5th Feb, 2019-IAS Current Affairs
‘Indian defence forces’ (GS3: Security)
Issue: The Committee of Experts (CoE) constituted by the Ministry of Defence under the chairmanship of Lt. Gen (Retd) DB Shekatkar to recommend measures to enhance combat capability and rebalance defence expenditure of the armed forces, submitted its report in December 2016.
Measures as recommended by the Committee and taken up for implementation include:
- Optimization of Signals Establishments to include Radio Monitoring Companies, Corps Air Support Signal Regiments, Air Formation Signal Regiments, Composite Signal Regiments and merger of Corps Operating and Engineering Signal Regiments.
- Restructuring of repair echelons in the Army to include Base Workshops, Advance Base Workshops and Static / Station Workshops in the field Army.
- Redeployment of Ordnance echelons to include Vehicle Depots, Ordnance Depots and Central Ordnance Depots apart from streamlining inventory control mechanisms.
- Better utilization of Supply and Transportation echelons and Animal Transport units.
- Closure of Military Farms and Army Postal Establishments in peace locations.
- Enhancement in standards for recruitment of clerical staff and drivers in the Army.
- Improving the efficiency of the National Cadet Corps.
‘Indian Ocean Rim association (IORA)’ (GS3: Disaster management)
Issue: The Ministry of Home Affairs in collaboration with the Ministry of External Affairs and National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) is organizing a meeting of Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) Cluster Group on Disaster Risk Management (DRM) in New Delhi
Significance of this collaboration
It would strengthen cooperation in disaster response interventions, including deployment of response teams and mobilization of relief material to affected countries. Deliberations at the meeting would also aid information exchange, establishment of disaster databases and sharing of best practices.
As the third largest ocean woven together by trade routes, commands control of major sea-lanes carrying half of the world’s container ships, one third of the world’s bulk cargo traffic and two thirds of the world’s oil shipments, the Indian Ocean remains an important lifeline to international trade and transport.
Home to nearly 2.7 billion people, Member States whose shores are washed by the ocean are rich in cultural diversity and richness in languages, religions, traditions, arts and cuisines.
They vary considerably in terms of their areas, populations and levels of economic development. They may also be divided into a number of sub-regions (Australasia, Southeast Asia, South Asia, West Asia and Eastern & Southern Africa), each with their own regional groupings (such as ASEAN, SAARC, GCC and SADC, to name a few). Despite such diversity and differences, these countries are bound together by the Indian Ocean.
IORA’s apex body is the Council of Foreign Ministers (COM) which meets annually. The Republic of South Africa will assume the role for 2017-2019, followed by the United Arab Emirates. A committee of Senior Officials (CSO) meets twice a year to progress IORA’s agenda and consider recommendations by Working Groups and forums of officials, business and academics to implement policies and projects to improve the lives of people within the Indian Ocean Member States.
‘Export Promotion Capital Goods scheme’ (GS3: Indian Economy)
Issue: In order to facilitate import of capital goods for producing quality goods and services and enhance India’s manufacturing competitiveness, the Central Government has been implementing a Scheme called the Export Promotion Capital Goods Scheme under the Foreign Trade Policy
About the scheme
Under the Scheme, EPCG Authorizations are issued with actual user condition and import validity of 24 months to import capital goods (except those specified in negative list) for pre-production, production and post-production at zero customs duty, and subject to fulfillment of specific Export Obligation equivalent to 6 times of duties, taxes and cess saved on capital goods, to be fulfilled in 6 years from date of issue of Authorization.
‘Data adequacy’ (GS3: Indian Economy)
Issue: A Data Security Expert Group was set up by the Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology (MEITY) to resolve the Information Technology and Information Technology Enabled Services (IT/ ITES) business issues relating to Data adequacy/ security with the European Union
What is data adequacy?
The EU has very high standards for the protection of personal data. It only allows data to flow freely to a third country if the European Commission decides that the country offers a level of protection for personal data comparable to the EU’s own. This is known as an ‘adequacy decision’.
Currently, the Commission has recognised 11 countries or territories, including Argentina, Israel, New Zealand and most recently Japan, as providing fully adequate data protection.
The USA and Canada have been deemed to provide only partially adequate protection. In Canada, only private organisations that use the data for commercial activities have free access to EU data. Data transfers between the USA and EU were covered by the Safe Harbor Agreement, until the European Court of Justice (ECJ) found this agreement invalid in 2015 in light of information leaked by Edward Snowden. EU–US data sharing is now governed by the 2016 EU–US Privacy Shield.
Data adequacy can also be awarded to specified sectors of an economy, or international organisations.
‘World Trade Organization’ (GS2: Multilateral agencies)
Issue: Discussion has been initiated among the members of WTO to initiate reforms on various issues
Main concerns with regards to WTO
- There has been an impasse in the matter of selection of members of the Appellate Body Members of the WTO
- The World Trade Organization and the global trading system are facing serious challenges in terms of unilateral measures and counter measures by some members, deadlock in important areas of negotiations and ongoing impasse in the appointment of members of the Appellate Body of WTO’s dispute settlement mechanism.
