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June 3, 2019
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June 5, 2019
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04 June Current Affairs

Quad countries to focus on maritime security

In News:

The fourth edition of the Quadrilateral meet among India, Japan, Australia and the United States, after it was revived in November 2017, was held recently at Bangkok, Thailand.

Outcomes of the meeting:

India, Australia, Japan and the US have backed Asean-led mechanisms in efforts to create a rule-based regional architecture for the Indo-Pacific, where China is seeking to exert its influence.

They held consultations on collective efforts to “advance a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific”.

The meet also referred to efforts to “maintain universal respect for international law and freedom of navigation and overflight”.

The Quad:

Regional coalition known as the ‘Quad’, the quadrilateral formation includes Japan, India, United States and Australia.

All four nations find a common ground of being the democratic nations and common interests of unhindered maritime trade and security.

The idea was first mooted by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in 2007. However, the idea couldn’t move ahead with Australia pulling out of it.

Significance Quad- grouping for the US:

The US believes the Quad, as one of the elements of its larger Indo-Pacific strategy for “a free, open and rules-based order” in face of an aggressive and expansionist China in the region, should eventually evolve into a ministerial-level dialogue imbued with a strong military dimension.

But Washington also recognizes that New Delhi for now remains opposed to any militarization of the Quad, which was revived after a decade as a joint secretary-level dialogue in November 2017, with its second meeting being held in June this year. India has also made it clear that the US should not “conflate” the Indo-Pacific with the Quad, stressing the centrality of Asean in the former.

Significance:

Quad is an opportunity for like-minded countries to share notes and collaborate on projects of mutual interest. All four countries share a vision of an open and free Indo-Pacific. Each is involved in development and economic projects as well as in promoting maritime domain awareness and maritime security.

The Quad grouping is one of the many avenues for interaction among India, Australia, Japan and the US and should not be seen in an exclusive context. Quad should not be seen in any comparative or in an exclusive context.

Source: The Hindu

Islamic Cooperation countries (OIC)

In News:

The 14th summit of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) was held in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. The agenda of meeting was to address ‘current issues in Muslim world’ and ‘recent developments in a number of OIC member states.

About the OIC:

Organisation of Islamic Cooperation is an international organization founded in 1969, consisting of 57 member states.

It is the second largest inter-governmental organization after the United Nations.

The organisation states that it is “the collective voice of the Muslim world” and works to “safeguard and protect the interests of the Muslim world in the spirit of promoting international peace and harmony“.

The OIC has permanent delegations to the United Nations and the European Union.

Permanent Secretariat is in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

Like NAM again, the OIC is a toothless tigerwhen it comes to dealing with squabbles among member states.

Significance of OIC for India:

OIC’s growing economic and energy interdependence with India has become important in recent times.

That India has one of the world’s largest Muslim populations, of course, is the immediate explanation of the surprising invite for Swaraj to address the OIC.

Source: The Hindu

Generalised System of Preferences (GSP)

In News:

The United States of America (USA) President Donald Trump has terminated India’s designation as a beneficiary developing nation under the GSP (Generalized System of Preference) trade program with effect from 5th June 2019.

Details:

Because India no longer complied with the statutory eligibility criteria.

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):

It 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.

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.

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

SDG Gender Index

In News:

The 2019 edition of SDG Gender Index has been released.

About the SDG Gender Index:

Developed by Equal Measures 2030, a joint effort of regional and global organisations including African Women’s Development and Communication Network, Asian-Pacific Resource and Research Centre for Women, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation etc.

It accounts for 14 out of 17 SDGs (sustainable development goals) that cover aspects such as poverty, health, education, literacy, political representation and equality at the workplace.

A score of 100 reflects the achievement of gender equality in relation to the targets set for each indicator. It means, for example, that 100% of girls complete secondary education, or that there is around 50-50 parity for women and men in Parliament. A score of 50 signifies that a country is about halfway to meeting a goal.

Key findings- India specific:

India is ranked 95th among 129 countries.

India’s highest goal scores are on health (79.9), hunger & nutrition (76.2), and energy (71.8).

Its lowest goal scores are on partnerships (18.3, in the bottom 10 countries worldwide), industry, infrastructure and innovation (38.1), and climate (43.4).

