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09 Feb Current Affairs

Exercise Cutlass Express

In News:

Multinational training exercise ‘CUTLASS EXPRESS – 19’ was held recently.

About Exercise Cutlass Express 2019:

It is an exercise designed to assess and improve combined maritime law enforcement capacity, promote national and regional security in East Africa as well as information sharing, planning and operating.

Sponsored by U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) and is conducted by U.S. Naval Forces Africa.

The aim of the exercise: To improve law enforcement capacity, promote regional security and progress inter-operability between the armed forces of the participating nations.

Source: PIB

GeM and CCI Sign MoU

In News:

Government e Marketplace (GeM) and Competition Commission of India (CCI) entered into a Memorandum of Understanding to enable a fair and competitive environment in the e-Marketplace.

About GeM:

GeM is a state-of-the-art national public procurement platform of Ministry of Commerce and Industries, that has used technology to remove entry barriers for bonafide sellers and has created a vibrant e-marketplace with a wide range of goods and services.

GeM aims to enhance transparency, efficiency and speed in public procurement.

Features: It facilitates online procurement of common use Goods & Services required by various Government Departments / Organisations / PSUs. It provides the tools of e-bidding, reverse e-auction and demand aggregation to facilitate the government users, achieve the best value for their money.

Competition Commission of India:

It is a statutory body of the Government of India, responsible for enforcing the Competition Act, 2002 throughout India and to prevent activities that have an adverse effect on competition.

Source: PIB

Solid Fuel Ducted Ramjet (SFDR)

In News:

Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) successfully flight tested the second indigenously developed ‘Solid Fuel Ducted Ramjet (SFDR)’ propulsion based missile system.

Details:

Solid Fuel Ducted Ramjet (SFDR): It is a missile propulsion technology jointly developed by India and Russia.

Significance:

It will help both India’s surface-to-air and air-to-air missiles to perform better and enhance their strike range, making them more lethal.

With it, India can have fastest long-range missiles in two categories, providing full-fledged and multi-layered aerial protection from hostile attacks.

Its successful use in missiles will mark India’s entry into select club of nations that use next-generation missile technology against manoeuvring targets, compromising effectiveness of conventional missiles.

What is ramjet?

Ramjet is a form of air-breathing jet engine that uses the vehicle’s forward motion to compress incoming air for combustion without a rotating compressor. Fuel is injected in the combustion chamber where it mixes with the hot compressed air and ignites. A ramjet-powered vehicle requires an assisted take-off like a rocket assist to accelerate it to a speed where it begins to produce thrust.

Source: The Hindu

Convention on the conservation of migratory species of wild animals(CMS)

In News:

The 13th Conference of Parties (COP) of the Convention on the conservation of migratory species of wild animals (CMS) is going to be hosted by India during 15th to 22nd February, 2020 at Gandhinagar in Gujarat.

Details:

India has been a Party to the CMS since 1983. The Conference of Parties (COP) is the decision-making organ of this convention.

About CMS:

In order to protect the migratory species throughout their range countries, a Convention on Conservation of Migratory Species (CMS), has been in force, under the aegis of United Nations Environment Programme.

Also referred to as the Bonn Convention, it provides a global platform for the conservation and sustainable use of migratory animals and their habitats and brings together the States through which migratory animals pass, the Range States, and lays the legal foundation for internationally coordinated conservation measures throughout a migratory range.

Classification of species: Under this convention, migratory species threatened with extinction are listed on Appendix I and Parties strive towards strictly protecting these animals, conserving or restoring the places where they live, mitigating obstacles to migration and controlling other factors that might endanger them. Migratory species that need or would significantly benefit from international co-operation are listed in Appendix II of the Convention.

CMS is only global and UN-based intergovernmental organization established exclusively for conservation and management of terrestrial, aquatic and avian migratory species throughout their range.

What are migratory species? Why protect them?

Migratory species are those animals that move from one habitat to another during different times of the year, due to various factors such as food, sunlight, temperature, climate, etc.

The movement between habitats, can sometimes exceed thousands of miles/kilometres for some migratory birds and mammals. A migratory route can involve nesting and also requires the availability of habitats before and after each migration.

Source: The Hindu

National Deworming Day (NDD)

In News:

The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) is conducting its eighth round of National Deworming Day (NDD).

Details:

NDD is observed bi-annually on 10th February and 10th August in all states and UTs followed by mop-up activities. This year the NDD is being conducted on 8th February and mop up day on the 14th February.

