to spare, as is the case with Uttar Pradesh.

 

24TH MEETING OF CONFERENCE OF PARTIES (COP-24)

CONTEXT

  • The 24th meeting of Conference of Parties (COP-24) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) held at Katowice, Poland.
  • COP (24) adopted the “Katowice Package” the rulebook for implementation of the 2015 Paris climate agreement.
  • The adopted guidelines package aims to encourage greater climate action ambition and benefit people all walks of life, especially most vulnerable.

INDIAN DELEGATION

The Union Environment Minister Dr. Harsh Vardhan participated in the inauguration of Indian Pavilion at the 24th meeting of Conference of Parties (COP-24).

THEME OF THE INDIAN PAVILION

‘One World One Sun One Grid’ highlighted by PM during first assembly of the International Solar Alliance on October 2018.

KATOWICE PACKAGE – A RULEBOOK FOR IMPLEMENTATION OF 2015 PARIS CLIMATE AGREEMENT:

  • A detailed transparency framework to promote trust among the nations. It sets out how countries will provide information about nationally determined contributions (NDCs), including the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.
  • If poorer countries feel they cannot meet the standards set, they can explain why and present a plan to build up their capacity in that regard.
  • The document sets a way to decide on ambitious funding targets from 2025 onwards from the current commitment to mobilise USD 100 billion per year as 2020 in support of climate action in developing countries.
  • Nations agreed on the methodology to collectively assess the effectiveness of climate action in 2023 and finalized the procedure to monitor and report progress on the development and transfer of technology.
  • The concerns of the developing countries including India and least developed on funding for carbon credit were finally addressed.
  • The rich nations which are the main polluters agreed to pay for greening in the underdeveloped world.
  • The agreed guidelines mean that countries can now establish the national systems that are needed for implementation the Paris agreement by 2020.

ISSUE OF MARKET MECHANISM

  • The main issue still needs to be resolved such as use of cooperative approaches, as well as sustainable development mechanism. Resolution of these issues would allow countries to meet a part of their domestic mitigation goals through the use of “market mechanism”.
  • Market mechanisms provide flexible instruments for reducing the costs of cutting emissions, such as carbon markets.

TALANOA DIALOGUE CONCLUDED

  • The Fiji-led Talanoa Dialogue, a yearlong inclusive dialogue that relates to Paris agreement, was also concluded at COP24, with the global warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) as a major input.
  • There is a clear recognition of IPCC’s role in providing scientific input to inform countries in strengthening their response to the threat of climate change.
  • Countries are encouraged to factor the outcome of the dialogue into efforts to increase their ambition and to update their nationally determined contributions in 2020.

INDIA’S CONTRIBUTION IN CLIMATE MITIGATION

  • India has undertaken ambitious mitigation and adaptation actions in the field of clean energy, especially renewable energy, enhancement of energy efficiency, development of less carbon-intensive and resilient urban centers, promotion of waste to wealth, safe, smart and sustainable green transportation network, abatement of pollution and efforts to enhance carbon sink through creation of forest and tree cover.
  • The ambitious goal of generating 175 GW of renewable energy by 2022.
  • India launched a nationwide campaign in preserving and protecting the environment called the Green Good Deeds Movement.
  • India’s leadership in global climate action has been recognized and Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been bestowed with “Champion of Earth Award” this year by the United Nations in promoting International Solar Alliance and resolve to make India plastic free by 2022.

KNOW ABOUT UNFCCC:

  • UNFCCC is an international environmental treaty, entered into force on 21 March 1994. Now, it has near-universal membership. The UNFCCC has 197 parties as of December 2015.
  • To prevent ‘dangerous’ human interference with the climate system.

ACCOUNTING METHODS OF CLIMATE FUND QUESTIONED

CONTEXT

The finance ministry has issued a ‘discussion paper’ that has criticized the accounting methods used by developed countries to report how much money they have given, so far to developing countries to address climate change.

FLAWED ACCOUNTING METHODS

  • Accounting procedures, regarding the flow of climate finance, is one of the most controversial issues being debated at COP Katowice, Poland.
  • Countries have gathered to agree upon a ‘Rule book’ to implement the Paris agreement of 2015, that commits countries to ensure the earth doesn’t warm 2degree Celsius beyond pre-industrial levels.

VARIOUS ISSUES HIGHLIGHTED

  • Inconsistency in definition– Definitions of climate change finance used in various reports by the developed countries were not consistent with the provisions of United Nations Framework Convention on climate change (UNFCCC).
  • Low finance – the finance provided by the developed nations till date is far lower than that originally promised by developed nations. The total pledges to the Green Climate Fund (GCF), the largest multilateral fund, was a “meagre” $10.3 billion. Further, most of the total climate finance has flowed into mitigation (a reference to preventing carbon dioxide from being emitted).
  • Over reporting– the ministry paper has referred to an assessment by Oxfam (2018) which states that value of loans is being over reported.
  • Issue of moral responsibility– the developing nations have been demanding that the developed nations (particularly USA) take historical and moral responsibilities for being among the largest greenhouse gas emitters. Moral responsibility includes transfer of funds and technology to aid developing nations in adapting to climate change. However, India has argued that this has not been taken care of.

What is Green Climate Fund?

  • The GCF was set up in 2010 under the UNFCCC’s financial mechanism to channel funding from developed countries to developing countries to allow them to mitigate climate change and also adapt to disruptions arising from a changing climate.
  • The Green Climate Fund will support projects, programmes, policies and other activities in developing country Parties using thematic funding windows.

DUAL-FUEL USAGE FOR AGRICULTURAL AND CONSTRUCTION EQUIPMENT VEHICLES

CONTEXT

The government notified dual-fuel usage for agriculture and construction equipment vehicles in a bid to promote the use of alternative fuels like CNG in tractors, tillers and harvesters.

PURPOSE OF THE MOVE

This move will give a boost to vehicles run on bio-fuel and help in reducing both cost and pollution.

SAME EMISSION NORMS

  • The mass emission standards for these CNG, Bio CNG, LNG dual fuel engines of the agriculture tractors, power tillers, construction equipment vehicles and combine harvesters will be the same as the emission standards for the diesel engines of these vehicles with the exception that the HC (Hydrocarbon) shall be replaced by NMHC (Non-Methane Hydrocarbon) on measurement basis.

WORLD SOIL DAY

CONTEXT

The world soil day was observed across the world on December 5,2018. The day is observed annually to highlight the importance of healthy soil and advocate for the sustainable management of soil resources.

THEME OF THE DAY: BE THE SOLUTION TO SOIL POLLUTION’

BACKGROUND

  • An international day to celebrate Soil was recommended by the International Union of Soil Sciences (IUSS) in 2002.
  • FAO has supported the formal establishment of WSD as a global awareness raising platform. The FAO Conference unanimously endorsed World Soil Day in June 2013 and requested its official adoption at the 68th UN General Assembly.
  • In December 2013 the UN General Assembly responded by designating 5 December 2014 as the first official World Soil Day.

ABOUT SOIL POLLUTION

  • Due to rise in pollution across the world, soil is also getting affected. Around one –third of global soils have already degraded.
  • Soil have a great potential to filter and buffer contaminants, degrading and attenuating the negative effects of pollutants, but its capacity is finite.
  • Cause- most of pollutants originate from human activities such as unsustainable farming practices, individual activities and mining, untreated urban waste and other non-environment friendly practices. Burning crop residue, reduced manuring, intensive cropping and excessive application of agrochemicals have resulted in the decline of soil fertility in many areas
  • With the evolution of the technology, scientists have been able to identify previously undetected pollutants, however, these technological improvements have also led to the release of new contaminants into the environment.

HOW TO COMBAT THE PROBLEM?

