Current Affairs Analysis

14th August 2020 Current Affairs Analysis – IASToppers

National flag of India; Transparent Taxation - Honoring the Honest; Mission Organic Value Chain Development for North East Region (MOVCD); Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana; Jaivik Kheti Portal; Empowering Tribals, Transforming India; Salmonella bacteria; Elephants and Eco conflict; World Elephant Day; Asian Elephants; Abraham Agreement between UAE and Israel; West Bank; Greater Male Connectivity Project (GMCP); Maldives; Naval Innovation and Indigenisation Organisation; OPV Sarthak; Dwarf planet Ceres; E-pass module under HRMS project; Seagrasses; etc.
By IASToppers
August 14, 2020

Contents

Government Schemes & Policies

  • Transparent Taxation Platform
  • Organic Food for Health and Nutrition
  • Empowering Tribals, Transforming India

Issues related to Health & Education

  • Salmonella bacteria found inside Onion

Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management

  • Elephants and Eco conflict

Bilateral & International Relations

  • Abraham Agreement between UAE and Israel
  • India announces $500 mn package for Maldives

Defence & Security Issues

  • Naval Innovation and Indigenisation Organisation
  • OPV Sarthak

Indian History

  • How India got its National flag?

Science & Technology

  • Salty water on dwarf planet Ceres

Key Facts for Prelims

  • E-pass module under HRMS project
  • Seagrasses

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Government Schemes & Policies

Transparent Taxation Platform

The Transparent Taxation – Honoring the Honest platform to reform and simplify the tax system was unveiled recently.

Aim:

  • To bring transparency in income tax systems.
  • To honour honest taxpayers and empower them.

Key Features:

  • The main features are faceless assessment, faceless appeal and taxpayer charter.

1. Faceless Assessment Scheme:

  • Eliminate human interface between taxpayer and income tax department.
  • Selection is done through the system using data analytics and artificial intelligence.
  • Abolition of territorial jurisdiction.
  • Team-based assessments and review.
  • Central issuance of notices with a document identification number (DIN).
  • Automated random allocation of cases.
  • No physical interface and need to visit the income tax office.
  • Draft assessment order in one city, review in another and finalization in the third city.

Some exceptions from Faceless Assessment Scheme:

  • Cases of serious fraud, major tax evasion & sensitivity
  • International tax
  • Black Money Act & Benami Property.

2. Faceless Appeal:

  • Appeals will be randomly allotted to any officer in the country.
  • The identity of the officer deciding the appeal will remain unknown.
  • Till now, all tax-related matters in a city were dealt with by Income Tax department of that city.
  • Now, these teams will be chosen randomly and can come from any city across India.

3. Taxpayer Charter:

  • It outlines rights and responsibilities of both tax officers and taxpayers.
[Ref: TOI; TSD Network]

Organic Food for Health and Nutrition

India ranks first in number of organic farmers and ninth in terms of area under organic farming.

Initiatives for Organic farming:

  • Sikkim became the first State in the world to become fully organic.
  • North East India has traditionally been organic with very less consumption of chemicals.
  • Two dedicated programs- Mission Organic Value Chain Development for North East Region (MOVCD) and Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana (PKVY) were launched in 2015 to encourage chemical free farming.
  • It was aimed for assisting farmers to adopt organic farming and improve remunerations due to premium prices.
  • Both PKVY and MOVCD are promoting certification under Participatory Guarantee System (PGS) and National Program for Organic Production (NPOP) respectively to target domestic and exports markets.

Major Organic Exports from India:

  • The major organic exports from India are flax seeds, sesame, soybean, tea, medicinal plants, rice and pulses.
  • They were instrumental in driving an increase of nearly 50% in organic exports in 2018-19, touching Rs 5151 crore.

Mission Organic Value Chain Development for North East Region (MOVCD):

  • It is a Central Sector Scheme, launched by the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare.
  • It is a sub-mission under National Mission for Sustainable Agriculture (NMSA).
  • It aims to development of certified organic production in a value chain mode (VCM).
  • VCM aims to link growers with consumers and to support the development of entire value chain.
  • It is implemented in all 8 North-Eastern states (Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim and Tripura).

Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana:

  • PKVY is an extended component of Soil Health Management under Centrally Sponsored National Mission on Sustainable Agriculture (NMSA).
  • Launched in 2015, it aims at supporting and promoting organic farming forimprovement of soil health.

Objective:

  • Promote organic farming among rural youth/ farmers/ consumers/ traders.
  • Disseminate latest technologies in organic farming.
  • Utilize the services of experts from public agricultural research system in India.
  • Organize a minimum of one cluster demonstration in a village.

Major Features of the Scheme:

  • The cluster chosen for Organic Farming shall be 20 ha or 50 acres in extent and in as contiguous a form as possible.
  • Of the total number of farmers in a cluster, a minimum of 65% farmers should be allocated to small and marginal category, to be fulfilled at cluster level as far as practicable.

Components:

  • Adoption of Participatory Guarantee System (PGS) certification through cluster approach.
  • Adoption of organic village for manure management and biological nitrogen harvesting through cluster approach.

Financial assistance:

  • Maximum assistance of Rs. 10 lakhs per cluster subject to a maximum of Rs. 50,000 per farmer per ha under Manure Management and Biological Nitrogen Harvesting.
  • At least 30% of the budget allocations need to be earmarked for women beneficiaries/ farmers.

Jaivik Kheti Portal:

  • Jaivik Kheti portal is an initiative of the Ministry of Agriculture to promote organic farming globally.
  • Buyer can now avail organic products at their doorstep through the portal at much lower prices.
  • This portal links various stakeholders like regional councils, local groups, individual farmers, buyers, government agencies and input suppliers.
  • It provides various price discovery mechanisms to help farmers get the best prices for their products through forward auction, price-quantity bidding, book building and reverse auction mechanisms.

 [Ref: PIB]

Empowering Tribals, Transforming India

The Online Performance Dashboard Empowering Tribals, Transforming India of the Ministry of Tribal Affairs was launched recently.

Major Highlights:

  • The Dashboard is part of Digital India Initiative to work towards empowering Scheduled Tribes.
  • It is aimed to bring efficiency and transparency in the system.
  • It has been developed by Centre of Excellence of Data Analytics (CEDA), organization under National Informatics Centre (NIC).

Key Features:

  • The Performance Dashboard is an interactive and dynamic online platform.
  • It showcases updated & real-time details of 11 schemes / initiatives of the Ministry for achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
  • It captures performance of 5 Scholarship Schemes of Ministry wherein every year about 30 lakh underprivileged ST beneficiaries reap benefit to the tune of INR 2500 crores.
  • Dynamic Dashboard captures details of tribal students from one State to different States and to different countries.
  • It displays the details of functional schools under Eklavya Model Residential Schools (EMRS) scheme, schools under construction and district wise details of students in various EMRS schools.
  • It maps district wise NGO details, funds given to NGO and beneficiaries’ details.

 [Ref: PIB]

Issues related to Health & Education

Salmonella bacteria found inside Onion

Onions have become a cause of concern in the United States and Canada with a salmonella bacteria infection.

What is Salmonellosis?

  • The salmonella bacteria reside in animals and when it enters a human body it causes salmonellosis.
  • It is an infection that attacks the intestine, and can cause diarrhoea, abdominal pain, fever, vomiting, bleeding in stool and nausea.
  • The symptoms of the infection last between 2 and 7 days.
  • The infection hits children below the age of five, and senior citizens the worst.
  • Less than 1 % of infected people succumb (die) to the infection.
  • Salmonella can transmit to humans through contaminated water or food.

The present outbreak:

  • The bacteria are transmitting through contaminated onions, cultivated by Thomson International.
  • The company recalled the red, yellow, white, and sweet yellow onions shipped since May 1.
  • There were 640 confirmed cases across 43 states of U.S. till August 6 and 239 confirmed cases in Canada.
  • The Agencies are investigating to identify the source and cause of contamination in the onions.

 [Ref: Indian Express]

Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management

Elephants and Eco conflict

The Ministry of Forests has released data on human-elephant conflict in the ten years till September 2019.