About the National Deworming Day:

The National Deworming Day is a single fixed-day approach to treating intestinal worm infections in all children aged 1- 19 years.

It will mobilize health personnel, state governments and other stakeholders to prioritize investment in control of Soil Transmitted Helminth (STH) infections one of the most common infections.

All the children are provided deworming tablet in schools and anganwadis. Besides the deworming tablet, various health promotion activities related to Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) are organised in schools and anganwadis.

The NDD program is a cost-effective program at scale that continues to reach crores of children and adolescents with deworming benefits through a safe medicine Albendazole.

Background:

India carries the highest burden of worm infestation and 64% of Indian population less than 14 years of age are at risk of Soil Transmitted Helminths (STH) or worms’ infestation (WHO). Soil Transmitted Helminths (STH) interfere with nutrients uptake in children; can lead to anaemia, malnourishment and impaired mental and physical development. The situation of undernutrition and anaemia which is linked to STH ranges from 40% to 70% in different population groups across the country (WHO). They also pose a serious threat to children’s education and productivity later in life.

About Intestinal parasitic worms:

They are large multicellular organisms, which when mature can generally be seen with the naked eye. They are also known as Helminths. They are often referred to as intestinal worms even though not all helminths reside in the intestines.

Why this is a cause for concern?

Parasitic worms in children interfere with nutrient uptake, and can contribute to anaemia, malnourishment, and impaired mental and physical development. Parasitic worms have also debilitating consequences on the health and education of children, and on their long-term earning potential.

According to the 2012 report ‘Children in India’, published by the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, 48% of children under the age of 5 years are stunted and 19.8% are wasted, indicating that half of the country’s children are malnourished.

Significance of NDD:

Anganwadi and school-based mass deworming program is safe, cost-effective, and can reach crores of children quickly. Deworming has been shown to reduce absenteeism in schools; improve health, nutritional, and learning outcomes; and increase the likelihood of higher-wage jobs later in life.

Deworming with the safe and beneficial Albendazole tablet is an evidence-based, globally-accepted, and effective solution to controlling worm infections. National Deworming Day has, thus, been designed to reach all children, regardless of socio-economic background.

Source: The Hindu

The Constitution (125th Amendment) Bill

In News:

The government has introduced Constitution (125th Amendment) Bill in Rajya Sabha to increase the financial and executive powers of the 10 Autonomous Councils in the Sixth Schedule areas of the northeastern region. The amendment will impact one crore tribal people in Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram.

Key facts:

The proposed amendments provide for elected village municipal councils, ensuring democracy at the grassroot level.

The village councils will be empowered to prepare plans for economic development and social justice including those related to agriculture, land improvement, implementation of land reforms, minor irrigation, water management, animal husbandry, rural electrification, small scale industries and social forestry.

The Finance Commission will be mandated to recommend devolution of financial resources to them.

The Autonomous Councils now depend on grants from Central ministries and the State government for specific projects. At least one-third of the seats will be reserved for women in the village and municipal councils in the Sixth Schedule areas of Assam, Mizoram and Tripura after the amendment is approved.

6th schedule:

The Sixth Schedule of the Constitution deals with the administration of the tribal areas in the four northeastern states of Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram.

Key provisions:

The governor is empowered to organise and re-organise the autonomous districts. Thus, he can increase or decrease their areas or change their names or define their boundaries and so on.

If there are different tribes in an autonomous district, the governor can divide the district into several autonomous regions.

Composition: Each autonomous district has a district council consisting of 30 members, of whom four are nominated by the governor and the remaining 26 are elected on the basis of adult franchise. The elected members hold office for a term of five years (unless the council is dissolved earlier) and nominated members hold office during the pleasure of the governor. Each autonomous region also has a separate regional council.

The district and regional councils administer the areas under their jurisdiction. They can make laws on certain specified matters like land, forests, canal water, shifting cultivation, village administration, inheritance of property, marriage and divorce, social customs and so on. But all such laws require the assent of the governor.

Village councils: The district and regional councils within their territorial jurisdictions can constitute village councils or courts for trial of suits and cases between the tribes. They hear appeals from them. The jurisdiction of high court over these suits and cases is specified by the governor.

Powers and functions: The district council can establish, construct or manage primary schools, dispensaries, markets, ferries, fisheries, roads and so on in the district. It can also make regulations for the control of money lending and trading by non-tribals. But, such regulations require the assent of the governor. The district and regional councils are empowered to assess and collect land revenue and to impose certain specified taxes.

