Current Affairs, 06 October 2018
G.S Paper 2:
Topic: Development processes and the development industry the role of NGOs, SHGs, various groups and associations, donors, charities, institutional and other stakeholders.
Swachh Survekshan Grameen Awards 2018
What to study?
- For Prelims: SSG Survey- criteria, rankings.
- For Mains: SSG- significance.
Context: Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently conferred Swachh Survekshan Grameen Awards 2018 to top ranked states and districts. The rankings were based on the National Swachh Survekshan Grameen 2018 of the Union Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation.
- Haryana was ranked as best State.
- Satara District of Maharashtra was ranked as best district.
- Uttar Pradesh was rewarded for maximum citizens’ participation.
Zonal Ranking – Top States:
- Northern: Haryana.
- Southern: Andhra Pradesh.
- Eastern: Chhattisgarh.
- Western: Gujarat.
- North-East: Sikkim.
- Union Territories: Dadar & Nagar Haveli.
Zonal Ranking – Top Districts:
- Northern: Rewari (Haryana).
- Southern: Peddapalli (Telangana).
- Eastern: Surajpur (Chhattisgarh).
- Western: Satara (Maharashtra).
- North-East: Tawang (Arunachal Pradesh).
About Swachh Survekshan Grameen:
- SSG is a rural cleanliness survey to rank all states and districts on basis of qualitative and quantitative evaluation.
- The objective of SSG 2018 is to undertake ranking of states and districts on basis of their performance attained on key quantitative and qualitative Swachh Bharat Mission-Grameen (SBM-G) parameters. The rankings will be based on taking into account set of comprehensive cleanliness parameters.
- The criteria of SSG-2018 include survey of public places, citizens’ perspective of cleanliness, their recommendations and data from SBM-G. As part of it, more than 6000 villages in 698 districts across India were covered. It covered nearly 30,000 public places namely schools, anganwadis, public health centres, haat/bazaars/religious places in these villages.
- The SSG 2018 will assign 65% weightage to findings and outcome and 35% to service level parameters to be obtained from Integrated Management Information System (IMIS) of the MDWS.
- The weights to different elements of SSG are direct observation of sanitation in public places (30%), citizen’s feedback on sanitation parameters (35%), service level progress on sanitation progress in the country as per SBMG-MIS (35%).
The SSG 2018 was conducted by independent survey agency in all districts from 1st to 31st August 2018. It will also take feedback from over 50 lakh citizens on SBM related issues through direct interaction as well as online feedback.
Topic: Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.
Atal Innovation Mission
What to study?
- For Prelims: Features of Atal Innovation Mission.
- For Mains: Promotion of innovation at global level and efforts by India in this regard.
Context: To promote innovative cooperation between students of India and Russia, a Memorandum of Understanding was recently exchanged between India’s Atal Innovation Mission (AIM) and the Russian Federation’s SIRIUS Educational Foundation.
The MoU seeks to:
- Remove cultural and language barriers between students of Russia and India.
- Share the best practices in the promotion of educational, scientific, innovative achievements.
- Promote innovative cooperation.
- Search and develop the talented youth of both countries fostering a knowledge-driven innovation ecosystem in both the countries.
- The Atal Innovation Mission (AIM) is the Government of India’s flagship initiative to promote a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship in the country.
- AIM is mandated to create an umbrella structure to oversee innovation ecosystem of the country and revolutionizing the innovation eco-system – touching upon the entire innovation life cycle through various programs.
The Atal Innovation Mission shall have two core functions:
- Entrepreneurship promotion through Self-Employment and Talent Utilization, wherein innovators would be supported and mentored to become successful entrepreneurs.
- Innovation promotion: to provide a platform where innovative ideas are generated.
Sources: the hindu.
Topic: e-governance- applications, models, successes, limitations, and potential.
What to study?
For Prelims and Mains: Features and significance of Digi Yatra.
Context: Union Ministry of Civil Aviation has released policy on biometric based digital processing of passengers at airports called Digi Yatra. With this initiative, ticket booking, airport entry and boarding pass security check-in will be made digital.
- The initiative seeks to promote paperless and hassle-free air travel. It will be operational by end of February, 2019 at Bengaluru and Hyderabad airports. In later phase, Airports Authority of India (AAI) will roll out this initiative at Kolkata, Varanasi, Pune and Vijayawada airports by April 2019.
- Under it, there will be one-time verification at departure airport while travelling for first time using ID. After successful verification, facial recognition biometric will be captured and stored in Digi Yatra ID.
- For this system, passengers will be registered through centralized system and will be given Digi Travel ID. This ID will include details such as names of passengers, their e-mail id, mobile number and any other identity card in case of non-basis. Travelers can also use this ID when booking tickets.
