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29 December Current Affairs

FDI in e-commerce

In News:

The Department of Industrial Policy & Promotion recently issued a clarification to the existing rules pertaining to Foreign Direct Investment in e-commerce companies.

The main features of the clarification include:

Vendors that have any stake owned by an e-commerce company cannot sell their products on that e-commerce company’s portal.

Any vendor who purchases 25% or more of its inventory from an e-commerce group company will be considered to be controlled by that e-commerce company, and thereby barred from selling on its portal. This provision aims to ensure that vendors in which marketplaces, such as Amazon, have a stake do not sell the bulk of their items to a third-party vendor who then goes on to sell those items on the e-commerce marketplace.

In other words, the provision seeks to deny control by the marketplace entity over vendors.

E-commerce firm will not be allowed to influence the price of a product sold on its portal by giving incentives to particular vendors.

Background:

E-commerce companies can operate under two different models in India.

The first is the marketplace model where the e-commerce firm simply acts as a platform that connects buyers and sellers. FDI is allowed in e-commerce companies in this model.

The second model is inventory-based where the inventory of goods sold on the portal is owned or controlled by the e-commerce company. FDI is not allowed under this model.

What is the context for these changes?

What has been happening is that large e-commerce companies such as Amazon and Flipkart, while not owning inventory themselves, have been providing a platform for their group companies such as CloudTail and WS Retail respectively.

Some see this as skewing the playing field, especially if these vendors enjoyed special incentives from the e-commerce firm, over others. These controlled or owned vendors may then be able to offer discounts to customers that competitors may not be able to match.

Significance:

The thrust of the DIPP policy is directed at protecting small vendors on e-commerce websites. It seeks to ensure small players selling on the portals are not discriminated against in favour of vendors in which e-commerce companies have a stake.

The new set up will ensure a level playing field for all vendors looking to sell on the e-commerce portals. Smaller marketplaces that do not have stake in any vendors will also be able to now compete with the big daddies.

The small traders were complaining that deep discounts offered by the likes of Amazon and Flipkart are driving them out of business. The new norms aim to tackle the anti-competitive behaviour by e-commerce entities and to ensure that there is no wrong subsidization and the marketplace remains neutral to all vendors.

Who else will be affected?

The main players to be affected will be group companies and affiliates of the biggest e-commerce platforms, Amazon and Flipkart.

The provision that bars companies — in which e-commerce firms have a stake — from selling on their portals will hurt start-ups as well, since many of these will be barred from selling due to minor equity stakes being held by the e-commerce companies.

Small vendors will not be as affected because most of them do not purchase more than 25% of their inventory from a single source and so they will be allowed to sell their items on the e-commerce platforms.

Source: The Hindu

Zika warning: India rebuts CDC Zika alert

In News:

India has asked the United States’ public health agency, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to “withdraw or modify” an advisory it issued on December 13 warning people against travelling to Rajasthan due to an outbreak of the Zika virus.

Details:

The government took exception to the use of “endemic” in the advisory as Zika outbreaks in India have been contained within small areas.

Background:

The CDC had said the virus was endemic to India and pointed out “there is an unusual increase in the number of Zika cases in Rajasthan and surrounding states”. It cautioned pregnant women against travelling to such areas. This is because Zika infection during pregnancy can cause serious birth defects. The health agency classified its alert under Level 2, which requires “enhanced protection”. Level 1 advises “usual precautions” and Level 3 advises against “non-essential travel”.

What is Zika Virus?

Zika virus is similar to dengue fever, yellow fever and West Nile virus. Carried by infected Aedes aegypti mosquitos, Zika is largely transmitted through bites, but can also occur through intrauterine infection.

It was first identified in 1947 in Zika Forest, Uganda from where it derives its name.

If a woman is bitten by an infected mosquito and becomes infected, Zika can cross into the placenta and affect the fetus. While anyone can contract Zika, pregnant women are the most at risk due to the potential for fetal microcephaly and other neurologic abnormalities.

Symptoms include fever, headache, red eyes, skin rash, fatigue, muscle pain etc.

Treatment and Prevention: There is no specific treatment or vaccine currently available to treat Zika. The best form of prevention is protection against mosquito bites and clearing stagnant water where mosquitoes breed.

Source: The Hindu

India’s second Biennial Update Report (BUR) to UNFCCC

In News:

The Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has approved Submission of India’s second Biennial Update Report (BUR) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) towards the fulfilment of the reporting obligation under the Convention.

Background:

The submission of India’s second BUR would fulfil the obligation of India to furnish information regarding implementation of the convention, being a party. The scope of the BUR is to provide an update to India’s first BUR to the UNFCCC.

