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Daily Current affairs 13 February 2019

UPSC - Daily Current Affair

 

A case for Commons sense Editorial 13th Feb’19 TheHindu

Convention on Biological Diversity:

  • The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) entered into force in 1993.
  • It has 3 main objectives:
    1. The conservation of biological diversity
    2. The sustainable use of the components of biological diversity
    3. The fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of the utilization of genetic resources

 

Conference of Parties in 2018:

  • The Conference of Parties (CoP) is the governing body of the CBD, and advances implementation of the Convention through the decisions it takes at its periodic meetings.
  • In 2018, 196 countries met at Sharm el-Sheik, Egypt for the 14th meeting of the CoP to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).
  • It was the CBD’s 25th year of implementation.

Concerns about country's meeting CBD's targets:

  • The meeting happened in the backdrop of a damning report that humans have mismanaged biodiversity so badly that we have lost 60% of resources (which can never be recouped).
  • There was growing concern on how the Convention’s objectives of conservation, sustainable use and equitable sharing of benefits were being compromised, including by the parties themselves.
  • Countries had less than a year (by 2020) to meet global biodiversity targets - the Aichi Biodiversity Targets, for the 2011-2020 period.
  • Aichi Biodiversity Targets:
    • Strategic Goal A: Address the underlying causes of biodiversity loss by mainstreaming biodiversity across government and society
    • Strategic Goal B: Reduce the direct pressures on biodiversity and promote sustainable use
    • Strategic Goal C: To improve the status of biodiversity by safeguarding ecosystems, species and genetic diversity
    • Strategic Goal D: Enhance the benefits to all from biodiversity and ecosystem services
    • Strategic Goal E: Enhance implementation through participatory planning, knowledge management and capacity building

CoP-14 focus on governing Biodiversity:

  • A key question on top of the agenda at CoP 14 was how to govern biological resources (or biodiversity) at different levels for the world’s sustainable future.

 

 

‘Commons’

  • The commons is a new way to express a very old idea—that some forms of wealth belong to all of us, and that these community resources must be actively protected and managed for the good of all.
  • In simple terms, these are a set of resources such as air, land, water and biodiversity that do not belong to one community or individual, but to humanity.

Significance ‘Commons’?

  • According to estimates, a third of the global population depends on ‘Commons’ for their survival; 65% of global land area is under ‘Commons’, in different forms.
  • Nearly 300 million metric tonnes of carbon (equivalent to 33 times the global energy emissions in 2017) are stored in the collective forestlands of indigenous peoples and local communities.
  • The significance of ‘Commons’ in supporting pollination (the cost estimated to be worth $224 billion annually at global levels) cannot be overlooked.

‘Commons’ in India:

  • In India, the extent of ‘Common’ land constitutes 15-25% of its total geographical area.
  • ‘Common’-pool resources contribute $5 billion a year to the incomes of poor Indian households.
  • Around 77% of India’s livestock is kept in grazing-based or extensive systems and dependent on ‘Commons’ pool resources.
  • And 53% of India’s milk and 74% of its meat requirements are met from livestock kept in extensive ‘Common’ systems.
  • 'Commons' declining in India with impact on environment and economy:
    • Despite their significance, ‘Commons’ in India have suffered continued decline and degradation.
    • National Sample Survey Office data shows decline in the area of ‘Common’ lands, jeopardising the health of systemic drivers such as soil, moisture, nutrient, biomass and biodiversity, in turn aggravating food, fodder and water crises.
    • As of 2013, India’s annual cost of environmental degradation has been estimated to be 5.7% of GDP according to the World Bank.

 

 

Humanity for a long time followed the principle of 'Commons' for resource management

  • For thousands of years, humans have considered natural resources and the environment as a global public good.
  • The communities have diligently managed these resources using the principle of ‘Commons’.
  • Civilisations across the world as well as agricultural development are a result of such ‘Commons’ being managed by communities for centuries.

Then privatisation of resources has happened:

  • Then came the urge of those with money and power to privatise these resources for individual prosperity in the form of property management principles, intellectual property rights (IPR) and others.

States have taken back management of resources:

  • Today, states control and manage biodiversity with strict oversight of who can use what and how.
  • The CBD also contributed to states now owning the resources, including their rights on use and management.
    • CBD is a multi-lateral environmental agreement that has provided legal certainty to countries through the principle of sovereign rights over biodiversity.
  • The intent of the CBD and having sovereign rights was to manage resources better.

