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Daily Current affairs 22 May 2019

UPSC - Daily Current Affair

Relevant articles from PIB:

 

Paper 3:

Topic covered:

  1. economics of animal-rearing.

 

Ongole cattle

 

What to study?

For prelims and mains: Ongole cattle- significance and the need for conservation.

 

Context: Vice President of India, M. Venkaiah Naidu has called for protecting Ongole cattle breed.

 

About Ongole cattle:

  • It is an indigenous cattle breed that originates from Prakasam District in the state of Andhra Pradesh. The breed derives its name from the place the breed originates from, Ongole.
  • The Ongole breed of cattle, Bos Indicus, has a great demand as it is said to possess resistance to both foot and mouth disease and mad cow disease.
  • The Ongole is one of the heaviest breeds.
  • These cattle are commonly used in bull fights in Mexico and some parts of East Africa due to their strength and aggressiveness. They also participate in traditional bull fights in Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.
  • It has a great similarity with the Gaolao breed of Madhya Predesh and also has a resemblance to the Bhagnari type of cattle in the north of India.

Paper 3:

Topic covered:

  1. Awareness in space.

 

RISAT-2B

 

What to study?

For prelims and mains: key features, objectives and significance of the mission.

 

Context: ISRO successfully launched radar imaging satellite RISAT-2B on-board PSLV-C46 from Sriharikota.

  • RISAT-2B was placed into an orbit of 555 km with an inclination of 37 degree to the equator.
  • This is the fourth flight unit of the RISAT programme and it would be used for reconnaissance, strategic surveillance and disaster management.

 

Key facts:

  • It has been developed for military and general surveillance purposes. The data will also be used in fields of agriculture, forestry and disaster management support.
  • RISAT-2B is equipped with a synthetic aperture radar that can take pictures of the earth during day and night, and also under cloudy conditions.
  • With this advanced earth observation satellite, ISRO has introduced a complex new technology. That is a 3.6 metre unfurlable radial rib antenna. This is also going to be the technology of the future.
  • RISAT-2B is going to RISAT-2, which was placed in the orbit in 2009. RISAT-2 was RISAT-1’s replacement, a microwave remote sensing satellite that was launched in 2012. RISAT-2 was actively used India to monitor activities in camps across the border in Pakistan to thwart infiltration bids by terrorists.

Paper 2:

Topics Covered:

  1. Statutory, regulatory and various quasi-judicial bodies.
  2. Transport and marketing of agricultural produce and issues and related constraints; e-technology in the aid of farmers.

 

Competition Commission of India (CCI)

 

What to study?

For prelims: objectives, composition and functions of CCI.

For mains: issues associated with its functioning and the need for reforms.

 

ContextCompetition Commission of India (CCI) celebrated  its 10th Annual Day on 20th May 2019. It marks the notification of the substantive enforcement provisions of the Competition Act, 2002.

 

Competition Commission of India:

It is a statutory body of the Government of India, responsible for enforcing the Competition Act, 2002 throughout India and to prevent activities that have an adverse effect on competition.

 

Objectives of the Commission:

  • To prevent practices having adverse effect on competition.
  • To promote and sustain competition in markets.
  • To protect the interests of consumers.
  • To ensure freedom of trade.

 

Functions of the commission:

  • It is the duty of the Commission to eliminate practices having adverse effect on competition, promote and sustain competition, protect the interests of consumers and ensure freedom of trade in the markets of India.
  • The Commission is also required to give opinion on competition issues on a reference received from a statutory authority established under any law and to undertake competition advocacy, create public awareness and impart training on competition issues.

 

The Competition Act:

The Competition Act, 2002, as amended by the Competition (Amendment) Act, 2007, prohibits anti-competitive agreements, abuse of dominant position by enterprises and regulates combinations (acquisition, acquiring of control and M&A), which causes or likely to cause an appreciable adverse effect on competition within India.


Relevant articles from various news sources:

 

Paper 3:

Topic covered:

  1. Conservation and pollution related issues.

 

‘Room for the River’ project

 

What to study?

For prelims and mains: key features and significance of the project.

 

Context: At his recent European tour, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had made a stop at Noordward in the Netherlands, the site of the ‘Room for the River’ project.