  • In the Agenda for Sustainable Development 2030, the sustainable development goals 2,3,12 and 15 targets the commend direct consideration of soil resources, especially soil pollution and degradation in relation to food security.
  • Scheme like Soil health card are working effectively in checking the soil nutrient deficiency specially micronutrients.
  • Combating soil pollution requires all nations to join forces and turn determinations into action. Hence the campaign- “Be the solution to soil pollution”.

WAY AHEAD

  • Diverse farming approaches should be promoted for sustainable management of soils with the goal of improving food productivity.
  • Save and grow technique – Technique focuses on conservation agriculture, maintaining soil health, selecting crops with higher yield potential and greater resistance to climate change, efficient water management and pest control.
  • Monocropping to polycropping- practice monoculture have badly impacted the soil health. It leads to the depletion of soil nutrients and creates a huge imbalance.
  • We need more food from lesser resources, sustainable intensification is the way forward. It can keep our soil health in check and also improve it. We need to recycle what we take from the soil.

INDIA WATER IMPACT SUMMIT 2018

CONTEXT

India Water Impact Summit 2018, being jointly organized by the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) and the Centre for Ganga River Basin Management and Studies (cGanga) in Delhi.

WHAT IS INDIA WATER IMPACT SUMMIT?

  • It is an annual event where stakeholders get together to discuss, debate and develop model solutions for some of the biggest water related problems in the country.
  • The discussions this year is on rejuvenation of the Ganga River Basin.

FOCUS AREAS

  • Spotlight on 5 states: Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Delhi and Bihar.
  • Ganga Financing Forum: The 2018 Summit also introduces the inaugural Ganga Financing Forum that will bring a number of institutions to a common knowledge, information and partnership platform. The Financing Forum will bring together financial institutions and investors interested in Namami Gange programmes.
  • Technology and Innovation: Implementation of the pilot/demonstration programme known as the Environment Technology Verification (ETV) process.

FREIGHT VILLAGE

CONTEXT

The ministry of shipping has approved the development of Rs. 156 crore freight village in Varanasi adjoining the Inland Waterways Terminal on River Ganga.

This Varanasi freight village will be developed by the Inland Waterways Authority of India.

OBJECTIVE OF PROJECT

  • To support economic development in the hinterland of the multimodal terminal at Varanasi.
  • To reduce logistics cost in the Eastern Transport Corridor and its influence zone.

WHAT IS FREIGHT VILLAGE?

  • A freight village is a designed area where facilities for various modes of transportation, distribution of goods and other logistics are available in a synchronized manner on a large scale.
  • Freight villages are cargo aggregators, offer various logistics choices to shipper/ cargo owner i.e choice of railroad; rail-waterway; road-waterway.

FUNCTION

  • The main function is management and utilization of various modes of transport, synergizing them and decongesting the existing mode of transportation.

KNOW ABOUT INLAND WATERWAYS AUTHORITY OF INDIA

  • It was created on 27 October 1986 for development and regulation of Inland waterways for shipping and navigation. The head office is at Noida.
  • The Authority primarily undertakes projects for development and maintenance of Inland Waterway Terminal infrastructure on National Waterways through grant received from Ministry of Shipping, Road Transport and Highways.

SEISMIC GUN TESTING

CONTEXT

  • Recently Trump administration granted permission to use of seismic gun in search for potential oil and gas reserves off the Atlantic coast.
  • The testing will involve the use of seismic air guns which fire continuous blasts to ascertain whether deposits of oil and gas are present.

WHAT IS SEISMIC GUN TESTING?

  • Seismic airgun testing involves blasting extremely loud noises in pulses, every 10 to 12 seconds, non-stop for weeks or even months at a time.

CAUSE OF CONCERN

  • Extreme disruption caused by airguns can harm a wide range of aquatic life, including sea turtles, fish and zooplankton, a critical foundational plank of the ocean food web.
  • Noise from the airgun blasts can cause major problems for certain animals as they try to navigate or breed.
  • Seismic airguns are the first step toward dangerous and dirty offshore drilling with associated habitat destruction, oil spills and contribution to climate change and ocean acidification.

REGULATORY INDICATORS FOR SUSTAINABLE ENERGY (RISE) 2018

CONTEXT

  • World bank has released its report- Regulatory Indicators for Sustainable Energy (RISE) 2018, charting global progress on sustainable energy policies.
  • The report was released on the sidelines of the 24th conference of parties to UN framework convention on climate change (COP24).

KEY HIGHLIGHTS OF REPORT

  • Many of the world’s largest energy-consuming countries significantly improved their renewable energy regulations since 2010.
  • Progress was even more marked in energy efficiency, with the percentage of countries establishing advanced policy frameworks growing more than 10-fold between 2010 and 2017.
  • Among countries with large populations living without electricity, 75 per cent had by 2017 put in place the policies and regulations needed to expand energy access.
  • But there were still significant barriers to global progress on sustainable energy.
  • While countries continue to be focused on clean energy policies for electricity, policies to decarbonize heating and transportation, which account for 80 per cent of global energy use, continued to be overlooked.
  • This momentum was particularly marked in renewable energy. Among the countries covered by RISE, only 37 per cent had a national renewable energy target in 2010. By 2017, that had grown to 93 per cent.
  • By last year, 84 per cent of countries had a legal framework in place to support renewable energy deployment, while 95 per cent allowed the private sector to own and operate renewable energy projects.
  • Among the four SDG7 target areas — renewable energy, energy efficiency, electricity access and access to clean cooking — the last one continued to be the most overlooked and underfunded by policymakers.
  • There has been little progress on standard-setting for cookstoves or on consumer and producer incentives to stimulate adoption of clean technologies.

INDIA’S PERFORMANCE

  • India has gained a great success in renewable energy auctions that delivered record-setting low prices for solar power.
  • However, to realize its full potential, the country needs to address critical gaps, such as failing utilities, clean cooking, and the slow progress on decarbonizing heating and transport.

GLOBAL CARBON PROJECT

CONTEXT

  • Global carbon emissions will jump to a record high in 2018, according to a according to researchers at the University of East Anglia (UEA) and the Global Carbon Project.

KEY HIGHLIGHTS OF STUDY

  • India, the third-highest contributor, is projected to see emissions rise by 6.3% from 2017. The 2.7% projected global rise in 2018 has been driven by appreciable growth in coal use for the second year in a row, and sustained growth in oil and gas use.
  • The 10 biggest emitters in 2018 are China, U.S., India, Russia, Japan, Germany, Iran, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, and Canada. The EU as a region of countries ranks third. China’s emissions accounted for 27% of the global total, having grown an estimated 4.7% in 2018 and reaching a new all-time high.
  • Emissions in the U.S., which has withdrawn from its commitment to the Paris Agreement, account for 15% of the global total, and look set to have grown about 2.5% in 2018 after several years of decline.
  • Limiting global warming to the 2015 Paris Agreement goal of keeping the global temperature increase this century to well below 2°C, would need carbon dioxide emissions to decline by 50% by 2030 and reach net zero by about 2050.
  • Though coal use contributed to the rise in 2018 from last year, it still remains below its historical high in 2013 but may exceed that if current growth continues.

KNOW ABOUT THE GLOBAL CARBON PROJECT

  • The Global Carbon Project was formed in 2001 to help the international science community to establish a common, mutually agreed knowledge base that supports policy debate and action to slow the rate of increase of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
  • It is a Global Research Project of Future Earth and a research partner of the World Climate Research Programme. It was formed to work with the international science community to establish a common and mutually agreed knowledge base to support policy debate and action to slow down and ultimately stop the increase of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

SC DIRECT CENTRE TO DECLARE AREA AROUND NATIONAL PARKS AS ECO-SENSITIVE

CONTEXT

The supreme court directed the union environment ministry to declare 10 km area around 21 national parks and wildlife sanctuaries across the country as ‘eco-sensitive zones.’

WHAT IS ECO-SENSITIVE ZONE?

