06th Sep, 2018-IAS Current Affairs
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‘Chagos islands’ (GS2: Important international institutions)
Issue: India has backed Mauritius over its claim on the disputed Chagos islands, which is home to Diego Garcia — the key military base of the U.K. and the U.S. in the Indian Ocean, saying its decolonization was incomplete as long as the atolls were under British control. India’s stand was presented before the International Court of Justice (ICJ)
About Chagos islands
The Chagos Archipelago or Chagos Islands (formerly the Bassas de Chagas, and later the Oil Islands) are a group of seven atolls comprising more than 60 individual tropical islands in the Indian Ocean about 500 kilometres (310 mi) south of the Maldives archipelago. This chain of islands is the southernmost archipelago of the Chagos-Laccadive Ridge, a long submarine mountain range in the Indian Ocean.
Officially part of the British Indian Ocean Territory, the Chagos were home to the Chagossians, a Bourbonnais Creole-speaking people, for more than a century and a half until the United Kingdom evicted them between 1967 and 1973 to allow the United States to build a military base on Diego Garcia, the largest of the Chagos Islands. Since 1971, only the atoll of Diego Garcia is inhabited, and only by military and civilian contracted personnel.
The sovereignty of the Chagos Archipelago is disputed between the UK and Mauritius. The United Kingdom excised the archipelago from Mauritian territory three years ahead of Mauritius’ independence
The International Court of Justice (ICJ) is the principal judicial organ of the United Nations (UN). It was established in June 1945 by the Charter of the United Nations and began work in April 1946.
The seat of the Court is at the Peace Palace in The Hague (Netherlands). Of the six principal organs of the United Nations, it is the only one not located in New York (United States of America).
The Court’s role is to settle, in accordance with international law, legal disputes submitted to it by States and to give advisory opinions on legal questions referred to it by authorized United Nations organs and specialized agencies.
The Court is composed of 15 judges, who are elected for terms of office of nine years by the United Nations General Assembly and the Security Council. It is assisted by a Registry, its administrative organ. Its official languages are English and French.
Only States (States Members of the United Nations and other States which have become parties to the Statute of the Court or which have accepted its jurisdiction under certain conditions) may be parties to contentious cases.
The Court is competent to entertain a dispute only if the States concerned have accepted its jurisdiction in one or more of the following ways:
- by entering into a special agreement to submit the dispute to the Court;
- by virtue of a jurisdictional clause, i.e., typically, when they are parties to a treaty containing a provision whereby, in the event of a dispute of a given type or disagreement over the interpretation or application of the treaty, one of them may refer the dispute to the Court;
- through the reciprocal effect of declarations made by them under the Statute, whereby each has accepted the jurisdiction of the Court as compulsory in the event of a dispute with another State having made a similar declaration. A number of these declarations, which must be deposited with the United Nations Secretary-General, contain reservations excluding certain categories of dispute.
‘Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV)’ (GS3: Technology)
Issue: The Army has selected SpyLite mini-UAV for high-altitude aerial surveillance. The mini-UAV is built by Cyient Solutions & Systems (CSS), a joint venture between Cyient Ltd of India and BlueBird Aero Systems of Israel.
About the UAV
According to the company website, SpyLite has an endurance of 4-5 hours and a maximum flight ceiling of 30,000 feet making it ideal for operations along the border with China as well as on the Siachen glacier.
‘Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA)’ (GS2: India-America ties)
Issue: India and the United States began a new generation of military and security cooperation by signing Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA).
An announcement on the significant agreement came at the end of the inaugural 2+2 ministerial dialogue between the two countries that also focused on ensuring maritime freedom and international law in the India-Pacific region.
Other announcements made include:
- India and the U.S. would also hold a first-ever tri-service exercise on the east coast of India in 2019
- The two defence ministers also announced their readiness to begin negotiations on an Industrial Security Annex (ISA) that would support closer defence industry cooperation and collaboration.