 

About the project:

  • The flagship project of the Dutch government is centered around protecting areas adjoining rivers from routine flooding and improving water management systems in delta regions.
  • The basic premise of the ‘Room for the River’ project is essentially to provide more space for the water body so that it can manage extraordinary high water levels during floods. The project, implemented at over 30 locations across the Netherlands and funded at a cost of 2.3 billion euros, involves tailor-made solutions for each river.
  • Among the nine measures which define the project are lowering the flood plain, deepening the summer bed, strengthening of dykes, relocation of dykes, reducing the height of the groynes, increasing the depth of the side channels and removing obstacles.
  • A key aspect of the project is also to improve the surroundings of the river banks through fountains and panoramic decks. The landscapes are altered in a way that they turn into natural sponges which can accommodate excess water during floods.

 

Need:

The Netherlands has historically been prone to flooding of rivers due to its low elevation. Much of the country lies below the sea level. The country is located in the delta region of several major rivers like the Rhine, the Meuse and the Scheldt.

In fact, the rise of water levels in the sea and rivers due to the effects of climate change is one of the major challenges facing the Dutch. But over the years, the country’s expert water management techniques and creation of independent local government bodies for flood control have borne praise across the world.

 

Relevance for Kerala:

The LDF government in Kerala believes the project and its foundational ideals can be replicated in Kuttanad, the state’s rice bowl located below the sea-level. In the floods last year, Kuttanad and adjoining regions in Kottayam and Alappuzha districts remained submerged for weeks. Since the major rivers in the state empty out into Kuttanad, there’s a need for long-term comprehensive solutions on the lines of the Dutch project to prevent flooding in the region.

 

Sources: Indian express.


Paper 2:

Topic covered:

  1. Important International institutions, agencies and fora, their structure, mandate.

 

WTO’s dispute settlement mechanism

 

What to study?

For prelims: WTOs dispute settlement mechanism- objectives, how it operates?

For mains: issues associated and the need for reforms.

 

Context: The World Trade Organization’s (WTO’s) dispute settlement mechanism is going through a “crisis”: the body is struggling to appoint new members to its understaffed Appellate Body that hears appeals in trade. Over 20 developing countries met in New Delhi last week to discuss ways to prevent the WTO’s dispute resolution system from collapsing due to the logjam in these appointments.

 

Challenges and concerns:

Unless the issue is resolved, the body could become defunct, and countries locked in international trade disputes will be left with no forum for recourse.

 

What is the WTO’s Appellate Body, and why is it important?

The Appellate Body, set up in 1995, is a standing committee of seven members that presides over appeals against judgments passed in trade-related disputes brought by WTO members.

With over 500 international disputes brought to the WTO and over 350 rulings issued since 1995, the organisation’s dispute settlement mechanism is one of the most active in the world, and the Appellate Body is the highest authority in these matters.

 

Who can approach?

  • Countries involved in a dispute over measures purported to break a WTO agreement or obligation can approach the Appellate Body if they feel the report of the panel set up to examine the issue needs to be reviewed on points of law. Existing evidence is not re-examined; legal interpretations are reviewed.
  • The Appellate Body can uphold, modify, or reverse the legal findings of the panel that heard the dispute. Countries on either or both sides of the dispute can appeal.

 

Significance:

The WTO’s dispute settlement procedure is seen as being vital to ensuring smooth international trade flows. The Appellate Body has so far issued 152 reports. The reports, once adopted by the WTO’s disputes settlement body, are final and binding on the parties.

 

So, what is the problem in the WTO Appellate Body?

Over the last two years, the membership of the body has dwindled to just three persons instead of the required seven. This is because the United States, which believes the WTO is biased against it, has been blocking appointments of new members and reappointments of some members who have completed their four-year tenures. Two members will complete their tenures in December this year, leaving the body with just one member.

At least three people are required to preside over an appeal, and if new members are not appointed to replace the two retiring ones, the body will cease to be relevant.