Yet, biological resource management hasn't been good:

  • The decline in ‘Commons’ is a major socio-political, economic and environmental problem.
  • The results of state control and management have been questionable.

Failure in achieving Convention targets:

  • In 2020 - the target year - after nearly two decades of action to reduce the rate of loss of biodiversity, States will show up having failed to meet the objectives of the convention.

 

Principle of 'Commons' has been ignored by States:

  • A key reason for poor management by States (meaning governments of countries here) is that ‘Commons’ and common property resource management principles and approaches are ignored and compromised.
  • In the name of sovereign rights, States should not do away with ‘Commons’-based approaches to managing biodiversity, land, water and other resources.
  • State can have oversight over resource management, but keeping people away from using and managing ‘Commons’ is against effective governance of ‘Commons’.

 

 

Way ahead

Understanding the decline in 'Commons'

  • Current discussions under the United Nations should focus on how and why ‘Commons’ have been negatively impacted by progressive pronouncements to save the earth and people.

Taking in to account urbanization consequences on managing 'Commons':

  • Another key concern is the changing socio-political impact of rural-urban migration.
  • We can no longer consider ‘Commons’ as resources relevant only for rural communities.
  • ‘Commons’ are now a major provider of livelihood options for both urban and peri-urban populations.
  • The relevance of ‘Commons’ impacting urban dwellers cannot be overlooked with more urbanisation happening.

Reviewing governance of biodiversity and natural resources:

  • There needs to be a review of current governance of biodiversity and natural resources.
  • In addition to seeking more money, time and capacities to deal with biodiversity and natural resource management, we need to focus on three specific approaches:
    1. To re-introduce more strongly, the management and governance principles of ‘Commons’ approaches into decision-making and implementation of conservation, use and benefit sharing action
    2. To use Joseph Schumpeter’s approach of creative destruction to put resource management in the hands of the people
    3. To re-look at Elinor Ostrom’s Nobel Prize winning principles of dealing with ‘Commons’.

 

Importance:

GS Paper III: Environment

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Section : Editorial Analysis

 

India, Maldives reverse visa stand off

The News:

  • Recently, India and Maldives has exchanged diplomatic notes for the implementation of a Visa facilitation agreement to boost people to people contacts between the two countries.
  • The agreement was signed during Maldivian President’s visit to India in December 2018.

 

Background:

  • In 2018, the former Maldives President Abdulla Yameen (who wanted closer ties with China) imposed a virtual visa freeze on Indians who had been chosen for jobs in the Maldives.
  • More than 2,000 applicants were left in difficult circumstances as a result of the move.
  • However, after the change in leadership, the Visa Facilitation agreement was signed by the incumbent Maldivian President towards the end of 2018, reversing the earlier standoff between the two countries.

 

Visa Facilitation Agreement:

  • It provides for a very liberal regime between India and Maldives, which will be effective from March, after all formalities including information being provided to all immigration offices, border points and customs authorities have been completed.
  • Benefits for Maldives:
    • It will make it easier for Maldives nationalists to visit India for tourism, business, education & medical purposes.
    • This will allow Maldives citizens to change their visa status to medical visas if they require hospitalization during their stay.
    • Medical visas will also be granted to attendants who can accompany the patients.
    • If a child from Maldives is being educated in India, his/ her entire family will get dependent visas.

 

  • Benefits for India:
    • It will ease visas on arrival for Indian businessmen.
    • It stipulates a fixed time period of 15 days for work permit to be issued to Indian employees and the visa fees to be paid by employers in the Maldives.

 

Mutual legal assistance treaty (MLAT):

  • The Maldives cabinet also passed a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) or extradition treaty.
  • The treaty will allow for the execution of arrest warrants and also improve the prosecution of transnational crimes, like terrorism.
  • It will also aid in the investigation of such matters, obtaining evidence, and broaden the opportunity to interrogate those in question.
  • However, the treaty will have to be ratified by the Maldives Parliament before being signed by the two countries.

 

Conclusion:

  • While India is a favoured destination for Maldives, Indians are the second largest non-native community in Maldives. The visa liberalisation, if implemented in letter and spirit, will build bridges by encouraging people-to-people exchanges.