India has been engaging with several WTO Members on the way forward at the WTO. India has recently co-sponsored a proposal with the European Union and other members on reform of the dispute settlement mechanism addressing various challenges.
‘E-commerce’ (GS3: Indian Economy)
Issue: In order to ensure due compliance of the FDI policy on e-Commerce, a notification was issued earlier in the week
It puts in place certain conditions. These conditions include:
- An entity having equity participation by e-commerce marketplace entity or its group companies, or having control on its inventory by e-commerce marketplace entity or its group companies, will not be permitted to sell its products on the platform run by such marketplace entity.
- E-Commerce marketplace entity will not mandate any seller to sell any product exclusively on its platform only.
‘Ocean color’ (GS3: Conservation of Environment)
Issue: The color of the sea will become darker by the end of this century due to the climate change, according to a study published on Monday in the journal Nature Communications.
Observations made in the study
- The study has shown that blue regions such as the subtropics will become even more blue, reflecting less phytoplankton and life in general in those waters.
- Also, those green regions such as near the poles, may turn deeper green as warmer temperature caused larger blooms of more diverse phytoplankton, according to the study.
- The ocean appears blue because water molecules alone absorb almost all sunlight except for the blue part of the spectrum, but with any organism in the ocean, phytoplankton for instance, the pigment in it will absorb less in the green portions and reflect more green light.
Ocean and climate change
Oceans are a global force of nature that form the foundation of the blue planet on which we live. They cover 71% of our planet’s surface and make up 95% of all the space available to life. They are a life-support system for Earth and a global commons that provide us with free goods and services, from the food we eat to the oxygen we breathe.
The oceans also regulate the global climate; they mediate temperature and drive the weather, determining rainfall, droughts, and floods. They are also the world’s largest store of carbon, where an estimated 83% of the global carbon cycle is circulated through marine waters.
But the interaction between these two natural forces is altering, and the exchange is intensifying. We’re seeing the consequences of this around the world. In the last 200 years, the oceans have absorbed a third of the CO2 produced by human activities and 90% of the extra heat trapped by the rising concentration of greenhouse gases.
As the climate responds to decades of increasing carbon emissions, the store of energy and heat from the atmosphere builds up in the ocean. If we reach a tipping point, we will likely see more extreme weather events, changing ocean currents, rising sea levels and temperatures, and melting of sea ice and ice sheets—all of which aggravate the negative impacts of overfishing, illegal fishing, pollution, and habitat degradation.
But perhaps of greatest concern is that the basic chemistry of oceans is changing faster than it ever has over the past 65 million years. The continual absorption of CO2 increases acidity levels, and—when combined with the warming of our oceans—more coral reefs are dying off and can no longer offer a healthy ocean habitat for the species that rely on them for food and protection. Scientists estimate if the current rates of temperature increase continue, the oceans will become too warm for coral reefs by 2050.
‘Magnetic North pole’ (GS3: Science)
Issue: Earth’s north magnetic pole has been drifting so fast in the last few decades that scientists say that past estimates are no longer accurate enough for precise navigation.
The magnetic north pole is wandering about 55 kilometers a year. It crossed the international date line in 2017, and is leaving the Canadian Arctic on its way to Siberia.
Concern with this phenomenon
The constant shift is a problem for compasses in smartphones and some consumer electronics. Airplanes and boats also rely on magnetic north, usually as backup navigation. The military depends on where magnetic north is for navigation and parachute drops, while NASA, the Federal Aviation Administration and U.S. Forest Service also use it. Airport runway names are based on their direction toward magnetic north and their names change when the poles moved.
Since 1831 when it was first measured in the Canadian Arctic it has moved about 2300 kilometers toward Siberia. Its speed jumped from about 15 km/h to 55 km/h since 2000.
Reason for this drastic phenomenon
The reason is turbulence in Earth’s liquid outer core. There is a hot liquid ocean of iron and nickel in the planet’s core where the motion generates an electric field. It has changes akin to weather.
In general Earth’s magnetic field is getting weaker, leading scientists to say that it will eventually flip, where north and south pole changes polarity, like a bar magnet flipping over. It has happened numerous times in Earth’s past, but not in the last 780,000 years.
‘Service sector’ (GS3: Indian Economy)
Issue: The country’s services sector activity fell for the second straight month in January, as new orders rose at the slowest rate in four months; despite which companies continued to hire staff, a monthly survey reported
Meanwhile, services employment continued to expand, with job creation at a three-month high.
Significance of service sector in India
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 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.
‘Hubble space telescope’ (GS3: Science)
Issue: The Hubble Space Telescope has made an unexpected discovery of a dwarf galaxy in our cosmic backyard, located just 30 million light-years away, scientists say.
About the discovery
After a careful analysis of their brightnesses and temperatures, the astronomers concluded that these stars did not belong to the cluster — which is part of the Milky Way — but rather they are millions of light-years more distant.
