29th Oct, 2018-IAS Current Affairs
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‘Pollution in Delhi’ (GS3: Environmental pollution)
Issue: The Capital continues to battle dangerous levels of pollution and on Sunday recorded its worst score on the Air Quality Index (AQI) for the season.
The city registered an average AQI of 366, which falls in the ‘very poor’ category, based on the reading of 32 monitoring stations. The Capital was engulfed in haze throughout the day.
Reasons for such a high value of pollution
Environmentalists said that the dip in air quality was not just due to localised factors such as construction dust, vehicular pollution, but also regional factors such as stubble burning in Punjab and Haryana.
The Centre-run System of Air Quality Forecasting and Research (SAFAR) issued a heath advisory urging people with heart or lung disease to avoid prolonged or heavy exertion in the open. It also recommended that people go for shorter walks instead of jogs, keep windows closed and wear masks.
‘Amur falcon’ (GS3: Environment)
Issue: Umru village on the Assam-Meghalaya border lacks a road but that doesn’t stop its famous winter visitors — a flock of Amur falcons, the world’s longest travelling raptors.
While Doyang Lake near Pangti village in Nagaland’s Wokha district is better known as a stopover for the Amur falcons during their annual migration from their breeding grounds in Mongolia and northern China to warmer South Africa, a flock has been seen since 2010 in Umru.
About Amur falcons
The Amur falcon is a small raptor of the falcon family. It breeds in south-eastern Siberia and Northern China before migrating in large flocks across India and over the Arabian Sea to winter in Southern Africa. It was earlier treated as a subspecies of the red-footed falcon and known as the eastern red-footed falcon
The wide breeding range and large population size of the Amur falcon have led to the species being assessed as being of least concern. The flocking behavior during migration and the density at which they occur, however, expose them to hunting and other threats. During their migration from their breeding area to the winter quarters, they are plump and are hunted for food in parts of northeastern India as well as in eastern Africa
‘India-Japan ties’ (GS2: Bilateral relations)
Issue: PM Modi, who is in Japan for the 13th India-Japan annual summit, met his counterpart Shinzo Abe and held informal talks with him.
Some grey areas in ties
- In 2011, India and Japan began implementing the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement; yet seven years later, bilateral trade has yet to hit even the $20 billion mark.
- India’s exports to Japan have in fact contracted in four of the past six years.
- Since early 2010, Japan and India have discussed joint infrastructure projects in third countries, including announcing an Asia-Africa Growth Corridor. But not a single project has taken off, including in Myanmar and the Mekong countries where the two share complementary interests.
- The largest gap between form and substance is evident in the area of defence cooperation. The framework of Indo-Japanese defence ties has grown considerably, including the joint declaration on security cooperation, the action plan to advance such cooperation, a defence equipment transfer agreement, a classified military information security protection agreement, and the ongoing logistical support cooperation talks. Yet, 10 years later, the two sides have failed to realize the sale of a single defence article and there exists no conventional threat-specific contingency scenario in which the two militaries can practicably cooperate.
‘India-China ties’ (GS2: Bilateral relations)
Issue: A delegation of a Chinese group that takes care of the security of the top seven members of the nation’s leadership will visit New Delhi in November, as security ties between India and China begin to expand.
The delegation will hold talks with India’s elite Special Protection Group (SPG)
The Special Protection Group (SPG) is “an armed force of the Union for providing proximate security to the Prime Minister of India and former Prime Ministers of India and members of their immediate families wherever they are.” It was formed in 1988 by an act of the Parliament of India.
Former PMs, their immediate family members, and family members of a serving Prime Minister may, if they choose, may decline SPG security
The SPG is divided broadly into the following four categories:
- Operations: Looks after the actual protection duties. In the Operations Branch, there are components like the Communications Wing, Technical Wing and Transport Wing.