The second biennial update report aims to provide an update to India’s first biennial report to the United Nation’s body on climate change. The report contains five major components including national circumstances, national greenhouse gas inventory, mitigation actions, finance, technology and capacity building needs and support received and domestic monitoring, reporting and verification arrangements.

Key findings:

Out of the total emissions, energy sector accounted for 73%, IPPU 8%, agriculture 16% and waste sector 3%. About 12% of the emissions were offset by the carbon sink action of forestland, cropland and settlements.

INDC- India’s proposed targets:

Reduce emissions intensity of its GDP by 33 to 35% by 2030 from 2005 level.

Achieve about 40% electric power installed capacity from non-fossil fuel based energy resources by 2030 with help of transfer of technology and low cost international finance.

Create an additional carbon sink of 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent through additional forest and tree cover by 2030.

About UNFCCC:

The UNFCCC was adopted in 1992 at the Rio Earth Summit, which marked the beginning of the international community’s first concerted effort to confront the problem of climate change.

Known also as the Rio Convention, the UNFCCC established a framework for action to stabilise concentrations of greenhouse gases in the earth’s atmosphere.

The UNFCCC entered into force in 1994, and nearly all of the world’s nations—a total of 195—have now signed on.

Source: The Hindu

China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC)

In News:

Clarifying about a recent U.S. media report that alleged that China had hatched a secret plan to build fighter jets and other military hardware in Pakistan as part of the CPEC project, Pakistan has said that the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is a bilateral economic project and has no military dimensions.

About CPEC:

The CPEC is the flagship project of the multi-billion dollar Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), a pet project of Chinese President Xi Jinping, aimed at enhancing Beijing’s influence around the world through China-funded infrastructure projects.

The 3,000 km-long China–Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) consisting of highways, railways, and pipelines is the latest irritant in the India–China relationship.

CPEC eventually aims at linking the city of Gwadar in South Western Pakistan to China’s North Western region Xinjiang through a vast network of highways and railways.

The proposed project will be financed by heavily-subsidised loans, that will be disbursed to the Government of Pakistan by Chinese banking giants such as Exim Bank of China, China Development Bank, and the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China.

But, why is India concerned?

It passes through PoK. Any Indian participation would inextricably be linked to the country’s legitimate claims on PoK.

CPEC rests on a Chinese plan to secure and shorten its supply lines through Gwadar with an enhanced presence in the Indian Ocean. Hence, it is widely believed that upon CPEC’s fruition, an extensive Chinese presence will undermine India’s influence in the Indian Ocean.

It is also being contended that if CPEC were to successfully transform the Pakistan economy that could be a “red rag” for India which will remain at the receiving end of a wealthier and stronger Pakistan.

Besides, India shares a great deal of trust deficit with China and Pakistan and has a history of conflict with both. As a result, even though suggestions to re-approach the project pragmatically have been made, no advocate has overruled the principle strands of contention that continue to mar India’s equations with China and Pakistan.

Source: The Hindu

BeiDou Navigation Satellite System (BDS)

In News:

China’s BeiDou Navigation Satellite System (BDS), touted as a rival to the widely-used American GPS, has started providing global services.

Details:

The positioning accuracy of the system has reached 10 metres globally and five metres in the Asia-Pacific region. Its velocity accuracy is 0.2 metres per second, while its timing accuracy stands at 20 nanoseconds.

Pakistan has become the first country to use the BeiDou system ending its reliance on the Global Positioning System (GPS).

Significance:

It will be the fourth global satellite navigation system after the US GPS, Russia’s GLONASS and the European Union’s Galileo.

About BeiDou Satellite System:

Named after the Chinese term for Big Dipper, the BeiDou system started providing independent services over China in 2000. It is being projected by Beijing as a rival to the American Global Positioning System (GPS).

The full constellation is scheduled to comprise 35 satellites.

BeiDou has two separate constellations, BeiDou-1 and BeiDou-2. BeiDou-1 also known as first generation was a constellation of three satellites.

BeiDou-2, also known as COMPASS, is the second generation of the system. It became operational in the year 2011.

What are the various GNSS systems?

The four global GNSS systems are – GPS (US), GLONASS (Russia), Galileo (EU), BeiDou (China). Additionally, there are two regional systems – QZSS (Japan) and IRNSS or NavIC (India).

Source: The Hindu

Subhash Chandra Bose Aapda Prabandhan Puraskaar

In News:

These are annual awards instituted recently by the Centre to recognise the excellent work done by individuals and institutions in the country in the field of disaster management.

