Current Affairs, 10 October 2018

Current Affairs, 10 October 2018


 

G.S Paper 1:

Topic: Modern Indian history from about the middle of the eighteenth century until the present- significant events, personalities, issues.

 

Chhotu ram

What to study?

For Prelims and Mains: About Chhotu Ram and his contributions.

 

Context: A 64-foot-tall statue of peasant leader Sir Chhotu Ram has been unveiled at his native village Sampla in Haryana’s Rohtak district.

 

About Sir Chhotu Ram:

  • Sir Chhotu Ram, who was born on November 24, 1881, was regarded as a messiah of peasants and was instrumental in empowering farmers in pre-Independence era and getting pro-farmers law enacted. He had fought for farmers’ rights during the British rule.
  • On political front, he was a co-founder of the National Unionist Party which ruled all the time Panjab Province in per-Independent India and kept Congress and Muslim League at bay.
  • Chhotu Ram was awarded the title of ‘Rao Bahadur’. He was knighted in 1937 and was popularly known as Deen Bandhu.
  • His legacy has been evoked by the formation of a new party, the National Unionist Zamindara Party by guar farmers in Rajasthan in 2013.

 

Sources: pib.


Topic: Important Geophysical phenomena such as earthquakes, Tsunami, Volcanic activity, cyclone etc.

 

How are Cyclones named?

 

What to study?

For Prelims and Mains: All about cyclones and their naming.

 

Context: Cyclonic storm ‘TITLI’ has hit the Bay of Bengal and another cyclonic storm ‘LUBAN’ has hit the Arabian sea.

 

How are cyclones named?

In September 2004, an international panel on tropical cyclones decided that countries from the region would each put in names, which would be assigned to storms in the Bay of Bengal and Arabian Sea.

  • Eight countries — India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Maldives, Myanmar, Oman, Sri Lanka and Thailand – participated and came up with a list of 64 names.
  • In the event of a storm, the Regional Specialized Meteorological Centre, New Delhi, selects a name from the list.

 

Why it is necessary to name cyclones?

The late origin of this naming system — unlike storms in the Atlantic, which have been getting named since 1953 — was ostensibly to protect sensitivities in the ethnically diverse region.

The purpose of the move was also to make it easier for “people easily to understand and remember the tropical cyclone/hurricane in a region, thus to facilitate disaster risk awareness, preparedness, management and reduction.

 

Guidelines for naming cyclones:

Citizens can submit names to the Director General of Meteorology, IMD, for consideration, but the weather agency has strict rules for the selection process.

  • A name, for instance, ‘should be short and readily understood when broadcast’.
  • The names must also be neutral, ‘not culturally sensitive and not convey some unintended and potentially inflammatory meaning’.
  • Furthermore, on the account of the ‘death and destruction’ a storm in the Indian Ocean causes, their names are retired after use, unlike those in the Atlantic and Eastern Pacific lists, which are reused every few years.

 

Cyclone categories:

  • Category 1: Wind and gales of 90-125 kph, negligible house damage, some damage to trees and crops.
  • Category 2: Destructive winds of 125-164 kph. Minor house damage, significant damage to trees, crops and caravans, risk of power failure.
  • Category 3: Very destructive winds of 165-224 kph. Some roof and structural damage, some caravans destroyed, power failure likely.
  • Category 4: Very destructive winds of 225-279 kph. Significant roofing loss and structural damage, caravans destroyed, blown away, widespread power failures.
  • Category 5: Very destructive winds gusts of more than 280 kph. Extremely dangerous with widespread destruction.

 

Names reused every six years:

Atlantic and Pacific storm names are reused every six years, but are retired “if a storm is so deadly or costly that the future use of the name would be insensitive or confusing,” according to forecasters at the US National Hurricane Center in Miami.

 

Cyclone season:

The country’s cyclone season runs from April to December, with severe storms often causing dozens of deaths, evacuations of tens of thousands of people from low-lying villages and wide damage to crops and property.

 

What’s the difference between hurricanes, cyclones and typhoons?

  • Hurricanes, cyclones and typhoons are all tropical storms. They are all the same thing but are given different names depending on where they appear. When they reach populated areas they usually bring very strong wind and rain which can cause a lot of damage.
  • Hurricanes are tropical storms that form over the North Atlantic Ocean and Northeast Pacific. Cyclones are formed over the South Pacific and Indian Ocean. Typhoons are formed over the Northwest Pacific Ocean.

 

Sources: the hindu.