Major Highlights:

  • 1,025 jumbos and 4,642 people have died in human-elephant conflict in the ten years.
  • The overwhelming cause of the elephant deaths—62% or 640 elephants is electrocution.
  • This is followed by train mishaps (170 deaths), poaching (153) and poisoning (62).
  • During the ten-years, the highest number of human causalities occurred in West Bengal (18% of total deaths or 821 people).
  • Odisha recorded 778 deaths, followed by Assam Jharkhand, Tamil Nadu, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Kerala, Uttarakhand, Meghalaya and Andhra Pradesh.

Reasons:

  • The pachyderm deaths have been a result of multiple factors that include habitat disturbance and urbanisation.
  • The elephants have started colonizing new areas because of disturbances in their original habitat.
  • This is supported with degradation of forests or increased human habitation and industrialisation.

World Elephant Day:

  • August 12 is observed as the World Elephant Day to support stakeholders involved in conservation policies to protect elephants.
  • It also seeks to support stakeholders involved in improving enforcement policies to prevent illegal poaching and trade in ivory, conserving elephant habitats, providing better treatment for captive elephants and reintroducing captive elephants into sanctuaries.

Asian Elephant:

  • Asian elephant is the largest living land animal in Asia.
  • Distribution: Throughout Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia- India in west, Nepal in north, Sumatra in south to Borneo in east.
  • Their population has declined by at least 50 % over the last three generations, estimated to be 60–75 years.
  • Threat: Loss of habitat, habitat degradation, fragmentation and poaching.
  • Listed in Schedule I of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.
  • IUCN: Endangered
  • Government of India has declared Indian elephant as National Heritage Animal.

To know more about Elephant-Human conflict mitigation measures, refer to IASToppers’ Mains Article: https://www.iastoppers.com/elephants-india-status-threats-solutions-mains-article/

[Ref: Indian Express]

Bilateral & International Relations

Abraham Agreement between UAE and Israel

Israel and the United Arab Emirates announced an agreement for normalisation of diplomatic relations between the two states.

Major Highlights:

  • The Accord between Israel and UAE was brokered by the US President Trump.
  • Israel has agreed to suspend annexing areas of the occupied West Bank.
  • Israel has firmed up opposition to regional power Iran viewed as major threat in the region by UAE, Israel and the US.

Background:

  • Israel had signed peace agreements with Egypt in 1979 and Jordan in 1994.
  • But the UAE, along with most other Arab nations, did not recognise Israel.
  • Thus UAE had no formal diplomatic or economic relations with it until now.

Significance:

  • Direct ties between two of the Middle East’s most dynamic societies and advanced economics will transform the region by spurring economic growth, enhancing technological innovation and forging closer people-to-people relations.
  • The other Arab Nations are likely to follow the path of UAE to establish diplomatic ties with Israel.  

West Bank:

  • The West Bank is a landlocked territory, which is bordered by Jordan to the east and Israel in the north, south and west.
  • West Bank was captured by Jordan from Israel after the 1948 Arab-Israeli War.
  • However, Israel captured it back during the Six-Day War of 1967 and has occupied it ever since.

West Bank settlements:

  • As per the United Nations General Assembly, the UN Security Council, and the International Court of Justice, the West Bank settlements are violative of the Fourth Geneva Convention (Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War).
  • The Fourth Geneva Convention says that an occupying nation (Israel here) shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies (West bank here).
  • The International Criminal Court classifies such transfers as war crimes.
  • Israelis should not enter in the West Bank even though West Bank is part of Israel.
  • Jordan’s rule over West Bank (1948 to 1967) was never recognized by most of the world, hence there was no legal sovereign power in West Bank and therefore the prohibition on transferring people from one Israel to West bank does not apply.
  • The International Court of Justice (ICJ) in 2004, ruled that the settlements violated international law.

The argument of Israel:

  • Israel argues that a Jewish presence has existed on the West Bank for thousands of years and was recognized by the League of Nations in 1922.
  • Israel has built formal settlements in the West Bank since 1967 and more than 400,000 Israeli settlers live in West Bank.
  • Some of the settlements are home to religious Zionists who believe that the West Bank is their biblical birthright.
  • Some settlements were strategically located in line with Israel’s security interests.
[Ref: TOI; UN News]

India announces $500 mn package for Maldives

India announced a $500 million package to Maldives to help it deal with the economic impact of the COVID-19.