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Section : International Relation

 

Kargil on warpath over its demand for equal share in divisional status for Ladakh

Why in news?

  • The town of Kargil and adjoining areas are observing a shutdown to protest the decision to set up the headquarters of the newly-created Ladakh division in Leh.

 

News Context:

  • Recently, the Jammu and Kashmir administration approved the creation of a separate division of Ladakh, comprising Kargil and Leh districts, by carving it out of Kashmir division.
  • This will make it the third Division of the state after Jammu and Kashmir.
  • The new divisional commissioner’s office has been announced to be set up at Leh (making it the headquarters of the new Ladakh division).

 

 

News Summary:

  • Kargil is Muslim dominated whereas Leh is a Buddhist dominated area.
  • Residents of Kargil are strongly protesting against Leh being made the permanent headquarters of the newly created Ladakh division.
  • All political parties, social and religious groups and even government employees from Kargil region have joined hands demanding review of this government order and observed a complete shutdown in all government offices in Kargil.

 

  • Reason for Protests:
    • Muslim-majority Kargil fears that the decision to make Buddhist-majority Leh the seat of governance for the new division would give the better-off Buddhists the upper hand in administration.

 

  • Their Demands:They have raised the demand for:
    • Divisional status
    • Economic, financial and legislative powers for Kargil
    • Six-month rotation of offices between Kargil (during summers) and Leh (during winters)

 

What next?

  • The Jammu and Kashmir administration has now constituted a committee of secretaries to look into the demands of the people of Kargil.
  • The seperate divisional status to Ladakh has also led to demands for separate administrative divisions in Pirpanjal and Chenab Valley regions.

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Section : Polity & Governance

 

India inks deal with US firm for 72,400 assault rifles

The News

  • In an attempt to fulfill the urgent operational requirements of the frontline infantry, India has signed a deal with a US-based defence manufacturer, to acquire 72,400 modern assault rifles under the fast-track procurement (FTP) route.

 

Background

  • To improve its combat capabilities along its borders with Pakistan and China, India finalized a mega procurement plan to modernize its infantry in 2018.
  • The effort to infantry modernisation included acquisition of 7 lakh assault rifles, 44,000 light machine guns and 44,600 carbines.
  • As a first step in this process, India has signed a deal to acquire about 72,000 SIG716 assault rifles from SiG Sauer, a US-based defence manufacturer, under the fast-track route.

 

Currently used INSAS rifles

  • India currently uses INSAS rifles which are ageing and obsolete weapons.
  • INSAS rifles are lengthy and over-weight which make them less accurate, less reliable and increases the fatigue of the ground soldier.

 

Need for Assault Rifles

  • Assault rifles are particularly deployed with the frontline troops in counter-terror roles.
  • As a result, assault rifle and carbines (light automatic rifles) were identified as part of the critical requirements for infantry modernization.
  • With 382 infantry battalions of about 850 soldiers each dealing with growing threats along borders, counter-insurgency and counter-terror operations, assault rifles procurement is an operational necessity for the Indian Army.
  • In this direction, the Indian Army had approved the requirement of 7 lakh assault rifles to replace the existing glitch-prone INSAS rifles.

 

 

SiG Sauer 716 assault rifles

  • India is looking to replace its ageing INSAS Rifles with the advanced SiG Sauer assault rifles.
  • Sig Sauer 716 comes with a range of 600 m compared to requirement of 500 m range for counter-insurgency operations.
  • Sig Sauer rifles are automatic rifles that are gas-operated i.e they use gas generated by a fired cartridge to fire other bullets.
  • They are compact, robust, and simple to maintain in field conditions.
  • They improve significantly the accuracy and reliability, while also reducing fatigue of the ground soldier.

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Section : Defence & Security

 

Twitter CEO summoned by Parliament

The News

  • The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology has issued summons to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey to appear before it.

 

Background

  • The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology is examining the issue of safeguarding citizens’ rights on social/online news media platforms like Twitter.
  • There were also many complaints over twitter's alleged bias against, and 'shadow banning' of, accounts belonging to (on in favour of) certain ideologies and parties.
  • Many users have alleged that Twitter, in the name of countering hate, is slyly shadow banning even the non-abusive accounts that are in favour of certain parties and ideologies. They allege that this shows Twitter's bias and amounts to interfering with the democratic process
  • In light of this, the committee decided to call Twitter officials against the backdrop of growing concerns about safeguarding citizens' data privacy and possibility that social media could be used to interfere in elections.