On indicators that define such goals, India scored 95.3 on the percentage of female students enrolled in primary education who are overage.

Some of India’s lowest scores on indicators include the proportion of seats held by women in national parliaments. On seats held by women in the Supreme Court (4%), India has a score of 18.2.

Gender-based violence:

On gender-based violence, indicators include proportion of women aged 20-24 years who were married or in a union before age 18 (27.3%).

Global findings:

The world is far from achieving gender equality with 1.4 billion girls and women living in countries that get a “very poor” grade.

The global average score of the 129 countries — which represent 95% of the world’s girls and women — is 65.7 out of 100 (“poor” in the index).

Altogether, 2.8 billion girls and women live in countries that get either a “very poor” (59 and below) or “poor” score (60-69) on gender equality.

Just 8% of the world’s population of girls and women live in countries that received a “good” gender equality score (80-89) and no country achieved an “excellent” overall score of 90 or above.

Source: Indian Express

Nipah virus

In News:

The deadly Nipah Virus has resurfaced in Kerala.

Details:

According to WHO, the Nipah virus infection is a newly emerging zoonosis, that is, a disease transmitted from animals to humans. The virus belongs to a new genus termed Henipavirus (subfamily Paramyxovirinae).

The natural host of the virus are fruit bats belonging to the family Pteropodidae. In 2004, humans were affected after eating the date palm contaminated by infected fruit bats. Pigs can also act as intermediate hosts.

When was it first reported?

It was first identified in 1998 at Kampung Sungai Nipah village, Malaysia. The virus is named after this village.

What are the symptoms in humans?

The symptoms of Nipah are similar to that of influenza: fever, muscle pain, and respiratory problems. Inflammation of the brain can also cause disorientation. Late onset of Encephalitis can also occur. Sometimes a person can have an asymptomatic infection, and be a carrier of Nipah and not show any symptoms.

Are there any vaccines?

Currently, there are no vaccines for both humans and animals. Intensive supportive care is given to humans infected by Nipah virus.

According to WHO, ribavarin can reduce the symptoms of nausea, vomiting, and convulsions associated with the disease. Individuals infected need to be hospitalised and isolated. Special care should be taken to prevent human-to-human transmission. Surveillance systems should be established to detect the virus quickly and to initiate appropriate control measures.

Source: The Hindu

CBI

In News:

Reversing his predecessor’s orders, Andhra Prdesh Chief Minister Y. S. Jagan Mohan Reddy has allowed the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to go ahead with investigations and raids in the State without prior permission of the State government.

Background:

The Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal governments, had last year, withdrawn “general consent” to the CBI for investigating cases in their respective states. The state governments said they had lost faith in the CBI in the backdrop of its internal turmoil marked by the open war among the agency’s top officers. They had also alleged that the Centre is using the CBI to unfairly target Opposition parties.

What is general consent?

Unlike the National Investigation Agency (NIA), which is governed by its own NIA Act and has jurisdiction across the country, the CBI is governed by the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act that makes consent of a state government mandatory for conducting investigation in that state.

There are two kinds of consent:

case-specific and general– Given that the CBI has jurisdiction only over central government departments and employees, it can investigate a case involving state government employees or a violent crime in a given state only after that state government gives its consent.

“General consent” is normally given to help the CBI seamlessly conduct its investigation into cases of corruption against central government employees in the concerned state. Almost all states have given such consent. Otherwise, the CBI would require consent in every case.

What does withdrawal mean?

It means the CBI will not be able to register any fresh case involving a central government official or a private person stationed in these two states without getting case-specific consent. Withdrawal of consent simply means that CBI officers will lose all powers of a police officer as soon as they enter the state unless the state government has allowed them.

Under what provision can general consent been withdrawn?

In exercise of power conferred by Section 6 of the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, 1946, the state governments can withdraw the general consent accorded. Section 6 of the Act says, “Nothing contained in Section 5 (which deals with jurisdiction of CBI) shall be deemed to enable any member of the Delhi Special Police Establishment to exercise powers and jurisdiction in any area in a State, not being a Union Territory or Railway, area, without the consent of the Government of that State.”

Can withdrawal mean that the CBI can no longer probe any case?