This initiative will bring benefits to passengers and all stakeholders involved in process including airport operator who will be having travel information in advance for better resource planning and real-time data of passengers within terminal. This will enable the operator to take proactive action to avoid congestion.
Sources: the hindu.
Topic: Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora.
Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA)
What to study?
- For Prelims: About s- 400 missile systems, CAATSA- provisions and brief overview.
- For Mains: Issues associated and how CAATSA would affect India- Russia bilateral relations.
Context: India and Russia have concluded the contract for five S-400 ‘Triumf’ missile systems, one of the biggest defence deals in recent times.
- However, the U.S. has warned the deal would invoke sanctions under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) law.
What is CAATSA?
CAATSA is a US federal law that imposed sanctions on Iran, North Korea and Russia. It includes sanctions against countries that engage in significant transactions with Russia’s defence and intelligence sectors.
However, any imposition of sanctions on India, which is now a major defence partner, could be disastrous for the bilateral relationship.
What is S-400?
- It is an air defence missile system that can take down enemies’ aircraft in the sky from the surface itself.
- The S-400 is known as Russia’s most advanced long-range surface-to-air missile defence system, capable of destroying destroying hostile strategic bombers, jets, missiles and drones at a range of 380-km.
- The S-400 is an upgraded version of the S-300 systems. The missile system, manufactured by Almaz-Antey, has been in service in Russia since 2007.
Why does India want S-400?
S-400 would be like a “booster shot” in the Indian Air Force’s (IAF) arm. India needs to be well-equipped against neighboring threats. Pakistan has over 20 fighter squadrons, with upgraded F-16s, and inducting J-17 from China in large numbers. China has 1,700 fighters, including 800 4-Gen fighters.
Sources: the hindu.
Topic: Important International institutions, agencies and fora, their structure, mandate.
UN Conference on Disarmament
What to study?
For Prelims and Mains: All about CoD and its relationship wrt UN.
Context: Pankaj Sharma has been appointed as ambassador and India’s permanent representative to United Nations Conference on Disarmament in Geneva.
About the Conference on Disarmament:
- The Conference on Disarmament (CD) is a multilateral disarmament forum established by the international community to negotiate arms control and disarmament agreements based at the Palais des Nations in Geneva. The Conference meets annually in three separate sessions in Geneva.
- The Conference was first established in 1979 as the Committee on Disarmament as the single multilateral disarmament negotiating forum of the international community. It was renamed the Conference on Disarmament in 1984.
- The Conference succeeded three other disarmament-related bodies: the Ten-Nation Committee on Disarmament (1960), the Eighteen-Nation Committee on Disarmament (1962–68) and the Conference of the Committee on Disarmament (1969–78).
- Membership: The conference is currently composed of 65 formal members, representing all areas of the world, as well as all known nuclear-weapon states. Additionally, members are organized into a number of informal regional groups to facilitate their preparation for, and representation in the plenary meetings of the Conference.
Relationship to the United Nations:
The Conference is formally independent from the United Nations. However, while it is not formally a UN organization, it is linked to it in various ways. First and foremost, the Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva serves as the Secretary-General of the Conference. Furthermore, while the Conference adopts its own rules of procedure and agenda, the United Nations General Assembly can pass resolutions recommending specific topics to the Conference. Finally, the Conference submits a report of its activities to the General Assembly yearly, or more frequently, as appropriate.
Sources: the hindu.
Topic: indigenization of technology and developing new technology.
India International Science Festival (IISF-2018)
What to study?
For Prelims and Mains: IISF- objectives, theme and significance.
Context: India International Science Festival (IISF-2018) has begun in Lucknow.
Theme: “Science for Transformation”.
About IISF- 2018:
- IISF is conceivably the biggest platform in India that brings together students, researchers, artists and general public to celebrate our nation’s achievements in science and technology.
- It is a medium to encourage the young minds towards the field of science and to promote the networking of stakeholders working towards the propagation of science.
- Through this festival, the largest of its kind in the country and in this region, it is expected that the message of excitement of Science and scientific temper will be spread to the students and will be inspiring for the youth.
- All stakeholders collectively work towards “Vigyan se Vikas”- contributing to the Making of a New India.
Topic: Conservation related issues.
Methanol Cooking Fuel Program of India
What to study?
For Prelims and Mains: All about Methanol- uses, advantages, significance and future potential, about the Programme.
Context: Signifying a paradigm shift towards the use of alternate cooking fuel technology, the Namrup-based Assam Petrochemicals Limited (APL) has rolled out the country’s first methanol-based cooking fuel project-‘Green and Clean Fuel Pilot Project on Methanol Cooking Stove’.