- Training: Deals with the training of personnel on a continuous basis. The SPG imparts training in physical efficiency, marksmanship, anti-sabotage checks, communication and other operative aspects connected with close protection drills and having a bearing on VVIP security with a view to maintaining a high level of physical fitness and to fine-tune the operational skills of SPG Officers. The training programme is constantly reviewed and updated to effectively thwart threats from newer areas and in keeping with existing threat perception.
- Intelligence and Tours: Threat assessment, internal intelligence pertaining to personnel, verification of character and antecedents, tours and other allied jobs.
- Administration: Deals with personnel, finance, procurement and other related matters.
‘Depreciating Rupee’ (GS3: Indian Economy)
Issue: Exporters in India are not happy with the current policy and exchange rate situation even though they should be cheering the depreciating rupee. A
Reasons for contracting rupee
- A combination of higher input costs, uncertainty over tariffs, and the fact that the government has said it would not be refunding them the Integrated Goods and Services Tax (IGST) they have paid, has meant that exports contracted in September for the first time in six months.
- According to FIEO, the depreciation has resulted in an increase in the cost of imported capital goods, inputs and various services used by exporters paid in foreign currency.
- Apart from this, the exporters say that depreciating currencies in some of their biggest export destinations such as West Asia, Africa, and certain parts of Asia, has meant that buyers in these areas have also begun asking for discounts.
- Several exporters have complained that the confusion surrounding India’s eligibility for the U.S. Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) has meant that many advance orders, which ordinarily would have gone to Indian companies, are now being diverted to exporters in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Vietnam.
What is GSP?
The GSP is a system where the U.S. allows certain eligible countries to export about 3,500 commodities to the U.S. on a duty-free basis. Earlier this year, the U.S. said it would be reviewing India’s eligibility for this benefit. In the meantime, while the Indian government has maintained that India’s exporters are still eligible for the GSP benefits until the review is completed, major export bodies have said their exporters have not received these benefits since December 2017.
‘Moths’ (GS3: Conservation of Environment)
Issue: Moths are widely considered as pests, but a recent study by scientists of Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) has revealed that these groups of insects are pollinators to a number of flowering plants in the Himalayan ecosystem.
The analysis of proboscis, a long and thread-like organ used to suck flower sap, of a dozen moth species’ revealed the presence of pollen grains.
Significance of pollinators
About 90% of the world’s flowering plants are pollinated by animals. Therefore, pollinators are essential for the genetic exchange among flowering plants and the biodiversity among plants
Researchers have pointed out that almost two-thirds of common large moth species have declined over the last 40 years in some parts of world. One of main reasons for the decline is light pollution (an increase in artificial light in moth habitats).
‘Carbon nanotubes’ (GS3: Science)
Issue: Carbon nanotubes turn out to be a secret method to make better batteries. A recent research conducted by Rice University scientists and published in Advanced Materials journal assured the benefits of using carbon nanotubes.
About Carbon nanotubes
Carbon nanotubes (CNTs) are allotropes of carbon with a cylindrical nanostructure. These cylindrical carbon molecules have unusual properties, which are valuable for nanotechnology, electronics, optics and other fields of materials science and technology.
In addition, owing to their extraordinary thermal conductivity, mechanical, and electrical properties, carbon nanotubes find applications as additives to various structural materials. For instance, nanotubes form a tiny portion of the material(s) in some (primarily carbon fiber) baseball bats, golf clubs, car parts or damascus steel.
‘Slums in India’ (GS2: Issue related to Human resources)
Issue: A common perception is that slum dwellers stay there out of a lack of choice. However, this may not be the case. Recent studies have shown that many slum dwellers can afford better homes, but choose to stay in slums.
Observations made in the study
They found that many slum dwellers only considered buying new homes as an investment: the new home would be rented out, while they remained in the slum. This was because they preferred the sense of community and belonging that slums provide.
