24th April, 2018-IAS Current Affairs
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(GS3: Challenges to Internal Security)
Issue: The Centre has removed the AFSPA from Meghalaya, from April 1 onwards. Also, In Arunachal Pradesh, the AFSPA has been restricted to eight police stations, instead of 16 earlier.
What is AFSPA?
Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 gives power to the Army and Central forces deployed in “disturbed areas” to kill anyone acting in contravention of law, arrest and search any premises without a warrant and provide cover to forces from prosecution and legal suits without the Centre’s sanction. Section 3 of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958, says it can be invoked in places “where the use of armed forces in aid of the civil power is necessary.”
Reason for changes in AFSPA in these states
The decision was taken in the wake of significant improvement of the security situation in the State. Except for Tripura and Manipur, the Centre was issuing such notifications for Assam, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh and Meghalaya.
The Ministry of Home Affairs would usually enforce this Act where necessary, but there have been exceptions where the Centre decided to forego its power and leave the decision to the State governments.
(GS3: Indian Economy)
Issue: GI tag has been conferred upon Warangal’s Dhurries.
What is Warangal Dhurries?
1. Bright colors, geometrically repetitive patterns and interlocking zigzag motifs in cotton and jute are the signature styles of the carpets.
2.One of the newest innovations by the weavers here is an adaptation of tie-dyed ikat techniques and hand-painted or block-printed kalamkari designs for the dhurries to save time and energy.
What is GI tag?
Geographical Indications of Goods are defined as that aspect of industrial property which refer to the geographical indication referring to a country or to a place situated therein as being the country or place of origin of that product. Typically, such a name conveys an assurance of quality and distinctiveness which is essentially attributable to the fact of its origin in that defined geographical locality, region or country. Under Articles 1 (2) and 10 of the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property, geographical indications are covered as an element of IPRs. They are also covered under Articles 22 to 24 of the Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement, which was part of the Agreements concluding the Uruguay Round of GATT negotiations.
India, as a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO), enacted the Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration & Protection) Act, 1999 has come into force with effect from 15th September 2003.
Officer of the Controller General of patents, designs and Trade marks in Department of Industrial policy and promotion under the Ministry of Commerce and Industry is responsible for conferring GI tags in India
Issue: Elaborate arrangements are in place for the Neelakurinji season that is set to begin from July-end. The main places under the Munnar Wildlife Sanctuary where massive flowering takes place are Eravikulam National Park (ENP), Lakkam and Vaguvarai top.
What is Neelakurinji?
Kurinji or Neelakurinji is a shrub that is found in the shola forests of the Western Ghats in South India. Nilgiri Hills, which literally means the blue mountains, got their name from the purplish blue flowers of Neelakurinji that blossoms only once in 12 years. The Paliyan tribal people living in Tamil nadu used it as a reference to calculate their age
‘Hindu Temple in Singapore’
(GS1: Indian Culture)
Issue: Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong led some 40,000 devotees and four Ministers at an iconic 164-year-old Hindu temple’s reconsecration ceremony on Sunday, following the completion of its $3.4 million restoration work.
About the temple
A team of 20 artisans, known as sthapathis,were flown in from India for restoration work. Built in 1854, the Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple was declared a national monument by Singapore’s Preservation of Monuments Board in 1978.
(GS3: Indian Economy)
Issue: India retained the top position as a recipient of remittances with its diaspora sending about $69 billion back home last year, the World Bank said on Monday.
Highlights of the report
1. Remittances to India picked up sharply by 9.9%, reversing the previous year’s dip, but were still short of $70.4 billion received in 2014
2. In its latest Migration and Development Brief, the World Bank estimated that officially recorded remittances to low-and middle-income countries reached $466 billion in 2017. This was an increase of 8.5% over $429 billion in 2016.