  • Eco-sensitive zones (ESZs) or ecologically fragile areas (EFAs) are areas notified by the ministry of environment, forests and climate change (MoEFCC), Government of India around protected areas, national parks and wildlife sanctuaries.
  • Purpose– to create some kind of “shock absorbers” to the protected areas by regulating and managing the activites around such areas. They also act as transition zone from areas of high protection to areas involving less protection.
  • According to the MoEF Guidelines, a wildlife corridor can be included in the Eco-sensitive zone. Section 4.2 of the guidelines states, “In the case where sensitive corridors, connectivity, and ecologically important patches, crucial for landscape linkages, are even beyond 10 KM width, these should be included in the Eco-sensitive Zone.”

SIGNIFICANCE

  • Industrial corridor and public amusement parks alongside national park may be dangerous for the biodiversity of the region.
  • Waste generated by the industries pollutes land, air and water of the area which is transmitted to the core of the national park and wildlife sanctuaries can be harmful for flora and fauna of the region.
  • Noise pollution can make wild animals scary and they may move into the populated areas causing man-animal conflicts.
  • Making eco-sensitive zone around national parks will lead to expansion of forest cover and will help in achieving target of 33% forest cover.

REVISED GUIDELINES FOR GROUND WATER

CONTEXT

  • Central Ground Water Authority of Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation notified revised guidelines for ground water extraction.
  • The guidelines were revised in the wake of the directions issues by National Green Tribunal (NGT) to address various shortcomings in the existing guidelines of ground water extraction.

REVISED GUIDELINES

  • Introduction of the concept of Water Conservation Fee (WCF). The WCF would also compel industries to adopt measures relating to water use efficiency and discourage the growth of packaged drinking water units, particularly in over-exploited and critical areas.
  • Encouraging use of recycled and treated sewage water by industries.
  • Mandatory requirement of digital flow meters, piezometers and digital water level recorders with or without telemetry depending upon quantum of extraction.
  • Mandatory water audit by industries abstracting ground water 500 m3/day or more in safe and semi-critical and 200 m3/day or more in critical and over-exploited assessment units.
  • Mandatory roof top rain water harvesting except for specified industries and measures to be adopted to ensure prevention of ground water contamination in premises of polluting industries/ projects.

EXEMPTION UNDER REVISED GUIDELINES

  • The revised guideline exempt requirement of NOC has been given to agricultural users, users employing non-energized means to extract water, individual households (using less than 1 inch diameter delivery pipe) and Armed Forces Establishments during operational deployment.
  • Other exemptions (with certain requirements) have been granted to strategic and operational infrastructure projects for Armed Forces, Defense and Paramilitary Forces Establishments and Government water supply agencies.

GROUND WATER EXTRACTION IN INDIA

  • Ground water extraction in India is primarily for irrigation in agricultural activities, which amounts to 90% of the annual ground water extraction.
  • The remaining 10% of extraction (25 BCM) is for drinking & domestic as well as industrial uses.
  • Industrial use is estimated to account for only about 5% of the annual ground water extraction in the country.

WHO REGULATE THE GROUND WATER IN INDIA?

  • Central Ground Water Authority (CGWA), constituted under the Environment (Protection) Act of 1986 has the mandate of regulating ground water development and management in the country.
  • CGWA has been regulating ground water development for its sustainable management in the country through measures such as issue of advisories, public notices, grant of No Objection Certificates (NOC) for ground water withdrawal.

CYCLONIC STORM ‘PHETHAI’

CONTEXT

The cyclone storm “Phethai” struck over south west regions and adjoining west central of Bengal. Cyclone has made landfall in Andhra Pradesh.

KEY DETAILS

  • Phethai, name of cyclone is suggested by Thailand. It is pronounced as ‘Pay-ti’, means a vegetarian bean in Thailand.
  • This comes barely months after cyclone ‘Gaja’ wreaked havoc in Nagapattinam, Thanjavur districts of Tamil Naidu.

DAM SAFETY BILL 2018

CONTEXT

Recently government has introduced the Dam Safety Bill, 2018 in Lok Sabha, a bill that aims to provide a robust legal and institutional framework for the safety of dams.

WHY IS THE BILL IMPORTANT?

  • The bill will enable all states and union territories of India to adopt uniform dam safety procedures that will not only ensure the safety of the dams but will also safeguard their benefits.
  • The uniformity will also help in protecting human life, livestock and property.
  • Recently occurred Kerala Floods strongly emphasize on the need of comprehensive law on the dam safety in India.

BACKGROUND

  • The Dam Safety Bill was first introduced in Lok Sabha in 2010.
  • It sought to mandate the Centre, state governments and individual owners of dams to establish a mechanism for safety.
  • The two states had passed resolutions under Article 252(1) of the Constitution requesting Parliament to make a law.
  • Recently Cabinet approved the draft of the Dam Safety Bill, 2018 and most of the recommendations of the standing committee incorporated.

SIGNIFICANCE

  • Bill will provide uniform law and an administrative regime for dam safety.
  • The Bill will address all issues concerning dam safety including regular inspection of dams, emergency action plan, comprehensive dam safety review, adequate repair and maintenance funds for dam safety and instrumentation and safety manuals.
  • Under the bill’s provisions, the responsibility of ensuring dam safety will lay on the dam owner.
  • The bill will also provide for penal provisions for commission and omission of certain acts.

KEY FEATURES OF THE BILL

  • The will provide for proper surveillance, inspection, operation and maintenance of all specified dams in the country to ensure their safe functioning.
  • National Committee on Dam Safety (NCDS)- The Bill provides for constitution of a National Committee on Dam Safety which shall evolve dam safety policies and recommend necessary regulations as may be required for the purpose.
  • National Dam Safety Authority (NDSA)- It as a regulatory body which shall discharge functions to implement the policy, guidelines and standards for dam safety in the country.
    • This shall maintain liaison with the State Dam Safety Organisations and the owners of dams for standardisation of dam safety related data and practices.
    • To provide the technical and managerial assistance to the States and State Dam Safety Organisations.
  • This will maintain a national level data-base of all dams in the country and publish and update the standard guidelines
  • It shall accord recognition or accreditations to the organisations that can be entrusted with the works of investigation, design or construction of new dams.
  • State Committee on Dam Safety (SCDS) – It will ensure proper surveillance, inspection, operation and maintenance of all specified dams in that State and ensure their safe functioning. Every State shall establish a “State Dam Safety Organisation”, which will be manned by officers from the field dam safety.
  • State Dam Safety Organization (SDSO)- The Bill provides that every state having specified number of dams will establish a State Dam Safety Organization which will be manned by officials with sufficient experience in the field of dam safety.

Grounds for opposition:

  • Opposition by Tamil Naidu – In cases where a dam is owned by one state and located in another, or extends over multiple states, or is owned by a central public sector undertaking, the Bill provides that the National Dam Safety Authority will act as the SDSO.
  • Against federalism – The State Governments also argue that the bill violates the federal political system as the subject comes under the purview of State governments and and not in the purview of the Lok Sabha or Parliament.

INFORMATION FUSION CENTRE (IFC) FOR THE INDIAN OCEAN REGION (IOR)

CONTEXT

Defense minister has launched the Information Fusion Centre – Indian Ocean Region (IFC-IOR) at Information Management and Analysis Centre (IMAC) Gurugram.

WHAT IS INFORMATION FUSION CENTRE?

  • The IFC-IOR is established with the vision of strengthening maritime security in the region by building a common coherent maritime situation picture and acting as a maritime information hub for the region.
  • The IFC has been established at the Navy’s Information Management and Analysis Centre (IMAC) in Gurugram.
  • IMAC is the single point centre linking all the coastal radar chains to generate a seamless real-time picture of the nearly 7,500-km coastline.
  • All countries that have already signed white shipping information exchange agreements with us, about 21 of them, are IFC partners.