 

Concerns:

  • The understaffed appeals body has been unable to stick to its 2-3 month deadline for appeals filed in the last few years, and the backlog of cases has prevented it from initiating proceedings in appeals that have been filed in the last year. The three members have been proceeding on all appeals filed since October 1, 2018.
  • In February 2019, the body said it would be unable to staff an appeal in a dispute between Japan and India over certain safeguard measures that India had imposed on imports of iron and steel products. The panel had found that India had acted “inconsistently” with some WTO agreements, and India had notified the Dispute Settlement Body of its decision to appeal certain issues of law and legal interpretations in December 2018.
  • The body has so far been unable to review at least 10 appeals that have been filed since July 2018.

 

What can happen if this situation is not addressed in time?

With the Appellate Body unable to review new applications, there is already great uncertainty over the WTO’s dispute settlement process. If the body is declared non-functional in December, countries may be compelled to implement rulings by the panel even if they feel that gross errors have been committed.

Should such a country refuse to comply with the order of the panel on the ground that it has no avenue for appeal, it will run the risk of facing arbitration proceedings initiated by the other party in the dispute.

 

How does it affect India?

This does not bode well for India, which is facing a rising number of dispute cases, especially on agricultural products. In the last four months alone, four cases have been brought to the WTO against India’s alleged support measures for its sugar and sugarcane producers.

Also, the overall weakening of the WTO framework could have the effect of undoing over two decades of efforts to avoid protectionism in global trade. This is a major concern currently, as trade tensions, for example between the US and China and the US and India, are on the rise.

 

And what is the way forward from here on?

While new appointments to the Appellate Body are usually made by a consensus of WTO members, there is a provision for voting where a consensus is not possible.

The group of 17 least developed and developing countries, including India, that have committed to working together to end the impasse at the Appellate Body can submit or support a proposal to this effect, and try to get new members on the Appellate Body by a majority vote. This, however, may be an option of the last resort, as all countries fear unilateral measures by the US as a consequence of directly opposing its veto.

 

Sources: Indian express.


Paper 3:

Topic covered:

  1. Conservation related issues.

 

Effects of plastics on environment

 

What to study?

For prelims and mains: effects of plastics on the environment and the need for global consensus on limiting its use.

 

Context: Newly published research calculates that across their lifecycle, plastics account for 3.8 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions. That’s almost double the emissions of the aviation sector. If it were a country, the “Plastic Kingdom” would be the fifth-highest emitter in the world.

 

Why worry about this?

Demand is set to rise, too. At 380m tonnes a year, we produce 190 timesmore plastic than we did in 1950. If the demand for plastic continues to grow at its current rate of four per cent a year, emissions from plastic production will reach 15 per cent of global emissions by 2050.

 

Plastic across the lifecycle:

More than 99 per cent of plastics are manufactured from petrochemicals, most commonly from petroleum and natural gas. These raw materials are refined to form ethylene, propylene, butene, and other basic plastic building blocks, before being transported to manufacturers.

The production and transport of these resins requires an awful lot of energy — and therefore fuel. Greenhouse gas emissions also occur during the refining process itself — the “cracking” of larger hydrocarbons from petrochemicals into smaller ones suitable for making plastic releases carbon dioxide and methane.

 

Contribution to greenhouse emissions:

  • According to the study, about 61% of total plastic greenhouse gas emissions comes from the resin production and transport stage. A further 30 per cent is emitted at the product manufacturing stage. The vast majority of these emissions come from the energy required to power the plants that turn raw plastic materials into the bottles, bin bags and bicycle helmets we use today. The remainder occurs as a result of chemical and manufacturing processes – for example, the production of plastic foams uses HFCs, particularly potent greenhouse gases.
  • The remaining carbon footprint occurs when plastics are thrown away. Incineration releases all of the stored carbon in the plastic into the atmosphere, as well as air pollutants such as dioxins, furans, mercury and polychlorinated biphenyls, which are toxic and damaging to human health.
  • As plastics take centuries to degrade, disposal in landfill makes only a small contribution to emissions in theory. However, as much as 40 per cent of landfill waste is burnt in open skies, dramatically speeding up the release of otherwise locked-up carbon.