Highlights of the project:
- Under the pilot project, stove and methanol canister will be made available in a limited scale. The methanol cooking fuel will be available in canisters of 1.2 kg capacity each, which will be priced at around Rs 32 and around 18 of them would be equivalent to one conventional domestic LPG cylinder.
- The technology for the canister and the special burner has been provided by Sweden. In two months, APL will start commercial production of methanol-based cooking fuel. Initially the product will be made available for the northeastern region.
Boost to NITI Aayog’s Programme:
This is India’s first step towards realising the concept of ‘Methanol Economy’, the flagship programme of NITI Aayog. Through the programme, the NITI Aayog has been working on a roadmap to replace 20% of the country’s crude imports through methanol alone.
Methanol as an alternative fuel:
Methanol is a promising fuel as it is clean, cheaper than fossil fuels and a good substitute for heavy fuels. India imports methanol from Saudi Arabia and Iran at present. Across the world, methanol is emerging as a clean, sustainable transportation fuel of the future.
Methanol can be used as an energy producing fuel, transportation fuel and cooking fuel, cutting down India’s oil import bill by an estimated 20% over the next few years. Unlike CNG, using methanol as a transportation fuel would require minimal alteration in the vehicles.
- Methanol is a clean-burning fuel that produces fewer smog-causing emissions — such as sulphur oxides (SOx), nitrogen oxides (NOx) and particulate matter — and can improve air quality and related human health issues.
- Methanol is most commonly produced on a commercial scale from natural gas. It can also be produced from renewable sources such as biomass and recycled carbon dioxide.
- As a high-octane vehicle fuel, methanol offers excellent acceleration and power. It also improves vehicle efficiency.
Methanol as an enduring solution to human energy needs?
Methanol has the potential to be an enduring solution to human energy needs is because the beltched out C02 (greenhouse gas emission) both from using Methanol and while producing Methanol can be tapped back to produce Methanol. Thereby a seamless loop of CO2 sequestration cycle is created to perpetually burn fuels without polluting the environment at all. C02 from steel plants, Thermal Power plants, Cement Plants etc. can be tapped in large quantities to produce Methanol.
The Concept of “Methanol Economy” is being actively pursued by China, Italy, Sweden, Israel, US, Australia, Japan and many other European countries. 10% of fuel in China in transport Sector is Methanol. Methanol Economy, if adopted by India can be one of the best ways to mitigate the Environmental hazards of a growing economy. NITI Aayog is preparing a road map for a full-scale implementation in the near future.
Topic: IPR related issues.
GI Tag for Alphonso from Konkan
What to study?
For Prelims and Mains: All about GI tags and related key facts.
Context: Alphonso from Ratnagiri, Sindhudurg, Palghar, Thane and Raigad districts of Maharashtra, is registered as Geographical Indication (GI).
- The king of mangoes, Alphonso, better known as ‘Hapus’ in Maharashtra, is in demand in domestic and international markets not only for its taste but also for pleasant fragrance and vibrant colour. It has long been one of the world’s most popular fruit and is exported to various countries including Japan, Korea and Europe. New markets such as USA and Australia have recently opened up.
About GI tag:
What is it?
A GI is primarily an agricultural, natural or a manufactured product (handicrafts and industrial goods) originating from a definite geographical territory.
Significance of a GI tag:
Typically, such a name conveys an assurance of quality and distinctiveness, which is essentially attributable to the place of its origin.
Once the GI protection is granted, no other producer can misuse the name to market similar products. It also provides comfort to customers about the authenticity of that product.
Provisions in this regard:
- GI is covered as element of intellectual property rights (IPRs) under Paris Convention for Protection of Industrial Property.
- At international level, GI is governed by WTO’s Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).
- In India, Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection Act), 1999 governs it.
Facts for Prelims:
What is Monetary Policy and Monetary Policy Committee (MPC)?
To achieve the goals of broad economic policy, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) uses monetary policy to control inflation, interest rates, supply of money and credit availability.
The RBI has a government-constituted Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) which is tasked with framing monetary policy using tools like the repo rate, reverse repo rate, bank rate, cash reserve ratio (CRR).
Composition of MPC:
- The committee will have six members. Of the six members, the government will nominate three. No government official will be nominated to the MPC.
- The other three members would be from the RBI with the governor being the ex-officio chairperson. Deputy governor of RBI in charge of the monetary policy will be a member, as also an executive director of the central bank.
- Decision: Decisions will be taken by majority vote with each member having a vote.
- RBI governor’s role: The RBI Governor will chair the committee. The governor, however, will not enjoy a veto power to overrule the other panel members, but will have a casting vote in case of a tie.
- Selection: The government nominees to the MPC will be selected by a Search-cum-Selection Committee under Cabinet Secretary with RBI Governor and Economic Affairs Secretary and three experts in the field of economics or banking or finance or monetary policy as its members.