3. The stronger-than-expected recovery in remittances was driven by growth in Europe, Russia and the U.S
4. The rebound in remittances, when valued in U.S. dollars, was helped by higher oil prices and a strengthening of the Euro and the Ruble
5. India continued to top in terms of receiving remittance, and was followed by China ($64 billion), the Philippines ($33 billion), Mexico ($31 billion), Nigeria ($22 billion) and Egypt ($20 billion).
6. The upsurge is likely to continue into 2018 on the back of stronger economic conditions in advanced economies (particularly the U.S.) and an increase in oil prices that should have a positive impact on the GCC countries. Global remittances are expected to grow 4.6% to $642 billion in 2018.
7. The Bank said the global average cost of sending $200 was 7.1% in Q1 of 2018, more than twice as high as the Sustainable Development Goal target of 3%. Sub-Saharan Africa remains the most expensive place to send money to, where the average cost is 9.4%.
8. Barriers to reducing costs are derisking by banks and exclusive partnerships between national post office systems and money transfer operators. These factors constrain the introduction of technologies, such as mobile apps and the use of cryptocurrency and blockchain in remittance services.
‘India-USA WTO dispute’
(GS2: Global Groupings)
Issue: India would lodge a trade dispute against the United States at the World Trade Organisation if Washington does not grant it exemptions from higher tariffs on steel and aluminum
India recently requested exemptions, arguing that its exports of these products to the United States did not create a security concern for a country with whom it has a strategic partnership that goes beyond trade.
India’ share of Trade of aluminum and steel with USA
India exported less than 1 million tonnes of steel to the U.S. in 2017, and was the tenth biggest supplier, according to an internal note prepared by the Steel Ministry. Steel exports to the United States account for 2.2 per cent of India’s total steel exports
(GS3: Science and Technology)
Issue: Scientists have developed a light and portable sensor that can detect even the faintest signs of life, and could be used to rescue people trapped in rubble after an earthquake or bombing.
About the invention
Scientists from ETH Zurich in Switzerland and University of Innsbruck in Austria have developed an inexpensive sensor that is light and portable enough for first responders to hold in their hands or for drones to carry on a search for survivors.
Current approaches include the use of human-sniffing dogs and acoustic probes that can detect cries for help. However, these methods have drawbacks, such as the limited availability of canines and the silence of unconscious victims.
They also included two commercially available sensors for detecting humidity and CO2. In a human entrapment simulation, the sensors detected tiny amounts of these chemicals, at levels unprecedented for portable detectors — down to three parts per billion
‘Earth Biogenome project’
Issue: A global consortium of scientists is proposing a hugely ambitious project to sequence the genomes of all known complex life on Earth.
About the project
The enormous initiative will analyze and catalog the DNA of every documented eukaryotic species—a vast group which includes all plants, animals, fungi and other organisms whose cells have a clearly defined nucleus surrounded by a membrane (the domains of bacteria and archaea—single-celled organisms that have no cell nucleus—are not included.)
In total, there are 1.5 million eukaryotic species on the planet but only 0.2 percent have had their genomes sequenced. The Bio-Genome Project has the potential to transform our understanding life on Earth, according to the researchers, and pave the way for new innovations in medicine, agriculture, conservation, technology and genomics, among other fields.
‘Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO)’
(GS2: Multilateral agencies)
Issue: In a veiled attack on Pakistan, India on Tuesday said that terrorism is an enemy of the basic human rights and the fight against it should also identify States that “encourage, support and finance” the menace and “provide sanctuary” to terror groups.
External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, during her address at the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Council of Foreign Ministers meeting also attended by Pakistan Foreign Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif, raised the issue of global terrorism and protectionism.
Other topics raised by India include:
1. To establish Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism that India proposed more than two decades ago in the United Nations.
2. Protectionism in all its forms should be rejected and efforts should be made to discipline measures that constitute barriers to trade
3. Issue of reforms at the U.N. Security Council
4. Commitment to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change and its Paris Agreement
5. The establishment of “International Solar Alliance”
6. Afghanistan peace process
The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) is a permanent intergovernmental international organisation, the creation of which was announced on 15 June 2001 in Shanghai (China) by the Republic of Kazakhstan, the People’s Republic of China, the Kyrgyz Republic, the Russian Federation, the Republic of Tajikistan, and the Republic of Uzbekistan. It was preceded by the Shanghai Five mechanism.