Challenges of IOR

  • The Indian Ocean Region is vital to world trade and economic prosperity of many nations.
  • More than 75% of the world’s maritime trade and 50% of global oil consumption passes through the IOR.
  • However, maritime terrorism, piracy, human and contraband trafficking, illegal and unregulated fishing, arms running and poaching pose myriad challenges to maritime safety and security in the region.
  • Response to these challenges requires enhanced situational awareness of the maritime activities in the region so as to enable security agencies function effectively.

NATIONAL TIGER CONSERVATION AUTHORITY

CONTEXT

The national tiger conservation authority’s (NTCA) has released a report tiger mortality in the country.

Highlights

  • According to the records till December 15, 2018, there were 95 cases of tiger deaths in the country. Of this, 41 cases of tiger deaths outside tiger reserves have been reported.
  • Of them, 14 occurred in Maharashtra, which accounted for over 34% of all deaths outside tiger reserves in the country. A total of 19 tiger deaths were recorded in Maharashtra in 2018, so deaths outside tiger reserves comprise more than 70% of all tiger deaths in the State.

Know about the NTCA

The National Tiger Conservation Authority is a statutory body under the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change constituted under enabling provisions of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, as amended in 2006, for strengthening tiger conservation, as per powers and functions assigned to it under the said Act.

Functions

  • Ensuring normative standards in tiger reserve management
  • Preparation of reserve specific tiger conservation plan
  • Laying down annual/ audit report before Parliament
  • Instituting State level Steering Committees under the Chairmanship of Chief Minister and establishment of Tiger Conservation Foundation.
  • According approval for declaring new Tiger Reserves.

RAJASTHAN LAUNCHES CAMPAIGN TO SAVE GREAT INDIAN BUSTARD

CONTEXT

  • Rajasthan became the first state in the country to launch a campaign to save the Great Indian Bustard, which is on the brink of extinction.
  • Rajasthan will implement a state-level action plan for the recovery of the state bird, known locally as the Godavan.

MORE ABOUT GREAT INDIAN BUSTARD (GIB)

  • Great Indian Bustard is listed in Schedule I of the Indian Wildlife (Protection)Act, 1972, in the CMS Convention and in Appendix I of CITES, as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List.
  • It has also been identified as one of the species for the recovery programme under the Integrated Development of Wildlife Habitats of the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India.
  • Project Great Indian Bustard — state of Rajasthan — identifying and fencing off bustard breeding grounds in existing protected areas as well as provide secure breeding enclosures in areas outside protected areas.

THREATS TO GIB

  • The key reasons for the decrease in count of the great Indian bustard are enumerated below:
    • Habitat destruction – the change of land use from grassland to farmland shrinking the bird’s habitat.
    • Hunting
    • Lack of protection from many ‘lekking’ and nesting sites.
    • Lack of cooperation between different departments/stakeholders in GIB habitats.
    • Lack of awareness and support from local communities.
    • Livestock overgrazing and feral dogs.

MORE EFFORTS TO SAVE

  • In November 2011, the ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) convened an emergency workshop where non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and experts were asked to submit an urgent bustard-recovery programme.
  • Recently ministry finalized the guidelines for a state action plan for a bustard-recovery programme after extensive consultation with stakeholders including the government, NGOs, national and international scientists and civil society.
  • It broadly advocates:
  • Research and monitoring,
  • Protection, management and restricted human use of core GIB breeding areas,
  • Linking local livelihood with bustard conservation by consolidating government and community institutions in GIB landscapes,
  • Conservation education and awareness of local communities,
  • Training of managers,
  • A conservation breeding programme as security.

INDIA’S ‘HELP US GREEN’ WINS UN CLIMATE ACTION AWARD

CONTEXT

  • Indian group ‘Help Us Green’ has received a UN climate Action Award.
  • “Help Us Green” is based in four cities of Uttar Pradesh and got the award in the women for results category.

WHY AWARDED?

  • It is doing its part to clean up the Ganges by recycling flowers from temples and mosques.
  • It gives marginalized women a chance to earn livelihoods and be respected in their communities through collecting temple ceremonial flowers tossed into the Ganges and turning them into sustainable incense.

HELP US GREEN

  • Help Us Green has come up with the world’s first profitable solution to the monumental temple waste problem.
  • Women working with ‘Help Us Green’ collect floral-waste daily from temples.
  • The waste is up-cycled to produce organic fertilizers, natural incense and biodegradable packaging material.
  • By 2021, Help Us Green, which plans to expand to Bangladesh, and Nepal, aims to provide livelihoods to 5,100 women and recycle 51 tonnes of temple waste daily.

INDIA’S DEEP DIVE FOR SEABED MINERALS

CONTEXT

  • India is preparing to unearth treasures located at the deep depths of the ocean. India is planning a deep dive and its aim is a boost in the economy.
  • The floor of the world’s seas is scattered with vast beds of black potato-shaped polymetallic nodules comprising copper, nickel, cobalt, manganese, iron and rare earth elements.

WHY THIS IS NEEDED?

  • The natural resources are key to manufacturing of modern gadgets and supply of essentially resources are dwindling onshore.
  • With the advancement of technology countries are moving towards the ocean floor exploration,

IS THERE ANY INTERNATIONAL BODY TO REGULATE THIS?

  • The international sea bed authority (ISA) will be a UN body that will oversee mining on the high seas – giving the green light for commercial exploitation.

WHY INDIA NEEDS SEABED MINERALS?

  • India is most interested in copper, nickel and cobalt, as it ramps up clean power generation.
  • Cobalt, also produced in Democratic Republic of Congo, is used to make batteries that can store energy from renewable sources, including solar and wind.
  • These metals are not widely available in India, so they have strategic importance.
  • India’s goal is to become self-reliant in the minerals, and it is “not in a race with anybody”.

ENVIRONMENTAL CHALLENGES

  • Experts warn that in the absence of a clear international charter, deep sea mining operations could cause irreversible damage to a little understood ecology.
  • The seabed is home to a unique ecology where colonies of organisms and creatures have evolved over millions of years, free of wild currents, sunlight, vibrations and noise which mining would bring.
  • Environmentalists fears private players could sound the death knell for Earth’s “final frontier”, which he said has been explored only 0.0001%.
  • It could also have long-term effects on how the ocean, which absorbs carbon dioxide and heat, regulates the world’s climate.
  • While the 1982 U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) already includes regulation of mineral-related activities, environmentalists say the rules are not good enough.
  • It urged countries to put vested interests aside in agreeing the new ISA framework, given the damage humans have already done to the planet’s atmosphere, land and surface water.

WAY AHEAD

  • Deep sea mining will be pure commerce, but there are certain situations where we cannot put profit before people.
  • We should not rush it, otherwise we will head towards another disastrous environmental damage.

ASBESTOS IN BABY POWDER

CONTEXT

  • Over 12,000 women in the US have sued the company over claims that the talcum powder manufactured by them is the prime cause behind their ovarian cancer.
  • A recent investigation by Reuters claimed that the talcum powder was contaminated by carcinogenic asbestos, making it poisonous and life-threatening for women using it on themselves.

WHAT IS TALCUM POWDER?

  • Talc is a naturally occurring mineral, found in clay that is mined from the soil. Being the softest mineral known to mankind, it can be crushed into white powder called talcum powder.
  • Asbestos is also a naturally occurring mineral found underground, thin asbestos fibers which are soft and flexible often seep inside the talc deposits.

WHAT IS ASBESTOS?

  • Asbestos is a set of six naturally occurring silicate minerals, which all have in common their eponymous asbestiform habit: i.e., long (roughly 1:20 aspect ratio), thin fibrous crystals, with each visible fiber composed of millions of microscopic “fibrils” that can be released by abrasion and other processes.
  • They are commonly known by their colors, as blue asbestos, brown asbestos, white asbestos, and green asbestos.