- To further defence innovation, a Memorandum of Intent was signed between the U.S. Defense Innovation Unit (DIU) and the Indian Defence Innovation Organization — Innovation for Defence Excellence (DIO-iDEX), which will look into joint projects for co-production and co-development projects through the Defense Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI).
What is COMCASA?
- COMCASA, which stands for Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement, is one the four foundational agreements that the U.S. signs with allies and close partners to facilitate interoperability between militaries.
- COMCASA allows India to procure encrypted communication systems from the U.S. for military platforms like the C-17, C-130 and P-8Is. Due to non-signing of COMCASA, these platforms were using commercially available communication systems.
- India has already signed two of the four agreements, the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSIMOA) in 2002 and the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) in 2016. The last one remaining is the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-spatial Cooperation (BECA).
‘Section 377’ (GS2: Fundamental rights)
Issue: A five-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court unanimously decriminalized part of the 158-year-old colonial era provisions of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) which criminalizes consensual unnatural sex.
Observations made in the judgment
- Societal morality cannot trump constitutional morality. Societal morality cannot overturn the fundamental rights of even a single person.
- The LGBTQ community needs the rainbow of hope for the sake of the humanity. They should be allowed to live with dignity and without pretense. This is their journey to dignity, equality and liberty.
- Sexual orientation is biological, innate. She or he has no control over who they get attracted to. Any repression will be a violation of free expression.
- State cannot decide the boundaries between what is permissible or not. Section 377 is based on deep-rooted gender stereotypes. It persecutes people. It is a majoritarian impulse to subjugate a sexual minority to live in silence
- Society owes an apology to the LGBTQ community for the years of stigma imposed on them.
What is Indian Penal Code (IPC)?
The Indian Penal Code (IPC) is the main criminal code of India. It is a comprehensive code intended to cover all substantive aspects of criminal law. The code was drafted in 1860 on the recommendations of first law commission of India established in 1834 under the Charter Act of 1833 under the Chairmanship of Thomas Babington Macaulay. It came into force in British India during the early British Raj period in 1862. However, it did not apply automatically in the Princely states, which had their own courts and legal systems until the 1940s. The Code has since been amended several times and is now supplemented by other criminal provisions.
After the partition of the British Indian Empire, the Indian Penal Code was inherited by its successor states, the Dominion of India and the Dominion of Pakistan, where it continues independently as the Pakistan Penal Code. The Ranbir Penal Code (RPC) applicable in Jammu and Kashmir is also based on this Code
‘Dissolution of State Assembly’ (GS2: State legislature)
Issue: The Telangana Cabinet on Thursday led by the Chief Minister K.Chandrasekhar Rao recommended the dissolution of the State Legislative Assembly.
Term of the legislative assembly
The term of the Legislative Assembly is five years. However, it may be dissolved earlier than that by the Governor on the request of the Chief Minister. The term of the Legislative Assembly may be extended during an emergency, but not more than six months at a time.
‘Solid waste management policy’ (GS3: Conservation of Environment)
Issue: The Supreme Court lifted its August 31 order staying construction activities in landslide-hit Uttarakhand for not placing on record in court its solid waste management policy. The court also clarified that there is no stay on construction in Maharashtra too.
A three-judge Bench led by Justice Madan B. Lokur had ordered a freeze on construction activities in defaulting States and Union Territories.
‘SEBI and H.R. Khan Committee’ (GS3: Indian Economy)
Issue: The Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) will soon review its circular issued in April that barred Non-Resident Indians (NRIs), among others, from managing funds they invest in India.
The capital markets regulator said that a working group constituted under H.R. Khan, former RBI deputy governor, met with industry participants and would soon give its recommendations to SEBI, which would then review the entire matter.
‘Services sector’ (GS3: Indian Economy)
Issue: India’s services sector activity fell in August from July’s 21-month peak as new business orders declined, following which firms raised their staffing levels at a modest pace amid rising input cost inflation
The headline seasonally adjusted Nikkei India Composite PMI Output Index fell to 51.9 in August from July’s 21-month high of 54.1, owing to weaker growth in both the manufacturing and service sectors.