Major Highlights:

  • India announced new connectivity measures for Maldives, including air, sea, intra-island and telecommunications.
  • Among the initiatives announced are:
    • Air connectivity bubble for travel.
    • A direct ferry service, a submarine cable for telecom connectivity.
    • Assistance for Greater Male Connectivity project (GMCP) to connect Male to three neighbouring islands.
  • The financial package consists of a grant of USD 100 million and a new Line of Credit (LoC) of USD 400 million.

Greater Male Connectivity project:

  • The project will consist of a number of bridges and causeways to connect Male to Villingili, Thilafushi and Gulhifahu islands that span 6.7 km.
  • It will take much of the pressure of main capital island of Male for commercial and residential purposes.

Location of Maldives:

  • Maldives lies south-west of the Indian sub-continent.
  • It is made up of a chain of nearly 1,200 islands, most of them are uninhabited.
  • None of the coral islands stand more than 1.8 metres above sea level, which makes the country vulnerable to any rise in sea levels associated with global warming.
  • Capital: Male.
[Ref: The Hindu]

Defence & Security Issues

Naval Innovation and Indigenisation Organisation

Defence Minister launched the Naval Innovation and Indigenisation Organisation recently.

Aim:

  • To bridge its technological gap through innovation and involvement of both academia and industry.

Major Highlights:

  • The move is in consonance with Draft Defence Acquisition Policy 2020 (DAP 20) which envisages establishing an Innovation and Indigenisation Organisation within existing resources.
  • It will enable the end users to interact with academia and industry towards fostering innovation and Indigenisation for self-reliance in defence.

Structure:

  • The NIIO is a three-tiered organisation:
    1. Naval Technology Acceleration Council (N-TAC) will bring together the twin aspects of innovation and Indigenisation and provide apex level directives.
    2. A working group under the N-TAC will implement the projects.
    3. A Technology Development Acceleration Cell (TDAC) is created for induction of emerging disruptive technology in an accelerated time frame.
[Ref: New Indian Express]

OPV Sarthak

An Offshore Patrol Vessel (OPV) for Indian Coast Guard was launched and re-christened as Indian Coast Guard Ship Sarthak.

Major Highlights:

  • Sarthak is the 4th in the series of five OPVs deployed by the Coast Guard to enhance maritime security.
  • It has been designed and built indigenously by Goa Shipyard Limited in line with Make in India.
  • The Ship is fitted with state-of-the-art Navigation and Communication equipment, sensor and machinery.

What is Offshore Patrol Vessel (OPV)?

  • OPV is a highly versatile ship, designed to perform Economic Exclusion Zone management roles.
  • It includes the provision of maritime security to coastal areas and effective disaster relief.

Significance:

  • The OPV enhances capabilities of Indian Coast Guard in terms of Operation, Surveillance, Search & Rescue.
  • It can be utilised for day & night patrol or surveillance, anti-terrorism or anti-smuggling operations in Exclusive Economic Zone as well as for Coastal Security.

 [Ref: AIR]

Indian History

How India got its National flag?

The final design of Indian National Flag was hoisted by PM Nehru on August 16, 1947 at Red Fort.

History of the National flag:

1. The first flag:

  • An Indian flag was reportedly designed by Sister Nivedita, an Irish disciple of Swami Vivekananda, between 1904-1906.
  • Arguably the first national flag of India is said to have been hoisted on August 7, 1906, in Kolkata at the Parsee Bagan Square (Green Park).
  • It is believed to have been designed by freedom activists Sachindra Prasad Bose and Hemchandra Kanungo.
  • It comprised three horizontal strips of red, yellow and green, with Vande Mataram written in the middle.
  • The red strip on the flag had symbols of the sun and a crescent moon, and the green strip had eight half-open lotuses.

2. Subsequent hoisting:

  • In 1907, Madame Cama and her group of exiled revolutionaries hoisted an Indian flag in Germany in 1907.
  • This was the first Indian flag to be hoisted in a foreign land.
  • In 1917, Dr. Annie Besant and Lokmanya Tilak adopted a new flag as part of the Home Rule Movement.
  • It had five alternate red and four green horizontal stripes, and seven stars in the saptarishi configuration.

