Daily Current Affairs, 12th July 2018
Topic: Population and related issues.
World Population day
July 11 was established as World Population Day in 1989 by the United Nations and since then it has been celebrated on this date every year. The United Nations recognises World Population day as an important event to spread information of population-related issues across the globe.
Theme for 2018:
World Population day will run on the theme “Family Planning is a Human right” this year.
Aim of World Population Day:
Almost on the verge of completing three decades now, the internationally celebrated event aims to spread awareness on issues such as overpopulation, under-population and birth control. The world population is currently pegged at around 7 billion and according to UN reports is growing at a fast pace, adding 83 million people every year.
- For Prelims: World Population Day- theme.
- For Mains: Population growth and related challenges.
Topic: Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes.
Mahatma Gandhi International Sanitation Convention
Context: In a bid to eliminate the need for manual scavenging, the Centre has launched a challenge asking innovators, NGOs, research institutions, companies and cities to propose technology and business solutions to clean urban sewers and septic tanks without human entry. The challenge will be part of the Mahatma Gandhi International Sanitation Convention to be held on October 18 this year.
The objectives are to identify technological and business process innovations, endorse viable business models suitable for cities of different sizes and geographies, and pilot test shortlisted technologies and solutions in select project cities and bridge the gap between innovators or manufacturers and beneficiaries such as urban local bodies and citizens.
Mahatma Gandhi International Sanitation Convention:
- It will be launched at the 150th anniversary celebrations of Mahatma Gandhi. It will be a first-of-its-kind International Sanitation Convention.
- Ministers from over 70 countries will be invited and taken on a ‘Gandhi Trail’ in Gujarat.
- The government will use the occasion to “showcase its performance” and “success story” in the Swachh Bharat programme in the past four years, which was launched on October 2, 2014, and have a face-to-face dialogue with the world leaders to share their experiences on sanitation programmes.
- For Prelims: International Sanitation Convention, SBM.
- For Mains: Manual scavenging- concerns and issues to be addressed, performance of SBM
Topic: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
Target Olympic Podium Scheme
Context: The Mission Olympic Cell has included the entire Indian hockey team in the Target Olympic Podium Scheme, rewarding the players for their silver medal-winning performance at the Champions Trophy.
Significance of the move-
Athletes from different sports have been included in Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS) individually but it is first instance that an entire team has been made beneficiary of the financial assistance scheme.
Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS):
- It was launched by Ministry of Sports within the ambit of National Sports Development Fund (NSDF).
- It aims at identifying and supporting potential medal prospects for upcoming Olympic Games.
- It will provide selected sportspersons customized training at institutes having world class facilities and also other necessary support is being provided to the elite athletes. It will also provide a benchmark for selection of athletes on par with international standards.
- Under it, Sports Authority of India (SAI) and federations, which are members of Mission Olympic Cell (MOC), will be nodal agencies for disbursal for fund. They will make payments directly to beneficiary person and institution concerned on behalf of athletes.
Facts for Prelims:
Abinav Bindra Committee was constituted to identify and support potential medal prospects for 2020 and 2024 Olympic Games under the scheme.
The Mission Olympic Cell is a dedicated body created to assist the athletes who are selected under the TOP Scheme. The MOC is under the Chairmanship of the Director General, Sports Authority (DG, SAI). The idea of the MOC is to debate, discuss and decide the processes and methods so that the athlete receives best assistance. The MOC also focuses on selection, exclusion and retention of athletes, coaches, training institutes that can receive TOPS assistance.
- For Prelims: Mission Olympic Cell, TOPS, Abhinav Bindra Committee.
- For Mains: Performance of Indian sportspersons at the international level, need for support and training.
Topic: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
Telecom Commission approves net neutrality
Context: Telecom Commission (a group within India’s Department of Telecom) has approved the recommendations made by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) on net neutrality.
- The move aims to ensure that all web traffic is treated fairly, and that internet service providers won’t block, throttle, or favor any content or services (with a few reasonable exceptions).
- As per the net neutrality rules in India, mobile operators, internet providers and social-media and internet companies cannot engage in, or seek, preferential treatmentas there will now be prohibition on any kind of interference in the treatment of content, including practices like blocking, degrading, slowing down or granting differential speeds or treatment to any content.
- Any efforts to create zero-rated platformshave now been blocked. Zero-rated platforms, which had earlier been tried (by companies such as Airtel and Facebook) but barred, offer only a certain category of services and websites as free, thus creating paid layers and stifling competition and innovation.
- Under net neutrality, online access is unrestricted and non-discriminatory. The only exceptionsare new and emerging services such as autonomous driving, tele-medicine or remote-diagnostic services, which may require prioritised internet lanes and faster-than-normal speeds. A committee will look into the possible exceptions for “critical services” which will also be defined keeping in view the basic tenets of net neutrality.