MOUNT SOPUTA ERUPTS IN INDONESIA

CONTEXT

Recently central Indonesia’s Mount Soputan Volacno erupted. Mount Soputan volcano is just one of the most active volcanoes of Indonesia. It is found on the Sulawesi island in Indonesia.

LOCATION

  • Mount Soputan is one of 129 active volcanoes in Indonesia which lies on a vulnerable quake-hit zone called “the Pacific Ring of Fire”.

WHAT IS RING OF FIRE?

  • Ring of Fire, also called Circum-Pacific Belt or Pacific Ring of Fire, long horseshoe-shaped seismically active belt of earthquake epicentres, volcanoes, and tectonic plate boundaries that fringes the Pacific basin.
  • A lot of significant and minimal tectonic plates these kinds of as the Eurasian, North American, Juan de Fuca, Cocos, Caribbean, Nazca, Antarctic, Indian, Australian, Philippine, and other smaller sized plates fulfil at the Ring of Hearth.

WHAT IS TECTONIC PLATES?

  • Earth’s outer shell is divided into several plates that glide over the mantle, the rocky inner layer above the core. The plates act like a hard and rigid shell compared to Earth’s mantle.
  • The driving force behind plate tectonics is convection in the mantle. Hot material near the Earth’s core rises, and colder mantle rock sinks.
  • The movement of these tectonic plates prospects to volcanic eruptions, earthquakes and development of deep trenches in the ocean.

 

INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON SUSTAINABLE WATER MANAGEMENT

CONTEXT

  • The first international conference on ‘sustainable water management’ occurred at Indian school of business (ISB) in Mohali, Punjab.
  • The conference is the first in the series of conferences being organised in India under the aegis of the ongoing National Hydrology Project. The hydrology project is being implemented by the Bhakra Beas Management Board with financial assistance from the Ministry of Water Resources.

ABOUT THE THEME

  • The theme of the international conference is ‘Sustainable Water Management.
  • The theme deals with promoting integrated and sustainable development and management of Water Resources.

AIM OF THE CONFERENCE

  • To foster the participation of and dialogue between various stakeholders, including governments, the scientific and academic communities.
  • To promote sustainable policies for water management,
  • To create awareness of water-related problems.
  • To promote better management of water resources at local, regional, national and international levels.

SIXTH NATIONAL REPORT TO THE CONVENTION OF BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY (CBD)

CONTEXT

India recently submitted its sixth national report (NR6) to the convention on biological diversity (CBD).

KEY HIGHLIGHTS OF REPORT

  • India is among the first five countries in the world, the first in Asia and the first among the biodiversity- rich mega diverse countries to have submitted NR6 to the CBD secretariat.
  • India is striving to meet the targets by the stipulated time of 2020.
  • The report highlights that while India has exceeded/ overachieved two NBTs, it is on track to achieve eight NBTs and with respect to two remaining NBTs.
  • According to the report, India has exceeded the terrestrial component of 17 per cent of Aichi target 11, and 20 per cent of corresponding NBT relating to areas under biodiversity management.
  • As per the NR6 report, India had been investing a huge amount on biodiversity directly or indirectly through several development schemes to the tune of Rs.70,000 crore per annum as against the estimated annual requirement of nearly Rs.1,09,000 crore.
  • Measures have been adopted for sustainable management of agriculture, fisheries and forests, with a view to provide food and nutritional security to all
  • Programmes are in place to maintain genetic diversity of cultivated plants, farms livestock and their wild relatives, towards minimising genetic erosion and safeguarding their genetic diversity.
  • Mechanisms and enabling environment are being created for recognising and protecting the vast heritage of coded and oral traditional knowledge relating to biodiversity.

CONVENTION ON BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY

  • The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), a legally binding treaty to conserve biodiversity has been in force since 1993. It has 3 main objectives:
    • The conservation of biological diversity.
    • The sustainable use of the components of biological diversity.
    • The fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of the utilization of genetic resources.
  • The CBD Secretariat is based in Montreal, Canada and it operates under the United Nations Environment Programme.
  • The Parties (Countries) under Convention of Biodiversity (CBD), meet at regular interval and these meetings are called Conference of Parties (COP).
  • Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety adopted on Convention on Biological Diversity (COP5) to protect biological diversity from the potential risks posed by living modified organisms resulting from modern biotechnology.
  • The Nagoya Protocol was adopted on 29 October 2010 in Nagoya, Japan at COP10 for the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising out of the utilization of genetic resources.

KNOW ABOUT AICHI TARGETS

  • The ‘Aichi Targets’ were adopted by the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) at its Nagoya conference.
  • The short-term plan provides a set of 20ambitious yet achievable targets, collectively known as the Aichi Targets.
  • The IUCN Species Programme provides advice to Parties, other governments and partners on the implementation of the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity and it’s Aichi Biodiversity Targets (2011 – 2020) and is also heavily involved in work towards the Target.

PRO-ACTIVE AND RESPONSIVE FACILITATION BY INTERACTIVE, VIRTUOUS AND ENVIRONMENTAL SINGLE-WINDOW H PORTAL

CONTEXT

  • A web –based single-window system Parivesh (Pro-Active and responsive facilitation by interactive, virtuous and environmental single-window hub) for environmental clearances rolled out at state level from January 15.
  • The automated system for submission, clearance and monitoring has already been implemented at the Central level.

MORE ABOUT THE PORTAL

  • “PARIVESH” is a workflow based application, based on the concept of web architecture. It has been rolled out for online submission, monitoring and management of proposals submitted by Project Proponents to the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MOEFCC), as well as to the State Level Environmental Impact Assessment Authorities (SEIAA).
  • It seeks to give various types of clearances (e.g. Environment, Forest, Wildlife and Coastal Regulation Zone Clearances) from Central, State and district-level authorities.
  • The system has been designed, developed and hosted by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, with technical support from National Informatics Centre, (NIC).

UTILITY OF PORTAL

  • It facilitates for online submission, monitoring and management of proposals submitted by Project Proponents to the MOEFCC, as well as to the State Level Environmental Impact Assessment Authorities (SEIAA).
  • It will also help seek various types of clearances (e.g. Environment, Forest, Wildlife and Coastal Regulation Zone Clearances) from Central, State and district-level authorities.
  • It is a single window clearance portal which include-
    • single registration and single sign-in for all types of clearances (i.e. Environment, Forest, Wildlife and CRZ),
    • unique-ID for all types of clearances required for a particular project and
    • Single Window interface for the proponent to submit applications for getting all types of clearances (i.e. Environment, Forests, Wildlife and CRZ clearances).
  • Parivesh provides for an amalgamation of various objectives of government like Digital India initiated by the Prime Minister and capturing the essence of Minimum Government and Maximum Governance.
  • The facility of Geographic Information System (GIS) interface will help them in analyzing the proposal efficiently, automatic alerts (via SMS and emails) at important stages to the concerned officers, committee members and higher authorities to check the delays if any.

SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY

PERSONAL DATA PROTECTION BILL

CONTEXT

Recently, Personal Data Protection Bill was introduced.

BACKGROUND

  • A Committee of Experts was set up under the Chairmanship of Justice B. N. Srikrishna in July 2017 to
    • Examine various issues related to data protection in India
    • Recommend methods to address them, and
    • Suggest a draft data protection Bill.
  • The draft Bill was presented to the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology on July 27, 2018.
  • It seeks to protect the autonomy of individuals with respect to their personal data, specify norms of data processing by entities using personal data, and set up a regulatory body to oversee data processing activities.

NEED OF THE BILL

    • In 2012, a petition was filed in the Supreme Court, challenging the constitutional validity of Aadhaar on the grounds that it violated an individual’s right to privacy. Following this, in August 2017, a nine-judge bench of the Supreme Court declared privacy as a fundamental right of Indian citizens.
    • The Court ruled that the right to privacy is protected by the Constitution as an intrinsic part of the right to life and personal liberty under Article 21. The Court also observed that ‘informational privacy’, or the privacy of personal data and facts, is an essential facet of the right to privacy.