3. The origins of present-day flag:

  • The design of Indian tricolour is largely attributed to Pingali Venkayya.
  • He was an Indian freedom fighter who reportedly first met Mahatma Gandhi in South Africa during the second Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902).
  • At the All India Congress Committee in Bezwada in 1921, Venkayya again met Gandhi and proposed a basic design of the flag.
  • It consisted of two red and green bands to symbolise the two major communities, Hindus and Muslims.
  • Gandhi arguably suggested adding a white band to represent peace and the rest of the communities living in India, and a spinning wheel to symbolise the progress of the country.
  • Several changes were made and in 1931, Congress Committee met in Karachi and adopted Tricolour as our national flag.
  • Red was replaced with saffron and the order of the colours was changed.
  • The flag was to have no religious interpretation.

When was Tricolour unfurled first time on Red Fort after Independence?

  • The Indian National Flag was hoisted for the first time on the 16th of August 1947 (not 15th of August), at 8.30 A.M. on the ramparts of the Red Fort by PM Nehru.

A Flag for Independent India:

  • The Tricolour was altered to become the flag of Independent India.
  • Saffron symbolizes – strength and courage.
  • White represents – peace and truth
  • Green stands for fertility, growth and auspiciousness of the land.
  • The Ashok Chakra with 24 spokes – continual progress of the country.

 [Ref: Indian Express]

Science & Technology

Salty water on dwarf planet Ceres

The data collected by NASA’s Dawn spacecraft suggests ocean of salty water on dwarf planet Ceres.

Ceres:

  • Ceres is the largest celestial object in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.
  • It has a diameter of about 950 km, which is more than one-fourth of Earth’s moon.

Major Highlights:

  • The data was collected by NASA’s Dawn spacecraft when it flew just 35 km over the surface of Ceres in 2018.
  • Main focus of scientists is 92 km wide crater named Occator located in Ceres’ northern hemisphere.
  • This crater is said to have formed by an impact approximately 22 million years ago.
  • The salty water originated in a brine reservoir spread hundreds of miles and about 40 km beneath the surface.
  • The water was discovered because of the cracks created to form the crater.

Key Facts:

  • Ceres is not the only celestial body in our solar system where subsurface oceans are known to exist.
  • Jupiter’s moon Europa, Saturn’s moon Enceladus, Neptune’s moon Triton, and the dwarf planet Pluto are also on the list.
[Ref: Indian Express]

Key Facts for Prelims:

E-pass module under HRMS project

The Railway Board has recently launched E-pass module of Human Resource Management System.

Key Features:

  • The E-Pass module has been developed by CRIS under HRMS project and will be rolled out over Indian Railways in phased manner.
  • With this facility Railway employee is neither supposed to come to office for applying for Pass nor has to wait for pass being issued.
  • Employee will be able to apply for pass online from anywhere and get the E-Pass generated online.
  • Ticket booking on pass may also be done online on IRCTC site apart from earlier facility of counter booking from PRS/UTS counter.
  • This facility will help Railway employee in using their pass hassle free and ensure smooth working of all officials involve in issuance of pass.

Human Resource Management System project:

  • HRMS project is a comprehensive plan for digitization of complete HR process of Indian Railway.
  • Total 21 modules have been planned in HRMS.
  • Basic data entry of around 97% railway employees has been completed in Employee master and E-Service record modules of HRMS which had been launched in 2019.
[Ref: PIB]

Seagrasses

Seagrasses are marine flowering plants found in shallow waters from Tropics to the Arctic circle.

Importance:

Seagrass meadows contribute to community well-being, through:

  • Food security from fish production.
  • Improved quality of water filtered by seagrasses.
  • Protection of coasts from erosion, storms and floods.
  • Carbon sequestration and storage.

Concerns:

  • Seagrasses have been declining globally since the 1930s.
  • 7% of this key marine habitat is being lost worldwide per year.
  • Seagrasses are among the least protected coastal ecosystems.
  • They often face cumulative pressures from coastal development, nutrient run-off and climate change.

 [Ref: UNEP]

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