Significance of the move:
- It’s a huge win for those who favour free and fair internet access in the country. It also prevents programs like Facebook’s Free Basics, which granted free access to mobile sites on the zero-rated platform that were allowed in by the company.
- The government’s decision is being seen as progressive as it will not allow any mobile operator, internet service provider or online/social media giant to create monopolies on the internet by getting specialized treatment by paying for it. The rules of equal access will be maintained and no company can buy special treatment for itself or its services.
Net neutrality has become a contentious issue across the world as social media giants and mobile and internet providers seek greater control on delivery of content and services to customers. It is feared that handing out greater and unchecked control to them will lead to monopolies and situations of paid prioritisation, both of which will stifle the start-up culture and new innovations.
- As the internet economy gains in size and influence across the world, there have been increasing concerns with relation to the potential for discriminatory treatment of internet traffic by the entities that control access to the internet.
- All those who believe in a fair marketplace should welcome the reiteration that the principles of net neutrality will be upheld in India. This will ensure that those who control the pipes through which data flows – between providers and consumers of content – cannot favour some providers over others.
- The government now needs to ensure there are no loopholes that could result in an uneven playing field – for instance, companies that own both broadband and produce content should not be allowed to distribute their content free, by not charging for the data. Conversely, other content providers should have the same free access to distribution.
- For Prelims: Meaning of net neutrality, free basics.
- For Mains: Net neutrality- need, challenges and government efforts to ensure net neutrality.
Topic: Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests.
UNSC Resolution 2427
Context: The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) has adopted Resolution 2427. The resolution has won unanimous approval of the 15 members of the council.
What is Resolution 2427 all about?
The resolution is aimed at further crystalizing the protection of children in armed conflicts, including by combating their recruitment by non-State armed groups and treating formerly recruited children primarily as victims.
Highlights of the resolution:
- It strongly condemns the recruitment and use of children by parties to armed conflict as well as their re-recruitment, killing and maiming, rape and other forms of sexual violence, and abductions.
- It also condemns attacks against schools and hospitals and the denial of humanitarian access by parties to armed conflict and all other violations of international law committed against children in situations of armed conflict.
- It demands that all relevant parties immediately put an end to such practices and take special measures to protect children.
- It also emphasizes the responsibility of all states to put an end to impunity and to investigate and prosecute those responsible for genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and other egregious crimes perpetrated against children.
- The resolution reiterates the Security Council’s readiness to adopt targeted and graduated measures against persistent perpetrators of violations and abuses committed against children.
- It calls on member states and the United Nations to mainstream child protection into all relevant activities in conflict prevention, conflict and post-conflict situations with the aim of sustaining peace and preventing conflict.
Over 21,000 cases of grave violations of children’s rights in armed conflict have been verified by the United Nations for 2017, a drastic increase from the previous year with 15,500 violations, according to an annual report of the UN secretary-general on children and armed conflict that was released last week. Among the violations in 2017, some 15,000 were perpetrated by non-state armed groups and about 6,000 were committed by government forces, according to the report.
There is a need to ensure that children continue to have access to basic services during the conflict and post-conflict periods, including education and health care. In this regard, countries across the world, UN bodies and civil society need to take specifically into account girls’ equal access to education.
There is need for long-term and sustainable funding for mental health and psychosocial programming in humanitarian contexts. There is also need to ensure that all affected children receive timely and sufficient support.
?For Prelims and Mains: Resolution 2427 and its significance.
Topic: Important International institutions, agencies and fora, their structure, mandate.
European Bank for Reconstruction & Development
Context: India has joined the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) as the 69th shareholder, paving the way for more joint investment with Indian companies across the EBRD’s regions.
- The EBRD’s board of governors, which represents all existing shareholders, voted unanimously in favour of the country’s application in March 2018.
Position of India:
India takes a shareholding in the EBRD but will not be a recipient of EBRD financing. But it may benefit indirectly through EBRD projects or if Indian companies invest alongside the bank.
How will this membership help India?
- Membership of EBRD would enhance India’s international profile and promote its economic interests. It will also give access to EBRD’s Countries of Operation and sector knowledge.
- India’s investment opportunities would get a boost. It would increase the scope of cooperation between India and EBRD through co-financing opportunities in manufacturing, services, Information Technology, and Energy.
- EBRD’s core operations pertain to private sector development in their countries of operation. The membership would help India leverage the technical assistance and sectoral knowledge of the bank for the benefit of development of private sector.
- This would contribute to an improved investment climate in the country. The membership of EBRD would enhance the competitive strength of the Indian firms, and provide an enhanced access to international markets in terms of business opportunities, procurement activities, consultancy assignments etc.