 

  • Until now the privacy laws in India offer little protection against misuse of personal information. The transfer of personal data is currently governed by Information Technology (Reasonable Security Practices and Procedures and Sensitive Personal Data or Information) Rules, 2011, under Section 43A of the Information Technology Act, 2000 which have been proved inadequate.
  • European Union had also enacted the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) which also established Privacy as a Fundamental Right.
  • At present there are 369.01 million internet users in India which is growing day by day. This makes it even more important to regulate the transfer of user data online.

 

ABOUT THE PERSONAL DATA PROTECTION BILL

 

  • The Bill aims to regulate the processing of personal data of individuals (data principals) by government and private entities (data fiduciaries) incorporated in India and abroad. 

 

  • Provision of the Bill –
    • The Bill defines personal data as any information which renders an individual identifiable.
    • The Bill governs processing of personal data by both government and private entities (data fiduciaries) incorporated in India and abroad.
    • The bill allows data processing by fiduciaries if consent is provided by the individual.
    • However, in certain circumstances, processing of data may be permitted without the consent of the individual. These include
      • any function of Parliament or state legislature, or if required by the State for providing benefits to the individual,
      • if required under law or for compliance with any court judgement,
      • to respond to a medical emergency, or a breakdown of public order,
      • purposes related to employment, such as recruitment
      • for reasonable purposes specified by the Data Protection Authority with regard to activities such as fraud detection, debt recovery, credit scoring, and whistle blowing.
    • Sensitive personal data is defined in the Bill to include passwords, financial data, biometric and genetic data, caste, religious or political beliefs. 
    • The Bill sets out certain rights of the data principal whose data is being processed. These include
      • the right to obtain a summary of their personal data held with the data fiduciary,
      • the right to seek correction of inaccurate, incomplete, or outdated personal data
      • the right to have personal data transferred to any other data fiduciary in certain circumstances, and
      • the right ‘to be forgotten’, which allows the data principal to restrict or prevent continuing disclosure of their personal data.
    • Bill also provides certain exemptions for processing of personal data such as –
      • National security
      • prevention, detection, investigation and prosecution of contraventions to a law
      • legal proceedings
      • personal or domestic purposes
      • journalistic purposes
    • The only restrictions on data processing for these purposes are those of (i) processing personal data in a fair and reasonable manner, and (ii) ensuring appropriate security safeguards while processing the data.
    • DATA PROTECTION AUTHORITY
      • The Bill provides for the establishment of a Data Protection Authority (DPA).
      • The DPA is empowered to
        • draft specific regulations for all data fiduciaries across different sectors,
        • supervise and monitor data fiduciaries,
        • assess compliance with the Bill and initiate enforcement actions, and
        • receive, handle and redress complaints from data principals.
        • It shall consist of a chairperson and six members, with knowledge of at least ten years in the field of data protection and information technology.
    • The Bill states that every fiduciary shall keep a ‘serving copy’ of all personal data in a server or data centre located in India.
    • Personal data (except sensitive personal data which is ‘critical’) may be transferred outside India under certain circumstances which include –
      • the central government prescribes that transfers to a particular country are permissible, or
      • the DPA approves the transfer in a situation of necessity.

ANALYSIS OF THE BILL

 

  • No guidelines for processing of data in fair and reasonable manner – The Bill places the obligation on the Data fiduciaries to process the data in fair and reasonable manner but doesn’t specify the guidelines. The absence of guidelines could allow fairness and reasonability standards to vary across fiduciaries processing similar types of data; and fiduciaries in the same industry may develop and follow different standards. The Justice Srikrishna Committee Report had suggested that courts of law and regulatory authorities should be allowed to evolve principles of fair and reasonable processing.
  • Conflict of interest could arise from optional reporting of data breaches – Discretion has been given to DPA to determine whether a data breach need to be reported. Selective reporting of data breaches will avoid the DPA from being burdened with high volume of low-impact data breach reports, and also not make the burden of reporting too onerous on the fiduciary. However, there may be a conflict of interest while determining whether a breach is to be reported, as the fiduciary is regulated by the DPA.
  • Exemptions for certain kinds of data processing could be questioned – The Bill lays down obligation on fiduciaries to take consent before processing data. However, some exemptions have been provided (as mentioned above). But the above exceptions could be questioned. The Supreme Court, in Puttaswamy vs UoI, allowed exceptions to the right to privacy of an individual under certain situations. These include cases where a larger public purpose is satisfied by the infringement of privacy of an individual. Such an exemption must be backed by a law and must be necessary for and proportionate to achieving the purpose. However, it is unclear if exemptions for legal proceedings, or for research and journalistic purposes meet the requirements of necessity and proportionality. 
  • Processing of data for functions of the State does not require consent – The bill also provides that even states cannot process an individual without the consent. However, The Justice Srikrishna Committee Report had argued that the validity of consent given by the individual while availing State welfare benefits is questionable, given the imbalance of power between the citizen and the State. Thus, data processing for the provision of any service in the nature of welfare benefits should be allowed without the consent of the individual.
  • Storage of a copy of data within the territory of India – The bill is unclear about the meaning of ‘serving copy’ of data. The specification is needed, as costs, implications and implementation timelines for fiduciaries would vary significantly with the exact nature of a ‘serving copy’. Further, it may be argued that the broad criteria for classifying data as ‘critical’ needs to be specified in the law, as this is necessary for fiduciaries to prepare for the requirement of storing this data solely in India.
  • A complaint may be raised only if there is a possibility of harm – This provision of the bill doesn’t allow reporting of violation of rights.

 

COMPARISION OF THE BILL WITH INTERNATIONAL DATA PROTECTION AND PRIVACY LAWS

Country European Union Australia Canada India
Coverage of entities Single law for private and public entities. Single law for private and public entities. Separate laws for private entities and federal government institutions. Single law for private and public entities.
Sensitive personal data Does not include financial data, passwords. Does not include financial data, passwords. Not defined separately; any data may be sensitive based on the context. Includes financial data, passwords.
Storage and sharing of data across border
Local storage of data Not mandatory. Not mandatory.

Sector specific mandates, e.g., for health data

Not mandatory. Mandatory storage of a copy; critical personal data stored only in the country.
Cross border transfer of data Permitted if the receiving country has adequate standards of data protection, as assessed by the European Commission. Permitted if the processing entity has taken steps to ensure that the recipient does not breach country’s privacy principles. Permitted if the processing entity uses contractual or other means to ensure comparable level of protection. Permitted (for some data) if approved by the regulator or prescribed by the government.

 

OSIRIS-REx

CONTEXT

Data obtained from the OSIRIS-REx has revealed the presence of “hydroxyls”.

MORE FROM THE NEWS

 

  • “Hydroxls” are molecules which contain oxygen and hydrogen atoms bonded together.
  • These molecules exist on the Bennu asteroid in water bearing clay material.

 

ABOUT OSIRIS-REx

  • Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) is NASA’s first unmanned asteroid sampling mission which was launched in September 2016.
  • OSIRIS-REx since its launch orbited around the sun in Earth’s orbit.
  • Asteroid Bennu also orbits around the Sun however its orbit is more tilted as compared to Earth’s and it crosses Earth’s orbit only twice a year. Therefore OSIRIS-REx will have to make adjustments in its path to intersect with Asteroid.
  • When it reaches over Asteroid Bennu in 2018, it will take samples from Bennu without landing on it. It will release nitrogen puff and with the help of the mechanical arm it will collect some dust from Bennu.
  • It is set to return to earth in September 2023.

GSAT-11

CONTEXT

GSAT-11 was successfully launched from French Guiana.