 

What is Shadow Banning?

  • With growing rate of interactions, the social media space has increasingly seen instances of trolling, spamming, hate comments etc.
  • In order to deals with interactions done in bad faith on social media, the platforms have adopted a strategy called ‘shadow banning’ to silence an account without the knowledge of the account holder.
  • A shadowban effectively curtails the attention/visibility that a user’s post may earn without blocking the user.
  • However, Twitter is being alleged to have not been acting in good faith and is shadowbanning based on political inclinations rather than any other reason.

 

Social media platforms are under scanner in various democratic countries:

  • In 2018, Twitter and Facebook leadership faced questions from lawmakers in the US Senate (upper house) related to election interference, political bias etc.
  • In 2018, Facebook CEO apologised to EU lawmakers for the company's role in the Cambridge Analytica scandal (on interference in elections) and for allowing fake news to proliferate on its platform.

 

Powers of Parliamentary Standing Committees

  • There are 24 departmentally-related standing committees performing 2-fold functions
  1. To ensure parliamentary accountability of the executive.
  2. To assist the parliament in meaningful debates over policy matters.
  • In order to perform these functions, the Committee under Rule 269 of Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in Lok Sabha, has the power to summon officials of the government and also private individuals to seek expert opinion on a particular area under consideration or examination of the Committee.
  • Thus, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology which oversees issues under Ministries of information and broadcasting, electronics and information technology, and post and telecommunications has examined various issues including
  • Working of Prasar Bharati
  • Digital India programme
  • Net Neutrality
  • Issues pertaining to censorship
  • Functioning of TRAI
  • Issue of call dropping
  • Now, safeguarding citizens’ rights on social media and online news platforms

 

About Parliamentary Standing Committees

  • Each standing committee consists of 31 members out of which 21 are from Lok Sabha and 10 are from Rajya Sabha.
  • The members of the Lok Sabha are nominated by the Speaker from amongst its own members.
  • The members of the Rajya Sabha are nominated by the Chairman from amongst its members.
  • A minister is not eligible to be nominated as a member of any of the standing committees.
  • The term of office of each standing committee is one year from the date of its constitution.
  • Out of the 24 standing committees, 8 work under the Rajya Sabha and 16 under the Lok Sabha

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Section : Miscellaneous

 

Prelims Program: Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)

About ASEAN

  • The Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN, was established in 1967 in Bangkok, Thailand, with the signing of the ASEAN declaration (Bangkok Declaration).

 

Member Countries

  • ASEAN consists of 10-member countries- Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

 

Aims and Purposes

  • To accelerate the economic growth, social progress and cultural development in the region.
  • To promote regional peace and stability through abiding respect for justice and the rule of law in the relationship among countries of the region and adherence to the principles of the United Nations Charter.
  • To promote active collaboration and mutual assistance on matters of common interest in the economic, social, cultural, technical, scientific and administrative fields.
  • To provide assistance to each other in the form of training and research facilities in the educational, professional, technical and administrative spheres.
  • To collaborate more effectively for the greater utilisation of their agriculture and industries, the expansion of their trade, including the study of the problems of international commodity trade, the improvement of their transportation and communications facilities and the raising of the living standards of their peoples.
  • To promote Southeast Asian studies.
  • To maintain close and beneficial cooperation with existing international and regional organisations with similar aims and purposes, and explore all avenues for even closer cooperation among themselves.

Note: Students are not required to memorise all the aims and purposes. This is only for basic understanding about the work of the organisation.