- This would open up new vistas for Indian professionals on the one hand, and give a fillip to Indian exports on the other. Increased economic activities would have the employment generating potential. It would also enable Indian nationals to get the employment opportunity in the Bank.
What is the EBRD?
The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) is an international financial institution that supports projects in over 30 countries, from eastern Europe to central Asia and the southern and eastern Mediterranean. Investing primarily in private sector clients whose needs cannot be fully met by the market, the EBRD promotes entrepreneurship and fosters transition towards open and democratic market economies.
What is the EBRD’s mandate?
The mandate of the EBRD stipulates that it must only work in countries that are committed to democratic principles. Respect for the environment is part of the strong corporate governance attached to all EBRD investments.
What support does the EBRD provide in the countries where it works?
The EBRD provides project financing for banks, industries and businesses, both new ventures and investments in existing companies. It also works with publicly owned companies, to support privatisation, restructuring state-owned firms and improving municipal services. It uses close relationship with governments in the region to promote policies that will bolster the business environment.
Who owns the EBRD?
The EBRD is owned by 65 countries and two intergovernmental institutions: the European Union and the European Investment Bank (EIB).
How is the EBRD governed?
The powers of the EBRD are vested in the Board of Governors to which each member appoints a governor, generally the minister of finance. The Board of Governors delegates most powers to the Board of Directors, which is responsible for the EBRD’s strategic direction. The President is elected by the Board of Governors and is the legal representative of the EBRD. Under the guidance of the Board of Directors, the President manages the EBRD’s work.
Topic: Technology missions.
India has 5th largest area under GM crops
Context: As per International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA)’s latest ‘Global Status of Commercialized Biotech/ GM Crops in 2017’ report, India has the world’s fifth largest cultivated area under genetically modified (GM) crops.
Highlights of the report:
- Unlike other big growers, India’s entire GM crop area is under a single crop — cotton— incorporating genes from the Bacillus thuringiensis or Bt soil bacterium coding for resistance against heliothis bollworm insect pests.
- The country with the highest area under transgenic crops, at 75 mh, is the United States. It includes soyabean, maize (corn), cotton, alfalfa, canola, sugar-beet, potato, apples, squash and papaya.
- The report shows farmers across the world to have planted 189.8 mh under transgenic crops last year. This is as against 1.7 mh in 1996, the year when they were grown commercially for the first time. Total planted area grew particularly during the first decade of this century, while slowing down in the last five years.
- The report has estimated the highest share in the world’s total 189.8 mh GM crop area for 2017 to be of soyabean (94.1 mh), followed by maize (59.7 mh), cotton (24.1 mh), canola (10.2 mh), alfalfa (1.2 mh) and sugar-beet (0.50 mh).
GM crops in India:
In India, the GM crops that are under regulatory consideration — apart from the already commercialised Bt/insect-resistant cotton — include glyphosate-tolerant cotton and biotech hybrid mustard.
Both the Bollgard II-Roundup Ready Flex (BGII-RRF) cotton event of Monsanto (incorporating Bt as well as glyphosate-tolerant genes) and transgenic mustard developed by Delhi University’s Centre for Genetic Manipulation of Crop Plants (harbouring three alien genes that enable higher yields through hybridisation) have undergone all the mandated bio-safety research and open field trials. Their commercial release has, however, been stuck due to opposition from environmental activists.
Facts for Prelims:
ISAAA is a non-profit international organization that shares agricultural biotechnology, focusing on genetic engineering.
- For Prelims: GM crops- meaning.
- For Mains: GM crops- significance, need, concerns and regulation.
Topic: Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life.
Global Innovation Index
Context: Global Innovation Index 2018 has placed India at the 57th position among 130 countries. GII is jointly released by Cornell University, INSEAD and World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO). GII ranks 126 economies based on 80 indicators.
- The GII 2018 marks the 11th edition of the GII, and the beginning of its second decade providing data and insights gathered from tracking innovation across the globe.
- This year’s edition, is dedicated to the theme of Energizing the World with Innovation. It analyses the energy innovation landscape of the next decade and identifies possible breakthroughs in fields such as energy production, storage, distribution, and consumption.
- It also looks at how breakthrough innovation occurs at the grassroots level and describes how small-scale renewable systems are on the rise.
Performance of India:
- This year, India has moved up 3 places as compared to 60th rank in GII 2017 and emerged as top-ranked economy in Central and South Asia. It has consistently moving up on global ranking from 81st in 2015 to 57th this year.
- India is a top performer in the lower middle income group, where it is ranked at fifth position. It is the most innovative country in its region of central and southern Asia.
- In the indicators that capture the quality of innovation inputs and outputs, India is ranked second after China in the lower and upper middle income group combined.
- However, India has fared badly on indicators such as ease of starting business, political stability and safety, overall education and environmental performance.