The cosmic neighbour, nicknamed Bedin 1, is a modestly sized, elongated galaxy. It measures only around 3000 light-years at its greatest extent — a fraction of the size of the Milky Way.
About Hubble space telescope
The Hubble Space Telescope (HST) is a space telescope that was launched into low Earth orbit in 1990 and remains in operation. Although not the first space telescope, Hubble is one of the largest and most versatile and is well known as both a vital research tool and a public relations boon for astronomy. The HST is named after the astronomer Edwin Hubble and is one of NASA’s Great Observatories, along with the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory, the Chandra X-ray Observatory and the Spitzer Space Telescope
‘Pollution in India’ (GS3: Environmental pollution)
Issue: Urbanization is accelerating greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles in India at a faster than in China.
On an average, an Indian emitted about 20 kg per capita while commuting for work, with the highest (140 kg CO2) in Gurugram district (Haryana) and the lowest (1.8 kg CO2) in Shrawasti district (Uttar Pradesh), says a study that analysed the link between population density and emissions from transport, across India’s districts.
Observation made from the study
The experience in most developed countries was that urbanization led to a reduction in emissions — more urbanization meant shorter distances between the workplace and home and thereby, a preference for public transport. However this didn’t effectively apply to developing countries, the authors argue.
In China a 1% increase in urbanization was linked with a 0.12% increase in CO2 emissions whereas, in India, it translated into 0.24% increase in emissions
India’s CO2 emission grew by an estimated 4.6% in 2017 and its per-capita emission was about 1.8 tonnes. In spite of being the 4th largest emitter, India’s per capita emissions are much lower than the world average of 4.2 tonnes. But those emissions have been growing steadily, with an average growth rate over the past decade of 6%, according to data from the Global Carbon Project.
Delhi had the highest commuting emissions per capita — a factor that also contributed to its high level of pollution — and the national capital region had 2.5 times higher commuting emissions than Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Bangalore, and Hyderabad
‘Cancer’ (GS2: Issues related to Health)
Issue: In 2018, 18.1 million new cases of cancer developed worldwide; 9.6 million people died from the disease; 70% of the deaths occurred in low and middle-income countries, including those of the World Health Organisation (WHO) Southeast Asia region; and 67% of the region’s cancer patients died before the age of 70.
According to figures for India released by the National Institute of Cancer Prevention and Research (NICPR), one woman dies of cervical cancer every eight minutes in India; for every two women newly diagnosed with breast cancer, one woman dies of it in India; as many as 2,500 persons die every day due to tobacco-related diseases; and tobacco (smoked and smokeless) use accounted for 3,17,928 deaths in men and women in 2018.
What is Cancer?
Cancer is a group of more than 100 different diseases. It can develop almost anywhere in the body.
Cells are the basic units that make up the human body. Cells grow and divide to make new cells as the body needs them. Usually, cells die when they get too old or damaged. Then, new cells take their place.
Cancer begins when genetic changes interfere with this orderly process. Cells start to grow uncontrollably. These cells may form a mass called a tumor. A tumor can be cancerous or benign. A cancerous tumor is malignant, meaning it can grow and spread to other parts of the body. A benign tumor means the tumor can grow but will not spread.
Some types of cancer do not form a tumor. These include leukemias, most types of lymphoma, and myeloma.
Four main types of cancer are:
- A carcinoma begins in the skin or the tissue that covers the surface of internal organs and glands. Carcinomas usually form solid tumors. They are the most common type of cancer. Examples of carcinomas include prostate cancer, breast cancer, lung cancer, and colorectal cancer.
- A sarcoma begins in the tissues that support and connect the body. A sarcoma can develop in fat, muscles, nerves, tendons, joints, blood vessels, lymph vessels, cartilage, or bone.
- Leukemia is a cancer of the blood. Leukemia begins when healthy blood cells change and grow uncontrollably. The four main types of leukemia are acute lymphocytic leukemia, chronic lymphocytic leukemia, acute myeloid leukemia, and chronic myeloid leukemia.
- Lymphoma is a cancer that begins in the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system is a network of vessels and glands that help fight infection. There are two main types of lymphomas: Hodgkin lymphoma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
‘Elephant corridors’ (GS3: Conservation of Environment)
Issue: At a time when a recent survey found seven elephant corridors in the country impaired, the Asian Elephant Alliance, an umbrella initiative by five NGOs, has come together to secure 96 out of the 101 existing corridors used by elephants across 12 States in India.
About the mission
The joint venture is aiming at raising £20 million (₹187.16 crore) to secure the 96 remaining elephant corridors, old and new, in the next ten years. The alliance joined hands to raise the mammoth sum as money was the main constraint in securing the land.
What is an Elephant Corridor?
Elephant corridors are narrow strips of land that allow elephants to move from one habitat patch to another. There are 88 identified elephant corridors in India. A wildlife corridor is a link of wildlife habitat, generally native vegetation, which joins two or more larger areas of similar wildlife habitat. Corridors are critical for the maintenance of ecological processes including allowing for the movement of animals and the continuation of viable populations.