The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation Charter was signed during the St.Petersburg SCO Heads of State meeting in June 2002, and entered into force on 19 September 2003. This is the fundamental statutory document which outlines the organisation’s goals and principles, as well as its structure and core activities.
The historical meeting of the Heads of State Council of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation was held on 8-9 June 2017 in Astana. On the meeting the status of a full member of the Organization was granted to the Republic of India and the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.
The SCO’s main goals are as follows: strengthening mutual trust and neighborliness among the member states; promoting their effective cooperation in politics, trade, the economy, research, technology and culture, as well as in education, energy, transport, tourism, environmental protection, and other areas; making joint efforts to maintain and ensure peace, security and stability in the region; and moving towards the establishment of a democratic, fair and rational new international political and economic order.
Proceeding from the Shanghai Spirit, the SCO pursues its internal policy based on the principles of mutual trust, mutual benefit, equality, mutual consultations, respect for cultural diversity, and a desire for common development, while its external policy is conducted in accordance with the principles of non-alignment, non-targeting any third country, and openness.
The Heads of State Council (HSC) is the supreme decision-making body in the SCO. It meets once a year and adopts decisions and guidelines on all important matters of the organisation. The SCO Heads of Government Council (HGC) meets once a year to discuss the organisation’s multilateral cooperation strategy and priority areas, to resolve current important economic and other cooperation issues, and also to approve the organisation’s annual budget. The SCO’s official languages are Russian and Chinese.
In addition to HSC and HGC meetings, there is also a mechanism of meetings at the level of heads of parliament; secretaries of Security Councils; ministers of foreign affairs, defence, emergency relief, economy, transport, culture, education, and healthcare; heads of law enforcement agencies and supreme and arbitration courts; and prosecutors general. The Council of National Coordinators of SCO Member States (CNC) acts as the SCO coordination mechanism.
The organisation has two permanent bodies — the SCO Secretariat based in Beijing and the Executive Committee of the Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS) based in Tashkent. The SCO Secretary-General and the Director of the Executive Committee of the SCO RATS are appointed by the Council of Heads of State for a term of three years. Rashid Alimov (Tajikistan) and Yevgeny Sysoyev (Russia) have held these positions, respectively, since 1 January 2016.
* the SCO comprises eight member states, namely the Republic of India, the Republic of Kazakhstan, the People’s Republic of China, the Kyrgyz Republic, the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, the Russian Federation, the Republic of Tajikistan, and the Republic of Uzbekistan;
* the SCO counts four observer states, namely the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, the Republic of Belarus, the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Republic of Mongolia;
* the SCO has six dialogue partners, namely the Republic of Azerbaijan, the Republic of Armenia, the Kingdom of Cambodia, the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal, the Republic of Turkey, and the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka.
‘Fake E-commerce products’
(GS3: Indian Economy)
Issue: Sale of counterfeit products still remains a significant problem for online shoppers across many ecommerce sites, with two recent surveys saying that over a third of the customers have faced this problem.
A survey conducted by LocalCircles shows that 38% consumers out of 6,923 respondents have received a counterfeit product from an ecommerce site in the past one year. Among the leading ecommerce sites, consumers said they had received counterfeit products on Snapdeal at 12%, while 11% said Amazon and 6% cited Flipkart, the survey showed.
Significance of this study
These findings come as the consumer affairs department is currently in the process of drafting rules for ecommerce meant to put more liability on ecommerce players. One of the main reasons for the stringent rules being drafted is the rise of consumer complaints based on ecommerce online shopping.
Ecommerce companies said they were taking stringent steps to ensure counterfeit products do not make their way to customers, by delisting fraud sellers, using tamper-proof packaging and monitoring warehouses.