 

Paper 2:

Topic: Salient features of the Representation of People’s Act.

 

Section 151A of the Representation of the People Act, 1951

 

What to study?

  • For Prelims: Section 151A of RPA.
  • For Mains: Issues associated, frequent elections and problems posed by it.

 

Context: Amidst murmurs in political circles that the Lok Sabha bypolls in Karnataka to three seats was “unnecessary”, the Election Commission has cited Section 151 A of the Representation of People Act, which mandated it.

 

What’s the issue now?

Experts have written to the President questioning the rationale behind holding byelections close to general elections. President Ram Nath Kovind has been requested to withdraw notification of the byelection. They have questioned EC’s move as the announcement of byelections to parliamentary constituencies were only in Karnataka while there are vacant constituencies in Andhra Pradesh too.

 

What is Section 151A of RPA all about?

It mandates the Election Commission to fill the casual vacancies in the Houses of Parliament and State Legislatures through bye elections within six months from the date of occurrence of the vacancy, provided that the remainder of the term of a member in relation to a vacancy is one year or more.

 

How EC defends its move?

Byelections are required to be held under Section 151A of RP Act within six months from the date of occurrence of the vacancy. Vacancies in Karnataka occurred more than a year before the expiry of the term of the house. In case of vacancies in Andhra Pradesh, there is no need to hold byelections as the remaining term of Lok Sabha is less than one year.

 

Sources: pib.


Topic: Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability, e-governance- applications, models, successes, limitations, and potential; citizens charters, transparency & accountability and institutional and other measures.

 

‘MedWatch’

What to study?

For Prelims and Mains: Features and significance of MedWatch.

 

What is it? It is an innovative mobile health App launched by the Indian Air Force (IAF) to provide health information to the users, including first-aid and other health and nutritional topics. It is the first mobile health app in the three Armed Services.

 

Key facts:

  • The app is conceived by the doctors of IAF and developed in house by Directorate of Information Technology (DIT) with ZERO financial outlay.
  • ‘MedWatch’ will provide correct, Scientific and authentic health information to air warriors and all citizens of India.
  • It comprises of host of features like information on basic First Aid, Health topics and Nutritional Facts; reminders for timely Medical Review, Vaccination and utility tools like Health Record Card, BMI calculator, helpline numbers and web links.

 

Sources: pib.


Topic: Important International institutions, agencies and fora, their structure, mandate.

 

‘2nd World Conference on Access to Medical Products: Achieving the SDGs 2030’

What to study?

  • For Prelims: All about the conference and its organizers.
  • For Mains: Significance of the Conference, Access to Medical Products- issues, concerns and opportunities.

 

Context: To enable a holistic view on access to medical products, the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare (MoHFW), Government of India with the support of World Health Organization is organizing the ‘2nd World Conference on Access to Medical Products – Achieving the SDGs 2030’ at New Delhi.

The main objective of the 2nd World Conference 2018 is to take forward the recommendations from the 1st World Conference 2017 and build on the work done for access to medical products in the context of SDGs, including trade agreements.

The specific objectives are to promote an enabling ecosystem in the context of WHO’s 13th Global Programme of Work for access to medical products; foster new approaches in innovation landscape for medical products and health technologies for accelerating research and innovation; and identify knowledge, information and policy options on the interface of international trade and health to achieve SDG 2030 goals.

 

Background:

Reliable access to effective, safe, quality-assured and affordable medical products (medicines, vaccines, diagnostics, devices) is key to progressing towards Universal Health Coverage (UHC) and the SDGs. UHC includes appropriate access to affordable and quality-assured medical products supporting countries in achieving the targets of the health SDGs. India’s contribution towards access to medical products worldwide is well recognized.

 

Sources: pib.


Topic: Important International institutions, agencies and fora, their structure, mandate.

 

South-East Asia Regulatory Network (SEARN)

 

What to study?

For Prelims and Mains: About SEARN and its objectives and functions.

 

Context: Information Sharing Platform Gateway for South-East Asia Regulatory Network (SEARN) developed by Centre for Development of Advanced Computing has been launched. It will promote regulatory and health collaboration among the countries of the South-East Asia Region.

 

Background:

In the South-East Asia region in WHO, India is actively contributing & providing support for the SEARN to guarantee access to high-quality medical products.

 

About SEARN:

  • The South East Asia Research Network (SEARN), based at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, is a platform to facilitate research collaboration.
  • It provides a forum to support the communication and dissemination of research findings, highlight research areas and a network connecting people and collaborators outside with an interest in South East Asia.