Key facts:

Three eligible institutions and individuals will be given the ‘Subhash Chandra Bose Aapda Prabandhan Puraskaar’ every year with cash rewards ranging from Rs 5 lakh to Rs 51 lakh.

If the awardee is an institution, it will be given a certificate and a cash prize of Rs 51 lakh and the prize money will be utilised for disaster management-related activities only.

If the awardee is an individual, the person shall receive a certificate and a cash prize of Rs 5 lakh.

An application by an institution does not debar any individual from that institution to apply for the award in his individual capacity.

Eligibility:

Only Indian nationals and Indian institutions can apply for the award.

For institutional awards, voluntary organisations, corporate entities, academic, research institutions, response, uniformed forces or any other institution may apply for the award.

The applicant must have worked in the area of disaster management like prevention, mitigation, preparedness, rescue, response, relief, rehabilitation, research, innovation or early warning related work in India.

The application must be accompanied by details of the work done in disaster management and must highlight achievements in any one or more of the areas like saving human lives, reduction in impact of disasters on lives, livestock, livelihoods, property, society, economy, or environment.

Mobilisation and provision of resources for effective response during disasters, immediate relief work in disaster hit areas and communities, effective and innovative use of technology in any field of disaster management and disaster mitigation initiatives in hazard prone areas are some of the other criteria.

Source: The Hindu

Capacity Building Programme for Elected Women Representatives (EWRs) of Panchayati Raj Institutions

In News:

The Government of India has initiated the Capacity Building Programme for Elected Women Representatives (EWRs) of Panchayati Raj Institutions.

Details:

Objective of the Capacity Building Programme – to empower EWRs by developing leadership capacities so that they serve as catalysts for social change and function as peer facilitators in the field, become vocal for their rights and participate effectively in the governance processes.

It is a significant endeavour in creating a forum for EWRs to understand their roles and responsibilities in a more prolific manner.

Although it is the first step towards harnessing the full potential of EWRs, but this is envisioned as a continuous process in order to instil confidence, courage, conviction, motivation and above all providing hand-holding support to EWRs for mainstreaming them in the governance process.

State Governments’ Contribution:

State Governments have been actively involved in imparting these trainings. Mainly, State Institute of Rural Developments (SIRDs) and State Resource Centers (SRCs) are actively collaborating with Ministry of Women and Child Development in conducting training programmes across the States.

This involves collaborating with institutions of the Departments of Panchayati Raj, Agriculture, Women & Child Development, Rural Development, etc.

Background:

The project is being implemented by National Institute of Public Cooperation and Child Development (NIPCCD), an autonomous body functioning under the aegis of the Ministry of Women and Child Development, Government of India.

Ministry of Women & Child Development has also developed training modules regarding laws for protection of women and children, development schemes and programmes (State and Center), Information Communication Technology (ICT) for the EWRs, participatory planning and asset creation, monitoring of Public Works and leadership qualities.

This approach to build capacities of these grassroots leaders has been envisaged to yield more desired development outcomes.

Source: PIB

River Dolphins go missing in Sunderbans

In News:

According to a recently conducted study, rise in salinity in the water system that makes the Indian Sunderbans has resulted in the decrease of population of the Ganges River Dolphins (GRDs) in the region.

Highlights of the study:

The national aquatic animal is no longer sighted in the central and eastern parts of Sunderbans region. Only in the western part of Sunderbans, where the salinity is lower, could researchers find some evidence of the species.

The hyper-saline zone in the central part of the Sunderbans, which includes areas such as Raidighi and Patharpratima has lost connectivity with the upstream freshwater flow.

Concerns:

The study shows that how natural changes including the phenomenon of climate change and human interventions in the Indian Sunderbans are having an adverse impact on the habitat of the species.

The rise in sea level, triggered by climate change, is one of the reasons for the increase in salinity of waters of rivers and channels. Hydrological modifications like water diversion and commission of large barrages upstream have had a great impact on the salinity profile of the rivers downstream in the Sunderbans.

Need of the hour:

Because of its unique body shape, it becomes difficult for the dolphin to remain submerged in waters with high salinity. Hence freshwater flow to the Sunderbans is crucial for the subsistence of these species.

About Gangetic River Dolphin:

Gangetic river dolphins fall under Schedule I of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act. It has been declared an ‘endangered’ species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

The Gangetic river species found in India, Bangladesh and Nepal is almost completely blind.

The Gangetic river dolphin is one of the four freshwater dolphin species in the world. The other three are found in the Yangtze river, the Indus river in Pakistan and the Amazon river.

 

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