ABOUT GSAT-11

  • GSAT-11 is the heaviest and most-advanced high throughput communication satellite.
  • It was launched by Ariane 5 VA-246 from French Guiana.
  • It has been placed in the geostationary orbit. It will be used to provide high data rate connectivity to users of Indian mainland and islands through 32 user beams in Ku-band and 8 hub beams in Ka-band.
  • GSAT-11 will boost the broadband connectivity to rural and inaccessible Gram Panchayats in the country coming under the Bharat Net Project, which is part of Digital India Programme.

SPACE REGULATION BILL 2017

CONTEXT

The government is introducing the Space Activities Bill 2017, which will allow commercial use of space, in the budget session of 2019.

OBJECTIVE OF THE BILL

  • To facilitate the overall growth of the space activities in India with higher order of participation of public/ non-governmental/ private sector stakeholders.
  • Establishment of a regulatory mechanism through an appropriate body, by the Central Government for the purpose of authorization and licensing of space activities.

WHAT IS THE NEED OF SPACE LAW?

  • Currently, space activities are regulated by policies like satellite communication policy, 2000 and remote sensing data policy, 2011.
  • There is a need for the proper legal environment for orderly performance and growth of space sector.
  • Mostly advanced nations such as USA, Russia, UK etc. have their own space legislation. Even china and japan are in the process of formulating their own domestic space legislation.
  • To promote the startups in the Indian space products there is a need for regulatory mechanism and legislation to govern their activities.
  • To cater the demand for Indian space products in the country and outside, it is necessary to include Indian industry and service providers in the space activities under the technical guidance of department of space (DOS).
  • A legislation is required as India is obligated to UN outer space treaties which require signatories to have a national legislation in place.

FEATURES OF SPACE REGULATION BILL 2017

  • The provisions of this Act shall apply to every citizen of India and to all sectors engaged in any space activity in India or outside India
  • A non-transferable license shall be provided by the Central Government to any person carrying out commercial space activity
  • The Central Government will formulate the appropriate mechanism for licensing, eligibility criteria, and fees for license.
  • The government will maintain a register of all space objects (any object launched or intended to be launched around the earth) and develop more space activity plans for the country
  • It will provide professional and technical support for commercial space activity and regulate the procedures for conduct and operation of space activity
  • It will ensure safety requirements and supervise the conduct of every space activity of India and investigate any incident or accident in connection with the operation of a space activity.
  • It will share details about the pricing of products created by space activity and technology with any person or any agency in a prescribed manner.
  • If any person undertakes any commercial space activity without an authorization they shall be punished with imprisonment up to 3 years or fined more than ₹1 crore or both.

Arguments against the bill:

  • Regulation: it gives arbitrary power to the government for monitoring the research activities. This would scare away international investors from investing in the space sector of India.
  • Lack of clarity: experts criticized the bill for its lack of clarity on the use of space objects. Bill puts every space object under its ambit, meaning even hardware that carries GPS receivers could require a license.
  • Liability: the bill made the government non-liable for any harm caused by the commercial activities by the non- governmental players in space even though the government gives clearance for their involvement in the space activities.

PAPER SENSOR THAT CAN DETECT FRESHNESS OF MILK

CONTEXT

  • IIT Guwahati scientists develop a new detection kit that could make testing freshness of milk easy and fast and tell how well it has been pasteurized.
  • The kit is aided with a smart phone app to ensure that milk is consumed before it turns too sour.

UTILITY OF INVENTION

  • Milk being widely consumed food, its safety is of prime concern to consumers as it is highly perishable and prone to action of enzymes and microorganisms inherently present in it.
  • Although pasteurization, freezing and preservation using additives are widely used to prevent spoilage, perishability of milk is still a concern.

HOW DOES THE KIT WORK?

  • The Kit uses an ordinary filter paper to prepare the detector.
  • The filter paper which is cut into small pieces is impregnated with chemical probes that preferentially react with Alkaline Phosphatase, which is an indicator of the quality of the milk.
  • When the filter paper impregnated with probes come in contact with the milk, its colour changes.
  • The colour change is photographed by a Smartphone. The images are then processed to obtain corresponding colour values.
  • These values are then compared with standard data stored in the phone.
  • This provides information about the quality of the Milk. Since the sensors used works in both qualitative and quantitative mode, the kit can also be used to measure the quantity of the milk.

 

SECURITY

SINO-INDIA JOINT EXERCISE HAND-IN-HAND 2018

CONTEXT

Exercise Hand-in-Hand is conducted annually as part of military diplomacy and interaction between armies of India and China.

The joint exercise for the year 2018 conducted from 10 to 23 December 2018 at Chengdu, China. 

OBJECTIVE OF THE EXERCISE

  • To build and promote close relations between armies of both the countries.
  • To enhance ability of joint exercise commander to take military contingents of both nations under command.
  • Exercise helps in understand transnational terrorism and evolve joint drills for the conduct of counter terrorism operations, in addition to Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief operations.
  • To further cement relationship between both the nations and will act as a catalyst in bringing bonhomie at grassroots levels between the armies of both countries.
  • The exercise will involve tactical level operations in an International Counter Insurgency/ Counter Terrorist environment under UN mandate. 
  • The exercise will be held in three phases — familiarisation, basic training and the joint exercise.

BACKGROUND

  • The last time the two armies had the joint exercise was in 2016, in Pune, but due to tensions between the two sides over Doklam due to standoff between the armies for more than 70 days, the armies skipped the `Hand-in-Hand’ exercise in 2017.
  • The Doklam sector is a strategically important area which is claimed by Bhutan.
  • Post Doklam, both countries have been working to increase cooperation like recently held Wuhan summit, G20 meet in Argentina, Defense ministers meet and forthcoming meetings will warm up the relations.

CYBER PHYSICAL SYSTEM

CONTEXT

The union cabinet approved the launching of national mission on interdisciplinary cyber-physical systems (NM-ICPS) to be implemented by Department of Science & technology for a period of five years.

COVERAGE AREAS

NM-ICPS is a Pan India Mission and covers entire gamut of India that includes Central Ministries, State Governments, Industry and Academia.

WHAT ARE CYBER PHYSICAL SYSTEM?

  • Cyber – Physical Systems (CPSs) are the integrations of computation, networking, and physical processes. It has seamless integration of algorithms and physical components.
  • In these systems, embedded computers monitor and control the physical processes such as natural and man – made systems governed by laws of Physics.
  • The CPSs have feedback loops where physical processes affect computations and vice versa.

OBJECTIVE

    • The NM-ICPS is a comprehensive mission which would address technology development, application development, human resource development & skill enhancement, entrepreneurship and start-up development in cyber physical system(CPS) and associated technologies.

 

  • The mission aims to establishment of 15 technology innovation hubs (TIH), six application innovation hubs (AIH) and four Technology Translation Research Parks (TTRP).

 

  • These hubs & TTRPs will connect to academics, industry, central ministries and state government in developing solutions at reputed academic, R&D and other organizations across the country in a hub and spoke model.
  • The hubs & TTRPs have four focused areas along which the mission implementation would proceed, namely:
    • Technology development
    • HRD & skill development
    • Innovation, entrepreneurship & start-ups ecosystem
    • International collaborations

BACKGROUND

  • CPS and its associated technologies, like Artificial Intelligence (Al), Internet of Things (loT), Machine Learning (ML), Deep Learning (DP), Big Data Analytics, Cyber Security for physical infrastructure and other infrastructure, have pervaded and is playing a transformative role in almost every field of human endeavor all most in all sectors.
  • It’s onus on the government to prepared to adopt these emerging and disruptive technologies in order to remain competitive, drive societal progress, generate employment, foster economic growth and to improve the overall quality of life and sustainability of the environment.