The acts of Parliament or the state legislature do not apply to autonomous districts and autonomous regions or apply with specified modifications and exceptions.

The governor can appoint a commission to examine and report on any matter relating to the administration of the autonomous districts or regions. He may dissolve a district or regional council on the recommendation of the commission.

Source: The Hindu

Arundhati scheme

In News:

The government of Assam has announced a new scheme called Arundhati to provide gold at free of cost to the brides.

Key features:

Under the scheme, the government of Assam aims to provide 1 Tola Gold to brides belonging to all such communities of Assam where it is customary to provide gold at the time of the wedding.

The scheme is named after Arundhati, wife of great sage Basistha. The government has set aside Rs 300 cr has been for the implementation of the Arundhati Scheme.

The benefit under Arundhati scheme can be availed upon formal registration of marriages under Special Marriage (Assam) Rules, 1954.

The scheme is limited for economically weaker sections, whose annual income is below Rs 5 lakh.

Significance of the scheme:

Gold forms an inherent part of Indian weddings. With the introduction of the Arundhati Scheme, the government wants to stand with those fathers who cannot afford to gift a set of gold ornaments to their daughters and would to resort to borrowings and put themselves in the vicious cycle of debt.

Source: The Hindu

Generalised System of Preferences (GSP)

In News:

Vowing to reduce the U.S. deficit with large economies, President Trump is planning to withdraw the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) from India, the world’s largest beneficiary of a scheme that has been in force since the 1970s.

Background:

The trigger for the latest downturn in trade ties was India’s new rules on e-commerce that restrict the way Amazon.com Inc. and Walmart-backed Flipkart do business in a rapidly growing online market set to touch $200 billion by 2027.

That, coming on top of a drive to force global card payments companies such as Mastercard and Visa to move their data to India and the imposition of higher tariffs on electronic products and smartphones, left a broader trade package the two sides were working on through last year in tatters.

Implications:

With this, India could lose a vital U.S. trade concession, under which it enjoys zero tariffs on $5.6 billion of exports to the United States.

Generalised System of Preferences (GSP):

The Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) is a U.S. trade program designed to promote economic growth in the developing world by providing preferential duty-free entry for up to 4,800 products from 129 designated beneficiary countries and territories.

What is the objective of GSP?

The objective of GSP was to give development support to poor countries by promoting exports from them into the developed countries. GSP promotes sustainable development in beneficiary countries by helping these countries to increase and diversify their trade with the United States. GSP provide opportunities for many of the world’s poorest countries to use trade to grow their economies and climb out of poverty.

Benefits of GSP:

Indian exporters benefit indirectly – through the benefit that accrues to the importer by way of reduced tariff or duty free entry of eligible Indian products.

Reduction or removal of import duty on an Indian product makes it more competitive to the importer – other things (e.g. quality) being equal.

This tariff preference helps new exporters to penetrate a market and established exporters to increase their market share and to improve upon the profit margins, in the donor country.

What is the difference between GSP and the usual trade arrangement under WTO?

Under the normal trade laws, the WTO members must give equal preferences to trade partners. There should not be any discrimination between countries. This trade rule under the WTO is called the Most Favored Nation (MFN) clause.

The MFN instructs non-discrimination that any favorable treatment to a particular country. At the same time, the WTO allows members to give special and differential treatment to from developing countries (like zero tariff imports). This is an exemption for MFN. The MSP given by developed countries including the US is an exception to MFN.

What is the impact of GSP withdrawal on India?

India exports nearly 50 products of the 94 products on which GSP benefits are stopped. The GSP removal will leave a reasonable impact on India as the country enjoyed preferential tariff on exports worth of nearly $ 5. 6 billion under the GSP route out of the total exports of $48 bn in 2017-18. In total India exports nearly 1,937 products to the US under GSP.

Removal of GSP indicate a tough trade position by the US; especially for countries like India who benefited much from the scheme. India is the 11th largest trade surplus country for the US and India enjoyed an annual trade surplus of $ 21 bn in 2017-18.

Source: The Hindu

International IP Index 2019

In News:

The International IP Index 2019 has been released by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Global Innovation Policy Center (GIPC).

Details:

Released by GIPC, the Index evaluates the IP infrastructure in each economy based on 45 unique indicators, which are critical to the growth of effective IP systems.