‘Train 18’ (GS3: Infrastructure)
Issue: Indian Railways is all set to roll out its much awaited indigenously built semi-high speed train. Known as Train 18 or T18, India’s first engine-less train, which is being regarded as a successor to the 30-year-old Shatabdi Express
Features about Train 18
- Train 18 has a potential to travel up to the speed at 160 kmph as against 130 kmph for Shatabdis and will result in the travel time being reduced by around 15% once tracks are fitted to suit.
- India’s first engine-less train was developed by Chennai Integral Coach Factory in 18 months, the full AC train is designed in such a way that passengers can have a look at the driver’s cabin.
- Train 18 has diffused lighting, an on-board infotainment system with Wi-Fi, vacuum toilets, sliding doors besides a GPS-based passenger information system.
- Train 18, a 100 per cent ‘Make in India’ project, will have a stainless steel car body with LHB as the base design.
- Like Metro coaches, the doors of Train 18 will open only after the train stops.
‘Non-performing assets’ (GS3: Indian Economy)
Issue: India’s Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC) has intensified activity in distressed merger and acquisitions (M&As) in India with deals worth $14.3 billion completed in the past two years
IBC has been very much a positive for the Indian market and is opening the door to a new investment class: distressed assets
A Bankruptcy Law Reforms Committee (BLRC) was set up for providing an entrepreneur friendly legal bankruptcy framework for India as announced in the Budget Speech (2014-15), Para 106 – “Entrepreneur friendly legal bankruptcy framework will also be developed for SMEs to enable easy exit…” Further, the Government identified Bankruptcy Law Reform as a key priority for improving the ease of doing business and had announced in the Budget Speech 2015-16 that a comprehensive Bankruptcy Code, meeting global standards and providing necessary judicial capacity, will be brought in fiscal 2015-16.
The BLRC submitted its Report and draft Bill on 4.11.2015. Based on this, as well as public/stakeholder consultation, the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2015 was finalized. The Bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha on 21.12.2015and referred to a Joint Committee of Parliament. The Joint Committee of Parliament submitted its report on 28.4.2016.The Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016 was passed by Parliament on 11.5.2016 and published in the Official Gazette on 28.5.2016.
Objective of the code
The new law aims to consolidate the laws relating to insolvency of companies and limited liability entities (including limited liability partnerships and other entities with limited liability), unlimited liability partnerships and individuals, contained in a number of legislations , into a single legislation and provide for their reorganisation and resolution in a time bound manner for maximisation of value of their assets. Such consolidation will provide for a greater clarity in law and facilitate the application of consistent and coherent provisions to different stakeholders affected by business failure or inability to pay debt.
Benefit of the code
Facilitating early resolution and exit is as important as facilitating investment. The essential idea of the new law is that when a corporate entity defaults on its debt, control shifts from the shareholders / promoters to a committee of creditors, who have 180 days (extendable by 90 days in deserving cases) to evaluate proposals from various players about resuscitating the company or taking it into liquidation.
Features of the code
The Code separates commercial aspects of the insolvency proceedings from judicial aspects. While Insolvency Professionals (IPs) will deal with commercial aspects such as management of the affairs of the corporate debtor, facilitating formation of committee of creditors, organising their meetings, examination of the resolution plan, etc., judicial issues will be handled by proposed Adjudicating Authorities (National Company Law Tribunal / Debt Recovery Tribunal) . One more important institution created under the Code is the ‘Information Utility’ which would store financial information and data and terms of lending in electronic databases. This would eliminate delays and disputes about facts when default does take place.
The Code also provides a fast track insolvency resolution process for corporate and LLPs. This will be an enabler for start-ups and small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to complete the resolution process in 90 days (extendable to 45 days in deserving cases).
The Code also addresses the important issue relating to cross border insolvency by providing the enabling mechanism on the subject. The Government, at an appropriate time, may come out with a detailed framework for cross border insolvency.
The code proposes setting up a regulator to register and regulate the functioning of insolvency professional agencies, insolvency professionals and information utilities.