- Term: Members of the MPC will be appointed for a period of four years and shall not be eligible for reappointment.
Editorial: The new deals — on U.S.-Mexico-Canada pact
Context: USMCA Replacing NAFTA
After more than a year of intense negotiation, the U.S, Canada and Mexico managed to arrive at a revised trade agreement to replace the quarter-century-old North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
A new free trade pact USMCA replaces the 25-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which Donald Trump threatened to cancel previously.
The deal does not do anything new to promote the cause of free trade among the North American nations but it achieves the objective of averting any significant damage to the international trade system.
USMCA: United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement:
Canada and U.S reached a deal to a new free trade pact. This is known as USMCA, that means, United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement. It gives U.S. greater access to the dairy markets of Canada and allows extra imports of Canadian cars.
Now the U.S.A says, USMCA will result in freer markets, fairer trade and robust economic growth.
Under the new deal, Canada will have to allow American dairy producers to compete against locals, a move that will favour Canadian consumers.
The U.S. agreed to retain Chapter 19 and Chapter 20 dispute-settlement mechanisms as a compromise, which Canada quite often used to resolve the trade conflicts and to defend against U.S anti-dumping and countervailing duties.
USMCA includes stronger protections for workers, tough new environmental rules.
It also provides “ground breaking” intellectual property protections. It adds provisions to prevent “manipulation” of the trade rules, including covering currency values, and controls over outside countries trying to take advantage of the duty-free market.
In addition, 40% of the car parts of vehicles produced in the three Countries must be made in North America.The minimum wages should be $16 an hour.
This is the best anyone could possibly hope for in the midst of the global trade war that began this year.
What’s new in the deal, and how big of an impact will it have?
USMCA headlining items from the new agreement:
- Country of origin rules
Under the new deal, cars or trucks must have 75 percent of their components manufactured in Mexico, the US, or Canada to qualify for zero tariffs.
The goal is to boost auto parts manufacturing in North America by forcing car companies to use parts made here versus cheaper parts from Asia.
- Labour provisions
The most striking difference from NAFTA involves protections for workers in all three countries.
The new agreement calls for 40 to 45 percent of automobile content to be made by workers who earn at least $16 an hour by 2023. This provision specifically targets Mexico and is meant to bring wages there up to US and Canadian standards.
In addition, Mexico has agreed to pass laws giving workers the right to real union representation, to extend labor protections to migrants workers (who are often from Central America), and to protect women from discrimination.
These are much-needed reforms, and they address a lot of concerns that US labor unions have long had about NAFTA.
- US farmers get more access to the Canadian dairy market
Canada uses what’s called a supply management system for dairy (and eggs and poultry), which closely regulates how much of each product can be produced and places strict tariffs and quotas on those items when they’re shipped into the country.
The US got Canada to open up its dairy market.
- Intellectual property protections and digital trade provisions
This is a win for the United States. The new agreement extends the terms of copyright from 50 years beyondthe life of the author to 70 years beyond the life of the author.
The USMCA aims to fix that by adding new provisions to deal with the digital economy — that is things like e-commerce and data.
These new digital provisions include things like no duties on products purchased electronically, such as music or e-books, and protections for internet companies so they’re not liable for content their users produce.
- Canada preserves the special trade dispute mechanism and Investors can’t sue governments
In the original NAFTA, a provision known as Chapter 11 gave investors the ability to sue governments over changes to policies that they claim would harm future profits.
It’s been eliminated for the US and Canada and has been restricted in Mexico except for a few sectors, including energy.
Trump gets a win on his trade strategy — but what does it all mean?
Some changes are substantial, such as the provisions about automobiles, but the core of NAFTA remains intact.
They have fixed some of the problems with NAFTA, they have brought it up to date, they have expanded the scope of the agreement, but they have in no way fixed what seemed to be the fundamental problems of NAFTA by President Trump.
Because, USMCA has introduced digital trade protections and other updates, but it perhaps didn’t go far enough.
Many of the more forward-looking agreements, such as digital trade protections, were borrowed from the TPP.
But, the question is how long this strategy can last, and whether it will work on harder trade deals, for instance with Japan and the European Union.
USMCA impact on India:
The biggest impact, according to the US trade officials, is going to be in the auto section that stipulates conditions such as manufacturing of greater portion of vehicles in the three countries and with high-wage labour in the US and Canada.
Announcing the USMCA, Mr Trump signalled he would now extend his ‘all or nothing’ approach to resetting trade ties with the European Union, China, Japan and India.
Terming India “the tariff king”, he said it had sought to start negotiations immediately.
India’s trade negotiators will now have their task cut out if they want to protect exporters’ access to one of the country’s largest markets for its services and merchandise.