 

Composition:

SEARN includes all ASEAN countries: Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar (Burma), Cambodia, Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei, Singapore, Timor-Leste (East Timor) and the Philippines.

 

Objective are:

  • Encourage communication and dissemination of research findings.
  • Showcase ongoing research.
  • Act as a news forum.

 

Facts for Prelims:

Communicable Diseases Policy Research Group: CDPRG is a multidisciplinary team based in Bangkok, Thailand, which conducts research in South East Asia, and beyond. It carries out research, with a focus on the diverse public health problems associated with communicable disease control internationally, that is in support of and for policy reform.

 

Sources: pib.


Topic: Important International institutions, agencies and fora, their structure, mandate.

 

Universal Postal Union (UPU)

 

What to study?

For Prelims: About World Posts Day and UPU.

 

Context: World Post Day is observed every year on October 9 to spread awareness about the postal services and their role in the everyday lives of people and businesses. The day is celebrated to mark anniversary of the establishment of the Universal Postal Union (UPU) in 1874 in the Swiss Capital, Bern.

The 2018 theme is: “Imagine you are a letter travelling through time. What message do you wish to convey to your readers?”.

 

About Universal Postal Union (UPU):

  • It is a specialized agency of United Nations that coordinates postal policies among member nations, in addition to worldwide postal system.
  • It was established in 1874 and is second oldest international organization worldwide after International Telecommunication Union (ITU) which was established in 1865. It is headquartered in Berne, Switzerland.
  • It has 192 member countries.
  • It is primary forum for cooperation between postal sector players among member countries.

 

Functions:

It helps to ensure truly universal network of up-to-date products and services. It sets rules for international mail exchanges and makes recommendations for growth in mail, financial and parcel services volumes and also to improve quality of service for customers.

 

Sources: the hindu.


 

Paper 3:

Topic: Conservation related issues.

 

Forest fires in India and its impact

What to study?

  • For Prelims: Highlights of the report.
  • For Mains: Forest fires- spread, causes, management and strategy.

Context: A report titled “Strengthening Forest Fire Management in India”, jointly prepared by the MoEFCC and the World Bank, has been released.

 

Highlights of the report:

Occurrence of forest fires and their impact: Forest fires occur in around half of the country’s 647 districts every year. Central India has the largest area affected by fire. North-East accounts for 56% of burnt forest land during 2003-2016, followed by southern states and the North-East. However, North-eastern states account for the biggest share of fire detections, with at least 55% of fire incidents reported during 2003-2016.

Concerns: With at least one in four people dependent on forests for their livelihood, India is losing at least ₹1,100 crore due to forest fires every year, says a new World Bank report. The report calls for a national plan for the prevention of forest fire. Repeated fires in short succession are reducing diversity of species and harming natural regeneration, while posing a risk to over 92 million in India who live in areas of forest cover.

 

Way ahead:

The findings are significant since preventing forest fires is crucial to meet Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) in order to limit global warming. As per the Fifth Assessment Report of IPCC, forest fires globally contribute 2.5 billion to 4.0 billion tonnes of CO2 to carbon emissions every year. Tackling forest fires is even more important in India as the country has committed to bringing 33% of its geographical area under forest cover by 2030, as part of NDCs.

 

Facts for Prelims:

India aims to increase its forest cover by 5 million hectares, as part of India’s National Action Plan on Climate Change.

 

Sources: the hindu.


Facts for Prelims:

 

India for Humanity initiative:

Context: Union Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has launched India for Humanity initiative to commemorate the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi and honour of his service to humanity. It will feature year-long series of artificial limb fitment camps in a number of countries spanning globe.

For this initative, MEA has collaborated with renowned charitable organisation Bhagwan Mahaveer Viklang Sahayata Samiti (BMVSS).

Aim: to provide physical, economic and social rehabilitation of differently-abled around world by helping them regain their mobility and dignity to become self-respecting and productive members of society. It focuses on Mahatma Gandhi’s philosophy of compassion, caring and service to humanity.

 

Jal Bachao, Video Banao, Puraskar Pao contest:

The Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation announced the winners for the Third and Fourth fortnight of the Jal Bachao, Video Banao, Puraskar Pao contest.

What is the contest about?

Jal Bachao, Video Banao, Puraskar Pao contest was launched by the Ministry in collaboration with the MyGov portal of the Government of India with the objective of spreading awareness about water conservation.