Services sector in India
India’s services sector GVA grew at a CAGR of 6.93 per cent to US$ 1,266.1 billion in FY18E from US$ 846.8 billion in FY12. In terms of overall GDP India ranks 5th in 2017 and in terms of services GVA India ranked 13th as of 2015. Growth rate of financial, real estate and professional services is expected to reach 11.07 per cent in FY18. Trade, hotels, transport, communication and services related to broadcasting are expected to grow at 11.88 per cent in FY18.
The services sector is not only the dominant sector in India’s GDP, but has also attracted significant foreign investment flows, contributed significantly to exports as well as provided large-scale employment. India’s services sector covers a wide variety of activities such as trade, hotel and restaurants, transport, storage and communication, financing, insurance, real estate, business services, community, social and personal services, and services associated with construction.
The top 10 categories of Indian services sector attracted FDI equity inflows in the period April 2000-December 2017, amounting to about US$ 22,095.51 billion according to the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP).
Some of the developments and major investments by companies in the services sector in the recent past are as follows:
- The domestic and foreign logistic companies are optimistic about prospects in the logistics sector in India, and are actively making investments plans to improve earnings and streamline operations.
- Leisure and business travel and tourism spending are expected to increase to Rs 14,127.1 billion (US$ 216.9 billion) and Rs 806.4 billion (US$ 12.4 billion) in 2018, respectively.
- Market share of private banks in advances is expected to increase from 27.7 per cent in 2017-18 to nearly 35 per cent in 2019-20
The Government of India recognizes the importance of promoting growth in services sectors and provides several incentives in wide variety of sectors such as health care, tourism, education, engineering, communications, transportation, information technology, banking, finance, management, among others.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has stated that India’s priority will be to work towards trade facilitation agreement (TFA) for services, which is expected to help in the smooth movement of professionals.
The Government of India has adopted a few initiatives in the recent past. Some of these are as follows:
- Under the Mid-Term Review of Foreign Trade Policy (2015-20), the Central Government increased incentives provided under Services Exports from India Scheme (SEIS) by two per cent.
- Government of India is working to remove many trade barriers to services and tabled a draft legal text on Trade Facilitation in Services to the WTO in 2017.
Services sector growth is governed by both domestic and global factors. The Indian facilities management market is expected to grow at 17 per cent CAGR between 2015 and 2020 and surpass the US$19 billion mark supported by booming real estate, retail, and hospitality sectors.
The implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) has created a common national market and reduced the overall tax burden on goods. It is expected to reduce costs in the long run on account of availability of GST input credit, which will result in the reduction in prices of services.
‘Indian Rupee’ (GS3: Indian Economy)
Issue: The rupee has now depreciated by about 7 percent from June 2018, when the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) started hiking rates, and close to 13 percent in 2018.
The depreciation in the rupee has now outpaced other Asian currencies like Indonesia rupiah. Beyond a certain level of depreciation, the costs could outweigh benefits. There are many components of such cost. Such as:
- Short-term external debt repayment
India’s short-term debt obligations as on December ’17 were to the tune of $217.6 billion. Assuming half of this amount has either been paid in H1 2018 or is rolled over to 2019, the remaining repayment amount in rupee terms would be Rs 7.1 trillion at average 2017 exchange rate of Rs 65.1/ US dollar). For H2, assuming that rupee depreciates to an average value of the 71.4/US dollar, the debt repayment amount would be Rs 7.8 trillion, thereby implying an extra cost of Rs 670 bn.
- Oil import bill
At an average oil price of $74.24/bbl for the remaining half, crude import bill of India in 2018 should amount to $57 billion. If the average exchange rate remained at Rs 65.1/ US dollar the crude oil import bill would have been Rs 3,643 billion.
However, with rupee depreciating to an average of Rs 71.4/US dollar in H2 2018 end, the import bill would increase to Rs 4036 billion, implying an extra cost of around Rs 0.353 trillion.