The indicators encompass 8 categories of IP protection: patents, copyrights, trademarks, trade secrets, commercialization of IP assets, enforcement, systemic efficiency, and membership and ratification of international treaties.

The 2019 Index demonstrates the close correlation between effective IP protection and economic growth, global competitiveness, and the creation of 21st century knowledge-based economies.

Performance of India and the factors responsible:

India is placed at rank 36th this year. In 2018, India was ranked 44 out of 50 countries. In the first edition of the report in 2014, India had ranked last in the ranking of 25 countries.

Among major global economies, most substantial movement can be seen from India, which has surged almost 20% and climbed eight places in the IP Index rankings from 44th to 36th.

The increase in India’s ranking is a result of specific reforms that better align India’s IP environment with the international IP system, including its accession to the WIPO Internet Treaties, the agreement to initiate a Patent Prosecution Highway (PPH) with Japan, a dedicated set of IP incentives for small business, and administrative reforms to address the patent backlog.

Challenges ahead for India:

The improvement is a “real accomplishment” but substantial challenges persist, particularly regarding the country’s patenting and IP enforcement environments.

The weakness of India as highlighted in the report are barriers to licensing and technology transfer, including strict registration norms, limited framework for the protection of biopharmaceutical IP rights, patentability rules outside international standards, lengthy pre-grant opposition proceedings and previously used compulsory licensing for commercial and non-emergency situations as key hurdles.

The need for protection of IP rights:

Intellectual Property Creates and Supports High-Paying Jobs.

Intellectual Property Drives Economic Growth and Competitiveness.

Strong and Enforced Intellectual Property Rights Protect Consumers and Families.

Intellectual Property Helps Generate Breakthrough Solutions to Global Challenges.

Intellectual Property Rights Encourage Innovation and Reward Entrepreneurs.

Source: The Hindu

Asiatic Lion Conservation Project

In News:

The Centre and the Gujarat government have announced a Rs. 97.85 crore Asiatic Lion Conservation Project.

Key features of the project:

Key aspects of the conservation project include undertaking “habitat improvement” measures, making more sources of water available, creating a wildlife crime cell, and a task force for the Greater Gir region. ‘Greater Gir’ that includes, other than the existing Gir National Park, sanctuaries in Girnar, Pania and Mitiyala.

It would also involve having in place a GPS-based tracking system, which would look at surveillance tracking, animal and vehicle tracking. There would also be an automated sensor grid that would have magnetic sensors, movement sensors and infra-red heat sensors.

A key outcome of the project is to have a dedicated veterinary institute, lion ambulances and back-up stocks of vaccines that may be required.

Relocation of lions:

The Kuno-Palpur Wildlife Sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh was identified to be the most suitable for reintroducing the species, according to a Supreme Court-appointed technical expert committee, but there has been no progress on the proposal.

There is a committee of experts from both States examining the suitability of Madhya Pradesh as a potential lion reserve.

The SC in April 2013 had ordered the translocation of some lions from Gujarat to Madhya Pradesh within six months, but this hasn’t happened. This was ordered after several recommendations by expert groups, including the Wildlife Institute of India.

It emphasised that the long-term survival of the lion as a species was best served if they could be present outside Gujarat, too, so that they are protected against, say, a forest fire, a disease, or calamities.

Facts for Prelims:

Asiatic Lions are listed as ‘Endangered’ under the IUCN Red List.

Its population is restricted to the state of Gujarat in India.

With serious conservation efforts of the State and the Union Government, the population of Asiatic lions have increased to over 500 which used to be around 50 by late 1890s.

As per the 2015 census, there were a total of 523 Asiatic Lions in Gir Protected Area Network.

Source: The Hindu

Govt. grants divisional status to Ladakh

In News:

Jammu and Kashmir Governor Satya Pal Malik has granted Ladakh a divisional status. It will comprise Leh and Kargil districts, with headquarters at Leh. Earlier, Ladakh was a part of the Kashmir division.

Implications:

With this, there shall be three administrative units of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh in the State.

The move leaves the Kashmir valley geographically the smallest division at 15,948 sq. km, Jammu division at 26,293 sq. km and Ladakh, the biggest division, at 86,909 sq. km.

Ladakh will now get its own Divisional Commissioner and Inspector General of Police.

What necessitated this? During the winter months, the entire Ladakh region remains cut-off from the rest of the country for almost six months. The remoteness and inaccessibility of the area makes it eligible for establishing a separate division.

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