No. The CBI would still have the power to investigate old cases registered when general consent existed. Also, cases registered anywhere else in the country, but involving people stationed in states which have withdrawn consent, would allow CBI’s jurisdiction to extend to these states.

What can the CBI do in such instances?

The CBI can always get a search warrant from a local court in the state and conduct searches. In case the search requires a surprise element, there is CrPC Section 166, which allows a police officer of one jurisdiction to ask an officer of another to carry out searches on his behalf. And if the first officer feels that the searches by the latter may lead to loss of evidence, the section allows the first officer to conduct searches himself after giving a notice to the latter.

What happens in fresh cases?

Withdrawal of consent will only bar the CBI from registering a case within the jurisdiction of states which have withdrawn consent. However, the CBI could still file cases in Delhi and continue to probe people inside such states.

An October 11, 2018, order of the Delhi High Court makes it clear that the agency can probe anyone in a state that has withdrawn “general consent” if the case is not registered in that state. The order was given with regard to a case of corruption in Chhattisgarh, which also gives consent on a case-to-case basis. The court ordered that the CBI could probe the case without prior consent of the Chhattisgarh government since it was registered in Delhi.

Source: The Hindu

Siachen Glacier

In News:

New defence minister’s visit.

Key facts:

Siachen Glacier is among of the largest glaciers in the non-polar region of the world.

It lies in the Karakoram Range system which is a part of western Himalayas.

It also lies to the south of the zone that separates Eurasion Plate with the Indian Plate, which is the result of convergence boundary interaction in geographical terms.

The word Siachen comes out of two words: “Sia” which means rose and “Chun” which means anything found in abundance according to “Balti” language. Therefore it represents the place of roses.

It is the highest battle field in the world and lies on LoC (Line of Control) between India and Pakistan. It has been continuously contested by Pakistan as its own part which has led to militarisation of the glacier.

After the Indo-Pakistan war in 1971, an agreement was signed between the two countries in 1972, which came to be known as the Shimla Agreement, but it failed to clearly mention who controls the glacier.

However, in 1984, the Pakistan army tried to enter the glacier, forcing India to launch a military operation known as “Operation Meghdoot” and since then we have control over the glacier. Frequent skirmishes did occur between 1884 to 2003. A ceasefire agreement was signed between India and Pakistan in 2003

The glacier is the source of many rivers including Nubra River, a tributary of Shyok, which is a part of the Indus River System.

Siachen Glacier also boasts of the world’s highest helipad built by India at Point Sonam, to supply its troops. India also installed the world’s highest telephone booth on the glacier.

The region is also a home to rare species of snow leopard, brown bear etc which may be affected by military presence. This has led to talks in international forums about creating a “Peace Park” in the area and demilitarise it.

Mount Etna

In News:

Italy’s Mount Etna volcano has erupted again.

 About Mt. Etna:

Mount Etna is the largest active volcano in Europe and one of the world’s most frequently erupting volcanoes. It is also the volcano with the longest record of continuous eruption.

Located near the east coast of the island of Sicily in Italy, Mount Etna is 10,900 feet tall.

The mountain’s largest feature is the Valle del Bove (Valley of the Ox), a large horseshoe-shaped caldera on the eastern slope.

Etna sits on the active fault between the African plate and the Ionian microplate, which are both being subducted together beneath the Eurasian plate.

In June 2013, it was added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Due to its history of recent activity and nearby population, Mount Etna has been designated a Decade Volcano by the United Nations.

Financial Literacy Week

In News:

The Financial Literacy Week 2019 will be observed from 3 June to 7 June.

Details:

It is an annual initiative by Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to promote awareness on key topics through a focused campaign.

The theme of Financial Literacy Week 2019 is ‘Farmers’ which focuses on how they can benefit by being a part of the formal banking system.

The aim of initiative is to create awareness about financial products and services, good financial practices, going digital and consumer protection.

‘UdChalo’

In News:

‘UdChalo’ is a travel portal that caters for the personal travel of the military and paramilitary forces personnel by aggregating defence fares and getting exclusive discounts.

Aim:

It aims to empower the disabled military veterans. The initiative is unique and has given a new lease of life of these soldiers who are now confined to wheelchairs.

 

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