BENEFITS OF THE MISSION:

  • CPS is an integrated system of upcoming technology, which in turn is being taken up on priority basis by countries in the race of development.
  • CPS will indeed bring a paradigm shift in the entire skill sets requirements.
  • The proposed mission would act as an engine of growth that would benefit national initiatives in health, education, energy, environment, agriculture, strategic cum security, SMART cities, SDGs.
  • The job opportunities will be enhanced through the mission by imparting advanced skills and generating skilled manpower as per the requirement of industry.
  • Innovation, entrepreneurship and start-up ecosystem is an integral part of proposed NM-ICPS, the start-ups will also create a number of technology-driven job opportunities in CPS and allied areas.

INDIAN NAVY INDUCTS DEEP SUBMERGENCE RESCUE VEHICLE

 

CONTEXT

  • Indian navy inducted its first Deep submergence Rescue Vessel (DSRV) at its base Mumbai.
  • The second DSRV would be added to its base in Vishakhapatnam by 2019.

 

ABOUT DSRV

  • DSRV system is used to rescue crew members stranded in submarines that get disabled. The Indian navy joins a select group of naval forces in the world that boasts of the niche capability.
  • The DSRV can be operated at a depth of 650 meters and can hold around 15 people.
  • The Indian navy in March 2016 had commissioned two DSRVs, the second will be deployed at Eastern Naval Command in Vishakhapatnam.

 

SIGNIFICANCE

  • It can be crucial in quickly locating submarines through the vast expanse of sea and can be mobilized by air and water for rapid rescue.
  • The vessels have played a significant role in saving lives as well as submarines.
  • Besides for rescue operation, the vessels are also deployed for various other missions including to lay cables on the sea bed.

 

INDIAN NAVY’S THEATRE LEVEL READINESS AND OPERATIONAL EXERCISE (TROPEX)

CONTEXT

The Indian Navy will be conducting its flagship Theatre Level Operational Readiness Exercise, (TROPEX), from January end till early March 2019.

 

Know about TROPEX

  • Theatre Level Readiness and operational Exercise (TROPEX) is an inter-service military exercise involving the participation of Indian Army, Air Force, Navy and the Coast guard.
  • It is generally carried out in three phases: independent workup phase, joint workup phase and tactical phase.
  • The exercise generally commences in the beginning of each year.

 

Significance of TROPEX:

  • India’s increased role in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) and Indo-pacific, this exercise helps in enhancing the operational capability of the military force.
  • This will provide an opportunity to test the combat capability of the Indian Navy, Indian Army, Indian Air Force and Coast Guard, and strengthened interoperability and joint operations in complex conflict situation.
Exercise sea Vigil:

  • As a part of TROPEX, Indian Navy will conduct a large-scale coastal defense exercise to test the robustness of entire coastal security apparatus.
  • It include all stakeholders across mainland and island territories, and will see the participation of all operational ships, submarines and aircraft as well as units of Indian Coast guards, Indian Army and IAF.

 

INDIA’S FIRST MILITARY FLIGHT USING BLENDED BIO-JET FUEL

CONTEXT

Recently, Air Force flew its first military flight, an AN-32 transporter aircraft, using blended bio-jet fuel.

The Experimental Test Pilots and Test Engineer from Air Force’s testing establishment ASTE, flew the aircraft in a combined effort with DRDO, Directorate General Aeronautical Quality Assurance (DGAQA) and CSIR-Indian Institute of Petroleum.

KEY DETAILS

  • This is IAF’s step towards promotion of bio-jet fuels.
  • IAF intended to fly the An-32 with 10% bio-jet fuel on 26 Jan 2019 Republic Day flypast.
  • It helps in promoting indigenized technologies.
  • This fuel is made from Jatropha oil sourced from Chattisgarh Biodiesel Development Authority (CBDA).

WHAT IS BIOJET FUEL?

Biojet fuel is made from vegetable oils, sugars, animal fats and even waste biomass, and can be used in existing aviation jet engines without modification. Jatropha oil is suitable for conversion to jet fuel.

ART AND CULTURE

HORNBILL FESTIVAL

CONTEXT

The Union Home minister recently inaugurated the hugely popular Hornbill Festival 2018 in Kohima. It is coinciding with the formation day of Nagaland.

Hornbill festival offers unique opportunity not only to the different tribes of the state to interact with each other and exhibit their cultural heritage but also with those from the neighbouring and other states in the true spirit of “EK Bharat, Shrestra Bharat”.

MORE ABOUT HORNBILL FESTIVAL

    • Hornbill (name of a bird) Festival, considered one of the biggest events in the state, showcases the rich tradition and cultural heritage of the Naga people.
    • In the festival, music and dance make for an enchanting display of their ethnicity and diversity. To revive, protect and preserve this heritage and to enable visitors to understand it, the Hornbill Festival is celebrated through a collaborative effort of all Naga tribes.
    • It is organized by State Tourism and Art & Culture Departments and also supported by Union Government.

 

  • The hornbill festival for the first time inaugurated by the Former President Dr S Radhakrishnan on 1 December1963.

 

PAIKA REBELLION

 

CONTEXT

 

  • Recently Prime minister released a stamp and a coin to commemorate the Paika rebellion of 1817 in Odisha.
  • The government in 2017 decided that Paika Bidroha would be named as The First War of Independence.

WHO WERE PAIKA?

  • Paikas were essentially the peasant militias of the Gajapati rulers of Odisha who rendered military service to the king during times of war while taking up cultivation during times of peace.

ORIGIN OF PAIKA REBELLION

  • The Paik Rebellion, also called the Paika Bidroha, was an armed rebellion against the British East India Company’s rule that took place in Odisha in 1817.
  • The Paikas were the traditional landed militia of Odisha. They served as warriors and were charged with policing functions during peacetime.
  • The conquest of Odisha by the East India Company in 1803 and the dethronement of the Raja of Khurda led to fall in the power and prestige of the Paikas.
  • The Paik rebellion had several social, economic and political reasons.The Paiks were alienated by the British regime, who took over the hereditary rent-free lands granted to them after the conquest of Khurda.
  • They were also subjected to extortion and oppression at the hands of the company government and its servants.
  • The Paik rebellion was led by Bakshi Jagabandhu, former commander of forces of the Raja of Khurda and the last King of Khurda, Raja Mukunda Deva.
  • The rebellion enjoyed widespread support in Oriya society with feudal chiefs, zamindars and the common people of Odisha participating in it.
  • It quickly spread across most of Odisha before being ruthlessly crushed by the East India Company.

 

SWADESH DARSHAN PROJECT IN THE STATE OF NAGALAND

CONTEXT

The central government has launched ‘Development of Tribal Circuit: Peren-Kohima-Wokha Project’ under its Swadesh Darshan scheme to develop Nagaland as a tourist state.

ABOUT PEREN-KOHIMA-WOKHA PROJECT

  • The project “Development of Tribal Circuit: Peren-Kohima-Wokha” was sanctioned by the Ministry of Tourism in November 2015.
  • Under the project the Ministry has developed facilities like Tribal Tourist Village, Eco Log Huts, Open Air Theatre, Tribal Rejuvenation Centre, Cafeteria, Helipad, Tourist Interpretation Centre, Wayside Amenities, Last Mile Connectivity etc.
  • In addition to this, the Ministry has also sanctioned another project in Nagaland “Development of Tribal circuit: Mokokchung–Tuensang-Mon” which is under progress.

KNOW ABOUT SWADESH DARSHAN SCHEME

  • India’s rich cultural, historical, religious and natural heritage provides a huge potential for development of tourism and job creation in the country
  • This can be achieved only through an integrated approach by providing engaging experiences for distinct categories of tourists i.e. Domestic and International.
  • Swadesh Darshan Scheme is among the flagship schemes of the Ministry of Tourism for development of thematic circuits in the country in a planned and prioritized manner. The scheme was launched in 2014 -15
  • Under this scheme the Government is focusing on development of quality infrastructure in the country with objective of providing better experience and facilities to the visitors on one hand and on other hand fostering the economic growth.

 

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