- Switzerland is at the top. Since 2011, Switzerland has been ranked at the top every year.
- This year, Netherlands follows at second place and Sweden at third. The US drops down to sixth from fourth last year.
- Four of the top five innovation clusters are in Asia, based on patents and publishing. San Francisco is the only innovation cluster outside Asia among the top five.
- Tokyo is at the top, and two of the top five clusters are in China.
- China, at 17, broke into the world’s top 20 most-innovative economies.
- On a new indicator – mobile-app creation – Cyprus, Finland and Lithuania emerged as global leaders in development of mobile apps relative to GDP.
- For Prelims: GII- performance of India and other countries.
- For Mains: Need for innovation and government efforts to promote innovation.
The future of international trade
American President Donald Trump, since assuming office, has consistently shown a dislike—both through words and policies—towards immigration, Islamic fundamentalism and trade protectionism by foreign states.
The Trump administration has, beginning 2018, imposed fresh import tariffs on a number of countries spanning the globe. The countries include China, India, Canada, Mexico and a few others.
Aggressive protectionist measure:
Many authors and global observers have labelled this aggressive protectionist measure as yet another evidence of Trump’s ultra-nationalism.
China, India and Canada are amongst the countries that have decided to counter the new US tariffs in kind.
For instance, India has hiked the import tariff on as many as 30 American goods after the metals including steel and aluminium from India were subjected in March 2018 to tariff hikes by the US.
The Indian government has repeatedly confirmed that the hike was in order to maintain the balance in tradewith the US, and also to recover additional duty.
In addition, many other countries have decided to revise their tariffs on American goods.
Global Trade since 17th century: Industrial Revolution
The rise of the global trading system as seen today, like many features of the modern world, began largely with the Industrial Revolution.
Technological advances in the form of transportation—from ships, railroads, automobiles to airplanes—and the internet steadily reduced the cost of transporting goods, technology, capital and people around the globe.
This “death of distance,” a modern-day metaphor, has been one of the most important forces shaping global economic development since the inception of Industrial Revolution.
These technological forces were further supported by structural forces, facilitating and cushioning the rise of a globally integrated market.
Globalisation has seen it all, right from the presence of the gold standard, the dense web of bilateral trade agreements to the advent of new multilateral economic institutions.
Failure of Global trading systems:
Global trading system such as General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade and World Trade Organization were never designed to block a major world power from running amok. They relied on the principal players in global trade respecting the system.
The WTO Dispute Settlement Mechanism has failed to act quickly to address the mounting spats about trade protectionism emanating from the U.S. – a major reason why countries around the world have not waited for verdicts from their WTO complaints and have instead proceeded with retaliation.
Present scenario in world trade policies:
At present, the Trump administration, more than any other country, is taking a particular interest in China—for good reason. The prominent view of the Trump administration is that the American economy has suffered greatly due to “unfair trade practices” and state-sponsored “Intellectual Property Theft” by China.
Although there is a temporary push back against globalisation, the global economy is expected to grow, as the global markets and their prosperity are too intertwined to unwind.
In the short term, we may see a deeper focus on proper enforcement of current trade agreements and concerted efforts to make them balanced from all sides. We may also go for a close review or perhaps a restructuring of the governance system within the WTO.
Another interesting scenario would be the extent of motivation for US firms to stay in the domestic market and encouragement for foreign firms to set up their base in the US, amid growing protectionism.
The long-term scenarios seem intentionally vivid and provocative and are expected to not only spark debate about the future of world trade among policy-makers and the wider trade community but may also change the global structure on the basis of availability of resources and the willingness of global organisations to coordinate their actions.
Today, to overcome current challenges and growth barriers and maintain sustainable trade, countries may go beyond the neoclassical theories to one-on-one partnership models.
They need alliances across industry sectors and value chains, and these include their competitors and peers too. Even market leaders cannot make the necessary impact acting alone.
In this context, industry may undergo a silent revolution in order to adopt a completely different approach that will lead to the path of long-term trade development in the form of accrued benefits such as adjustment of global economies to technological innovation, new production schedules and changing competitive patterns, thus raising productivity levels.
All these trade reforms, if undertaken, will yield substantial economic benefits, but sustaining the momentumwill be a key challenge as the consequences of this trade liberalisation will be associated with societal and economic adjustments, such as regional and sectoral disparities, and urban migration.
Institutions attached to labour markets need to be strengthened to enhance labour mobility and their skills.The government would need to ensure that the possible gains from trade reforms are shared by a wider segment of society.
The only big question is, whether political will for market openness will be maintained or whether protectionism and inward-orientation are going to gain an upper hand?
The need of the hour is to explore the relationship between comparative advantage and optimal trade policy, and to understand, how the consequences of populist politics, economic dislodgement and technological alterations are going to impact the future of global trade.