 

Need of the hour:

  • If we are to combat climate breakdown, reductions in plastic emissions are clearly needed. In showing that transitioning to a zero carbon energy system has the potential to reduce emissions from plastic by 51 per cent, the study provides yet another reason to rapidly phase out fossil fuels.
  • However, beyond urgently required global decarbonisation, we need to reduce our seemingly insatiable demand for carbon-based plastic. Increasing recycling rates is one simple way of doing this.
  • A more fundamental solution is to switch to making plastics from biodegradable sources such as wood, corn starch, and sugar cane. The materials themselves are carbon neutral, although renewable power is essential to eliminate the climate impact of energy costs during production, transport and waste processing.
  • Governments, corporations, and individuals must make research into alternatives a priority, and support alternatives to needless plastic waste.

 

Conclusion:

Plastics need not be completely demonised as environmental scourges. Affordable, durable, and versatile, they bring a raft of societal benefits, and will undoubtedly serve an important role where replacements are unable to be found. But decades of unbridled use and a throw-away culture are having grave consequences that go far beyond the visible pollution of our land and water. It is essential that we drastically reduce our use of avoidable plastics, and eliminate the carbon footprint of the ones we need to use. Our relationship with plastic may be toxic, but it doesn’t need to be forever.


Facts for prelims:

 

International Day for Biological Diversity

Context: United Nations (UN) has adopted May 22 as The International Day for Biological Diversity (IDB) to increase understanding and awareness of biodiversity issues. Objective of observing this day is to spread awareness about species turning endangered or going to extinct.

2019 theme is – “Our Biodiversity, Our Food, Our Health.”

First Biological Diversity International Day was observed by Second Committee of the UN General Assembly on December 29, 1993. Few years later in year 2000, UN General Assembly adopted 22 May as International Day for Biological Diversity (IDB).

 

The Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Star:

Context: Former Indian Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran is selected for Japan’s Second Highest National Award called ‘The Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Star’. He will be conferred for his contributions in strengthening strategic ties and enhancing mutual understanding between India and Japan.

The Order of the Rising Sun:

  • It is the Japanese government’s Second Highest National Honour. It was established by Japanese Emperor Meiji in 1875.
  • It is awarded for an exceptional civil or military merit.

 

Indo-Myanmar coordinated patrol (IMCOR):

Context: The 2019 Indo-Myanmar coordinated patrol (IMCOR) is taking place. This is the 8th edition of coordinated patrol (CORPAT) between India and Myanmar.

  • The initiative between the Indian Navy and Myanmar Navy seeks to address issues of terrorism, human trafficking, poaching, illegal fishing, drug trafficking and other illegal activities harmful to interest of both nations.
  • The CORPAT series was first started in Mar 2013. Since then it has fostered improved professional interaction and enhanced mutual understanding between the two navies for maritime interoperability.

Summaries of important Editorials:

 

IBSA and it’s relevance:

Context: Foreign policy mandarins of IBSA Dialogue Forum met in Kochi recently. The central goal was to develop a blueprint to rejuvenate IBSA, widely viewed as a unique voice for the Global South.

 

Genesis: IBSA was launched through the Brasilia Declaration in 2003.

Its summits, between 2006 and 2011, gave it a special global profile.

2011 onwards, BRICS, the larger group comprising IBSA countries, China and Russia, started to overshadow IBSA. IBSA has been unable, until now, to hold its sixth summit.

 

Importance of IBSA:

  • Throughout the period of its marginalisation by BRICS, a strong body of officials and experts in the three countries has held the view that IBSA is the true inheritor of solidarity among developing countries, which was nurtured from the Bandung Conference (1955) through UNCTAD and G-77 to the BAPA+40 Declaration (2018).
  • It is the champion of South-South Cooperation, and the advocate of a coordinated response by developing economies to secure the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
  • The glue that binds IBSA countries together is their faith in democracy, diversity, plurality, inclusivity, human rights and rule of law. This was reiterated through the IBSA Declaration on South-South Cooperation, issued in Pretoria in June 2018.

 

 

Need for its presence:

The idea of IBSA remains valid. The special responsibilities it bears cannot be discharged by BRICS. In fact, strengthening IBSA could increase the effectiveness of BRICS and encourage it to follow a more balanced approach on key issues of interest to India, Brazil and South Africa.

 

Way ahead:

The current endeavours to infuse greater dynamism in IBSA are well-timed.They would need buy-in by the government that comes to power in India. Support by Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro and South Africa’s Cyril Ramaphosa, who has just won re-election as President, would be crucial.

 

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