As per RBI, a depreciation of the Indian rupee by around 5 percent relative to the baseline, inflation could edge higher by around 20 bps. With rupee expected to depreciate by say around 14 percent this year, keeping everything else constant inflation could edge by 56 bps going by the RBI numbers.
If the rupee continues to depreciate, it may move RBI towards increasing the regulatory interest rates. This could pressurize RBI to go for more rate hikes. RBI’s successive rate hikes will have a negative impact on consumption expenditure (PFCE) as well as investment expenditure, thereby widening the output gap.
- Fiscal cost
With yields crossing 8 percent, there will be increased fiscal costs on the part of the government every year. Such costs are expected to be at least Rs 6000-7000 crores.
‘Kepler telescope’ (GS3: Science)
Issue: NASA’s planet-hunting Kepler space telescope has woken up from yet another slumber and begun collecting science data again. It began collecting science data on August 29 for its 19th observation campaign.
In July, NASA placed the spacecraft, with 2,650 confirmed planets, in a hibernation-like state in preparation to download the science data collected in its latest observation campaign.
About Kepler mission
Launched in 2009, the Kepler mission is specifically designed to survey our region of the Milky Way galaxy to discover hundreds of Earth-sized and smaller planets in or near the habitable zone and determine the fraction of the hundreds of billions of stars in our galaxy that might have such planets
The Kepler space telescope, which is now 94 million miles away from Earth, has survived many potential knock-outs during its nine years in flight, from mechanical failures to being blasted by cosmic rays. After the Kepler space telescope, Tess is the second spacecraft which will search for planets outside our solar system, including those that could support life.
‘Saturn’ (GS3: Science)
Issue: A bizarre, hexagon-shaped vortex has formed above Saturn’s north pole as the planet’s northern hemisphere enters summer, data from the international Cassini-Huygens mission revealed.
The unusual vortex is circulating hundreds of kilometers above the clouds in the stratosphere layer of the ringed planet’s atmosphere
About Cassini-Huygens mission
NASA’s Cassini spacecraft arrived at the Saturn system in 2004, when it was summer in the planet’s southern hemisphere and winter in the northern hemisphere. At the time, the spacecraft documented a circular, warm, high-altitude vortex at Saturn’s south pole but nothing at the north pole.
Prior to Cassini, NASA’s Voyager spacecraft had revealed a lower-altitude north-pole hexagon in the 1980s. That hexagon is a long-lasting wave thought to be related to Saturn’s rotation, similar to the way Earth’s rotation influences the Polar Jet Stream.
- Saturn is the sixth planet from the sun and the second largest planet in the solar system. Saturn was the Roman name for Cronus, the lord of the Titans in Greek mythology. Saturn is the root of the English word “Saturday.”
- Saturn is the farthest planet from Earth visible to the naked human eye, but it is through a telescope that the planet’s most outstanding features can be seen: Saturn’s rings. Although the other gas giants in the solar system — Jupiter, Uranus and Neptune — also have rings, those of Saturn are without a doubt the most extraordinary.
- Saturn is a gas giant made up mostly of hydrogen and helium. Saturn is big enough to hold more than 760 Earths, and is more massive than any other planet except Jupiter, roughly 95 times Earth’s mass. However, Saturn has the lowest density of all the planets, and is the only one less dense than water — if there were a bathtub big enough to hold it, Saturn would float.
- The yellow and gold bands seen in Saturn’s atmosphere are the result of super-fast winds in the upper atmosphere, which can reach up to 1,100 mph (1,800 km/h) around its equator, combined with heat rising from the planet’s interior.
- Saturn spins faster than any other planet except Jupiter, completing a rotation roughly every 10-and-a-half hours.
- Like other giant planets, Saturn also has northern and southern lights, caused by particles from the sun.
- Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, is slightly larger than Mercury, and is the second-largest moon in the solar system behind Jupiter’s moon Ganymede. (Earth’s moon is the fifth largest.) Titan is veiled under a very thick, nitrogen-rich atmosphere that might be like what Earth’s was long ago