  

History and Evolution of the India-ASEAN Relations

  • Non-Aligned Movement (NAM): After its Independence in 1947, India followed a policy of Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) and became a champion of decolonisation, including in Southeast Asia.
  • Look East Policy: In a major shift away from policies of the Cold War era, India adopted the “Look East Policy” (LEP) soon after economic liberalisation in 1991 to increase economic and commercial ties with East and Southeast Asian nations such as China.
  • ASEAN-India Free Trade Agreement: One of the major consequences of India's engagement with ASEAN has been the ASEAN-India Free Trade Agreement (AIFTA), which was seen as an essential step towards deeper economic integration.
  • Membership to regional forum: India was accorded full ASEAN Dialogue Partner Status in 1995, followed by its membership in the ASEAN Regional Forum.
  • East Asian Summit: The India-ASEAN Relations soon broadened its cooperation into political as well as security arenas. India also joined the East Asian Summit (EAS) in 2005.
  • Strategic partner: ASEAN has been a strategic partner of India since 2012. India and ASEAN have 30 dialogue mechanisms which meet regularly.
  • Act East Policy: India's engagement with the ASEAN and wider Asia-Pacific region has acquired further momentum following the enunciation of the ‘Act-East Policy’ (AEP) at the 12th ASEAN-India Summit and 9th East Asia Summit in Myanmar in November 2014.
  • Trade with ASEAN: Trade between India and ASEAN stood at US$ 65.04 billion in 2015-16 and comprises 10.12% of India’s total trade with the world. China’s ties with ASEAN have been on the upswing with trade expected to reach $1 trillion by 2020. 

 

Importance of ASEAN for India

  • Economy: With a total population of 1.8 billion and a combined GDP of $3.8 trillion, ASEAN and India together form an important economic space in the world.
  • Strategic: India is one of the strategic partners of ASEAN. India expects to benefit geopolitically as well from its rejuvenated affinity with ASEAN and other regional countries.
  • Maritime trade: Freedom of navigation in the South China Sea is essential for India in order to ensure that its sea-bound trade continues uninterrupted.
  • Security: There are diverse areas on which India and ASEAN are jointly working, e.g. non-traditional security threats such as terrorism, human and drug trafficking, cybercrimes and piracy in the Malacca Straits, etc.
  • Connectivity: The envisaged highway (under construction) and rail connectivity to energy giants like, Nepal and Myanmar and further to Thailand, will improve people to people contact, thus enhancing the sphere of economic cooperation and interdependence.
  • Development of North-East States: The highly underdeveloped NE States of India, which lie at the gateway to a region offering unlimited economic opportunities, will witness an economic transformation.
  • Energy security: ASEAN countries, particularly Myanmar, Vietnam and Malaysia can potentially contribute to India’s energy security.

 

2018 Delhi Declaration

  • India and the 10-member ASEAN adopted "Delhi Declaration" which includes deepen partnership for combating terrorism and radicalisation, freedom of navigation etc.

 

Highlights of Delhi Declaration

Maritime cooperation and freedom of navigation:

  • Security and freedom of navigation
  • Humanitarian and disaster relief efforts
  • Establishment of a joint mechanism to ensure safety of navigation in the maritime domain, which will address both traditional and non-traditional challenges that all participating nations face collectively in the maritime domain sector

Terrorism:

  • A comprehensive approach to combat terrorism through close cooperation by disrupting and countering terrorists, terrorist groups and networks, countering cross border movement of terrorists and foreign terrorist fighters and misuse of Internet including social media by terror entities.
  • Counter-terrorism, identity security, military cooperation, and bilateral financial support were also discussed.
  • Working with Philippines:
    • Out of all the countries of ASEAN region, Philippines had the most serious threat from the Islamic State in the last few years.
    • A Joint Working Group meeting is likely to be held between the India and Philippines to finalise details of counter-terror cooperation.

Cyber-security:

  • Strengthen cooperation between ASEAN and India on cyber-security capacity building and policy coordination.
  • Strengthening of regional cyber capacity building initiatives undertaken at the 2015 ASEAN-India Cyber-security Conference and the proposed First ASEAN-India Cyber Dialogue in 2018.

Economic Cooperation:

  • Strengthening of ASEAN-India economic relations, including through the full utilisation and effective implementation of the ASEAN-India Free Trade Area.
  • Continue to enhance cooperation for ensuring long-term food and energy security in our region through strengthening cooperation in agriculture and energy sectors.

Connectivity:

  • Encourage the early completion of the India-Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral Highway Project and extend this Trilateral Highway to Cambodia, Lao PDR and Viet Nam.
  • Strengthen cooperation in the area of aviation and maritime transport and look forward to the expeditious conclusion of the ASEAN-India Air Transport Agreement (AI-ATA) and the ASEAN-India Maritime Transport Agreement (AI-MTA).

 

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Section : Miscellaneous

 

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