Editorial: The backlash against China is growing


 

Introduction:

China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) which seeks to invest about $8 trillion in infrastructure projects across Asia, Europe and Africa, has come under intense scrutiny, not least due to suspicions over China’s intent behind the ambitious project.

A study by the Centre for Global Development, a Washington-based think tank, analyses one important consequence of BRI: debt.

While the study finds that it is unlikely that the BRI will be plagued with wide-scale debt sustainability problems, it is likely to raise the risk of a sovereign debt default among relatively small and poor countries.

 

Context:

On a recent official visit to China, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad criticized his host country’s (China’s) use of major infrastructure projects and difficult-to-repay loans to assert its influence over smaller countries.

While Mahathir’s warnings in Beijing against “a new version of colonialism” stood out for their boldness, they reflect a broader pushback against China’s mercantilist trade, investment, and lending practices.

Mahathir, who previously cleared the way for Chinese investment in Malaysia, ended his trip to Beijing by cancelling Chinese projects worth almost $23 billion.

 

How China is inflating their goods Value and making the countries into “Debt Trap”:

Since 2013, under the umbrella of its “Belt and Road Initiative”, China has been funding and implementing large infrastructure projects in countries around the world, in order to help align their interests with its own, gain a political foothold in strategic locations, and export its industrial surpluses.

By keeping bidding on BRI projects closed and opaque, China often massively inflates their value, leaving countries struggling to repay their debts.

 

Consequences of that Debt Trap:

Once countries become ensnared in China’s debt traps, they can end up being forced into even worse deals to compensate their creditor for lack of repayment.

  • For Instance, Most notably, last December, Sri Lanka was compelled to transfer the Chinese-built strategic port of Hambantota to China on a 99-year, colonial-style lease, because it could longer afford its debt payments.

 

  • Sri Lanka’s experience was a wake-up call for other countries with outsize debts to China. Fearing that they, too, could lose strategic assets, they are now attempting to scrap, scale back, or renegotiate their deals.

 

  • Countries as diverse as Bangladesh, Hungary, and Tanzania have also cancelled or scaled back BRI projects.
  • Myanmar, hoping to secure needed infrastructure without becoming caught up in a Chinese debt trap, has used the threat of cancellation to negotiate a reduction in the cost of its planned Kyaukpyu port from $7.3 billion to $1.3 billion.

 

  • Even China’s closest partners are now wary of the BRI. In Pakistan, which has long worked with China to contain India and is the largest recipient of BRI financing, the new government has sought to review or renegotiate projects in response to a worsening debt crisis.

 

  • In Cambodia, fears of effectively becoming a Chinese colony are on the rise.

 

  • At the recent annual Pacific Islands Forum meeting, the President of Nauru, the World’s smallest republic, with just 11,000 inhabitants, condemned China’s arrogant presence in the South China Sea.

 

 

Asian Countries Like Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Australia strategies to contain China:

They are unveiling the strategies to diversify their economic inter-dependence away from Mainland China and towards South-east Asia and India. The concern in these counties is, China is using its economic muscle for political purposes.

An example is, suspending rare Earth metal exports to Japan in 2010 or punishing a major South Korean Corporation for the decision of South Korea to install a missile defence system in 2017.

Japan’s Free and Open Indo-Pacific strategy is meant to diversify investments to more promising markets in Southeast Asia, India and Africa.  South Korea unveiled a New Southern Policy with focus on South-east Asia, along with making India Korea’s key partner for cooperation.

Taiwan announced a New Southbound Policy with significant investments in India by Taiwanese electronics manufacturers.

Australian Govt. commissioned ambitious India Economic Strategy with the goal of making India, its third-largest investment destination and export destination by 2035.

These countries are aligning in Asia for the acceleration of India’s economic growth and now it is up to India to grab this opportunity.

 

Way Forward:

Unlike most of the world’s other major creditors, China is not bound to a set of rules on how it addresses debtor repayment problems.

The think-tank Centre for Global Development advocates applying globally-accepted creditor disciplines and standards to the Belt and Road Initiative.

To do this, they recommend the World Bank and other multilateral banks increase their participation in the Belt and Road Initiative and work with the Chinese government to set the lending standards for the BRI projects.

Another recommendation is to establish a new creditor’s group which would maintain the core principles of International Standards and Creditor Disciplines.

To mitigate lending risks, China is also recommended to provide technical and legal support to developing countries.

Finally, the think tank proposes that China should offer debt swap arrangements in support of environmental goals where borrowing country debt is forgiven in exchange for a commitment to an environmental objective, for instance, forest preservation.

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