(GS3: Conservation of Environment)
Issue: Diu Smart City has become the first city in India, which runs on 100% renewable energy during daytime setting a new benchmark for other cities to become clean and green.
About Smart City Programme
Smart Cities Mission, sometimes referred to as Smart City Mission, is an urban renewal and retrofitting program by the Government of India with the mission to develop 100 cities across the country making them citizen friendly and sustainable. The Union Ministry of Urban Development is responsible for implementing the mission in collaboration with the state governments of the respective cities.
Smart Cities Mission envisions developing an area within 100 cities in the country as model areas based on an area development plan, which is expected to have a rub-off effect on other parts of the city, and nearby cities and towns. Cities will be selected based on the Smart Cities challenge, where cities will compete in a countrywide competition to obtain the benefits from this mission. As of January 2018, 99 cities have been selected to be upgraded as part of the Smart Cities Mission after they defeated other cities in the challenge.
It is a five-year program, where all of the Indian states and Union territories are participating, except West Bengal, by nominating at least one city for the Smart Cities challenge. Financial aid will be given by the central and state governments between 2017-2022 to the cities, and the mission will start showing results from 2022 onwards.
Each city will create a corporate company, headed by a full-time CEO, to implement the Smart Cities Mission. The execution of projects may be done through joint ventures, subsidiaries, public-private partnership (PPP), turnkey contracts, etc., suitably dovetailed with revenue streams Centre and state government will provide INR 1,000 Crore funding to the company, as equal contribution of INR 500 crore each. The company has to raise additional funds from the financial market as a debt or equity.
(GS3: Science and technology)
Issue: National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (Nasa) goal of returning to the moon should see a major push in early 2019, when the agency awards its first contract for the lunar “Gateway” program.
About the programme
The Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway is Nasa’s planned “staging” area intended for studies of the moon and the deep-space environment. Eventually, it will function as a way station for astronauts travelling to and from Mars.
NASA’s first spending for the platform will be for power and propulsion elements early next year, followed by habitation components
The Gateway would also further Nasa’s goal of another human landing on the moon and will help determine whether water near the surface could be used to manufacture propellant for deep-space missions. The moon’s gravity could also help a spacecraft reduce the blistering speeds used for six-month voyages back-and-forth to Mars, thus facilitating re-entry to Earth’s atmosphere.
Issue: Uranus has a thick atmosphere that is populated by clouds made of hydrogen sulphide- the same gas that gives rotten eggs their signature smell. The presence of these smelly, large clouds was confirmed in a recent observation made by astronomers in Hawaii.
Significance of the discovery
This discovery could open up several explanations as to how the outer planets were formed in the early days of the Solar System. Also, while there have been several past observations made of Uranus, including the Voyager 2 flyby, this is the first time that the composition of the planet is being decoded, noted the report.
About Planet Uranus
1. Uranus was officially discovered by Sir William Herschel in 1781.
2. The planet rotates in a retrograde direction, opposite to the way Earth and most other planets turn.
3. During some parts of its orbit one or the other of its poles point directly at the Sun and get about 42 years of direct sunlight. The rest of the time they are in darkness.
4. Like the other gas giants, it has a hydrogen upper layer, which has helium mixed in. Below that is an icy “mantle, which surrounds a rock and ice core.
5. With minimum atmospheric temperature of -224°C Uranus is nearly coldest planet in the solar system. While Neptune doesn’t get as cold as Uranus it is on average colder.
6. The ring particles are small, ranging from a dust-sized particles to small boulders. There are eleven inner rings and two outer rings. They probably formed when one or more of Uranus’s moons were broken up in an impact. The first rings were discovered in 1977 with the two outer rings being discovered in Hubble Space Telescope images between 2003 and 2005
7. In 1986, the Voyager 2 spacecraft swept past the planet at a distance of 81,500 km. It returned the first close-up images of the planet, its moons, and rings.